Friday, April 29, 2016

BLOG TOUR: His Wolf's Desire by Shannon Nydia SPOTLIGHT + GIVEAWAY

His Wolf's Desire
by Shannon Nydia

Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural,
Paranormal, Shifters
Publisher: Loose Id Publishing
Date of Publication: April 12, 2016
Cover artist: Syneca Featherstone
ISBN: 978-1-68252-093-2

Word count: 52,383
Page count (PDF): 189

Book Description:

Bradford Dalton and Jayla Stanton are both shifters. Each has their own reason for not wanting to be in a relationship with their own kind. Suddenly finding out that they are mates is a shock to both of them. There’s no way in hell these work enemies will ever be together.

Brad and Jayla are desperate to find a way to coexist with their shifter sides. They just have to contend with the fact they have sexual chemistry that is off the charts. Jayla can turn his body to steel with just a smoldering look. Brad can make Jayla quiver in anticipation with just one touch. You won’t hear either one of them complaining about succumbing to their insatiable need for the other. Sure they can have hot sex which knocks them on their ass, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever fall for the other. Right?

Chapter One

Holding a stick of gum between his thumb and index finger, Brad vigorously tapped it against his thigh as if he were snuffing out a cigarette. Aware of his neurotic action, he shifted in his seat and braced his elbows on the conference table. He resisted the urge to pound his fists on it. With deliberate care he removed the gum from the wrapper. While his gaze darted back and forth, scanning the scene before him, he crinkled the thin scrap of shiny aluminum foil in his large hand. He squeezed until his forearm started to cramp, then popped the gum in his mouth and shoved the tiny piece of trash into his pocket.
Brad felt it would be best today to distance himself from his colleagues. Secluded inside the glass conference room, he found it easier to control his inner animal. He could feel the urge to shift coursing through his veins. He needed to stay calm.
So while his team members were eager to welcome the arrival of the faction from the Seattle office, he kept a safe distance from the chaos erupting. Chewing his gum, he analyzed everyone coming together, shaking hands, behaving in a cordial fashion.
Fuck cordial.
He wanted to strangle Jayla Stanton with his bare hands. She’d succeeded in administering a major blow to the momentum of his career. He’d worked too damn hard, made too many damn sacrifices, for it all to come to a screeching halt because she chose to be a conniving witch. He didn’t like her, didn’t trust her, and didn’t want anything to do with her.
To add insult to injury, he had a front-row seat to witness her invade his territory. One would think a goddess had descended upon them. The pageantry that surrounded her arrival in Albuquerque left a bitter taste in his mouth. He couldn’t care less that they were colleagues. They were no more teammates than they were friends. Everyone else might kiss her ass, but not him.
He’d been able to avoid Jayla for almost two years by finagling his way out of corporate event after corporate event when he knew she’d be in attendance. Truth be told, he couldn’t trust his control over his anger enough to be anywhere near her.
Unfortunately, Mr. Graybar, the CEO of the firm, let it be known he wanted Brad and Jayla working together for the next week, ensuring the smooth transition of the Maldonado account. This happened to be the very account which began their bitter feud.
Years of research, planning, development, building business relationships, it all went down the drain when she swooped in, breaking every rule in business ethics and etiquette. She’d snatched the account right from under his nose. Landing the Maldonado account would have been his golden ticket straight to the executive office. Instead, he would have to endure playing second fiddle to her.
Brad’s alpha-male nature, too stubborn and prideful to even consider defeat, obliterated from his mind any inkling of leaving the firm. Besides, he loved a good fight, and Jayla had just started a war. He refused to let her ride off into the sunset with his account. If she thought he would play nice, she was in for one hell of a week.
Brad eyeballed a few female colleagues; his hunt came to a spellbinding halt when he zeroed in on a breathtaking beauty. He was finally seeing Jayla in person, and she wasn’t at all what he’d prepared for.
