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A CHILD'S LIFE IS AT STAKE
When Christopher Jordan sees the fear in Ashley Wilson's eyes, he knows he can't let her request for help go unanswered. Despite their tumultuous history, he's the only person his ex-fiancée can trust to find her kidnapped nephew. But how can Christopher trust her when he finds out that Ashley's "nephew" is actually his son, the one she never told him about? With a terrorist cell convinced Ashley holds the key to accessing top secret government files,...
A CHILD'S LIFE IS AT STAKE
When Christopher Jordan sees the fear in Ashley Wilson's eyes, he knows he can't let her request for help go unanswered. Despite their tumultuous history, he's the only person his ex-fiancée can trust to find her kidnapped nephew. But how can Christopher trust her when he finds out that Ashley's "nephew" is actually his son, the one she never told him about? With a terrorist cell convinced Ashley holds the key to accessing top secret government files, time is running out. And Christopher will stop at nothing to bring their little boy home in time for Christmas.
The Security Experts: Defenders against danger
As Ashley Wilson rounded the corner, her foot slammed onto the brakes. What
In the distance, her brother's house came into view. A commotion on the lawn caused her blood to freeze.
Three men in suits scuffled near the sidewalk. Her brother Josh's tall, lanky form jerked in the middle of the crowd as he struggled against the men. What were they doing to her brother? Who were these men?
Her gaze went to the two black sedans parked at the curb. The men were trying to force her brother into one?
She yanked her gaze from the scene to her clock. David. Where was the eight-year-old? His bus hadn't come yet. It couldn't have. Ashley was on her way to meet him, but had arrived a good ten minutes early.
Still, panic raced through her.
She wanted to throw the car into Park, rush from her seat and intercede. But there was no way she could overtake all of those men.
Her gaze zoomed in on the black metal at one of the men's waistband. A gun. These men were armed.
Her heart stopped when she saw a tiny head bobbing in the crowd.
David. Her precious nephew, David. Her reason for waking up in the morning. Her reason for working at home as a web designer with flexible hours. Her heartbeat.
They had David. She covered her mouth as a guttural cry escaped.
How had they gotten David? He was supposed to be in school. Had Josh pulled him out early today?
Some of her logic returned, hitting her with the force of a lightning bolt. The police. She had to call the police. That was all there was to it.
She reached into her purse and fumbled with the cell phone, her hands trembling so badly she wasn't sure she could dial.
She glanced up just in time to see one of the men point her way and yell something.
Two of the men pulled their guns and began running toward her car.
She threw the car in Reverse. She had to get away. If they caught her then there'd be no way she could help. She slammed her foot onto the accelerator. Her neck snapped back with the force, but she didn't care. Adrenaline pumped through her veins.
That's when she heard the first pop. Her heart sped. They were shooting at her. She ducked just as the windshield shattered.
She screamed but kept going. Reaching the street behind her, she pulled hard on the steering wheel, threw the car into Drive and squealed off. Another pop sounded behind her but didn't reach her car.
She glanced in her rearview mirror. The men had stopped running. She'd lost them. For now.
She craned her neck, trying to see beyond the eerie, spiderweb-like lines etched into her windshield. She could hardly see the road. Finally, she reached the street leading away from the neighborhood.
Her mind raced a million miles a minute. What had just happened? What should she do now?
The police, she remembered. She needed to call the police.
Grief crushed her heart. David. Poor David. She needed to help him, to soothe him and wipe his tears. Since Josh's wife had died, Ashley had filled in as a mother figure. Now her heart squeezed with a maternal grief.
No, the best thing she could do was to let the authorities know. There was no way her 120 pounds could take down all three of those men. Probably not even one of them.
Keeping one eye on the road, she grabbed the phone, which had fallen to the floor in her haste to escape. Her fingers trembled on the keypad. Before she could dial, the phone beeped with an incoming call.
She saw the number, and her heart raced—first with hope, then dread. Her brother?
She looked back at the road, swerving away from an oncoming car. Quickly, she answered. "Josh? What's going on?"
"You can't call the police, Ashley." His words tumbled into each other, and panic laced his voice, making its pitch rise.
"Josh, I'm scared."
Before he could finish, another voice came on the line. "We'll find you and kill you, Ashley Wilson. You weren't supposed to see that."
