“Who hired you and Digger to kill Jessie Kegan?”
Petrov shook his head. “We didn’t have to kill her. We just had to convince her to quit sticking her nose into other people’s business.”
“And if you couldn’t convince her?”
Petrov shrugged his thick shoulders. “Then we’d have to do something that would.” He was built like a bull, and with that pale, scraggly beard, he was ugly.
“What? Like make her dead?” Bran pressed.
Petrov didn’t answer, just gave another shrug as if killing her was no big deal. Jessie shivered. She gasped when Bran drew back his fist and punched Petrov hard in the face, sending a spray of blood into the air and his body flying backward into the dirt.
“Bran, stop!” Jessie grabbed his bicep, which was bunched hard as steel, ready to deliver another brutal blow.
He shook his head, fighting for control. “He’s lucky I don’t kill him.” Instead, he jerked Petrov upright. “I need a name. Who hired you?
Petrov spit out a wad of blood. “Weaver. That’s his name. Just Weaver.”
“How do I find him?”
More blood trickled from Petrov’s nose. The way it was swelling, by tomorrow, both eyes would be black.
“I don’t know. He phones us on a burner, tells us what he needs, we call him back after the job’s done. Weaver tells us where to pick up our money. That’s the way it works.”
Bran swore foully. “What’s going to happen when Weaver finds out you didn’t finish the job?”
Petrov grimaced. “He ain’t gonna like it, that’s for sure.”
“Then I’d strongly suggest the first chance you get, you and your buddy leave town. I’ve got friends on the base. I’ll be texting them your photos. You don’t leave, I’ll know and you’ll be dealing with me instead of your buddy, Weaver. You won’t have a second chance to walk away.”
Petrov stared up at him. Jessie knew Bran was talking about soldiers in the 10th Special Forces stationed at Fort Carson, where he had friends.
“You understand what I’m saying?”
Petrov swallowed and nodded.
Bran turned to Jessie. “Time to go.”
“What about them? We can’t just leave them out here. They could die of exposure.”
“We’ll call the sheriff once we’re on the road.”
“I thought you were letting us go,” Petrov complained.
“You’re lucky your still alive.” Bran closed Jessie’s car door, rounded the hood, and slid in behind the wheel.
“Maybe we should call the MPs instead of the sheriff,” she suggested as the engine roared to life. “Since it involves a CID investigation.”
Bran shook his head. “These guys aren’t active duty, plus we don’t know who we can trust on the base.”
Unfortunately, that was true. Her dad had been murdered on the base. The military was somehow involved.
As soon as the SUV reached the highway, Bran called 9-1-1 and anonymously reported that two men had assaulted him and were now tied up in an empty field. He gave the location using GPS coordinates.
“Sheriff will be there in ten,” he said, ending the call. “We need to be long gone by then.” He punched the gas and the Expedition picked up speed, heading back to Colorado Springs, forty miles away, and their motel.
“What will the sheriff do to them?” Jessie asked.
“For starters, they’re probably driving with a stolen license plate. There’s also a good chance there’ll be warrants out for them. Guys like that…could be anything from a speeding ticket to a felony. Might get them locked up for a while.”
There were few cars on the back road Bran was driving toward town. The wind had picked up, blowing dust and dry leaves into the air. The night was dead black, no moon no stars. Jessie shivered, though it was warm in the SUV.
She thought of the men who’d come after them. “Once they’re released, do you think they’ll actually leave town?”
“I’d say chances are better than good. Men like that go after the easy money.” He cast her glance that held a trace of arrogance. “Turned out getting to you wasn’t as easy as they thought.”
She almost smiled. No, not nearly as easy with Bran Garrett acting as her bodyguard.
“I’ll text those photos to a couple of SF guys I know, have them spread the word to their buddies, keep a lookout, give me a heads-up if anyone spots them.”
She nodded. At least they might get some kind of warning if the two men stayed in the area.
Silence began to stretch between them. Neither of them spoke until town drew near and Bran’s gaze slid back to her.
Was she okay? Men had been hired to stop her–one way or another–from finding out what had happened to the stolen munitions and clearing her father’s name. Since she had no intention of quitting, no, she wasn’t okay. But she didn’t say that.
“I will be. Once we clear my father’s name.”
“Be smarter to quit before things get worse.”
“You think they will?”
“Good chance they will.”
She fixed him with a stare. “You sticking?”
His mouth faintly curved. “If you are.”
As Jessie settled back in the seat, she found herself smiling. “Glad that’s settled.”
Bran just shook his head. “Well, you sure as hell aren’t boring.” He flashed one of his devastating grins. “Can’t remember when I’ve had a better time with a lady.”
Jessie scoffed. “Not counting sex,” she said dryly.
His look turned scorching the instant before he glanced away. “Yeah,” he said. “Not counting sex.”
Jessie’s whole body went warm, and in that moment she made a decision.
She decided she was going to seduce him.
Today’s Guest Author is Kat Martin. We hope you enjoy her post on Setting the Stage and the excerpt from her next romantic suspense novel, THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL
New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.
I love to read novels set in interesting places. Currently I’m reading an historical romance that takes place in Nazi-occupied Paris during WWII. I’ve always loved Paris, which makes the book even more fun to read. Being able recognize the settings where the action takes place, as well as the names of restaurants and streets I have visited.
As a writer, going to the place your book is set, or choosing a place you have actually been, is the best way to make your book seem real.
In THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, the novel takes place in Colorado, a state I love to visit. After I’d concluded my second Maximum Security novel, THE DECEPTION, which was set in Texas, I was looking for someplace different for book number three. Colorado, with its wide variety of landscapes and extreme climate conditions seemed perfect.
Having been to Denver a number of times, street names were familiar, parks and airports, locations of smaller towns and rural mountain communities.
Since this was a Maximum Security novel, a romantic thriller, I began by researching crime in the state. I had digging and digging and finally stumbled onto an article about the U.S. Army chemical weapons depot near Colorado Springs. As Brandon Garrett, the hero of my story, was a former army officer, I loved the idea of Bran interacting with his military past.
The idea of stealing chemical weapons from a storage depot gave me all sorts of plot ideas. In THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, when investigative journalist Jessie Kegan’s father, a colonel in the army, is accused of treason, she’s determined to clear his name. Afraid for her life, Jessie turns to former Special Ops soldier, Brandon Garrett. But time is running out and the game being played is deadly. Working together, Bran and Jessie risk everything to solve the riddle and stop the threat–before it’s too late.
Because of the military setting, this was one of the hardest books I’ve ever written. I think it turned out to be one of my best. I particularly love the interaction between Bran and Jessie and I hope readers will, too.
I hope you’ll watch for THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL and that you enjoy Bran and Jessie’s story. Till next time, all best wishes and happy reading, Kat
Too much downtime always made him nervous, kind of edgy as he waited for the other shoe to drop. It had been a week since his last client had headed back to Nashville, a week of peace and quiet he should have enjoyed.
Instead, he had this nagging feeling that something bad was coming down the line.
Lounging back in the chair behind his desk at Maximum Security, Brandon Garrett looked up at the sound of the front door swinging open. A gust of cool, late October winds swept in, along with a petite, whirlwind of a woman with the prettiest strawberry blond hair Bran had ever seen.
She had a sweet little body to match her fiery curls, he noticed, outlined by the dark blue stretch jeans curving over her sexy little ass and the peach knit top that hugged her breasts.
It wasn’t tough to read the anxiety in her big green eyes as she surveyed the room, but instead of heading for the receptionist’s desk, those big green eyes landed on Bran and as she started toward him, there was something about her that rang a distant bell. Interest piqued, he rose from his chair. “Can I help you?”
“You’re Brandon Garrett, right? You were a friend of my brother’s. Danny Kegan? I recognize you from the photos Danny sent home.”
The mention of his best friend’s name hit him like a blow, and the muscles across his stomach clenched. Daniel Kegan had been a member of his spec ops team, a brother, not just a friend. Danny had saved Bran’s life at the cost of his own. He was KIA in Afghanistan.
Bran stared down at the girl, who was maybe five-foot-four. “You’re Jessie,” he said, remembering the younger sister Daniel Kegan had talked so much about. “You look like him. Same color hair and eyes.”
She nervously wet her lips, which were plump and pink and fit her delicate features perfectly.
“My brother said if I ever needed help, I should come to you. He said you’d help me no matter what.” She glanced back toward the door and his mind shifted away from the physical jolt he felt as he looked at her to the worry in her eyes.
“I’ll help you. Danny was my closest friend. Whatever you need, I’ll help. Come on. Let’s go into the conference room and you can tell me what’s going on.” When her gaze shot back to the door, his senses went on alert.
“I didn’t mean I needed your help later,” Jessie said nervously. “I meant I need your help right now.”
Gunshots exploded through the windows. “Get down!” Bran shouted to the other guys in the office as he shoved Jessie down behind his desk and covered her with his body. Glass shattered and a stream of bullets sprayed across the room.
Jaxon Ryker popped up, gun drawn, and ran for the door. Hawk Maddox and Lissa Blayne were shuffling through their desks, arming themselves. Jonas Wolfe drew his ankle gun and ran for the rear entrance, ready for any threat that might come from there.
“Black SUV with tinted windows,” Ryker reported. Six feet of solid muscle, dark hair and eyes, Jax was a former Navy SEAL, currently a PI and occasional bounty hunter. “Couldn’t get a plate number.” Jax’s gaze swung to the front of the room. “Mindy, you okay?”
The little receptionist eased up from beneath her desk. “I-I’m okay. Should I call the police?” Around here, it was never good to jump to conclusions.
Bran hauled Jessie to her feet. He could feel her trembling. Her eyes looked even bigger and greener than they had before. “Are they coming back?” he asked.
“I-I don’t know. It could have just been a warning.”
Bran turned to Mindy. “Unless someone’s already phoned it in, let’s wait to call the cops till we know what’s going on.” His attention returned to Jessie. “We need to talk.”
She just nodded. Her face had gone pale, making a fine line of freckles stand out across her forehead and the bridge of her nose.
Bran took her arm and urged her toward the conference room. “Keep a sharp eye,” he said to The Max crew. “Just in case.”
Jessie sank unsteadily down in one of the rolling chairs around the long oak conference table. The man she had come to see, Brandon Garrett, sat down beside her.
“Okay, let’s hear it,” he said. “What’s going on?”
She thought of the men who had just shot up his office and her pulse started thumping again. “Danny said if I ever needed help–”
“Yeah, I get that. Your brother knew he could count on me. Like I said, I’ll help you any way I can, but I need to know what’s going on.”
Bran was taller than Danny, around six-three, with a soldier’s lean, hard body, vee-shaped, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. Powerful biceps bulged beneath the sleeve of his dark blue T-shirt. With his slightly too-long mink brown hair, straight nose and masculine features, he was ridiculously handsome, except for the hard line of his jaw and the darkness in his eyes that contrasted sharply with their beautiful shade of cobalt blue.
“Start at the beginning,” he demanded.
Since she wasn’t sure exactly where to begin, Jessie dragged in a shaky breath and slowly released it.
“I’m here because of my father–Colonel James Kegan, Commander U.S. Army Alamo Chemical Depot. Just before he died a little over two months ago, my father was removed from active duty. He was charged with larceny–specifically the theft of chemical weapons stored at the Depot. Because the Army believed he was selling the weapons to a foreign entity, he was also charged with espionage and treason. I need you to help me prove his innocence.”
THE UNTIMATE BETRAYAL IS AVAILABLE TODAY
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Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film. Kat’s next hardcover, THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, will be released on July 28th.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of blogs about my favorite places. I just discovered a new one so I thought I would tell you about it.
I’ve never been a big fan of the desert. I do love the Saguaro cactus, the red rock mountains, and some of the incredible vistas.
But the small town of Prescott called to me as no place in the Sun State ever has. Perhaps it’s the combination of beautiful mountains, which being a Montanan I love, and the rugged Old West history of the town.
The Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row is one of the oldest in the country. It’s got a mile-long bar and an old-fashioned back bar, and even has batwing doors! The folks inside come to work in Wild West costumes, giving the place an even more authentic feel.
In July, cowboys take over the town for the oldest rodeo in the nation. And you know what they say… “If you haven’t loved a cowboy, you will.”
Living in Montana, I pretty much hate hot weather. But summers in Prescott are relatively mild, at least by Arizona standards. And the endless sunshine and crystal blue skies make the hot days worth it.
As Meriwether Jones and her young daughter run from trouble, her prayers are answered when ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help his aging father. But Meri is keeping dangerous secrets that could wind up getting them killed.
In PIVOT, the adventure continues with novellas by bestselling Romantic Suspense authors, Alexandra Ivy and Rebecca Zanetti.
Melanie Cassidy finds trouble when she tries to save a young boy from being kidnapped. Working the case, former love-of-her-life, Detective Gray Hawkins, arrives in time to rescue them. But Melanie’s good-Samaritan efforts pull her and Gray into a world of drug dealers and dirty cops that neither of them may survive.
Michelle Peach is one of Meri’s closet friends. Trouble arrives when two rough men in search of Meri break into her home and threaten her life. The last person Michelle wants to see is Evan Boldon, former Marine turned sheriff. But Evan is determined to stop the trouble stalking Michelle-—no matter the cost.
He hammered in another nail, looked up to see Meriwether Jones running toward him. With the sun highlighting the gold in her dark hair, damn she was pretty. “What is it?”
“I can’t find Lily. She isn’t in your room.”
Ian dropped the hammer and started back toward the house, Meri hurrying along beside him.
“She never does this. She always stays where you tell her.”
They shoved through the back door together, walked through the mudroom. It took a moment for him to register that the dishes were all washed and put away, the countertops wiped clean. He caught the scent of Lysol as he made his way toward the stairs.
“Lily!” he called out. “Lily, where are you?” They went upstairs and searched his bedroom, then the other two upstairs rooms and both baths.
No sign of Lily.
His worry kicked up as they headed back downstairs and he strode into the den. “Dad, Lily is missing.”
November is over. That’s notable in many ways, including that we’re now in the final month of this year.
And for me, one of the notable matters is that I’m no longer Author of the Month on A Slice of Orange!
I was so delighted to have had that honor last month. The blog website mentioned it with wonderful graphics showing quite a few of my books. I saw it posted several times on Facebook, and I posted it myself, as well.
It was a good month for it to happen. I had a new book released then: Colton 911: Caught in the Crossfire, a Harlequin Romantic Suspense book. As I mentioned here last month, it was my first book in the HRS long-lived series about the Colton family, which is large and has family members living in branches all over the country. A Colton is a hero or heroine in each of the books in that series, so it contains lot of highly romantic members.
And now? Well, my next Colton book will be a February 2020 release: Colton First Responder.
Anyway, thank you so much to A Slice of Orange, and to Marianne Donley, for the delightful recognition. I loved being Author of the Month!
Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film. Kat’s hardcover, THE DECEPTION, a Romantic Thriller, was released on September 10th.
I’ve always loved a good plot. People ask me how I come up with ideas for my novels, but the truth is, I really don’t know.
Sometimes the kernel of an idea grows out of a newspaper article or something I see on Facebook or just some old movie. Most of the time, it’s so long ago I don’t actually remember, but my mind does.
The novella, SHADOWS AT DAWN, blossomed the way most of my stories do, basically out of nowhere. Jaxon Ryker first appeared in THE CONSPIRACY, a former Navy SEAL, now a detective working for Chase Garrett, the wealthy owner of Maximum Security, an extremely successful private security firm in Dallas.
I liked Jax right away. He was definitely hero material, but at the same time, Jax was different, kind of soft-spoken, not arrogant, just a really nice guy. Unless you pissed him off.
Turns out Jax had a protective streak a mile wide and the sweet little receptionist at The Max was his weakness.
When Jax happens upon three men attacking her in the parking lot after work, his hero instincts kick in—big time.
Jax is convinced the attack isn’t random and that even after the fight that saved Mindy and drove the men away, she might not be safe. And no way is Jax letting anything happen to her.
I liked the two of them together from the start. These days, readers want kick-ass women, but there are other ways a woman can be strong. What Jax sees is a sweet girl he believes would never be able to handle a tough guy like him. But Mindy proves him wrong.
As the danger unfolds, Mindy and Jax are forced to work together to find the men who want her dead and figure out why.
I hope you’ll give this fun read a try and that you like Jax and Mindy as much as I did. If you do, you can also find them in THE DECEPTION, book #2 of my Maximum Security Series after THE CONSPIRACY.
