“Unknown Variable” — Excerpt from IN HER NAME (Project Prometheus)

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Every story has a beginning. While Project Prometheus’ beginning is thousands of years in the past, Matt and Manara’s story starts not quite so long ago… with a brutal slaying, and a dangerous mission. Problem is, only one of them knows exactly how dangerous this mission really is…

“Unknown Variable” – Excerpt from IN HER NAME (Project Prometheus, Book 1) –
January 2, 2000

The noonday sun glinted off the Mediterranean Sea in sapphire and diamond shafts, reflecting light against dark sunglasses. Salty seawater sprayed up against the prow of the sleek speedboat, carrying with it the pungency of fish and seaweed. His jaw clenched as he shifted gears, watching the shimmer of approaching land dance in and out of view like a desert mirage.

Sidon. Matthew Raleigh’s stomach clenched with bitter memory. He was well-acquainted with the deceptively quiet Lebanese city. He’d been here too many times in a past that he’d just as soon forget as a Navy SEa, Air and Land operative on prowl-and-growl missions. His lips curved in a wry grimace. He wasn’t a SEAL anymore — there was at least that much mercy left in the world. Not that what he did these days brought him much peace either. Good thing he wasn’t looking for peace anymore. To deaden the pain in his soul and help reduce the nightmares that regularly stole away sleep, he formed Project Prometheus — a special mercenary organization dedicated to ending terrorism. A futile enough cause. He scowled. The men who’d hired Prometheus’ mercenaries had business in Lebanon. Scum was still scum. That never changed.

Matt pulled his mind from the dark thoughts creeping in; he needed to concentrate on the mission. Was the team ready? He brought them in under the cover of night yesterday. He hoped they made it to the pre-arranged safe house but he had no way of being sure. They were on radio silence and for safety’s sake, he couldn’t go to find them until he was ready to join them. Matt glanced at his wristwatch. Besides, he was already on his way to meet with their CIA contact, codenamed Star.

Uneasiness clutched Matt. He didn’t like that no one at Langley had ever actually seen Star. There was no picture, not even a physical description, though the Agency claimed Star was a miracle worker. Matt scowled. He didn’t believe in miracles or miracle workers. From the little Matt knew, he surmised Star was an important figure in Lebanon, well connected with an extensive knowledge of the local area. Matt also guessed Star, whoever he was, probably had connections to arms dealers or some other dubious operation. Great. Just what they needed; a contact they couldn’t trust.

Find out more about the mission. Pick up your copy of IN HER NAME, today! And look for the continuation of Project Prometheus with HOPE OF HEAVEN, coming in 2015!

Project Prometheus & Remembering 9/11

While most of today I’ll be talking about the release of Project Prometheus’ first book, In Her Name (well, re-release, really), I wanted to take a moment, right here at the beginning, and talk about the events that happened on this date thirteen years ago. The events of September 11, 2001 had a profound impact on the entire world. They also inspired a great deal of the most important changes made to the development of the book I’m going to be talking a lot about, today. Because of this, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the men and women who died that day, and who died in the days, weeks, months, and even years afterward, because of those events.

It was anger that drove what In Her Name would become. Not just anger at what happened, though that factored into what drove me. I was angry because the first instinct was to blame an entire ethnicity, before anyone even knew who was to blame, or if there actually was anyone to blame. Even after things began settling down and the task of figuring out what happened and who was responsible began, I wanted to show the world how wrong it was to turn a person into a criminal just because of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

And so, a woman who had merely been a priestess of an ancient faith evolved, to become a heroine in her own right. Manara Binte Alzena became a symbol, and a lesson. Matt Raleigh came with built-in prejudice. The product of a disastrous childhood, he despises all things paranormal or spiritual.  Manara is the embodiment of everything his prejudice has set him up to hate. But she’s also someone to be admired, whose dedication to preserving life and serving what is right and just in the world has put her at dangerous odds with her world. She’s rushing headlong into Iraq, where her faith and her status could easily cost her life. But she’s determined to do what she has to do, no matter the cost. That’s something Matt can’t help but admire.

By putting a man with a deep hatred up against a woman who is both the embodiment of everything he hates and a source of great strength and help for him, I address the age-old question of which is stronger – hate, or love. It’s a question (and an answer) I think we could all learn a little something from.

