True Peril

True Peril

by Veronica Forand

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781523976157
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 02/24/2016
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)

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True Peril


By Veronica Forand, Candace Havens

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2016 Veronica Forand
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-577-2


CHAPTER 1

A beat-up Land Cruiser, bald tires, and a dirt road complete with potholes and gullies made for one shitty way to travel to San Stefano, a tiny nothing of a village in the far reaches of nowhere in Columbia. Drug cartels and rogue militias ruled these mountains. Dane O'Brien, however, had a mission to complete — retrieve Jenny Bloom and send her back home to the States — so he'd snagged the first transportation available to get the job done. The mission was as close to impossible as any Dane had been on in the past. This woman, full of crazy intelligence and insane compassion for the poor and underserved communities of the world, preferred living in war zones to the suburbs of Maryland.

When he'd discovered where she was, he'd called and tried to convince her to leave. The pain in the ass do-gooder, however, refused to stop risking her life for people she didn't know. He played a similar game and absorbed the risk as a means to an end, but Jenny's situation was different.

She was his baby sister.

He drove into the small, colorful village expecting the slow rhythms of a mountain farm community. The tension across the crowded marketplace put him on instant alert. Something foul had soiled the atmosphere. A crowd of people milled about in the town square. Several men stood together wearing stress and fear as part of their wardrobe. A group of women conversed with arms waving and eyes blazing.

He parked at the schoolhouse, a new two-floor building made through contributions from the international organization that had hired Jenny. The few villagers outside the school quieted as heads turned to watch the stranger arrive. He showed his empty hands in a gesture of good faith, nodded briefly, and headed into the building.

"Jenny?" he called into the large empty classroom on the first floor.

A door opened and closed above him, and footsteps pattered down the stairs. Jenny flew around the corner and jumped into his arms, looking like the freckle-faced teenager of their youth. Her hair was still short and flyaway with no recognizable style to it, and her face was red and blotchy as though she'd been crying all night. His happiness in seeing her faded to a deep concern. Jenny was not the type to whine, complain, or cry without major cause.

"You made it. Thank God." She hugged him tighter.

"What's wrong?" His hands automatically moved across her shoulders and down her back to check for injuries. She'd sounded happy when he'd spoken to her the day before.

"I'm fine." She shook him off and paced to the window, looking into the marketplace. Her breathing slowed and mixed with an occasional sob. "Rebels came here last night and killed the barkeeper. They took Trista, my roommate. She hasn't returned."

Rebels? This wasn't a FARC controlled area. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, otherwise known as the People's Army, had moved out of this area years ago, and the major leftist groups had relocated closer to the coal mines. "Which group?"

"The Red Hawks. They're a small rebel faction more interested in making money than causing government reform. Once or twice a month, a few men come down from their base to buy supplies. These two were barely out of their teenage years. Their uniforms and guns gave them the confidence to do anything."

"And they kidnapped her?"

Jenny looked at her feet. "They were kidnapping Natalia, but she wouldn't have stood a chance, so Trista said she would take her place."

"She volunteered to leave with them?" Is the woman crazy?

"Natalia, the barkeeper's daughter, is only fourteen. She'd just watched her father gunned down. She was crying uncontrollably and the murderers decided why not completely blacken their souls by raping and possibly killing their victim's daughter. They pulled her out of the bar to their Jeep. They would have destroyed her. I wish I'd had the guts to do something, but I honestly had no idea how to handle it. Trista's different. She works with the rehabilitation arm of the ICPF."

"The what?"

"The International Children's Protection Fund. The group that set me up here. As a rehabilitation specialist, Trista has helped hundreds of children leave military groups. She's also rescued girls forced into marriage. She must have thought she could talk to the rebels and escape. At least, that's what I think she'd intended."

Did Jenny realize that Trista's job would invite death threats and retaliation?

"She wanted to negotiate with horny adolescents with guns, drunk on their power? Shit. She may never return."

"No. I don't believe that. She's smart and prepared and has been in a bunch of war zones." Jenny paced around the room and told him everything that had occurred in the bar. Her friend Trista sounded like a martyr. Dane was grateful Jenny didn't have that same heroic instinct. He'd take down entire countries if something ever happened to her.

"And no one stood up to stop them?"

Jenny shook her head. "The Red Hawks burned a nearby village about five years ago. Most people died. Everyone here is terrified."

The more she told him, the grimmer Trista's future appeared. Even if she escaped, she'd be stranded in the middle of the jungle with no food or clean water.

