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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here it is — BREAKING POINT cover! Plus EXCERPT

Here it is! I’m so excited to share it with you — the cover for my next I-Team novel, Breaking Point.

And who’s on the cover, but the achingly delicious Jed Hill. I recognize those obliques and those lips. Tasty.

This demands an excerpt, don't you think?

From Breaking Point:

Zach hung limply from the manacles, unable even to hold up his head. His shoulders ached from supporting his dead weight, manacles biting into his bloody wrists. But none of that could compare to the residual pain of that last electro-shock. His muscles seized in sharp spasms, his heart slamming erratically in his chest, his body shaking, his mouth filled with the coppery taste of his own blood.

Don’t give in to the pain. Adjust for it.

He willed himself to relax, slowed his breathing.

Cold water splashed over his chest, making him jerk. It wasn’t to revive him, he knew, but to make his skin more conductive to electricity. He waited for the next blast of agony, but instead felt a glass bottle against his lips. A hand fisted in his hair, tilting his head back, and he swallowed, warm cola sliding down his raw, parched throat.

Electrolytes. Caffeine. Calories.

All would help him stay alive.

Then his tormenter spoke to him, as always in Spanish. “You are dying, cuñado. And for what? You are alone now, forgotten, left without even a dog to bark at you. Tell us who has the cocaine and where we can find them. Then your torment will end. There will be no more pain, only sleep.”

Zach fought off a wave of despair. “¡Vete a la verga!” Fuck off!

The bastard chuckled, but Zach knew he wasn’t really amused. They’d tried to break him and had failed. There’d be a price to pay when Cárdenas got the news.

Creaking hinges. Footsteps.

And Zach knew she was there. He could feel her presence, hear her rapid breathing. Hell, he could even smell her, something sweet in a world of filth.

Natalie.

“Tráela aquí.” Bring her over here.

What the hell?

Zach’s head came up. Somehow, he drew himself to his feet, his hands clenched around the chains for support, his heart thudding hard in his chest. Why had they brought her in here? Were they going to torture her to get to him?

Over my dead body.

“Zach?” There was fear in her voice, but also sympathy, concern.

He shook his head, his sign to her to keep quiet, hoping she’d remembered what he’d told her earlier. If they thought he cared what happened to her, if they thought he’d told her anything…

An arm went around his shoulder. “You are a brave man. No one has ever lasted so long against my little stinger, so I’ll offer you a better way out. Tell us where the coke is, and you can have the girl. We’ll take off these chains, give you some food and a little coke to make you strong, ? And you can fuck her till your prick gives out. And when you’re done, you get one bullet to the head. Fast, painless — and you die happy. If you do not, your suffering will be such that those who find what is left of your body will lie awake at night weeping for you.”

Zach might have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so serious. Having failed to break him with pain, they were now trying to bribe him with rape. They were only bluffing, of course. They had no intention of giving him their Jefe’s prize. But if he played along with them, if he could persuade them to unchain him…

He pretended to consider the offer. “¿Es bonita?” Is she pretty?

Rough hands tore off his blindfold.

“!Mira sus tetas!” Just look at her tits!

Unaccustomed to light he blinked, squinted — and quickly assessed the situation. He was in a small room with a half-dozen armed Zetas. There were two small windows and only one door. Wooden chairs sat around an old table littered with dirty dishes and half-empty bottles of tequila. A couple of AKs leaned up against the wall to his right.

You’d give your left nut for one of those, wouldn’t you, man?

He sure as hell would.

In front of him, a car battery sat on a rolling cart, two electrical cables dropped on the floor near his feet. The sight made him shudder, dread mixing with rage in his gut.

Little stinger?


Beside the cart, two Zetas held a struggling young woman between them, while a third unbuttoned her blouse, laughing to himself. Bastards. Knowing he couldn’t risk showing emotion, he met Natalie’s gaze.

His heart seemed to stop. His mind went blank. And he stared.

She looked pleadingly up at him through the most beautiful eyes he’d ever seen, their irises an unusual shade of aqua blue. Her features were delicate, her otherwise flawless skin marred by a dark bruises and smudges of dirt. Her dark brown hair — why he had imagined her as a blonde? — hung in thick tangles past her shoulders. She couldn’t have been more than five-foot-four or an ounce over one-twenty.

The protective urge that welled up inside him took him by surprise, and he actually took a step toward her, until chains and pain reminded him where he was — and in what condition. Then her blouse fell to floor, followed by a lacy, white bra, revealing two beautiful, natural breasts.

A low whistle. A groan.

“¡Oye, mamacita, que buena estás!” Oh, baby, you are fine!


The testosterone level in the room surged, and for a moment Zach was afraid the Zetas’ lust for her would overcome their fear of Cárdenas.

The one with a long scar — the electrical specialist who’d turned Zach’s life into a living hell — walked over to stand behind Natalie, then reached around, drew her back against him, and grabbed her breasts, hands that enjoyed cruelty manhandling sensitive flesh.


