“Julie Rowe blends the perfect cocktail of action&romance.” — Brenda Novak, NYT bestselling author on Icebound
CDC nurse Joy Oshiro is stressed to the breaking point. College students are dying and no one knows why. And her new partner Dr. Gunner Anderson is frustratingly annoying—and sexy, but mainly just plain annoying—and proving difficult to avoid. He spent three years with Doctors Without Borders, and disillusioned is just the tip of his issues.
They’ll need to learn to trust each other if they have a chance at figuring out who is behind the attacks. She makes him laugh, makes him forget—for a little while. But each new clue keeps them one step behind the terrorists, with buildings and evidence being destroyed just as they near.
Now they’re in a race against time to not only find a cure, but also to avoid becoming the next targets themselves.
Each book in the Outbreak Task Force series is STANDALONE:
* Viable Threat
* Sleight of Hand
About the Author
Julie Rowe’s first career as a med lab tech in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details and a lot of adventure in her romance novels. Julie writes contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest (Canada), and Romantic Times Magazine. You can reach her at www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page:
Read an Excerpt
February 1, 8:00 a.m.
Fired. He was going to get fucking fired.
Dr. Gunner Anderson stood in the open doorway of his shared office, a cup of coffee in one hand, a growl clawing its way out of his throat.
His desk faced the door and was the first thing to come into view. It held the same mess of papers, folders, and sticky notes covering the scuffed surface as when he left. The same four-sided rectangular shape and banal beige as a million other desks government employees rode.
It was the second desk, perpendicular to his, that caught his attention. Clean, free of paper and everything else — its excessive neatness made it stand out and shout for attention.
Gunner continued to stare at it for a moment, dread's cold fists pummeling his stomach and diaphragm.
His work partner, Raymond, a man in his late-twenties who still lived with his parents, had cleared out his stuff. Or had he just tidied things finally? The guy was disorganized, stacking files, reports, and notes all over the place. It drove Gunner nuts. There was no excuse for being unable to find information on your desk because it was a pigsty.
He strode to the stripped work space, searching for signs of life.
He was out of luck. Everything was gone, right down to the paperclips and stapler. Raymond, a microbiologist with a hand- washing fetish, had abandoned ship.
Son of a bitch. That little twerp had left him with over a dozen open cases to properly investigate, classify, and offer recommendations on.
Fingers itching to strangle the shit, Gunner took a swig of his coffee and contemplated what he was going to say to his boss, Dr. Carmen Rodrigues.
She'd given him fair warning when the partner before Raymond had bailed on him, telling him to stop acting like a jerk and get along with his coworkers. Or else.
She hadn't specified the or else.
Worst case scenario was he'd get fired, which did, in fact, bother him.
Sometime during the last couple of years, he'd discovered he liked investigating hotspots of disease. He liked untangling the threads of an outbreak to find its source. He liked seeing normal return to places and people who'd been devastated by disease or disaster.
Disease always followed disaster.
A few months ago, he'd been assigned to work as part of the Outbreak Task Force, whose members were the boots on the ground who implemented medical assistance. He liked that most of all. It was exhausting, difficult work, but that just made success more rewarding.
What he didn't like was having to break in another new partner.
Someone cleared their throat behind him.
Gunner turned to find DS, as he preferred to be called, standing in the doorway. He was a retired Army drill sergeant who took his new job of settling in new employees very seriously.
"Got a new partner for you, Gunner," the grizzled older man said. His brush cut looked fresh and precise, his jaw clean shaven, and his clothes pressed, making him look like he was wearing a uniform, even though he wasn't.
"I'm not fired?" Gunner asked, genuinely surprised.
DS smiled, and it wasn't altogether friendly. "Rodrigues thought about it but decided to give you one last kick at the can."
DS looked way too happy about the situation. That didn't bode well. "So, is this person my worst nightmare?" "Of course not." The DS's smile definitely had an edge to it. "I'll bring her up as soon as she's finished boxing her stuff for the move in here and other crap. Should be in about an hour."
