Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Author Manda Collins interview – A Good Rake is Hard To Find

Since March came in like a lion I thought we'd take it out with a Rake so today I welcome back historical romance author Manda Collins chatting about her latest release, A Good Rake is Hard to Find.


Heartbroken by the loss of her brother, Miss Leonora Craven vows to uncover the truth about his "accident," which seems to have been anything but. Jonathan Craven was involved with the Lords of Anarchy, a notorious driving club, and Leonora can't help but suspect foul play. But the only way she can infiltrate their reckless inner circle is to enlist the help of Jonny's closest ally, Lord Frederick Lisle. If only he didn't also happen to be the man who broke Leonora's heart…

Frederick isn't surprised to find gorgeous, headstrong Leonora playing detective, but he knows that the Lords of Anarchy mean business--and he has no choice but to protect her. A sham engagement to Leonora will allow Frederick to bring her into the club and along for the ride. But it isn't long before pretending to be lovers leads to very real passion. With everything to lose, is their tempestuous affair worth the risk?

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel blog tour - Showcase - Partners In Crime tours

Welcome to my stop on The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel blog tour, sponsored by Partners In Crime virtual tours.
Enjoy my showcase and don't forget to enter to win the contest too!

The Doomsday Equation

by Matt Richtel

on Tour March 16 - April 30, 2015

Book Details:

Genre: Fiction/Thriller
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 2/24/2015
Number of Pages: 363
ISBN: 9780062201188
Purchase Links:


From the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author of A Deadly Wandering comes a pulse-pounding technological thriller—as ingenious as the works of Michael Crichton and as urgent and irresistible as an episode of 24—in which one man has three days to prevent annihilation: the outbreak of World War III.
Computer genius Jeremy Stillwater has designed a machine that can predict global conflicts and ultimately head them off. But he’s a stubborn guy, very sure of his own genius, and has wound up making enemies, and even seen his brilliant invention discredited.
There’s nowhere for him to turn when the most remarkable thing happens: his computer beeps with warning that the outbreak of World War III is imminent, three days and counting.
Alone, armed with nothing but his own ingenuity, he embarks on quest to find the mysterious and powerful nemesis determined to destroy mankind. But enemies lurk in the shadows waiting to strike. Could they have figured out how to use Jeremy, and his invention, for their own evil ends?
Before he can save billions of lives, Jeremy has to figure out how to save his own. . . .

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

**Giveaway** Showcase The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

I'm so pleased to announce that The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston is now available in paperback. To celebrate I'm showcasing Paula and reposting our interview when the book first came out.
Stick around because Paula's US Publisher St. Martin's Press is offering a paperback copy for a giveaway. Details below!
Plus I'm offering a sneak peek at Paula's upcoming April release of The Silver Witch.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250063298
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/24/2015
  • Pages: 448

The giveaway is US ONLY
for one paperback copy of
The Midnight Witch
Sponsored by St. Martin's Press
use the Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview with Stephanie Laurens - The Tempting of Thomas Carrick

Please welcome to the blog #1 NYT bestselling international Australian romance author Stephanie Laurens. She's here today talking about her latest historical romantic suspense, The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, part of her Cynster series of books.

  • ISBN-13: 9780778317821
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 2/24/2015
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 464


#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to Scotland with a tale of two lovers irrevocably linked by destiny.
Thomas Carrick is driven to control all aspects of his life. The wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city's most eligible bachelors and intends to select a wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that next step along his self-determined path, yet no one captures his eye, nor his attention…not the way Lucilla Cynster did.

Read an excerpt:

