Saturday Excerpt: A Risk Worth Taking by Brynn Kelly
Now that it’s officially summer, I think we’re all in need of a good book to bring with us outside, maybe under the shade of a big tree with a cold drink by our side. For those of you in the mood for action, adventure and romance, you’ll definitely need to check out A Risk Worth Taking by Brynn Kelly. Get started with the free excerpt below.
About A Risk Worth Taking:
He can’t outrun himself…
Legionnaire Jamie Armstrong lives in the shadows. A medic haunted by his mistakes, he knows better than to hope for redemption. But his latest mission brings a threat he doesn’t see coming—an attraction as irresistible as it is dangerous. Hacker Samira Desta is a woman he swore to forget, but as a key witness to a deadly conspiracy, Samira is his to protect.
But the woman he rescues might be the one who saves him
After a year in hiding, Samira’s worst fears come true when her cover is blown and the unlikeliest of allies comes to her aid—the secretive Scot with whom she shared one unforgettable night. Hunted by lethal forces and losing the battle against their desire, Jamie and Samira make a desperate play to take the fight to their enemy—but those at greatest risk of ruin may be themselves…
A dozen tiny spiders tiptoed up Samira Desta’s nape. She planted a placeholder finger on her file of evidence and blinked as her focus adjusted over the rolling red and gold fields, their folds in charcoal shadow like an unshaken quilt. Cypress trees: check. Cows: check. Paranoia: check. She rubbed her neck. Nothing there, of course. Not a Sangiovese grape out of place in paradise.
The buzz of a motor curled in on the breeze, echoing off the hills. Her breath stalled. Vehicle? Helicopter? Drone strike? What did a drone strike even sound like? She tsked. A droning, presumably. And by the time you noticed it, would it be too late, like seeing a tsunami
or hearing the rumble of an earthquake?
A red motor scooter bobbed up over a distant rise and ducked away under the next, appeared again, disappeared, appeared…rising and falling from view like a surfer in a swell. The rider wore a high-vis jacket. Il postino. Samira exhaled. Stand down, Sherlock.
Or could it be a mercenary masquerading as a postal worker? That would be a great cover.
Yes, she was losing it. Too much time alone.
Low morning sun bathed the courtyard but the air channeling down the neighbor’s vines was cool around the edges, sending leaves rattling and scratching across the terra-cotta tiles. From the speakers inside the rented cottage, Carole King and her piano were working through their problems. “It’s Going to Take Some Time.”
No kidding, Carole.
Coffee fumes wove into the decaying earthy scent of fall. Autunno, here. The world didn’t get more breath- taking but the beauty didn’t hit Samira in her chest as it might once have. One day, when all this was over, maybe that little skip would return.
With a sigh she tightened her ponytail and returned to the document. The letters seemed to float off the page and rearrange, like they were trying to edit themselves. Ah, who was she kidding? She’d memorized every word of her evidence for the special counsel investigating Senator Tristan Hyland’s terrorist links. No matter how often she revised, it got no stronger than circumstantial and hearsay. And no wonder people weren’t believing it. A wildly popular war hero orders a terror attack in Los Angeles that kills thousands, for political and financial gain? Preposterous. He could still wriggle out, proclaim it was a conspiracy to end his presidential ambitions— if Samira even got to testify before suffering a conve- niently fatal accident, like her fiancé had.
Note to self: Google the sound of a drone strike.
Or would that send an alert to a gray-faced analyst in a monitoring center in some industrial park in America? A company with an ominously banal name—Tactical Security Associates or Virtual Monitoring Solutions. She wants to hear a drone strike? We’ll give her a drone strike.
No, she really wasn’t winning the concentration battle. She heaved the document shut, the echoing slap sending a cow thundering across a neighboring field. Scraping the chair backward, she pressed her knuckles into the middle of her back and arched. For many months it’d felt like a bubble of air was trapped there. She’d writhed and wriggled, twisted and stretched, bent backward over innumerable sofas and chairs in a blur of rented cottages and apartments, but the satisfying pop just wouldn’t come. If Latif were alive he’d gather her in his arms and yank her tight around the ribs. Just the right spot, just the right angle, just the right pressure. Her back would crack, the tension would release, she’d take a deep breath, they’d kiss…
She gave up on the back crack. Wishful thinking. The bubble had been wedged there since she’d read the newsflash about “collateral damage” in a drone strike in Somalia and known by the snap in her heart what it meant.
