Forged From Ice

September 19, 2023 – Ice Breaker Cold Case Romance – Ice Breaker, Book 6

You can’t run from him.

U.S. Marshal Titan Everett never loses his prey, and he always stays mission oriented. His latest mission? He’s working with a group of cold case solvers called the Ice Breakers—he’s chasing down a runaway witness, a woman who may be the key to solving a string of unsolved murders. Seems like a simple enough job. After the hell he’s seen, locating one Cassidy Jacobs, former kindergarten teacher, should be a walk in the park.

She doesn’t want to be found.

When you manage to escape from a twisted killer—who happened to be your boyfriend—you grab life by both hands and you hold on tight.  You run like mad from danger, you reinvent yourself over and over, and you don’t look back. Ever. Unless, of course, the past comes barreling at you in the form of one truly massive and strong U.S. marshal.

Titan is big, dangerous, and determined to bring Cassidy back home.  He also has the most incredible eyes she’s ever seen and a voice that makes her whole body ache with longing…Problematic. Very. Because the last time she fell hard for a sexy stranger, he wound up being a monster.

Home is where the nightmare waits.

Scarred and twisted by his own past, Titan never claims to be anyone’s hero. He barely talks, and charming is the last word anyone would ever associate with him. The bubbly, beautiful Cassidy is his complete opposite, and the scorching, primal attraction he feels for her catches him completely off guard as they embark on what has to be the road trip from hell.

Unfortunately, Titan isn’t the only one who has found Cassidy. She’s been running non-stop, but she just can’t seem to run far enough—or fast enough—to evade the man who wants her dead.  When Titan saves her life and promises protection, she agrees to a partnership with him. He’ll protect her, and she’ll help him draw out the killer.  No biggie. Not like she’s utterly and completely terrified.

But eventually, you have to stop running and start fighting.

This isn’t just another hunt for Titan. Everything has changed in his world because of Cassidy. Losing her can’t happen, but putting the man in the ground who has been terrorizing her? Absolutely on Titan’s to-do list. New mission: Protect Cassidy and catch a killer.  And when the case is closed, maybe Cassidy will want to start a new life once again…only this time, with Titan at her side.

U.S. Marshal Titan Everett is on the hunt.  On the outside, Titan looks scary as the devil, and he’s well aware that he often sends small children running. But Cassidy isn’t afraid of him.  Beautiful, bold, and with a spark for life that draws him close, she is unlike anyone he’s ever met before. She needs help, and she’s going to get it. Because from the first moment he sees her, Titan knows…he will move heaven and fight hell to keep her safe.

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Chapter One

She’d escaped from him three times before. She wouldn’t be getting away again.

Titan Everett kicked the door shut behind him, blocking the fierce wind that had been at his back and shutting out the howl that had followed him inside. The promised storm had been chasing him for miles, and he’d made it to his destination just in time.

Got you.

Titan slowly approached the worn bar. He was in the middle of nowhere—literally, a dot on the map called Nowhere, South Dakota. He’d been tracking his prey all across the US. He had to give the woman credit—Cassidy Jacobs was damn good at running.

Too bad for her, he was damn good at hunting.

Country music blared from an old speaker that had been perched up on a nearby wall. The place looked like it had once been a barn with a tall ceiling and broad, wooden rafters. Titan was pretty sure he even saw some leftover straw on the floor.

Not exactly the Ritz, but then, when you were running from a murderer, keeping a low profile was probably far more important than living a life of luxury.

Her back was to him as he closed in, so he couldn’t be one hundred percent certain she was his target. Not yet. She was humming along to the music and moving her hips in a little sway exactly in time with the beat. Every now and then, her head—adorned with thick, dark hair that spilled over her shoulders—would bob to the left or the right.

The woman’s situational awareness was shit. With her past, he expected more. She seemed completely oblivious to his presence in the bar.

He was almost on top of her, and he still hadn’t gained her attention. Those hips of hers kept swaying and his gaze was on them—probably focusing too much on them, dammit—and Titan whipped up his eyes to see—

Her, staring at him in the mirror. The big, wide, and very long mirror that hung on the wall behind the bar. A shelf full of bottles waited beneath that mirror.

