Wanted for treason...
Burned by his agency and running for his life, CIA Paramilitary Operator JP Blackmon is determined to clear his name. He tracks down his former partner, but when JP discovers the man is dead, he must turn to the only person who can help. His partner's vulnerable widow.
Drowning in lies...
Abby Price never wanted anything but a safe home to raise her son with the man she loved. But her husband was hiding secrets. Secrets that branded him a traitor and got him killed. Now the CIA is watching Abby's every move and she's sure they're hiding proof that would clear her son's father. So when a stranger shows up swearing he's her husband's partner and asking for her help to find the truth, she agrees to risk everything.
A love neither can deny...
As JP and Abby race for answers, they must elude killers...and try to ignore a passionate attraction neither wants to face. Because JP has secrets of his own, and Abby will never allow herself to be betrayed by a man again. But in the end, it's only by trusting each other that they can make it out alive.
Read an Excerpt
In the Arms of a Stranger
By Virgina Kelly, Nina Bruhns
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Virginia Kelly
All rights reserved.
Rural South Alabama
JP Blackmon fought back exhaustion as he steered his old Chevy sedan down the isolated, muddy, Alabama back road. A roiling line of thunderstorms lit up the night sky. Rain pelted the windshield and overwhelmed the wipers. At least the storm kept the July heat at bay. Now if he could just get some sleep. A single fifteen-minute nap in the one day he'd been back in the States didn't cut it.
Especially when he'd lost so much blood.
Six hours after avoiding a shot meant to kill, he was as sure as he could be that he'd lost the men tracking him. Lucky for him the screams of bystanders in the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport parking garage had prevented a second gunshot, giving him a chance to escape. The bullet had plowed a deep furrow at his waist, on his right side. He'd controlled the worst of the bleeding with a pad he'd made from a T-shirt, but he'd have to take care of it pretty soon—if he could stay ahead of them.
But they'd know. Hell, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where he was headed.
To the only person who could clear his name.
JP maneuvered around yet another slick, muddy curve that twisted back quickly. Suddenly, his headlights glinted off something—a smaller Ford SUV blocking the road less than ten yards ahead. Damn! He was going to hit it! Heart pounding, he snatched the wheel to the left and slammed on the brakes. The Chevy slid sideways in the muck, out of control. He held on and willed his car not to plow into the wide-eyed woman scrambling away from the Ford.
The skid threw his headlights away from her on to low bushes at the edge of the road. His front fender glanced off the rear bumper of her SUV, and then his lights aimed into silver sheets of rain surrounded by black nothingness. The stark realization that he was about to fall came only a second before his car careened down a ravine. The seat belt caught his shoulder, but the impact threw him to one side. Then the car jerked to a stop. The engine, still running, rumbled steadily. A swollen creek rushed before him, illuminated by his headlights.
"Damn, damn, damn," he muttered. He had to get out, had to check on the woman.
Grabbing the backpack on the seat next to him, he turned off the Chevy, grappled with the door handle, and scrambled out into the mud. Slipping backward a foot for each two upward, he clawed his way up the slippery embankment. By the time he reached the top, his side burned as if someone had stuck it with a hot poker.
He blinked away the rain whipping at him in the gusty wind. Desperate to find the woman, he scanned the dark road as he grabbed his pack and slung it over his shoulder.
Where the hell was she? Had he rolled right over her? Knocked her down the ravine?
A child's plaintive cry sliced into JP's fear. Holy shit, a kid.
He jogged through puddles to the rear driver's side of the SUV, jerked open the door, and peered inside. The dome light revealed a boy in the back, safe in his car seat. He looked fine.
Relieved, JP turned, looking for the mother. "Where are you?" he shouted.
Lightning speared down from the clouds and he saw her on the ground just beyond her SUV, a shadow in the storm-lit night, struggling to sit up in the muck. He tossed his pack onto the hood and rushed to her side. Thunder boomed around them.
"My son," she shouted above the roar of the storm. "In the car!"
Relieved to see her move, he knelt, ignoring the mud, and put his hand on her arm. "Wait! Something could be broken."
