Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Monday, January 16, 2017

Guest Post: Tonya Kappes, author of GHOSTLY REUNION

The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit today from the USA Today best-selling author Tonya Kappes. Ms. Kappes is the author of 40+ books, including the Magical Cure Mystery series, the Laurel London Mystery series, The Divorced Divas Mystery series, the Grandberry Falls series, the Kenni Lowry series, the Olivia Davis Paranormal Mystery series, the Bluegrass Romance series, and the ever-popular Ghostly Southern Mysteries series. Today Ms. Kappes will be discussing cozy mysteries (who better to discuss this topic?). Without further adieu, I give you Ms. Kappes.


Why not a cozy?

When people find out I'm a writer and ask me what genre. I respond with cozy mystery. You can probably guess the next question. Cozy? What is a cozy?

Trust me, I've been around long enough (26 novels) to know that cozy mystery genre doesn't get the same hats off, Baptist nod, and thumbs up that thriller mystery or even just mystery writers get.

And if it's not bad enough, I have to tell them that I write paranormal cozy mystery.That really gets the quizzical looks that make me feels as if I have two heads. THEN when I say it's a witch mystery, I get the OMG, you believe in witches?

My explanation generally goes like this: Cozy mystery is kinda just that. Cozy. More along the lines of Murder She Wrote where the sleuth of my novels has a job that is in a craft or a special talent. She stumbles on a murder that is somehow tied to her life and she has to solve the murder/crime on her own.

There is no blood, guts, or gore and cozies are centered on the sleuth's craft or gift. In my case with A Ghostly Reunion, the sleuth is an undertaker who lives in the small southern town in Kentucky.

Emma Lee Raines, my cozy sleuth, owns Eternal Slumber, the only funeral home in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky. She has an unfortunate mishap with a plastic snowman falling on her head and now she sees dead people…dead murdered people who need to find their killer to make it to the other side or Emma risks to be haunted forever.

Cozies have relatable characters set in small towns with a cozy setting. Even though romance takes a back seat in the mystery, there is still a love interest to sweet the pot.

By the time I've given my spiel, the person who asked me about what a cozy was, is spouting off movies or television shows that fit the cozy mystery genre.



Author Bio:


Tonya Kappes

Tonya has written over 40 novels and 4 novellas, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor, and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers and grew up in the small southern Kentucky town of Nicholasville. Now that her four boys are grown boys, Tonya writes full time.


Catch Up with Tonya Kappes on her Website , Twitter , &  Facebook 





A Ghostly Reunion


by Tonya Kappes


on Tour January 16 - February 17, 2017





Synopsis:


A Ghostly Reunion by Tonya Kappes

A Ghostly Reunion



Proprietor of the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home, Emma Lee can see, hear, and talk to ghosts of murdered folks. And when her high school nemesis is found dead, Jade Lee Peel is the same old mean girl—trying to come between Emma Lee and her hot boyfriend, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, all over again.
There's only one way for Emma Lee to be free of the trash-talking ghost—solve the murder so the former prom queen can cross over.
But the last thing Jade Lee wants is to leave the town where she had her glory days. And the more Emma Lee investigates on her own, the more complicated Miss Popularity turns out to be. Now Emma Lee will have to work extra closely with her hunky lawman to get to the twisty truth.


Book Details:


Genre: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Published by: HarperCollins / Witness
Publication Date: December 27th 2016
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 006246695X (ISBN13: 9780062466952)
Series: Ghostly Southern Mysteries #5
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 





Tour Participants:








Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tonya Kappes and Witness Impulse. There will be 1 US winner of one PRINTED set of The Ghostly Southern Mysteries #1-5 by Tonya Kappes. The giveaway begins on January 15th and runs through February 18th, 2017.


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Book Showcase: A GHOSTLY REUNION by Tonya Kappes


A Ghostly Reunion


by Tonya Kappes


on Tour January 16 - February 17, 2017





Synopsis:


A Ghostly Reunion by Tonya Kappes

A Ghostly Reunion



Proprietor of the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home, Emma Lee can see, hear, and talk to ghosts of murdered folks. And when her high school nemesis is found dead, Jade Lee Peel is the same old mean girl—trying to come between Emma Lee and her hot boyfriend, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, all over again.
There's only one way for Emma Lee to be free of the trash-talking ghost—solve the murder so the former prom queen can cross over.
But the last thing Jade Lee wants is to leave the town where she had her glory days. And the more Emma Lee investigates on her own, the more complicated Miss Popularity turns out to be. Now Emma Lee will have to work extra closely with her hunky lawman to get to the twisty truth.




Book Details:


Genre: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Published by: HarperCollins / Witness
Publication Date: December 27th 2016
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 006246695X (ISBN13: 9780062466952)
Series: Ghostly Southern Mysteries #5
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 


Read an excerpt:



Sexy isn't a firm fanny in a thong, ladies."
Hettie Bell didn't seem so sexy in her hot pink leggings and matching top as she gasped for breath in her downward dog position in the middle of Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky. Her butt stuck straight up in the air, right there on display for everyone to see. Her black, chin-length bob was falling out of the small ponytail on both sides and her bangs hung down in her eyes.
"Sexy is confidence and self-acceptance. It's exactly what yoga provides."
Hettie Bell curled up on her tiptoes with her palms planted on one of the mats she provided for us. The rickety old floor of the gazebo, in the middle of the town square, groaned as we all tried to mimic her pose. "Yes!" Beulah Paige Bellefry hollered out like we were in the first pew of the Sleepy Hollow Baptist Church getting a good Bible beating from Pastor Brown himself.
"Amen to a good pose!"
Beulah continued to adjust her feet and hands each time she started to slip. If she wasn't a bit overweight, I'd say it was her eighties silk sweat suit that was slicker than cat's guts giving her problems. Or it could've been those pearls around her wrist, neck and ears weighing her down. Beulah never took off those pearls. She said pearls were a staple for a Southern gal.
"You said it, sister," Mary Anna Hardy gasped. She teetered side to side, nearly knocking into Granny. Her sweat left streaks down her makeup. Who on earth got up this early and put makeup on to do yoga? Mary Anna Hardy, that's who.
"God help us!"
"That's it."
I pushed back off my heels and crossed my legs, staring at all the Auxiliary women's derrieres at my eye level.
"I'm here to do some relaxing, not Sunday school."
Sleepy Hollow was smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt and if God wasn't thrown in our conversations, then we weren't breathing. But the last thing I wanted to think about was my butt stuck up to the high heavens and everyone up in the Great Beyond looking down upon me.


Author Bio:


Tonya Kappes

Tonya Kappes has written more than fifteen novels and four novellas, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers, and one ex-stray cat in northern Kentucky. Now that her boys are teenagers, Tonya writes full-time but can be found at all of her guys' high school games with a pencil and paper in hand.

Catch Up with Tonya Kappes on her Website , Twitter , &  Facebook 





Tour Participants:








Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tonya Kappes and Witness Impulse. There will be 1 US winner of one PRINTED set of The Ghostly Southern Mysteries #1-5 by Tonya Kappes. The giveaway begins on January 15th and runs through February 18th, 2017.


