Jagged Edge

Jagged Edge

by Cara Carnes

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Overview

Jagged Edge by Cara Carnes

Mary "The Edge" Reynolds is the most sought-after back office operative around-the creative genius pulling the ultimate bad-asses out of impossible situations. She's never failed on a mission, and she's not about to fail on the most important mission ever-keeping her newly designed security system safe. Relying on others isn't in her nature, but the newly formed Arsenal is her only hope for escape when she's kidnapped.

She is the Edge.

The Edge never breaks.

Never quits.

Dylan Mason and his brothers have put everything on the line to form The Arsenal. When the paramilitary arena is rocked by Edge's capture, he'll do whatever it takes to get the fearless operative back, but his wary heart isn't ready to handle the vulnerable woman buried beneath the hardened shell. Getting her back was simple. Keeping her and her "security system" HERA out of enemy hands is another story.

Together they must hunt down the faction behind her capture and subsequent torture to keep HERA from becoming an unstoppable terroristic threat. What they uncover could destroy them both.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781976028953
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 09/07/2017
Pages: 318
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Mary Reynolds knew all about hell. She'd spent the past fifteen years pulling operatives out of impossible situations. For the first time ever, she wasn't sure there was an out. Not for her.

Pain seared her back, but she bit back the screams lodged in her throat. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of hearing the jagged edges their torment carved into her carefully constructed mental armor. Fifteen years, and she'd never broken, never been anything but The Edge.

Hours and days had bled into one another. How long had she survived? Endured? Did it even matter? Probably not. She'd be better off dead. At least then she wouldn't break, fracture into a million pieces, and answer whatever questions they asked.

"Tell me about HERA, and I'll make it stop." A size nineish combat boot kicked the air from Mary's lungs. "How does it work?"

Her new position, palms and knees on bloodied concrete, offered little in the way of solutions. Like the other sixteen times, she remained silent. Blood dripped from her mouth. The stench of puke, piss, and blood — all hers, sadly none theirs — assaulted her nostrils. Nausea threatened, but she didn't give a damn.

If I puke on his fancy boots, maybe he'll stab me. In the ear would be nice. Then she wouldn't hear the screams. Hers. Vi's. They meshed in her head, a nightmarish duet she couldn't stop. Dread settled in her bones.

"You think you're so smart, Edge. You'll break."

His belt banged against undone jeans as he crouched. The bastard hadn't even bothered zipping up after. ... Yeah, she wasn't going to remember what he and the other assholes had done. Nothing they did would break her. She'd survive, then they'd pay. He grabbed her hair and yanked until her vision turned watery and pain shot along her scalp. The zing of sensation cleared her blurry vision. Yes. Death glinted in the bastard's ice blue eyes.

"The other guys enjoy your partner better. She screams real pretty, especially at the end when we spread her legs and take what we want. She's not a fighter like you."

Mary's stomach pitched. Phantom screams pierced the determination she'd somehow drowned in so far. I'm sorry, Vi. This is all my fault.

"You think you're a hotshot, can take anything. We're barely warming you up. Wait until the real fun begins," he taunted.

A distinctive mole peeked out from beneath the black ski mask. The fact filed itself with the hundreds of other details her task-oriented mind gathered to stave the madness, the terror, clawing her insides. How many more sessions could she endure? Tiny cracks formed inside her iron will, pleas from the woman she used to be, the one shouting her surrender in silent screams locked behind an operative persona.

"Three times," she mumbled.

Silence ticked a few heartbeats. He cocked her head to the side and studied her from behind the mask.

"For every drop of our blood you spill, you'll lose three times more." Raspy sandpaper scraped her throat with each word.

The grip in her hair tightened. She plunged into the icy blue depths of his gaze. Body tight, she waited him out. The bastard had a hair-trigger fuse she wanted lit. "They'll come for me, you know. When they do, I'm gonna hang you from a hook, bleed you out like the pig you are."

Then pickle your shriveled gerkin for a trophy.

"Is that so?" Amusement punctured the false pitch in his voice. "Who gives a shit if you live or die? You're a sorry, fat-assed, back-office geek. No one will miss you."

