Sierra by Taylor Dean – Book Blast

 

Sierra 99 cents

 

 

sierra cover

Sierra by Taylor Dean

Have you ever been lost in the woods?

Alyssa Fontaine’s life, loved ones—everything familiar and dear—are brutally taken from her.

Taken captive by two men, she endures a horrific nightmare. A new life is forced upon her and even a new name.

Just when it appears that no hope is in sight, she is saved by an unlikely twist of fate. Trapped in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, life will open its arms to her again and she will embrace it. She will find love such as she never knew existed.

Sierra is a heart-wrenching story of the power of the human spirit to survive amidst impossible circumstances and severe losses. It is a story of survival . . . and hope.

 

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Excerpt from Sierra:

This is one of my favorite scenes in Sierra. It’s a pivotal moment, wherein Alyssa’s life can change for the better–or for the worse. After facing extreme cruelty, she is faced with utter kindness. I love the marked difference between her experiences. ~Taylor Dean

“Please sit,” he whispered. Her eyes were drawing him in. She didn’t seem to be scared of him, she seemed to know he wanted to help her. First, he filled a glass with water and held it to her lips. She drank thirstily, but then shook her head negatively when he wanted her to finish all of it. At the sink, he filled a small plastic tub with warm water, grabbed shampoo, and went back to Alyssa. The kitchen sink doubled as his bathroom sink. He had all he needed to clean her up, including a small first aid kit. He knelt in front of her. Once again, he gently touched her chin and lifted her face to his. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. She had the biggest brown eyes he’d ever seen.

“Just relax and let me take care of you, Alyssa,” he whispered softly.

She responded with a slight nod. Sitting in the kitchen chair, he had her slowly lean her head back till it was resting just above the tub. He gently began to wash her hair, first getting it wet and then massaging the shampoo into her scalp. She winced when he touched the spot where dried blood matted her hair, so he was extra gentle there. Her long hair was tangled and filled with dirt and bits of dried leaves. It took some time to get it clean and several refills of warm water in the tub as he rinsed. Alyssa closed her eyes and relaxed for probably the first time in days. He worked conditioner into the long locks and then had her sit up as he gently combed through it, removing all of the snarls. He then parted the hair where the wound on the scalp was located and took a look at the gash. It was angry and red, and it needed stitches, but would have to wait till he could retrieve his medical supplies from the supply room. He disinfected it with alcohol and moved on.

He again knelt in front of Alyssa. Her eyes opened and stared deeply into his, desperately trying to communicate without words. A lone tear fell, drizzling down her cheek. He brushed it away with his fingertips. This was harder than he thought. He knew this was the first gentle touch she’d felt in days. The abuse she had suffered was obvious to him as he noticed her many bruises. He grabbed his kitchen stool and sat before her. Using a washcloth, he began to wipe her face clean. As he worked, their eyes met and held. Ever so gently he wiped the dirt and grime away from days spent outdoors. And with it he wiped away tears and pain.

“Please help me,” Alyssa whispered.

Alex stole a glance at Pa and Adam. Pa’s eyes were closed and a soft snore emanated from him. Adam was wide awake, his shotgun pointed at Alex, but he stared into the fire sullenly. Alex leaned forward to grab the tube of anti-biotic ointment on the table. With his lips to her ear as he brushed past, he whispered, “Everything’s going to be all right, Alyssa. I won’t let them take you, I promise.”

Alex then applied the salve to the small cuts on her face and lips. Each and every one of his ministrations clearly brought relief to her. Every time Alex looked her in the eyes, she met him with eyes that spoke volumes. He refilled the tub and washed her arms and hands and then took his time cleaning her fingernails, occasionally massaging her hand as he looked into her eyes. He also applied cortisone cream to her numerous mosquito bites. Next, he decided to tend to her neck and wrists. He cringed inside at the raw, bloody skin underneath the ropes. The first thing he’d wanted to do was cut the ropes, but he didn’t want to push his luck. However, now it was time. He went to the kitchen counter and unsheathed a kitchen knife. The sound of the knife being unsheathed brought Adam to his feet immediately.

Shotgun aimed at Alex, he yelled, “Put it down, Doc.”

Alex faced him without flinching. “I’m cutting the ropes. They’ve rubbed her skin raw and it’s going to get infected,” he said with steel in his voice. “You can have the knife when I’m done.”

Pa awoke from his snooze in the commotion. “Sit down, Adam. Doc’s right. Let ‘em fix her up,” he growled.