Her rounded nose was balanced perfectly above her supple, pouty lips. Prominent cheekbones and a long slender neck made for a stunning combination. Her rich mocha skin color radiated warmth. Angling her head away from him, she unleashed a striking smile while talking with and charming the pants off members of his team.
His jaw and chest tightened as awareness settled over him. He’d spent so much time abhorring her from afar, and her looks had never mattered to him. Since Jayla started working for his firm, Brad had observed her photos printed in the company newsletters. He’d viewed her profile page on the company website on numerous occasions. But in no way did either of those publications capture the essence of her beauty.
She was absolutely stunning, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her. He watched in an angry trance as she swept her fingers across her forehead, feathering a loose strand of hair into place. Then his mouth went bone dry when she faced in the opposite direction. Her full, round, candy-apple bottom came into view, and a noise sounding an awful lot like a groan scratched out from the pit of his belly. His cock thickened with arousal, annoying the hell out of him.
His instant attraction confused him, and he tried to shame his excited loins into calming down. It would be a cold day in hell before he let her beauty distract him. What was wrong with him? To hell with attraction; she was the enemy.
JAYLA FELT SOMEONE’S eyes boring into her and stiffened in response. She turned in the direction her wolf’s instincts guided her. Sweeping her fingers across her brow, she smoothed the tendrils framing her face.
She found and locked gazes with a fine-ass man sitting alone in a conference room. The blatant hostility in his glare sent goose bumps traveling up and down her arms. If she didn’t already know what he looked like, being the only person in the office who hadn’t greeted her and her team would have been all the evidence she needed. She’d just made eye contact with Bradford Dalton, her adversary.
Gunmetal-blue eyes glued her to where she stood, so exceptional in color she felt hypnotized. She could barely breathe. The intensity of his stare made her hands tremble. She pressed her palms into her skirt in an attempt to steady them, mortified by her reaction to him. There was no love lost between them, but the fact that she literally shook in her high heels just by locking gazes with the man gave her cause for concern.
She’d prepared herself for a plethora of emotions spanning across the anger spectrum but not for the instant attraction she felt for the man the second she laid eyes on him. What was wrong with her?
Brad could spin the facts all he wanted, but the truth of the matter was she’d landed the Maldonado account fair and square. He’d dismissed her as nothing more than a joke when she joined the Seattle office of their firm. For almost two years she’d tried in vain to be a part of his team in Albuquerque.
While Brad plotted his course of action for the Maldonado account, Jayla plotted her course of action to try to get Brad’s professional attention. Ironically, she’d never wanted the account for herself. She’d wanted to work with Brad. Learn from Brad. Be mentored by Brad. Having the chance to work with him was the sole reason she’d wanted to join Graybar and Associates. In the end he’d stayed full of himself, letting the opportunity slip through his fingers. She’d landed the coveted account on her own merit.
Breaking eye contact, Brad’s gaze traveled the scope of her body. Tingles prickled her skin, making her suit’s thick tweed material cumbersome and uncomfortable. His gaze crawled along her curves, making her feel exposed. It irritated her how sensitive and receptive her body seemed to be to his fixation. Just because Brad turned out to be easy on the eyes didn’t change one damn thing between them. No matter how handsome the face glaring at her was, he hated her, and the feeling was mutual.
She chastised herself for behaving as if she’d never been given the once-over by a man before. But Brad’s raw gaze unnerved her, fracturing her renowned poise.
She swallowed hard as she willed her hands to stay stuck to her sides and not sweep across her face again. Trying to gain control of the situation, Jayla decided two could play this game. She wouldn’t let him intimidate her. Waiting until his eyes found hers, she tightened her jaw, tilted her head and, with defiance, inspected him right back.
