Discover Katie Ruggle's Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue and WIN!
We are getting ready for the final installment, In Safe Hands, in October and we want to celebrate with a series bundle giveaway!
All you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post for a chance to win the entire series. Contest closes September 20th.
Now my favorite in this series is the first book because it introduced me to this author's writing and I fell in love with the characters.
Hold Your Breath
Lou is a hurricane.
A walking disaster.
And with her, Callum's never felt more alive...even if keeping her safe may just kill him.
Lou's new to the Rockies, intent on escaping her controlling ex, and she's determined to make it on her own terms...no matter how tempting her ice dive captain Callum Cook may be. But when a routine training exercise unearths a body, Lou and Callum find themselves thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer who'll stop at nothing to silence Lou―and prove that not even her new Search & Rescue brotherhood can keep her safe forever.
In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
Search & Rescue Series:
On His Watch (FREE novella)
Hold Your Breath (Book 1)
Fan the Flames (Book 2)
Gone Too Deep (Book 3)
In Safe Hands (Book 4)
Jumping into a hole cut in the frozen reservoir was a stupid idea. In fact, of all the questionable decisions she’d made since abandoning civilization for her tiny mountain cabin seven months ago, this was probably the worst.
At least, Lou mused wryly, it was a beautiful place in which to do a dumb thing. The sun lit the snowcapped mountains circling like sleepy sentinels around them, and the wind chased powdery snow across the frozen reservoir. Despite the cold, it still smelled strongly of fish.
“Ready for some ice-rescue training?” Derek bumped his neoprene-covered arm against hers. He seemed much too cheerful for a guy about to dive into glacial water.
“Aww, Lou.” When he tried to pat her head with one of his bright blue gloves, she ducked out of reach. “Nervous?”
“Of course not. Why would I be nervous about jumping into a hole in the ice and swimming around in thirty-two-and-a-half-degree water? Why did I join the Field County Rescue Dive Team and not the Jamaican Whatever again?”
“Because I would not be on the Jamaican Dive Team,” Derek answered. “And I make it worth the cold.”
“Yeah, not really.”
“Hey!” He smacked her arm, she laughed and whacked him back, and then it evolved into a full-fledged slap fight. The blue-nitrile shade of their gloves made them look like life-size cartoons, and Lou couldn’t hold back another laugh.
Callum’s bellow froze her in place. She shot Derek a wry glance before turning to face their team leader. She took careful, deliberate steps in the clumsy dry-suit boots, as humiliation was better served in small doses. Being caught goofing off was bad enough. She didn’t need to fall on her ass, as well.
“Yes?” She eyed his scowling face. It was too bad about his surliness, since Callum was a joy to look upon otherwise, in a gladiator-meets-drill-sergeant kind of way. His blond hair was military short, and his eyes were a startling and beautiful blue against tanned skin. His jaw was square, and his body… Taking a deep breath, she carefully did not check out the neoprene-wrapped perfection below his neck.
“What are you doing?”
Somehow, answering “Fooling around with Derek” did not seem like the best idea. “Uh…nothing.”
He stared at her, heavy frown still in place. “It didn’t— Never mind. You’re like a terrier with ADD. Why can’t you stand still for five minutes?”
“Because…” She shot a glance at Derek. The traitor had taken several steps back and was pretending to examine a seam on his dry-suit sleeve. “He… I just…Um, the gloves…”
Callum let the silence hang for several seconds. When he eventually turned away from Lou, she let out the breath she’d been holding and shuffled over to rejoin Derek. Once there, she punched him lightly—well, sort of lightly—in the kidney.
“Ouch.” He gave her an injured look. “What was that for?”
“Why am I always the one who gets in trouble?”
“Because you’re the one who starts it.”
“Do not,” she protested, realizing she’d gotten a little loud only when Callum’s eyes focused on her again. Dropping her gaze, she studied the half-frozen puddle in front of her boots. It seemed as if every single time she did something embarrassing, Callum was there, watching her with the look—a mix of exasperation and irritated bafflement. The sad part was that, even after three months of getting the look, Lou still wasn’t able to smother the obnoxious butterflies that fluttered in her belly whenever she was the center of his attention.
“You done?” he asked. At her nod, he jerked his chin toward the icy reservoir.
Lou fell in line with the six other divers, taking slow, exaggerated steps to avoid tripping over her own neoprene-wrapped feet or slipping on the ice. As they reached the large opening that had been carved out earlier in the day for the training exercise, Lou peered at the water, frowning.
“What’s wrong?” Derek asked, stepping up beside her and following her gaze as if looking for the answer to his own question.
She shrugged. “All that ice around the edge makes the water look really cold.”
Bumping her with his elbow, he snorted. “It is cold, genius. It’s literally freezing, which explains all the hard stuff we’re standing on.”
Lou elbowed him back. “Dork,” she grumbled.
He smirked at her.