Fuck. He’d been the one not situationally aware. A tight ass in a pair of equally tight jeans had just distracted him. Talk about humiliating.

His hands rose and flattened onto the bar.

She smiled, a wide flash that sent dimples winking in both of her cheeks. “See something you like, handsome?”

Handsome? The word had him stiffening. Okay, fine, it was dark in the old bar. The lights overhead were dim as fuck. Probably a deliberate tactic to hide the aging surroundings. But given the dim lighting, maybe his prey hadn’t been able to see him clearly. Especially since she’d just been peering at his reflection in the mirror. But even as he had that thought, she was spinning around to face him and stepping up to the bar.

No way could she not get a good look now.

At him, and the scars on his face. A face that no one in their right mind would call handsome. More like the stuff of nightmares. That had been the actual description given by his ex once upon a time.

How can I possibly stay with you? I look at you and—God, Titan, it’s a nightmare. You’re a nightmare. I need to wake up.

But the bartender—slender but curved in all the right places—just kept swaying slightly to the music. Her gaze didn’t stray from his. Usually, curious—or horrified—gazes cut helplessly toward his scars. Toward the long, white scar that bisected his right eyebrow and climbed toward his forehead. That knife slice had nearly taken his eye.

And if people didn’t look at that scar first, then their gazes tended to fall to the slice that hit his cheekbone and disappeared under his jaw. His attacker had been determined to carve him up.

He’d succeeded. The scars on Titan’s face were just the tip of the iceberg.

“Uh, hello?” she prompted as she waved one hand toward him. Her eyebrows rose. “Something I can get for you?”

She still hadn’t looked directly at the scars. Meanwhile, he was drinking her in. To make certain she was the correct target—that was why he was studying her so carefully. Why his gaze had started at the tip of her head—dark, thick hair with a faint curl—and was slowly lowering. Deep, dark eyes. Not really brown, more a gold so complete and deep that her gaze appeared dark. Heart-shaped face. Perfect cheekbones. Disarming dimples.

She wore a plain, white T-shirt that stretched over small but nicely rounded breasts. No nametag on the shirt. And she—

A long sigh slipped from her. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you it was rude to stare?”

His eyes jumped right back up to find hers.

She leaned toward him. “It’s even ruder…” Her tone went lower. Huskier. “To lust after someone you’ve just met. You’re not supposed to gawk at strangers.”

Holy fuck. He most certainly had not been—

Her smile widened. Her dimples deepened. “Are you blushing? I think you are. That’s sort of cute.”

No. He was not blushing. Titan didn’t blush. Not ever. And never in a million years could someone seriously claim he was cute . He growled.

She bit her lip, as if fighting her smile. Or stifling a laugh. “Okay, Mr. Tall, Muscled, and Blushy…are you going to be rude and keep staring or are you going to order something?” She motioned toward the otherwise empty bar. “As you can see, I am having one majorly slow night. Probably because a real nasty bit of weather is scheduled to hit at any time, and people in their right minds aren’t out.”

Was she telling him that she didn’t think he was in his right mind? Insulting him in that sweet, husky voice? A voice that seemed to be stroking right over him and—

Sonofabitch. He was lusting after his target. He was even more hard up than he’d thought.

Thunder rumbled. A long, loud rumble that seemed to shake the bar itself. Titan was sure he noticed a few glasses trembling on the shelf behind the bar.

She shook her head and sent her thick hair sliding over her shoulder. “That is not a good sign. Probably gonna be just like the local weatherman predicted on the five o’clock news…‘Severe thunderstorms with the threat of tornadoes. Torrential rainfall. Dangerous lightning strikes.’” A pause. “In light of all that and the fact that I can now hear the rain pounding against the roof, I just have to ask…what brings you out on a night like this?”

You. She’d brought him out. He’d been chasing her for a very long time. And, yes, he was staring straight at his target. Her hair was longer than it had been in the picture he’d been given, but then, that picture was over a year old. Longer hair and darker, too. Her body seemed more slender, as if she’d lost weight while running and hiding. But the smile was the same. The killer smile that had been like a punch to his gut the first time he’d seen a photo of it—of her.

