Dark deeds are being done, and Jenn Canaday, a special agent with the FBI, has been assigned to look into them. This takes her to New Mexico, where cattle are being rustled and people are going missing—one of them the niece of the state’s governor.
Meg Parkinson is a sheriff’s deputy in the small town of Laurel Hill. She and Jenn had once spent a steamy week together, but then Jenn had sent her away, something Meg hasn’t gotten over, as reluctant as she is to admit it.
When Meg notices that the homeless camp on the edge of her town has become deserted, Jenn is brought into her vicinity to aid in the investigation. Will the former lovers be able to work together? Can they rekindle the flame that had once burned so brightly? And will they learn what’s behind all the disappearances without disappearing themselves?
- 1 To Be Read list
“Gah.” Jenn Canaday knew what the calendar said—it was the last week of September and a week into autumn—but that didn’t matter. The thermometer outside the door of the New Mexico hotel where she’d be staying told an entirely different story. In spite of the fact she’d been born and raised near Schieffelin, Arizona, a hellhole on the outskirts of the Mohave Desert, she loathed the heat.
“I’m melting, Ma,” she complained before she left to drive herself to the community college she attended.
“You’ve lived here all your life, young lady. This is a dry heat,” her mother assured her. “It’s endurable.”
“Endure it, Genevieve.”
“Endure it, hah,” she muttered, but softly so her mother didn’t hear her. Unlike Jenn, her mother loved everything about her home—the heat, the dust, the fact Jim Canaday had brought her here after they’d eloped.
Jenn climbed into the battered jeep her parents had given her for her sixteenth birthday the year before, grousing every step of the way.
It was true, though. Jenn pretty much melted every year when the temperatures rose to triple digits, and frankly she couldn’t wait to get out of here; she planned to as soon as she graduated Kalijah Community College. Since she’d discovered she tended to get seasick in the smallest body of water, she couldn’t join the navy and see the world, but she wouldn’t let that stop her—she had a plan. She’d join the Marines. That would give her a leg up to eventually becoming a member of the FBI.
Enlisting in the Marines after she’d graduated KCC hadn’t proved a bright idea, since she wound up stationed in a Middle Eastern country almost as bad as her hometown, but she slogged through three tours, then accepted an honorable discharge and took advantage of the G.I. Bill to get her B.S. This time after she graduated, she applied to the FBI. At least that had worked out, and she was on the fast track to a promotion that would have her directing her own field office before she turned forty in a few years.
That was why she couldn’t let herself be distracted by the pretty sheriff’s deputy she’d met in Delaware six years before, while speaking at a seminar dealing with females in law enforcement. Afterward, she and the deputy had had a hot, intense, weeklong affair, but Jenn knew they had no future together, so she’d done the mature thing and broke things off.
“Look, muffin,” she said, oddly desperate to have this lover in particular understand how their desire for a career in a masculine-dominated field had to take precedence. “You don’t know how difficult these good ol’ boys can makes things.”
“You think? I’ve been around tin knockers all my life. My pop, my grandpop, my uncles, even my brother, although he’s not very good at it…. So don’t you tell me I don’t know how rough things can get.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt you, but…. I won’t change my mind.”
“You stubborn woman.” Her jaw tensed for a moment, but then she relaxed, and that worried Jenn more than its previous tension. “Y’know something, Jenny?” she spat.
“Wh-what?” Jenn would never forget the scornful look the young woman sent—no, hurled—her way.
“A female jackass is called a jenny. In your case it’s appropriate—you are a jackass.” She gathered up the messenger bag she used as a purse, turned on her heel, and walked out of their hotel room, closing the door quietly behind her.
That act made it seem more final, and Jenn almost wished she had slammed it.
But she’d done the right thing. She knew it.
She just hadn’t expected the hurt in her heart to last this long.
Jenn preferred the moderate temps of the east coast, but she’d been ordered to the southwest, so that’s where she was, in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico, crouched down and studying the strange print in the dust. “Do you have any idea what this is, Greg?” She brushed an arm over her forehead, catching the sweat that dripped from the ends of her cap of black hair.