Skip to main content

Excerpt - Mission: Out of Control by Susan May Warren

Mission: Out of Control
by
Susan May Warren


Brody "Wick" Wickham is a former Green Beret turned security agent—with a 100 percent mission success rate. No way is his new assignment changing that. Even if it's protecting a diva American rock star while she's on tour in Europe. Except Veronica "Vonya" Wagner isn't just a beautiful celebrity used to having her way—she's the daughter of a U.S. Senator. And she's hiding a dangerous secret. When Wick discovers what's at stake, how far over the line will he go to keep them both alive?

Excerpt of chapter one:

Was it too much to ask for a little peace and quiet on his so-called R & R?

Apparently Brody Wickham—ex-Green Beret, current on-leave security operator for Stryker International—had turned into a magnet for trouble, and he knew inside his gut that someone was going to get hurt.

Preferably not him.

Brody could spot the ugly future the second that Vonya—the one-name, brazen rock 'n' roll diva and the leader of the crazies inside this D.C. nightclub—stepped up to the edge of the stage and, with a feral scream, sprang into the outstretched hands of her minions.

Perhaps soared might be a better term, as she launched herself, arms flung out, like some sort of prehistoric animal in scaly black leather and a peacock mask, her garish pink wig a plume, into the undulating mosh pit.

Thankfully, anonymous hands caught Miss Crazy and floated her over the mass like a piece of bacon. It didn't mean this wouldn't end badly. With blood. Broken bones.

Death by stampede.

And Brody Wickham, off-duty bodyguard, simply couldn't let that happen, despite wanting to stay incognito in the shadows near the bar. He moved to the edge of the crowd, every muscle coiled. He'd guess that in about ten seconds, he'd have to plow through this mob and save her.

He should be sitting on a lawn chair in the backyard of his parents' suburban ranch home, catching up on the news of his eight brothers and sisters—most of whom he hadn't seen for nearly a decade. Or helping his parents decipher the foreclosure notice from the bank.

The music nearly shook the bricks from their mortar in the warehouse-turned-club, the perfect venue for Vonya's eccentric pulse, with its black Art Deco walls covered in skinny mirrors, disco lights dangling from the ceiling, and a round stage that thrust out into the audience.

Despite the cacophony of noise, he had to admit, Vonya had pipes. Brody wasn't so iron-eared as to not recognize the flash of talent in the tones that blew out of that petite body covered in leather and fishnet, even if he spent most of the night averting his eyes from her plunging minidress.

A random elbow connected with the soft tissue of his nose, stopping him cold at the fringes of the dancers.

Okay, what was he doing? This wasn't his gig, his battle. He didn't even know this impulsive woman, and nobody had asked him to be a hero today.

He was here for—

Lucy! She'd jumped right into the mosh pit, moving to the middle, pushing, shoving, bouncing off dancers twice her size.

Everything inside him pinged, his adrenaline rushing.

Oh, he'd known, just known, that his fifteen-year-old sister had no business at a Vonya concert, which was why he'd heard himself volunteering to take her when she appeared in a black-and-purple scoop-neck T-shirt, enough silver costume jewelry to sink a small ship, and skintight animal-print jeans.

And since when had his all-things-Catholic mother decided to say yes to the nose piercing? Clearly, he wasn't the only one who'd lost his mind.

Then again, his mother wouldn't be the first person to let someone talk her into something against her best judgment.

Only, her concessions didn't get people killed.

"You don't want to go to a Vonya concert," his sister had whined, shortly after his mother had tossed him the keys to her Subaru, more than a little relief in her eyes.

"I don't care about this Vonya chick—I care about you. Are you sure you don't need a…jacket? Or maybe a paper bag?"

Lucy shot him her best death-ray glare. "I'll just pretend I'm a celebrity. You can be my bodyguard."

"You know, I do sometimes bodyguard people for a living. I might know a few things about staying out of the way."

"Not at a Vonya concert," Lucy said. "I hate to tell you this, dude, but you're in way over your head."

Clearly. He kept his gaze on her as she bounced in the center of the mosh—

She went down.

"Make a hole!" Brody shoved toward her, his blood hot in his veins. By the time he reached her, Lucy had surfaced, her face flushed, holding her nose. Blood dripped out between her fingers.

