QSFer Cheyenne Meadows has a new paranormal book out:
Jaguar shifter and sniper extraordinaire, Jag, is tasked with his most difficult and dangerous mission to date—take out the man responsible for his spotter and husband’s violent death. Again.
Sonar, an ocelot shifter, is assigned as the new spotter to the surly and scowling feline alpha. He’s impressed with Jag’s skills but sees more beneath the surface: a grief-stricken and furious man on a trail of vengeance.
Together Sonar and Jag face perils and challenges that test their skills, resolve, and the budding feelings they have for each other. As the death toll rises, so does the heat between them. Their longings could give them the strength needed to persevere, but it also might force them to succumb and sacrifice everything. One thing’s for certain: someone won’t be making it back alive.
ANOTHER BEAD of sweat trailed down the side of Jag’s face, his already saturated headband unable to hold any more. The sun’s stifling heat and blazing brightness caused several more drops to follow similar paths. His shirt clung to him due to the dampness. More than anything, Jag wanted a hot shower. That wasn’t happening, at least not soon. He could get cleaned up when, and only when, he completed his mission—this endless mission in the bowels of the deadliest acreage in Afghanistan. Three weeks had passed as he’d holed up in one cave crevice or another, tracking Sandman, the most violent, cruelest bastard to walk the earth in a long time.
If he could have moved Sandman faster, Jag would have. Instead, they were stuck following a vague trail of bodies from one end of the noxious place to another. Sandman never showed himself and proved worthy of all the rumors. In essence, he was a sniper of the highest caliber—smart, talented, and fucking psychotic, with an obsession for carving up his victims like pieces of morbid artwork.
“Damn it. Where is he?” Mark, Jag’s spotter, grumbled as he raked the area with his high-powered binoculars.
Jag held steady, constantly watching through his specialized scope that allowed him to see an ant crawling on the sand over a mile away. “He’s out there. I feel him. Just be patient,” he whispered, low enough so that only Mark could hear him. In Korangal Valley, otherwise known as the Valley of Death, voices carried and echoed in the mountains. In order for a sniper to stay alive, he had to be still, quiet, and lethal with his aim, something Jag excelled at.
Mark scooted a bit farther away, grabbed his canteen, and took a long drink. “If I had to be out here with anyone else, I’d have gone mad by now.”
The sentiment worked in both directions. Jag glanced over at Mark and offered up a smile. “Ditto. Even up to our armpits in tangos and sand in places it shouldn’t be, at least we’re together.”
A grin appeared on Mark’s face. “Love is crazy, huh?”
“Yeah.” Jag saw the concern written on his lover and husband’s face. After five years together, he could read Mark like a book. Right now, Mark itched to be free, to return home and pick up where they had left off, as a happily married couple. “And I do love you.”
Mark’s muscles relaxed for a split second before he became sober and tightened once more. “There’s something….”
The whine of a bullet split the air. An explosion sounded right next to Jag’s ear. Immediately, he returned fire, his training demanding he protect his position, even from an unseen threat. A spray of sand blew across his face and body. He ignored it, centered on his scope, and blasted away in the direction the shot came from.
A few seconds later, he stopped, came off his scope for a split second, and froze at the sight.
Mark lay lifeless, face down next to him. He appeared to be sleeping, except for the hole in his helmet and the much larger one on the other side. Body fluids oozed from the large wound, seeping into the sand and congealing.
Jag wiped at his face, then looked at his fingers. Not sand. Blood and brain matter. Mark’s. All Mark’s.
Mark. Oh, God. Mark!
Fury and overwhelming grief hit him like a locomotive. Inside, he screamed in horror, rage, and unbelievable pain. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They were supposed to have the rest of their lives together. Not cut short in such a horrific fashion. No. It can’t be real. One more glance at Mark cut through his denial. He reached over and checked a pulse, even as he already knew the answer. Nothing. He choked and gagged, physically sick at what had been done to his husband. His heart raced even as it shattered with emotional agony.
Another shot rang out, ricocheting off the boulder he used for cover.
Methodically he shoved everything into his kill box and forced himself to think of a plan. Mark was gone. There was no doubt now with the size and location of his wound. Jag’s position compromised, he needed to move, to stay one step ahead, before Sandman came over the rise and gunned him down in a flurry of bullets.
Survival instincts and years of training took over. He glanced at the sun nearly on the horizon as he started packing up. Task done, he pulled out his satellite phone and called for an emergency medevac. When the voice on the other end asked how bad, it took everything he had to blurt out the fact that Mark was dead. The operator’s whispered cuss came across loud and clear as well as his promise to get there first thing as soon as the strong crosswinds died down after dark. Judging from the sky that would be two or three hours. For the deepest part of the night to happen would be much longer. Jag swallowed hard and memorized the pickup location and time.
He checked his black-faced digital watch and cringed. He had seven hours to make the rendezvous site.
Glancing down once more, he blinked back tears as he shouldered both his ruck and Mark’s. The heavy load didn’t mean anything except that he could feel and Mark no longer could. Using all his strength, he bent down, levered Mark’s body over his shoulder, grabbed his rifle with one hand, wrapped the other around Mark’s legs, and started down the back trail.
A large lump formed in his throat. He could barely swallow as he hurried down the steep incline, sticking to the cliff walls whenever possible in order to stay in the shadows. Insurgents abounded and he wasn’t about to be cut down by one of them. Time and fatigue no longer registered. Not now. Not when his destination mattered above all.
His life didn’t mean much right now, but he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Despite his oppressive burden, two facts kept him hurrying down steep slopes, over rocky outcroppings, and through a harrowing high brushy area typically filled with insurgents. First, he had to make the rendezvous with the chopper and get Mark’s body to safety. No way in hell would he leave it behind for Sandman to cut up like a dissected frog. Secondly, he had a hunt to finish.
Sandman would pay. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but he would die by Jag’s hand and beg for mercy from the devil himself before Jag returned to home base. Then, and only then, would he allow himself to grieve the loss of his life’s love.
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Growing up in the Midwest, I began reading romance novels in high school, immediately falling in love with the genre, to the point where I decided to write professionally for a career. However, that dream splattered against a brick wall, resulting in a quick death in my first writing class in college when my professor told me bluntly that I wasn’t any good at it.
I shifted gears quickly, and left my writing dreams behind, eventually settling on becoming a nurse.
A few years back, I stumbled across a fan-fiction writing site on a favorite author’s webpage. I began to read stories others wrote, not only making some wonderful close friends from the experience, but also, really learning to write for the very first time. Here I was able to share short stories, practice my writing skills, and truly develop into a writer. More than that, the experience allowed me to revitalize my dream, as I rediscovered joy in writing.
Now, I spend my days off with my alpha male characters, quick witted heroines, and see how much trouble everyone can get into. When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy working in the garden, canning, and seeing my backyard as a living canvas for my whimsical landscaping, and, of course, reading romance novels.
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