After the Storm will be the 8th book in the well loved KGI series by Maya Banks and is due to be released on January 7, 2014. Banks posted a "snippet" from After the Storm on her Facebook page a few days ago so I am sharing it here. You can visit her Facebook page by clicking here. And yes, this is yet another series on my outrageously long want to read list! Just a note Ms Banks made it clear that these excerpts are unedited so if there's typos don't get upset I'm sure they will be caught in the editing process! Enjoy!
Here's excerpt 1 from October 4th:
Eve tensed, shaken from her chilling thoughts by the sound of a vehicle just outside the trailer door. Sweat broke out on her forehead and her gaze flew to Cammie who was still sleeping on the couch.
Oh God. What if he was here? What if he’d found her? There was nowhere for her to run. No escape. She had no vehicle. The one she’d had bought with the last of her cash reserves—under a false name—from a seedy car lot that charged her three times what the piece of crap was worth had broken down outside of Dover.
She and Travis and Cammie had abandoned it, knowing they had no money or means to repair it, and they’d walked. It was how they’d come to stay in Dover. Necessity. Not choice.
Until she was able to work and stock up enough money to fund their escape to the next place, they were solidly stuck here.
She rushed to the couch, galvanized into action by the sound of a closing door. She curled her arms underneath Cammie and flew into the bedroom. Cammie stirred, a sleepy protest forming on her lips.
“Shhhh, Cammie,” Eve soothed. “Be very quiet, darling. Someone’s here.”
Cammie went instantly still, rigid in Eve’s arms. Eve damned the fact that Cammie was well acquainted with the need to hide. To be quiet. On constant alert.
“Crawl under the bed,” Eve whispered, setting her on the floor even as she issued the command. “Don’t come out, Cammie. No matter what you may hear. You stay here and hide. Don’t make a single sound. Promise me.”
Eve all but pushed the small child under the double bed and then arranged the faded, worn bed skirt to hide the evidence that someone was hiding underneath. If anything happened to Eve—if Walt had found her—perhaps she could convince them that Travis and Cammie weren’t with her. That she’d left them somewhere else. Separating them so that if Eve was arrested or worse, discovered by Walt himself, maybe, just maybe, Cammie would remain hidden and undiscovered until Travis arrived.
A knock sounded in the distance and Eve’s heart pounded harder. She whispered an urgent prayer as she shakily rose from her perch. Please, please don’t let it be the police. Or worse, Walt. It was a testament to just how much she feared her step-father that she’d actually prefer to be confronted by the police than by Walt himself.
For a moment she considered ignoring the knock. There wasn’t a vehicle parked outside to indicate anyone was at home. She knew no one here. It was certainly in the realm of possibility given the time of day it was that one could assume whoever lived here was at work.
Unless they knew better. Unless they knew very well she was here. That this is where she’d fled and hid even now.
Another knock sounded. Harder this time. A knock that told her whoever it was wasn’t going away.
Bracing her shoulders, determined not to let anyone see her fear, she walked slowly to the door. There wasn’t a window cut out of the door. She was fortunate to have a door at all with the condition of the rest of the trailer. No way to see who was on the other side without revealing herself by looking out the small window in the living room.
But she peeked anyway, wanting to know at least what she was up against. If there were police cars outside.
Frowning she took in the same truck that had been there just the day before. Donovan Kelly. He’d come with Rusty Kelly, the young woman who’d hired Travis. What could he want?
Feeling only a margin of relief she went to the door and cracked it cautiously, even thought it was ridiculous, because if the man wanted in, there was little she could do about it. Even she could break through this door.
Donovan’s soft inquiry slid over her ears, pricking her nape. Her pulse sped up as she met his gaze.
“It’s Donovan Kelly. We met yesterday,” he said unnecessarily.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She was still dealing with the overwhelming fear she’d experienced when she’d heard the vehicle drive up. She breathed deeply through her nostrils, willing her pulse to slow from its rapid thudding at her temples. It wouldn’t surprise her if he were able to see her heart beat against her thin t-shirt.
“Can I come in?”
She gripped the door harder and stared at him, taking in the plastic grocery bags dangling from both hands.
“Why are you here?” she finally managed to get out. “It’s not a good time.”
“I brought some things I thought you, Cammie and Travis needed,” he said, dipping his head toward the stuffed bags.
