Omega Sector: Critical Response agent Jon Hatton is running out of options. If he doesn't get a decent lead soon, a serial rapist will strike again. His best chances lie with the intuitive skills of forensic artist Sherry Mitchell, a beautiful woman struggling with PTSD.
In exchange for her help, Jon teaches Sherry to manage her symptoms, and soon they are unable to resist their Texas-hot attraction. With Jon as her lifeline, Sherry uncovers clues that prompt a frightening message from the attacker. Jon knows Sherry's determined to help catch this criminal, but keeping her safe is his top priority. Followed by making her his bride.
About the Author
Janie lives with her husband and four children in Germany, in support of her husband's U.S. Department of Defense job. Janie enjoys traveling, long-distance running, movies of all kinds, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
For more: www.janiecrouch.com
Read an Excerpt
Sherry Mitchell was pretty sure she was the only tourist on the beaches of Corpus Christi, Texas, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jeans to try to help her relax. Especially since the late-afternoon heat was expected to spike toward one hundred degrees on this June day.
Granted, she was under a large, colorful beach umbrella that threw enough shade to protect her from a great deal of the sun's rays and the heat. She was from Houstona Texas girl born and bredso was perhaps a little more adjusted to the heat than some of the tourists used to more temperate climates. But she'd still received a couple of odd glances.
She had her bathing suita red bikini she'd bought last week especially for this vacationon under her clothes. Somehow she hadn't been able to force herself to wear just the tiny scraps of cloth just yet.
Not that they were that tiny. The suit itself was pretty modest compared to some seen around here on any given day. Not to mention, it was quite attractive on her.
The problem wasn't anything to do with a bathing suit or modesty or appearances at all. The problem was the iciness that seemed to have permeated Sherry's very core recently.
She felt cold almost all the time. As if she would never be warm again.
Intellectually she knew that couldn't be true. She knew this feelinga chill even in upper-90s weatherwas all a product of her mind, her psyche. Her body wasn't really cold. She didn't have some rare disease or unknown illness. It was all inside her head. She'd taken her temperature to make sure.
It had been completely normal.
Nothing was wrong with her physically. She'd double-checked with her doctor. Gone in for a physical. "A couple-years-late, quarter-of-a-century checkup," she'd told him, not wanting to bring up the fact that she had the heater running at her house even though winter had long since passed.
Ironically the doctor had not only declared her completely healthy, but had congratulated her on being more grounded and wise than many people her age who tended to avoid physicals until something was wrong.
Sherry didn't avoid physicals. But it seemed that her mind was doing its best to avoid reality.
She pulled her shirt around her more tightly. It wasn't just the cold. She also couldn't stand the thought of being exposed, of sitting out here with no cover. As if the clothing she wore would somehow keep her insides from fragmenting into a million pieces and flying away.
Icy and fragmented. Two words she would never have used to describe herself a year ago now fit her perfectly. She had seen too much, been close to too many people with shattered lives. Had worked for too long without a break, without giving herself a chance to recharge. To heal.
Now her mind was evidently taking over that duty for Sherry. She was getting a break from her work whether she wanted it or not.
Because if she thought the cold was bad on normal occasions, it was downright frigid every time she tried to pick up a pencil and sketch pad.
They both sat beside her under the umbrella on their own towel. She was further from picking them up than she was from stripping down to just her bathing suit and frolicking in the sun.
She missed drawing. Creating the pictures of what she saw in her head. And more recently, creating the pictures other people saw in their heads.
Unfortunately those had turned out to be hideous monsters. A shiver rushed through her and she brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them and rocking herself slightly back and forth.
At one time she had drawn every day, all the time. Growing up, she'd drawn or painted or colored on anything she could get her hands on: notebook paper, computer paper, the insides of book covers.
As she'd gotten older and realized there were actual art supplies she could buy, she'd rarely been without a sketch pad. Drawing was a part of her. All her friends had learned that Sherry would always be drawingand usually drawing the people around herno matter what else was going on. They'd accepted her; had learned that just because there was a pencil flying in her hand and her nose was in her sketchbook didn't mean she was ignoring them.