DS turned to leave, but stopped and glanced over his shoulder at Gunner, the smile nowhere in evidence. "Ray wasn't a good fit for you. Too ... young."
Too inexperienced, but DS didn't have to elaborate. Gunner had lived through three years of hell and horror. It had changed him, made him less patient and less tolerant of politics, power plays, and polite niceties.
Who had time for that shit when people all around you were dying?
"How do you know this one is different?" Gunner asked.
The smile returned. "Her eight years as an Army nurse, for one thing. And if that doesn't convince you, she did a stint as a combat medic, too. She isn't going to be scared of a little bit of snark."
His pulse picked up speed. There was only one person working for the CDC in Atlanta that fit those parameters. "And if we don't get along?"
"I'd start looking for a new job."
The older man walked away.
Gunner sat down behind his desk. Joy Ashiro ... He'd stayed away from her for several very good reasons.
Petite and curvy with dark hair and eyes, she added something energetic and fresh to a room when she walked in. But it was her smile and laugh that grabbed him by the balls. They did something to his insides — lessened the pain, the regrets, the wounds on his soul. Made him feel ... human again.
When she'd shown up on Thanksgiving with food for whoever was working, complete with pumpkin pie, he'd almost asked her to stay and eat with him. Keeping his mouth shut hadn't been easy, but his gut told him that if he spent time with her, his physical attraction to her would grow beyond his ability to control.
If he allowed himself to feel anything, the dam inside his soul would burst, and the weight of his dead would suffocate him in sorrow. He wasn't ready for that burden. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Still, every time Joy glanced at him with all that passion in her gaze, he wanted to find out if maybe, maybe he could exist outside of the prison of his memories, outside of work, without self-destructing.
That scared the shit out of him.
His cell phone dinged with a text.
It was from Dr. Rodrigues.
My office. Now.
Great. She was going to read the riot act to him, including all the ways she was going to fire his ass if he couldn't get along with his new partner. Blah, blah, blah.
He walked into her office then had to wait while she ended a phone call.
Carmen Rodrigues stared at him after she put her phone down, her gray hair cut in a feminine style that make her look younger than the color of her hair said she was. "Raymond is going to need therapy."
"Raymond needs some field experience to toughen him up," Gunner countered. "I don't have the time or inclination to hand- hold anyone."
"I was hoping you'd act as his mentor."
Gunner shrugged. "Maybe in five years or so. When he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty and swear once in a while."
Rodrigues shook her head. "This is the last time, Gunner. If you can't work with Joy, I'll have to cut you lose."
"Joy Ashiro?" Say no, please say no.
"Yes." Rodrigues fixed him with a stern stare. "Figure out your shit, Gunner. I don't want to lose you."
Gunner managed to keep his mouth shut and just nodded. Did she think he wasn't trying to get his head on straight? He'd done all the things you were supposed to do. Psychiatric assessment, regular counseling, and an alphabet of medications. He knew damn well he suffered from PTSD and depression, but the attitude of most of the mental health professionals he'd encountered had gone in one of two directions. Either they smiled, patted him on the head, and promised him that with enough time, he'd be able to function normally in society again — gee, thanks for making him feel like he was a charity case. Or they offered even more medications, enough to knock an elephant on its ass, without asking the right questions about what he'd experienced. They simply didn't have a frame of reference to understand what he'd been through.
What he was still going through.
He hadn't been able to control his environment even on the most basic level in Syria. Now, a tidy, organized apartment and office was a key coping strategy for him. Expecting his partner to keep their goddamn desk clean wasn't too much to ask for, was it?
"I'm not chasing people off on purpose," he said. "It's like I've lost all my filters, and no matter how hard I look, I'm not finding them."
Rodrigues considered him for a moment. "Maybe you'll get along then, because Joy doesn't have any filters either. Shoo." She turned her attention back to her computer screen, a not-so-subtle message for him to leave.
