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

There’s a side to Matt Clipper, aka Watchdog, that very few people get to see. In fact, the only people who ever see the side of him that scares him most are Tamia (who, being a former streeter, comes with similar baggage, and saw right through him from the beginning) and Jen, whom he can’t seem to shut out no matter how hard he tries…

Here’s a little look into that core personality, and the demons that drive him to self-mutilation…

This scene contains graphic imagery and adult language not suitable for younger readers.  Reader discretion is advised.

 

 

“Cutting” – Excerpted from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book # 4)

“You just can’t help yourself, can you?”  The sour tone behind his back stopped Matt Clipper in his tracks.  He really didn’t want to have this conversation, right now.  Especially not with her.  He was too pissed, and his chest squeezed with pain no medication on the planet could ease.  Hell, he had no idea what he might say, in this state.  Words tangled in his head, and he didn’t know how, or if, they’d come out.  However, words never seemed to be a problem for Jen.  Even the wrong ones.

“Go away, Jen.  You got what you wanted.”

He heard her gasp, and winced at the pain in that sound, but kept walking.  He didn’t want to think he was capable of hurting her; he already knew he could do it.  And he really didn’t want to go there.  All he wanted, right now, was to get as far away from her, and the searing agony of what she’d done, as he could.  He wanted to lock himself in his quarters and bleed out the pain of her betrayal.  Damn it, couldn’t she just leave well enough alone?

Her footfalls behind him echoed off the titanium-steel walls, and he gritted his teeth against the urge to turn, yank her off her feet, and burn out his fury in a way he was sure would destroy everything between them.  Didn’t she get it?  He was on the edge, here.

“Talk to me.”

Like hell, he would.  He was done talking.  It never solved anything; he learned that as a kid.  “Quit following me.”

“No, dammit.  I want to know why the hell you can’t tell me what you’re doing out there.”

A sharp bark of laughter forced its way from him.  Not that there was anything funny about what she said.  He was ready to fly apart at the seams, here, and she wanted to talk about his job.  Fat chance, honey.  “Screw you.”

Relief twisted his brain as he entered his quarters.  When the obstruction tone sounded, letting him know the door couldn’t close, he groaned and turned, to find Jen with her foot wedged against the door.

“Go away,” he growled at her, desperation clawing through him.  Damn it, he needed to get her out of here, where she’d be safe, before he went into total meltdown.

“Look at me.”

“No.  Goddammit, Doc, go away!”

“I didn’t ask for this, you know.”

He gritted his teeth.  She wasn’t asking for the rage that built inside of him, either.  Only, she couldn’t see that.  She wouldn’t know the storm was brewing until it exploded.  And he’d live just long enough to regret every second of it.  He wanted to scream at her to get away, for her own safety, but he couldn’t.  He didn’t dare.  He had to keep control for just a moment longer, he promised himself.  Just until he could get rid of her.  And just as long as he didn’t touch her, he could do this.

“Jen,” he was begging now, and he didn’t care.  “Just leave me alone.”

She edged forward a step.  “You think I want to be your shadow?  You think I want to learn about what you do out there in little bits, or from a third party?  Damn it, Matt, I want you to talk to me, for once in your degenerate life!  I don’t want to fix you…”

He almost lost it, at that.  A twisted, desperate laugh burst from him as he practically dashed for the cabinet where he kept his switch blade locked up when he wasn’t on the street.  “Sure sounded like it to me, Doc.  Go the fuck away.  Go play head games with someone else.”

She looked shocked, and worried.  “Matt?”

“Go.  Please, just go.”

“This isn’t a head game, and… and…What are you doing?”

His head lifted sharply from his task as he worked the lock on the cabinet in desperation.  The crazed lunatic urges prowling in his head grew loud, and the glare he fixed on her was deadly with intent.  His hand slapped the cabinet door shut, even as the last vestige of his sanity screamed No! He stalked her, pain writhing in his gut as her eyes widened in fear of him for the first time since they met, and she backed away a step, into the corridor.  He told himself that was good enough.  It was what he wanted, after all.  His fist hit the door, and he trembled as he sank to his knees, his forehead pressed to the cool metal door.  He was so fucked.

He was on his feet again in a surge of motion, desperate to kill the beast before he went after Jen.  He threw himself at the cabinet like the maniac he really was, grabbing up his switch blade and flicking the catch open as he yanked off his shirt.  His hand trembled, and he knew that no pansy-ass nicks were going to make a damned bit of difference, this time.  It was all or nothing.

The pain as he pulled the blade down across his arm was sharp, burning up into his shoulder and chest, but only for a moment.  Then, endorphins crashed over him, and muted out the clawing madman, and Matt sank against the back of the sofa, dropping the knife as he closed his eyes and breathed deep, feeling sanity return.

As he straightened, however, queasiness assaulted him, and his head felt detached from his shoulders.  He swayed, tried to catch himself on a low bookcase, and toppled the whole thing as he stumbled.  Oh, fuck.  He stared at the blood running down his arm in morbid fascination, and a hoarse laugh bubbled up.  He didn’t need to worry about hurting Jen, anymore.  Hell, he didn’t need to worry about anything, now.

Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE and find out more about the Underground series at www.esthermitchell.com

“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!

Heros Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Countdown to HERO’S HOPE release!

HERO’S HOPE is now less than 2 weeks away from release!

Get ready – because the loyalty of the Commandos is about to be tested, and what they uncover could tear the team apart forever.

Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE starting May 30th … Find the rest of the Underground series, TAMIA , MIND KILLER , and TERMINAL HUNTER at Amazon.com

 

 

Heros Hope

 

 

“Face-off” Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros HopeThere’re two people who, up until now, have been background characters to Underground. They’ve had a few moments here and there, but I’ve never really given them the spotlight and let them run with it. In Hero’s Hope, these two characters get to become instrumental to what’s going on around them, particularly where it comes to Rick and Tamia’s relationship, and where the investigation is going from here — those characters are Matt “Watchdog” Clipper and Jenifer “Cat” LaSaulle.

Why did I decide to give these two characters such a front-and-center role in what is still, at its core, Rick and Tamia’s story? Quite simply, because they both have some pretty intense backgrounds and stories of their own to tell, and their relationship has almost as much importance to the outcome of the entire Evolution as Rick and Tamia’s does.

Let me share a sample with you… Say “hello” to Watchdog.

 

“Face-off” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4) –

 

“Hey, dude, chill out.” Matt Clipper raised his hands in a non-threatening gesture as he backed away from J.T. Romanski. Inside, his heart thundered with adrenaline, and he swore an internal blue streak. Damn it, he knew last week’s little chat with Blade didn’t go unnoticed. J.T.’s soldiers just took their time reporting him. “It’s cool, man. We cool.”

              “You hopped if you think we square,” J.T. snarled. His thumb disarmed the Heater’s safety, and his finger shook on the trigger, and not with fear. Matt watched the infamous leader of the Westsiders’ notorious Ghost Squad kill three cops in cold blood, just a few weeks ago. J.T. pumped iron, and he was famed in the underworld for his temper. Roid Rage, they called it back in the Twentieth. Only, steroids were small potatoes, now. “You sold us out to your military bitch.”

              Matt stiffened instinctively, but forced himself to relax. He had to remember he had a choice, unlike these punks. All he had to do was say the word and Blade would pull him. That reminder curled a cocky, devil-may-care grin on his lips. “She ain’t my bitch, dude. She a ‘Frisco Panther.”

              J.T.’s dark eyes widened for an instant in recognition, before he settled into a glare. Damn, the dude was looking for a rumble. “You lyin’.”

              “Nah. She’s Mia Ku. Spent the Divide tacked and loaded – that’s why she looks military.”

              That information, all very public and true, gave J.T. pause.

              “So why you hangin’ with a Panther bitch?” One of the other Ghosts piped up.

              “She got a pipeline to some shit we can move for a pair a sevens. Hot shit, fresh from the boats.”

              He had their attention now. Even J.T. lowered his weapon and listened. For the chance at making millions moving drugs, they would let him live. Relief curled through Matt. He wracked his brains for weeks, trying to work out how to set up the buy he arranged to have monitored for Narc evidence. Tamia’s little chat in the mall gave him an opening that would keep her out of the Westsiders’ sights, as well. He only wished he could do the same for Jen; there was just no way to turn Ms. Perfection into a street bitch.

              “She tole me where to meet the dudes shiftin’ it into the Apple.”

              J.T. frowned. “What about the Big Man’s cut? What’s that?”

              Matt grinned wolfishly. He had them on the line; now was the time to reel them in. “Nothin’. He don’t even know this shit exists.”

              Narrowed brown eyes considered him for a moment, before J.T. nodded and safetied the Heater. As he stuffed the weapon back into the waistband of his baggy pants, he met Matt’s gaze. “All right, dude. You set up the meet, and we represent.”

              They shook hands in an elaborate ritual of hand movements, and Matt turned and walked away as if nothing was wrong. But he kept his attention fixed behind him all the way out of the abandoned warehouse that acted as the gang’s hangout. He wasn’t stupid. He knew J.T. could change his mind at any time, and burn him down on the spot.

              Finally, when he was halfway down the block from the warehouse, Matt dared to breathe a sigh of relief. That was a damned close call. The worst part about his job was no one knew where he was at any given moment. He was flying solo out here. Not that he let himself care. He fully expected to die out here. Just not before he helped catch the mole; and not while Jen was waiting for him to come home. He’d pick his time, when she hated his guts. When he finally managed to drive the wedge he so desperately needed, and hated. Couldn’t be helped. He saw what the pain of loss did – Blade was a walking open wound. He’d be damned if he let Jen follow.

              He glanced up at a flash of light, to see sunlight glint off what must be a sniper’s scope being retracted, on the roof across the street from the warehouse. Ice shot down his spine, and spread through his abdomen. They’d been watched the entire time. The only question was, by who?