Since he was sitting, she could only appraise his upper half. But boy oh boy… What an upper half to assess. His nose, a straight line from the top of the bridge to the slightly aquiline tip, appeared almost regal. She studied his full bottom lip, larger than the slimmer top half. Short, dark-brown hair, styled as if he combed his fingers through it in the shower, completed his model good looks.
She bit the inside of her mouth to keep from gaping. Never in a million years had Jayla imagined Brad looked like that in person. His online depictions were a travesty compared to his real-life appearance. Now she didn’t know what she found more disappointing: the fact that someone she once admired turned out to be a chauvinistic ass, or the fact that seeing him in person made her wish she possessed naked pictures of his chauvinistic ass.
Brad personified the self-centered ambition she detested about the business world. Men like him made her blood boil. It didn’t matter one iota that he was too fine for his own damn good. On an exhalation, she made herself refocus on the melee at hand.
Team members from both sides began filing into the conference room Brad ruminated in, putting an end to Brad and Jayla’s rubbernecking. Taking advantage of every extra second to collect herself, Jayla lingered and waited to join the meeting last of all. Blowing out a long, shaky breath, she felt her nerves kick into high gear.
Two quick vibrations from her cell phone, indicating she’d just received an e-mail, gave her a valid reason to delay her grand entrance. Grateful for the interruption, she pulled the thin phone from the front pocket of her jacket, opened the e-mail app, and proceeded to read.
The meeting should be getting underway soon. Sorry I’m not there. I have both my phone and computer on the ready if you need anything. Attached in this e-mail is a copy of your presentation notes in case you misplaced them. This is your show. Don’t let Dalton intimidate you. I’ll be in bright and early tomorrow. Remember, when it comes to Brad…it’s on like Donkey Kong!
Holding back a smile, Jayla wanted to thank Monica for e-mailing her, giving her the distraction she needed to help settle her nerves. Monica was a brilliant corporate lawyer and one hell of a colleague. The two of them were sisters in arms in the male-dominated business world. Although they didn’t get to work together as much as they would have liked, they always had each other’s back. Once Jayla knew for sure she’d secured her transfer to the Albuquerque office, she’d done everything in her power to ensure Monica would be part of her team. She’d gotten her wish, but Monica had been bumped from their flight to Albuquerque. Due to the airline error, she wouldn’t be arriving until very late that evening.
Knowing she couldn’t delay any longer, Jayla pushed her phone back into her pocket and headed toward the lion’s den. She stepped into the conference room and took the one seat available to her. Either by sheer coincidence or by intended design, the seat across from Brad remained the lone chair left unoccupied. Person after person passed it up, not even daring to look in its direction. As colleagues intentionally avoided the hot seat, the tension in the room became so thick Jayla thought they would become blinded by it. On-edge associates on both sides of the fence exchanged anxious glances.
Noticing everyone focusing on her, she set her briefcase on the table and offered Brad a tight smile paired with a curt nod. The man had the audacity to arch one eyebrow in response. The lights dimmed, and a video presentation began, directing attention to the large projection screen. Camouflaged as she was by the darkness, no one noticed her grip on her briefcase tighten and her plastered fake smile slip a fraction. She fought the urge to lunge across the table and choke him. Instead, she pulled her phone out of her pocket, turned off the ringer, and placed it inside her briefcase. Once seated, she directed her attention to the screen.
IT DIDN’T TAKE long for Jayla’s subtle vanilla-orchid scent to settle upon Brad. His nose flared the second her delicate and sensual fragrance hit him. He wasn’t one to react to a woman’s perfume, yet her aroma caressed his attention away from the video. Unable to help himself, he peeked out the corners of his eyes in her direction. Once again she swept her fingers across her face, smoothing her hair. Suspecting the action a nervous habit, he felt himself wanting to smirk in satisfaction, knowing she wasn’t as confident as she tried to appear. She crossed her arms on top of the table, and her hands captivated him as she scraped her delicate fingertips across her jacket. Surprising himself, he imagined what it would feel like to have her scoring her nails across his back while she wrapped her legs around his waist, taking him to the hilt.
