Wednesday, June 4, 2014

LORI RYAN EVENT POST


Lori Ryan is celebrating the release of the second book in her Evers, TX series today and she’s got guest authors coming by her Facebook Party all day at https://www.facebook.com/events/724887500904232/! 

But, she’s also sending the guest authors out to blogs to say hey to people all day, too. We’re happy to have Dana Marton come by and see us! To help Lori celebrate, Dana is giving away an eBook copy of her 3-in-1 Broslin Creek Trilogy Set, which Lori assures me will have readers on the edge of their seats routing for sexy heroes and strong, smart heroines.
 

The Broslin Creek Trilogy begins with Deathwatch: The only person who can identify the most notorious hit man in the country, Kate Bridges is running for her life. Murphy Dolan is in the Army Reserves, returning from his 2nd tour of duty, only to find a stranger hiding in his house. She's scared spitless. He's completely burned-out on violence. Neither of them has any trust left to give.

Here’s an excerpt from the book to tempt you!

Kate Bridges thought attending her own funeral would be the hardest part.

The California sun radiated merciless heat on the Spanish-style church and its parking lot on the outskirts of Los Angeles, but the inside of the chapel always stayed cool. Friends and family filled the first pews. Their dark clothes, bent heads and slumped shoulders stood in sharp contrast to the vibrant saints in the stained-glass windows who did their best to surround the mourners in a gentle embrace of light.

Kate’s mother clutched a black scarf around her shoulders as she stared forward red-eyed, wedged between Kate’s father and her sister while the clear notes of “Amazing Grace” floated from the organ.

Outside, the parking lot stood silent. The white FBI van, parked a dozen cars down from the flower delivery van, had been painted with pink roses. To a casual observer, the two vehicles looked identical. Nothing in the deserted lot seemed out of place.

Inside the FBI van, Kate watched the service through closed-circuit cameras under Agent
Cirelli’s wary eye. Two rows of monitors displayed live footage from a dozen hidden cameras in the chapel, the images a little grainy, but the audio perfect, transmitting her grieving mother’s soft sob as clearly as the sermon.

Kate’s heart
twisted, a sharp jab of pain in the middle of her chest. “This is a mistake. I can’t. Nobody should have to go through this. I want to tell them now.”

The forty-something agent glanced over, her sharp eyes the color of gunmetal.
“In a little while.”

Her meticulous charcoal suit stood in stark contrast to Kate’s “comfort jeans” and her slightly irregular, home-made Christmas sweater. It might not have been what the average person would pick for a funeral in July, but if she ever needed her lucky sweater, this was the time.

“How much longer?” Kate rubbed her fingertips over the uneven rows of yarn. She’d never meant to cause her family pain.

But
Cirelli, a hand on her earpiece, was focused on whatever information she was receiving from the rest of her team. They all reported in at regular intervals.

Inside the chapel, the stout young priest stepped behind the open casket that held a wax replica of Kate Bridges’ body. “In this time of despair, beloved, let us remember….”

Kate bit her lip as her gaze focused on the open white coffin. A shiver ran down her spine, disjointed thoughts racing through her brain as she stared at the wax replica of herself. “Do you think it looks real?”

The agent tapped her earpiece, muting her mike for a moment. “They put on plenty of make-up. The face is a little off, but it’s what people would expect after an accident like that.”

Kate gave an uncertain nod. The head-on collision with the tree had been brutal. That part hadn’t been faked. She had a broken collarbone to prove it, in addition to myriad cuts and abrasions that covered her upper body, courtesy of the shattered windshield.

What her family and friends inside the chapel didn’t know was that the crash hadn’t been an accident. She’d driven straight into that live oak because her car window had been shot out, the bullet coming within an inch of her face.

She didn’t remember hitting the tree or what happened immediately after. She’d been unconscious when the ambulance had taken her to the hospital. According to the FBI, the fact that she’d looked dead from afar had probably saved her life.

So the FBI decided to leave her dead, to make sure no more bullets came looking for her. The whole situation seemed as far-fetched as a Hollywood movie. And her only wish was that, like most Hollywood movies, the day would come to a happy ending.

Kate shifted in her seat as she watched. A blue sling supported her left arm, her shoulders in a figure eight brace to stabilize her broken collarbone. She was in rough shape, but not
rough enough, thank God, for a funeral.