Her passion had driven her parentsboth successful business owners, neither of them with any artistic ability or inclinationa little nuts. Both of them had small companies that could be handed down to Sherry if she would just do the smart thing: go to college and get a business degree. Or even better, a double major in business and something equally useful such as marketing or finance.
Sherry had double-majored, but in what she had found interesting: art and psychology. The psychology mostly because understanding what was going on inside the human mind made for more compelling drawings.
For the four years right after college Sherry had found moderate success in the art world. She wasn't ever going to be rich, but she at least didn't have to wait tables.
Then two years ago she'd stumbled onto what some people in law enforcement had termed her "obvious calling."
Sherry could admit it was the perfect blend of her natural artistic gifting and what she'd learned with her psychology degree. Once the FBI had learned that she was so good at it, she'd worked consistentlyreally beyond full-timefor them for the past two years. But if she had known the cost would be her love and passion for drawing, she had to wonder if she would ever have gotten involved with the FBI in the first place.
That seemed like such a selfish statement. She didn't like to think that she would give up the breakthroughs she'd made in cases, the criminals she'd had a part in helping apprehend, just because it made her not want to draw anymore.
But she hadn't even so much as picked up drawing materials for pleasure in more than six months. For the past five months, she'd drawn what she'd needed to for cases, although it had been difficult.
Then last month, after a particularly brutal case, the cold had started. She'd barely made it through her last two cases after that. Her boss at the FBI was glad Sherry was taking a couple of weeks off. It would allow her to "recover and come back fully recharged and ready to do what she did bestlisten to a victim, get the picture in her mind and draw it so lawenforcement officers could put another bad guy away."
That was a direct quote. And pretty much the farthest from reality than Sherry had ever felt.
How could she be ready to jump back into forensic art when, even now on vacation, with the vast beauty of the Gulf in front of her fairly begging Sherry to attempt to capture its beauty on paper, she couldn't even pick up a pencil?
All she could do was keep from shivering and flying apart.
It was the third day of her two-week vacation in Corpus Christi. She'd actually made it outside today rather than just looking at the water from her house on the beach, one her parents owned but never used. So maybe she should cut herself a little slack.
She had made it to the beach today. That was enough. Tomorrow she would go a little further. Would actually pull out her sketch pad and draw something, even if it resembled a kindergartener's stick figure. And even if she had to put a coat on to do it.
Maybe the day after that she'd actually take off her polar tundra gear and dip her feet in the Gulf. One thing Sherry had learned from working over and over with traumatized people was that you just had to take it a little bit at a time. It was okay to expect that same slow progress from herself.
In a few minutes she'd be driving into downtown Corpus Christi to pick up her friend Caroline. They'd gone to college in Dallas at the same time and had taken a few psychology classes together and then kept in touch. Caroline was a paramedic here in the city.
Sherry would at least slip on a short-sleeved blouse and skirt before meeting her friend. Caroline was already concerned about her. She would be even more worried if Sherry showed up dressed as she was now, particularly in this heat. Sherry hadn't shared what was going on with hershe hadn't wanted to worry her friend. But even without talking about it, she knew Caroline was concerned.
Dinner and margaritas on the back patio of Pier 99, a pier turned restaurant on North Beach, with a good friend and no pressures sounded perfect to Sherry.
No trauma. No stress. No need to force herself to draw. Just margaritas.
Jon Hatt n had a barbecue brisket sandwichhe wasn't ashamed to admit that he'd developed an addiction to the Texas staple in his week of being herealmost up to his mouth when he received the brief text. Another rape victim. Memorial.
Even though it broke part of his heart, he dropped his half-eaten sandwich and stood.
Jon threw down a twenty, more than enough to pay for his meal at the diner plus leave the waitress a hefty tip, and was running out the door less than fifteen seconds after he received the text.
CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus ChristiMemorial for shortwas right smack in the middle of downtown. Jon knew where Memorial was. But not because of any information local law enforcement had provided him, only because of the maps he had studied.
Corpus Christi PD was pretty pissed that Jon, a member of Omega Sector: Critical Response Division, was even here. They had made it clear they didn't find his skills as a behavioral analyst and expertise in crisis management needed or welcomed.
That was just too damn bad because they very definitely had a crisis on their hands. Corpus Christi had a serial rapist on the loose.
Five rapes in just over eight weeks. Actually six now, if the current woman in the hospital was also a victim. The local police, as probably any police force of a city this size, didn't have the resources to deal with this type of situation. People were in a panic and no breaks had been made on the case.
Corpus Christi PD had wanted to handle the situation themselves. But once the story made national news, that option was no longer available.
Omega had been called in and Jon, highly experienced with situations where multiple skills would be necessaryprofiling, crime and linkage analysis, investigative suggestions, multiagency coordinationhad been sent.
Jon was good at seeing the overall big picture, at catching details other people sometimes missed. At taking all the individual pieces involved in a case of this magnitude and putting them together so that the whole was more than the sum of the parts.
He was also a pilot, an excellent sharpshooter and could kill a man a dozen different ways with his bare hands. But that probably wasn't in his official dossier.
No matter what list of credentials Omega had provided for Jon's arrival to help with this case, it hadn't made any difference with the locals. Every piece of information was only reluctantly shared. Jon was the last person notified for any possible lead.
But call him Rhett Butler because, frankly, Jon didn't give a damn. He wasn't in Corpus Christi to sit around holding hands and singing "Kumbaya." He was here to stop a predator from victimizing more women.
A particularly smart predator who was too clever to leave behind any evidence so far.
So it wasn't as if the Christi locals could be accused of not doing their jobs properly. Jon hadn't been able to make as much as a single crack in the case himself, despite the time he'd spent in his week here interviewing victims and studying patterns.
It was a frustrating feeling when all he could do was wait for the bad guy to strike again and hope for a mistake. Not a feeling Jon was used to or that sat well with him.
This was the first victim that had been reported since Jon had arrived in town. He planned to make sure there wasn't a next, regardless of how cooperative the Corpus Christi PD was. Or wasn't.
The text notifying him of the victim hadn't come from a member of the police department. Oh, Jon had no doubt they would eventually get around to notifying him of the victim's existence. After all, none of them wanted to be accused of deliberately keeping info from him. But God only knew when that would actually be.
The text had come from Caroline Gill, a paramedic. Jon had met and befriended her and her partner, Michael Dutton, earlier in the week when he'd interviewed them about victim number two, whom they'd also transported a few weeks ago.
Dutton and Gill weren't threatened by Jon's presence here. They had talked openly with him about what they knew, what they'd heard. Jon had even asked them their theories about the case, since they had been the first people on one of the crime scenes.
Perhaps the paramedics' opinions wouldn't amount to anything useful whatsoever. But Jon had been doing this job for Omega Sector long enough to know that a break in a case could often come from unusual sources.
At the very least, his willingness to listen to them had gotten him the text that had him now driving through the city as fast as he safely could.
Jon parked at the closest nonemergency spot he could find at Memorial and jogged to the sliding glass of the emergency entrance door, ignoring the muggy heat that was so unlike the weather in his home state of Colorado. He pulled out his credentials to show the nurse at the front desk, explaining who he was here to see. He was glad when he saw Sara Beth Carreker, the head nurse who had worked in Emergency for years, walk up. Jon had talked to her a few days ago, also, since all the victims had been brought to Memorial's Emergency Trauma Center.
Nurse Carreker's nod was brisk. "I'll show you back there myself. The patient has been moved into one of the private trauma care rooms." Her lips pinched together. "I take it that's a bad sign?"
The nurse glanced at him as they walked down the hall. "Medically, it's pretty neutral. Just my opinion, of course. You'll have to ask the doctor for a professional statement." The older woman's eyes argued that she had seen more and probably knew more than a lot of the young doctors around here.
