Thursday, 25 October 2012

Die Easy by Zoë Sharp


There’s no denying it’s taking a little longer to get the new Charlie Fox book out there than I envisaged. It’s literally days away from publication in most territories. But, just to thank everyone for being so patient―and in response to a certain number of both pleas and threats―here’s a sneak preview: the opening chapter, just to keep you going …

DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten

“Zoë Sharp is one of the sharpest, coolest, and most intriguing writers I know. She delivers dramatic, action-packed novels with characters we really care about. And once again, in DIE EASY, Zoë Sharp is at the top of her game.”—Harlan Coben

In the sweating heat of Louisiana, former Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard, Charlie Fox, faces her toughest challenge yet.

Professionally, she’s at the top of her game, but her personal life is in ruins. Her lover, bodyguard Sean Meyer, has woken from a gunshot-induced coma with his memory in tatters. It seems that piecing back together the relationship they shared is proving harder for him than relearning the intricacies of the close-protection business.

Working with Sean again was never going to be easy for Charlie, either, but a celebrity fundraising event in aid of still-ravaged areas of New Orleans should have been the ideal opportunity for them both to take things nice and slow.

Until, that is, they find themselves thrust into the middle of a war zone.

When an ambitious robbery explodes into a deadly hostage situation, the motive may be far more complex than simple greed. Somebody has a major score to settle and Sean is part of the reason. Only trouble is, he doesn’t remember why.

And when Charlie finds herself facing a nightmare from her own past, she realises she can’t rely on Sean to watch her back. This time, she’s got to fight it out on her own.

One thing’s for sure—no matter how overwhelming the odds stacked against her, Charlie Fox is never going to die easy …

 

Chapter One

Even on a good day I don’t enjoy being shot at. Been there, done that, and it bloody hurts.

I wasn’t kidding myself this was going to be a good day.

Maybe that had something to do with the fact that my gun hand—my right—was securely handcuffed to a reinforced briefcase weighing probably twenty-five pounds.

That in itself wouldn’t have been so bad. I’d put in enough time on the range to be proficient with either hand. My left wrist, however, was just as firmly handcuffed to Sean Meyer’s right. Neither of us was exactly overjoyed by this state of affairs.

Especially when everything was about to go to shit around us.

We were on a quiet street of generic storefronts, parked cars dotted along either side. There were people nearby but nobody gave us a second glance.

And then, just when the tension began to give me heartburn, a dozen rapid shots cracked out further down the street. I was half expecting them, but still they startled me. I forced out a strangled yelp, even though I knew they were scare shots, fired from a single weapon rather than part of an exchange, designed purely to start a stampede.

They got the job done.

Sean wheeled and I had to swing fast to stay with him. His eyes were everywhere. He’d already drawn the Glock 17 semiautomatic, hefted it in his left hand, but he stayed on his feet, upright, alert.

Next to him, useless as a stuffed lemon chained to that damn case, I felt helplessly exposed. I willed myself calm, knowing I had to rely on Sean to protect me—to protect both of us.

People started to stream past us. Some screaming, some shouting—unintelligible words filled with a contagious panic. I tugged deliberately at his arm.

“Sean! We need to get out of here—”

“Shut up.”

It was the vicious tone more than the words that shocked me into silence. As we turned, I caught a glimpse of figures crossing between the buildings. They were dressed in jeans and loose shirts like the rest of the crowd. Unlike everybody else, though, they moved with direction and purpose, and they were armed.

I didn’t speak, didn’t distract Sean, but by the way he tensed I knew he’d seen them, too.

His brows were drawn down flat in concentration, making his harsh face seem colder than usual. Cold enough to make me shiver.

He muscled me sideways effortlessly, snatching roughly at the cuffs so that it jarred my whole arm. I should have been protesting at this point, but I said nothing. It took willpower to remain passive.

Sean went down on one knee, pulled me into a crouch alongside him, using an old parked Chevy for cover. We stayed up by the front wheel where the engine block provided more of a shield.

More people sprinted by. A man tripped and went sprawling right behind us. Sean ignored him. He had the gun up in front of him, head tilted to best utilise his dominant eye.