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 Book 10: SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde



Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde 
ISBN: 9781503939448 (paperback)
ASIN: B01DNJMO76 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 13, 2016 
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing 



"Catherine Ryan Hyde delivers once again with this feel-good story guaranteed to be a hit…" — Redbook
On an isolated Texas ranch, Dr. Lucy cares for abandoned animals. The solitude allows her to avoid the people and places that remind her of the past. Not that any of the townsfolk care. In 1959, no one is interested in a woman doctor. Nor are they welcoming Calvin and Justin Bell, a newly arrived African American father and son.
When Pete Solomon, a neglected twelve-year-old boy, and Justin bring a wounded wolf-dog hybrid to Dr. Lucy, the outcasts soon find refuge in one another. Lucy never thought she'd make connections again, never mind fall in love. Pete never imagined he'd find friends as loyal as Justin and the dog. But these four people aren't allowed to be friends, much less a family, when the whole town turns violently against them.
With heavy hearts, Dr. Lucy and Pete say goodbye to Calvin and Justin. But through the years they keep hope alive…waiting for the world to catch up with them.


Dr. Lucy Armstrong is a divorcee living in rural Texas. She spends most of her time alone taking care of abandoned, stray, and wounded animals. In an effort to earn extra money to feed and supply these animals she often provides after-hours medical care to people that can't or won't go to the local hospital. Dr. Lucy is a loner but doesn't consider herself to be lonely. All that changes when Pete Solomon brings a stray wolf-dog hybrid to her home for treatment and then brings in a young black boy, Justin Bell, in for emergency treatment after a brutal beating. Dr. Lucy finds herself quickly befriended by not only Pete but by Justin and Justin's father, Calvin. After giving Calvin a ride home, Dr. Lucy and Calvin find themselves in a strange and tenuous situation. There are laws on the books against miscegenation or racial mixing and it is beyond unseemly for a White woman to be seen in public, or even in private, with a black man. Dr. Lucy must also contend with the fact that Pete is being abused at home and only has her and Justin to turn to for help, emotional support, and friendship. How did this self-professed loner become a temporary guardian to a black boy, a surrogate mother to a young white boy, and a confidante and would-be lover to a black man in 1959 Texas?

I plowed through Say Goodbye for Now, finding it to be an incredibly easy, fast-paced and enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the Loving case into the story along with the developing long-distance relationship between Lucy and Calvin. Although Say Goodbye for Now takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the vast majority of the story is still topical today. Ms. Hyde introduces the reader to racism, racial profiling, bigotry, systemic government abuse related to racial profiling, child abuse, interracial relationships, and more. Say Goodbye for Now has been called a "feel-good story" but it is so much more, it is about self-discovery, self-awakening, and the notion that family is much more than just biology and DNA. I enjoyed this book so much I promptly purchased a copy to give to my mother with the warning that she might cry while reading it (she's 82 and needs trigger warnings before she'll read a book). If you enjoy reading stories with a message or hopeful-ever-after stories, then I strongly recommend you grab a copy of Say Goodbye for Now to read. 

Disclaimer: I received a free print advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via BookSparks PR. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

This review and tour brought to you by:


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Showcase: THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik 
ISBN: 9781501143199 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781501143212 (ebook)
ASIN: B01CO345G0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press 
A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls' trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won't soon forget.


Read an excerpt:

1
Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.
A slapping spring wind ushered me through the heavy doors of the YMCA lobby as the minute hand of the yellowing 1950s-era clock over the check-in desk snapped to 7:09. Head down and on task to be in my preferred lane by precisely 7:15, I rushed along the glass corridor next to the pool. The chemical stink leaked from the ancient windows, as did the muffled shrieks of children and the lifeguard's whistle. I felt cosseted by the shabby walls, by my self-righteous routine, by the fact that I'd ousted myself from my warm bed to face another tedious day head-on. Small victories.
I'd just squeezed myself into my old-lady swimsuit when the phone in my bag began to bleat. I dug it out. The screen pulsed with the image of Pia Zanderlee ski-racing down a double black diamond slope somewhere in Banff.
My choices? Answer it now or play phone tag for another week. Pia was that friend you love with a twinge of resentment. The sparkly one who never has time for you unless it's on her schedule, but you like her too much to flush her down the friendship toilet.
"Wow, a phone call—from you!" I said as I mercilessly assessed my middle-aged pudge in the greasy mirror. "To what do I owe the honor?"
Of course I knew the reason. Five unanswered texts.
Pia laughed. "Hey, Win, listen. We need to make our reservations. Like, by tomorrow."
I fished around in my swim bag for my goggles. "Yeah, I haven't—"
"I get it. Nature's not your thing, but you're going to love it once you're out there. Rachel and Sandra are chomping at the bit to go, but they have to make their travel plans. We all do."
With a shudder, I recalled my frantic Google search the night before for Winnegosset River Rafting, Maine.
No results.
"Just wondering why this place doesn't have some kind of website. I mean, is it legit?" I asked, my voice coming out all high and tinny. Already I was ashamed of my wussiness. "I'd hate to get all the way up there and find out this is some sort of shady operation—"
I could feel her roll her eyes. "Wini, just because some place or something or someone doesn't have a website doesn't mean they don't exist." She sounded windblown, breathless. I pictured her power walking through her Cambridge neighborhood, wrist weights flashing neon. "It's a big old world out there. One of the reasons this place is so awesome is because no one knows about it yet, so it's not booked solid before the snow's even melted. That's why there's space for the weekend we all want, get it? This year, it's the world's best-kept secret—next year, forget it!"
"I don't know, Pia . . ." I glanced at the time: 7:14.
She laughed, softening to me now. "Look, the guy who runs the white-water tours is a good friend of my dad—he's my dad's friend's son, I mean, so it's cool."
"Can't believe Rachel would want to—"
"Are you crazy? She's dying to go. And Sandra? Please. She'd get on a plane right now if she could."
With a wave of affection I pictured my last Skype with Sandra: kids running around screaming in the background, papers to correct stacked next to her. When I brought up the trip, she'd groaned, Hell, yes, I'm game for anything—just get me out of Dodge!
"Wini, listen up: Next year—I promise, we'll go to a beach somewhere. Cancún, Key West, you choose. Do nothing and just bake.
"Look, Pia, I'm at the pool and I'm going to lose my lane—"
"Okay. Swim. Then call me."
I tucked my flyaway dirty-blond bob—the compromise cut for all hopelessly shitty hair—under my bathing cap, then hustled my stuff into a locker and slammed it shut. Do nothing and just bake. Did she really think that was all I was interested in? Who was the one who rented the bike the last time we went to the Cape? Just me, as I recalled, while all of them sat around the rental pouring more and more tequila into the blender each day. And my God—we were all pushing forty—shouldn't awesome and cool be in the rearview mirror by now?
I crossed the slimy tiles of the dressing room and pushed open the swinging doors to the pool. The air hit me, muggy and warm, dense with chlorine that barely masked an underwhiff of urine and sweat. Children laughed and punched at the blue water in the shallow end as I padded over to my favorite lane, which was . . .occupied.
It was 7:16 and frog man had beat me to it. Fuck.
For close to a year, this nonagenarian ear, nose, and throat doctor and I had been locked in a mostly silent daily battle over the best lane—far left-hand side, under the skylights—from 7:15 to 8:00 each weekday morning. Usually I was the victor, something about which I'd felt ridiculous glee. We'd only ever exchanged the briefest of greetings; both of us getting to the Y a notch earlier each day. I imagined we both craved this mindless exercise, thoughts freed by the calming boredom of swimming and near weightlessness.
But today I'd lost the battle. I plopped down on a hard plastic seat, pouting inside but feigning serenity as I watched him slap through his slow-motion crawl. He appeared to lose steam near the end of a lap, then climbed the ladder out of the pool as only a ninety-year-old can: with careful deliberation in every step. As I watched the water drip off his flat ass and down his pencil legs, I realized that he was making his way to me, or rather to a stack of towels next to me, and in a few seconds I'd pretty much have to talk to him. He uncorked his goggles with a soft sucking sound. I noticed his eyes seemed a bit wearier than usual, even for a man his age who had just worked his daily laps.
"How are you?" I shifted in my seat, conscious of my bathing cap squeezing my head and distorting my face as I stole the odd glance at the deliciously empty lane.
"I'm well, thank you. Though very sad today."
I studied him more closely now, caught off guard by his intimate tone. "Why?"
Though his expression was grim, I wasn't prepared for what he said.
"I just lost my daughter to cancer."
"I'm sorry," I choked out. I felt socked in the soft fleshy parts; smacked off the rails of my deeply grooved routine and whipped around to face something I didn't want to see.
He took a towel and poked at his ears with it. A gold cross hung from a glimmering chain around his thin neck, the skin white and rubbery looking. "It was a long struggle. Part of me is glad it's over." He squinted at me as if seeing me for the first time. "She was about your age," he added, turning to walk away before I could utter a word of comfort. I watched him travel in his flap step the length of the pool to the men's lockers, his head held down so low I could barely see the top of it.
My hands trembled as I gripped the steel ladder and made my way down into the antiseptic blue. I pushed off. Eyes shut tight and heart pumping, I watched the words She was about your age hover in my brain until the letters dissolved into nothingness. The horror of his offhand observation numbed me as I turned and floated on my back, breathing heavily in the oppressive air. As I slogged joylessly through my laps, I thought of my own father rolling his eyes when I said I was afraid of sleepaway camp, of third grade, of walking on grass barefoot "because of worms." As cold as he could be to my brother and me, not a thing on earth seemed to frighten him.
I had barely toweled myself off when my phone lit up with a text from Pia. A question mark, that was it. Followed by three more. Methodically I removed my work clothes from my locker, arranging them neatly on the bench behind me. I pulled off my bathing cap, sat down, and picked up the phone.
My thumbs hovered over the keys as I shivered in the over-heated locker room. I took a deep breath—shampoo, rubber, mold, a sting of disinfectant—and slowly let it out, a sharp pain lodging in my gut. I couldn't tell which was worse, the fear of being left behind by my friends as they dashed away on some überbonding, unforgettable adventure, or the inevitable self-loathing if I stayed behind like some gutless wimp—safe, always safe—half-fucking-dead with safety. Why couldn't I just say yes to a camping trip with three of my best friends? What was I so afraid of?
Pool water dripped from my hair, beading on the phone as I commanded myself to text something. Anything.
I watched my fingers as they typed, Okay, I'm in, and pressedsend.
Copyright © Erica Ferencik 2017. 
Excerpt printed with permission of the publisher.



