Damage Controlby Amy J. Fetzer
Two Against The World
Explosives expert Sebastian Fontenot has patience in spadeswhether he's deactivating bombs or gritting out three days beneath a pile of rubble. But when the hard-bodied operative learns his oldest friend is in trouble, he flies into actionand ends up on the Artic Circle, where a sexy scientist holds clues that threaten his
Two Against The World
Explosives expert Sebastian Fontenot has patience in spadeswhether he's deactivating bombs or gritting out three days beneath a pile of rubble. But when the hard-bodied operative learns his oldest friend is in trouble, he flies into actionand ends up on the Artic Circle, where a sexy scientist holds clues that threaten his missionand her life....
Olivia Corrigan can handle men. But Sebastian Fontenot is like no other she's encountered: hot as hell and in danger of thinking he can order her around with that delicious drawl of his. Lucky for her, the mesmerizing mercenary is on her side. And it's a good thing, too. Once they stumble onto a horrifying international cover up, it's up to Olivia and Sebastian to keep their hands off each other just long enough to keep a dangerous power from falling into the wrong hands....
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By AMY J. FETZER
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Amy J. Fetzer
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Chapter OneSouthern Chechnya A year later
The sound was like a cracking knuckle.
A single pop of a vertebrae, and Sebastian hesitated. Then his gaze fell on the little girl, maybe twelve, lying on the dirt floor, raped to death, and he easily applied quick pressure to her killer's neck. Three successive pops filled the aging farmhouse before the bastard softened in his grip.
He let the body slide to the ground. Sebastian remained still, movement and sound suddenly amplified. A fist hitting flesh, then the grunts of a struggle. Footsteps, the rapid pad of escape. The glow of a bonfire through bleary glass. A shadow flashed beyond, and as if slapped, he strode to the mattress, ripped off the faded blanket, then floated it down over the child.
"Be at peace, ma petite," he murmured, then turned away. The poor thing had been dead for hours. Sick bastard.
Armed, he moved through the musty house, ignoring the smoke-stained portrait except to count off the family members he knew were dead. He'd found the parents first when he'd entered the farmhouse through the bedroom window. It didn't take a genius to know they'd suffered. At the door, he hung back, checked his bearings before he slid along the wall to the right. A uniformed body lay a few yards from him, illuminated by the bonfire that had drawn them here. With the screams. He spotted Max on the other side of the barn near the tree line. He was moving fast, a body left in his wake. Not a shot fired. Excellent. This farmhouse wasn't their objective; that was the abandoned prison that lay a quarter mile north along the Argun River. They'd just killed the night shift. Someone would be coming for them.
"Report," Sebastian whispered through the Personal Role Radio. The icy air frosted his breath.
"One ghosted," Max replied as if he were standing right next to him. "You don't want to know what he was doing. No escapees."
"Two more in the woods," Sam added. "With a moonshine still."
The family money machine, he thought. Food was scarce here, but booze was like black market currency.
"Lots of prints leading north, no sign of unfriendlies," Riley said and Sebastian spotted him near the barn, feeding something to a rangy dog. "Wish we had sat thermals."
A wider spread of thermal imaging needed a satellite link and that could be tracked. They were silent, only PRRs and handheld equipment. Any more and they might as well send up a location flare. "You know that means sponging off Company, right." No one spoke, painfully aware of what that had cost them before. Cost him, he thought. "Regroup, tree line."
They needed to make up the time and Sebastian surveyed the terrain before he sprinted to the fire, then a few yards beyond into the woods. Tucked in the trees, he knelt and turned, aiming the short rifle and covering Sam's and Riley's approach. He was the only one wearing a video recorder and switched it back on, then flinched when Max slid up beside him, silent and very deadly.
"It's creepy how you do that sometimes," he said, his breath puffing with frost.
Max looked almost hurt. "You need a hearing aid, old man." Then he flashed a grin. "Time to rock?"
