I’m so happy to announce the new Janelle Wesson and Simon Sloan’s story.
ESCAPE FROM DESTRUCTION (Wesson and Sloan FBI Thriller) #2
As you may know (or maybe not), there are five books planned for this series (three more to go), and then I’ll return to Miranda and Parker #20.
Well, the Wesson and Sloan books take place during the same time frame as Miranda and Parker #16 through #19, aligning again in book #20.
While Miranda and Parker are hunting for Santana, Wesson and Sloan are tracking down his empire, trying to find out who runs it now and who gave the order to kill Simon’s boss and frame him for the murder. All while running from the man sent to kill them.
You know I hate spoilers, so I can’t tell you much more than that.
Except that I’m working on book #3 now.
Here’s a link to the new series in case you missed the first book. I hope you enjoy these exciting stories!
Listening to the steady rhythm of her Adidas on the pavement, Natalie Griffith jogged along the far side of the loop around Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park in Atlanta.
Dew was forming on the nearby grass, and the predawn air in the park was cool, though it was supposed to get into the eighties by noon today.
It was safe here.
Still, the words of her mother’s last text echoed in her head. “Nattie, you have to be careful.”
Her mother had attached a newspaper article about some serial killer on the loose in the city back home. She would have freaked out if she knew Natalie ran in the park by herself at four-thirty every morning.
But she had to stay fit. How else could she do everything that was expected of her? How else could she take Aaron’s place? She had to bear down. She had to get through law school as fast as she could.
Bonnie, her ex-roommate, used to come with her. She’d always say the park was spooky at this time of the morning, but Natalie told her she liked the quiet, the solitude. It gave her a chance to think. At least, that’s what she used to say.
No, it was safe here.
As she followed the curve of the trail, Natalie took a moment to check her fitness tracker to make sure her heart rate was as steady as her pace.
Yes. Exactly where it should be.
But then, along the bank of the lake, she heard the trees rustle.
What was that?
Just the wind, she told herself.
Starting up again, she moved a little faster. Her mother’s text echoing in her head. Maybe she should find a running partner.
She thought of Roger. Maybe she’d ask him to come with her tomorrow. But Natalie didn’t know what to do about him. She liked him. Okay, maybe it was more than just like. But she didn’t have time for him now. Not if she was going to take Aaron’s place.
She gazed up at the nearly full moon and smiled at its beams shining through the dense treetops like a shimmering beacon.
Yes, it was just the wind she’d heard. She wasn’t in any danger. How could she be? It was beautiful here.
But as she passed the bridge that stretched across the lake, she heard the trees rustle again. It’s just the wind, she told herself again stubbornly and focused on her busy schedule for today.
The summer session of law school was harder than she’d thought. Legal writing class required so much work. Torts and Property was kicking her tail. And Civ Pro? She wasn’t sure she could get through it. It was her first class today.
Had she done enough reading? Had she understood the cases the professor had assigned well enough so she wouldn’t be embarrassed when she asked questions? Had she caught the nuances? Professor Cook loved nuances.
She had to get through summer, get an internship, and pass two bar exams as soon as possible.
Her plan, her parents’ plan, was for her to study patent law and join their firm in Chicago. It was what they wanted, what she needed to do to make them proud of her. They’d made it very clear they wanted her to follow in their footsteps and fill her father’s shoes someday.
Shoes her older brother, Aaron, would never fill now.
Then again, after seeing that guest lecturer last week, Natalie was beginning to rethink her future.
His name was Antonio Estavez and he was a top criminal defense attorney in Atlanta. He was hot. With long silky black hair tied back in a ponytail and a heart-stopping face, he oozed the kind of confidence she longed to have. His performance in the courtroom must be dazzling.
Too bad she’d seen a wedding ring on his finger.
Maybe she’d add a criminal justice course to her load in the fall.
She looked down at her wrist.
The loop around the lake was a flat route, but according to her tracker, her heart rate was too fast. It wasn’t just her pace. For some reason she felt jittery again. Had she had too much coffee before she left her apartment?
Slowing down, she passed the willow trees on her right and admired their beauty. She really liked living in Atlanta. The city had a special charm.
She still felt strange. Like someone was watching her.
That was ridiculous. It was dead quiet. The water of the lake beside her was perfectly calm.
She glanced at her tracker. The numbers hadn’t changed, but she saw it was getting late.
She didn’t have time for another circle. She had to get ready for class.
Ignoring her heart rate, she sped up again.
