Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

status update

2016 was both an amazing and difficult year for me. I know I’m not alone in this. Some days it seems like this year just keeps taking from us. I have also been through some very difficult things personally, which hasn’t helped any.

But it hasn’t been all bad. I think my own biggest achievement this year was that while going through those tough personal times, I published 2 books and 2 novellas in a 4 month period!

I’m very grateful for those that have supported me along the way in realising my dream. It’s been very special to me.

Next year will bring many changes for me – mostly for the good, but some bittersweet. And I have big plans!

I’m hoping to finish the Soldiering On series by the end of next year. That will mean releasing 3 books – Zack’s, Sam’s and then Duncan and Mandy’s. Destiny’s book will likely happen in 2018. I’m well on the way to getting through Zack’s book. Despite some setbacks, I’m still hoping for a February release date, but it may end up being pushed to March. We’ll have to see.

In time for that release, I also hope to release Soldiering On, Station Alpha, and Guarding Sierra as a boxed set!

I will also try my hand at some contemporary romance next year! I have a lot of stories ready to write in that genre, so am really excited about the new challenges this will mean. I hope to have some exciting news in this regard in the next few months.

Audio is also on my list of things to do. Alas, ACX (the Kindle/Createspace equivalent for Audiobooks through Amazon) is not available for Australians, but I’m going to try to find another way. I want to make my books as accessible as possible, and available in as many formats as I can. It’s smart business, as well as being fair to people who are hard of hearing and may wish to experience my book. And since people ask, God no I will not be recording it myself. Are you nuts?

Since no one has shown any interest in the print copies of my books, I’ll have to delay the audio editions for some time, but it is definitely on my list of things to do! If not late in 2017, then hopefully 2018.

I’d also like to blog more. I’m thinking of starting up a book club/reading challenge, which will result in me doing a book review on my blog each month. I hope that people will join me in this! I’ll have more information about my plans in the next few days, so keep an eye out!

I will also be leaving Doha early next year. It has been my home for two years now, and so it will be a bittersweet exit. I’ll miss my job and the friends I’ve made here, but I am so unbelievably happy to be going home. (At least until I get itchy feet again!)

What are your plans for next year? I won’t call them Resolutions, because they are too easy to break. But it’s still nice to set goals and work towards them, even if plans have to change. I’d love to hear about what you want to do in the next year.

Station Alpha and Guarding Sierra now in print!

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Look at that! Aren’t they lovely?

Forgive me for getting momentarily sappy, but when I was a little girl, dreaming of being an author, the image in that dream was having my name on a print book. The author version of my name in lights. And now it’s here!

Having the books as ebooks was a great experience, but there is something super special seeing your name in print. It feels so much more real.

Anyway!

Station Alpha and Guarding Sierra are (obviously!) now available in print!

If you are interested in purchasing them, I just want to let you know that not all royalties are created equal. Due to the way the self-publishing/print on demand thing works, I get a very different royalty rate at different vendors.

While I’m obviously just happy that you are interested in the print book at all, if it is something that may affect your purchasing, I just want to let you know which retailer gives the best cut to authors.

In order of royalty rate (and hence my order of retailer preference):

  1. Createspace
  2. Amazon
  3. Everywhere else

That’s not to say I don’t want you ordering from your regular place if you have one! But you know. I had to put it out there. 🙂

So, yay! Another milestone achieved.

Station Alpha Createspace

Station Alpha Amazon

Guarding Sierra Createspace

Guaring Sierra Amazon

P.S. On Amazon, if you buy the print book, you can get the ebook really cheap through the matchbook program!

Christmas Tango is live!

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Looking for something short and exciting to read over the busy Christmas season? Well, you’re in luck, because Christmas Tango just went live!

There’s action, romance, AND Christmas, so a little something for everyone. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

A Soldiering On Novella

It’s nearly Christmas, and the last thing Duncan wants is to be dragged to a fancy party and made to play nice. And yet Mandy—his business partner and bane of his existence—somehow convinces him to attend a charity auction with her so they can scout potential clients.

Duncan is looking for an escape from the festivities when vicious armed men take over the building, trapping Mandy in a deadly situation. With no way to call for help, Duncan is the only one that can save her.

No weapons, a bad leg, and a growing realisation of his feelings for Mandy.

Yippee-ki-yay.

Author’s note: This novella can be read as a standalone, but may be more enjoyable to those that have read the previous Soldiering On books. This book ends in a HFN for Duncan and Mandy. Their story will conclude in the final Soldiering On book in late 2017.

If you want to have a sneak peek, I posted chapter 1 here!

