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BACKBLAST: A DECEPTION POINT MILITARY THRILLER, Book 2 (HARDCOVER)

BACKBLAST: A DECEPTION POINT MILITARY THRILLER, Book 2 (HARDCOVER)

"I absolutely love this writer! From start to finish, I just have to keep reading!!" ~Jacquie M.

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Sometimes a case isn't over...

US Army Detective Regan Chase has just solved the most horrific investigation of her career. One that cost the lives of a dozen soldiers, their wives…and nearly her own.

Regulations are clear. Regan's barred from interrogating the terrorists responsible—especially the doctor who deliberately infected her with that deadly psycho-toxin.

But the doctor will only speak to Regan.

The Army has no choice. Dr. Durrani's cohort, a former Army translator, claims there's a traitor in their midst—and there's evidence the translator's telling the truth.

With the stakes critical, Regan heads for the government's newest classified interrogation site: A US Navy warship in the middle of the Arabian Sea.

Regan's prepared for Dr. Durrani's lies. But there's no way she could've anticipated the rest. Within minutes of her boarding the ship, the translator is dead.

His killer? The last man in the world Regan would've suspected. Worse, he's admitting his guilt.

The only detective aboard, Regan must push her personal feelings aside and follow the evidence. But as the investigation deepens, Regan uncovers a second, deadlier, terror plot that leads all the way to the US embassy in Pakistan—and beyond.

Once again, Regan's on the verge of losing her life…as well as another.

A life more valuable to Regan than her own.

CLICK TO READ CHAPTER 1

Prologue

US Embassy Islamabad,

Pakistan

Tonight he would enter Paradise.

The certainty that he would soon be freed of this barren, earthly existence caused the sweetest of serenities to flow through his body. He focused on the balm, using it to cleanse his thoughts and distance himself from the crowd pressing in. Unlike so many in whose footsteps he followed, he needed no promise of milk and honey to heed the holiest of calls. It was enough to know he was submitting to Allah's will.

And submit he would.

Soon.

He turned his sandals toward the platform beside the embassy gates, scanning the muted multitude of shalwar kameez that filled the darkened grounds, pleased the rougher-hewn fabric of his matching trousers and oversized tunic did not set him apart—much less trumpet the redemption beneath. The cool, sweat-laden air ripened with the stink of expectation and hope as the betrayer finally deigned to appear. Had his countrymen known how this night would end, they would surely have chosen to attend mosque for Fajr prayers rather than partake in this scripted farce.

Still, he felt no pity. No guilt.

Not when his people persisted in clinging to their shameless desire for peace with the infidel amid this rotted world. The moment he caught sight of the black beret and blue shirt of the Capital Territory policeman, he knew that the imam was right. Allah's will was here. Now. With him and within him.

He need do no more than heed it.

He pushed his way through the crowd, closer to the makeshift platform and the harlot standing upon it. The betrayer stood beside her. And then the betrayer was stepping up to the microphone, adjusting it before he raised those stained hands to silence the shouts of misplaced sympathy, disbelief and righteous discontent.

The clatter and clicks of countless cameras supplanted the quiet.

And then the lies began.

He ignored them, slowly but surely threading his way through the throng for most of that deceptively impassioned speech, all the while guided by that black beret—and Allah. Neither failed him.

The throng thickened as he continued his march, the earlier indignation and disbelief of his countrymen now all but mute as they absorbed the mounting lies that dripped from the microphone. Islam's hidden apostate held them firmly in his thrall.

But not for much longer.

The policeman turned and stiffened. He had been spotted, then.

It mattered not.

He ignored the policeman, turning instead to glimpse one of the Americans moving toward him as well. He slipped his hand into the sleeve of his kameez. Both the policeman and the American were nearly upon him now. Twice the gift. His fingers found their prize as the policeman and the American pushed closer.

They were too late.

He had already pressed the detonator—and smiled.

