Alyssa Eastman is engaged to the man of her dreams. Jason is smart, attractive, and he makes her laugh. When the couple is attacked by a group of men who call Jason by the wrong name, shoot holes in his beautiful car, and try to run them off the road, Alyssa learns her perfect fiancé is also the perfect spy. With his cover blown, the only way to bring down an international terrorist group is for Alyssa to steal the information. She agrees to help, putting her life on the line; but, putting her heart on the line and marrying a man who lied to her about his identity (albeit for national security – but still!!) is a much harder decision.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I had the idea for the Elvis scene first. It was such a fun idea that I wanted to build the book around it. What would lead a girl to that point and how could she not know what was going on, especially with a gorgeous man standing next to her? Alyssa is spunky and once I got her sarcastic and witty voice in my head, I couldn’t wait to get her story out.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I know a lot of women who are smart in business and can change their own starter motors or shoot a gun. I admire them all and I wanted to give them a character they can relate to. Clay was pure fantasy. The muscle, the drive, and the resourcefulness created a man that could match Alyssa and keep her on her toes.
As always, Jason held open the passenger door of his gorgeous, graphite metallic, Dodge Viper while I slid in. I know I’m not supposed to be worldly and all that, but I loved his car. It made me want to purr every time I ran my hands over the plush, two-tone, leather seats.
“What’s that mischievous smile for?” Jason pressed the ignition button, leaving his door open in the afternoon heat. The intelligent machine automatically adjusted the seat position, steering wheel, and air conditioner, to his pre-set specifications.
If there was ever a man that looked right sitting in a car like this, it was Jason. His six-foot, two-inch frame; broad, muscular shoulders; bright blue eyes; and chiseled jaw; turned my head faster than the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. Along with all that, he was a wonderful man who happened to make my dreams come true when he had proposed last night.
“I was just thinking about surprising my parents tonight.”
I brushed my recently manicured nails over the six-speed stick for the manual transmission and thought, not for the first time, how my dad told me, “Real men drive a stick shift.” I smiled, thinking this car was a far sight away from the dusty old farm truck Dad drove.
Jason took my hand and played with the one karat diamond on my wedding finger. “Alyssa, shouldn’t we call to let them know we’re coming? They haven’t even met me.”
I shook my shiny, short brown hair. “They may not have met you yet, but they are going to love you.”
It was so cute that a man as successful as Jason Butler, a man who commanded every room he entered, was nervous to meet my laid-back parents. Of course, I understood his angst. His parents had died in a car wreck when he was 21, so he didn’t have a lot of experience with the whole parents meeting girls and beaus meeting parents process.
At 28 years old, and their only child who hadn’t produced a kid, my parents would have been happy if I brought anyone home, but they would be ecstatic that I’m engaged to a successful, god-fearing, investor. It didn’t matter that I had a master’s degree, clawed my way up the corporate ladder, and had a fulfilling career as an investment advisor. In their eyes, I needed a man. I was okay with that, as long as the man was Jason. He was the smartest, kindest person I had ever met. His contributions to charities, the church, and random college students needing a financial boost to make it through, were always given anonymously. I knew because I’d handled many of the transactions before transferring off his account due to a conflict of interest. The firm didn’t look kindly on an account manager dating a client. To be honest, I’d never been tempted until Jason walked into my office that cold December afternoon.
I placed my palm on his smooth cheek. It didn’t matter if Jason just got off an eight hour flight from Europe, he was always clean shaven and I loved the feel of his skin.
I kissed him quickly to reassure him. If I started kissing him in earnest we’d never get on the road. Nibley was about an hour north and we needed to hit the road if we were going to make it to my parents’ house before dark.
“Marshall!” someone called from across the parking lot, effectively breaking our I-love-you-so-much gaze.
