Reaching For Roots: A Bloo Moose Romance
I laughed out loud at Emmy’s new wonderful friends from the storytelling competition and the people of Bloo Moose and wish I could vacation there.Marie B
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Undercover agent Ryan Ward is always on the move, taking down criminal masterminds like the one who caused his dad's death.
Ryan doesn't expect the only connection to his latest target to be a sweet and sexy cartoonist who makes him want to rethink everything.
Putting down roots might not be so bad. If the lies don't destroy them first.
Reaching For Roots is the seventh book in the Bloo Moose Romance series. Each book can be read as a standalone. The book contains some strong language and sexy times. Enjoy the read!
Release date: March 23, 2021
Publisher: Jemi Fraser @ Just Jemi Books
Print pages: 200
Content advisory: The book contains some strong language and sexy times. Enjoy the read!
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Reaching For Roots: A Bloo Moose Romance
Into The Bloo
Emmy Rivera gripped the key tightly in her hand and struggled to breathe. All she had to do was sign on the dotted line and the key would be hers.
Along with monthly commitment to the bank and all kinds of strings attached.
Strings tying her to one place.
Strings tying her to a business.
So many strings.
Emmy drew in a deep breath to stop the room from spinning.
People did this kind of thing every day. Normal people. Which didn’t describe her very well.
Maybe this was the wrong time.
The wrong place.
She could hear Nathan’s voice in her head telling her to breathe. Her best friend had pushed her into looking at the space. Into considering it as an option.
What did he know about retail? Firefighters weren’t experts on leases and business and selling things. Certainly not cartoon things.
But she’d promised him she would give it an honest evaluation. Promised him she wouldn’t run at the first obstacle.
Even if that first obstacle was her.
Could she put down roots?
The thought simultaneously made her smile and made her want to throw up.
Signing a lease meant permanence. Nowhere to run when things went wrong. As they always did.
She wanted to be an optimist but it was hard to work against twenty-eight years of experience.
“Okay, space, talk to me. Do you think we’d make a good team?”
Sadly, the space didn’t offer an opinion.
Emmy looked around the main room. Huge windows opened onto Bloo Moose’s boardwalk. The view was absolutely killer. No complaints there.
The quirky Vermont town strung itself along the lakefront. Any business on Boardwalk Avenue got good tourist traffic throughout the year.
Apparently people liked fishing in the winter. Who knew? Hard to even imagine the huge lake covered in ice thick enough to support snowmobiles.
The space was also on a corner. More visibility. Another check in the plus column.
The main room had a counter near the back wall and plenty of floor space. Hardwood floors were scuffed and worn from years of feet but still looked great.
Emmy opened the door to the private rooms on the main floor. An office space and bathroom with another door to a hallway.
That hallway lead to the back door, a storage space and then a set of stairs leading up to an apartment.
She knew all this.
She’d seen all this.
Because this was her third trip and she was waffling.
Terrified to take the step.
Terrified to stay in one place.
And terrified that if she didn’t take the risk, she never would.
Emmy didn’t want to be a coward but being brave was hard.
The walls started to close in on her and she suddenly needed air. Outdoors air.
Emmy flew out of the front door of the shop and smacked into something.
Before she could fall flat on her face, strong hands grabbed her and pulled her upright.
Upright and closeup to the owner of those arms.
A total stranger with a sparkling grin and amusement in his eyes.
Emmy nodded. The deep voice resonated with her. She loved a good rumbly voice.
And strong arms. Check.
When she didn’t answer immediately, the amusement changed to concern. “Are you hurt?” His eyes flashed to the store behind her. “Is something wrong?”
Nice guy. Check.
Emmy managed a smile. After eight months in Bloo Moose she knew everyone by sight. This guy must be a tourist and that meant she didn’t need her brave face at the moment.
“I’m fine. Just having a cowardly moment and a slight panic attack.”
His eyes cut back to hers. Deep brown like his wavy hair. This guy checked a whole lot of boxes.
Amusement sparkled back in his eyes and his hands moved gently up and down her arms offering comfort.
“You afraid of empty stores? Or was it the broad daylight? Wait. Is the store haunted?”
Emmy grinned. Sense of humor. Check.
Check, check, check.
“Haunted by my fears and insecurities, maybe.”
“Well, let me offer some protection. Make sure the ghosts of insecurities don’t get you.”
Emmy huffed out a laugh. “I’m probably good.”
“Probably? I’d say you’re good. Why don’t you tell me about these insecurities anyway. I’m going to guess that the For Lease sign has something to do with your stress.”