Chapter 1

Blanchfield Army Community Hospital

Fort Campbell, Kentucky

With friends like hers, she didn't need enemies.

Cliché or not, the taunting refrain had been hammering through Regan's brain for the past ten minutes. Five more and she'd have the satisfaction of spitting that same refrain into one of her supposed best friends' faces. Regan held fast to the thought as she blew through the automatic glass doors that separated the post hospital's snow-covered parking lot from the emergency room within. Satisfaction set in early as she spotted the sparely populated patient lounge to her left.

Excellent. As head of Trauma, Gil should be free.

Regan dragged her black beret from her head and nodded to the Latina lieutenant manning the nurses' station. "Ma'am."

"Good morning, Chief. I didn't expect to see you unti—"

"This afternoon. I know." Regan jammed the beret beneath her left arm as she reached the counter. "Is Lieutenant Colonel Fourche with a patient?"

"No. He—"

Regan didn't bother waiting for the rest. She headed past the nurses' station and turned down the freshly waxed corridor that led to Gil's office. His door was closed, meaning he was still slugging down his morning gallon of coffee as he caught up on the previous night's cases. Regan offered Gil the single, sharp rap of warning he'd denied her before she shoved his door open.

"You screwed me."

Perhaps she should've waited long enough to hear the nurse out, because not one, but two startled faces greeted her opening.

The closely cropped blond mug behind the desk belonged to Gil. According to the ten-by-twelve-inch framed photo posted behind the nurses' station, the graying ebony mug belonged to Colonel Daniel J. Chilcote, Blanchfield Hospital's spanking new commanding officer.

Great.

Unfortunately, retreat was out of the question. The colonel's dark brown stare had already zeroed in on the paltry chief warrant officer two insignia velcroed to the center placket of her Army Combat Uniform before quickly shifting to take in the nametape above the right pocket of those same camouflaged ACUs.

Regan held her ground as the colonel stood. The man extended a slender surgeon's hand. His low chuckle bathed her nerves, reassuring her that she wasn't destined to end up on report before the morning was out.

"That was quite an entrance, Agent Chase. And definitely more personal information than I needed. That said—" The colonel's amusement faded, the distinct threads of professional curiosity assuming its place. "I've been eager to meet you. I understand I arrived at Campbell a mere hour after you were released from the hospital."

"Yes, sir." Gil had mentioned his new boss' arrival and subsequent disappointment when he'd stopped by her apartment to check up on her that night. It seemed every neurologist, biological warfare expert and infectious disease specialist in the Army had been clamoring for a copy of her medical chart this past week, including Blanchfield's new head honcho.

The soldier who'd survived the unsurvivable.

Lucky her.

But at what cost?

Regan pushed the heartache aside as that eerily steady stare continued to size her up. If her pending showdown with Gil didn't pan out, she had a serious future as a lab rat.

Speaking of rats…

A swift glance at Gil assured Regan he had no illusions as to the cause of the fury that had fueled her entrance.

"Agent Chase, I don't suppose you'd mind if I—"

"Not at all, Colonel Chilcote." She kept her attention focused on the flush staining the base of Gil's neck. "I'd be thrilled to have a neurosurgeon of your caliber examine me. Perhaps you'd do me the honor of signing off on my readiness to return to duty when we've finished?"

A task her two-faced friend hadn't seen fit to accomplish.

"Absolutely. I'm about to head out for a meeting across post. Come to my office in say…two hours?"

"I'll be there." It wasn't as though she had anything else to do.

"Outstanding." The man nodded to Gil as he headed for the office door. "Dr. Fourche."

"Colonel."

Regan turned back to the desk as the door closed. Her triumph faded as she spotted Gil's frown; pissed or not, he still outranked her. "Sorry. I should've knocked—"

"Agreed."

"—but you should have warned me. At the very least. Buddy."

"I planned to. This afternoon. How'd you find out? You weren't scheduled to return to work until Monday."

