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Protect And Serve

Protect And Serve, April 2016
Rookie K-9 Unit 1
by Terri Reed

Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense
Featuring: Shane West; Georgina Perry
288 pages
ISBN: 037367743X
EAN: 9781488008344
Kindle: B015W85I2E
e-Book
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"Police dog handlers under threat in this great romantic suspense series"

Fresh Fiction Review

Protect And Serve
Terri Reed

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted June 25, 2016

Inspirational Mystery | Mystery Pet Lovers | Romance Contemporary

Ever since the 'Texas K9' series this little band of authors has been working with a winning formula. Romance, suspense, and highly trained police dogs. The fact that the books have all been inspirational is an advantage to my mind, because the authors have to concentrate on building character and plot, not just dive into the bedroom when the going gets slow. The first in a new series from this brilliant team is PROTECT AND SERVE and the series is called 'Rookie K-9 Unit'. Just look for the books with beautiful dogs on the covers.

Arizona is the new location - previous series have been in small town Texas and Washington DC. A police dog training facility is at the heart of the action as Georgina Perry is stalked by her manic brother one night and runs to the facility looking for help. But someone lies dead on the ground, and her brother is behind Georgina with a knife. Shane Weston, a rookie handler, is out walking his German Shepherd called Bella on Desert Valley Road. Bella alerts and takes off, and Shane finds Gina near the body of the dog trainer Veronica. The assailant backs off, but he's not gone far. There hasn't been a murder here for years, though there were some unsolved deaths, but now the police have their hands full. Even Gina has to be treated as a suspect.

The deceased lady, Veronica, had made enemies, between chewing out employees and stealing another woman's fiancé. But is any of this worth killing for? Or was it a random killing after all? The police only have Gina's word for it about her brother, and she was no fan of Veronica. Additionally, one of the pups is missing. Shane is assigned to protect Gina, after her house is found to be trashed. Whatever the story about her and Veronica, it's clear someone means this lady harm.

With responsible discussion of a mentally ill person who refuses to take his meds, and crime scene analysis, it's clear that a lot of research went into this adventure. There are vexed questions surrounding a gun safe with a biometric lock - that's a fingerprint as a key. We meet several other dogs, from a bloodhound to a golden Lab. Presumably these and their handlers will feature in the coming books of this linked series. Romance? Action? Yes! While this case is concluded there is a bigger crime to solve over the course of the series. Next will be TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES by Lenora Worth. Top marks for the psychological chiller PROTECT AND SERVE which sets a great standard. As ever Terri Reed provides her characters with depth, intelligence and courage.

Learn more about Protect And Serve

SUMMARY

PERSON OF INTEREST

When rookie K-9 officer Shane West and his German shepherd partner find the lead police dog trainer murdered, he's determined to bring the killer to justice. But then he discovers Gina Perry hiding nearby—a pretty junior trainer who had the motive, means and opportunity to kill her boss. Gina insists her troubled brother is the real murderer… and this isn't the first time he's killed. And when Gina's brother comes after her, Shane is assigned to protect her and uncover the truth. Suddenly, Shane—a cop who always hoped to join a big-city force—vows to stay by Gina's side as a murderer lurks in the small-town shadows.

Rookie K-9 Unit: These lawmen solve the toughest cases with the help of their brave canine partners.

Excerpt

“Georgiiiinnnaaa!”

Gina Perry froze midstride in the center of her bedroom. An explosion of panic detonated in her chest. She recognized the unmistakable singsong tone of her brother.

Oh, no. No, no, no. Tim had tracked her to Desert Valley, Arizona.

Frantic with alarm, she whirled around to search the confines of her upstairs bedroom. The sliding glass door to the terrace stood open, allowing the dark March night air to fill her house.

Where was he? How had he discovered where she’d been hiding? Had she made a fatal error that brought him to her door?

She stumbled backward on shaky legs just as her brother stepped from the shadows of her closet.

