Friday, March 24, 2017

D.R. Grady Gives Us Trouble with Nerds!


The Trouble with Nerds
by D.R. Grady


Odd things keep happening to Dr. Sara Newton. She’s a soon-to-be-unemployed pediatrician with an alleged stalker, a hot cop on her heels breathing dire warnings, and way too much student debt.

It doesn’t help that the hot cop is Clay Morrison, her best friend’s older brother. The man has made her heart pound and her palms sweaty since puberty. The trouble is, he only interacts with her when he’s expounding on new security measures. He sees threats everywhere.

Clay Morrison is frustrated. He hates his new job, misses his Army Ranger days, loves his well-meaning, pushy family—and when did sweet Sara Newton grow up? She won't admit she has a stalker, and she won't keep out of his thoughts. He can only protect someone in denial for so long. No matter how attractive she is...

Clay and Sara are circling each other, trying to meet in the middle. Then a brand new threat sends them in a completely different direction.

Buy Now!

Excerpt:

The man in front of her grinned. In a twisted parody of a grin as he reached for her. She eluded with a slick move from Janine, but the man flowed with her. As though he had anticipated her action. This time she thrust forward to jab him in the knee, then followed through with a shot to the crotch. He dropped to the floor, grabbing at his damaged goods as she stepped over him to flee the small room.

And slammed into a solid object. The hard hands circling her arms weren’t friendly. This man’s gold tooth gleamed in the dimmed light, and the flash made her heart sink. To the catacombs. She spun, trying to break his grasp, as Greg had taught her.

His grip didn’t falter. Instead, he used his hold on her upper arms to sweep her off the rug and over the men all around them. She shrieked. Just because they wanted to keep quiet didn’t mean she had any intention.

Especially with fear now clouding her thoughts, because her heart thumped and sweat coated her top lip. She knocked her head into his chin and let out another scream. Putting as much volume into it as possible. He countered with a fist to her chin.

The blow snapped her head back, and blanked her mind as pain ratcheted up her jaw into her head. Everything blurred before she yanked up a hand and thrust two fingers into his eyes. Greg had warned there was no need to play fair in battle, so she jabbed at his eyes and used her aching head to free herself, head butting him whenever the opportunity arose.

Her feet were free so she aimed for his knees. Desperation and pain fueled her actions, no matter how cliche. The man laughed at her efforts. Red slashed across her vision as she thrust away her aches and the nasty taste in her mouth. At the clamoring of her common sense, yelling at her to shrivel into a sack of pleading.

She wiped blood off her lip as the images in front of her narrowed to this leering man with his ugly golden tooth. Maybe she wouldn’t win this, but she’d do her best to make Clay proud.

This time when she jabbed him, she did so with her medical expertise. She hit him in the solar plexus and then followed through with a blow to the nose. Next, the money shot. A swift knee to the groin. It was gratifying when he cried out, and crumpled.

Her success surged to her head. Triumphantly, she spun, right into the chest of the largest man she’d ever seen. This might be a gorilla pretending to be a man. He was hairy and needed to bathe, and he leered at her just like the idiot she’d just toppled.

Sara’s bravado faltered and scuttled away with a whimper as she stared at this person so much bigger than her. This is why guns had been invented. Because there was no way...

“Sara, run,” Clay bellowed.

Not about to disobey, she darted between the gorilla’s legs and slid across the rug. Her sweater caused drag, but she scrambled to her feet, and sprinted down the hallway. Away from the terror behind her. Her heart pounded in tune with her fleeing footsteps as her breath came in short, staccato gasps.

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About the Author:

D.R. Grady lives with her husband near Hershey, PA. She adores chocolate, laughing, collecting bags, books, and shoes, and writing stories that resonate with others.

Website
Twitter
Amazon Author page
FacebookPage
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Other works by D.R. Grady

The Morrison Family Series:


The Trouble with Nerds
The Nerd who Spied Me


Free Short Stories:


Math Nerds and Mechanics
Tall Golf


The Me Series:



The Dragon Chronicles Series:




For additional buying options and updates, please visit her website-

Friday, March 10, 2017

Tomatoes, Pickles, and a Whole Lot of Ivy!