The agent said, “Shouldn’t be long now,” in a sure, crisp tone. “He’ll come, we’ll get him,
then you can go and tell your family why we had to do this. They’ll understand.”

Kate swallowed her doubts. Yet what other choice did she have? “I suppose this is what happens when you’re the only person who can identify the most wanted hit man in the country.”

“It’s all good,”
Cirelli reassured her. “This is our first real break since we’ve been looking for Rauch Asael. All these years, we had little more than his list of aliases and his hit list. Now we have you,” she said with a smile that said Kate should somehow be happy about this.

Yay, for me, a witness to murder, Kate thought, grief flooding her at the memory of Marcos choking on his own blood as he’d died in her arms.

He’d been her first true friend, one of the few people who stood up for her when they’d been two lost kids in foster care. He was one of the smartest people she knew, but something was broken inside Marcos, and he couldn’t use his smarts for good. He’d gone the other way. She’d tried to talk to him about that from time to time, begged and nagged. Then the life he lived had caught up with him before she could help him see the light.

Cirelli tilted her head. “If you have any information about Marcos Santiago’s businesses—”

Kate raised a hand to cut her off. Sooner or later, every agent she came in contact with had found their
way to the same questions. “Marcos never talked to me about business. He knew I didn’t approve. I wanted more for him. He would have been successful at anything he tried.”

And he was trying to change at the end.
Too late.

Cirelli pushed. “Anything you can tell us about him could be helpful. Look, we got the rival crime boss who ordered the hit. You want the hit man brought to justice too, right?”

Kate moved her gaze from monitor to monitor. “That’s why I’m here.”

She’d seen the bastard’s face as he was slinking away from his dying victim, and the killer had caught a glimpse of hers. But while the FBI hadn’t been able to find the man based on the image the sketch artist had come up with using her description,
Asael had no trouble tracking her down.

Kate glanced back at the agent. “Do you think he’ll come?”

“You’re the only person who can make positive ID.”

Translation: the killer simply couldn’t afford to let her live.

The muscles clenched in Kate’s chest, her throat tightening enough to make swallowing painful. Nervous energy buzzed inside her, pushing her to get up and pace, but the rigged-out van had no room. So she simply hugged herself, her gaze drawn back to the monitors, to her white coffin, smothered in a blanket of pink and white roses.

Her mother still saw her as someone perfect and innocent. She’d always seen Kate as a pure soul, never as someone tainted by past abuse and a rough time in the foster care system. Not the wild preteen the social workers had dropped off in the middle of one night, the wild cat
who threw food on the floor and punched holes in the walls when she couldn’t control the pain and the anger.

The agent rolled her neck. “How did you know Santiago?”

Kate pressed her lips together. “I already told everything to the officers who responded to the 911 call, then to the first agents who came to see me once the FBI got involved.” She didn’t want to go through all that again. But she wanted
Cirelli to know that Marcos hadn’t been a monster. He’d stood up for her so many times. She owed him a testimonial.

“We were in the foster system together,” she said after a moment.
“Had a short-term placement with the same family once. He defended me on a bad night, was sent to a group home for it. From time to time, as we both got kicked around the system, we’d end up at the same school. For some reason, he got the idea that he was responsible for me. We lost touch for a year or two, met up again in high school.”

Her gaze cut to her family on the screen. “I was with the Bridges by then, being loved and taken care of.”
Despite her sea of mistrust and prickly personality. Marcos hadn’t been that lucky. “He’d come to school with bruises more often than not.” She’d seen them, no matter how hard he’d tried to hide the black and blue welts that covered his skinny legs and arms.

“He was dealing by then, everything from pot to other kids’ ADD meds. He didn’t use.” That would have been a waste and stupid, according to Marcos. “He was in it for the money. He wanted his independence
more than he wanted air to breathe. He wanted to be in a position where nobody had power over him ever again.”

The agent nodded, as if she could relate to that. “You kept up with each other over the years.”

Barely. After high school, I went to UC Santa Cruz, and he moved to L.A. We’d lose touch for months at a time, then he’d call in the middle of the night when he was in the mood for a stroll down memory lane.”

“You were his only connection to what could have been, had he chosen another path,”
Cirelli observed. “He fancied himself as your protector, but he needed you, too.”

“He was my protector.
For a time.” In exchange, she hoped she’d been able to give him a little of what he’d needed—just one person in this world he could truly connect with, one person who wouldn’t judge him. “Once, when he found out that a boyfriend was knocking me around then stalking me after I broke up with him, Marcos came to visit me at college.”

