True to You is the second book in the Montana Heat series by Jennifer Ryan and it promises to be another awesome story so we’re thrilled to be spotlighting the book today. I’m more than a little anxious to check out the romance between King and Cara.
“Flash,” Cara called out a moment before she stood in the bathroom doorway.
He dried his hands on a towel and turned to her. “Hey there. How was your hike?”
Her gaze swept up him and settled on his face and messed up hair. After chopping wood and rushing through the forest with her, he needed a shower. And a shave, since he’d skipped that this morning after spending most of the night out checking local abandoned warehouses to see if Iceman was using them as storage. He had yet to track down Iceman’s headquarters despite following several of his guys from the coffee shop on multiple occasions, when he could get away at the end of a shift without being noticed.
“Um, fine. I, uh, wanted to talk to you.”
“Well, that’s something new.”
Nervous energy made her shift from one foot to the other. Her gaze dropped to the floor before it came back up and settled on his chest. He’d never seen her this unsure and out of sorts.
He stepped closer to her, concerned something might actually be wrong. Maybe something happened out in that cabin with the old man.
If he hurt her, he’d kill the bastard. “Cara? You okay?”
She reached out to place her hand on his chest, but pulled it back at the last second. Every fiber of his being woke up having her this close, but the thought of her touching him sent a bolt of heat sweeping through his system.
Before she stepped back, he grabbed her hand and held it in his.
“What is it, Cara?” He really had no idea how to read her odd behavior. She didn’t try to pull free, but gripped his hand in hers and stared down at it, testing the feel of his skin against hers.
“Are you, uh, happy here?”
Her unexpected inquiry caught him off guard. Her indifference to anything except him doing his job made it clear she didn’t care one bit about him. If he hadn’t seen the way she looked at him this morning, he’d have never guessed he got to her on some level.
“It’s a hell of a lot better than where I stayed the last few months. Why? Ready to get rid of me?”
She shook her head, still staring at their joined hands. Hers gripped his tighter. “No. Um.”
He touched his fingertip to the underside of her chin and made her tilt her head back and look at him. Her eyes filled with uncertainty. “Talk to me, Cara.” To reassure her, he squeezed her hand back.
“I’m not Tandy.”
He swept his gaze from her pale hair, over her beautiful face, down her sweet curves, and back up to her gorgeous blue eyes intent on him. “No, you’re not.”
“What does that mean?”
He wanted to tell her how beautiful he found her, but held back the words the way he held back touching her soft cheek to ease the tension out of her.
Confused by the direction she took away from him being happy here and her touching him, which made him think she wanted him for a split second before reason overtook hormones and he reminded himself she was off-limits. “You tell me.”
“She throws herself at you all the time.”
“She does that to just about every good-looking guy who walks through the door.”
“Exactly. She’s fun. She likes to go out with men, enjoy their company, and move on.”
He tilted his head and studied her. “And you’re not like her.” Cara wasn’t the love-them-and-leave-them type. He didn’t need her to say it to know it. So why this strange conversation? Why hold onto him but make him think she wanted to be left alone, too? “Look, if you’re warning me away again—”
That stopped him in his mental tracks. Maybe instead of always wanting him to back off she wanted him to come closer?
Her grip tightened on him, but her gaze darted away, then came back filled with a shyness he’d never seen in her. “I thought that maybe…if you were—”
“Cara.” The sharp voice startled her, but the immediate surprise that widened her eyes vanished and turned to cold fury.
Engrossed in each other, neither of them heard the car pull into the drive or Iceman walk into the barn. He stood in the entry, staring at them, his eyes sharp and intense on Flash.
“What’s going on here?” Iceman’s gaze dropped to their joined hands.
Cara pulled her hand free, lost the uncertainty in her eyes, and turned to glare at her father. “What are you doing here?”
Iceman held up an envelope. The sight of it made Cara tense and her hands ball into fists.
