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Author Katie Mettner

Ruby Sky Cover Reveal


After what seems like forever, I'm excited to finally introduce you to Ruby Sky! The second book in the Raven Ranch Mysteries has been a long time coming, but I hope you fall in love with Ruby and Hans Sky as fast as Deputy Matt Hermanni did. When I wrote October Winds, the first book in the series, I planned to make it a stand-alone book. It was a story I'd written during NaNoWriMo, and I loved Jett and October, but there were other characters who wanted their story told. Matt Hermanni, was the loudest, and now I understand why. If you love romance with equal parts mystery and suspense, then you'll love Ruby Sky!
Preorder Ruby Sky on Amazon for release January 18! 

Add it to your TBR List on Goodreads

It will be part of Kindle Unlimited.

BLURB:

Deputy Matt Hermanni had a decision to make. Stay in Zansaville, Minnesota and fight the loneliness in his soul or find greener pastures. Before he could decide, he was handed a case that could make or break his career.

Ruby Skye had a son to raise and a roof to keep over his head. She managed both by working as the head cook and bottle washer at the biggest truck stop in Zansaville. She dealt with men all day every day, but hadn’t dated one in eight years.

Everything changed one cold January night when a lead brought Matt to Ruby’s door. She was unprepared for the sexiest deputy alive to be standing on her doorstep. He was unprepared for the most gorgeous woman in Zansaville to offer him coffee. Neither were prepared to fall for each other instantly. Matt knew loving her would be easy, but convincing her he wouldn’t break her son’s heart was another matter.

A dead prostitute, an old well, and a broken cello may decide Matt’s future, but one thing was certain; the person pulling the strings behind the scenes wanted him dead. His job, and his life, depended on him solving the case, before his beautiful ruby sky disappeared.


Paperback will also be available!


Chapter One

I stared into the hole in the ground and sighed. It was seventeen below zero and nine o’clock at night. Of course, I would be the one on duty when a call like this came in. I stared at the headless body. It lay in a hole ten feet below my feet in a snow-filled ditch. The body wasn’t exactly buried, so calling it a grave wouldn’t be accurate. Calling it an unfortunate end to someone’s life, would be.

When we found the body, the neighbor’s dog having led us to it, all we had to do was brush away some snow, leaves, and dirt. That alone told us the guy had been in the ditch only a few days before the first snowfall of the year on November second. This is Zansaville, Minnesota, where the snow comes early and leaves late. Either he fell into the deep ditch and was too injured to climb out, or someone dumped him there. Taking in the scene, and initial investigation, I was leaning toward someone dumped him.

I turned my attention to the skull I held in my gloved hand before glancing back at the body in the ditch. All I could think of was a popsicle. When I was a kid I used to suck on the top of the popsicle until the tip popped off in my mouth. This guy resembled a half-eaten popsicle. Since I was the one holding his skull, at least I think it’s his skull, this was now my case. It was time to secure the scene and collect any evidence we might be able to find in this mess of debris.

First, I had to decide what to do with the skull. There were no defining human features left other than the skull bones and upper jaw. The lower mandible was gone, likely dropped along the way as the dog brought it home, or possibly eaten by said dog. There were scrapes up and down the skull bones from Cujo’s teeth, but otherwise the skull resembled any other Halloween decoration you’ve ever seen. This wasn’t a decoration, though. This was real, and it creeped me out to be holding it.

When the call came into the station that a landowner’s dog had pranced home with a human skull, we flew into action. Since Sheriff Raven was in North Dakota for the day, it was my job to come out and talk to the guy who was now in possession of a human skull. When he told me his dog never leaves his land, I knew the rest of the body had to be close at hand. After encouraging his black lab, Bandit, to lead us to the body, I was surprised to discover it so close to the road. Granted the ditch was deep, and hidden from view of cars and pedestrians, but it just goes to show you never know what’s going on around you as you go about your daily life.

“Better call the sheriff, Matt,” the medical examiner said, tearing me from my comparisons.

I sighed heavily. “I did, but he’s in North Dakota until tomorrow. He promised to get back as soon as he could, but said he has confidence I can man the scene.”

