With: Marissa Garner
Woot! Woot! Please join me in a cyber toast! I’m celebrating because I recently received the awesome news that Risky Redemption (Rogue Security) is a finalist in a prestigious writing contest. Let me give you a little background so you can understand why I’m over-the-moon excited about this honor. The contest’s official name is the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, but that’s a mouthful, so most people just call it the Daphne. It’s sponsored by the Romance Writers of America’s Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter or Kiss of Death as it’s fondly known. For me, the Daphne contest and the Kiss of Death chapter represent the best in the genre I love most, and that’s why I’m so humbled by this recognition.
This fabulous news is even sweeter because 2018 is the second year in a row that I’ve been a Daphne finalist. What I find truly remarkable is how different my two books are. This year’s finalist, Risky Redemption (Rogue Security), is a dark, edgy, nontraditional romantic thriller told with two timelines and a CIA assassin hero. The 2017 finalist, Wanted (FBI Heat), is a more traditional second-chance romance involving a secret baby and the sabotage of a nuclear power plant. I believe the romantic suspense genre’s ability to encompass such a wide variety of books is what attracts readers who like stories that make them think. Now I’d love to share a little about both of my Daphne books.
Four years ago, a brutal attack stole Angela Reardon’s trust in men. Now the fiercely independent interior decorator has built a successful business and a new life without love or sex. Haunted by her inability to identify her assailant, Angela wants only to be left alone—until a shadowy stranger reignites dormant desires. But their time together may be brief…because someone wants her dead.
CIA assassin Jake Stone’s targets deserved to die. Until now. Until he falls in love with the innocent woman he’s been hired to kill. Can he save Angela and redeem himself by uncovering who wants her dead? When the trail leads him into the carnal underbelly of L.A., the truth is more shocking than even he could ever imagine.
“Good try, Jake, but you’re not sneaking away from the topic. Why did you break up with Bonnie and all the others?” Angela asked.
“All the others? What is this, an inquisition?”
She leaned over him, her face inches from his. “Answer me, Mr. Stone.”
“Why did I screw them?” He twisted around and shot her a lecherous smirk. “I like to f**k, that’s why.”
“Stop it, Jake. I’m not going to let you hide behind your vulgar vocabulary. I know you use it to put me off balance. It’s not going to work this time.”
“Well, aren’t you clever, Miss Shrink.”
She inhaled slowly, held the breath a moment, and then blew it out through pursed lips. “I’m asking why you never have serious relationships with women.”
Jake tunneled his fingers through his hair and scratched his scalp, obviously stalling. “It’s simple, Angela. They were superficial relationships that didn’t have anything meaningful to grow on. Why would a woman want a long-term, serious relationship with me anyway? Even you called me a playboy.”
“Sure. Whatever you say, Miss Shrink.”
“Okay, this is what I say. I think you cut and run because you’re afraid one of these ‘superficial relationships’ might get serious. Deep down inside, you want it, but you’re afraid of it, too. So you hide. You’ve hidden the real Jake from Tanya, Bonnie, et al. And now, you’re hiding from me.”
Steel shutters closed behind his eyes. Cold, hard, emotionless gray stared back at her. “Believe me, you wouldn’t like the ‘real Jake.’ I don’t even like him.”
Kat MacKenzie knows something is terribly wrong at the Diablo Beach Nuclear Power Plant, but she can’t figure out if it’s computer error, equipment malfunction, or human sabotage. Unfortunately, the only person she can trust with the problem is the man she left at the altar two years ago. If Dillon doesn’t already hate her, he surely will once he discovers why she abandoned him.
The last person he expects to call him is the woman who broke his heart. But FBI Special Agent Dillon O’Malley can’t ignore Kat’s plea for help—not when national security may be at stake. As enemies become clear and catastrophe threatens, can Kat and Dillon put the past behind them to save the day and secure their future?
Dillon’s iPhone rang again from where it lay on the end table. Irritation bubbled to the surface at the sight of the same unfamiliar number. He shook his head. The damn telemarketer should get a raise for perseverance alone. But enough was enough. He grabbed the phone.
“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying. Quit calling me.”
As he pulled the phone away from his ear, ready to slam it on the table, he heard a woman’s faint voice. “Dillon?”
Who knew two syllables could pack such a punch? But they did and knocked the wind right out of him.
“Dillon?” came the barely audible voice again. “Are you there?”
Although the words were a whisper, he identified the caller instantly. Slowly, he placed the phone back against his ear and said the only word his paralyzed brain could produce. “Yeah.”
She didn’t answer for several seconds, and before she did, he heard her gulp. Twice.
“It’s me. Kat. Katriona MacKenzie.”
What the hell? How many Kats did she think he knew? There had been and always would be only one Kat in his life.
When he didn’t respond, she spoke louder. “Dillon? Can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” he managed again around a boulder in his throat. Lame, lame, lame. After two years and what she’d done to him, he should have more to say to her. A lot more.
“Am I…interrupting…anything?” she asked hesitantly.
God, he wished he could say something like Yeah, I’m in the middle of screwing my wife’s brains out or I’m on the other line with the President or I’m busy saving the world. But he was just watching football. Alone. So what could he say? “No,” he muttered, the tightness in his chest threatening to choke off his single-syllable words entirely.
“Uh…how are you?”
Thank God, her words sounded strangled also.
“Um, I’m great. Awesome, in fact. Never been better.” He cringed and closed his eyes. Shit, that was over the top.
“Good. I…I’m really glad.”
“You?” Damn, back to single syllables. And he still couldn’t breathe right.
Then she stalled. He sensed Kat was losing her courage, but he’d be damned if he would make it easier for her.
She sighed heavily. “This was a mistake. Sorry to bother you, Dillon. Bye-o.”
And just like that, she was gone. But not without a last dagger to his heart by using their special good-bye.
Where to find Marissa: