For those of you that have been impatiently waiting for the Martins, they are finally here.
The first book in the Martin Ranch series, Right By Your Side, releases today.
This series will follow the same style that my When the Mission Ends series had.
Lots of romance, intrigue, and suspense built around a core family of siblings...the Martins.
The first book features Scott Martin, the second oldest of the four boys.
But now, he has someone new to take care of...
Country Music Star.
All alone in a bad situation.
Best Female Country Artist. Sold out world-wide tour. Record-setting album sales. It’s been a stellar year for Skye Taylor and it’s left her exhausted. All she wants to do is go home to Oklahoma, curl up in her little house, and veg out in pj’s with a pile of junk food. But when her tour bus crashes in the middle of West Texas, her priorities suddenly shift. Now she’s sitting bedside hoping her best friend and bodyguard, KC, survives.
For Scott Martin, he simply wants this horrible year to end. After the murder of his brother, his family is falling apart. With one crisis after another pulling him back to the family ranch, he’s put way too many late night miles on his truck between his family home and Lubbock, where he works as a paramedic. When he comes upon the wrecked tour bus, he has no idea this is one emergency which will change his life forever.
Skye and Scott quickly form a friendship which hints at possibilities of more. But as these two dodge paparazzi, over-zealous label executives, and stalker fans, they soon discover that everything is easier when you have someone you trust RIGHT BY YOUR SIDE. And that becomes even more important when they discover the bus wreck wasn’t an accident…
“I’m sorry,” Skye Taylor
yelled at the hulking mountain of angry man glaring down at her.
KC Morelli vibrated
where he stood, but Skye wasn’t sure how much of that was anger and how much of
it was from the rhythm of the road below the tour bus wheels.
“How the hell was I
supposed to know that would happen? It was a tiny convenience store in the
middle of nowhere. I didn’t think anyone would recognize me.” She heaved a sigh
at the mulish expression of exasperation on KC’s face.
He was her best friend,
and she hated when they fought. But KC Morelli was about the most stubborn man
she knew. Something she had in common with him, which meant they knocked heads
way too often, especially since he was with her twenty-four-seven as her
“Skye,” he ran a
frustrated hand through his hair, “we’re in Texas, the land of cowboys and
country music. Everyone here knows who you are now. You can’t go wandering
around without any regard to your safety. I can’t do my job if you don’t
respect that fact.”
That lack of
independence was the root of the problem between them. She’d wanted ten minutes
to breathe her own air without someone looking over her shoulder. She loved KC,
but after a year on tour and the past month filled with never-ending stress,
she just needed some space.
Ever since she’d been
named as Best New Emerging Artist the month before, her life had become the
pure definition of crazy, with stalkers, fans, and paparazzi at every turn.
“Just promise me you
won’t go into convenience stores by yourself anymore,” he said, his tone
One tiny little freedom,
she didn’t want to give it up. “We’re in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere, KC.”
Her voice had taken a whiny tone, but she was feeling damn whiny.
“Just don’t.” His
expression hardened again and she knew she’d lost the fight.
She’d just freaking
needed some chocolate, something he never understood. The guy was the pure
definition of health nut, and he didn’t put a single unhealthy thing in his
body. As a result, he gave her a hard time when she did. Chocolate fed her
hormones and kept her from lashing out at everyone around her...namely KC.
She hadn’t meant to
start a riot.
She rubbed her temples.
God, when had this reality become her life?
“You’re right.” She
relented as guilt plagued her. “Obviously, you’re right. Those poor people. We
need to do something for the ones who were taken to the hospital.” It had
gotten out of control so quickly, with people swarming and only KC to fight
them off. Two teenage girls had gotten hurt in the melee.
KC ran his calloused
fingertips over the throbbing bruise high on her cheek leftover from someone’s
elbow. “You probably should have gone to the hospital yourself to get this
looked at, too.”
She shook her head, the
headache throbbing behind her eyes. “No, it’s fine. It’s just a bruise. We
don’t need the bad PR.”
He sighed deeply, and
she could see the exhaustion pulling at him as he swayed with the rhythm of the
tour bus driving down the road. It was only eight o’clock at night, but they’d
been running on fumes for too long.
“Why don’t you go back
and use the bed in the bedroom?” she instructed. “I’m going to try to work on
some songs, and I know you could use some sleep. Grab it while you can.”