April 1848
Good morning, Mr. Carrick." Thomas looked up from furling his umbrella and smiled at Mrs. Manning, the middle-aged receptionist seated behind her desk to one side of the foyer of the Carrick Enterprises office.
Mrs. Manning held out a commanding hand. "Let me take that for you, sir."
As the door to the stairwell swung closed behind him, Thomas strolled across and dutifully handed over the umbrella.
Mrs. Manning's thin lips curved approvingly as she took it; despite her habitually stern demeanor, she had a soft spot for Thomas. The company offices occupied the front half of the first floor of a building on Trongate, close to the bustling heart of the city, and the widowed matron ruled over her empire with a firm but benign hand.
"You have no meetings scheduled this morning, Mr. Carrick—just the discussion with the Colliers late this afternoon." Mrs. Manning glanced across the room. "And nothing's come in this morning that falls to you."
Opposite the reception desk, a long polished counter ran along the wall, and there were numerous pigeonholes set in the wall above. Before the counter, Dobson, the general clerk, was quietly sorting letters and deliveries; an ex-soldier and man of few words, he nodded in acknowledgment when Thomas glanced his way.
Turning back to Mrs. Manning, Thomas murmured, "In that case, I'll take the opportunity to go over last month's accounts."
"You'll find them on the bureau behind your desk, sir."
The foyer was paneled with fine-grained oak. The half-glassed door through which Thomas had come bore the company name and logo—the outline of a steamship superimposed on a square crate—in exquisitely wrought gilt signage. Round marbled-glass bowls suspended by heavy chains from the stamped-metal ceiling shed the steady glow of gaslight upon the scene. The ambiance was all restrained prosperity—the sort that was so assured no one thought to make anything of it.
Yet it wasn't old money behind Carrick Enterprises. Thomas's late father, Niall, had started the import-export business thirty-five years ago; as a second son with no inheritance, Niall had had to make his own way in the world.
In that, Niall had been joined by his brother-in-law, Quentin Hemmings. Although Thomas's father had died long ago, Quentin was still very much a part of the day-to-day running of Carrick Enterprises.
As Thomas headed for the open door leading to the inner offices, Quentin appeared, filling the doorway, his gaze on a sheaf of papers in his hands.
Almost as tall as Thomas, Quentin exuded the air of a gentleman of ample means quietly yet definitely satisfied with his lot—and, indeed, marriage, family, and business had all treated Quentin well. His brown hair might have been thinning somewhat, yet his face and figure remained that of a vigorous man still engaged with all aspects of life.
Sensing an obstacle in his path, Quentin glanced up. His face lit as his gaze landed on Thomas. "Thomas, my boy. Good morning." Quentin brandished the papers he held. "The contracts with Bermuda Sugar Corporation." Quentin's hazel gaze sharpened. "There's just one thing…"
Fifteen minutes later, after having agreed that Quentin should seek further assurances as to delivery dates from Bermuda Sugar, Thomas finally stepped through the doorway and strode down a narrow corridor. Lined with offices on the side overlooking the street and with storerooms on the other, the corridor ended at an imposing door that led into a large corner office—Thomas's. Quentin's office lay at the other end of the corridor, filling the other front corner of the building.
Thomas was five paces from his door when another tall gentleman stepped out of the adjacent office, papers in hand—Thomas's cousin Humphrey, Quentin's only son; he glanced up, saw Thomas, and halted, grinning.
When Thomas paused alongside him and arched a laconic brow, Humphrey's grin turned puckish. "You are going to have to choose which of Glasgow's finest you favor, and soon, or the situation will descend into feminine war. And when it comes to hostilities, ladies are more inventive than Napoleon ever was. There will be blood on the ballroom floors—metaphorically speaking, at least. Mark my words, young man!"
Thomas chuckled. "Where did you hear that? Or should I say from whom?"
"Old Lady Anglesey. She collared me and bent my ear over you and your peripatetic interest. Luckily," Humphrey went on, "I was clinging to Andrea's arm and she acted as my shield, but I was nevertheless conscripted as a messenger." Andrea was Humphrey's intended, although they were not yet formally engaged.
Along with Humphrey, Thomas had accompanied Quentin and his wife, Winifred, to a society soirée the previous evening. Considered one of the most eligible bachelors in Glasgow, Thomas was a target for the matchmakers, and even more for enterprising young ladies attracted by his appearance and persona as much as by his wealth.
Thomas heaved a sigh. "I suppose I'll have to choose sometime, but I keep hoping I'll find someone like Andrea." Someone who fixed his interest and held his attention. Someone with whom he felt a real connection.