He heaved out a dramatic sigh. “And here I was waiting for a compliment on my superior detecting skills.”
This man was a cutie and a charmer. And every girlie part of Emmy wanted to grab him and hang on tight. If he was a tourist, it could be a fun ride.
She hadn’t felt such a zip of chemistry with a man in a long time. Maybe ever.
Or maybe that was the panic about the space talking.
He gave her arms a gentle squeeze then turned her and slung his arm over her shoulder so that they faced the store.
“Pros and cons. Go.”
“A pragmatic list maker, are you? Okay, fine.”
Emmy drew in a deep breath and forced her thoughts off the man she wanted to lean into and onto the space.
“Pros. Great location. The space only requires fresh paint. Comes with an apartment above. Also in good shape.”
When she didn’t continue, he asked. “Cons?”
A lease. A declaration of permanence. A tie that bound.
And the biggie. “Potential to fall flat on my face.”
He squeezed her into him and leaned down to whisper. “You already tried that. And you survived.”
She laughed. “This would be a bigger fall. With a big price tag.”
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Aside from the failure thing?”
He shrugged. “Everyone fails. Part of being human.”
She’d never thought of failure like that before.
“We try. We fail. We pick ourselves back up and try again.”
“And fail again.”
He squeezed her again. “Sure. But not always. Not every time. Maybe this is your time.”
Emmy swallowed. He sounded like Nathan. “And how am I supposed to know that?”
His chuckle was warm and soothing. “You’re not. You’re supposed to take a risk and jump into the void.”
“That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.”
Another chuckle. “Weigh the risks against the rewards. What’s the best that could happen?”
Hmm. Another new way of thinking.
She could find a place. Her place.
Her hobby could become a legitimate job.
She could be happy.
Another squeeze on her shoulder preceded another chuckle.
“Congratulations. I think you’ve made a decision.”
With a cocky salute and a dazzling smile the stranger left her alone.
Standing in front of her future.
Ryan Ward could barely suppress the grin as he strolled down the boardwalk.
Talk about serendipity. He hadn’t been in Bloo Moose for more than a couple of hours and he’d made contact.
After his GPS had driven him to the middle-of-nowhere Vermont, he’d dumped his suitcases in his middle-of-nowhere little rental house and headed to town.
And literally bumped into his target.
Proof positive that he was finally in the right place at the right time. Paul Wilson was going down and Ryan couldn’t wait to be the key that turned the lock on the man’s jail cell.
Ryan was thrilled he’d managed to make a positive connection with his target so easily. Naturally.
She’d never suspected a thing.
Probably because of her panic about renting the space. Now he had a natural in with her. It would be easy to drop in and see her again.
Find out how she was progressing.
Bring her a coffee.
With those deep dark eyes, gorgeous black hair, and sweet, sexy curves, it wasn’t going to be a hardship to strike up a friendship with the woman.
Emmy Rivera was friendly and easy to like.
Even her sweatshirt had been fun. BlooMers written in a silly font with a couple of moose peeking out from behind the letters.
Had to be a Bloo Moose reference.
He’d ask her next time as a way to start up a conversation.
This was the best of all possible beginnings.
Several people nodded and smiled at him as he walked the boardwalk. Friendly town full of friendly people.
Everything was looking great.
Now to make his second contact of the day.
Outside of the police station stood one of the huge moose statues scattered throughout the town. This one wore a police cap and uniform. He also sported a huge badge showing he was #1 and his name was Deputy Mooris.
Smiling, Ryan headed into the station. Bloo Moose was going to be a fun assignment on many fronts.
Inside the station a counter separated the lobby from where the work happened. Although only two of them were occupied, six desks filled with modern-looking computers filled the space.
A woman with a bright smile popped up from her desk and approached the counter. “Hi. How can I help you?”
“I have an appointment with Chief Belanger.”
“You must be Ryan Mitchell. Welcome to Bloo Moose. Come on back this way and I’ll introduce you to Dave. I’m Leila, by the way. And that’s Scott over there.”
Scott lifted a hand and waved but didn’t take his eyes or his scowl off his computer screen. Something was making the big man unhappy.
Ryan followed the pretty Leila down a short hallway. Clean, bright building. No small-town nightmare police station for Bloo Moose.
At an open doorway, Leila knocked and waved Ryan forward. “Hey, Dave. Ryan Mitchell is here.”
The police chief’s office was tiny. His desk faced the wall so the man’s back was to the door. Leaving his computer screen visible to anyone who walked by, although there was nothing but a photo of Bloo Moose lake on the screen now.