The words sent cold fear through her. "Who is this? What do you want with my brother?"
"Stay out of it," the man growled.
Even the sound of his voice conjured up images of evil, of a heartless man. "What about David? Can I just get David? Leave him out of this. Please. He's just a child."
Suddenly, the black sedan appeared in her rearview mirror—coming fast and closing the space between them too quickly. Memories of her accident began to crush her last shred of sanity. No, she couldn't let her mind go there. Not now.
She swerved onto a side road, the phone slipping from her hand as she gripped the wheel. She didn't have time to worry about it now. She accelerated. A glance behind her confirmed that the car turned down the same street. A man hung out the side window, a gun in hand.
She had to think, and quickly. She didn't have much time.
Just then, the back glass shattered. She screamed, trying to maintain her control of the car. Wind—cold and sharp—whipped around her. Pellets of glass rained down from her hair. She couldn't drive like this much longer. It wasn't safe—for her or anyone around her.
But her survival instinct was greater than her fear. She had to stay alive—not for her sake, but for David's.
A busy highway waited ahead. Before she reached it, she turned onto another side street. Immediately, she pulled into a parking lot. A shopping center shadowed her car as she drove full-speed in front of the structure. At the corner, she swerved around the building and slammed on the brakes.
Maybe they hadn't seen her. Hopefully, they'd assumed that she'd gone straight.
But just in case they didn't, she grabbed her purse and her phone and jumped out of the car.
Two delivery trucks were parked behind the strip mall, and their drivers were unloading boxes of product. Ashley picked the closest one and ran toward him. He looked up as she approached, his eyebrows furrowed in curiosity.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled, not stopping to ask permission. She ran through the propped-open door instead, darted through the back offices and break room and into a hardware store.
Her gaze fluttered wildly about the building. Where now? Where could she hide?
The black sedan flew past the front windows of the store. They knew she'd come this way. Now what did she do?
She crouched down, waiting until the car disappeared.
Then she sprinted out the front door and toward the opposite end of the row of shops. What store had that other delivery truck been stopped behind? She pictured the design on the truck. Pastries.
Taking a guess, she slipped inside a drug store, running until she reached the back.
"Hey, what are you doing?" A man in a cashier's smock held up a hand to stop her as she charged into the door marked "Employees Only."
"Sorry." She didn't stop to hear his response. She went straight to the back door. She paused there, slowly peeking around the edge of it.
She spotted the black sedan parked haphazardly beside her car. A man jumped from the vehicle and ran in through that same delivery door and into the hardware store. It was only a matter of moments before they found her and killed her. She couldn't let that happen.
The other delivery truck wasn't far away. Only a few feet. The driver had packed up and was climbing into the front. That truck seemed her only hope at the moment.
She crept outside, concealed behind a Dumpster. If she ran, she might make it onto the back of the truck before the driver realized what was happening. She had to. It was her only chance.
Staying low, she slunk toward the truck. The engine started. She didn't have much time. If she was going to make a move, it had to be now.
Lord, help me.
She lunged toward the back door. Her hand connected with the handle.
It opened. Praise God, it opened.
She swung into the back of the truck, colliding with a rack full of prepackaged donuts and cupcakes. She closed the door just as the man in black exited the hardware store.
She was going to get away, she realized.
But her heartbeat didn't slow as she wondered if her brother and nephew would be so fortunate.
Christopher Jordan ran a hand over his face, weariness from a long, hard week of work compounding until a pulsing headache thumped at the back of his head. He'd worked too late—again. Now darkness surrounded his car as he drove the hour back to his house.
He really should buy a place closer to work. But this house had lots of memories for him, and he couldn't give those up yet. He needed those memories now. He needed good memories to push out all of the bad ones.
He turned off the highway, and the streets became quieter, darker. Just like his soul, he thought. Ever since he returned from war, he hadn't felt like himself.
Just how was he going to remedy that?
Good memories, he thought. He just needed to hold on to the good. That, along with his faith in God, would help to pull him through his inner turmoil.
Finally, he turned onto his street. All he could think about was getting home for the weekend, being alone and not doing anything for as long as humanly possible—which meant until Monday came and it was back to work again.
He knew his stress was from more than just his work. He'd only been back from the Middle East for three months, and memories of the place still haunted him. Every night, nightmares jolted him awake. Too many images stained his mind. It seemed as if they'd been imprinted on his soul, and for the rest of his life he'd carry the burden of his time deployed.