"Ah, well." Still grinning, Humphrey clapped Thomas on the shoulder. "We can't all have the luck of the gods."
Thomas laughed. He glanced at the papers in Humphrey's hands.
Humphrey promptly waved them. "Rosewood headed for Bristol." Excitement tinged his tone. "I think I can persuade the company that Glasgow would be a better destination."
"That would make a nice addition to the mahogany we've coming in." Thomas nodded. "Let me know if you pull it off."
"Oh, you'll hear—you'll definitely hear." With another wave of the papers, Humphrey took off down the corridor, no doubt to consult with one of their brokers about how best to wrest—not to say steal—the deal away from the Bristol merchants.
Thomas stepped into his office. He shrugged out of his greatcoat and hung it on the stand behind the door, then closed the door and walked to his desk. He didn't immediately round it and sit in the chair, but instead he paused before it. His fingertips lightly brushing the desk's smooth surface, he gazed out of the corner window. The bustling thoroughfare of Trongate stretched before him, thronged with carriages and pedestrians going about their business; the calls of drivers and the cracks of their whips came faintly through the glass. From the left, through a gap between two buildings, the glint of fleeting sunshine reflecting off the pewter waters of the Clyde drew his eye.
This office, this place—Thomas had elected to make this the center of his life. He intended to craft an engaging life around his position as half owner of Carrick Enterprises, and the next step along the path to his goal was to select a suitable wife. The right sort of wife for a gentleman of the type he intended to become—a pillar of the wealthy business community with a supportive wife on his arm, with children attending the right schools, and a house in the best quarter. Perhaps a hunting box in the Highlands. He had it all reasonably clear in his mind.
Except for one thing. The first thing.
No matter how many young ladies of good family, passable or better beauty, and impeccable social credentials his aunt steered his way, he simply didn't—couldn't—see any of them as his.
Not while Lucilla Cynster still stood so vibrant and real in his mind.
By deliberate design, he hadn't set eyes on her for more than two years; he'd hoped the inexplicable grip she seemed to have on his psyche would fade if it wasn't fed—if his eyes didn't see her, if he didn't hear her voice, if his awareness wasn't teased, abraded, and impinged on by her nearness. Yet it hadn't.
He didn't even have to close his eyes to conjure her in his mind, with her emerald-green eyes slightly tip-tilted in a finely featured face haloed by fire-red hair; the colors of her eyes, soft pale pink lips, and that flaming hair were rendered even more vibrant by the unblemished ivory of her alabaster complexion.
Every other young lady he saw paled in comparison. They were insipid. Colorless.
And not just in appearance; Lucilla's vibrancy extended to her soul and was something that marked her, in Thomas's experience, as unique.
Wonderful. Alluring.
She attracted him, captured his senses, and commanded his awareness at some level beyond understanding. His understanding, at least.
She was considered a witch of sorts; it wasn't hard to see why.
For instance, there he was, standing and thinking of her when it was quite definitely the last thing he wanted, much less needed, to do.
Brusquely shaking his head, shaking all thoughts and visions of Lucilla from the forefront of his brain, he rounded the desk and sat in the comfortable leather chair behind it. If trying to focus on which young lady might be suitable as his wife was hopeless, at least he could deal with business—one aspect of his life in which thoughts of Lucilla rarely intruded.
He spent the next hours reviewing the company's past month's trading. All was going excellently well; along with the port, trade of all sorts was booming, and the company was well placed to reap the harvest his late father and Quentin had long ago sown. Although Quentin was still fully active in the firm, Thomas and Humphrey saw themselves as the ones to grow the company into the future, something Quentin openly encouraged.
Business was good. It was absorbing, too.
A tap on his door had him glancing up. "Come."
The door opened, and Dobson entered, a small sheaf of letters in his hand. "Mail, sir. Just got in."
"Thank you, Dobson." Thomas set down his pen, leaned back, and stretched his arms over his head.
Dobson set the letters on the tray on the corner of Thomas's desk and, with a taciturn nod, retreated, closing the door behind him.
Thomas lowered his arms, relaxed for a moment, then sat up and reached for the letters. There were five. Sorting through them, he found three notifications from the company's bank, detailing payments made. One thick envelope was from a shipping captain Thomas knew, who occasionally reported on prospects he came across in far-flung ports that he thought Carrick Enterprises might be interested in pursuing. That missive in his hand, Thomas was reaching for his letter knife when his gaze fell on the last letter in the pile.
