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Excerpt - DOUBLE CROSS by James David Jordan

Here's an exclusive sneak preview of the first chapter of Double Cross, which doesn't release until October!

Double Cross
by
James David Jordan


“The day my mother came back into my life began with a low December fog and a suicide.” So begins James David Jordan’s latest novel, Double Cross, which follows the exploits of Taylor Pasbury, a young ex-Secret Service agent with a checkered past and a penchant for finding trouble.

Even as a high school kid, Taylor knew she was not like most other girls. Raised by her father, a retired Special Forces officer, she learned to camp, shoot, and most of all, take care of herself. Now a young adult, Pasbury opens her own security agency and finds herself in the middle of a mysterious case full of danger and intrigue.

When the top assistant of her former client turns up dead, all signs point to embezzlement and suicide. But in the world of Taylor Pasbury, nothing is as it seems. A trail of clues leads to Taylor’s mother, who abandoned her when she was nine. What begins as a suicide investigation becomes a personal quest to find the truth about her past.

Double Cross is an action-packed story that provides thrilling twists and turns as well as a thought-provoking look at the personal and spiritual struggles of characters who are as complex as they are flawed. Ultimately, it’s a story of self-examination that describes Taylor’s journey toward the conclusion that some sacrifices can never be earned.

Excerpt of chapter one:

Chapter One

The day my mother came back into my life began with a low
December fog and a suicide. Mom was not responsible for the
fog.

I hadn’t seen her for twenty years, and the idea that she
might show up at my door was the farthest thing from my
mind on a Thursday morning, a few weeks before Christmas,
when the music alarm practically blasted me off my bed. With
the Foo Fighters wailing in my ear, I burrowed into my pillow
and tried to wrap it around my head. I rolled onto my side and
slapped the snooze bar, but smacked the plastic so hard that it
snapped in two, locking in another minute and a half of throb-
bing base before I could yank the cord from the wall socket.

It wasn’t until my toes touched the hardwood floor and
curled up against the cold that I remembered why I was wak-
ing up at five-forty-five in the first place. Kacey Mason and I
were meeting Elise Hovden at eight o’clock in a suburb north-
west of Dallas. We would give her one chance to explain why
nearly half a million dollars was missing from Simon Mason
World Ministries. If she couldn’t, our next stop would be the
Dallas police.

Since Simon Mason’s murder earlier that year, I’d been liv-
ing in his house with Kacey, his twenty-year-old daughter. I
had promised to watch out for her if anything happened to
him. It wasn’t a sacrifice. By that time Kacey and I were already
so close that we finished each other’s sentences. I needed her as
much as she needed me.

I slid my feet into my slippers and padded down the hall
toward Kacey’s door. Chill bumps spread down my thighs in
a wave, and I wished I’d worn my flannel pajama bottoms to
bed under my Texas Rangers baseball jersey. Rather than turn-
ing back to my room to grab my robe, I decided to gut it out.
I bent over and gave my legs a rub, but I knew they wouldn’t
be warm again until I was standing next to the space heater in
the bathroom.

I pressed my ear to Kacey’s door. The shower was humming.
Of course she was awake. Had there ever been a more respon-
sible college kid? Sometimes I wished she would let things go,
do something wild. For her, that would probably mean not
flossing before going to bed. If hyper-responsibility got her
through the day, I supposed it was fine with me. After all, she
was a markedly better person than I had been at her age.

By the time I met her father I was twenty-nine, and thanks to
a decade of too much alcohol and too many useless men, I was
dropping like a rock. But Simon Mason caught me and held me
in place for a while, just long enough to give me hope. Then he
did what he had to do, and he died for it. Some things are more
important than living. He and Dad both taught me that.

So now I was changing. To be accurate, I would say I was a
work in progress. I hadn’t had a drink since before Simon died,
and I’d sworn off men completely, albeit temporarily. Frankly,
the latter was not much of a sacrifice. It wasn’t as if a crowd
of guys had been beating a path to my door. I simply figured
there was no use getting back into men until I was confident
the drinking was under control. One thing I had demonstrated
repeatedly in my life was that drinking and men just didn’t go
together—at least not for me.

As for Kacey, after everything she’d been through, it was
amazing she hadn’t folded herself into a fetal ball and quit the
world for a while. Instead, she just kept plugging along, put-
ting one foot in front of the other. I was content to step gin-
gerly behind her, my toes sinking into her footprints. She was
a good person to follow. She had something I’d never been
known for: Kacey had character.

I shook my head. I was not going to start the day by kicking
myself. I’d done enough of that. Besides, I no longer thought I
had to be perfect. If a good man like Simon Mason could mess
things up and find a way to go on, then so could I. Even in his
world—a much more spiritual one than mine—perfection was
not required. He made a point of teaching me that.

I closed my eyes and pictured Simon: his shiny bald head,
his leanly muscled chest, his brilliant, warming smile. As I
thought of that smile, I smiled, too, but it didn’t last long.
Within seconds the muscles tightened in my neck. I massaged
my temples and tried to clear my thoughts. Soon, though, I
was pressing my fingers so hard into my scalp that pain radi-
ated from behind my eyes.

If only he had listened. But he couldn’t. He wanted to die.
No matter how much he denied it, we both knew it was true.
After what he had done, he couldn’t live with himself. So he
found the only available escape hatch. He went to preach in a
place where his death was nearly certain.

I lowered my hands and clenched them, then caught myself
and relaxed. This was no good. It was too late. Not this morn-
ing, Taylor. You’re not going to think about Simon today.