Please consider leaving an honest review. They help authors more than you can know.

 

Finally, did you know that if you sign up to my newsletter, you now get a FREE short story? Well, it’s true! Sign up today for sporadic news and release information, and get a short romantic suspense story delivered straight to your inbox.

Christmas Tango Is Available For Preorder!

christmas-tango-1

Some of you may have already noticed, but Christmas Tango is now available for preorder!

A Soldiering On Novella

It’s nearly Christmas, and the last thing Duncan wants is to be dragged to a fancy party and made to play nice. And yet Mandy—his business partner and bane of his existence—somehow convinces him to attend a charity auction with her so they can scout potential clients.

Duncan is looking for an escape from the festivities when vicious armed men take over the building, trapping Mandy in a deadly situation. With no way to call for help, Duncan is the only one that can save her.

No weapons, a bad leg, and a growing realisation of his feelings for Mandy.

Yippee-ki-yay.

Author’s note: This novella can be read as a standalone, but may be more enjoyable to those that have read the previous Soldiering On books. This book ends in a HFN for Duncan and Mandy. Their story will conclude in the final Soldiering On book in late 2017.

I hope everyone enjoys the story! It’s a short Christmas novella featuring Duncan and Mandy, and it was so much fun to write. Fun fact: in my original plan for the Soldiering On series, this novella didn’t even feature. But the idea grabbed me after I’d finished writing Guarding Sierra and wouldn’t let go!

It came about because Die Hard is one of my favourite Christmas movies (and it is a Christmas movie!) and I wanted to do a fun take on it. You’ll find some fun little references to the film if you look hard. Let me know if you spot them!

I’m also doing something a little different with this novella: it will be an Amazon exclusive! Sorry to those that prefer epub titles, but I’d like to try out the Kindle Select option, and this seemed like a good way to do it. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that Amazon tends to be the biggest market for Indie publishers. But if it doesn’t work out for me, Christmas Tango will be available on other sites early next year. I’ll keep you informed!

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I did writing it. Stay tuned for an excerpt later this week!

Preorder Amazon (US)

Preorder Amazon (DE)

Preorder Amazon (AU)

Preorder Amazon (UK)

Preorder Amazon (CA)

 

 

Guarding Sierra is Live!

Soldiering On 2(4)

Guarding Sierra is live at all good ebook retailers! I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Blake stole the show a bit for me in Station Alpha so it was great to be able to give him his own book. He’s such a charmer. 🙂

Blurb:

Sierra Livingston knows there is someone stalking her. Watching. Waiting. Biding their time. But for what, she doesn’t want to stick around to find out. Thankfully, she knows just who to call.

Blake has never been one to sit still. He’s still recovering from the gunshot he received during his last job with Soldiering On, but he’s not about to let that stop him from protecting a woman in need. Besides, he has to prove to his boss that he’s still capable, or he’ll be forced into his worst nightmare: a desk job.

But neither of them count on their explosive sexual chemistry. Apart, they risk endangering Sierra’s life. But together, there might be an even deeper threat…to their hearts.

Read Chapter 1

Read Chapter 2

You can pick up your copy below!

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (AU)

Amazon (CA)

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Guarding Sierra Chapter 2

Two weeks until the release of Guarding Sierra!

Soldiering On 2(4)

Catch up on Chapter 1 here

Blake strode into the Soldiering On offices at nine o’clock on Monday morning. Well, strode was a bit of a stretch, given the awkward pinch in his shoulder every time he moved. But it was a brisk walk, at the least, even with the awkward angle with which he held his arm.

Technically, he wasn’t due back to work for another three weeks, but he could have happily returned the day after a bullet ripped a hole in his shoulder. He’d been patient long enough and if Duncan, his boss, didn’t like it, then Blake would just camp out at his desk until he was given an assignment. Duncan was known for his stubbornness, but Blake was pretty sure he could win that one.

His shoulder did ache a little. But if he told Duncan that, he’d be sent home to while away the hours staring at the ceiling of his lounge room. He’d go insane if he had to endure another day of that.

He debated just sitting at his desk—well, the desk he usually sat at in the brief periods between assignments—and staking his claim, but realised it would go better in the long run if he confronted Duncan head on.

He pushed open the door to his boss’ office. One of his two bosses, really. But he didn’t deal with Mandy much.

Duncan was already at his desk, bent over a sprawl of papers that he was squinting down at. The window at his back lit him almost as a silhouette, casting a shadow across the papers.