"So, physically she'll recover. That's not why she's in the room." Jon's words weren't questions.
"Yes." Nurse Carreker nodded as they turned a corner. "Emotionally that woman needs as much privacy as she can get."
"Anything you can tell me about her?"
"Young. A local. African-American this time, so that's a little different. But the same type of bruising and cra-niofacial trauma."
A black female. Jon's jaw clenched. The demographic pattern of the women who had been attacked was widely varied, almost unheard of in a serial rapist. It was one of the reasons Corpus Christi PD had resisted asking for any federal help. Since serial rapists usually had a set type of woman they attacked, the department hadn't thought the perpetrator was just one person.
Nurse Carreker stopped halfway down the hall. "Agent Hatton, y'all try to remember that this isn't a case to that woman. Her whole world has just been destroyed."
Y'all? Just because Jon didn't use the word didn't mean he didn't know what it meant. How many people were here besides him? "Okay, thank you."
The nurse patted him on the arm and left. Jon turned back toward the victim's room. At least half a dozen of Corpus Christi's finest were standing around outside the victim's door. They alternated between glaring at and completely ignoring him as he approached.
Damn, this was going to be a long afternoon.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Second in the series, this book is fabulous, too. Sherry is a lovely, empathetic character, and Jon makes a wonderful hero. Secondary characters are brilliant – especially liked Liam’s part in this story! The plot is great and keeps you guessing right up until the end. Really well written and a fabulous read (and reread…)
Fantastic book with a very intense storyline. Sherry is a forensic artist visiting a friend on vacation. The stresses of her job have gotten to the point where she is having trouble drawing. She is also always cold. Jon is a federal agent assigned to the Corpus Christi police department to help them find a serial rapist. He's used to resistance from local cops when it comes to the feds, but it's worse than usual. Jon and Sherry meet at the hospital where a new victim has been taken. Jon is there for his job, while Sherry is there waiting for her friend Caroline, an EMT. Both of them witness the poor behavior of one of the police detectives toward the victim, and are horrified by it. Sherry can see what should be done, but her PTSD has her shivering in her shoes. Jon is determined to find someone else to help question the victims, and his resources at Omega send him to Sherry. That meeting doesn't go well at first, as Jon is unaware of her problem and thinks she's being uncaring and selfish. Once he understands the problem, he offers to help her if she'll help him. Sherry really does want to help but is afraid that she won't be of any use. Once she makes the decision to work with him, she is all in. Jon's awareness of her problem enables him to show her how to deal with the stress so that it doesn't overwhelm her. I loved seeing their relationship develop. There was an intense attraction from the beginning. I loved the way that he was so sensitive to her problem and determined to help her. It was sweet to see how he tried to keep their date free of any influence of their work. He's also very protective of her, especially after the message from the rapist. It was really fun to see his reaction when his two Omega friends/coworkers came to help and were making eyes at Sherry. His friend Liam also saw the truth of Jon's feelings before he did. Sherry was just as attracted to Jon. She had some trouble believing that he could really be interested in her with all her problems. I loved seeing how just being close to him drove away the coldness she felt, and how she began to understand what having him in her life meant to her. I loved seeing them get to know each other when they weren't working and how it helped them when they were. The ending was great. Jon's surprise for her was wonderful and it was fun to see him tell her all about his determination to convince her of his feelings and vision of their future, and Sherry's reaction to it. The suspense of this story was fantastic. It kept me completely hooked and up well past my bedtime reading it. The frustration of Jon and the police department over the lack of leads was easily felt. Jon's disgust with the attitudes of the cops was understandable, especially when he witnessed the questioning of the one victim. The detailed descriptions of what Sherry did when she was working with the victims added another layer to the depth of the story. Her success at drawing obscure details from the victims made her a target. Things got really scary when Caroline became one of the victims and the cops finally got a lead. The final confrontation was intense with a twist that I didn't see coming.