Hoedown Showdown

The Final Ivy Morris Mystery


With the Tasty Tomato Tournament just days away, the small town of Martha’s Point is all abuzz. This is the first year without a sure winner, and the competition is fierce to gain the judges’ approval, even before the tournament starts.

But when Ivy finds one of those judges dead in a shed across the street, things go from bad to worse. All she wanted was seven glorious, kid-free days of messing around with her husband. Instead, she’s going to be tracking down a killer, staying out of the way of a pickle-obsessed farmer, and dodging the new cop who seems out for her blood.

Buy Now

Excerpt

“Myrt,” I said patiently, as if talking to a small child. “First of all, this wasn’t the tomato crusher. It was Judge McIntyre.”

I didn’t even get to the next part since she started wailing. “Oh, my stars! I’m never going to win the Tasty Tomato Tournament now! It’s the fiftieth anniversary, and I wanted at least one chance before I die! And now I will never win this! I’ll be a dead woman long before I can ever show my face again in the tournament! And this was supposed to be my year!”

Not only was that a lot of exclamation points, but she also dragged the last word out until it sounded like a cat dying. I tried to calm her down by settling my hand on her shoulder. She shook me off while dropping her cane at her feet. With a ton of creaks and cracks, she knelt down beside him and started babbling about how sorry she was.

“I don’t think you should touch him.” I said this while definitely keeping my distance. I did not want to touch him more than I already had. To be honest, it had been some time since I was involved in anything more than feeding and playing with my kids or running my store and being a wife. Occasionally I would help Ben with a case or two in his work as a private investigator, but it was more paperwork than anything else. I did not want to even know what had happened to the judge, much less who had done it. Ben was not going to be pleased. At all.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. McIntyre,” Myrt said with her face close to his, her hand patting his chest. There was a crinkling noise, but she was still talking. “So very sorry. When Irma died last year in her sleep after winning her forty-ninth straight tournament, I thought I finally had a chance, and now I hit you, and I’m so very, very sorry, and I can’t believe I mistook you for a burglar.” She twisted her hands together like she was wringing out a dishtowel. And she was going to draw blood if she continued biting her lip in between babbling some more.

I had few choices right now. I have to admit here that I had no desire whatsoever to call the police. I didn’t want to be involved in things. I had plans this week. This was not going to keep me from swinging from the freaking chandelier if I could.

Of course, I could go across the street and call from the house, or have Ben call and then remove myself from the situation altogether. But that would be completely unfair to Mrs. Crandall.

I couldn’t help myself. I let out a scream that would have brought down an opera house, something between frustration and fright because, at that moment, something furry ran against my leg before shooting into the bushes.

In the end, the decision of what to do was taken out of my hands because the police came tearing up in the one marked car in town, screeching to a halt at the curb. A man in uniform was out of the car before I could blink again. And I’m glad I didn’t blink because I would have missed the way he jumped from the car and then did a forward roll across the front lawn as if he was in some crazy-assed shootout.


Author Bio: Misty Simon loves a good story and decided one day that she would try her hand at it. Eventually she got it right. There’s nothing better in the world than making someone laugh, and she hopes everyone at least snickers in the right places when reading her books. She lives with her husband, daughter and three insane dogs in Central Pennsylvania where she is hard at work on her next novel or three. She loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at misty@mistysimon.com, or visit her on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Jody Wallace and I Talk About Cats, Ghostbusters, Prodigal, and...Other Stuff

If angels were aliens and sentient computers were good guys and the super hot Chosen One movie star failed to save the world and then got amnesia and there was an apocalypse...what was I talking about? Oh! PRODIGAL, book 3 of the Maelstrom Chronicles, is a gritty, action-packed, surprisingly humorous examination of the relationship between a kick-ass lady sheriff and the Hollywood hunk who nearly destroyed the world. Together, can they reverse the course of history?

Buy Links: EntangledAmazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Please welcome today's guest, Jody Wallace!

