I wrote The Killing Game because I was possessed. Okay, it sounds crazy, right? But I kept putting the story aside because I knew it wouldn’t sell to New York and trying instead to write a book for Harlequin. But this story was like a drug in my system and it just wouldn’t let go.
We were in France because my hubby was on sabbatical there. The kids were in school, I didn’t speak the language, the internet wasn’t working and this Russian terrorist kept telling me his story even though he’s supposed to be the bad guy.
In many ways the story is about the choices we make, and how seemingly small decisions can affect us for the rest of our days.
The heroine is drawn back to a remote region of Afghanistan—the Wakhan Valley—when a poacher starts shooting her collared snow leopards. What she doesn’t know is she’s being drawn into a political game of revenge and espionage that started thirty years earlier. When the Brits send in the SAS—their Special Forces—the heroine is determined to not let her animals get caught in the crossfire
The snow leopard study came alive for me in many ways because I used to put telemetry devices in fish and track them through the Canadian wilds, and I knew people who collared polar bears and moose. The science didn’t present any huge leaps of understanding, though the creatures I chose to use it on were new and fascinating to me.
The heroine is gritty and slightly fanatical when it comes to saving her leopards. She has reasons for holding people at bay—good reasons, deep reasons—so nothing shocks her more than when she starts falling for the hero—one of the soldiers sent to capture the Russian terrorist operating in that area. The hero is a reflection of the villain in many ways, it doesn’t take him long to realise that but for the grace of god, he’d be in this man’s shoes. It’s a book about honor and love and doing the right thing.
Wildlife biologist Axelle Dehn isn’t about to let anyone harm her endangered snow leopards—not the poacher intent on killing them, nor the soldier who wants to use them as bait. But Axelle is unknowingly entangled in a conflict that stretches back three decades, a conflict that could spark a war between two of the world’s great nations.
British SAS soldier, Ty Dempsey, is on a mission to hunt down an infamous Russian terrorist in a remote region of Afghanistan. Dempsey hasn’t failed a mission yet, but when Axelle is kidnapped by the Russian, he is forced to choose between duty and his heart. He risks everything to save the determined, prickly woman he’s fallen for, but in doing so sparks a deadly series of events that threaten to expose the most successful spy in history. A spy who will destroy anyone who gets in his way.
EXCERPT: When our British SAS hero is taken by surprise by our heroine, a snow leopard biologist …
He held up his hands and turned, relieved to see the woman and not some Taliban nutter or aging Russian terrorist squaring off with him.
Unfortunately the woman was holding a Glock-17 as though she knew how to use it.
“Afternoon,” he observed calmly.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t put a bullet in you right now.” Her accent told him she was American.
A joke about the second commandment probably wouldn’t work considering his Diemaco and SIG Sauer were locked and loaded with one in the chamber.
“Is there anyone who’d actually give a damn about a man like you?” Her throat convulsed, and hatred sculpted the lines of her mouth.
The question jolted him. He had mates in the Regiment, but no one else really cared if he lived or died. But she didn’t know that.
He looked at her white knuckles and the pulse beating frantically at the base of her throat. There was something going on here that he didn’t understand.
She stood close. Not close enough.
“You need to put the gun down,” he told her calmly.
“You sonofabitch, you don’t even care, do you?” Her eyes narrowed into glinting slits of rage. Not good. “You think it’s all right for you to murder and kill, but as soon as someone turns the tables—”
“Not true.” He edged closer. “I care very much.”
Her accent was definitely Yankee but held a hint of European. French, maybe. He moved another inch, saw her chest rapidly pump oxygen. He worked on calming her down, talking quietly so she had to lean forward to hear. “I don’t know who you are or what you’re talking about, but I’d hate for somebody to get hurt because of a case of mistaken identity.” Did she have some anti-western affiliation? Anti-war agenda?
“There’s no mistake.” Her lips quivered. “How much money were you offered? I’d have paid you double to leave them alone.”
He frowned. He didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but she was within reach now. She blinked against the sun so he lunged, grabbing the gun, aiming it away from their bodies and snatching it out of her hands before tossing it out of reach. She struggled and kicked and punched at him, landing one solid blow to his nose, driving white-hot agony through his brain.
