Successfully melding science fiction with romance, this page-turner from Kenin (pseudonym for romance up-and-comer Eve Silver) has a quick pace and a bleak setting that give action and sex scenes a gratifying pop. Living in the grim aftermath of the Second Noble War, which killed off a third of the Earth's population, attractive but deadly trucker Raina Bowen is determined to bring down powerful businessman and presidential adviser Duncan Bane, who brutalized Raina in her youth. Aided by a handsome but emotionless mercenary known simply as Wizard, Bowen hauls her rig up to the Northern Waste in search of her target; meanwhile, Bane is setting traps and sending agents of his own, imperiling the duo but intensifying their feelings for each other. Though bouts of lovemaking might turn off fans of the Mad Max-ian adventure story and the action might wear down romance devotees, readers with a leg in both camps, or anyone looking for something different, will find Kenin's steamy, sinewy universe great fun, and further evidence that new Dorchester imprint Shomi is one worth watching. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Determined to win a grueling trucking race so she will have enough money to care for her sister, notoriously tough and resilient Raina Bowen is caught off stride both professionally and emotionally by enigmatic trucker Wizard, whom she "saves" from a lethal beating at the hands of the Janson crew. Then, when Wizard's truck is sabotaged, Raina reluctantly takes him with her as she heads into the frigid Northern Waste. But ice pirates, vicious truckers, and a ruthless psychopath threaten them at every turn, and it takes all of Raina's and Wizard's intelligence and superhuman powers to achieve their goals-and stay alive in the process. Edgy, steamy, action packed, and plotted with nail-biting tension, this riveting romance, which will be followed by a sequel, is the third in Dorchester's new, innovative Shomi line. Kenin, who lives in Canada, also writes Gothic historicals under her real name, Eve Silver (Dark Prince).
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By Eve Kenin
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2007 Eve Silver
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe air was stale, rank with the stink of smoke, sweat, and old beer. Bob's Truck Stop. Nice place for a meal.
Raina Bowen sat at a small table, back to the wall, posture deceptively relaxed. Inside, she was coiled tighter than the Merckle shocks that were installed in her rig, but it was better to appear unruffled. Never let 'em see you sweat. That had been one of Sam's many mottos.
She glanced around the crowded room, mentally cataloging the Siberian gun truckers at the counter, the cadaverous pimp in the corner and his ferret-faced companion, the harried waitress who deftly dodged the questing hand that reached out to snag her as she passed. In the center of the room was a small raised platform with a metal pole extending to the grime-darkened ceiling. A scantily clad girl, barely out of puberty, wiggled and twirled around the pole. Raina looked away. But for a single desperate act, one that had earned her freedom, she might have been that girl.
Idly spinning the same half-empty glass of warm beer that she'd been nursing for the past hour, she looked through the grimy windows at the front of the truck stop. Frozen, colorless, the bleak expanse stretched with endless monotony until the high-powered floodlights tapered off and the landscape wasswallowed by the black night sky.
A balmy minus-thirty outside. And it would only get colder the farther north they went. Raina had a keen dislike of the cold, but if she were the first to reach Gladow Station with her load of genetically engineered grain, there'd be a fat bonus of fifty million interdollars. That'd be more than enough to warm her to the cockles of her frozen heart.
More than enough to buy Beth's safety.
Keeping her gaze on the door, Raina willed it to open. She couldn't wait much longer. Where the hell was Wizard? Sitting here-a woman alone in a place like this-drew too much attention. She wanted no one to remember her face. Anonymity was a precious commodity, one she realized had slipped through her fingers as from the corner of her eye she watched one of the Siberians begin to weave drunkenly across the room.
"Well, hello, sweet thing." He stopped directly in front of her, kicked the extra chair out from the table, and shifted it closer before dropping his bulk onto the torn Naugahyde. He was shrouded in layers of tattered cloth that were stained and frayed, the stink of him hitting her nostrils before he finished his greeting.
"Leave. Now." Keeping her voice low and even, Raina snaked one hand along her waist toward the small of her back, resting her fingers on the smooth handle of her knife.
The Siberian smiled at her, revealing the brown stubs of three rotting teeth. "You can't chase me off so easy. I've been watching you." He gestured at the front of his pants. "You need a man, sweet thing."
Uh-huh. "And you think you're a man?"