He was a big man, though his current slouch disguised just how big. Tall, broad, and with dark skin that he’d inherited from his African-American father, Duncan looked like a stereotypical military leader. Those that had served under him had said that his command style had been as solid and dependable as his looks. Blake had so far found no reason to disagree with this after working under the man for nearly a year.

Blake tapped on the door. Duncan slowly pulled himself out of whatever he was concentrating on and slid his gaze up. His eyes narrowed when he saw who it was.

“What the hell are you doing here? Get back to bed.”

“Is that an invitation?” Blake teased.

Duncan narrowed his eyes even further. “You’ve still got two weeks left before I want you anywhere near this place. And even then you’ll be assigned desk work, so don’t try it.” He pointed a warning finger at Blake, who summarily ignored the half-assed threat.

Blake stepped into the office and shut the door behind himself. The office was deeply functional, with dark wood and not a personal item to be seen. Thankfully, the effect was somewhat mitigated by the large window spanning an entire wall, high ceilings, and pale walls.

Blake slid himself into the chair opposite Duncan, careful not to just plonk himself down as the now ever-present tiredness crept upon him once again.

“Duncan, please,” he said, leaning forward. He wouldn’t beg, but he wouldn’t leave without an assignment, either. “I can’t go back to that apartment. The two weeks I’ve been trapped there since getting out of the hospital is more time than I’ve collectively spent in that place since I got it. I need something to do.”

Duncan’s eyes softened with pity. He knew more than anyone how much Blake hated to stay still. The ever-present restlessness that plagued him. His need to be outdoors and working his muscles into exhaustion.

“I can’t put you back out in the field. You’d be a danger to yourself and others. And if anything went wrong, it would reflect on Soldiering On. I hate to say it, but we are a fledgeling company. We can’t afford that.”

Blake sighed. He knew he was right, but he also needed something to do. “I don’t care if it’s some fluff work. Something that’s not worth giving to the other guys.” Besides, if he was given a job he suspected he couldn’t handle, then he would back out. He wasn’t going to put anyone else’s life in danger just because he didn’t know how to take a holiday.

You’d take desk work?” Duncan asked disbelievingly.

Blake held up his hand to ward off his boss. “Let’s not go that far,” he muttered.

Duncan considered him, frowning. “Can’t you just take up a hobby?”

“I have a hobby. Rock climbing. I’ve just been… advised not to do that for a while.”

A knowing look settled on Duncan’s face. “And in that you listen to doctor’s orders?”

“Look, rock climbing is hard enough one-handed.” He held up his prosthetic to punctuate his point. “I don’t want to tempt fate by trying to go back to it when I’m not at full strength. But the work here isn’t quite that level of strenuous. So cut me some slack.”

“I’ve cut you plenty of slack.”

“Not on this.”

This is your health we’re talking about.”

Blake ground his jaw. “There has to be something. You don’t have that many employees yet. Trained ones, anyway. And I know business has been picking up a little after we were on the news because of Christine’s thing.” He was referring to the events three weeks ago that had led to him being shot. But they had also led to his friend Paul finding a woman he really cared about, so Blake thought it all evened out. He was happy to get shot for a good cause.

Duncan considered him carefully. “You aren’t going to give up, are you?”

Blake forced a cheerful smile. “Nope. So you may as well concede now.”

“Get in front-leaning rest.”

Blake frowned. “What?”

“You heard me.”

Ah, a test. All right, Blake could deal with that.

He stood and shuffled into the middle of the empty floor space. Then, he lowered himself into the start position for push-ups; one-handed of course. Not to show off, but the prosthetic he was wearing wasn’t really built for comfortable push ups. And, more importantly, because his left shoulder hurt like a motherfucker with the strain already on it.

But he wasn’t going to let Duncan know that.

“Go on, then.”

Blake dropped once. Twice. “How many should I do?” He tried desperately not to pant. He wasn’t as fit as he should be.

“Twenty,” Duncan replied. He stood to watch the proceedings.

All right, then. Blake kept a steady pace. Not as fast as he normally would have done them, but he was sure that if Duncan noticed, he could forgive that slight lack.

By the time he got to fifteen, his arm was shaking. Still, he forced himself on. He’d go hard at the gym tonight to start getting his strength back. Bed rest hadn’t done him any favours.

He made it to twenty, then did five more just to prove he could.

“All right, that’s enough,” Duncan said. Thank God.

Blake slowly got to his feet, still careful with his shoulder. The two men looked at each other as Blake forced himself to breathe in a regular pattern.

Duncan sighed. Blake knew he’d won.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Mandy mention a friend called Sierra?”

The two men settled in their chairs once again.

