Only two weeks until CrossFire is out and I'm doing a contest! To be entered into a drawing for a $25 Target gift card, simply go my Facebook page to like and share the contest post! Not so hard, right? The winner will be drawn this Sunday and notified by Monday evening. Thanks!
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Thursday, April 16, 2015
The following is about half of the first chapter. Pre-Order links are located on the right side of the webpage beneath available titles for Kindle and nook formats. Enjoy!
Jillian Sandro’s hand clenched the cell phone pressed against her ear as she listened to the voice mail. Another job rejection.
She deleted the message and dialed a number that went to its own voice mail almost immediately.
“Cameron,” she said into the phone, fighting back tears of frustration, “I don’t know what you’re telling these people, but you need to stop. This is my career you’re screwing with!”
Jillian ended the call and slammed the phone on her dresser, instantly regretting it. She couldn’t afford a new phone if this one broke.
After checking to see that it had survived the abuse, she strapped on her iPod and headed out for a much needed run.
Music blasted through the headphones and anger consumed her thoughts as Jillian started jogging down the sidewalk from her father’s Renton home. Looking over her shoulder for vehicles turning into the suburban development, she mis-judged her stride off the curb, causing her ankle to roll.
“Dammit,” she cried out, falling back onto the curb in pain, not to mention embarrassment.
“Are you all right?” someone asked.
Jillian looked up into the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen.
“Um, yeah, I think it’s fine,” she said to the tall stranger who had appeared from nowhere. He was holding a leash with a German shepherd on the other end of it.
“Here,” he said,” let me help you up.”
Before she could protest, he took her hand and put an arm around her.
“You know, I’m sure if I just walk it off I’ll be fine.” She tried to take a step away from him, but as soon as she put any weight on her left foot, pain shot through the ankle causing her to lose balance and start to fall until he caught her. Jillian could feel the heat rising to her cheeks as she stood there propped up by his solid arms.
“I don’t think you’re going to be able to walk this off,” said the beautiful stranger. “Is there somewhere nearby I could help you get to?”
She sighed. So much for the therapeutic run.
“I’m just down the street,” she said, pointing.
He looked where she indicated, squinting his eyes. “Didn’t make it very far, did you,” he said and she frowned. “This should be a piece of cake.”
Before she could decide what he meant by that, he was handing the leash to his dog who clamped it in his mouth, and swept her up.
“This really isn’t necessary,” she stammered. “My other foot is fine, I’m sure I could hobble home.”
“I know,” he said, looking straight ahead which she was grateful for. Jillian was afraid she might burst into flames if she had to look into his eyes at this close proximity. “But it will be quicker. Now which house is it?”
“Fifteen forty-two,” she mumbled.
“Not far at all,” he said, only slightly breathless.
God this was embarrassing. Jillian wondered if her cheeks could get any hotter. She caught a whiff of his aftershave and involuntarily inhaled trying to breathe in more of it.
“Are you all right?” he asked, looking concerned.
“Um, yeah.” Surely steam was coming off her by now.
She glanced down at the dog who was walking himself next to them.
“Aren’t you worried your dog is going to run away?” she asked.
It didn’t take long, but to Jillian it felt like an eternity until he was setting her down on the front stoop.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Glad I could help. I’m Reid, by the way. Reid Jackson. I live in that house.” He pointed to the gray house across the street and two driveways down.
“It’s nice to meet you, Jillian.”
He extended a hand and she reluctantly took it. She had made a big enough fool of herself and just wished he would leave her to climb inside a hole and feel like an idiot in private.
“I’m trained in first aid,’ he said. “If you want I could take a look at it.”
“Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll be fine. I’ve had my share of twists and sprains, this is nothing. I just need to get inside and ice it. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
“Do you need help getting inside?” he asked, looking a little dejected and she started to feel bad. As embarrassed as she was, Jillian didn’t want her neighbor who was being so helpful to think she was a complete bitch.
“Sure,” she said, reaching out to him. “That would be great.”
With Reid helping her to stand, Jillian slipped a key from her wrist band and unlocked the door.
“Hold on,” he said before they walked in.
She watched as he tied the dog’s leash to the railing.
“Now you don’t trust your dog to stay?” she asked.
“Not when I’m away,” he said with a boyish smile.
