Shane Raincrow is a U.S. Marshall. He's also tall, dark, and Cherokee.
Kaitlin Corbin is a bride who doesn't really want to get married to a man she suspects is dealing drugs and double crossing a cartel.
When gunfire interrupts her wedding, Shane takes her into custody as a material witness. Instead of delivering her to a safe house, they hit the road but trouble follows so they head for the only place Shane thinks is safe—the Cherokee Nation where he was born.
By the time they get hitched in a one-hour wedding chapel and reach his grandfather's home deep in the Oklahoma hills, they're falling in love—for real. The survival stakes are high, especially when the drug cartel comes after them and they make a stand, backed by Shane's family. If they can survive, maybe the marriage will too.
“Did the shoot-out make the paper this far away?” she asked, as she slid into the seat.
He folded the paper back and shook his head. “No, but your death did.”
Her lungs ceased working and she had no air to breathe. Kaitlin’s chest tightened and she stared at him. Maybe her ears had quit too because she couldn’t believe what he had said.
“According to that, you died after the shooting,” he told her. “The story, with no byline except From Staff Reports, says that ‘the bride, 29-year-old Kaitlin Joy Corbin, was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital after a random shooting at her wedding. Corbin’s fiancé, Dr. Chad Cox, was not injured in the attack. Three guests were treated and released for minor injuries’.”
“That’s not true!” If she could talk, she must be breathing but it didn’t feel that way.
“Of course it’s not,” Shane said. “But it means you’re in even more danger than I thought. Somebody knows you’re alive or they wouldn’t have tried to kill you night before last at the motel.”
“Chad thinks I’m dead?”
Shane shrugged. “That remains to be seen. I’m glad I saw this before I called the marshal’s office, though.”
“You have to tell them I’m alive,” she said. Her heart had climbed into her throat where it froze into a hunk of ice.
“Let’s see what they say first.”
He had to be joking and she didn’t find it funny, not at all, and told him so.
“I’m not amused either. If they also think you’re dead, then this thing just got more complicated and confusing.”
Shane drove to a larger parking lot where multiple stores ringed the concrete. Most had not opened yet or were just unlocking the doors. Kaitlin watched as he took out his work cell and turned it on. Immediately it beeped to indicate messages, which he ignored.
“It’s Raincrow,” he barked into the receiver when someone answered. “Let me talk to Mickelberg. Yeah, it’s urgent.”
“Put it on speaker,” Kaitlin whispered. She needed to hear this as much as he did.
“Mickelberg,” a gruff voice said. “This had better be good, Raincrow. You’ve been AWOL since the wedding shooting. I had begun to think you were as dead as the material witness.”
“I’m alive and kicking but I wasn’t aware Ms. Corbin was deceased.”
“She died that night and our case with her. Where in the name of the Devil have you been?”
“I was attempting to locate her, as ordered.”
“You wasted your time, then. There’s no need to protect a dead witness.”
“Will there be a service? I’d like to pay my respects.”
Kaitlin listened, desperate for answers.
“None. She had no family, no last wishes, no funeral plans in place. Her fiancé donated her body to science so she was shipped to the UMKC Medical School. Her cadaver will help students learn anatomy.”
“I see,” Shane said. If he did, Kaitlin didn’t and she parted her lips to speak. Shane clapped his large hand over his lips and shook his head. “Did she have a will?”
“No, but Dr. Cox said he’d let it go through probate. I have a new assignment for you—a money laundering case down in Forsythe. Word is that the perps are using—get this—a laundromat as their base. Get your ass in and I’ll get the file for you.”
“I’ll be there later today, maybe tomorrow.”
“Don’t try me, Raincrow, and don’t go rogue. I need you in my office by noon.”
The call ended. Shane swore as he popped the battery out of the phone, then drove to the nearest trash receptable. He tossed the battery into it, then crossed the lot to another and threw the phone inside.