He stared at her in
consternation before rubbing a hand over his strong-boned, beautiful, Italian
face with a sigh. “Okay, let me grab your guitar for you so you can stay
buckled in your seat. Then I’ll check in with Roger and take you up on that
He always worried about
her safety and hated tour buses because no one liked to stay belted in while
driving. Since it was just the two of them and their driver, Roger, on this
drive, she avoided the fight and buckled up.
If only there were
seatbelts for the roller coaster her life had become.
Two hours later, Skye
was pretty sure she had the start of a new song. That was good. Ever since
she’d started fighting with her label, agent, and manager, the lyrics hadn’t
been coming to her. She’d begun to wonder if the award had jinxed her, because
the arguments started right after she won it. She placed her guitar on the
chair beside her and stretched her arms above her head, trying to peer through
the dark windows.
Looking down the aisle
toward the bedroom, she could be thankful that at least KC was finally getting
some rest. She hadn’t heard a peep out of him since he’d closed the bedroom
She needed to stretch
and reached down to undo her seat belt when the bus suddenly lurched. She
grabbed the armrests on her chair in panic.
For a suspended whisper
in time, they hung there and then the bus shuddered as the world began to spin.
The contents of the bus crashed around her with a cacophonous explosion of
noise. Her head banged up against the cabinet next to her. Instant pain
exploded in her head. Everything spun in time with the rolling of the monstrous
The seatbelt holding her
in place burned against her hips as they rolled over and over. Her fingers
clawed into the seat, and she said a silent prayer. Objects flew and banged
into her. Midway through the rolls, the lights went out.
When the bus groaned to
a stop, she hung sideways. Her breath sawed in and out, the only sound she
could hear except for the metal of the bus frame shuddering and popping.
Her brain realigned with
reality. They’d crashed. She tried to get her thinking to clear.
“KC!” she screamed. Oh
God, he hadn’t been seat-belted in. And what about Roger? She had to get out
and help them. Somebody had to help them.
She tried to see below
her, but her eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dark yet. She could only see something
was down there. Grasping the belt buckle, she took a deep breath, ignoring how
much that hurt her ribs and pretty much everything down the right side of her
Out of the bus. She had to get out of the bus. She punched the
seatbelt button and curled into a ball as she dropped.
Ow. Pain burst through her torso and black spots danced behind her
eyes. She heaved a breath, trying to get her lungs to cooperate past the pain
in her ribs and the acrid fumes that burned her nasal passages and throat. Her
sight had begun adjusting to the dark and she reached forward. She screamed as
pain sizzled down her right arm.
Okay, don’t move that arm.
Leading with her left
arm, she gingerly felt around the sideways bus, her other arm cradled against
her. The socks on her feet did little to protect her soles from the broken glass
and wreckage. Her legs shook with adrenaline and pain.
From the light of the
half-moon she could see the wreckage had broken apart in three separate
sections. And, oh God, the back section, where the engine sat, was engulfed in
Skye stumbled across the
rough terrain, ignoring the pain wracking her body. She had to get to him.
Scott Martin sang along
with the song on the radio, trying to stay awake after a double shift—equal to
four days on-call—working his paramedic job in Lubbock, Texas. He’d been
driving for twenty minutes. Only fifteen minutes to go, and he’d be within
reach of his bed.
Skye Taylor, the
gorgeous brunette with the body that didn’t quit, sang a beautiful ballad about
life and loss on the radio. He’d watched her last month as she won her Emerging
Artist award. Something about her seemed so real to him. She’d been all smiles
that night, but it was the sadness that lingered in her eyes that got to him,
that spoke to him. Maybe it had something to do with the broken heart she sang
about in this song, but she seemed lonely.
While he knew who she
was—hell, who didn’t—he had no idea what her background was. Maybe he should
He wasn’t the type to
normally become infatuated by stars of any sort, but Skye…yeah, he wouldn’t
turn her out of his bed. Not that he’d ever have that chance.
Hell, at this point in
his life he wouldn’t turn too many women out of his bed. It had been entirely
too long since he’d gotten laid.
After the craziness last
year at the family ranch, he hadn’t had the time or the energy except to put
one foot in front of the other. He certainly didn’t have time to romance a
woman, even if someone had piqued his interest, which hadn’t happened.
And his brain had begun
to wander again. He was too close to falling asleep at the wheel, so he turned
the air conditioning up to full blast. Late September was actually the time of
the year when they usually got a break in the incessant West Texas heat, but
tonight the temperature had nothing to do with it. He just needed to stay
Shit, he was so tired,
but the guilt trip Andrew laid on him during that dinner break phone call
worked. So he was on his way to the family ranch rather than the bed where he’d
rather be. Andrew hinted that there might be something physically wrong with
their father, although the old man refused to go see a doctor. No matter what
was going on, it wasn’t within Scott’s character to ignore a medical issue. It
went against his very nature as a paramedic.