"I'm fine. My son—"
"He's fine, I checked on him." He held her down to be sure she wouldn't do more damage by getting up.
"Let go!" She flung his hand away and got to her feet, shuffling to her car on the mud-slicked road. After awkwardly opening the back door wider, she bent inside. Rain pelted down on her back.
"You're wet, Mommy," JP heard the child say.
"Are you hurt?"
"No," the boy replied. "Did that car hit you?"
She didn't answer, but in the lightning flashing all around, JP saw her sag with relief. Mud ran off her, pouring down her shorts and bare legs. Her shoes, like his boots, were swallowed by mud. She backed out of the car and straightened, or tried to straighten, but stopped, gasping.
She ran her hand from her collarbone to her shoulder. "Hurt trying to get away."
He saw it then. She was holding herself in an odd position, slightly bent at the waist, her right arm tight to her body.
"Where do you live?"
"Up the road." She wiped the water from her face and leaned on the SUV. "Half a mile."
"Can you drive?"
She was clipping her words, which meant some sort of painful injury. Damn! A broken bone would be the easiest to deal with. Internal injuries would require a lot more than he could handle. And out here in the middle of nowhere, the likelihood of an ambulance responding in time was not good.
"I'll try to move it so we can get you to some help." He'd handled wounded men before, but never a civilian. Never a woman. He didn't know where to touch her, afraid of causing more pain. "Is it your arm or your shoulder?"
"Shoulder," she said between clenched teeth.
"Can you get in the car? Or do you want me to carry you?"
"I'll get there."
He expected her to give up when he watched her maneuver through the mud, leaning on the car, to get to the passenger's side, but she didn't. Whoever she was, whatever had prompted her misbegotten trip on this road, he had to give her credit for toughness.
Once she got into the passenger's seat, he climbed behind the wheel, then jammed his backpack on the floorboard between them. He turned, careful not to wince, and looked at the child's face in the dim light.
"Hi," he said in what he hoped was his most gentle voice. "I'm John. I'm going to help get your car out of the mud."
"Mommy can't call Unca Steve."
"Too far from cell towers," the woman explained on a pained breath.
"Not to worry, I'll try to get us out," he said to the boy.
"Unca Steve has a big truck." The child turned his head slightly, as if considering JP, and added, "Do you?"
He couldn't help but smile at the response. "No, but maybe I can help.
"'Kay." The little boy sounded dubious.
Smart kid. To get out of this they needed a four-wheel drive and a winch. But if he'd learned nothing else in his line of work, he knew how make do. Start with the simplest solution and go from there.
He turned the ignition just before another blast of wind-driven rain slammed into the windshield. Mercifully, the SUV started. He shifted into reverse, then pressed the accelerator. The SUV slid back and to the left. After turning the wheel, he eased into drive and pressed on the accelerator again. The tires spun and the front end smashed against dirt and bushes that had tumbled into the ditch opposite the creek, creating an embankment. He glanced at the woman. She stared straight ahead, clutching her shoulder. Again he tried reversing. Again the tires spun, but the car swung sideways, this time closer to the edge of the road.
He'd already been down the creek. No way in hell did he want to risk that again, not with a woman and child.
The rain suddenly stopped and the wipers shimmied across the windshield.
"I can stand on the bumper," she offered.
She was game, but she was in no shape to be of any use. "How far did you say your house is?"
"Half a mile."
He couldn't just leave her. Besides, he wasn't going far, not with the Chevy in the creek. He adjusted the bulk of the padded T-shirt at his side, grabbed his backpack off the floorboard, and got out. His windbreaker shifted, so he adjusted it both to cover his holster and to hide the bloodstain he knew had spread.
Bending to look in at her, he said, "I'll get you home."
"I can't get Cole out of the car seat," she admitted, eyes closed, resting her head against the seat.
Of course she couldn't. He'd hurt her. "I'll do it," he said.
"Cole doesn't like stra—he may not let you."
"I'll try anyway." He leaned in and unfastened the restraints, his side aching. The little boy clasped him around the neck and he pulled him into his arms. When he straightened, a blast of wind shook him. The child hunkered down and buried his face against JP's shoulder.