Okay, that was it. He glanced once at Vonya, saw her riding the wave, then wrapped his hand around Lucy's arm. "We're leaving." The so-called music ate his voice.

She yanked her arm away. "I'm fine!" Her painted eyes glittered.

He didn't have time to retort because the punk next to Lucy turned on him. "Leave her alone, dude!" He then threw his body—or perhaps someone threw him—against Brody.

Brody caught him, pushed him away.

Definitely time to egress.

He glanced once more at Vonya, his gut tight, trying to shake off the dread. With a gulp, the pit swallowed her whole.

See? Someone should have stopped the madness long before this.

The crowd swelled around her, people pushing, chaos breaking free, bodies tumbling, screaming ripping through the club.

"Brody!" Fear showed in Lucy's wide eyes.

Brody wrapped his arms around her, pushing them both out of the crowd. "You okay?"

She nodded, still protecting her nose.

Perfect. So much for bringing his sister home in one piece.

"Go to the bathroom and get cleaned up. Stay away from the crowd!" He had to shout inches from her face, but even as Lucy nodded, his attention pulled back to the mob.

No Vonya. But screams and grunts emitted over the microphone, and even the band members had stopped playing.

"Go!" he yelled to Lucy, and plowed back into the violence.

Another elbow to the gut nearly blew out his breath, but he moved with the purpose of a ground assault, shoving bodies aside, protecting his face as he waded through to Vonya's last known position.

Nothing, although he did manage to haul to their feet two women and a very skinny kid.

He made it all the way to the man-size speaker…and spotted a flash of pink huddled behind the equipment.

Vonya crouched, holding her left arm curled tight to herself. Despite the black makeup, the weird peacock mask, the bright pink Marilyn Monroe-style hairdo, and the scaly leather dress, he recognized a woman shaken.

Not that it took a psychologist to figure it out—her mask hung torn from her face and she stared up at him like he might be the boogeyman.

So he didn't stop to focus, analyze or plan. Didn't stop to think through his actions. Just bent down, slipped his arms around her and swooped her up.

"Hey! What are you doing?" She twisted in his arms, eyes wide.

"What does it look like?" he said into her ear, as he pushed through the hysterical crowd toward the back entrance. "Trying to save your pretty little neck."

"Call 911, tell them things are out of control!" she said, twisting in his arms as if wanting to run back into the mess.

"You should have thought of that before you threw yourself into the audience."

She stiffened. "I'm okay. You can put me down."

"Not quite yet, honey."

But he looked at her then. She seemed more petite up close with her crazy pink hair and false eyelashes, and she swallowed back something that looked like shame.

Then he kicked open the back door and freed them to the alley.

"I said, put me down!" No problem.

Unfortunately, her words came out timed perfectly for the paparazzi, who got a million-dollar shot of him flinching as she landed an openhanded smack across his face.

Of course she'd been summoned by the senator. Ronie finger-combed her sea-sticky hair as she sat in the backseat of the limousine, her trench coat tucked around her, trying to chase from her bones the last of the chill from the choppy ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard. Her father's voice on her machine rang in her memory.

"Sounds like you made a real spectacle of yourself this time, Vonya. Your mother and I want a word with you. I'll expect you at the beach house this weekend"

Of course he expected her. But at twenty-eight, she thought she might be strong enough to resist his summons.

Well, she might be if she weren't broke and needing the senator's goodwill in the form of financial backing for her upcoming European tour, aka rescue mission.

She'd saved the text message from the Bishop and now ran her thumb over her cell in her pocket. Found him. Thank You, God.

Her throat tightened even as she stared out at the ocean, at the frothy waves clawing the shore. Please let the senator be in a good mood.

The limo turned into the long drive toward Harthaven, past the weathered split-rail fencing, the green-carpeted pastures. A couple of her mother's thoroughbreds lifted their heads as if in greeting. The tires ground against the gravel until the car pulled up at the front door.

"Nice to see you again, Miss Veronica," the driver said, as he opened her door.

"You, too, Mr. Henley." She lifted her messenger bag from the seat and stood for a moment in front of the ancestral home, two centuries of age in its weathered cedar shakes. Out of habit her eyes went to Savannah's tiny, empty attic window.