Gunner left her office and returned to his own as frustration built up against the internal fence he'd constructed to keep his emotions corralled.
Now what the fuck was he going to do?
Work. If he focused hard enough on work, it would keep him from acting like an even bigger jackass than he was afraid he could be.
He sat down and began wading through the most recent lab reports from American hospitals and clinics of reportable diseases and infections. Everything from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections to weird viruses some newbie resident thought was brand new.
A lot of the reports were nothing unusual, but you never knew when something interesting or dangerous might pop up.
A brisk knock at the door, followed by someone entering, brought his attention back to the here and now.
DS walked in with Gunner's personal kryptonite right behind him. Adrenaline kissed his bloodstream, and he had to force himself to maintain his relaxed posture. She was small, with short dark brown hair and brown eyes. Her scrub top and jeans told him she was ready to work and wasn't afraid to get a little dirty.
Better start this off on the right foot.
Professional, he could do professional.
Gunner got up and went around his desk to shake her hand.
"Gunner." He took her hand, and a tendril of her scent, autumn leaves and pumpkin pie, set off a chain reaction inside him. It fed him energy and adrenaline. He savored it, noting she was at least a foot shorter than his six foot two height, and her curves were even more lethal than he remembered. Her grip was firm, confident, and she had a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. He paused, her hand warm in his. He loved freckles. Why hadn't he noticed them before? He could have stood there for a long time, soaking in her warmth and savoring the bite of attraction nibbling on every nerve in his body.
She gently pulled her hand away. "Joy," she said, and her voice was a pleasant alto. She tilted her head to one side and looked at him with a half smile. "Huh. You don't seem as carnivorous as the rumor mill describes you."
A shoot first, ask questions later person. It shouldn't have been appealing, but a part of him that had been sleeping for a long time cracked open an eye to evaluate this new and interesting creature in his lair.
"We've run into each other a few times before," he said, trying out a smile. Hey, look at that, his face didn't even crack. "But we weren't introduced. Besides" — he shrugged and glanced at the empty desk — "I just ate."
She cleared her throat and looked at him sidelong. "Still full or suffering from indigestion?"
Was she laughing at him? He glanced at DS and found the older man smiling widely.
Gunner looked at his new partner again. "Full." She had a sense of humor — bonus.
His cock took notice.
Fuck, that's all he needed. She was his new work partner, nothing more, nothing less.
"I'll leave you two to get better acquainted," DS said. "I'll be back at lunch." He left the room, leaving the door open.
Gunner focused on Joy. If he didn't get his body under control, she was going to see just how happy he was to have her working with him. He moved to sit behind his desk. Not a retreat. Nope, no sir. "I know I'm supposed to be polite and refrain from using bad language, whatever that means, but I was wondering if you'd like to ... uh, skip the bullshit?"
She met his gaze with one that briefly showed surprise before it morphed into a delighted smile. "Please."
Where to start? "What do you know about me?" "We went through the CDC's outbreak investigation training at the same time, but never interacted together directly. I'm the third person assigned to be your partner in the last six months. Your previous partners have described you as: irritable, short-tempered, and impatient." She leaned forward and lowered her voice to whisper loudly, "Those were the nice words."
He snorted, almost laughed. "What were the not-nice words?" She grinned and started unpacking as she said, "I quote, from your first partner: he's an asshole. Your second one said, he has all the diplomatic skills of a starving velociraptor."
Colorful, but obviously she didn't find the not- nice words intimidating. "Most people would hesitate to work with someone like that."
"I'm not most people."
"So, you've worked with a few asshole dinosaurs before?" "The Army is full of them." She met his gaze, and her smile had gained a sharp edge. "Whatever I receive, I can dish out."
His gut said she wasn't boasting. "DS said you were in combat rescue. How long did you do that?" "One deployment, about eight months." She considered him. "I heard you spent some time in Syria."
"Doctors Without Borders, yeah. Three years."
She paused, the smile falling off her face. "That's a long time. Did you move around?"
