Authors: Catherine Mann
Tags: #Contemporary Romance, #Fiction
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF CATHERINE MANN
“Catherine Mann weaves deep emotion with intense suspense for an all-night read.”
—Sherrilyn Kenyon, #1
New York Times
“Catherine Mann’s picture should be in the dictionary next to ‘superb.’”
New York Times
“A brilliant . . . adventure woven with gripping emotion.”
New York Times
“Touching in its emotional pull.”
The Romance Studio
“A terrific tale!”
Genre Go Round Reviews
“Not only riveting but also movingly profound . . . Will captivate your imagination.”
“I loved all of Ms. Mann’s Dark Ops books and highly recommend that you check them out.”
“Entertaining, pleasurable, and suspenseful. One can’t help falling in love with the characters. A great read!”
“Terrific romantic suspense that never slows down . . . An action-packed story line.”
Midwest Book Review
Berkley Sensation titles by Catherine Mann
Second Chance Ranch Novels
Dark Ops Novels
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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A Penguin Random House Company
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Catherine Mann.
copyright © 2014 by Catherine Mann.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63748-7
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / August 2014
Cover illustration by Anna Kmet.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Rob—my hero, my friend, my love. Always.
People have asked me if I write about my own life. I am, after all, married to a military man who served over twenty years in the Air Force. However, this story is not autobiographical, although it was most certainly born in my heart—and in my fears as my imagination flew down a path that every military spouse has traveled at some point thinking: “What if the worst happened?” My husband eventually retired and thank heaven we never had to face that heart rending, ultimate sacrifice made by others who’ve lost a loved one in uniform. This book, born in my heart and fears, is in honor of every one of those fallen service members and their families.
I owe many people bucket loads of gratitude for helping me pour out this story onto the keyboard. There aren’t words enough to thank Wendy McCurdy for her unconditional trust that I could pull this off even when I doubted myself. Bless her, she didn’t even wince when I said I wanted to toss in a semi-feral dog’s point of view. Thank you as well to Katherine Pelz and the entire Berkley team for all their hard work on behalf of my stories. I am also incredibly lucky to have the support of my stellar agent, Barbara Collins Rosenberg, a savvy voice of wisdom and direction.
And how do I thank the most brilliant critique partner and awesome friend on the planet? Joanne Rock is
best, hands down. Much appreciation goes to both of my amazing beta readers, too. My super-talented daughter Haley Frank, an Army wife, made sure I remembered those nuance-ey differences between Air Force lingo and Army lingo (any mistakes are purely my own—ooh-rah/hoo-uh!). And my dear friend and fellow animal rescuer Zo Carlson shared her fantastic eye for proofreading, while also understanding what my crazy-dog-lady side wanted to convey.
Speaking of kindred spirits in the animal rescue world, I am so very grateful to Executive Director Dee Thompson, her staff, and the volunteers at the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). Their endless capacity for compassion for abandoned and abused animals humbles me. Everyone at PAWS has taught me so much as we travel this rescue journey.
What great book-lover camaraderie I’ve found via the Internet. I owe Dr. Linda Hankins, DVM, a deep debt of gratitude for answering all my veterinarian questions, even patiently responding when I Facebook messaged her at midnight. (Again let me stress, any mistakes are totally my own.) And my treasured Facebook crew—Stephanie, Anne, Ann, Vickie, Linda (again), Debra, Judy, Sue, Paula, Kay, Elaine, Jan, Peggy, Pamela, Eileen, Sylvia, Dakota, Debby, Barb, Gail, Marcia—I am so lucky, lucky, lucky to have them cheering me on and helping spread the word about my books. Although I must say, as much as I enjoy visiting on the Internet, I look forward to our next gathering in person.
As always, all my love goes out to my family that continues to grow larger by the year—my husband, our four children, our two new in-law children who I love every bit as much as my blood-related kids. And of course more love than I ever even knew existed goes out to my precious, perfect granddaughter. Last, thank you to my four-legged, furry family who teaches me about unconditional love every day: Sadie, Sam, Faith, Toby, Cooper, and the one who started it all . . . Trooper.
WAS BORN IN
the land of Babylon.
Thousands of years ago people spoke the same language there, before the Big Master scattered them. Maybe that’s why I understand what humans mean even when they can’t understand each other. Or possibly that’s why they can’t understand me, because they left.
But then perhaps they can’t understand me because I’m a dog.
No. Really. I’m not putting myself down. I’m seriously a D-O-G. Yep, I can spell, too, but I can’t tell people that, either, because . . . Come on, you know the reason. Say it with me. Because I’m a . . .
And while I was born in Babylon—a.k.a. Iraq—my life changed forever the day I left that home with Sergeant Mike Kowalski. The morning I went away was tricky, because the Sergeant had to sneak me out of the forward operating base on one of those monster-big cargo planes they call a C-17. I was going for the ride to end all rides.
Back then they didn’t have very many of those cool puppy rescue organizations to bring dogs back from a war zone. In my day, the Department of Defense law stood more often than not. No pets on military installations. And bringing them home? Huge negative on that.