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Colder Than Sin (EBOOK)

Colder Than Sin (EBOOK)

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“Quentin Savage is the hero you’ve been waiting for.” – Adriana Anders, author of WHITEOUT. 

Top FBI negotiator Quentin Savage is hurled into his worst nightmare when a terrorist attack on a luxury hotel propels him from esteemed keynote speaker to powerless captive.

Haley Cramer is co-owner of a private security firm and prides herself on her independence, but she is shaken to the core when gunmen attack a conference she is attending. She survives, but only because Quentin Savage pretends she’s his wife.

Together Savage and Haley plot their escape from a ragtag army of brutal but efficient thugs while struggling to figure out exactly who the enemy is. Why was the conference attacked, and why was Quentin a specific target?


*Winner of the National Excellence in Story Telling (NEST) Contest for Romantic Suspense.

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Chapter One

Saturday August 8th. Nabat Island in the Flores Sea, Indonesia.

Chief of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, Quentin Savage, leaned against the bar near the exit, wondering how long before he could reasonably escape. Unfortunately, not only was he meeting an old Army friend for a quick drink but, having delivered the keynote speech at the closing banquet of this symposium, he was duty-bound to stick around for a while in case people had questions.
People always had questions.
They always wanted to talk to negotiators. They assumed negotiators possessed some secret spiel that enabled them to get their own way and influence others.
It wasn’t true—if it were, he wouldn’t be here.
It did take some special qualities to be a good negotiator. Patience was definitely a virtue, as was the ability to think on your feet and not get emotionally invested. And, sure, there were specific techniques to influencing the actions of others, but the single biggest factor to being a great negotiator was the ability to listen. To hear what people said, verbally and non-verbally.
Being a negotiator was like being a therapist, except the other person was almost always in crisis by the time the Bureau arrived on the scene.
Quentin glanced at his watch impatiently. He wanted to check on the latest updates regarding a female volcanologist who’d been abducted off a remote volcanic island in the Banda Sea a few days ago. He was so close to the location where she’d last been seen, he itched to fly out to examine the area for clues. But if this was a straight kidnap for ransom and the kidnappers heard about the FBI’s
interest, they’d either jack up the price, or kill her to eliminate any larger potential problems.
He pushed her out of his mind. He had to retain some professional detachment, else he’d compromise his ability to rescue anyone. Burnout wasn’t something he courted, even if he didn’t have much of a life outside the Bureau. Not anymore.
He wasn’t exactly roughing it here in Indonesia. The hotel, a large old Dutch colonial that had been tastefully modernized, was pure colonial splendor, complete with that indolent atmosphere that catered to the supremely wealthy. But even in the cooler evening, with the trade winds blowing, the air conditioning units and ceiling fans struggled to keep up with a room this large and this full of people. Delegates lounged on rattan furniture, drinking and eating complimentary finger food served on silver trays by uniformed staff.
Quentin made a face into the contents of his glass.
The setup reminded him of when he’d been a waiter at a country club many years ago. He’d grown up in So Cal, one of five brothers, and they’d all pulled their weight to support their mom after their dad left them for a younger woman. Quentin found it hard not to notice the people who were supposed to disappear into the background, probably as he identified with them more than he identified with the rich elite, or with the politicians or powerful CEOs.
He received a government paycheck and the sort of responsibility that would make most of them choke. He knew his own worth, and it wasn’t measured in dollars or
cents. It was measured in the lives of the people he saved and the prison terms of the criminals who failed to beat the system.
Quentin paid for two beers, adding a decent tip. He didn’t like crowds. Didn’t like taking time out of his busy schedule to give presentations, even though it might ultimately save lives. He really didn’t like being the center of attention.
Unlike some people.
Holy cow.
An elegant blonde goddess came in from the gardens. The woman wore a gold dress with a plunging neckline and spiked heels that had her towering over the locals and most of the delegates. She made her way to a group near the bar, catching his gaze as she glanced around. He’d seen her a few times over the last two days, although he hadn’t been introduced. Pity. He was pretty sure she was staying in the room next to his.
When she didn’t look away, he raised his beer in salute, and she raised her champagne flute in response.
“That’s Haley Cramer, in case you didn’t know.”
Quentin turned to the man who’d pushed into the space to his left. Quentin pointed to the pint on the bar. “You’re late. That’s for you.”
