Hi Tee and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Serve ‘N’ Protect!
Hi Everyone! It’s great to be with you again at Harlequin Junkie!
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
U.S. Secret Service K-9 Officer Markus York is as independent as they come. He’s also seriously injured and laying low in a safe house with his K-9, Ghost. The last thing he wants is a way too cheery, way too enticing woman in his life. But he has no choice. To stay alive, he needs her help.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
The ring was beyond stunning—14-karat white gold with a huge French-cut center diamond surrounded by tiny pavé diamonds.
Too bad she’d never wear it.
Cassidy snapped the red velvet box shut and tossed it on the coffee table where it landed with a pathetic thunk. Thinking about all the could-have-beens that should have been over the last year would only drive her into a new level of suckiness. Focus on the good, her mother always said. She was only thirty-three.
And lucky to be alive.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- The K-9 in this book, Ghost, is loosely based on the heroic Secret Service Belgian Malinois K-9, Hurricane, who took down a fence jumper at the White House. You can query Hurricane on the internet and read his story. He’s one highly decorated pooch!
- I set this story in Leonardtown, Maryland, a fairly rural town in the southern part of the state. My brother lives there, and I’ve visited there so many times I felt I could accurately reflect the area in my book. I’ll be posting a photo tour of Leonardtown on my FB group, Tee O’Fallon’s MarTeeni Room.
- In the epilogue, readers will get a sneak peek at gorgeous DHS K-9 Officer Kade Sampson, the hero of Honor ‘N’ Duty, book 6 of this series.
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Markus is first attracted to Cassidy when he realizes she’s been through serious injuries of her own and is more courageous than anyone he’s ever met. She’s not a glamor goddess, but she’s pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. She’s also talkative where he’s not. Demonstrative where he’s not. And she isn’t intimidated in the slightest by his surly attitude, the very thing that Wil break through the emotional armor he’s erected around himself.
Cassidy figures out that Markus isn’t just a strong, hunky, pretty face. He’s so much more, like kind, thoughtful, and caring. Even if he’d never admit it, cuz tough guys would rather eat bullets for breakfast than ever risk being labeled as “sensitive.”
Using just 5 words, how would you describe Hero and Heroine’s love affair?
Humorous (definitely!). Challenging. Frustrating. Passionate. Sweet.
The First Kiss…
Markus cupped her face with both hands, gliding his thumbs over her lips before doing something he’d wanted to earlier. He leaned in. And kissed her.
The moment his lips contacted hers, the urgent hunger threatening to punch a hole in his chest was stunning in its intensity. Her lips were as soft as he imagined they would be and when she sighed, parting them so he could delve his tongue inside, her taste was as sweet and pure as honey. One of nature’s miracles. He pulled her closer, until her nipples grazed his chest.
When she slid her arms to his back, digging her fingers into his skin, his heart took up a crazy staccato, pulsing loudly in his ears as one clear thought pinged in his brain.
He wanted her with a fierceness that was totally foreign to him. She might think her scars were ugly, but he didn’t. They were a sign of her courage, her determination, all things he admired.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book?
This book has a lot of humor in it. Sometimes I think I should be writing romantic comedies. In this scene, Markus is just about to take a shower and accidentally drops a jug of laundry detergent on the floor. Cassidy is worried he’s fallen and reinjured himself…
He grabbed his gun, unholstering and aiming the weapon at the bathroom door. Whoever had made that noise, it wasn’t Ghost.
His heart beat faster as the knob turned. The door whipped open, and Cassidy came stumbling in, gasping for air. Her eyes went wide as she stared down the barrel of his gun.
“Shit.” He grabbed the empty holster and shoved his gun inside. “What are you doing here?” The water pounding into the tub must have been so loud he hadn’t heard her coming up the stairs or into the bedroom. And how the hell had she gotten in?
I know the alarm code and still have the spare key.
Vaguely, he remembered her saying that last night right before he’d fallen asleep.