Medical Examiner Latoose nodded. “I suppose he’s right. How long until we can move the body?”

I’d already called the state crime lab and they sent me guidelines on what to collect for evidence before moving the body. Being a small sheriff’s department, with an even smaller budget, we don’t have the manpower other departments do. The lack of funds makes my job harder, but not impossible. I sent our other two deputies out to scout the rest of the land, just to be sure we didn’t miss anything.

I jumped up and down to get the feeling back in my feet. “As soon as Deputies Kayla and Spirit get back here, we’ll collect the trace evidence we can find, which won’t be much considering the body has been here at least three months, and it looks like several dogs have had a go at it. After we’re done, he, and I’m using he until we know otherwise, is all yours.”

Latoose nodded, making notes on his clipboard with gloved fingers. “There are no teeth in the skull. Did you see any around the body?”

“I did. Obviously, they fell out before the dog picked up the skull or they’d be gone like the lower jaw is. I’ll bag them and they’ll be in the evidence kit.”

He nodded absently. “Good, we might have to use the teeth to identify the victim. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, though. I hope we don’t have to go that far. I’ll do standard protocol on his clothes and any personal belongings I find on him. Ride over to the hospital tomorrow morning and I’ll have it ready for you. It won’t be easy to ID him since half his fingers have gone by the way of the dogs.”

“Or wolves,” I said, then shook my head. “No, wolves wouldn’t have been this close to the road or left this much for us to find. You’re right, dogs were nibbling at it and finally unearthed him enough to get the big prize,” I said, holding up the skull. “You can bag this now. Just make sure you get it back with the body as soon as possible.”

He pulled a plastic bag from his kit and snapped it open, wrapping it over the skull and removing it from my hand. “Why? It’s not like I can reattach it. Once an amputee, always an amputee,” he said, jokingly.

I laughed as I clapped my hands together to warm them. “I don’t expect you to reattach it, but they must be buried together so his spirit can go to the happy hunting grounds.”

“The what?” he asked, mid-stroke as he wrote on the evidence tag.

“The happy hunting grounds. It’s what many Native Americans call the afterlife. A place where game and bison are plentiful and hunting is easy.”

His head swiveled toward the body and back to me. “How do you know he’s native?”

I shrugged nonchalantly as we stared at the body. “I don’t, but around here there’s a good chance he might be. All I’m saying is, remember their traditions until we know for sure.”

“He could be a trucker from Utah for all we know,” he said, shaking his head and grumbling.

“Could be,” I agreed. “I guess working with Sheriff Raven has worn off on me over the years.” I saw Deputy Spirit walking toward me and I patted him on the shoulder. “Go warm up in your van. We’ll finish our work and I’ll send a deputy over when we’re ready to release the body.”

“Gladly,” he said, his teeth chattering as he took the skull and his kit and hightailed it to his warm van.

The truth is, I don’t know a lot about the Native Americans since I’m one hundred percent Finnish. What I do know I’ve learned from Jett, who is half Sioux and worked on a reservation for years. Almost four years ago the previous sheriff won re-election, but he died shortly afterward. Jett was appointed to the job, so this year he’ll have to campaign and win the election in order to keep his position. Considering how everyone in the town loves him, I have no doubt he’ll win, especially since no one else will run against him. When he, and his now fiancée October, took down a large sex trafficking operation being run by a local trucker, they endeared themselves to the townspeople of Zansaville.

Working as the Sheriff of Zansaville, Minnesota comes with its own unique challenges. Our town is filled to the brim with truck stops, truckers, and everything that goes with them. We spend as much time on the truck lots as we do anywhere else in town. We have new people in and out all day long, so finding out who this guy is could be a real trick, especially since we have little to go on. When I did my initial assessment of him, I didn’t find a wallet in his back pocket, or anything in his pockets for that matter, as I’d hoped we would. I guess that would have made it too easy. Unfortunately, the tips of his fingers were gone, which meant fingerprints were out as a way to identify him. We’ll check missing person records first for anyone who might be missing in the area. Maybe we’ll luck out and he will have an identifying tattoo or scar on his body that will clear up his identity and get him back with his family. If not, then all we have left is the hope that Latoose can identify him from his dental records. That involves many complicated steps, from what Latoose tells me, so I’m hoping we don’t have to go that far.

