Title: Live By The Team
Series: Team Fear Series #1
By: Cindy Skaggs
Publication Date: April 23, 2016
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Are you interested in reviewing/joining the blog tour?
Sign Up Here - http://goo.gl/lgNwqD
Amazon US - http://amzn.to/22RyDpn
Amazon UK - http://goo.gl/GL5dXy
Amazon CA - http://goo.gl/ThMmP4
Amazon US - http://amzn.to/2121l7y
Amazon UK - http://goo.gl/s9E3Wo
Amazon CA - http://goo.gl/8XhCJZ
A free excerpt...
Live by the Team
A Team Fear Novel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the authorâs imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2016 by Cindy Skaggs. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the author: Cindy@CSkaggs.com
Edited by Jessa Slade
Cover design by L.J. Anderson
First Edition April 2016
Six months ago
Ryder shifted through the crowd gathering behind the police barricade. A local news crew panned the scene from a vantage point to his left. In front of him, a young blonde lifted a wide-eyed toddler to her hip, giving the kid a better view. Gunshots fired had turned into a three-ring circus complete with spectators and media crews.
Crime scene tape snapped under his fingers before he made the conscious choice to proceed. A uniform cop moved to intercept him, but Ryder stopped him with a glare. Menace was an art form heâd studied for twelve years in the Army. He knew how to intimidate without a word, without a weapon. Could kill as easily.
No one stood between Ryder and his men. Ryder dialed back the tension bunching his shoulders. He scanned the scene, gauging overall mood and readiness. Time didnât allow for more than superficial recon.
A row of patrol cars created a barricade behind which officers lined up, guns drawn. They faced a nondescript ranch house on five acres of hard dirt. A pickup truck was parked under a stand of trees, the only shade for a good ten miles. The shade didnât help much; it was Texas summer hot.
Nervous energy spread like gossip through the officers on this side of the scene. They were getting trigger-happy the longer the standoff lasted. Jittery men did stupid things.
Ryder walked through the line of patrol cars. No one noticed until he placed his body between the police and the scene of the crime. A last line of defense for the soldier in the barricaded house.
Expletives exploded behind the cop cars. Ryder let loose a sarcastic grin and turned; sure he had their attention now. He lifted his hands so they didnât feel compelled to shoot him. The energy in the open field shifted from unease to outright distrust. Sweaty grips tightened on guns. Every eye in the area focused on Ryder and judged him a million kinds of fool.
Ryder met their uncertainty with cool resolve. Todayâs mission involved getting PFC Madigan out alive, which put Ryder in the hot seat. Times like this, he missed the adrenaline rush: the increased heart rate, the quicker thinking, and increased energy that presaged a good fight.
âSir, step back,â a male voice spoke into a bullhorn.
Ryder shook his head no. He raised his voice for the camera and the crowd. He didnât need a bullhorn. âI served with the man inside the house. You want this to end peacefully?â He nodded at the camera. âLet me go in and talk to him.â
More expletives before a tall, slender man wearing a ballistics vest stepped to the west end of the barricaded cars. Tall like a Jolly Green, the manâs shadow stretched across the desert, the setting sun casting him in silhouette. Any half-trained soldier coming off a three-day bender could take him out. The soldier trapped in the house qualified as exceptionally trained. Ryder had done the training.
Ryder held his position, protecting both sides from bloodshed. âSheriff,â he guessed, rightly so when the man nodded. âI was on the phone with your suspect when you arrived on scene. Weâve established rapport. Let me go in before the situation escalates.â
It wasnât a question. Ryder didnât back down. Another news van pulled up in a billow of dust. The crew jumped out, filming on the fly.
A sidebar conversation happened behind the cars while the cameras whirred. Even at sunset, the temps were in the triple digits. The heat factor fueled tempers. Voices raised and lowered with curses and outrage.
Standing between the police and their suspect, Ryder didnât break a sweat. He absorbed the heat, used it to fuel his system. Guns from both sides pointed at him. The police maintained their vigil, while inside, Madigan would do the same, his sole focus on the troops massing in his front yard. âMad Dogâ Madigan was a weapons specialist. He would have the scene covered.
While the sheriff and his men deliberated, Ryderâs backup moved into position through the rear of the house.
The phone in his back pocket buzzed with an incoming call. He reached and guns lifted to the top of the cars. His hands stayed steady as he pulled the phone out, keeping his movements slow and deliberate. The voice on the other end reached his ears before the phone did.
âPlease tell me these reports arenât live.â The Texas drawl didnât calm the panic in her voice. He could picture her pretty face, brows raised in frustration. Her hands fluttering as she spoke.