"Is that so?" she parroted. "We'll see who's right."

"You're too far off radar. No one's ever coming for you."

Her pulse quickened.

No. Someone will come. Stay strong. Stay quiet. Stay focused. Survive.

"You really think you're that smart? Please. You're a mid-level operative at best. Hell, you don't even know half of what Hive really does. Let me guess. You've been stuck in surveillance and political protection, right?" She leaned back on her heels.

His gaze slithered downward, honed on her bare breasts.

"You're easily winded, which means you're not on any important team. An enemy would hear you coming from a mile away," she spat angrily. "No way Quillery or I would put you in a real operational theater, which means you're stateside. Protecting some political blowhard with a big bank account, probably one of Driggs's clients. Addy wouldn't let wannabes like you anywhere near Peter's playground."

"That bitch has no business running Hive," he growled.

He hauled her up and to the corner. She punched and kicked. He punched harder. Pain exploded outward from beneath her right eye. Dazed, she wobbled on bare feet.

Chains rattled. Cold metal dug into her bloodied wrists. The thick, heavy links scraped the concrete floor. When he turned, needle in hand, panic pierced the anger she'd channeled the past few moments. She angled left when he went right.

"Stupid bitch, there's no avoiding it."

The liquid burned going in. He kicked her behind the knees and angled her toward the mattress.

Skin and blood coated the filthy surface, but Mary didn't care since it was all hers. Riotous pain shot along her back, lightning sharp, followed by thunderous throbs. She'd forgotten about her back, courtesy of two, no three, sessions ago.

Her distorted vision tunneled, clouded like a fog rolling into the small cell. The burn seeped through her veins, scurrying like a nest of spiders until a heady cobweb of numb entombed her. She floated. Drifted in a hazy, toxic prison.

"Enjoy the show," he taunted. "I'll make sure she screams extra loud for you this time."

No.

The plea for mercy perched itself on Mary's tongue. She bit until coppery metallic filled her mouth. Don't ever beg.

Someone will come. Stay strong. Stay quiet. Stay focused. Survive.

She closed her eyes and drifted in the numb. Floated. Forgot.

"Mary!" The scream pierced the silence.

She jolted awake. Razors stabbed her insides when she breathed too deep. Broken ribs sucked. A cough, wet and deep, rattled her body, ratcheting the pain up another notch.

She blinked fast and focused on the narrow window along the ceiling. A warehouse? Property records would give names. No sun or light filtered from behind the dirty glass.

The ringing in her ears distorted the raised voices from the cell next door. Her pulse pounded behind her eyes, a painful punch every couple seconds. Eyelids closed, Mary dragged in a shallow breath and focused on the sounds.

"I don't know her codes." Panic and fear hiked Vi's voice a couple octaves higher than normal. Mary's gut clenched. "Please, don't hurt me. Please."

Screams commenced. Long, loud, life-altering. Screams.

Trapped within the numbness, Mary laid there, silent witness to the horrors her best friend endured. Because of her. Tears burned her eyes, but she didn't cry; that'd create a new fissure in her armor. One more, and she'd crack.

"No, please, no. Not again." Vi's high-pitched pleas wormed their way through the toxic waste in Mary's veins. "Mary!" "I'm sorry," Mary whispered into the cavernous space. "I'm sorry."

"It's your fault, you know." Chains rustled across the dank cell.

Damn. She'd forgotten about her cellmate in hell, the worthless slug who'd cracked the first round. Glenn Bench. Low level operative in the wrong place during the snatch and grab. She shifted on the mattress, gaze focused anywhere but him.

"What's so damn important?" he demanded.

If she held her breath, she could hear water crashing onto concrete in the nearby cell. Mary coughed, feeling the burn in her nose and lungs. Water still dribbled from her hair. Or was it blood? Hell if she knew. Hell if she cared. Hell if it mattered.

Hell.

"He's not screaming anymore. Probably died the last round." Glenn laced each word with accusation. "She won't last much longer, none of us will."

Good.

