In the early morning darkness, Cameron locked the door of her tiny cottage, checking, then rechecking the handset to make sure it was locked. No need for the porchlight that would act like a beacon. She didn’t need light to string the thin fishing line across the top corner of the door. She’d done it so many times she knew exactly where to secure the looped end around the nail head that’d hold the line in place.

It wasn’t much of a security system, but good enough to alert her if the door had been opened when she was away. She set off down the pathway, the reassuring weight of the folding tactical knife in her pocket reminding her she wasn’t defenseless.

Tall pines stood silhouetted against the dazzling array of stars in the icy night sky, rising like sentries to guard the path. She shivered. In early May, the days warmed pleasantly but the nights were cold.

A hundred yards in the open, then she was at the back door to the café bakery. Once inside, she locked the handset and the deadbolt. Flipping on lights as she went, she did her usual check. Everything was as it should be, none of the security measures she’d put in place had been tripped.

She’d been going through the same routine for months now and resisted the urge to cut corners, to become complacent. Survival demanded she not miss a single detail.

She completed her rounds of the kitchen and dining space and the adjacent retail area, checking closets and the restrooms before returning to the back kitchen.

She really wished there were blinds on the front windows, but it’d be mighty suspicious if Cam asked Delaney to put up blinds because she was afraid someone outside could be watching her. Plus, her friend had risked a lot to offer her a job and Cameron wouldn’t ask for anything more.

“Okay, we’re good.” Saying the words out loud made her feel safer.

She filled the coffee maker and set it to brew. She always kept a pot full for the farm workers, though she didn’t expect anyone this early. With the aroma of dark roast in the air, she felt herself begin to relax. This was the best part of her day.

With ingredients pulled from the shelves and assembled, she began measuring and mixing, letting the routine settle her. The café and bakery were closed until Cider Mill Farm opened for the summer season in less than two months. That Delaney had kept Cam on at the end of fall when they were closed to the public had been unexpected and a godsend. She had no idea where she’d be if she’d been let go with the rest of the seasonal employees.

To earn her keep she made herself useful, helping with whatever needed to be done on the farm from pruning apple trees to painting the deck. But in the mornings before the others were up and about, she worked in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. While her soups, sandwiches, and salads were excellent, she did her best creations in the bakery.

Today she was experimenting with a recipe for apple pie cinnamon rolls.

As she worked she listened to the news on the radio. It helped to keep her mind from going down rabbit holes. Worrying about her safety, worrying about her mom, worrying her presence could endanger the people she was beginning to care too much about.

When she was younger and imagined her future, she’d always dreamed of a simple life. She’d have a husband who adored her not for her family name, or who her stepfather was or the status marrying her could convey, but for her.

They’d live in a cute house, nothing grand, but a home where when you walked in the door you felt the love. Someday that dream would be a reality. She would make it happen, someplace far away from her hometown and the people there.

It’d been almost a year. Maybe she was truly safe and no one was hunting her. What then? Returning home wasn’t an option. But staying at Cider Mill Farm meant living a lie.

As much as she might wish circumstances were different, she couldn’t see herself popping the truth on Delaney, Emery, and Clara, women she’d grown to care for too much, that her name wasn’t Camilla Barton but Cameron King, and, oh yeah, there were people after her who’d rather see her dead than living free.

She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life forever looking over her shoulder, living under a false name, never truly feeling safe. At some point she’d have to deal with her past, but until she figured out how to do that safely, she’d stick with the current plan.

She followed the news story hoping to drown out her thoughts. She measured ingredients into the big metal bowl, then turned on the commercial mixer and let the dough hook do its magic. Once the consistency was exactly right, she set aside the dough to rise.

Next came the filling. Diced apples, a couple pats of butter, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and a dash of nutmeg all went into a saucepan on the range where she adjusted the flame to bring the mixture to a simmer.

As the news announcer droned on about a bill stalled in Congress, she stirred the apples. A poke with a fork found them tender and she removed them from the heat. A quick check on the dough told her it’d need another ten or fifteen minutes, so she used the time to make notes in her recipe journal.

At some point in her life when she wasn’t so scared of leaving an electronic trail—she didn’t carry a cell phone, or, heaven forbid, have any social media—when she knew she was safe and free to live her life as she wished, she’d have her own baking website.

