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Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Blitz: Rescue Me by Catherine Mann (#Giveaway)

The second book in best-selling author, Catherine Mann's Second Chance Ranch series is out tomorrow! Pick up RESCUE ME Tuesday or pre-order it today!! 



Rescue Me (Second Chance Ranch, #2)Rescue Me 
(Second Chance Ranch #2)
by Catherine Mann
Paperback, 304 pages
Expected publication: February 3rd 2015 by Berkley
ISBN 0425269892
A rescued dog returns the favor in the latest Second Chance Romance from USA Today bestselling author of Shelter Me.

Detective AJ Parker left undercover work in Atlanta to join a small-town Tennessee police force, hoping for an easier workload and the solitude of his cabin. But the scars left by AJ’s previous work are more difficult to escape than he thought…

Mary Hannah Gallo works with the Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue to train therapy dogs for traumatized patients. It isn’t easy, but her life is under control—until she meets the broodingly sensual AJ, who rattles her composure all the way to her toes.

After an assignment confiscating dogs from a backyard breeder reveals a dangerous drug operation, AJ must work with sexy perfectionist Mary Hannah to train an abused rescue dog—a dog now named Holly. While Holly proves to these two very different people that opposites can, in fact, attract, she also knows more than a few explosive secrets that could heal—or divide—the entire town.

Don't miss the first Second Chance Ranch novel!



Excerpt
Chapter One 

Detective AJ Parker started kicking down doors at five years old in hopes of becoming like his idol, Chuck Norris. The first attempt had landed AJ in the emergency room with a broken leg.

Thirty years later, though, he’d perfected the skill. But then he’d gotten a lot of practice as an Atlanta detective. Too much practice. The very reason he’d relocated to the sleepy town of Cooksburg, Tennessee, for a more low-key life. Still a sixth sense honed from too many years undercover in narcotics told him he would have to channel his inner Chuck before high noon this Christmas Eve.

Raiding a home on a holiday wasn’t particularly holly jolly, but there had been a report of neglected animals inside, and dogs left outdoors without shelter, in imminent danger of dying due to the frigid weather. His boots crunched along the caked snow as AJ approached the isolated cabin with caution. Footsteps crackled behind him—his police-department partner, Wyatt, his cousin who’d gotten him this job.

Oaks and pines circled the clearing, creating a wall of privacy with only one icy path to the cabin. Which also meant there was one lone escape route, and so far no signs of animals or people coming in or out.

A brisk wind cut through his thick coat and bulletproof vest, chilling him all the way to his Southern roots. He and Wyatt accompanied an animal rescue team that had been instructed to stay safe and warm in their van for now, the engine purring softly.

Sunshine glimmered off the icicles spiking from the railing as if nature had decorated for the holidays even if the occupants of this ramshackle place ignored the season. Not so much as a wreath or tinsel in sight. Even the windows were blacked out with thick curtains, making the porch less than inviting.

Not to mention dangerous, depending on who lurked behind those darkened windows.

AJ breathed steady white bursts of air into the December afternoon. But inside AJ’s gut, his instincts were on fire.

Adrenaline burned his veins as he scanned the deserted front yard except for an old gray truck with a camper top. There wasn’t snow on the hood, so the vehicle had been driven recently. The place was silent other than the grunt of a distant deer, and a crisp wind whistling through the trees, boughs burdened with snow.

His cop senses burned hotter with each step closer to the cabin. Complicating matters, he had that contingent of animal rescuers behind him in the van. He held up a hand reminding them to stay back.

Then he saw it.

A thick chain, almost covered with snow, glinted through the powdery white like twisted garland spilling out of an overturned trash can. A brown mass of fur was curled up in the back. A large dog that didn’t growl, bark—or even move.

Shit. They might already be too late.

He heard a car door open and caught the movement out of the corner of his eyes a second before one of the rescuers shot past. He didn’t have to guess who it had been.

Mary Hannah Gallo.

A fearless dynamo in a paisley parka.

And a giant pain in his butt.

His first night in Cooksburg, they’d had an impulsive one-night stand of crazy-good sex—his first since his life had gone to hell in a handbasket. The connection had sizzled so damn hot he’d been stunned stupid when he woke up the next morning and found she’d left the motel room already.