If we die, we win. HERA remained secure. Dead. Just like its creators. She and her best friend Vi had started developing the cutting-edge security program when they were in college — to pass the time while everyone else drank their brains away at frat parties. Heuristic Engagement Recovery Apparatus, or HERA for short, was the ultimate weapon for the good guys.

She'd never imagined this happening. Neither had Vi. They'd been so stupid. If the bastards who'd taken them got access to HERA. ...

That couldn't happen. It wouldn't.

"I guess what they say is true."

Mary offered no reply. He was a distraction. Was the water still going?

"You really are an ice cold bitch."

Yeah. She was.

"I heard stories about you, figured they were bullshit. You and Quillery. Hive's Quillery Edge." He laughed. "What a joke."

Mary blinked. One. Two. Three. Faster each time. Her brain misfired. Hell, what was after three? Right. Five. Okay, back on track. Someone had shoved her in a tilt-a-whirl. The mattress spun. Her pulse sounded in her ears. Rapid fire, keeping time to the screams.

Why couldn't the heartbeat drown out the screams?

Penance.

"You even listening?"

No. How can you even form words?

"The joke's on me. I got a little boy. Johnny," Glenn said.

Poor kid. No one wants a worthless slug for a dad.

"I'm not gonna live to take him to his first ballgame because I saw that van barreling toward you and didn't think."

Her gut clenched. Throat tight, she took the pained confession filled with regret. When her system burned off the toxin in her veins, she'd feel the blow. Until then she floated.

"I should've known the money was too good, Hive was too good. I should've minded my own business."

Anger thickened the reeds of air she dragged in through shallow breaths.

"I shouldn't be here. This is all your fault."

Vi's screams pierced the air. Mary's reality shattered into a million bleeding shards. The excruciating torment in the next cell silenced Glenn.

"Mary!"

Each plea cut deeper than the last until her soul bled out on the concrete.

"No, please, no. It hurts so bad. Please, make them stop. Mary!"

Screams morphed into whimpered cries. Each one dragged her closer to the ground, until she hovered, lost in a hazy fog as she focused on the cries, then the grunts and slaps of skin-on-skin echoing from the cell next door.

Helpless.

Useless.

Each agonizing second battered Mary's determination. Rage forged her resolve into a honed blade, one she'd use to get vengeance.

Vi pleaded and screamed and cried, each wail longer and louder than the last. Glenn hid his face. Hands pressed against his ears.

Mary lay there, floating on a thin sheet of numbness. Rage pumped adrenaline into her system.

For every wound they suffered, their tormenters would get three.

I swear we'll get vengeance, Vi.

Someone will come. Stay strong. Stay quiet. Stay focused. Survive.

*
A LOUD BANG. THEN ANOTHER. And another. Concrete crumbled. Dust, smoke, and flecking debris floated in the air and filled Mary's nostrils. Her ears rang, her eyes burned.

Shouts and gunfire erupted.

"Jesus." Glenn bolted toward the cell door. "Here! Over here!" Her chest and lungs burned with each cough. She rolled to her side to stave the drowning sensation. Pain shot up her arm, exploded along her shoulder. Sharp knives dug into her sides.

"On your knees." The gruff voice penetrated the obnoxious ringing in Mary's ears.

She settled a palm on concrete. Then the other. Knees. Right. She'd make it happen. Somehow. If this was an exfil, she was onboard with knees.

Where are my knees?

She fell back to the mattress.

To hell with it.

"Not telling you again, man. Get on your fucking knees." Gritty. Gruff. Growly. The harder than granite voice grew louder.

A tall, muscular frame loomed in the cell entry. The business end of a semiautomatic rifle swept from Glenn to her. Tension coiled in her stomach as the man slid in, stealth and steel encased in smooth synchronous movements.

"Get me out of here, man. Please. I've got a kid." Glenn's voice cracked.

Ugh. Slug was crying again.

Disgusted, Mary grunted and fought her way to a semi-upright position. What had he ordered?

Knees.

Right.

Pain shot up her thighs. Her right arm hung limply at her side. Dislocated. Broken. Whatever. No way it was getting raised. She blinked. Eyes burning, she suppressed the watery cough lodged in her clogged throat.