Regan tossed her beret on the seat Chilcote had vacated and shed her ACU jacket. The digital camouflage followed her beret to the chair. "I stopped by CID for our morning brief. Figured I'd plow through the mountain of waiting paperwork, perhaps even put my name on the duty roster and catch the first case of the weekend. Let one of my fellow agents sleep in for a change. Imagine my surprise when my CO mentioned that my medical release form had failed to make its way across post."

Regan snatched Gil's spare Beetle Bailey coffee mug from the filing cabinet. His brows rose as she turned to thump the pea-green ceramic atop the calendar blotter on the desk—loudly.

"Surprise?"

"Okay, my fury." Which that stoic stare of his was causing to ratchet up again. "Where the hell do you get off insinuating I'm not fit for duty?"

"Because you're not."

She stalked so far forward, the edge of his desk cut into her thighs. "Excuse me? You told me two days ago that I'd passed my physical, lab work included. There is no psycho-toxin lingering in my body. Just a bazillion antibodies. In fact, one of your vampires drained a pint from my arm just yesterday to send to Fort Detrick so our biowarfare defense guys could study my astounding newfound immunity."

"True." Instead of elaborating, Gil turned to the filing cabinet to retrieve his massive thermos. Regan waited none-too-patiently as he charged the spare mug she'd plunked onto his desk with a generous portion of the steaming, black contents.

The moment the thermos resumed its post, she lit in. "So?"

His sigh filled the office. "Have a seat."

"No, thanks."

"Damn it, Rae. Sit."

Something in his voice forced her to scoop her beret and jacket out of the chair Chilcote had vacated. Gil pushed the spare mug to the edge of his blotter as she dumped her gear on the carpet and sat.

"Have some caffeine. You look like you could use it."

She didn't doubt it. Even if she hadn't caught sight of her admittedly haggard features in the mirror this morning, she felt the need for a piping hot pick-me-up deep in her bones. Unfortunately, ice-cold apprehension had just surpassed it.

Her blood was clean, wasn't it? Or had some lab tech at Detrick discovered otherwise?

Was that why Gil had refused to clear her for duty?

She dragged her air in deep, the burgeoning fear deeper. "Just say it."

To her horror, Gil abandoned the working side of his desk and snagged the spare patient chair along the wall. He dragged it to within a foot of hers and sank down into the seat. His proximity wasn't what scared her. It was the compassion simmering in that light blue stare. The same compassion that had simmered within nearly two weeks earlier as she'd crawled in and out of those godawful hallucinations for almost twenty-four hours, before she'd finally succumbed to coma.

"It's not your body that has me worried, Rae. It's your mind."

Oh, Jesus. First Art Valens dying, then John leaving—and now this. It couldn't get any worse.

Hallucinations.

Was that why—thirteen days after waking from his own coma—Sergeant Welch had yet to be released from the hospital? Had his hallucinations come back?

Was she next?

Regan swallowed hard. It didn't help. Acid still seared up her throat, and she was rapidly becoming too unhinged to care. "Gil…wh—what are you trying to say?"

"When was the last time you slept?"

Huh?

He reached for her hands. Warm, steady fingers closed over hers, squeezed.

She tugged them free. "Last night."

"Liar."

He was right. Damn him. The hallucinations might not have resumed yet, but the dreams had. The nightmares.

Who was she kidding? They'd never stopped.

Art's disembodied face floated before hers. It took several blinks before it faded. She stood, rounding the corner of Gil's desk, admittedly cowering behind his high-back leather chair as she dug her fingers into the padded shoulders for support. Anything to distance herself from that insidious compassion.

"I slept." Yesterday.

There. Close enough to the truth to be convincing, even for this man, who knew her better than most.

Gil nodded. "For how long?"

Long enough to watch Art's headstone drift into her dreams, coated with snow. Long enough to feel his wife's bottomless grief as it soaked into her neck. Long enough—as the dream twisted and morphed—to feel the desperately needed solid warmth of John's arms…until she woke and discovered that once again, John was gone.