Part of the crowd gathering outside the school had circled his SUV and were peering in the windows of the schoolhouse. They had reason to be cautious, although from Jenny's descriptions, the whole village was more fearful than confrontational.

"Can we go somewhere more private?"

"Come upstairs." She grasped him by the hand and led him to her apartment on the second floor. The apartment had a kitchenette, a couch, and two chairs, with a bunch of doors probably leading to bedrooms and a bathroom. The only color came from the bright blue curtains. Not much of a living space, but probably larger than many of the homes in this area. A collage of photos lined the corkboard on the wall. A picture of him as a new college graduate ready to conquer the world sat among ones of a smiling Jenny in various countries around the world.

He focused on the photos of Trista. She had an athletic body, with feminine curves, and she wore her brown hair long. A wayward strand partially covered her hazel eyes. Her eyebrows remained low in every photo, as though she was waiting for rain or a zombie apocalypse. To a man who read faces and body language as part of his job, she appeared not to trust most people. Her smoldering eyes had probably seen the worst life could offer.

He guided Jenny to the couch. "We have to get you out of here. It'll only get worse if the soldiers come back."

"Leave?" Jenny stared at him with wide, wet eyes. "I can't leave the children. They won't have a teacher if I run away. Three of them live with us and have no one else in their lives. And what about Trista? I can't take off without her. She risked her life to help Natalia. I owe her. The whole village owes her a debt."

"The Columbian army won't protect you in this inkblot of a town. Even if they did, it would take two days to travel here."

Jenny stood in her jeans and gray T-shirt with her hands on her hips, ready to fight her older brother, as she'd done again and again in the past. "I have responsibilities. Erika is only five, and little Juan and Sergio depend on me. Hell, Natalia lost her father last night — she needs someone to care for her. ICPF support should be here in a few days. They're bringing supplies and a few extra people." After Jenny's husband, a Peace Corps volunteer, died a few years ago while building a bridge in Madagascar, she poured her heartache into her assignments. A tribute to the late Fred Bloom. Only Fred would probably not have been so supportive of her trekking to the most remote and dangerous areas of the world.

"I only have two days, and then I have to return to San Francisco." He'd wanted to spend the time convincing his sister to come home, but her roommate dominated his thoughts. Is she going to make it back? He shouldn't get involved, but those damn hazel eyes were embedded in his brain, and her bravado in saving that girl made him curious about her and ... shit. He couldn't leave a woman alone with a bunch of punks.

"You can take a longer vacation. You're a salesman. Who cares if you don't show up for work?"

He wasn't exactly a salesman. He was a CIA operative who monitored arms deals throughout the world. His access to the major players in the field came from being embedded with a California drone technology company. Jenny didn't know his real employer, and he preferred to keep it that way for her own protection.

He glanced at the photos of Trista again. Staying here was stupid and a risk to both him and Jenny, but after seeing Trista and feeling the inevitable pull of his conscience, he wanted her safe as much as Jenny did. Work would have to wait.

He must have looked at the photos for a second too long. The tension in Jenny's face and neck had disappeared, replaced by her "I know how to reel you in" smile.

"We can drive up the mountain and search for her," she said.

"We? You're staying in the village. I'll take a drive. I'm limiting my search to thirty miles, and then I turn around." Dane had his own doubts about the safety of the village as well, but alone he could move faster, and old skills he'd tried to bury could be resurrected to pull Trista out safely, if she was still alive.

"Why can't I go with you?"

"You're safer here." Whoever took Trista wouldn't let her go so easily, and Jenny was not going to head into a potential shoot out. On this, he wouldn't budge.

His biggest concern centered on finding Trista in an unfamiliar and dangerous jungle he knew nothing about. He couldn't call for backup, because the CIA wouldn't acknowledge his employment. If he was discovered, his cover could be blown, and Pelican would go into a media frenzy, accusing the government of inserting government informants into corporations. Not exactly the public relations the intelligence community needed right now.

His current assignment required him to gain access to corporations to steal information, and wine and dine presidents of small countries in order to locate holes in their defense systems. In the past, however, he infiltrated countries and took out individuals hostile to American interests. He preferred his expense account to his rifle. And yet he kept falling back into situations where his old skills were necessary. Perhaps this wouldn't be one of those times. The increased tension in the back of his neck told him otherwise. He sure as hell wouldn't be smoking cigars and drinking Scotch on this rescue mission.

Four hours later, he'd changed from corporate flunky in khaki pants and a button down shirt into a lost tourist in worn jeans and a T-shirt. After talking with a few of the villagers, he located enough supplies for a brief drive into the jungle. His only weapon, a Glock he carried on him at all times, rested in his shoulder holster, covered by a worn flannel shirt he'd bought off one of the local farmers.