Without warning, his canines lengthened. Flinching from the shock of his sexual fantasy and his physical reaction to her, he drew unwanted attention to himself. A few of his team members gave him concerned glances, peering at him through squinted eyes in the darkened room. Placing his elbows on the table, he crossed one hand on top of the other, hiding his mouth in his palms as he nodded, trying like hell to appear normal.
Never in his life had his teeth elongated around a group of nonshifters. He could recall a handful of times in his youth when his canines had come out while in the presence of shifters, but always in reaction to being provoked to fight. Now, in his adulthood, once in a while his teeth had a mind of their own when he was alone, but they knew better than to come out of hiding here. No one at his job knew he was a shifter. In fact, no one he acquainted himself with knew he was a shifter. He didn’t have anything against shifters; he just didn’t like living as one. In his opinion, the disadvantages far outweighed the advantages. Although the existence of shifters was a known fact, the misguided perceptions were at times annoying. There were parts of his life Brad didn’t want to have to explain.
His self-control over his inner animal, something he prided himself on, approached a point of no return. It would serve her right if he let her witness the beast inside him. He’d be fired for sure, but at least he’d get to give her the scare of her life. Growing angry that she continued to affect him, he turned his head, giving the evil apparition sitting in front of him his full attention.
JAYLA’S PULSE SPIKED the second she got her first whiff of the manly musk radiating off Brad. The man smelled of carnal sin. His spicy scent delighted her nose, wreaking havoc on her libido. Her thick jacket hid her pebbling nipples and swelling breasts. She clamped her legs together underneath the table, trying to ward off the twinges of lust tickling her pussy. Feeling Brad’s gaze on her, Jayla’s mouth began to water as her canines extended. Panicking, she leaned back in her chair, crossed one arm over her midsection, and rested the elbow of the other on her fist; she covered her mouth with her free hand, trying to pretend to be deep in thought. No one at her job knew she was a shifter. If she shifted into her wolf, it’d be a hell of a way to out herself and probably get fired in the process. The thought of Brad pissing his pants in terror when he found out the person he’d been trying to bully was a she-wolf consoled her for a split second. But she knew she couldn’t let that happen now. Unable to help herself, she turned her head toward him, and their gazes locked.
Unexpected images of the two of them making love flashed through her mind like a silent movie: She imagined her naked curves draped over Brad’s body as she rode him. Depictions of Brad pounding into her doggy style swamped her consciousness. The erotic visualizations caused her animalistic nature to surface.
Deep from within the inner intricacies of their wolves, she heard them both growl. To their human colleagues sitting around them, it sounded like hungry stomachs calling for food. But the low, distinctive sound vibrating from the heart and soul of one wolf to another… Shifters knew this sonance—their bodies calling out to their…
Brad’s startled gaze met hers, and their eyes widened as the reality of the situation became obvious to both of them. Jayla’s canines retracted once her human side understood what her wolf had known from the second she’d made eye contact with Brad: they were mates.
Jayla felt her control over her wolf return, so she rose, grabbing her briefcase. Trancelike, she headed out of the conference room, needing to get away from him. Once out of sight she quickened her pace, speed-walking to safety.
Rounding the corner, Jayla passed the elevators, seeking the heavy metal door leading to the stairwell. She burst through, needing solitude to compose herself. The thunderous sound of the heavy door clanking shut gave her a sense of relief. Her gasps heaved in and out of her chest. Bending over, she dropped her briefcase and clutched at her heart in desperation.
Of all the shifters in the world…he was her mate? A man she despised. Dread tore through her body at the thought of Brad Dalton being the supposed keeper of her heart. No effing way. Not on her watch.

