BEHIND THE MASK by CAROLYN CRANE

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.Today I welcome Carolyn Crane with her newest romantic suspense entitled Behind The Mask. 

Hi everybody!

Okay, I’m here with an excerpt of my new book, BEHIND THE MASK.

In Behind the Mask, my heroine, Zelda, masquerades as her sister, a prostitute, in order to save her when she is won in a card game by a brutal drug cartel…only to comes face-to-face with the legendary killer she spent years hunting back when she was in the CIA.

In this scene, she’s getting ready to pose as her sister. They haven’t seen each other for years.

*****

Zelda rooted through her twin sister Liza’s suitcase. The thing was pink and orange and studded with rhinestones in true Liza style. It squeezed Zelda’s heart.

Zelda would carry it now. She’d do whatever it took to save her sister.

Liza brought over a pair of fuck-me heels, looking apologetic. Liza had looked apologetic a lot over the past twelve hours. “They’re a little crazy, but it’s what I’d wear,” Liza said.

Zelda took them and ran her finger over one spiked heel, thankful for the closed toes. She didn’t want Liza to see her toes. The men she needed to fool definitely couldn’t see them.

“Mikos knows they’re my favorites, though,” Liza continued. “It’s what I’d wear on a day like this. To make myself feel better…you know.” This last in an angry whisper.

Zelda nodded, glad Mikos would recognize the shoes. A strong visual cue went a long way toward fooling people, and she’d need all the help she could get during the twenty-minute limo ride to the airport. Even an active field agent would have a hard time fooling a shrewd and paranoid drug dealer like Mikos, and Zelda was six years retired.

Liza insisted that Mikos had no idea she had a twin, but you had to expect the worst.

“You probably can’t walk in them.”

“Oh, I can walk in them.” Zelda had walked in plenty of shoes like that. She put them aside and grabbed the bottle of red nail polish and shook it, feeling like she might actually throw up. When she looked up next, she found her twin watching her, pretty lips parted, eyes sparkling. The look brought her straight back to their childhood.

They hadn’t spoken for years, but in some ways, it was as if she’d seen Liza just yesterday. “When you were a spy, you mean? You would wear shoes like this when you were a fucking spy? Because, fuck, Zelda!”

“Field agent,” Zelda corrected for the umpteenth time.

“Fuck,” Liza said. “You were out chasing bad guys in different countries and wearing disguises and stuff, so I’m going with spy. All this time I thought you were a botanist, and instead you’re this spy?”

“I was still doing some botany as an agent.” Plants could tell you a lot, like whether a body had been moved and how long it had been there. Forensic botany was how she got into the CIA.

“So wild.” Liza was impressed. She shouldn’t be; a lot of spying, especially for the female agents, was done on your back. She and Liza hadn’t turned out so differently after all.

“I’m best behind a desk,” Zelda mumbled, although the truth was that she’d loved being in the field, loved being out there making a difference. Until a good agent had been killed because of her.

“You used to say the CIA did bad things. When we were in high school? Remember? You always had so many opinions on everything.”

“All the more reason to get involved. If you don’t like something, change it, right?” She was shaking the nail polish again, way too vigorously. She forced herself to put it down. “Tell me the limo ride like a movie. How you see it going in your mind.”

“I’ll show you.” Liza sat on the couch, draping a hand over the back and crossing her legs. Her pose was relaxed, cool, and angry all at once. “Because this is how I feel. Pissed. But not beaten. Don’t sit up all straight and attentive, like you are right now, or he’ll suspect. This kind of sitting says, ‘I’m fun. I’m the joy in your life, and you ruined it.’ That’s how I would be to make him feel bad for handing me over to some creep.” Liza shifted, looking relaxed and elegant now. “The way you take up space changes everything.”

God, that big attitude. That had always been the beauty of Liza—the wild, fabulous twin.

Again Zelda picked up the bottle of nail polish and shook it, wondering if she could put it on without trembling.

“Or this.” Liza shifted into another pose. Liza always had a knack for transforming herself into the picture of leisure fun.

Zelda didn’t actually need this lesson. She had Liza down cold—they used to switch places all the time, but Liza needed to feel like she was contributing.

“Mikos will want to fuck in the back of the limo,” Liza continued, “but under no circumstances would I fuck him. He feels bad—he won’t press it. I loved him. If he tries anything, you tell him, ‘I’m not a fucking poker chip to be lost in a card game. Some possession to be gambled away like cattle.’” The tears were starting now. It broke Zelda’s heart. Through all the trouble between them, all the hell of Liza’s drug addiction, she’d never stopped loving her sister.

“Okay, let me try.” Zelda changed her posture and mimicked Liza’s smooth tone. “I’m not a fucking poker chip to be lost in a card game like cattle, Mikos. Some possession to gamble away. So fuck you,” she added.

“Exactly. Motherfucker.” Liza grabbed a tissue and dabbed her eyes.

“Here—help me with this.” Zelda held out the nail polish.

Liza tossed the tissue and took the bottle, sniffling as she unscrewed the top. She grabbed hold of Zelda’s fingers. “You’re shaking.”

“Too much caffeine.”

Liza smiled uncertainly and drew a thick, gleaming swath of red over Zelda’s fingernail. “I’m so sorry.”

“Stop apologizing.”

“I’m done with all that life, I promise,” Liza said. “I really promise this time—I won’t fuck up on you again. I’m so, so sorry—”

“Stop it. Look at me.”