Meet the author:

Photo by Kate Hannon

Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio. 

Find out more on her website EricaFerencik.com and follow her on Twitter @EricaFerencik.





Author Q&A:

1) What intrigued you about writing about female friendship?
Everything intrigues me about female friendship. Its very intensity can turn things inside out very quickly.
I especially love stories of female friendship gone wrong, such as in the 1992 film, Single White Female.
The stakes in female friendship are just as high or higher than in romantic ones. We trust our women friends with so much intimate knowledge – why is that?
Our hairdressers know for sure...isn't that the truth. Why do I still share things with my women friends that I don't with my husband of twenty-two years? (Sorry, honey ☺)
The stakes are even higher for long term friendships. It's such a delicate balance to keep these relationships alive, as well as intensely difficult to determine when or whether it may be time to end them, or to come to grips with the fact that – since everything changes – these cherished friendships must change as well.
2) The ending of this book leaves readers feeling unsettled. How did you come up with the ending? Did it change as you went through the writing process?
I'm glad to hear it makes readers feel unsettled!
I had maybe three different endings over time. I didn't want to sew it up too neatly, but there had to be some ominous things lurking, as well as some light at the end of the tunnel. Even though it's a pretty wild tale, it's plausible as well, which is one reason I think it's so scary.
In terms of how I came up with the ending – without giving it away – I wanted to play with aspects of bringing the "wild" world back into so-called civilization.
One hard part about writing novels – and there are lots of hard parts! – is knowing when you are done. Where does a story really end? Why there and not someplace else? What is enough for the reader, leaving them satisfied but perhaps wondering a bit, keeping them in the spell of your story – but not in a frustrating way – and what is just too much sewing up or sweeping up for them? It can be a fine line, a really delicate balance.
3) What part was the most fun for you to write?
Let me say it this way: writing is like childbirth: in the end, you fall so in love with your baby you forget all the pain that came before…
But honestly, I had a blast with the whole thing, from first word to last.
I especially loved writing about white water rafting. For me, it's this combination of exhilarating and terrifying, like a roller coaster only worse because it's nature, and (most of us) know better than to mess with that. For me, the moment-to-moment experience of white water rafting can tip from ecstatic joy to oh-my-God I'm going to die.
I loved doing the research, both online and especially in person, interviewing rafting guides and all the off-the-gridders I was fortunate enough to interview.
4) Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify with the most?
There is the old (writing) saw that every character we create comes from some aspect of ourselves, and I think there's a lot to that.
I think I am one-part Pia – because I'm quite physical and love adventure and used to be very idealistic and clueless like her – now I'm just clueless – and one part Wini, because I'm full of terror and shame. But then I like to think I have a tough Rachel side as well as a sweet Sandra side. Basically, I'm nuts.






Enter to win one print copy of The River at Night by Erica Ferencik courtesy of Wunderkind-PR. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on 1/18/2017. The winner will be announced on 1/19/2017. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States (sorry). Any entrant not a resident of the US will be disqualified and a new winner chosen at random. The book will be sent to the winner via Wunderkind-PR. Enter using the form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




This excerpt and giveaway brought to you by Wunderkind-PR



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book Blast: WAR HAWK by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood



War Hawk


by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood


January 10, 2017 Book Blast


on Tour February 13 - 28, 2017





Synopsis:

War Hawk by James Rollins
Former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his war dog Kane are thrust into a global conspiracy in this second Sigma Force spinoff adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling author James Rollins and Grant Blackwood.
Tucker Wayne's past and present collide when a former army colleague comes to him for help. She's on the run from brutal assassins hunting her and her son. To keep them safe, Tucker must discover who killed a brilliant young idealist-a crime that leads back to the most powerful figures in the U.S. government.
From the haunted swamplands of the deep South to the beachheads of a savage civil war in Trinidad, Tucker and his beloved war dog, Kane, must work together to discover the truth behind a mystery that dates back to World War II, involving the genius of a young code-breaker, Alan Turing...
They will be forced to break the law, expose national secrets, and risk everything to stop a madman determined to control the future of modern warfare for his own diabolical ends. But can Tucker and Kane withstand a force so indomitable that it threatens our future?



Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date:December 27th 2016 (first published April 19th 2016)
Number of Pages: 544
ISBN: 0062135295 (ISBN13: 9780062135292)
Series: Tucker Wayne #2
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 




Read an excerpt:




Prologue


Spring 1940
Buckinghamshire, England
Few in the Abwehr's military intelligence knew his true name or even his intent here on British soil. The spy went by the code name Geist, the German word for ghost, and for him failure was not an option.
He lay on his stomach in a muddy ditch, with ice-encrusted cattails stabbing at his face. He ignored the midnight cold, the frigid gusts of breezes, the ache of his frozen joints. Instead, he concentrated on the view through the binoculars fixed to his face.
He and his assigned team lay alongside the banks of a small lake. A hundred yards off, on the opposite shore, a row of stately rural mansions sat dark, brightened here and there by the rare sliver of yellow light peeking through blackout curtains. Still, he spotted rolls of barbed wire mounted atop the garden walls of one particular estate.
Bletchley Park.
The place also went by a code name:  Station X.
The seemingly nondescript country house masked an operation run by British intelligence, a joint effort by MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School. In a series of wooden huts set up on those idyllic acres, the Allied forces had gathered the greatest mathematicians and cryptographers from around the globe, including one man, Alan Turing, who was decades ahead of his peers. Station X's goal was to break the German military's Enigma code, using tools built by the geniuses here. The group had already succeeded in building an electromechanical decrypting device called The Bombe, and rumors abounded about a new project already under way, to build Colossus, the world's first programmable electric computer.
But destroying such devices was not his goal this night.
Hidden upon those grounds was a prize beyond anything his superiors could imagine:  a breakthrough that held the potential to change the very fate of the world.
And I will possess it—or die trying.
Geist felt his heart quicken.
To his left, his second in command, Lieutenant Hoffman, pulled the collar of his jacket tighter around his neck as an icy rain began to fall. He shifted, cursing his complaint. "Gott verlassenen Land."
Geist kept his binoculars in place as he scolded the head of the commandos. "Silence. If anyone hears you speaking German, we'll be stuck here for the rest of the war."
Geist knew a firm hand was needed with the eight-man team under his charge. The members had been handpicked by the Abwehr not only for their superb martial skills but for their grasp of English. Whatever the British might lack in military presence out here in the rural regions, they made up for by a vigilant citizenry.
"Truck!" Hoffman rasped.
Geist glanced over his shoulder to the road passing through the woods behind him. A lorry trundled along, its headlights muted by blackout slits.
"Hold your breath," Geist hissed.
He wasn't about to let their presence catch the attention of the passing driver. He and the others kept their faces pressed low until the sound of the truck's puttering engine faded away.
"Clear," Hoffman said.
Geist checked his watch and searched again with his binoculars.
What is taking them so long?
Everything depended on clockwork timing. He and his team had offloaded from a U-boat five days ago onto a lonely beach. Afterward, the group had split into teams of two or three and worked their way across the countryside, ready with papers identifying them as day laborers and farmhands. Once they reached the target area, they had regrouped at a nearby hunting shack, where a cache of weapons awaited them, left by sleeper agents who had prepped the way in advance for Geist's team.
Only one last detail remained.
A wink of light caught his attention from the grounds neighboring the Bletchley Park estate. It shuttered off once, then back on again—then finally darkness returned.
It was the signal he had been waiting for.
Geist rolled up to an elbow. "Time to move out."
Hoffman's team gathered their weapons:  assault rifles and noise-suppressed pistols. The largest commando—a true bull of a man named Kraus—hauled up an MG42 heavy machine gun, capable of firing twelve hundred rounds per minute.
Geist studied the black-streaked faces around him. They had trained for three months within a life-sized mock-up of Bletchley Park. By now, they could all walk those grounds blindfolded. The only unknown variable was the level of on-site defense. The research campus was secured by both soldiers and guards in civilian clothes.
Geist went over the plan one last time. "Once inside the estate, torch your assigned buildings. Cause as much panic and confusion as possible. In that chaos, Hoffman and I will attempt to secure the package. If shooting starts, take down anything that moves. Is that understood?"
Each man nodded his head.
With everyone prepared—ready to die if need be—the group set off and followed the contour of the lake, sticking to the mist-shrouded forest. Geist led them past the neighboring estates. Most of these old homes were shuttered, awaiting the summer months. Soon servants and staff would be arriving to prepare the country homes for the leisure season, but that was still a couple of weeks away.
It was one of the many reasons this narrow window of opportunity had been chosen by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence. And there was one other time-critical element.
"Access to the bunker should be just up ahead," Geist whispered back to Hoffman. "Ready the men."
The British government—aware that Adolf Hitler would soon launch an air war against this island nation—had begun constructing underground bunkers for its critical installations, including Bletchley Park. The bunker at Station X was only half completed, offering a brief break in the secure perimeter around the estate.
Geist intended to take advantage of that weakness this night.
He led his team toward a country house that neighbored Bletchley Park. It was a red-brick Tudor with yellow shutters. He approached the stacked-stone fence that surrounded the grounds and waved his team to flatten against it.
"Where are we going?" Hoffman whispered. "I thought we were going through some bunker."
"We are." Only Geist had been given this last piece of intelligence.
He crouched low and hurried toward the gate, which he found unlocked. The winking signal earlier had confirmed that all was in readiness here.
Geist pushed open the gate, slipped through, and led his team across the lawn to the home's glass-enclosed conservatory. He found another unlocked door there, hurried inside with his men, and crossed to the kitchen. The all-white cabinetry glowed in the moonlight streaming through the windows.
Wasting no time, he stepped to a door beside the pantry. He opened it and turned on his flashlight, revealing a set of stairs. At the bottom, he found a stone-floored cellar; the walls were white-painted brick, the exposed ceiling a maze of water pipes running through the floor joists. The cellar spanned the width of the house.