About the Author:

Shannon Nydia grew up in a military family. Her father served in the U.S. Air Force and she was fortunate enough to be stationed all over the United States. Her love of travel and experiencing new places only encouraged her overactive imagination. Shannon is a self-described dreamer and hopeless romantic. She thoroughly enjoys getting swept up in a good story. Shannon loves reading, watching romantic movies and food… not necessarily in that order! She adores strong but feminine female characters and has a soft spot for hunky alpha males.
Shannon is a married mother of two, and loves spending time with her family.

She loves hearing from her readers!

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RELEASE BLITZ: Goodnight by Susie Tate

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

COVER REVEAL: End of Church Street by Gregory L. Hall

End of Church Street

Gregory L. Hall

Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

Genre: YA Dark Fantasy/Horror

Release Date: October 2016

Homeless and with nowhere to turn, Rebecca De Rosa finds a family of lost souls just like her—the vampires of Orlando. Reborn, she revels in her new lifestyle of 'no rules'. Love whoever you want. Seek whatever high you wish. Live forever young. Every night's an adventure—hunting down tourists, challenging local police, screaming to the world vampires really do exist! It's Neverland and every dream Rebecca has comes true.

Until the first murder.

Someone else lurks in the shadows. Goths are found beheaded, with wooden stakes pounded into their chests. The hunters have become the hunted. As the bodies pile up, Rebecca and the Family are forced to ask who can you trust when the only person who believes you're an actual vampire is a vampire killer?

Gregory L Hall has a long history in comedy, theatre and improv. He is a national Telly Award winner and creator of the Baltimore Comedy Fest, which supported Autism Awareness. Many fans know Greg best as the host/producer of the popular live radio show The Funky Werepig.

As a writer his work has appeared over the decade in various publications, anthologies and a short story collection. His novels rarely stick to one genre, ranging from comedy and romance to intense thrillers and horror. His biggest claim to fame is he was once hugged by Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. We should pause an extra moment to realize how awesome that is.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Hope Part by Grier Cooper

 Title: Hope
Series: Indigo Ballet Series #2
By: Grier Cooper
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Y/A

Indigo is living the life she’s always imagined at the famed New York School of Ballet. Or is she? Although she hopes she’ll be chosen for the company, her ballet teachers aren’t talking and their silence is confusing.

When Indigo is singled out for a coveted solo she feels her dreams are finally within reach, until she discovers she’s dancing with Felipe Gonzalez, the school’s smolderingly hot rising star. In the days that follow, Indigo questions everything she thought was true and finds herself making surprising choices.

After a fateful piece of paper reveals the truth, Indigo must ask herself the hardest question of all: can she take control of her own future to create the life she wants?

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Grier began ballet lessons at age five and left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer.

Her work has been praised as “poignant and honest” with “emotional hooks that penetrate deeply.” She writes and blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of Build a Ballerina Body and The Daily Book of Photography. Grier’s work has also appeared in Conscious Dancer, Discovery Girls, Skipping Stones, and Dance Advantage, among others.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

RELEASE BLITZ: Live By The Team by Cindy Skaggs

Title: Live By The Team
Series: Team Fear Series #1
By: Cindy Skaggs
Publication Date: April 23, 2016
Genre: Romantic Suspense

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They created a monster. Trained by the army, enhanced by medical experimentation, and tested in war. What happens to the creature when the war ends and the man awakens?

SSgt. Ryder was born, bred, and enhanced as a warrior, but when he returns home to his new wife—exiled from the army along with the rest of his disgraced team—he faces mounting anger and paranoia. When a fellow soldier does the unthinkable, Ryder disappears to protect his wife, but his departure leaves a vacuum filled with danger. Can he save her or will he lose himself to the beast and destroy what matters most?

Abandoned most of her life, Lauren Ryder married thinking she had finally found stability, until her new husband disappeared. He returns altered and secretive. Can she forgive him for crushing her dreams of picket fences and happily ever after? Will she survive what he has become?

The surviving members of Team Fear are out of the military and in a world of secrets, lies, and cover-ups in this new romantic suspense series by Cindy Skaggs.

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A free excerpt...

Live by the Team
A Team Fear Novel


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Cindy Skaggs. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the author:
Edited by Jessa Slade
Cover design by L.J. Anderson