“Oh God.” She slapped a hand to her chest, then her gaze dipped and she clapped the same hand over her eyes. The parts of her face that weren’t covered by her hand turned beet-red. “I’m so sorry. I heard something loud and thought you’d fallen, so I ran upstairs to see if you were hurt. I didn’t realize… I didn’t know…” Her chest still heaved, and she leaned heavily on her cane, her knuckles white. She must have hauled ass up the stairs, and now she was clearly in pain.
“I’m fine.” Markus shut off the water. “You look like you need to sit down.” He guided her to the toilet seat and urged her to sit. Her hand remained firmly clamped over her eyes. Markus didn’t consider himself an exhibitionist by any stretch, but he wasn’t as concerned as most people about getting caught bare-assed. “You okay?” he asked. “Uh-huh.”
Ghost padded into the bathroom. Using his teeth, he tugged the towel off the hook and brought it to Markus. “Thanks.” He tied it securely around his waist. “You can open your eyes now.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” He bit back a smile. If it weren’t for the pain they were both in, this would be pretty damn comical.
Instead of dropping her hand from her face, she spread two fingers, creating a slit just big enough for her to see through. Her hand slid from her face as she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a man naked before.” With her pretty, All-American, girl-next-door looks, there was no way she’d been single her entire life. Come to think of it, something about a guy named Hugh popped into his head.
“Of course I have. I’ve just never seen you naked before.”
“If you’ve seen one man naked, you’ve basically seen us all naked. What’s the difference?”
“There’s a big difference.” She squeezed her eyes shut, hissing in a breath as she realized what she’d said. “I didn’t mean… I just meant… Ooh, I give up. I’m going downstairs to finish making breakfast.” Cassidy and her cane stormed from the bathroom.
“Thanks for checking on me,” he called after her.
Without turning around she shot back, “Just doing my job.”
Ghost uttered a snort then trotted out and followed Cassidy from the room.
He turned the water in the tub back on then went to the
mirror to check on his five o’clock shadow. For a second, he didn’t fully grasp the look on his face. In less than twenty- four hours of knowing him, Cassidy Morgan had managed to accomplish something most people never did.
She’d made him smile.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include?
This is a short snippet, but I think it totally showcases the hero and heroine’s different personalities. Clearly, their romance is going to be a challenge…
“Sit.” She pointed to a chair at the round oak table. “Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes, and why aren’t you lying down? I was going to bring dinner into the living room for you.”
He pulled out a chair, slowly lowering into it. “I’m not good at sitting still.”
“Is that how you broke open your stitches?” She popped open the top door of the brand-spanking-new, drool-worthy double ovens to check on the bread.
As she closed the oven door, Cassidy waited for him to elucidate exactly what he’d been doing that tore open his stitches. Naturally, Mr. Monosyllabic didn’t offer up any information. “So, what were you doing?” She opened the refrigerator, surveying the choices of salad dressing in the door. “Chopping wood? No, that I would have heard. Trimming the hedges? Nope, woulda heard that, too.” She chose the Italian vinaigrette then closed the door.
Dark brows bunched, calling attention to the scar on his forehead. “Do you always talk so much?”
“Yes.” If you only knew. She began drizzling dressing over the salad. “So what were you doing?”
His jaw clenched, emphasizing high, sculpted cheekbones and the leanness of his face. She wondered if he had any American Indian heritage.
“Changing a lightbulb,” he said in a voice so low she thought she’d misheard him.
She stopped tossing the salad and turned. “Did you say changing a lightbulb?”
“Ah.” She held up one of the salad spoons. “That explains the ladder. Did you fall off the ladder?”
“Do you ever answer a question with more than one word?”
“I try not to.”
She snorted. “That was four.”
“Don’t get excited.”
Readers should read this book …
If they love a romance where two insanely different types of people come together, help each other overcome some serious issues, and fall in love against a backdrop of suspense, intrigue, and mystery. If they love hunky heroes with a soft, sensitive side they keep hidden. If they love strong heroines with brains and spunk and who won’t back down when the hero goes all alpha on them. And or course, if they love dogs.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently working on book 6 of the Federal K-9 series, tentatively entitled, Honor ‘N’ Duty.