Liza finished a nail and lifted her gaze.

“I’m your sister, okay? And seriously, this is a gift. Do you know how great it is to get inside that cartel right now? Inside Brujos’s ugly, stupid palace? We’re going to get something we desperately need because of you.”

Liza looked dubious, but it was true. The Association had never been able to get on the inside with Brujos and infiltrate his cartel. The timing couldn’t be better. A nice, juicy file full of damaging intel on Brujos was a bargaining chip they could use to prevent a serious disaster that was brewing on the other side of the equator.

“Easy in and out,” Zelda said. Instantly, she regretted her choice of words. They both knew she might have to fuck a few bad men before the thing was done. “It’s so nothing,” she added.

So nothing.” Liza frowned and concentrated on the nails. “You are so full of shit.”

Zelda used Liza’s voice. “You are so full of shit.”

“God, you’re me.” Liza moved on to another nail.

****

Eep!!

Read more: Links for BEHIND THE MASK are here at my website.

http://authorcarolyncrane.com/the-associates/behind-the-mask/

Thank you so much for having me!

Thanks Carolyn for sharing the excerpt. Sounds like a don’t miss book.

Here are the links to go out and grab your copy today!

Today Marks A New Milestone :-)

On June 25, 2011, I made day 100 for the third time. You see in January 2010, I joined this interesting group. What was the purpose of joining this particular group? To encourage writing every day, to ensure you develop the habit of writing to reach the goal of becoming published. No excuses just write. The criterion of the group is below.
Personally, it has worked wonders. I finally finished a manuscript. Right now, I am revising and rewriting the story I began in the fall of 2009. I have to admit it has taken me three tries to get through each round. However, I have three very nice certificates to show for it. Today is June 26, 2011. I am beginning the “CHAMPAGNE ROUND”.

What is this round? This round is to write for 365 days straight. Yep, write 100 words everyday nonstop for a whole year. I hope by then to have the first story out searching for a home. Maybe even the second one completed and ready to find a place too.
Some of you know my husband, Jim, is in poor health. Writing has kept me sane, through all of his difficulties. I take the laptop to the hospital when he’s in the hospital. I come home and think have to write my words before midnight.
How many words can I write? It varies. Some days I write over a thousand others, I make the minimum of a mere 100 words.
The group is WritingGIAM100x100@yahoogroups.com. It is run by Amy Atwell and Jo Anne Banker. These ladies worked hard to create several groups. I’m also in the Go Pro group. I didn’t get around to submitting for my pro status after being rejected by Harlequin. Between moving and everything with life, I let it slide. So now, I am focusing on these two stories.
If you want to kick your writing in gear check out the link above, ask to join our happy family. It really is fun. Think BICHOK (Butt in Chair Hands on Keyboard) and go for 100 words. If you go by the 250 words per page, that is less than one page and it doesn’t take that long. I use MS Word and either use multicolored font for each day or highlight where I begin. Reaching a point where I stop to think I go back and highlight to see how many words I’ve done so far. Less than 100 and I have to keep going over 100 I pause and add a few more. Yesterday I wrote 120 words and had to shut down. I never returned to the writing. Time with my great niece was more important.
We watched The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King. It was the two discs set extended version so well after midnight when it ended. But, I had my words done for the day so it wasn’t a problem.
For me, this group/loop has helped me develop the habit of writing every day. I recommend it if you find you have reasons for NOT writing. Not reasons but excuses disguised as reasons. We all have things that keep us from writing at one time or another. Sometimes with us, it is Jim’s illness knocks me out of making the cut-off. Or, I got home and forgot. If I didn’t do my 100 words or one of the other things, I have to start over at day 1. It’s frustrating to be at day 45 and begin again at day 1, but it isn’t about that just keeping the writing going is the purpose.
Here is how they defined the loop criteria. I enjoy reporting in every day with what day it is and how many words I wrote. You see where others are in their days and how many words they did as well.
“We defined our criteria as 100 new words or 30 minutes editing on a “production of work aimed at a contract for sale,” whether for an essay, short story, novella or novel, revisions, synopses, queries or submission letters – even character studies and plot idea summaries. So, what does work: Brainstorming, making notes, plotting and research (for at least 30 minutes a day) counts. What doesn’t work: We have defined that blogging, critiquing, judging for contests, classes, meeting exercises (unless they were over 100 new words on your WIP), etc do not count.” (Jo Anne Banker)
So are you having a hard time focusing on finding time to write? Always finding something else to do, yes things seem to crop up that require more attention. I’m lucky I don’t have children, except great nieces and nephews. I play games, but they help me think. Often in the middle of writing I’ll pull up one to work through in my mind what I have going on in the scene. I think it settles me too.
However, if you need a little encouragement and want to join us go to Yahoo groups or click on the link above and join our fun. Hope to see you on the loop.
Oh one more thing, I use Excel to keep track of the days and word counts. You can use a diary or calendar or whatever works for you to see how you progress.
Now time to work on my uninterrupted year of 100 words.
Wish me luck!
By the way, I did earn that bottle of champagne. My niece-in-law and I had mimosas and Kahlua and Frappuccinos to celebrate my year.
Today is March 20, 2015. I not only survived the first year on the 100 x 100 loop. I have now completed four years. This date marks the beginning of year FIVE (5). Yep, I did it. Although, I did not finish the story, I did not get it out there. However, I have learned something. From now on, when I start a new book, novella, or story, I will NOT share any part of it until I finish the first draft. Once the first draft is complete. Then I will take suggestions based on critiques. I spend so much time rewriting the first couple of chapters I never get it completed.
Currently, I’m working on completing a Navy SEAL story I started in November of 2012. I started the project for NaNo (National Novel Writing Month). That’s another story. I wrote, rewrote, submitted was rejected and was determined to complete it. Then I asked somebody some questions. This person knows her stuff. Seems I had the villain all wrong. It would never happen the way I had it going. Stunned, I sat there for thirty minutes thinking I’d wasted almost two years. Instead of quitting and throwing all those words away, I started asking questions. Soon, I had a different way to keep the same story just change the bad guy. Thank you, Lindsay McKenna for the support and for taking the time to email back and forth to answer the questions.
This brings me to today. Yes, it’s been nine months since I began this last revision. It’s had a few more changes in these nine months. Determination, hard headedness, stubbornness, whatever term you choose to use that has brought me to this point.
The road the past five years has had a bunch of rough spots. Jim, my husband died on November 30, 2011, my sister grew more ill from late 2013, until she lost her fight and died on March 26, 2014 and twelve hours later, my dear mother-in-law passed away one month and one day before her eighty-seventh (87) birthday. Then this year my brother-in-law who was only thirteen months younger than my husband, lost his battle four month battle to brain cancer. He died at home with family surrounding him. But, that’s three deaths in March and I’d much rather they hadn’t happened. Life is hard, I know this, doesn’t make the loss any less. Still, I’ve found words to put on the page or time to edit.
I spent time searching for agents and editors for homework and this particular exercise does count as research on the 100 x 100 loop. One of the nice things is when it works out like that.
I hope to have the current Work In Progress (WIP) finished in by the end of April. Then I shall send it all to the critique partner to read and go over, while I go over it with Margie Lawson’s Deep Edits.
If you want to know, more about this process go to http://www.MargieLawson.com and check out her workshops and blogs. She has some of the best workshops on writing. I admit I’m a workshopaholic. I figure there’s always new and fun things to learn that will help me down the road.
Now, that I’ve told you my life story. Why not join in the fun of trying for 100 words every day? It’s not hard. Romance Writers of America is running an ongoing challenge of 2,000 words a month. I have one week this year, that I wrote over 5,000 words. That’s an average of 714 words per day. The RWA challenge is a mere 66 words per day. That’s less than NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you shoot for Neptune or Pluto and write 50,000 words in 30 days. For that one you average 1666.7 words per day. Every November I join in this crazy fun. Then there’s Camp NaNo in April and July this year. The Camp is less pressure, you’re out in the virtual outdoors writing under the stars by the campfire. You share a cabin with other writer campers.
Add these crazy writing fun things into a mix of various other things like October Obsession and April Madness hosted by Anne Marie Novak. The RWA online chapter of Romance, Mystery and Suspense, affectionately known as Kiss of Death, hosts Book In A Week (BIAW) challenges four times a year.
There are many challenges to encourage you to write. Pick one and join the fun. What do you have to lose? You could have a full-blown novel ready to submit and become a published author. Imagine all the fans that want to have you sign your books for them.
In the bottom of my refrigerator, I’m chilling a bottle of wine. I won it in a raffle drawing at the NW Houston Lone Star Conference in 2013. I’m saving it for when I sell this story. If it doesn’t find a traditional home, it will find a home on Amazon. Wish me luck.
The Milky Way is waiting for your book. Let’s write 100 words today.

