The next Corps Justice novel, Liberty Down, is now live and ready for you to buy. I had an awesome time writing this one. I hope you like it as much as our beta readers.
The book is priced at 99-cents, which is significantly below retail. But don't wait. The price will go up on 11/9/16. This is a special discount for YOU, the best of Team Cooper.
Thanks in advance, and please consider gifting a copy to a friend. Oh, and don't forget to leave an honest review when you're done. Even the short ones help!
>> Here's your link to purchase Liberty Down: http://getbook.at/LibertyDown <<
(For any non-Amazon readers, don't forget that you can buy Liberty Down on Amazon, email me the receipt at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll send you the book in the format you need.)
Book Blurb: Even spies need a vacation. Paris. Amsterdam. Vienna. But what happens when the president's top asset, the warriors of The Jefferson Group, get taken by surprise as they enjoy their well-earned time off in Europe? Not only does the enemy want to wipe out The Jefferson Group, they're also plotting to harpoon the president before the November election. Will Cal Stokes and his team escape the enemy's net, and will the president survive the election? Or will the schemes of Congressman Tony McKnight finally win the day, securing his position as the most powerful leader in the free world?
SNAKE EYES: I'm currently working on the fourth and final Daniel Briggs novel, Tested, with the Novels Live team. Check out the unedited excerpt at the end of this post below. This one will go live in December.
2017: Next year looks like it's going to be a record production year. Could I really get as many as 10 books out? We'll see. If you have ideas for upcoming novels, please let me know. More than a few of you have given me great topics for past novels. I love getting your input.
Your support allows me to write and write and write. As long as you want more, I'll give you more. Thank you for making books like Sabotage and new series like The Patriot Protocol such a success in 2016. I am humbled and eternally grateful. Thank you.
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined.)
Chapter 1 (Raw & Unedited)
The first sip is my favorite. It always reminds me of the first kiss on a first date. It reminds me of one gentleman tipping his hat to another. It reminds me that there is an answer and that answer can be found at the bottom of the bottle.
So as I took that first sip and gazed over the vista of the Las Vegas strip from my cramped seat, I saw only opportunity. I'd given up drinking, but somewhere between Seattle and San Francisco, a bottle of Jack Daniels had appeared in my hand. I'd kicked the habit, and yet there he was, my old friend Jack, nestled quietly in the crook of my arm, telling me that it was good to be back, that the buds were together again and that I should never leave him behind. It was in those moments that I thought I could control him, thought I could control the cravings. Like I said, everything seemed right with the world.
"Hey, mister, can I have a drink?"
I turned to find a little boy who'd gotten on the bus, with his now sleeping mom, somewhere around Los Angeles. He'd left me alone while talking with the rest of the passengers on the bus. They'd already been afforded the luxury of his inquisitive questioning.
Now as he stared up at me, I wondered how a kid could be so open in place full of strangers. The mom lying next to him looked like she'd worked every night shift since 1982.
"Sorry. It's just for adults," I said.
"Is it that stuff that burns? Mom said it burns a lot."
Did mom have an alcohol problem, or had she kicked it like I had?
"Yeah, it burns," I said.
Not that I really wanted to dissuade the kid from having a future drink, but he was closer to 5 than 15. Better to be the good adult.
The kid stared at the bottle, obviously formulating another question. He wasn't put off by my demeanor because I wasn’t making it a secret that I wanted to be left alone. I don't think I had said a word to anyone but the bus driver since Berkeley.
"We moved," the kid said quickly, like it was something he wasn't supposed to say.
"Did you live in Los Angeles?" I asked, surprising myself by extending the conversation.
"California," he corrected me.
"Right, California. Did you like California?"
He shrugged, looking away again. "Pete says it's always hot in Las Vegas. Is it always hot in Las Vegas?"
I wondered who Pete was.
"It depends on the time of year."
"Like, because of the seasons," he said, brightening.
"Yeah, the seasons."
"Mom says we get to live in a hotel, but that they're going to have doughnuts, and waffles, and granola bars."
He licked his lips, and that was when I noticed his slightly hollowed cheeks, the dirt under his fingernails, the clothes that seemed two sizes too small. Then I looked over at the mother, who was staring back at me, not with hate or embarrassment, just resignation like a dog that had been beaten one too many times and had given up the will to fight.
"Nathaniel, leave the man alone," the mother said, her voice hoarse from sleep.
"But, Mom, I was just ..."
"It's okay, ma'am. He was just telling me about moving, and I'm the rude one. Nathaniel, my name is Daniel."