"Windy, huh?" he asked, and felt the child nod. Shifting him slightly, he added, "I'm going to put you down so I can help your mom, okay?"
"'Kay." The little boy relaxed his hold and JP eased him to the ground.
"Can you make it on your own?" he asked her.
She nodded, used her good arm to get out of the car, straightened, and pointed down the road.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, the little boy—Cole, his mother had called him—a few steps ahead. After watching her struggle to hold her arm close and keep from falling on the slick road, he decided this was taking too long. Even though the rain showers were intermittent now, lightning could strike them if they didn't get under cover. When she stopped to rest, he made up his mind.
"Brace yourself," he said.
She stepped back when she realized what he intended, but he was quick. He lifted her with one arm under her knees, the other around her waist, careful of her injured shoulder.
She stiffened. "No, really, I can—"
"No, you can't," he said. "I'll carry you. Just hold on to your arm so I don't jar your shoulder." He'd carried a couple of buddies from his unit off the battlefield. By comparison, despite his throbbing side, this woman weighed nothing.
When Cole started to move too far ahead, his mother called him back.
"Unca Steve is going to let us hike," Cole said.
"I know," she said, her breath soft against JP's cheek.
The boy turned and looked at JP. "I'm four years old now." He held up four fingers, which JP could just make out in the dark. "My friends came to my party last week."
"A late happy birthday," JP said.
"Unca Steve is taking us fishing," Cole said. "That's for my birthday, too."
Such simple things. Such luxuries. "That sounds like fun," JP said automatically, then realized he meant it.
Cole continued with a steady patter of comments. JP used them to keep himself focused. He had to remind the boy to slow down a few times. No way was he losing him in the dark after causing his mother's injury. Finally, as the sporadic downpours turned into drizzle, they neared a house. A light in front revealed a wide porch.
"This is it. I can walk now," the woman said once they reached the lawn. Her breath tickled his neck.
"I'll get you up to the porch." Only a few more steps. If he put her down he'd never be able to pick her up again. He felt blood trickle from beneath his makeshift pad into the waistband of his jeans.
"Thank you," she said simply.
He didn't reply. She was thanking him for crashing into her, for possibly breaking one or more of her bones. His life was one screwed-up mess and he'd just brought disaster to this family.
Cole bounded up the steps to stand by the front door, his dark hair shiny under the light. "Do you still hurt, Mommy?" he asked.
"I'm fine, honey. It hurts just a little."
Hurts a lot, JP corrected silently. She probably thought he hadn't heard her moan those few times.
He climbed the steps to the porch, his legs struggling with each one. Carefully, despite what was now a searing pain in his side, he put her down.
"Is there someone home who can help you?"
She hesitated, and he knew she was alone. Alone and afraid to tell a total stranger.
"No one's going to come this far out on a night like this, and your car's stuck," he said. "Let me take a look, see if I can help. I've had some first-aid training." It mainly covered the injuries of his trade, wounds caused by knives and bullets, but he did know how to set a fracture—at least well enough that he or a member of his unit could be medevaced.
She looked unsure. Soaked, hunched over, mouth drawn tight in pain, she stared at him. Her white blouse was plastered to her, her jeans shorts hung heavily around some pretty fantastic legs. Her tennis shoes were ruined.
"I promise I'll stop if it hurts," he said to convince her. "I'm your best bet for now."
She kept her eyes locked to his, as if searching for a way to know if she should trust him. Hell, he wouldn't trust him.
"At least let me look."
Finally, she nodded.
Taking a deep breath to clear the dizziness creeping around the peripheries of his vision, he stepped forward. His mud-covered boots squished, and he grimaced at the mess.
"Hose, to the left," she said, indicating the direction with a nod of her head.
Bending over carefully, afraid he might tip over, he removed his boots and socks. The child pulled off his own shoes, but JP had to steady the woman as she toed off hers. He quickly rinsed their legs and feet, streams of mud washing across the porch.