Sweet or Salty by Susan Ann Wall (guest blogger today)

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Hey Y’all,
Please welcome my guest blogger Susan Ann Wall. She shares her thoughts on Sweet or Salty and you can catch her three books out on sale at Amazon. She’s also running a contest over at Goodreads. There’s a link at the bottom of her post for her books and the Goodreads contest is right here:
Now, please enjoy Susan Ann’s post about food choices and healthy choices. 🙂
Sweet or Salty
I’m sitting here in the ski lodge minding my own business when the mom next to me returns from the cafeteria with a bucket of French fries. “I bought the big size so we can share.”
I cuss, not because I don’t appreciate her generosity but because I’ve recently made some significant lifestyle changes to improve my health and my biggest weakness is chips and fries.
I don’t buy chips because I’ll sit down and eat the whole bag. Lays are my favorite, but I wouldn’t say no to Ruffles, Cape Cod, Pringles, well, you get the point. French fries run a close second to chips and the ones here at Cannon Mountain are famous. Everyone knows how good they are.
And who am I to say no when another mom so graciously offers to share while our kids are freezing their patooties off out on the mountain?
And on the other side of me, my friend is celebrating his birthday with a big bag of Starburst.
There is temptation at every corner, but if I had to choose between sweet and salty, I’d choose salty every single time. What’s ironic is I don’t put salt on my food. Not even French fries. Several years ago during my annual physical, my bloodwork came back showing a sodium deficiency. My doctor told me to start adding salt to my diet. I was running at the time, so I’m pretty sure the deficiency was a result of the exercise. Once I gave up running, my bloodwork no longer came back with low sodium.
Lately I’ve found myself craving salty foods again and guess what? No, I’m not running, but I have started going to the gym five days a week, so I’m pretty sure the cravings are a result of a deficiency. So really, indulging in a few fries is benefiting my body and its need for sodium. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
What’s your weakness? Sweet or salty?
Susan Ann Wall writes racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction.