 

LOOK FOR HERO’S HOPE, COMING MAY 30th.  GET INTO THE UNDERGROUND, WITH TAMIA, MIND KILLER, AND TERMINAL HUNTER — AVAILABLE NOW IN E-BOOK AND PRINT AT http://www.amazon.com

“Into Hell” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros HopeI can’t tell you how many times I wrote, ripped up, and rewrote this scene. These moments are part of Tamia’s most powerful Black Moment in the entire series – the point at where everything she’s feared for so long is staring her right in the face. Writing them required delving into a part of myself I don’t normally share, and lock away during the day. I think, in the end, that was the reason why this scene finally came out in the middle of the night, when my own nightmares were so strong, there was nothing else to do but channel them into Tamia and the moments when her world came down around her.

 

 

“Into Hell” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4) –

“Rick!” Tamia bolted upright in bed, fear scrambling along her nerves. Her hand flailed out, blindly searching for Rick, to reassure herself he was there. Ice plunged through her when her hand dropped to empty sheets, cold from the air circulation system. He wasn’t there.
Her gaze flew instantly to the glowing digital display of the bedside clock. 0400 hours. Rick had been gone a little over an hour, and already her imagination was working overtime. God, she was paranoid. And yet…

Tamia hugged Rick’s pillow to herself, her face buried in the cool material as she inhaled the scent of him clinging there. He was okay. He had to be. Images from her nightmare flashed in her mind, and her heart pounded with fear. It was all so real… Dampness slicked her cheeks, and she realized she was crying.

“Get a grip,” she muttered to herself. “You’ve had nightmares before.”

She shoved down the niggling little voice determined to remind her how all her worst nightmares had a way of coming true. That was Kuron’s superstitions talking, dammit. She didn’t believe in precognition. Did she?

She lay there, staring at the ceiling, as she battled fears she couldn’t exorcise, for what felt like forever. She was surprised to find only half an hour elapsed, when the door tone sounded. Then, the actual time sank in. 0430. Tamia’s heart caught in dread as the sick feeling of fear returned. Rick wouldn’t sound the door tone, and the only other person who’d show up at their door at this time of the morning was whoever was on Comms, which spelled trouble.

The door tone sounded again, more insistent than before; like someone was leaning on the exterior doorpad. Ice shot up Tamia’s spine. Whoever was at the door, it was important. She was suddenly reluctant to find out why. Still, she rose from the bed and made her way to the door as she pulled on her robe. Dread dogged her every step, and flashes of her nightmare haunted her. Her hand shook as she hit the lock release, and her heart came to an abrupt halt as she met Jen LaSaulle’s somber eyes. Oh, God.

“Jen?” The query left her in a whisper as fear gripped her so hard she trembled. Suddenly, her nightmare didn’t seem so impossible. Terror richoted through her. The only way to maintain her fraying calm was to stay focused on one thing. Her gaze fixed on Jen’s face, even as she reached to steady herself against the doorjamb. This was all a bad dream, she told herself over and over. Whatever happened, she was still in her nightmares.

“There’s someone here to see you.”

At the tone of Jen’s voice, and the sympathy in her green eyes, Tamia’s throat closed. She knew what those words, and that tone, meant, and it was no nightmare. Her heart froze in her chest, and she couldn’t breathe as the cold spread through her, and she went numb. The world spun, and she tightened her grip on the doorjamb as reality swam.

“Rick.” His name slipped from her numb lips, and her nightmares rushed back with new terror.

LOOK FOR HERO’S HOPE, COMING MAY 30TH FROM UNDER THE MOON. DISCOVER THE UNDERGROUND, WITH TAMIA, MIND KILLER, AND TERMINAL HUNTER – NOW AVAILABLE IN E-BOOK AND PRINT AT www.amazon.com

“Threats and Premonitions” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros Hope In every writer’s life, there are scenes you write that feel a lot like deja vu. And there are scenes that are torn from your heart and soul, and wreak havoc on you to write, and to revisit. Writing HERO’S HOPE was that task for me. It and VENGEFUL HEART (the next book) will forever be the most difficult books — the most difficult fiction — I ever write, because certain parts of them aren’t fiction.

When Rick discovers the ghosts of his past are coming back to hunt his new family, he’ll do anything to protect them. But will his desire to protect cost him everything he loves?

 

“Threats and Premonitions” — Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4)

 

“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 just have to take care of.”

Tamia’s eyes were so full of disbelief he flinched away from that 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 that terror on Tamia’s face. He had to do something to wipe it away; but even the truth wouldn’t do that. The truth could put her in deadly danger. He looked up at her somberly. “It’s surveillance, babe. That’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. But 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 that 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 that would have frozen 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 that; 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 message 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 a reason that wouldn’t reveal the truth. His gaze fell on her belly, and the threatening words of the Red Code 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 in that tone, 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’d 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 he’d felt returned full force, but he shoved it aside. He wasn’t falling into that trap. But 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.”