A target broke cover, dodging through the remnants of the fleeing people. Sean fired on him without hesitation, four fast shots that somehow threaded through the crowd, tracked and hit. He went down.

Before the first man finished falling another had appeared, jinking between parked cars on the opposite side of the street. He had a machine pistol held at waist-level, and he strafed us as he ran. Sean held his nerve, his position and his aim, taking only two rounds to drop him.

The third and fourth assailants came in together from oblique angles, taking advantage of any tunnelling in Sean’s focus. Sean twisted, forgetting about my dead weight on the end of his right arm. He growled in frustration as his first shots went wide, taking an extra fraction of a second he barely had time for.

His breath hissed out as he swung his arm over the top of me and fired again, so close I felt the gases blast past my cheek, heard the brutal snap of the report clatter in my ears. The hot dead brass spun out and scattered around me. One casing hit the side of my neck, burning the skin. Instinct told me to stay on my feet. Instead I dropped flat, trying to get my hands over my head. Not easy with unwieldy objects attached to both arms.

Then I heard the Glock’s action lock back empty.

I hadn’t been counting the rounds, but I couldn’t believe Sean let the gun run dry in these circumstances.

I raised my head, my locked-together fingers hampering his reload. Sean hit the release to drop the magazine and shoved the Glock, butt upwards, into the vee at the back of his bent leg. He snatched the spare mag out of his belt and slapped it home with the palm of his hand, then pulled the gun free and flicked the slide release awkwardly to snap the first round up into the chamber.

The whole operation had taken maybe a couple of seconds, left-handed, smooth and without a slip, but he was staring at me as if I’d just tried to get him killed.

As if I wanted him dead …

“Come on—up!” he commanded, almost wrenching my arm out of its socket as he dragged me upright. The briefcase dangled painfully from the short cuff chain, gouging at my right wrist. I groped for the case’s handle, stumbling as we fell back into the mouth of an alley.

The expanding slap of a long gun rebounded between the brick buildings, and then they came at us thick and fast, half a dozen armed men, experienced pros, motivated, confident.

It was always going to be a no-win situation.

Sean went to the wall that allowed him to keep his left hand free, facing outwards, elbowing me round behind him. He fired at anything that showed itself past the edge of the scarred brickwork, dialled in now, emotions buttoned down tight.

And this time he dropped the magazine out before the last round was fired, keeping the Glock’s working parts in play. He shoved the gun into his belt to reach for a reload.

I stayed close up behind him—I had no other choice. But I had my face slightly turned towards the back of the alley, and for this reason I saw a door open halfway back, a man emerge with a gun in his right fist. He was tall, rangy, his arms already raised to firing position, and he was smiling.

I sucked in an audible breath. Sean heard it, head snapping round. For the merest fraction of a second he hesitated, then tried to hurry the magazine into the pistol grip and fumbled it.

The man’s smile became broader. He fired.

Not at Sean, but at me.

I felt the punch of the impact in my chest, high on the right, where he knew the round would drill diagonally through ribs, lungs and heart. Where he knew it would do the most harm.

Bastard.

I gasped but couldn’t get my breath, started to slide down the rough wall as my legs folded under me. Sean turned into my body as if to stop me falling. His face was an inch from mine. I stared into eyes dark as mourning and saw nothing reflected back at me.

That hurt worse than the shot.

His left hand was empty. It snaked under the tails of my shirt. I felt his fingers close around the .40 cal SIG Sauer P229 I wore just behind my right hip, pulling it free.

He knew I carried the gun ready, with a round jacked up into the chamber. There was no safety.

He fired as soon as the weapon cleared my torso, four rounds straight into the centre of the smiling man’s body mass.

As the guy went down I just had time to note that he wasn’t smiling any more.

‘To sum up DIE EASY, I would have to say that I have waited a year for a great book, only for a brilliant one to be delivered with all the style and panache you would expect from Sharp and Fox. An exceptional novel.’ Graham Smith, CrimeSquad.com five-star review

This week’s Words of the Week are the Latin phrases cui bono, meaning for whose advantage or benefit is it?; who is the gainer? And cui malo, whom will it harm?
Zoë Sharp

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