By: Vonnie Davis
Congratulations to "LS", the winner of Vonnie's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!
Decades ago, when I was growing up, my generation used to yell at the movie and television screens during tense moments. “Look behind you!” we’d scream at the clueless victim while the villain clutched a dagger over the victim’s head. Or holding a rope, its ends wrapped around his wrists, with which to choke the good guy. When doors squeaked open, our hearts nearly burst with fear. And when the protagonist ripped back the shower curtain, we all took a collective gasp because we knew something or someone terrible was hiding in the shower.
There’s nothing like it.
We’ve become more sophisticated in what frightens us now. We like more gore, more mental terror, more action.
I love when my eyes fairly fly across the page, my breathing rapid and my heart pounding in my ears. Of course it’s always at that moment when my husband snorts in his sleep, further frightening me out of my wits. Or the cat jumps onto my stomach. What is it in us that makes us long for those fright moments?
Some say suspense is not unlike those breath-taking thrill rides in amusement parks, tension escalating as one approaches the front of the line or as the safety bar slaps into place, pinning us into our seats. I’m not sure I agree. My stomach hates fast, twisty, turny rides, but my mind loves a good suspense.
I don’t care if the protagonist knows the villain or if the bad guy or guys is a secret group out to do harm. Nor do I care if the evil presence is human or other-worldly. Just make my heart race. Make my turn those pages or click that turn button on my Kindle. Keep me reading. Give me lots of oh my God moments. Throw in a steamy romance that makes my heart pound for other reasons and I’m yours.
In my recently released romantic suspense, my heroine is a high school art teacher who’s traveled to Paris to visit museums she’s read about. While in the Salon Carré to see the Mona Lisa, she unwittingly foils a terrorist’s bombing attempt. The following excerpt occurs at the French counter-terrorism unit…
Alyson stood also. “Wait, this is Thursday. You mean to tell me I’ll have to hide until Monday
Macho Male pushed away from the wall. “Ms. Moore, shall we go? I’ll explain our plan on the way to your hotel. I believe you’re staying at the Madison on Boulevard Saint Germain.”
“Yes, but…” She watched the door close behind the field supervisor and then turned to stare at the man assigned as her protector. “I’ve read about terrorists. Watched shows about them. I just never thought I’d come within a hundred feet of one. Now I’m being told…” She shook her head and exhaled a slow breath. Someone wanted her dead. She was being put into protective custody. She cleared her throat, a nervous habit. “This is bizarre. So utterly bizarre. I’m so…” She shrugged and lifted upturned palms in a helpless gesture.
He stepped closer. The scent of his cologne, understated yet powerful, made her body respond.
Her stomach fluttered and her breathing hitched.
“So…what?” His head tilted to the side as if he were truly interested in her response. That one little movement touched her, temporarily putting her at ease.
“Insignificant. I’m an insignificant tourist, Monsieur…? Sorry, I’m not retaining names very well at this moment.”
“Niko is fine.”
“Niko.” She wrapped her arms around her waist and looked away. “Look, all I saw was the terrorist’s face. I didn’t see any secret plans or overhear anything confidential. Just a face. Maybe he wore a disguise.” She thought of the sketch she drew shortly after arriving at police headquarters. “Maybe he really doesn’t look anything like my sketch.” Maybe I’m trying to discount the obvious. I’m in very real danger here.
“Based on your sketch, Interpol made a match. Believe me, he’s lethal. Very lethal. Until today we thought him dead. You’ve exposed him. He’ll be out for revenge.”
Alyson swallowed. “Revenge. Just for seeing his face. Look, how extreme is that?”
The young man sat on the corner of the table and crossed his arms. “That’s what terrorists are, Ms. Moore: Extreme. Unreasonably extreme. Ziyad Dembri, the man you saw today, went to great lengths to fake his death two years ago. A burned body and phony dental records were involved. He evidently had plastic surgery on his nose to further complete his new identity. Because no one at Interpol was on the lookout for him, he was able to fly under their radar.”
She closed her eyes briefly. “Until I identified him today.”
“You got it. Now Interpol believes Dembri was the mastermind and perpetrator of several attacks
here in Europe and in the Middle East. Those attacks carried his MO, but with his reported death,
authorities didn’t know who to blame. Now, with your sketch, they do.”
“Oh, dear Lord.” She’d stuck her nose in it now.
“Many innocents have died because of him. Now he’s been identified, his ability to move about
undetected has been removed. He’ll be very angry with you and, yes, out for revenge.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “Leave it to me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To be the one to see his face.”
“The French have an expression. ‘Vengeance est un plat mieux carne froid.’ Revenge is a dish best savored cold. As with all terrorists, Ziyad Dembri is a very coldhearted, vengeful executioner. He’s part of a larger terrorist ring called The Red Hand. The red in their name has multiple meanings. Not only does it pertain to their communist leanings but also to the large quantity of blood on their hands. No member of their group hesitates to murder. Their leader, whoever the shadowy figure is, goes by the nickname ‘the Architect,’ as in the Architect of Death.” He stood and walked toward the door.
Alyson followed, stopped as he opened the door and glanced up at him. “Red Hand? The Architect of Death?” She gave an involuntary shudder. “What nationality are they? I’ve never heard of them.”
Niko cupped her elbow and escorted her from the room. “Algerian, Syrian and Iranian. Radical, as all these types of groups are. The difference is they shun publicity. No interviews, no video tapes sent to television stations and no YouTube videos. Instead they leave a macabre calling card.”
“What do you mean?”
“They leave a handprint of the victim’s blood.”
“Oh, dear Lord.” Her hand flew to her mouth and then dropped to her stomach. She was going to
be sick. “Don’t they leave fingerprints when they do that?”
What manner of hornets’ nest had she stirred up? A terrorist faking his death. Bloody handprints
left at the scenes of crimes. Could this day get any worse?
…And, of course, we know it does get worse for Alyson, but since it’s also a romance, we know Niko will protect and seduce her. Or will he? Perhaps it’s Alyson who does the deducing.
Vonnie will be giving away a digital or print copy of Mona Lisa's Room (winner's choice) to one lucky commenter.
You won't believe this email. I'm sitting in a French safe house, eating caviar and drinking champagne with a handsome government agent, Niko Reynard. He's wearing nothing but silk pajama bottoms and mega doses of sex appeal. I'm in big trouble, little sister. He's kissed me several times and given me a foot massage that nearly caused spontaneous combustion. I'm feeling strangely virginal compared to the sexual prowess this thirty-year-old man exudes.
When I came to Paris for a bit of adventure, I never imagined I'd foil a bombing attempt, karate-kick two men, and run from terrorists while wearing a new pair of stilettos. I've met a German musician, a gay poet from Australia, and the most delightful older French woman.
Don't worry. I'm safe--the jury's still out on yummy Niko, though. The more champagne I drink, the less reserved I feel. What an unforgettable fortieth birthday!
THE WILD ROSE PRESS (digital) -- http://bit.ly/MonaLisaDigital
THE WILD ROSE PRESS (paperback) -- http://bit.ly/MonaLisasRoom
THE WILD ROSE PRESS (paperback) -- http://bit.ly/MonaLisasRoom
AMAZON (paperback) -- http://amzn.to/QQZGyD
AMAZON (eBook) -- http://bit.ly/MonaLisasRoomeBook
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