"Rae?"

"Long enough, damn it. I slept long enough. Now will you please tell me what this is about? What did Detrick find?"

Confusion supplanted the compassion. Understanding followed. Finally, embarrassment. "I'm sorry I worried you. Chalk it up to my own running dearth of Zs. Except for the lingering tremor in your dominant hand, you're fine. There's no evidence of a medical relapse—absolutely none. But emotionally? You're at the edge, and you're teetering there with everything bottled up inside. I think that's why that tremor comes and goes. There's a good chance it's not so much physiological as psychological. And if you don't take steps now to deal with everything that's happened these past few weeks, there's a good chance it will get worse—especially if it's both."

Anger burned through the relief as Gil's words trailed off. "That's what this is about?" Her so-called mental state? "You still want me to break down and bawl like a two-year old?"

The compassion returned, suffocating the blue. "It just might help."

Since when? It hadn't the night they'd met just over a year ago when Gil had tried his best to stitch her insides back together after some sergeant jacked up on PCP had decided to rearrange them, causing her to miscarry and damned near die before all was said and done. And it certainly hadn't helped two decades earlier when Mommy Dearest had chosen to rearrange her own face with the working end of her dad's .38 backup revolver. "Trust me; tears don't accomplish squat."

"How 'bout talking?"

"We've talked."

"Wrong. I've talked. You haven't even given me the courtesy of listening. You just stare off and nod occasionally—like you're doing now."

She shoved the leather chair into the desk as the grief and the guilt finally broke free. "What do you want from me? You want me to say it? Fine. Art Valens is dead. Because I missed a clue."

"Bullshit!"

That reined her in—hard. Not the curse; Gil's ire. She'd never seen, much less heard him hit that level before. But then she'd never pushed their relationship quite so far. Case in point: her downright insubordinate entrance minutes before. Friendship or not, Gil was still a light colonel; she a warrant officer—trapped in the nether region between commissioned officer and enlisted. Best she remember that.

She licked her lips. "Gil, I—"

He stood as well, looming over the opposite side of the desk. Over her. "No. You don't want to have a genuine conversation? Okay by me. I'll do the talking. Again. But this time, you are going to listen." He stalked around his desk, trapping her between his mahogany bookshelf and a framed pen-and-ink sketch of a skeleton hanging on the wall. "Yes, your old CID mentor and friend is dead, but you did not kill him. Nor are you responsible for Captain Mendoza's death or the six other soldiers from that Special Forces team who succumbed to that goddamned psycho-toxin. And it sure as hell isn't your fault that John Garrison was forced to abandon you in this very hospital three hours after you woke from your own coma to go Heaven knows where and do Heaven knows what. That screw—as you put it so succinctly—came compliments of Special Operations Command and the uppermost brass of the US Army."

He was right. About all of it.

Logically, she knew that.

So why did it feel so wrong? And why did she feel so utterly wrung out and hollow inside?

The tears Gil had been begging her to shed for six days burned at the corners of her eyes. Before she could stop them, they spilled over. No more than a handful. Apparently, it was enough. At least for him.

He cupped her cheek and smoothed the humiliation from her face—but that caused more to trickle down. She stared at the knot in Gil's throat as he swallowed. It jerked so firmly she feared he was suppressing his own ocean.

He cleared his throat. "I meant what I said when I signed your hospital release. You need time to heal. You're CID, for crying out loud. You wade though the worst of the crap our soldiers deal out on a daily basis. You need to take a minute to recoup before you dive back in. Preferably amid the peace and quiet of home."

He was so far off it wasn't funny. If she'd discovered anything this past week, it was that she needed the chaotic, consuming distraction of a new case like a junkie needed a fix. She'd also learned that there was no peace to be found, least of all at home.

Just the endless emptiness and constant recriminations.

"Gil, please. I need to go back to work."