I recently messaged Natalie (thank you for hosting me!) about what I should talk about on her blog. Although she had given me a list of things to talk about on her blog already – such as how to redeem “unheroic” characters from earlier books, like Adam Alsing – I decided to run some other ideas by her anyway. Some of the ideas she vetoed were:

1) Why in the world menopause has to be so difficult and gross.

2) How Natalie should get a bunch of cats and set up a cat sanctuary now that she’s soon to be an empty nester.

3) If I should crochet a toilet or a poop emoji as a blog tour giveaway.

4) If we should just post the conversation we just had about graphically described lady issues and lose all our readers, because hey, we’d already had it, and it was spelled correctly, and the work would already be done.

5) If she wants me to crochet her a....saucy man part.

6) What she’s writing or publishing next (She’s working on three books at once! While I can barely work on one interview at a time! Go Natalie!)

7) Why I can’t keep tomatoes alive on my back porch.

8) If she lived beside me, would she come take tap classes with me or would she be more of an adult ballet kind of gal? (She said I was “funny” and then said it might sound less douchey if she just agreed to take tap classes with me because ballet is a no-go.)

Photo credit link:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1289401/mediaviewer/rm1199762176
9) How much we both loved the new Ghostbusters – okay, that would be a fun article, but I guess it’s not great promo for a book I just released.

10) Does she think it’s low-class that we just have our box springs and mattresses on the floor so the dang cats won’t climb up in the box springs and make a bunch of noise while we’re trying to sleep? (She pointed out this question didn’t go well with me nagging her about the cat sanctuary.)

By the way, the method I chose to redeem Adam Alsing, the failed Chosen One who sort of caused the apocalypse in the beginning of the Maelstrom Chronicles (ANGELI), was to give him complete amnesia and a role to play in saving the world. PRODIGAL wraps up the three books in a semi-trilogy fashion. Other authors may not have to take such drastic methods to redeem antiheroes, but I’d never written an amnesia subplot before and I thought it was time to try one.

Oddly enough, I have done my take on a “secret baby” plot, and the mother is the heroine of PRODIGAL! PRODIGAL itself doesn’t revolve around the secret baby issue, though. By this book, Claire is great friends with the wife (Sarah) of her ex (Nikolas) and is completely happy for the three of them to split parenting duties for the kiddo.

As for why you should read this book since this is supposed to encourage you to read PRODIGAL, I’d just say there are no people in here complaining about menopause, there is a cat, there is a lot of adventure, love and excitement, and I think people who enjoyed the new Ghostbusters will enjoy how strong and confident the heroine, Claire Lawson, is, as well as how charming and perfectly suited to her the hero, Adam Alsing, is. The two of them together—and how they negotiate a romance while the world might be ending, is the core of the story and the reason why I chose the post-apocalyptic setting.

Plus I like to make stuff up about monsters.

Prodigal

Maelstrom Chronicles #3

by Jody Wallace

He nearly destroyed the world, but with her help, he can save it.

Adam Alsing—at least that’s what they tell him his name is—has no idea who he is or why he’s huddled naked in the snow next to a mysterious silver pod. When a gorgeous, no-nonsense sheriff by the name of Claire Lawson rescues him, she explains the planet’s under attack—and he’s been missing for over two years. The problem is, what he doesn’t remember can kill them.

Keeping the peace in her post-apocalyptic town is all the trouble Sheriff Claire Lawson can handle. Until the MIA Chosen One—the guy who could have prevented the apocalypse—interrupts her supply run. The Shipborn aliens want to study him, and what’s left of the Terran government wants to lock him up. But his charming demeanor and his desire to help, along with his sexy smile, has Claire fighting her better judgment to keep Adam around. For now.

