I wrote AFTER THE SUNRISE to give you a quick look at my new Maximum Security series, starting with my novel, THE CONSPIRACY, which is coming out in hardcover January 22, 2019.
The series, set in Dallas, revolves around Chase Garrett, the owner, his brothers, Reese and Brandon, and the men and women who work at The Max.
Thought you might enjoy an excerpt from both AFTER THE SUNRISE and THE CONSPIRACY.
Three gunshots and an eruption of screams. After five years in Afghanistan, Kurt Layton recognized the sounds. Sitting in an empty pew at the back of St. Andrew’s church, he dropped to the floor out of sight and crawled toward the far end of the pew, then along the outside aisle toward the shooter, who strode down the center aisle pulling off rounds.
Every second meant death. People crying and shouting raced for the exit while Kurt ran toward the gunman, his Beretta solidly in hand. He caught a glimpse of the shooter, full camo, armored vest, assault rifle, ducked and kept moving.
The gunman pulled off a round and Kurt heard the sound of a body hitting the floor. He was as close as he was going to get. He popped up forty feet away, saw the shooter’s weapon pointed at a young woman with auburn hair crouched at the end of a pew, read death in the gunman’s face as he pointed his weapon at the woman.
One chance to save her. No room for error. With the guy in body armor, Kurt took the only shot he had, aimed at the shooter’s head, and fired. A single bullet and the man went down hard, his head a mass of blood and brains, the woman in the aisle screaming, folded in on herself as if she tried to disappear.
She was covered in blood, streaks of crimson in her shoulder-length auburn hair. She was shaking head to foot, but she was safe. Kurt checked the area in all directions, looking for a single shooter, but had seen no sign of one. Rounding the gunman’s body, he caught the woman’s wrist and drew her gently to her feet.
“You’re safe. It’s over. He’s dead. He can’t hurt you now.”
She knew who he was. The only man at the gala in a black tuxedo and shiny black alligator cowboy boots. Chase Garrett. The man she intended to hire to help her find her missing brother.
Harper Winston had known Chase since the day her father had thrown an obnoxiously extravagant party in honor of her sixteenth birthday.
Chase had attended with her older brother, Michael. She had spotted Chase in a swimsuit standing next to the pool, tall, with a lean, hard-muscled body, whiskey-brown eyes and thick, dark blond hair. In the sun it had gleamed like pirate’s gold.
Aside from the close-trimmed beard along a jaw that had hardened with maturity, Chase hadn’t changed. He still had the perfectly symmetrical features of a movie star combined with a toughness that appealed to a legion of women.
Now that she was thirty, Chase thirty-five, Harper still found him ridiculously attractive, though he’d never given her more than a passing glance.
He didn’t notice her tonight, though she wore an elegant strapless black gown that hugged her slender curves and set off the pale blond hair she wore long and slightly turned under. She glanced over to where he stood next to a stunning brunette, a successful lawyer in Dallas, the typical sort of woman Chase dated. Self-made career women, professors, bankers, stockbrokers. Not someone like her, the daughter of a wealthy Texas businessman, a woman who had attended Sarah Lawrence along with a bevy of other rich socialites from around the country.
It didn’t matter that she was nothing like they were. That she hadn’t the least interest in society. Her interests lay in the business world, in Elemental Chic, the company she had started, a line of affordable, stylish and well-made casual clothing and accessories.
She wasn’t cut out for teaching or social work, she had discovered during a year of volunteer work in South America, an adventure she had undertaken mostly because her father disapproved.
Harvard Business School was where she was meant to be, she had grudgingly conceded. As her father had insisted and was eager to pay for—business being one of the few interests she and Knox Winston, a self-made multimillionaire, had in common.
Unlike her father, Chase Garrett came from big money, which he disdained, though he and his two brothers had inherited a not-so-small fortune from Bass Garrett, Chase’s dad.
Harper lifted a champagne flute off a passing waiter’s tray and took a sip. Chase might not notice her tonight, but he was the reason she was there. She hadn’t seen him in years, but when she had read in the newspaper that he would be attending the gala, she’d seized the opportunity. She wanted to see the man he had become, the man she would be facing tomorrow morning.
It didn’t matter what he thought of her as a woman. She needed his professional assistance. Her brother was in trouble. She knew it deep in her soul. Mikey had disappeared, and Chase was among the few people she trusted to help her find him.
Chase owned Maximum Security, a firm that specialized in private investigation, bail enforcement, personal protection, business and residential security. She had done her homework, knew he had offices in Phoenix and San Diego as well as here in Dallas. Chase was wildly successful, his reputation impeccable.
No matter his opinion of her, he had once been a close friend of her brother’s, a man Michael trusted completely. She needed Chase’s help, and she was determined to convince him.
She wouldn’t give up until she did.
Standing next to Chase, Marla Chambers, his date for the evening, took a drink of her martini. “You don’t look like you’re having a very good time,” she said. “Should I be insulted?”