“¡Chécalo, güey—las chichis perfectas¡” Check it out, dude — perfect boobs.

Zach felt his teeth grind, seeing only the emotion on Natalie’s face — fear, revulsion, pain. Her gaze locked with his as if eye contact were the one thing keeping her shattered world together. She probably didn’t understand what was happening or why they were doing this to her. He wished he could reassure her.

Instead, he was about to make it all much worse.

Stay strong, angel.
Monday, September 13, 2010

For Kristie J — Get Well Soon!

One of the best kisses in film history

There are likely few residents of Romancelandia — authors or readers — who haven't seen the name KristieJ somewhere on a blog or who don’t know Kristie J from her own blog or from her various crusades for books and movies she loves.

I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Kristie twice — once at her first RWA conference (in Atlanta?) and once right here in Colorado. She was part of this summer’s Pamela Clare Reality Tour and sat squished in the very back of the rental vehicle the entire way.

Kristie is a genuinely wonderful person, and I’ve enjoyed emails and a few phone conversations with her.

I learned this week that she’d had a terrible accident on the stairs at home about two weeks ago and had broke both her tibia and fibula. Tib-fib fractures are very serious. Gabe Rossiter, my hero from Naked Edge, suffers a compound tib-fib fracture — no one say how, please — at the end of the story. Those of you who’ve read the novel know how serious that was.

Fortunately, Kristie’s situation was a little less serious, but of course she is a real person. She is now “in hospital” as the more British among us would say. She had to have surgery on the fracture and now must undergo therapy.

Having been through a serious accident myself, I know that the next few weeks won’t be easy for her. I hope and pray that she gets a lot of great help and support and that her pain is relieved. She has a great sense of humor about it — that’s Kristie — but it’s still tough. Make no mistake.

So this blog is dedicated to Kristie in hopes that she’ll recover quickly. And what better way to cheer her up than to feature images of her favorite BBC series, North and South. If you haven’t seen this, please rent it from Netflix immediately — or just go buy it, because you’ll want to watch it again and again.

In the meantime, those of you who’ve lurked at Kristie’s blog, who’ve read a book she recommended, who’ve chatted with her via e-mail or online, please post your get-well wishes here for her. I’ll send her the URL so she can read it. She’s made our lives richer, and this is a chance to thank her for that.

Kristie, please feel better. Know that you are in my prayers. And here is one of your favorite scenes from North and South — one of my favorites, too.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Special treat from BREAKING POINT

Jenn J from Sapphire Dreams is an amazingly sweet and talented person. When I approached her about making a series of trailers for Breaking Point, she got to work tracking down images. I lamented that what we needed was a photo of Zach MacBride, the hero, in chains and that we weren't going to find one.

But Jenn took an image of the model I have in my mind's eye for Zach and painted him in chains. She sent the image to me and, having no idea what I was opening, I downloaded it, opened it and stared.

I decided to share it with you, together with a bit of an excerpt from the beginning of the book. I've posted an earlier version of this before, but I thought you probably wouldn't mind reading it again, particularly given now that you've got visual aids. It has been tweaked a bit from the first time I posted it.

From Chapter 1 of Breaking Point:

It was pain and thirst that woke him.

For a moment Zach MacBride thought he was back in Afghanistan, lying at the top of that canyon wall in the Hindu Kush mountains, a bullet in his back. He opened his eyes to see pitch black — and then remembered. He wasn’t in Afghanistan. He was in Mexico. And he was a captive — blindfolded and chained to a brick wall.

He raised his head and realized he was lying shirtless on his right side, his hands shackled behind his back, his skin resting against the filthy stone floor. His mouth was dry as sand. His wrists were blistered and bloody where the manacles had rubbed them raw. His cracked ribs cut into his left side like a blade.

He tried to sit, but couldn’t.

Damn!


He was weaker than he’d realized.

Then something hard and multi-legged brushed his chest as it skittered by, bringing him upright on a punch of adrenaline. Pain slashed through his side, breath hissing between his clenched teeth as he bit back a groan. He wasn’t afraid of the mice or the spiders, but they weren’t the only creatures in here with him. The one time the Zetas had removed his blindfold, he’d seen scorpions. And the last damned thing he needed was a scorpion sting.

Dizzy from hunger, his heart pounding from sleep deprivation and dehydration, he leaned his right shoulder against the brick wall and tried to catch his breath, the chain that held him lying cold and heavy along his spine.

How long had he been here? Five days? No, six.

And where exactly was here?

Somewhere between Juárez and hell.

They were giving him only enough food and water to keep him alive, his hunger and thirst incessant, mingling with pain, making it hard to sleep. Only once in his life had he been this physically helpless. Only then it had been even worse.

If he survived, if he made it out of here alive, he would track down Gisella and kill her — or at least hand her over to D.C. The little bitch of a Mexican INTERPOL agent had set him up, betrayed him to the Zetas. She’d known what would happen to him—the Zetas were infamous for their brutality — and still she’d handed him over to them with a smile on her lying lips.

