Ashes Ashes Are you ever really innocent until proven guilty? Sophia Naziri is wanted for questioning in the murder of a U.S. senator. She’s worried the police will show up on her doorstep any moment, but when Detective Colby Black appears, it’s to help her put out a kitchen fire, not take her in. Yet. His easy smile and persistence in getting to know her pushes all her troubles to the back of her mind, until a hit man tracks her down. Getting arrested becomes the least of her worries and the handsome detective could be her only way out---if she tells him the truth. Colby Black’s sniper skills have been a blessing and a curse to him. As a member of a Hostage Negotiation Team, he can use them to save people, but sometimes he can’t protect the innocent despite his best efforts. When a hostage situation goes bad, he tries to put it behind him by helping out his mysterious next-door neighbor, Sophia Naziri. But she pulls Colby into a web of lies and conspiracy that will force him to use every skill he has in order to survive. Faced with the moment of truth, can he trust anyone around him---including the woman at the center of it all?
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It was gut-check time.
Detective Colby Black looked down the scope of his rifle, a bead of sweat running down his back. It felt like they’d been there all day, but the afternoon sun still beating down on him high overhead told him it’d only been an hour or so.
“Black, can you see the suspect?” Captain Reed’s voice came over his earpiece.
“Affirmative.” Colby had hardly been able to take his eyes off the stringy-haired
guy with the gun who was pacing behind his hostage, shouting at her and anyone else within hearing distance. The shrill ringing of the phone on the wall behind them punctuated whatever the man was yelling at her. “He’s still pretty agitated. You think he’s going to answer that phone anytime soon?”
A shot cracked the air and the ringing abruptly stopped as a bullet ripped into the phone. “I guess that answers that question,” Colby muttered to himself.
“Stand by for orders.” The captain sounded calm, but Colby knew him well enough to hear the thread of frustration. If they couldn’t make contact, the entry team would be sent in, and it was game over for any type of negotiation.
Colby flexed his wrist before hunkering down once again. From the little they knew about this guy, he’d already killed two store clerks today and shot an officer in the thigh during the getaway attempt. When he barricaded himself in the house with his wife and two kids, the Hostage Negotiation Team was called and Colby headed out. In the hour they’d been there, the guy had shot out two windows and screamed obscenities at the cops outside as he fired his gun randomly. Colby always hoped the situation stayed controlled and they could get everyone out safely, but his instinct was telling him this one could get out of control fast with how erratic this guy was acting.
Colby adjusted his earpiece a bit, but didn’t miss a syllable of Claire Michaels checking in with the team. She was the main negotiator and was good at her job, but she was always a little anxious until they established contact with the hostage-taker. Once that line was set, she calmed right down. Colby clenched his teeth together, hoping she could figure out a way to make contact so the patrolman using the bullhorn could stop. The man’s grating voice was getting on his nerves.
Colby was grateful for a straight line of vision into the kitchen where the subject had holed up and he looked into the scope again just in time to see the man grab his wife by the hair and haul her against him, still screaming in her ear. He waved his .40 caliber handgun in front of her before pointing it right at her temple. “Sir, he’s got the gun to his wife’s head,” he reported.
He kept a close watch, waiting for orders, but sucked in a breath when he saw a child around four years old enter the room where the hostage-taker stood with his wife. “Sir, we have two hostages confirmed. Woman and child. No sign of the reported second child.”
“Colby, the entry team’s about ready. They’ve got a flash-bang coming through the back as a diversion.”
Colby heard Captain Reed’s words, but knew it was the wrong move to make. “A flash-bang, sir? When there are hostages?”
“We need to get this guy’s attention, fast, so we can move in as safely as possible and that’s the only choice we’ve got right now.”
Colby shook his head. This guy was on the edge and if they entered now, it would end badly. Colby could feel it. He squinted to see if he could get any better view, anything that would force the entry team to wait and give them a little longer to try to get him to negotiate. “Come on,” he said to himself. Nothing. “Sir, does Claire¾”
His sentence was cut off at the sound of gunfire and the scream that followed it.
Julie is the author of seven international suspense novels: Through Love's Trials, On the Edge,Time Will Tell, All's Fair, Dangerous Connections,Ribbon of Darkness and All Fall Down. She loves her work partly because she gets to travel to distant lands to research and add an authentic feel to all of her books. Her favorite cities so far are Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She taught journalism at BYU for fourteen years and that kept her on the cutting edge of current events and world news---which is where she gets her story ideas. She also has one non-fiction title: Be Prepared: A Parent's Guide to the Duty to God and Eagle Scout Awards---What You Should Know and is part of two compilations, How Will Christmas Find Us and Life Lessons From Mothers of Faith. She is the mother of eight children and when she's not busy being a mom or a writer, you will find her browsing through bookstores to add to her book collection, at the library borrowing books, or reading the treasures she's found.
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What is Julie's favorite summer sport to play?
Well, as a mother of a lot of children, (eight) our favorite summer sport to play is badminton. But it's a special sort of badminton called Badminton With Kids.
This is how you play.
First, you give everyone a racket and the children stand very close to you.
I drew a picture of it for you.
Then you move in tandem with said children, trying to hit the birdie while at the same time try not to run over or hit the children. It's very tricky.
I drew you another picture of what I look like at the end of the game.
But my children all know that the best Mommy First Aid for me is to run to my Canadian candy stash.
And if they want me to play again, then they take my favorite Canadian chocolate bar, (Caramilk) and carefully feed it to me until I am revived.
Then we are ready to go again!
And that is how you play my favorite summer sport of Badminton With Kids.
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