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“The Score” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros HopeThe character of Matt Clipper, aka Watchdog, is one of my more unusual and intriguing characters. Loosely based in equal parts on a friend with a very rough upbringing and a well-earned attitude that won’t quit (and covers a heart of gold), and my brother, from whom (among other details) Matt Clipper draws part of his core personality and name, Watchdog is an unusual blend of streetwise tough guy, a gang-banger whom Rick and Tamia, at different points, refer to as having an attitude the size of Texas, and the lonely, sensitive artistic type, given to a romanticism he rarely even shows a glimmer of.

One of the things I most looked forward to, with writing these later books in this Evolution, was finally being able to actually delve into this character and what he really experiences. In the first few books, we only ever get to see how he interacts with the team, and all we know about his interactions outside of the Underground are based strictly on what he reveals to other characters. He comes across as a thug with a few chinks in his armor, but generally not deep.

Well, hold onto your hats, folks! Starting in HERO’S HOPE, you get to see a whole other side to Matt Clipper… This is a man with a surprising amount of depth, and who, for his biological youth (he’s only 25), feels ancient because of what he’s seen and experienced. And, finally, we get to start seeing exactly what Watchdog does out there on the streets, at night. And his world isn’t a pretty one…

So I thought I’d share one of those glimpses into Watchdog’s world outside of the Underground… On the streets, where he’s known by the pseudo-alias “Clip.”  Here you go…

 

“The Score” – Excerpt from Hero’s Hope (Underground, Book #4) –

He told himself he was ready for this.  And he knew he was full of shit.  No one was ever ready to tangle with a dude like Terrence Walker.  One wrong move, one wild card in the mix, and it would all end in a bloodbath.  Matt Clipper sealed his lips in a grim line over the worried oath that pressed against his tongue as he primed his Colt Racer – a recent addition to street warfare, the weapon was a cross between a conventional handgun and a Super Taser – and double-checked that he had his backup.  He glanced into the rearview mirror of the Lincoln Continental.  “Y’all ready?”

“Let’s roll.”  Snooks brandished his weapon with a grin just this side of sadistically gleeful, and Matt bit down on the wave of nausea that spiraled through him at the sight.  Similar anticipation preceded too many of his nightmares.  He resisted the urge to shudder.  He was getting way too old for this shit.  Problem was, he didn’t see how he was of any use to the Commandos if he left the streets behind.  He didn’t have Blade’s skills, or Jen’s brains, or Red’s background.  He had nothing to offer but what he learned out here, and the one thing Matt Clipper wasn’t was a leech.  So he did the only thing he knew how to do.  Even if it killed him.

To combat the queasy uncertainty in the pit of his stomach, he pasted on his most cocky grin and reached for the driver side door.  He was about to put it on the line to get Big T to this meet-up.  The Man had best represent.

“Let’s go.”

Like a pack of wild animals, the gang-bangers piled out of the vehicle with none of the stealth or finesse Matt grew accustomed to as a Commando.  He winced inwardly, and triple-checked his weapons again.  He had a bad feeling this was about to go to Hell, and Jen would kill him if he got sloppy.  Hell, the Voodoo woman would probably dig him up just to kill him again, if he got himself whacked.

A snort of dark laughter nearly broke his lips, and he caught the wary look the kid beside him cast his way.  Rance stuck close to him since JT went down.  Poor kid wasn’t cut out for this life; too bad Matt didn’t know how to get him out.

Matt’s gaze went to the building before them, and the scene was far too familiar.  Rundown and solitary among the empty lots that flanked it on three sides, this pre-World War Three tenement was where JT was murdered, and Matt’s fall into Hell began.  No one knew how much he hated every time he had to come back here.  The queasy sensation in his gut talked loud and clear.  When Matt Clipper checked out, it would be in a place just like this one — a building on the edge of forgotten.

Damn.  He was dipping into the morbid, again.  That was a distraction he didn’t need.  Matt shook it off and cocked his weapon with a grin only he knew was forced.

“Playtime.  Just remember, the Big Man wants T alive, or we’re in deep shit.”

He wasn’t worried they’d fuck it up.  These boys might need some lessons in finesse when it came to assaults, but they were far from incompetent novices.  They had their own silent language, and while it didn’t have the sophistication he’d learned by hanging with Booters like Blade and Ace, he was comfortable with it.  These were streeters.  They knew the score.

The gang fanned out to surround the front door, waiting for Matt’s signal.  He edged up to the door and listened intently.  The sound of an old building settling, and the drip of water somewhere in the distance, reached his ears.  No voices, no footsteps.  Relief wound through him.  No ambush; and that was good news to him.  He jerked his head toward the door, then eased it open to scoot inside cautiously.  The same couldn’t be said for his gang.