His mouth edged up. “Sorry. I was thinking about a case. I can’t seem to get it off my mind.”
“The missing teenage girl?”
He’d mentioned her earlier. He nodded. “Tammy Bennett. Her parents think she’s been kidnapped. They’ve managed to convince the police, who are in the middle of an all-out search. I think she’s a runaway.”
“Are you working for the parents?”
“No. I just happened to hear something on the street today. I’d like to check it out.”
She eyed him with speculation. “And you’re wishing you were doing that now instead of being here with me.”
He hated to admit she was right. His gaze ran over the attractive brunette he had been seeing for the past couple of weeks. He enjoyed Marla’s company. Enjoyed her in bed. But it wasn’t serious for either of them, and he kept thinking of the missing fourteen-year-old, a story that had been all over the news.
“She’s just a kid. If my source is right, she’s in very big trouble, and I might be able to find her.”
“I don’t suppose you could let the police handle it.”
“I could. I need to check it out first, make sure the tip is real.”
Marla shook her head, went up on her toes and kissed his cheek. “Then you’d better go.”
“What about you? You don’t look like you’re ready to leave.”
“I’m a big girl. I’ll stay awhile longer, catch a cab when it’s time to go home.”
Chase set his scotch down on one of the linen-draped tables. “Thanks, Marla. I appreciate this.”
“Call me tomorrow. Let me know what happens.”
“If I’m right, you’ll see it on the news.” Chase left Marla chatting with a friend and headed for the door. As he made his way through the throng of elegantly dressed men and women, an attractive blonde caught his eye. Tall, with a slender figure, porcelain skin, and big blue eyes. She looked familiar.
As the puzzle pieces slid together, he recognized her, Harper Winston, the younger sister of his best friend in college. As a teenager, Harper had been pretty. Looking at her tonight, seeing her for the first time in years, he realized she had grown into a beautiful woman.
Unfortunately, she was a Winston. Her father, Knox Winston, was one of his least favorite people. Ruthless in business, his crooked dealings had made him a very wealthy man. But worse than his shady business enterprises was the mental abuse he’d heaped on his son that had put Michael on a downward spiral into drugs. And effectively destroyed his friendship with Chase.
Chase had steered clear of the Winstons ever since. He remembered hearing Harper had moved to Houston some years back. After that, he’d lost track of her and Michael, and he intended to keep it that way.
Though he had to admit as he took in Harper’s sleek curves and shiny silver-blond hair, he wouldn’t mind taking her to bed.
Even if the lady was of a similar mind, renewing his connection with the Winstons was the last thing he wanted. Besides, as he thought back on it, Harper had a reputation for being as cool and remote as she looked.
On his way out the door, he passed her. For an instant, her gorgeous blue eyes slid over him, and Chase felt a jolt of heat he hadn’t expected. He wouldn’t pursue it. Sleeping with Harper Winston, no matter how good it might be, just wasn’t worth it.
His thoughts returned to the task ahead, and Chase headed for the valet stand, a harsh October wind whipping against him on the way. He needed to get home and change. He couldn’t go to the Double Eagle dressed in a tuxedo—the bar was in Old East Dallas, one of the meanest sections of the city.
Earlier that day as a favor to Jason Maddox, a bail enforcement agent in his office who was looking for a skip, he had contacted one of his sources. During the conversation, his informant had mentioned the missing girl. Bennie had figured the tip was worth money, and if it turned into anything, Chase would gladly pay him.
It didn’t take long to reach the high-rise building on Pearl Street where he lived. He parked his silver Mercedes in the garage next to the brown Dodge Ram pickup he used for work.
Taking the elevator up to the seventeenth floor, he stepped into the entry and crossed the high-ceiling living room. An oversize sofa in a nubby cream fabric, dark brown throw pillows and lots of dark wood gave the condo a masculine tone that suited him. Stylized contemporary Western art hung on the walls.
With thirty-five hundred square feet of space, a spectacular view of the city, and a big terrace that opened off the living room and master bedroom, the condo was expensive and worth every dime.
Changing out of the tux, he pulled on a pair of worn jeans, a frayed blue denim shirt and a pair of scuffed cowboy boots. He retrieved the little .380 he carried when he wanted a weapon he could easily conceal, clipped the holster onto his belt behind his back and pulled his shirttail down over it.
It didn’t take long to reach the bar. The Dodge was ten years old, a few dents here and there, the paint a little faded, which helped it blend in. But the tires were new, and under the hood, the rebuilt engine ran like a scalded dog. He parked it on the street half a block from the bar and hoped the truck wouldn’t get jacked.
Looking at the trash on the sidewalk, broken beer bottles, used hypodermic needles, and drunks asleep in the gutter, part of him hoped his information was wrong and the girl wasn’t there.
The other half hoped like hell she was.
If he got lucky, maybe he could get her out of there.