Lauren James had learned the hard way that sometimes the best childhood was a brief one, that there was a direct link between determination and success, and it only took one phone call to unleash hurt and memories she’d spent the past decade trying to suppress.
“H-h-elp me,” a man’s voice choked out. It was strained and cracked, and he gasped for air when he spoke. Even so, his identity was unmistakable.
She drew a breath, forcing air into her lungs.
“L-l-isten.” He made a strangled noise before his mouth must’ve moved away from the receiver. She heard a train and
more voices. One…two…three…she counted, identifying at least three men with terse South American accents.
A crack followed by a pained grunt dropped her stomach to the floor, scrambling her nerves.
“Max. Max? Are you there? Are you hurt? Who’s doing this to you?” The words fired off like buckshot.
More muffled noises, and then a tortured scream seared her eardrums.
“Senorita, if you want tu hermano alive, you pay.”
“Pay? Pay what? Pay whom?” Should she call the police? Maybe she could reach her cell phone and dial 911 now while she still had them on the line?
“Pay or we cut him into pieces.”
Icy regret stabbed her chest. Why hadn’t she taken any of his calls in the past six months? Because the last time he
called four years ago, he wanted to use her for money.
“No. Don’t hurt him. Tell me what to do,” she said, trying to keep panic out of her voice. Think. Think. Her cell was
in her purse in the kitchen. Could she get to it?
“You bring in the cops, lady, we cut him up and mail you the pieces.”
No police. Of course they would have anticipated that. She’d have to go alone. Alone. Panic brought bile to the back of Lauren’s throat. It burned.
Scuffling noises came through the line before another loud crack sounded.
“Then we come looking for you.”
“No. No police. I’ll be there.”
Max screamed in agony, then shouted, “Don’t do it, sis. Don’t listen to them. Go far away and don’t come back.
They’ll kill you too. I’m already dead.”
She’d sworn she would never allow herself to be pulled back into Max’s world again, but she couldn’t turn her back on him. Not like this.
“Please. Stop. Don’t hurt him. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go wherever you say. Just tell me what to do!”
“You better pay, perra. If you don’t want to glue his body parts back together. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
“Wait! I can’t—”
Another crack sounded, followed by more moaning.
“Please. Stop. I’ll. Do. Anything.” Where she would get that kind of money, she had no clue. It didn’t matter. She
had to find a way. A throb ricocheted between her temples.
“Antigua Bay Resort. In two days. On the beach at noon.”
“Oh. God. No.”
Lauren didn’t hang up. Not even when the dial tone sounded.
Think. Think. She had a little money in savings. Her business was doing well. Maybe she could secure a loan for the
rest? But how? There was no time. Where on earth would she get that kind of cash?
Knees weak, she sank to the kitchen floor. Her body quaked. A slow ripple that arose deep in her belly moved through her chest, her arms, her hands, her fingers.
Tremors vibrated down her legs, all the way through her feet.
She didn’t move. Or cry. The fight drained from her.
But she shook so hard it felt as though her bones might fracture, splinter through her skin, and explode into a thousand tiny flecks of dust.
One of the biggest draws of reading romance novels for me is to get to know men that I normally wouldn’t in everyday life. I don’t know any ex-Navy SEALS or Army Rangers whose v-cut abs I can explore with my hands (and various other parts). Come to think of it, I know no man with v-cut abs. At any rate… something about a man in uniform that can kill a person with his pinky has its allure. I mean, heck, I even kind of fantasize about the police officer that wears knee high white tube socks at my gym with short shorts…simply because he’s a police officer. It’s possible I need therapy, but books are cheaper and more fun. Anyway, after that grand beginning let me introduce you to Jaden Dean, ex-special forces man, alpha male, knight in shining armor extraordinaire.
Lauren James gets mixed up with some bad people because of her estranged brother. They’re holding him for ransom, and she gets tangled up into the seedy world of drug cartels and sexy ex-special forces men that she happens to have electric chemistry with…on a tropical island. On the whole, not an entirely bad situation. She can play hero to her brother while getting to ogle (and perhaps do more with) a rough, sexy, commanding dude. I mean, sure, there’s people trying to kill you, but that just adds to the “live for the day” attitude that you need with a man who looks that good in a pair of jeans. Am I wrong? Small price to pay in my book!
I have to say, the first 80% of this book had me hooked. It’s fast paced, exciting, and dangerous with a good balance of love and lust thrown in. I think the author really has found her niche with this genre, she’s a great storyteller. The last 20% left me a bit confused. I don’t want to ruin anything, but there was a plot twist that left me scratching my head a bit. And a few things didn’t have any resolution, which doesn’t leave me satisfied at the end. However, overall, I would say that this is an interesting and intense read, with great characters and romance (and a hot as the surface of the sun ex-special forces man). It earned 3.5 stars from me.
Currenly $2.99 on Amazon.
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Barb Han is the author of romance novels and romantic suspense. Her debut romantic thriller, GONE, was released January, 2013, and features a desperate woman who wakes in a mental institution determined to find the son she’s told never existed.
Her novella, Seducing Avery, was released early this year, and has received much acclaim due to her unique storyline that features an Asian hero. Another Asian hero romance, The Billionaire Bargain, released early this summer exclusively for Kindle. The wide release is scheduled for late August. Her romantic suspense, Caught in the Crosshair, features a determined sister and an ex-military sniper on a tropical island with a hurricane brewing and dangerous men closing in. This story is now available exclusively for Kindle.
Barb is under contract with Harlequin Intrigue. Her first book featuring a rancher from North Texas will be published in early 2014.
Barb belongs to Romance Writers of America, DARA, KOD, and NTRWA where she volunteers as often as she can. She graduated from The University of North Texas with a bachelor degree in journalism.
She lives in North Texas with her own Asian-hero husband, has three beautiful children, a spunky Golden Retriever/Standard Poodle mix, and too many books in her ‘to read’ pile. In her down time, she plays video games and spends much of her time on or around a basketball court. She’s passionate about travel, and many of the places she visits end up in her books.