My latest book Dead Heat
was released Tuesday this week. Now I'm involved in post-release activities that have become a habit.
This "habit" began years ago when I was writing for a big publisher. I had a tight deadline so I did nothing but write for the last month. Everything else took a backseat to making that deadline.
Yikes! What a Mess
After the book was sent in, I breathed a sigh of relief and realized that everything was a mess. My office had stacks of paper all over a long table, mail was piled high, and I won't even go into the crumbs in the keyboard or the coffee rings on my desk.
I spent the next few days cleaning up my office and the rest of the house. Then I embarked on baking and cooking--much to the family's delight. (They also take a backseat when I'm writing under a deadline.)
What I Did Since Submitting Dead Heat
1. Slept 12 hours.
2. Called everyone I know to catch up.
3. Emailed the others I didn't get on the phone.
4. Cleaned up my office.
5. Cleaned the rest of the house.
|Home didn't look this bad--but to my eyes, it was close!|
6. Sat outside by the lake to decompress in this
gorgeous autumn weather we have in Texas.
7. Baked 2 dozen biscuits for Sunday brunch.
8. Bought one of those Power Pressure Cookers (PPC) you see on TV infomercials.
9. Proceeded to make BBQ Chicken in the PPC for lunch one day. (20 minutes!!!) Delicious.
10. De-constructed my office while hubby de-constructed his. (He's officially retired and has been turning down offers.) He wanted to turn his office into a home gym. Done. He took my desk from my office and set it up in the media room so he'd have a place to think and use his laptop.
11. Made Mac & Cheese in PPC (10 minutes) . Also delicious.
12. Together we cleaned out 3 file cabinets and threw the old papers into big garbage bags which we'll take to a commercial shredder tomorrow.
13. Did the laundry.
|So good! Yum.|
14. Baked a Pineapple Upside Down Cake
15. Organized everything to the nth degree in my office after getting hubby's furniture set up.
16. Added all the names from Dead Heat
to my Master Lists of Names, Businesses, etc.
17. Registered Copyright for Dead Heat
18. Watched TV for fun, and also watched a documentary for research for my next book.
Those are just a few of the things I've done. I can look around at my clean home and not cringe now.
By the way, I guess I should mention that Dead Heat
is only 99 cents until Nov. 21 so grab a copy today if edgy romantic suspense is your cup of tea. Here's an excerpt so you can sample this story which is Book 2 in the Outlaw Ridge, Texas, series. (Book 1: Heat Lightning
will be free Friday, Nov. 17 if you'd like to grab it too.)
by Joan Reeves
Excerpt, Chapter 1
The only thing that saved Sabrina Snow was the too-sensitive car alarm on the twenty-year-old Renault Espace she’d bought when she’d arrived to France. One minute she’d been sound asleep, dreaming about blue skies, sunshine, and babies. The next, the wailing alarm on the old clunker’s ultra-sensitive alarm she’d had installed, split the night.
Adrenalin dumped into her bloodstream. Her internal timer kicked in.
Sabrina didn’t hesitate or take a second to look out the window to see if a person or an animal had bumped against the car. She thrust her feet into her hiking boots, slapped the Velcro fasteners into place, and grabbed her Glock from the nightstand. Over the ululating siren, she heard men shouting—cursing in Albanian.
A few seconds is all it would take for someone with the right explosives to breach the old farmhouse’s heavy wooden door. Her combat knife was in its Kydex sheath strapped above her right ankle. A spare knife, along with a double-stack magazine for her Glock, was on a webbing belt around her waist.
She snagged her thermal coat from the doorknob on her way out of the room. Bare basics for escape and evasion were in the coat pockets even though she had that and more in her go-bag. She shoved her arms in the coat sleeves and zipped it as she raced downstairs.
She threw open the cellar door, leaped down the short flight of stairs, and headed for the hidden entrance to the tunnel.
Desperation gave her strength and speed. She shoved aside the dusty pile of old carpet and broken furniture that hid the opening to the tunnel and crawled inside. The dank smell of earth that hadn’t been disturbed in decades filled her nose and created an anxiety of its own. She didn’t like tunnels or small spaces. She slid the straps of the go-bag she’d placed there—just in case—onto her back.
Sabrina pulled the timer from beneath a pile of rags. She knew how much lead time she needed to reach the ladder at the other end. Her hands were steady as she set it to blow the charges she’d placed three feet inside the tunnel then she shoved the timer under the rags.
Her feet wanted to fly, but discipline forced her to replace the carefully-constructed camouflage that hid the tunnel opening. That might buy her another minute. Maybe two if the hit team wasn’t very good.
The muffled boom of an explosion shook the old house. The front door had been blown. Dust drifted down from the tunnel ceiling. Her internal clock automatically switched to a countdown.
Three minutes to reach the other end of the tunnel and climb out.
With the Glock in her hand—just in case—Sabrina ran flat out, or as near to flat out as she could, given the height of the tunnel wasn’t made to accommodate her five feet ten inches.