She opened the door and flipped on the lights. The living room contained the usual mix of furniture—a couch, two overstuffed chairs, a single ladder-back chair, a coffee table, and a couple of lamp tables. Mounted on the far wall were several photographs, many old, in black and white. More were scattered on the lamp tables. Beyond was the entrance to the dining room, and a darkened hallway.
The woman stumbled to the ladder-back chair in front of the coffee table.
"Don't sit," he ordered, zipping his windbreaker higher to cover his holster. He had to deal with this and leave. Fast. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stay on his feet. "Let me look before you sit down."
Pain etched her face, but she nodded. The child looked on with dark, solemn eyes.
JP walked around her. She wasn't tall, maybe five and a half feet. Her dark ponytail, soaked and dripping, clung to her back.
He immediately saw why she hurt so badly. "Your shoulder's dislocated."
She didn't reply, simply stood still as if waiting for him to fix it.
He didn't want to do this. He really didn't want to do this. It would hurt like a son of a bitch.
"Do you want me to—?" Please say no.
"Yes." The single word seemed wrenched from her.
Damn. "Stand closer to the chair," he ordered, then pulled the coffee table aside, wincing. He examined her shoulder more closely to be certain, his stomach a knot of tension. He turned to the boy, still standing beside them.
"I'm going to move your mom's shoulder. It's going to hurt," he explained. "She might ... shout." Or faint. Hell, if she fainted, he'd have to wait here until she came around.
Bracing himself, with his legs apart for balance, he touched her gently. She grimaced. "I'll be careful," he said in a whisper. He let his fingers drift down the slick smoothness of her wet arm to her elbow, comforting her.
"Heck of a storm," he said to distract her. He kept talking, paying little attention to what he said, concentrating on a reassuring tone.
Damn, but he did not want to do this. She must have heard his indrawn breath an instant before he pushed with one hand and pulled with the other. The shoulder aligned itself with a nasty sound. She cried out, her eyes tearing, but held still. He cupped the joint to make sure it was back in place, and somehow held on to her until she lowered herself onto the chair.
Suddenly, the room started to spin and his vision darkened.
The last thing he saw as he clutched at the edges of the blackening abyss was the woman's wide, whiskey-colored eyes.CHAPTER 2
Good God. He'd fainted!
Abby Price's shock at the flash of intense pain in her shoulder was quickly eclipsed by utter surprise. The stranger had dropped like a stone and lay unconscious at her feet. Good thing he'd bent to help her into the chair. If he'd fallen from a standing position, he'd surely have gotten a concussion when his head hit the floor.
First-aid experience, my foot. If he fainted whenever he helped someone, he was the one who needed first aid. Sure, the sound of her shoulder popping back into place had made Abby queasy, but if he'd done this before, he'd known what to expect. What if she'd been bleeding?
She shook her head and took a mental step back.
Excerpted from In the Arms of a Stranger by Virgina Kelly, Nina Bruhns. Copyright © 2013 Virginia Kelly. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a great continuation and resolution to the novella “Dancing in the Dark.” Although Matt and Janey are not the focus of this book, her brother JP is. I love a romance, that’s not just a romance. That tends to get old after a while. Luckily, being full of suspense and intrigue, in addition to the romance between JP and Abby, this book hits the mark. JP is the quintessential CIA, paramilitary bad-boy on the outside, whose eyes and heart are opened, ironically, by his former partner’s widow and son. Abby knew her husband kept secrets; she just didn’t realize how big they were until after his death. If she couldn’t trust him, she certainly doesn’t trust his bosses who have continued to hide things. She doesn’t think she can trust this stranger either, especially since he shows up (and passes out) right before those bosses come knocking again– in the middle of a typhoon. But, he may have answers, and she’s darned if she’s going to give him up to the “bad guys” before she finds out what they are. These two must learn to trust, themselves and each other, if they hope to figure out just what did happen so they can clear JP’s name. Riveting suspense, intelligent dialogue, sincere emotions, and appropriate closure help make this book a great read. I definitely recommend this book. Rating: 4 HEAT Rating: Hot Reviewed By: Daysie W. Review Courtesy of: My Book Addiction and More
In the Arms of a Stranger was an edge-of-your-seat romance, full of action and emotion, that I could not put down!