"Some. Most of the time I was in Aleppo, but I also spent time in Damascus and Homs."
She stared at him, a frown on her face. "Some serious shit went down in all of those places."
"Shit is a good way to describe it." But completely inadequate. More like total death and destruction.
"So, what was the deal with you and your previous partners?" she asked in a carefully cheerful tone.
Phony feelings he could do without. "Are you trying to manage me?"
"That's what getting along with people is. Figuring out how to manage them." She gave him a duh look. "You're smart enough to know that, so I ask again, what was the deal?" She hadn't known him five minutes, and already she wanted to take him apart.
She glanced at him and started to laugh. "Did they take one look at your awesome grumpy face and start babbling?"
"No," he said, but even he could hear the irritation in his voice.
"I bet they shut right up." She laughed again. "I talked to Raymond for a couple of minutes this morning."
"And what did he have to say?"
She rolled her eyes. "What a whiner. I'm not surprised you didn't get along. I think he wants to work with a mother figure."
"I don't have the hips for it." That wasn't the only reason. What could he say that wouldn't scare her off? Wait, did he want to keep her?
With her experience, she might be a good fit.
His mind went to places it should never go with a coworker.
He cleared his throat. "I do swear a lot," Gunner confessed. "It's made some people here uncomfortable."
"Fucking A," she said with a grin that now appeared completely genuine and way too energetic.
Oh boy. "Are you always this happy?"
"Nah, I'm usually much happier."
"Happy people give me a rash." Gunner rubbed his face with both hands. "Maybe I should just kill myself now."
"Where would the fun be in that?"
He pulled his hands away from his face to find her smiling, but it was quieter, less silly.
"I don't care if you're bitchy," she said, the humor not quite leaving her face. "As long as you do your job. You back me up when I need it, and I'll do the same for you."
"Sounds reasonable," he said.
All traces of comedy fled from her face as she said in a tone so hard and sharp it could flay the skin off his bones, "But if you try to fuck me up or fuck me over, I will bury you." Her gaze was clear and direct. "Do you get me?" Joy Ashiro, trauma nurse, had a scary side to her, and damn if he didn't find that both admirable and attractive as all hell.
It was Gunner's turn to grin. "That is the best deal I've heard in years."CHAPTER 2
February 14, 2:30 p.m.
Joy paused outside her office door and kicked it with one foot in lieu of knocking, both hands busy holding up a precariously piled high pillar of coffee cups, pumpkin muffins, and a container of her killer pumpkin cream cheese icing for the muffins.
Gunner had a soft spot for pumpkin-flavored treats. She'd found that out a few months ago when she'd popped in with food for whoever was on duty over Thanksgiving weekend.
He hadn't been overly friendly, but the sight of the pumpkin pie amongst the containers of food had turned him into Mr. Cooperation.
He'd kept looking at the pie like it was going to spontaneously combust at any moment and cheat him of his opportunity to consume it. Did he look at a woman he wanted with the same laser-intense focus?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Sleight of Hand"
Copyright © 2019 Julie Rowe.
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 fast paced romantic suspense novel that I just loved. Joy is a former military trauma nurse that was assigned to be Gunner's partner at the CDC. Gunner is a former Doctors Without Borders physician who doesn't tolerate ignorant people and has earned a reputation as difficult to work with. Almost immediately, Joy and Gunner get along and seem to understand each other. Joy and Gunner are tasked with investigating the cause of a major illness outbreak at a fraternity. Before long, they are frightened by what they find. A multi agency approach forces them to work with FBI and Homeland Security agents, some of whom are actively working against them. As they spar with their co-workers, they continue to investigate a case that seems to get dramatically worse every day. I was hooked from the very first page and found myself turning pages just as quickly as possible and couldn't put it down until the very end. Fans of the genre will love this book. While this is part of a series, this is a stand alone novel, however, it's so good that you really owe it to yourself to read them all. The author is on my must read authors' list.