Serve ‘N’ Protect releases September 20, 2021.
Honor ‘N’ Duty releases (tentatively) February 2022
Tough Justice, K-9 Special Ops releases March 29, 2022
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A signed print copy of Serve ‘N’ Protect, by Tee O’Fallon
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: This scenario is essentially what happened to Cassidy… Let’s say you fall in love and get engaged. Shortly before your wedding, you’re in an accident that leaves you with limited mobility. Your fiancé breaks off the engagement. Remember, you thought he/she was the love of your life. If your fiancé returned to profess their undying love would you ever consider taking them back? Why or why not?
Excerpt from Serve ‘N’ Protect:
This is the scene where Cassidy’s family discovers she’s got a brand-new security system at her house. And practically catches her in bed with Markus. Again, because I just can’t help putting little humor in my books…
“Markus!” She bolted upright to find the other side of the bed empty, the sheets still warm. Sunlight streamed in through the window, forcing her to cover her eyes or have her retinas fried.
From inside the house, a siren wailed, followed by beeping and not the kind her digital clock made to wake her up gently. This was at ear-splitting, eardrum-busting levels. Someone had set off her brand-new alarm system.
Fear snapped her into action and she threw her legs over the side of the bed. No sooner had the alarm kicked on than it abruptly kicked off. The barking eased to an occasional snarl. What she heard next frightened her more.
Voices. Lots of voices, and she knew whose they were. Her entire family was downstairs. All six of them. And Markus is alone with them.
With her heart racing at what she could only imagine in her worst nightmares was happening downstairs, she snatched up her clothes then opted for the more expeditious option—her robe.
Still tying the robe around her waist, she all but ran from the bedroom. Halfway down the stairs, she froze. Heat scorched her face.
Markus’s expression was grim as he stood in front of the keypad in nothing more than his jeans and a gun tucked into the small of his back. Ghost sat obediently beside him, with only the slightest rumble coming from the back of his throat. Her father, mother, two brothers and sisters stood in front of the open door.
“What’s doing, sis?” her oldest brother, Jimmy, asked in a frosty tone.
Wearing only her robe, it was pretty darned obvious exactly what she and Markus had been doing.
“Merry Christmas, Cassidy,” her younger sister, Kaitlyn, said, flipping back her unruly head of red curls and grinning as she cast an unabashedly appreciative eye at Markus. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”
While she totally understood her sister’s sentiments because, well, Markus was hotter than hell in his bare feet and the top snap of his jeans still undone, it irked to have her sister drooling over her new boyfriend.
She shook her head to clear it. Deciphering what she and Markus were exactly would have to wait. Especially after last night’s conversation. Right now, there were more pressing matters at hand. Like keeping her father and brothers from pounding on Markus all at once.
Cassidy took the rest of the stairs in record time, stepping in front of Markus and Ghost as if they needed protection. He might not know it, but he does. “What are you all doing here?”
Sean, the second oldest sibling of the family, tapped a finger on his watch. “It’s ten o’clock, Cass. On Christmas Day.”
She gasped. Oh my gosh.
Her father pursed his lips as he glared at Markus. “We were worried about you, lass,” he said in the same thick Irish brogue that hadn’t diminished much, even after decades of living in the U.S.
Jimmy crossed his arms. “You’re always the first under the tree. When you didn’t show at nine on the button, we were surprised.”
“When you didn’t show by nine fifteen,” her older sister, Brianna, chimed in, “we got a little worried.”
“By nine thirty,” her mother added in a lilting brogue and coming to wrap an arm around her shoulder and give her a good squeeze, “we decided to come by and check on you. You can blame me for that. I insisted.”
Then and there, she made a New Year’s resolution to collect every single one of her house keys from every single member of her family so this would never, ever happen again. “I’m sorry to have worried all of you, but you could have called or at least texted.”