Worse yet, she’d given him a fake name. Francesca Vale. Not even a good made-up name. And he fell for that shit in spite of more than a decade collaring criminals.

He hadn’t discovered her real name until his cousin tried to set him up on a blind date. AJ’s only consolation? Miss Fakey-Pants Francesca Vale had been every bit as shocked to see him as he was to meet her for real as Mary Hannah Gallo. A buttoned-up mental-health counselor who had a wild-child hidden side. Very hidden. Apparently, she’d assumed he was just traveling through town on his way to Nashville like most people at that truck-stop bar.

That bar.

That motel.

That night.

He willed away the steam-charged memories. He couldn’t afford to think about anything except getting the job done and keeping those with him safe. Especially the Queen of Mistruths making her way to the dog in a trash can.

He understood her urge to charge ahead for the animal’s sake, but damn it, caution saved more lives in the long run. He’d learned that the hard way. And wasn’t that a memory-lane trip that could walk him straight to hell like in some bad teenage horror film?

“Gallo,” he hissed between his teeth. “Get back to the van.”

Without even turning, she waved away his concern and crouched near the toppled trash can, a blanket tucked under her arm. The winter gear hid how freaking petite she was as she crawled closer. And that petite frame hid a will of steel. She hadn’t wanted anyone to know about that night at the bar, and she didn’t want to have anything more to do with him. Fine by him. Except they’d been made the target of matchmakers determined to pair them up, in spite of how many times he and Mary Hannah told them no. No. And hell no.

It wasn’t surprising she’d been sent with him today.

Now she was a great big stubborn distraction a few feet away. She wasn’t budging unless he threw her over his shoulder and forcibly moved her. Which she would know full well he didn’t have time to do.

Or even think about.

At least she would be on the side of the house when he pressed ahead. All the action would be focused at the front door. Left with no choice, he hauled his attention off Mary Hannah’s fine ass in blue jeans and back to assessing the cabin.

Mewling and muffled woofs swelled from inside the cabin. The animals had picked up on his arrival, which meant any people behind those blacked-out windows would know soon as well. If they didn’t already. He climbed the slick steps with sure feet, no hesitation.

He thumped the door with his gloved fist, launching a fresh blast of barks. “This is the police. We have a warrant to search the premises.”

He pounded again. Only more woofs responded. “Police,” he said. “Open up now, or we’ll be forced to enter.”

Still, no one answered.

He glanced at the rusted pickup with no snow on the hood. Screw waiting. “This is your last warning to comply. We have a warrant.”

Notice given. He kicked the door. It held. Shit.

Snow showered down from the frame. The hefty bolts sent his instincts on a higher alert. This crappy cabin had a stronger door than he would have expected, a lot sturdier than even those at his rental cabin with top-notch security.

Bracing his feet on the icy porch was an iffy thing, but the element of surprise was gone now. He had to act fast. He booted the door again. The force jarred his teeth. But the door gave a little. He felt it.

He slammed his shoulder against the panel to finish the job. Wood cracked and splintered. A plank fell inward.

Yes.

His relief was short-lived.

The smell hit him hard. One whiff was all it took for total recognition after all the drug cases he’d worked in Atlanta. Snaking free, the unmistakable stench of meth stung his lungs. Not just a single pipe burning, but the thick stink of a full cooking operation.

This was supposed to be a sleepy little town. Most often cops dealt with the standard teenage vandalism and an occasional bar fight. That’s why he’d chosen to move here. He’d intended to leave this kind of high-level crime nightmare behind.

He shouted over his shoulder to warn his partner, “Smells like a meth house. Call for backup, then secure the rear.” He thought of Mary Hannah on the side of cabin with the trash-can dog. “Civilians, return to your vehicle. Gallo, do you hear me? That means you. Clear out. Now.”

His fingers closed around the grip of his 9mm Glock. With his other hand, he tugged his shirt collar up over his nose as a makeshift filter. He kicked the door the rest of the way open. It slammed against the inside wall. He prepared himself for whatever animals he might meet. At least his winter clothing added some padding.