The trucker frowned at her question; then his thick brows shot up as he realized he'd been insulted. Undeterred, he leaned forward, catching her ponytail with one scarred and dirty hand. "I'll show you how much man I am. Give us a kiss, sweet thing."
His tongue was already out and reaching as he pulled her face closer to his.
"Last warning," Raina said softly, wishing he would listen.
He gave a hard tug on her ponytail. Raina slid her knife from its sheath, bringing it up with a sharp twist, neatly slicing through the tip of the trucker's tongue. Blood splattered in all directions, thick and hot. With an enraged howl he jerked back, letting loose his hold on her as he clapped both hands over his mouth. Dark blood dripped down his unshaven chin to pool on the tabletop.
Raina sent a quick look at the rest of the Siberians. Their attention was firmly fixed on the girl who was shimmying up and down the pole. Returning her gaze to the moaning trucker, she picked up the stained scrap of cloth that passed for a serviette and slowly wiped her blade clean. She knew that once serviettes had been made of paper, but that was a long time ago, when there had still been enough trees to provide pulp.
"Name's Raina Bowen. Not sweet thing." She sighed. So much for anonymity. "And the last thing I need is a man."
Well, that wasn't exactly true. She needed one man in particular, Wizard and his precious trucking license, but he was nowhere to be seen.
The trucker's eyes widened as he registered her name, and a flicker of recognition flared in their dull depths. Nice to have a reputation, even if she didn't quite deserve it. This lovely little encounter would just add to the mystique. Unfortunately, it would also add to the risk of being found. Damn.
He reached for her again, his hands rough, his expression stormy. He was mad, challenged, belittled, and he wanted revenge. What was it with Siberian gun truckers?
Twirling her hair around one finger, Raina shifted her expression, lowering her lashes over her blue eyes in a come-hither invitation, curving her lips in a winsome smile. The trucker blinked, clearly confused by her abrupt change in manner. He leaned in-Lord, some people never learned-and Raina deftly clipped him hard under the chin with the hilt of her knife.
He slumped across the Formica table, unconscious, mouth hanging open, leaving her with a blood-splattered tabletop, a ruined beer, and an end to her patience.
His companions were looking this way now. Raina lowered her head as though enthralled by her tablemate, using her body to shield his inert form from view. Her ruse worked, and the men nudged one another and laughed before turning back to the stripper.
Well, that had bought her about three minutes.
A sudden blast of light sliced through the frost-dusted window, spreading a glowing circle across the floor. Hope flared as Raina wondered if Wizard had finally arrived, but no, there was too much light for just one vehicle.
Trucks. Lots of 'em. They parked in a circle, the beams of their headlights illuminating a circumscribed area.
Like an arena.
She'd seen this setup before. The new arrivals were expecting entertainment, the kind that involved fists, and they were using their rigs to create the venue. She stared through the glass, the muscles of her shoulders and neck knotting with tension. Illegal gladiator games. There was going to be a bloodbath.
Hell. Wizard or not, she'd outstayed her time here. Tossing a handful of interdollars on the table, Raina shrugged into her parka and headed outside, sticking well back in the shadows as she watched the scene unfold. The trucks were huge, as tall as two-story houses, painted slate gray, and on the front in bold silver letters, the name JANSON.
Men were emerging from the cabs. Big, burly guys, dressed in hides and skins, bristling with weapons. Janson company men. How nice. The Janson owned the ICW-Intercontinental Worldwide-the longest highway ever built. Or at least, they acted like they did.
She could feel the tension in the air. Taste it. Someone had pissed these guys off big-time.
At the far end of the lot was a lone truck. Black. Clean. Nameless. Nice transport, she noticed. A non-company driver, just like her. Poor bastard. He was obviously tonight's planned entertainment.
"Hey, Big Luc," one of the Jansons yelled, moving into place in the circle that had formed. "That's the worthless parasite who jumped line. We gotta teach him some manners."
Jumped line? What moron would jump line on Janson trucks? They went first. It was an unwritten law. Anyone who flouted it was either insane or bent on a quick death. Raina watched as money exchanged hands. Odds were obviously in favor of Big Luc.
"His pressure looks low, don't it? Can't have an unsafe rig on the highway," a second man called, then laughed at his own lame joke. "Wizard's got some balls coming here tonight. He shoulda kept driving. Maybe we'd have let him live another day."