“Cheers.” Chris Baylor, a friend from boot camp days and three years of back-to-back deployments, raised the glass to his lips and took a big swallow. He put the glass down and followed Quentin’s gaze across the room.
Haley Cramer had turned her back on them both.
So much for that. Not that anything would have happened between them, but he enjoyed looking at her. She was old-school Hollywood glamour in an age of Instagram selfies. Hotter than sin, and probably twice as much trouble.
Chris handed Quentin a cigar. It was an old tradition for their now rare nights out. It was the only time Quentin ever smoked. Quentin put it in his pocket for later.
Another man who seemed to know Chris joined them.
“Quentin Savage, meet Grant Gunn. Grant was in the 10th
Mountain Division in Shoh-I-Khot same time we were.”
“Fun times,” Gunn joked, ordering himself a beer.
The fierce battle in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan hadn’t been fun for anyone, but that’s how soldiers got through it. Humor. Brotherhood.
Unable to stop himself, Quentin glanced toward the blonde again.
“You never met Haley Cramer before?” Chris asked.
Quentin shook his head.
“Of ‘Cramer, Parker & Gray’? Alex Parker works with you Feds in Quantico. Rumor has it he was a spook.” Chris filled him in on the gossipy details.
Quentin sipped his beer. He didn’t know Parker personally, but he knew him by reputation. Cramer, Parker & Gray was one of the top security firms in the US. Smaller than many of the others represented here, but with a stellar reputation. Top of the game in the cybersecurity and well regarded in close protection circles.
“And, according to Chris, she’s as hot in the sack as she looks,” Gunn added with a sly grin.
“I didn’t ask,” Quentin pointed out sharply.
“But you wanted to know.” Gunn’s grin was full of assholery. “What red-blooded man wouldn’t?”
What Quentin wanted was nobody’s business but his own. He turned to his friend. “You dated her?”
Chris was no longer the skinny, raw recruit Quentin had known back in his Army days. Years of training and grueling, physical work meant the guy had filled out across the shoulders and chest. His cheeks were a little fuller than they had been, a little more florid.
“I wouldn’t call it dating...” Gunn guffawed into his beer.
Quentin frowned at the guy.
“We saw each other for about a month, but it was never gonna last.” Chris wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“What happened?” Quentin asked, curious how the guy could have screwed up something so monumental.
He cut Quentin a grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You know me.” He shrugged. “I can’t resist a pretty face.”
Which meant he’d cheated on her.
“You’re even more of an idiot than I realized.”
Chris drank his beer, not disagreeing. The military had turned an optimistic young man into a battled-hardened cynic, but boy scouts didn’t last long in a war zone.
In those early Army days, they’d often exchanged bullshit stories about female conquests. Quentin wasn’t a dumb eighteen-year-old anymore. He was not interested in games or chasing women who needed to be chased. He’d finally come through the dark shadow brought on by the
death of his beloved wife and stillborn child five years ago, but he never wanted to endure that kind of heartbreak again. He was living life, even dating occasionally, any good hostage negotiator, he didn’t plan to get emotionally invested any time soon.
Quentin eyed Haley Cramer with a touch of regret. No doubt he would have enjoyed getting to know her better, but not in front of this crowd. Too many egos. Too much testosterone. Too much rabid speculation and potential blowback for both of them.
“She hates my guts, so I probably just ruined any chance you might have had with her. Sorry, buddy.” Chris changed the subject. “I enjoyed the speech, by the way. Impressive for a man who can barely read.”
Quentin ignored the jibe. His dyslexia had always been the source of much amusement to his buddies, but he was used to it and never let their ribbing get to him. “How’s Nick?”
Nicholas Karlovac had been another grunt in their squad, and the three of them had been best friends back in the old days. Nick and Chris had gone on to become elite soldiers who’d formed their own private security firm upon getting out.
“He’s back home running the office.”
“You ever get tired of being in the field?” Quentin asked Chris.
Chris hunched his shoulders. “Someone’s gotta do it. Nick’s stuck with his wife and kids all needing a piece of him.”
An attractive black woman with blue braids gave Quentin a grin across the room. Tricia Rooks. He’d sat beside her at breakfast yesterday. He smiled back.
Gunn glanced her way and then raised his eyebrows suggestively. “Looks like Haley Cramer isn’t the only possibility in the room.”
Quentin ignored the man.
An older gentleman entered the room, and the atmosphere ramped up as a hundred pairs of eyeballs latched on to him. Chris’s hand tightened around his glass of beer. Haley Cramer’s head turned.
Quentin hadn’t
seen the newcomer at the conference, but he wasn’t here to brown-nose or grease palms. The stranger might also be an innocent hotel guest, but from the way the other delegates were sniffing the air like wolves scenting blood, Quentin didn’t think so.
The new arrival was a short, heavy guy. Balding. Blue silk shirt with sweat darkening his pits. White linen pants. Two burly men rode his shoulder like mismatched pilot fish.