Reid assisted her to the couch, then took off to grab an ice pack from the nearby kitchen. Jillian watched the undeniably attractive neighbor dig through her freezer. Even his sandy blonde hair was mussed in a way that gave her heart a slight pause. And those bright blue eyes were to die for. She gave herself a mental slap. Guys this good looking were either taken or trouble. Or both.
Reid buried his head in Jillian’s freezer, but wasn’t finding any ice packs.
“Are you sure you have any in here?” he asked.
Her brows furrowed as she thought about it, and then those dark eyes went big. “Sorry, they’re in the garage freezer, not that one.”
“Is this the door?” he asked, heading towards the logical option and she nodded.
It didn’t take long to find them and as he headed back into the house, Reid noticed a stack of boxes in the corner, some of them half-unpacked, or packed, depending on how you looked at it.
“There you go,” he said, positioning the pack on her ankle.
“I can’t thank you enough,” she said, looking at him with those warm brown eyes. They were rimmed with thick dark lashes and matched the long hair pulled back into a ponytail almost perfectly.
“It’s nothing,” he said. Reid looked around the room. The decor was minimal and if he had to guess, it had been put together by a male. There seemed to be very little female influence in here.
“How long have you lived here?” he asked.
“I’ve only been here for a couple weeks now.”
That explained the boxes.
“I didn’t realize anyone had moved onto the street so recently,” he said.
“It’s actually my dad’s house,” she said, lowering her eyes. “He’s lived here a couple years now. I’m kind of,” she paused, “in limbo at the moment. My dad is letting me stay with him until I can get back on my feet.”
“How about you?” Jillian asked, looking back up at him. “How long have you lived in the neighborhood?”
“It’s been a couple years as well,” he answered.
Reid’s pocket started buzzing and he pulled out his phone to look at the screen though he had not doubt who it was from.
“That would be work,” he said. “Looks like I need to head out.”
“What do you do?” she asked.
“I work with banking security systems,” he said.
“Which bank?” she asked.
“I’m with an outside company,” he explained. “I help install the systems and teach the banks how to use them. How about yourself?”
“I’m in—was in graphic design. Like I said, in limbo at the moment.”
Reid nodded. “So are you okay here?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she said. “My dad should be home soon if I need anything.”
“See you around then,” he said, heading for the door.
“Thank you,” she called out and he watched her blush for the umpteenth time. “In case I didn’t say it already.”
“No problem.” he said and left.
Reid flashed his badge at the guard and was waved into the parking lot for the building known by most people as the Alliance Security Systems offices. But Reid knew its true role as the headquarters for Section Four, one of five clandestine operations positioned in strategic locations of the continental United States.
He parked and walked to the only elevator in the lot where he punched in his 10-digit code on the inside panel. Once the doors closed on him, a full body scan was performed before the lift made its way to the second floor. When he stepped off, Reid was immediately greeted by his partner and closest friend.
“Jackson, there you are,” Aaron Wells said, looking at his watch. “Took you long enough.”
Reid shook his head choosing not to respond. Aaron always gave him a hard time for being the last to arrive since he lived outside the city. As much as he loved his job, Reid purposely bought a house just within the approved perimeter for operatives’ primary residences. He didn’t expect Aaron to understand that a little bit of distance was his coping mechanism.
“Had to drive the Camaro in,” Aaron said, sitting on the corner of Reid’s desk. “The bike was in pieces when I got the call.”
“Anything wrong with it?” Reid asked while thumbing through some papers left on his desk.
“Nah, just giving it a tune-up.”
And that was Aaron’s coping mechanism. He and Reid both owned the same high-end bike, but while Reid wouldn’t let anyone but the dealer touch it, Aaron was completely hands on.
“How about you?” Aaron asked. “In the middle of anything interesting.”
“Matter of fact, I was,” said Reid. “Met a neighbor today.”
Aaron rolled his eyes.
“A female neighbor.”
Now Aaron’s eyebrows went up in interest, but they were interrupted before either men could say anything else.
"Agent Jackson, Agent Wells," a woman barked. "Briefing room, now!"
Both men followed Director Laura Rollins into the conference room and sat at the table where the rest of the team was already assembled.
Director Rollins made her way to the front of a room where images were being projected on a smart screen.
"We just got word that the arms sale between Voichek and Polesun has been moved to tomorrow afternoon," she said. "We have to act fast if we are going to intercept the broker. No new information, just moving the time table up. You have your mission, now grab your gear and head over to Boeing Field. Wheels up in one hour."
Jillian was still icing her ankle on the couch when her father came home that afternoon.
“Jillian,” he exclaimed. “What happened?”
The look on his weary face did not surprise her one bit. Jacob always worried too much when it came to his only daughter. With the rest of his family still in Italy, she was all he had.
“I fell today while I was out running,” she said with a sheepish smile.
Jacob carefully lifted the ice pack off her swollen ankle.
“And you made it home on this?” he asked.
“No. A neighbor happened to be nearby and helped me in.”
“Anyone I know?” he asked sternly. A stranger in their house with her would be even more worrisome than a running accident.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Reid Jackson? He lives just a few doors down.”
Jillian watched her father frown and what she thought was worry crossed his face, but then he shook his head.
“Doesn’t sound familiar,” said Jacob, moving towards the kitchen. “I’m afraid I haven’t done a very good job of getting to know my neighbors.”
“Anyway, he helped me in, got me an ice pack, and left.”
“Do you think you’ll see him again?” her father asked.
“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “He lives across the street so I guess it’s possible. Why?”
“No reason.” Jacob rummaged through the pantry. “You should be more careful when you’re running.”
“Of course, Papa.”
In the locker room Reid placed his personal items on the shelf of a locker and strapped on his side arms.
“So about this neighbor, this female neighbor,” Aaron said as he strapped on his own weapons and Reid gave a half smile.
“I was walking Max,” he told Aaron, “when a jogger fell and twisted her ankle. I helped her and turns out she lives across the street from me.”
“Was she hot? She must be hot or you wouldn’t be bringing this up.”
Reid shut his locker. “Yes, she happened to be attractive,” he said, fighting the grin as he remembered her intoxicating eyes staring back at him not so long ago. “I didn’t get a chance to talk much with her though before we got called in.”
“Are you going to see her again?” asked Aaron.
“Seeing as how she’s practically my next door neighbor,” Reid said, “It’s very likely.”
“Just watch your step,” Aaron said, slamming his own locker shut.
Reid frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about. Guys in our line of work don’t do relationships. Fooling around is okay, but I think we both know that’s not really your thing. It’s bad enough you have a dog to worry about.”
“Excuse me if I need something besides you to keep me company,” Reid said, feeling defensive.
“Then a dog is perfect for that,” said Aaron. “Dogs don’t ask questions. Look man, I’m just thinking about your career. Your loyalty is part of what makes you so damn good at your job. But it could also be your undoing if you’re not careful.”
“I appreciate your concern, but you don’t have to worry about me. I would never do anything to compromise my job or this team.”
“Good,” Aaron said as they made their way out of the locker room. “And that’s why you’re going to stay away from this neighbor.”
“Whatever,” Reid muttered. Aaron didn’t know what he was talking about.
Four days later Reid was headed home and ready to pass out from exhaustion. The quick turnaround in Dubai was leaving him with serious jet lag, yet he drove past his house and continued up the hill to the nearby grocery store. Max was in need of dog food and Reid wanted to pick it up before he crawled into bed and crashed for the next several hours.
He picked up the forty pound bag and carried it to the nearest open cashier. There was Jillian standing at the register. She looked up at him appearing just as surprised as he was.
“Hi,” she said and he could see the color instantly rising to her cheeks.
“Hello,” he said. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
The color deepened. “I just started a couple weeks ago.”
“I see. How’s your ankle?” he asked.
“Much better. I iced it that whole afternoon and by the next day it felt fine. But I gave it another day just to be sure.”
“Glad to hear it. Have you ran on it yet?” he asked.
“I did this morning before my shift. I made sure to keep my eye out for any curbs jumping out at me this time.”
Reid laughed as he handed her the exact change. “That’s always a good thing.” He picked up his bag of dog food. “Well, I’m sure I’ll see you around again,” he said with a smile.
“Hey, um,” she said, starting to blush again. Reid wasn’t entirely sure if he found it embarrassing or flattering.
“I’m off in ten minutes. Would you like to grab,” she looked at her watch, “would you like to grab some lunch with me?”
He was leaning more towards flattered.
“I would, but I really need to get home.” Reid barely had the energy to make the short drive at this point. “Rain check?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.”
Another customer started unloading their cart and Reid slipped away.
The next night Jillian was at the kitchen sink washing dishes when she thought she saw movement in the backyard. It was the second time that evening and it made her uneasy. She walked over to the sliding door and switched on the light, but saw nothing unusual. She opened the door and called out to an imaginary cat hoping that the sound of her voice would scare off any prowler that might be lurking in the shadows. Houses weren’t often broken into in the neighborhood, but it still happened. She closed the door making sure to lock it, then moved around the house checking all the windows. A noise made her jump, but it was just someone across the street dragging their bins out to the curb.
“Crap,” she muttered, remembering that garbage needed to go out.
She walked out to the garage and stood by the bins chewing her nail, trying to decide whether or not to take it out. Realizing that in the morning she was going to feel like an idiot for being so paranoid, she hit the button and tried not to feel so exposed as the garage door rolled up its track. But as she dragged out the recycling bin, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her. She glanced down the street wondering if Reid was home. Would he think she was being irrational? But as another shiver swept through her body, she started walking towards his house, glancing over her shoulder repeatedly.
Reid’s front door loomed large before her as Jillian stepped up onto the porch. She knocked quietly and studied the swinging bench to her right while waiting. No movement could be heard inside. Perhaps no one was home. Or maybe she didn’t knock hard enough. She raised her hand debating whether to try again or just give it up when the door opened. There was Reid wearing only a pair of jeans and nothing else.
“Yes?” he asked when Jillian had still not found her tongue.
“Um, hi,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if you were home.” She realized her hand was still raised in mid-knock and lowered it. “I wasn’t sure if you were home,” she repeated like an idiot. What was it about this man that made her brain turn to mush? Perhaps it was the incredible abs she was trying so hard to keep her eyes off of. “It’s just that I—” She started and then paused. “Damn, now I feel crazy saying this out loud.”
Reid did nothing to help her out as she fumbled for the words. Didn’t he realize how intimidating he was standing there studying her intently with his cool blue eyes. It was so unnerving.
“It’s just that I can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching me or something,” she finally spilled out. “Twice I thought I saw something in my backyard and maybe it’s because I’ve never spent the night alone in this house before, but I was wondering if …” she started rubbing her forehead. “Well, I guess I don’t know what I was going to ask you for. I’m sure I’m just being paranoid. So sorry for bothering you.” She turned to leave.
“I could come take a look around,” he said.
Jillian spun back around. “Really? I mean if you don’t mind, I think it would help me feel better. Even if it’s just you telling me it’s all in my head.”
“Sure. Come in for a second and I’ll grab my shirt and shoes.”
She stepped in and Reid closed the door behind her and walked noiselessly down the hall. Now that she was standing in the relative safety of Reid’s foyer, Jillian started to wonder if she had been imagining everything.
© 2015 Alex Strong
Sunday, April 12, 2015
The first book of my new series, Love & Lies, comes out on May 7th!
Career on hold and living with her father, life has not gone as Jillian Sandro planned. But she knows it's just another bump in the road and keeps moving forward. When a running accident leads to a chance encounter with an intoxicating and intimidating neighbor, Jillian wonders if this is a chance for a brighter beginning.
As a secret operative, Reid Jackson avoids intimate relationships like the plague. Having a girlfriend would be like having a third arm, while they may be useful now and then, both would just get in the way. Yet when Jillian stumbles into his arms, literally, Reid can't deny the attraction. Could being neighborly really cause that much harm?
When Jillian gets caught in the crossfire, she learns just how dangerous Reid's world can be. And that he may not be the only one lying to her.
Elana Tanner ran away to the island of Kauai to forget that fateful night and its high price, not that she'll ever really forget. But it becomes all the more impossible with the unexpected arrival of wealthy and sexy Kyle Barnett who doesn't know if he can ever forgive her for the death of his brother. Tempers flare and sparks fly, but loathing soon turns to lust, and what once tore them apart, now brings them together. But Kyle is very good at keeping secrets, and Elana doesn't know if she can trust him, no matter what her heart may feel.
Get your copy now!
Barnes & Noble
Also available for iBooks and other e-platforms.