He led his team past stacks of boxes and furniture draped in dusty sheets to the cellar's eastern wall. As directed, he pulled away a rug to reveal a hole that had been recently dug through the floor. Another bit of handiwork from Canaris's sleeper agents.
Geist shone his flashlight down the hole, revealing water flowing below.
"What is it?" Hoffman asked.
"Old sewer pipe. It connects all the estates circling the lake."
"Including Bletchley Park," Hoffman realized with a nod.
"And its partially completed bunker," Geist confirmed. "It'll be a tight squeeze, but we'll only need to cross a hundred meters to reach the construction site of that underground bomb shelter and climb back up."
According to the latest intelligence, those new foundations of the bunker were mostly unguarded and should offer them immediate access into the very heart of the estate's grounds.
"The Brits won't know what hit them," Hoffman said with a mean grin.
Geist again led the way, slipping feetfirst through the hole and dropping with a splash into the ankle-deep dank water. He kept one hand on the moldy wall and headed along the old stone pipe. It was only a meter and a half wide, so he had to keep his back bowed, holding his breath against the stink.
After a handful of steps, he clicked off his flashlight and aimed for the distant glow of moonlight. He moved more slowly along the curving pipe, keeping his sloshing to a minimum, not wanting to alert any guards who might be canvassing the bunker's construction site. Hoffman's teammates followed his example.
At last, he reached that moonlit hole in the pipe's roof. A temporary grate covered the newly excavated access point to the old sewer. He fingered the chain and padlock that secured the grate in place.
Unexpected but not a problem.
Hoffman noted his attention and passed him a set of bolt cutters. With great care, Geist snapped through the lock's hasp and freed the chain. He shared a glance with the lieutenant, confirming everyone was ready—then pushed the grate open and pulled himself up through the hole.
He found himself crouched atop the raw concrete foundations of the future bunker. The skeletal structure of walls, conduits, and plumbing surrounded him. Scaffolding and ladders led up toward the open grounds of the estate above. He hurried to one side, ducking under a scaffold, out of direct view. One by one the remaining eight commandoes joined him.
Geist took a moment to orient himself. He should be within forty meters of their target:  Hut 8. It was one of several green-planked structures built on these grounds. Each had its own purpose, but his team's goal was the research section overseen by the mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing.
He gestured for the men to huddle together.
"Remember, no shooting unless you're intercepted. Toss those incendiaries into Huts 4 and 6. Let the fire do the work for us. With any luck, the distraction will create enough confusion to cover our escape."
Hoffman pointed to two of his men. "Schwab, you take your team to Hut 4. Faber, you and your men have Hut 6. Kraus, you trail us. Be ready to use that machine gun of yours if there is any trouble."
The lieutenant's men nodded in agreement, then scaled the ladders and disappeared out of the open pit of the bunker. Geist followed on their heels with Hoffman and Kraus trailing him.
Staying low, he headed north until he reached Hut 8 and flattened against the wooden siding. The door should be around the next corner. He waited a breath, making sure no alarm had been raised.
He counted down in his head until finally shouts arose to the east and west. "Fire, fire, fire!"
Upon that signal, he slid around the corner and climbed a set of plank steps to reach the door into Hut 8. He turned the knob as the night grew brighter, flickering with fresh flames.
As more shouts rose, he pushed through the doorway and into a small room. The center was dominated by two trestle tables covered in stacks of punch cards. The whitewashed walls were plastered with propaganda posters warning about ever-present Nazi eyes and ears.
With his pistol raised, he and Hoffman rushed across and burst through the far doorway into the next room. Seated at a long table, two women sorted through more piles of punch cards. The woman to the right was already looking up. She spun in her chair, reaching for a red panic button on the wall.
Hoffmann shot her twice in the side. The suppressed gunfire was no louder than a couple of firm coughs.
Geist took out the second woman with a single round through her throat. She toppled backward, her face still frozen in an expression of surprise.
They must have been Wrens—members of the Women's Royal Naval Service—who were assisting in the work being conducted here.
Geist hurried to the first woman, searched her pockets, and came up with a thumb-sized brass key. On the second woman, he found a second key, this one iron.
With his prizes in hand, he hurried back to the main room.
From outside, there arose the wonk-wonk-wonk of an alarm klaxon.
So far our subterfuge seems to be—
The rattling blasts of a submachine gun cut off this last thought. More gunfire followed. Hoffman cursed.
"We've been discovered," the lieutenant warned.
Geist refused to give up. He crossed to a waist-high safe along one wall. As expected, it was secured by two keyed locks, top and bottom, and a combination dial in the center.
"Need to hurry, sir," Hoffmann rasped next to him. "Sounds like we got a lot of foot traffic outside."
Geist pointed to the door. "Kraus, clear a path for us back to the bunker."
The large soldier nodded, hefted up his heavy weapon, and vanished out the door. As Geist inserted his two keys, Kraus's MG42 opened up outside, roaring into the night.
Geist focused on the task at hand, turning one key, then the other, getting a satisfying thunk-thunk in return. He moved his hand to the combination lock. This was truly the test of the Abwehr's reach.
He spun the dial:  nine…twenty-nine…four.
He took a breath, let it out, and depressed the lever.
The safe door swung open.
Thank God.
A quick search inside revealed only one item:  a brown accordion folder wrapped in red rubber bands. He read the name stenciled on the outside.
The ARES Project
He knew Ares was the Greek god of war, which was appropriate, considering the contents. But that connotation only hinted at the true nature of the work found inside. The acronym—ARES—stood for something far more earth-shattering, something powerful enough to rewrite history. He grabbed the folder with trembling hands, knowing the terrifying wonders it held, and stuffed the prize into his jacket.
His second in command, Hoffman, stepped over to the hut's door, cracked it open, and yelled outside. "Kraus!"
"Komm!" Kraus answered in German, forsaking any need for further subterfuge. "Get out here before they regroup!"
Geist joined Hoffman at the door, pulled the pin on an incendiary grenade, and tossed it back into the center of the room. Both men lunged outside as it exploded behind them, blowing out the windows with gouts of flames
To their left, a pair of British soldiers sprinted around the corner of the hut. Kraus cut them down with his machine gun, but more soldiers followed, taking cover and returning fire, forcing Geist's team away from the excavated bunker—away from their only escape route.
