THE DOMINO EFFECT
Genre: Contemporary Action/Suspense
Date: November 13th, 2006
Cover by: April Martinez
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Ex-intelligence operative Martin Fowler is a man with a dangerous past, filled with casual liaisons and complex betrayals. In his old mentor’s daughter, Martin’s found happiness and trust for perhaps the first time in his life. But, that peace is about to be tested when an old enemy kidnaps Martin’s lover and a mutual friend, and to stay alive they must engage is a betrayal of their own…
Read an excerpt:
Christian Baines dropped into the chair that his host indicated and waited. The man walked around the large, mahogany desk that dominated the study and settled into the cushioned seat of the chair behind it.
“My name is Steven Ayers, Doctor Baines, and unless you cooperate with me, you will be responsible for the death of Daniella Renault.”
Christ! Baines thought, that was direct and to the point, wasn’t it? He regulated his expression, careful to keep the depth of his concern from his face. He leaned back and nodded, the gesture speaking for itself.
“You’re a very cautious man, Doctor,” Ayers smiled, no warmth at all in the shift of expression. “And a reasonable one, I hope.”
“Maybe you should just cut to the chase here, and tell me what the hell you want from me and Daniella.”
“From Daniella, nothing,” Steven said, anger settling into his green gaze. “She’s merely the tool I am using.”
“To what end, for Christ’s sake?” Baines demanded, suddenly furious in the face of this eerie calm. He rose only to be immediately pushed back into his chair. He glanced over his shoulder, saw the man who’d been with Ayers when they were picked up, and he made a conscious decision to be more careful. The last thing they needed was for him to get heroic and have them shot for the effort. “She’s just a scared young woman, Ayers. And one of the few truly decent ones I’ve ever met. If you want anything from me, you’d best leave her to hell alone!”
“I merely want you to do what I’m sure you’ve been wanting to do for some time now,” Ayers replied with no trace of Baines’ anger.
“You might want to explain that,” Chris pointed out. “It’s been a rough day, and I seem to be missing something.”
“I simply want you to sleep with Martin Fowler’s lover,” Steven said softly, watching the brown eyes for reaction.
Laughter was the probably last thing the man had anticipated, yet Baines did precisely that; Chris shook his head at the absurdity of the idea and laughed in Ayers face.
“You’re out of your mind if you think I have any intention of touching that girl for your pleasure,” Chris decreed. The disbelief was rapidly being replaced by anger, and he eased back into his seat and waited.
“Would you rather I let one of my men enjoy her company?” Ayers asked, a hint of irritation creeping into his tone.
It didn’t take Chris long to realize that the man was being perfectly serious and he felt a tremor of apprehension working up his spine at the recognition. He’d seen only two other men since their arrival at this house outside the city limits, and he was sure neither of them would hesitate to do whatever Ayers wanted.
“Why?” he asked, sincerely wanting an answer. “What the hell will destroying Daniella accomplish for you.”
“It’s not Daniella’s destruction I want, Baines,” Steven said in a low voice. “I owe her lover a debt of blood—your cooperation will determine whether Fowler pays that price, or if it will be this child you both love so much.”
Chris felt an invisible trap springing shut, and panic lit a flame of urgency within him. There had to be more to it than he was being told, having him make love to Daniella wouldn’t hurt Martin, unless... Jesus! he thought, they were going to take pictures, or something equally appealing. Still, he hadn’t figured any other options available, yet.
“If I agree to this, what the hell makes you think Daniella will? She loves Fowler; she sure as hell won’t betray that willingly.”
“Well,” Steven laughed, satisfaction coloring the sound. “At least we know the idea isn’t altogether unattractive to you. She’s a beautiful woman, though, isn’t she? It would be a pity to have to change that.”
“She won’t go along with this,” Chris repeated, trying to keep the hint of despair from his tone. He could feel the noose tightening and knew he was losing the battle to keep Daniella safe.
“Then you’ll have to persuade her, won’t you?” Ayers told him, ice in the words. “You’re a doctor, Baines, I assume you can administer something that will make her more than willing to share your bed for us.”
“You want me to drug her, then betray her.” Chris closed his eyes and felt the sting of tears amid his rage. If he did this, and there was little choice but to do it, he’d be betraying something very precious to him, Daniella’s trust. It would be a bitter loss.
“The alternative is to give her to Eddie,” Steven said, his nod indicating the man standing at the door. “He really is very anxious to have you decline.”
I’ll bet! Chris thought in a wave of loathing. “I haven’t got anything to give her,” he stalled, knowing it would be futile.
“Tell me what you’ll need, and I’ll see that you have it once we arrange things.”
Baines said nothing, and when he stood up this time, he was allowed to leave the study. A hand on his arm pointed him back toward the room he’d left Daniella in earlier. He walked ahead of Eddie and tried to think of some way to refuse Ayers, a way that wouldn’t get Daniella killed, or raped by the imposing bulk presently following Chris’ every movement. He was stopped at the door. Eddie unlocked it, then flung Baines into the room. The slam of the door registered in the same instant as Daniella’s absence, and Chris launched himself at the closed exit.
He barely suppressed the enraged shout that rose in his throat, but he stumbled back and flopped onto the bed, refusing to voice his panic for their amusement. He shuddered into a tremor of impotent fury as the truth of his predicament sank in for perhaps the first time. He was expected to seduce one of his closest friends, betray everything she held dear, and still hope that Daniella would understand if they both survived the mess.
Then there was Martin.
Chris collapsed on the bed and moaned softly in an agony that was pure emotional turmoil. It wouldn’t matter if he survived this; the reprieve would be brief because if he did what they wanted of him, Fowler was certain to kill him…