“Yeah,” Blake replied. He’d always wondered about Sierra, and whether she was as pretty as her friend. Not that he’d ever say that to Mandy, or she’d bust his balls.

“Well, she received some roses last night.”

Blake blinked. “Roses?”

“Yes. This was apparently enough for her to want to hire a bodyguard.”

“She gave no other details?” When Blake had said that he would take any job—even the stupid ones—he’d meant that he’d be willing to take any of the jobs that Soldiering On typically took on. Not vanity projects for rich heiresses. Yeah, he knew that about Sierra, too.

Now he knew for sure that Duncan was giving him a soft job. He hadn’t proven himself to Duncan at all. If Sierra wanted a bodyguard to follow her around as a status symbol, she could get one from anywhere. Why them? They were a serious firm, not catering to celebrities and gossip column fodder.

“She said that she’s had a feeling that she’s being watched. Stalked, even.” Duncan clearly didn’t believe this at all.

Blake, however, wasn’t so sure. He’d had his intuition save him enough times in Iraq that he wasn’t willing to discount anyone else’s.

“How long for?”

“She says about a year.”

Blake scoffed. “And she’s only now hiring protection?”

“Exactly.”

Blake tried not to roll his eyes and failed.

“Look, this is the only job we have on the books. I wasn’t going to take it, but if you want it, it’s yours. It shouldn’t prove too dangerous, provided the threat is as real as I suspect. Which is, not at all.”

Blake looked into Duncan’s hard eyes and knew that this was his one shot at getting back out into the field anytime soon. He thought back to his empty, silent apartment.

There really wasn’t much of a choice.

“I’ll do it,” he muttered. But he didn’t have to be happy about it.

“Good. Don’t screw this up. You’re still recovering, and you like getting yourself into trouble at every opportunity, so be careful. Sierra is paying well for our services. She refused to take a friend’s discount from Mandy. If nothing else, it will be good publicity for us. So dress smart in case there are any photographers around, and throw our name around when you can. Maybe something good can come of this shit show.”

Blake sighed. Grabbing the folder that Duncan handed him from the top of the stack on the desk, Blake flicked it open. A picture of a joyous woman looked out at him, her arm around Mandy. Both women looked to be in the middle of a fit of laughter when they snapped the selfie together, heads pressed closed and noses scrunched up in amusement.

Mandy had obviously chosen the photo for the file. He liked that better than downloading it from social media as they often did. It was far more personal.

Sierra was a redhead. That, he hadn’t been expecting. In the photograph, her hair had been loose and flowing past her shoulders. He realised that Mandy, too, had her hair down, and wondered if he had even seen her like that before. He didn’t think so.

“She’s cute,” he murmured. Duncan gave him a severe look. “I know!” Blake replied, without having to be told. Hands off. He always was. He knew that the consequence would be an immediate firing if he wasn’t. Didn’t mean he couldn’t look, though.

“You can start as soon as you leave this office. Mandy said that she took the morning off work, which concerned her. Apparently Sierra is a bit of a workaholic. So you can meet her at her apartment. The address is in the file.”

Blake glanced at the address and whistled. Classy neighbourhood.

“Thanks, Duncan.” He stood, already mentally planning ahead now that he had a new mission.

He was halfway to the door when Duncan’s voice stopped him.

“And Blake?” He spun around, eyes settling on his boss’ stern features. “Like I said, don’t screw this up.”

He swallowed around the lump in his throat. His shoulder ached with the reminder that he wasn’t even close to his best, but Blake nodded with all the confidence he could muster.

He needed this. He wouldn’t screw it up. Couldn’t.

In a small way, his life—and his sanity—depended on it.

Preorder at Amazon (US)

Preorder at Amazon (UK)

Preorder at Amazon (AU)

Preorder at Amazon (CA)

Preorder at Kobo

Preorder at Barnes and Noble

 

Soldering On and Station Alpha are live!

It’s the big day! Both books are now available to read on your chosen e-reading devices!

Soldiering On(1)

Soldiering On is the prequel to the Soldiering On series. Sergeant Major Duncan Pierce is determined to show the world that he and his friends are still capable after being injured in the line of duty. The best way to do that is to start his own security company – but he needs someone with the business know-how to make it work. Mandy Lennox is the exact opposite of what he wants – and exactly what he needs…

Station Alpha Aislinn Kearns

Soldiering On Book 1. When Christine Ramirez is nearly kidnapped by armed assailants, the only thing that saves her is the mysterious man on the other end of the phone. He directs her to safety, but her would-be kidnappers are not going to give up so easily.