She’d feature videos and recipes geared toward the casual baker, recipes with accessible ingredients most people stocked in their own kitchens. Each recipe would have modifications and suggested substitutions. Want to make the rolls vegan? Try almond or oat milk. Didn’t have fresh apples for apple pie cinnamon rolls? Go ahead and use canned filling. She tapped her chin. Chunky applesauce might also work as a substitute.

Letting the filling cool, she used the rolling pin to shape the dough into a large rectangle, then brushed it with melted butter. Next, she spread the apple mixture, followed by a generous layer of the walnuts she’d run through the nut grinder. Starting from the edge, she gently rolled the dough before using a chef’s knife to make evenly sized crosscuts. Spacing the spiraled dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, she laid a towel over them for the second rise.

With a dollop of her homemade vanilla creamer in her mug, she poured her coffee, and for the first time since she’d arrived, pulled out one of the stools tucked under the counter to sit.  The news announcer described a tornado that’d caused a half-mile wide path of destruction through a portion of central Oklahoma. Her hand stilled, her mug halfway to her mouth. The twister had cut through the southern outskirts of the town of King’s Fork.

Oh, god. She clutched her mug tighter as the announcer’s voice went tinny in her ears. Carefully, she set down the mug before she snapped the handle. A reporter on the scene, voice appropriately somber, intoned that while there were several people injured, none had been killed.

Vehicles had been tossed around, roofs had been blown off buildings, a gas station canopy had been destroyed. A grain silo had been knocked on its side. She knew exactly where that silo had stood beside the railroad tracks.

Cam fought the urge to search the internet for more information, but she couldn’t take the risk of even a simple search. Nothing she’d done since arriving in Sisters, California, connected her with Oklahoma, and she couldn’t risk leaving an electronic record.

The part of King’s Fork south of the tracks was the poor side of town. It was where Cam’s grandparents had lived in a doublewide trailer. Where Cam had lived with her mom when she was a small girl, and the only place that’d ever felt like home.

But her grandparents were dead, and she’d lost touch with the aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived there. Still, she hoped they’d escaped the tornado’s wrath.

Her mother lived with her husband, the almighty Bennett King, in a gated community in the wealthier northeastern corner of the city. Theirs a solidly built colonial revival house. Safe enough, at least from exterior forces. Internal forces were an entirely different matter.

Powdered sugar, milk, vanilla. Focusing on making the icing centered her and helped keep worry her mom might’ve been caught in the storm from overrunning her thoughts.

Room temp cream cheese went with the other wet ingredients into the mixing bowl. Paddle beating, she sifted in the powdered sugar. Once the consistency was right, she drizzled icing over the rolls.

She’d take the pastries to the big house for the weekly Sunday brunch Clara, the matriarch of the family, presided over. Newlyweds Delaney and Walker would be there. Emery, the long-lost granddaughter to Clara and sister to Delaney, was also likely to be present with her cutie fiancé.

Cam would drop off the rolls and run like hell. She’d have to be quick, though, because invariably Clara and Delaney would insist she stay. She didn’t like intruding on family time but together Delaney and Clara were a determined force of nature as strong as any tornado.

Moving to the coffee maker to refill her mug, the sound of crunching gravel caught her attention as bright lights speared through the windows at the front of the bakery.

Instinct had her rushing to the back wall where she hit the light switches, plunging the kitchen into darkness. A big vehicle came to a stop directly in front of the bakery, headlights blindingly bright before shutting off.

Trying to hear past her heart hammering in her ears, she moved stealthily through the dark to peer out the front window into the early morning gray, careful to keep to the side and hidden. The driver’s door opened and an interior light came on. Her breath let out in a whoosh as the driver stepped out, tall and broad shouldered.

Seconds later a firm rapping sounded from the door to the deck. She flipped on the lights before opening the door, leaning against the frame to block the entrance. She purposefully worked to keep all expression from her face.


Long, lean, and dangerous. The man was all that, but more. Everything about Sawyer McGrath was more. More intense. More dangerous. More sexy. That he was in his cop uniform with a gun on his hip only ramped up her unease. She should’ve been used to him dropping by, but she could never ignore the hyper-awareness she felt in his presence. She hated that he made her feel vulnerable.

