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CASI 2.5 — an interlude with Heath and Monica

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CASI 2.5… The next story up in the CASI world is Lunatic Fringe, which is Heath and Monica’s story.  Since Shoot to Thrill was released on 31 December, I thought it’d be fun to play in their world, and give you a snapshot of how they first met.  And for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, check out Behind Blue Eyes & Shoot to Thrill at your retailer of choice.  In the comments below tell me 1) What is Sara’s job in Behind Blue Eyes, and 2) What kind of special forces are trying to kill Arin and Jonah?  I’ll pick a random winner on 1/5 and shoot you the gift card!

And after you’re done here?  Check out the next blog in the hop HERE or go back to where it all started and read some great stuff!

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The night I met Heath Farrell my life changed.  Just how much would come back to haunt me.

We were young then, just turned twenty-one, less than a year away from getting our degrees and charging out into the big wide world, ready to save it.

The bar was packed with students that New Year’s Eve night, which wasn’t really any different than a normal night in Austin.  We were watching the countdown in both Times Square and Dallas, ready for a reason to party to two different time zones.  And kiss a cutie we might not otherwise have the chance to lock lips with.

So when the ball began to drop in New York, I wasn’t so surprised that a warm, obviously male hand grasped my shoulder and turned me for a stranger-to-stranger smooch.  But the man in question, well, he stunned me into speechlessness.

Five… he was taller than me by at least three inches, even in my strappy little heels, and I had to lean back to look at his face

Four… his eyes were an icy blue I’d never seen before in real life, his face clean shaven and strong

Three… my hands rose to his chest and beneath my fingers, hard, lean muscle flexed and moved

Two… “Hello sunshine,” he murmured, and his voice rolled through me like thunder

One… “Monica, my name is Monica,” I squeaked

And then his lips were covering mine and everything inside me went molten and liquid.  Around me the crowd was whooping it up, but it was a dull sound I could barely hear over the roaring in my ears.

When his head lifted, those blue eyes had gone stormy, cloudy with passion.  All from one kiss.

He curled one of his hands around mine, pinning it to his chest.  “I’m Heath. Wanna do that again in an hour?”

He startled a laugh out of me, and when he smiled in response, I was a goner.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~StT

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Shoot to Thrill excerpt and cover goodness

Greetings all!  So, I just put Shoot to Thrill up for pre-order, so if you’re of a mind to, check it out:  http://tiny.cc/dkgpqx

 

StT

Just to tease :), here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1

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I stepped out of my SUV and straightened the pencil skirt and trim jacket I’d donned in deference to my cover.  In six years with the Bureau, I’d never worn such a ridiculous costume.  My duties, even when I’d been a forensic accounting cube monkey, tended more toward slacks and flats or Rockports, not the pastel pink nightmare I sported nor the ridiculous strappy stilts masquerading as shoes I teetered on.  I looked like a freakin’ brunette Barbie Doll.  I’d even straightened my hair.

It was humiliating.  Then again, this wasn’t an assignment.  It was personal.  This was for Wes. Something twisted inside me at the thought, actually made me rub a hand over my heart.  I was such a mess.  I blew out a breath and pushed my shoulders back, put some steel in my spine.  I could do this.  I would do this.

I’d wrapped up the Kansas City case a few weeks ago.  Not so surprisingly, the perp was someone the family had known.  It wasn’t as if my stellar detecting skills had solved it, either.  Nope.  One of the local stations decided to run a story on the disappearance and death of little Tessa Aria, and had requested an interview with me.  Since it was no secret I was in town, especially to anyone remotely connected to the case, I agreed.  If our evildoer wasn’t a local, it wouldn’t have mattered.

But he was.  Three streets over, an acquaintance who’d sold vacuum cleaners, of all ridiculous things.  But back in the day, it was a job that kept you hustling and on the road if you wanted to earn a living.  Mobility like that had given him a perfect cover, and a perfect way to dispose of Tessa.  Now the perp was dead by his own hand, leaving a suicide note explaining what had happened and how very sorry he was.

As endings went, it wasn’t horrid, wasn’t optimum.  The family had closure, but hadn’t been able to confront the man who’d killed their child.  God, my job sucked.  It wasn’t much of a stretch after an outcome like that to ask for vacation, which had been granted with no questions asked.

And now, here I was.  Agent Arin Thomas was now, for all intents and purposes, Arin Thomas, Investigative Reporter.  My skin crawled at the thought.

Meet Arin Thomas–Shoot to Thrill (CASI, Book 2)

I had a BUNCH of submissions come in to Liquid Silver, so been reading those.  Should be done with revisions on Shoot to Thrill on Friday, though (taking the day off just to do that), so thought I’d give you a taste.

With no further ado, meet Arin, the heroine from Shoot to Thrill…

And if you wanna see my inspiration board for this (and my other works), check out http://www.pinterest.com/terrischaefer/work-in-progress-shoot-to-thrill/

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Prologue

 

Now…  Kansas City, 7:45 pm

Once upon a time I had the world at my feet.  Now?  Crappy institutional-grade plaid carpet.  All the better to hide stains with.   I definitely wasn’t coming up in the world.

The FBI was under budget constraints, like everyone else, and it’d trickled down to us agents pretty quickly, in the form of less-than-fabulous digs while we were on the road.