She fought like a rabid wolf, and he could barely keep hold of the seething, whirling mass of fury without hurting her. He finally captured both her hands in one of his, forcing her onto her knees and down onto the ground, face first in the dirt. He used his weight to pin her while he searched for the flexicuffs he kept in his pockets. They took a moment to locate as he was distracted by all that wriggling.
She froze, perhaps realizing that hard thing in his pocket wasn’t another gun. She twisted around to stare at him with hate-filled eyes. He pressed his lips together and tugged the cuffs around a pair of wrists so slim he could circle both with one hand. Then he ran his hands over her body, searching for hidden weapons, making it quick, impersonal but thorough. She flinched when he reached between her legs.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Sure you’re not.” The sarcasm dripped from her words and set his teeth on edge. He wasn’t the bad guy. He wasn’t the one who’d pulled a gun on someone. He finished the search and sat back on his heels. Jesus. This slip of a female had done something no one had in years. Gotten the drop on him. He was thankful none of the lads were here to witness his humiliation.
Underestimating the enemy. Stupid.
He frowned at her as she lay muttering and fighting her bonds. She tried to roll away but he grabbed her and hauled her back. He had questions. Lots of questions, but the high color burning across her cheeks warned him he needed to cool things down a bit. Change direction.
Right now he was an adversary. The chance of winning hearts and minds had never been more unlikely.
He slipped off his pack, went and retrieved her pistol, stuffed it in his pocket, grabbed both their water canteens. The horse stood with one foot cocked. Dozing in the afternoon sun, despite all the excitement.
Dempsey towered over her. She glared up at him and he had to suppress a grin because she wasn’t in the least cowed by the difference in size or weaponry. She had courage but—despite the Glock—little training in the art of close-quarter combat. Crouching, he offered her a drink. To his surprise she rolled onto her side and parted her lips. He cupped her head as he poured a little water inside her mouth. Her hair felt soft against his calloused palms.
She swallowed before jerking free of his touch.
He sat on the cold hard earth and drank his own water, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“What?” She glared.
He said nothing. Just looked off toward where the sun was starting its slow descent in the sky.
“Are you just going to leave me tied up?” She started fighting her bonds again.
He grunted. I wish. “You’re going to hurt yourself if you don’t stop that.” He didn’t shift his gaze from the horizon. Why should he care?
A slight flicker of movement in the distance caught his eye. A subtle shift of shadows high above him on the slope. He brought his scope to his eye to check it out. It took forever to make out the cunning camouflage of a snow leopard against the tawny browns and moss green of the hillside. A smile tugged his lips. They were rare, and he’d never seen one in the wild before. It wore a collar, which was what he figured was going on with these people in their little camp on the edge of nowhere. Although he hadn’t figured on being held at gunpoint by someone he assumed was a wildlife biologist.
The leopard stepped delicately across the rocks, beautifully balanced with strong back legs and that humungous tail, but something looked off with its gait.
The woman crashed into his thigh and knocked him sideways. Her face was distorted and there was a ferocity in her eyes that made her look feral.
He rubbed a hand over his dust-covered face. “You’ve got to be the craziest woman I’ve ever met.”
“Says the man who has shot three of the world’s most endangered species—”
He opened his mouth to correct her but she bulldozered right over him.
“Please don’t kill any more, I have money. I’ll pay whatever you want not to kill him.” She sobbed and it sounded awful in the peacefulness of the mountains. “I’ll do anything you want.” She froze, and then steeled herself as she realized what she’d offered.
Whoa. What the hell? There was a beat of tense silence.
“Really? You’ll do anything I want?” He let his eyes scrape down her body. “As long as I don’t shoot that leopard?”
She nodded although she looked like she’d rather puke. He was torn between humiliation, irritation, and amusement. What the hell was she thinking? He pushed her onto her front and straddled her thighs from behind. Because he was angry he paused for a moment and let his weight sink against her. She felt as rigid and sexy as a tank but he had seen her naked.
“Tempting.” He pulled out his knife and cut the cuffs. “Thankfully I don’t have to tie up women for sex. Well,” he amended, “only if they want me to.”