The plain envelope was addressed to Mr. Thomas Carrick, with the "Carrick" heavily underlined. Across the corner opposite the post-office stamp was scrawled: Bradshaw, Carrick.
Setting aside the captain's letter, Thomas picked up the one from Bradshaw and squinted at the stamp.
Frowning, Thomas lifted the letter knife and slit open the envelope. There were two sheets inside. Sliding them out, he smoothed the pages, then leaned back in his chair and read.
And grew increasingly puzzled.
The missive was, indeed, from Bradshaw, a farmer on the Carrick estate. Thomas's paternal uncle was Manachan Carrick—The Carrick, laird of the clan. Thomas had been born at Carrick Manor, on the estate, although that had been an accident of sorts, a twist of fate. He'd spent several summers there with his parents while they'd been alive; after their deaths when Thomas was ten, he'd spent a full year at the manor, embraced, nurtured, and supported by the clan. He owed Manachan and the clan a great deal for that year, but as time had passed and he'd healed and returned to normal boyhood life, Manachan and Quentin, his co-guardians, had decided that Thomas would be best served by going to school in Glasgow and living with Quentin and Winifred and their children. And so he had.
Thomas had still visited the Carricks every summer, spending anything from a few weeks to a few months with Manachan's four children and other children of the clan, but even more with Manachan himself.
Thomas had been—and still remained—closer to Manachan than even to Quentin, whom he saw every day. Even when much younger, Thomas had intuitively realized that Manachan and Niall had been close, and with Niall's death, Manachan had transferred that degree of closeness, of connection, to Thomas, Niall's only child.
Quentin, Winifred, and Humphrey were Thomas's Glasgow family, yet Manachan was the family closest to his heart. Thomas understood Manachan and Manachan understood him, and that understanding sprang from something deep in their bones.
It was precisely that understanding that made Brad-shaw's letter so difficult to comprehend.
Not the details—they were plain enough. Bradshaw—
Thomas could easily picture the burly man; he'd met him on and off over the years—wrote that, despite the season, by which he meant the planting season, being so advanced, no seed stock had as yet been supplied to any of the estate's farmers.
Frown deepening, Thomas looked unseeing across the room while shifting his mind from shipping times and the effect of the seasons on transport, and delved into his memories to recall the impact of the march of the seasons on the land. The Carrick estate lay in the western lowlands, in Galloway and Dumfries. It was already late to be sowing, surely?
Refocusing on the letter, Thomas read again Brad-shaw's plea that he—Thomas—should intercede with Manachan over the matter of the seed supply.
"Why can't Bradshaw speak with Manachan himself?"
That was what Thomas couldn't understand. If there was a problem on the estate, then as laird of the clan, Manachan was the person to take that problem to. He always had been, and Thomas had never known any of the clan to feel the least reluctance over approaching his uncle. For all his fearsome reputation outside the clan, within it, Manachan was held in high esteem and, indeed, affection. He might be a cantankerous old bastard on occasion, but he was theirs, and to Thomas's certain knowledge, Manachan had served the clan faithfully and had never, ever, let them down.
Manachan would fight to his last breath for the clan.
That was the role of the laird, one Manachan had been born to; it was the principle on which he'd lived his entire life.
Admittedly, Manachan was now ailing somewhat and, over the past year, had allowed his eldest son, Nigel, to assume some of the day-to-day running of the estate. But Thomas couldn't imagine Manachan not keeping his hand on the tiller, much less not keeping abreast with all that was going on in the clan.
Thomas had learned of the change in estate management via letters, several from Manachan—although, now Thomas thought of it, none in recent months. A brief missive had come from the estate's solicitor, and one from Nigel himself. Also a note from Nolan, Manachan's second son, and one from Niniver, Manachan's only daughter, inquiring when Thomas next planned to visit. None of those communications had spelled out the change, but rather had alluded to it.
Thomas hadn't visited Carrick Manor for the last two years—the years during which he'd been trying, and failing, to steer his life forward—for the simple reason that Lucilla Cynster lived at Casphairn Manor, in the Vale of Casphairn, which abutted the southern border of the Carrick estate.
Ever since his fifteenth birthday, whenever he'd visited, he had—one way or another—run across Lucilla. Sometimes just to see, on other occasions to interact with. He would never forget the Christmas Eve they had shared, trapped by a blizzard in a tiny crofter cottage.
The last time he'd been at Carrick Manor, they'd met at the local Hunt Ball and had chatted and waltzed—and it seemed he would never forget that experience, either.