She stared in bewilderment at him, unsettled by the unexpected visit, but moreso by the determination she saw in his eyes.
“Eve, I’m here to help you,” he said gently. “Let me in so I can unload the groceries.”
t was voiced quietly enough, but there was a definite thread of command in his tone. Her grip eased on the door, and then she remembered Cammie. Hiding under the bed in the other room. How would it look if Donovan saw?
“Cammie’s sleeping,” she blurted. “I don’t want to disturb her.”
Donovan nodded even as he pushed forward, giving her no choice but to let go of the door. As he walked in, his gaze went to the couch where Cammie had been resting just moments earlier. The fan was still humming and panic scuttled up Eve’s spine.
“She must have gone to the bathroom. I’ll just go check on her while you…” She broke off, gesturing toward the bags he held.
“Take your time,” Donovan said in an easy voice. “I can make my way around your kitchen just fine.”
Eve bolted toward the bedroom, shutting the door firmly behind her. Just in case he had any crazy ideas of following her. She hurried to the bed and knelt, lifting the tattered bed skirt to peer underneath.
“Cammie,” she called softly. “Come out, darling. I need you to hurry.”
Cammie immediately scrambled toward Eve, and Eve enfolded her in her arms, picking her up to hurry in the direction of the bathroom so that at least if Donovan did barge in, it would appear as though Cammie had indeed just gone to the bathroom.
Cammie’s eyes were huge in her small face, a face that was frozen with fear.
“It’s all right, Cammie. It’s just Donovan Kelly. You remember him, don’t you? He came with the woman who hired Travis yesterday. He was nice. He said he wanted to be your friend.”
Cammie slowly nodded, but she still wore a wary, guarded look that made Eve’s chest ache.
Eve carried her into the living room and eased her onto the couch so the fan would blow over her flushed skin. To her surprise, Donovan appeared beside Eve, his expression worried as he took in Cammie’s appearance.
Cammie shrank back, her eyes widening in fear. Eve wished she could control it, but what four year old could? It was a dead giveaway. Anyone with eyes could see the child had much to be afraid of.
Donovan took a cautious step back but turned to Eve, his expression grave—and determined. She felt as if she’d just stepped into a mire by allowing him access to her trailer, but then could she have really kept him out? He didn’t look like a man who took no for an answer. Ever.
“She’s not better,” he said grimly. “Is she still running fever?”
Eve nodded her shoulders sagging. She automatically reached for Cammie, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder and squeezing as if to tell her it would be okay. That Eve would die before allowing anyone to hurt her.
“She needs a doctor,” Donovan said bluntly. “She likely needs to be in the hospital. How long as she been ill?”
Eve hit the panic button again. “I can’t afford a doctor. Or a hospital.” Not to mention the exposure caused by a hospital stay. “I’ve been giving her fluids and medication around the clock. She’s been keeping it down. Well, after that first day.”
“Come into the kitchen with me,” Donovan murmured. “Reassure Cammie you won’t be going far. We should discuss this away from her.”
Eve’s eyes widened at his perception. Then she glanced down at Cammie, wracked by indecision.
“Eve,” Donovan prompted.
Eve closed her eyes and then leaned down to brush a kiss across Cammie’s fevered brow. “I’m just going to the kitchen. Donovan brought food. Wouldn’t you like a special treat?”
Slowly Cammie nodded, but she kept casting her gaze sideways at Donovan, shadows haunting her young eyes.
Eve turned and made sure Donovan went ahead of her so that she was between him and Cammie at all times. He’d made quick work of putting away the groceries, though he’d left several items out on the small counter top. Sprite. Soups. A loaf of bread. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen as well as several bottles of Pedialyte, a fluid designed to correct electrolyte imbalance.
It would appear he’d thought of everything.
“I can’t afford a doctor,” she whispered fiercely. “She’ll be okay. I’m staying with her and monitoring her fever at all times.”
Donovan put his hand over hers where she’d rested it on the countertop. A warm shock raced up her arm. Soothing. It baffled her, because she had everything to fear from this man, and yet something so simple as his touch calmed some of the rising panic and hysteria rampaging through her mind.
