I’m so excited. Today is release day for my latest book, Sun Storm. If you’re interest in a sneak peek scroll down to read the first chapter.
Can a cynical soldier and a naive scientist learn about love and trust in order to survive?
Dr. Marie Wilson is a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough. She has come to Montana on the eve of a blizzard to prove her small, portable solar panel can generate electricity even in the harshest environment. But when four men invade her remote cabin with plans to kill her, she knows she’s in trouble.
Ex-Special Forces soldier, David Quinn, has had enough of danger and death. All he wants is to be left alone on his Montana acreage to pursue his dream of being a beekeeper. But when his old mentor convinces him to help retrieve a stolen solar panel, he thinks it will be a simple job. But the moment he sets eyes on Marie, he knows their assignment is all kinds of wrong.
Together, they escape. Chased by a businessman with unlimited resources, a gunman and a corrupt police force, they are thrust into the frozen Montana landscape. Can a cynical soldier and a naive scientist learn about love and trust in order to survive?
The storm was building, growing in strength. A mist of warm air streamed from Marie’s lips as she blew on her frozen fingers. She was a cerebral, solitary, and creative person. And now she could add overwhelmingly stupid. She hadn’t considered how hard it would be to kindle a flame at five in the morning. A shudder racked her body, causing her to drop the matches. She gave up trying to light a fire and paced the room, flapping her arms in an attempt to generate some heat. She’d flown to Montana and rented the remote log cabin with no running water and no heat because there was a blizzard coming. She needed the worst possible conditions in order to test her solar panel. The place did have a generator, but she had chosen not to hook it up, not yet anyway.
She’d attempted to sleep in her one-piece thermal long johns, but the frigid temperature had forced her to wear her coat and boots. She fingered her socks that hung on the back of a wooden chair. They were still wet. It was her own fault. She’d shed her boots and then walked through a puddle of melted snow, by the front door, no less, where one would expect the floor to be damp. Of course, most people would’ve remembered to pack extra socks, but she wasn’t most people. She was a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough.
The musty cottage was really just one room. At the back was a counter for food preparation, a hand-pump sink, and a hot plate. A wooden table stood near the door, and in front of the stove sat an oak-framed futon couch. The owner had described the small house as rustic, which she assumed was another word for neglected. Maybe it was pretty in the summer, but when the snow sat five feet high outside her front door and the wind whistled through a cracked window frame, causing the candlelight to flicker eerily, it was just miserable.
She sunk onto the decaying couch. There was one blanket, which stank of mold, rendering it unusable.
To reach the cabin, she had flown to Granite City, Montana, rented a car, and survived a white-knuckle drive on icy county roads.
The little house might be miserable, but it was the perfect location to test her solar panel. Tomorrow she would connect her prototype, power the cottage, measure the energy output and prove her hypotheses correct. Professor Hargreaves from Montana Tech would join her around lunchtime. His recommendation would go a long way toward securing funding and gaining recognition for her work.
She pulled her hair into a ponytail and then plucked her backpack from the floor. She unfolded the flexible, gold sheet. Checking for any signs of damage, she ran her fingers along the concentric squares that had been pressed into the soft plastic. Some plastics became brittle at low temperatures. That was something she would have to consider for future models. Then she inspected the small black box that protected the inverter, but there was no way to tell if the cold had caused condensation to build up on the inside and damage the components.
There was a rustling noise outside, and Marie stilled to listen.
There it was again, a sound almost like footsteps crunching on the snow.
A crack of splintering wood and the door crashed open. Marie jumped to her feet, her heart pounding. A scream lodged in her throat as four men burst in, filling the tiny space. She raced to the fireplace and grabbed the poker.
A handsome blond-haired man led the way. He was so good looking he could be an actor. He had a square jaw and wore a well-tailored leather jacket. Even his fair hair was perfectly trimmed. Two burly men followed, both with dark, short-cropped hair. They could be twins. Their thick bodies and the way they swung their arms reminded her of a pair of gorillas. They also had the same flattened nose and malicious, small, dark eyes. They moved to the back of the room near the sink. The last man had unkempt, long, sandy-colored hair. He wore a crumpled, hooded camouflage jacket and baggy gray pants. A long scar ran across one side of his face, starting at his ear and running through his beard, parting it with a jagged white line. He didn’t say a word. He simply nodded at the poker in her hand and shook his head, silently telling her to drop her weapon.
