Rescuing the Witness by Beth
Bullets are fired at a ranch
wedding in Texas and the only witness to the unknown
sniper's identity is wedding guest Kara Pearson. When
the rifle turns to her, Kara runs for her life. Her only
hope for survival? The man who broke her heart years
ago. But Sheriff Brady McCall vows to protect Kara—and
right old wrongs.
Rescuing the Bride
by Colleen Thompson
After being jilted and
having gunfire erupt at his wedding, bull rider turned
rancher Nate Wheeler fears his pregnant bride is the
intended target. But as he and April Redding try to
track down the shooter, Nate uncovers the secret reason
April refused to say "I do" at their ceremony.
"Solidly written characters and plentiful action
make this two-in-one story an exciting tale." -- Melanie
RT Book Reviews
She'd known seeing Brady today was
inevitable. He was, after all, one of the groomsmen.
She'd also known seeing him would be difficult. One
didn't fall out of love with a man like Brady McCall
easily. She'd just never imagined it would be this
Kara Pearson pressed a hand to her stomach,
trying to calm the swirl of acid gnawing at her and
hoping to avoid his detection as she wended her way
through the crowd at the wedding. Despite reasons to be
"jolly," like Christmas being a week away, and her good
friends' nuptials, Kara was finding it hard to feel
festive this year. Not only had Christmases been
difficult for her since her parents had died, but this
year she was mourning her broken relationship with the
man she'd hoped to marry.
"There are a couple
seats on the back row," she said to Hannah Winslow, her
"plus one" and moral support for the wedding.
Hannah gave her a withering glance. "The back row?
Really? How long are you going to hide from Brady?"
"Until I die or until it doesn't feel like I'm being
gored by a bull when I talk to him. Whichever comes
first." She tipped her head toward the back corner seats
and tugged on Hannah's sleeve. "Come on. Before someone
else takes them."
The Wheeler Ranch bustled with
more activity than Santa's workshop on Christmas Eve,
especially in light of the last-minute change of venue
for the wedding festivities. The water pipes in the
restroom for the ranch lodge, where the ceremony and
reception had been set to take place, had sprung a
massive leak that morning and flooded the building.
At first light today, Kara had responded to a
frantic text from her friend April, the bride, to help
relocate chairs, flowers and sound equipment as water
gushed under the bathroom door and soaked the carpet of
A few crazy hours later, the reception
had been moved to Sal's Diner, the only place available
at the last minute in tiny Rusted Spur, Texas, that
could accommodate the caterer. The ceremony itself had
simply been shifted outside to the ranch yard.
Thankfully, the Texas Panhandle was enjoying one of the
unseasonably warm December days that Southern states
boasted on occasion.
But the balmy warmth came
with a price. The pleasant temperature was the result of
an encroaching cold front, compacting all the warm air
in its path as it bulldozed into Texas. A line of
violent thunderstorms was creeping in from the west, and
the ceremony was on the clock. The groom's mother, in a
dither to finish before the storms hit, waved her hands,
hurrying people to take their seats.
ranch yard, guests assembled, many of whom she
recognized as clients of the large-animal veterinary
clinic where she worked as a vet's assistant. Near the
front, musicians tuned up, and behind her at the barn,
ranch hands decked out a pair of first-class cutting
horses with black-and-white ribbons and satin drapes in
preparation for the bridal couple's departure from the
ceremony. "You okay?" Hannah asked.
better. The drama this morning didn't help my nervous
Hannah gave Kara's hand a quick
squeeze. "You can do this. But…if you must toss your
cookies, please remember these are new Kate Spade heels.
Clearance sale or not, they still cost me my grocery
money for the month."
Kara met her friend's
crooked smile with her own. "I'll keep that in mind."
Hannah shoulder-bumped her. "Hey, you got this. And
you look quite eye-catching, by the way."
draped her coat and purse on the back of her chair, then
tugged discreetly on the skirt of her red patterned maxi
dress. It might be in the seventies now, but by the time
the reception was over, the temperature was supposed to
be closer to thirty-five. "Thanks. But eye-catching
wasn't what I was going for. I was hoping for simple,
trying to blend in. If April and Nate weren't such good
friends, I'd probably be home now."
eyes, she mentally steeled herself and willed her queasy
stomach to settle. She could have skipped the wedding,
sure. But April Redding had been her friend since high
school. More recently, Kara had grown close to the
groom, Nate Wheeler, primarily because of the rodeo
accident that had ended his bull-riding career. He
claimed she'd saved his life—and maybe there was some
truth to that—but she'd only been doing what rodeo
clowns were supposed to do. She'd been well-trained for
her weekend job as a bullfighter. She'd distracted the
seventeen-hundred-pound beast that had crushed Nate
while the medics swooped in to help the injured rider.
Kara heaved an agitated sigh. She'd rather go up
against that injured and angry bull again than face
Brady today. And didn't that beat all? Being more
intimidated by the man you'd once planned to marry than
a raging Brahman?
"Everything looks so pretty,"
Hannah said, her tone as bright as the white ribbons,
twinkling Christmas lights and red poinsettias that
graced the trellis backdrop to the makeshift altar.