"C'mon, cousin." Sebastian rolled around and launched into the forest, running fifty yards, then dropped to one knee to cover Max's approach. Then Sam's as he shot past him in a blur. Riley took his position as Sebastian ran the next leg. They covered the quarter mile in under four minutes, aware the opportunity to rescue their target was narrowing by the second. D-1 was shattering several international laws just being anywhere in an occupied country. Diplomatic channels were just a pissing contest between each side and no one admitted to holding Vince Mills. Someone was very good at keeping secrets. Hell, the team had to HALO jump from thirty-five thousand feet to get inside the country and were likely already on someone's radar. He just hoped it wasn't the Russians.
He slowed his approach. The dark outline of the prison was blacker against the night sky. A pale cool mist wove around the treetops, reaching out to the prison walls. The penal complex was massive, the yards overgrown as if the land was trying to smother its ugliness. Recent reports said vehicles had left five hours ago and had not returned. Ten guards patrolled the place; five were growing cold on the ground.
"Last intel reports the target on the lower floor, northeast corner." Beside him, Max followed the GPS tracking on the phone used to threaten, to negotiate for the life of Vince Mills, underwater sonar engineer. It was their only link inside enemy lines. Why he was taken was still a mystery, but it didn't matter. He needed rescuing. If he was still alive. Russians weren't known for their mercy. But seizing an American businessman on his vacation in front of his young family stirred up tension across the region. It should have brought tons of help, but no government would lend aid to locate the hostage inside Chechnya. It was stepping into a war zone. Moscow claimed no knowledge, and even U.S. intel said information was sketchy and that a rescue was too dicey. That pissed him off and D-1's Ops commander, Safia Troy, squeezed her old contacts for proof of life. That got them a vague location, enough to triangulate the cell phone used to demand a ransom. Mills had been moved twice already. Oh yeah, the enemy knew they were coming.
Sebastian pulled the strip of black nylon covering Mills's picture encased in plastic. He'd memorized every detail, the expanse of his jaw, the nose that had been broken more than once. Yet the image locked in his mind was Mills's daughter as she pushed a well-loved stuffed rabbit into his hand and begged him to give it to her daddy so he wouldn't be afraid. It was tucked in his leg pocket. Breaking a promise to a three-year-old was not in the cards, and he patted it for luck, then motioned to keep the chatter down.
He didn't have to signal. The team understood the plan: surround, assault, then search and destroy. He liked things simple. Sebastian raced to the southeast corner and kept hidden near a cluster of barren trees, covering Riley as he climbed and secured his sniper position. A moment later, a pinecone hit his shoulder and he spun, searched, then aimed to the treetops. Riley signaled that he didn't see any guards on the rooftops, and no movement from his vantage point. Sebastian headed right, hidden in the winter-stripped woods, widening his path to the north corner. No sign of movement this close made his Scooby senses jump. Granted, it was below thirty degrees, but the kidnappers hadn't been slack till now. He tugged the black balaclava up over his mouth and sprinted to the corner. Ducked low, he crawled forward and looked in the window. The room was empty except for a chair. So much for timely intel. Satellite hadn't given them much beyond some trucks leaving the area several hours ago.
He inched to the next window, spying inside. Vacant. He proceeded to the next, the glass dirty gray and crossed with wires. He backed away, wedging himself near a bush. "Negative target, east side. Shit. Negative anything."
"Same northwest. No patrols either."
That made the skin on his neck prickle. "So ... they've either moved him again or it's a trap." They'd organized in Georgia less than eight hours ago. Even Interpol didn't know they were here yet.
"Yeah. So. Not the first time. GPS is still active but fading," Max said. Max and Sam were west of his position.
Sebastian ordered the assault. Low and tucked, he ran to the side of the structure, foliage catching on his boots. He rushed to the only door on this side, and when it opened, his hackles jumped to a whole new level. Rut-roh. He slipped inside and dropped to one knee. The light tucked beneath the MP5 rifle barrel illuminated the tight corridor; the laser sight pierced the beam. The ceiling had fallen, the debris coated with the rippling sling of mud. He spotted shell casings, an empty boot on its side. He moved forward, turning a corner, and at least intel was right about the rows of cells lining a wide corridor. There was a decayed body in one, still locked in, still chained to the wall. The body was missing a foot, the exposed bone sawed cleanly. I found your boot.