I checked the information the state evidence lab texted me a few minutes ago. I had to be sure I crossed all my T’s and dotted my I’s. I was hoping to make chief deputy sheriff by the time Jett was reelected. While I’m always the one to take his place when he’s gone, the official title isn’t there, which means neither is the money or the notoriety. Not that I care about the money or the notoriety in the sense most people do, but it would be nice not to hear better call the sheriff every time I’m on a case. I have enough experience to know when I need to call the sheriff and when I can handle the situation on my own. Carrying the title of Chief Deputy Sheriff would tell others the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, the extra salary wouldn’t be bad either, but I’m not looking to get rich. If I was, I wouldn’t be working in Zansaville, Minnesota. I work here because I love the unique challenge the community brings to law enforcement, and I love the people I work with. We’re one big family, and we’d do anything to protect each other, no matter the cost.

Spirit jogged up to me, his usual smile in place, and his long black hair covering one eye. Spirit loved when it was too cold for the horses. It meant he got to fire up the SUV or squad car and ride in luxury. When Jett moved to Zansaville from the reservation, he brought his patrol horses with him. He believes patrolling the town on horseback makes us more accessible to the people, gives us the image of more friend than foe, and helps us bridge the community with law enforcement. I have to give credit where it’s due. Since he arrived in town with his horses in tow, we’ve had a quarter of the violent crimes and more cooperation from the townspeople and businesses. However, you probably won’t get Spirit to agree with you about Jett’s favorite form of transportation. Spirit isn’t a horse guy, and in this department, that’s a problem. I didn’t think he’d last long here, considering his natural distrust of the animals, but over time he’s learned to coexist with them, and even start to like them. Spirit may be Ojibwe, but he grew up in the city and never acknowledged his roots.

Sheriff Raven gave his then-girlfriend October one of the horses from the department a few years ago. Apple Blossom had fallen for October and refused to work when she was away from the barn. Jett made sure to give Spirit the opportunity to pick the new horse to replace Apple Blossom. His gamble worked, and now Spirit likes patrolling on horseback … almost. He will always prefer a four-horse Ford over the real thing, but he’s a great deputy and we need him on our team.

“Find anything?” I asked as he loped up to me.

He shook his head to the negative. “Nah, this guy has been here for too long and there’s no chance we’ll find anything buried out there under this much snow.”

I nodded my agreement. “I know, but I had to send you out to look. Find any lumps or anything suspicious above ground?” I asked.

“We found some lumps and dug them out, but none of it was personal belongings of any kind. Wherever this guy came from he’s not local. There’s also no evidence he was living or sleeping in the woods, at least not anywhere around here.”

I blew out a breath. “Fine, let’s get this done so we can get back to the station and warm up. Where’s Kayla?” I asked, looking around until I spotted her talking to one of the medical examiner’s staff.

She jogged over and held up a camera. “I had to borrow their video camera. The cold sapped our battery,” she explained. “I’ll record while you guys do the evidence collecting,” she said, as we all jumped down into the ditch and approached the headless mystery man. Spirit and I took off our warm gloves and snapped on latex ones, both of us silently hating our life in the middle of a deep freeze in a Minnesota January.


***

The clock on my dashboard flipped over to ten p.m. when I climbed back into the SUV, frozen to the bone. Evidence collection took less than ten minutes, considering there wasn’t anything to collect. He’d been there too long and there had been too many animals around the body to count. We collected the hair fibers we could find, but I would be willing to bet my career they would all be animal hair of one kind or another. Our only real hope of finding any evidence is on his clothes, which the medical examiner now owned. Unless a woman enjoyed wearing men’s underwear, this was definitely a male we were dealing with. With any luck, by morning I could start sorting out who this guy was, so we could get him home to his family.