First Edition April 2016

ISBN: 1532795742
ISBN-13: 978-1532795749


Six months ago

Ryder shifted through the crowd gathering behind the police barricade. A local news crew panned the scene from a vantage point to his left. In front of him, a young blonde lifted a wide-eyed toddler to her hip, giving the kid a better view. Gunshots fired had turned into a three-ring circus complete with spectators and media crews.
Crime scene tape snapped under his fingers before he made the conscious choice to proceed. A uniform cop moved to intercept him, but Ryder stopped him with a glare. Menace was an art form he’d studied for twelve years in the Army. He knew how to intimidate without a word, without a weapon. Could kill as easily.
No one stood between Ryder and his men. Ryder dialed back the tension bunching his shoulders. He scanned the scene, gauging overall mood and readiness. Time didn’t allow for more than superficial recon.
A row of patrol cars created a barricade behind which officers lined up, guns drawn. They faced a nondescript ranch house on five acres of hard dirt. A pickup truck was parked under a stand of trees, the only shade for a good ten miles. The shade didn’t help much; it was Texas summer hot.
Nervous energy spread like gossip through the officers on this side of the scene. They were getting trigger-happy the longer the standoff lasted. Jittery men did stupid things.
Ryder walked through the line of patrol cars. No one noticed until he placed his body between the police and the scene of the crime. A last line of defense for the soldier in the barricaded house.
Expletives exploded behind the cop cars. Ryder let loose a sarcastic grin and turned; sure he had their attention now. He lifted his hands so they didn’t feel compelled to shoot him. The energy in the open field shifted from unease to outright distrust. Sweaty grips tightened on guns. Every eye in the area focused on Ryder and judged him a million kinds of fool.
Ryder met their uncertainty with cool resolve. Today’s mission involved getting PFC Madigan out alive, which put Ryder in the hot seat. Times like this, he missed the adrenaline rush: the increased heart rate, the quicker thinking, and increased energy that presaged a good fight.
“Sir, step back,” a male voice spoke into a bullhorn.
Ryder shook his head no. He raised his voice for the camera and the crowd. He didn’t need a bullhorn. “I served with the man inside the house. You want this to end peacefully?” He nodded at the camera. “Let me go in and talk to him.”
More expletives before a tall, slender man wearing a ballistics vest stepped to the west end of the barricaded cars. Tall like a Jolly Green, the man’s shadow stretched across the desert, the setting sun casting him in silhouette. Any half-trained soldier coming off a three-day bender could take him out. The soldier trapped in the house qualified as exceptionally trained. Ryder had done the training.
Ryder held his position, protecting both sides from bloodshed. “Sheriff,” he guessed, rightly so when the man nodded. “I was on the phone with your suspect when you arrived on scene. We’ve established rapport. Let me go in before the situation escalates.”
It wasn’t a question. Ryder didn’t back down. Another news van pulled up in a billow of dust. The crew jumped out, filming on the fly.
A sidebar conversation happened behind the cars while the cameras whirred. Even at sunset, the temps were in the triple digits. The heat factor fueled tempers. Voices raised and lowered with curses and outrage.
Standing between the police and their suspect, Ryder didn’t break a sweat. He absorbed the heat, used it to fuel his system. Guns from both sides pointed at him. The police maintained their vigil, while inside, Madigan would do the same, his sole focus on the troops massing in his front yard. “Mad Dog” Madigan was a weapons specialist. He would have the scene covered.
While the sheriff and his men deliberated, Ryder’s backup moved into position through the rear of the house.
The phone in his back pocket buzzed with an incoming call. He reached and guns lifted to the top of the cars. His hands stayed steady as he pulled the phone out, keeping his movements slow and deliberate. The voice on the other end reached his ears before the phone did.
“Please tell me these reports aren’t live.” The Texas drawl didn’t calm the panic in her voice. He could picture her pretty face, brows raised in frustration. Her hands fluttering as she spoke.
“They’re live.” Regret closed his eyes for a barely perceptible moment. Lauren. He’d told her he had to go help an Army buddy. “This is me helping a friend.”
“With guns pointed at you?”
“Sometimes, that’s what it takes, baby. I gotta go.”