www.susanannwall.com

www.facebook.com/susanannwall.author

 

The Sound of Suspicion is free on Amazon January 30 – February 3.  http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Suspicion-Puget-Alive-Love-ebook/dp/B00I56PSLW

Relay for Love will be featured at a special sale price February 3 – 5 at Amazon and other e-book retailers.

http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Suspicion-Puget-Alive-Love-ebook/dp/B00I56PSLW

A Flame Burns Inside will be featured at a special sale price February 3 – 5 at Amazon and other e-book retailers.

www.amazon.com/Flame-Burns-Inside-Fighting-Back-ebook/dp/B00ID7XNC4

One more time here’s the link to enter her contest on Goodreads.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/124533-the-sound-of-suspicion

BURIED AGENDAS WITH DONNELL ANN BELL

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Please welcome Donnell Ann Bell to my blog. Below are a few words about her fantastic book and an excerpt. There’s a raffle copter to go with it. So post those comments and share the news.

I know Donnell from the Romance Writers of America Romance Suspense/Mystery Chapter aka Kiss of Death. Donnell is well known in our chapter for her books and helpfulness. Enter to win a copy of her book Buried Agendas or  one of her great Dammit Dolls. Read on to find out how you can win. You can also scoop up a copy at your favorite places to buy books. The links are listed below.

Title:                Buried Agendas

Release:          November 7, 2014

Genre:                         Suspense with Romantic Elements

Blog Tour:       December 8, 2014 – December 12, 2014

Buy Links:        Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

Book Summary:

A devastating secret drove her from the man she loved.  Will a secret equally as deadly lead her back to him?

Diana Reid is an investigative reporter skilled at uncovering other people’s secrets. It’s her own she works to keep buried. Eight years earlier, she promised to leave her fiancé and hometown of Diamond, Texas forever. That pledge vanishes when she receives a letter stating people are going to die, implicating her hometown’s largest employer, and making a veiled threat against her mother. With no other choice, Diana will return to Diamond, albeit in disguise, to discover the anonymous author.

Brad Jordan moved on with his life after Diana walked out on him. Just as he rebuilt his life, as the newly elected mayor of Diamond, and newly engaged to be married, he plans to rebuild his struggling hometown.  Those plans are threatened when an El Paso physician notifies Brad that she believes his family’s company, Jordan Industries, is conducting illegal practices and sacrificing the public’s health.

When the doctor suggests bringing in Diana to uncover the wrongdoing, Brad strongly opposes the idea. Still, when she appears despite his wishes, he’s forced to accept that a woman he vowed to forget may be his only option to get to the truth. Together Diana Reid and Brad Jordan face a dangerous adversary—one whose only intent is keeping a deadly agenda buried.

About the Author

Donnell Ann Bell grew up in New Mexico and today lives in Colorado.  A homebody at heart, she concentrates on suspense that might happen in her neck of the woods – writing SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME.  She is the author of The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall and Betrayed, all of which have been e-book best sellers. Buried Agendas is her newest release. Along with veteran police officer Wally Lind, Donnell co-owns Crimescenewriters, a Yahoo group putting law enforcement experts together with writers. Donnell loves to hear from readers.

Author Links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details

As part of the blog tour, Donnell will be giving away 5 copies of Buried Agendas (US/Canada only) and

5 Dammit Dolls (US/Canada only).  Fill out the Rafflecopter form to enter!

Not sure what a Dammit Doll is? Well, here is the little saying that each doll comes with:

Whenever things don’t go so well and you want to hit the wall and yell, here’s a little dammit doll that you can’t do without.  Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it.  And as you whack the Stuffing out yell, “Dammit, Dammit! Dammit!

Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rafflecopter Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1c9cd1c911/

 

 

Excerpt

Diana curbed a jealous retort and moved to the nightstand. She yanked open a top drawer and withdrew the want ads she’d skimmed early that morning after she’d checked in. In bright red, she’d circled, Help wanted, mailroom clerk, Jordan Industries. High school diploma, drug test required.

“If your fiancée recognized me, I’d be behind bars. I deliberately failed my typing test and listed no experience on the application.”

For the first time, he smiled. The old Brad, the Brad she thought she knew. “What name did you use?”

“Candace Armstrong.”

“Okay.” He motioned to the letter. “So how can a mailroom employee find out what the author meant by ‘people are going to die’?”

“The same way I do every story, by asking questions.”

“Who’s Ronnie?”

“Who?”

Brad pointed to the tattoo on her ankle.

“Oh,” Diana smiled. “He’s no one.”

Brad’s gaze shot to her face, and for a second, she thought she saw pain. Don’t be absurd. The man’s engaged. Irrationally, Diana felt betrayed.

“Seriously, he’s no one. Ronnie doesn’t exist. And neither does this tattoo. It’s henna, and part of my disguise.”

Brad shook his head and he scowled. “You swear to me you didn’t talk to Liz this week.”

“I swear, I haven’t spoken to her . . .” But maybe I should.

“Give me one reason to go along with this?”

Diana lowered her head. She wanted to tell him because the Brad Jordan she’d once known stood for integrity and honesty. The Brad Jordan she’d loved, and unfortunately still did, had wanted to make a difference. She couldn’t believe he’d run for a mayoral position if that wasn’t still true.

Lifting her head, she met his gaze. “Because you know I had nothing to do with that letter, and you want to know what’s going on, too.”