But in real-life, that smile of hers was even more powerful. Even more disarming.

Only her smile dimmed as he stared at her and said nothing. What could have been fear began to stir in her dark, dark gold eyes.

Now that was the typical reaction people had when they encountered him. They stared at him, and they feared. But then, she had a reason to fear, didn’t she? A beautiful woman, alone in an otherwise empty bar with a stranger. He towered over her because he knew his prey stood at five-foot-five. He probably outweighed her by more than a hundred pounds, and with the storm amping up to violently rage outside, no one would be rushing in to join them.

They were all alone.

The fear deepened in her eyes even as her hands began to casually lower behind the bar.

Hell. She’s going for a weapon. He had to speak, even though that act was probably going to scare her even more. “Whiskey.” As always, his voice emerged as a growl. A rough, twisted, gruff request. Titan knew that he looked scary as hell, and when you added the wreck that was his voice—the package became even more terrifying.

She blinked. Her hands stopped reaching for the weapon.

More thunder rumbled.

She held his stare a moment. “Anyone ever tell you that your voice is even sexier than Vin Diesel’s?”

He could feel his eyes widening. No one had ever told him that. He’d made children cry before, but no one had ever said anything about his voice being—

“No? It is. Know it. Own it.” With that, she swung away, went back to swaying with the music, and grabbed some whiskey from the shelf beneath the mirror. “You didn’t specify what kind, but I believe I told you it was a slow night, so I’ll be giving you the most expensive drink I have. Considering that you might be the only sale I make tonight, I’m sure you understand.” She splashed some whiskey into a glass for him. Never missed a beat with her swaying. The woman had a rhythmic gift. I need to stop staring at her ass.

Titan swallowed. His eyes lifted. Very reluctantly.

“I know most of the folks in town.” She whirled back toward him and put the whiskey in front of him with a graceful movement of her hand. No rings. Slender fingers. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

He shook his head and didn’t reach for the whiskey. He did settle onto the bar stool near him, and Titan found that he couldn’t take his gaze off her.

Rude to stare? Yep. But everyone who knew him would agree that Titan tended to be one rude sonofabitch.

At least he wasn’t staring hard at her ass anymore. He was locked on her face. A dark secret he had? Her face had been haunting him for ages. Ever since he’d first been given her picture and he’d found himself taking a cold case that shouldn’t have been his.

But one look at her, and he’d been hooked.

“Passing through town?” she asked as her dark eyes seemed to sparkle.

How did she do that? Get her eyes to sparkle when they were so dark? He could have sworn that sparkle lit up not just her eyes, but the whole damn bar. Crazy. Impossible. Yet he studied that sparkle as he tried to puzzle things out.

Her brows stayed up, all expectant-like.

Hell. He should answer her question. Um, was he passing through town? Nope. He’d gotten what he came for. She was right in front of him. So Titan shook his head.

A bubble of laughter spilled from her. Freaking adorable and infectious. “You are not one for talking, are you?” She grabbed a white cloth and wiped down the bar top on her side, then bent and swiped it lower behind the bar, too.

No, he wasn’t much for talking. He liked silence. Liked to watch and observe.

She gripped the cloth in one hand as she tilted her head to study him. “If you’re not passing through and you’re clearly not from here, then what brings you to Nowhere?”

He eyed the cloth in her hand, and, for the first time, he smiled. He’d been a bit worried about her. A woman alone in a rundown bar. She should’ve had a coworker with her. No way was it safe for her to be working alone. And with her past, the lady should know better than to be unguarded. But it was nice to see she had a few hidden talents. “Gonna shoot me?” Titan asked.

She took a step back. Then she also looked down at the cloth in her hand. A cloth that he knew was wrapped around a small gun. He could see the outline of the weapon. She’d grabbed it while acting like she was cleaning.

“Sorry,” she told him, not even hesitating as she boldly lied to his face and said, “I have no idea what you mean. I don’t know—”

In a flash, he was off the bar stool, partially over that bar, and he’d snatched the cloth—and the gun—from her fingers. He unwrapped the cloth to reveal his prize even as a startled cry burst from her lips.