Leaving the village, he followed the dirt road into the higher elevations of the mountains. Remote didn't begin to describe this place. Little to no electricity, and the only gas station around was in the back of his SUV in the form of a twenty-gallon red plastic jug. The density of the jungle encroaching on each side of the road made him wish he had access to a team of Navy SEALs. Those badasses would extricate Trista in under an hour and still have time for a drink at the local bar. He'd have to go it alone.

The road forked in several locations, but the few sets of new tire tracks in the mud all followed the same route. He spotted a rutted pull-out next to an old broken down hut. He drove past the hut and parked his car about a mile down an old walking path, wide enough to fit the SUV and far enough away from the road to avoid detection if anyone returned, and used a small shovel to shift the mud across his tracks at the entrance to the path.

No sound came from the building, but there was evidence of recent activity that indicated something had gone down at that spot within the past twelve hours. Gun in hand, he pushed the door open with his foot.

The stench hit him first. Blood pooled across the ground in large brown stains, exposing a recent, probably fatal, injury. Was it from Trista? The thought made his chest hurt. She'd risked her life for someone else. A stupid but brave action.

He searched for a sign she'd been there, hoping he didn't find her body. A few sets of heavy footprints going to and from the road dug into the ground. Dane was no tracker, but those were made by combat boots. He'd bet his life on it.

Every bird that flew near the hut added three more gray hairs to Dane's mostly brown-haired head. He had solid instincts in the field, but in today's technological world, the smallest camera could be beaming his location and description to anyone, and he'd be none the wiser. He headed to the door and noticed a lighter and smaller set of footprints in the dirt leading to the jungle. Sneakers?

He followed the tracks to the edge of the clearing. Thick vegetation hid from view anything farther than fifty yards into the jungle. If she was in there, she could stay hidden forever.

"Trista?" he called out through the trees.

No answer.

"I'm Jenny's brother. It's safe."

He called to her several more times and then started back to his car to gather supplies to hike a mile or two farther to try to find more evidence of her presence. The swish of a branch behind him caught his attention. Whoever was hiding had emerged.

Relief turned to caution as Trista walked out of the jungle with a layer of mud covering her and a handgun aimed at his head.

"Trista?"

She didn't speak. Her eyes remained focused on him, and her legs seemed poised to take off at the slightest threat.

"Are you hurt?" he asked.

Hovering in the area between the road and the forest, she shook her head. "You're Jenny's brother?"

Her voice sounded stronger than her faltering body appeared. Some of the mud that covered her looked more like blood that had dried on her shirtsleeves and part of her pants.

"Yes. I'm Dane O'Brien."

"What's Jenny's middle name?" Her eyebrows furrowed as they had in the pictures.

"She doesn't have one."

She took a tentative step forward. She observed Dane's movements and fixed her eyes on his like a panther ready to pounce. "What's her favorite drink?"

"Chocolate milkshakes. Or a margarita if the bar carries fresh limes."

The tension in her face melted away. She pointed the gun to the ground and walked over to him. His arms opened automatically — after all, the woman had been through hell. She probably needed a hug or a shoulder to cry on.

She crossed her arms over her chest, the gun dangling from her hand. Her breathing pattern switched from a heavy sigh to a shivery exhale. He put his arms down and observed her.

"Are you okay?"

She nodded. "I'll survive."

"Let me rephrase. Do you need medical attention?"

"No."

"Where are the men who took you from the village?"

"Dead."

"You killed them?"

She nodded. Her gaze dropped to the ground. Most people never recovered from such a nightmare. Yet she'd not only lived through the ordeal, she emerged from the jungle healthy and armed.

Impressive.

He'd placed the odds against her, but now that he saw her in person, he'd have changed his bet. He approached her with caution. Her finger rested just outside the trigger, in a position a skilled shooter would feel comfortable with.

She peered up at him. "I'm glad you're here. I didn't know how I'd get down from the mountain. Is Jenny all right?"

"Worried about you."

"What about Natalia?"

"I don't know anything about her, except she's probably alive thanks to you. Did they hurt you?" He placed a calming hand on her shoulder and slipped the gun out of her hand.

"No." She eyed the weapon, but didn't reach for it. Not that she'd be capable of taking it back from him.

"I've been listening to the group's radio all night. They're coming back. For me." A tear rolled down her cheek. She ignored it and looked toward the hut. "I didn't mean to kill them."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from True Peril by Veronica Forand, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Veronica Forand. 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.

