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The Protectors, BOOK 3

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Mallory Fraser is a U.S. figure skating champion. After a tragic accident she moves to Montana, determined to put her past behind her and protect the people she loves. When the mystery surrounding her accident follows her to Bozeman, she needs help to find the truth. 

After living most of his life in one battleground after another, Grant Byers craves normal. He’s a search and rescue volunteer, cattle rancher, and a former Navy SEAL. He’s not looking for trouble, but when he meets Mallory, he knows trouble has found him.

With nothing left to lose, Grant and Mallory walk head first into something neither of them expected, but everything they need.

Chapter One Look Inside

Grant Byers hadn’t seen Sonia Davies in more than a year. She’d moved from Bozeman to Seattle to work for an independent film studio. It was her dream job—a dream he’d never understood.

They’d met when she was filming a promotional video for the Big Sky Search and Rescue Team. Her personality lit the room, making even the most hard-nosed veteran smile at her quirky sense of humor and joy for life. She’d brought out the best in the guys she’d interviewed—and for a while, tried to bring out the best in him. 

“The helicopter’s on its way. ETA is ten minutes.” Rick Taylor, a trauma specialist and volunteer with the SAR Team, stood beside him. “Mitch is on his way up with a body bag. Are you okay?”

He hadn’t been okay for a while, but now wasn’t the time to feel sorry for himself. “I’ll be all right. How are Sonia’s cousins?”

“In shock, but doing okay. They were lucky the avalanche didn’t sweep them over the rock face as well.” Rick looked at the lifeless body lying on the snow. “Some days I wonder why we do this.” 

“We do it because we care.”

This morning, Sonia and her cousins had decided to tackle Beehive Peak. It was her last chance to strap on her skis before returning to Seattle. Even though they’d seen small avalanches as they’d traversed the West Ridge, they hadn’t turned back. That decision had cost Sonia her life. 

Rick glanced over his shoulder. “Mitch is here. Why don’t you leave this one to us?”

Grant swallowed hard as the procession of solemn faces headed toward Sonia. “I want to help.” 

“She was your friend. You don’t need to do this.” 

He ignored the sympathy on Rick’s face and focused on what he had to do. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t have a choice. This was the last thing he’d ever be able to do for Sonia. He was damned if he’d repay her kindness by walking away. 

A gust of wind tore across the mountain, sending icy shards of snow straight into his face. The weather was closing in fast. If the helicopter didn’t arrive soon, it wouldn’t be able to land.

He staggered through the snow, joining the rest of his team as they prepared Sonia for her final journey off the mountain. 

Mitch opened the body bag. “Rick and Andy—you hold the bag open. Grant, Jim, Pete, and Danny—you know what to do.”

Grant knelt by Sonia’s head. As he gently wiped fresh snow off her cheeks, his eyes filled with tears. The only color in her pale face was the sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Sonia had hated those freckles. She’d tried every lotion she could find to make them disappear. 

In a cruel twist of fate, they now gave life to her still body. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear she’d fallen asleep in the snow. He didn’t have to try hard to imagine her eyelids slowly opening. Her blue eyes would crinkle at the corners and she’d laugh at how silly they were to think she could possibly be gone. 


He looked up at Mitch. 

“Are you ready?”

He took a deep breath. “Let’s take her home.”

On the count of three, they lifted Sonia into the body bag. He supported her head, worried for some stupid reason she’d get hurt. He made sure her hat and jacket were on straight, that there was as little sign as possible of the trauma she’d suffered. 

A hard knot of grief stuck in his throat as Mitch slowly pulled the zipper over her face.

He wasn’t much of a believer in the power of prayer. He’d seen too much and done too much to ever think there could be a higher purpose to life. But right now, he needed to believe in something. So he closed his eyes and prayed, hoping that, wherever she was, Sonia heard his words.

The sound of an engine cut through the heavy silence. 

He wiped his eyes as a red helicopter flew toward them.