“I have a friend—a very close friend—who is a doctor. You’d like her. Her name is Maren. She’s married to another very good friend of mine. She’s been on maternity leave and is just now starting to get back into the swing of her practice. She routinely makes house calls, and she also sees disadvantaged patients free of charge. And Eve, you are in need. Cammie is in need. I’d like to bring her over tomorrow to check on Cammie. I’m concerned. She appears to be a very sick little girl and while I’m sure you’re doing the absolute best you can, sometimes it’s not enough.”
She sagged, her head lowering because he was right. It wasn’t something she could very well hide. One only had to look at her—at where she lived—to know that she was in desperate need. And Cammie did need a doctor. Eve had been up with her all night, worried, sick with indecision over whether she should risk taking her into the emergency room. But how would she have gotten there? She was basically trapped here. Confined from anything that wasn’t in walking distance.
Donovan lifted her hand, curling his fingers gently around hers. She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. His grasp wasn’t painful. Not at all. He wasn’t trying to hurt her, but neither did he let her go.
“We aren’t going to harm you, Eve. Nobody is. I’ll bring Maren out first thing in the morning so she can do an assessment on Cammie. She likely needs more than the over the counter medications you’ve been giving her.”
She closed her eyes, bringing her free hand to her throbbing temple. More medications. Prescription medications. No insurance. No way to pay for them. And antibiotics weren’t cheap!
“Eve,” Donovan said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Look at me.”
Eve lifted her gaze and in his eyes she saw—felt—warmth. Kindness. And something else entirely that she couldn’t quite figure out. He looked at her oddly. Like she was someone who mattered. To him.
“I’m going to get you the help you need. Help that Cammie and Travis need.”
Eve’s knees went weak and nearly gave out. She stumbled and braced her free hand on the counter top while Donovan’s grasp tightened on her other hand as if to steady her.
What if he reported her to child protective services? In his place, Eve certainly would. This was no place for a child and it was equally obvious that Eve wasn’t providing for Cammie. He would be well within his rights to report his findings to the authorities and then they’d sweep in and take Cammie—and Travis—away from her. And eventually return them to their father when it was discovered who they were. And Eve? She’d be punished for what she’d done. For taking desperate measures to protect her family. She simply couldn’t be separated from them and leave them at Walt’s mercy. It didn’t bear thinking about.
“Whatever the hell you’re thinking, stop,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what’s going through her head right now, but Eve, you can trust me. I realize that you don’t trust anyone. That much is evident. It’s also equally evident that you’re in some kind of trouble. You have nothing to fear from me. Or from Maren. We only want to help.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Eve whispered, glancing desperately in Cammie’s direction.
It was the wrong thing to do and she cursed that she’d broadcast her fear for her sister to see.
Cammie immediately started crying. Not loudly. No. Cammie had learned to be quiet at all times. Big, silent tears rolled down her cheeks and her thin shoulders shook. Tears pricked Eve’s eyelids as her heart broke into a thousand pieces.
She broke away from Donovan and this time he let her go. She flew to the couch and knelt, pulling Cammie into her arms.
“Please don’t worry, darling,” Eve soothed. “He only wants to help. He wants to bring a doctor to see you and make you all better. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Even as she said it, she knew that as soon as Travis got home from work, they’d pack their meager belongings and as much of the food that Donovan had brought as they could carry and by the time Donovan showed up with his doctor tomorrow, they’d be long gone.
They were far too exposed here. First the woman who had hired Travis and now her brother. He wanted to bring in a doctor and God only knew who else. What if it was all a ruse? What if the cops showed up at her door tomorrow?
They needed anonymity. They needed a place where they would gain no notice. Where they’d be just another poor, struggling family among many.
There were shelters in larger cities. Maybe even Memphis if they could get that far. There had to be a way for them to get the shelter they needed until Eve could pick up a steady enough job to bolster their finances. She and Trav could tag team where one would always be with Cammie while the other worked.
“What did he bring to eat?” Cammie whispered.
Her question nearly undid Eve.
“I brought lots of yummy things that my niece, who is about your age, assures me are the best things ever,” Donovan said cheerfully.
Eve yanked her head around to see that Donovan had followed them over.
“But I think perhaps we should take it easy on your stomach. At least until you’re feeling a little better. How a grilled cheese, hot soup and a Sprite sound?”
Cammie’s eye brightened. “I love grilled cheese sandwiches.”