He had the next four
days off. Although he usually tried to avoid spending much time at home, he’d
help out on the ranch and watch their father for any warning signs. Andrew
swore their father wasn’t drinking again, but after the stress of the last
year, Scott wasn’t sure his dad could resist the allure. He was a recovering
alcoholic and that was never an easy thing. Scott knew the facts.
Hell, they’d all found
their ways of coping, but if he was honest, none of the Martin men had taken a
very healthy approach toward dealing with the stress of Thomas’s sudden death.
Death. He gave a bitter chuckle into the emptiness of the car. That word
sounded so mild in the face of the reality of the situation. His brother Thomas
was murdered in a senseless act of
criminal violence on their family ranch. Of course, they’d all taken it hard.
He shook his head,
shaking off the morbid thoughts and drowsiness.
As he rounded the next
curve in the road, a ball of flames erupted out of the carcass of a vehicle in
the middle of the field. His lethargy scattered as adrenaline hit swift and
furious. He slammed on his brakes and dialed 911 on his cell phone, grabbing his
emergency medical bag as his truck skidded to a halt along the shoulder of the
Skye found KC buried
under a smoldering wall of the bus, the upper half of his torso sticking out
from under a pile of debris.
She knelt by his head. Please be alive, please be alive.
Brushing her hand across the side of his face, she said, “KC, can you hear me?”
“Skye?” he asked,
falling into wracking coughs.
“Yeah, it’s me. Can you
tell me what’s hurt?”
“My back and legs.” He
coughed again weakly. “You okay?” He tried to reach for her, but he was pinned
onto his stomach. “I can’t move. You need to get out of here, Skye. Something
She examined the huge
piece of bus lying across the lower portion of his torso and legs. Smoke rose
off it and the plastic buckled and rolled where it had melted, but none of it
was on fire right now. Another part of the bus burned right behind it. The
huge, hulking piece of twisted metal looked like the engine, which meant the
fuel tank was probably nearby. In the dark it was difficult to distinguish the
details. She wouldn’t leave him, though.
How much time did she
have to free him before it all blew up?
She grasped the edge of
the wall of the bus and tugged. It shifted slightly. KC groaned in pain.
Throwing her legs into the effort, she pulled and yelled at him, “KC, drag
yourself out if you can.”
He shifted, and she
offered up a prayer, begging that they both find the strength to do this. She
couldn’t live in this world without him by her side. She pulled harder, the
muscles in her arms, her injured shoulder, and thighs screaming at the effort.
The jagged edge of the metal of the wall tore into the palm of her hand, but
she couldn’t let go. KC struggled in effort. She had to keep this off him so he
could get out.
heard her pleading prayer—a man ran up to KC, grabbed him under his arms, and
dragged him free of the wall, hauling him a safe distance from the wreckage.
Skye collapsed in
relief, but the man yelled, “Get away from there! That fuel tank could blow.”
Then he went back to checking KC.
KC began to struggle
against the stranger examining his injuries. KC’s focus was always foremost on
her safety before his own. The damn man would hurt himself further if he
continued to struggle. She rushed to help calm him down.
Oh, shit. She stumbled,
and a sob burst out of her as she got close enough see KC’s back in the glow
from the fire. Midway down his back and his legs, skin and clothing hung in
tatters with blood dripping. Regardless of what had to be incredible pain, he
struggled to get up onto his knees and hands to get to her.
The Good Samaritan tried
to subdue him. “I need you to stop moving. At least let me get a collar on you
to help stabilize your spine.”
She squatted by KC’s
head, rubbing her hand down the side of his face. “Kase, it’s fine. I’m right
here. Please, hold still so you don’t hurt yourself anymore.”
“Skye?” He coughed and
blood peppered his lips.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh
shit. She didn’t have any medical training, but she knew that wasn’t good.
“Yeah, it’s me. It’s
going to be okay.” It had to be okay. A huge rock sat in the middle of her
chest over her heart. A heart breaking with the thought that he might not make
it out of this. “Please, KC, just hold still,” she soothed. “I’m fine.”
“You aren’t…” he coughed
“No, I’m fine. It’s you
who got hurt. So much for that nap, right?” She turned in panic to the man who
had fastened a collar around KC, covered him with a thermal blanket and
appeared to be taking his pulse rate. Where did he come from? He seemed to know
what he was doing.