Adam continued to stand, anxiously waiting while Alex cut the rope on her neck and freed Alyssa from her leash. He then cut the other ropes and freed her wrists. She closed her eyes and Alex could see the relief on her face. He wondered just how long she had been bound. He handed the knife to Adam roughly and stared him in the face. “Satisfied?”

“Won’t do any good, I’ll just be puttin’ the ropes back on ya know,” Adam taunted.

Not if I have anything to say about it, thought Alex.

 

Book Trailer

 

 

Praise for Sierra:

Every now and then you come across a novel that profoundly takes your breath away, and Sierra is that novel.
-Kathleen of Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Riveting from beginning to end. Be prepared to read straight through.
-Sherry of Fundinmental Book Reviews

I thought I had read romances before, and books like “Jane Eyre” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” I had always considered the peaks of romantic literature. Let me say this. This is the most romantic book I have ever read in my 38 years on this planet!
-Ruth of My Devotional Thoughts

What I like most about Sierra was how Taylor lulls you in the beginning, then she shreds the peaceful scene to pieces. It happens so fast you barely have time to comprehend what is going to happen. Just like in real life.
-Laura of FUONLYKNEW Book Reviews

 

TaylorAuthor Taylor Dean

Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding that she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense—you’ll find all sub-genres of romance in her line-up.

 

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BookBlast Giveaway

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Ends 11/22/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran – Book Promo

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Taylor for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bonnie Doran’s debut novel, Dark Biology, released October 25th as a science fiction thriller from Harbourlight of Pelican Book Group. Prior to delving into fiction, she wrote and sold over 60 devotionals. She is represented by Steve Hutson of WordWise Media. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading (mostly science fiction), cooking, Sudoku puzzles, and hanging out with other writers, sci-fi fans, and Mad Scientists. She has a reputation of telling groan-producing puns and volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She’s been married 29 years to an electrical engineer and Mad Scientist who owns a 2,300-pound electromagnet and plays with lasers for a living.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Renowned vaccinologist “Hildi” Hildebrandt has set her sights on beating her brother to a Nobel Prize, and the opportunity to conduct experiments on the International Space Station might just provide the means to obtain that goal.

Chet Hildebrandt should have had that opportunity. But now he’ll teach a lesson to them all: his hot-shot astronaut sister, his philandering hypocritical father, and the CDC for not properly appreciating his work. One vial of a virus purloined from the CDC labs and released at his father’s marriage seminar should do the trick, without hurting anybody. After all, it’s only a mild influenza strain…Or is it?

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611162777
ISBN-13: 978-1611162776

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Infection Minus Ten Months

Hildi’s nose itched.

She ignored it. While she waited for her lab partner to emerge from the airlock, she checked the seals of her blue biocontainment suit again. Good habits could save her life.

Hildi pulled a coiled yellow air hose suspended from the ceiling and plugged it into a socket near her waist. The deflated suit expanded as air roared past her face. The familiar ballooning sensation saddened her for a moment. She’d miss her work here.

Then she grinned. She’d be wearing a pressure suit in her new job and performing similar cutting-edge work in an even stranger environment.

Her practiced eyes appraised Biosafety Level 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most dangerous lab. Everything “down and cold.” But an adjoining room held liquid-nitrogen freezers filled with hot agents, the deadliest diseases known to man. Francine stepped from the airlock. Hildi’s college friend had never worked in Level 4, but she moved with confidence. Hildi stared into Francine’s faceplate and noted her calm expression. She’d do fine.

Hildi maneuvered past the stainless-steel tables dominating the room. She pulled two-inch test tubes, a push-button micropipette, and other tools from drawers and placed them in the biosafety cabinet, a glorified box with a fume hood and clear front that rested on the work counter. She detached her hose, inhaling the reserved air in her suit.

Humming to herself, she walked into the adjoining room and attached her suit to another hose. Every time Hildi moved in the lab, she repeated the procedure, a necessary inconvenience if she wanted to continue breathing.

She punched a code into the lock of one of the stainless-steel freezers and extracted a vial of the latest X virus that may or may not have killed John Doe.

Returning to the biosafety hood, she slipped her yellow-gloved hands under the clear protective shield, a sneeze guard at a toxic salad bar. She withdrew a tiny sample of the unknown and released it into one of the tubes. After Hildi repeated the protocol many times, she keyed the information into the computer.

Hildi glanced at Francine just as she straightened from a hunched position over a microscope. Francine turned, her movements jerky like a marionette’s. Her suit’s chest zipper gaped, exposing her blue scrubs underneath. She seemed to shrink as her biosuit deflated.