I rifled through my case file box, looking for an interview done over thirty years ago.  Being the FBI’s go-to girl for the unofficial cold cases section had been my choice, my request, but it had become a parade of one low-budget chain hotel after the other, and now they all looked alike.  If I hadn’t eaten some pretty fabulous barbeque tonight, I probably wouldn’t even know I was in Kansas City.

I found the interview I was looking for and settled into the sole, worn, kinda stinky armchair.  I’d be re-interviewing this witness tomorrow, seeing if she remembered anything else about the little girl who’d disappeared from a neighborhood park thirty-two years ago, and the panel station wagon she’d last been seen in.  Hunters found her remains years later in Arkansas, with little forensic evidence to point out who’d killed her and left her body in a remote part of the Ozarks.  Dentals had confirmed her identity, and we’d been called in because the victim had been taken across state lines.

Standard procedure.  Which sucked on so many levels I couldn’t even begin to count them.  I really, really hated cases like this.  It was easier when it was an adult who disappeared, or was killed.  They’d had at least a fighting chance at life.  But a five year old? Hurting kids made me want to inflict some damage on the assholes who’d done this, who’d taken a child’s innocence and exploited it in the worst way possible.

Today had been one of those days—new case, dead kid, not-quite-shitty hotel.  My attitude reflected the downward slide of those three variables.  The food was the only thing tilting the scales on the side of good tonight.

So when my cell rang, I seriously debated even picking it up.  But I couldn’t let it go.  Never have been able to, probably never will.

“Thomas,” I answered, not even bothering to sound polite.  It wasn’t as if my bosses expected it of me anyway.

“You want to know about Burke?  Check out the Colorado Academy for Superior Intellect.  He was a student there.”

I shot up, phone gripped tight in my hand as I focused on the voice whispering spy-like and sinister in the phone’s earpiece.  “Pardon?”

“Wes Burke,” the caller repeated, “you’ll find the truth about him in Colorado.” And then the atonal, sexless voice was gone, replaced by a static-y hum that was somehow more disturbing than the words had been.

What the hell?  I eased back in my chair, the beer I’d had with my dinner threatening to come up.

I ran through the call in my head, trying and failing to make sense of it as my heartbeat echoed fast and shallow in my eardrums.

This was hinky on so many levels it made immediate alarm bells go off.  They’d used my unlisted Bureau phone and a name that pushed my most recent hot button.  Wes Burke, my sometimes-partner and the man who’d become the closest thing to family I’d had in almost a decade.  The man who’d held my most deeply-held secrets, held my hand when the world was crumbling around me.  An agent who’d died from a stupid, careless accident.  Or so I’d been told.  Repeatedly, and by a host of suits much higher in the FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office food chain.

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding.  This felt all wrong.  There’d been no threat, implied or otherwise.  So why did it feel as if someone had just waved a weapon in my face?

It was no secret I’d been poking around the investigation surrounding Wes’ death.  I wasn’t buying the whole “fell off a cliff to his death” scenario the Bureau had spoon-fed me and everyone else.  Not for one second.  Wes hadn’t been the type to take a swan dive.  He was too meticulous, too careful.  Too Wes.

As I thought about my mysterious, asexual caller, I began to get pissed, realizing it was probably one of the assholes in the office pulling my leg.  We’d buried Wes a month ago today.  It was an anniversary I’d been successfully avoiding even thinking about until the damned phone rang.

So was thirty days the statute of limitations on fucking with me?  Of making fun of me?  Of rubbing salt in a still-raw wound?  As much as I might not be all touchy-feely with my fellow agents, this went above and beyond bad behavior.

They’d poked at me in the past, but never something as brazen or hurtful as this.  And if they thought I’d let it go, they didn’t know me as well as they thought.  Because I’d figure out who was responsible for thinking this was fucking funny, and then stick it to them in the most publicly humiliating way I could.  But not for me.  For Wes.  For his memory.

The Bureau’s position on Wes’ death had been stupidly simple.  He’d been vacationing in Colorado and taken a fatal tumble off a four-thousand-foot cliff.  They were very careful to couch in terms that suggested an accident rather than suicide, but the implication was there, which made me see red.

I wasn’t someone who made friends easily, but Wes had always been there for me, with his quirky sense of humor and amazing teal eyes.  We’d joked about making our friendship more, back in the day, but it was nothing more than that.  Something two people who were utterly unattracted to each other laughed about.  We weren’t destined to become lovers, but instead had formed a familial bond that felt like siblings.  His death had carved a gaping hole in me I hadn’t felt in years, had hoped I would never feel again.

Wes had been one of the most carefully controlled people I’d ever met.  There was no way in hell he’d have jumped, and the likelihood of him allowing himself to get so close to a cliff if there was a danger of falling was an even further stretch.

Now, an agent being pushed was a whole different concept and one I’d turned over and over in my mind more times than I could count.  It made a hell of a lot more sense than suicide or an accident.  What I couldn’t figure out was why no one else in the Bureau seemed interested in going down that road.

As FBI agents, we all made enemies over the course of our career, and Wes, as a fast-burner, had made more than most.  So while I might not actively be investigating what really happened to Wes, I knew I’d look into this Colorado Academy for Superior Intellect.  Wes had died in Colorado, and it seemed just a bit too pat to me…too easy that a “clue” would happen to fall in the same area.  And if the morons in my office were the ones to give me a good lead, thinking it was a funny, then so much the better.