Please welcome the fabulous Kaylea Cross! Kaylea has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen. A Registered Massage Therapist, this mother of two is an avid gardener, artist, Civil War buff, bellydancer and former nationally-carded softball pitcher. In a word, the woman is: awesome! She writes military romantic suspense and today she's chatting about her most current release!
A big thanks to Savannah Stuart for having me here! (Thank you for hanging out with us!)
No Turning Back is the third book of my military romantic suspense series with The Wild Rose Press, and it’s set mainly in Afghanistan. If you’ve “met” me before here in blog land, you already know what a research nut I am. To give you a better idea, here’s a random list of ten things I learned about before writing this book:
-Army Rangers (selection, training, missions—specifically mountain operations)
-geography of north-eastern Afghanistan (especially the tribal region and the Hindu Kush Mountains)
-Traumatic Brain Injury (closely linked with post-concussion syndrome)
-CIA communications analysts
-effect of high altitude on helicopter flight (checked some flight manuals and interviewed two pilots)
-history of the Pashtuns, and their culture
-in-situ flap craniectomy surgery; procedure and aftercare (I got to interview a renowned neurosurgeon about this—very cool stuff!)
I learned lots more too, and had a blast unearthing all the little details I needed (okay, wanted) for this book. I’m weird, I know, but it floats my boat. Are you intrigued to see how I strung everything together? I’m giving away a copy to one commenter, so if you’re interested leave me a note for a chance to win. Good luck! And don't be afraid to ask her questions about any of the above! This woman knows her stuff :)
Blurb: CIA communications expert Samarra Wallace is on the run from a faceless enemy when she learns terrorists have kidnapped and threatened to execute her cousin. She will do whatever it takes to free her, including breaking cover to contact the former teammate she is dangerously attracted to. Now all she has to do is convince him she's not working for the bad guys.
Ex-Army Ranger Ben Sinclair isn’t sure he can trust Sam, but he can't turn her away. Lives are at stake and she may be the only way to capture the terrorist mastermind his team is hunting. Despite his reservations, he finds himself falling for her. But when Sam's innocence is questioned again during a botched operation in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, the team pays a terrible price for trusting her. In the wake of that staggering betrayal Ben must decide if she's the innocent woman he fell in love with, or if she's a traitor who'd set them up to die.
[Baghdad: late evening]
Still rattled from the bizarre events of the morning, Sam made her way to the hotel Ben had designated for their meeting. Thank God he’d answered her plea for help. When he hadn’t answered right away, she hadn’t been sure he would, but the knowledge she was going to see him gave her a renewed sense of hope and energized her exhausted body.
As soon as she saw him, she was going to fling her arms around him and hold on tight, just as she’d imagined doing a thousand times over the past week. She didn’t care if he thought she was losing it, because once she touched him she’d know for certain she was safe. Starting tonight, they’d be able to do something to help Neveah and the other hostages she’d read about in a paper she’d glimpsed at the market that morning.
Though she’d be glad to see him, she couldn’t help the thread of unease that slid through her at the thought of seeing him face-to-face again.
You’re being stupid. Ben won’t hurt you.
Holding on to that thought, she jogged up the stairwell to the third floor and found her way to the room he’d specified. Pulling out the key that had been left for her at the front desk, she unlocked the door and opened it hesitantly, glancing around in the stygian darkness before stepping inside. Ben wasn’t here yet. She was glad, because she could use a little extra time to pull herself together before he arrived. He was coming, right? He wouldn’t tell her to meet him and then blow her off.
She hated the uncertainty. The sound of her even breathing was harsh in the silent room. When the door shut behind her with a soft click, a dim lamp came on across the room. She jerked, blinking in the glare as her heart rate skyrocketed.
The low cadence of his voice almost made her knees buckle. The hand she’d pressed to her heart fell away in relief. He was really there. She stared across the room at his large frame, folded into a wingback chair. He was an incredibly attractive man, but she’d forgotten how much so. Tall, muscular, black hair short in the back and a little longer in front and pale green eyes. The mellow light from the lamp played across his high cheekbones and square jaw, highlighting the jade of his eyes and the cleft in his chin. He’d shaved off his goatee, but a few days of growth shadowed his features. Even covered with stubble, his face was still enough to stop the breath in her lungs. But his frigid expression lodged it in her tight throat.
Any thought of rushing over to hug him vanished. She swallowed. He didn’t look all that happy to see her. In fact, he seemed pissed off. “H-hi.” Her voice came out as a mere thread. She felt completely off-balance.