Hi Stephanie welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Your Cynster Novels look tempting, please tell my readers about your latest novel, The Tempting of Thomas Carrick.
The Tempting of Thomas Carrick is a neo-Gothic tale of passionate romance laced with mystery, set in the uplands of southwestern Scotland.
Thomas Carrick is driven to control all aspects of his life. The wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city's most eligible bachelors and intends to select a wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that next step along his self-determined path, yet no one captures his eye, nor his attention…not the way Lucilla Cynster did.

Thomas has avoided his clan's estate because it borders Lucilla's home, but disturbing reports from his clansmen force him to return. His uncle, the laird, is ailing, a family is desperately ill, and the healer is unconscious and dying. Duty leaves Thomas no choice but to seek help from the last woman he wants to face.

Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla has been waiting for Thomas to return and claim his place by her side. She knows he is her fated lover, husband, protector, and mate just as she is his one true love. Though his return wasn't on her account, Lucilla is willing to seize whatever chance Fate hands her.

Thomas can never forget Lucilla, or the connection that seethes between them, but to marry her would mean embracing a life he does not want.

Lucilla sees that Thomas has yet to accept the inevitability of their union. But how can he ignore a bond such as theirs—one so much stronger than reason? Lucilla is as determined as only a Cynster can be to fight for the future she knows can be theirs. And while she cannot command him, she has powerful enticements she's willing to wield in the tempting of Thomas Carrick.

These are referred to as the new generation of Cynsters. Who came before?
The first six Cynster books deal with the stories of the six cousins known to the ton as the Bar Cynster. The cousins are close in age and friendship. The novels in the Cynster series thereafter are stories about other members of the Cynster family, extended family, and close friends.
The Tempting of Thomas Carrick is the first book of the second generation of children within the Cynster family, specifically children from the original six cousins.

How are the novels in the series connected?
The novels are connected by Cynster family, their extended family and their friends.

Stephanie, do you come to the US for fan/author events?
I generally visit the US each year for the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference, which is held in a different city each year. Within the conference there is the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing that I participate in. Fans can come and have their books signed by hundreds of romance authors.

Thanks so much for visiting today and answering my questions.
Good luck with the new novel!

Connect with Stephanie - Website - Facebook 

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature 'Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen" style. Visit her online at www.stephanielaurens.com.

Today's Gonereading item is:
A collection of Jane Austen gifts
Click HERE for the buy page

Friday, March 20, 2015

April Line Up

Welcome to Spring and the Line up for April. I'm really excited about this upcoming month where I've got a great line up of interviews, reviews and showcases. I've got some exciting new authors, some go-to standards and some amazing bestsellers that took the time out of their incredibly busy days to chat with me. 

And mark your calendar for April 7th when I interview bestselling true crime author John Glatt whose documentary book The Lost Girls The True Story of the Cleveland Abductions and the Incredible Rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus will be featured.

Plus I'll be moderating a monthly book club read on my Goodreads club it's a return and personally favorite author Lisa Verge Higgins and her March 2015 release, Senseless Acts of Beauty, details below!

Wednesday April 1st - Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran Interview

Friday April 3rd - The Memory House by Linda Goodnight - Interview

Monday April 6th - The Goodreads General Fiction Expats club April read start- Senseless Acts of Beauty - Click HERE for the April Read Home Page

Force of Attraction by D D Ayers - Interview

Tuesday April 7th - The Lost Girls by John Glatt - Interview

Wednesday April 8th - Lincoln's Bodyguard by TJ Turner- 

Thursday April 9th - Normal by Graeme Cameron - Interview/review

Friday April 10th - First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan - Interview/review

Monday April 13th - Week Two of Senseless Acts of Beauty

Part Time Cowboy by Maisey Yates - Interview

Tuesday April 14th - The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane - Interview

Friday April 17th - The Closer You Come by Gena Showalter - Interview

Monday April 20th - Week Three of Senseless Acts of Beauty

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston - Interview/review/giveaway

Wednesday April 22nd - Claire Ashgrove blog tour/showcase of her re-released Paranormal Inherited Damnation series.

That's all for now but remember to stop by often as things get added all the time.
Enjoy April and thanks for supporting The Reading Frenzy.

And don't forget

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Where the Bones Are Buried by Jeanne Matthews - Interview Partners In Crime Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the Where The Bones Are Buried Blog tour.
Enjoy all the blog tour details and my interview with Jeanne Matthews.
Then be sure and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a box of books!!!

Where the Bones Are Buried

by Jeanne Mathews

on Tour March 1-31, 2015

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781464203466
Purchase Links:


Dinah Pelerin has finally put her life in order. Living in Berlin with her boyfriend Thor, she has landed a job teaching Native American cultures at the university. She’s never felt happier. And then her Seminole mother Swan shows up with a crazy scheme to blackmail a German tax dodger and dredges up a secret Dinah has kept hidden from the IRS and from straight-arrow Norwegian Thor, a former cop now with hush-hush international duties.
Germans harbor a century-long fascination with the American Wild West and American Indians. Some enthusiasts dress up as Indians and adopt Indian names. Like Der Indianer Club which has invited Swan to a powwow where she plans to meet her blackmail victim. Dinah tries to head heroff, but arrives at the scene too late. A man has been killed and scalped and Swan quickly becomes the prime suspect. Torn between love for her mother and dismay at her incessant lies, Dinah sets out to find the killer—hoping the killer doesn’t turn out to share her DNA. But Swan isn’t the only liar. Everyone is lying about something. Margaret,Swan’s dead ex-husband’s former wife, come to the city with Swan. Dinah’s teen-age “ward.” Thor. Especially Dinah. Ghosts of Germany’s terrible history haunt Berlin while she faces exorcising a hateful ghost of her own.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Interview with Lindsay McKenna – Taking Fire

Today I'm hosting an interview with NYT bestselling author Lindsay McKenna. She's talking about her new release, Taking Fire.