Hildi froze.

“I’ve got a problem here!” Francine yelled, her voice quavering. The rush of air in their ears turned conversations in Level 4 into a shouting match. Francine fumbled for the zipper with trembling fingers.

Hildi’s heart skipped several beats then she zipped the suit shut in one smooth motion. “Zippers get worn. They can pop open.”

Francine’s white-rimmed, dark-chocolate eyes returned to normal. “How bad was that?” Her voice still quavered.

“Your suit had positive pressure the whole time. A hot agent couldn’t get in. You OK?”

Francine gave a nervous chuckle. “Sure gave me the jumpy jitters.” She turned back to the scope.

Hildi released the breath she’d been holding. Risk was part of the job. Zippers failed. Gloves failed. Usually it wasn’t life threatening.

She placed the rack of tubes in the incubator cabinet, maintainedat the ominous temperature of warm blood, and then returned the original sample of hot agent to the freezer. Her mood descended into a gray chasm. She already missed the challenge of Level 4. But she had a job offer that would take her research to a whole new level. She could smell that Nobel Prize. Her brother Chet would never catch up to her now.

Hildi exhaled a heavy sigh that fogged her faceplate. “Done,” she yelled. “Finally I can get out of here and scratch my nose.”

“Thought you’d be used to it after three years.”

“Never. Right now it’s driving me nuts.”

Francine chuckled and headed for the airlock.

Hildi followed. She inhaled the chemical smell as the decontamination shower sprayed disinfectant over her suit. The two of them scrambled out of their blue suits as soon as they reached the changing room. Hildi scratched her tingling nose with ferocity.

Francine grinned at her and walked to the regular showers which contained detergent for washing and a bath of ultraviolet light.

Hildi hung her short suit next to Francine’s long one. She reached up to caress a sleeve of the guardian that protected her against infection. “Thanks for keeping me safe. I’ll be back.”

Hildi stripped and marched naked to the shower. No modesty in this job. Afterward, she tugged on jeans and a mauve T-shirt.

Her lab partner’s perfect complexion glistened as she toweled off. Hildi’s pale skin and red curls contrasted with Francine’s coffee coloring and corn-rowed black hair. Not exactly twins separated at birth.

“When do you get in to Houston?” Francine pulled on black leggings and a flowered tunic then grabbed her tiny purse.

“Around four.” Hildi grimaced. “Rush hour. My favorite time.” She longed for the feel of the afternoon sun on her face, but she wouldn’t enjoy it today.

“I’m surprised Director Hunt gave you such a long leave of absence.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity.” Her spirits bounced like an acrobat on a trampoline. “But it’s not like I won’t be working.” She grunted as she wrenched her holds-anything-and-hides-everything handbag from her locker.

Francine smiled. “You know, I might just lock you in one of the labs until after your flight leaves.”

Hildi laughed. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t try me. I’m missing you already.” Francine hugged her. “I can’t believe you’ll be gone for a whole year.”

Hildi swallowed to keep her voice from cracking. “I will be back for visits, you know.”

“You’d better be.”

They walked through another airlock into a corridor and less-lethal safety levels. The burning, moist smell of giant autoclaves bid a pungent farewell.

“You just don’t want to work with Chet.” Hildi baited her friend.

“Don’t rub it in.” Francine lowered her voice. “Did you hear? Your brother’s in big trouble.” Francine sounded like she relished the thought.

Hildi groaned. “What did he do this time?”

“Chet worked on that new anthrax sample from England without authorization. Director Hunt turned three shades of purple.”

“Hunt’s a bit paranoid about the paperwork, that’s all.”

Francine shook her head. “Your brother has an attitude.”

“I know.” Hildi frowned. “It’s hard to work in the same building with him when he avoids me like—well—the plague.”

“He’s done a good job at alienating everyone around here, so don’t feel special.”

They drove directly to the airport in Francine’s tired green Altima. The Atlanta traffic, abysmal at any time of the day, choked Hildi with exhaust fumes. She turned up the AC. “Sure you don’t mind caring for my cat?”

“Whiskers will be just fine.”

Francine pulled up to departures, opened the trunk, and hefted the bulky suitcases. “What do you have in here, moon rocks?”

Hildi grabbed her carry-on. They chatted until a security officer ordered, “Clear the lane, please.”

Hildi fished in her purse for a tissue and gave Francine one more tight hug. “Thanks for everything.”

“Vaya con Dios.”

Hildi wheeled her suitcases to the nearest door, her stomach fluttering as if she’d just won the lottery. Maybe she had.