"Veronica, you made it!" Her mother's voice emerged first as she exited the house, crossed the porch and descended the front steps. Ellie Wagner looked about twenty-five, with her long brown hair held back in a ponytail, and her brown riding pants and pink blouse. She held her helmet, with a pair of gloves shoved inside, against her hip. "I was just leaving for a quick ride. I'll be back in time for dinner." She pecked her daughter on the check as she breezed by. "Oh, we'll be dressing for dinner tonight, but your father would like to see you for drinks in the study at six o'clock."

"I don't drink." Never had, really. And never mind that she hadn't called herself Veronica since her sophomore year in college.

But it didn't matter. Her mother waved her gloves and disappeared around the corner to the stable.

"No problem, Mother, I'm down with that," she said to the brisk island air.

She kept a standard little black dress and a strand of pearls in the closet just for Saturday nights at Harthaven. Her fans wouldn't have a prayer of recognizing her.

Sometimes, after a concert, she didn't even recognize herself.

Six p.m. The hour of execution, when she had to discard herself of all things Vonya and climb back into the expectations of her upbringing. But no one could ever accuse her, Veronica Stanton Wagner, of not knowing how to adapt. She'd eaten Zong Zing with the ambassador to China, challenged the sons of the prime minister of Nepal to a game of Bagh Chal, learned to play the djembe from a musical troupe from Ghana, and could speak, although poorly, snippets of Portuguese, thanks to the young wife of the United Nations representative from Brazil.

She could probably manage to behave like a proper lady tonight at dinner. Especially if it meant erasing from her father's recent memory the newspaper photo of Vonya laying her palm across a very handsome, yet downright surly, self-appointed bodyguard after last Saturday's debacle.

Yeah, well, she'd been a victim one too many times of a crazy fan. And one very dangerous stalker. How was she to know he actually wanted to help her?

She could still see his shock as he recoiled, then the growl that flashed into his eyes as he'd gritted his teeth and set her down.

Stabilized her as she rocked on those lethal five-inch heels.

No, not a fan. Thankfully, he hadn't let loose the words behind the disgust that flashed across his face.

But the derision from the stranger hurt, she had to admit it.

Or not a stranger anymore. Brody Wickham. She'd discovered his name after her frantic manager found them returning from the alley. Tommy D had decided to make him a national—or at least music-industry—hero.

She longed to forget him, hating the way he and his condemnation stuck in her brain. In fact, she thought she'd escaped the claw of shame long ago.

Clearly not. And it didn't help that Brody Wickham cast a steely, almost annoyed image across national airwaves and onto prime-time entertainment shows when he announced that he'd simply been trying to keep her from hurting herself.

Nice.

Except maybe he'd been right. She still sported a greenish-black bruise on her arm.

Oh, given the choice, she would rather have holed up in her SoHo loft this weekend with a bowl of popcorn and her keyboard to work on a new song. But she couldn't rightly beg for money over the phone, or even through email. Senator Wagner wouldn't want to miss the pleasure of staring her down and making her feel fifteen and a failure.

Just once, she'd like to be twenty-eight, smart and beautiful.

But this little excursion wasn't for her. Or even for the senator. And life didn't always hand out choices.

An hour later, Ronie gave a last survey in the mirror—short brown hair curled into tiny ringlets around her head, the barest dusting of makeup, a little lip gloss, a touch of lime eye shadow. She appeared, well, wholesome.

She didn't exactly hate the look.

The smells of a pot roast, or maybe lamb with rosemary, tugged her down the stairs. Stopping off in the kitchen, she sneaked a fresh roll from a basket on the counter, earning a growl from Marguerite, their weekend housekeeper, and tore it into tiny pieces as she walked toward her father's study.

The melodies of Tchaikovsky escaped through the cracked open door. She eased it open.

Tripp Wagner stood with his back to her, an outline of power as he stared out the window overlooking the grounds. Twilight had begun to darken the pond and seep across the grass. Only a glimmer of light sprinkled through the pines that ringed their property. Sometimes she wished they had beachfront property, where they could watch the sun sink like a fiery ball behind the sandy dunes.

"Father?"

"Come in, Veronica."

Ronie stepped inside the study. A desk lamp puddled orange over the leather blotter on the mahogany desk. His briefcase lay on the credenza, under a family picture, now nearly fifteen years old. Ronie barely glanced at it, not really recognizing any of the four of them.

"You can help yourself to a drink." He gestured with a glass of something amber—bourbon, probably—still not turning from the window.