As she passed a hill on her right side, she thought she saw movement. That was silly. No one was in the park now. Was she getting as paranoid as her mother?
Uncomfortable, she glanced over her shoulder. Nobody was there.
Wait. Was that a shadow behind that pine tree up there? She thought it moved. Was someone watching her?
No. She was being paranoid.
But before she could take another step, she heard something whoosh down the hill and leap onto the pavement. And then someone gave her a hard shove from behind.
She stumbled and fell onto the pavement, catching herself with her palms, skinning the flesh. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Shut up,” growled a frightening voice.
She tried to get up.
Suddenly there was a bright light that seemed to flood the whole world. He was in front of her now, shining something in her face.
Terrified, she raised an arm to shield her eyes. “Leave me alone. There are police all around here.”
“There’s no one here.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet.
Somehow she managed to break away from him. She started to run, but she could barely see after that light in her eyes.
He rushed up behind her and grabbed her again, holding her around the waist so tight, she could barely breathe.
“Stop it,” she said as loudly as she could.
“I said, shut up.”
Before she could catch her breath and cry out for help, she felt something cold on her neck. And then a sting.
A knife. He had a knife to her throat.
She felt a trickle of blood and began to tremble all over.
“See? You made me cut you. Now be quiet, or I’ll have to kill you right here.”
A ferocious fear engulfed her. She thought she might pass out from it. “No, don’t do that. I’ll be quiet.”
“Take off that tracker.”
“That fitness tracker. Take it off.”
Was he robbing her? She reached for the band on her wrist, but her fingers were trembling so hard, she could barely open the clasp.
“Hurry up,” he grunted.
“I’m trying.” Finally she got it loose and held it out to him. “Here.”
“Throw it in the grass.”
“What?” He wasn’t robbing her?
“You heard me. Do it.” He squeezed her tighter.
She tossed the tracker across the pavement and it landed somewhere on the lawn.
“Now your cell phone.”
“My cell phone?” Now she understood. He didn’t want to be traced.
“Are you deaf?” He was getting really agitated.
He pressed the knife harder against her neck, forcing her to raise her chin to keep from getting cut again.
“Okay, okay.” She reached into her pocket, pulled out her phone, and tossed it on the grass. She thought of the last text her mother had sent her. Why hadn’t she listened?
“Alright. Now we’re going for a little walk.” He tightened his grip around her waist and ushered her onto the grass and under the trees.
“Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“That will be nice,” she said, trying to humor him.
But as she stumbled over the ground, and they moved farther and farther away from the lake, she had a feeling she wasn’t going to like this at all.
Could she get away from this crazy man?
With a sinking feeling, she realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. Her heart racing, hot tears rolling down her cheeks, she didn’t dare think about what would.
When Parker’s father asks him to travel to Ukraine to find someone who’s been missing over a decade, Parker flatly refuses. But Miranda can’t say no to Mr. P.
And so they board the plane.
After a long flight and a futile search, they are about to give up. Until they rouse the ire of a very dangerous group. People with secrets. People who will kill to keep them. People who now want Parker and Miranda dead.
You’ll want to read this next adventure, because secrets are about to be revealed.
It was two o’clock in the morning.
The motor of his cycle growled beneath him as fear pounded in his temples.
Faster. Faster. Faster.
The cold November wind whipped his hair over his face, into his eyes and his mouth. Above the highway, streetlights twinkled against the blue velvet of the sky and the river below.
Kiev lay to the left of him, the lights of its majestic old buildings and ancient cupola-topped churches shimmering with the mystique of a beautiful woman attempting to seduce him.
He had always fallen for her charms, though he wished he hadn’t. Tonight he wished he had stayed in his little village and been content.
Too late for those wishes.
He could not think about home now. He could not stop. He had to keep going.
He had to get away.
He had left the club perhaps only fifteen minutes ago. He had taken what he had in his satchel and snuck out the back.
He had thought he had not been seen.
But now, as he raced along the wide highway that bordered the Dnieper River, he knew someone from the club was behind him.
If he could just make it across the river. Back to Troieshchyna and his bleak little apartment, he would be all right. That dingy living space fourteen stories up in the cheap Soviet era building. Olga deserved better than that. He had wanted to give it to her.
He had failed.
Just as he made it to the straightaway, a shot rang out from behind him.
Sergei. He had followed him.
He swerved, and the bullet missed him.
But he could taste the fear in his mouth.