“Gun,” Titan stated simply. He lifted it up and checked the chamber. A loaded gun. Shaking his head, he unloaded it for her.

And she ran for the door.

Hell. He was definitely not handling this situation with any finesse. Typical. “Cassidy, wait!”

With her hand reaching for the front door, she jerked to a stop. Her head whipped back toward him. Her gaze met his, and he saw the terror burning in her eyes. If possible, the gold had gone even darker. “How do you know my name?”

Simple. “I’m here for you.” He started to reach inside his coat.

Her terror-filled eyes widened even more. “The hell you are.” Then she yanked open the door and ran into the stormy night.


She’d known he was trouble from the minute he walked into the bar.

Of course—of course—the bar’s manager had gotten stuck out at his cabin because the road had washed away with last night’s rainfall. Of course, Cassidy would be there alone. And, of course, the worst kind of trouble would walk his way into her bar when she was all alone.

The rain pelted down on her as Cassidy hauled ass through the parking lot. One big problem with this fleeing run of hers? She didn’t have a car. She’d taken the bus to Nowhere. All right, fine, she’d taken the bus to the bigger town near Nowhere, then she’d hitched a ride over with a trucker. Shortly after arriving in the tiny dot of a town, Cassidy had gotten a job at the bar, and one of the perks had been that she got to use the small apartment behind the main building.

She’d been saving up some cash, hoping to buy herself a ride and—


His cry—deeper than thunder—jolted Cassidy as she scurried across the deserted lot. His vehicle—a big, black beast of an SUV—was the only ride there. Not like she could hotwire that thing and make an escape. She had zero hotwiring skills.

At his booming cry, Cassidy didn’t look back because looking back would be an utter waste of time. If she could get to the trees across the road, she could have some cover. She’d twist and turn her way through the woods and maybe lose the guy after her. Then if she got extra lucky—a situation that rarely happened in her life—Cassidy would be able to make it to the small sheriff’s station that waited about three miles away. She knew a deputy there who could help her out.

She scampered forward and—

Arms that felt like tree trunks wrapped around her, caging her arms against her sides, and looping around her body as the big, dangerous stranger yanked her up. He held her easily against his chest even as she squirmed and kicked. With her arms pinned, she couldn’t quite reach the knife that she had strapped to her ankle. She was trying, though, and Cassidy heaved up her right foot, twisted, and managed to get her fingers around the small handle of the knife on her third attempt. Yes.

“US marshal.”

She yanked out her weapon, and Cassidy jabbed the knife into his leg because, unfortunately, it took her a wee bit too long to process his growl.

But he dodged the blow. Mostly, anyway. And the knife sliced to the side instead of sinking deep into muscle and bone.

Fuck!” He spun her around in a flash and yanked the knife from her. He tossed it somewhere—she heard the clatter as it hit the pavement.

He’d managed to toss the knife and still hold her. Kinda impressive. Majorly scary. Her feet dangled off the ground. This. Was. Not. Good.

Since they were dangling…Cassidy kicked him. Hard and fast. Over and over. She aimed right for his di—

US marshal!” More of a roar than a growl. “US marshal! US marshal! I’m a marshal! Lady, stop!”

Too late. That last kick had landed hard right on target—with, uh, his dick being the target. His teeth snapped together. Did his eyes roll back into his head a bit? Oh, yes, they did.

She winced.

Did I just attack a US marshal?

He slowly lowered her to the ground. His teeth remained clenched, and his body completely rigid. One of his hands remained clamped around her arm while the other reached into his jacket—he’d been reaching back that way when they’d been in the bar, too. But then, she’d thought he was reaching for a weapon, so she’d hauled ass.

Her particular motto was…When in a threatening situation, haul ass first, and never stick around to ask questions.

But he didn’t pull out a weapon. He pulled out what looked like a black wallet. He flipped it open, and she saw a shiny, gold star surrounded by a circle. One side of the wallet contained the star, and the other side held some official-looking ID card.

So…going back to her mental question…

Did I just attack a US marshal?

It would appear that the answer to that was…Yes. In fact, she had. She’d sliced him with her knife and potentially broken his dick. If a dick could be broken. This could not end well for her. Cassidy cleared her throat. “You really should have ID’d yourself first.”