As he traversed the dingy hotel room, Diana sensed he was wavering. He’d asked too many questions to turn her away now. If he said yes, she had a long list to accomplish before Monday. She’d take her physical, head for El Paso, and spend her weekend at the library researching Jordan Industries.

Brad stopped pacing. “I have no doubt that you’re worried about your mom. But when you said you weren’t out to hurt me or Jordan Industries, were you being truthful?”

“I meant every word.”

“All right. I’ll give you two weeks to investigate if you go along with the following conditions.”

She swallowed. “I’m listening.”

“If, after two weeks, you’ve found nothing, you’ll give up this charade and go home.”

She stared back at him. Diana could easily agree to Brad’s terms. She expelled a pent-up breath. “I accept that condition.”

“Second, you will never report a word of what you find or release a word to the media. If you do, I have more than enough witnesses to prove you entered Jordan Industries illegally, and I’ll file charges against you.”

Hurt morphed into anger. “Are you saying if something’s going on, you won’t report it?”

“Not at all. I’ll be the first one to call the police.”

“Then . . . I don’t understand.”

He unrolled his sleeves and grabbed his tie. “I’m saying no way in hell will I allow negative information against my family’s company to benefit your career. I don’t trust you, Diana, especially after what I saw today. We’ll see if you’re really concerned about your mother, or if you’re after a story.” Brad opened the door. “You don’t have to agree to the second part of my conditions right now. I’ll have my answer when you don’t show up on Monday.”

Blog Tour Stops

December 8, 2014

CK Crouch: https://ckcrouch.wordpress.com

Reading by the Book: http://www.readingbythebook.com/?zx=85dd92d8b0eb840f

Storeybook Reviews: http://storeybookreviews.com

December 9, 2014

The Book Review: http://www.cluereview.blogspot.com

Happiness Is A Book: http://happinessbook.wordpress.com/

Romance Reviews Today: http://www.romrevtoday.blogspot.com/

December 10, 2014

My Book Addiction and More: http://www.mybookaddictionandmore.com

Shattered Hearts Reviews: http://shatteredheartsreviews.com/

So Many Reads: http://www.somanyreads.com

December 11, 2014

Em & M Books: http://www.emandmbooks.com

Harlie’s Book Reviews: http://www.harliesbooks.com/

Lush Book Reviews: http://lushbookreviewss.blogspot.com/

Romance Junkies: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com

December 12, 2014

A Little Bit of R&R: http://alittlebitofrnr.com/

Amy Manemann’s Blog: http://www.amymanemann.blogspot.com

My Reivew of Man Law by Adrienne Giordano

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MAN LAW is a book for your keeper shelf. I’ve read it several times. I love the book.
I have a secret to share about this book.
When Adrienne began writing Man Law, we both were members of the online critique group known as LethaLadies.

I’m giving you a spoiler alert. A major character dies. The death of this person pushes Vic out of his safe zone. It forces him to change, to grow to learn and develop. When Adrienne did this and it went through the group everyone of us threw a fit against her doing this. But when this happens it changess Vic for the better.

In writing we call this the inciting incident. This incident taught me as an unpublished author what you have to do a character to create the black moment to make the character move forward in life.

Now I have a second spoiler alert. Gina and Vic’s family will increase. But you can only find out how this happens and when if you read the rest of the books in the Private Protector Series. You won’t regret buying the books. They’re all keepers. Even Billy from this book gets his turn at love. But that’s all I’m sharing. Enjoy the excerpts and go grab a copy when you finish.

Excerpt from Man Law by Adrienne Giordano

Chapter One

Man Law: Never mess with your best friend’s sister.