Rick stood beside him and wrapped his arm around his shoulders. “It won’t be long, now.”

Grant took a deep, shuddering breath. Her parents would meet the helicopter in Bozeman. It was almost over for him, but for Sonia’s family, this was only the beginning.

* * *

Mallory tightened the laces on her boots and smiled at the group of nine- and ten-year-old girls she was teaching to figure skate. “Don’t go too far away. I’ll be ready soon.”

A chorus of giggles bounced off the frozen lake. 

“Miss Fraser...” A little girl skated toward Mallory. “Do you think we could start with ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’?”

“Not today, Bella. It might get too confusing when we’re at the Winter Festival. We’ll start with the first song on our program, ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’, and then dance to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.”

“My dad said you deserve a medal for teaching us to skate.”

Bella’s words stirred memories Mallory would rather forget. She took a deep breath and smiled. “I like helping you.” 

Natasha, a friend of Bella’s, stopped beside them. “Come on, Bella. I’ll race you to the rock over there.”

By the time Bella saw where her friend was pointing, Natasha had already left. 

“Wait for me!” Bella dug her blades into the ice and skated as fast as her arms and legs could go. 

Mallory pushed away the sad memories. She had so much to be thankful for and today was one of those times.

“Miss Fraser! Look at me.” Aimee Rogan skated past Mallory holding a beautiful spiral position. 

“Well done.” 

With her left leg straight and her right leg extended behind her, it was an incredible achievement for someone who had been skating for only a few months.

Aimee slowly lowered her leg and chasséd back to Mallory. “I’ve been practicing what you showed us. Mom said I’m her ice princess.”

“I’m so proud of you. That was wonderful.”

“Thank you. Do you think you could show me some more chassés after class?”

“Of course, I can.” Mallory turned on the sound system. “Are you ready to practice our program for the Winter Festival?”

“I can’t wait.” Aimee skated toward her friends. She stood beside Zoe, giggling at something she said.

As the music drifted across the ice, Mallory’s gaze wandered over the snow-covered mountains surrounding Emerald Lake. Practicing outside was so much better than being inside Haynes Pavilion. 

The rest of her students took their places. Mallory was glad she’d suggested they perform in Bozeman’s Winter Festival. Everyone had improved so much. It would give them a chance to shine—although she wasn’t sure whether it was the ice skating or their costumes they were more excited about.

“It’s time to warm up. Everyone stand in a line behind Zoe. I want you to make big circles with your arms as you skate around the ice.”

Within minutes, the girls were following Zoe, moving their arms like windmills. 

Mallory turned up the music and skated toward the back of the line. “Now let’s try sculling. Remember…toes in, toes out, knees bent, knees straight.” 

The girls followed Zoe across the ice. They knew these exercises were important. No one was willing to risk an injury—especially this close to their performance. They went through another six moves, twisting and turning until everyone had pink cheeks. 

When they raced toward the area they were using for their practice, Mallory followed at a slower pace. “Take your positions for the first dance. Remember, chin up, arms outstretched, and a big smile.”

Mallory cued the music, made sure everyone was where they should be, then pressed play. With toes pointed, they began a routine she hoped their audience would enjoy. 

The girls glided across the ice, keeping in perfect formation. They were nimble on their skates and had a great sense of timing. But most importantly, they were motivated. More than anything, they wanted to show their families and friends how much they’d learned.

As they split into pairs and began the next sequence of steps, Mallory thought about how important it was to be motivated. For her, it had meant the difference between winning a gold or silver medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships—and learning how to live without the two most important things in her life.

Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!

Mallory is a U.S. figure skating champion. When the mystery surrounding a tragic accident follows her to Bozeman, she needs help to find the truth.

Grant is the only person she trusts to help her, but will they risk their hearts to solve a mystery that could change their lives forever?

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “This series was hard to put down! Lots of exciting drama, love, and laughter." 

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "If you want a feel-good, heart-fluttering read, this is it!"

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "It's the kind of book that makes you believe in love all over again."

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