I took a deep breath and ran my fingers back through my
hair, straightening the auburn waves for an instant before they
sprang stubbornly back into place. Today’s worries are enough
for today.
That was the mantra of the alcohol recovery pro-
gram at Simon’s church. It was from the Bible, but I couldn’t
say where. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention as closely as
I should. Regardless of origin, it was a philosophy that had
worked for my drinking—at least so far. Maybe it had broader
application: Focus on the task at hand and let yesterday and
tomorrow take care of themselves.


At the moment, the first priority was to get the coffee going.
I started down the hall.

When I turned the corner into the kitchen, I could see that
Kacey had already been there. The coffee maker light was on,
illuminating a wedge of countertop next to the refrigerator. In
the red glow of the tiny bulb, the machine chugged and puffed
like a miniature locomotive. Two stainless steel decanters with
screw-on plastic lids waited next to the ceramic coffee jar, and
the smell of strong, black coffee drifted across the room. I
closed my eyes, inhaled, and pictured the cheese Danish we
would pick up at the corner bakery on our way out of our
neighborhood. That was plenty of incentive to get moving. I
headed back down the hall.

When I reached the bathroom I flipped on the light, closed
the door, and hit the switch on the floor heater. I positioned
it so it blew directly on my legs. Within a minute the chill
bumps were retreating. I braced my hands on the edge of the
sink, leaned forward, and squinted into the mirror. Glaring
back at me was a message I had written in red lipstick the night
before: Start the coffee!

I wiped the words off with a hand towel and peered into the
mirror again. A tangled strand of hair dangled in front of one
eye. I pushed it away, blinked hard, and studied my face. No
lines, no bags, no creases—no runs, no hits, no errors, as Dad
used to say. I was beginning to believe the whole clean living
thing. Zero liquor and a good night’s sleep worked like a tonic
for the skin.

It was tough to stay on the wagon after Simon’s death. I had
never been an every-day drinker. My problem was binge drink-
ing. With all that had happened during the past six months, the
temptations had been frequent and strong, but I was gradually
getting used to life on the dry side of a bourbon bottle. There
was much to be said for routine. Maybe that’s why dogs are so
happy when they’re on a schedule. When everything happens
the same way and at the same time each day, there’s not much
room for angst.

On second thought, the dog analogy didn’t thrill me. I
pulled the Rangers jersey over my head, tossed it on the floor,
and turned to look in the full-length mirror on the back of the
bathroom door. Standing in nothing but my bikini panties,
I rocked onto the toes of one foot, then the other. My long
legs were still lean and athletic. Fitness was something Dad
had always emphasized—fitness and self-defense. There were
times when I had hated him for it, but now I was glad for the
benefits. It would be years before I had to worry about really
showing age. I might have lived harder than most twenty-nine
year olds, but I could still turn heads in a crowded room. No,
the dog analogy was not appropriate. I had plenty of issues,
but I was no dog. At least not yet.

I turned on the water and cupped my hands beneath the
faucet. It was time to wake up and plan what we would say
to Elise. After splashing my face and patting it with a towel, I
turned around, leaned back against the countertop, and crossed
my arms. I caught a whiff of the lavender cologne I’d taken to
spraying on my wrists before bed. The Internet said it would
soothe me into peaceful slumber. For fifty dollars an ounce, it
should have brought me warm milk and rocked me to sleep.
I tried to recall how I’d slept the past few nights, then caught
myself. I was just looking for ways to waste time. I needed to
focus. The issue at hand was Elise.

Simon informed me about the missing money just before
he left for Beirut. His former accountant, Brandon, had con-
fronted him about it, thinking that Simon had been skimming.
Simon wanted someone to know that he hadn’t done it, some-
one who could tell Kacey that her dad was not a thief. That’s
why he told me. In case he didn’t come back. And as the whole
world knew, he didn’t come back.

Elise was the obvious person for the board of directors to
choose to wind up the business of Simon’s ministry. She had
been his top assistant for years. When I told Kacey about the
missing money, though, she bypassed Elise and went directly
to the board to demand an audit—impressive gumption for a
twenty year old. It didn’t take the auditors long to confirm that
Simon had nothing to do with the missing money.

The accountants concluded that the board had assigned
the cat to clean the birdcage. Elise had set up dummy vendor
accounts at banks around the country in a classic embezzle-
ment scam. Simon’s ministries had major construction proj-
ects going, and Elise issued bogus contractor invoices to Simon
Mason World Ministries from fake businesses with P.O. box
addresses that she controlled. When the ministry mailed the
payments, she picked up the checks from the post office boxes
and deposited them in the bank accounts. Who knows where
the money went from there?

The ministry had grown so quickly during the years before
Simon’s death—and Simon was so trusting—that controls
were lax. When the invoices came in, the payables department
paid them without question. By now the money was probably
stuffed under a mattress in some tropical paradise. That was
another thing I intended to pursue with Elise. She had devel-
oped a great tan.

Before I stepped into the shower, I wrapped myself in a
towel and went back into the bedroom. I pulled my Sig Sauer
.357 out of my purse and checked the magazine. It was full.
I slipped the pistol into the inside pocket of my purse. Elise
didn’t strike me as the type to get violent, but people did weird
things when backed into a corner. If I’d learned anything dur-
ing my time in the Secret Service, it was to hope for the best—
and prepare for the worst.




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Comments

  1. This novel will be on my wish list.
    It is so nice to have a site with
    good sensible books.

    ReplyDelete

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