  • ISBN-13: 9780373785056
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/24/2015
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384


She dances on the edge of life…and death
Not all are meant to walk in the light. Marine Corps Sergeant Khat Shinwari lives among the shadows of the rocky Afghani hills, a Shadow Warrior by name and by nature. She works alone, undercover and undetected—until a small team of US Navy SEALs are set upon by the Taliban…and Khat is forced to disobey orders to save their lives.

Read an excerpt:

The SEAL team below, where Marine Corps Sergeant Khatereh Shinwari hid in her sniper hide, was in danger. The June sun was almost setting in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. Khat made a slow, sweeping turn to the right with her .300 Win Mag rifle along the rocky scree slope. She spotted fifteen Taliban waiting behind boulders to jump the four-man SEAL team climbing up the nine-thousand-foot slope.
Lips thinning, Khat watched the inevitable. She knew the team was looking for Sattar Khogani, the Hill tribe chieftain who was wreaking hell on earth to the Shinwari tribe. Her tribe. Her blood.
Pulling the satellite phone toward her, she punched in some numbers, waiting for her SEAL handler, Commander Jim Hutton, from J-bad, Jalalabad, to answer.
"Dover Actual."
"Archangel Actual." Khat spoke quietly, apprising Hutton of the escalating situation. She shot the GPS, giving the coordinates of where the SEALs were located and where the Taliban waited to ambush them. She asked if Apache helos were available.
An A-10 Warthog slumming in the area?
A C-130 ghost ship?
A damned B-52 on racetrack?
No. All flight assets were tied up with a major engagement to the east, near J-bad.
"What the hell can you give me, Dover?"
Khat was only a Marine Corps staff sergeant, and her handler, a navy commander, but she didn't give a damn at this point. Four good men were going to die on that scree slope really soon.
"No joy," Hutton ground back.
"You're going to lose four SEALs," she snapped back in a whisper, watching through her Nightforce scope. "Do you want another Operation Redwings?"
She knew that would sting him. Four brave SEALs had walked into a Taliban trap of two hundred. They were completely outmatched and without any type of support because their radio failed, and they couldn't call for backup help.
It had been one of the major reasons she'd gotten into her black ops activity and become involved. Khat didn't want any more fine men murdered because a drone wasn't available, or a satellite, or a friggin' Apache combat helicopter.
More men had died that night when a hastily assembled QRF, Quick Reaction Force, was finally strung together out of J-bad. The MH-47 Chinook had taken an RPG, rocket-propelled grenade, into it, and it had crashed, killing all sixteen on board. More lives were wasted. She had cried for days after it happened, unable to imagine the tragedy inflicted upon the families involved. None of their husbands, brothers or fathers were coming home.
It can't happen again. She wouldn't allow it. Khat knew without a sat phone, radio calls into this area were DOA, dead on arrival. The radio call would never be heard. She wasn't sure the leader of the patrol had one on him.
"There are no assets available."
"You said this team is out of Camp Bravo?"
"Affirmative. I'm initiating a QRF from Bagram. But it will take an hour for them to arrive on scene."
"What about a QRF from Camp Bravo?" Khat wanted to scream at this guy to get off his ass and get involved. Sometimes she wondered why they'd given her Hutton. He was a very conservative black ops handler. She wished she still had Commander Timothy Skelling, but he'd just rotated Stateside. Hutton reminded her of a slug; as if he didn't know what to do quickly, when pressed.
"I'm calling them, too. They can be on scene, providing they aren't already engaged elsewhere, in thirty minutes."
"Roger," she said, her voice hardening. "Get a call patched through to that platoon and warn them." Like fucking yesterday. She felt her rage rising. It always did in situations like this. She didn't want to lose Americans.
"I've sent a call over to Chief Mac McCutcheon of Delta Platoon."
"I'm waiting five minutes," Khat growled. "If I don't see that team stop and hunker down for an incoming call from Bravo, I'm engaging. The least I can do is warn off the SEALs, and they'll take appropriate action."
Shifting her scope, she saw more of Khogani's men sneaking up on the other side of the ridge. There had to be twenty of the enemy in all. Smaller boys with the Taliban group held the reins of the horses far below the slope. Sweat ran down her temples, the heat at this time of day unbearable.
"Archangel, you are not authorized to engage. Repeat. Do not engage. Your duty is to observe only.
She cursed Hutton in her mind. "Roger, Dover Actual. Out." She hated Hutton's heavy, snarling voice. All they did was spar with one another. To hell with him.