Where was the politsiya? The police did not patrol this part of town so well as the wealthier sections.
Sergei was the enforcer. A huge man five years his senior. He could beat him to death with his bare hands if he caught him. He could easily shoot him. But it was difficult to aim well on a motorcycle.
Another shot spat over his shoulder. Sergei’s aim was better that time.
The vehicles around him began to slow, the drivers no doubt wondering what was going on. Why was there a gunfight on Naberezhno-Rybalsak in the middle of the night?
He sped up, swerved around a car on his left, another on his right. He took the curve to the bridge as fast as he dared.
He could not fall now.
Focusing on the tall buildings far away in the distance across the river, he ignored his pounding heart.
He could get there. He had to.
His motor roaring, he reached the bridge and swung out onto traffic without yielding. A little Lada blared its horn at him as they nearly collided.
Ignoring the driver’s protests, he zoomed ahead.
He was over the river now. In a month, the water would be frozen and children would come to skate along the banks.
But tonight the Pivnichny Bridge seemed to stretch across the world.
No, it was only a few more kilometers to home.
Would Sergei follow him there? The little flat would not provide much protection. He had not thought of that. Perhaps he should head south and into the forest, toward his old village instead.
He was almost to the left bank now.
He swerved past a Renault on the side closest to the railing. Between the iron barrier and the road lay a path bicycle riders used to travel back and forth across the river to their jobs on the right bank.
He had such a job once. And he had Olga. What would she think of him now?
He would never know.
Another bullet came from Sergei. This time it hit his rear tire. He spun, veered in a circle. He lost his balance and the cycle went down and slid out from under him. The pavement dug into his jeans, tearing his flesh.
No time to think of that now. He put a palm onto the asphalt to lift himself up.
Before he could rise, Sergei was on top of him, the short red curls atop his head glistening in the street lights.
His massive body hovered over him like the prize oak in the Buda village.
“Where is it?” His face was like a snarling leopard.
He would pretend not to know. “Where is what? Why did you shoot at me, Sergei?”
“Where is it?” Sergei shouted, ignoring the ploy.
He tried again. “I do not know what you mean.”
It was not a good answer. He saw the reply come in the form of Sergei’s boot.
He rolled, but not in time. The kick caught him hard in the kidney and he cried out in pain.
Yet somehow, he managed to get to his feet. If it was a fight Sergei wanted, he would give it to him.
He swung and grazed his chest as Sergei stepped back. Then the large man returned a jab.
He ducked, an American move, and Sergei missed.
He swung again, but once more missed the treelike target.
“Sraka!” Sergei growled. “How dare you steal from us? From those who care for you?”
He wanted to deny it, but he could not lie to this man. Looking down at the pavement, he tried to find the words to say.
The hesitation was a mistake. He looked up just as Sergei’s fist flew toward him like a flash of lightning.
It connected with his jaw, shooting incredible pain through his skull. He stumbled back, tasting his own blood in his mouth.
He should not be tangling with Sergei. This man was one of the top fighters in the MMA club where he worked. Sergei’s footwork and balance were impeccable. His blows were like iron.
But he had little choice now.
He swung again and somehow landed a punch to the stomach. The leather of his jacket softened the blow, yet he heard Sergei groan.
And then Sergei’s face became a wall of stone.
“That was your last chance.” Sergei’s arm flew back. The blow sped toward him, too fast for him to duck this time.
He felt the cartilage crunch as Sergei’s knuckles landed against his nose. He crumbled to his knees, blood dripping onto the pavement.
And then he saw it.
His satchel lay along the railing, its strap just beyond reach. Biting back the pain, he crawled forward. Grabbing onto the leather band, with all his effort he pulled himself to his feet.
“What are you doing?” He heard Sergei yell behind him.
Too late. He took the satchel and hurled it over the railing as far as he could.
Into the air it went, then down into the river below. Never to be found again.
Bracing himself against the railing, he turned around. “And now we are even, no?”
Sergei did not reply. Instead he drew his pistol and aimed it at his chest. “You have betrayed us. You know what happens to traitors.”
There was no reasoning with the man now, if there ever had been.
And so he was not surprised when Sergei pulled the trigger and the final bullet hit him dead center in the chest.
His body recoiled with incredible pain. He felt himself fall backward. Felt his feet leave the pavement. His arms flapped the air like a young bird trying to take flight.
But he was no bird. He could not fly.
Instead he plunged head down into the river. All the way into the depths of the Dnieper.