“You could have left that at the shop. You know I don’t want you coming here. All you do is bring trouble. If the cops are following you, and they probably are, it won’t be long before they’re serving search warrants for this place looking for that shit you run. How many times do I have to tell you to stay away?”
“The cops didn’t follow me.” He held up the envelope. “This is for you. I wanted to be sure you got it. That’s the deal. And I’m your father. I wanted to see you and make sure you’re okay.” Iceman stared past Cara and pinned Flash in his angry gaze.
“You don’t give a shit if I’m okay. And I don’t want that damn envelope.”
Flash couldn’t keep quiet anymore. He wanted to know what the hell was going on here. Pissed they got interrupted, he wanted even more to know what Cara had been about to say to him a minute ago. Before Iceman interrupted the moment they shared. Maybe it was a good thing they got interrupted because his mind took a turn to Dream Town where Cara was asking if there could be something between them. He shook off that thought because there could never be anything between them. Not when he was here to take down the man standing in front of them.
“What the hell is going on? Why is he paying you off?” It wasn’t such a reach to see the envelope had to be stuffed with money.
Cara didn’t look at him, but kept her gaze locked on Iceman. “He’s not paying me off. The Castillo cartel is.”
Those honest and bold words made Flash’s heart thrash in his chest.
What the hell? What did Cara have to do with the Castillo cartel? “Why?”
“Go ahead, tell him,” she dared Iceman.
“Let it go,” Iceman ordered, though the look in his eyes said he hadn’t let it go and felt guilty as hell about it. Whatever it was.
Cara turned to Flash, hate and anger in her eyes. “You want to know why I’m such a cold bitch?”
He didn’t answer the rhetorical question. He wouldn’t describe her that way in the first place. Guarded. Scared. Sad. Lonely. All those things applied, but not cold. She cared. Deeply. About Tim, Tandy, Ray, the shop, her customers, this place. Even him. Why else would she ask if he was happy here? She wouldn’t go out of her way to make this place feel like such a comfortable home if she didn’t care. He wouldn’t mind living there even if it wasn’t part of his job.
She just didn’t want anyone to see how much she cared because she didn’t want anyone to use it against her.
Cara waved her hand toward her father. “You know who he is, what he does, the kind of life he leads. It’s all about the money, moving the product, but more than anything it’s about his reputation. You can’t let your rivals think you’re weak or they’ll take what you have and kill you. So you can’t care about anyone but yourself.”
Iceman’s mouth pinched into a thin line. “Cara, that’s not fair.”
“Fair! Nothing in my life has ever been fair. You neglected me and mom. You left us and never looked back.”
“To keep you out of my world and safe.” Iceman’s words lacked the conviction expected to add punch to them. Instead, Iceman said the words like he’d said them a hundred times in an argument they’d repeated until the going round and round sapped both of them to the point the words held no meaning at all because no one believed them anymore and nothing got solved.
Cara held her disfigured hand up. “Out of your world? Safe? So long as you are who you are, I’m never safe. They’ll use me to get to you.”
“Because of who I am, you are protected.”
“Right,” she scoffed. “Because everyone knows how dangerous you can be. When you want to be. Except you left me there. You didn’t lift a finger to help me. And I lost mine.” She rubbed her fingers over the scars where her pinky used to be.
Iceman raked his fingers through his white hair, frustration pulling his brows together and narrowing his eyes. “If you’d give me chance—”
“I gave you plenty of chances. But I’m not a little girl anymore. I see you for who and what you are now. Destroyer of lives. Mom’s. Mine. Everyone you sell that crap to. You turned your back on your family for another one.”
Iceman planted his hands on his hips and sighed out his frustration. “I was in this life long before I met your mother. Once you’re in, Cara, there is no out.”
“We both know that’s the life you want. You love it. The power. The money. The game. Leave the envelope on the table.” She notched her chin to the table between them. A world of hurt and anger separated them even more. “Go play with other people’s lives and stay out of mine.