Paul has been watching Christine for an assignment – perhaps a little too closely – but now he’s willing to risk everything he holds dear in order to keep her safe.

 

I really hope you enjoy them!

If you do read them, please consider leaving an honest review at Amazon or Goodreads (or anywhere, really). Reviews really help authors and readers in a number of ways if you can spare the time.

And keep an eye out for Guarding Sierra, book 2 in the Soldiering On series, which will be available for preorder very soon!

Station Alpha – Chapter 1

So, I might have mentioned I have a book coming out soon? This one?

Station Alpha Aislinn Kearns

Station Alpha

Well, as a special treat, I thought I would release a little sneak peak to you all! I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1

A harsh rattle shattered the peace of the night.

Christine shoved the enticing tendrils of dreamless sleep aside. Her phone had awoken her, buzzing on the wooden nightstand; the sound only loud because everything else was silent. She squinted against the unwelcome glare as the flashing screen lit up the room.

Christine hesitated for just a moment, then reached to pick it up with a resigned sigh. She caught sight of the time as she swiped the screen. 2:02am.

This had better be good.

When Jimmy had interviewed Christine for her new job as personal assistant to his ageing father, he’d warned her that it might mean some all hours phone calls. But she’d thought it had been a polite ‘maybe once every few months you’ll get a call at 10pm’ warning, not a ‘in your second week you’ll be woken in the early hours of the morning’ warning.

“Christine speaking,” she answered, trying to sound less groggy than she felt.

“There is a team of men converging on your house right now,” came the unexpected reply from a low male voice. Unfamiliar, urgent. “You need to run.”

“What?” she asked, blinking in an effort to focus. A prank call? She checked the number and realised she didn’t recognise it.

There was a grunt on the other end of the line, sounding a lot like frustration. “There are about…fifteen guys or so in black combat gear outside your house, ready to storm it. You need to get out while you still can.”

“Listen here, buddy,” Christine began, anger stirring within her. What kind of creep was this guy? She sat up in the bed. It was hard to deliver a set down with righteous fury when you were prone in a warm bed.

The cold air in the room chilled her arms and shoulders, bared by her tank top. A shiver played across her skin as she drew a deep breath to begin her tirade. The new angle gave her a perfect view out of the bedroom window. Christine froze with the breath still in her lungs.

There was a flash of movement outside.

She couldn’t tell what it was, other than it was big. Human-sized. She lived on a large lot on the outskirts of the city. No person should be anywhere near her house. Not at this time of night.

And anyone that was there wouldn’t be paying a neighbourly call.

“Please tell me right now if you are messing with me,” she told the man on the line. Her throat was tight with dread; she could barely squeeze the words out.

“No,” he said, and Christine realised that he sounded deadly sincere.

“What do I do?” she asked as she threw back the covers. She didn’t waste time on fear, though her heart was hammering in her chest. She stuck to the practicalities—get safe.

Some instinctive part of her mind told her to stay low, keeping out of sight from whoever was outside. She crawled across the floor one-handed, gripping her phone to her ear like a lifeline. The worn carpet scraped against the exposed skin of her knees.

“They’re at the front and back door now,” the man on the phone told her. She stuck her feet into the running shoes she’d abandoned by the bedroom door the night before, not bothering to tie them. “They aren’t covering the storm door to the basement. You’ll have to get out that way.”

She nodded, forgetting he couldn’t see her.

The good news was that the storm door was right near where she’d parked her car. The bad news was that it was also near her front door—just metres away from where he’d said there were bad guys. At least, she had to assume they were bad guys. She couldn’t imagine why the good guys would attack her house in the middle of the night.

“But they’ll see me,” she told him, whispering.

“Yes, but you’ll have the element of surprise. You can probably get to your car before they start shooting.” His voice was matter of fact.

“Probably?” she asked, the phone still to her ear as she snatched her keys off of the hallway’s sideboard, grabbing her bag while she was at it. “Wait, shooting?” she continued as her brain caught up with her mouth.

His reply was sardonic. “They have guns. I have to assume they will use them.”

Christine reached the basement door. Of course they had guns. A thought occurred to her. How did her mysterious saviour know that they had guns, or where they were standing?

“How do you know where they are and what they have?” she asked, wrenching open the rarely-used basement door. It creaked, loud in the silent house. Christine froze for just a moment, listening hard. She’d half-expected a door to burst open, spilling evil men into her home. But nothing moved.

She trod down into the darkness. After a few steps, the weak light from the house could no longer penetrate the gloom. She slowed, even though the adrenaline gushing through her body urged her to run, to move. She wouldn’t do herself any favours by falling down the ancient stairs. The flaking wooden banister beneath her hand did little to steady her. A few pricks made Christine think it was giving her splinters, but she paid no attention. She had bigger things to worry about.

