Another busy week.
On Monday, I wrote a column in support of home birth and renewing the statute that enables lay midwives to practice legally in Colorado. I feel very passionate about this subject, and so I wrote too much. Go me! Fortunately, I’m the editor, so my long column magically fit, while letters to the editor was somewhat short this week. Hmmm...
On Tuesday, Benjy went back to New York for his first semester as a senior. I took Tuesday off and stayed home with him, then drove him to the airport and cried all the way home. But I’m getting used to his being gone again. He gave me the great news that he’s going to be inducted into the National Honor Society.
We had a snowstorm on Wednesday that caused an inordinate amount of traffic snarls. It took some people three and four hours to get home from the paper because traffic came to a standstill. I think we’ve had such a dry winter here at the base of the foothills that everyone has forgotten how to drive in snow. It took me two hours to get home from the office, and I rarely reached a speed higher than 10 mph — but we only got three inches of white stuff. Three inches! From the way people were driving you’d have thought there was four times that.
As one of my coworkers put it the next morning, “A clown on a unicycle could have passed me last night.”
Clearly, what we need is a major blizzard that dumps three feet in two hours. Then people will get some real practice driving in snow and stop being afraid when they see a few flakes on the roads.
Okay. Got that off my chest.
So I heard something from my editor’s assistant yesterday that might interest you... They have 10 bound galleys of Breaking Point that they’re sending my way. And that can mean only one thing.
Not only do I plan to give away lots of copies just for fun. I plan to do it in some fun ways.
First, there will be some straight giveaways. Those are easy. You post, and your name goes in the pot for a randomized drawing.
But there will also be some true contests including I-Team Trivia and the “Get Out of My TBR, Get Into My Bed” I-Team Reading Challenge.
Today marks the launch of the “Get Out of My TBR, Get Into My Bed” I-Team Reading Challenge.
This contest has two tiers.
Tier One is for I-Team virgins: If you’ve never read the I-Team or you’ve got Reece, Julian, Marc, and Gabe sitting somewhere in your dusty TBR pile and need to dig them out, this is your chance to catch up — and be rewarded with a free, signed copy of Breaking Point, Zach’s book. Hey, you know you need to lose your virginity at some point, right? Who better to lose it to than Reece, Julian, Marc and Gabe? Egads, just thinking about it that way made my heart skip a beat...
Tier Two is for I-Team veterans: You’ve read the books and fallen in love with the heroes. Maybe you’ve got a favorite hero. Maybe you helped cast the I-Team books or participated in our last round of I-Team Trivia (which was tons of fun, by the way). This is your chance to re-read the series and win your own signed ARC (advance review copy) of Breaking Point.
Here’s how you participate:
1. Sign up for the challenge by posting here and tell us which tier you’re in — virgins or vets.
2. Read or re-read the series (in order: Extreme Exposure, Hard Evidence, Unlawful Contact, Naked Edge).
3. Keep me posted on your progress. When you’re done, your name goes into the pot for a signed copy of Breaking Point.
4. Drawings for both the virgins and the vets will be held on April 15, giving you lots of time to read the book before the Spoiler Chat event, where readers and I get together in a chat room to discuss the book in detail.
Those who participate in the challenge are more likely to win at I-Team Trivia, too, so you’ll have an advantage over everyone else. Plus, you’ll have all things I-Team fresh in your mind when it comes time to read Natalie and Zach’s story. Think of it as foreplay...
Sign up below! And spread the word.
To help whet your appetite, here’s another excerpt:
From Breaking Point:
“This isn’t working!”
Zach raised his head and glanced up to where Natalie was bent over a mesquite branch, trying to rub out the car’s left tire tracks, her hair tied back, the AK she’d insisted on carrying slung over her shoulder like an ugly purse. “Put more muscle into it.”
“Easy… for you… to say.”
It was hard work, and he supposed having two X chromosomes made it tougher. Then again, none of this had been easy for her.
You’ve been hard on her, too, MacBride.
Yeah, he had been.
He’d done well enough when he’d been in chains and needed her help, but for the past few hours all he’d done was issue orders. But she wasn’t a SEAL. She wasn’t a deputy U.S. marshal, either. And she sure as hell wasn’t an enemy combatant or a fugitive. She was an innocent civilian, a young woman who’d suffered more than her share of tragedy, who’d witnessed a massacre, who’d been kidnapped and assaulted, who’d been forced to kill. She deserved his respect—and some damned human kindness, if he could manage it.
Yet, his first priority was getting her safely home again. And that meant staying focused on the objectives, which, at the moment, were evasion and escape.
Driving the Tsuru down into the arroyo had been a bitch. Zach had made Natalie get out of the car just to be safe, and for a few seconds he’d thought he was going to roll the damned thing or get stuck in the sandy, dry bottom. But the vehicle was now concealed beneath a concrete bridge, hidden from anyone who might drive by or fly overhead. Once its tire tracks were wiped out, it would take an expert in cutting sign to know they were there.
Or that was the theory, anyway.