He clicked off and dialed Madigan. The call connected without a word spoken. The soldier’s breathing pattern was high and erratic, which concerned Ryder more than the police standoff. Every damn thing about this situation felt wrong. None of this shit was the way they were trained. Hell, Ryder would have sworn emotion had been beaten out of them until he heard the sob on the other end of the line.
“This is bad, Ryder.”
“No shit.” He kept his tone low and measured, aware of the audience.
“Do you think—”
“I’m coming in whether they let me or not. Keep it holstered.” He pocketed the phone and looked across the yard to the sheriff. The other man’s gaze hid in twilight shadows, but his stance read more relaxed than the rest of his men. “Sheriff, I have him on the phone. This is your one chance to end this standoff without bloodshed.”
“How do I know you’re not taking another weapon inside?”
The smirk came natural to Ryder. Who was the sheriff kidding? Madigan stockpiled enough weaponry to start a civil war. The cache of weapons was what kept the sheriff’s men hunkered down instead of going inside. Ryder lifted his shirt and turned slowly, he even smiled for the cameras as he proved he wasn’t armed or dangerous. Well, the dangerous part was open for interpretation. “I’m not losing another soldier, Sheriff. That’s a promise I made my men when we came back.”
There wasn’t a soldier alive who didn’t know the odds. Twenty-two suicides a day. Not today. The words were a prayer. Too bad Ryder had nothing left to believe in or pray to. Sometimes you had to handle shit on your own.
“You can shoot me in the back for the cameras if you want, but I’m going in.”
He didn’t wait for a response. The dirt shifted under his boots as he spun and headed to the front porch. Ants circled a discarded pizza box on the welcome mat. The stench of rancid cheese hit him as he grabbed the doorknob, which turned easily in his hand. Ryder pushed into the house. Gloom shrouded the entryway.
“Close the door.” The voice came from the black void several feet to the right. “Lock it.”
“Not my first rodeo,” he said, but moved to comply. “You hung up on me earlier today, Mad Dog. We didn’t finish our conversation.”
They followed a strict protocol. No matter where a soldier lived, if he called, someone came running. No questions. They weren’t going to be part of some fucked-up statistic. Ryder was geographically closest to Madigan, so he dropped everything, kissed his new wife, and hit the highway. Rose had moved in from the north, and they’d arrived about the same time.
“I shouldn’t have called. Shouldn’t have involved you. I woke up—” Another hiccup from a hardened warrior. What the ever-loving hell?
“Nightmare?” They happened, and when they did, they felt real. Sounded real.
“I called before I had time to pull my head out.” Madigan’s tone calmed. “Before I could pin down what was real, a shitload of cop cars came barreling down the drive. How the fuck did they know to show up?”
“Good question.” Ryder kept his tone slow and easy as he catalogued the surroundings, waiting for his backup to come at Madigan from behind. Ryder was the distraction. They weren’t losing another soldier.
“You did the right thing, calling me. That’s the deal. Live by the team.” They might be out of the Army, might be disillusioned and disgraced, but they were still a fucking team.
“I lost time today, Ry.”
Could they still be having side effects after all these months? “How much time?”
“Hours.” The anguish in Madigan’s voice turned the dark hall into a black hole. “I’m afraid to turn on the light. Find out what’s real.”
“The hell you are.” No fear wasn’t just a motto. “Pack that shit up. Concentrate on the situation. Where are Maggie and the baby?”
“They’re my life. You know that?”
“I do. So let’s end this so you can get back to living.”
Sniffling sounded from a corner and Ryder was closer to triangulating Madigan’s position. He could take him in the murky light, but Madigan’s eyes were already acclimated to the black void. He’d have the upper hand. Darkness was Ryder’s friend, helped him focus, but today, night vision didn’t give him the advantage. Ryder reached to the wall and patted until he hit a switch. He flipped the light.
“Fuck.” Madigan shielded his eyes with one hand while the other aimed a gun at Ryder.
Where the hell was Ryder’s backup? Rose was supposed to take Madigan from behind, but Mad Dog’s back was now against a wall. Madigan backed himself into a corner looking every bit like his call sign: Mad Dog. A halo of red hair capped a tall, lean body smeared with war paint. The wild expression on his face surpassed insane. Blood covered Madigan’s hands and bare chest as if he’d painted himself in some twisted ritual. His eyes were dilated.
“You on drugs?” Maybe drugs explained the panic that shouldn’t be there. And the lost time.
“No.” Madigan scrubbed a hand over his eyes. “At least I don’t think so.”
“What does that mean, Mad Dog? You know better than to experiment with that shit.” With everything they had had pumped into their systems, even alcohol was a gamble.
