With: Angi Morgan
Congratulations to "Colleen C", "Denise H", "Mary P", "Patricia B" and "Dee", the winners in Angi's giveaway. Please contact JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE to claim your prize!
I love first lines of stories. When I write one, it sets the tone for the entire book. Or at least I hope to. It’s been a little while since the beginning of this series was released, so here are the openers for the first three books. Let me know what you think of Wade’s opening line in the comments…you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of five autographed copies I’m giving away.
RANGER PROTECTOR (Jack): “Simple answer? It’s an out-of-your-ever-lovin’-mind no.” Jack MacKinnon spoke calmly into his cell, surprised that he could keep his tone and volume in check with his partner’s suggestion. “Did you hear me, Wade?”
RANGER DEFENDER (Slate): “How can a little research and a few interviews get you in trouble?” Wade Hamilton asked. “Besides, I’ve done all the hard work.” Slate Thompson wasn’t on as thin ice as his fellow Texas Ranger. But the entire team knew that one wrong step would shake up Company B—and not in a good way.
RANGER GUARDIAN (Heath): Heath Murray rushed through the emergency room doors. Yes, he’d used the entrance for the ambulances. Yes, he’d parked his truck next to the building, practically on the sidewalk. And yes, he’d taken advantage of having the Texas Ranger badge he carried.
CRIMINAL ALLIANCE (Wade’s story) is the conclusion of Texas Brothers of Company B. It was originally called Ranger Warrior but I love the new title because it’s so fitting. You can find a short summary of the Company B stories on JRS here.
~ Here’s the beginning of Criminal Alliance ~
Just another two-for-one longneck Friday special. Wade sat on the same barstool he’d ended his nights on and had claimed for years. This particular stool was the last one next to the wall, located where no one could catch him by surprise. Only his right side was open to patrons. Better for his vision, especially now that it got fuzzy from time to time.
He should be somewhere else.
Maybe somewhere more respectable for a Texas Ranger. That wasn’t here. Someplace he could share that he was a ranger. Or maybe with his friends. But they all had girlfriends. Heath was back home with his wife. Slate might as well be married. And Jack—his so-called partner—was engaged.
He should find some other friends. Maybe some who liked to…to what? Watch a game? Play trivia over some chicken wings? It didn’t matter where he went or what barstool he ended up on. He’d still be looking at every dark-haired woman who walked in the door to see if it was her.
Dammit. He couldn’t keep this up. Six weeks was long enough visiting bars on lower Greenville Avenue. His search for Agent Therese Ortis needed to end.
Soon. No. Tonight. He’d shown his face once too often in other dives. Earlier the barkeeps had waved him past their place, in a hurry to get the discouraged ranger on his way. His badge was far from good for their business.
So here he sat. His go-to joint that knew him from way back. The one place where they gave him a pass for having a badge.
Twisting the rest of his lime slice into his Mexican beer, he studied the peel—more interested in the citrus than in anyone around him. He needed to take Jack’s advice. If Therese wanted to get in touch… Well, she knew how. She’d done it before to save Megan and a second time to save his hide before Rushdan Reval blew him up inside a building.
Across the room, the door banged open. Heads— including his—turned toward the noise.
What the hell?
“Wade!” The woman who had haunted his dreams crossed the sixty feet, dodging drunks and other happy-hour patrons who had quickly returned to their conversations.
“You have got…” she began too loudly before nervously looking around and landing next to him at the bar. “You’ve got to stop your…your inquiries. Are you listening to me? I’m furious.”
No, he hadn’t been listening. Dressed in the smallest bright yellow dress—more like a piece of a dress that could still be respectful—he barely noticed anything else. The color set off her dark brown hair.
The bling around her neck drew his eyes straight to the diving-low plunge between her breasts. How the hell was she walking in those heels?
Shoot. How did the dress stay in place?
The woman who’d actually 100 percent saved his life licked her lips and drew a deep breath. Trying to ignore her, he looked down at the bar, stabbing the three lime slices with a plastic sword.
“Hey, Wade, hon?” Her erotic voice whispered close to his ear while her feathery touch on his hand shot all sorts of feelings through him.
Six weeks without a word.
And she was mad. At him?
Even though she’d been caught working with crooks last year, he’d never believed she was on the wrong side of the law. Something in their sparse conversations had forbidden him from thinking badly of her. Then six weeks ago he’d found out—like a kick to the head—she was working with the FBI or something. Nobody talked. Lots of secrets. Had he forgiven her for taking away a major case?
There was no mistake who she spoke to. She’d stopped so close her breath of air brushed his bare neck, encouraging him to act. But he wouldn’t. He didn’t have the right. Even if she had called him hon.
“I like you in a T-shirt. It shows off these strong arms. But this button-up looks great on you, too. It brings out the steel blue in your eyes.”
He could tell her he liked her dress. Or not.
Yeah, she squeezed his biceps. Yeah, she puckered her lips together like she waited for a kiss.
“Are you sure?” She eased onto the stool next to him, her long legs reaching sideways under his. Damn, that yellow silky thing climbed up to her hip. “I haven’t even asked anything.”
Wait. Were they talking about a kiss or the favor he thought she was about to ask? He should consider himself lucky that the stools weren’t close enough for him to pull her onto his lap to find out. Lucky?