Buy Links: Entangled | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Read the Excerpt below! Also, add the book to your Goodreads To-Read shelf!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sara Walter Ellwood Returns with Heartland

Heartland
Singing to the Heart Book 3
by Sara Walter Ellwood

Releasing June 21, 2016 in both ebook and print

Sex, drugs, and country music. That was the lifestyle for Emily Kendall, a Texas girl who hit it big on the country music charts—until she found herself pregnant and battling addiction. Now out of rehab and seeking a new life for herself and her unborn child, Emily returns to her hometown of McAllister. The last thing she’s looking for is trouble, no matter how good it looks in uniform…
A widower, single father, and former Army Ranger struggling with PTSD, Sheriff EJ Cowley has his own demons to battle while keeping folks safe. The last thing he needs is a troubled celebrity speeding through town in her bright red Maserati. But when someone from Emily’s past threatens her safety and the peace of McAllister, EJ has no choice but to protect her. And soon both will learn there’s more to the other than meets the eye. And that wounded hearts can love again…

Excerpt:
“I’m sorry, but I can’t ride you right now.” Emily kissed the horse above her nose, and Tink nuzzled her cheek. “We’ll go out tomorrow. How about that?”

“I remember when you rode that horse everywhere you went.”

Startled by the deep voice, she turned. EJ Cowley leaned on the top rail of the fence, and from the look of it, he’d been there for a while. He’d changed out of the brown uniform of the McAllister County sheriff’s department. She couldn’t help looking him over. Dressed in worn boots, faded jeans, a blue western shirt, and a brown Stetson, he epitomized every sexy clichĂ© existing about how a cowboy should look.

Her heart sped up at the way those clothes fit him. Which irritated the hell out of her. She turned back to her horse and stroked her long face. “What are you doing here?”

“My sister-in-law watches my son while I’m at work.”

She stilled. Had she been quasi-lusting after a married man? Hadn’t he married Raquel Marshall? She glanced over her shoulder at his left hand. No ring. But then a lot of cowboys didn’t wear their wedding bands when they were working. The risk of getting it caught on something was too great.

Despite his clothes, he must have come off duty as the county’s ticket-happy sheriff not too long ago. She patted Tink’s shoulder. “See you in the morning, girl.” As she headed toward the man, who was not hiding the fact he appreciated what he saw, she guessed he wasn’t still married, but she’d been around the world a few times and knew not to take a man’s blatant interest as proof of anything. “You have a son. How is Raquel these days?”

She was close enough to notice his gray eyes had turned as haunted as a gravestone when she asked about his wife. He looked to the left, toward his brother’s house, and from the way a muscle twitched in his jaw, he must have gritted his teeth.

“She committed suicide two years ago today.”

“Oh… I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” she stammered. What else had happened to the people she’d once considered friends she was unaware of? “How old is your little boy?”

He took a deep breath and met her gaze again. She studied his eyes as they moved over her face. God, he had the most fascinating eyes. They weren’t truly blue, but the gray was an odd shade. Too light to be slate, but too dark to be silver. They reminded her of her great-grandmother’s pewter candleholders.

“Two.”

As silence engulfed them, she turned to head for the gate. She had no idea what was up with the sheriff, and she didn’t like her desire to ask. EJ Cowley may have filled her schoolgirl fantasies, but she wasn’t the wide-eyed kid who crushed after the local cowboy-turned-soldier.

“Emwee?”

At the sound of her name, she glanced past EJ to the porch. Johnny stood there with his toy lightsaber and x-wing. She promised to play a video game with her brother. “Well, it was good seeing you again, EJ.”

She was halfway across the drive when his voice stopped her. “By the way”--He cleared his throat--“I lost your ticket...”

Stopping in the middle of the driveway, she looked over her shoulder at him. His face puckered as if he’d eaten a lemon soaked in vinegar. He took his hat off and ran a hand through his short hair. The setting sun turned the tresses a gleaming gold.

“You lost it?” Damned if she’d make it easy on him. “After going through all the trouble of stopping me a mile away from home?”

Setting his hat back on his head, he cleared his throat again and stood with his feet apart. He gave a quick jerk with his head in the affirmative. “Can’t find it anywhere. No ticket. No proof. You’re off the hook.”