He'd gotten out of the military, taken a job as a training specialist at the private security contracting firm Iron, Incorporated, also known as Eyes. He taught tactical training, such as sharpshooting and use of force to lawenforcement groups that came to Eyes for instruction. Eyes worked with both local lawenforcement communities, as well as the Department of Defense, in training personnel, developing programs and equipment, and for other special assignments.
He'd taken the job in hopes of repairing some of the damage his psyche had suffered. He'd thought he was stronger than all of this. But the deaths of those around him had begun to take their toll on him, and now he wondered if he'd ever be the same.
He'd poured himself into work at his new job, hoping to erase the pain. But it was always there, cold and achy and throbbing.
The two-story house that his grandfather had left to him came into view. The place was out in the middle of nowhere. Some would call it isolated. Christopher called it breathing room. He slowed as he turned into his driveway, his headlights skimming the front of the house.
His foot pressed on the brakes. Was that something on his porch? In his rocking chair?
In the dark, he could hardly tell. Something was out of place, but whatever was on the rocking chair only appeared to be a shadow.
He should have left the porch light on, he supposed, but he hadn't thought about it when he left home this morning. Now all of his instincts were on alert. Could it have to do with his SEAL team bringing down the leader of that terrorist group? Had their names been leaked? They'd all be logical targets in the aftermath of the terrorist group's demise.
But especially Christopher. He'd been the one to pull the trigger.
He reached under the front seat and pulled out the gun he kept there. He carried it with him at all times as a part of his job.
Slowly, cautiously, he got out of his car. Yes, there was definitely something on his porch. Or was it someone?
He crept toward the steps. The bitter cold air filled his lungs, heightening his awareness even more. Who would be hanging out on his porch at night? Had one of the terrorists found him?
With his other hand, he fingered the phone in his pocket. Should he call for backup? No, not yet. They'd only think he was paranoid, only push him harder to get more counseling for PTSD. The last thing this soldier wanted to do was talk about his feelings, especially with a stranger.
He scanned the usually welcoming porch again. The railing still looked intact. Even the strands of evergreen that he'd draped there, complete with red Christmas bows, were in place. He didn't see anyone lurking behind the bushes or peeking around the corner of the house.
With the skill of a trained fighter, he climbed the steps, his gun pointed at the figure on his porch. He couldn't see a face. The person appeared to be hiding underneath a coat—arms, legs, face and all.
He cocked his gun, all of his instincts on alert, each of his muscles poised for action. "You have three seconds to show yourself before I fire."
The figure flinched, and a mad fluttering of limbs ensued. Finally, a head popped up. Familiar eyes stared at him, wide with fear. The facts hit him one by one. Honey-blond hair. Oval face. Slim build. He couldn't see the color of her eyes, but he instinctively knew they were blue.
The woman raised a slender hand. "Please, don't shoot. It's me." Her voice sounded soft, lyrical—and desperate.
"Ashley?" He lowered his gun, disbelief washing over him. It couldn't be. No, not Ashley. Not his ex-fiancée, the woman whose heart he'd broken when he'd called off their engagement. Their parting had been one of the most painful conversations he'd ever had, and still when he thought about it today, an ache formed in his chest. He'd had to make a decision between his career or a family. His country had needed him, so he'd chosen his career. He tried to live without regret; he thought he was stronger than that. But whenever he allowed himself to think about Ashley, regret was the very emotion that tried to creep into his mind. He'd loved that woman at one time. Times had changed, though; he had changed.
She nodded slowly, raw emotion lining her eyes. She pulled the white, wool coat around her more tightly as the wind picked up again, sweeping dry leaves across the porch. The sound tightened his nerves.
Instinctively, he stepped closer. He'd both dreamed and had nightmares about this moment for so long. During those dark moments on the battlefield, he'd wondered what it would be like to see Ashley again.
And never had he imagined it like this. Not him with a gun in his hand and her with a look of absolute vulnerability straining each of her lovely features. No, in his moments when he'd faced death, he'd imagined Ashley forgiving him, smiling, picking up where they'd left off. He knew that would never happen. Even if there weren't any hard feelings between them, Christopher knew he was too broken and damaged to be in a relationship right now.