It would have helped if she could see, but she wasn’t stupid enough to turn on the light.

She reached the bottom of the staircase, and her eyes began adjusting to the gloom. Weak moonlight streamed through the small, grimy window. Lumps were haphazardly arranged around the space. If memory served, it was all long-forgotten detritus from her childhood.

“Well?” she demanded, not forgetting her earlier question as she picked her way forward. If he could see the people outside, could he see her, too? Perhaps her entire house was rigged with cameras. She swallowed past a nervous lump.

“Later. Let’s get you to safety first.”

“How can I trust that you aren’t leading me into danger?” she countered. The storm door was almost in reach. “You could be out there with these bad guys right now. Maybe you are leading me outside to my doom to save you the trouble of breaching my house. I could run straight into their arms.”

“Fine. I’m watching via a live satellite uplink. Happy now?” he growled.

“It’ll do,” she told him. “For now.” Christine had to believe he was on her side.

“Good. Be ready to make a run for it when I say go.”

Christine took a deep breath, creeping up the steps to the door. “Wait a moment, I need to unlock it.”

He made a sound of frustration—something that seemed to be a habit with him—but said nothing. Christine felt around in the dark until the rusty metal of the bolt grazed her palm. To her relief, it wasn’t padlocked. She had no idea where she would have kept the key if she’d needed one. It wasn’t good for her safety, but excellent news at this moment. She’d rectify that bad habit later.

She worked the bolt open, trying not to make too much noise. She was conscious of the men hovering on the other side, only a few steps away. After a steadying breath, she whispered the words, “All right.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone. Christine focused on keeping the air coming in and out of her lungs steady. She was tense, ready, her ears straining for any sound in the quiet night. She couldn’t hear the men out there, but it didn’t mean they weren’t waiting for her.

“Now!” the man yelled, and Christine threw open the doors and started running. She didn’t look around, even as she reached her car and tugged open the driver’s side door. Thank god for automatic keyless entry. The lights flashed, then flashed again. Her mind caught up as she slid into the driver’s seat. The violent report of sound penetrated the roaring in her ears. She realised those second flashes were gunfire.

She ducked as she started the car with a press of a button and slammed it into gear. Bullets pinged off the body of the car, but none shattered the windows. Not taking the time to wonder why, Christine rammed her foot hard on the accelerator and sped off. She spun the wheel, angling the car down her long driveway. Her heartbeat thudded in her ears, drowning out all other sounds as she raced down her driveway.

She flicked on her headlights to see the turn, and they bounced off dark cars lining the road. Big SUVs, every one of them. There had to be at least ten, maybe more. She spared a glance at the rearview mirror. The armed men, weighed down by an obscene amount of weapons, raced down the drive toward those cars.

She turned onto the road that ran outside her house and lost sight of them for a moment. She focused her eyes on the road ahead, determination filling her.

“Are you all right?” The gruff question sounded through the car’s speaker system and Christine jumped. She realised that her phone had automatically connected via Bluetooth. It had slipped out of her hand in the chaos, and she suspected it was somewhere in the foot well. “Were you hit?” he asked with more urgency when she didn’t immediately reply.

“No. No, I’m okay.” She thought she heard a sound of relief. “Are they following me?”

“Yes,” he said shortly.

Christine swallowed and pressed even harder on the accelerator.

“Just follow my directions, and you’ll be all right,” said her saviour. She frowned. She couldn’t keep calling him that.

“What’s your name?” she asked. The words came out thin and muted. Terror had stolen her voice.

He cleared his throat. “Paul,” he muttered. “Now turn right.”

She slid the car around the corner and immediately checked the rearview mirror for any pursuit. It took them just fifteen seconds to turn onto the same road. Not good.

“Where am I going?”

“Somewhere safe.” It was obvious he didn’t intend to tell her any more, at least for now. Still, she’d already put her life in his hands for the night. She’d trust him a little longer. “Turn left.”

She did, the steering wheel wobbling in her hands as she fought to gain control.

“Can you give a little more warning on these turns?” she asked, gritting her teeth.

“No. I don’t want you to telegraph the turns to your pursuers. Right.”

She spun the wheel, and found herself on a suburban street, more populated than her own. Her pursuers were still not far behind, and closer every second. The engine whined as she flattened the accelerator, but it made almost no difference to her speed. Her car was built to be environmentally friendly, not to win in a high-speed chase. She assumed that men who stormed houses must have cars built for speed.