"Nathaniel and Daniel, that rhymes," the boy said, proud of himself for making the connection.
"Nathaniel, are you a betting man?" I asked.
"What's betting?" the boy asked.
"Let's say I ask you a question, and you get that question right. If you do, you win a prize."
"Wow, really? What kind of prize?"
"That's a surprise," I said.
"Prize and surprise. You rhymed again."
Nathaniel reminded me of a PFC in my last unit. He was from Chicago and would never shut up. Questions and rhymes, always the rhymes, although his rhymes were of the vulgar pedigree. I couldn't remember his name now, and the last time I'd seen him both of his legs had been blown off. I shut that memory away and refocused on Nathaniel.
"So, Nathaniel, are you a betting man?"
The boy nodded eagerly.
"Okay," I said. "What state is Las Vegas in?"
Nathaniel scrunched his eyes shut, thinking hard. His palms tapped on his thighs until he sprang up out of his seat, his bursting open, and said "Nevada! Las Vegas is in Nevada!”
"That's right. You win the prize."
"Mom. Mom, Daniel says I win a prize. What is it?"
I turned towards the window so he couldn't see what I was doing. I pulled out my wallet and slid out a couple bills. I wrapped the larger one in a one dollar bill and then handed it to Nathaniel. "It's all yours, kid, but why don't you let your mom hold it for safekeeping?"
The boy held it up like he had won an Olympic medal. Then he handed it dutifully to his mother and I wondered if that was a routine. He had done it so naturally. Kids don't usually like to give up their prizes.
I watched the mother give Nathaniel a tired smile, and then she took the money, unwrapping the bills to prep them for insertion into her voluminous purse when her eyes went wide. She'd found the hundred dollar bill. I put my finger to my lips when she looked at me. Nathaniel didn't need to know. She mouthed a silent thank you. There were no tears in her eyes. Maybe she was used to getting handouts, but there was gratitude there, and for some reason I knew that unless that money was pried from her hands, she would use it to take care of her boy.
She tucked the bills into a secret corner of her purse, nodded at me once, and then closed her eyes.
I hadn't been to Las Vegas in years, not since the crazy weekend after we had wrapped training at 29 Palms. The years might have improved the landscape: new hotels, shinier cars, more gamblers, but it all felt the same. The dry air mixed with the enticing pull of possibility greeted me as I stepped off the bus. Nathaniel and his mother came off a few moments later.
The boy tugged on my sleeve. "Hey, Daniel, do you want to come visit us?"
His mother didn't seem to notice. She was scanning the loitering crowd at the bus station looking for something, or maybe someone.
“Maybe I'll see you around. You save some of those waffles for me, okay?"
"You like strawberries or just syrup?"
I couldn't help but smile. "Both."
"Okay, strawberries and syrup, I'll save you some.”
I stuck out my hand, and he shook it like we had just closed a multimillion-dollar deal.
"You take care of yourself, Nathaniel."
Then they were off, Nathaniel dragged along by his still-searching mother. He waved at me, and I waved back, and then I went in search of a vending machine. The booze was getting to me now.
Lightweight, I thought, bouncing my paper cup into a trash can. Then for some reason I took my bag off my shoulder, unzipped it, and extracted the bottle of Jack Daniels. If Jack had a face, he would have been smiling at me at that moment saying, "Come on, buddy. Let's go have some fun.” It was the old battle inside me that ignited like a pop-up storm.
Where had I gone wrong? I had kicked the habit. Now here it was again. My vigilance had been lulled into complacency. And in had slipped my friend, my partner in crime. I thought of all that had happened over the previous months, all the progress that I had made, and it made me feel ashamed. I had never been to treatment or a single AA meeting. I didn't need that. At least that's what I told myself. I had been through the hardships of war and come out unscathed on the other side. Again, another little lie I liked to tell myself. Unscathed in the physical sense maybe, but there was more than one way to be injured.
I closed my eyes and pushed back the urge to put good ol’ Jack back in my bag. Instead I gave my old friend a respectful nod and tossed him in the trash.
Freed from that burden for the time being, I resumed my search for a vending machine. With the alcohol gone, I had a sudden craving for a candy bar. A Baby Ruth was my favorite, but a Snickers would do. I never found the vending machine.
I did find Nathaniel and his mother. She was speaking to two men. I might not have notice the tension of the scene if she hadn't been shielding Nathaniel behind her, pinning him in place with both hands. I moved closer, so I could hear what they were saying.
The first words from the men assaulted my ears.
"We didn't say nothing about no boy."
"But I couldn't leave him."
"I don't give a shit what you did with him. The deal was for you."