“Ah, shit.” Vic Andrews, butthead supreme, listened to the churn of the ocean’s waves. Or was it his life skittering off its axis?
Gina laughed that belly laugh of hers and he couldn’t help smiling. He extracted himself from her lush little body and rolled off. The St. Barth sand stuck to his back. Yep, they’d worked up a sweat. Salty sea air invaded his nostrils and he inhaled, letting the moisture flood his system.
Jesus Hotel Christ.
What had he been thinking? He’d been heading back to his room after closing down the resort’s bar and there she was, the girl—er, woman—of his dreams, crying on the beach. No condition for her to be in after witnessing her brother’s marriage to the love of his life.
Vic didn’t mention the fact it was 3:00 a.m. and she was alone on a secluded beach where any drunken asshole, like him, could have at her. Although technically he wasn’t drunk. Buzzed maybe. Big difference. Besides, they’d been at a wedding. Buzzed was allowed.
Gina moved and he finally turned toward her. “I’m—”
“No, absolutely not,” she said. She swiped at her curly mane of dark hair. Her face gave away nothing, but that meant squat. Gina knew how to hide bad moods.
The whoosh of the ocean lapping against the shore distracted him and he stared into the blackness.
“What did I say?” he asked.
“You were going to apologize. I don’t want to hear it.”
Apologize? Him? “I’m not sorry.” He touched her arm. “Are you?”
Please don’t say you’re sorry. Please.
That would be all he needed. He’d just freakin’ obliterated the sister rule Mike had invoked nearly a million—maybe two million—times. The sister rule was Man Law, and Man Laws were about the only rules Vic followed.
He only wanted to check on her, and before he knew it, voila, the clothes were off, the condom was on and they were humping like bunnies right there on the beach. At least no one saw them. All the well-meaning people were asleep.
Gina brushed sand from her legs and stood to straighten the sliplike dress he’d shoved up over her hips. The silky fabric glided over her curves, and the activity in Vic’s lower region made him groan. A thirty-five year-old mother of three, and she was killing him. He should be ashamed.
Screw that.
She was right there. Right there. And, because he’d probably never get the opportunity again, he should grab her and—
“I’m not sorry,” Gina said. “Not about the sex. I’m sorry about other things, but this, I loved.”
Vic retrieved his pants and stood. Gina and her honesty. Good or bad, she just put it out there and didn’t worry about the repercussions. He guessed it came from losing her husband at the age of thirty-one. She had nothing to lose.
“I need to go,” she said, watching him with her big brown eyes as the moonlight drenched her face. He put his shirt on. Did she have to look at him that way? Particularly when he wanted a replay.
“Aren’t the kids bunking with your folks?”
“They are, but you know how Matthew is. He might search for me.”
Fifteen-year-old Matt, her eldest son, took his job as man of the family seriously.
“Right. Okay.” Vic motioned toward the resort. “I’ll walk you.”
Gina held up a hand. “I’ll be fine.”
Nuh-uh. No way. “I am going to walk you. It’s late and you shouldn’t go by yourself.”
Hell, she shouldn’t have been out here alone in the first place, but he knew she’d tear him a few new ones if he said it.
She stood there, peering up at him and—God—she was fantastic. She had a classic oval face with high cheekbones and a nose he knew she hated. For over two years now he’d imagined running his finger over the little bump in it, but never dared. Every inch of her seemed perfectly imperfect.
Blown sister rule.
Gina shoved her fingers through her curls. “We screwed up. I can’t believe it. We’ve been so good.”
“We didn’t screw up. We had a simultaneous brain fart. Again.”
She laughed and shook her head.
“Anyway, walk me to the edge of the beach. You can see my room from there and can watch me go up.”
“Gina, what’s the big deal? Nobody will know we just—” he waved his hand, “—you know.”
“It’ll be better if you don’t walk me. With his mental radar, Michael is probably waiting by the door. On his damned wedding night. I swear he’s a freak. He should stay out of it.”
Oh, boy. She was getting fired up. Maintenance mode. His friend needed protection. They were both ex-special ops, but they didn’t stand a chance against all five foot three of Gina.
“Mike loves you. He’s trying to protect you.”
“From you? You’re his best friend.”
Vic ran his hands over her shoulders. “Yeah, but I’m not right for you.”
“The circumstances aren’t right. That’s true, but he doesn’t have to keep reminding me.”
“He does it to me too.”
They strolled to the edge of the beach, and he squeezed her hand. Don’t go. Just stay for a while. All he wanted was more time with her. Not a lot to ask.
On tiptoes, she brushed a kiss over his lips. A little hum escaped his throat. What the hell was that?
“I had a great time,” she said. “You were just what I needed.”
“I think a ‘but’ is coming.”
“We can’t do this again.”
Yep. Not good. “I know.”
She pulled her hand from his and hauled ass toward her room. Away from him.
He waited while she went up the stairs and she stopped in front of the window of the room next to hers. A minute later the door opened and Matt came out. He turned and, apparently using his Spidey sense, looked straight at Vic.
And we’re busted.

Chapter Two

Man Law: Never get caught.