Khat wasn't about to take on thirty or so Taliban with one sniper rifle. But she could fire some shots before the muzzle fire from her rifle was seen by the Taliban. They would be fourteen-hundred-yard shots, and she set up to take out at least two or three of the hidden tangos. A .300 Win Mag didn't have a muzzle suppressor. Khat knew she could become instant toast when the sharp-eyed enemy spotted her location.
In the back of her mind as she checked elevation and windage, she knew Hutton would get a QRF up and pronto, if one was available. A quick reaction force would be needed because she knew Khogani's men would attack these four SEALs. Camp Bravo, a forward operating base, sat about thirty miles from the Af-Pak border, near where she was presently operating.
She knew SEALs carried the fight to the enemy, but sometimes it was wiser to back off and wait another day. Frustration thrummed through Khat.
Settling the rifle butt deeply into her right shoulder, her cheek pressed hard against the fiberglass stock, she placed one of the Taliban in the crosshairs. They were in a rocky stronghold waiting to spring the trap on the unsuspecting SEALs. Khat wished she could contact the team directly. She didn't have their radio code because it changed daily. And that's what she'd have to have in order to call that lead SEAL and warn him of the impending ambush.
The SEAL patrol members were all carrying heavily packed rucks and wearing Kevlar vests and helmets, which meant they were going to engage in a direct-action mission. Usually, she saw some patrols with SEALs wearing black baseball caps, or field hats, their radio mics near their mouths and carrying light kits, making swift progress toward some objective in the night.
Not this patrol. These guys were armed to the teeth. The lead SEAL's H-gear, a harness that held fifteen pockets worn around the man's chest and waist, held a maximum load of mags, magazines, of M-4 rifle ammo where he could easily reach it. These guys knew they were going into a firefight. But in broad daylight? Who authorized that kind of crazy mission? SEALs worked in the dark of night to avoid being seen by the enemy. It was rare they would be out on a daylight mission. What a FUBAR. Whoever put this op together was crazy.
Taking a deep breath, prone on her belly, she was glad she had on a Kevlar vest so she wouldn't have small stones biting deeply into the front of her chest. She had a 24X magnification on her Nightforce scope and could clearly see in the late-afternoon sunlight the man she'd chosen to kill. Glancing at her watch, she had two minutes before those five minutes were up. Hutton had better damn well have gotten his SEAL ass in gear.
The sun's slant was changing. Khat patiently watched her target. Every once in a while, she'd twist her head, glancing toward the SEALs slowly making their way up the steep slope. They blended in, but the Taliban had sharp eyes like her.
Two minutes.
Nothing from Hutton.
Nostrils flaring, Khat settled the scope on the nearest man holding an RPG casually over his shoulder. There were seven tangos in total who had RPGs. That was more than enough to kill these four SEALs. And they were a hundred feet of being in range of them. Slowing her breathing, she sighted, her finger brushing the two-pound trigger. Exhaling, she allowed her lungs to empty naturally. There was a one-second beat between inhale and exhale. The snipers referred to it as the still-point. And that is when she took the shot.
The booming sound of the .300 blasted through the silence. The jerk of the rifle rippled through her entire body. Khat instantly shot again. And a third time. She released the spent mag and slapped in another with the butt of her palm. All the Taliban targets went down. Jerking her rifle around, scope on the SEALs, she saw them instantly flatten out against the rocks. They were looking in her direction! Damn it!
She didn't have to wait long. RPGs launched, even if out of range, toward the SEALs. Khat swung the scope toward the Taliban. A number of them were angrily pointing her way. Yeah, they had her location. But she was fourteen hundred yards out of range, and those SEALs were four hundred yards from the enemy. Were they going to send tangos after her or not? Her heart started a slow beat as she scoped the enemy.
There was confusion among their ranks. They were yelling at each other.
And then her blood iced. There was Sattar Kho-gani, the young punk of twenty-four years who'd just taken over his father's leadership as chief of the Hill Tribe. His father, Mustafa, had recently been killed by a SEAL sniper. She'd celebrated. Sattar was in the center of his commanders, too short to take a shot at.
There were a lot of arms and hands waving, and she could see his lieutenants yelling and pointing at the SEALs and some pointing in her direction. Who to go after? She was counting on that confusion among the enemy.
