I’m hoping you enjoy these weekly forays into other genres, other authors, other styles. From the hits I get each Sunday, it would appear that you do *s* This week’s sample comes courtesy of Doranna Durgin, another of the BacklistEbooks author group. And if you’ve never heard of BacklistEbooks, and you’re an author with an out of print backlist, you should check us out. Virginia Henley, Jacquie D’Alessandro, Connie Brockway, and Jill Gregory are a few of our newest members.
On to the sample….which, by the way, is for a twofer. Two books for the price of one *g*
Once upon a time, I wrote for a short-lived Silhouette line called Bombshell. No, seriously…that’s what it was called. It was meant to be a grand adventure in writing…striking out into new Silhouette territory. Books with alpha heroines (and heros who could match them)–much longer than the usual category line, much more freedom in the line’s parameters. (Look! I avoided using the word “formula”! Er…) We could do first person, we could do spicy, we could do downright hot…we had a lot of room to play.
Unfortunately, Silhouette never quite figured out how to market the line. It was written to cross genres and readership; it was released like a category. The covers, in trying to straddle the line between category and single-title, sort of muddled around in between. Category readers who picked up the books were baffled; cross-genre readers never saw them.
Well, we didn’t last long. But in the demise of the line, I ended up with the rights back to the book that was in production when the line folded, and I also had the book I handed in the very week the announcement was made.
So HIDDEN STEEL and MAKING THE RULES were among the first of my backlist books to appear in my own ebook editions, and it was a natural to put them into this “boxed set” or bundle–a discounted packaging from the individual books. They’ve got clever, strong, high-action heroines–a taste of Alias, Buffy, Xena, and Covert Affairs–with heroes who are strong enough to capture these wild hearts.
HIDDEN STEEL: Steve Spaneas doesn’t have a clue. Who’d have thought that the woman who stumbles into his gym, looking and acting so very much like a street person off her meds, is really a CIA case officer whose memory has been obliterated with experimental drugs wielded by some very bad people?
HIDDEN STEEL (Somewhere in Chapter 8…)
Mickey rinsed out the dingy washcloth and squeezed it until runnels of pink water made their way down the sink. “Ought to be in the ER,” she said to him through the open bathroom door. In truth, open was the only way it came, as the warped door refused to move from its permanently ajar position. “Or an all-night clinic.”
“You knew this place was here?” he asked.
“I seem to have.” She returned to sit at the side of the bed—a twin bed, not at all happy to hold the weight of two. He sat propped against the headboard, one arm protecting his ribs and a hand exploring the side of his head. She gently slapped it away, separating the wet waves behind his ear to get another look at the cut there. “It’s hard to tell what I know. Sometimes I don’t realize it until afterward. And sometimes I get these …” she trailed off, no longer seeing his hair or his blood, but the now-familiar image of Naia, accompanied by that now-familiar wave of urgency. Do you have something I want? Are you someone I want? Am I using you? Do I care about you?
A little of both, she thought. There was more to that urgency than calculated goal. There was caring … there was familiarity and responsibility.
And as memories went, it was the clearest thing she had. The only thing she had. If she couldn’t find Naia, she’d find the people who had drugged her—who had put her in this state, fumbling around San Jose in confusion, not sure if she was the hunted or the hunter.
Steve’s voice grabbed her out of that potentially endless reverie. “You okay?”
She refocused on him. He was close—closer than she’d expected. He’d leaned forward, she realized—but he was sore and tired and it showed in his eyes, and he didn’t stay there long. Not once he saw he had her attention.
Poor guy. He’d only wanted to help. It was what he did, obviously enough. Helped those who struggled against what fate had dealt them …helped those like his brother who didn’t have any true hope. So of course he’d gathered her up when she’d come staggering into his gym. Of course he’d found it no surprise that she’d fainted at his feet. She sighed, and dabbed the dried blood on his neck. Stubborn thing, dried blood. It found every crack and crevice of skin.
Dried blood, a dead woman on the floor and partially covered with a lemon yellow raincoat. Expensive London Fog raincoat, not hers … because it wasn’t big enough to hide the blood, or the shoulder-length grey hair fanning across the plushly carpeted floor.
What the hell? What was that? New, these stains of violent death in her memory. New, and yet … the true start of it all.
There she was, frozen in mid-dab. “I’m sorry,” she said, and then caught his gaze to say it again. “I’m really sorry. You had no idea what you were getting into when I showed up. It really wasn’t fair.”
He tipped his head back against the water-stained wall. “None of it’s fair,” he said, and she knew he meant more than her arrival, more than what had gone down on the street tonight. “Just for once, give me the chance to really make a difference.” His lips barely moved; his eyes twitched slightly behind closed lids.