“What are you doing?”
she asked, needing reassurance of some sort.
“It’s okay. I’m a
paramedic. I’m trying to stabilize his spine right now.” He whispered, “Do
whatever you can to keep him still and calm.”
“Is he going to be
The man didn’t answer.
He simply pressed his lips together in a tight line and continued working on
“Listen to me, KC.
You’re going to be okay. This guy here seems to know what he’s doing and you’re
going to be fine.” She swallowed against the nausea that threatened when she
thought about the skin that had been peeling off his back.
“I forgot Roger,” she
gasped. She hadn’t even thought about her coach driver.
“Was he the driver?” the
She nodded because she
could already see the unspoken answer in his eyes. He shook his head. “I’m
sorry,” he told her. “There wasn’t anything I could do. Was there anyone else
in the bus?” He scanned over the scattered wreckage.
She swallowed against
her tears. “No, it was just the three of us.”
His hands returned to
flying over KC’s body as he worked on him, searching the extent of his
Oh, shit, why hadn’t
they flown home like KC wanted? Now he was hurt, and Roger was dead because
she’d insisted on keeping the tour bus. All because she’d selfishly wanted to
keep the comforts of her home-away-from-home, and maintain a modicum of
privacy. By driving she could continue to write her music and not have to deal
with fans if she didn’t want to leave the bus.
“Do you know…is he
allergic to any medications?” the paramedic asked.
“No, no allergies. He’s
always been incredibly healthy. Not that that has anything to do with
allergies, but he never has to go to the doctor. He takes care of himself.” She
knew she was rambling, but panic pressed on her chest. She didn’t know what
else to do to help.
“Skye,” KC gasped,
sounding like it was getting harder and harder for him to breathe.
“I’m right here, Kase.”
She twined her fingers in his hand so he could feel her.
“Love you…” He closed
“No, no, no,” she sobbed
and clutched frantically at his hand. “Do something,” she screamed at the
“It’s okay,” the
paramedic said as he checked KC’s pulse rate again. “He just passed out from
the combination of stress on his system. He probably has a bit of smoke
inhalation, too. I think he’s okay for the moment. The medevac helicopter should
be here any minute now.”
Even as he said that,
Skye could hear the beating of helicopter rotors and the distant wail of
sirens. Oh, thank God, more help was almost here. She ran her fingers through
KC’s short cropped hair. “Hang on, Kase. The helicopter’s coming. They’ll get
you fixed right up.” That had to be true. She couldn’t live without her best
Scott Martin watched as
the girl—her boyfriend had called her Skye—became inconsolable after the
helicopter took off. She was adamant that she needed to be with him, but she
was in pretty bad shape, too. Her injuries didn’t look as life threatening as
the guy’s had, but she was definitely getting shocky. He was worried about the
injury to her head. Even though she didn’t seem aware of it, blood continued to
drip down her face, running trails through the soot and grime covering
She appeared so small,
vulnerable, and alone as she swayed slowly with her arms tucked against her
“Okay, miss, why don’t
you sit down and let me look at you? The ambulance is almost here.” She
wouldn’t let him touch her while she’d been focused on her boyfriend. But she
was running on pure adrenaline which could camouflage any amount of injuries
until her body began to shut down. He didn’t want her collapsing to the ground.
“Where are they taking
him?” she asked.
“Probably Lubbock Mercy.
Most the med-flights go in there, and they have a burn unit.”
Her eyes widened. He
knew she’d seen the guy’s back, but denial was a powerful thing in the midst of
a trauma situation.
“What’s your name?” he
asked her gently, needing to keep her focused and lucid. “Can you tell me what
“Skye. That was KC, and
my driver was…” A sob erupted from her as she crumpled.
Scott caught her and
gently lowered her down to a sitting position on the ground.
“My driver was Roger. Oh
God. I need to call his daughter.”
He grabbed his
stethoscope to listen to her chest. Her heart beat way too fast. “You need to
calm down,” he soothed. “Where were you all traveling?”
“We left Austin earlier
today and were headed up to Oklahoma. Norman, Oklahoma. Home. I should have let
Roger go on, and KC and I could have flown. It’s what KC wanted to do. Why
didn’t I do that? Oh, God, this is all my fault.”
“Shh, it’s okay. Calm
down. Working yourself up right now won’t do anyone any good. Why were you in
Austin?” He needed to distract her.