“Between all of us”—Sean swept his arm to encompass the family—“we probably called ten times.” He pointed to her phone which was right where she’d left it last night. On the kitchen counter.
She smacked a hand to her forehead. “You did call, didn’t you?”
As if sensing there were no words he could say to pacify her family at finding a half-naked man and a snarling dog in her house, Markus wisely remained silent. She couldn’t be sure whether the slight upturn of his lips was a grimace or a smile. Given the awkwardness of the situation, she’d go with grimace.
Her father arched a brow. “Care to introduce us, lass?”
Markus was a big man by anyone’s standards, but he’d never been up against the Morgans. She hooked an arm through his, resting her other hand on Ghost’s head and giving the dog a quick scratch behind his ears. “This is—” Was he still introducing himself as Alex Adessio?
“Markus York,” he said without missing a beat, then extended a hand to her father. She shouldn’t have been surprised that he’d taken the initiative. Somehow, she didn’t see Markus cowering in front of anyone or anything. Including her father’s legendary disapproving glare.
For a moment, her dad hesitated. She was well over the age of needing permission from him to go out with a guy, but still…
Cassidy breathed an inward sigh of relief when he shook hands with Markus. “Ian Morgan.”
After repeating the process with her brothers, Markus focused on her mother and sisters. “Ladies, it’s nice to finally meet Cassidy’s family.”
Kaitlyn giggled. “The pleasure is ours. Really.”
“Kaitlyn!” Brianna elbowed her younger sister. “I’m Brianna.”
“And you must be Mrs. Morgan,” Markus said, bestowing a full white smile on her mother. “Cassidy talks about you all the time.”
Wow. For a guy who didn’t talk much, he certainly knew how to work it. Charm practically oozed from the man. “Really. How nice,” her mother said, smiling back and looking as if she’d just met the King of England. “Call me Fiona.”
Oh my God. Was her mother actually batting her eyelashes? Must be all that Secret Service training. And let’s not forget the fact that Markus’s half-naked body is cut with more muscles than I can count.
“You should have told us you installed a security system,” Jimmy said. “That thing scared the sh—heck out of us.”
“Cassidy, sweetheart.” Her mother rushed forward, taking Cassidy’s chin in her fingers and turning her face to the side. “What happened to your face?”
Her hand flew to the bruise on her cheek. “I, uh…” Suck it up and get it over with. They’d freak out, but it had to be done. No way could she lie to them. “My house was burglarized, and I kind of interrupted the burglar.”
She let out a breath, waiting for the barrage to come and grateful for Markus’s protective arm as it came around her waist.
“He hit you?”
“When did this happen?”
“Did they catch him?”
“Why didn’t you call us?”
“Sweetheart.” This from her mother, who practically
dragged her from Markus’s embrace into her own maternal bear hug. “My baby. Oh, my heavens. Are you all right?”
“Yes, Mom.” She returned the hug but inwardly hated being the singular subject of her entire family’s attention. As if the last year hadn’t been enough.
“Why don’t we let her tell us what happened over breakfast?” Brianna suggested.
“Breakfast?” Jimmy huffed. “Apparently, she’s too busy for Christmas breakfast.”
“I can see why,” Kaitlyn muttered.
Markus cleared his throat. “Excuse me while I get dressed. Ghost, come.”
Her family remained silent as Markus and Ghost went up the stairs.
“Did you see all those muscles?” Kaitlyn grinned.
“He sure puts Hugh to shame,” Brianna added. “I hope it’s safe to say you’ve finally moved on, Cass?”
Cassidy nodded. “I’ve definitely moved on.” Even if Markus moved on, too. There was no way in hell she’d ever take Hugh back now.
“Now girls,” her mother admonished. “We agreed never to mention that man’s name ever again.”
“It’s okay, Mom.” She squeezed her mother’s hand. “What happened wasn’t Hugh’s fault, and I don’t blame him for leaving. Taking care of a wife in a wheelchair is a big ask.”