Wizard. Oh, no. Of all the morons in the frozen north, she had to hook up with the one who had picked a fight with a good portion of the Janson army. She narrowed her eyes at the huge black rig, the one at the far end of the lot. Wizard's rig. Damn, damn, damn.
He was of no use to her now. Still, she couldn't help but try to figure a way that she could salvage the trucking pass he was supposed to give her.
"Luc. Luc. Luc." The crowd was calling their champion.
In response to the cry, a huge man swaggered into the circle of light, raising his arms as he slowly spun around and around, egging his admirers on. Beneath the flat wool cap that clung to his skull, bushy brows drew down over a nose flattened and skewed to one side, and just below it bristled a thick thatch of mud-colored whiskers. An animal pelt hung over his massive shoulders. The head was still intact, the jagged teeth catching the light.
Raina glanced back at the black rig at the far end of the lot. She'd never met Wizard, had contacted him on Sam's instructions-which in and of itself was a questionable recommendation-but she couldn't imagine he'd be any match for Luc. She had a hard time imagining anyone as a match for Luc.
The door of the cab opened, and a man swung down. He was tall, dressed in a black parka, the hood pulled up, obscuring his features. She felt a moment's pity, and then squelched the unwelcome emotion. Not her fight. Not her business. Sam's words of loving fatherly advice rang in her head as clear as if he were standing beside her. If there's no profit in it for you, stupid girl, then walk away. Just walk away. What do you care for some sucker's lousy luck?
Not only was there no profit in it for her, but the jackass had cost her. Wizard was supposed to show up an hour ago with a temporary Janson trucking license that would allow her to jump the queue all nice and legal, behind the Janson but ahead of the other indies. Instead, he was an hour late, and he'd dragged a frigging army with him. Too bad the army wasn't on his side.
Wizard strode forward. He made it halfway across the parking lot, halfway to the door of the truck stop before Luc's fist connected with his face. Raina winced. She had a brief impression of long dark hair as the hood fell back and Wizard's head snapped sideways. He went down, rolling head over heels across the inflexible sheet of solid ice.
In three strides Luc was on him, the steel-reinforced toe of his company-issue boots finding a nice home right between Wizard's ribs. Wizard didn't move, didn't moan, and for a second Raina wondered if that first punch had knocked him out cold. With a laugh, Luc kicked him again, and then nudged him with his boot, once, twice. He backed off, waving at the group that surrounded him, shaking hands as he slowly made his way toward the door of the diner, acting as though he'd just rid the world of public enemy number one.
The remaining Jansons closed in, a pack of avid rats, eyes glittering with malevolent intent. There was no doubt in Raina's mind that they were going to beat Wizard within an inch of his life, a warning to anyone who tried to cross them.
Raina glanced at her snowscooter. She'd been smart enough to park her rig in a safe place and use the scooter to get her to the truck stop. No sense inviting trouble. Now she wondered if she could maneuver into the circle of men surrounding Wizard's prone form, nab him, and get them both out of there before someone got killed. She hesitated, the thought going against her every instinct of self-preservation. Why she was even considering this she couldn't say. Hadn't Sam Bowen beaten all compassion out of her? Stupid girl. Empathy will only get you killed.
Squelching the voice in her head, she focused on the guy sprawled across the frozen ground. He had the damned trucking license, and she needed it. All she had to do was figure a way to get it.
She cringed as Wizard pushed himself to his feet. Shaking his head as if to clear it, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. God, he didn't even have the sense to stay down.
"Hey, Luc," he called softly, the sound of his voice drawing Raina up short. Low, rich, a sensual baritone that sent a shiver up her spine. "While you're in there, you want to fetch me a beer?"
Raina closed her eyes and sighed. Dim. Thick. Brainless. He was a dead man. And all for the sake of what? His machismo? She shifted, trying to get a look at his face, but he'd pulled his hood up again.
Big Luc turned slowly to face him. "You got a death wish, boy?"
"Name's Wizard, and the only thing I'm wishing for is a long, cold beer." Oh, that slow, lazy drawl. It should be illegal for a guy that dumb to have a voice that smooth.
"Well, Wiiiiz-aaard ..." Luc guffawed, slapping one fleshy palm on his thigh. "You ready to die?"
Run. Run. Run. You might have a chance. Raina willed him to move, because she knew Big Luc would kill him and leave his frozen carcass in the snow. The wild dogs would pick him clean, and no one would care. She'd make herself not care.