Holy crap, he was gorgeous, and heat flooded her to pool in her belly. She turned, not wanting him to see the way he affected her, and headed for the porch, then lied through her teeth. “Good, because I’ve already tossed it.” She had every intention of paying the fine, but she was glad he lost the ticket. No decent cop would lose a ticket. Maybe he did it out of remembrance of their childhood friendship. Or was he as attracted to her as she was to him?

With an inward shake of herself, she didn’t let a possible answer formulate in her muddled brain. She couldn’t be anything to him. You’re pregnant with another man’s child and don’t need the added stress! At the door into the kitchen, she ruffled Johnny’s hair and turned, ignoring her self-admonishment. “See you around, EJ.”

“Yeah… See you around.” He tipped his hat and turned on his heel to amble toward his extended cab Silverado.

From inside the screen door, she watched the way he filled out the backside of his Wrangler’s and muttered, “Hell yeah, I hope so.”

If you’d like to see more excerpts, check them out here.

Buy Links:
Kensington
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Google
Kobo

About the Author:
Although Sara Walter Ellwood has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia. Sara Walter Ellwood is a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up. She also dabbles in the paranormal genre with her The Hunter’s Dagger Series, which was previously published under the pen name Cera duBois.

Author Links:

 


The other books in Singing to the Heart

Heartstrings, Book 1, and Heartsong, Book 2, are also available in ebook and print!

Heartstrings on Amazon | Heartsong on Amazon

For other vendor links and book information check out my website page.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Those Damned Teenagers, or, Get Your Own Damned Sunflower Seeds

Here's Laverne, because I can't find Shirley's photo.
Spring, the time of birth. We successfully kept Laverne, the prolific mama mourning dove from nesting on our ladder this year by taking down the ladder. We put it back up after we were sure she'd nested somewhere else, and a few weeks later...Shirley was back. You remember Shirley, she was the high-strung robin that nested on the ladder with Laverne a couple of years ago. So now we have to wait for Shirley's eggs to hatch before I can do the gutters. Again.

Anyway, we also have a starling family running around. There are two adults and two fledglings. The fledglings have this horrible screechy call and it's pretty non-stop. My husband noticed them on our feeder one day, and how the parent was feeding the fledglings. I explained that after they fledge, it's a learning period where they still get fed by the parents. He was like, "but they're so BIG." I joked that they're just like today's teenagers/twenty-somethings: perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, but still demanding the parents do it for them.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Today, they were running around outside my window again, with a change in dynamic. The parents were eating seeds off the ground...and NOT feeding the "youngsters." Which are now easily twice the size of the parents.

Now, I'm not a passionate birder. I retain knowledge (I think) from my summer as a naturalist intern and my zoology class in college. I started to think these "fledglings" are cowbirds. The brown-headed cowbird is a parasite. It lays its eggs in OTHER birds' nests, and the cowbirds, being bigger and more aggressive, can often cause the other babies to...well, you can imagine. But the coloring is definitely more starling than cowbird, so maybe they just look so much bigger because they haven't molted yet or whatever. Or maybe the parents did such a good job with the feeding that they grew really big.

I felt really bad for the parents, though, because they looked pretty done with the whole thing. Kinda like human parents, in a lot of cases. :)

(I tried to get photos/video, but they've disappeared. I know if I keep waiting to post this, they'll never show up. So here's my cat watching a chipmunk instead. :) )


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Upcoming Author Events

Natalie at Cupboard Maker Books

I don't know how I managed it, but I have a SLEW of appearances happening this year. I mean, I already did YAPA Con, an author panel and a meet and greet for the Dauphin County Library System, and a booksigning at Cupboard Maker Books. But wait! There's more! If you're hoping to meet me and get signed copies of my books, I have three opportunities for that! And if you just want to hang with me (and other authors) online and have a chance to get cool prizes, I have three opportunities for that, too! :) So here are they are, in chronological order:

Lady Jane's Salon, Lancaster
May 22, 1–4 p.m., The Cat's Meow, Manheim, PA

I'll be reading from my latest release, The Color of Courage, and will have some giveaways and books for sale. Other authors also featured are Misty Simon, Olivia Night, and Lydia Michaels.