“I still think the guy’s an asshole,” Jimmy spit out.
“James, language!” her mom said. “We should all just be grateful that Cassidy’s okay.”
“Is the dog part of the new security system?” Sean asked. “I thought he would tear us apart.”
“He’s a K-9,” Cassidy said.
“Duh,” Sean said. “I know he’s a dog. I can see that.”
Cassidy shook her head. “No, I mean he’s a police K-9.” “Is Markus a cop?” Kaitlyn asked.
“He’s a Secret Service officer. He guards the White House.” A series of oohs and hmphs coursed through her family. Oohs from her sisters and mother. Unimpressed hmphs from the men. “He installed the security system for me after that burglar broke in. He’s staying next door at John’s house. He heard me scream, then he and Ghost broke in through the window to save me. I don’t know what would have happened if they hadn’t come.” She swallowed. Talking about that night reminded her of just how close she’d come to being seriously hurt. Or worse.
“For that,” her dad said softly, taking her in a big hug and whispering in her ear, “we’re so grateful.”
“Amen,” her mother said in a choked voice, squeezing Cassidy’s hand again, tighter this time.
Markus and Ghost came back down the stairs. Markus had redonned the black sweatshirt he’d had on last night, along with his boots. “You’ll have to excuse us again,” he said, heading for the door. “Ghost needs to take care of business. Merry Christmas, everyone.”
Her heart sank. He’d already declined her invitation to join them for Christmas, but she’d thought—or rather, hoped—that after last night he would have changed his mind. Guess not.
Then he caught her eye and in that one glance, she knew what was really at the root of things. This wasn’t about her or them as a couple, which they weren’t. Not officially, anyway. This was about him.
Now that she knew he’d essentially grown up without parents and no family structure, it was understandable why the whole family thing was freaking him out. Being around the Morgan clan could be trying at times, even for her. For someone like Markus, it would be overwhelming.
He opened the door.
“Wait.” Her mother stopped him with a hand on his arm. “You saved my little girl. We’d be honored if you’d join us for Christmas.”
There probably wasn’t much, if anything, that Markus was afraid of, but when she looked at his face, his eyes confirmed what she suspected.
Her family scared him to death.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
SERVE ’N’ PROTECT
Secrets are everywhere.
Ambushed and left for dead, U.S. Secret Service K-9 Officer Markus York is on the mend and laying low in a safe house while his team tracks down his attacker. But Markus isn’t good at sitting still. Even with his K-9, Ghost, for company, he gets restless and decides now is the perfect time to do some repairs around the house…and inadvertently tears open his wounds.
Fresh out of a bad relationship that ended after a car accident left her with limited mobility, freelance accountant Cassidy Morgan has sworn off men. At least, that’s the plan. Until a frantically barking dog leads her to a neighbor’s house where she finds a mysterious man out cold and bleeding on the floor…and mumbling things like “no, they’ll find me” when she tries to call an ambulance.
Yeah, that’s not at all concerning.
Despite Markus’s surly attitude, Cassidy senses there’s something else at work beneath his rugged, keep-your-distance exterior. Whatever it is, it’s sexy as hell.
With someone still trying to kill him, Markus doesn’t want an innocent to get hurt, let alone take care of him.
If only his dog wasn’t crazy in love with her.
If only the chemistry between Markus and Cassidy didn’t explode whenever they were in the same room.
Meet the Author:
Tee O’Fallon is the author of the K-9 Special Ops, Federal K-9, and NYPD Blue & Gold Series. She spent twenty-three years as a federal agent conducting complex, long- and short-term criminal investigations, especially undercover operations, across many agencies at the federal level, and multi-state investigations as a police investigator. It felt only natural to combine all of her hands-on experience in the field with her love of romantic suspense. Tee has lived in New York State most of her life with a five-year stop in Colorado. When not writing, she enjoys cooking, gardening, chocolate, lychee martinis, and all creatures canine.
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