Sensing that any attempt to fight him would be futile, she let it fall to the ground. “You can take the money. I don’t have—”
“Shut up,” the handsome blond barked. A vein on his forehead bulged as he scowled.
Her heart hammered against her ribs. She prayed they would take what they wanted and leave.
Handsome stepped in front of her and placed the barrel of his handgun between her eyes. “Tell us where it is.”
“What are you doing?” The man with the scar strolled over and stood next to her. In her peripheral vision, she could make out his intense, pale, lifeless eyes.
He leaned close to her face so his warm breath touched her cheek. “This is all wrong.”
A small squeal emanated from her throat. He was too close. Too scary. Killer. The word rang through her mind. The scar, those dead eyes, and his demeanor gave the impression of a lethal, terrifying man.
“What do you mean? Our intel is good.” The vein on Handsome’s forehead throbbed to life.
With one finger, Killer nudged the pistol away from her head. “First, how can she tell us where it is when she’s too frightened to talk?”
Handsome shrugged, revealing a smile with perfect white teeth.
Marie released a huge breath. She needed to do something, but couldn’t focus, couldn’t form a coherent thought.
“Second,” Killer continued, “what do we really know about this situation?”
Handsome sneered. “You were in the army. You know how it is. We don’t make the decisions. We follow orders.”
“And what exactly are our orders?” Killer asked, his voice low and calm.
“We’re to retrieve what was stolen and eliminate the girl.”
There had to be a misunderstanding. She was a scientist, not someone who needed to be eliminated.
“Does she seem like a threat to you? Someone we should murder? She smells like”—Killer sniffed her hair—“coconut.”
Not wanting to attract more attention, she resisted the temptation to pull away. She had to concentrate, control her fear, and escape in one piece.
The two other men, the musclemen, stepped closer.
“What are your plans?” Killer turned his nose into her hair and sniffed again, but the question was directed to the others. “Are you planning to use her before you kill her?”
She stepped to the side, trying to put some distance between her and the scarred man with the dead eyes, but he gripped her arm and tugged her toward him. She wanted to pull away, but her muscles were the consistency of string cheese and refused to respond.
Handsome smiled. “Retrieving the prototype is number one on my to-do list, and then if these two want to have some fun, I won’t stop them.”
She swallowed bile, suppressing the urge to vomit. They were going to rape and kill her. Oh God. Her vision blurred, and her ears rang. Was she going to faint? Killer’s hand tightened around her arm, causing her to wince. No, she could not allow that to happen. If she lost consciousness, she wouldn’t be able to defend herself. She inhaled, held her breath, and then exhaled. She repeated the process, forcing herself to focus on the men.
Killer’s gaze flickered to the two bruisers and then back to Handsome. “Either way she’s going to die? Those are our orders?”
Handsome nodded. “Do you have a problem?”
Killer ignored the question. He released her arm and hooked her chin, forcing her to stare into his pale eyes. “These men think you have a stolen prototype. Do you know what they’re talking about?”
Cold beads of fear dribbled down her spine. She pointed a shaky hand to her backpack, which sat on the floor next to the futon.
Handsome slipped his gun into his belt holster and then flipped the bag upside-down, emptying its contents onto the couch. Out dropped her wallet, a hairbrush, her smart phone, a pen, a tampon, a memory stick, the solar array, the inverter, and a lint-covered collection of dimes and nickels.
“It’s not here.” Handsome threw her bag across the room and then kicked the futon. The couch moved back a couple of inches.
Killer stepped forward, placing himself between her and Handsome. “What sort of prototype are you looking for?”
Handsome’s upper lip curled into a sneer. “A solar panel and a gizmo.”
“A gizmo? Seriously? You don’t fucking know what we’re looking for?”
Handsome rolled his eyes. “I’m looking for a prototype of a solar panel.”
“A solar panel? That’s not going to fit in her bag now, is it?”
Marie took a step toward the door.
Killer glanced over his shoulder and shook his head, stopping her in her tracks.
How the hell had he gotten himself embroiled with this fucked-up assignment? This was David Quinn’s first day on the job, and it looked like it would be his last. He wasn’t going to execute a woman, especially not a pretty little thing who wore pink long johns and smelt of coconut. Not that he had planned to kill anyone. Marshall Portman, the president of Public Domain Energy, had asked David to help retrieve some stolen property, but there had been no mention of murder, at least not to him.