"I still don't drink alcohol, Father," she said, but moved over to the bar and poured herself a glass of cranberry juice. It helped to have something to hold on to when the senator began his orations.

"Not that anyone would ever know."

She braced herself.

"Sometimes, I can't believe that is actually my daughter making a spectacle of—No. I promised your mother." He sighed, turned and, for the first time, let his eyes rest on her. She stifled a tremble, not because he frightened her—well, not much, anymore—but because she saw in his hazel-green eyes such sadness, it filled her throat with something scratchy and hard.

"Sorry," she mumbled. "It's part of the act."

Print book:
eHarlequin.com (Save an extra 10% with code SAVE10EHQN at checkout!)
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Christianbook.com
BooksaMillion.com
Borders.com

Ebook:
eHarlequin.com (Save an extra 10% with code SAVE10EHQN at checkout!)
Nookbook
Kindle
BooksaMillion.com
Borders.com


Save 20% off all Love Inspired Suspense Books

Comments

  1. I love Susan May Warren's books. Thanks for sharing the excerpt!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just finished this book yesterday...Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's awesome! Thanks for letting me know! It's on my Nook right now!
    Camy

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Laura’s Apricot Shell Shawl knitting pattern

I usually have a knitting project in mind when I write it into one of my books, but Laura’s apricot-colored shawl just kind of appeared upon the page as I was writing the first scene of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 4: Betrayer , and it surprised even me. I immediately went to my yarn stash to find a yarn for it, and I searched through my antique knitting books to find some stitch patterns. I made her an elegant wool shawl she could wear at home. The shawl ended up tagging along with Laura into the next book, Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 5: Prisoner , where it imparts some comfort to her in her trying circumstances. The two stitch patterns are both from the same book, The Lady’s Assistant, volume 2 by Mrs. Jane Gaugain, published in 1842 . A couple excessively clever and creative knitters might have knit these patterns in the Regency era, but they would have only passed them around by word of mouth or scribbled “recipes” to friends or family, and it wouldn’t have been widely use

Narrow Escape contest for January!

I’m so excited because my January Love Inspired Suspense, Narrow Escape , is now available! Here’s the back cover blurb: KIDNAPPED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT Arissa Tiong and her three-year-old niece are snatched off the street by members of a notorious drug gang. Having lost her police officer brother to a drug bust gone bad, Arissa knows the danger she's in. But she has no idea why they want her. Desperate to protect the little girl, Arissa escapes and runs straight to Nathan Fischer. She knows the handsome, weary former narcotics cop hasn't told her everything about the night that ended her brother's life and Nathan's career. But he's all that stands between her and dangerous thugs who are after something she doesn't even know she has. This is the 4th book in my Sonoma series , but each book is stand-alone. The hero is Nathan Fischer, who had a minor role in the 3rd book, Stalker in the Shadows . To celebrate, I’m giving away 10 copies of Narrow Escape ! Her

Keriah’s Pyrennees Shawl knitting pattern w/ @knitpicks Palette

Why I knit this shawl: I wanted to knit the sunset-colored shawl Keriah was wearing in chapter 5 of my book, Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 2: Berserker , so I looked for an antique pattern that might have been used during the Regency era. This one caught my eye, even though it was published in a knitting book a few decades later than the Regency era. The Spider-Net border pattern was most definitely in use in the Regency period, but it’s also remotely possible that the Alice-Maud stitch and the lacy border stitch patterns were also in use during the Regency, being passed on from knitter to knitter via hand-written receipts, by verbal instruction, or with knitted sampler squares (like how many Shetland lace patterns and Bavarian cable patterns were shared). My/Keriah’s version of this shawl would have been lacy but warm because it is knit with fingering yarn on small needles. Since Keriah was cold, I think she would have grabbed this shawl rather than something more elegant and airy.

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

New contest!