As they retreated deeper into the grounds, smoke billowed more thickly, accompanied by the acrid stench of burning wood.
Another set of figures burst through the pall. Kraus came close to carving them in half with his weapon, but at the last moment, he halted, recognizing his fellow commandos. It was Schwab's team.
"What about Faber and the others?" Hoffman asked.
Schwab shook his head. "Saw them killed."
That left only the six of them.
Geist quickly improvised. "We'll make for the motor pool."
He led the way at a dead run. The team tossed incendiaries as they went, adding to the confusion, strafing down alleyways, dropping anything that moved.
Finally they reached a row of small sheds. Fifty meters beyond, the main gate came into view. It looked like a dozen soldiers crouched behind concrete barriers, guns up, looking for targets. Spotlights panned the area.
Before being seen, Geist directed his group into a neighboring Quonset hut, where three canvas-sided lorries were parked.
"We need that gate cleared," Geist said, looking at Hoffman and his men, knowing what he was asking of them. For any chance of escape, many of them would likely die in the attempt.
The lieutenant stared him down. "We'll get it done."
Geist clapped Hoffman on the shoulder, thanking him.
The lieutenant set out with his remaining four men.
Geist crossed and climbed into one of the lorries, where he found the keys in the ignition. He started the engine, warming it up, then hopped back out again. He crossed to the remaining two trucks and popped their hoods.
In the distance, Kraus's machine gun began a lethal chattering, accompanied by the rattle of assault rifles and the overlapping crump of exploding grenades.
Finally, a faint call reached him.
"Klar, klar, klar!" Hoffman shouted.
Geist hurried back to the idling lorry, climbed inside, and put the truck into gear—but not before tossing two grenades into each of the open engine compartments of the remaining lorries. As he rolled out and hit the accelerator, the grenades exploded behind him.
He raced to the main gate and braked hard. British soldiers lay dead; the spotlights shot out. Hoffman rolled the gate open, limping on a bloody leg. Supported by a teammate, Kraus hobbled his way into the back of the lorry. Hoffman joined him up front, climbing into the passenger seat and slamming the door angrily.
"Lost Schwab and Braatz." Hoffman waved ahead. "Go, go."
With no time to mourn, Geist gunned the engine and raced down the country road. He kept one eye on the side mirror, watching for any sign of pursuit. Taking a maze of turns, he tried to further confound their escape route. Finally, he steered the lorry down a narrow dirt tract lined by overgrown English oaks. At the end was a large barn, its roof half collapsed. To the left was a burned-out farmhouse.
Geist parked beneath some overhanging boughs and shut off the engine. "We should see to everyone's injuries," he said. "We've lost enough good men."
"Everybody out," Hoffman ordered, rapping a knuckle on the back of the compartment.
After they all climbed free, Geist surveyed the damage. "You'll all get the Knight's Cross for your bravery tonight. We should—"
A harsh shout cut him off, barked in German. "Halt! Hände hoch!"
A dozen men, bristling with weapons, emerged from the foliage and from behind the barn.
"Nobody move!" the voice called again, revealing a tall American with a Tommy gun in hand.
Geist recognized the impossibility of their team's situation and lifted his arms. Hoffman and his last two men followed his example, dropping their weapons and raising their hands.
It was over.
As the Americans frisked Hoffman and the others, a lone figure stepped from the darkened barn door and approached Geist. He pointed a .45-caliber pistol at Geist's chest.
"Tie him up," he ordered one of his men.
As his wrists were efficiently bound in rope, his captor spoke in a rich southern twang. "Colonel Ernie Duncan, 101st Airborne. You speak English?"
"Yes."
"Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?"
"Schweinhund," Geist answered with a sneer.
"Son, I'm pretty sure that isn't your name. I'll assume that slur is intended for me. So then let's just call you Fritz. You and I are going to have a talk. Whether it's pleasant or ugly is up to you."
The American colonel called to one of his men. "Lieutenant Ross, put those other three men into the back of their truck and get them ready for transport. Say good-bye to your team, Fritz."
Geist turned to face his men and shouted, "Für das Vaterland!"
"Das Vaterland!" Hoffman and the others repeated in unison.
The American soldiers herded the commandos into the back of the lorry, while Colonel Duncan marched Geist over to the barn. Once inside, he closed the doors and waved to encompass the piles of hay and manure.
"Sorry for our meager accommodations, Fritz."
Geist turned to face him and broke into a smile. "Damned good to see you, too, Duncan."
"And you, my friend. How'd it go? Find what you were looking for?"
"It's in my jacket. For whatever's it worth, those Germans fight like the devil. Bletchley's burning. But they should be up and running again in a week."
"Good to know." Duncan used a razor blade to free his bound wrists. "How do you want to play this from here?"
"I've got a small Mauser hidden in a crotch holster." Geist stood up and rubbed his wrists, then unwound his scarf and folded it into a thick square. He reached into the front of his pants and withdrew the Mauser.
Geist glanced behind him. "Where's the back door?"
Duncan pointed. "By those old horse stalls. Nobody'll be back behind the barn to see you escape. But you'll have to make it look convincing, you know. Really smack me good. Remember, we Americans are tough."
"Duncan, I'm not keen on this idea."
"Necessities of war, buddy. You can buy me a case of scotch when we get back to the States."
Geist shook the colonel's hand.
Duncan dropped his .45 to the ground and smiled. "Oh look, you've disarmed me."
"We Germans are crafty that way."
Next Duncan ripped open the front of his fatigue blouse, popping buttons off onto the straw-covered floor. "And there's been a struggle."
"Okay, Duncan, enough. Turn your head. I'll rap you behind the ear. When you wake up, you'll have a knot the size of a golf ball and a raging headache, but you asked for it."
"Right." He clasped Geist by the forearm. "Watch yourself out there. It's a long way back to DC."
As Duncan turned his head away, a flicker of guilt passed through Geist. Still, he knew what needed to be done.
Geist pressed the wadded scarf to the Mauser's barrel and jammed it against Duncan's ear.
The colonel shifted slightly. "Hey, what are you—"
He pulled the trigger. With the sound of a sharp slap, the bullet tore through Duncan's skull, snapping his friend's head back as the body toppled forward to the ground.
Geist stared down. "So sorry, my friend. As you said before, necessities of war. If it makes you feel any better, you've just changed the world."
He pocketed the pistol, walked to the barn's back door, and disappeared into the misty night, becoming at last…a true ghost.