"Bravo, Charlie has eyes on two packages. Repeat, two packages secured." The gun lowered. Black marks ran below pasture green eyes and down across a firm, square jawline. Dark hair so brown it was almost black hung in disarray around the man's handsome face.

Mary knew that face.

Relief washed through her. The sensation struck like a tsunami. Dizziness assailed her. Her stomach roiled, but she didn't have the energy to puke.

Exfil.

She'd survived.

Two packages secured. The man's words ricocheted through her.

No. No. No.

"Three." She rasped the words.

Intense green eyes settled on her, then returned to Glenn, who'd stood.

"Get on your knees," the man repeated to her fellow cellmate.

"It hurts," he whined.

"Not telling you again." The threat hung in the room, a fourth presence Mary suspected would overpower the man cowering beside her.

"Three," she repeated. Her throat burned and throbbed with the effort she expended.

The man released his grip on the rifle. It settled against his side from the strap wrapped around thick, muscular shoulders. And arms. Mary trembled when he reached into a pocket and pulled out a water bottle.

Long legs ate the space between them until her tunneling gaze saw only thighs. He palmed her chin. "You're safe now, Edge. We've got you."

"Vi," she said. Licking her lips, she peered up.

Pain shot along her spine, pulsated throughout her head. It felt as though they'd set off a flashbang in her brain rather than the warehouse.

"Drink," he ordered.

Liquid flowed between her cracked lips. Swallowing proved difficult, but the water tasted better than aged wine as far as Mary was concerned. She drank heavily until a firm hand yanked the bottle away. A growl rumbled from her throat.

"We need to assess injuries first," he said.

Right.

Of course.

Mary collapsed backward, ignoring the biting pain along her back. She'd run a thousand different scenarios on how her rescue would happen. "Help Vi. She's next door. I'm expendable."

His eyebrows furrowed. He tapped the com link in his ear. "Bravo, package one indicates presence of a third item."

Mary's guts twisted. Package. Item. Did she sound so callous on the com? No wonder everyone considered her the ice queen.

She crawled on her knees. The pace was painful and pointless. She was hauled back to the mattress.

"Where the hell are you going?" the man demanded.

"To help Vi. The item."

Full lips upturned into a smirk so slight Mary thought it was her imagination at first. She'd handled countless operations, worked with hundreds of operatives. Few merited her remembering their name.

Dylan Mason was an exception. He and his brothers were almost more legend in the paramilitary theater than she and Quillery. And Hive. She'd had a few interactions with Dylan and his new organization, The Arsenal. Their paths didn't cross much since they were competitors.

But she and Vi had intended to change that. Anger seeped into her thoughts.

Hive was burned.

Everything she'd worked for was gone.

Vi....

Fear pulsated beneath her skin, an uncontrollable beast roaring in her veins. "I'm expendable. Secure Vi. That's an order."

"Not taking orders from you, Edge. Not today." His lips thinned. Gaze narrowed, he ran his hands along her from head to toe. "Bravo, Charlie requires medical exfil."

"I can walk," she argued through a wheezed cough.

"Take a backseat on this one, Edge. We're doing this by the numbers." Concern flickered in his voice, softened the edges.

"To hell with the numbers. Get your ass to the next cell and secure Vi." She grabbed his arm and squeezed. Damn, he was big. In a different time and place, she'd appreciate that. All that mattered right now was getting Dylan to help Vi.

"You're smarter than the average operative, Mason. Secure Vi. That's an order." She swallowed. "You always follow orders."

The right side of his mouth upturned. The sexy smirk beat some of the hazy fog in her brain aside. Her pulse quickened.

"That so? I'm wondering how you'd know, but you are the Edge. You have your ways."

"Oh, but do I. I have so many ways," she mumbled. "We've been watching you, The Arsenal. Things were getting hot at Hive. We needed out."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Jagged Edge"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Cara Carnes.
Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
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.