Ryan’s research had pointed at Dave Belanger being an upstanding officer of the law. One who’d turned down job offers from around the country and from various organizations.
He was apparently content with his job. And good enough at it that Ryan’s superiors had deemed it necessary to bring him in on the assignment.
Belanger rose to his feet and offered his hand in a firm shake. No posturing or silly exertion of pretend-power.
Dave did nothing more than raise an eyebrow a millimetre but it made Ryan aware the chief knew that wasn’t his actual name. Well, it was. But Mitchell was his middle name. For this assignment, it would replace Ward as his surname.
Dave reached around Ryan and swung the door shut and Ryan realized one advantage of the teeny-tiny office.
Dave owned the space. Filled it. And anyone in the room with him knew it.
Ryan was glad he was on the right side of the law.
Belanger backed up and crossed his arms over his chest. “The calls from the IRS and the Treasury Department didn’t give me much information. Asked for my cooperation. Said they wanted you to go undercover as one of my deputies. They asked me to say nothing about it to anyone. I want to know what you’re doing in my town.”
Ryan nodded at the chief. The man’s frustration was obvious but he didn’t raise his voice. He also didn’t look away from Ryan’s gaze for even a second.
“For the better part of two decades, the government has been trying to find the top level of a large money-laundering group. They’re wily and smart. Dangerous. About five years ago, the top man was identified as Paul Wilson.”
Dave shook his head slightly and frowned. “We don’t have anyone named Paul Wilson in Bloo Moose. Unless he’s using an alias. And I can’t picture any of my people being top-level criminals.”
“Paul Wilson isn’t in Bloo Moose. He’s not even in Vermont. But he has a connection with one of your residents and we hope to use that connection to lure him out into the open where we can nab him.”
Another frown. “Why can’t you arrest him wherever he is?”
Ryan kept in the sigh. “I wish. We don’t have any documentation on where Wilson lives.”
“You don’t know where he is?”
Ryan blew out a breath. “It’s a complicated mess. Wilson doesn’t own any property in his name. We know where he lives, but because we can’t tie him to the property with any kind of paperwork, we can’t enter the premises. Can’t even step on the property. If we do, he’ll be able to scream entrapment or some other bullshit and the case will be tossed out of court.”
“Why not grab him when he leaves?”
“He doesn’t leave. Ever. In the years since our teams have been watching, the man has never once left the property. It’s huge and everything he needs or wants is brought to him.”
Dave waved him into the visitor’s chair and Ryan sat. It took the chief another moment but he did the same.
And Ryan found another plus of the tiny office. Their knees were almost touching. Without doing anything at all, the chief would put any criminal in an uncomfortable position. There wasn’t anywhere to go, not even anywhere to look. Whoever was in the office with the chief would have his complete attention.
And Ryan suspected that never went well for the bad guys.
Dave asked more questions about Wilson and the proof they had that this man was indeed guilty of the crimes Ryan had listed. And more.
“I’d be a lot happier if we could bring the deputies in on this. Secrets are the worst and cause nothing but trouble.”
Ryan nodded. “I get that, but orders are above my pay grade. Because this operation could go on for a few months, they want to keep everyone out of the loop except me and you.”
“Months?” The chief sat back. “Can’t say I like this much at all.”
Ryan was used to attitudes like he was facing. Every undercover assignment was different, but if the IRS and Treasury Department were involved it meant serious shit was happening. And that never made anyone happy.
Especially having an undercover agent in their midst.
Ryan wished he could say he was used to it, that it was simply part of the job but that would be a lie.
Once they had Wilson in custody, Ryan would finally be able to move on and do something else.
After discussing Wilson and the need to take him down for a few more minutes, Dave nodded. “Fine, we’ll give this a shot but I’m not guaranteeing that we’ll stay in it for months. I’m going to keep my options open and if your superiors have a problem with that, tell them to give me a call.”
Ryan agreed. Dave Belanger wasn’t a pushover. Ryan would have to work to keep the chief on his side because failing to get Wilson wasn’t an option.
Wilson had occupied Ryan’s every waking moment for years and this was the best chance to get him. He wasn’t going to let it get screwed up.
“Now tell me who the connection to Wilson is.”
He’d hoped to avoid this, but that was obviously impossible. “Emmy Rivera.”
Chief Belanger’s face didn’t give much away. Actually not a single cell in his body reacted. But the intensity of his focus deepened.
The chief was not happy with Ryan’s announcement.
He could be as unhappy as he wanted. As long as he stayed out of Ryan’s way.
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