Book Cover: Touched by Fate
Part of the PSY-IV Teams series:

Trusting him with her secrets is dangerous.

As a specialized consultant for the Department of Defense, Risia Lacoste understands the bargaining chip of a well-kept secret. When her current assignment threatens to unearth her deeply buried skeletons, she’s forced into a high-stakes game of lies and loyalty where even her ability to foresee the future can’t predict the winner.

Trusting him with her heart could be fatal.

Darkness lies under the skin of every man, and PSY-IV Team operative and touch empath, Tag Gunderson, has the demons to prove it. Scarred by betrayal and disillusionment, he’s not Risia’s top pick for a partner in the game, but he’s all she’s got.

As the game draws them deeper into a pit of intrigue and their list of enemies grow, will Risia trust Tag with more than her secrets or will his demons destroy them both?

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Excerpt:

Why, when you finally think you have your chosen path hammered out, Fate, the fickle bitch, always, I mean always, manages to knock you on your ass? Let’s just check out where my ass was currently. Hunched behind a mammoth RV, you know the kind, those massive houses on wheels that tend to flock southward every winter. Unfortunately, this particular one was perched in a parking lot, a stone’s throw from my lovely, air-conditioned condo in downtown Las Vegas. Not only was the baked asphalt burning said ass, but I was still struggling with watching another, very daring ass of the presumably male variety dangle off my top-floor balcony before dropping down to the one below it.

What the hell?

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Maybe the July heat was playing tricks with my mind. Either that or last night’s ugly events had finally broken my tenuous hold on sanity. Yeah, let’s go with that one, because sanity and I had a very contentious relationship. One where it threatened to take a hike on a regular basis, while I tried to lure it back with lofty promises even I knew I wouldn’t keep.

Promises like I’d never question that gut-tugging sensation screaming warnings again. Because it normally meant things were about to take a very drastic downturn. Like coming home last night while riding high on the possibility of finally being done with my current assignment for Colonel Charlene Delacourt, the warning signs started their high pitched aria. I ignored them. Not smart. Nope. Instead, I walked right into my home, confident the building’s security wouldn’t allow for an ambush.

Arrogant, maybe. Careless, not usually. Distracted, definitely.

Stupid, never.

So last night, instead of being able to kick off my gorgeous lavender Jimmy Choo's, I ended up sipping a Booker Noe neat trying to disguise my internal freak out of having been met by Lawrence Rawlings, the egomaniac behind Aether Industries and his hulking sidekick in my own (albeit rented) living room. And that wasn’t the end of it. It got better. Or worse, depending on your point of view.

Not only did Rawlings want me to endorse Aether’s upcoming contract with the Department of Defense, he wanted much more. And if he didn’t get what he wanted—namely me, and then his contract—he had no problems exploiting, what I had believed until he opened his mouth, a very well-hidden secret.

The DOD paid me good money to vet their civilian contracts, money which allowed my penchant for expensive footwear, a skyline view of the Vegas strip, and a closet full of indulgences. That same money kept my troublesome secrets six feet under. Secrets Rawlings shouldn’t have been able to unearth. But whoever he had digging up my past, dug deep.

So deep in fact, by the time Rawlings left with his smarmy smile and menacing shadow, I found myself between a rock and a hard place, wishing I had something a hell of a lot stronger than whiskey.

Mixing whiskey with nerves had triggered my desperate attempt at leveling the playing field. Which, in turn, led to my current position, crouched behind an RV watching someone spider-man his way out of my condo. It was such a death- defying stunt, even my lungs were stunned. And they didn’t remember to function until whoever that was dropped safely onto the balcony below mine. For a moment, all I could do was stare at where the whole surreal thing had happened, my very tired and battered brain trying to figure out the who and why, but coming up empty.

One thing was clear. Going home was not an option. Dammit.

Fate was having a hell of a good time at my expense.

Let’s tally her bill, shall we? A black eye, check. Bruised ribs, check. A bullet graze stinging across my shoulder, check. Nerves strung tight on exhaustion, double damn check.

Sweat trickled down my spine, and the muscles in my legs trembled. Not just from their uncomfortable position, but because for the last fourteen hours, I’d run more than I’d ever run in my life. Being blessed with a hyperactive metabolism, running was never really a consideration. Well, not until last night. And if things didn’t change soon, I’d be doing some more mad dashes trying to stay ahead of the rolling mounds of crap hurtling toward me.