CDC Doctor Gunner Anderson goes through partners faster than most men change clothes. His problem is he doesn’t have time to hold someone’s hand and coddle them. He needs a strong partner, someone who’ll go into battle with him and be able to handle it. His boss gives him one last partner and it’s Gunner’s last chance. Enter Joy Oshiro, a wise-cracking former military nurse who makes his body ache with urgings he hasn’t felt in years. But he doesn’t have time to stop and think about this attraction because there’s an outbreak of e coli infecting college students. As the cases and deaths rise, it becomes clear someone is poisoning a local brewery’s beer kegs. Gunner and Joy must race against time to stop the outbreak before more die. Can Gunner and Joy work through their PTSD issues together, forging a relationship and stop the terrorists or are they the next victims? Sleight of Hand is an adrenaline rush start to finish and the best book in the Outbreak Task Force series. Having fallen for Gunner in a previous book, I was thrilled to read his heartbreaking story. Gunner and Joy are perfect partners, both professionally and romantically, with compelling backstories and off the chart chemistry. Rowe sheds light on how PTSD affects doctors and military alike for years, not just a few days. Plenty of twists and turns make this a must read, especially if you’re a fan of romantic suspense. Myself, I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting. Highly recommend! Disclaimer: I received and ARC from Entangled Publishing via Netgalley in the hopes I'd review it. Favorite Character/Quote: Joy. Not only is she a fantastic nurse and the perfect partner for Gunner, she’s flawed and it’s her dark side which made me love her. Sarcastic, witty and has a flair for baking pumpkin treats. . . a wonderful character and a perfect example of what it takes to be a CDC/military nurse. My Rating: 5 stars
Julie Rowe rocked this right into orbit. Holy hell what a fantastic read this is and her writing is from the beyond. Read Julie and you get it all, the suspense, steaming chemistry and a story that doesn't let you put it down. Gunnar Anderson doesn't play well with others. It's so bad he'd down to his last assistant who is willing to take him on. Gunnar is lead on the task force, served with Doctors Without Borders and has some serious PTSD along with his own personal losses and his disposition. Joy Ashiro is a former Army nurse who now works for the task force. Joy's also seen combat and has her own issues with PT and losses. Throw these two together and watch the sparks fly. Yowza. The head of task force Carmen Rodrigues isn't taking any nonsense from Gunnar and he's under orders to play nice with Joy. The two are sent out to investigate something insidious which is slowly killing college students. The offending bug seems to be coming from a microbrewery, but the story is much larger than that. Honestly this one kept me hanging by my fingers and through the twists and turns and the floor dropping out, you just don't see things coming. Are there really any good guys? Treat yourself to the first two books in this series! They are stellar reads then jump right into this book for a nice white knuckle ride with Julie Rowe. arc from NetGalley and Entangled for an honest review
I have loved each book in this series. The author's pacing and suspense are thrilling and the main couples are the icing on the cake! Joy Oshiro is a CDC nurse. She investigates suspicious outbreaks of illness across the country. She was an Army nurse for 8 years, and has seen war zones, and any number of other horrible things. She is definitely rocking some PTSD, but she tries to make the best of life, and she enjoys her job, even with her new, cranky, sullen partner, Gunner. Dr. Gunner Anderson is rocking his own hardcore PTSD after 3 years in Syria with Doctors Without Borders. He's lost friends, and loved ones, and has no time for any BS. He loves his job, but he's not looking forward to breaking in another new partner. He keeps losing his partners, due to his bad attitude and general grumpiness. But Joy, he actually wants to keep around. Way more than he should. Their partnership functions perfectly after a small get-to-know you period, and I loved watching them settle into their groove, just in time for the case of their career so far to hit. And so close to home for them, too. Gunner and Joy worked so well together, and I enjoyed the way they always had each other's back, especially with other law enforcement officials trying to keep them from doing their job. The suspense plot here was fast moving, exciting, and scary, and they handled themselves so well. Their chemistry was constantly sizzling under the surface, and I loved their slow descent into each other. They both had major issues, but having another person with similar issues really helped them to see and address their own problems in a different way. The story takes place in Atlanta, which makes it extra scary for me, as I live there. Even though some of the colleges and things were named differently, it still sent a little tremor through me every time I thought about it. This author's suspense plots are always smart, exciting, and fast paced, and I have enjoyed each book in this series so much. I truly hope there will be more!