I cranked the heat up to high and held my fingers in front of the air streams in an attempt to warm them. I sent Spirit and Kayla back to the station to man the phones and other emergency calls, while I finished the paperwork here. There was nothing left to do now that the body was gone, but I would leave the crime scene tape up until morning. When Jett got back to town, I wanted him to look at the scene, which meant the tape had to stay up. Of course, it was entirely possible by morning, regardless of the tape, the whole damn area would be filled with memorial flowers for someone no one even knew. After all, Zansaville is the true definition of Minnesota nice.

I leaned back in my seat and soaked up the heat as it filled the car. It wasn’t likely the victim was anyone from town. We had no recent missing person reports from the last three months, and our man had been in the ditch long enough someone would have reported him missing by now. It would take some time to figure this out and I was looking forward to Jett returning from North Dakota to help out. There wasn’t enough manpower for a case this size when we were down one man.

As much as he didn’t want to leave yesterday, he wasn’t given a choice. He had to take October to North Dakota to testify against the remaining members of the trafficking ring they busted. While the head of the ring was killed during the takedown, the tentacles that snaked out from him took a long time to track down. I know they want to put this behind them before they get married, so I’m happy they’re taking the last step this week. October is a sweet girl who didn’t deserve the rotten hand life dealt her. The only good thing she’s ever been given was Jett. She deserves him and so much more. If I know Jett, and I do because he’s like a brother to me, then he’s currently spoiling her to take every last memory of that time in their lives away and replace them with happy ones. I’ve talked to her about it and I can honestly say that’s not what she wants, because if she forgets that time in her life then she forgets the love she found with Jett.

I rubbed a hand over my face. At twenty-six I’d thought about love a lot lately. It gets lonely out here in the backwoods of no man’s land. I know if I want to find a woman to be with, then I’ll have to leave here and go somewhere with a more diverse population. In Zansaville, we have the high school girls who the second they graduate head for greener pastures, or the lot lizards. Every other woman in this town is already married or spoken for. Lord knows if you like your man parts, you’re not going to date a lot lizard.

I beat my head on the headrest gently. The cold must have straight up frozen my brain. Who thinks about these things at this time of night after finding a dead body?

“A lonely person,” I said to the empty car as I put it in drive, ready to leave the scene of the crime behind. My radio crackled to life the moment I took my foot off the brake.

“Deputy Matt, you still out there?” Kayla asked.

“Yeah, just heading in. You need me somewhere?” I asked, my foot back on the brake.

“Just got a call from a homeowner up that way. She heard about the body and thinks she might have some information. I told her I’d have you stop before you leave the area.”

I grabbed a notebook and pen from my console. “Sure, give me the address.”

She repeated it and I jotted the numbers down. The body was found at 229, and her address was 231. She had to be right next door. I peered through the windshield, but all I saw was blackness. I let my foot off the brake and rolled forward, searching for the red fire numbers that should be jutting out of the ground. My headlights flashed on the number 231 next to a rutted, overgrown driveway. “No time like the present,” I said, glancing at the clock.

It was after ten-thirty now and I hoped she was still up. I would roll up to the house and if the lights were out, I would return tomorrow. Rolling up to the house might be harder than it sounds, though. It took all my concentration to keep the wheel steady as I bounced over potholes and ruts toward the house. The trees opened up and ahead of me was a small cottage, maybe twelve hundred square feet, lit by an old-fashioned lamp glowing at the start of the walk. Inside the house, behind a set of draperies, I could see light spilling out from around the edges. I guess she’s still up.

I turned the engine off and grabbed my notebook, climbing from the car, knowing the cold would steal my breath again. It didn’t matter, the job came first, and I would really love to solve this case. If this woman knows something, she might be the one to lead us in the right direction. I strode to the door quickly, the cold sucking out what little life I had left in me after the ridiculous night I’d had. Unfortunately for me, I had plenty of hours to go yet. At least I could get back to the station and warm up once I was done here. I raised my fist and rapped on the door of the small bungalow then waited, listening for footsteps. I heard none, but in seconds the door opened and a woman peered out at me.

I raised my right hand to wave. “Hi, I’m Deputy Hermanni. You called about the happenings tonight,” I said, showing her my badge.

She held the door open for me and I stepped inside. “Thanks for stopping by, Deputy Hermanni. Come in, please. Would you like some coffee?” she asked.