He shoved the wallet back into his coat. Didn’t release her.

Dammit. She’d freaked when he yanked the gun away from her so easily. She’d only gone for the weapon behind the bar because he’d been setting off every alarm bell possible in her head. Again, as far as she was concerned, his fault. “Talking more would help, too. You can’t just enter a bar, eat a woman alive with your eyes, and then expect her to be completely relaxed and chill when you disarm her in five seconds flat. That shit is scary, just so you know.”

He blinked and finally let her go.

She realized that they were both soaking wet. The rain had drenched them. Her hair and clothes stuck to her body, and seeing as how she was wearing white…


She was her own walking, talking version of a wet T-shirt competition.

His gaze dropped to her chest.

A muscle flexed along his ever-so-hard jaw, and then his eyes immediately flew back up to her face. She could feel water dripping down her face. Cassidy felt like she should apologize for the knife attack. And the dick attack. “I, uh, hope I didn’t hurt you.”

His hand rose, and he shoved back the wet hair that had fallen forward. The man had some seriously thick, dark hair. “Fine,” he gritted.

Fine…as in he wasn’t hurt? Nah. She didn’t buy that. “I know guys like to brag, but I’m sure your dick isn’t indestructible.”

Lightning flashed overhead, and she jumped.

“My dick is fine,” he rumbled.

Her gaze darted upward. “I don’t like lightning,” she whispered. And here she was, running around while it flashed overhead. “Almost got struck when I was a kid. I could smell the scent of ozone, and I swear, I could feel an electric charge in the air all around me. It terrified me.” Oh, if only lightning was all she had to fear these days.

Thunder roared.

Automatically, she grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the bar. “Let’s get back inside.”

He didn’t move.

“Lightning storm,” she said as she tugged harder on his hand. “We need to seek shelter and—”

Headlights. They cut through the rain and the darkness and locked right on her as the vehicle came rushing across the lot. For just a moment, those lights pinned her and her US marshal. She squinted against the light but didn’t let go of her stranger’s hand.

Why not? Why am I holding him so tightly?

But then lights flashed from the top of the approaching vehicle, and Cassidy realized she was staring at a patrol car. Or, to be more precise, a deputy’s patrol car. Her gaze narrowed against the rain and light as she tried to make out the vehicle more clearly.

The brakes screeched a little as the driver stopped. The swirling light bar on top of the patrol car remained on even as the driver leapt from the vehicle, leaving his door open. “Cass!”

She knew the voice. Deputy Maverick Thomas. A year or so younger than she was, a nice enough guy, even if he did ask too many questions that she didn’t intend to answer, and he flirted with everyone who—

“Who the hell is he?” Maverick demanded. “Cass? What’s happening here?”

More lightning. She flinched. “We’re going inside. You should come, too—”

Maverick bounded forward. He put his hand on her shoulder and tugged her away from her marshal.

Wait. Was it her imagination or had the marshal just growled?

Maverick put her behind him. “Who the hell are you?”

She was getting drenched. “He’s a marshal. You’re Deputy Maverick Thomas.” Introductions had been made. “I’m soaking wet. We’re all going inside.” Done. Wasn’t that the way to take charge? She thought it was. Not waiting on them—because she wasn’t just going to stand there now that she was no longer running for her life—Cassidy headed back for the bar.

Behind her, she heard… “Marshal?” Maverick questioned as his normally jovial voice turned gruff. “You better have some proof of that on you, buddy.”

No response. She suspected the marshal had just nodded.

The bar’s front door was open, so she hurried inside. There was a slam behind her. Had Maverick finally closed his car door? Hopefully, he’d turned off the flashing lights, too.

She shook her head, sending drops of water flying across the bar. Goosebumps rose onto her skin. A marshal had just tracked her down. Not like she was some wanted felon or anything. Cassidy had broken zero laws. So there was no reason for him to be hunting her.

Don’t lie to yourself. You know why he’s come.

Footsteps. Heavy. Right behind her. She whirled. The marshal filled the doorway. As in, seriously filled it. The man’s shoulders bumped the frame. She swallowed. “You are a big one.” So big that he’d easily lifted her into the air and held her against him like it was nothing during their struggle outside.