“They’re gaining,” she ground out.

“Shit,” said Paul. Christine couldn’t agree more.

“What do I do?”

“Left!” he barked. She turned again, tires squealing. Her heart plummeted for a moment as she fishtailed along the road. The vehicle was out of her control for just a few seconds before she ruthlessly tamed it.

The brief error had cost her. A dark car, leading two others, was inches away from her bumper. Christine tried to pull away, but it was no use. The lead car gunned its engine and drew even with her for a split second. The tinted windows of the car prevented her from seeing inside. But the creeping sensation ghosting over her skin told her the driver was watching her. A shiver trickled down her spine.

The car jumped forward, overtaking her. It positioned itself just ahead of her, blocking her path.

She looked left. Another of the cars was parallel with hers, risking any oncoming traffic by driving in the wrong lane. A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed that the third car was behind her.

“There’s a right turn coming up,” said Paul’s soothing voice through the speaker.

Christine took a deep breath, trying to steady herself. Her hands tightened on the wheel.

“Turn!” She did, bumping over the kerb before pressing the accelerator to the floor.

The car that had been behind her managed to follow at the last minute, tires squealing. Within seconds, it closed in on her. She felt a slight tap against her bumper as it nudged her. The car rocked. Her heart leapt into her throat.

He had her. Whoever was driving that car could cause an accident without any danger to themselves. Christine was powerless against it.

But then, the car braked, backing off. It settled a car length behind her, seemingly content to follow her. The other two cars had caught up, but none made a move towards her.

“Left,” Paul said again. Christine followed his direction without comment, her back tires screeching.

“Why aren’t they gaining again?” she asked.

Paul grunted. “Looks like they’ve got new orders. They’ve probably been reminded their instructions are to capture—not kill—you. Which explains why they only fired at the body of the car.”

If it was at all possible, Christine’s heartbeat sped up even more. “Why?”

“Don’t know. We’ll discuss it later. You still need to lose them.” A brief pause. “Right.”

She spun the wheel, and wrenched her focus back to her driving. The defensive driving classes she’d taken a few years ago had not prepared her for this. It required her full attention. She couldn’t afford to have her mind wandering into speculations.

Five minutes later, Christine was in the centre of the city, dodging the few cars that found themselves on the road at this time of night. She glanced at the clock on her dashboard. 2:24am Christ. Not even half an hour had passed since her life had completely upended itself.

Her pursuers were falling behind a little now that there were more streets for her to wind through. Paul directed her with absolute precision. He gave her only as much time as she needed to make the turn, and no more.

“Left.”

The car skidded a little on a wet patch as she turned. She wasn’t sure what had caused it, as there hadn’t been any rain lately. She hit the kerb with her rear tire, bouncing before righting herself. The engine throbbed with strain.

“Shit,” she muttered, then felt an immediate hit of lapsed-Catholic guilt.

“You’re doing real well,” Paul said in an encouraging voice. Christine was oddly soothed.

The orange glow of the streetlights bathed her path. The whoosh of her tires on the road was the only sound she could hear.

She made a few more turns as Paul instructed, running a few red lights in the process. Christine was grateful that the late hour meant that she didn’t endanger anyone else.

“I think we’ve lost them,” Paul’s voice murmured. Christine glanced in the rear view mirror to see he was right. The black SUVs that had been glued to her trail had disappeared.

“Thank God,” she breathed, easing her foot off the accelerator.

“Don’t slow down too much,” Paul told her, still tense. “Keep to the speed limit. Don’t relax until you’re safe.”

Her racing heartbeat returned full force. Just for a moment, she’d felt the relief of safety. But he was right; it was an illusion.

She cruised the streets. Crossing the river, the bare neighbourhoods she’d left morphed into lush green suburbs. He was taking her east, skirting the edges of the Portsboro central business district, with its skyscrapers and high-rises. While during the day the city centre teemed with besuited workers, at this time of night it would only be populated by a few drunk stragglers.

As she drove, Christine checked every few seconds to make sure the cars weren’t following her. Paul still directed her, just with less urgency, giving her plenty of time to turn.

“I have so many questions,” she said into the darkness.

“Like I said. Later.”

“Are you directing me to where you are?”

He hesitated. “No.”

“Then where am I going?” Panic itched at her, leaking into her voice. Paul had saved her life. She felt attached to him. But going to an unknown location, alone? The thought made it difficult to breathe.

“A safe house that the company I work for owns.”

“What do you do for a living?” she asked, partially to sate her curiosity, and partially to distract herself.

“This and that. The company does all kinds of jobs. I do most of the surveillance.”