This is the third book in the series for the Outbreak Task Force series, and I loved this one the best so far! Joy Oshiro (a combat medic) and Dr. Gunner Anderson (Doctors without borders) come together to head up the CDC investigation of a deadly bacteria. The banter in this was fantastic! I loved the ribbing and the push/pull of Gunner and Joy. The storyline was so good and kept me engaged throughout the whole book! I enjoyed the way each of their history was thread into this book so you understood each of their pasts. The supporting characters were perfectly included as well! Overall, I really enjoyed Sleight of Hand by Julie Rowe and would totally recommend it! She does a wonderful job keeping you on the edge. There was some heat and heartbreak, some intensity, mystery and death. Looking forward to the next book in the series! 4.5 stars
Sleight of Hand by Julie Rowe a four-star read you will want to play. This is book three in the Outbreak Task Force series, but they can al be read as stand-alone, this was my first novel in the series and it really was stand-alone. The drama and romance where great and the twists will have you guessing, this read gave me such a great story that I have just gone and bought the rest of the series to go back and catch up on. Joy and Gunner just had a great chemistry and biology to them.
Whew, who knew the CDC was so full of action? (waggles eyebrows at double entendre) "Sleight of Hand" is an action-packed, fast-paced romantic suspense that follows two CDC agents as they investigate an outbreak from biological warfare. Gunner, formerly a doctors without borders worker in Syria where his wife died, and Joy, former military nurse, are teamed up following a series of unfortunate partnerships on Gunner's side (earning him all sorts of labels). Gunner is apprehensive for his new partner, who he also finds very attractive. Together, they are thrust into a larger case as they investigate a stomach illness at a frathouse- which begins to kill some of the students. They soon learn that the beer was contaminated with two strains of E. Coli, making it extra potent- and not accidental. The terrorist group FAFO is quick to take the credit/blame, but only by following the clues can Joy and Gunner figure out who is behind this and how far it may have spread. As the death toll climes and they find themselves in constant danger (bombs, shootings, etc.), they are working against the clock to save lives. Amidst the case they are following, there are also a lot of politics with other agencies as CDC takes point (and this ruffles feathers). There is also a budding romance between two people who can recognize the trauma in the other and work together as a result- as work partners and perhaps as romantic partners. The romance was well done and believable, particularly given the situations thrown at them. I liked both Gunner and Joy and cheered for them as a couple. There are only a couple of romantic scenes, but this makes sense given the overall suspense/thriller themes. Regarding the overall case, it was really intriguing, and I liked following the way they sought out answers and conducted their investigation. The only thing was that there seemed to be a pretty big leap at the end, and I wasn't sure how much I bought it. That being said, I still really enjoyed it overall and am definitely interested in reading more of these big CDC cases- it was different from the usual investigations I have read in the past but had all the great elements of thrillers/mysteries that others would. I was completely engaged in the storyline, and I am curious to see how it will evolve. While this is part of a series, this was my first read from it, and I had no problems following the plot or characters. I do want to know what will happen in the future (the overarching larger story), so I would definitely be interested in reading the rest of the series. I never knew I would be so interested in the CDC! This was a really fun romantic suspense, and I enjoyed the read. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
This is the third book in Julie Rowe's Outbreak Task Force series and I think it's one of the best. This story takes us on a wild ride as CDC agents nurse Joy Oshiro and Dr. Gunner Anderson attempt to track down the source of the current deadly outbreak and bring down the responsible parties. Suspense is high with lots of action as these two race the clock while trying not to be the next targets. I definitely recommend this one.