“Consider it done,” Donovan said, performing an exaggerated bow that elicited a giggle from Cammie.
Eve watched in wonder as Cammie relaxed under the force of nature that was Donovan Kelly. The man was too good to be true and Eve had learned the hard way that what appeared to be too good was precisely that. A façade.
“Mind if I steal Eve a moment so she can help me whip up lunch?” Donovan asked.
Cammie slowly nodded, her hand automatically going to her mouth. She slid her thumb inside, a habit she’d only recently adopted. One that was a result of the stress they were all under.
Donovan nudged Eve’s elbow, guiding her away from the couch and back to the tiny kitchenette. He took over as if this were indeed his own kitchen. She stood stiffly, watching as he expertly put together the meal, even including a cupcake on a separate paper plate for Cammie’s dessert.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked in a low voice. “You don’t know me—us. Why would you go to this much trouble for complete strangers?”
His head whipped up and for the first time she caught a glint of anger in his green eyes.
“What would you have me do, Eve? Turn a blind eye to people who desperately need help? Or ignore the fact that you’re scared to death and are running from something or someone? Don’t look so stunned. It’s not hard to figure out. And if I can see it, don’t you think everyone else can? Only those others won’t be of no danger to you like I am. I get that you don’t trust anyone. Believe me, I get that. But I’m going to do everything in my power to change that. There are good people in the world. I’m trying to convince you that I’m one of them.”
“It could be dangerous for you,” she blurted.
It was as close to an acknowledgment of what he already knew as she was going to get.
Some of the anger dimmed from his eyes and once again she saw that glimmer that told her she wasn’t just someone in need he was helping. And it befuddled her.
“How about you let me decide what I consider dangerous? You say I know nothing about you, but Eve, you know nothing about me. Yet. And believe me when I say, I am not going to let anything happen to you or Cammie and Travis.”
The hell of it was, in that moment, he spoke with so much conviction that she found herself believing him when she should be believing or trusting no one.
“Now here’s what I want you to do,” Donovan said as he pushed one of the two plates he’d prepared across the counter to her. “I want you to go sit with Cammie and eat. You’re as badly in need of a meal as she is.”
“And what are you going to do?” she asked quietly.
“I’m going to finish putting away the things I brought and make sure your refrigerator is stocked. And then I’m going to make a list of anything else you need so that when I come with Maren tomorrow, I’ll bring whatever then.”
Now excerpt 2 posted today:
“Don’t remind me of my age,” Sam said with a grunt. “Turning forty sucks. I feel like an old fart now.”
Garrett and Donovan both laughed.
Sam turned his stern gaze on Donovan as the laughter stopped. “Now, what’s this about this kid Rusty hired and his sisters? You said it was bad. You also said they’re running from something. What do we need to know here and what can we do to help?”
Donovan sighed and ran his hand raggedly through his short cut hair. “The hell of it is, I don’t know. I’ve never felt so damn helpless in my life.”
Garrett frowned and took a step forward. “I’ve seen you get worked up over women and children in danger plenty of times, Van. But this is different. You’re different. What’s going on here? We need to full truth. Not the watered down version you gave Ma and the rest of the family at the table.”
“Rusty is right. They’re in trouble. I just don’t know what they’re running from,” Donovan replied. “They need the money Travis is bringing in. He walks like he expects someone to jump out and attack him at any moment. He’s always looking over his shoulder. He’s so obvious about it that it makes me cringe. Someone would make him in a minute.”
Sam made a sound of disgust and anger. “What do you plan to do?”
Donovan lifted his shoulders and then let them sag. “That’s the problem. I don’t know and it pisses me off. I can’t treat this like a mission. Go in, kick ass and take names. Put a bow on it and call it good and leave knowing I made a difference and the people go on and live their lives. This woman is scared shitless. Her brother and sister are scared shitless. It was like being punched in the balls to see that four year old little girl look at me like I was a monster.”
“Damn,” Garrett said softly. “That sucks, man. There has to be something we can do.”
“Oh, I’m going to do something,” Donovan said, his soft vow settling over his brothers. “I have to figure out a way to get close to them. To make them trust me. I’m going to start by bringing them food and evaluating the situation more thoroughly. And then, if Cammie is still sick, I want to bring in Maren so she can check out Cammie.”