Luc lunged at him. Raina expected Wizard to step back, to dodge, to move. Instead, he shot out one fist with lightning speed, dropping Luc in his tracks.
She blinked, certain her brain was processing something other than what her eyes had seen.
For a moment she waited, convinced that Luc would get up, would charge like an enraged bull and cut Wizard down. Without a backward look, Wizard turned and strode in the direction of the diner, as if he hadn't just accomplished the impossible. As if he hadn't just invited his own assassination.
And, oh, the way he moved ... confident, fluid, a man comfortable in his own skin. Raina watched him for a long moment, and then looked away, wondering what the hell was wrong with her. Why should she care about the easy way some useless gun trucker moved his hips?
Whoooo. Get it together, Bowen.
No one spoke. No one moved. It felt like no one dared breathe, and then two guys stepped forward, hauled Big Luc up by his armpits, and dragged him away.
Stupid man. Stupid, stupid man. Wizard had just made a mighty powerful enemy in the Janson Trucking Company. Actually, they'd been his enemy from the second he'd jumped line, but they might have let him live ... suffer, but live. Maybe. Now she didn't think so. They were likely to gut him and feed his intestines down his own throat.
Her breath hissed from between her teeth. She needed the Gladow winnings. For herself. For Beth.
Frig. She needed that temporary license, which meant she was just as stupid as Wizard was, because she was about to step into his fight.
Hugging the shadows, she sprinted to the edge of the wall, climbed onto her snowscooter, and gunned the engine. She spun the scooter in an arc. Heart racing, she stopped sharply near the door of the truck stop, just behind the dumb jackass who had so thoroughly messed up her plans.
"Get on," Raina shouted. Several of the Janson men were closing in, and she was glad that the hood of her anorak hid her features from view. She could only pray that they wouldn't recognize her. Yeah, right. "If you have one iota of sense, get on."
Wizard whipped around to face her. For a frozen moment he stood silhouetted against the light streaming from the window behind him. She thought he would prove that he lacked even that one iota of sense she'd mentioned, for he just stood there, his head tilted as he watched the line of Janson truckers who were slowly stalking him, closing in behind her. She could sense them, see the hazy reflection of their faces in the windows of the truck stop at Wizard's back.
Then with a shrug, he swung one long leg over the seat of the snowscooter, his arms coming around her waist as he climbed on.
Dragging in a deep breath, Raina gunned the engine and took off into the star-tossed night. Heart racing, she set the speed as fast as she dared, knowing the dangers of hitting a deep rut at high speed. Knowing, too, that there was a strong likelihood they'd be followed. Even over the noise of the engine she could hear the roar of a mob denied.
Heat exploded in a shimmering wave, and for an instant night turned to day as someone fired a round of plas-shot.
Wizard's reaction had to be instinctive. He pushed up tight against her back, protecting her with his body. With a hiss, she jerked her elbow sharply into his gut, sending the message that she didn't need him to act like human armor. Moron.
She could feel him behind her, pressed up against her back, his muscled thighs melded to hers, his arms forming a solid vise around her waist. He was bigger than she had expected. When he'd stepped down from his truck, all she'd registered was the size of Big Luc, the danger posed by the Janson drivers.
She'd thought Wizard some harmless prey.
Now, with the feel of his long, hard body pushed up against her, she wondered how she could have been so wrong.
Excerpted from Driven by Eve Kenin Copyright © 2007 by Eve Silver. 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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It was fast-paced with tons of action throughout the entire book that I really loved. And there were so many great and likeable characters thrown in there. The one thing that bugged the hell out of me though was the author, and her fetish with the word frig. I swear Raina said that word so many times I wanted to scream. I understand some people don't like cursing in books or in general. I personally don't mind it at all, I actually curse a lot ^_^. However, if she didn't want her heroine cursing, that's fine by me, but it really annoyed the crap out of me reading 'Frig this, Frig that, Frigging Hell, Frig, Frig, Frig" pretty much on every other page.