FIRST



Ghost Hunt
1
October 10, 6:39 p.m. MDTBitterroot Mountains, Montana


All this trouble from a single damned nail…
Tucker Wayne tossed the flat tire into the back of his rental. The Jeep Grand Cherokee sat parked on the shoulder of a lonely stretch of road in the forested mountains of southwest Montana. These millions of acres of pines, glacier-cut canyons, and rugged peaks formed the largest expanse of pristine wilderness in the Lower 48.
He stretched a kink out of his back and searched down the winding stretch of blacktop, bracketed on both sides by sloping hills and dense stands of lodgepole pines.
Just my luck. Here in the middle of nowhere, I pick up a nail.
It seemed impossible that this great beast of an SUV could be brought low by a simple sliver of iron shorter than his pinkie. It was a reminder of how modern technological progress could still be ground to a halt by a single bit of antiquated hardware like a roofing nail.
He slammed the rear cargo hatch and whistled sharply. His companion on this cross-country journey pulled his long furry nose out of a huckleberry bush at the edge of the forest and glanced back at Tucker. Eyes the color of dark caramel looked plainly disappointed that this roadside pit stop had come to an end.
"Sorry, buddy. But we've got a long way to go if we hope to reach Yellowstone."
Kane shook his heavy coat of black and tan fur, his thick tail flagging as he turned, readily accepting this reality. The two of them had been partners going back to his years with the U.S. Army Rangers, surviving multiple deployments across Afghanistan together. Upon leaving the service, Tucker took Kane with him—not exactly with the army's permission, but that matter had been settled in the recent past.
The two were now an inseparable team, on their own, seeking new roads, new paths. Together.
Tucker opened the front passenger door and Kane hopped inside, his lean muscular seventy pounds fitting snugly into the seat. He was a Belgian Malinois, a breed of compact shepherd commonly used by the military and law enforcement. Known for their fierce loyalty and sharp intelligence, the breed was also well respected for their nimbleness and raw power in a battlefield environment.
But there was no one like Kane.
Tucker closed the door but lingered long enough to scratch his partner through the open window. His fingers discovered old scars under the fur, reminding Tucker of his own wounds:  some easy to see, others just as well hidden.
"Let's keep going," he whispered before the ghosts of his past caught up with him.
He climbed behind the wheel and soon had them flying through the hills of the Bitterroot National Forest. Kane kept his head stuck out the passenger side, his tongue lolling, his nose taking in every scent. Tucker grinned, finding the tension melting from his shoulders as it always did when he was moving.
For the moment, he was between jobs—and he intended to keep it that way for as long as possible. He only took the occasional security position when his finances required it. After his last job—when he had been hired by Sigma Force, a covert branch of the military's research-and-development department—his bank accounts continued to remain flush.
Taking advantage of the downtime, he and Kane had spent the last couple of days hiking the Lost Trail Pass, following in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and now they were moving onto Yellowstone National Park. He had timed this trip to the popular park to reach it in the late fall, to avoid the crush of the high season, preferring the company of Kane to anyone on two legs.
Around a bend in the dark road, a pool of fluorescent lights revealed a roadside gas station. The sign at the entrance read
Fort Edwin Gas and Grocery. He checked his fuel gauge.
Almost empty.
He flipped on his turn signal and swung into the small station. His motel was three miles farther up the road. His plan had been to take a fast shower, collect his bags, and continue straight toward Yellowstone, taking advantage of the empty roads at night.
Now he had a snag in those plans. He needed to replace the flat tire as soon as possible. Hopefully someone at the gas station knew the closest place to get that done in these remote hills.
He pulled next to one of the pumps and climbed out. Kane hopped through the window on the other side. Together they headed for the station.
Tucker pulled open the glass door, setting a brass bell to tinkling. The shop was laid out in the usual fashion:  rows of snacks and food staples, backed up by a tall stand of coolers along the back wall. The air smelled of floor wax and microwaved sandwiches.
"Good evening, good evening," a male voice greeted him, his voice rising and falling in a familiar singsong manner.
Tucker immediately recognized the accent as Dari Persian. From his years in the deserts of Afghanistan, he was familiar with the various dialects of that desert country. Despite the friendliness of the tone, Tucker's belly tightened in a knot of old dread. Men with that very same accent had tried to kill him more times than he could count. Worse still, they had succeeded in butchering Kane's littermate.
He flashed to the bounding joy of his lost partner, the unique bond they had shared. It took all of his effort to force that memory back into that knot of old pain, grief, and guilt.
"Good evening," the man behind the counter repeated, smiling, oblivious to the tension along Tucker's spine. The proprietor's face was nut brown, his teeth perfectly white. He was mostly bald, save for a monk's fringe of gray hair. His eyes twinkled as though Tucker was a friend he hadn't seen in years.
Having met hundreds of Afghan villagers in his time, Tucker knew the man's demeanor was genuine. Still, he found it hard to step inside.
The man's brow formed one concerned crinkle at his obvious hesitation. "Welcome," he offered again, waving an arm to encourage him.
"Thanks," Tucker finally managed to reply. He kept one hand on Kane's flank. "Okay if I bring my dog in?"
"Yes, of course. All are welcome."
Tucker took a deep breath and crossed past the front shelves, neatly stocked with packets of beef jerky, Slim Jims, and corn chips. He stepped to the counter, noting he was the only one in the place.
"You have a beautiful dog," the man said. "Is he a shepherd?"
"A Belgian Malinois…a type of shepherd. Name's Kane."
"And I am Aasif Qazi, owner of this fine establishment."
The proprietor stretched a hand across the counter. Tucker took it, finding the man's grip firm, the palm slightly calloused from hard labor.
"You're from Kabul," Tucker said.
The man's eyebrows rose high. "How did you know?"
"Your accent. I spent some time in Afghanistan."
"Recently, I am guessing."
Not so recently, Tucker thought, but some days it felt like yesterday. "And you?" he asked.
"I came to the States as a boy. My parents wisely chose to emigrate when the Russians invaded back in the seventies. I met my wife in New York." He raised his voice. "Lila, come say hello."
From an office in the back, a petite, gray-haired Afghani woman peeked out and smiled. "Hello. Nice to meet you."
"So how did you both end up here?"
"You mean in the middle of nowhere?" Aasif's grin widened. "Lila and I got tired of the city. We wanted something that was exact opposite."
"Looks like you succeeded." Tucker glanced around the empty shop and the dark forest beyond the windows.
"We love it here. And it's normally not this deserted. We're between seasons at the moment. The summer crowds have left, and the skiers have yet to arrive. But we still have our regulars."
Proving this, a diesel engine roared outside, and a white, rust-stained pickup truck pulled between the pumps, fishtailing slightly as it came to a stop.
Tucker turned back at Aasif. "Seems like business is picking—"
The man's eyes had narrowed, his jaw clenched. The army had handpicked Tucker as a dog handler because of his unusually high empathy scores. Such sensitivity allowed him to bond more readily and deeply with his partner—and to read people. Still, it took no skill at all to tell Aasif was scared.
Aasif waved to his wife. "Lila, go back in the office."
She obeyed, but not before casting a frightened glance toward her husband.
Tucker moved closer to the windows, trailed by Kane. He quickly assessed the situation, noting one odd detail:  duct tape covered the truck's license plate.
Definitely trouble.
No one with good intentions blacked out his license plate.
Tucker took a deep breath. The air suddenly felt heavier, crackling with electricity. He knew it was only a figment of his own spiking adrenaline. Still, he knew a storm was brewing. Kane reacted to his mood, the hackles rising along the shepherd's back, accompanied by a low growl.
Two men in flannel shirts and baseball caps hopped out of the cab; a third jumped down from the truck's bed. The driver of the truck sported a dirty red goatee and wore a green baseball cap emblazoned with
I'd rather be doin' your wife.

Great…not only are these yokels trouble, they have a terrible sense of humor.
Without turning, he asked, "Aasif, do you have security cameras?"
"They're broken. We haven't been able to fix them."
He sighed loudly. Not good.
The trio strutted toward the station entrance. Each man carried a wooden baseball bat.
"Call the sheriff. If you can trust him."
"He's a decent man."
"Then call him."
"Tucker, perhaps it is best if you do not —"
"Make the call, Aasif."
Tucker headed to the door with Kane and pushed outside before the others could enter. Given the odds, he would need room to maneuver.
Tucker stopped the trio at the curb. "Evening, fellas."
"Hey," replied Mr. Goatee, making a move to slip past him.
Tucker stepped to block him. "Store's closed."
"Bull," said one of the others and pointed his bat. "Look, Shane, I can see that raghead from here."
"Then you can also see he's on the phone," Tucker said. "He's calling the sheriff."
"That idiot?" Shane said. "We'll be long gone before he pulls his head outta his ass and gets here."
Tucker let his grin turn dark. "I wouldn't be so sure of that."
He silently signaled Kane, pointing an index finger down—then tightening a fist. The command clear: threaten.
Kane lowered his head, bared his teeth, and let out a menacing growl. Still, the shepherd remained at his side. Kane wouldn't move unless given another command or if this confrontation became physical.
Shane took a step back. "That mutt comes at me and I'll bash his brains in."
If this mutt comes at you, you'll never know what hit you.
Tucker raised his hands. "Listen, guys, I get it. It's Friday night, time to blow off some steam. All I'm asking is you find some other way of doing it. The people inside are just trying to make a living. Just like you and me."
Shane snorted. "Like us? Them towelheads ain't nothing like us. We're Americans."
"So are they."
"I lost buddies in Iraq—"
"We all have."
"What the hell do you know about it?" asked the third man.
"Enough to know the difference between these store owners and the kind of people you're talking about."
Tucker remembered his own reaction upon first entering the shop and felt a twinge of guilt.
Shane lifted his bat and aimed the end at Tucker's face. "Get outta our way or you'll regret siding with the enemy."
Tucker knew the talking part of this encounter was over.
Proving this, Shane jabbed Tucker in the chest with the bat.
So be it.
Tucker's left hand snapped out and grabbed the bat. He gave it a jerk, pulling Shane off balance toward him.
He whispered a command to his partner: "grab and drop."