Bodyguards. To bring bodyguards to a security conference suggested a special kind of paranoia. Or a wealth of bad experiences...
The conference had been co-organized by the Indonesian government and was taking place on a small island in the Flores Sea. Most attendees had flown commercial to the small local airport and therefore weren’t armed. Not an easy sell for most of these guys, but they were only here for three days, and the meeting had provided security. That security had wound down as soon as the foreign minister had left following the banquet earlier that evening.
Maybe that’s why this newcomer hadn’t appeared before now. Guns were banned, and his bodyguards were definitely packing.
The man worked his way through the crowd until he reached Haley Cramer. He grabbed her by both arms and leaned towards her, leading with puckered lips. The woman turned her face sideways at the last moment and got a sloppy kiss on the cheek.
Quentin glanced around the room and noticed the mood had soured. “Who’s the guy?”
Chris scraped a tired hand over his square jaw. “Cecil Wenck. Tenth richest man in the world. Owns ARK Mining, the largest company in Southeast Asia and Oceania.”
“Looks like Cramer is gonna screw us all, but only one guy in the room will get to fuck her tonight.” Gunn tipped his glass up and finished his beer.
“You need to tone it down, pal,” Quentin instructed quietly.
Gunn shot him a glare.
“Cramer, Parker and Gray don’t have the personnel,” Chris muttered, ignoring Quentin.
“You better hope they don’t have the numbers,” Gunn said cryptically.
Quentin’s gaze was drawn back to the woman in
the gold dress. Her blonde hair shone brighter than the gown, but it was her eyes that interested him. Intelligent and guarded, a keeper of secrets. She wasn’t a fool. She knew the dangers of being a woman in a man’s world but was here anyway.
Good for her. He hoped it didn’t bite her in the ass. And now he needed to get that image out of his head with an ice-cold shower. Quentin slapped his old friend on the back. “I’m done.”
“What?” Chris’s eyes widened. “I had plans to drag you into town to a local bar.”
“Town” was twenty miles away along a dirt road.
“I need a clear head in the morning.” He needed to work on the Alexanders’ case—a couple of seniors abducted off the South China Sea six months ago. And now this other young woman. He tried not to dwell on her fate. A lone female was prey to so many dangers. Had she been taken for ransom like the Alexanders? Or abducted for some deviant’s pleasure? Or to be sold into the sex trade? Or kidnapped by an extremist group who didn’t like strong, independent women?
“Come on, buddy. How often do we get the chance to hang out?”
Quentin refused to feel bad. He wasn’t that easily manipulated. “We’ll catch up next time you’re in D.C.”
“I’ll come into town with you,” Gunn offered.
And now Quentin definitely wasn’t going.
Chris ignored Gunn. “You’re really skipping out on me?”
“I have an early flight.” Kidnapped Americans were his priority. Trying to figure out how to get them released and how to stop them being taken in the first place.
Chris stared at him, clearly surprised at his refusal. In fairness it was probably the first time in years that he’d turned the guy down. After Abbie died Quentin had been all over too many drinks during downtime. Maybe that’s why he no longer allowed himself too much time off.
Chris nodded. “Okay. Fine. Let’s do that.”
Quentin slapped his old friend on the shoulder and walked away, relief washing over him as he exited the crowded room. Half the people here wanted to make the world a better place—he counted himself in that group. The other half wanted ever-increasing amounts of power and money. They were the ones who viewed violence and unrest as opportunity. Those were the people he avoided whenever possible.
He was grateful to live in a democracy where federal agents did their best to protect the vulnerable and uphold the Constitution. That was what bound him and his fellow agents together, the rule of law, the strict adherence to the rules. But outside of the States, it was a different matter. It was his job to negotiate with people who used others as commodities and bargaining chips, not caring about the human toll. Quentin wished he could track all the kidnappers down and help put them away for life, but the most he allowed himself to hope for was getting hostages home. Making them safe again.
He’d definitely settle for that.
He went to the hotel registration desk to pay his bill so he wouldn’t have to do it in the morning. When he looked back into the bar area, he saw the woman in gold, Haley Cramer,
surrounded by powerful men all vying for her attention.
Some sixth sense had her looking up at him at that exact same moment. A silent message passed between them. One as old as time, and one neither intended to act upon.
Her expression grew almost sad.
He turned away, unwilling to explore the puzzle of a beautiful woman who, even surrounded by admirers, appeared lonely. Maybe he was projecting. And maybe he was sick of being on his own. He should be used to it now. And, if he were honest, he was scared to rock the status quo, no matter how beautiful the temptation.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
Captivating Romantic Suspense