Except nothing charged at him—human or canine. He was greeted with woofs from inside kennels. Four large and filthy crates lined the living room. Two were full of poodle puppies and two held nursing mama schnauzers. There wasn’t a person in sight.

Had someone already escaped out another door? Did Wyatt have that entrance covered? God, he hoped Mary Hannah had taken her paisley, perky self back to the van.

AJ edged past the saggy sofa. An old-school console television was turned on, the volume lowly chiming game-show reruns. Not even a Christmas parade.

His heart slugged in his ears as he swept the two-bedroom cabin, sparsely furnished. Definitely not enough here to call the place a home. A framed yarn-art owl was faded with age. A wagon-wheel lamp cast a yellow glow through a dingy shade. He’d seen plenty of places just like this, even lived in them during undercover assignments.

Wood floors squeaked beneath his feet, his steps muffled by a rag rug. The one bathroom was empty other than a nasty toothbrush caked with spit. A poodle slept in the tub, curled up and snoring. The black ball of fur peeked through half-open eyes then drifted off again, uninterested in the strangers in her home.

Very un-doglike. Probably groggy from the fumes. Poor little gal. The rescuers outside would have their hands full.

Soft footsteps from the kitchen had AJ spinning back to the main area. Someone escaping? His eyes narrowed and he closed the bathroom door to make sure the poodle didn’t suddenly sprint out to trip him up.

Whoever was leaving, Wyatt would be ready for them. AJ stepped deeper into the toxic haze toward the kitchen, ready to have his partner’s back. AJ reached the linoleum floor in a 1970s-era orange kitchen just as the rear door creaked.

A shriek split the air. A female scream.

AJ’s muscles bunched.

“Ma’am,” his cousin Wyatt’s voice rumbled through, cutting the shout short. “Put down the baseball bat and place your hands on top of your head. Now!”

“Okay, okay, okay,” the woman’s voice answered, raspy like a chain smoker. “I surrender. I was just here to pick up some puppies. I wasn’t doing nothing wrong.”

The click of handcuffs snapped. One problem down, and so far no one else in sight. Still, his muscles stayed tensed, ready.

AJ scanned the dirty kitchen full of a grocery list he knew by heart—everything needed to cook crystal meth. Ephedrine, butane, brake fluid, drain cleaner and more lined the counters along with other ingredients. Dishes were stacked in the sink with food caked on them from meals eaten here in spite of the dangerous fumes.

His mind churned with memories of another bust, another time, of finding a child hiding beneath a bed with a sippy cup full of drain cleaner.

Bile roiled in his gut.

He stuffed down the image before the past sucked him under. He needed to focus on the present. To give one hundred percent to a job that should have been nothing more complicated than doling out speeding tickets and catching underage drinkers.

“Wyatt,” he called, “appears all clear inside. Dogs are contained in crates.” His nose twitched under the shield of his collar. “Since it’s a meth house, we’ll need masks and latex gloves.”

“Shiiiiit,” his cousin whistled, then let out an “ooof.”

“You okay?” AJ started toward the back door.

“Just securing the lady in the cruiser. You deal with the inside. I’ve got this.” Wyatt’s voice grew fainter as he walked farther away. “Don’t even try it again with the knee, ma’am.”

AJ forced his hand to relax on the grip of his weapon and turned back toward the living room. Now they just had to deal with the animals. Tragic, yes, but not as dangerous as a bunch of meth dealers. Mary Hannah and her friends at the local Second Chance Ranch Rescue could step in now and do their thing.

A mewling drifted from the far bedroom—half human–, half animal–sounding, stopping him in his tracks. His grip tightened on his weapon again. His thoughts firmly planted on that other bust, the child under the bed in agony from a sip of drain cleaner.

AJ followed the noise into the smaller of the two bedrooms. One step at a time, he inched closer to a rocking chair with a ratty afghan draped over the seat, preventing him from getting a clear view. Crouching, he lifted the trailing corner, slowly. A low growl gave him only an instant’s warning that the mewling cry hadn’t been human.

And that his first search hadn’t uncovered all the animals.