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True Peril 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Lori-Gonzo 10 months ago
This is a pretty intense story. Never a dull moment, this roller coaster of a story kept me glued to the pages waiting to see what would happen next and how it would all work out. If you love strong alpha men, and even stronger women, then you will love this book. I loved how Dane was all over trying to help and protect Trista instantly after briefly conversing with his sister. Their connection was immediate and powerful. Throw in a funny, strong, even more alpha best friend with his feisty wife and you have a great story. Simon and Cassie, from book 2 of this series, make a wonderful and impactful appearance in this book. I haven't read their story, but after loving them in this book, I need to go back to read it. The words of this book flew off the pages and made very vivid images in my mind. Several scenes of shock, gore, devastation, and heartbreak will pull you in more to this story. And the wrap up/revenge was so well done. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
grandmareads102 More than 1 year ago
Trista Patterson may be well connected but she's no pampered socialite. She's dedicated her life to helping others. To save a young girl, she becomes the hostage of vicious killers. Her escape has made her a target of the cartel along with her rescuer, Dane O'Brien. Can they escape retribution? I love a feisty heroine. Trista is an amazing character. She's a force to be recokoned with. Dane is a former assassin. He no longer wants to be that person. He'll sacrifice everything to save this woman, even risk his career with the CIA. What a man! Their chemistry is powerful. When they're together sparks fly. Their battle of wills is epic. I smiled when Dane realized that she won't back down, True Peril kept me on the edge of my seat. The story is well plotted and filled with unexpected surprises. The setting is realistic and the characters are compelling. This book is a great read. I'm loving the True Lies series. The romantic suspense in these stories is addictive. I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.
Splashesintobooks1 More than 1 year ago
Superb conclusion to an enthralling, well written series! Travelling to San Stefano in Columbia to check all is well with his sister, Jenny Bloom, the last thing Dane O’Brien anticipated was getting caught up in rescuing Jenny’s friend and coworker Trista! Not only that, his sister has no idea about his secret life as an undercover CIA agent, one who was notorious as a ‘ghost’ – he slipped unseen into dangerous situations to eliminate enemies, but he was trying to leave that life behind, hating the nightmares reliving the assassinations he’d carried out. Now, however, he’ll need all those skills as Trista has not only escaped from her captors but she’s killed them both. The drug lord is now determined to kill her, too! This is the fantastic fast paced thriller concluding this enthralling series. Many of the characters from the earlier books play key roles in this one, too, so I recommend reading them first even though I suspect this would still work well as a standalone read. All the key characters are complex, with pasts affecting both their attitudes and behaviour. The development of relationships is superbly portrayed, complete with all the fears, indecision and attractions, helping the reader understand their turmoil, reactions and emotional responses. The same high standard applies to the scenarios, helping the reader feel like they are a witness to the events, taking them right into the heart of the story. A very personal connection with this story was made when someone was discussing their dream wedding scenario which included visiting Antigua – which is where I was on the day I read that particular part of the story! Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too, for letting me read an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
aprilrenee1976 More than 1 year ago
Suspenseful, Sexy and Action Packed I did like this story about how a former socialite named Trista went from living for only herself to living for others. Thing is, you have to learn how to balance that need or you can get into trouble and that is what has happened to her. She is living to help others and she is trying to go out of her way to help a young girl in danger taken by a drug Cartel. She is kidnapped because she is poking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. Dane who is a CIA undercover operative and Jenny’s older brother is in Columbia . He is concerned about his sister who is very worried about Trista—because they are roomies and when Trista doesn’t come home, she realizes she has been kidnapped by the Cartel or by someone tied to them. That is where Dane gets involved. Dane goes on a rescue mission and finds Trista pretty fast but things happened before he got to her will weight on her and he is worried about that. Dane is able to save Trista but before they get away, she suffers some injuries and Dane has to call in some favors to get out but not before they question who Trista is to him. That is where Eve comes in…Dane claims she is his wife and he has to make it look real. In order to make it out alive, her past was buried and a new one is alive. Will Dane and Eve/Trista even make it out of Columbia alive? Will Eve/Trista and Dane recognize the sexual chemistry that is burning between them? And why is she being pretty much turned to this new career not by choice but by blackmail of the highest degree by Dane’s boss Simon? There is so many things going on , so many layers that I needed to know all the players. I did like this story and the intrigue. There is somewhat enough of a good backstory but I still needed more . I do like Dane-he is mucho macho male. Trista/Eve has a heartbreaking past but she is someone now who needs a good man to be there for her and once she gets going, she is sassy and independent. I liked the outcome. I would love to read more by this author because this was a good story. My rating: 4.0 stars **** *I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review***