Snooks barreled through the door like a maniac.  Damn it, was he high?  Matt couldn’t tell; he couldn’t see the kid’s eyes, but Snooks was sweating.  That was a bad sign.

“Yo, Snooks, hold up a min-” His caution fell on deaf ears as Snooks took the stairs three at a time, disappearing into the upper levels of the old building.  There was a loud crash, and the Snooks’ voice echoed down the stairwell.

“Prayer time, muthafu-”  His words died in a spray of gunfire that lit up the stairwell and echoed off the tile walls.  Matt immediately dropped behind cover, his instincts honed to self-preservation by years of Commando missions.  He knew what that gunfire meant.

“Damn it.”  Anger tightened his chest.  It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.  God damn it, Snooks knew better than to get high right before a hit.

“Shit, dude!”  Rance dropped back as well, his face a shade between green and gray.  Kid was scared.  Smart.  “What was that?”

“That,” Matt responded grimly, “was trouble.  Everyone, hang back.”

With that quiet instruction, Matt started slowly up the stairs, forcing himself to draw even breaths as he went.  This was it.  He’d never told anyone, but he always knew he’d die alone.  And here he was, climbing into the lion’s den, alone.  Still, if he wanted this to go down without any higher of a body count, he had to go it solo.

As he reached the first landing, Matt flipped his Racer to stun.  He didn’t want anyone going down for a permanent nap, least of all his mark.  The Man would never forgive him for that, and nor would anyone else.  Set to stun, the energy weapon would release a non-lethal electrical charge in a beam that would render the target unconscious.  He wanted Big T down, not out of the picture.  He had orders, after all.

Pick up your copy of HERO’S HOPE today at Amazon.com   and check out the rest of this critically-acclaimed fan favorite series, with TAMIA, MIND KILLER, and TERMINAL HUNTER. Find out more at www.esthermitchell.com

“When Heroes Fall” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Sometimes, when life looks darkest

Hope shines the brightest.

 

Heros Hope            Richard Carinson hasn’t had much in his life truly worth protecting – until now. With a new wife and an unborn child, he can’t afford to make any mistakes, or take any chances his past will come back to haunt them. But some sins can’t be wiped away, and Rick’s are about to come calling – on his wife and child. To save Tamia and their son, Rick’s going to have to make the biggest sacrifice of his life – and it just might cost him everything.

“When Heroes Fall” — Excerpt from HERO’s HOPE (Underground, Book #4) –

The hydrolift ride to the fourth floor was torture as he debated the wisdom of what he was about to do. If only Emergency Rooms and clinics didn’t require fingerprint identification. He’d much rather go there. Involving her was dangerous, and she wouldn’t like keeping his secret, either. Outside her door, he paused for a heartbeat, and told himself she would understand. She might not like it, but she would keep his secret.

Enough. He raised his left hand and knocked on her door, before he could change his mind.

“Just a moment.” The voice was muffled. Then, the sound of movement, before the door opened, and he watched her face drain of color, her green eyes wide in disbelief as a gasp left her.

“What—? How—?”

He quirked her a tired grin. God, he was tired of this charade. “That’s eloquent, for a journalist.”

She recovered quickly, and her gaze shot up and down the empty hallway. “Get in here, before someone sees you, and—” She froze as he flinched when she tugged at his right arm, before he moved past her, into the apartment. Her gaze latched onto his side, where the dark stain was spreading. “Oh my god, you’re bleeding!”

“Yeah.” He sank onto the edge of her sofa as a wave of dizziness hit him.

“Idiot.” The word held no rancor, just open concern, as she moved to her bathroom and returned with antiseptic and first-aid kit. “Take off that coat and your shirt.”

He frowned, suddenly uncomfortable. “Jean, I don’t think—”

She glared at him as she set the items down on an end table and fisted her hands on her hips. “Get over yourself. I did. Now, strip.”

He was too light-headed to sustain this argument. He told himself his wife would understand, even as he reluctantly stripped off his coat and shirt as Jean sat down beside him. She barely spared him a glance, her gaze fixed on the bloody gash in his side as she examined the wound.

“Who the hell did you have a knife-fight with?” She asked evenly as she turned to retrieve a bottle of antiseptic wash and a gauze pad from her kit.

“No one.” He wasn’t about to discuss this.