"You'd never know the whole setup was moved here three
"Mmm-hmm." God bless her, Hannah was
trying to keep her calm and upbeat.
"I hope they
start soon, though. I'm not sure how much longer that
storm will hold off." Hannah cast a wary eye toward the
black clouds bearing down on the ranch. "It'd be a shame
to see the decorations ruined."
they'd begin soon as well, but not because of the
decorations. She simply wanted the service over before—
"Kara?" Brady's deep, powerful voice sent a
bittersweet pang to her core.
Rats! Of course he'd seen her. He
had a sixth sense when it came to her. A homing beacon
or internal Kara-GPS. It had been kinda nice when they
were dating. But now, almost ten months after their
breakup, his uncanny knack for tracking her down,
whether around town or at a crowded ranch wedding, was
becoming annoying. Okay, maybe not so uncanny. He was
the new sheriff of Trencher County, Texas, so he
probably had all sorts of gizmos and training he could
use to track her.
How was a girl supposed to heal
her broken heart and move on when the object of her
affection seemed to be everywhere she turned?
Taking a deep breath to quell the emotion that knotted
in her throat, she faced the cowboy-turned-sheriff and
tried not to let the sight of him in his tuxedo jacket,
black Stetson and Tony Lama boots remind her of the
wedding they'd never have.
"Hi, Brady." Damn the
catch in her voice! She wanted him to believe she was
fine in her new life without him, that she was moving on
and had no regrets over what she'd thrown away when she
left him. Kara squared her shoulders and pasted on a
stiff grin. "Don't you look handsome!"
at the neck of his tuxedo shirt and gave her a lopsided
smile that shot liquid heat to her core. "Glad you think
so. This collar's choking me. I feel like a damn
penguin." Lifting a shoulder in a dismissive shrug, he
added, "Oh, well. Small price to pay to support Nate on
his big day."
She nodded. "True. We can stand any
discomfort for a short while when it means being there
for our friends." Like engaging in awkwardly polite
conversation with your ex when he corners you.
She introduced Hannah, her new neighbor, and he
acknowledged her with a smile and a friendly greeting
before shifting his gaze back to Kara and squatting
beside her chair. "You look good. How have you been?"
"I'm fine." She grimaced internally at the inane and
stilted conversation. Next they'd be talking about the
"Good turnout today."
April and Nate are well-liked. I'm happy for them."
"Yeah. I'm glad people didn't let the change of
location or threat of rain deter them." He nodded to the
same ominous clouds Hannah had just remarked on.
Kara gave a wry laugh. Called it.
"Something funny?" he asked with a dented brow.
"We've resorted to talking about the weather?"
opened his mouth as if to deny her claim, then clamped
his lips shut with a scowl.
Ten months ago, this
man had been half of her very being—her heart and soul
and breath—and now they were reduced to banal
You have no one to blame but
yourself. Breaking up with Brady was your choice. A
fresh wave of guilt and remorse rolled through her
belly. She knew her choice had been rooted in fear, but
she couldn't see any way around the scars left by her
father's death. Brady had made his choice—to take the
appointment as sheriff—and she'd made hers. She
couldn't, wouldn't bear the stress of knowing her
boyfriend could be killed in the line of duty any day he
reported to work.
"What I want to talk about is
us. Later. Will you give me some time after the
ceremony?" When she frowned, he added, "Please?"
"There's nothing to say. Nothing's changed."
"There's plenty to say, if you'll not shut me out."
"I—" The speakers screeched with feedback for a
second, and the horses in a nearby pasture whinnied and
tossed their manes… Then soft music flowed over the
assembled guests, indicating the ceremony was starting.
"That's my cue." Brady squeezed her arm as he stood.
She flashed an uncommitted
grin, which seemed to satisfy him, and watched with her
heart in her throat as he strode down the center aisle
to escort the mother of the groom to her chair.
"Wow. You didn't tell me how hot he was," Hannah said,
fanning herself with her wedding program. "Black hair,
blue eyes and a body straight out of a Hunks R Us
Kara gave her friend a sidelong
glance. "Not helping…"
he's gorgeous. And he's sweet and polite and witty—"
"The pig! No wonder you broke up with him!" Hannah
gave her a teasing wink.
"Hannah!" she grated
under her breath. "You're supposed to be supporting me
today, not shoving me back into his arms. I told you why
I left him. He took the interim sheriff position without
any consideration of my feelings. And when I explained
my concerns about the job, he dismissed my reasons as
trivial. But my fears aren't trivial! My dad died in the
line of duty."
She suppressed a shudder as the
dark memories clawed at her. With a firm shake of her
head, she shoved the bleak images down. "I don't want to
live like my mother did, always wondering if her husband
would come home safely at night, jumping every time the
phone rang…and eventually having her worst fears
realized." She swiped at the tears that bloomed in her
eyes. "I can't do it."
Hannah rubbed her arm.
"I'm sorry, sweetie. I didn't mean to minimize your
pain. It just…seems like there should be a way for you
two to work things out. If only—"
"Shh!" the lady
behind them hissed.