gigiluvsbooks More than 1 year ago
Socialite Trista Patterson has turned her back on her life of privilege and dedicated herself to helping others. Her mission to protect the world’s children often takes her into the bleak and violent underbelly of third world countries. When a kidnapping attempt goes wrong, Trista quickly finds herself running for her life…and married to a man she just met…as she’s placed at the top of the Cartel’s most wanted list. Some days no good deed goes unpunished. Dane O’Brien has spent his life in the shadows. Once a lethal assassin he grew tired of losing his soul with every hit, trading his gun and missions for a conference table and office politics as an undercover operative for the CIA. But when visiting his humanitarian sister turns deadly, Dane finds himself swearing to protect her beautiful and passionate friend Trista no matter the cost…even if it means stepping back into the world he swore never to return to. Although falling for the tough-hearted Trista is easy, keeping her alive is hard. Review: Another exciting installment in this series! Lots of action and adventure going on in this romantic suspense. We have all kinds of factions working for and against each other in this book, MI6, CIA, South American drug lords, and that is just some of the few in this book. I found this book more violent and action-packed than the previous books. I do love the intrigue of these stories and how they build upon each other in the series. Though this could be a stand alone, I appreciated reading the others since it does touch on past events and how the characters in this book relate to one another. While there is romance, there is not blatant smexy going on, so it is low on the heat scale if that is what you are looking for. I did love the characters, Trista/Eve is awesome; she kicks butt and takes names. And Dane, well after the last story, I had hoped this ladies-man would fall and fall hard. They have great chemistry and their differences compliment each other. Plus, they had a great fake marriage before the real one. Wonderful book and series, full of action, adventure, suspense and romance...well worth the read. 4Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
MELHUTCHINSON More than 1 year ago
I thought that this was a very smooth flowing plot that did not have much down time. The characters were well developed and seemed like they were on the move all the time in the story. Dane is a CIA agent that is always into one thing or another. Dane has not told his sister the whole truth about his job so she thinks that he does something else besides what he really does. When Dane gets word that his sister Jenny may be in trouble with the Cartel, he does the only thing that he knows to do and that is to go after her. Dane will stop at nothing to help his sister and to get her out of the bad situation that she is in. Jenny is helping teach over in Columbia, but has somehow gotten on the Cartel's list. When Dane gets to Jenny, he finds out that her partner that works with her over there, Trista, has just been kidnapped and Jenny begs Dane to go find her and help her get away from the Cartel. When Dane does find Trista, she has killed 2 of the soldiers that kidnapped her and is scared to death of what might happen to her next. Dane helps her get away, but in the midst of them escaping, they run upon another group of soldiers that takes Dane. Dane does everything he can before the soldiers get there to keep them from finding Trista and makes her fall down a hill. Trista has no clue what is going on at first but then she hears the soldiers and knows that Dane was just trying to save her. the soldiers end up finding Trista eventually anyway and taking her to where Dane is. Dane makes up a story about Trista being his wife and hopes that Trista is smart enough to play along with his game. When Dane and Trista get away from the soldiers again, Dane knows that he has to make some calls to make the marriage look real or Trista is never going to make it out alive. The adventure and suspense in this story is riveting and will keep you turning the pages. I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen for Dane and Trista and if Jenny was going to make it back safely. Veronica Forand did a very good job with keeping this one moving. I can't wait to see what she has in store for us next!! This story has just the right amount of romance as well! I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review by Entangled Publishing and NetGalley.
Blsfan68 More than 1 year ago
This is a well written, fast paced story that will draw you in and not let go. Ms. Forand does an excellent job keeping the story action packed and full of intrigue. The characters are well developed and likable. Eve was the perfect stubborn, strong heroine. I loved seeing characters from the previous books in this series have a part in this one as well. Highly recommend! ARC received from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Linda__ More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! This is a well crafted romantic suspense that grabbed my attention from the first page and held it until the very last page. I was actually sorry when it ended. If you've read books by this author before, you know that she is a very talented storyteller, but even knowing that doesn't prepare you for just how well crafted this complicated story is. This one is a must read. While this is part of a series, it is a stand alone novel. Fans of the genre will love this book.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
Wow, this one had a lot going on and all of it was delicious! International intrigue, espionage, marriage of convenience, and a great slow building romance all wrapped up in one fabulous read. Trista is a wonderful strong character who has dedicated her life to helping others. When she's the one that really needs helping, she has to rely on Dane O'Brien to give her that help. He has secrets and a boat load of issues though so the attraction between them can't happen. Or can it?? I highly recommend this one!