****

Hildi deplaned in Houston after an unremarkable flight. She heaved her suitcases onto their wheels and stepped outside. A tanned man in a polo shirt and jeans held a sign. Dr. Hildebra. Someone hadn’t quite fit her name on the cardboard. Situation normal.

“Evangeline?” He smiled.

“Please call me Hildi.”

“Larry Gomez.”

Hildi stifled a gasp and flung her star-struck feelings aside as she wiped sweaty palms on her jeans. Larry’s exploits in space were the stuff of legend. She shook his hand.

He loaded her luggage into the trunk of his silver Jaguar convertible. More diesel exhaust assaulted Hildi as they headed south on I-45. She’d expected oil fields and cowboy hats when she first came here but instead found apartments, shopping centers, and malls. Same humidity as Atlanta, same traffic. He chatterednonstop.

Hildi interrupted. “So tell me about the rest of the team.”

“You’ll like them. Jasper Reingold and Frank Schotenheimer.”

Hildi nearly jolted out of her seat. “Frank?” If she’d known, would she have volunteered for this assignment?

In a heartbeat.

Larry’s face held a puzzled frown. “You know him?”

She hesitated. How had Larry missed knowing about her relationship with Frank? Would it jeopardize her chance to work in space? No way to hide it now. “We were engaged.”

“Well, things are about to get interesting.” Larry’s mouth quirked. “The director moved him up from a later mission when our pilot shattered his leg yesterday.”

She stared at the scenery. Frank? On her team? Scenes flashed in her mind. Their first kiss that had warmed her to her toes. Her growing suspicions. The night she confronted him about his gotta-work-late excuses, and he confessed his affairs. Trampled dreams.

Lord, I could use a little help here.

Larry must have sensed her mood. He didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip.

An hour later, they pulled up to the employee entrance of a sprawling facility, the salty tang of the Gulf of Mexico perceptible even this far from the ocean. Shimmers of heat rose from the pavement. After the security guard examined their badges, he beamed. “Dr. Hildebrandt? Welcome. Let me page Dan Stockton for you. He asked me to notify him when you arrived.”

Hildi’s mind whirled. First Frank and now Dan? Last time they’d talked, Dan had been training in Alabama. Probably his idea of a romantic surprise. She tried to submerge a surfacing smile. She wanted to jump into his arms when Dan arrived. Instead, she forced herself into neutral pose. He wore a periwinkle silk shirt with coordinating tie. Always a tie, as if he could never relax.Larry whispered in Hildi’s ear. “Now you know why he’s earned the nickname Dandy Dan.”

“Hildi.” Dan stepped toward her with an eager grin, glanced at Larry, and stopped in mid-stride.

“You know him, too?” Larry’s glance bounced back and forth between them like a hyperactive tennis ball.

Dan hesitated. “Uh, yes. We’ve met.” An uncomfortable silence descended. Hildi stared at the polished floor, counting the squares. She didn’t want to tell the mission commander about another relationship, especially when she couldn’t explain it herself. An on-again, off-again, long-distance relationship that was going nowhere.Larry cleared his throat and turned to Hildi. “Another fiancé? Have we ever been engaged?”

Hildi laughed, relieved he didn’t ask any more questions.

Dan smiled. “Would you rather go to your quarters first or eat?”

Her stomach rumbled in response.

“Perry’s Steakhouse?” Larry still eyed them with suspicion.

“Yes, sir.” Dan spread his arms and planted his feet on the emblem emblazoned on the floor, like a barker at the circus. “Welcome to the Johnson Space Center and phase two of astronaut training.”

Unlimited by Davis Bunn Book Promo

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

B&H Books (September 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Davis Bunn is a three-time Christy Award-winning, best-selling author now serving as writer-in-residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Defined by readers and reviewers as a “wise teacher,” “gentleman adventurer,” “consummate writer,” and “Renaissance man,” his work in business took him to over forty countries around the world, and his books have sold more than seven million copies in sixteen languages. Among those titles are The Presence, Winner Take All, and Lion of Babylon.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Simon Orwell is a brilliant student whose life has taken a series of wrong
turns. At the point of giving up on his dreams, he gets a call from an old
professor who has discovered a breakthrough in a device that would create
unlimited energy, and he needs Simon’s help.

But once he crosses the border, nothing goes as the young man planned.
The professor has been killed and Simon is assaulted and nearly killed by
members of a powerful drug cartel.

Now he must take refuge in the only place that will help him, a local
orphanage. There, Simon meets Harold Finch, the orphanage proprietor
who walked away from a lucrative career with NASA and consulting
Fortune 500 companies to serve a higher cause.

With Harold’s help, Simon sets out on a quest to uncover who killed the
professor and why. In due time, he will discover secrets to both the world changing device and his own unlimited potential.

Product Details:
List Price: $8.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143367940X
ISBN-13: 978-1433679407

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

A hot, dusty wind buffeted Simon through the Mustang’s open top. He started to pull over and close up the car. But the convertible’s electric motor did not work, and he would have to fight the top by hand. When he had started off that morning, the predawn air had carried a frigid bite. Now his sweatshirt lay in the empty passenger seat, covering the remaining water bottle and his iPod.

The car’s radio worked, but one of the speakers was blown. The iPod’s headphones were hidden beneath the sweatshirt as well. Simon doubted the border authorities cared whether he listened to music on an in-ear system. But he didn’t want to give them any reason to make trouble.

He didn’t know what he had been expecting for a small-town border crossing, but it definitely was not this. An American flag flew over a fortified concrete building. The flag snapped and rippled as Simon pulled forward. In front of him were three trucks and a few vans. One car had Texas plates, one produce truck was from Oklahoma, and the other half-dozen vehicles were Mexican. That was it. The crossing was four lanes in each direction, and all but two were blocked off with yellow traffic cones. The border crossing looked ready to handle an armada. The empty lanes heightened the sense of desolation.

As he waited his turn, a harvest truck rumbled past, bringing sacks of vegetables to the United States. The driver shot Simon a gold-toothed grin through his open window. As though the two of them shared a secret. They were passing through the only hassle-free crossing between Mexico and the USA.

Or so Simon hoped.

To either side of the crossing grew the fence. Simon had heard about the border fence for years. But it was still a jarring sight. Narrow steel girders marched in brutal regularity out of sight in both directions. The pillars were thirty feet high, maybe more, and spaced so the wind whistled between them in a constant piercing whine, like a siren, urging Simon to turn back while he still could. Only he didn’t have a choice. Or he would not have made this journey in the first place.

Simon passed the U.S. checkpoint and drove across the bridge. Below flowed the silted gray waters of the Rio Grande.The Mexican border officer took in the dusty car and Simon’s disheveled appearance and directed him to pull over. Simon heaved a silent sigh and did as he was ordered.

The Mexican customs official was dressed in blue—navy trousers, shirt, hat. He circled Simon’s car slowly before saying,

“Your passport.” He examined it carefully. “What is the purpose of your visit to Mexico, señor?”

“I’m making a presentation to the Ojinaga city council.”

The officer glanced at Simon, then the car, and finally the black duffel bag that filled the rear seat.

“What kind of presentation?”

“My advisor at MIT retired down here last year. We’ve been working on a project together.” He plucked the letter from his shirt pocket and unfolded it along the well-creased lines.

The officer studied it. “Do you read Spanish, Dr . . . . ?”

He started to correct the man, then decided it didn’t matter. The officer had no need to know Simon had dropped out. “Dr. Vasquez, my professor, he translated it.”

“You have cut this very close, señor.” The officer checked his watch. “It says your appointment is in less than two hours.”

“I expected the trip from Boston to take two days. It’s taken four. My car broke down. Twice.”

The officer pointed to the duffel. “What is in the bag?” “Scientific instrumentation.” Simon reached back and unzipped the top.

The Mexican officer frowned over the complicated apparatus. “It looks like a bomb.”

“I know. Or a vacuum cleaner.” He swallowed against a dry throat. “I get that a lot.”

The officer handed back Simon’s passport and letter. “Welcome to Mexico, señor.”

Simon restarted the motor and drove away. He kept his hands tight on the wheel and his eyes on the empty road ahead. There was no need to be afraid. He was not carrying drugs. He was not breaking any law. This time. But the memory of other border crossings kept his heart rate amped to redline as he drove slowly past the snapping flags and the dark federales’ cars.

His attention was caught by a man leaning against a dusty SUV. The Mexican looked odd from every angle. He was not so much round as bulky, like an aging middleweight boxer. Despite the heat, he was dressed in a beige leather jacket that hung on him like a sweaty robe. The man had a fringe of unkempt dark hair and a scraggly beard. He leaned against the black Tahoe with the ease of someone out for a morning stroll. He caught Simon’s eye and grinned, then made a gun of his hand and shot Simon.

Welcome to Mexico.