Hannah scowled at the woman,
but before she could retort, the processional music
started. The first bridesmaids in their stunning red
dresses started down the aisle. The assembled guests
stood for the procession, and a pang of regret plucked
her heart. April had given Kara the choice of being a
bridesmaid or not, understanding her situation with
Brady. Kara had declined, knowing that as part of the
wedding party, she'd have been thrown together with
Brady time and again throughout the wedding activities.
On top of her anxiety and heartache seeing Brady today,
her chest clenched with disappointment and guilt,
knowing she'd let her friend down.
more important, she'd let herself down, allowing her
emotions to control her life and sway her choices. She
didn't want her decisions going forward to be guided by
her heartache over Brady or her grief over her father.
She was roused from her morose musings as the bride
glided gracefully past her. April's auburn hair was
swept up in an attractive hairdo, and she was a vision
in her wedding dress with Christmas-red trim. The dress
was a perfect choice, adding a Christmassy feel to the
ceremony while the A-line shape discreetly covered the
secret April had only shared with her closest friends
and family. She was having Nate's baby.
looked beautiful, but a nervous tic tugged at the corner
of her friend's lips. Had Kara not known her as well as
she did, she might not have noticed the stiff discomfort
in her smile. Earlier in the week, April had expressed
her dismay over how the invitation list and reception
plans had grown, but she'd granted her future in-laws
their requests in a spirit of cooperation and good will.
Add to that the last-minute crisis of burst pipes and a
hasty relocation for the whole affair, and it was no
wonder April looked stressed.
Kara turned her
attention to the makeshift altar, to gauge the groom's
reaction to his bride. But rather than Nate's
expression, her gaze locked with Brady's. His eyes held
hers with an unwavering, soul-piercing intensity that
sent a tremor to her core. His face reflected not joy
for the wedding couple, but a deep sadness and longing.
His eyes told her exactly where his thoughts had gone.
Their own canceled wedding. Had she not broken up with
him, they would have been married this month in a
similar Christmas wedding. She would have been wearing
ivory silk and carrying poinsettia blossoms and baby's
When April reached the front row and took
her place beside her groom, Brady, standing beside the
best man, blinked hard and discreetly wiped the corner
of his eye. Kara's heart jolted. Dear God, was her tough
and fearless lawman tearing up? She knew he had a soft
heart under his alpha-dog demeanor, but seeing this
display of emotion from him, knowing she'd caused his
hurt, rattled her.
"Be seated," the minister
A rumble of distant thunder rolled across
the pastures to the west, and a nervous twitter rose
from the congregation as the people took their seats.
The minister tipped his head to look toward the sky
and said, "Yes, Lord. We see the storm coming, but we
want to give this blessed union the ceremony it calls
The people chuckled, and Kara was relieved
to see April crack a brighter smile.
But like the
encroaching storm, Kara's gut roiled darkly. She
couldn't keep her eyes from straying over and again to
Brady. To his square-jawed profile, to his ebony hair
curling slightly around the stiff collar of his tuxedo,
and to the devastated look in his piercing blue eyes.
He tried to hide it. And to the casual observer, he
probably seemed fine. But she knew this man like her own
reflection. She'd broken his heart along with her own
when she'd left him, and her guilt gnawed inside her
with vicious teeth.
"Marriage is a joyful and
sacred institution, not to be entered into lightly, but
with reverence and discretion…" the minister said, and
Kara curled her fingers in her lap.
taken her breakup with Brady lightly, but every day she
had new regrets. She missed him deeply. A constriction
like a fist squeezing her lungs clamped Kara's chest.
She couldn't breathe. A panic attack.
it! She'd been prone to them since witnessing her
father's death as a teenager. She'd had several in
recent weeks. It didn't take a genius to know why, but
she hated them all the same. Hated the feeling of
"E-excuse me," she gasped to
Hannah, who gave her a curious frown.
Waving a hand for Hannah to stay put, she rose
quickly from her seat. Kara hurried down the center
aisle, fleeing the ceremony, fleeing Brady's penetrating
and heartbreaking gaze. She just needed a moment alone
to put her head between her knees, to catch her breath
and center herself.
More thunder rumbled, and to
Kara, it sounded like mocking laughter. Foolish girl!
You're a mess! Brady's better off without your drama and
Hot tears pricked her eyes as she
hurried toward the nearby barn, famous in the county for
the giant Texas flag painted on the roof. She stopped
just inside the barn door where the bride and groom's
horses were tethered, awaiting the couple's departure
for the reception.
She stroked the nose of the
dapple gray mare, bridal ribbons woven through her mane
and tail, and struggled for a calming breath. The soft
snuffles of the gentle horse nuzzling her hand soothed
her frayed nerves. "Good girl," she whispered to the
mare, feeling her pulse settle and the tightness in her
A tingle of awareness pricked her
neck, a sense that she was being watched, and she turned
to glance back at the wedding party. Sure enough,
Brady's gaze was locked on her, a frown darkening his
expression. Her heart kicked like a mule, and she spun