The woman looked ready to bolt, but she needed to wait. If she took off now, the other three members of his detail would chase her down. Inside the cabin he could immobilize them and control the situation. Once outside, they would be harder to overpower, and the chances diminished of her getting away unscathed.
Her long, brown hair stuck out at odd angles, some of it falling in clumps around her face as it escaped her ponytail. Her coat had fallen open, revealing a curvaceous body clad in tight-fitting thermal underwear. Never mind lacy lingerie, the soft cotton clinging to her breasts did a number on him. Her shape and soft brown eyes converged into a mind-blowing, sexy-as-hell combination, which made her position here even more dangerous.
The biggest problem was his team leader, Brad Harper, whom David secretly called Pretty Boy. He was an idiot. The guy looked like he would be more at home modeling clothes in a magazine than operating a team of ex-military personnel who’d been sent to recover a stolen prototype before it could be sold on the black market.
David eyed the two chimps that made up the other members of the four-man team. Alex and Shane, the twins. Both were big and muscular. Alex had a scar across his chin.
Both rested a hand on the weapon in their shoulder holsters as if they were getting ready for a quick draw. Did they see him as a threat? They should. Everything had gone to hell the moment they’d stormed through the door. Brad didn’t have a clue…about anything, and the chimps seemed more intent on rape than retrieving a stolen solar panel.
Shane, the one without a scar, favored his left leg, possibly a bum knee. Alex took his hand off his revolver and absentmindedly massaged his shoulder. David stored that information away, too.
He strolled to Brad, who stood at the couch rummaging through the contents of her backpack. Glancing over Pretty Boy’s shoulder, he said, “Why are you still looking through her things?”
“Look at this frou-frou shit.” Brad unfolded a gold plastic sheet that was about a yard in diameter. “What do women use this shit for?”
It reminded David of the foil emergency blankets paramedics used on hypothermia victims. “Does it matter? A solar panel is not going to fit in a backpack. Are you sure she has it?”
David studied the girl. “What’s your name?”
She’d backed up until her butt was against the table. “M-M-Marie.” She was scared, but holding it together—just.
“W-Wilson, Dr. Marie Wilson.”
He turned to Brad. “Is that the name you’re looking for?
“I think so?”
“You think so.” What kind of a dumb-shit answer was that?
Brad held up his smartphone. “These are the GPS coordinates, see?”
David didn’t bother to look. He didn’t care if they had a signed order from the Pope. He wasn’t murdering anyone.
“Alex, Shane, make her talk,” Brad ordered as he jerked his semi-automatic, a Glock 19, from his belt and slid the safety off.
The chimps smiled.
Alex strolled toward Marie, unzipping his pants.
Marie’s lips trembled. She blinked, unable to tear her gaze away from the two meatheads closing in on her. She fumbled behind her, reaching for the car keys that lay just out of range.
Brad aimed his gun at David’s chest. What the fuck? Without thinking, David pushed the Glock to the side and pivoted out of the line of sight. He then grasped the weapon and twisted it back toward Brad until he relinquished the gun. Using his fist, he punched Brad hard on the nose. Pretty Boy’s cartilage snapped.
David fired the Glock at the ceiling above the table. Chunks of wood rained down on the chimps, stopping them.
He stepped away from Brad, gripping the semi-automatic. “I’m all for you guys getting your property back, but I can’t let you harm her.”
Marie darted to her jumble of possessions on the couch and stuffed them in her backpack.
“What are you? A knight in fucking armor?” Brad shrieked, clutching both hands to his bloody nose.
“I’m a soldier, not a rapist, and definitely not a murderer. I don’t want to be a part of this.” He sounded tired even to his own ears. He wanted everything to stop, the operations, the missions, the fighting, and most of all the death. Taking a position with Public Domain Energy had been a mistake. He saw that now. All he had to do was disentangle himself from this mess, quit his job, and go on his way. “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen—”
Before he could finish, Marie ran out of the cabin.
David stared after her. “Shit, she’ll freeze to death. You know what you’re looking for isn’t in her pack, right?”
Brad nodded, still clasping his nose.
“Then search the rest of the house. She obviously doesn’t have your stolen prototype on her. If you find it, great. I’m outta here.” He grabbed Marie’s car keys off the table and marched out into the early morning darkness.
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I’m currently working on Fire Storm, Book 2 in the Gathering Storm Series