A hundred meters beyond the border, the screen to his iPod map went blank, then a single word appeared: searching. Simon did not care. He could see his destination up ahead. The city of Ojinaga hovered in the yellow dust. He crossed Highway 10, the east-west artery that ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He drove past an industrial zone carved from the surrounding desert, then joined the city traffic.

Ojinaga grew up around him, a distinctly Mexican blend of poverty and high concrete walls. The city was pretty much as Vasquez had described. Simon’s former professor had dearly loved his hometown. Vasquez had spent his final two years at MIT yearning to return. The mountains he had hiked as a boy rose to Simon’s right, razor peaks that had never been softened by rain. Vasquez had bought a home where he could sit in his backyard and watch the sunset turn them into molten gold. But they looked very ominous to Simon. Like they barred his way forward. Hemming him in with careless brutality.

Between the border and downtown, Simon checked his phone six times. Just as Vasquez had often complained, there was no connection. Landline phone service wasn’t much bet- ter. Skype was impossible. Vasquez had maintained contact by e-mailing in the predawn hours. He had claimed to enjoy the isolation. Simon would have gone nuts.

The last time they had spoken had been almost two weeks earlier, when Vasquez declared he was on the verge of a break- through. After months of frustrating dead ends, Vasquez had finally managed to make their apparatus work. Since then, Simon had received a series of increasingly frantic e-mails, imploring him to come to Mexico to present the device to the city council.

What neither of them ever mentioned was the real reason why Vasquez had taken early retirement and returned to his hometown in the first place. Which was also the reason why Simon had made this trip at all. To apologize for the role he had played in the demise of Vasquez’s career. That was something that had to be done face-to-face.

Simon found a parking spot on the main plaza. Downtown Ojinaga was dominated by a massive central square, big as three football fields. Simon imagined it must have really been some- thing when it was first built. Now it held the same run-down air as the rest of the town. A huge Catholic church anchored the opposite side of the plaza. The trees and grass strips lining the square were parched and brown. Skinny dogs flitted about, snarling at one another. Drunks occupied the concrete benches. Old cars creaked and complained as they drove over topes, the speed bumps lining the roads. In a nearby shop-front window, two women made dough and fed it into a tortilla machine.

The city office building looked ready for demolition. Several windows were cracked. Blinds hung at haphazard angles, giving the facade a sleepy expression. A bored policeman slumped in the shaded entrance. Simon entered just as the church bells tolled the hour.

The guard ran his duffel back through the metal detector three times, while another officer pored over the letter from the city council. Finally they gestured him inside and pointed him down a long corridor.

The door to the council meeting hall was closed. Simon heard voices inside. He debated knocking, but Vasquez had still not arrived. Simon visited the restroom and changed into a clean shirt. He stuffed his dirty one down under the apparatus. He shaved and combed his hair. His eyes looked like they had become imprinted with GPS road maps, so he dug out his eye- drops. Then he took a moment and inspected his reflection.

Simon was tall enough that he had to stoop to fit his face in the mirror. His hair was brownish-blond and worn rakishly long, which went with his strong features and green eyes and pirate’s grin. Only he wasn’t smiling now. There was nothing he could do to repay Vasquez for what happened, except help him get the city’s funding so they could complete the project. Then Simon would flee this poverty-stricken town and try to rebuild his own shattered life.

He returned to the hall, settled onto a hard wooden bench, and pulled out his phone. For once, the phone registered a two- bar signal.

Simon dialed Vasquez and listened to the phone ring. The linoleum floor by his feet was pitted with age. The hallway smelled slightly of cheap disinfectant and a woman’s perfume. Sunlight spilled through tall windows at the end of the corridor, forming a backdrop of brilliance and impenetrable shadows.

When the professor’s voice mail answered, he said, “It’s Simon again. I’m here in the council building. Growing more desperate by the moment.” The door beside him opened, and Simon turned away from the voices that spilled out. “Professor Vasquez, I really hope you’re on your way, because—”

“Excuse me, señor. You are Simon Orwell, the professor’s great friend?”

Simon shut his phone and rose to his feet. “Is he here?”

The two men facing him could not have been more different. One was tall, not as tall as Simon, but he towered over most Mexicans. And handsome. And extremely well groomed. The other was the product of a hard life, stubby and tough as nails. The only thing they shared was a somber expression.

Even before the elegant man said the words, Simon knew. “I am very sorry to have to tell you, Señor Simon. But Professor Vasquez is dead.” “No, that’s . . . What?”

“Allow me to introduce myself. Enrique Morales, I am the mayor of Ojinaga. And this is Pedro Marin, the assistant town manager and my trusted ally.”