He was deceptively relaxed in his seat as he studied her, but a coiled energy seethed beneath his calm surface. He could be out of that chair and on her in a heartbeat, and they both knew it. If it came down to fending him off, she had no chance in hell. He was twice her size and a fifth level black belt, in addition to being a former Army Ranger. The way he watched her with those cool eyes told her just how confident he was of his ability to subdue her if necessary. She wouldn’t have a prayer against him physically, so the only thing left to use as a weapon was her brain. At least there, they were evenly matched.
First off, she had to find out what had put him into this mood she’d never seen from him before. Her pulse drummed against her throat, dread eroding her joy at seeing him.
He shifted a little, and when his hand moved she realized for the first time he was holding a gun. She froze, fear squeezing her dry throat like a fist. She couldn’t take her eyes from the pistol, which she had no doubt was loaded.
“I’m not going to shoot you,” he said laconically, “unless you do something stupid. Since we both know you’re the furthest thing from that, I’m sure you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
She gulped and raised her eyes. What the hell was going on? Ben was holding a loaded gun against her.
“Been busy?” he asked in a mocking tone.
She attempted to pull herself together. Why even bother asking? If he’d followed the transmitter in her phone, then he knew exactly where she’d been the past few days. She refused to let him see he’d rattled her. Her chin came up. “I had a few things to take care of.” Like staying alive.
His short laugh was far from warm. “I bet you did, sweetheart.”
His south Boston accent took the R out of the endearment and made her heart ache. A few short days ago, he’d looked at her with warmth and kindness. Now, the expression in his eyes was almost glacial. Speculative and even angry. He had a right to feel that way after she’d disappeared on the team, but why the gun and the hostility radiating from him? She wished he’d let her explain everything. She needed him to believe her, because she had no one else to turn to.
Gathering her courage, she took a step away from the door, then another, holding that frigid gaze. He sat perfectly still, a tiger waiting to attack its prey. It unnerved her. This was not the jovial, affectionate Ben she’d come to know. He was a total stranger right now.
She stalled out a few steps from him, scrambling for something to say to ease the tension. “Ben, I—”
“Stop right there and hand me your bag.”
She bit her lip and did so, waiting while he emptied the meager contents on the table and went over each item looking for electronic devices. She clenched her teeth. Like she’d even had time to think about bugging anything.
He set the bag beside his chair. “Got your BlackBerry?”
She nodded. “In my pocket.” She was afraid to retrieve it in case it made him aim the gun at her. Her fingers twitched once, then fell still.
He held out one hand, palm up. Her eyes followed it. He had such beautiful, strong hands. She’d spent many hours working next to him, admiring them as they moved over the keyboard and the rest of their equipment. Long, lean fingers, the short-clipped nails blunt and clean. The hands of a healer and a warrior. She remembered the feel of them on her shoulders when he and Rhys came to her apartment after she’d called them for help back at the start of this whole mess. They’d lent comfort and support. Kindness. Now he motioned one impatiently at her.
“Hand it over.”
Careful to move slowly in case he suspected she had a weapon of some kind, she dug it out of her pocket and put it in his broad palm, the brief contact shooting sparks of heat up her arm. She snatched her hand back, hating the fact her body didn’t pick up on the cold front it had walked in on. He seemed remote, but she sensed something seething beneath his composed exterior. Whatever was going on in his head, he had to have something more on his mind than her disappearance. “You seem upset,” she ventured, not knowing what to make of it. If anyone should be upset, shouldn’t it be her?
An awful silence met her words. It expanded until it filled the room and pressed in on her.
“Upset?” he said finally, then shrugged. “I’m not upset. I’m just trying to figure out why you’d fall of the face of the earth exactly when bad shit started happening.”
She licked her lips, not liking what he was inferring. Something else must have happened that she didn’t know about. “I don’t know what I can say that will make you believe me,” she began, stomach squeezing tighter when he didn’t even glance at her. Despair filled her. “I called you because I need your help.”
He set her BlackBerry on the side table next to him and regarded her dispassionately. “That’s nice.”
His remote expression jangled her nerves. What had happened to make him look at her like that?
“You want me to trust you, Sam?”
She frowned. “Of course I do.”
“You’re a bright girl, so I’m sure you can understand why that’s not going to happen. But if you want to try to earn my trust, I’m game.” He tilted his dark head, pale eyes glittering a challenge in the lamp light. “You can start by taking off all your clothes.”
*winks* Oh Ben, you’re such a bad boy... but I love you for it.
I hope you enjoy his story. Happy reading!