I inhaled deeply and the scent of a dark, rich brew tickled my nose. “Normally I would say I don’t want to bother you, but tonight I’d take coffee from Jack the Ripper,” I said, tongue in cheek.

She laughed, the sound open and airy, but I could tell she didn’t laugh often. “I kind of figured that might be the case, which is why I have a pot of coffee made at almost eleven o’clock at night. Come on in and we’ll talk in the kitchen. My name is Ruby Sky, by the way,” she said over her shoulder, as I followed her down the short hallway to the kitchen.

My eyes were glued to her backside as we walked and the sight wiped clean every thought in my mind. She was gorgeous, easily five eight, and curvy. For whatever reason, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her.

She poured coffee into the mug and brought it to the table with cream and sugar. “I work at The Truck Stops Here,” she said, sticking her hand out for me to shake.

I shook it, her hand warm and firm as it gripped mine. “Of course, I knew I’d seen you around before, but we’ve never been formally introduced,” I said, recognizing her face now that I wasn’t concentrating on her beautiful bottom. Ruby was the cook at the truck stop on the outskirts of Zansaville. I rarely saw her when I stopped because she was always in the back, but the few times I had seen her, she always made my stomach do that weird flip-flop thing. She might be the only unattached, single woman in Zansaville. I wonder what’s wrong with her.

“I think the last time I saw you at the truck stop you had red hair.” For some reason I felt the need to make conversation with her instead of doing my job and heading back to the station.

She touched her hair absently. “I was tired of being a redhead, so I let my true colors shine through.”

I sipped the coffee, while it warmed my hands through the mug. She might not be a true redhead, but she certainly shined like the sky at sunset; red, vibrant, and gorgeous. “Your true colors are beautiful. I haven’t been out to The Truck Stops Here for quite some time. You guys must have everything in hand.”

She rapped on the table. “Knock on wood.”

I laughed and shook my head. “My night tells me that can change in a heartbeat.”

She grimaced instantly. “I guess that’s probably true, eh? When my neighbor told me what was going on I was immediately torn between locking the doors and hugging my son.”

“You have a son?” I asked, surprised. I guess that’s what’s wrong with her. She’s a single mom and doesn’t have time to date.

“I do, he’s eight,” she explained, pointing down the hallway. “After I put him to bed, I remembered something we saw on Halloween night that was odd.”

I grabbed my notebook from my pocket, all business now that we were ready to talk shop. “Odd? Care to explain?”

She wrapped her hands around her mug of coffee. “There’s no place to trick-or-treat out here, so I was taking Hans into town when we saw a car parked on the road. It was a car we’d never seen before.”

I glanced up from the notebook. “Hans? Are you a Star Wars fan?” I asked, laughing to myself.

She shook her head. “His real name is Einojuhani, which is—”

“Finnish,” I finished, shocked by her revelation. “It means clever and quick-witted.”

She nodded once, only one side of her lips tipping up. “And Hermanni means army man in Finnish.”

I grinned and winked. “You got me. I’m all Finnish. My parents came over from Finland when they were tiny babes. They grew up together.”

“Man, that must have been a fun household to live in,” she muttered, her hands in fists at her side.

“Why do you say that?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

“I was married to a Finn and the amount of stubborn was off the charts. I can’t imagine being in a whole house full of them.”

I chuckled. “I’ll admit we can be stubborn, but we can also be loving, giving, and attentive, I promise.”

She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Not my experience.”

“So, you’re no longer married to a Finn?” I asked, using her words to keep from sounding nosy, even though I was being nosy.

She didn’t answer, just waved her empty ring finger and then picked up her mug again.

“I’ve only ever heard of one other Einojuhani before. He was a singer, right?”

She held up her finger as she swallowed. “Einojuhani Rautavaara?” she asked and I nodded. “He was a composer, so you were close.”

“Is that who you named him after or is it a family name?” I asked, forgetting I was there to do a job and enjoying the few moments I had to get to know her better. I knew I asked the wrong question the moment shutters came down over her eyes and her lips tightened. She might have more than a little bit of Finnish in her too by the looks of it.

“Anyway, Hans saw the car and I didn’t take too much notice of it at first,” she explained, obviously done talking about herself and her son, “but when we came back a couple hours later it was still sitting there. When we left there was someone in the car, but on the way back it was empty, so I slowed down to check it out. I decided maybe it was just broken down and the owner had caught a ride into town. I even felt bad I hadn’t offered one when we left. I promised Hans if it was still there in the morning I would ask around at work and make sure it got towed and taken care of.”

I glanced up from the notebook. “But it wasn’t there in the morning?”

She shook her head as she swallowed. “It was gone by morning. I assumed whoever owned it had gotten it running again and left. We never saw it again. I guess I thought of it because it was parked right in front of the ditch where the body was found.”

“Can you tell me the make and model?” I asked, pen poised to write.

“It was a blue Nissan Sentra,” she said, grabbing her phone. “I wish I had snapped a picture of it, but I didn’t. I never saw the plates either. To be honest, I can’t say there were plates on the car, but if there were, they blended in enough I didn’t notice them.” She turned the phone to me. “This is the exact car.”

I grabbed my own phone from my pocket and took a picture of it. “A 2014 Nissan Sentra. That helps, a lot. Maybe we can find some footage of it around town on one of the truck stop cameras from that date. Thanks for calling in. We always appreciate the communities help when these crimes happen.”

“So you think it was a crime?”

I rubbed my hand over my face. “I’m sorry, I should have said when these events happen. We don’t know that a crime was committed. For all we know this was a hunter who got lost. Maybe it was someone who had a medical event while on the road and fell into the ditch. We just don’t know, but any information we can use to help us get to the truth is always appreciated.”

She rubbed her thumbs over the rim of the cup. “Do you think we need to worry about anyone breaking in or anything?”

“I think you should always lock your doors, that’s just smart, but I don’t think there are any serial killers lurking in the woods. Whatever happened with this guy has yet to be determined, but he’s been there a long time, so I’m certain whatever it is, it was a one-off incident. There’s no need to worry for your safety.”

She nodded as we sipped our coffee in the warmth of her kitchen. The home was clean, bright, and obviously well-loved by the occupants. There were kid magnets on the fridge holding up artwork done by her son. The clean dishes were stacked in the sink with a towel resting over them, air drying for use tomorrow morning. It seemed so normal, and all-American. Maybe it was my yearning for normalcy making me feel this way, or maybe it was knowing when I finished my shift, I was going home to a one-room apartment over the pharmacy. There I’d have a TV dinner and a beer and crawl into my bed, alone. Something about that lifestyle was no longer appealing.

I pushed back from the table and stood. “I guess I should be getting along so you can head to bed,” I said, shaking her hand.


When I touched her skin it was smooth, like satin ribbon as it trailed across my hand. I shivered involuntarily. I definitely could get used to the feeling of her skin against mine, but something told me winning her heart would be a losing battle.

(If you are a blogger or reader who has time to read and review this book by February 1, please contact me through the contact form here. I can send you a mobi or epub copy immediately. Thank you!)


As my cover designer and I worked to find a cover that did Ruby Sky justice, I realized in order to make the series cohesive, we would have to redo October Winds. This beautiful cover is the result of my designer's vision for the book. Isn't it beautiful? I love it as much as the cover for Ruby Sky and can't wait to order the series and add both to my collection! 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Mettner writes inspirational and romantic suspense from a little house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. After suffering an especially bad spill on the bunny hill in 1989, Katie became an
amputee in 2011, giving her the time to pen her first novel, Sugar's Dance. With the release of Sugar's story, Katie discovered the unfilled need for disabled heroes and heroines. As the author of over two dozen romance novels, her stories are about empowering people with special circumstances to find the one person who will love them because of their abilities, not their inabilities.

Katie lives with her soulmate, whom she met online at Thanksgiving and married in April. Almost seventeen years later her love story is a true case of instalove. She and her husband share their lives with their three children, and one very special leopard gecko. When not busy being a band mom, Katie has a slight addiction to Twitter and blogging, with a lessening aversion to Pinterest now that she quit trying to make the things she pinned.

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