This is a deeply engrossing and suspenseful tale filled with heart-stopping acts of violence, some which may be triggering, plenty of drama, a traitorous act you won’t see coming, and passion so intense it’ll keep your pulse pounding. From the very beginning Quentin Savage and Haley Cramer are drawn together, and what starts out as a casual connection explodes into a fight for their lives. The characters, both good and bad, are so well depicted that you are drawn into their world from the very beginning and held captive (no pun intended) until the end. The storyline is intense and so gripping that it will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget. I highly recommend this very exciting and, at times, heart-wrenching love story.


The instant attraction between Quentin and Haley was intense and continued to grow even with all dangerous situations they keep falling into. Quentin works for the FBI and Haley is part owner of a security company. They are both at a conference when it is over taken by terrorist and now they are on the run trying to stay alive. Of course the worst thing that could happen does happen.

This story took off right from the start and so did my adrenaline level. I could not wait to see what was going to happen next (and I loved it). These two were meant for one another and worked hard together to out smart their enemies. This is another great suspenseful page turner with strong characters that you will love. The secondary characters were also incredible. The romance in this story is FANTASTIC! Once you start this it you will not want to put it down. I look forward to the next story in this series.

Audrey Jeter
Heart pounding action, nail biting suspense, emotion overload

From the very first page Quentin Savage embodies the compassionate protector, but Haley Cramer brings out something else in him. Independent, smart, “maneater” Haley would have never thought she would find herself in over her head during a sales pitch. Luckily for her she stumbles into Quentin at just he right time. From there they find themselves in one life and death situation after another.

The storytelling in this book draws us into the lives of these characters so completely. The pain of their baggage of before, the horror of their kidnapping ordeal, the mystery of who is after them and why. And throughout their journey they steal our hearts. And each other’s? Love, love, love this book!

Amy P.
Fast-paced, action-packed story

As with any romantic suspense, don’t expect a light fluffy read. This story included some scenes that may be difficult for some readers.

Colder Than Sin was a fast-paced, action-packed story, and I thought Quentin and Haley were a great team. My only problem with the story was that Haley didn’t seem like a co-owner of a private security firm. I realize she was thrust into some very difficult and terrifying situations, but I still would have expected her to be a little more badass. Don’t get me wrong, overall I did like her, she just didn’t seem like someone who would run a security firm. I’m guessing she’s more involved in the business end of the firm rather than the security.

I don’t want to provide any spoilers, so I’ll just say this - I really hope Eban is the focus of the next book!