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Jagged Edge (The Arsenal, #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
In_My_Humble_OpinionDA More than 1 year ago
This book goes into some dark places and may have triggers for some readers. That said, Jagged Edge is a powerful story of survival and love and is the first in what looks to be a terrific new series. Mary “The Edge” Reynolds is my newest hero. She is smart and strong. She isn’t perfect but she seems to be perfect for Dylan Mason. Mary is like a lot of us who live for our work and forget about the woman we are and her needs. Everything is shunted aside for the job. I was sucked into this book and didn’t leave until long after the last page.
KindleKat64 More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic read! This is my first Cara Carnes book and it won’t be my last. I am definitely hooked on this new series after this awesome first book! Such amazing and interesting characters in this book! All of them! But Mary (Edge) and Dylan, they are a power couple! They are so perfect for each other. Edge is such a strong, badass yet Mary is vulnerable and a bit awkward all at the same time. Her two personas obviously blend because she is only one person but it definitely makes her very unique and very appealing to Dylan. Dylan is ex special forces now working with his brothers in their own business, The Arsenal. He is so strong and badass too, yet so sweet and gentle with Mary. They rescue Mary/Edge and take in the rest of her team to work together to find out who took Edge and brutally tortured her. Such an awesome story line so full of suspense intrigue, and surprises you don’t see coming! Of course there is also the sweet and sexy love story between Dylan and Mary. Such sizzling chemistry!! I can’t wait for more in this series. I am 100% invested!! I look forward to more of the sexy, badass Mason brothers and Vi, Addy and the others.
BananaTricky More than 1 year ago
A strong three and a half stars. Mary Reynolds is 50% of the operational powerhouse known as the Quillery Edge, Mary is The Edge. Together she and her friend Vi have masterminded more SpecOps missions than anyone else. They are the brains behind the business known as The Hive. Some months ago the owner and founder of The Hive, Peter Rugers, had an 'accident' and died in mysterious circumstances. Since then Mary and Vi have been worked flat out by Peter's business partner Martin Driggs who is taking on questionable jobs and making reckless decisions. The book opens with Mary having been captured, She is mentally and physically tortured, raped and drugged in an attempt to extract her secrets, especially the cutting edge HERA security program they developed, but not even the knowledge that the kidnappers are doing the same to Vi in the cell next door is enough to make her talk. Dylan Mason and his six brothers run a rival organisation, The Arsenal, based in their small home town. Each of the brothers has special forces experience one way and another and they are in awe of the skills of The Edge. When they get a tip off that The Edge has been kidnapped they are 'all in' - but what do the kidnappers really want and who made the tip off? I enjoy spec ops/romances but they can be a little formulaic and the male characters can be a bit like cardboard cut-outs, similarly many authors write these kick-ass female characters who nonetheless somehow need rescuing by a bigger, badder man. Not kidding, she could be the deadliest assassin in the world at the start of the book but halfway through she becomes a crying shaking wreck clinging to the arm of the alpha male. Cara Carnes managed to avoid that pitfall. Mary Reynolds is focused on her job with a singular dedication, she has no hobbies and no life outside The Hive. She eats, breathes and sleeps missions and she's crazy good at what she does. She has trouble socialising, except with her three friends from MIT and she has body-image issues. Dylan is the middle Mason brother, he has had a bad experience in the past and has sworn off relationships, but there's something about The Edge which gets under his skin. Except he realises that The Edge and Mary Reynolds are two very different people: the confident woman in the control room who orders around field operatives with calm authority, who flirts and deliberately pushes to get results and the timid woman behind the persona who feels she is worthless and expendable. There's a whole load of backstory for Mary (and Dylan) that only gets alluded to, as a reader you are running to try to keep up with the pace of events and just trying to work out who is who and what is going on. I don't know whether there was a previous series or maybe a prequel novella but there's a lot of other stuff swirling around - I like that, I like that things from the past are referred to but don't actually have any impact on current events, that not every secret is revealed, that the reader is forced to guess and speculate and wonder. There's no cliffhanger, although the Mason brothers discover that something wrong appears to be going on in the next town, people are getting hurt and the townspeople are running scared - presumably that's the subject of the next book. I liked this, it reminded me somewhat of Elle Kennedy's excellent Killer Instincts series or Julie Ann Walker's Black Knights Inc series. I would definitely read the next in the series. Free ARC
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I think you will too.