This week I am please to welcome a new to me author, Liz Johnson. She write romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense. Welcome Liz. Please tell us about Navy SEAL Noel.
Abducted by a drug cartel, scientist Jessalynn McCoy’s orders are simple—release a deadly toxin, or be killed. Trapped with no options, she’s desperate for help…she just never expected it from Will Gumble. The boy who let her down years ago is now a navy SEAL. She trusts his skills, his experience. Yet trusting him is a struggle. Will’s Christmas wish is to heal their damaged relationship and get them to safety. But time is running out and someone is on to their escape plans. Any mistake could mean the difference between facing the holidays together or apart. Forever.
Do you have a favorite scene you’d like to share with us? This is one of my favorite scenes from early in the book.
A gentle thud against the door sent her heart into overdrive, all traces of sleep tossed aside. She leaned forward, her grip on the wrench sending spasms through her fingers. Taking a shaky breath, she blinked into the darkness as the telltale rattle of a doorknob sounded. The inside lock held. But for how long?
A shadow briefly blocked the light seeping beneath the door, the feet there moving soundlessly.
She gasped for breath, the heavy, humid air like a wet towel draped across her nose and mouth.
It was now or never. She could wait for the man to enter, to investigate the room and find her in the corner. Or she could face him with the element of surprise.
She scrambled toward the entrance, the sound of her shuffling feet echoing against the cinder blocks no matter how she tried to muffle her steps.
A hiccup surprised her, and she slapped her palm over her mouth to mute the obnoxious noise.
The lock clicked, and she held her breath as she slipped behind the door, painfully swallowing another hiccup. The sound of her pounding heart seemed to fill the room as the flimsy wooden slats swung open, leaving a narrow beam from the courtyard security light spilling across the floor. The shadow of a broad man filled the gap. His movements silent, his motions sure, he closed the door after stepping inside.
This was her only chance. Her only hope of protecting herself.
If Jess could fight him off now, maybe word would spread that she wasn’t to be trifled with.
The wrench weighed more than a school bus, and was almost as unwieldy, as she swung it toward his head. She had to knock him out, or at least to the ground. Then maybe she could even make a run for it.
Just before the metal connected with the barely visible outline of his skull, he ducked and lifted an arm. The tool glanced off his shoulder, grazing his neck. In a flash he grabbed it, and before she could let go, he jerked it behind her back, leaving her arm twisted and useless. Fire screamed up to her kinked shoulder.
He promptly cut off her shriek with a callused hand clamped over her mouth. His steely arm pinned hers to her side and pressed her body against his chest. She writhed and shook, trying to free herself, but the wall of muscle at her back didn’t even seem to register her struggle. Her frantic effort only made her lungs burn for the oxygen he was depriving her of.
When her head began spinning in earnest, her muscles went limp and her fight ebbed away.
Only then did she realize that the man was speaking softly in her ear, his whispered breath fanning the trembling muscles of her neck.
“Jess, calm down. I won’t hurt you.” The words made no sense to her muddled brain, but they continued, quiet and assured. “Don’t scream. It’s all right. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
It wasn’t the words that made her sink into him, but the voice that, even after all this time, she’d recognize anywhere. Her eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on her that afternoon. Will Gumble was in this compound. In her very room.
“I thought I saw you—I thought that was you, but…” Her words were little more than a whisper despite his assurance that it was safe to speak. Her stomach pitched, fear and relief mingling with alarm and the echo of a remembered betrayal. But dealing with her emotions would have to wait until she felt steadier on her feet. Exhaustion and the ebbing of her fight-or-flight adrenaline rush had left her legs like jelly. She leaned into Will. He held out his arms, as though he knew just what she needed. As though he was still someone who cared about taking care of her, being there for her.
But she didn’t want him holding her. She wanted answers. She wanted to understand what on earth was happening. Most of all, she wanted to silence the little voice in her head that kept saying Will’s appearance was simply a dream or hallucination.
Yanking herself upright at the last possible moment, she shoved his chest with both hands. “You scared me to death! Why did you break into my room? What are you doing here?”