Till next time, happy reading and all best, Kat
Finally satisfied with her progress for the day, Mindy shoved her round tortoiseshell glasses up on her nose, slung the strap of her purse over her shoulder, and headed for the door to the parking lot behind the office. She managed not to glance at Jax, but it wasn’t easy.
The early April weather was humid, warm but not hot, the last of a pinky gold sky fading to darkness. She spotted her little red Volkswagen Beetle, one of the few vehicles left in the lot, and started in that direction.
If she hadn’t been working for a security firm, listening to crime stories on a daily basis, she might not have noticed the white Chevy van whose motor sparked to life and began idling in the shadows not far from her car.
When her steps unconsciously slowed, she told herself she was being ridiculous, a paranoid response to the guys’ sometimes gruesome, often frightening tales.
Pausing to dig her car keys out of her purse, she took a deep breath and tried to calm her racing heart. When the effort failed, she forced her feet to move, closing the distance between her and her vehicle. She had almost reached her destination when the van doors slid open and three men dressed head-to-foot in black wearing black ski masks jumped out and started running toward her.
Terror struck. Mindy let out a high-pitched scream, dropped her purse, whirled, and started running.
Jax’s long day wasn’t over yet. Before he picked up a pizza and headed home for a couple of beers, he had a meeting with a client on the other side of Dallas, a cold case he had been working where the mother of a murder victim had discovered new evidence she believed would help find her daughter’s killer. The police weren’t convinced, but Mrs. Donahue had hired Jax to prove it. Or at least find out the truth.
He checked his heavy black wristwatch. If he wanted to make his appointment on time, he needed to get on the road. Grabbing his laptop off the desk, he headed for his dark blue Dodge Ram pickup, parked in the lot behind the office, his mind on the case he figured would earn him a nice fat fee—and maybe help bring a killer to justice.
He had just stepped out the backdoor when a blood-curling scream cut through the sticky night air. A petite young woman with long dark hair and glasses struggled with three masked men.
Adrenaline shot into his blood. Mindy! Even as he bolted into a run, Jax registered their appearance: one tall and lean, one average height and weight, one big and beefy, thick-shouldered and muscular. He was flat out running by the time Mindy spotted him and started screaming his name.
“Jax, help me! Jax!” Kicking and biting, she fought like a wild thing, but she was no match for the men. As they hauled her toward the open van doors, Jax grabbed the tall man and pulled him off her, pounded a fist into his face and slammed another into his stomach, doubling him over. A hard right sent the guy careening backward, hitting the ground on his back and sliding across the asphalt.
The second man, Mr. Average, stepped in and swung a punch Jax ducked. He shot out a kick, knocking the assailant into the side of the van, then heard the sound of a switchblade snapping open behind him.
“Jax, watch out!”
Whirling toward the threat, he dodged the flashing blade and shoved Mindy toward safety, then went back in for the kill. Rage burned through his usual calm. She worked with him, as far as he was concerned, was under his protection. More than that, she was kind and sweet and he cared about her far more than he should. Jax wanted to end the bastards who were trying to hurt her.
“Run!” he shouted. “Go back to the office and lock the door! Call 9-1-1!” The knife flashed. Jax dodged the sweep of gleaming silver wielded by a big, thick-fingered, extremely capable hand, jumped back from out of the way of another slashing attack as he and the big man crouched and circled each other. From the corner of his eye, he saw the tall, thin man back on his feet and rushing toward him.
Jax looked up to see Mindy swinging her purse like a ball and chain, smashing the bag into the side of the tall man’s head, sending him staggering, grunting as he landed on his hands and knees.
“Bitch! he screamed, shaking his head to clear it, providing the distraction Jax needed. He kicked the knife out of the beefy man’s hand and threw a punch that sent him reeling. Mr. Average had already climbed into the van and shoved the vehicle into gear.
“Come on!” the man shouted through the open passenger window. “Let’s go!”
The tall man turned and ran, leaping through the open van doors, and the big, muscular man shot in behind him. Tires burned and smoke rolled up from the wheels as the vehicle screeched away.
“It’s a quick, easy to read, entertaining, action packed read and is just as amazing as the other books in the series!”
“Mystery, suspense, thrills and chills with a whole lot of action!”
“This story is a cute, sweet and steamy romance full of suspense, excitement and unexpected twists that keep readers hanging on to the edge of their seat.”
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