Nineteen months since his death. Thirteen months since she’d become a witness in the case against Hyland and disappeared underground on a self-imposed protection program. Thirteen months of fleeing from hiding place to hiding place, living under a series of assumed names, rarely reaching more length or depth in her conversations than “un cappuccino, per favore,” “un café crème, s’il vous plaît,” “ich möchte etwas kaffee.” Her Continental grand tour, from Africa to France, then Switzerland, Slovakia, Croatia… She traced a finger around the lip of the coffee cup. Where had she gone after that? The Milan apartment? The former monastery near Barcelona? All private, secluded rentals that didn’t require ID. Cash up front to cover a couple of months’ rent for a “writing retreat.” All the time with that bubble lodged in her spine, that prickly sensation of being watched. She shuddered.
Still, she had no right to complain—about anything. How much would Latif love to come back for this one day, as hollow as it was? Sunshine, countryside, starlings… It would all be pretty cool to a dead person.
She shook a twig off her foot and hunkered into her scarf. La couleur de minuit. A memory triggered—crunching through leaves alongside the River Loire, the scarf around her neck, hand in hand with a man she shouldn’t have been hand in hand with. But his palm was dry and warm and rough, and his voice was deep and mellow, and her grief was raw, and his kiss was…
A man who shouldn’t return to her thoughts as often as he did. Like right now, virtually pulling up a chair alongside her and nuzzling her nape, murmuring phrases that hadn’t been covered by her French tutors, his Scottish lilt blending with his throaty French R.
She tugged the scarf free and twisted its smooth cotton length through one loose fist, silver threads flashing in the deep violet. Memory or fantasy? She’d been living in her head so long…
Either way, it was unfair to force Latif’s fading ghost to compete with the all-too-vivid memory of Jamie. And futile. Both were entombed in her past and would stay there. She hadn’t replaced Latif with Jamie. Jamie had been a…what? Fling? Escape? Lapse of judgment? All of the above? It might as well have happened in her imagination, except for the scarf he’d bought her from the mar- ket below the Château de Langeais and the voice in her head, and the very real confusion twisting beneath her ribs. If it wasn’t grief over Latif, it was guilt over what she’d felt for Jamie. Still felt.
Was that really a year ago?
Her phone alarm trilled through the Bluetooth speakers. The A-Team theme. She caught the phone as it vibrated off the wrought iron table, and swiped it silent, her heart skipping. The music restarted. The scooter had turned onto her road—a dead end she shared with a boutique family vineyard and an organic farm—triggering the first of her motion sensors. She threaded the scarf around her neck and knotted it. The engine tapered from a hum to a chug as it neared her long driveway. Probably nothing, but she gathered up the file and the coffee cup. The scooter disappeared behind a strip of strutting cypresses, its engine slowing, the sound sharpening as it turned. Samira’s pocket jumped. The second alarm— MacGyver. The scooter was in her driveway. With a few more swipes, she muted the alarm and Carole, midclimax of “It’s Too Late.” She grabbed her backpack from where it leaned against a whitewashed wall just inside the French doors—packed, always packed. She hadn’t left as much as a toothbrush out in a year. The scooter whined as it climbed the gravel drive. Breath catching, she drew the doors closed from the outside, coaxing them flat with her fingernails, and stole behind the fat trunk of an oak across the courtyard.
Probably just mail for a previous tenant, but the fewer locals she encountered, the better. The only people who could feasibly mail her anything—and only through a trusted, off-the-radar intermediary—were her parents and the journalist who’d broken the story a year ago about Hyland’s connection to the LA attacks, Tess Newell. Her friend Tess Newell. Because she was seriously short of those. And they knew not to contact her unless it was vital. Too many ways to tip off the enemy.