Mills's chance of survival was looking slim, and he pushed on, searching the cells till he reached the end of the wide bay. A broad flight of stairs lay in the center, rising to the second level of cells. He caught the flicker of light and aimed.
"Outlaw, your twenty?"
"Second deck, north end," Sam said.
"Copy that." Sebastian continued to the northwest corner. The cell door was open, a single chair inside the narrow space, to the right of it a battery, corroded and linked to some nasty-looking devices. What the hell did a sonar designer have that was worth torture? Those things looked like dental tools. He backed out, nearly tripping over a body lying against the left wall behind the open door. He spotted Russian insignia first, then he searched the dead soldier, coming back with a pistol, ammo, and a crushed pack of cigarettes. No ID. While the smokes were wet, the pistol was in perfect condition, oiled and clean. It had been in the holster. He pocketed the weapon, then brushed back the wool skullcap, and a second before he noticed the blood still bright, he saw the two bullet holes in the back of the head. The guy's face was just gone.
"Be advised, one guard dead, execution style. He's fresh. No ID."
"Found two, same-same, Russian Army uniform, no ID," Max said. "East side, no target."
"Could intel be that bad?" he said to no one, then found a third body outside a heavy steel door, a key broken off in the lock. He switched night vision to thermal briefly, but nothing registered. He didn't have time to investigate further. Not till they located their target. Not with executed guards littering the place. He stripped the corpse of gear, noticing several tattoos, yet found nothing else. Not even a matchbook. Yet a thin, half-smoked cigar lay near the boot. The skin was cool, but not cold. Very fresh. Within the last three hours.
He quickly turned away, searching the ground for footprints, and found several. He followed one set, heavier than the others, another beside it, dragged. The prints led him farther into the center of the prison. He passed a dining area, rows of tables with bench seats attached, and for an instant, it looked like a school. The kitchen was exposed, pots stacked on metal shelves, coated with a layer of frosted dirt. The footprints directed him to a staircase in the far southern corner. They curved down to a black hole of nothingness.
"D-1 regroup, my twenty. There's a basement." Of sorts. From his position, he could see the chisel marks where it had been carved out of the rock.
"Roger that," came from his teammates. Riley was still parked in a tree.
Sebastian waited for the team before he moved down the metal staircase, the iron anchors screeching as it swayed. He shone his light below and saw the glassy surface of water. "A cistern?" He descended the steep staircase that forced him to turn sideways.
"More like a sewer. Christ, that smells," Sam said behind him.
Max remained topside, covering them. "GPS says we're within twenty-five feet. About two minutes ago. Battery's toast."
"Negative. No reading through all that rock."
"I'm gonna be really pissed if they tossed the phone down here." At the bottom steps, Sebastian's boots filled with icy water and he shivered and cursed, then moved carefully. "Low bulkhead," he warned, ducking. Water sloshed over his boots as he advanced in an uncomfortable hunch. The floor was fairly even, but his shoulder scraped the tunnel wall as he followed the water. No current, the surface motionless till he disturbed it. He wedged himself around a curve and the area opened wider. A lot wider. Water seeped down the walls, dripped from ten feet above, one plop at a time.
Beneath it was their target.
Vince Mills was strapped to a stool in the center of the pool. His legs were secured and underwater to his ankles, but his chin rested on his chest. Despite the freezing cold, he wasn't moving. Not promising, Sebastian thought, and leading with the rifle barrel, he inspected his surroundings in a narrowing circle. Mills's clothing matched his wife's description, though muddy, his shirt torn at the shoulder. But that's where it ended. Last seen with a ponytail of dark hair, Mills's head was shaved clean and sported several cuts. A couple were still glossy with fresh blood. At least he hoped it was fresh. The guy hadn't moved a fraction, yet Sebastian felt every hard shiver working up his own body. His toes were already numb.