“I didn’t, not on purpose, Ryder, I swear, but I woke up with the worst fucking headache. Disoriented.”
They’d all experienced those symptoms at least once. Shit. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“I went into town to get pizza. Maggie didn’t feel good and the baby was fussy. I thought—” He pounded his forehead with the hand holding the gun. “Why the fuck can’t I remember?”
“What time was that?”
Hours ago. “Your truck’s out front. Do you remember pulling into the drive?”
“Yeah.” He pounded the back of his skull into the wall. “Maggie screamed. That’s what I remember. She screamed. I bolted. God, I can’t believe— I wouldn’t, but I had to, it’s only me in the house. And I’m covered in it.” His voice rose. “They’re my life.”
“Calm down.” Something was seriously fucking wrong, because the soldier stank with fear. Ryder took two measured steps closer.
“Stay back.” Madigan lifted a handgun and aimed at center mass. “Don’t take another step.”
Ryder paused. “I’m not afraid of dying.”
“Neither am I.”
Wasn’t that the problem?
Keep him talking. “Did Maggie leave you?”
“I wish.” Panic lifted his voice. “Not the way you mean. I don’t remember, but it had to be me.” An unfocused haze covered his eyes in a thin white film. “I’m the only one here, and there’s so much fucking blood.”
“You’re not making any sense.” Two steps closer. “Sitrep,” he barked, demanding a situation report from the soldier.
The order snapped Madigan’s shoulders to attention. “They’re dead.” He twisted his bloody hand in front of his hazy eyes as if the five fingers held the answers. “They’re my life.”
Seconds later, something in his eyes went hard. Determination replaced the haze, causing a shift in the soldier’s stance. All the training and the mood-altering modifications clicked into place until Mad Dog metamorphosed into a warrior.
Madigan knew how to kill and he’d finally settled on a target.
“No,” Ryder ordered.
“The pain ends. Right now.” Madigan turned the gun to his head. “No fear.”
Ryder launched across the space, but he wasn’t faster than a speeding bullet. Blood spatter hit him before exposing the ruined skull of a man Ryder considered a brother. Mad Dog was a soldier, a protector, and a killer. Where did one start and the others begin?
Rose barreled down the stairs at the sound of gunfire. “What the fuck?” He took in the sight of the fallen soldier. They’d seen death. They’d lost teammates, but they’d never lost one like this. Train a man to kill, take away the fear, and suicide was too damned easy.
“Wife and kid are dead,” Rose confirmed. “Bloody fucking sacrifice. Just like Kandahar.”
One of the special teams had turned sadistic in Kandahar and taken out a local village. Bad press didn’t begin to cover the fallout. The organization reacted swiftly, shutting down the program and denying any and all knowledge. Contracts were severed. Their service records heavily redacted. Overnight, the entire team was out. Out of the military, out of the war, out of the only life they knew. Team Fear took the fall.
Nothing about Mad Dog’s situation could leak. Fallout from a failed government program on U.S. soil would be catastrophic. If the company investigated, retribution would be swift and fatal.
“Shit, Ry—”
“I know. Get out,” he ordered. The cops didn’t need to know Rose had been in the house. “Rendezvous at zero three hundred hours. If I’m not there, you go underground.”
Rose vanished up the stairs. Outside, some idiot on a bullhorn issued threats he couldn’t hear inside the macabre house of hell.
Ryder leaned against the wall, and then slid down as the world shifted under his feet. Was this what it meant to be fearless?

Discover more of Cindy’s fast-paced romantic suspense:

She’ll do whatever it takes to find her son - Lie. Cheat. Steal. Seduce... As the former wife of an infamous crime boss, Sofia Capri is untouchable. She exists outside of the law...and outside of the criminal world. When her son is kidnapped, Sofia is desperate to find him. She’ll do anything. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Anything but trust. But it’s a strikingly handsome FBI agent who’s her only chance to get her baby back... Something about Sofia’s fiery beauty must be hitting all of his weak spots, because suddenly Mr. Law And Order Logan Stone finds himself bending the rules. When they’re implicated in the kidnapping, Logan and Sofia discover a horrifying reality—they have less than 72 hours to find the boy and clear their names.

Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado.

As a single mom, she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into the one thing she can’t live without: writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. Find her on Facebook as Cindy Skaggs, Writer, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or to sign up for her newsletter.

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