Jason’s head whipped around. A man dressed in all black and wearing heavy sunglasses pointed a gun at us. Jason pulled his door shut and slammed the car in reverse. A shot echoed through the air. The car flew backward, out of the lot and onto the street. I heard another pop and a perfect, orange-sized spider web crack appeared on the back window. “Not the car!” I cried out. Next to me, Jason let out a low growl. The only person who loved the Dodge more than I did, was Jason.
“What are you doing?” I screamed as he careened backward down the street.
“Staying alive.” Jason revved through a yellow light. Two black SUVs pulled up on our right. Jason took the next left, swinging us in a 180 that had us facing the right direction on a one way road. A minivan – horn blaring – swerved to avoid the back bumper.
“Jason, what is going on?”
“I couldn’t tell you before, and I shouldn’t be telling you now …” He gave me an apologetic glance before eyeing mirrors and windows to gain a 360 degree sweep of the entire situation. His breath hissed between his teeth and I tugged at the seatbelt gouging my stomach, suddenly aware of the thunder behind his easy facade.
A thousand possibilities ran through my head: he’s already married, he’s got a deranged ex-girlfriend, he’s behind on his car payments. My seat belt had locked a little too tightly when we skidded around like a kid on a skateboard, and wouldn’t let up no matter how I pulled. I clutched the shoulder strap as Jason careened around another corner.
“I’m not really an international investor,” he said. I tried to listen to his explanation, but the SUV’s reappeared. I caught a glimpse of the handsome-to-the-point-of-danger driver. He glared, as he swerved towards our car, trying to run us off the road. Jason hit the gas and slid between the two cars ahead of us.
“They’re trying to kill us!” I spoke in low tones, as if the driver of the other car could hear me.
“Yep,” Jason agreed, his jaw tight. He focused on driving. Even though I had heard what he’d said, there was no way I was going to start an argument with him about the impossibility of the situation while we were being chased by a crazy people.
The driver aimed his gun at my face and pulled the trigger. I threw my hands up over my head. Jason slammed on the brake and two deep thunks sounded at my door as if someone were knocking.
“I’m an international spy,” he continued, his voice as calm as when we met in the boardroom together, not in some crazy, run-for-your-lives car chase.
“You can’t be an international spy,” I cried holding up my left hand and pointing at the ring – “I’m president of the children’s Sunday school.”
He looked at me, as if I’d grown a third arm. “That is the weirdest thing you’ve ever said.” He was calm in the middle of chaos.
I. Was. Loosing. It.
He turned the wheel (a car this nice does not need to be yanked in any direction) bringing us through a fast-food joint’s parking lot. One car waited at the drive up for their supersized happy food. The kid in the back seat pointed as we careened past. Our pursuers weren’t far behind.
My mind was running almost as fast as the ten-cylinder engine under the shiny hood. “Do you kill people? Are you-” gulp – “an assassin?” The car swerved and my head hit the window. I cried out pressing my palm against the goose egg.
“No, I do not kill people. I deal in secrets. Is your head okay?”
“It’s fine.” I rubbed my new bump. “So secrets. Like if-I-told-you-I’d-have-to-kill-you kind of secrets?” The back windshield grew two more orange-sized webs as bullets hit their mark. I cringed.
Jason grit his teeth. “Yeah, something like that.” He slammed the gas to the floor and the car jumped through a red light and soared up the I-15 on-ramp.
I turned in my seat in time to see a delivery truck slam into the first SUV, effectively blocking the intersection.
The inside of the car was eerily quiet, with the sound of my erratic breathing bouncing off the walls. I gulped air, unable to expand my lungs. Jason reached over and undid my strangling seatbelt. I gasped with relief.
My whole body shook and I was pretty sure I was going to go into some kind of shock. One time, when I was 15, a guy let me drive his pickup and I crashed into the only boulder within 300 yards. I went into shock and he had me put head between my knees so I wouldn’t pass out. Doubling over, I rocked a little and Jason rubbed circles on my back with his palm.
I’d always been quick on the draw, but this one threw me for a loop. Jason was a spy. I eyed him with caution, not sure how much of the Jason I knew and loved was real and how much of him was made up.
