I didn't realize this is book 2 in a series until I was into the story. It could easily be a stand alone. After reading about book 1, I think it just goes into different characters lives and maybe book 1 might have mentioned the characters in this book in a different light or more detail, but I didn't feel lost because I missed out on book 1. I definitely need to go back and read book 1 now though. :)
Sophia is running and that makes her look guilty, although she is yet to be proven so. While staying at a friend's empty house, she meets her new neighbor, Colby, who has just gone through a very tough situation with his job. Speaking of his job, I can't imagine having one like that. He's a cop and deals with intense situations. I'm glad there are people out there who can handle jobs like his, because I really don't think I could. How much counseling would you have to go through to stay sane and believe in humanity?
Colby took his role as a neighbor, friend, and cop seriously. He went to great lengths to protect and help Sophia. I really liked Colby. Even though he was serious about the important things, he wasn't at all cold. He wasn't all rules and protocols--he felt things with his heart.
Sophia was burdened with a big responsibility and handled it pretty well. Her reactions to different situations felt real. I could almost feel her fear and uncertainty about what to do and who to trust.
I am a fan of romantic suspense. Although, sometimes when I read these types of books, I wonder how many situations there are in real life that compare to this. I'm not going to think too hard about that, I'll just enjoy the escape read and hope that things aren't really this bad for normal people in the real world.
I thought things flowed well and there were twists and turns (surprises) that kept the reader turning pages and engaged in the story. I think it takes a real talent to come up with these types of elements because most readers want that unpredictability in this genre. Julie Coulter Bellon is very talented!!
Content: some violence; clean.
Ashes Ashes Are you ever really innocent until proven guilty? Sophia Naziri is wanted for questioning in the murder of a U.S. senator. She’s worried the police will show up on her doorstep any moment, but when Detective Colby Black appears, it’s to help her put out a kitchen fire, not take her in. Yet. His easy smile and persistence in getting to know her pushes all her troubles to the back of her mind, until a hit man tracks her down. Getting arrested becomes the least of her worries and the handsome detective could be her only way out---if she tells him the truth. Colby Black’s sniper skills have been a blessing and a curse to him. As a member of a Hostage Negotiation Team, he can use them to save people, but sometimes he can’t protect the innocent despite his best efforts. When a hostage situation goes bad, he tries to put it behind him by helping out his mysterious next-door neighbor, Sophia Naziri. But she pulls Colby into a web of lies and conspiracy that will force him to use every skill he has in order to survive. Faced with the moment of truth, can he trust anyone around him---including the woman at the center of it all?
Julie is the author of seven international suspense novels: Through Love's Trials, On the Edge,Time Will Tell, All's Fair, Dangerous Connections,Ribbon of Darkness and All Fall Down. She loves her work partly because she gets to travel to distant lands to research and add an authentic feel to all of her books. Her favorite cities so far are Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She taught journalism at BYU for fourteen years and that kept her on the cutting edge of current events and world news---which is where she gets her story ideas. She also has one non-fiction title: Be Prepared: A Parent's Guide to the Duty to God and Eagle Scout Awards---What You Should Know and is part of two compilations, How Will Christmas Find Us and Life Lessons From Mothers of Faith. She is the mother of eight children and when she's not busy being a mom or a writer, you will find her browsing through bookstores to add to her book collection, at the library borrowing books, or reading the treasures she's found.
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It was gut-check time.
Detective Colby Black looked down the scope of his rifle, a bead of sweat running down his back. It felt like they’d been there all day, but the afternoon sun still beating down on him high overhead told him it’d only been an hour or so.
“Black, can you see the suspect?” Captain Reed’s voice came over his earpiece.
“Affirmative.” Colby had hardly been able to take his eyes off the stringy-haired
guy with the gun who was pacing behind his hostage, shouting at her and anyone else within hearing distance. The shrill ringing of the phone on the wall behind them punctuated whatever the man was yelling at her. “He’s still pretty agitated. You think he’s going to answer that phone anytime soon?”
A shot cracked the air and the ringing abruptly stopped as a bullet ripped into the phone. “I guess that answers that question,” Colby muttered to himself.
“Stand by for orders.” The captain sounded calm, but Colby knew him well enough to hear the thread of frustration. If they couldn’t make contact, the entry team would be sent in, and it was game over for any type of negotiation.