His lopsided grin had always started with a little quirk to the left before spreading across his mouth. And that hadn’t changed, even as he looked down at the tiny black-and-white-checkered floor tiles.
He scraped his fingers over the black whiskers covering his chin. “Your dad sent me.”
“Well, I couldn’t say no to my new XO, could I?”
“So you’re still in the navy?” Oh, she sounded bitter—so much more bitter than she wanted to. Why couldn’t her words be flippant and nonchalant, as if it didn’t really matter that she no longer knew even the most basic things about him? He’d popped back into her life, and she didn’t want it to matter.
But it did.
Maybe because of the extreme situation.
Sure. She’d just keep telling herself that.
His smile flickered for a moment before he nodded slowly. “I am.”
Forcing a chuckle, she said, “I figured when my dad realized I was missing, he’d send a SEAL team to bring me home.”
“Not a full team—he just sent one.”
Did you do any special research for this book? I’ve been writing about United States Navy SEALs for the last three years, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading memoirs and biographies of SEALs. I find that most helpful to get inside the mind of these fierce warriors and American heroes. For this particular book, I also spent lots of time researching bio-toxins and bio-engineering. At one point, I was traveling for work and googling airborne pathogens while in the airport. Suddenly I looked around at the armed security and realized, I might need to be a little more careful about where I do my research and what I’m searching for.
LOL, very true. I’ve had that thought a time or two when I’ve been doing research for a book too. J
Do any of your characters resemble you in any way? There’s always a little bit of me in every character that I write. And Navy SEAL Noel is no different. Jess deals with struggling to forgive a breach of trust. That’s something that I’ve struggled with in the past. When someone hurt me and my family, I really had to fight to find forgiveness until I realized that the bitterness I was carrying was only hurting me. Through that struggle in my real life, I learned that the process of forgiveness begins not with feeling like I can forgive, but making a choice to forgive and choosing that every day. When you ask God to give you a forgiving heart, He does. That was a lesson I needed to learn. And Jess does, too.
Is this book a stand alone or part of a series? Navy SEAL Noel is book three in the Men of Valor series, which started two years ago with A Promise to Protect and follows the stories of the men of SEAL team fifteen. Each book really stands on its own, but familiar characters pop up in every story.
Thanks for sharing with us about your new release. Now we’d like to learn a little about you. How do you celebrate Christmas? My mom is a hospital nurse, and my brother-in-law is a firefighter, so our family has learned to be flexible about when we celebrate Christmas. But without fail, every year I find my way back to Arizona to spend a week with my family. Most years we don’t open presents on the 25th, but when everyone is available, my parents and my siblings, and all five of my nieces and nephews gather at my parents’ house. When the kids were very small, my dad would read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Now my oldest niece organizes a play including Mary, Joseph, an angel, sometimes a star, and always baby Jesus. We’re reminded of the reason we celebrate and give gifts to each other. Then there are presents and a big meal and then games. Always board games with my family. And usually I lose. It’s a precious day.
It sounds like a wonderful time for you and your family!
What is next for you? Right now I’m working on a three-book contemporary romance series set at a bed and breakfast on Prince Edward Island—my favorite place in the world. It’s coming out from Revell beginning in the spring of 2016.
That sounds interesting, I will be watching for it. 🙂 I wrote a manuscript set on an island in WA state at a B&B too, but haven’t found a home for it yet. LOL I still need to get it out there. I hope you will come back and share with about your B&B book when it releases.
Liz has kindly offered to give away one copy of Navy Seal Noelle. Please share one of your Christmas traditions to be entered for a chance to win.
Rules: Drawing is open to USA mailing addresses only. Void where prohibited by law. Drawing ends December 7th, 2014. The winner will be notified by email on 12/8/2014 and have until 12/14/2014 to reply with a USA mailing address or forfeit the book. No new winner will be drawn.
By day Liz Johnson is a marketing manager for a Christian publisher. She finds time to write late at night and is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys theater, exploring local music, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She loves stories of true love with happy endings and shares about her adventures in writing at http://www.LizJohnsonBooks.com, Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks, and Twitter.com/LizJohnsonBooks.