He took a step forward.

His eyes pinned her.

The man’s eyes were insane. Not in a bad way. In a crazy, hot, intense way. As in, she’d never seen such an electric shade of blue. Another shiver swept over her as she stood there, dripping, but this shiver had a whole lot less to do with the cold and a whole lot more to do with his unforgettable eyes.

The whole man was an unforgettable package, to be honest. That jaw? Killer. So hard and strong. Chiseled. That was the word. A chiseled jaw. The kind you wanted to lick.

Nope. Stop. You are not licking anything. You just were running from him, for goodness’ sake. Get some control woman.

Obviously, she had been without a romantic partner for too long. But, given her track record, that was probably a good thing.

In addition to his killer eyes and his chiseled jaw, her marshal had a little cleft in his chin. A strong nose, a noble brow, and a lion’s mane of dark hair.

He cleared his throat. “You need a new shirt.”

He’d just said five words. Five whole words. Cassidy tugged the clinging, wet shirt from her body. “You are just getting super chatty on me now.” She had another shirt—in her little studio apartment. But going to retrieve said shirt at the moment didn’t seem to be a possibility because now Maverick was pushing against the marshal and coming inside.

“I want to see that ID!” Maverick blasted.

She should probably look at it again, too. A thorough look to make sure it was legit. But who would fake being a marshal?

Like you can trust him—or anyone—blindly? You know better, Cassidy.

The marshal headed toward her. His blue stare swept over and hardened with what looked like anger. Why was he mad?

Oh, right. She’d stabbed him. And kicked him in the dick. Cassidy winced. “I can get you some ice.”

“I want that ID!” Maverick’s voice rose even more.

The marshal rolled his blue eyes and pulled his ID from his coat. A big, dripping raincoat. They were all making puddles on the floor. The marshal tossed the ID to Maverick.

Maverick stood at least five inches shorter than the marshal. He was a whole lot leaner, too. He had his weapon holstered at his hip, and his uniform had dark splotches covering it—wet spots from the rain. His bushy brows rose as he checked the ID. “Titan Everett?”

“Titan,” she repeated. “That fits.”

Titan took off his coat. More water dripped. Then he put the dripping coat over her shoulders. It swallowed her. “Um…” Her head tilted back. “I think raincoats are more useful when you’re outside. You know, in the rain.”

He lowered his head toward her. “I could see your nipples.”

“You should have looked elsewhere then.” Dammit, not her fault. And she was blushing. Great.

He could see, too.” His big hands reached out and tugged the front of the coat together before he zipped her up.

Cassidy shook her head. She also popped her arms out of the sleeves because otherwise, she was just standing there feeling like a burrito. “Do you have issues I need to know about?”

His lips tightened. God, his lips were sexy.

Why was she noticing sexy things about him? Why, why, why? Talk about the wrong time. And had she not learned her lesson before? Getting swept away by a sexy stranger was a bad thing. A terrible thing. A wreck-your-life thing.

The coat smelled like him. Her nostrils widened as she caught the scent. Crisp and fresh. It reminded her of the ocean. She was far, far away from the ocean. But she’d once spent her days running on beaches and watching the waves crash into the shore.

Home. He smells like home.

Nope. He did not. She was too tired, and this was madness. Cassidy licked her lips. The marshal—Titan—had said he was at the bar because of her. Her whole life could implode in the next minute if she didn’t handle things very carefully. “Don’t tell him about my past,” she whispered to Titan. Then, hating it, she added, “Please.”

His blue eyes narrowed on her.

“Ahem.” From Maverick. He headed forward, moving once more into Cassidy’s line of sight. “What’s a US marshal doing in Nowhere? My office wasn’t notified that you were here.” He held out the ID to Titan. “You after a criminal? Someone dangerous in my town that I need to know about?”

Please. Mentally, she made the plea again. Please, don’t tell him. Please, don’t wreck this little life that I’ve created.

“No,” Titan said.

Just that. Just no.