“Vasquez is dead?”

“A heart attack. Very sudden.”

“He thought the world of you, Señor Simon.” Pedro spoke remarkably clear English.

The mayor was graceful even when expressing condolences. “Nos lamentanos mucho. We lament with you, Señor Simon, in this dark hour.”

For some reason, Simon found it easier to focus upon the smaller man. “You knew the professor?”

“He was a dear friend. My sister and I and Dr. Harold, per- haps you have heard of him? The professor was very close to us all.”

“You’re sure about Vasquez?”

“Such a tragedy.” The mayor was around his midthirties and had a politician’s desire to remain the center of attention. “You came all the way from Boston, is that not so? We are glad you made it safely. And we regret this news is here to greet you.”

“I . . . we’re scheduled to meet the city council.”

A look flashed between the two men. “I believe they have completed their other business, yes? Pedro will escort you. I must hurry to the city’s outskirts. We are dedicating a new water treatment facility. Long in coming. But so very needed. It is our attempt to aid the poorest citizens of our community. Like the professor’s bold project, no? So very noble.”

Enrique was clearly adept at filling uncomfortable vacuums. “Please join me for dinner tonight. Yes? Splendid. We will meet and we will talk and I will see what I can do to assist you through this dark hour. The restaurant by the church. Nine o’clock.”

Enrique turned and spoke a lightning-swift sentence to Pedro, whose nod of acceptance shaped a half bow. The mayor’s footsteps clipped rapidly down the hall. He tossed quick greetings to several people as he departed, clapped the senior guard on the shoulder, thanked the second guard who opened the door for him, and was gone.

Simon stared into the empty sunlight at the corridor’s end, wishing the floor would just open up and swallow him whole.

Then he realized Pedro was waiting for him. “This way, señor. The council will see you now.”

Review: Indebted by Braxton DeGarmo

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Cover Rating:


Date Published: January 6, 2013
Pages: 398
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Author: Braxton DeGarmo
Genre: Christian Fiction, Suspense
ISBN-10: 1481857193
ISBN-13: 978-1481857192
Book Source: The book was provided by the publisher through Bookfun.org for my honest opinion.
Warning: Contains Mild Profanity

Blurb:

It’s the late 1960’s and life with an alcoholic father in rural western North Carolina couldn’t get worse for for young Alice Cummings, until she gets pregnant out of wedlock and her father “sells” her baby. She flees, resolved to find her child, but more tragedy derails her search. Yet, her life turns around in a most unexpected way … before she disappears from the face of the earth.

For current day, mega-selling author, Myra Mitchell, the “Diva of Disaster”, a life of hard work and harder partying falls into a tailspin after a life-changing diagnosis. In pursuit of a final book, she sets her sights on the unknown story of Betsy Weston, her favorite cartoonist, who appeared from nowhere in Ashville, NC, in 1969. Myra finds herself racing death to pay back a debt unvieled by her hunt.

You can purchase it Here:
Deeper Shopping  *  Amazon  *  Barnes & Noble



Author Bio:

Braxton can’t lay claim to wanting to be a writer all his life, although his mother and seventh grade English teacher were convinced he had what it would take. He went to Duke University, earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Engineering with a major in Bio-Medical Engineering, and found his way into medical school at the University of Cincinnati. Following a residency in Emergency Medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center, he served tours as the Chief, Emergency Medical Services at Fort Campbell, KY and as a research Flight Surgeon at Fort Rucker, AL. Who had time to write?

By the late 1990’s, his professional and family life had settled down, somewhat, and his mother once again took up her mantra, “Write a book. You’re a good writer.” Yet, with no experience in writing anything other than technical articles, he hesitated to try his hand at fiction. That changed in 1997 when the local newspaper held a writing contest for Valentine’s Day. Out of 1100 entries, he made it to the top five finalists and realized that maybe he could write fiction after all.

The next ten years saw him learning the craft of writing through local writers’ groups, seminars, critique groups and more. “The Militant Genome” (©July 2012) marks his first formal publication. “Indebted” (©January 2013) is now out,and “Identity” will be released later in the spring of 2013.

Fifteen years after that first hesitant start, he can’t find enough time to write as much as he’d like. He now lives in Missouri with his wife, Paula. Their two children are grown and with three grandchildren nearby, “Papa” wears a number of hats.

