In the Air Tonight (Shadow Force Series #3)

( 53 )

Overview

With danger closing in, all they have is each other.
 
Haunted by a mission he barely survived, Delta Force operative Mace Stevens still carries a soldier’s burden. Running a small bar in upstate New York, he remains a stone-cold warrior who guards dangerous secrets and stays ready for anything. Anything except beautiful, vulnerable Paige Grayson, who shows up at his door, demanding answers about her ...
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Overview

With danger closing in, all they have is each other.
 
Haunted by a mission he barely survived, Delta Force operative Mace Stevens still carries a soldier’s burden. Running a small bar in upstate New York, he remains a stone-cold warrior who guards dangerous secrets and stays ready for anything. Anything except beautiful, vulnerable Paige Grayson, who shows up at his door, demanding answers about her heroic stepbrother’s death under his command.

Paige bears burdens, too. She’s plagued by demons unleashed by an older brother who committed mass murder before her eyes. But here in this snowy haven with Mace, she almost feels safe from the menacing promises of her insane sibling. As a nurse whose hands can read the deepest thoughts of anyone she touches, Paige knows that Mace needs her as desperately as she needs Mace. And when a faceless killer begins unleashing fresh terror, Mace proves just how far he will go to save the woman who means everything to him.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Red-hot romance. White-knuckle suspense." —-Lara Adrian
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440423034
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Series: Shadow Force Series , #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 621,267
  • Product dimensions: 4.08 (w) x 6.94 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Tyler is the author of the Shadow Force novels Lie to Me, Promises in the Dark, and In the Air Tonight and the Navy SEAL trilogy: Hard to Hold, Too Hot to Hold, and Hold On Tight. She lives in New York with her husband, her daughter, and a crazy Weimaraner named Gus.

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Read an Excerpt

9780440423034|excerpt

Tyler: IN THE AIR TONIGHT

1

The gun pressed to the side of Paige’s bare neck, the cold barrel barely registering against her skin. She’d gone numb. Her hands gripped the beefy arm across her throat—it was close to choking her, pulling so hard her feet were nearly off the floor.

She tried to balance on her toes, but Wayne was moving backward, dragging her into the bowels of the ER and away from security.

The smells accosted her. Stale air. Rubbing alcohol and air freshener. Fear and death. No matter how well it was cleaned, those odors would never cease, embedded into the hospital as surely as they were into her senses.

In the background, she heard the cacophony—sirens and the screams of the patients and her co-workers—heard someone trying to reason with the man who’d taken her hostage.

“Mr. Wallace . . . Wayne, please, you don’t have to do this.”

Jeffrey, please—put the gun down, don’t do this.

The echo in her head threatened to take over everything, even as she told herself fiercely that this wasn’t the same situation—that the man holding her wasn’t her brother and that none of this was remotely personal.

Less than an hour ago, EMTs had brought in Cindy Wallace—she’d been beaten and at first insisted that she’d fallen down stairs. Paige had worked here long enough to recognize the signs, the excuses, the fear etched into the fine lines in the woman’s worn face.

After a few moments alone with Paige, Cindy had admitted her husband had been abusing her for years. She hadn’t offered up much more than that, but it had only taken Paige one touch with a bare palm to know the full story, her gift of psychometry working overtime—and she’d called the social worker down immediately. And the police.

And then she’d put on exam gloves so she wouldn’t have to feel more of Cindy’s pain.

But she hadn’t realized the extent of Wayne Wallace’s anger, hadn’t taken it seriously enough when Cindy told her that Wayne had gone so far over the edge that he would do anything not to be separated from her.

The police were searching for him. And Paige had been so intent on taking care of Cindy that neither of them had noticed Wayne sneaking into the curtained area.

They’d noticed when he grabbed Paige and held his gun on her, though.

“I’m not leaving here without you,” Wayne was saying now as he dragged her, Cindy following along, until they reached an empty room where he herded them inside, ordering his wife to shut the door behind her.