âTheyâre live.â Regret closed his eyes for a barely perceptible moment. Lauren. Heâd told her he had to go help an Army buddy. âThis is me helping a friend.â
âWith guns pointed at you?â
âSometimes, thatâs what it takes, baby. I gotta go.â
He clicked off and dialed Madigan. The call connected without a word spoken. The soldierâs breathing pattern was high and erratic, which concerned Ryder more than the police standoff. Every damn thing about this situation felt wrong. None of this shit was the way they were trained. Hell, Ryder would have sworn emotion had been beaten out of them until he heard the sob on the other end of the line.
âThis is bad, Ryder.â
âNo shit.â He kept his tone low and measured, aware of the audience.
âDo you thinkââ
âIâm coming in whether they let me or not. Keep it holstered.â He pocketed the phone and looked across the yard to the sheriff. The other manâs gaze hid in twilight shadows, but his stance read more relaxed than the rest of his men. âSheriff, I have him on the phone. This is your one chance to end this standoff without bloodshed.â
âHow do I know youâre not taking another weapon inside?â
The smirk came natural to Ryder. Who was the sheriff kidding? Madigan stockpiled enough weaponry to start a civil war. The cache of weapons was what kept the sheriffâs men hunkered down instead of going inside. Ryder lifted his shirt and turned slowly, he even smiled for the cameras as he proved he wasnât armed or dangerous. Well, the dangerous part was open for interpretation. âIâm not losing another soldier, Sheriff. Thatâs a promise I made my men when we came back.â
There wasnât a soldier alive who didnât know the odds. Twenty-two suicides a day. Not today. The words were a prayer. Too bad Ryder had nothing left to believe in or pray to. Sometimes you had to handle shit on your own.
âYou can shoot me in the back for the cameras if you want, but Iâm going in.â
He didnât wait for a response. The dirt shifted under his boots as he spun and headed to the front porch. Ants circled a discarded pizza box on the welcome mat. The stench of rancid cheese hit him as he grabbed the doorknob, which turned easily in his hand. Ryder pushed into the house. Gloom shrouded the entryway.
âClose the door.â The voice came from the black void several feet to the right. âLock it.â
âNot my first rodeo,â he said, but moved to comply. âYou hung up on me earlier today, Mad Dog. We didnât finish our conversation.â
They followed a strict protocol. No matter where a soldier lived, if he called, someone came running. No questions. They werenât going to be part of some fucked-up statistic. Ryder was geographically closest to Madigan, so he dropped everything, kissed his new wife, and hit the highway. Rose had moved in from the north, and theyâd arrived about the same time.
âI shouldnât have called. Shouldnât have involved you. I woke upââ Another hiccup from a hardened warrior. What the ever-loving hell?
âNightmare?â They happened, and when they did, they felt real. Sounded real.
âI called before I had time to pull my head out.â Madiganâs tone calmed. âBefore I could pin down what was real, a shitload of cop cars came barreling down the drive. How the fuck did they know to show up?â
âGood question.â Ryder kept his tone slow and easy as he catalogued the surroundings, waiting for his backup to come at Madigan from behind. Ryder was the distraction. They werenât losing another soldier.
âYou did the right thing, calling me. Thatâs the deal. Live by the team.â They might be out of the Army, might be disillusioned and disgraced, but they were still a fucking team.
âI lost time today, Ry.â
Could they still be having side effects after all these months? âHow much time?â
âHours.â The anguish in Madiganâs voice turned the dark hall into a black hole. âIâm afraid to turn on the light. Find out whatâs real.â
âThe hell you are.â No fear wasnât just a motto. âPack that shit up. Concentrate on the situation. Where are Maggie and the baby?â
âTheyâre my life. You know that?â
âI do. So letâs end this so you can get back to living.â
Sniffling sounded from a corner and Ryder was closer to triangulating Madiganâs position. He could take him in the murky light, but Madiganâs eyes were already acclimated to the black void. Heâd have the upper hand. Darkness was Ryderâs friend, helped him focus, but today, night vision didnât give him the advantage. Ryder reached to the wall and patted until he hit a switch. He flipped the light.
âFuck.â Madigan shielded his eyes with one hand while the other aimed a gun at Ryder.
Where the hell was Ryderâs backup? Rose was supposed to take Madigan from behind, but Mad Dogâs back was now against a wall. Madigan backed himself into a corner looking every bit like his call sign: Mad Dog. A halo of red hair capped a tall, lean body smeared with war paint. The wild expression on his face surpassed insane. Blood covered Madiganâs hands and bare chest as if heâd painted himself in some twisted ritual. His eyes were dilated.
âYou on drugs?â Maybe drugs explained the panic that shouldnât be there. And the lost time.
âNo.â Madigan scrubbed a hand over his eyes. âAt least I donât think so.â
âWhat does that mean, Mad Dog? You know better than to experiment with that shit.â With everything they had had pumped into their systems, even alcohol was a gamble.