Cirelli’s perfectly shaped eyebrows arched. “The ex-boyfriend switched schools the next day?”

He had. “We didn’t talk much for a while after that. Marcos was busy with other things.”

How did you hook up again?”

My father was transferred to the L.A. headquarters of his company, so the whole family moved. I ran into Marcos at a party.”

He told her he’d sold off some of his shady businesses, was making a slow shift toward becoming legit. “He just bought a penthouse apartment in the middle of the city.
With a doorman. He was so proud of it. He invited me up for drinks. He said that in exchange for having some outstanding charges dropped against him, he was turning evidence over to the FBI on an old rival.” God, that had made her happy.

She’d been thrilled for him, offered to help with whatever she could. “He said the FBI promised protection.” Kate shot a dark look at
Cirelli.

“Was that the night he was killed?”

Kate hugged herself tighter as she nodded.

Agent
Cirelli didn’t ask any more questions. But, after a moment, she held out a business card. “If you ever remember anything he might have told you about people he worked with, I’d appreciate a call. I understand that he was a friend. I understand that he had good in him. There usually is, in pretty much everyone. But he worked with some seriously scary associates, and if we could get any of those guys off the streets, everyone would benefit.”

Kate took the card, shoved it into her back pocket without promising anything, then they both refocused on the memorial service, although they’d kept their eyes on the monitors even while talking.

“Would you like a sandwich?”
Cirelli offered, gesturing toward the white takeout bags behind her.

Her stomach in a hard knot, Kate shook her head, even if turning down food went against her instincts.
Having food at hand made her feel safe. Sometimes, if she didn’t pay attention, she hoarded it.

Her earliest memory was hunger.

She never forgot how after a day without food, hunger woke with soft growls, not very threatening at all, maybe like a cat that sat heavily on your stomach. After two days, the dull pain came. The stomach cramps didn’t start until the third day. But when the woman who’d given birth to her left Kate locked in the filthy one-bedroom apartment for a week at a time, hunger roared like a tiger, clawing at her little baby body, threatening to eat her from the inside. She could remember begging for food. When she had, the woman beat her.

Kate never thought of her as her biological mother, or used any expression to refer to her that had the word ‘mother’ in it.

The first foster home she could remember was the
Pederios when she’d been around four or five. The Pederios had food in the refrigerator all the time. They didn’t hit. They were churchy people. Kate had her first piece of chocolate after a children’s service at church, and forever associated chocolate with heaven, and with everything that was good and right.

Her time with the
Pederios didn’t last long. Too soon, she had to go back to the monster. Beyond the hunger, Kate most remembered the beatings and the screaming.

“I’m gonna snap your neck, you little shit.”

“Shut up or I’ll stomp your stupid guts out.”

“I’m gonna smack you so hard, your head will snap off, you hear?”

All delivered from the screaming, wild-eyed face of death.

By the time she was ten years old—the woman all big and even moodier because she’d forgotten to get rid of a pregnancy in time—Kate had been threatened with violent death a million times. And she believed she would die.

She was small, weak and hungry, while the screaming monster was strong and all-powerful. Kate knew she would die—starved or beaten to death—it’d be just a matter of time.

Yet watching
her own memorial service now, nearly two decades later, was still beyond surreal.

The priest continued his eulogy in the chapel, his shock of black hair a contrast to his pristine white robes on the grainy monitor. “The length of our lives has little to do with the impact we make, and this has certainly been true with Kate.”

She blinked her burning eyes. She hated making her family go through this. But if her loved ones were hurt because of her, it would be much worse. If Emma had been in the car with her when that bullet crashed through the window….

“Although, she is gone from among us,” the priest went on, and Emma turned in the first pew, so Kate finally caught a glimpse of her sister’s face in profile.

More than a decade younger than Kate, Emma sat ramrod straight, her long black hair cascading down her shoulders in waves, nothing like Kate’s short, blond pixie cut. They had different coloring—Kate pale, Emma a shade darker. They had different fathers. Nobody would guess that they were sisters.

The priest began to pray.

“Are you going to make them go to the cemetery?” Kate asked as she watched her mother cry.

Cirelli tapped her fingers on her knee. “Things shouldn’t come to that. If Asael comes, he’ll come here. Before the coffin is closed.”

To make sure Kate was inside. Then the FBI could grab him, and all the pretending could end. As mad as her family would be at her for this setup, Kate hoped they’d be so happy that she was alive that they would forgive her.