Time and space shattered inside Paige’s head when the door closed—everything slowed to the point of nearly stopping and her heart throbbed in her ears.

You’ve done this before—stay calm.

And suddenly she was fourteen again, the ER was the high school cafeteria and the man doing the shooting wasn’t an overweight bully who abused his wife, it was her brother, Jeffrey, and he would make headlines for the school shooting.

She forced her mind to the present. One wrong move—by anyone—and things could get ugly fast. Especially because the police were here—she’d heard them calling out to Wayne to answer the phone in the room, which he ignored. Cindy was screaming at her husband, the three of them trapped together and Paige wished Cindy would be quiet, wished everyone would shut up and stop talking.

But nothing ever stopped in the ER—especially when it was a matter of life and death.

If she could get the examination gloves off her hands, she might be able to help herself. Or she might make things worse. But there was no way this could end well. She refused to let it drag on for hours.

Her gift was both a blessing and a curse, sometimes both at once. She’d been using it for as long as she could remember—inadvertently when she was a child; later, when she’d begun to dread its intrusion, she’d taken to wearing gloves or pulling the sleeves of her shirts well past her fingertips as a defense. She’d even gone as far as to tattoo symbols of protection on the insides of both wrists, although they didn’t seem to be much help at the moment. She was alive, yes, but the symbols were there more to keep the evil she touched from invading her.

This time, it might be her only hope for surviving.

Sliding her hands along his arm as if trying for a better grip, the latex began to roll off her palms. Halfway off and the images came through—ones she didn’t want to see. Broken bones and blood and screams nearly shredded her with pain . . . this was all a part of Cindy’s daily life.

Shoulda killed the bitch when I had the chance.

God, was there anything Paige could see that would help her?

“You beat her yesterday and again this morning,” Paige said, her voice hoarse and breathless, and his grip went slack for a second before tightening.

“Shut up, bitch.”

She tightened her own grip on his forearm, letting her hands take in the violence and pain that threatened to shatter her. It was why she worked a job where no one considered it odd that she wore gloves all the time. “You lost your job again yesterday. And you were so angry that you came home to Cindy, tried to have sex, and then you hit her when you couldn’t get hard.”

Wayne shifted suddenly so he faced her, and before she could move away he had her by the throat, his fingers wrapped tight around her neck, closing her windpipe. Her only recourse was to grab at his wrist with both hands, but he was remarkably strong—and dead inside. That’s all she saw, anger and death—no hope, no love.

Nothing.

She was light-headed, opened her mouth but no words came out. Wayne pointed his gun at Cindy as he slowly took away Paige’s entire supply of air.

“Leave her alone, you pathetic asshole.” Cindy’s voice had gone from near hysteria to calm, and Paige recognized that tone. Cindy had decided she had nothing to lose.

She would egg her husband on until he killed her.

He keeps getting out on technicalities. His dad’s a cop—they always let him go, she’d whispered in response to Paige’s earlier question about pressing charges.

“You don’t tell me what to do. If you’d listen to me, the way you’re supposed to, this never would’ve happened.” Wayne’s voice was furious, full of guilt and blame—all things Paige recognized.

“You can’t get it up, and I can’t wait to tell everyone about your limp dick.” Cindy’s words were as deliberate and malicious as her husband’s fists had been to her face.

They did the job, because Wayne released Paige by slamming her body against the nearest wall. She hit her head hard against it and fell to the floor. From there, she saw Wayne lunge forward to squeeze his wife’s throat, tighter, until Paige saw Cindy’s eyes bulge and her face turn reddish purple. One of the officers who’d slammed through the door earlier, when Wayne had crashed the bed he’d been holding Cindy down on to the floor, wouldn’t let Paige up, no matter how hard she fought.

Then, a doctor came in, armed with a syringe. With the help of the officer trying to subdue Wayne, the doctor jammed the needle directly into Wayne’s neck.