“The ice is just under ten inches here,” Callum announced in his schoolteacher tone—the one that always made Lou want to act up like a contrary third-grader. “Is that thick enough for a group of people to walk on?”
“Wouldn’t it have been better to confirm that before we left shore?” Lou muttered, making Derek snicker. Callum sent a sharp look her way.
“It’s thick enough,” Chad answered, taking a step toward Callum. “It’d even be okay to drive on it.”
“A car or light truck,” Chad said quickly. “For anything more, twelve inches would be better.”
“That’s what she said,” Derek whispered loud enough to make everyone except Callum laugh. Even Chad grinned before dropping his chin to hide it.
Callum let his gaze fall on each person in turn. The chuckles died, replaced by awkward coughs.
“So this ice is safe?” he finally asked when silence had fallen over the team members.
“Yes.” Chad was the first to speak up again, and Lou winced. He’d obviously already forgotten the four hours they’d spent watching training videos that morning.
Wilt gave a slow, sad shake of his head. “No ice is safe,” he said in the Arkansas drawl he held on to even after forty years in Colorado. Lou liked Wilt. He was a soft-spoken man who kept quiet unless he had something important to say. When he spoke, everyone shut up and listened. Wilt was in his sixties, with a thick mustache that drooped over his mouth, giving him a perpetually mournful expression.
“Good, Wilt,” Callum said. “Glad someone was paying attention this morning. We have to be especially careful of weak spots after the warm spell last week. Even though it’s been cold the past couple of days, the ice probably hasn’t recovered yet.”
Chad’s shoulders sagged. Knowing all too well how it felt to be under the heavy weight of Callum’s displeasure, Lou shot him a sympathetic glance. He avoided her gaze.
“Okay!” Callum clapped his blue-gloved hands together. “Everyone in the water. First time in is the hardest, so it’s best to get it over with.”
Lou eyed the water doubtfully, shuffling a little closer to the edge of the hole. She had a lot of scuba diving experience, but most of it had been in tropical locations. This was new to her.
“What if my suit has a leak?” Chad asked. Lou whipped her head around to stare at him. Hell. She’d never thought about a leaky suit. Her newly panicked gaze flew to Callum’s face.
“Your suit is buoyant enough that it won’t matter, even if it fills with water to your armpits.” Callum waved a dismissive hand. “You’ll still float.”
Slightly relieved but trying not to think about how freaking cold thirty-two-degree water up to her armpits would be, she turned her attention back to the opening in the ice. Derek had already taken the plunge.
“C’mon in,” he said, letting his legs float to the surface and leaning back as if he were in an easy chair. “The water’s fine.”
Deciding to just get it done, Lou took a breath and jumped in. When her head went under, she instantly realized her mistake. Once the shockingly cold water hit her face, her lungs clamped down, squeezing out all her oxygen. She didn’t even try to figure out which way was up but just let her suit float her to the surface instead.
She felt a tap on the back of her hood and yanked her face out of the water. Callum was close enough for her to see the deep creases between his eyebrows.
“You good?” he asked.
After examining her face carefully, he shook his head. “Never do anything halfway, do you, Sparks?”
Since she didn’t know if that was a compliment or an insult, she kept quiet. Her legs kept wanting to float to the surface behind her and tip her onto her front as the others climbed in more carefully. Scowling, she tried to force her lower half down but ended up flailing unsuccessfully.
“How are you staying upright?” she asked Callum, craning her neck to keep her face out of the water as her legs headed for the surface again.
“Tuck them to your chest and then push them straight down.” He swam toward the icy ledge as she struggled to master her buoyant suit. She finally managed to shove her legs down so her body was more or less upright.
“Ha!” she crowed, slapping the surface in victory. “Got you down, bitches!”
“Did you just call your legs ‘bitches’?” Derek asked from directly behind her, making her jump. Her upper body tilted forward, but she got herself back under control.
“Yep. Occasional evidence to the contrary, I am in charge of all my body parts.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“Everyone out!” Callum bellowed, levering his body onto the ice with ease. “Exit the water on your front like a seal and then roll away from the edge. Remember, the more you can distribute your weight, the less likely it is you’ll go through the ice.”
Lou flattened her hands on the ice and tried to hoist her body out of the water, but it looked a lot easier when Callum did it. Her legs, damn the rogue bastards, floated forward and up, catching under the ledge. She managed to slam the edge of the ice into her belly, driving out her breath.
“Nice, Lou,” Derek mocked as he slid gracefully onto the solid surface. “You’re like a special seal.”
“Oh, shut up,” she muttered, panting, as she hauled herself out of the water.
This, she could tell, was going to be one hell of a day.
Meet the Author
Katie Ruggle lives in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not writing, Katie rides horses, shoots guns, hikes, cross-country skis, kicks her generator in hopes that it will fix itself, and plots out new ways to get lost in the wilderness. She lives in Fairplay, Colorado.
Find the author at Sourcebooks