"He won't be any trouble. I promise. He's a good boy."
The man was looking around now as if he sensed the presence of an enemy. Then he refocused on Nathaniel's mother, his huge head and meaty forearms turning a dark red.
"Now, you listen here, bitch…”
"Hey, Nathaniel," I interrupted.
The two men and Nathaniel turned to me. Nathaniel's mother's eyes stayed locked on Meaty Forearms.
"Hey," Nathaniel said, his earlier exuberance gone.
"I was going to take one of those site-seeing tours of the city and wondered if you guys wanted to tag along.”
"Wow. Hey, mom, can we? Can we?"
His mother didn't say a word.
Meaty Forearms glared at me. "Move along, asshole.”
The Beast inside of me began to stir, stretching its muscled body, easing its way to its feet. I had been called an asshole a thousand times before, so the word didn't bother me. It was the reaction it had elicited from Nathaniel, like a light had been doused, his spirit broken. His countenance was like an echo of his mother’s.
Meaty Forearms stepped around mother and son, his matching meaty finger pointed at my face. I didn't move, but inside of me the beast was spinning circles like a caged animal, begging to be let out. Meaty Forearm’s meaty finger stabbed at my chest and I knew he was going to say something like "You have no idea who you're dealing with," or "You'd better move along before I kick your ass."
It was only natural. This was his turf. He was used to being the man in charge, Meaty Forearms with his sidekick, Crazy Hair. But they'd never met me before. Before the words could leave his mouth, his meaty finger was trapped in my vice-like grip. In a second he was on his knees, looking up at me, pain bulging his eyes.
"Say sorry," I said, calmly.
"What?" he asked stupidly.
My hand flexed and his finger snapped with a sickening crunch.
"Sorry. I'm sorry."
"Not to me. To Nathaniel and his mother."
The Beast was calling to me now, begging me to lash out, pummel the man in his spot. Not yet, I assured it.
"I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry."
I let go of the finger, and the man cradled his damaged appendage. He stood on shaky legs and glanced over at Crazy Hair.
That was all it took. Crazy Hair’s hands were already balled, ready for the fight. He rushed me, five long strides away. To me it felt like a mile. He broadcast every move with the stagger in his step. He overcompensated with his other leg. He was a bigger man, used to using his size to take down his opponents. Apparently at least one of his opponents had gotten the best of him.
Make that two, I thought, as I stepped to the side at the last possible moment and delivered a solid, not quite crushing blow to his handicapped knee. The man didn't so much fall as fold with pain in his knee, toppled to the right like I'd just chopped down a tree.
Meaty Forearms looked like he wanted to rejoin the fight. When he looked at me, I shot him a glare that bit off any coming remark and negated any action. Whether it was that look or the fact that a crowd was gathering, the man thought better of his choices. He gathered his hobbled friend, and left in a battered pickup truck.
Once they were gone, Nathaniel was all bubbly personality again. "Wow, Mom. Did you see that? Daniel was ... He's like a superhero."
Even my actions didn't make the mother smile. She had been through similar confrontations before and knew the future would inevitably serve up more.
"I was going to catch a cab into town. You guys want to come along? My treat," I said. Nathaniel looked at his mother, who nodded.
It wasn't until the cab had pulled away from the bus station curb that I realized the woman on the other side of the taxi, staring out the window with vacant eyes, had just lost her deal. Whatever arrangements she had made prior to coming to Las Vegas had been ruined.
I had come to Las Vegas for a fresh start. Sure, there had been a little hiccup along the way, old buddy Jack trying to nudge his way back into my life, but there was still the fresh start thing. Why Vegas? Call it the warped mind of a Marine, a grunt who gets a strange kick out of volunteering for the toughest things.
I'd looked at a map of the United States, and there it was, a siren calling to me with neon accents: Sin City. A bastion of sin and greed to many, it was an opportunity for me. I had no idea what that opportunity was other than a challenge, something that I relished.
Like I said: a fresh start, a chance to make a new name. Part of me wanted to dump Nathaniel and his mother at the next stop, maybe give them another hundred bucks and wish them well. I had my fresh start to look after, not some kid and his washed-up waitress mother.
But as I watched Nathaniel bouncing in the middle seat, trying to get a better view of the city, I knew I couldn't leave them. I had been the protector, and as much as I tried to run from that, I always got pulled back in, like the universe was saying, "Daniel Briggs, I know what you want to be, but this is what you will be." I went along with the universe's plans, not knowing that the decision to stay in that taxi cab with Nathaniel and his mother would soon lead me on the most dangerous journey of my life.