Celebrate Dragons Month
May 23, 9–10:30 p.m. EDT on Facebook

I'll be helping to celebrate the release of Jamie K. Schmidt's new book (and dragons, of course) with a few other guest authors. Come by for chatting about dragons and dragon shifters, books, and probably hunks. That's how these things tend to go. :) And there are always prizes!

Romance Writers Gone Wild
May 26 & 27 on Facebook

This party actually goes on ALL WEEK LONG. Each day will feature authors in different romance genres. I'll be posting on Thursday (as a paranormal romance/urban fantasy author) and Friday (as a romantic suspense author). But stop in every day and see what's going on! Individual authors will be giving away prizes, and there are several "grand" prizes to be won, such as Kindles and gift cards.

YA Book Signing
June 11, 1–3 p.m., Cupboard Maker Books, Enola, PA

For this in-person booksigning, I'll be wearing my YA hat as NJ Damschroder and signing the two books in my Fusion Series, including the new release, Shadow Mission. I'll be joining Gabriella Gill and Tom Tancin. Come on by!

Romance Saturday
June 25, 2 p.m., Aaron's Books, Litiz, PA

Meet 9 local romance authors as they sign and discuss their books.  Authors include NY Times bestselling Megan Hart, Vicky Burkholder, Sara Walter Ellwood, Natalie J. Damschroder, D.R. Grady, Patty Taylor, Gerri Bowen, Allison B. Hanson, and Brandy Ayers. There's quite a mix of subgenres; check out details here.

Hope to see you around!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

"Firsts" in a Long Career

The Color of Courage was released yesterday by Soul Mate Publishing. It's my 22nd published novel, nearly 16 years after the release of Hunter's Song. After so much time and so many books, it's kind of amazing that I can still celebrate firsts with number 22.

1. My First Superhero Book (also the first in the series).
I actually wrote it 10 years ago, before the current boom of superheroes in TV and film. I've always loved superhero romances, but I wanted, as usual, to be different from everyone else. I'm not sure if I managed it, especially now that superheroes are all angsty and stuff. Mine have to deal with everyday problems like bill collectors and a-hole exes and day jobs, because it's not like saving people earns you a living. Of course, that's all on top of battling someone who is determined to take them down, and Daley, the heroine of TCoC, also has her personal insecurities and a complicated love life to deal with.

2. My First Urban Fantasy
Because of the way publishing works, Goddesses Rising was published before The Color of Courage. So to everyone else, it's not my first urban fantasy. But it's the first one I wrote. The first story that strayed from the romantic focus. The romance is strong, of course, it always will be in what I write, but it's not traditional. We're talking more Elemental Assassins (Jennifer Estep) and less Superhero Central (Julie Kenner). There's also more action and external conflict, and more personal internal conflict than there is romantic conflict.

3. My First First Person POV
Again, Full Fusion and Shadow Mission, the books in my YA series, were commercially available before The Color of Courage. But I wrote TCoC first. Why first person? Because that's how the story came to me. Ian, Daley's boyfriend, breaking up with her in scene 1, and Daley not seeing it coming. Her superpower is being an empath, seeing emotions as colors in a person's aura. But she can't see emotions that are about her. So that just had to be written from Daley's point of view. (I have to admit, it's hampering me now, because I'm craving Dev's POV in The Light of Redemption but I'm telling Harmony's story and Dev is just a part of it. A big, powerful, awesome part. :) )

This book is an incredible value, at 92,000 words and only $2.99. You can buy it here or read the opening scene here. But read on for an exclusive excerpt!

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mr. Mustache drove us out to about twenty yards from the wreck, then idled in a little closer before cutting the engine and dropping anchor. The closer we got, the more frenzied the dog became. The woman appeared to be unconscious, possibly from a head injury. Her blond hair was matted with blood.

“Can you calm the dog?” Summer asked me in a low voice. I was already trying, building my bubble and projecting it outward. The dog’s fury was too intense, though, and we were too far away.

We studied the scene for a minute, riding the boat up and down in the chop.