He walked slowly backward, swishing the branch across the sandy soil as he went, careful not to fall down the steep bank as the ground became softer and less stable. He was about to warn Natalie to watch her step, when he heard her gasp. He looked up in time to see her tumbling toward him.
He reached out, stopped her fall. “You okay?”
She sat up, nodding. “I’m a little dizzy, but I’m fine.”
He took one look at her face and knew that wasn’t true. She was flushed, but she wasn’t sweating. “You’re dehydrated.”
She looked puzzled. “I’m not thirsty.”
He’d seen men die from the heat in Afghanistan as medics struggle in vain to save their lives. He knew that dizziness and lack of thirst were not good signs.
“Let’s get you into the shade.” He drew her to her feet, slid an arm around her waist, and guided her over to the car and into the passenger seat, taking the AK from her. He propped the rifle against the car, then reached into the back seat for a bottle of water, ripped off the cap and pressed it into her hands. Too bad there were no powdered electrolytes to go with it. “Drink. A few gulps, then regular sips.”
While she drank, he touched his palm to her forehead, relieved to feel that her skin was neither clammy nor feverishly hot. She was definitely dehydrated and on her way to overheating, but she didn’t have heat stroke. Not yet.
You pushed her too hard, you dumbshit.
She looked up at him. “Were you a paramedic in your past life or something?”
“No.” He dug through the crap in the back seat for the first aid kit, then pulled out a cotton wash cloth. “But I do know a few things about first aid.”
“That’s a good skill for someone in your, um… line of work.”
“You got that right.” He would’ve loved to hear what line of work she thought he was in, but this wasn’t the time. “Quit talking, and keep drinking.”
You’re giving orders again.
He grabbed another bottle of water and dropped to his knees beside her, pouring out enough water to thoroughly wet the washcloth, then pressing it against her forehead and cheeks, hoping to bring down her core temp.
She sighed, her eyes drifting shut. “Oh, that feels good.”
A bolt of heat shot through his belly straight to his groin.
His mind knew her response hadn’t been sexual, nothing seductive intended, but his body apparently didn’t. He drew his hand back, knowing he was in trouble. But then she turned her head, exposing the side of her throat, and he couldn’t resist.
He pressed the cool cloth against that sensitive area, watched goose bumps appear on her soft skin. She sighed again, the sweet sound making his own temperature rise. Slowly, she tilted her head back to allow his hand to pass beneath her chin, then turned her face toward him, her eyes still closed, her mouth relaxed.
By the time she opened her eyes, his lips were almost touching hers. And for a single, slow heartbeat, he stayed that way, unable to speak, his mouth so close to hers that he could nearly taste her, his gaze fixed on hers.
What the… ?
He jerked back, dropped the wet washcloth in her lap, his brain searching for words. “I…You… You can probably handle this yourself.”
She looked up at him. “Thank you. For helping me.”
“I need to get back to hiding our tracks.” He stood and walked away, his abrupt retreat startling a few swallows out of the mud nests they’d built in the bridge’s life-giving shade. “Keep drinking.”
He walked back into the blazing sunshine, grabbed his mesquite branch and rubbed furiously at the tracks—which now included the soil disturbed by her fall down the embankment.
What the fuck was wrong with him?
That Zeta bastard must have shocked him one too many times, because only fried brain cells could explain what had just happened. He’d almost kissed a woman he was charged with protecting—while administering first aid, no less.
That kind of mouth-to-mouth is against the rules, and you know it.
Okay, so he hadn’t technically been assigned to protect her, which meant that the rules didn’t technically apply. In fact, her being with him was purely coincidence and had nothing to do with this case. But he did not get mixed up with women while on the job. He did not develop feelings for them, and he certainly did not get physical with them. That wasn’t marshal service policy; that was his own personal policy. And he never broke his own rules.
Maybe it was just the situation—the two of them being thrown together like this, forced to work together to stay alive, sharing the dangers of a survival situation, his being injured, her being vulnerable. He knew from his years in combat how walking that line between life and death could make two people bond. A bit of pheromone had probably gotten mixed in with all the adrenaline. Simple enough to explain.
And how many of your SEAL teammates did you try to kiss?
Ignoring that stupid question, he stood back, his gaze moving over the embankment, searching for any sign he might have missed—a shoeprint, an overturned rock, obvious swish marks. Satisfied, he walked backward under the bridge, rubbing out his footprints as he went and assuring himself that he’d done just as thorough a job of rubbing out any inappropriate impulses he might have had toward Natalie.
When he reached the car, she was sound asleep, her lashes dark on her cheeks, her lips relaxed, an empty water bottle perched in her slender fingers. A sensation of warmth spread inside his chest.
Oh, MacBride, you are in such deep shit.
He slid quietly into the driver’s seat, felt her forehead and was relieved to find it cooler. Then he settled his rifle at his side, took the empty bottle from her, and, helpless to stop himself, watched her sleep.
Sign up for the I-Team Reading Challenge by posting a comment below. And keep us all updated on your progress. Remember: The deadline to finish is April 15!