Six Weeks Later

“You got me,” Vic said when Lynx picked up the phone.
Whose number had he just called? Knowing Lynx, he probably talked some unsuspecting blonde into letting him use her phone. His old army buddy now worked for the State Department and was completely paranoid about their calls being traced. When Lynx wanted to speak with Vic regarding sensitive matters, he sent a fax—a fax for God’s sake—from the FedEx store down the street from his D.C. office. Vic would call him back from a secure line—in this case a prepaid cell phone.
“You’re in a jackpot.”
Vic sat straighter in his desk chair. “Translate.” Lynx had a flair for drama, and being in a jackpot could mean a whole lot of bullshit things.
“The job you did for us last month.”
A car horn honked from Lynx’s end. He must be outdoors. “The Israel thing?”
“Yeah. The brother is pissed at you.”
“There’s a shocker. The sheikh should be pissed at someone.”
Namely Vic, who’d been hired by a secret U.S. government agency to take out the sheikh’s little brother, an Osama wannabe. Mike, the CEO of Taylor Security, liked to call them off-the-books jobs.
“No,” Lynx said. “He’s pissed at you. Your cover is blown.”
Vic’s shoulders went rock hard. He’d need a sledgehammer to get them loose again.
“What the fuck, Lynx?”
“Hey, I’m just giving you rumor mill here, but it’s coming from a good source. My contact at the agency accidentally let me find out. The sheikh threw money at someone who threw money at someone, and now he’s got your name.”
He shot out of his chair, every muscle in his body seizing. “Son of a bitch. Who gave me up? There can’t be six people who knew about that op.”
“Please. With the kind of money this guy can toss around, anyone can be bought.”
Vic grabbed a pencil from the desk, snapped it in half. “Did I get set up?”
“No. Someone got greedy.”
“My ass is in the wind?”
“Yeah. Watch your six. Gotta go.”
Vic punched the button to end the call. He’d wipe the phone clean and destroy it later. No harm in being careful. He stared out his corner office window. Just a businessman enjoying the June sun while the Chicago lunch-hour crowd swarmed the lakefront path. People everywhere.
Deep breath. Work the problem. When he’d taken the Israel job, the agency told him it was a solo mission. He’d sneak into the country as a tourist using a fake passport, and if he got into trouble, no one would pull him out.
He didn’t get into trouble.
He’d completed his mission.
For his country.
And now his cover was blown. Sure sounded like a setup.
The hammering in his ears started, and he stacked his hands on top of his head. This could be crap. Lynx said it was a rumor.
Vic hustled down the hall to Mike’s office and found him at his desk. Early in Vic’s army career, he and Mike were Rangers together and they had a history of saving each other’s asses.
“I got a problem,” Vic said as he stormed into the office and shut the door behind him. He took three deep breaths. Focus.
Mike snapped his head from his computer and stared. His dark eyes had an intensity that drove the ladies wild, but these days he was a one-woman man.
“You heard me right. I got a problem.”
Vic had maybe uttered those words three times in the fifteen years he’d known Mike. Each time, someone had been injured or dead. Mike leaned back in his swanky leather chair. Felix Unger’s contemporary twin could have decorated this place. Everything in chrome, with sharp angles and fancy art. One lone stack of paper sat neatly bundled to the left. Mike didn’t go for mess.
“What’s up?”
“Remember the job I did last month? Lynx just called. My cover is blown. The sheikh spent big bucks to find out who I was.”
Mike squinted. “Those fuckers gave you up?”
“One of them, yeah.”
“Do you know who?”
“Hell no. And it’s too damned bad, because I’d like to break his fucking knee caps.”
Pain shot through Vic’s jaw and he lightened up on the teeth grinding.
“Okay,” Mike said. “We can assume they’re gonna come after you.”
Vic stalked the office. Crap. Sweat beaded down the sides of his face and he swiped at it. He was losing it. Fear was not something he allowed himself, but this rattled him. When was the last time that happened? How about never? The last few months had been this way, though. Something gnawed at him, eating away his insides.
Five years with Delta Force ensured he could take care of this problem, but he didn’t want to do it in a city that had welcomed him when he left the military.
“We got a whole army of guys here ready to cowboy up,” Mike said. “We could even bring a few back from overseas.”
They had at least five hundred men in the Middle East protecting U.S. officials.
“Hell, I trained most of them and you want to put them on me? I can take care of myself.”
Fuckin’ A, bubba. Maybe Vic’s ego was getting in the way, but at thirty-six years old he’d had a whole career of spec ops training. Offering him protection came as an insult.
Mike shook his head. “Hey, asshole, did I say you couldn’t? All I’m saying is we put some muscle around you. Eyes in back of your head.”
Eyes in the back of his head. Mike had been his eyes for years now. Wasn’t he the one who’d given Vic a job when he needed one? Now they were partners. Mike handled high-end security, and Vic handled the civilian contractor assignments. The neutralizing-terrorists stuff.
“There’s no credible threat yet. I’m supposed to tie up man power for a maybe?”
Mike shrugged. “But you think it’s solid, or you wouldn’t have come in here.”
He had him there, and Vic scratched his head. The hammering in his ears went bye-bye, leaving behind the wilting end of the adrenaline rush.
“I brought a shit storm on us.”
Mike rolled his eyes. “Are we having a moment here or what? Don’t get ahead of yourself. Let’s see what happens. Meantime, put a team together and I’ll sign off.”
“We may not need them, but I’ll put something on paper.”
“Right. Let’s get someone to sweep your car and your apartment building. Just to be safe.”
Vic nodded. “Already on it.”
“Watch yourself,” Mike said.
This sucked. He should fight this alone, but knew if this guy came after him, he’d need a team. The gut shredding began. People, maybe his friends, were going to die.
And it would be his fault.