Light from the bedside table lamp glinted off the steel blade of a large knife held high in his hand. His face was covered by a thick beard, his hair stuck out in a wild frenzy and the mania gleaming in his hazel eyes slammed a fist of fear into her gut.

Choking with terror, she turned and fled down the stairs.

She couldn’t let him catch her or he’d make good on his threat to kill her. Just as he had their father two years ago.

Her bare feet slid on the hardwood steps. She used the handrail to keep her balance.

Tim pounded down the stairs behind her, the sound hammering into her like nails on a coffin.

Her breathing came out in harsh rasps, filling her head with the maddening noise. She made a grab for her phone on the charger in the foyer but missed. Abandoning the device, she lurched for the front door and managed to get the lock undone and the door opened.

Without a backward glance, she sprinted into the night, across the small yard to the road. Rocks and debris bit into her bare feet, but she ignored the pain. Faster!

Dear God, help me!

The Desert Valley police station was only half a mile down the quiet residential road on the west side of town. Street lamps provided pools of light that threatened to expose her. She ducked behind the few cars parked along the curb and moved rapidly through the shadows.

She had to reach the police station. Only there would she would be safe.

There, Tim couldn’t hurt her.

“Sisssster! I’m coming for you!”

He wasn’t far behind. She’d never make it to the station before he caught her. But the K-9 training center where she worked was closer. If she could get inside, she could call for help.

Grateful the moon hid behind cloud cover on this spring night, she stayed in the shadows and prayed she’d make it to safety. Just a little farther now. Her lungs burned from exertion. Her heart pounded in her chest.

Not daring to glance back to see how close Tim had gained on her, she ran for the training center and dove behind the bushes growing along the fence of the small outdoor puppy-training yard. She sent up a silent plea to God above that Tim wouldn’t find her in the bushes.

“You can’t hide from me,” Tim shouted, his voice taking on the manic tone she knew all too well. A tone that had always sent her into hiding when they were kids.

Her body trembled with fear. She curled into herself, hoping to make herself smaller, less of a target for him to spot. The unmistakable sound of his heavy breathing as he passed by her hiding place tormented her. She bit her lip, drawing blood, the coppery taste making her gag. She clamped a hand over her mouth.

“You betrayed me, Gina. For that you’ll pay. I’m going to kill you as soon as I find you.”

His voice sounded farther away now. He’d moved past the yard and was nearly at the end of the next building. She breathed a small sigh of relief. But she couldn’t relax. She wasn’t safe yet. She had to get inside the training center.

Cautiously, she made her way along the training yard fence in a low crouch. The gate to the yard was open. Odd. All the trainers were careful to keep them closed and locked in case a dog escaped from the center and made it outside. It was as much for the dogs’ protection as the general public’s.

She rounded the corner and froze.

Someone lay faceup on the ground, half in, half out of the gate.

Moving closer, Gina recognized Veronica Earnshaw.

Gina’s boss.

Panic crawled up Gina’s throat and she gasped for air.

There were two gaping wounds in Veronica’s chest.

Oh, no. No! Had Tim done this? Had he come to the training center first and, when he’d failed to find Gina, hurt Veronica instead?

Gina scuttled closer. Please, Lord, don’t let her be dead. “Veronica?”

With a trembling hand, she put two fingers against Veronica’s neck.

No pulse. Gina’s heart sank.

It seemed, once again, God had ignored Gina’s plea. Just as He had when Gina witnessed her brother murder their father.

She choked back a sob. Tears blurred her vision. It should have been her lying in the dirt, not Veronica.

A scrape of noise echoed in the stillness of the night. Her brother retracing his steps?

She scuttled back to the bushes, burrowing in deep and drawing her knees to her chest. A line of scripture wove through the shock numbing her mind. She clung to it like a lifeline. The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid.

The litany echoed through her head, mocking her. Because she was afraid. Deathly afraid.