“Is that why you were watching me?”

He was silent for a moment, and Christine wished she could see his face. She sensed that he was debating how much to tell her. Or maybe deciding if he should lie to her.

“Sort of,” he replied.

“Well?” she demanded.

He directed her to pull up around the back of an apartment building up ahead. Christine complied, pulling into an empty space near the back of the lot, but didn’t make a move to exit the car. Trees hung over the surrounding fences, blocking out much of the moonlight. The car was dark, shadowed.

“Go inside,” he ordered.

“Not until you answer me,” she said, feeling bolder now that the immediate danger had passed.

He made one of those frustrated sounds again, almost a growl.

“I’ll tell you when you get inside.”

She shook her head, then wondered if he could see her. “No. I don’t know what I’m walking into. You need to give me something.”

He was silent for a long moment. She could hear his short breaths coming through the speakers.

“Fine,” he ground out. His displeasure was evident in the way the word sounded like it’d come through a clenched jaw. “Someone hired us to watch you, but not as protection. We were meant to ascertain whether you knew certain information. They thought you might be a corporate spy.”

“Who’s ‘they’?”

“Your employer.”

“Mr. Disik?”

“His company.”

“I wasn’t aware he had one,” she whispered. She felt small compared to the vast swathe of information she didn’t know. “Why do they think I’m a spy? I never did anything. I’ve only worked there for two weeks.”

“He’s retired, though still listed on the board of directors. We were hired to watch you, see if you met with anyone suspicious.”

“And?”

“Nothing. If we hadn’t found anything after three weeks, the job would have been over. You would never have known we were there.”

“But then tonight happened.”

“Yeah. And I broke just about all the rules we have in getting you out of there.”

“Saving my life was against the rules?” Her heart hammered.

He cleared his throat. “No revealing ourselves to the suspect. No direct contact with the suspect. No interference in any operation, meet, or other unusual activity. No revealing that we have access to our own personal spy satellite…” He sounded like he was ticking each item off on his fingers.

“Right,” she murmured. She squeezed her eyes shut as tears sprang in them. “Well, thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet. You’re not inside and safe.”

She smiled at his grumble. “One last question, and then I promise I’ll go in.” Her heartbeat was slowing to a more normal rate.

He grunted, and Christine took it as a yes. “Why did you break the rules for me?” The words came out in a whisper.

He was silent for a long time. Christine once again got the feeling that he was considering whether he should lie.

She didn’t know this stranger. But he’d helped her through the most dramatic event of her life. Now, it was just the two of them in the enclosed cabin of her car, his voice surrounding her in the early morning quiet. Like a confessional. It all combined to weave an unexpected spell of trust and intimacy between them. His answer mattered to her.

He sighed, and it sounded pained. “From what I could tell from my—our—research and surveillance, you didn’t deserve whatever they had planned for you. Or, at least, I hoped you didn’t.”

“Will you get in trouble for disobeying?”

“That’s another question.”

She grinned, and the expression felt strange on her face after the events of the last hour or so. “Humour me,” she told him.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Could go either way. Now will you come inside? It’s on the fourteenth floor. Apartment two.”

She almost laughed at the playful petulance in his voice. “Yeah,” she said, to put him out of his misery. She gathered her things and got out of the car. It wasn’t until the frigid air hit her that she realised she was wearing her pyjamas. She tugged at the hem of the shorts, fruitlessly attempting to cover more of her legs. It had been a while since she’d showed that much skin in public. At least she’d had the foresight to put shoes on.

All the energy drained out of her at once. Christine felt bereft, shivering alone in a strange, unfamiliar parking lot. She trudged inside, almost uncaring about what might await her.

 

If you enjoyed that sneak peek, you can preorder the book here:

Amazon (US)

Kobo
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Soldiering On and Station Alpha are available for pre-order!

So, as of yesterday, Soldiering On and Station Alpha – my first two releases in my Soldiering On series – are available as preorders from selected retailers! More will be added over the coming month until release day.

Pre-Order Soldiering On at Amazon (US)
Pre-Order Soldiering On at Amazon (UK)
Pre-Order Soldiering On at Amazon (AU)
Pre-Order Soldiering On at Amazon (CA)
Pre-Order Soldiering On at Kobo

Pre-Order Station Alpha on Amazon (US)
Pre-Order Station Alpha at Amazon (UK)
Pre-Order Station Alpha at Amazon (AU)
Pre-Order Station Alpha at Amazon (CA)
Pre-Order Station Alpha at Kobo

They’ll be released on August 5th! I hope you enjoy them.