Therese twisted away from him to face the opening door and back again with a blank look. A big fella walked inside, propping the door open with his foot and calling to a buddy on the sidewalk. They both entered, finally shutting the door to keep the cooler air in and the blistering summer heat outside.
Everything about her demeanor changed. Where she’d been full of anger she was now soft. She closed her eyes, drawing a deep breath through her nose and making her breasts swell in the tight dress. Then she wet her lip gloss with the tip of her tongue. To stop his drool, he tipped the beer to his mouth, drinking her in with his eyes.
The fresh burst of lime made him lick his lips, or was he mirroring the seductress beside him? Then her dark red lips parted ever so slowly. Slower than necessary and very practiced. Hell, he could give in right then, doing whatever she asked, having no idea what it might be.
Instead he broke off his stare and looked around the intimate, off-the-beaten-path bar. Mostly regulars with the exception of the last two men. Every corner was shadowed and filled with secrets, but he didn’t butt his nose in. He knew the ins and outs. Knew what to expect. He’d been coming here since college and it didn’t hurt that no one broadcast that he was a Texas Ranger. He’d never had a need to show his badge. Not here.
“I know it’s been a while since I’ve called. Please don’t be annoyed with me.” She swiveled on the stool, reaching for his limes, daring him not to look down the low-cut dress she flashed under his chin.
“I’d have to care to be angry. Or annoyed,” he lied. He didn’t know the reason for her personality switch, but he’d play along.
“There’s just been a lot going on, hon—” She pouted.
Pouted? Therese Ortis didn’t seem the pouting kind.
What the hell was going on? She knew he’d been looking for her and seemed pretty doggone upset about it less than five minutes ago.
“So you aren’t angry, annoyed or even a little hurt, baby?” she smiled with a knowing smile, circling a deep red nail around the back of his hand.
Hon? Baby? What was she trying to pull? She reached out, taking his extra lime and swiping her tongue across it. She knew exactly how to make him nervous. But she was the one shaking like a leaf in a windstorm—the only thing that kept him from showing her just how angry he wasn’t.
Yeah, he was succumbing to the seductress line. What man wouldn’t? But it was the trembling that got him.
Her eyes darted in every direction, checking for trouble. The bartender walked to the other end of the room and she leaned in close.
“I need a big favor. I can explain everything if you give me a chance.”
Even though the intensity changed from flirtatious to urgent, he still answered, “I’m all out.”
Explain? Nice fantasy. Therese never explained. He poured more than a sip of beer down his throat. He tipped the bottle toward her, politely asking if she wanted something. She shook her head while he caught the bartender’s eye and ordered two more.
“I promise not to land you on desk duty again. What do you say?” she asked in a low, sensual voice he had fallen prey to a few times already.
Wade had wanted to connect with her for over a year. Why the hesitation? Desk duty. Uncertainty. Tired of being used. Downright irritation at being ignored.
“I say—” he grinned way too big “—that you haven’t mentioned anything I haven’t heard before.”
“I’m sure that can’t be true,” she still whispered.
“Considering I can recall all seven conversations we’ve ever had… Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can clearly remember every word that you’ve said.” And exactly what you haven’t.
“I really, really think you’re going to be interested in my favor, hon.”
“Nope,” he kept his voice low, matching hers.
He was done. Had nothing left. Finished. Kaput. Refused to get involved. Remember? And yet, completely curious.
“Is there anything I could do or say to change your mind?” She drew circles on his shoulder, dragging her long fingernail down his arm until she got to his hand.
She looked innocent. If he knew her better he might think she seemed desperate. But he didn’t know her better. She came to him when she needed something. Case or no case, he didn’t like being used.
And he hated giving in to her, to anybody.
Therese’s eyes darted to the mirror.
The two large men moved away from the opposite end of the bar and Therese stiffened. Obvious to him since she held his hand. Probably not obvious to the men who had eyes for no one else in the room. They looked like typical guys, with the exception of the bulges under their jackets. Jackets worn for the simple reason of hiding the weapons.
They were there for her—obviously.
“Wade,” she said way too loudly. “I’m so hungry.”
She dropped a finger across his lips to stop his next question. Her eyes moved to the mirror. His hand gently tugged hers from his face back to the bar and slid a longneck bottle into it.
“I guess I need to hear about that favor after all.” He squeezed a lime slice and pushed it through the sweating bottle.
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I truly hope you’ll enjoy Wade and Therese’s story. It’s my last official Harlequin…but not my last white hero. Criminal Alliance is presale and on shelves February 18th. One Killer, One Ranger will be available in March.
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CRIMINAL ALLIANCE is the conclusion of Texas Brothers of Company B. It’s original title was Ranger Warrior—Wade’s story--and follows Ranger Protector (Jack), Ranger Defender (Slate), and Ranger Guardian (Heath). You can find a short summary of their stories on JRS here.
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USA Today Bestselling author ANGI MORGAN writes on-the-run suspense where honor and danger collide with love. Her work is a multiple contest finalist and Publishers Weekly best-seller. She drags her dogs –and husband– around Texas for research road trips so she can write off her camera. They now have a map with highlighted roads they’ve traveled. Every detour somehow makes it into a book.
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Giveaway on JRS ends at midnight December 20th. Five contestants entering the drawing by leaving a comment on Just Romantic Suspense will receive an autographed copy of Criminal Alliance. Don’t forget to check back to see who won!
What do you think about the first line of Wade’s story?