Finally, the drug worked its magic, shattering the insanity and everything went mercifully quiet. Wayne’s big body slumped down on top of his wife’s prone one, but it didn’t matter anymore. Cindy was gone; Wayne would go to prison for murder, and Paige was back in that awful time in her life when everything had suddenly turned from good to bad.

The entire situation had taken an hour.

“Ma’am, it’s over.” One of the police officers was attempting to help her up from the floor. She wanted to stay there, on the cold linoleum, to curl up and sob, but her pride wouldn’t let her. At least not in front of strangers.

She stood and allowed herself be led through the crowd. Her breath came in harsh gasps, part fear and partly because Wayne had held her neck so tightly. She would have bruises there by morning, as well as along her side where she’d landed when he’d tossed her. Her body ached, her head throbbed and her nerves were worn down to the nub.

In the hallway, she was vaguely aware she’d passed by doctors, nurses and orderlies, heard their murmurs of concern. She didn’t want any of it.

Finally, the officer escorted her behind a curtain where Carole Ann, a woman she’d known since she first started working here, was waiting for her. She was the charge nurse in the ER and dealt with the stress of the job easily. She didn’t play favorites and she was excellent at her job. She was also the one person Paige had given her personal information to, although she would hesitate to call Carole Ann a good friend. Paige had shared her cell phone number and a few meals with the woman—the barest slice of her life. And yet, it was far more than she’d let anyone in for a long time.

“I’m fine,” Paige insisted to Carole Ann now, but her barely there voice said otherwise.

“Yeah, I’ll let you know when you’re fine,” Carole Ann said with a smile—an old joke of theirs, as those were Paige’s first words to her when they worked together. She sat patiently as Carole Ann examined her. She knew the bruises on her throat were already showing, no doubt a deep purplish red. “I failed her,” she said finally. Quietly.

Carole Ann crossed her arms and shook her head. “Paige, you were almost killed by that guy—he was out of control. There was nothing you could’ve done.”

Nothing you could’ve done, honey, no way for you to know what your brother was capable of doing.

They all said that at first, until their pain hardened to anger and the town began pointing fingers at Paige’s parents, at Paige.

No one would ever be friends with her if they remained in that town. As it was, no one wanted to be her friend later, either, once they found out who she was. Except for her stepbrother, Gray—her fiercest protector. Her best friend.

Her heart surged with loneliness, because Gray was gone. This time he wasn’t coming back the way he had all the other times he’d gone off on a mission for Delta Force.

He’d died three months earlier—she hadn’t been informed until two weeks ago, when his body had finally been released with no explanation as to why it had taken so long to be told of the tragedy.

Gray’s body had been sent to her stepfather, Joseph—Gray’s father—out in Arizona and she’d flown out for the burial, stayed in his one-bedroom townhouse. God, that had been depressing. Joseph was in a wheelchair, attached twenty-four seven to an oxygen tank because of advanced emphysema.

Everyone close to her was either dead or dying.

“She started drinking again,” Joseph had said about her mother, who’d died a year earlier. They’d visited her grave after Gray’s service. “It was so hard on her. You understand that, right?”

She did, although it always bothered her that her mother didn’t seem to think it was hard on Paige. But all of their lives had changed that sunny May afternoon; and now, her older brother, Jeffrey, was in a maximum security institution for life.

“Maybe you should take the time you’ve got coming,” Carole Ann suggested as she wrote Paige a prescription for pain pills and gave her a shot of a steroid to shrink the swelling in her throat. “Take a vacation. They’re going to force the issue anyway, make you visit the shrink.”

She knew that Carole Ann was probably right. Getting away from here and taking some of her accrued vacation time would be a nice way out for the hospital administration and would disperse the reporters who, like vultures, had no doubt been outside in the parking lot for the duration of the incident. “I don’t know where I’d go.”

“Someplace not as heavy. Which is any damned place but this hellhole.”

Paige couldn’t explain that she needed to be here, to feel the heaviness. Instead, she stared down at the tattooed stars on her inner wrists and wondered if they protected her from anything at all. “Thanks, Carole Ann—I’ll think about it.”

