You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
OakTara (November 18, 2011)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzanne Hartmann is a homeschool mom of three and lives in the St. Louis area. When not homeschooling or writing, she enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and Bible study. PERIL: Fast Track Thriller #1 is her debut novel.
On the editorial side, Suzanne is a contributing editor with Port Yonder Press and operates the Write This Way Critique Service. She has consolidated her popular Top 10 series of articles about the craft of writing into an easy-to-understand guide titled Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level, which leads the new writer through the process of writing and revising a novel.
Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's blog.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
A top secret agent with enhanced strength must use her extraordinary abilites during several high-profile assingments when she escorts the first Muslim king to turn to the Christian faith to the White House and a NASCAR track. when unwanted publicity threatens to expose her, she herself becomes a terrorist target, with danger surroundingher on all sides.
"Plenty of action and unexpected twists."
Foreword by Jimmy Makar, GM of Joe Gibbs Racing
List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: OakTara (November 18, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The moment Lady Anne stepped out of the Mashkoori embassy, the Washington, DC heat hit her like a wall. The humidity wrapped itself around her like a blanket, heightening the tension writhing in her stomach like a dozen slithering serpents. Only minutes from now she would enter the White House, where Husam-Jabbar threatened an attempt on the life of King Ahmad, her companion for the day.
Placing a hand on the arm King Ahmad held out for her, she firmly pushed her misgivings aside. Premonition or not, she had a job to do.
While she settled herself near the king in the rear of the second of two stretch Hummers, two of his personal bodyguards took up positions by the driver’s compartment. She brushed a neatly manicured finger against a miniscule earbud as she tucked a stray strand of curly blond hair into her elegant updo. The wallet-shaped wireless device in her purse would pick up the chatter between the Secret Service agents at the White House. Knowing she would hear if they spotted any danger eased some of the tension that had been building all morning. But would the well-respected agency live up to its reputation and stop the planned assassination attempt against the king, or would she need to display her enhanced strength to protect her charge?
She glanced at the king. Did he know the terrorist group had announced their intentions on the Arab television network Al Jazeera earlier this morning?
“Are you ready, my lady?” Something about the glint in the older man’s sea-green eyes and the set of his jaw told her he was prepared for whatever might come today, whether he’d heard the latest news or not. Perhaps he’d become used to the constant threat. After all, every Muslim terrorist group in existence had pledged to kill the first Arabic king to convert to Christianity.
“Of course, Your Majesty. This isn’t the first time I’ve served as a bodyguard.”
The king opened a cabinet that hid a wet bar and refrigerator, pulled out a long-stemmed glass, and poured himself some water. He waved a hand toward the cabinet. “Please help yourself.”
Grateful for something to focus on, Lady Anne followed the king’s lead. A sip of the water’s coolness washed clarity into her thinking, as though it were a dose of fresh confidence. If this had been a normal assignment, her veins would have pulsed with restrained energy at a reason to unleash her enhanced strength.
But nothing about this mission was normal. And if she had to use her abilities today, it would be under the watchful eyes of the media. The power the media held to expose her secrets sent a shiver up her spine. But it was far too late to back down now.
A rap on the glass behind the driver’s compartment brought her thoughts back to her surroundings. The thin, beardless guard nodded to his bearded partner. In sync, they pulled out twin S&Ws and aimed them at King Ahmad.
Lady Anne’s hand shook, spilling water onto the floor. She tapped the king’s arm to warn him. Were the intelligence reports wrong about the attack? Perhaps Husam-Jabbar had intentionally mislead them.
The thin guard slid down the long leather seat lining the driver’s side and came to a stop directly across from King Ahmad. He straightened his back, raised his chin, and addressed the ling in Arabic. Although Lady Anne couldn’t understand the words, the gleam in his eyes radiated pride and determination, not hatred.
King Ahmad looked down his long nose at the guard. “You are rude, Kalil, to speak Arabic in front of my guest. Will you condemn her to death without even the benefit of knowing why?”
Kalil wrinkled his nose at Lady Anne as though she were a piece of distasteful garbage, then nodded. “I will grant the wish of a dying man.” He pulled his shoulders back and seemed to take on the role of a judge. “King Ahmad, you have defiled both yourself and Mashkoor by turning to the blasphemous practices of Christianity. According to Hadith 9:57, it is my duty to kill you.”
“Kalil, my trusted guardian.” King Ahmad spread his arms in front of him. “Since when have you taken the requirements of the Koran to heart?” Only a glance at the weapon in Kalil’s hand betrayed any hint of anxiety. “Why, only last week you told me you looked forward to this trip so you could restock your liquor supply.”
Kalil lowered his eyes, “It is to my shame that I have not lived according to the Koran—a Muslim in name only.”
Lady Anne leaned forward. Her muscles twitched, anxious to attack while the man’s guard was lowered. But the bearded guard remained alert by the far door, his Ruger still pointed toward the king. The time was not yet right. She ran a finger around the lip of her glass and sifted through possible scenarios.
Kalil lifted his eyes, now full of resolve. “When you turned your back on Islam, Your Majesty, I realized how much our Muslim heritage had shaped and formed the nation and people of Mashkoor. I called out to Allah and begged his forgiveness.”
“So you joined Husam-Jabbar and pledged to kill the leader of your beloved country?” asked King Ahmad. “How noble of you.”
Kalil lifted his chin a notch higher. “I did not need them. Plenty of people were willing to help me gain the supplies I needed. No, I do this because Allah promised to use me to restore Islam to the kingship.” He pounded his free hand on his chest. “He offered me, who ignored him all these years, a way not only to shift the balance of the scales to weigh in my favor but guaranteed my entrance into martyr’s paradise.” He bowed from the waist. “I must thank you for—”
Lady Anne’s brain screamed, Now! She flung her glass down the length of the vehicle toward the bearded guard.
The foot of the long stem slammed into the man’s forehead. He slumped back against the window. His gun clattered to the floor amid pieces of broken glass.
Kalil jerked his head up and shifted his aim toward Lady Anne.
With a wide sweep of her arm, she backhanded the gun, which fired as she hit his hand. The bullet went wide as the gun flew down the length of the limousine. The window it struck shattered but didn’t break.
King Ahmad leapt out of his seat and tackled Kalil. He threw his full weight against the guard’s chest, then pressed a forearm against his neck.
Lady Anne retrieved Kalil’s Ruger and pointed the weapon at its owner. When the king released the guard, she handed him the pistol and unbuckled the guard’s belt. Once she pulled it out, she rolled Kalil facedown on the seat and tied his hands together.
In the quiet, the electric whir from the front of the limousine sounded loud. She glanced toward Kalil’s partner, who had slid to his side. No threat there. But the glass between the compartments had lowered.
The driver called out in Arabic, and Kalil answered.
King Ahmad pulled up hard on Kalil’s hog-tied arms. “What do you mean by ‘Arm it now’?” The king’s pale eyes blazed. At Kalil’s laughter, the king yanked harder on the man’s arms.
“Your efforts are for nothing,” Kalil spoke through clenched teeth. “We will enter paradise—”
King Ahmad rolled the guard to his back. “What do you mean?”
“If my arms were free, I would show you what is under my shirt.” Kalil shrugged. “But since I cannot…”
Lady Anne ripped open the shirt and ignored the buttons flying in her face. Her attention riveted on the square of gray, clay-like substance strapped to his chest. Wires protruded from it and connected the bomb to a small rectangular case next to the explosive. A red light blinked steadily on the front of the case.
A grin spread across Kalil’s face. “You see, you have not won. Yasir wears one as well, and he has already armed both of them. When he drives through the White House gate, he will push the detonator, which will give him just enough time to pull in front of the dignitaries and take out not only you but also President Hedge.”
Lady Anne held back a gasp. This was a twist no one had anticipated, but she had no way to warn anyone. Now she carried not only the burden of King Ahmad’s safety, but also the president of the United States.
Options flitted through her head as she glanced out the windows. Traffic and pedestrians passed by the historic buildings on their way to work. Too much collateral damage if she took out the driver now and he managed to detonate the bombs.
She studied the Hummer in front of them. Was the rest of the king’s entourage in on the plot? Surely not. The king had supposedly discharged all close advisors who would not support his change in religion. That meant the first Hummer would have to unload its passengers, then move on before the bombs detonated. She prayed she was right.
A low whir sounded again. The driver had raised the window between them. She’d missed her chance to shoot him while it had been lowered.
As they approached Pennsylvania, Lady Anne pictured the area surrounding the White House. Wide-open space free of people, with few buildings nearby. A plan of action formed in her mind. “Once we are on White House grounds,” she whispered to King Ahmad, “wait until I give the word, then jump out of the car.”
The king opened his mouth as if to reject her instructions.
“Someone must warn the Secret Service that the welcoming party is in danger.”
His gaze remained on her for another long moment, then he nodded and handed her the pistol.
“Sit by the door and be ready,” she told him. As he rose, she glanced toward the front of the vehicle. The bearded guard still lay unconscious on the floor.
Suddenly King Ahmad slammed hard into her and landed in her lap. Her head smacked against the window, and she dropped the gun.
Kalil pulled back from where he’d head-butted the king. Before Lady Anne could extricate herself, Kalil rammed King Ahmad in the stomach again.
Lady Anne pushed the king to the side and rose to face Kalil as he prepared another assault. She brought up both hands, balled into fists. They connected with his chin, and bone crunched against bone.
Eyes wide, Kalil flew backwards against a window. His head smacked the rim with a dull thud. He let out a whimper before he landed on the seat, unconscious.
The Hummers pulled to a stop before two military guards standing in front of a line of four-foot-tall posts extending from a small gatehouse. After one of them spoke with the driver of the first vehicle, the posts sunk into the ground, and the stretch Hummer drove over them.
As their vehicle followed, the king reached for a door, but Lady Anne held him back. “There are too many people nearby. We must go through one more gate before we will enter wide-open spaces.”
Moments later, the first Hummer slowed as it approached a gate in the tall wrought-iron fence that surrounded the White House. The vehicle pulled through as the gate swung open.
Once their Hummer entered the fenced area, Lady Anne released the king. “Now, Your Majesty. You will be safe here.”
King Ahmad held his stomach where Kalil had hit him but scrambled to the door. Jerking the handle, he tumbled out as the Hummer passed through the gate.