Paint It Blackby Michelle Perry
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After fulfilling a lifelong devotion of bringing her drug lord father to justice, DEA agent Necie Bramhall believes the painful past is finally behind herunaware that she has just created a new, more deadly enemy. Necie's beautiful and ruthless half-sister Maria Barnes, driven by a lifetime of jealousy and enraged by her father's arrest, is bent on destroying everything Necie holds dearstarting with her marriage and family. When Necie's daughter is kidnapped, new revelations show that her imprisoned father, the man she always perceived as her greatest enemy, might be the only one who can save her from Maria's wrath.
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Read an ExcerptPaint it Black
By Michelle Perry Medallion Press, Inc. Copyright © 2008 Michelle Perry
All right reserved.
Chapter One On Thanksgiving morning, we gathered in darkness in an abandoned Sears parking lot. When I exited my ancient Pontiac, I didn't bother to lock it. Hey, if a thief wanted it, more power to him. My defroster had stopped working last week, so-after scratching a clear patch on my iced-over windshield with the edge of a CD case because I couldn't find the scraper-I'd spent the twenty-minute drive scrubbing the fog off the inside windshield with my sleeve, squinting at the road, and trying not to breathe.
Rubbing my hands together, I moved toward the black van. Other agents drifted from the shadows like ghosts. In the predawn hours, the cold November sky cast everything in a strange, monochrome gray tint, making me feel like I was caught in a black-and-white movie. Our dark clothing only added to the effect. We entered the van in a somber procession that made my throat ache, because this wasn't like any raid I'd ever been on.
There was no AC/DC Back in Black blasting from the speakers, none of the pumped-up, adrenaline-laced chatter. No Johnny Angel asking if I wanted to sit on his lap.
"Hey, Chief, I'm askin', not harassin'," he'd joke when Bill shot him a stern look.
Today, the inside of the van was utterly silent. Pale, worried faces gazed at me and nodded in greeting, all except one. With his head in his hands, Cougar hunched forward on the edge of the bench that lined the sides of the van. His unruly brown hair peeked from beneath the edge of his black knit cap. I slid in beside him and squeezed his arm.
He glanced at me with bloodshot blue eyes, then leaned back. His gloved hand grasped mine, a gesture that would've normally inspired any number of rude comments and catcalls. But not today.
Instead, Luke Jacobi, the agent on my right, took my other hand and reached for the man on his right. In a show of solidarity that made my eyes burn, agent after agent linked hands with the man on either side, until at last Bill clasped Cougar's and completed the circle.
Tucker Fitzgerald cleared his throat. "Our Father, please extend your protection over the men ..." He glanced at me. "-and woman-assembled here today, and most especially protect our brother, Angel. Guide us in our mission, and deliver him unto us unharmed in body and spirit."
We all echoed his amen and the circle broke. When I attempted to release Cougar's hand, he gripped my fingers and refused to let go. That was okay. He and Angel were like brothers, and I knew he was taking this harder than anyone. If holding his hand gave him some comfort, I was glad to do it, because I damn sure couldn't think of anything reassuring to say. Angel had vanished yesterday in the middle of an undercover operation, and I think we all assumed the worst. Even the DA had finally stopped dragging his feet and drafted a search warrant for the estate of Frank Barnes, a suspected class one drug dealer.
Usually, riding in the van didn't bother me, but today my stomach lurched when we took the curves. This was the fulfillment of a dream for me, a lifelong quest for revenge, but suddenly Frank Barnes didn't matter. Seeing him punished didn't matter; I only wanted my friend to be alive.
"Almost there," the driver said.
We threw on tactical gear and checked our weapons. Our badges hung on cords around our necks, and I pulled Cougar's from beneath his shirt. When the van braked to a stop, Bill barked, "Go, go, go!" and threw open the door. We hit the ground running.
ATF agents spilled from another van and surged in front of us with a battering ram. They splintered the front door while we raced around back. For a few seconds, it was chaos. Agents shouted "ATF!" or "DEA!" or simply "Police!" when we stormed inside. Someone was screaming "Down! Down! Down!" but there was no one inside to get down.
The mansion seemed utterly vacant, but we didn't slow down until we'd searched every room, every closet. Cougar and I swept the last room together.
Cougar kicked the bedroom door. It cracked against the wall hard enough to knock a hole in the plaster. He turned and stalked out of the room.
"Cougar, no!" I yelled, not really knowing what I was telling him not to do, but alarmed by the fury on his face. I raced back down the stairs on his heels. He stopped on the landing, yanked his helmet off, and hurled it across the room. It bounced off the paneled wall with a loud thwack, and he turned his stormy eyes on me. "Barnes knew, Necie. He knew we were coming, just like he knew Angel was a cop." He pointed over my shoulder and shouted, "Which one of you bastards is working for him?"
Pressing my hands against Cougar's chest, I glanced behind me at the cluster of men. Karl and the ATF agent beside him glared back. Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed Cougar's arm and dragged him outside. He let me, or otherwise I couldn't have budged him.
Snow fluttered from the sky, and the cold wind shrieked around us, whipping my hair in my face. We stood on the back deck facing each other while the tiny white flakes swirled around us.
"Cougar, listen to me," I said, but he was staring over my shoulder, through the patio doors. Grabbing his chin, I forced him to look at me. The despair in his eyes made my stomach clench. "Listen," I repeated, softer this time. "You can't throw accusations like that around. I know-"
"I know, too," he said, his face reddening. "Angel didn't mess up. Someone sold him out."
The words hung between us, and I had to admit, I believed it, too.
Cougar shook his head, the muscle in his jaw working furiously. "There's no way Barnes could've known unless there was a mole."
The whine of a motorcycle interrupted our conversation. A hooded rider exploded around the corner on a yellow Yamaha and raced toward the woods. Cougar and I vaulted the railing and took off after him.
Cougar entered the forest a few steps ahead of me. When he lurched to a stop, I collided into his back and knocked us both down on the slippery leaves.
Scrambling to his feet, he never even looked at me. I peered around him to see what had his attention.
Angel sat on the ground, tied to a tree, with his long legs splayed out in front of him. Snow dusted his black jeans like powdered sugar, and his chin rested against his chest. Blood streaked the front of his white T-shirt.
Half-running, half-stumbling, Cougar raced toward him, the motorcyclist forgotten. He grabbed a fistful of Angel's black hair and jerked his head up.
A tiny black hole burned in the middle of his forehead.
"No!" I screamed-or at least I think I did.
The howling wind abruptly died, leaving behind a moment of utter stillness and silence.
Angel's eyes fluttered open, and he stared at Cougar.
"Hey, man," he said. "I'm freezing. Get me up from here."
Excerpted from Paint it Black by Michelle Perry Copyright © 2008 by Michelle Perry. 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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Meet the Author
Michelle Perry is the author of Cain & Abel, In Enemy Hands, and Three Motives for Muder. She lives in Tracy City, Tennessee.
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Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Necie Bramhall joined the department as a means to achieving her life goal. She feels the DEA will enable her to destroy her father, a notorious drug lord father, who deserted her and her mother years ago. To her euphoric surprise Necie succeeds in capturing her father his incarceration makes her wonder now what though she hopes to move on with her life.---------------- However, Necie is unaware that revenge breeds more vengeance as her unknown half sister Maria Barnes hates her. She has spent her lifetime hearing from their father how wonderful his other daughter is. She plans to prove to her dad that she is the chip off the old block who would never betray him by ruthlessly destroying Necie¿s family staring with the abduction of her niece. Necie¿s only hope to save her daughter from her half sister lies with the man who sired her, the man she placed behind bars her daughter¿s paternal grandfather.--------------------- This is an exciting suspense thriller starring a dysfunctional family. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Necie captures her dad while Maria captures her niece. Although a bit over the top, fans will not care as the action keeps on coming with twists and spins everywhere while readers anticipate one wild family gathering in which ironically it started on Thanksgiving.---------- Harriet Klausner