4 1/2 STARS! Another exciting addition to the Omega Sector series! You're in suspense the majority of the book to see who the guilty party is. Great characters! Jon Hatton is an Omega Sector: Critical Response agent sent to Texas to aid the local police with a serial rapist case. He's running on empty for clues on who this guy is and the victims just keep coming. Sherry Mitchell is a forensic artist with the FBI and she's currently on vacation in the area to deal with some PTSD issues she's trying to deal with from the things she's seen in her couple of years on the job. Jon finds out that Sherry is in the area and wants her to help them on the case. She's hesitant, but eventually she agrees to try. Will they be able to track down this monster before he rapes again? And as Jon and Sherry spend hours on end with each other every day, will they decide to act on the attraction they both feel when the other is near?
I read the whole book at once, and didn't even figure out that time flew by. I inhaled it in. So much so, that I took a second look at it after a while. I am in awe a bit here, mainly because it is so different from the author's previous books, and really showing how versatile she is with her writing. There's humor mixed with intense situations, and suspense, but it is a different kind of atmosphere we have here completely. The humor is subtle, the situation the law enforcement is facing is one of the worst you can think of, women are being raped by such a clever monster, that there's no evidence left behind. Creepy. Sherry, is burned out, because of all the pain, evil, and horror, she had had to endure in her line of work. It gave the story a certain dark feeling from the get go, and the story itself just built upon it. The frustration and devastation Jon is feeling with each new victim is palpable. The co-operation with the police is not going smoothly, hindering his work somewhat, and taking too much unnecessary energy from him. It was so easy to set myself into the story, to see the scenes unfolding in front of me. Even though the evidence is minimal, next to nothing, the constant presence of the evil, lurking just around the corner is evident, giving the story an eerie feeling, knowing the menace is close by, and escalating in his behavior. The first kiss between Sherry and Jon, was just another level of hotness. I loved those two together, how they are with each other. So brutally honest, and real, while at the same time fun, and yet so incredibly sweet, affectionate, and tender. They are supportive, caring towards each other, and how Jon offers to be her lifeline while she is working, just melted me inside. So many swoon worthy moments between those two, Jon just turned out to be the perfect man, for Sherry. And also the perfect man to keep the Texas town calm, while facing the string of brutal crimes. There were so many times I wanted to stand up and cheer for Jon's patience, and calm while dealing with difficult situations, like the perpetual childishness at the police department. There's more suspense in the story, than actual action. I for one, am thankful for that, considering it is a rape case we are dealing here with. I didn't miss the action, the investigation was intriguing, the lack of clues frustrating, and the reality of solving the case with so little to go on, fascinating. And the curve ball at the end, just took me by surprise. Yes, I loved it. Simple as that. ~ Five Spoons
Critical Response Agent Jon Hatton is in Corpus Christi, TX to aid the local police department in catching a serial rapist. He is meeting with considerable resistance to his presence and a decided lack of cooperation. But Jon is not with out resources and keeps himself in the loop using other means. When one of the local detectives, also a forensic artist, interviews a victim with very little sensitivity, Jon resolves to find a replacement. That replacement turns out to be Sherry Mitchell who is in Corpus Christi on vacation. What he does not know is that she is suffering from PTSD. Jon knows he can help her and offers that help in exchange for her assistance on the case. But her assistance comes with a price - Sherry herself may have become a target when she uncovers critical clues. Janie Crouch has done it again with Fully Committed. The pages are filled with suspense and surprises. Jon is an incredible hero. He turned out to be sensitive and caring and very, very capable. Sherry was having a hard time but wanted to help in spite of the cost to her. It was Jon that lowered that cost. Non-stop action, surprise twists and a great romance - everything you want in an Intrigue. Add Fully Committed to your list now.
This book was awesome! It was a little different than the rest of Janie's books but I really liked it. It shows me that Janie is really growing as an author and I really like her progression. I just wish she could write as fast as I read! I think she will be among the top romance authors in no time!! I really loved the characters. Janie has a wonderful way of making her characters people that you care for and want to read more about. I can't wait for the next book! I am a big fan!!