But who knew I'd enjoy a book about trucking so much. Very different but in a good way. Overall I liked the book, anyone into the Shomi series will enjoy it as well (=
The Second Noble War eradicated over a third of the human population. Those who survived the hostilities still suffer from the ordeal as the earth remains a bleak dark planet with some areas turned into dead zones in which no human life can survive and many others into vast wastelands where few live. Trucker Raina Bowen lives for one thing only: revenge. Affluent businessman with protective and influential ties with the White House Duncan Bane assaulted Raina when she was a youngster. She plans to return his gift of abuse. As she travels to the Northern Waste, Raina is abetted by the Wizard, a detached soldier for hire. Bane knows she is coming so he sends his mercenaries to kill or better yet if possible capture Raina. ---- The bleak environs will have the audience feels they have been transported into a post apocalyptic realm where a Davidette vs. Goliath encounter is coming. Raina is a terrific protagonist who holds the tale together as she thirsts for revenge against Bane (great name for an evil person ¿ ask Batman) while falling in love with her silent ally Wizard. Fans of a surviving earth thriller will appreciate this fine saga with the caveat that a love subplot is a silver lining for romance readers. ---- Harriet Klausner
This is the kind of futuristic romance I've been waiting for someone to write. It's completely original, not the usual knock-off of popular t.v. and movies that's usually all fans of the genre are offered. Eve Kenin AKA Eve Silver has created a fresh landscape for fans of futuristic romance, and presented a tightly plotted novel of suspense, action and true love, seasoned with hot & spicy love scenes. I would recommend this book to anyone, and since this web site separates professional reviews from reader reviews, I feel free to give it the 5 stars it deserves. I just wish Ms. Kenin would write a few more books in this vein!
This book has a truly unique plot - taking place in the bitter arctic, where sunlight lasts only four hours a day, and temperatures reach minus 50 degrees celsius. Raina is a bad-ass female truck driver in this region with the goal of winning a race in order to buy her sister's freedom - but she gets quickly sidetracked as she realizes that her personal enemy will stop at nothing to have her killed. She finds herself battling deadly ice pirates, rival truck drivers, and getting deeply entangled in the life of a mysterious man named Wizard. Raina has always been cold, bitter, and tough, but Wizard begins to melt her frozen heart. He makes her feel like she just may be capable of love once again, but there is something about himself that he is not telling her... This novel was well written, with a good balance of action, romance, and drama. The mysteries keep you reading, and I enjoyed that in some cases, the reader knows more than the characters. Although, I agree with another reviewer who said the author had some weird obsession with the word, "frig." It got downright annoying and lessened the drama of otherwise amazing moments. I also found myself wanting a bit more description of certain settings. But otherwise, this book was great, and I can't wait to read the follow-up book to this, called "Hidden."
This is the first of at least two stories. It is set in the future and has compelling characters. I also enjoyed the second in the series Hidden. I hope Eve writes the third siblings story.
Dorchester's Shomi line is turning out to be a lot of fun reading. First there was Wired by Liz Maverick and now we have Driven by Eve Kenin. Both are very original in content and written wonderfully well. In Driven, Raina Bowen is about to have a really bad day. She's a trucker. First, when waiting for the person her late father made arrangements with for her to acquire a special license to allow her to participate in a race that will net her more money than she's ever seen, money needed to keep the sister she never knew she had safe. That was a deathbed confession of her father. A father who turned into a man she no longer knew after her mother died. A father who had given her, when she was only 12, to the man who was now hunting her down, looking for vengeance. Next her contact is late, and when he finally shows up, he promptly gets into a fight with big-time truckers, he has a stolen license for her that she cannot use, and even though he thinks and acts like a computer, he's also the most handsome and sexiest man she's ever seen. But she's a loner, independent, and isn't about to change her ways now. Wizard is a mercenary. An assassin. He and his sisters were experiments that ended up being raised by a computer when the head of the lab died and left them on their own. That's where Duncan Bane came in. He found the siblings and decided to continue the experiements, testing their 'gifts' and when one sister died, Wizard would take more. He is now on a mission for Bane, to track down Raina Bowen and deliver her into Bane's hands for a slow and painful demise. I enjoyed these main characters so much. Raina has always been on her own, even when her father was alive, and he constantly pushed her to be better, faster, stronger but that was only when he was around, which wasn't often. She's afraid of making friends and falling in love. Those are complications she just doesn't need. Wizard is a man who compartmentalizes his emotions to the point that he doesn't show any at all, but when he meeets Raina, things begin to change, including his feelings, but by that time it's a little too late. Raina finds out that Wizard has betrayed her and she's right back where she started. And the having the story written in a setting like a Siberian iceberg and 18-wheelers ramrodding their way across the ice is loads of fun. After these first two books in this line, I'm anxiously awaiting the next one!