When she’d agreed to this miserable charade, she hadn’t thought it would ever get this far.

A break-in at the funeral home had been anticipated; the FBI kept the “body” under constant surveillance. But in the end, it seemed the killer was going to take the easy way and come to the chapel, slipping in among family and friends.

The priest was finishing his brief closing prayer. “We ask you this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Kate shivered. The air conditioner in the van was cranked to the max. As ridiculous as her lucky Christmas sweater—a gift from Emma—looked in July, she was glad she’d brought it. Even if Emma had miscounted the rows so the reindeer’s left hind leg was a little bent, and a little high, and made him look like he was happy to see Mrs. Reindeer.

Agent
Cirelli leaned closer to the monitors. “Do you see him?”

The longer they waited, the more the agent’s shoulders tightened. She was going to need a massage to work the knots
out, Kate thought and scanned the pews again, looking for the face that haunted her dreams. A few seconds passed, the bitter taste of disappointment bubbling up her throat. “I don’t think he came.”

Inside the chapel, Emma stood and walked slowly up front to the coffin. Her shoulders slumped into a tired angle, hurt etching her face. She looked more somber than a teenager should ever have to look.

“The strange thing, you know, is that I don’t feel like Kate is gone. I don’t feel it in my heart.” She shook her head, big brown eyes brimming with tears.

Kate blinked in unison with her, wanting more than anything to break out of the van, bust into that chapel and shout, “I’m here! This is all a big mistake.”

She glanced sideways at
Cirelli.

The agent was watching her.
“Almost over.”

Emma, standing close enough to the coffin to lay a hand on it, cleared her throat. “My first memory of Kate is when I talked her into helping me set a trap for the tooth fairy. I was six, just lost my first tooth.”

Tears flooded Kate’s eyes at the same time as a smile tugged at her lips.
God, the tooth fairy incident. She couldn’t believe her sister even remembered that. She pressed her fingers to her mouth and listened as Emma gave a slightly different version of the story than she recalled.

As Emma recounted their mad caper, their father slumped in his seat. Their mother laid her head on his shoulder, raising a tissue to her face. An invisible fist squeezed Kate’s heart.

She had to be the most heartless person in the universe to let them go through all the grief.

Or a woman without a choice.

A movement on the nearest monitor caught her attention—a man about the right height easing in through the side door, stopping just inside, his posture apologetic, as if embarrassed for being this late. The nose was wrong, and the hair color, but that jaw…the jaw was right.

The breath she was about to take lodged in Kate’s throat, her heart lurching into a desperate rhythm.

She didn’t have to say anything. Agent
Cirelli followed her gaze and pointed at the screen. “That one?”

Kate nodded, unable to look away, instantly back in Marcos’s penthouse apartment again, blood all over the white rug, bubbling up Marcos’s throat, coating her hands as she hung on to him and begged him to live.

Cirelli tapped her earpiece, then snapped out orders into her radio unit to the team of undercover agents who stood by. On the screen, two mourners stood up from the back pew. A member of the chapel choir stepped away from the rest.

The ceremony went on uninterrupted. Sam
Roecker, Kate’s partner at their rehabilitative massage studio said a few words, his face drawn. He was a pioneer in developing a special form of therapeutic massage for abused children who might never have been touched in a way that didn’t hurt, kids who were scared of any physical contact.

When Kate had knocked on his door for a job six years ago, all she’d known was that she wanted to use her massage therapy skills to help others. He’d hired her, trained her,
then eventually made her his partner. He became her friend.

But she couldn’t look at him long now. She couldn’t look at anyone but the killer. Her entire body stiffened as he stood up, slid out of his pew and slowly moved toward the side door.

He wouldn’t get far. Undercover agents were blocking the exits.

He glanced up as he reached the door, right at the camera hidden in the flowers. His cold eyes blazed through the display screen in the van. The look on his face sent a message as clearly as if he had spoken. I’m coming for you.

You can buy Dana’s Broslin Creek Series at:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/1bssJzS
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1lLBwr1
iTunes:
http://bit.ly/1ssKLO9 
or head over to Lori Ryan’s Facebook Party at https://www.facebook.com/events/724887500904232/ to enter Dana’s contest and win a set of her books. You can also head over to the party to see excerpts of Lori’s new book and to enter to win a Kindle Fire from Lori!

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