I know I made a few loose “promises” that the 3rd book in my Second Chances series would be released in spring. Well, as most of you know, spring is officially over. Not that we can’t all continue to feel spring in our hearts, but… calendar-wise summer is waning and still I have not released Trial By Fire. But never fear, dear loyal readers, the time is getting close.
Just as a small token of my commitment to getting it out before fall, I am sharing a sample chapter from Trial By Fire (Second Chances, book 3) today for the very first time.
TRIAL BY FIRE (Sample Chapter)
Ivy pulled up to the curb and let the kids out in their flip flops and swimsuits. Caleb had his fins and snorkel mask in hand as though he might be planning an underwater sea adventure. Riley grinned and waved, pink plastic sunglasses perched on the top of her blonde head like a crown.
The kids saw their friends and started running toward them until Ivy honked the horn to get their attention. They looked back, slowing to a walk. It had been drilled into them over and over. Don’t run at the pool. Of course, they weren’t actually in the pool area yet, but it didn’t hurt to remind them.
She waved to her friend Sabrina who was waiting for them at the gate. It was her turn to watch them for the day, along with her own children, Blaine and Shawna. The two of them had met at the bank when Ivy started working as a teller and had become good friends. Soon after, they’d devised a summer childcare swapping deal that worked out well for both families. Sabrina would take the kids on an outing one day a week and Ivy would take them another. That way they could both have one day a week, childfree. It was lovely and relaxing.
She waved once more and pulled away from the curb. She didn’t envy Sabrina being at the pool all afternoon. Water and sunburn were not her favorite things. Her idea of the perfect outing was the children’s museum, or maybe an afternoon at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Educational, fun, and it didn’t require wearing a swimsuit or getting wet.
The sun shone bright and hot already at ten a.m. She’d planned to do some work in the garden with the kids gone, but she probably should have started earlier. The weather report on the radio announced record highs and she wasn’t ready for a sunstroke.
Maybe she’d visit the salon and have a pedicure. This week had been stressful with Samson out of town for his job and her being home alone with the kids every night. She didn’t know what she’d do without instant video access. Samson was great at settling the kids down for bed. The last two nights she’d set up the laptop where they could see and talk with him before she tucked them in.
At nine years old, Caleb thought he was too big to be tucked in, but thankfully he still didn’t mind hugs. Riley, on the other hand, was all for tucking in, stories, prayers, talking, drinks of water, and pretty much anything that would keep Ivy by her bedside as long as possible. That’s why she needed Samson. He was the stable force, the loving father and husband, and the protector they’d needed for a very long time. When he was out of town, they all missed him.
She turned into the mall parking area and found a space close to the door of the nail salon. Just as she unbuckled her seatbelt, her cell phone rang. The car was still running, and her Bluetooth was connected, so it came in over the speakers. She pressed the button to pick up.
There was a moment of silence and then a man’s gravelly voice asked, “Ivy Winter?”
She frowned. No one called her that anymore, and she and Samson had bought new phones with a family plan when they married. Anyone who once knew her as Ivy Winter would have a hard time contacting her through this number.
“This is Ivy. Whom am I speaking with?”
“Do you know where Caleb and Riley are right this minute?”
“Who is this?” she demanded, her heart beating faster.
“Your little girl is awfully cute with those pink sunglasses. What is she now, six?”
“Don’t you dare touch my daughter! I’ll…”
“Your friend can’t watch them every second. The bathroom is out of sight of the pool.”
“How dare you! What do you want? Why are you doing this?”
“I suggest you come down with the flu before Monday. Testifying in court can be so time consuming. Who will be watching these two precious children then?”
The speaker went dead for a second as the call ended and then the radio station resumed in the middle of a song. She began to shake, feeling as though she might be sick. She rested her head against the steering wheel, trying to keep from coming apart at the seams.
This couldn’t be happening again. That man had taken her children once before. She wouldn’t let him destroy her peace with his empty threats. He was behind bars, and after she testified against him next week he’d spend the rest of his worthless life locked up for what he did. How dare he threaten her family!
No longer in the mood for a pedicure, she drove away from the mall and headed back toward the waterpark. It might be an empty threat, but she couldn’t take the chance. She hit the call button and waited for Samson to pick up.
“Ivy? What’s wrong?”
Her body felt stiff and awkward. She gripped the steering wheel and tried to calm down, breathing through her nose, but her thoughts came out disjointed. “Samson… threatened… said if I testified… I can’t let him…” It felt as though all the air was being sucked from her lungs and a heavy weight slowly sank into her chest.
“Ivy. Where are you?” Samson’s words were soft but firm. “Are you driving?”
“I need you to pull over. It’s not safe for you to drive when you’re this upset.”
She shook her head. “No. I have to… Riley and Caleb. They’re at the waterpark. Sabrina doesn’t know how evil… what he’ll do to anyone who gets in his way.”
“Honey, please pull over. I’m sending someone from the bureau to pick up the kids right now. Just give me their location.”
She managed to give him the address and pulled over to the side of the road. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to do.” Tears began to slide down her cheeks and she brushed them angrily away. “He’s not going to…” She swallowed the knot forming in her throat, shaking her head. “…destroy our lives again! I won’t let him!” she said, anger fueling her words. But it was a futile promise at best. In all reality, if Ace Anderson decided to send someone to take revenge on their family, there was nothing she could do. She slammed the heel of her hand against the steering wheel over and over. “Why can’t… he just… leave us… alone?”
“It’s okay, hon. It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay,” she sobbed, finally leaning her head against the cool window glass. Even from jail, Ace Anderson managed to reach into their lives and tear away the fragile security they’d been building up around the children for the past two years. “The kids were terrified. Caleb still has nightmares. If he…”
“He won’t. We’ll keep them safe. I promise.”
Brenna turned the deadbolt and pulled open the front door. “Hello, Martin. What brings you to my side of town?” Hands on her hips, she looked him up and down in his dark blue suit. The last time she’d spoken with Martin he’d been working as Giordano’s chauffeur. She didn’t know it at the time, but he’d been undercover for the FBI. “Did they finally make you an honorary G-Man? Most importantly, did you get a cool badge?”
“Are you going to invite me in?”
“I don’t know.” She raised her brows. “Am I inviting in a friend or a stooge for the FBI?”
“Either way, I need to speak with you.”
She stepped back and gestured through the entryway into the living room. “Come on in. Have a seat. Would you like something to drink?”
“Martin!” Maria slid down the hallway in her socks, eyes wide with excitement, and plowed full-speed into Martin’s legs. “I missed you!”
He hugged her back, crooked teeth bared in a huge grin. He was a big man, wide and muscular, but Brenna thought she detected a gleam of moisture in his eyes. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
“How is my favorite little rich girl?” he asked, holding her back with hands on her shoulders. “My, how you’ve grown! I hardly recognized you. You’re going to be as tall as your momma soon.” He chanced a wary glance Brenna’s way. He obviously still found it strange to acknowledge her as Maria’s mother since he’d known Charlotte Giordano in that position a lot longer.
Brenna ran a hand over Maria’s dark hair. “Go wash up, kiddo. You’ve got chocolate frosting on your face and hands. And then get Martin a cold drink, will ya?”
“Okay, mom.” She zoomed off to the kitchen, still sliding like she was on the slopes in Colorado. The girl loved adventure. Something they had in common even if she hadn’t raise her from birth. Some things were inherent.
Martin took a seat on the edge of the embroidered love seat as though afraid he’d wrinkle it. He ran a hand over thinning hair and sighed. “I’m sorry to just drop in like this, Raven.”
“Right. Well…” He cleared his throat. “You probably have enough on your plate with Maria and Rico without adding anything else, but…”
“What is it?” She preferred bluntness rather than tip toeing around a problem. What could be making him sweat bullets inside the house when the temp was set to sixty-eight degrees? “Just tell me.”
“Mom! Do you want me to put his pop in a glass with ice or just bring the can?” Maria yelled from the kitchen.
Martin snorted a laugh. “Still a quiet little thing, isn’t she?”
“I’ll just take the can, Maria!” Martin bellowed back and grinned his crooked grin.
Maria hurried in and held it out. “We only had root beer left. Mom never bought anymore ’cause she said it rots my teeth.”
“Maria, could you go to your room and put your things away while I talk to Martin? Then you guys can catch up. All right?”
“Okay, but don’t leave before I tell you all about my sleep-over and Haley’s dog, Trouble, and the blue lizard I saw at the zoo, and…”
“I promise.” He said, interrupting her list. “We’ll have a long heart-to-heart before I leave.”
“Oh, and Maria – see what Rico’s up to.” Brenna caught the sparkle in her daughter’s eyes. Being four years younger than Rico, she loved to spy on him. Getting permission to spy on him was even better.
“Okay, Mom.” She hurried away, already intent on her mission.
Brenna settled into the red Queen Anne chair across from Martin. She released a pent-up breath. “Spit it out. Bad news doesn’t go away by dragging out the suspense. Let’s hear it. Is Giordano getting his appeal?”
“No, nothing like that.” He frowned and spread his hands over the knees of his slacks. “Actually, it’s a lot like that. Only worse.”
“It’s not Giordano. It’s Anderson. Ace Anderson. The guy who…”
She shook her head. “I know who Ace Anderson is. He’s in prison for murder and kidnapping. What do you have to do with…”
“They thought since we were sort of friends once upon a time, you might accept my presence better than another agent.”
“Your presence? What are you talking about?” She couldn’t sit still. She stood, crossing her arms and glared down at him.
Ace Anderson was a piece of her past she’d hoped was dead and buried. A past she was now ashamed to acknowledge. As a dangerous man and terrorist, he was incarcerated in a Federal penitentiary until his trial date. All the news stories stated that there was little chance he would ever see the light of day again. They had him dead bang and with Ivy and Samson’s eye witness testimony against him, she thought there was little chance she’d ever see or hear from the man again.
Martin glanced away, his lips compressed in a thin line. When he finally met her eyes, she saw pity mixing with determination to stay on point. “Mr. Anderson managed to fake a heart attack this morning and was transported to the nearest hospital with a cardiac unit. It was perfectly timed. It must have taken months of planning, setting it all up. He apparently paid off the right people to look the other way and had help on the outside from his own cronies once he got to the hospital. A doctor was pistol-whipped and suffered a concussion, and two nurses were locked in the trunk of a hot car for three hours and were hospitalized for dehydration, but thankfully no one was killed.”
She swallowed, trying to form the words. “He can’t be… “
“He’s in the wind.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~to be continued…
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed this segment of Trial By Fire. Leave a comment and let me know what you think? And stay tuned for the official release date!