Smiling grimly, Khat settled down again, muzzle and sights on the Taliban. She heard the throaty answer of the SEALs M-4 rifles as they engaged, firing off careful shots at the Taliban hidden behind the walled, rocky fort.
Not waiting, she began to fire into the crowd of Taliban officers, picking them off. Her shoulder felt bruised after firing nine rounds, the buck of the Win Mag terrific. Below her, her hearing keyed on the SEALs, they continued to return fire, spread out in a diamond formation on the scree to protect their flanks.
The Taliban suddenly surged out of the fort, waving their AK-47s, firing wildly at the SEALs. The RPGs were launched.
Khat swung her rifle, sighting on the closest man, taking him out before he could lob an RPG into the SEAL team. Damn! There were too many for her to stop! Cursing softly, she heard the RPGs explode. The pressure waves reached her, but she was spared, hunkered down a hair beneath the ridgeline.
Khat couldn't look to see how the SEALs were doing. She was taking out the enemy systematically, one at a time. There were more than thirty of the enemy and it seemed more and more arrived, and they started realizing they were caught in a deadly crossfire.
Khat pulled out two more mags of three bullets each. She released the spent mag and slapped in the full mag, settling in, swiftly looking through her sites. She saw one man shoulder the RPG. She shot before he did. Sweat was rolling down her face, burning into her eyes, making her blink, her vision blurring momentarily. With a hiss, she remained focused, continuing to pick them off.
The Taliban grudgingly retreated.
Khat waited, taking a deep breath, watching them through the scope. Lifting her head, she checked down the slope at the SEALs. They were quickly retreating in diamond formation. Smart guys. Get the hell outta Dodge because you are way outnumbered, guys…
Wiping her face with the back of her cammie sleeve, she quickly focused on the stone fort. More hand waving and shouting among the Taliban officers. The group had just lost half its men. More fists waved angrily in the air.
Sattar was still surrounded, and she couldn't draw a bead on him. Damn. She'd really like to take out the little bastard. Partial payment for what his sick monster father had done to so many innocent young boys and girls over his one-year reign as chief. He'd turned into a sex slave trader, and had so many young Afghan children kidnapped and sold across the border in Pakistan. She hated Mustafa, and she was sure his son was going to pick up where his sick sexual-predator father left off.
Mike Tarik ordered his men to retreat. He'd made calls to Camp Bravo, finding out the QRF was out on another run in the opposite direction from where they were located. There were no flight assets available. Worse, no drone or satellite was available over their area to understand the field of battle.
They were essentially blind in the fog of war, and engaging a much larger force than was anticipated. And they were caught out in the open on the scree with no place to hide.
Breathing hard, he kept watch over the other three men that he had responsibility for. Their comms man, Ernie, couldn't raise shit in this dead zone. The sat phone he had in his ruck had taken a bullet earlier. They were in a bad situation. The only thing they could do with the sun setting was retreat and then melt into the landscape of darkness and wait for pickup sometime later. They had to get off this scree ASAP.
Tarik heard a scream. Then more screams. He was playing rear guard to his men, higher on the slope than they were. Lifting his M-4, he saw at least fifteen Taliban charging them. Fuck!
He moved backward, slipped and fell among the rocks. Rolling, he managed to hang on to his rifle that was clipped to a harness across his shoulder and chest. He stopped his slide at the edge of the ridge, a hundred-foot drop into a wadi, or ravine, below.
Sighting, he began to slow fire, choosing his targets, remaining crouched. Again, he heard the booming sound of a Win Mag far above him. Who the hell was that? He wasn't aware of any SEAL sniper assets in the area. Who, then? Whoever was firing was helping his team out a helluva lot. The sniper was giving them a chance to retreat.
Tarik heard the dreaded hollow thunk of an RPG being fired. He jerked a look up and saw the damn thing sailing lazily through the air—right at him. Cursing, he dived to the ground, the rocks biting and bruising him. He automatically put his hands behind his head, buried his face in the rocks, opened his mouth and waited. If he didn't open his mouth, the blast pressure waves would make Jell-O out of his lungs, the air in his chest not equalizing with the air surrounding him.
The blast went off. The last thing he remembered was flying through the air.