“Good. Go home and rest. I don’t want to see you back here for at least forty-eight hours, and I’d prefer a week.” Carole Ann used her best nurse’s-orders tone, then stepped away from Paige and headed back to work. Business as usual.

The dizziness had stopped. Her throat still ached—the hoarseness would take days to go away—but she hated being treated like a victim. She wasn’t in this case—Cindy Wallace was. And so she slid off the exam table and headed out to the main part of the ER.

It was quiet—too much so—and tension bowed the air as she walked toward the main information desk. It was usually bustling, no one staying in place for very long, but they’d stopped taking patients and now all she saw were people’s backs as their faces remained glued to the television mounted on the wall above the station.

She saw the front of the hospital and pictures of the Wallaces flashed on the screen. Next was the picture from her ID badge, looking humorless and sallow. She grimaced a little, but if that was her worst problem . . .

It wasn’t.

Her face was still on the TV screen, but now it was a younger version—that file photo of her at fourteen that the press had used over and over again when the school shooting first happened.

She knew the one they would show next—the one of her wearing a bloodied shirt, being escorted out of the school . . . and then her kneeling on the pavement.

There had been a recent school shooting. Whenever that happened, it was inevitable that Jeffrey’s name would come up—as sure as it was that they’d mention Columbine. This time there was even more interest because of Jeffrey’s transfer to the mental health section of the prison. They claimed it was just as secure as the main prison itself, but she’d worked with her share of psych patients and, in her opinion, they could be far more devious than regular criminals, without being obvious about it. Often underestimated, they would appear catatonic and still steal your keys to the ward.

It’s prison, it’s different, she repeated to herself.

Her brother and what he’d done had been her secret since before she’d moved here to this large New York hospital. She was twenty-six and she still looked slightly haunted, some might say, and anonymity was something she craved, something she needed as much as air.

Even though she used her stepfather’s last name, it would be easy enough to tie her to the horrible tragedy that had occurred. It was so far in the past for most people that she’d thought that by now it was safe. But she of all people should have known better. She would never be safe from any of it.

Still, the news report signaled the first time anyone had found her since she’d gone off to college. She’d kept her identity hidden, cut her hair short and dyed it darker, wore glasses even though she didn’t need them and made up a fictional background that basically left her an orphan.

Now she wore her hair long and back to its natural blond. She had also ditched the glasses because she was old enough not to be recognized as the girl she’d once been. But as of today, her security was gone.

The entire staff was glued to the television—one by one, they’d turn surreptitiously to look at her, to try to see the resemblance between her and that young girl in shock. She could see the questions in their eyes, and she understood.

Everyone wanted to know what it was like to live with evil. She would do anything in her power if she could only forget.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 53 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 55 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A lot happening, but it's good!

    My Review:
    This novel features several characters with a LOT of emotional trauma that they are dealing with...as well as a LOT of current danger and stress. There is a lot happening in this book with these poor characters that really could use a break.


    Mace & Cael are on leave from their time with the Delta forces. They have just come back from a mission where they were captured and tortured. This was the same mission where Paige's brother, Gray, was killed. Cael is dealing with amnesia from the incident and no one really knows what happened with him. They need him to get his memory back, but no one is sure if that recollection will actually turn out to be a good thing when clues start to indicate that he may have been drugged to the point where he hurt some of the team members, including the murder of Gray. Lots of prolonged stress and nightmares for all involved in this.


    Then there is Paige. She grew up with an evil brother who murdered her friends in a huge school shooting when she was in high school. She has been dealing with his evil her entire life, but now he is currently in a psychiatric prison. Paige also has psychometric hands...if she touches a person or certain objects, she can read their history.