I love military, danger, and suspense riddled with romance and this story has it all! Virginia hooks you with the very first page – and you will want to know how it ends after reading that. Great action, adventure, mystery, romance in a wonderfully written story. She gives you just enough answers to make you ask more questions with the mystery – along with the characters in the story. On the edge of your seat moments that left me staying up late to finish it. I loved trying to figure out the clues and the author keeps them going just perfectly. I highly recommend this to any James Bond fan! Received an e-arc for an honest review.
I was hooked from the first page and couldn’t put this book down until I was finished. In the Arms of a Stranger has everything a James Bond fan would love action, adventure, romance with a hot leading man plus the added bonus of a “happily ever after” rather than a “happily now”. I look forward to future books from Virginia Kelly. I would definitely recommend this book! I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book was amazing. I started to read this knowing it had to do with some suspense and romance but did not forsee the action that came along with it. JP has been running for almost a year now due to the accusation of being treason, he claims he is innocent. When he goes on a mission to find his old partner not only does he find out that he is dead but the widow Abby. Together they set out to prove innocence and who set them up. Will they find out who is behind it or will it hit close to home and the guilty person is the dead husband or JP. This book is definitely a must read for the turn of events that the author takes you through. There are twists and turns through this action pack romance novel, when you think you have figured it out another clue is brought forth to pin-point it to someone else. When you think you have known someone for a long time, what happens when the story starts to unravel and secrets start to be found. Do you really know them? I did not foresee the ending, so it was definitely a great turn of events. I was not able to put this book down and read it until I was done with it. This was the first time I read a book by this author and her story had a great flow to it. Trust me you do not want to miss out on this book, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future books by this author. ~ Sue Ellen (Girlygirlbookreviews)
I could not put this book down. When I did, I could not wait to pick it back up. In another words, this will be a wonderful book to fall in love with. Yes, you will fall in love by time you finish it. I sure did with the character JP. I felt as if I was the leading lady. I look forward to other reviews about this book. Fantastic, clean, PG13 love story for adults who will not feel guilty about ready love stories.
Great read - filled with suspense, action, and romance! JP Blackmon is on the run, hiding from the government agency he works for. For the past twelve months he has successfully avoided being captured, but now he is on a mission to find out the truth and clear his name. Abby Price fell in love with Wade Price, but never knew exactly what his job entailed. When Wade is killed during a mission and labeled a traitor, Abby will do whatever it takes to find out the truth about what happened to her husband. Not knowing that his partner Wade had been killed during the mission that labeled them both traitors, JP seeks Wade out, where he finds Wade’s widow Abby and their young son Cole. Even though they are unsure they can trust one another, JP and Abby team up to discover the truth about Wade’s death and clear Wade and JP’s names. Sparks fly between JP and Abby as their investigation takes them across the country where secrets from Wade’s past are revealed and ultimately the truth is uncovered. This was a great read, filled with suspense, action, and romance. Abby is faced with finding out the truth about her husband and the possibility that their entire life together has been a lie. JP finds himself falling for Abby, but is afraid to act on his feelings since he knows the pain that Wade has put Abby through and doesn’t know if he can offer her any other kind of life. Throw in some real bad guys who are after JP & Abby because they want the evidence that Wade has left behind that can clear JP & Wade’s name, and you have an action packed romantic suspense that keeps you turning the pages. I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars I received a copy of this book from the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way. The paranormal action starts right from the first paragraph. In my opinion, this is one of those series that you will want to read in order. You could try reading this one first but a lot of things make more sense if you read For Love or Vengeance first. Although Caridad does state that this can be read as a standalone. This is a genre that you have to respect what the author does in order to develop their stories. I’m sure that some research was involved since our author is also creating her story during what appears to be current times. But she must have a really great imagination since a lot of what she creates doesn’t actually exist. You will find that Caridad has the suspense and mystery continue almost to the very end of the book. When the ending comes, you’ll be left with a smile on your face. This is a must read for anyone that likes a little mystery/suspense with their paranormal fix. And the good news is there’s another book coming out in November.