“Is that the little girl’s name?” Sam asked. “Cammie?”
Donovan nodded. “Yeah. She’s Charlotte’s age. Reminds me a lot of her. But where Charlotte is a happy, normal child without a care in the world and an entire family behind her to love and protect her, Cammie has Travis and Eve and that’s all she has.”
“I’m sure Maren would love to help,” Garrett said. “Good idea to call her in and bring her out. Not like she doesn’t make house calls now that she’s taken over Doc Campbell’s practice.”
“She’s been taking it a lot easier and Doc has stepped back in to take some of the patient load while she’s been on maternity leave, but she still sees a few patients. Steele’s been breathing down her neck trying to make her take it easier,” Sam said, amusement thick in his voice.
Donovan and Garrett both chuckled. It was funny as hell to see the team leader so wrapped up in his wife and daughter. Steele with a baby was a sight no one in KGI ever imagined seeing. But it was hilarious to see the ice man thoroughly wrapped around the finger of Dr. Maren Scofield—now Steele—and their daughter, Olivia.
“Steele won’t like letting Maren go in alone,” Garrett warned. “If he gets wind of the situation, there’s no way in hell he’ll let her go in without him, and if Eve and her siblings get sight of Steele, he’ll scare the shit out of them even more.”
Donovan grimaced. “Yeah, I hear you. I could use your help persuading him to stay his ass at home and let me go in with Maren. I will have been out twice by then so I think they’d be okay with me and Maren. But if Steele comes, yeah, that’s not a good idea.”
“I’ll put a bug in his ear and assure him that you’ll be with her and prepared for anything. But I need the situation, Van. I need to know everything about what she’s going into, because Steele is going to want to know and I can’t just tell him nothing and to trust us. You know him. He plays by his own damn rules, and he’s very protective of Maren and Olivia.”
“There’s no danger inside that trailer,” Donovan murmured. “It’s a run down piece of crap that no human should be living in. Cammie is four. Travis is fifteen, but he’s a good kid. Earnest. Determined to provide for his sisters. And Eve… I’m guessing mid twenties, but it’s hard to know. She has this ageless look to her. Like she could be twenty or thirty or anywhere in between. Beautiful. But scared to death.”
Garrett and Sam’s brows furrowed as they stared back at their younger brother. Donovan shifted uncomfortably under their scrutiny, knowing he’d probably said too much. Or perhaps it was his tone or expression that had given him away. Fuck it all. The last thing he needed was a lecture about getting too emotionally involved. Moreso than normal at least.
“What’s this woman mean to you, Van?” Sam asked quietly.
“She’s in trouble and she needs help,” Donovan said, avoiding the question. “That’s what she means to me. Some asshole has made that baby girl afraid of men. A part of me doesn’t even want to imagine what they’ve all been subjected to, and we come across a lot of horrific shit in our line of work. At this point you’d think we’d seen it all, and yet I find myself surprised every time I come across some asshole who abuses women or children.”
Garrett winced in sympathy. “I hear you, man. But the day we become immune to it is the day we need to hang up the job. It has to mean something to us or we couldn’t do what we do. We aren’t fucking robots without empathy or emotions. Every mission means something.”
“Every mission is personal,” Sam said, echoing a statement he’d made many times in the past. “Just some are more personal that others.”
“And this is one of them,” Donovan said softly. “I can’t explain it, but yeah, this is very personal to me and I’m not going to look the other way.”
Sam put his hand on Donovan’s shoulder and squeezed. “You know we have your back.”
Donovan smiled. “Yeah, never doubted it. Never will. I’ll call Maren. You put a call into Steele. Get him to stand down. I know it will kill the control freak in him, but explain the situation. Tell him I’d never put Maren into a dangerous situation and that I’ll have her covered every second we’re there.”
“Will do,” Sam said. “But Van? And I’m probably wasting my breath saying this, but don’t let your emotions overrule your common sense. If you get in too deep, take a step back and let one of us go in. We’d be more objective and you know we’d get the job done.”
“No one is doing this but me,” Donovan said, his voice more fierce than he intended. “She’s mine. *They’re* mine. And I protect what’s mine.”
Hotness! I love alpha men!-Monlat
KGI Series in reading order:
After the Storm