"Rae—"

"No!" Damn it, this was not a case of doctor knew best. She twisted away until she'd retreated around the corner of his desk, poised to make her escape. "It doesn't matter. My hand hasn't shaken once this morning. You heard Chilcote. The man's drooling to get a crack at what's left of my brain. By the time we're done, he'll be so convinced I'm fit for duty, he'll be recommending I be assigned to the secretary of defense's personal staff."

"Wrong." Gil reached out to tap the phone on his desk. "One call, Chief. That's all it would take, and you know it."

"You'd do that to me? Tell your boss I have psyche issues?"

"If I have to."

White-hot silence pulsed between them. That goddamned, unrelenting compassion.

"One more week, Rae. That's all I'm asking. A week during which you talk—to me or someone else. A week during which you sleep. Every single night."

And if she didn't?

She didn't voice the counter challenge. She didn't need to; Gil's next words confirmed it.

"Or I go on the record regarding just how precarious your current mental state really is—whether or not your hand still twitches."

Bastard.

The silence returned. This time it filled the air for a full thirty-one seconds. She knew, because she watched the oversized, twenty-four-hour wall clock behind Gil's head tick them off, one by one.

A phone rang, shattering the quiet. But it wasn't the extension on Gil's desk. It was the cellphone in her ACU pocket. Grateful for the reprieve, Regan grabbed it.

"Agent Chase."

"You fit for duty or not?" Colonel Hansen. Her boss.

Regan stared at Gil and, God help her, she forced her lips to beg.

He held firm.

"Sir, I'm with Lieutenant Colonel Fourche now. He's experiencing…reservations."

"Hand him the phone."

Regan passed it to Gil, straining to listen as he greeted her CO. Unfortunately, she couldn't make out Hansen's side of the conversation. She did know Gil was not happy. Not with the initial information he was given and not with the ensuing discussion that he actively pushed on his end, abusing every embarrassing facet of the argument he'd just thrown in her face, plus a few. And, finally, Gil was anything but pleased with his own terse "Yes, sir. Understood" at the call's conclusion.

Gil severed the connection and passed the phone back.

Silence bunkered in once more, hardening down to depleted uranium as Gil turned to withdraw a form from the top drawer of his desk. He scratched out a few words, filled in her name and signed his at the bottom before handing the form over.

Bemusement set in as Regan deciphered his scrawl. Fit for duty. She jerked her chin up. Gil's seemingly blasé shrug was everything but.

"Seems I've been overruled—needs of the Army and all. Congratulations, Chief. You're back on the roster. You won't be waiting for your next case, however. It's already here—but it's not new. You'll find out the rest when you get to CID. Now go; Colonel Hansen's waiting. And for God's sake, be careful."

He didn't have to tell her twice.

She left.

Written by a former US Navy Lt.

Please Note: The remaining Deception Point books are significantly longer and carry a warning: graphic crime scenes, the occasional sex scene and cursing abound throughout this series! If you're faint of heart, you may want to turn back now. But if you're not & you like strong, female protagonists and seriously gritty, complex suspense that twists and turns all the way to The End, you'll love Candace Irving's military detective thriller series.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 16 reviews
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J
Jan Weinmann
Deception Point Series - A great read

Deception Point is a great series, with character development that continues throughout and well crafted stories that interconnect and build to a conclusion. Well worth the ead!

A
Amanda

great reading

S
Steven Thomas
Always in Danger

There doesn't seem to be any time when the protagonist is safe. She goes from one dangerous situation to another with barely time to eat and sleep. Stolen nuclear material has her traveling the world to prevent catastrophes. Great book!

S
Steven Thomas
Intense story

There is a lot going on in this story. Regan travels to the middle east and beyond as she seeks a traitor. Her sleuthing reveals more than she expects and misdirection kept me guessing.

J
Jolanta Lisak
Excellent reading

It’s a great reading. Fast paced action. Looking forward to next book.