When the charges exploded, there’d be nothing left of the ramshackle building, nor the earthen tunnel that had been dug by French resistance fighters in the Second World War, and she would be buried under more metric tons of dirt and rock than she wanted to calculate.
Two minutes and thirty seconds left.
In the past, she’d managed a six-minute mile when she’d been in peak condition. Not bad, considering the Russian woman who held the world record had done it in a bit more than four minutes. But she’d never aspired to breaking records—just staying alive.
Two minutes left.
Sabrina’s breathing was loud and fast. Too fast. She wished she could have tacked on an extra thirty seconds. She wasn’t in peak condition. Hadn’t been for more than two years. Even though the other end of the tunnel wasn’t quite a mile, she was cutting it close. The house wasn’t that large so it wouldn’t take that long for them to search it. She expected the hit team to get to the cellar right about now. Sooner if they were good—or reckless. If she were lucky, it would take seconds more for them to find the camouflaged opening to the tunnel.
Assuming they didn’t already know about it.
Sabrina pushed that thought to the back of her mind and focused on getting to the other end of the dark tunnel.
One minute and thirty seconds left.
She’d walked the tunnel enough times that she didn’t need a flashlight. The last time she’d had to run like this as if her life depended on it—which it did—was the last time Shaitan had sent a hit team for her.
One minute left.
A sharp pain bit into her side. She ignored it, gritted her teeth, and kept running. When she reached the ladder at the other end, she paused for a fraction of a second to draw in a big breath of the musty air. She’d have to increase the intensity of her workouts if she expected to stay alive. She dropped the Glock into her coat pocket and stepped onto the bottom rung of the rusty iron ladder and climbed up.
With her right hand, she groped around the square wooden frame buried in the hard packed dirt, searching for the crude wooden latch that secured the tunnel’s exit cover. A splinter rewarded her fumbling fingers, but she found the six-inch long chunk of wood. She gripped the handle, turned it, and pushed upward. The wooden hatch didn’t budge.
Thirty seconds left.
No! Not after all the preparations she’d made. Refusing to believe she was trapped in the tunnel, she pushed harder. Nothing. She removed the go-bag and held it in her right hand while she steadied herself with her left on the ladder. She climbed up another rung, until she was stooped below the hatch. She clung to the cold metal rung, bowed her back, and pushed up. Pain stabbed her back where it met the unyielding wood, but she kept pushing. The hatch shifted a little.
Twenty seconds left.
Despite the cold December night, Sabrina perspired. Something was blocking the exit. Encouraged by the small bit of movement she’d achieved, she stepped down, slung the go-bag on, pulled the straps tight, and repeated the movement, pushing upward with all her strength. She gave it everything she had.
Ten seconds left.
The wood creaked. Frantic now, she shoved even harder, groaning with the effort and ignoring the strain on her back and legs. A sliver of moonlight seeped into the dark space. Encouraged she pushed up, groaning with the effort, and created an opening large enough to get her arm out.
The world exploded.
Instinctively, she grabbed hold of the ladder with both hands, lowered her head, and curved her body close, clinging to the cold metal ladder with both hands as it shook violently. She prayed that decades of rust hadn’t weakened the metal. Rocks and dirt clods rained down, but the tunnel at her end didn’t collapse.
Coughing, she pushed again at the exit hatch, increasing the size of the opening, providing enough illumination for her to see the dust cloud swirling toward her when she looked behind her. Breathing shallowly, she struggled out of the bag and shoved it through. Lungs burning, she pushed up with her back again and managed to enlarge the opening enough to squeeze through. She collapsed onto the damp forest floor, gulping in the cold fresh air. A paroxysm of coughing followed, stealing her breath away.
A long precious minute later, she steadied her breathing. The air was clean and scented by pine and smelled like freedom. Her arms and legs shook—as much from adrenalin as from the physical exertion. She sat up and leaned over and used both hands to shake the pebbles and dirt from her hair. She coughed and spit and tasted dust. With the hem of her sweater, she wiped her face.
Her ears strained to hear, but all was quiet in the woods. The moon slipped out of the clouds, revealing the scene around her. She saw the fallen tree limb that had blocked the wooden hatch. Even though she wanted nothing more than to lay there and rest, that was a luxury she couldn’t afford. She staggered to her feet and closed the hatch then shoved the large limb until the broadest, heaviest part of the oak branch covered the hatch. Just in case someone had been closer to this end of the tunnel when the charges blew and was even now finding the ladder.
A sharp north wind chilled her skin. Sabrina fastened her coat and pulled up the hood. The wind promised snow, maybe before morning, which was to be expected since it was the first week of December. She headed deeper into the woods, moving fast but taking pains to be quiet. If anyone on the hit team had survived—and she had to believe they had—they’d wait until they could look for her remains in the rubble just to make sure they hadn’t screwed up. She knew they were hoping they wouldn’t find any. They wanted her alive.
Shaitan wanted her alive.
Sabrina shuddered at the thought. When they didn’t find any evidence she’d been blown to bits, they’d start searching. She hoped the blown tunnel would give her a head start. They wouldn’t know in which direction she’d escaped so they’d split up and search all directions. That’s what she would do. She planned to be far away from here by the time they did that.