What I should do is call Colonel Delacourt. Especially since it was mainly her fault I was in this mess to begin with. My job as the colonel’s information collector allowed me to play some very exciting, sometimes dangerous games. Most of the time, I didn’t mind. The adrenaline rush was almost as good as the paycheck, but this time the rush was fraying my nerves to tiny shreds.

Neither the DOD nor Delacourt could pay me enough to repair Rawlings’s damage to my nerves and my aching body. Initially, Rawlings garnered the DOD’s attention because his communications company had managed to find and solve a newly discovered weak spot in the government’s encrypted communications program. It wasn’t an overnight sensation. It took three years of work. For three years the DOD watched Rawlings and his Boyau Project. It wasn’t until Rawlings presented his project’s results and pointed out the DOD’s little problem, all the while requesting to put Aether’s prototypes with one of the many U.S. acronymned agencies, that the DOD decided to send me in to evaluate how accurate his claims were.

Then Delacourt, mistress of manipulation and guilt trips, called.

Seemed someone managed to hack into some very delicate files in some hush-
hush agency, and were now preparing to market them to the highest bidder. For reasons known only to those above my pay grade, her interest turned to Rawlings and his new, nifty toy. Since my job just happened (yes, that was sarcasm you picked up there) to put me in the perfect spot, would I mind doing some digging for her? Stir in a subtle tablespoon of “you owe me” and a dash of guilt, and I teetered. Offering two paychecks for one job? Doable. So I tumbled right over the edge and agreed.

Maybe I should’ve thought it through a bit more, because right now, two paychecks wouldn’t come close to getting me out of this mess. But Delacourt had a team, a kick-ass team with unusual talents who could. Maybe. Problem was, a favor from Delacourt would be cashed in with interest sooner or later, and I was busy avoiding one particular team member as if he carried the plague. He didn’t. In fact, I kind of wish he did so he’d get the hell out of my head at the most inopportune times. Especially since I was pretty sure my preoccupation was one- sided.

Still, skulking in a parking lot in late afternoon in Vegas with dried blood and other things I really didn’t want to think about right now decorating my black cargos and T-shirt, stuck between a rock and hard place, calling Delacourt was quickly becoming my only viable option.

Armed with a new plan, tenuous though it was, I straightened, simultaneously wincing and groaning as my shoulder woke up. The too-close call with a bullet wasn’t going quietly into that good night. A lovely parting gift from my failed attempt to level the playing field. Failed as in, it tilted it decidedly out of my favor. I looked around preparing to move out, when life reached out and slapped me upside the head, because everything leading up to this wasn’t enough to crush me. The late-afternoon sun gained strength and seared across my retinas safely ensconced behind dark lenses. The world began to white out.

“Dammit, not now, please not now.” I slammed both palms against the RV, the metal burning my skin. My plea fell on deaf ears. The world wavered. Edges too bright. Shadows dancing in strange forms. Then the whispers started. See, told you sanity and I were not friends. Frustration and maybe a smidgen of fear rose, and I refused to listen, refused to see. My forehead joined my hands. Setting my waning patience, desperation, and anger against the sense of impending doom, I shoved against what waited. It backed off. The reprieve wouldn’t last long. Never did. And when it returned, it would bring reinforcements. Fun times.

My breathing was overly loud, but the sounds of voices and footsteps managed to get my attention. Trying not to aggravate the soft pounding in my skull, I slowly raised my head. At first, it was just a moving blob, then it became a small group of people exiting the condo and heading across the parking lot. As they took shape, something—no, someone—caught my attention. It took a moment for the image to register. And when it did, I didn’t know if I should jump for joy or just sit down and bawl.

At least I now knew who had been spider-manning from my balcony, and possibly courting a death wish.

Walking out the front doors, standing above the crowd of casually dressed businessmen was the last person I wanted to see, no matter how much he invaded my thoughts.

Thomas Anderson Gunderson. Tag.

Oh. My. God. Life really had a hard-on for me.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Rochelle Weber, Roses & Thorns wrote:

"...a page-burning, action-packed thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat..."