A big brown dog shot out, toppling the rocker onto AJ. The beast darted past until the tether bolted to the floor went taut quivering with tension. The dog—a boxer—cowered only inches from the door.

Blocking the exit.

Crap. There was no way out except past the growling canine. His winter police-issue jacket wouldn’t last long if that animal decided to take a serious bite out of him. The dog snarled louder, teeth bared as it flattened to the floor, pulling at the restraint that wouldn’t survive another serious lunge.

Even a regular Joe with no animal rescue experience could tell the boxer was clearly freaked out and terrified, ears back, eyes wide, drool dripping from its mouth. He’d learned on past assignments that a scared dog could be every bit as dangerous as an aggressive one.

Much like people.
He wasn’t the type to cry uncle, but animal rescue folks used tools for this job for a good reason.

“Um, hello,” he called lowly. “Can someone bring a catchpole before Cujo in here turns me into a Milk Bone?”

Hopefully someone outside heard him. The team of four consisted of two employees from county Animal Control and two from the Second Chance Ranch Rescue.

“Shhh, shhh, shhh.” He made what he hoped were soothing noises. “I’m not here to hurt you, puppy. Be good and there are people here who will get you a bed and food. I’ll personally make sure you get a grade-A hamburger if you keep your teeth to yourself.”

One in four chances Mary Hannah would show up. She was thin, short and not particularly intimidating. He envisioned her comforting the little poodles, not wrestling with this muscular creature.

Except the odds were not in his favor today.

Mary Hannah appeared in the open doorframe, a catchpole held in a fierce grip. Her sleek dark hair slipped free from a low ponytail to brush the shoulders of her parka. Her wide brown eyes saw everything.

But through pretty rose-colored glasses with heavy black frames.

The woman was a whirlwind of naïve perfection who seemed to think the world could be changed with sweet words and a soft touch. She might take a brief walk on the wild side now and again, but she hadn’t come close to seeing what he had. He’d witnessed firsthand that some evil just went to the core. There was no talking it down with a warm fuzzy hug.

He wasn’t judging. She just hadn’t seen what he had. She would get there someday if she kept assisting in these kinds of “rescues.”

Someday.

But right now she was all that stood between him and a wild-eyed animal high on meth fumes.
***
Smelling the meth made Mary Hannah’s mouth water, made her nose burn.

And made her senses sing like sirens luring her back into the bottomless pit of addiction.

Mary Hannah Gallo had made a lifetime’s worth of mistakes by twenty-four. She’d spent the next four years making sure she never screwed up again. Too bad Detective AJ Parker was a sexy, hot temptation begging her to break every one of her rules for a calm, structured future.

One night. Just one weak night of mourning in a bar, thinking she could have a no-strings fling to ease some of the pain, grief, hunger, and now she was stuck bumping into temptation every time she turned around in this closet-sized town.




About the Author:

USA Today bestseller Catherine Mann and RITA Award winner, Catherine writes contemporary romance for Berkley, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Tule. With over sixty books in released in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated six RITA finals, an RT Reviewer’s Award finalist, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win.
A former theater school director and university instructor, she holds a Master’s degree in Theater from UNC-Greensboro and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts: Theater (with minors in both English and Education) from the College of Charleston.
Catherine and her flyboy husband live on the Florida coast where they brought up their 4 children – and still have 5 four-legged, furry “children” (aka pets). Catherine is an active volunteer with her local Humane Society, serving on their Board of Directors, fostering over 200 puppies, ill dogs, and dogs with service/working potential. She recently checked off a major item on her “bucket list” by completing her Florida State Animal Rescue Coalition and starting her own rescue with three friends - The Sunshine State Animal Rescue. Catherine enjoys hearing from her readers and can be found online daily. To receive an autographed bookmark, send a SASE to: P.O. Box 6065, Navarre, FL 32566 http://www.catherinemann.com/

Catherine Mann has begun an animal rescue of her own with three friends - Sunshine State Animal Rescue in the Florida Panhandle. Visit their facebook page if you want more info. They rescue from high kill shelters and do traditional adoptions as well as help identify potential service dogs and search and rescue dogs at shelters.




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