She’d meant to get some sleep. Instead she’d be checking him every couple of hours just to see if he could wake up after that concussion. “You don’t even know what you’re saying,” she murmured, and withdrew the washcloth, giving up to rub at the stubborn spot with one wet thumb.
“Do too,” he said, but he didn’t move.
Mickey watched him another long while, cataloging the pasty nature of his skin, the purpling of the bruises—knowing there were more beneath his Steve’s Gym shirt. She found herself waylaid by the dark sweep of lashes shadowing the thin skin beneath his eyes, and in remembering the eyes themselves … first so determined to help, and then most recently—whether he knew it or not—so determined to hope.
“We’ll see how you feel about it tomorrow,” she told him, and curled up in the small portion of bed available, pulling up the thin sheet to cover them both.
* * * * *
He remembered that she had a soothing touch. He remembered her quietly sardonic voice in his ear. He even remembered being woken up several times that night, being asked who he was and what year it was and who was president.
He didn’t remember expecting to wake up alone.
MAKING THE RULES: Framed, cut off from the agency, and tangled in Basque Nationalist splinter terrorist groups, the biggest challenge Kimmer and Rio face is coming to terms with their pasts and with each other–so they can live through the day on the way to saving it.
MAKING THE RULES (somewhere in Chapter 3…)
They ended up outside the Bilbao airport, waiting for the mini-bus to the rental kiosks on the outskirts of the airport, watching cars swerve to the curb, disgorge and acquire passengers, and dart back into the stream of traffic. “Same old, same old,” Kimmer said, resting her backpack on her toes and draping her elbow over the extended handle to her rolling suitcase. She was their translator here, competent if not natively fluent in Spanish, and she kept an ear to the conversations around them, dipping in and out to re-immerse herself in the rapid, emphatic flow of language.
Perhaps that was why she didn’t immediately follow when a man behind them said in English, “Get in the car.” He didn’t even give her a chance to turn around, to question him—to point out that there was no car to get into.
Beside her, Rio had already stiffened in that peculiar way that could only mean there was a weapon shoved at some part of his body, and then Kimmer took a strong shove toward the curb. “Get in the car, gilipoyas!”
At the moment, a car swooped in toward the curb, a tidy little BMW with the back door already sweeping open.
“Driver’s mine,” Rio said, so casually as to draw no response from their Welcome Wagon rep; he gave under the man’s push, sprawling into the backseat of the car with his legs still trailing.
“Idiot is mine,” Kimmer responded under her breath. She dipped a hand into the backpack as she stumbled forward, her hand closing around the familiar worn wood of the little war club, its leather loop snugging into place around her wrist. And dammit, he pushed her again, right on the ass.
She couldn’t help but slap head-first into the side of the car, just barely nimble enough to soften the blow by throwing her pack out in front of her. She slid down the side of the car into the gutter, losing one of her clog sneakers; her toes scraped along the rough cement of the curb, then found purchase.
The man reached for her, a barrel-chested man with dark curly hair and heavily shadowed jowls and big rough hands that had the wrong idea. Kimmer braced herself; the car bobbed and rocked against her with the battle waging in its interior. Hands splayed against asphalt, club handle rolling beneath her grip and shoulders against the car, she kicked out with both feet—two wicked fast hammer blows to his knees, and then she kipped out to land awkwardly, unevenly, but upright enough to twist over on one knee.
Surprised cries from their fellow travelers greeted her acrobatics, and then again when she instantly followed momentum to bring the war club against the very base of the man’s spine as he staggered forward.
Bone cracked, unmistakable; he howled and went face first into the window—just as the driver smashed into the same window from the inside, blood flowing down his face and smearing down the glass.
Kimmer snagged her assailant’s collar and hauled–he tipped backward over the curb with a cry, leaving room for the door to open; Rio reached up from inside and flipped the latch.
The driver ejected with help, looking as glad to escape as he was reluctant to hit the pavement.
The sounds of shouting, whistle-blowing, and general demand-making grew from a background noise to something more imminent. Behind the car, the rental service mini-bus tootled up and honked an indignant horn, oblivious to the rest of it…and blocking them from view.
Kimmer tossed their luggage in through the open back door and kicked it closed, scooted into the front seat, and slid over the stick shift and into the driver’s seat. An instant to glance at the little shift map on top of the stick and she jammed it into first, pulling out into the traffic stream with sufficient authority to leave a series of squealing brakes behind her. “Well, we were waiting to rent a car. Now we have one.”
“That we do,” Rio said, tossing the bloodied metal body of a pen beside her as he leaned forward to twine his arms over the passenger side head rest. “What’d you do to that guy?”
“Broke his ass,” Kimmer said with some satisfaction. “The club earns its keep.”