    There are also several additional characters that run along the periphery of the story. Vivi, the girl that Cael loves, but doesn't remember. She has decided not to wait for him any longer so has come to him in upstate NY. There is also the additional team members of the Delta team, Kell & Reid, who all pop in and out of the story as they are also dealing with the stress from the mission that went completely wrong. Then there are Dylan & Zane (Cael's brothers) and Cam & Noah and Keagen, the bartender with the motorcycle gang past


    EVERYONE at the bar is dealing with all of this...along with a string of mysterious murders, a rogue motorcycle gang, and just the daily stresses of running a bar in upstate NY in the dead of winter when most people are getting a little stir-crazy.


    There is so MUCH going on in this story, that it seems like the main story would get lost in the shuffle and confusion, but Stephanie makes it work. Her stories always seem to feature sub-plots, but wow, this one had a lot. Nevertheless, the book flows really well and it doesn't seem like too much until after the book when you start to reflect on all the different aspects of the book. LOL! She pulls it off and pulls it off really well. I loved all the different characters, the different story lines, the different aspects to the suspense lines. It was all really good. Fantastic, riveting reading. Another great installment to this fantastic series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Read

    I loved this book. it was full of suspense. Like both Paige and Gray

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    .

    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2012

    Awesome

    Better than the first two books and they were great. Read the book twice before going to the next one in the series

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    Heart racing read!

    This is the third book in this series and I'm so glad that it did not lose any wind! Great team adventure, feisty mates, scarey sickoes and as I stated before, just the right amount of passion. Really great writing.

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  • Posted February 18, 2012

    good read

    A good series to get into. Didn't want to put the book down. Love to follow the men.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    Thank God

    I felt like I waited forever for this to come out! (I didn't...but still.) I am, and will forever will be inspired by Stephanie Tyler's writing. I am an avid reader and when I get one of her books it's like Christmas. This was an one of the most enjoyable two days of quiet I've ever had. Thank you so much!! Buy this book!! Whether it's for an eReader, paperback, or hard cover...just DO IT!!!

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    Very secretive!

    I usually love this author. Unfortunately, it was very secretiive and took away from the story. It could have been a stronger story. I kept reading.... hoping it would get more personal.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    Another Shadow Force HIT

    I have to admit, when I first started reading this book, I was leery of Paige's "gift". My thoughts were, this is a romantic suspense novel, not a paranormal novel. The "gift" could have turned cheesy really quickly, but Stephanie Tyler pulled it off beautifully. I have loved each of the Shadow Force books, but I have to say, I think this is my favorite. I remember thinking a few times, holy cow this girl has been through the ringer, is there HEA that is actually going to happen? There were so many emotional scenes, and several with Caleb that actually made me cry right along with the characters. The thing I love most about these characters is the family unit they have made. I can't decide who I want to learn more about, Kell or Reid, but it is a good thing Kell is next, I think I have a crush on him.

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  • Posted July 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fans will enjoy this exciting romantic suspense

    Though the Delta Force unit anticipated danger with some probably not returning except in a bag, the missions proved extremely harrowing (see Promises In The Dark and Lie With Me). Thus the black ops soldiers look forward to some needed R&R.

    Caleb Scott and Mace Stevens head to the latter's bar in upstate New York to grieve the loss of teammates. Entering Mace's establishment is twenty-six years old Paige Grayson, stepsister of their late teammate Gray. Paige, who has the uncanny ability to read minds, demands Mace tell her what happened to her sibling who was under his command; at the same time Caleb suffering from memory loss fears he killed Gray. She also feels safe in Mace's presence and that has not happened in a long time. Paige knows her psychopath murdering older brother Jeffrey escaped the mental war of a prison and now stalks her. However, she has lost some of her focus because of her attraction to Mace; likewise for the same reason he fails to appreciate the danger she is in.

    Though a bit over the top, the Delta Force duet finds home leave as harrowing as being on a mission. The story line is more taut psychological suspense and less overt action than the previous thrillers, but that brings freshness to the saga. Fans will enjoy this exciting romantic suspense as Mace's motive for being with Paige initially was a promise he made to Gray but now a promise his heart made.

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 21, 2011

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