“Really.” She tipped the bottle, coating the gauze in green gel, before she applied it to his side.

He hissed and sat bolt upright. “Shit, that stings!”

“You deserve worse.” Her expression hardened. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”

“No.”

“Surprise, surprise.” She sighed, and shook her head. “I assume you have a good reason.”

A different pain, one no antiseptic could soothe, twisted inside him. “A damn good one.”

“It better be.” She applied a wound microsealer to the gash. “Because this one’s going to come back to bite you in the ass, my friend.”

 

Are you ready for the explosion? Because this one might just level the Underground forever.  Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE, today! 

Fan Favorite Underground series returns, with brand-new release!

Seven years ago, Underground moved publishers. It’s taken almost a decade to get the first three books re-released and back out there and move forward, but now, at long last, we’re debuting a brand-new release, with Book #4 of the series, HERO’S HOPE!

The hunt for the Security Network mole is about to get very close to home …

Find out just how close, in HERO’S HOPE (Book #4), now available!

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Can you figure out who’s behind it all? Follow the trail from the beginning…
TAMIA (Book #1)
MIND KILLER (Book #2)
TERMINAL HUNTER (Book #3)

Underground #1: TAMIA

Underground #1: TAMIA

Underground #2: MIND KILLER

Underground #2: MIND KILLER

Underground #3: TERMINAL HUNTER

Underground #3: TERMINAL HUNTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And stay tuned to find out what happens next… VENGEFUL HEART (Book #5), coming soon.

 

Underground New Release! HERO’S HOPE Now Available!

The hunt for the mole in the Security Network is heating up. For Rick and Tamia Carinson, the stakes can’t get any higher.

Richard Carinson hasn’t had much in his life truly worth protecting – until now. With a new wife and an unborn child, he can’t afford to make any mistakes, or take any chances his past will come back to haunt them. But some sins can’t be wiped away, and Rick’s are about to come calling – on his wife and child. To save Tamia and their son, Rick’s going to have to make the biggest sacrifice of his life – and it just might cost him everything.

 Tamia Carinson has everything she could ever want: A husband who loves her, a child on the way, and friends willing to risk their own futures to keep her family safe. But she can’t shake the uneasy feeling something’s very wrong, and her streetwise ability to read people tells her Rick’s keeping dangerous secrets. Now, for the sake of her child, she must uncover what he’s been hiding, before the past catches up with them all.

Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE today! (PDF only) or find in Kindle or Nook, later this week.

Heros Hope

“A Duty to Protect” — Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground

Heros HopeSince Memorial Day is just around the corner, and HERO’S HOPE is kind of a memorial, in itself, it seemed appropriate to acknowledge the sacrifices of the men and women who defend our freedoms, and their families, who let them go, never knowing if or when they’ll see their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, siblings, children again.

While there are also much more personal reasons I chose this specific scene to share, I mainly chose it because it shows clearly the sacrifices both military members and their families make when duty calls. To me, it’s a tribute to both, and a memorial to the losses suffered by both.

“A Duty to Protect” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4)

He moved to the sofa in the living room, boots in hand, and pulled them on. He was just lacing up the boots when the sound of movement caused his head to snap up. Tamia stood in the bedroom doorway, a worried, wary expression on her face, as she knotted the belt of her robe. Damn; he was busted.

“Where are you going?” She took a step forward. “I didn’t hear the phone. What’s happened?”

Apparently, he was out of easy exits. He sighed, and met her concerned mahogany eyes. “I have to go.”

“Where? It’s the middle of the night, Rick! Tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing major.” He tried to diffuse the situation with a shrug he hoped like hell looked casual. He couldn’t explain where he was going, and they both knew the phone hadn’t rung. He could see it in her face. Just like he could see she wasn’t buying his attempt at nonchalance.

“Bullshit. If it was no big deal, you’d wait until morning. And you sure as hell wouldn’t be acting like James-fucking-Bond.”

Okay, so avoidance wouldn’t work – he pretty much knew it was a lost cause, with Tamia. Suspicion ran in her blood. Time for a different tack, like simplicity.

“Something’s been bugging me since my Comms shift. I want to run it down.”

“In Comms.”

“No.”

Her gaze burned into him, full of questions he couldn’t answer without incriminating himself. He winced as he pinpointed the exact moment she figured out what he was saying by the sudden intake of her breath. “You can’t go back out there, yet!”