“My label wants a new
contract, so we were trying to negotiate that.” She chuckled harshly. “Not that
that did us any good. Those bastards are trying to take advantage of me.”
He stilled. “Wait a
minute.” He cleaned some of the blood from her face, to see how bad the head
wound was, but also to see her pale face by the light of his flashlight. Her
luminous green eyes shimmered. Then the name she’d said clicked. “You’re Skye
Taylor, aren’t you? I was just listening to you on the radio.”
She nodded her head and
then closed her eyes with a pain-filled grimace. “Yeah,” she whispered,
suddenly paling even more. She tilted to the side.
“Whoa,” he said as he
steadied her. “Tell me what’s happening?”
“Dizzy.” She swallowed
hard and began breathing a bit heavier. “Feeling a bit sick.”
He flashed his
flashlight to check the reaction of her pupils as he talked. They appeared
normal. “Okay, throw up if you need to. Just try to miss me, okay?”
She glared at him, and
he chuckled. Even after everything that happened she still had some sass in
her. He liked that.
He lifted the chestpiece
of his stethoscope. “I’m gonna use this to listen to your chest.” Everything
sounded clear, but her breathing sounded shallow. “I know your head and your
arm hurt. What else hurts?”
“Ribs on the right
She held her injured arm
clamped to that side, so he hadn’t explored the area too much. “Okay, let me
check them real quick and make sure you don’t have something else going on.”
He started pressing his
fingers along her side, brushing the underside of her breast.
“Wow, look at you,” she
murmured on a gasp of pain. “You made it to second base, and I don’t even know
“Scott. Scott Martin.”
He smiled up at her. But when his gaze met hers, he got lost for a moment. She
tentatively smiled back. He knew from his examination of her pupils that her
eyes were clear green with a slight tilt up in the corner to give her an exotic
look even in her current disheveled state.
But then he moved his
fingers again and she winced in pain. He probed those two ribs more carefully.
“I can’t tell for sure,
but those could be broken. They’re at least cracked, so let’s not move too
much, okay? I don’t want you to puncture a lung.”
The wail of the sirens
grew louder and the red lights flashed over the crash site to signal the
arrival of help. Scott patted her arm. “Hang on. Let me guide the paramedics
Scott took off at a jog
to intercept the paramedics, relief flooding him when he saw the distinctive
blue and gold seal on the side of the ambulance. It would be headed into Mercy
Trauma Center with her, too. The same place her boyfriend was taken.
Within fifteen minutes,
the paramedics had Skye strapped onto a stretcher and were loading her up. The
police arrived and recorded the pertinent names and information from her so
they could contact the victim’s families, although from what he heard that
meant just the driver’s family. It sounded like Skye and KC relied only on each
other. She’d told the cops there wasn’t anyone else to contact. Shouldn’t she
have someone who needed to know what happened? She was a huge star in the
country music world.
In addition to the
definite injuries Scott discovered, the paramedics found something he’d been
worried about. Her abdomen had been heavily bruised by the seat belt, and they
were worried about possible internal hemorrhaging, especially as Skye’s
condition had deteriorated.
She clutched at his
hand, but as they lifted to load her, she panicked. “You’re not going with me?”
“No, there’s not enough
room for all of us, but I’ll come check on you first thing in the morning.” The
first rule of paramedic care was not to let emotions get involved at a trauma
scene, but something was different with this one. He couldn’t tell her no.
“You promise?” She
sounded so scared and vulnerable. He hated not going in with her, but knew he
would just be in the way in the ER. Plus he desperately needed some sleep and
to check things at the ranch.
“I promise.” He threaded
his fingers through hers. “And by then you’ll feel a lot better, too.”
“I’m gonna hold you to
that one,” she whispered, her voice growing weaker. “Thank you, Scott Martin. I
don’t know where you came from, but I’m awfully glad you showed up when you
did.” She finally relaxed her hold on his hand, closed her eyes, and lay her
head back. Her face was so pale.
As they left the scene,
he examined the accident site. The police had set up spotlights and he looked
around the mutilated wreckage of the tour bus. They would be investigating this
one since it was just a one-vehicle accident with a death, but the odds were
the bus driver had simply fallen asleep at the wheel or swerved to miss a deer.
He marveled that Skye
was in as good of shape as she was. She probably could be thankful to the
seatbelt for that, and he shook his head. So few people in these big coaches
ever wore seatbelts. She’d been extremely lucky tonight. He hoped her boyfriend
proved to be as lucky, for both their sakes.