Colby flexed his wrist before hunkering down once again. From the little they knew about this guy, he’d already killed two store clerks today and shot an officer in the thigh during the getaway attempt. When he barricaded himself in the house with his wife and two kids, the Hostage Negotiation Team was called and Colby headed out. In the hour they’d been there, the guy had shot out two windows and screamed obscenities at the cops outside as he fired his gun randomly. Colby always hoped the situation stayed controlled and they could get everyone out safely, but his instinct was telling him this one could get out of control fast with how erratic this guy was acting.
Colby adjusted his earpiece a bit, but didn’t miss a syllable of Claire Michaels checking in with the team. She was the main negotiator and was good at her job, but she was always a little anxious until they established contact with the hostage-taker. Once that line was set, she calmed right down. Colby clenched his teeth together, hoping she could figure out a way to make contact so the patrolman using the bullhorn could stop. The man’s grating voice was getting on his nerves.
Colby was grateful for a straight line of vision into the kitchen where the subject had holed up and he looked into the scope again just in time to see the man grab his wife by the hair and haul her against him, still screaming in her ear. He waved his .40 caliber handgun in front of her before pointing it right at her temple. “Sir, he’s got the gun to his wife’s head,” he reported.
He kept a close watch, waiting for orders, but sucked in a breath when he saw a child around four years old enter the room where the hostage-taker stood with his wife. “Sir, we have two hostages confirmed. Woman and child. No sign of the reported second child.”
“Colby, the entry team’s about ready. They’ve got a flash-bang coming through the back as a diversion.”
Colby heard Captain Reed’s words, but knew it was the wrong move to make. “A flash-bang, sir? When there are hostages?”
“We need to get this guy’s attention, fast, so we can move in as safely as possible and that’s the only choice we’ve got right now.”
Colby shook his head. This guy was on the edge and if they entered now, it would end badly. Colby could feel it. He squinted to see if he could get any better view, anything that would force the entry team to wait and give them a little longer to try to get him to negotiate. “Come on,” he said to himself. Nothing. “Sir, does Claire¾”
His sentence was cut off at the sound of gunfire and the scream that followed it.
Colby grabbed Rafe’s backpack and pulled out two flash bang grenades. Rafe was calling in reinforcements, but Colby knew they might not make it in time to help.
“You guys head for the garage, I’ll meet you there,” Rafe said, ending his call.
Colby took Sophia’s hand. The fire seemed to be coming at them from every angle. “Keep down,” he told her. She just nodded and he was glad she was agreeing, since she looked more than panicked. He opened the side door leading to the garage and peeked around the corner.
“We can’t leave Rafe behind, but the motorcycle won’t take three of us.” She was talking so low Colby could hardly hear her.
“We’re not leaving Rafe. He’s going to take care of the three in the back and we’re going to open the garage and take care of the ones out front.” He pulled her toward the corner behind a large barrier in the garage. Colby was always amazed with what the safe houses were equipped with. Who else would need a concrete barrier in a garage?
“Stay here, and keep this safe.” He handed her the backpack with the laptop and flash drive in it.
She did as she was told, clutching the bag to her. Colby didn’t linger, but got ready to throw out the flash bang. He pulled open the side garage door, just far enough so he could see two of the men standing guard, waiting for them to be smoked out. He threw the grenade and shut the door, but as soon as he heard the explosion, he pushed it open and darted out.
He rested his hands on her shoulders, but didn’t say anything.
“This is where I make my stand,” she told him. “If I don’t, I know I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. I have a chance to make a difference, to get justice for Philip.”
He let out a breath. “I know about wanting to make a difference, but what if you don’t make it out? Is it worth your life?” He gently turned her around to face him. “Because I don’t know if it is.”
She held her hand to his cheek, her brown eyes intense and searching his face. Putting a hand at the back of her neck, he pulled her to him, brushing his lips over hers. Her arms slid around his neck and she melted into his arms. His feelings that he hadn’t consciously admitted he had for her surged to the surface and his mouth pressed into hers, no longer gentle. She responded with just as much fire and Colby could barely suppress a groan. His hand slipped to her back, running the length of it. His entire body felt like there was nothing else, just her, and without her there was nothing.