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.
“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.”