He remembered their last conversation and paused, unsure how to greet her. Not with a hug. Not with the way things had ended. A handshake seemed too formal when considering their past relationship. Instead, he settled for putting his gun away and making an effort to relax his shoulders.
He and Ashley had met at a mutual friend's house on New Year's Eve more than a decade ago, and it had been a textbook case of love at first sight. Not only had he instantly thought she was beautiful, but her smile, her love for life, her hope for the future had hooked him. She'd pulled him out of the shell he easily sucked himself into—most people didn't see it because he'd hidden it well with easygoing small talk. But Ashley had always seen right through him. She had a way about her that made him open up.
Their two years together were filled with easy, effortless moments. Relationships like that didn't happen often. Six months before the wedding, he'd called things off.
Ashley brushed a hair out of her face and licked her lips. Her eyes implored him. "I'm sorry to show up here, but I didn't know where else to go." Her voice sounded tight and strained.
He reached toward her, compassion and concern pounding through his veins, but his hand dropped midway. "Are you okay?"
Posted January 3, 2014
Posted November 24, 2013
After several days of busy-ness, I decided to take the day off and enjoy a good book. I picked up High-Stakes Holiday Reunion by Christy Barritt. I have read several of her books in the past and knew I would enjoy it, and I was right. I read the whole book in a single day, and even when I walked away to do something else, I couldn't wait to get back to it.
If you enjoy romantic suspense, I think you'll like this too.
***I received this book from the author/publisher for the purpose of review. The above is my honest opinion.***
Posted November 12, 2013
Timing is everything! God's timing that is---I actually read this book on Veterans Day. Since this book was about a retuning Navy SEAL and his ex-fiancé, the timing to read this book was excellent. The heart ache of focusing on perfectly serving country or family caused some very difficult times for Christopher and Ashley, who haven't seen each other for almost ten years.
Ashley has come to Christopher for help. She has never forgiven him for choosing country over her, when he broke off their engagement to serve in the SEALs, but now she can think of no one better to help her save her brother and nephew from murderous kidnappers. What Christopher does not know, is that her nephew is really their son. When Christopher hears her pleas, he can't help but come to her aid. Something is strange about these kidnappers though. They seem to want Christy dead---why?!?
This romantic suspense novel involves lots of chases and close calls. Also, lots of tension between Ashley and Christopher as Ashley tries to find the right time to tell Christopher that the boy he's trying to save, is actually his son. Terrorists, a corrupt CEO, PTSD trauma, the FBI and CIA all become involved in this book of who, why and when. But in the end, "All things work for good for them that love The Lord."
I really enjoyed my first time into Christy Barritt's Security Experts books, and I look forward to enjoying all the others ! Definitely a fun experience in God's time!!
Posted November 10, 2013
If you are a Christy Barritt fan, you won't be disappointed in her new Love Inspired Suspense novel, High-Stakes Holiday Reunion. Ashley Wilson has no choice but to seek help from ex-fiance, Christopher Jordan, when her brother and nephew are kidnapped, She hasn't seen Christopher since he chose a military career over their relationship and broke off their engagement years ago. Now Ashley needs his help and expertise in finding the nephew who is really her son---and Christopher's son. They must race against time, terrorist plots, and attempts on their own lives to rescue their loved ones.
You will find yourself caught up in the action and examining the clues along with Ashley and Christopher. The suspense will keep you turning the pages untikl the puzzle is pieced together just in time for Christmas.
Once again, Christy Barritt has crafted a well-written story with lots of suspense and plausible characters. If you read page one, you will have a hard time putting the book down until you read the last word of the epilogue. Thanks again, Christy!!
Susan Simpson, author
Ginger and the Bullym
Posted November 5, 2013
I enjoyed this book very much. In fact I was surprised to open the package and find it, I didn't know it was coming. Thank you Christy! I love LIS books for most part and this one did not disappoint. I enjoyed the high drama as Ashley and Christopher work hard to save her nephew and brother. I loved the wrap up at the end, again I was a bit surprised to see who the bad guy was, but I had a bit of a suspicion towards this one. A great story, set during the holiday season, but the holidays are not a huge part of the story, it is just the season of the year. 4 stars for another exciting Love Inspired Story from Christy Barritt!
This book was provided by the author for review purposes only, no payment was received for this review.