Officer Shane Weston and his canine partner, a German shepherd named Bella, walked along Desert Valley Road. The cool Arizona night air smelled of the fragrant western honey mesquite trees that had started to flower as spring arrived.

It was dark, nearly ten o’clock, but Shane couldn’t remain cooped up inside the condo he was staying in, one for out-of-town trainees. He was restless, anxious to see where he’d be assigned. He’d put in a request for his hometown police department of Flagstaff, but no one could guarantee he’d get his choice or even that he had a choice.

This past Friday, he’d completed his twelve-week training session at the Canyon County Training Center, a pilot project for the state of Arizona that trained new police recruits to be K-9 officers.

Not every candidate who applied was selected for the K-9 program. Shane had been thrilled that he’d made the cut. Once he was accepted, he’d been placed with a group of other rookies, and they’d attended the police academy together in Phoenix before coming to Desert Valley for the K-9 training.

Upon the start of every twelve-week session, the trainers matched each officer with a dog based on master trainer Veronica Earnshaw’s research into the rookies, along with questionnaires the recruits filled out prior to the start of the program.

Shane had gleaned that all the trainers used their instincts and knowledge of dogs to help with the pairing of officers to canines. The center was a well-run operation, highly respected throughout the state and a model for other centers.

Shane couldn’t be more pleased with his pairing to Bella.

He knew, however, that once the training began, if a dog and rookie officer hadn’t jelled for whatever reason and the trainers’ attempts to intervene failed, then the officer and dog were reassigned to work with new partners to finish out the program.

Thankfully, he and Bella had meshed from the moment they were introduced.

Now that training was complete, the officers and their canines would be allocated to various police stations throughout Arizona, and the training center would then be reimbursed by the police stations. A win-win for everyone.

Shane sent up another quick prayer that his request would be honored and he’d be assigned to the Flagstaff PD, where he could prove to his brothers and father that he wasn’t weak. He wasn’t a failure.

He planned to be the best officer he could be, with ambitions to one day make captain, or even chief. One day he’d be the one in charge, and then he’d finally earn his family’s respect.

Shane waved a greeting to an older man taking out his trash.

Very few people were out on this Saturday night, and those who were made a point of acknowledging him and Bella. Shane liked that the community of Desert Valley embraced the K-9 officers and their canine partners. He couldn’t say the same of bigger cities, where law enforcement was usually viewed with fear, suspicion and malice.

Bella stopped abruptly, her ears perking and her nose lifting to smell the air.

Unease tightened Shane’s shoulder muscles. She’d been alerted to something. “What is it, girl?”

Bella took off. Keeping the beam of the flashlight aimed ahead of him, Shane ran to keep up, his feet pounding noisily on the pavement. The lead connected to the dog’s collar pulled taut, and Shane pressed himself to move faster. They headed toward the training center. Had something happened to one of the dogs? The trainers?

Bella led him past the veterinary clinic and skidded to a halt at the outdoor puppy-training yard.

Shane stopped and kept Bella at his side. He swept his flashlight over the scene before him. Dread crimped his chest. He sucked in a quick breath.

Veronica Earnshaw lay twisted on the ground with her dark hair and striking face coated in dirt. Her open eyes stared at the stars above. And what appeared to be two gunshot wounds marred her chest. Bile rose in his throat.

His priority as the first officer on the scene was to determine if the victim was alive or dead.

Bella tugged at the leash. He gave her the hand movement to sit and stay. She obeyed, but her gaze was riveted to the bushes along the fence.

Was the perpetrator hiding in there?

Wishing he had his sidearm, which he’d left locked up in the condo, he shone the flashlight on the thick shrubbery. He let out Bella’s lead. She made a beeline for the greenery and sat staring at the dense foliage.


What do you think about this review?

Comments

1 comment posted.

Re: Police dog handlers under threat in this great romantic suspense series

This is a wonderful book. Terri Reed is one of my go-to
authors.
(Nancy Brophy 8:55pm June 25, 2016)

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