“Let me see if I can summon her.” Kirby lifted both hands and concentrated. The woman rose a couple of inches, but then stopped. Kirby shook her head.

“She’s caught. I don’t want to rip a leg off or something.”

“We have to go closer,” I said.

“I know, but—”

“I’ll get in the water.” I’d already moved toward the side of the boat when Trace put his hand on my arm.

“That dog will tear you apart.”

I crouched in the bottom of the boat to avoid tipping it. “I can calm him. Animals are simpler, I’m sure I can do it quickly. Then you come in, go under, and untangle her. We’ll drag her to the boat. The dog will probably follow, swimming. He won’t be much danger in the water.”

Trace didn’t like it. His anxiety and fear were growing, as were all of ours. We shared a bad feeling about this, but had no idea how to prove it was a setup, or prepare for it, or stop it. We could only rescue the woman.

He nodded, once. I stood, adjusted my flexi-shield and double-checked that my boots and gloves were secure to my suit, and dove in.

I’d scuba-dived before, but I’d never gone in the water with my suit. The water moved around me, but didn’t touch my skin. The suit held air and buoyed me immediately to the surface, which was good, because the flexi-shield made me feel like I could breathe, but its filters closed as soon as there was no airflow. Any air trapped in the shield wouldn’t last long. I’d have to surface to breathe.

I gave the others a thumbs-up and started a slow breaststroke toward the dog. He’d stopped barking for a moment when I went in the water, but started up again when I swam toward him. Spittle flew off his jaws. His feet scrabbled at the fiberglass under them, his weight shifting with the force of his anger. I could see his teeth, clean and sharp, and was glad my suit would protect me. From being shredded, anyway.

I treaded water a few feet from his face and wished the flexi-shield had sound-dampening qualities. Kirby wanted to get upgrades, now that we had Auberginois’ money. Maybe that was a feature we should ask for.

“Okay, Charm, stop daydreaming and start working.” I concentrated on calming the dog again. My bubble touched his fury, pushing it back. But it wasn’t diminishing. It was like it sank deep into him, and my bubble bent around his body but would go no further. His behavior didn’t change. If anything he went more wild, the sharpness of his bark becoming shrill, almost panicked.

I concentrated, moving my arms and legs only enough to stay afloat and in one place, trying to force his emotion to change. Sweat trickled down my right temple. My jaw started to ache, and then my frustration began to affect the bubble of calm.

Trace and Summer were calling at me to turn back. I was about to when the dog yelped, did a rearing half-twist, and fell into the water behind the boat. He didn’t resurface.

I wasn’t sure if I had caused that or if something else had, but it didn’t matter. I dove back under the water as best I could, trying to see where he’d gone. There was no thrashing shape, no teeth about to grab my leg. I bobbed back to the surface as a splash sounded behind me. It was heavy, probably Trace. I set out for the woman, and a moment later he passed me, his dark shirt telling me he’d shed his suit.

Adam would kill him.

I saw why he’d done it immediately. The suits were virtually airtight and kept us afloat. Trace dove deep, his hands trailing over the woman’s torso and legs. He could stay down, his endurance allowing him to hold his breath for long periods. I watched him work to untangle some kind of line. The dog was still nowhere in sight. Then an odd movement caught my eye. The woman’s hand had risen out of the water. I lifted my head. She was looking right at me, her malevolence on par with Gino Scarengio’s on the ledge. I froze, my blood far colder than the water around me. She was with CASE.

“Trace!”

But he couldn’t hear me. He didn’t have his shield on, so he had no com.

The woman grimaced and lifted her hand higher out of the water. Then I realized that was supposed to be a grin, and she was holding some kind of trigger. I screamed Trace’s name again and dove, but the stupid floating suit kept me from getting to him. She hung in the water, drifting as he untangled the line, and he had no clue anything was wrong.

I bobbed. Her thumb started to clench on the button. I dove again. Trace had stopped trying to untangle her and stared at the line stretched across his hands. He turned to me, his eyes wide, and I realized what he held. Some kind of waterproof primer cord.

She was going to blow us up.