He motioned to Sam and they covered the circumference, then in his peripheral, he saw Mills's fingers twitch. "Vince Mills, your wife sent us."
A sound came, strangled, desperate. Mills kept his head down.
"He's alive." Always a plus, he thought, exchanging a smile with Sam and moving to face Mills. He knelt, inspecting, then started to reach for his bonds and froze. Wires. Everywhere. "Be advised. We have explosives."
"Well, that just stole the joy," Max said.
Sebastian shouldered his rifle, then slipped off his pack and, with a penlight, followed the leads. He lifted the baggy shirt a fraction. Now that's a big party favor. Slim tubes of C-4 were molded to Mills's rib cage, his skin the only thing separating him from enough explosives to blow the entire prison into kibble. The phone was wired into it. And from the look of it, the fading battery wouldn't matter. There's a secondary power source, he thought, and through his night vision goggles, he studied the water, not daring to disturb it till he was certain the guy's feet weren't wired as well. He followed the trail of wires that led to Mills's mouth.
"Christ," Sam said, peering in. "That's just unholy."
Sebastian agreed as he studied the device, calculating the detonation range, the safe distance from this much blasting material. "Executed guards, no ID, this bomb was meant to erase any trail."
"Roger that," Sam whispered into the PRR so Mills wouldn't hear. "But why make ransom demands in Greece, then end up here? For a sonar engineer?"
"I'm hoping he'll answer that later."
A strained sound came from Mills. "Stay calm," Sebastian said almost absently, examining the bomb he admitted was a work of art. Wires running in five directions and no way to tell if any were dummies. Methodically, he traced each one, marking on his hand where they led and the color. Getting this off without detonation was going to be a bitch. He moved around to face Mills, ducking to meet his gaze. Watery blue eyes stared back.
"Blink once for yes, two for no. Understand?"
"It's motion sensitive."
"Blasting material in your mouth?"
Two blinks. No.
Crap. Disarming when he couldn't see the timer was a problem. He moved around the stool, inspecting beneath and doing it quickly. Whoever set this wasn't far away. Trained to ignore the outside world right about now, Sebastian couldn't ignore Mills. His nose was running, his breathing fast. In below freezing weather, he was sweating. Sebastian could almost smell his terror.
He leaned in to say, "Don't give up, Vince. We'll get you out of this." He pulled out the stuffed rabbit and wedged it on his lap. Mills seemed to melt right then.
The device was sensitive to Mills's movements, yet he didn't find any liquid motion sensors. If it was in his mouth, they were screwed. He slid behind Mills and with his knife, sliced open the shirt. Well, that's a mess, he thought, removing his pack to pull out a small battery with wire leads and some tools. He searched the device for a secondary rig and power source. When he found it, he realized it had a double pull. With the phone, one detonation would set off the first layer, another the second. He stripped the wires with tender care and clamped them, rerouting the circuit so the secondary device wouldn't trigger. Then from the first charge, he removed the plunge detonator. There were four. The process was slow enough that Mills passed out. Sam whispered him back awake. Any quick motion and it was curtains for the good guys.
Then Mills screamed behind the tape, trembling.
Sebastian lurched to look. Red lights shined though the guy's teeth. Oh shit. Quickly, Sebastian removed another lead, working to his mouth where he could see the red glow. Someone liked theatrics, he decided as he clamped off power to the wires near the mouth, then pulled at the duct tape. Mills fought him and Sebastian grabbed his shoulders, shouting to be still. The timer was still going. He sprayed canned Freon, freezing the tape, and it lifted off. Out of Mills's mouth came a bar timer, blinking.
Twenty-seven seconds. The numbers ticked off fast.
"Christ, Christ," Mills muttered, spat, and Sam kept spraying Freon, freezing the leveling charge and delaying detonation a few seconds while Sebastian rerouted, shifted clamps, then carefully pulled the last metal rod from the C-4. Five ... four ... oh hell. He grabbed his cutters and severed the blue wire.