I haven’t had a contest since October! Here’s new one just in time for Christmas. I’m picking 3 winners to each be able to choose 10 books from my Christian book list! And yes, that list includes my books! 1) You get one entry into the contest when you sign up for my email newsletter at http://www.camytang.com/ . If you already belong to my email newsletter, let me know! 2) You get a second entry into the contest if you Like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CamyTangAuthor . If you already Like my Facebook page, let me know! 3) You get a third entry into the contest if you join my Goodreads group: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/49078 . If you already belong to my Goodreads group, let me know! 4) You get a fourth entry into the contest if you follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/camytang . If you already follow me on Twitter, let me know! 5) You get extra entries into the contest if you get someone else to join my email newsletter. Just email camy {at] c

Toilet seat cover

Captain’s Log, Supplemental Update August 2008: I wrote up the pattern for this with "improvements"! Here's the link to my No Cold Bums toilet seat cover ! Okay, remember a few days ago I was complaining about the cold toilet seat in my bathroom? Well, I decided to knit a seat cover. Not a lid cover, but a seat cover. I went online and couldn’t find anything for the seat, just one pattern for the lid by Feminitz.com . However, I took her pattern for the inside edge of the lid cover and modified it to make a seat cover. Here it is! It’s really ugly stitch-wise because originally I made it too small and had to extend it a couple inches on each side. I figured I’d be the one staring at it, so who cared if the extension wasn’t perfectly invisible? I used acrylic yarn since, well, that’s what I had, and also because it’s easy to wash. I’ll probably have to wash this cover every week or so, but it’s easy to take off—I made ties which you can see near the back of the seat. And

Chinese Take-Out and Sushi for One

Captain’s Log, Supplemental My agent sent me an article from Publisher’s Weekly that discussed this incident: Chinese Take-Out Spawns Christian Controversy And here’s also a blog post that talks about it in more detail: The Fighting 44s This is Soong-Chan Rah’s blog: The PCS blog In sum: Apparently Zondervan (yes, my publisher), who has partnered with Youth Specialties, had put out a youth leaders skit that had stereotypical Asian dialogue, which offended many Christian Asian Americans. In response to the outcry, Zondervan/Youth Specialities put out a sincere apology and is not only freezing the remaining stock of the book, but also reprinting it and replacing the copies people have already bought. I am very proud of my publisher for how they have handled this situation. The skit writers have also issued a public apology . (I feel sorry for them, because they were only trying to write a funny skit, not stir up this maelstrom of internet controversy. I’ve been in youth work long enou

Wasabi Wednesday – Year of the Rat mug

Captain's Log, Stardate 01.09.2008 Get free short stories and info on exclusive book giveaways when you subscribe to my newsletter! The winner of Abandoned Identity by Tamara Tilley is Amanda Congratulations! Blog book giveaway: To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter! Please leave a WORKING email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). Please make sure your email address works—I’ve had several winners where my email to them bounced and I couldn’t get hold of them. It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me. You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on Wednesday, January 16th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.) Doing s

I GOT A CONTRACT!

Captain’s Log, Stardate 03.29.2006 I had a wonderfully funny blog post planned for today, but I got sidetracked by some news yesterday! Zondervan has offered me a three-book contract on my Asian chick-lit series ! I’m still stunned by everything that’s happened. The series is actually a 4-book projected Asian chick-lit series about four cousins who fall under the infamous family title "Oldest Single Female Cousin," and their ruthless, wealthy grandma applies pressure on each of them to improve their lack of love interests. I think the first book is tentatively scheduled to be released in August 2007. The blurb on the series is on my website here . Brandilyn Collins posted to the ACFW loop about my writing journey, and Tamara Cooper asked that I share it. And since you all know how much I like to talk , here it is. My writing journey: Like most writers, I have wanted to write since I was very young. (In high school, I wrote a fantasy novel that will never see the light of day

Poll for the title of my book!

Captain’s Log, Supplemental Blog book giveaway: My Thursday book giveaway is The Wedding Caper by Janice Thompson . My Monday book giveaway is Thanks for the Mammogram! AND Reconstructing Natalie , both by Laura Jensen Walker . You can still enter both giveaways. Just post a comment on the blog posts above . On Thursday, I'll draw the winner for The Wedding Caper and post the title for another book I'm giving away. Pick my title! The Zondervan Marketing Department is torn about which title would be best for my debut novel. So you guys get to weigh in! Here are your choices: Solo Sushi Sushi for One Single Sushi Solo Sashimi Leave a comment about which you prefer and WHY. I’ll run this poll for a couple weeks to figure out which will be the title for my new book! TMI: Writing: I posted another "Health and the Writer" post at WriterQuotes , and an agent post at my Story Sensei blog . And in case you missed it, my review of The Guy I’m Not Dating by Trish Perry is