DECKED

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He’s a hard-ass rancher with big secrets.
She’s a city-slicker with big dreams. 
Together, they’re INVINCIBLE.

DECK
As a covert freelance contractor for security and intelligence, I’m the best in the business. Cocky, smart, and controlled, and I get the job done. When tragedy hits, I hit harder. 

MILA
I left my cowboy boots behind, trading them for city-slicking stilettos, and never looked back. But my sister’s death brought me home, and I’m hellbent on uncovering the truth. I refuse to let Decker Ashford get in my way, with his sexy southern drawl, the last thing I need is a distraction. He says he’s here to protect me, keep me safe, but I’m not about to get DECKED.

CHAPTER ONE

As I drove home from the airport after my flight back from London, something on the side of the road caught my eye. What the hell was that? Couldn’t be a deer, not in these parts. It wasn’t big enough to be a cow, unless it was a damn skinny one.

I stopped the truck and climbed out, at first thinking it might be a mannequin someone had tossed by the road, until it started to moan.

“What in the—” I rushed over and saw it was a woman. It was dark, and she was on her side, but I didn’t recognize her. She was pretty enough that if she was from around here, I sure as hell would’ve.

“Don’t move,” I said when the woman tried to sit up. I leaned down farther and eased my hand under her head. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“I have to go,” she cried, trying again to move. “He’ll kill me.”

“Who’s gonna kill you?”

“My…”

The woman lost consciousness again. But wait, she’d gone perfectly still.

“Lord in heaven,” I whispered out loud as I felt for a pulse at the same time I leaned down to check for signs of breathing. Neither were present. I pulled out my phone, called nine-one-one, and then lifted the woman’s head slightly to open her airway.

“Nine-one-one operator. What’s your emergency?”

“Violet, this is Decker Ashford. I’m just east of mile marker sixty-six on Old Austin Highway. Got a vic, no pulse, not breathin’. Startin’ CPR and rescue breaths. Get somebody out here!”

“On it, Deck. Put me on speaker.”

I tossed my phone aside, counted thirty compressions, pinched the woman’s nose, and then gave her two rescue breaths before repeating the process.

“Mac says he’s two minutes out,” I heard Violet say.

Mac? What the hell? Why was she sending the sheriff when the woman wasn’t breathing?

I couldn’t stop to ask; I’d just finished thirty chest pumps and needed to give her two more rescue breaths. Before I finished the next count, the sheriff’s car pulled up, immediately followed by an ambulance.

When the paramedic knelt down next to me, I moved out of the man’s way.

As I walked away, something else caught my eye—a cell phone lay not far from the woman.

“What happened here?” Mac asked seconds before two other patrol cars pulled up.

I told him about seeing something alongside the road and how I’d stopped.

“You recognize her?” Mac asked.

“Negative.”

“Check for ID?”

“No time, but there’s a phone,” I answered, pointing to it.

“Can I get some light and a stretcher over here?” I heard the paramedic yell at the same time Mac told one of the deputies to get the phone and put it in an evidence bag.

I saw the blood as soon as the EMTs lifted the woman to put her on the stretcher. The grass below her body was covered in it.

“Gunshot wound is my guess,” Mac muttered.

If Mac was right, I had accelerated the woman’s death. “Jesus Christ, I was doing chest compressions.”

Mac put his hand on my shoulder. “You did what you thought needed to be done. Based on what I see, you couldn’t have saved her anyway.”

I scrubbed my face with my hand. Didn’t matter what Mac said; what I’d done was stupid.

“You headed back to the ranch?” Mac asked as we watched the ambulance pull away.

“Nah. I’ll follow ’em.”

Mac scrunched his eyes. “Decker…this ain’t in your jurisdiction.”

I shook my head. “I don’t have a jurisdiction, Sheriff.”

Mac looked over to where his deputies were surveying the scene. “Let’s be on our way. Find out the official time of death, and see if we can figure out who this girl was.” Before I walked back to my truck, Mac opened the door of the patrol car and grabbed the bag containing the cell and another pair of gloves. “See if you can crack this thing open.”



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