At least you didn’t sleep with her, buddy.

Yeah, well, at least he could feel good about that. It would suck right now to have her taste in his mouth or her scent on his skin, knowing that she’d put him through this. Long ago he’d made it a rule never to have sex with women he met on the job, and despite Gisella’s persistent attempts to get him to break that rule, he’d kept his dick in his pants.

Hell, they should carve that on your headstone, MacBride.


If he got a headstone.

Would they put up a grave marker for him if they didn’t have a body to bury? Barring one hell of a miracle, he’d soon be scattered across the desert in small pieces. A year or two from now, someone would spot a bit of bleached bone in the sand and wonder what it was. No one would ever know for sure what had happened to him.
Besides, who was there to buy a grave plot or erect a headstone? His fellow DUSMs? Uncle Sam? His closest friends were dead. His mother was gone, too. He hadn’t spoken to his father in five years. And there was no one else in his life — no girlfriend, no wife, no kids.

You’re a popular guy, MacBride.

He’d always thought he’d get married one day and do the family thing. He’d imagined a pretty wife, a couple of kids, a house near the ocean. But life hadn’t turned out that way.

He’d met lots of girls in college, but none who’d held his interest. Then a confrontation with his father had sent him into the Navy. He’d tackled Officers Candidate School and then SEAL training. The only women who’d been available during his short periods of leave were either professionals or women who were so desperate to marry a Navy officer that they slept with every officer they met, getting passed from man to man. Call him strange, but he’d never found the idea of paying for sex or being used appealing. He’d wanted a woman who loved him for himself and not his uniform. But war had interfered, and he’d never found her.

Something tightened in his chest, a wave of regret passing through him.

Feeling sorry for yourself?

No. He’d made his choices. He’d done what he thought was right. And although his life hadn’t turned out the way he might once have hoped, it was better this way. He’d seen firsthand what happened to women and children when the men they loved and depended on were killed in action. At least he wouldn’t be leaving a grieving wife and children behind.

Okay, so no headstone.

Mike, Chris, Brian and Jimmy were in Arlington resting beneath slabs of white marble, but for Zach it would be saguaro and open sky. That was okay. He liked the desert. And even if he didn’t, it wouldn’t make one damned bit of difference once he was dead.

Which will be soon if you can’t find a way out of this.

Not that he was afraid to die. He’d expected his job would catch up with him one day. In fact, some part of him had been counting on it.

But not yet. And not like this.

He’d been about to wrap up the biggest covert operation of his career when Gisella had called him and asked him to meet her at a nightclub in downtown Juárez, claiming to have intel vital for catching Arturo Cesár Cárdenas, the head of Los Zetas, who was wanted in the United States for the murder of Americans on U.S. soil. So Zach had grabbed his gun and fake ID — he never carried revealing documentation when he was working a black bag job like this — then crossed the border and headed straight to the club, where he’d found Gisella, dressed to kill, sitting at the bar. She’d bought him a Coke, walked with him to a table near the rear exit, and started telling him something about a shipment of stolen coke. And then…

And then — nothing.

The drink had been drugged. When Zach had awoken, he’d found himself here, surrounded by pissed off Zetas demanding to know whom he worked for and where he’d hidden the cocaine. He couldn’t answer the first question because it would imperil the entire operation, putting the lives of others at risk. And he couldn’t answer the second because he hadn’t stolen any coke and had no idea where it was. But his refusal to talk had only angered the Zetas more.

So they’d brought in a specialist — a man who knew how to inflict pain while keeping his victims alive. Electric shock was his area of expertise. He’d gone to work on Zach two days ago, and so far the two of them were at an impasse. He’d been able to make Zach pass out. He’d made him bite his own tongue trying not to scream. He’d made him want to cry like a baby. But he hadn’t made him talk.

Zach had the Navy and SERE training to thank for that — Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. Designed to help SEALs survive behind enemy lines, his training had been a godsend, helping him through hour after excruciating hour. Even though he was no longer in the military, he’d instinctively fallen back on that training, silently reciting bits and pieces of the military code of conduct, using it to stay strong.

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense… I will never surrender of my own free will… If I am captured, I will resist by all means available… I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability… I will make every effort to escape…

As weak as he was, he knew he didn’t stand much chance of escaping. And that meant there was only one thing left for him to do — keep his mind together long enough for his body to give out, long enough for him to die as he ought to have done six years ago.

Raucous laughter drifted into his cell from across the courtyard, voices drawing nearer, boots crunching on gravel.

Zach stiffened, dread uncoiling in his stomach, rising into his throat.

They were coming for him again.

Jesus!

He drew as deep a breath as his broken ribs would allow, swallowing his panic with what was left of his spit.

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I will never surrender of my own free will.

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"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud."
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—Jane Austen

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