âI didnât, not on purpose, Ryder, I swear, but I woke up with the worst fucking headache. Disoriented.â
Theyâd all experienced those symptoms at least once. Shit. âWhatâs the last thing you remember?â
âI went into town to get pizza. Maggie didnât feel good and the baby was fussy. I thoughtââ He pounded his forehead with the hand holding the gun. âWhy the fuck canât I remember?â
âWhat time was that?â
Hours ago. âYour truckâs out front. Do you remember pulling into the drive?â
âYeah.â He pounded the back of his skull into the wall. âMaggie screamed. Thatâs what I remember. She screamed. I bolted. God, I canât believeâ I wouldnât, but I had to, itâs only me in the house. And Iâm covered in it.â His voice rose. âTheyâre my life.â
âCalm down.â Something was seriously fucking wrong, because the soldier stank with fear. Ryder took two measured steps closer.
âStay back.â Madigan lifted a handgun and aimed at center mass. âDonât take another step.â
Ryder paused. âIâm not afraid of dying.â
âNeither am I.â
Wasnât that the problem?
Keep him talking. âDid Maggie leave you?â
âI wish.â Panic lifted his voice. âNot the way you mean. I donât remember, but it had to be me.â An unfocused haze covered his eyes in a thin white film. âIâm the only one here, and thereâs so much fucking blood.â
âYouâre not making any sense.â Two steps closer. âSitrep,â he barked, demanding a situation report from the soldier.
The order snapped Madiganâs shoulders to attention. âTheyâre dead.â He twisted his bloody hand in front of his hazy eyes as if the five fingers held the answers. âTheyâre my life.â
Seconds later, something in his eyes went hard. Determination replaced the haze, causing a shift in the soldierâs stance. All the training and the mood-altering modifications clicked into place until Mad Dog metamorphosed into a warrior.
Madigan knew how to kill and heâd finally settled on a target.
âNo,â Ryder ordered.
âThe pain ends. Right now.â Madigan turned the gun to his head. âNo fear.â
Ryder launched across the space, but he wasnât faster than a speeding bullet. Blood spatter hit him before exposing the ruined skull of a man Ryder considered a brother. Mad Dog was a soldier, a protector, and a killer. Where did one start and the others begin?
Rose barreled down the stairs at the sound of gunfire. âWhat the fuck?â He took in the sight of the fallen soldier. Theyâd seen death. Theyâd lost teammates, but theyâd never lost one like this. Train a man to kill, take away the fear, and suicide was too damned easy.
âWife and kid are dead,â Rose confirmed. âBloody fucking sacrifice. Just like Kandahar.â
One of the special teams had turned sadistic in Kandahar and taken out a local village. Bad press didnât begin to cover the fallout. The organization reacted swiftly, shutting down the program and denying any and all knowledge. Contracts were severed. Their service records heavily redacted. Overnight, the entire team was out. Out of the military, out of the war, out of the only life they knew. Team Fear took the fall.
Nothing about Mad Dogâs situation could leak. Fallout from a failed government program on U.S. soil would be catastrophic. If the company investigated, retribution would be swift and fatal.
âI know. Get out,â he ordered. The cops didnât need to know Rose had been in the house. âRendezvous at zero three hundred hours. If Iâm not there, you go underground.â
Rose vanished up the stairs. Outside, some idiot on a bullhorn issued threats he couldnât hear inside the macabre house of hell.
Ryder leaned against the wall, and then slid down as the world shifted under his feet. Was this what it meant to be fearless?
Discover more of Cindyâs fast-paced romantic suspense:
Sheâll do whatever it takes to find her son - Lie. Cheat. Steal. Seduce... As the former wife of an infamous crime boss, Sofia Capri is untouchable. She exists outside of the law...and outside of the criminal world. When her son is kidnapped, Sofia is desperate to find him. Sheâll do anything. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Anything but trust. But itâs a strikingly handsome FBI agent whoâs her only chance to get her baby back... Something about Sofiaâs fiery beauty must be hitting all of his weak spots, because suddenly Mr. Law And Order Logan Stone finds himself bending the rules. When theyâre implicated in the kidnapping, Logan and Sofia discover a horrifying realityâthey have less than 72 hours to find the boy and clear their names.
Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado. As a single mom, sheâs turning her lifelong love of storytelling into the one thing she canât live without: writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. Find her on Facebook as Cindy Skaggs, Writer, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or www.CSkaggs.com to sign up for her newsletter. Social Media Links
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/CSkaggs
Twitter: @CLSkaggs Website: http://www.cskaggs.com Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cindyskaggs/
The Recipe Fairy
4/24/2016 04:12:17 pm
Thanks for letting me host this tour!
5/7/2016 07:00:29 am
Thanks for the chance. I can not access your facebook page :(
Leave a Reply.
I'm a Texas gal with a wonderful husband, an amazing six year old son, and an adorable newborn baby boy!
2016 Reading Challenge
Recipe has read 45 books toward her goal of 250 books.
Proud Tour Host For: