Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where, every Wednesday, readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
Maggie Chambers didn’t want to help with the bank robbery, but to keep her sister safe she was forced to commit a horrible crime. Now she’s on the run with nothing but her wits and her secrets to keep her alive. She’ll do anything, even disappear, to protect someone she loves. Trouble is, Jack Myles makes her dream the impossible…stop running and finally trust someone with the truth.
Jack Myles is one of the FBI’s best trackers. The beautiful but elusive Maggie has haunted him day and night for two years. He’s finally closing in, solving the puzzle, and uncovering all of her secrets. Now that she’s in his sight, he can’t let her go. Trouble is, he’s not the only one hunting her…
Two Years Ago
Blend into the scenery. Don’t stand out, don’t be different.
Maggie Chambers tried hard to concentrate on the instructions pouring out of her brain.
Keep your feet moving. Not too fast.
She almost laughed. Too fast? Not a chance. She’d had enough of speed, enough of terror, enough of guns and gangsters. Enough world-tumbling disaster. No, she didn’t want speed.
Not too slow either.
Her feet picked up their pace automatically.
Just another pedestrian, out for a stroll on a lovely evening.
Tears stung her eyes. They asked too much. She asked too much. Fists of fear gripped her heart, squeezing, painful. A sob choked her, but she didn’t stop, didn’t let her footsteps falter.
Wallpaper. Don’t think about it.
A soft sound, part laugh, part cry, part scream erupted before she silenced it. She checked for oncoming traffic with a quick glance and somehow got her feet moving across the final street. Her eyes were already focused on the mouth of the alley ahead.
Don’t think. Just act.
She turned the corner. Kept going.
Dark the color of midnight erased up the lovely June dusk. Who knew there were such awful places in lovely Edgeport, Connecticut? Who knew twin walls of bricks five stories high could create such an evil canyon?
Her feet slowed, then stopped. She had to give her eyes time to adjust, didn’t she? The stench gagged her and she opened her mouth to breathe. Stale alcohol, rotting garbage and something more. Something worse. Maggie suppressed a shudder.
Paper skittered restlessly across asphalt behind her, caught on a mysterious breeze. Maggie spun, eyes wide, braced for a violent death. Or worse. She heard soft, scurry noises, but nothing moved. At least nothing human. At least nothing human she could see.
Her pulse still rocketed heavenward but she couldn’t control that. A quick glance at her watch confirmed it. Go time.
A ski mask fit down over her head, leaving only her eyes open to the air. She moved like a shadow down the last ten feet, next to the graffiti-laden wall, soft black boots making not a sound.
Close enough to hear them now.
“Don’t tell me after all that you dropped her off at home, Jack.”
“Damn straight. I don’t play with little girls, no matter how much they want me to.”
They were waiting. But not for her. And there were two of them—one was bad enough, but two? Could she take on two?
With her heart galloping in her chest like some wild, trapped mustang, she stopped.
Right around the corner.
“How you doing? Gotta be hard.”
“Still in shock, they tell me. And yeah, losing a partner is about the hardest thing I’ve ever done.. Damn hard.” His shock didn’t show in the faint twang of his accent. Cold with a murderous edge. He sounded angry. Bitter. Dangerous.
What did you expect? Maggie shuddered. The gun that had been so cold against her back was now warm from contact with her skin. Unfamiliar, the weapon felt heavy and seemed to have a life of its own. The grip slid in her moist palm, refusing to stay still, while the barrel danced and hopped in a bizarre jitterbug.
Get a hold of yourself. She bit down hard on her lip and brought up her left hand to steady the pistol. Better. One deep breath out, slow. Keep it quiet.
The instructions didn’t help. She lowered the gun and closed her stinging eyes, letting the wall to her left support her. Panic blossomed from deep inside, zipping through her veins, overwhelming, terrifying her.
I can’t do this. The refrain blasted so loud she’d swear it audible.
Think of Melissa.
Melissa didn’t want her to do this.
There aren’t any other options and you know it.
One of those two men—the one who’d killed Billy—had the key. If she didn’t get it back, Melissa, the only family she had left, would be the next to die. Maggie opened her eyes.
I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
Can’t was not an option. Silent still, she pushed off the wall. Melissa. Melissa was all that mattered.
Praying the street before her would remain deserted, Maggie lifted the gun, bracing it with suddenly steady hands, arms outstretched.
She went on two. No one else on the street and a delivery truck blocked any hapless pedestrian’s view. So far so good.
In the bright glow of a street light, the shorter man saw her first and jumped. Cream colored coffee splattered out of his paper cup, splashed over the sidewalk. Her gaze jackrabbited between the two of them. One short, one tall, one blond and one dark. The short, blond man’s hands were shaking.
Maggie pointed her gun at tall and dark. He wasn’t shaking—didn’t even lift his hands until she waved them up with the gun. His eyes were dark midnight blue. They were cool, staring down at her—almost amused. When they locked on her own, her heart stuttered. Stopped. Time, the horrible monster who’d gobbled her up in a crazy, wild race to destroy her life, now halted and spit her out on the sidewalk where she stood.
Her breath caught in her throat and she couldn’t move, paralyzed by his knowing stare. Using his eyes alone, he examined her, stripped her, knew her, revealed her. Alone. Defenseless. A soundless cry escaped her bone dry throat.
A slow smile of victory lit first his eyes, then slid outward, framing his eyes like radiating applause, over his chiseled cheekbones and nose, quirking the corners of his mouth. “You don’t want to be doin’ this, darlin’.”
The smug certainty in his voice broke the strange spell. Maggie swallowed an agreement, saw Melissa’s eyes pleading with her and raised her forgotten gun in hands that were steady as granite. Fear laced her voice with gravel. “Hands on the wall behind you.”
Short and blond spun immediately. Tall and dark watched her for long seconds, eyes reflecting a hint of regret, along with the same amusement before he executed a slow swivel toward the brick wall next to the dark storefront. Relieved the stare-down was over, Maggie pushed the gun into tall and dark’s back and nudged his legs apart with her knee. Short and blond was watching; he spread his legs wide without further encouragement.
Tall and dark had a gun. His weapon was tucked into his jeans at the small of his back, right where she’d carried hers. For an instant she saw nothing but tiny spots. Her own gun dipped, fingers trembling violently. Almost as if he could see her—as if he sensed her sudden dizziness, tall and dark chuckled.
“The safety’s on, darlin’. That gun can’t bite and I couldn’t possibly get to it before you—could I?”
A threat? No, a dare. Her chin shot up. Either way, his smooth murmur erased the nausea and chased away her lightheadedness. She almost smiled at his error. Her own safety was still on, too. She eased it off before reaching for his warm pistol. With his gun stashed firmly behind her own back, she nudged his side with steel. “Shut up.”
Keeping the gun on the more dangerous man, she emptied the short one’s pockets. His wallet went inside her shirt. Dropped against the belt at her waist. She reached around him. Change flew, bouncing off the sidewalk and rolling into the street. A small pocketknife plummeted to the concrete. Maggie caught the potential weapon with the toe of her boot and sent it flying off behind her. Her eyes never left tall and dark’s relaxed shoulder blades. A key tangled on short and blond’s inside pocket material. She gave a swift yank. The pocket tore, but she had the key ring.
Practiced eyes flew over the three keys on the ring. Not what she was after.
Maggie backed to a grate in the street and dropped the keys, sparing only a glance to make certain they fell through. Her outstretched arm never wavered from tall and dark’s trim backside. She approached him warily, expecting a fight, but he didn’t move. With more force than necessary, she jammed the gun into his back. Her hands would not shake.
“I’m not going to stop you.” His voice was low, almost a caress, burning down inside her like lava.
“I said, shut up!” He had nothing in his back pockets—that was obvious from the way the tight denim clung.
Search them anyway.