“Is Jason your real name? What did the guy with the sun glasses yell? Michael? Mitchell? Marshall! That was it. Is your name Marshall?”
He cringed. “That’s classified information.”
I sat up with a start, twisting my ring. The car didn’t swirl and I was pretty sure the initial breathing problem was more from the seatbelt than it was from being bushwhacked. “Was it all a lie? Do you even love me?” I pulled myself as far away as possible trying to become one with the door. “What are you going to do with me?” I asked my now intimate stranger.
He grabbed my shaking hand. “I really love you and I’m going to marry you if you’ll still have me.”
Awkward pause. Was this a real? I had no idea how to determine if a spy was telling the truth. I didn’t even know his name! The thought that he could be using me for some kind of cover hurt, but I loved him so much I wasn’t sure I could turn him away. I needed time to think. “I just got shot at and my head hurts.” I rubbed the sore spot again.
“Sorry, Allysa.” He let go of my hand. “I wasn’t planning on telling you all this, but things just changed.”
“So you were just going to lie to me about what you do, what you are – forever?”
“Not exactly … I had a plan okay.”
I folded my arms. “Let’s hear it.”
“Not here. I need to get you someplace where I know you’re safe.” He lifted one corner of his mouth in the lopsided, adorable, totally kissable smile that I loved so much. “You handled the whole shooting thing pretty well. No swearing, screaming, crying, or bargaining with God.”
I lifted my hand. “Farm girl. Guns are a given.”
Jason smiled and left me to my thoughts. The silence filled with questions I wasn’t sure how to ask, and answers he wasn’t jumping forward with. I stared out the now polka-dotted bullet-proof glass as the scenery along I-15 blurred by.
I said a quick prayer for safety and felt peace in my heart. I looked over at Jason, his turquois-blue eyes stared down the freeway like a gun slinger ready to yell, “Draw!” His head cocked to one side in his thinking pose. Both of his hands maintained three and nine o’clock positions on the wheel, his knuckles white as though another car could appear at any moment and try to run us off the road. I’d never noticed it, but he drove like that a lot. He also kept his eyes moving. I thought he’d just taken his driver’s ed teacher seriously when he told them to always check their mirrors, but apparently there was more to his habits than I ever could have imagined.
There had to be other clues I’d missed along the way. Like the way he kept a wall to his back when possible. At restaurants, he always wanted to sit facing the room and at the office holiday party, he’d circulated the exterior of the crowd, but never ventured into the center.
I eyed him warily. If nothing else, I felt an absence of threat or danger in his presence. Still …
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“To my safe house. I’ll call in to report, we can eat, and we can both sleep.” He looked me up and down as though I would fall over at any moment. Little did he know, us farm girls were a lot tougher than that.
I slouched against the door letting the new-car smell soothe my system. Sure I hadn’t freaked out when the guns were blazing, not only had I taken hunter safety when I was eight, I could outshoot my brothers any day of the week. Now that the smoke had cleared, the idea that those guns had been pointing at me, left me altogether flustered and as empty as a water bucket in July. All I wanted to do was go home and take a warm bath.
“You should put your seatbelt back on,” said Jason, a note of warning in his voice.
I reached for the buckle. Jason definitely had a plan. I could tell by the calculating look in his eye. The look wasn’t pointed at me – it was just there under the layer of concern, when he touched my goose egg.
No matter how great a lavender scented bath sounded at the moment, I wasn’t about to argue with the man who had risked my life and then saved it in the same ten minutes.
Lucy McConnell has always been a reader and a writer. Once caught up in a story, she disappears into a cave until the first draft is done. She writes fantasy, clean romance, Christian romance, historical fiction, and cookbooks (under the name Christina Dymock.)
When she’s not writing, you can find her volunteering at the elementary school or her church, shuttling kids to baseball, soccer, basketball, or football, depending on the time of year; skiing with her family; wake boarding; cycling; or just curled up with a good book.
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