“I have to. I have a hunch about something, and I have to look into it. Besides, it’s my call who takes what assignments. This is something I have to take care of personally.”

Tamia’s eyes were so full of disbelief he flinched away from her accusing gaze. “You are insane!”

Rick stared at his hands as he tried to come up with a defense against the fear in her eyes. God, he hadn’t wanted a cigarette this bad in months! His secret ate him alive, and he couldn’t stand the terror on Tamia’s face. He’d give anything to wipe it away; but even the truth wouldn’t be enough. All telling her the truth would do was put her in danger. He looked up at her somberly. “It’s surveillance, babe. It’s what I was trained to do.”

She looked as if she might argue, before she sealed her lips in a thin line and turned away. He could read her pain loud and clear in the protective way her shoulders hunched, and the turn of her body, as if she couldn’t bear to let him see how much she was hurting. That single motion punched him hard in the solar plexus and made breathing difficult.

“Tamia—”

“Why you?” Her voice was quiet, and flat, as if she was fighting to maintain her neutral tone. “You’re not cleared for the field, yet. Jen hasn’t signed off on your medical clearance. Let me go, instead.”

He straightened as fear plunged through him. “No way.”

“Why not? I have the same training, the same ability…”

“Tamia.” He rose to his feet. “I’m not going to argue with you about this. Now, I have to go.”

She shot a glare over her shoulder capable of freezing fire. “So it’s do as you say, not as you do?”

“Hey.” He could see where this was going a mile away. “It’s not like that—”

“No? So what if I was the one running out in the middle of the night to follow mysterious leads?”

He couldn’t answer her; he already knew he’d incriminate himself. Hell, there was no way he could convince her he respected her if he voiced his feelings about her being out on the street in her current condition. “I—”

“Don’t bother. I already know the answer. If it was me, or anyone else on this whole damned team, trying to take on a mission before medical clearance was signed, you’d have us confined to Comms duty until our asses went numb.”

He closed his eyes. God, how did he dig himself out of this one? “This is different. I know my limits.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s lame, Rick.”

She started toward the bedroom, already shedding her robe as she went. He swallowed hard. “What are you doing?”

She shot a determined, narrow-eyed look over her shoulder. “I’m taking your place.”

Shock and fear plunged through him. The threatening transmission was meant to hurt him, but Tamia was Colbert’s ultimate target, for no other reason than her death would kill him. Images flashed through his mind of what could happen if he let her go off on Colbert’s trail in his place. His stomach knotted. No way in hell. “Absolutely not.”

Her chin rose defiantly. “Why not?”

“Because…” He sought desperately for any reason she might accept, other than the truth. His gaze fell on her belly, and the threatening words of the transmission sliced through him again. I know about your family. You took mine, and I’m coming for yours. Rick fought the constricting band of fear. “Because you’re pregnant.”

It was only the truth, but he knew it was the wrong thing to say, even before Tamia’s eyes narrowed and a dark scowl settled on her face. “You so don’t want to go there, Carinson.”

He winced. When she called him by his last name, it meant he’d crossed the line. It was pretty clear she wasn’t going to back down; well, neither was he. This was too important. She was too important. Better she be pissed at him; it would make what had to happen easier for her.

“Look, my leads will go cold, if I stick around arguing this. I have to go. Keep everyone on task, okay?”

Her face paled, and the pain of her fear was a feeling he knew would never fade.

“What are you planning?” Her voice was barely audible, now, and he never wanted to spill his guts so badly in his life. As a torture technique, Colbert couldn’t have planned anything more effective. But there was no way he could tell her what was about to go down.

“You’re getting paranoid.”

She jerked back as if he stuck her, and anger roiled in her eyes. “Dammit, Rick. I thought you were dying, in Texas! What would you do if our situations were reversed?”

Memories flooded him of Tamia just after Porto Alegre, bloody and unconscious, then wreathed in tubes and machinery. The fear returned full force, but he shoved it aside. He wasn’t falling into the memory trap.

Nor could he make her a promise he already knew he couldn’t keep. As he looked into her eyes, he saw the resignation, before she sighed, and turned her back to him again. “Go, already. Just don’t make me regret this.”

And, as she disappeared into the bedroom, Rick grabbed his thick winter camouflage coat from the closet. He would prefer his leather jacket, but it was below freezing out there, and he was in for a long, cold night. He glanced back at the closed bedroom door, and his gut tightened. It felt all wrong. And yet, he couldn’t change his mind. Not if it meant losing Tamia.