As a Texas Ranger, Hayes Keller was used to tough assignments. But protecting Taylor Landis after a recent attack and keeping his professional distance was the most challenging job Hayes had ever faced. Every instinct told him not to let her get under his skin, but sticking by her side--all day and through the hot summer night--was pushing him to the limit. Still, he needed to keep his cool until her attacker was caught. No matter how much she insisted there was more beneath Hayes's badge than just a sexy, masculine Texas Ranger.
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August 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Beneath the Badge by Rita Herron
"Taylor Landis needs protection."
Sergeant Hayes Keller pushed his half-eaten blood-red steak away, his appetite vanishing. He knew Brody McQuade, his lieutenant, was still pissed at him for sleeping with his sister, Kimberly, and forcing him to babysit the richest, prissiest heiress in Texas must be his way of punishing him.
"But Montoya killed Kimberly," Hayes said, "and Carlson tried to kill Caroline, and you took care of him."
Brody cleared his throat. "We have to tie up loose ends. I'm at the crime lab in Austin, and we got the results of Carlson's autopsy. Egan said Carlson acted as if he'd been drugged, and the coroner found ketamine in his system."
"Ketamine--that's Special K on the streets. I'm not surprised," Hayes said. "Carlson had money. He ran with the party crowd."
Brody sighed, sounding weary. "We need to search Carlson's place, see if we find evidence of the drug."
"Why? He's dead. Good riddance."
"Yeah. But during the shoot-out, when Egan confronted Carlson about being on drugs, he denied taking anything."
"So you think someone else drugged him?"
"That's what I want to know."
Hell. He wouldn't be at all surprised that someone else wanted Carlson dead.
"And we still aren't sure who planted that bomb that blew up Taylor's car. It looks as if it was intended for her, not for Caroline. Which means that if Carlson tried to kidnap Caroline because she had him fired and he didn't commit all these murders, someone else wanted to hurt Taylor."
"So she's still in danger." Hayes slapped his beer down on the bar. He so wanted this case to be over, so he could leave Cantara Hills. "Carlson probably set the bomb."
"Maybe, maybe not. Caroline is worried sick about Taylor. She said that Taylor admitted that Kimberly and Kenneth Sutton had argued before the hit-and-run. I want to know what that argument was about."
Damn. Kenneth Sutton--the powerful and ambitious chairman of the City Board who was now running for governor. Kimberly had been interning in the man's office before her murder.
And she had been upset about something that had happened with the board, that was the reason Hayes had been comforting her the night they'd ended up in bed. Although she'd refused to confide the reason.
Brody was right. They had to tie up every unanswered question. He owed Brody, and he owed Kimberly.
The waitress glanced at his beer to see if he wanted a refill. He did, but he shook his head and indicated he needed the check. Duty called.
"So who would want to hurt Taylor Landis?"
Brody grunted. "That's what you need to find out. Could be related to her family's foundation, or Sutton's hiding something." Brody hesitated. "Miles Landis is also suspect."
Miles, Taylor's half brother. The snotty brat had rubbed him wrong the moment he'd met him. "Yeah, I heard he's had money troubles."
"Right. And Taylor is supposed to inherit a boatload of money in four weeks, on her thirtieth birthday," Brody continued. "That's motive for Miles."
Hayes grabbed the check and tossed down some cash, then strode toward the door. Tonight he'd wanted to drown himself in cheap beer, listen to country music and hang with the real people.
Instead, he had to head back to the neighborhood of the rich and greedy and Taylor Landis.
Could this day get any worse?
First the confrontation with Kenneth regarding his possible tampering with the bid for the new city library, then that ordeal with Miles at the restaurant.
The only highlight was the excitement about her best friend Margaret Hathaway's upcoming wedding. Margaret had been alone a long time, had never gotten over giving her son up for adoption when she was fifteen. She'd even hinted at hiring a P.I. to look for him, but her father, Link, had insisted against it. Poor Margaret. Her friend's pain had prompted Taylor to hire the P.I. herself. Finding out that her son's adopted family loved him would make a perfect wedding gift to Margaret. Then she could finally have the happiness she deserved.
Her cell phone rang, and she checked the number as she turned into Cantara Hills. Miles.
She let it ring until it went to voice mail, but a second later, it started all over again. Knowing he wouldn't give up, she hit the connect button.
"I knew you were there," Miles snarled.
"Listen, I already told you that I'm not giving you any money right now. Grow up and start being responsible."
"You'll be sorry for turning your back on me, Taylor."
A chill swept up Taylor's spine. "Is that a threat?"
His bitter laugh echoed over the line. "It's a promise."
The dial tone buzzed in her ear as he abruptly ended the call.
Taylor shivered. After her mother's death, her father had quickly remarried. But his marriage to Miles's mother hadn't lasted long, and both she and Miles had been bitter and had tried repeatedly to milk him for money. But she'd never heard Miles so out of control. As she pulled down the drive to her mansion, she saw the crime scene tape in her driveway, and her senses jumped to alert.
The tape and the smoky, charred debris that had stained the imported Italian brick reminded her that someone had tried to kill her. That her body parts, instead of her BMW's, could have been all over the lawn....
If she hadn't rescheduled her appointment, she would have been driving home at the time the bomb exploded. According to Sergeant Egan Caldwell, the device had been set on a timer. Which meant that someone had known her routine and had intentionally planned for the car to explode with her inside.
Could Miles have done it? Or was Carlson Woodward responsible?
But why would Carlson have wanted her dead?
Hugging her arms around herself, she scanned the front of her estate, feeling paranoid as she let herself in and checked her security system. Ever since the break-ins had started in Cantara Hills, she'd been nervous. Had expected to be hit. After all, her mansion held expensive furniture, paintings, vases, collectibles, and she had several exquisite customized one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry her father had given her over the years.
All tucked away in her safe because she rarely wore them. She enjoyed the advantages money offered, but didn't flaunt her wealth. In fact, that money was sometimes a curse. While most girls had to worry about men wanting in their pants, she had the added hassle of wondering if they wanted to get into her bank account. Even her father used his wealth to replace his feelings for her with expensive gifts.