You can find Braxton Here:
Website  *  Facebook  *  Twitter

Favorite Scene:

Alexia looked off toward the mountains and then back to Myra. “Christianity is my key to living. I grew up with two alcoholic parents and my mom died of liver cancer when I was in my early teens. That’s what I meant when I said I was no stranger to liver failure. My dad abandoned me and without any other family, I went into the foster system. The parents who just recently passed away were actually my adoptive parents. They saw something in me I never saw in myself and with a life centered on Christ, they offered me a home, gave me my education. Personally, I wasn’t sure about all that religion stuff. I withdrew, looking for answers in books. In college, I had a course that required reading the Bible as a literary source. I found more than that there. I saw the source of my new parents’ love. Something in Christ’s teachings just clicked for me and I found a vibrant church with a young pastor who showed us that living for God was not the stuffy, “Thou shall not” kind of lifestyle portrayed by so many. After that, the bond between my parents and me just grew and grew. That’s why their deaths this past year hit me so hard.”

She paused and Myra caught her watching, waiting for Myra’s reaction, which was one of subtle resistance outwardly while inside she wondered what she had done to Samuel to make him inflict this girl on her. Never mind. She knew what she had done, repeatedly. Still, something in Alexia’s story touched her. Alexia had been given something special. Few people, including Myra, ever experienced such love.

“Sorry, I know alot of people hate preachy Christians, so I’ll stop. I don’t want to overstep my bounds here, but I do want you to know I’m praying for you, for you to have peace and for God’s gift of healing for you. There, I’m done. What can I do for you?”

Myra, too, had read the Bible as a literary source but certainly had not come away from the experience with anything more than a collection of stories and allegorical phrases that all writers needed to connect with Western culture. Nevertheless, Alexia’s statement filled her with hope that God, if He existed as described by Judeo-Christian tradition, offered healing as a gift. Myra wanted to know more, but hesitated to ask in fear of being overwhelmed by zealotry.

“I’d like a little time to myself, please.”

Alexia nodded and returned inside. A few minutes later, Myra watched her new assistant walk toward the office. She remained outside until sunset and the nocturnal chill of the desert forced her inside to the kiva fireplace. She held a vague recollection of Alexsia returning, helping her to bed, tucking her in as a mother would a child, and kneeling silently at her bedside.

Synopsis:

Alice Cummings, a teenager living in the hills of western North Carolina in the 1960’s, had had nothing but a life of heartache. Her mother died when she was a child, her father was an alcoholic, her boyfriend, JT, was killed in Viet Nam one month after joining the service and the local “thug” was trying to take unwanted liberties. The only bright spot in Alice’s life was her son, Jimmy Bob, conceived out of wedlock. That is, until she wakes up to find him gone, stolen in the night and “sold” by her very own father. Alice knew she had to get away, had to escape the alcoholic rages of her father. The first thing on her agenda was to get to safety, the second, to find her son. Alice makes her escape but finding her son proves to be more difficult than even she had imagined. She again comes face to face with more tragedy in her life and soon after Alice disappears, falls of the radar to never be heard from again. But is there someone that knows the wherabouts of Alice Cummings? Who holds the key to the past that everyone has been looking for?

In present day, Myra Mitchell is a multi-million dollar, best-selling author of crime novels and her reputation precedes her. She loves the drinking and partying lifestyle she has come to know but soon discovers she has to change her ways when her doctor gives her a devastating diagnosis. With her publisher hounding her for her next novel, Myra knows of only one story she wants to write about. A mystery that was left untold and unsolved for decades. The story of her favorite comic strip creator Betsy Weston. It’s a race against time and an unwanted pursuer but with the help of her new assistant, Alexia Hamilton, Myra sets off on a journey of discovery. A journey of enlightenment. A journey that finally has an ending.

There are so many aspects of this book that I truly loved. The western North Carolina setting drew me in from the beginning as I have been a native my entire life, but that’s just the beginning. The hardships faced by Alice brought out such emotion in me that I found the tears falling freely throughout the story. The characters formed such close friendships brought about by their mutual hardships and I fell in love with several of them. The plot was so full of twists and turns that several times I thought I had it all figured out just to soon find myself second guessing my theory and rethinking all over again. I was sucked in from the very first page and remained in a vice-like grip until the very end, which was the proverbial “icing on the cake”. It was a story of tragedy and celebration, hate and love, loneliness and friendship.

From the attention to details it’s obvious alot of research went into the writing of this book. The author really did his homework and, from the caliber of the writing, it’s hard to believe it’s only his second book. Indebted thoroughly satisfies the reader without too many sexual overtones and heavy profanity. Braxton DeGarmo is a master storyteller and Indebted is storytelling at it’s BEST! I HIGLY recommend it!

My Rating: