As a genre, romantic suspense frequently features characters in law enforcement professions. The pairing is a natural one. You have characters who are in some kind of danger or trouble. They need help from others whose job is to defend and protect. Most people in law enforcement are willing to put their lives on the line. The nature of the job is to be in danger. They’re trained in ways to root out evil and fight for right.
When I began writing Hunter’s Quest, I knew that one of the two protagonists would be in law enforcement, but I wanted to go with something a little different. There are plenty of police officers, FBI, and other alphabet agency characters in romantic fiction. In my home state of North Carolina, there have recently been several major stories involving the State Bureau of Investigation and I decided that would do nicely, so my hero is a special agent with the NC SBI.
It really worked out well for the story, though telling you why would be a bit of a spoiler.
Instead I offer an excerpt from near the beginning. To set it up, Kristie Sanford has been driving in the mountains when she’s stunned to hear a rifle shot close by and then a man runs out into the road. He jumps out of the way of her car at the last minute but appears to be injured.
Kristie Sandford’s vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he’s hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd “gift”-she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he’ll die.
Jason Hunter is an SBI (N.C. State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small, North Carolina mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could. Still, the message said he’d die if she didn’t help him, and the messages have been right before.
She dragged her cell phone from her purse, hoping, praying even. It still showed the blasted “No Service” message. She tossed it onto the seat and pounded the steering wheel with her fist, then opened the door and approached the man cautiously. He lay on his side, back to her, so she couldn’t see his face. Torn, dirty jeans covered long legs, with well-worn running shoes below. Sweat, dirt, and blood stained the cotton work shirt stretched tight across broad shoulders. Medium brown hair just brushed his collar.
Her stomach clenched tighter when she surveyed the area around him. The tree he’d hit had saved him from a worse fate. A few feet beyond it, the ground dropped off sharply, diving into a ravine some forty feet down. If he’d gone over the edge he would have been seriously injured or killed. She couldn’t even think about what would’ve happened if she’d swerved too much to avoid him.
He might be dead already. Kristie sucked in a deep breath and walked across the grass to stand over him. With his face turned down toward the ground, all she could see was the hard angle of one cheek, smeared with dirt, streaked with blood and sweat. He lay very still.
She reached down to put a hand on his shoulder, but stopped short when he spoke. Without moving any other muscle of his body, he said in a low, urgent whisper, “Do you see two men on the other side of the road?”
The breath she’d been holding slipped out on a sigh of relief. “You’re not dead. I didn’t think I’d hit you, but you were laying so still–”
“Shut up and listen!” The words cut across her relieved babble. He made no move other than to speak. “Do you see two men across the road?”
Kristie stared at him in shock for a moment before she looked up. Beyond her car the woods on the other side of the road were still. “No.”
“They’ll be here any minute.” He collected himself and sat up so suddenly Kristie backed away. He winced as he levered himself upright. A large smear of blood surrounded a ragged tear in the left sleeve of his shirt. Something more than a scrape had caused that injury. He looked around. The man was probably about thirty. The face that studied his surroundings was lean and had too many sharp angles to be called handsome, but a rugged strength shone through the grime, blood, and bruises. His skin was almost the same shade of brown as his hair, too deep and even to be a suntan. A large abraded area reddened his left temple, and blood from a scratch across the cheekbone tracked toward his ear.
The snap of a twig on the other side of the road made them both swing around to look that way. Kristie still didn’t see anyone. The man sitting on the ground looked up at her. His eyes were very light, either pale blue or gray, the color a startling contrast to his skin and hair, but they held a penetrating intelligence and force. “Tell them I went over the edge,” he ordered.
He offered no further explanation. Without waiting for her response, he crawled swiftly to a thicket of rhododendron bushes ten feet away and disappeared into its depths. Since he stayed low, her car would hide his movement from the person approaching. She winced when she thought about how many more scratches he’d collect in his passage through the shrubbery.
Karen McCullough, a former editor for a series of trade publications and web designer, is also the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres. Her publishers include Avalon Books, Harlequin, Kensington, Belle Bridge Books, and Five Star/Cengage. She’s won several awards including an Eppie Award for best fantasy novel and been a four-time Eppie finalist, a Daphne finalist, Prism finalist, Rising Star Award finalist and several others. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and small press publications in the mystery, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent publication is a short story in the Triangle Sisters in Crime anthology: Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need, Greed and Dirty Deeds, published July 31 by Down and Out Books. She has three children, eight grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband of many years.