Florist Kayla Paruso has been hired to decorate the mayor's daughter's wedding, but when she witnesses the murder of the mayor's top aide, rumors of corruption -- even a cult connection -- swirl through the town. Could the mayor really be involved? Luckily the SVPD offers Kayla the very best protection: Detective Rio Ortego. Who just happens to be the last guy Kayla dated. With the wedding fast approaching, Kayla's the perfect person to pry into the mayor's dangerous secrets, but Rio won't hear of it. And as their old attraction reignites, Rio's cop instincts clash with his need to safeguard the woman he's falling in love with all over again…
Good second chance romance with some pretty great suspense added in. In the first book of the series, Her Christmas Protector, Kayla was a friend of Zora's and Rio one of the SVPD detectives working on the case of the Female Preacher Killer. In that book, a cult has begun to infiltrate the town, creating problems on many fronts. At the beginning of this one, Kayla has been hired to do the flowers for the wedding of the new mayor's daughter. If she does a good job, it will be great for her business. Things get off to a rocky start when she's an unseen witness to the murder of the mayor's assistant, bringing Rio back to her side.
Kayla and Rio had dated for about three weeks back before Christmas, before she discovered just what his job was. Besides being a detective, he also occasionally does some undercover work. Kayla considered the omission one form of deception, a hot button for her. Then he got assigned as the investigating officer when her brother was accused of misconduct as fire chief, and had to break off their relationship because of it. The connection between them is still strong, though Kayla tries to keep him at a distance. Rio, on the other hand, wants another chance.
I loved the way their relationship began to take off. From the minute that he found out that Kayla had witnessed the murder, Rio's protective instincts kicked into high gear. He really wanted to keep her safe, but she was also in the best position to help with the investigation. I liked how he respected her intelligence and ability but couldn't resist keeping her close. It was fun to see him let her know frequently just how much he still wants her while still trying to give her the space she wanted. At the same time, Kayla realized that her feelings for Rio hadn't changed. As she got more involved in the investigation, she started to realize that her fears, while not unfounded, were worse than they needed to be. The chemistry between them was still as hot as before, and I liked the way that it helped pull them together. In the end, love wins out, but not without some boneheaded moves on Rio's part. I loved the advice he got from his boss that put him back on the right path.
The suspense of the book was really good. From the moment Kayla heard the shots until the murderer was revealed, I was hooked. There are multiple suspects, with each one having their own possible motivation. The mayor and his cronies seem to have a lot to hide, especially when it comes to how he got his job. His wife seems to be wound pretty tight, and her attitude toward Kayla makes you wonder just what she knows. The mayor's daughter is a real bitch, and seems to have her own agenda. Add in the apparent influence of the cult on what had previously been a great place to live, and the police department is dealing with a whole lot of stuff. I loved seeing Kayla get recruited into the group that lends assistance to the department when needed, and how that brought she and Rio closer. The final confrontation with the murderer was intense and answered some questions, but there are still many more left hanging. I can't wait to see what comes next.