Gina had three checks for her brother to sign, one of which was for a company credit card maxed out by an overseas operative. Michael wouldn’t be happy.
A quick stop in the ladies’ room on the third floor allowed her to freshen up. She never knew when she’d run into Vic, but it always helped to be prepared. She fluffed her hair, checked her lipstick and gave herself a once-over in the full-length mirror. She wore the champagne pencil skirt and matching silk blouse her sister-in-law picked out. Not bad. Pretty darn good actually.
Roxann liked helping her choose age-appropriate clothes for the thirty-five-year-old she was, rather than the coed look she’d gotten used to. Gina liked her low-rise jeans and T-shirts, but maybe she was in a rut. A deep one. For four years now.
The romp on the beach with Vic made her realize she needed to make changes. To stop clinging to the person she’d been before Danny died. That person evaporated when a burning building collapsed on her husband and destroyed her world. Accepting the new normal hadn’t come easily, and she’d been fighting it by not altering the tangible things like wearing clothes Danny liked or hanging his uniform in the bedroom closet so she’d see it every day. Keeping things the same meant preserving some part of her cherished husband.
This included focusing on their children. On making them whole when half the parent base had disappeared. Putting their needs first and hers last. Wasn’t that what good mothers did? But somehow Gina the woman got lost, buried under the rubble of a burning building.
The time had come to dig out. Enter Roxann and her all-around good taste. Despite her penchant for classic clothes, Roxann could find things with a little funk to them. She made for a great sister-in-law, and Gina reminded Michael every day he’d better not blow it.
With a final flip of her hair, she left the ladies’ room and headed for Michael’s office. Vic stepped into the hallway, turned and smiled the slow wicked smile that always sent her heart into overdrive. Add the green eyes, the messy blond hair and the oh-so-sexy goatee, and a girl was done for.
“Hey, you,” he said. “What’s going on?”
Gina stopped a foot or two in front of him. Otherwise, she’d get whiplash trying to look up at all six foot five of him.
“I have checks for Michael to sign.”
He glanced toward Michael’s office, then back at her. Something was off. She searched his face, took in the rigid jaw, the crease between his brows and—bam—his eyes. Missing today was the twinkling mischief that promised a girl he’d put a smile on her face but wouldn’t relinquish his emotional armor while doing so.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “You seem distracted.”
He smiled the player smile this time. Like that would work on a woman raising three children. Puh-lease. Surely she’d lost her mind thinking he’d admit something to her. “Forget I said anything. If you need to talk, let me know.”
She stepped around him, but he reached for her and a zing shot through her arm. Damn. After that glorious night on the beach he couldn’t touch her without her body betraying her. Not that he’d touched her since then. On the contrary, he usually acted like she had a skin rash.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re right. I am distracted. No big deal.”
“Fine. Just know my offer stands.” She held up the checks. “I need to get these to Michael.”
He pushed a curl from her cheek. What was with him today?
“Look at you.”
“What?”
Vic shrugged. “You look…different.”
Different? What the heck did that mean? “New outfit. Rox helped me with it.”
“Ah.”
Enough of this already. Because, really, she didn’t have time. She was getting nowhere with him when all she wanted was to get somewhere. And then he went and did it. He tilted his head and parted his lips just so slightly and a burst of heat exploded inside her. Suddenly, the hallway seemed tight. Closing in as his stare filled the space. At any second, it would occur to him that he should attempt to mask his feelings. The idiot hadn’t yet realized his ability to hide from her dissolved two years ago in her basement. That had been the first time she’d noticed the look and it still tortured her. Damn him for bringing it all back.
Her fingers twitched at the memory. Kneeling on top of the dryer battling the water that had shot from the pipe and doused her. And Vic staring at her in a way that made her miss having a man to curl up with.
“Holy shit,” he had said.
The words cut through the sound of gushing water and penetrated her focused struggle with the valve. “The handle is stuck.”
His gaze traveled along the ceiling, darting along the pipelines. Slow. Considering.
“Idiot,” she screamed, “the valve is here.”
He stepped around the large puddle forming on the cement floor and stormed to the back corner of the basement. “No kidding, but I’m not getting wet when I can cut the main supply.”
“The main supply?” What?
And suddenly, the river slowed to a trickle. She stared at the pipe, gave it a whack with the wrench. Bastard pipe.
For two years she’d been living as a single mom, dealing with appliances that failed, shoveling snow, getting the car serviced. Never mind raising three kids whose moods shifted like swings in the wind. She been doing it all, hadn’t she?
Without a man.
Until the flipping water valve got stuck. With Michael not around, she’d been forced to call Vic when all she wanted was to take a bat and smash that stupid valve to a million little bits. Just destroy that piece of crap. She pounded her fists on the washer because she didn’t need this evil, blasted, hateful valve making her feel like she needed a man.
Vic stood a few feet from her, hands on his hips. Did his lips quirk? She swore they did. No, sir.
She flicked the wrench at him. “Don’t you laugh. I’ll come down there and beat you to death. You will be bloody if you laugh at me.”
He remained silent. One of his better choices, because she was just mad enough to let him have it. She tossed the wrench down, pushed her saturated hair from her face. “I’m sorry I called you an idiot. That was mean.” She held her hands wide. “Look at me! I’m soaked.”
“Oh, I’m looking.”
The rumble in his tone drew her attention and she found him, head tilted, lips slightly parted, eyes focused on her…chest.
The one encased in a soaking-wet tank top.
A white one.
With a sheer lace bra underneath. Lovely. Her very own wet T-shirt contest. She gasped and spun away because…well…Vic. Never before had he done this, and heat poured into her cheeks.
Two years she’d been without a man’s hands on her. Two long years without passion. Without sex that left her loose limbed and quivering. And he had the nerve to look at her like he wanted nothing more than to put his hands on her.
Wait a second. Why not? She deserved attention. Didn’t she?
Besides, he had great hands. Big hands that let a girl know he’d take care of her.
And then she lost her mind.

Copyright © 2011 by Adrienne Giordano
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

About the Book

Title: Man Law
Series: Private Protectors, #2
Authors: Adrienne Giordano
Release Date: July 4, 2011
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Sale Price &Dates: $0.99 from November 20, 2014 – November 26, 2014
Buy Links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Carina Press
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJf-fhWG-Rk&feature=youtu.be

Book Summary:

Security Consultant Vic Andrews lives by his Man Laws:

Never mess with your best friend’s sister
Never get caught
Never get attached

But he can’t deny his irresistible attraction to Gina Delgado, a young widow with three kids and plenty of strings attached. Even so, having a physical relationship doesn’t mean they’re “in a relationship.”
Gina lost her husband to tragedy; she is not getting emotionally involved with another man in a dangerous profession. Sleeping with Vic is just stress relief.

Until one of Vic’s assignments goes wrong and the target selects Gina and her kids for revenge. There’s nothing Vic won’t do to protect Gina and the children–the family he realizes, too late, he wants. He’ll accomplish his mission but will he have lost his only chance at true love?

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction.

Connect with Adrienne: Website / Newsletter / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Street Team