Sabrina had hoped she could get to Shaitan before he got to her, but the man always seemed to know what she’d do next. So she needed to do something completely unexpected. Something Shaitan wouldn’t see coming.
What were her options?
Always have an option. Just in case.
She smiled grimly as Wilson’s voice filled her thoughts. Wilson had drummed those seven words into her head from the beginning. Not for the first time, she wished she could talk to him. Time hadn’t exactly healed that wound, but it had scabbed over. For her at least. In the beginning, she’d been furious when she’d learned Wilson had created her last mission to test her loyalty to him. That was putting a nice face on what he’d done. The ugly face was that he’d set in motion the events that had changed her life to punish her for what he viewed as the ultimate betrayal. When she’d initially refused the job, he’d reminded her that everything she had was because he’d given it to her. What he gave, he could take away.
“Do it, or you’re history,” he’d snarled.
In the world she’d inhabited, that could mean anything from you’ll never work in this town again to you’ll be a corpse floating in the Potomac.
So she’d backed down and told him she’d do it. She would have—on her terms and without destroying her soul—but Wilson knew her too well. He’d set it up so she’d have nothing left to come back to except her job. She smiled coldly. Maybe that was the real reason she’d gone off mission. She’d told him it wasn’t her fault the damn job hadn’t gone as planned, but Wilson sure thought it was. All the time he was shouting and cursing, she kept thinking, “Payback is a bitch. Deal with it.”
When he’d finished ranting, he’d told her to get out of his sight until he decided what to do with her. She’d gone straight to her apartment and executed the escape plan she’d designed as soon as she’d been smart enough to know she needed one. Thinking back, she was struck by the realization that her entire life had been one escape plan after another.
Sabrina brought her attention back to tonight’s escape plan and picked up her pace. She’d foiled three attempts to capture her, but how much longer could she keep this up? She had no help. No backup. No all-powerful government agency to run interference. She was one woman against a vicious international criminal who was organized and had plenty of money to buy what he wanted, and he wanted her. Result? She was going to get herself captured and eventually killed if she didn’t get help.
Sabrina could think of only one man she trusted—one man who had the skills to help her. In a lifetime of never owing anyone anything, she owed him—everything. Most of all, she owed him the truth even though she’d resisted sharing that with him. She pictured him as she’d last seen him—a night breeze ruffling his thick brown hair as they’d paused in a small park near the hotel where they were staying in Virginia.
He’d reached for her. His large hands on her waist, he’d drawn her into his arms. In emotional freefall, she’d stiffened, resisted. Then she’d surrendered, wanting to feel his arms around her. Needing to feel his body close to hers. His heartbeat against her breast. The hard evidence of his desire pressed to her belly. Her body had softened and molded to him as if she could embed the heat of his body, his touch, his scent—his strength and courage—into her cellular memory.
He was taller than she. Like most Navy SEALs, John Galloway was muscled and strong and had an attitude that said he wasn’t a man to be trifled with. She’d looked up, into his piercing gray eyes, and wanted to tell him everything. But, she’d been afraid. What would he think if he found out the truth about her? In that moment, she knew whatever she decided about the mission Wilson wanted her to undertake didn’t matter. She knew she was doomed to lose John.
Sabrina arrived at the car she’d hidden beneath camouflage netting. She turned her thoughts from the past to the present. The Rover looked like another old clunker, but its engine contradicted its battered exterior. She removed the netting and stowed it inside the car. When she turned the key, the engine started immediately. She drove out from under the trees and onto a grassy lane, and her focus shifted back to her dilemma. She’d tried to handle the situation herself. She’d been lucky so far, but she never shied from the ugly truth. She really was going to get herself killed if she didn’t get help.
By the time she turned onto the paved road, she’d made a decision. She’d go to John Galloway. Maybe he’d help her. Her mouth twisted in a grim smile. Maybe he’d tell her to go straight to hell. Life was full of irony, and this was the perfect example of that truth. The one man she trusted, the one man who might be able to save her, probably hated her. If he ever thought about her at all.
Her jaw squared. That was okay. She deserved it, but John was a good, decent man. He might help her simply because it was the right thing to do. She didn’t need him to love her. She just needed him to help her stay alive. A pang in the vicinity of her heart revealed that for the lie it was. Her conscience mocked her. Everything else aside, it didn’t matter if John hated her. It didn’t even matter if he refused to help her. What mattered was she had to tell him the truth. As much as she didn’t want to share that information with him, she had to because she might not survive if they kept coming after her.
And they would.
If she were killed—her heart clenched at the thought—John had to know where to look. It was only right. This time she
had to do the right thing. Sabrina shivered. If John had hated her before, how would he feel once he knew the depth of her deception?
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is a New York Times
and USA Today
bestselling author of Sassy, Sexy Contemporary Romance
. Her books are available in audio, ebook, and print. All of her books have the same underlying theme: It's never too late to live happily ever after
Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Visit Joan online: Blog
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