Special treat from BREAKING POINT

    Jenn J from Sapphire Dreams is an amazingly sweet and talented person. When I approached her about making a series of trailers for Breaking Point, she got to work tracking down images. I lamented that what we needed was a photo of Zach MacBride, the hero, in chains and that we weren't going to find one.

    But Jenn took an image of the model I have in my mind's eye for Zach and painted him in chains. She sent the image to me and, having no idea what I was opening, I downloaded it, opened it and stared.

    I decided to share it with you, together with a bit of an excerpt from the beginning of the book. I've posted an earlier version of this before, but I thought you probably wouldn't mind reading it again, particularly given now that you've got visual aids. It has been tweaked a bit from the first time I posted it.

    From Chapter 1 of Breaking Point:

    It was pain and thirst that woke him.

    For a moment Zach MacBride thought he was back in Afghanistan, lying at the top of that canyon wall in the Hindu Kush mountains, a bullet in his back. He opened his eyes to see pitch black — and then remembered. He wasn’t in Afghanistan. He was in Mexico. And he was a captive — blindfolded and chained to a brick wall.

    He raised his head and realized he was lying shirtless on his right side, his hands shackled behind his back, his skin resting against the filthy stone floor. His mouth was dry as sand. His wrists were blistered and bloody where the manacles had rubbed them raw. His cracked ribs cut into his left side like a blade.

    He tried to sit, but couldn’t.


    He was weaker than he’d realized.

    Then something hard and multi-legged brushed his chest as it skittered by, bringing him upright on a punch of adrenaline. Pain slashed through his side, breath hissing between his clenched teeth as he bit back a groan. He wasn’t afraid of the mice or the spiders, but they weren’t the only creatures in here with him. The one time the Zetas had removed his blindfold, he’d seen scorpions. And the last damned thing he needed was a scorpion sting.

    Dizzy from hunger, his heart pounding from sleep deprivation and dehydration, he leaned his right shoulder against the brick wall and tried to catch his breath, the chain that held him lying cold and heavy along his spine.

    How long had he been here? Five days? No, six.

    And where exactly was here?

    Somewhere between Juárez and hell.

    They were giving him only enough food and water to keep him alive, his hunger and thirst incessant, mingling with pain, making it hard to sleep. Only once in his life had he been this physically helpless. Only then it had been even worse.

    If he survived, if he made it out of here alive, he would track down Gisella and kill her — or at least hand her over to D.C. The little bitch of a Mexican INTERPOL agent had set him up, betrayed him to the Zetas. She’d known what would happen to him—the Zetas were infamous for their brutality — and still she’d handed him over to them with a smile on her lying lips.

    At least you didn’t sleep with her, buddy.

    Yeah, well, at least he could feel good about that. It would suck right now to have her taste in his mouth or her scent on his skin, knowing that she’d put him through this. Long ago he’d made it a rule never to have sex with women he met on the job, and despite Gisella’s persistent attempts to get him to break that rule, he’d kept his dick in his pants.

    Hell, they should carve that on your headstone, MacBride.

    If he got a headstone.

    Would they put up a grave marker for him if they didn’t have a body to bury? Barring one hell of a miracle, he’d soon be scattered across the desert in small pieces. A year or two from now, someone would spot a bit of bleached bone in the sand and wonder what it was. No one would ever know for sure what had happened to him.
    Besides, who was there to buy a grave plot or erect a headstone? His fellow DUSMs? Uncle Sam? His closest friends were dead. His mother was gone, too. He hadn’t spoken to his father in five years. And there was no one else in his life — no girlfriend, no wife, no kids.

    You’re a popular guy, MacBride.

    He’d always thought he’d get married one day and do the family thing. He’d imagined a pretty wife, a couple of kids, a house near the ocean. But life hadn’t turned out that way.

    He’d met lots of girls in college, but none who’d held his interest. Then a confrontation with his father had sent him into the Navy. He’d tackled Officers Candidate School and then SEAL training. The only women who’d been available during his short periods of leave were either professionals or women who were so desperate to marry a Navy officer that they slept with every officer they met, getting passed from man to man. Call him strange, but he’d never found the idea of paying for sex or being used appealing. He’d wanted a woman who loved him for himself and not his uniform. But war had interfered, and he’d never found her.

    Something tightened in his chest, a wave of regret passing through him.

    Feeling sorry for yourself?

    No. He’d made his choices. He’d done what he thought was right. And although his life hadn’t turned out the way he might once have hoped, it was better this way. He’d seen firsthand what happened to women and children when the men they loved and depended on were killed in action. At least he wouldn’t be leaving a grieving wife and children behind.

    Okay, so no headstone.

    Mike, Chris, Brian and Jimmy were in Arlington resting beneath slabs of white marble, but for Zach it would be saguaro and open sky. That was okay. He liked the desert. And even if he didn’t, it wouldn’t make one damned bit of difference once he was dead.

    Which will be soon if you can’t find a way out of this.

    Not that he was afraid to die. He’d expected his job would catch up with him one day. In fact, some part of him had been counting on it.

    But not yet. And not like this.

    He’d been about to wrap up the biggest covert operation of his career when Gisella had called him and asked him to meet her at a nightclub in downtown Juárez, claiming to have intel vital for catching Arturo Cesár Cárdenas, the head of Los Zetas, who was wanted in the United States for the murder of Americans on U.S. soil. So Zach had grabbed his gun and fake ID — he never carried revealing documentation when he was working a black bag job like this — then crossed the border and headed straight to the club, where he’d found Gisella, dressed to kill, sitting at the bar. She’d bought him a Coke, walked with him to a table near the rear exit, and started telling him something about a shipment of stolen coke. And then…

    And then — nothing.

    The drink had been drugged. When Zach had awoken, he’d found himself here, surrounded by pissed off Zetas demanding to know whom he worked for and where he’d hidden the cocaine. He couldn’t answer the first question because it would imperil the entire operation, putting the lives of others at risk. And he couldn’t answer the second because he hadn’t stolen any coke and had no idea where it was. But his refusal to talk had only angered the Zetas more.

    So they’d brought in a specialist — a man who knew how to inflict pain while keeping his victims alive. Electric shock was his area of expertise. He’d gone to work on Zach two days ago, and so far the two of them were at an impasse. He’d been able to make Zach pass out. He’d made him bite his own tongue trying not to scream. He’d made him want to cry like a baby. But he hadn’t made him talk.

    Zach had the Navy and SERE training to thank for that — Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. Designed to help SEALs survive behind enemy lines, his training had been a godsend, helping him through hour after excruciating hour. Even though he was no longer in the military, he’d instinctively fallen back on that training, silently reciting bits and pieces of the military code of conduct, using it to stay strong.

    I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense… I will never surrender of my own free will… If I am captured, I will resist by all means available… I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability… I will make every effort to escape…

    As weak as he was, he knew he didn’t stand much chance of escaping. And that meant there was only one thing left for him to do — keep his mind together long enough for his body to give out, long enough for him to die as he ought to have done six years ago.

    Raucous laughter drifted into his cell from across the courtyard, voices drawing nearer, boots crunching on gravel.

    Zach stiffened, dread uncoiling in his stomach, rising into his throat.

    They were coming for him again.


    He drew as deep a breath as his broken ribs would allow, swallowing his panic with what was left of his spit.

    I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I will never surrender of my own free will.

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