The clock stopped. He let out a tight breath, was still for a moment, then worked the C-4 vest off Mills. He'd passed out again.
"Stand down, bomb disarmed."
Excerpted from DAMAGE CONTROL by AMY J. FETZER Copyright © 2010 by Amy J. Fetzer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I liked the overall story...but thought they were too detailed in some of the story.... I kept finding myself skipping stuff.... was a good story though...but could have been more to the point....
Amy J. Fetzer weaves an intricate plot, full of imagery, meticulous technical details, varied settings, underground operatives, military intrigues and action. The novel starts more like a military thriller than a suspense romance, which usually focuses on the main couple. In Damage Control, nearly all the characters, including subordinate ones, share their point of view and are developed. As Olivia Corrigan and Sebastian Fontenot race for their lives, it becomes a fast-paced suspenseful adventure. I enjoyed this tale of lovers reuniting amid top-secret military covert operations, and rekindling their passion as they team up to rescue a kidnapped mutual friend.
Archeologist Olivia Corrigan investigates an ancient Celtic legend. Her research tracks the routes of twelfth century Viking and Chinese traders that lead to the Arctic Circle polar cap where she believes an ancient ship is under the ice. However, her efforts turn ugly when people associated with her project begin dying. Apparently, Russian agents want to know the secret of the Celtic legends and are willing to kill to succeed. Dragon One mercenary team assigns her former husband explosives expert Sebastian Fontenot to safeguard the woman he still loves while also trying to rescue from kidnappers a colleague of hers who knows much about legend snatched in his hotel room. As they team up to save the life of the abducted English bookworm scholar from adversaries who cold-bloodedly murdered innocent bystanders in the hotel, Olivia still wonders if she would be safer with the Russians than with her former spouse who she still loves. The latest Dragon One (see Fight Fire With Fire and Come as You Are) is an action-packed romantic suspense that circles the globe as Olivia hops seemingly everywhere. The second chance romance starts towards the middle of the story line and enhances the dangerous adventures the lead couple and his cohorts confront. That is the key to this entertaining thriller that never stops for a respite.
If you're a fan of the action/adventure Dragon One series, then you've been eagerly awaiting Sebastian's story. If Fetzer cheats a little by reuniting him with an old love, thus eliminating the chance for the reader to watch the romance develop, well, tough cookies. This, as always, is a tough and gritty world full of near death experiences and that makes Sebastian and Olivia's second chance more precious. By choosing an almost old-fashioned Cold War, Iron Curtain enemy, Russia, Fetzer might seem a little removed from our current wars in hotter, desert climes, but she's just reminding us that old style Soviet corruption in government makes them an enemy still to be scrutinized despite smiling presidential photo ops. (Plus, check out her website: all her guys are military so she knows whereof she writes.) It's a complex plot full of archaeological digs on the polar ice cap, Celtic myth/legends, and the search for both an ancient ship buried in the ice, and a Russian sub and its crew buried beneath the waves and Russian secrecy and lies. And, man, is it worth the effort keeping up! As always Fetzer gives us a lesson in world geopolitics, military hard/software, and another glimpse at all those hunky Dragon One men. Sebastian and Olivia's romance is sexy, their rush to rescue a kidnapped mentor and colleage whose knowledge of the Celtic legend has put him right in the sights of a highly dangerous Russian femme fatale (seriously, crazily fatal!)whose dual goal of finding a legendary artifact and rescuing her submarine commander father's damaged reputation makes her a determined and dangerous foe. Great action that you should share with your husband if he's a reader. Fans of thrillers over the years will recall other great books set on the ice like the late great Alistair MacLean's Ice Station Zebra...forget the awesomely awful movie featuring Rock Hudson that had very little to do with the book. And young Australian author Matt Reilly's fantastic Ice Station. Both are worth reading after you finish this latest breathtaking installment in Fetzer's Dragon One series.