*     *     *


Kane hears those words—and reacts. He recognizes the threat in his target:  the rasp of menace in his breath, the fury that has turned his sweat bitter. Tense muscles explode as the order is given. Kane is already moving before the last word is spoken, anticipating the other's need, knowing what he must do.
He leaps upward, his jaws wide.
Teeth find flesh.
Blood swells over his tongue.

*     *     *

With satisfaction, Tucker watched Kane latch on to Shane's forearm. Upon landing on his paws, the shepherd twisted and threw the combatant to the ground. The bat clattered across the concrete.
Shane screamed, froth flecking his words. "Get him off, get him off!"
One of the man's friends charged forward, his bat swinging down toward Kane. Anticipating this, Tucker dove low and took the hit with his own body. Expertly blunting the blow by turning his back at an angle, he reached up and wrapped his forearm around the bat. He pinned it in place—then side kicked. His heel slammed into the man's kneecap, triggering a muffled pop.
The man hollered, released the bat, and staggered backward.
Tucker swung his captured weapon toward the third attacker. "It's over. Drop it."
The last man glared, but he let the bat fall—
—then reached into his jacket and lashed out with his arm again.
Tucker's mind barely had time to register the glint of a knife blade. He backpedaled, dodging the first slash. His heel struck the curb behind him, and he went down, crashing into a row of empty propane tanks and losing the bat.
Grinning cruelly, the man loomed over Tucker and brandished his knife. "Time to teach you a lesson about—"
Tucker reached over his shoulder and grabbed a loose propane tank as it rolled along the sidewalk behind him. He swung it low, cutting the man's legs out from under him. With a pained cry of surprise, the attacker crashed to the ground.
Tucker rolled to him, snatched the man's wrist, and bent it backward until a bone snapped. The knife fell free. Tucker retrieved the blade as the man curled into a ball, groaning and clutching his hand. His left ankle was also cocked sideways, plainly broken.
Lesson over.
He stood up and walked over to Shane, whose lips were compressed in fear and agony. Kane still held him pinned down, clamped on to the man's bloody arm, his teeth sunk to bone.
"Release," Tucker ordered.
The shepherd obeyed but stayed close, baring his bloody fangs at Shane. Tucker backed his partner up with the knife.
Sirens echoed through the forest, growing steadily louder.
Tucker felt his belly tighten. Though he'd acted in self-defense, he was in the middle of nowhere awaiting a sheriff who could arrest them if the whim struck him. Flashing lights appeared through the trees, and a cruiser swung fast into the parking lot and pulled to a stop twenty feet away.
Tucker raised his hands and tossed the knife aside.
He didn't want anyone making a mistake here.
"Sit," he told Kane. "Be happy."
The dog dropped to his haunches, wagging his tail, his head cocked to the side quizzically.
Aasif joined him outside and must have noticed his tension. "Sheriff Walton is a fair man, Tucker."
"If you say so."
In the end, Aasif proved a good judge of character. It helped that the sheriff knew the trio on the ground and held them in no high opinion. These boys been raising hell for a year now, the sheriff eventually explained. So far, nobody's had the sand to press charges against them.
Sheriff Walton took down their statements and noted the truck's blacked-out license plate with a sad shake of his head. "I believe that would be your third strike, Shane. And from what I hear, redheads are very popular at the state pen this year."
Shane lowered his head and groaned.
After another two cruisers arrived and the men were hauled away, Tucker faced the sheriff. "Do I need to stick around?"
"Do you want to?"
"Not especially."
"Didn't think so. I've got your details. I doubt you'll need to testify, but if you do—"
"I'll come back."
"Good." Walton passed him a card. Tucker expected it to have the local sheriff's department's contact information on it, but instead it was emblazoned with the image of a car with a smashed fender. "My brother owns a body-repair shop in Wisdom, next town down the highway. I'll make sure he gets that flat tire of yours fixed at cost."
Tucker took the card happily. "Thanks."
With matters settled, Tucker was soon back on the road with Kane. He held out the card toward the shepherd as he sped toward his motel. "See, Kane. Who says no good deed goes unpunished?"
Unfortunately, he spoke too soon. As he turned into his motel and parked before the door to his room, his headlight shone upon an impossible sight.
Sitting on the bench before his cabin was a woman—a ghost out of his past. Only this figment wasn't outfitted in desert khaki or in the blues of her dress uniform. Instead, she wore jeans and a light-blue blouse with an open wool cardigan.
Tucker's heart missed several beats. He sat behind the wheel, engine idling, struggling to understand how she could be here, how she had found him.
Her name was Jane Sabatello. It had been over six years since he'd last set eyes on her. He found his gaze sweeping over her every feature, each triggering distinct memories, blurring past and present: the softness of her full lips, the shine of moonlight that turned her blond hair silver, the joy in her eyes each morning.
Tucker had never married, but Jane was as close as he'd come.
And now here she was, waiting for him—and she wasn't alone.
A child sat at her side, a young boy tucked close to her hip.
For the briefest of moments, he wondered if the boy—
No, she would have told me.
He finally cut off the engine and stepped out of the vehicle. She stood up as she recognized him in turn.
"Jane?" he murmured.
She rushed to him and wrapped him in a hug, clinging to him for a long thirty seconds before pulling back. She searched his face, her eyes moist. Under the glare of the Cherokee's headlamps, he noted a dark bruise under one cheekbone, poorly obscured by a smear of cosmetic concealer.
Even less hidden was the panic and raw fear in her face.
She kept one hand firmly on his arm, her fingers tight with desperation. "Tucker, I need your help."
Before he could speak, she glanced to the boy.
"Someone's trying to kill us."

 

 


Our Authors' Bios:

James RollinsJAMES ROLLINS is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the "top crowd pleasers" (New York Times) and one of the "hottest summer reads" (People magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets–and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.



Catch Up with James Rollins on his Website , Twitter , & Facebook .



GRANT BLACKWOODIn addition to his New York Times bestselling collaborations with Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy, GRANT BLACKWOOD is the author of three novels featuring Briggs Tanner: The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War. A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer. He lives in Colorado.



Catch Up with Grant Blackwood on his Website , Twitter , & Facebook 





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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for James Rollins and William Morrow. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of War Hawk by James Rollins. The giveaway begins on January 9th and runs through January 17th, 2017.

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