Her heart slammed into her ribs. Was Titan telling her no? Denying her plea? Or was he—

“No, what?” Maverick asked as he scratched his chin. Maverick was an attractive guy. Never seemed to lack attention. She’d seen several ladies hit on him each time he came into the bar. The guy had a reputation of always providing a fun night for the women who were interested. He had a quick grin, easy charm, and he looked good in his uniform.

But as he stood next to Titan, he just seemed…weak.

“No to your last question,” Titan rumbled.

Her breath released in a relieved rush. Someone dangerous in my town I need to know about?

Good. And Titan was telling the truth. She wasn’t dangerous.

It was her ex. He was the dangerous one—a real nightmare. Not that anyone had believed her when she’d tried to tell them the truth.

Titan shoved his ID into the back pocket of his jeans. Then he crossed his powerful arms over his chest and stared at Maverick.

Maverick’s gaze kept jumping between the scars on Titan’s face. “What the hell happened to you?” A low whistle escaped him.

“A knife.”

Just that. Brutal and cold. And she flinched.

Maverick shot a questioning glance her way. “I don’t understand what’s happening. Why is a US marshal in your bar?”

“Came for her,” Titan said.

Oh, no. Now she was worrying again. She wanted to close her eyes and pretend all of this wasn’t happening, but that trick had never worked for her before, so why would it work now?

Titan’s arm brushed against her.

Maverick grunted. “Oh, I get it.”

She very much doubted that he did. Very few people would ever get what was happening in her life.

But Maverick nodded, all sage-like. “This the boyfriend? The one you told me about?”

Titan stiffened.

Oh, crap. She’d forgotten that lie. When Maverick had first hit on her, she’d told him that she had a boyfriend who’d be visiting town soon. The lie had been an easy way to keep him at a distance. To keep all the guys who might be interested away.

“The one you text sometimes?” Maverick continued because the man seemed determined to share her info with Titan. “The one you told me would be coming to visit you soon?”

Titan’s face went dark.

“This him?” Maverick’s fingers rested along the top of his holster as he took Titan’s measure. “Because when I pulled up, I saw you holding hands outside.”

They hadn’t been holding hands. She’d been trying to get him out of the storm.

Titan opened his mouth—

“Yes!” Cassidy blurted. Once more, she grabbed Titan’s hand. Probably held it a little too tightly. “This is my boyfriend, Titan. Titan Everett.” She sent him a beaming smile. “So glad that you made it into town. I have missed you.”

His brow furrowed as he took in her smile.

“So much,” she added. “Just…so much.” He was going to blow this. And why wouldn’t he? He’d call her a liar right in front of the deputy, and her whole new life would go up in smoke. She’d have to move again. How many moves had it been in the last year? She couldn’t get settled anywhere. Couldn’t make any friends. Couldn’t have a life. Pain and fear were eating her up, and she wanted it to stop.

She surged toward Titan. Wrapped her arms around his massive form—as best she could—and shot up onto her toes. She tried to yank him down closer to her. “Please,” she whispered again, aiming for his ear.

But his head turned. Her lips skimmed over his jaw. To Maverick, it probably looked as if she’d given her boyfriend a tender kiss.



She hadn’t intended a kiss. And she didn’t know what to do with the sudden need that blazed through her. The kiss had been nothing. A brief touch of her lips against his chiseled jaw. A jaw that had a little stubble on it. She was—

Titan’s eyes met hers. The warmth of his body—of him—surrounded her. One of his hands rose and cupped her jaw. A careful touch, but she could feel the calluses on his hand. His head dipped close to her again, and she realized that he was about to kiss her.

He’s going along with my story. Relief had her feeling lightheaded. This stranger was going to back her up. She would owe him so much as soon as they finished this scene and got Maverick out of the way. She was going to—

His lips brushed hers.

He’s actually kissing me.

Heat surged through her body. A sudden, fierce, sensual awareness that had every part of her feeling electrified. Like he was the lightning, and he was igniting her senses. Her lips parted more for him. His tongue dipped into her mouth.

A siren blared.

A siren?

“Oh, shit,” Maverick exclaimed, utterly ruining her unexpected moment. “That’s the tornado siren. We need to get the hell down into the shelter, now.”