The thought shot heat into her cheeks. She most certainly was not going to slide her fingers inside the pocket, down around those firmly defined muscles.
She resolutely swung her gaze to the back of his head and forcibly kept it there. Melissa. The reminder stiffened her shoulders. What the hell was wrong with her?
Maggie heard what sounded like an amused snort, the sound spurring her to action. With the gun firmly in her right hand, she reached around him, shoved her hand down inside his left front pocket. And froze. Far from upset, he was enjoying this. Her reluctant fingers ran right into the evidence.
He laughed, a contemptible chuckle that sent a shudder up her back. “Told ya, darlin’. I like your ass, too.”
Maggie looped his key ring with one finger and yanked. One glance confirmed it. She retreated a measured four paces.
“Take off your clothes,” she growled. “Shirts first. Easy.” Short and blond’s buttons popped and scattered on the sidewalk. Tall and dark methodically unbuttoned his cuffs before starting on his shirt front. He took his time with those buttons, too. Did he have another weapon? Maggie frowned. “You. Turn around. Slow.”
Tall and dark obeyed, not smiling now. His eyes were cold, filled with disturbing undercurrents. He locked that riveting blue-eyed gaze back on hers and shot her a lazy grin that didn’t begin to reach his eyes. “Don’t trust me, darlin’?”
Pasting a picture of Melissa in front of her mind, she met his mocking stare coldly. “Off.” She glanced at short and blond. He was holding his shirt over his overweight belly. “Toss it over here and keep going.” He complied. His hands were still shaking.
Too much time.
She lifted the gun, stepped forward. “Let’s go. Shoes, socks, everything, right here. Move.” She gestured at her feet.
Short and blond peeled layers as fast as he could. Dress shirt, white t-shirt, trousers, black socks and wing-tips piled in an untidy heap at her feet. Tall and dark didn’t have as much to shed. Unlike short and blond, who, despite the warm evening, was shivering now in his boxers, tall and dark toed off boots. They landed with unerring accuracy at her feet.
Gaze still clamped on hers, he pulled tanned, muscular arms from his shirt and chucked the blue denim onto the pile, revealing acres of strong, hard, naked flesh. Maggie’s lips parted. Suddenly, it was hard to breathe. The mask over her face had nothing to do with her throat closing down. He grinned again as he shucked jeans and briefs together, not releasing her eyes as he silently dared her to take a closer look.
She kept her eyes firmly trained on his and scooped up the clothing. “Turn around.” Short and blond seemed delighted to hug the cold bricks again. Tall and dark hesitated. His proud, arrogant mouth still smiled, but his eyes were colder, harder. “I’ll find you.”
The solemn promise rang in her ears all the way back down the alley.
CJ received her first Nancy Drew book for Christmas the year she turned six. Before the next Christmas, she’d finished every Nancy Drew book written. At 11, she discovered Daphne du Maurier and the die was stamped in titanium. At 13, she penned plays starring her friends and their favorite Tiger Beat magazine crushes, a 500 page (unfinished) blatantly graphic novel (blush!) and countless story starts and stops. Her parents (pastors) were thrilled when she settled into suspense salted with romance and left the all-sex-all-the-time behind.
She’s won numerous awards, finalled in dozens of contests and before her husband passed away was very involved with Colorado Romance Writers, Kiss of Death Mystery Chapter and RWfA. She lost the love of her life to an aggressive prostate cancer and avidly supports cancer prevention research and men who take saw palmetto every day.
When she’s not writing, she dotes on (and loves to embarrass) her eight wonderful grandchildren: Nick, Josiah, Joshua, Naomi, Nathaniel, Rebekah, Samuel, and Timothy. She lives in a four-generation household, which gives her much insight into familial relationships.
She’s a member of We Are Scripsi, where she blogs with members of her awesome and amazing critique group.
Links to CJ Snyder’s website, blog, books, etc.
http://amzn.to/QaUkQM (While You Were Dead)
http://amzn.to/QzXWGr (Dead Reckoning)