St. Martin's Press / August 26, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital
For Shay Appleton, it’s love at first sight when a gorgeous stray dog is brought into the animal shelter where she works. She just knows he’ll make a terrific watch dog—and with an abusive ex who won’t let go, she needs all the protection she can get. But Shay never suspected that her new pet is actually a trained police K-9 named Bogart—until Bogart’s even more gorgeous, human partner shows up on her doorstep.
Officer James Cannon is one tall, strong alpha male who’s convinced that Shay stole his dog. But once he gets closer to the suspect, he realizes that this stubborn, independent woman not only needs a guard dog, she needs James as well. It seems that someone from her past is stalking her, and threatening her life. When danger meets desire, will James risk his career and his best friend…to protect the woman who’s stolen his heart?
You don’t have to be a dog lover to enjoy D.D. Ayres’s new series because she has all the bases covered with menacing antagonists, sizzling chemistry, and flawed, appealing characters.
The threat to the characters is real, and the way that plays out is intriguing, but even more than that, I enjoyed the flawed characters. Characters who have made mistakes—like getting involved with the wrong people. In Shay’s case, she put off doing something because of fear of the past repeating itself— even backing down when she should have stood her ground. But she has good reasons for the way she acts.
Shay Appleton’s life took an unexpected turn when she was fourteen years old and that incident had a big impact on life, leaving her skittish about trusting people, forming relationships and even trusting her instincts.
Shay got involved with Eric Coates, a high level bank executive, because he was powerful and charming. She couldn’t believe a man like him would be interested in someone like her. So even after her instincts started screaming “get out, get out,” she stayed long after she should have.
Yet Eric could go from charming guy to complete asshole in the time it took to know back a few tequila shots. Gradually, he became critical of her, avoided her friends, seldom took her out in public after the first few weeks of their relationship. She gave in more and more to his point of view because it was easier than facing his stern disapproval. But there was a deep well of resentment growing inside that she hadn’t realized was there until a few weeks ago. Even she had a limit.
Rough sex, he’d called it.
Shay clamped her teeth over her lower lip to stop its trembling.
She couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Afterward, she’d locked herself in his bathroom and called the police. That brought the next shock.
Eric poured on the charm, exclaiming he just got carried away. The officers stated that she could file a complaint and then go to court. Not something Shay ever wanted to experience again. She had her fill of people questioning her truthfulness. But no matter where she goes, it seems like she can’t live down the past.
When James Cannon breaks into her cabin to steal her dog Prince because he claims it is his K-9 partner Bogart, she calls the sheriff’s office and learns that she still carries the stigma from long ago:
The deputy hitched up his pants before he began speaking in a low voice. “I know you’re fond of the dog but you don’t want to do this, Ms. Appleton.”
Shay breathed through her nose before replying. “All I want is my dog. I’ll drop the charges if I can keep Prince.“
“Uh-huh. But that not how it’s going to go down. And I got to warn you that attempting to take a law enforcement officer to court will be a sorry business. You’ve got a history of . . . let’s just call it unreliable behavior.”
“You mean because of what happened when I was child?”
The deputy shifted from one foot to the other but there was sympathy in his gaze. ”We’ve know you a long time, Shay. The sheriff and your mama were close friends. Did all he could for you two.” His gaze strayed away. “But we haven’t seen you in, what, three years? And last time you were here you reported seeing individuals on your property that all turned out to be nothing.”
The heat of indignation flared so hotly Shay could scarcely draw breath. “So you think I’m either a liar or a nutcase?“
His gaze came back to her, his expression apologetic... “What I’m saying, Ms. Appleton is you’ve got a history of being high-strung. Your mother, God rest her soul, did her best to protect you back then. But you’ve got an established pattern of erratic behavior. Heck, I almost didn’t rush over this morning on account of that. A good lawyer, if he did a little digging…” he lowered his voice. “Now you don’t want that.”
Shay can’t do much about her past. But she can make better decisions about the people she now allows into her life. Officer James Cannon didn’t make the best initial first impression on Shay. Not only did he break into her cabin, he is taking her beloved Prince away, but there is something about him that makes her want to give him a second chance.
Officer Cannon has had his own errors in judgment. In fact, his last relationship is the one that put Bogart’s life in jeopardy.
“I volunteer at one of the animal shelters in Raleigh. I was at the desk when a woman came in with Prince.”. . . The woman said her dog had mauled a child’s pet. That’s why she had a muzzle on him. She said he was vicious and uncontrollable and needed to be put down before he could hurt someone else.”…
As for Bogart’s would-be executioner, an ugly suspicion had begun to creep into his mind. “Describe the woman who brought him in.”
Shay was really beginning to hate the way this man talked in commands. “Tall. Lots of blond hair and makeup. With big boobs. Your type, right?”. . .
“Any of this making sense to you, son?” Deputy ward watched James with a raised brow.
“Yes, sir. Though I never would have thought—” James quashed the expletive that accompanied any thought of Jaylynn Turner. She had been a three-month nightmare in his life. He should have listened to…hell everyone. His friends, his sisters, even Bogart seemed to find fault with her. She was just one of those dumb thing men sometimes succumb to when they were following their dicks.
But never in a million years would he have thought she would stoop so low as to steal Bogart, and then try to have him put down.
But James and Shay have a chance to get it right this time. Because from their past mistakes they realized something very important:
We both have baggage, that’s all. My failings run more along the lines of shooting my mouth off before I think. Especially with pretty women. That’s who I am sometimes, too, the awkward dumb guy.”
She gave him a sidelong glance. “You don’t need to worry about your failings. I’m sure women hang all over your gorgeous self all the time.”
He angled his body toward her and laid his right arm along the back of her seat, letting his fingers rest lightly on her shoulder. “Gorgeous is not a character trait.”
That last statement “Gorgeous is not a character trait” should be made into a poster, if it hasn’t been already. You can help but be enthralled with a man who realizes this. And of course you will have only admiration for Shay’s courage.
Learn more about or order a copy of Irresistible Force by D.D. Ayres, available August 26, 2014:
Leigh Davis, blogger