Broken Chains

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Some inheritances are to die for.

Merida Roark was happy, leading an ordinary life as a bike mechanic at Scratchin’ Gravel Bike Shop in Summit Springs, Colorado, far away from her estranged family, and the past she thought long buried. Until the day an envelope arrives with an unexpected inheritance.

Tam Grimes was an FBI profiler before a serious work injury ended her career. She moved to Summit Springs for a fresh start in the peace and quiet. Falling in love was not part of her plans, but when a bike chain eats her leg and Merida patches her up, Tam finds herself drawn to the beautiful mechanic.

Their fragile relationship is tested when Merida’s home is savagely vandalized. The police have no leads, but it doesn’t take Tam long to realize the threat to her new lover is connected to her hidden past. When things go from disturbing to dangerous, Tam must use all her skills to untangle this web before someone removes Merida from the equation…permanently.

“What’s the candle for, Merida?”

She swallowed hard. “I hit a bunny on the way here today.”

“Oh honey.” Isley wrapped their arms around her. “I’m so sorry. I know those bunnies are your favorite thing about Colorado.”

Merida sniffed. “Not my favorite, but high on the list. They’re a representation of the ecosystem and I know if they’re here, we’re doing okay. But I killed one.” Tears slid down her cheeks.

Isley squeezed her gently. “You know, think of it this way. That little bunny will now feed the ravens and turkey vultures who depend on the roadkill for extra sustenance. Next turn on the wheel for the bunny and food for others—which is part of the ecosystem.”

“Humans and cars are the worst part of the ecosystem.” Merida sniffed. “It’s why I prefer bikes.”

“But you drove your car.”

“Only because I have to go grocery shopping after work, or I won’t be able to eat.” She sniffed again. “I lit a candle for the hunny bunny’s soul.”

Isley squeezed her again before stepping back. “That’s the best you can do. How about we make some tea and get to work around here? We just scored another huge rental for the resort this weekend.”

Merida raised her eyebrows. “Wow, really? That’s awesome.” She sniffed and wiped her face. “I’d love some tea and I can check all the bikes. How many and when?”

 Isley grinned as they headed back to the front. “Twelve bikes for a wedding party this week. And they want them to all match so the pictures look uniform.”

“Oh my glory, are you serious?” Merida gaped. “They all have to be the same? Did the bride or wedding planner ask for a specific color?”

Isley snorted. “I think they mentioned something, but I told the folks at the M&M Outfitters they’ll get what we have the most of.”

“Are they holding the pre-wedding festivities at the Outfitters or at Pines Peak Ski Resort?” Merida asked as she settled at the counter and brought up their inventory of rental equipment on the computer.

“The resort.” Isley settled behind her. “But we’ll deliver the bikes to Marmot and Moose Outfitters—they’ll get them to the resort. So which color do we have the most of?”

“Uhm…well…” She wrinkled her nose and grimaced. “They aren’t a typical paint job. The color we have most is…tie-dye rainbow, the brightest.”

Isley blinked and covered their mouth with their hand. “That’s the color we have the most of?”

“Yeah…” Merida bit her bottom lip. “Remember that huge promotional sale the manufacturer had during Pride Month two years ago? They gave us a great deal and I think we ordered like forty bikes. We sold roughly half, but that means…”

“We still have like twenty rainbow tie-dyed bikes.”

“Yup.” She nodded. “I can get them tuned and cleaned up in time to be delivered to M&M Outfitters, but they’re gonna be the rainbow ones. Who’s the couple?”

“No idea. I just promised the bikes.” Isley shrugged.

“Look, I don’t know much about weddings, not having had one of my own, but I’m pretty sure brides are kinda particular about their wedding colors.” Merida squinted at the screen. “You probably should call M&M to let them know that’s what we have. They can do the negotiation with resort people and the bride.”

Isley sighed and grimaced. “Yeah, I’ll get right on that. But here’s a question. Do we have six of two colors? Like blue and red? Or blue and black? Maybe we could talk everyone into doing half and half.”

Merida frowned. “We might if you haven’t sent many out on rentals for the weekend.”

“I’ll check with M&M to see if we can split the colors.” Isley grabbed the phone and headed to the back of the shop.

Merida called up the inventory just as the bell above the door rang and someone stepped inside. She glanced up and froze. The slender, athletic woman had dark brown hair the color of her favorite chocolate and skin a shade of toasted coconut. Sharp hazel eyes took in the shop and its contents before she limped closer to the service counter. Then Merida noticed the bloody rag wrapped around the woman’s lower right leg and she gasped.

“Oh my glory, what happened to you?” Okay, maybe not Merida’s most welcoming and smooth greeting, but she’d never had anyone come in bleeding before.

The dark-haired woman smirked a bit ruefully. “My bike decided to eat my leg. Would y’all be able to get the chain back on and tightened?”

“No—I mean, yes, of course.” Merida jumped up and hurried to her side. “But let’s get that leg cleaned up first. The bike can wait.”

The woman shook her head. “My leg’s fine. I cleaned it a little with water from my bottle.”

Merida snorted. “The blood’s soaked through your bandana, so I think it needs more attention. Here. Lean the bike against the wall and come sit down.” She led the woman behind the counter and tried to ignore her fresh rain and cardamom scent. “Have a seat here and let me get the first aid kit.”

“I’ll be fine, really.” The sharp-eyed woman tried to get up, but Merida held her with one hand on her shoulder.

“Sit for just a moment. Do you like tea?”

She blinked. “What?”

“Do you like tea? I have a special blend that makes everything better. It’s a black tea so there’s a little kick, in terms of caffeine. Better than coffee, I promise.”

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