“Cam.” He blew on his hands. “You gonna let me in?”


“Why not?”

“We’re closed. Won’t open until June. You can come back then.”

“And miss seeing your welcoming face? Hell no.”

“Aren’t you on duty? I bet you could find someone else to harass.”

 “Not on duty yet.” He peered over her shoulder. “I smell coffee. You always make extra coffee.”

“It’s for the people who work here.” She was skating on thin ice being rude. Sawyer was Delaney’s brother-in-law, and Cam knew damn well that made him welcome to come in for coffee whenever he wanted. “If I bring you coffee, will you go away?”

Ignoring her question, he said, “C’mon, let me in. It’s cold out here and I need to talk to you.”

She didn’t know why she bothered. Sawyer never took no for an answer.

He was trying to be all affable, but it was an act. Sawyer was a cop. She knew he was suspicious of her. She could hardly miss how closely he watched her with his laser-beam eyes that invariably seemed to lock onto her and track her every movement whenever he was in close proximity. That he wanted to talk with her about something specific ratcheted up her nervousness.

She tried to gauge his expression. Had he found out something about her past?

He didn’t look more suspicious than usual, and refusing to let him in would only make him trust her less.

She wished she didn’t find him so dang appealing. Why did his looks work on her on some visceral level? Brown hair cropped close, strong jaw freshly shaved, gray eyes as mysterious as smoke. Add in that long-limbed, rangy build with enough muscle to make things interesting, and he was hard to resist.

Finding herself attracted to him made her feel like an idiot. Who would be attracted to the person who posed the greatest threat to their freedom? Maybe she had some variation of Stockholm syndrome.

A dark brow winged up. “Cam?”

Warmth heated her cheeks at where her thoughts had gone. All those reasons wouldn’t have gotten her to let him in, but facing Delaney’s wrath if she heard Cam had turned away her brother-in-law did.

She took a reluctant step back and opened the door wider, a draft of cold air and the smell of pine following him in.

“What are you baking?” Sawyer trailed after her as she led the way to the kitchen. She pointed to the baking tray on the stainless-steel counter. Browned to perfection, the rolls now had icing dripping down their sides.

“Cinnamon rolls? They’re my favorite. Tell me you’ll share.”

“No matter what I bake you say it’s your favorite.”

“Because in that moment, it is.”

She hated the glimpses of charm he displayed. It made the work of resisting him more difficult. Add him dropping in at random times and she was constantly thrown off balance.

He was always around, visiting his brother and Delaney at the cabin that’d belonged to the McGrath brothers’ grandfather. He regularly checked on Clara at the big house. Then invariably he’d come by the bakery.

He probably thought he’d get lucky and catch her out, discover some evidence of the secrets she kept.

So yeah, she should be used to him. But she wasn’t.

Sawyer was protective of the people he cared about, and she got that. In his position, she’d be the same. Cam had arrived out of nowhere with nothing but a backpack holding a couple changes of clothes and a beat-up old car. She’d gotten rid of the car before he could notice it was unregistered.

To raise more red flags, she’d applied for a job at Cider Mill Farm, but had left blank the spaces for a social security number and references. Cam was immensely grateful Delaney had taken the risk and hired her anyway. Sawyer had given Delaney a hard time over that, and ever since he’d kept an uncomfortably close eye on Cam.

Muting the radio, she retrieved a white crockery plate and used a metal spatula to scoop out a roll. Sawyer took a mug from the shelf and filled it with coffee before settling himself on a stool. She set the plate and a fork in front of him and picked up a damp cloth to wipe down the counter.

He sipped his coffee. A glance showed his gaze watchful as ever.

“You look tired.”

Exactly what every woman wanted to hear. “Thanks for that, Lieutenant McGrath. I’m good.”



“Call me Sawyer.”

“I don’t call cops by their first names.”

“Don’t you think it’s time to move past that? We hang out with the same people. I’d think you could call me by my name.”

“You still wear a badge.”

He picked up his fork but his gaze didn’t leave her face. “That sounds like a challenge. Almost as interesting a challenge as getting past all those lies you tell and figuring out who you really are.”