Tag Archives: human trafficking

Guest Release–HUNTED By Marissa Garner

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BLURB:

Hot agents on explosive cases in the FBI Heat series: For San Diego’s elite FBI agents, risking their lives is standard procedure when it comes to capturing the city’s most dangerous criminals—but falling in love is the greatest risk of all.  

Catching bad guys in San Diego’s underworld isn’t just FBI Special Agent Ben Alfren’s job, it’s his life. He doesn’t have time for a serious relationship, doesn’t want one either. So when he meets his sexy new neighbor, Amber Jollett, he has nothing more in mind than unwinding with a glass of wine, a romantic walk on the beach…and maybe a hot fling.

But Amber is more than he bargained for. Hunted by an obsessed ex-boyfriend, the fiercely independent nurse chooses fight over flight for the chance at a future with her hot, blue-eyed neighbor. When she gets caught up in Ben’s plans to rescue five kidnapped women, their lives get entangled and their attraction flares into passion. But they’ll learn that in this dangerous game of cat and mouse, real love can save—or doom—them . . .

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EXCERPT:

The man in the gray hoodie was watching her. Amber Jollett couldn’t see his face, but he was the right height and build. Even from the opposite street corner, the intensity of his stare bored into her. She shivered despite the sunny morning.

Her focus never wavered as she slid behind two people. The man’s head turned with her movement.

The traffic light changed, and the crowd surged forward. Amber’s hand dug into her purse until it gripped reassuring metal. Weaving between bodies, she moved to the outside edge to put as much distance as possible between her and the man before the other pedestrians passed on the street. With each step, her heart beat faster.

Halfway across, the man reached up, pulled back the hood…and smiled. Straight black hair. Almond-shaped eyes. Asian features.

Not him.

Amber’s knees went weak with relief.

Not him. Not this time.

A car horn blared. She jumped and spun around to find a taxi idling a few feet away, its driver gesturing impatiently for her to get out of the way. Waving an apology, she scurried across the street. She found a spot out of the pedestrian flow next to the corner of a building. She needed a moment to quiet her nerves.

She braced her hands on the knees of her pastel pink nurse’s scrubs, inhaled deep breaths, and released them slowly. Fear began to fade as calm returned.

Damn you, Jeremy Nelson. I want my life back.

Amber grimaced and closed her eyes. It was starting all over again. Two years had passed since she’d broken up with her obsessed boyfriend, but he continued to stalk her. Restraining orders and calls to law enforcement had proved useless. Now she alone was responsible for her safety. She’d lived in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, for only two months. But two or three months was the amount of time it normally took for Jeremy to find her. From now on, she would have to be on constant alert. The worst part was imagining him wearing every hoodie, hiding in every shadow, or following in every vehicle. Usually, she didn’t wait for an actual sighting—that would be too late. No, she couldn’t hesitate. Once her instincts told her he was closing in, she had to move on. She cringed. How much longer will I be hunted?

Small FBI Heat graphic

BIO:

Marissa is a wife, writer, chocoholic, and animal lover, not necessarily in that order. As a little girl, she cut pictures of people out of magazines and turned them into characters in her stories. Now she writes edgy romantic thrillers and steamy contemporary romance. She lives in SoCal with her husband, but enjoys traveling from Athens to Anchorage and many locations in between.

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Character Interview–The Protector by Diane Burton

 

Please introduce yourself for those who haven’t met you in your author’s other books.

I’m Rissa Dix (that’s pronounced Deece, as you know if you read the other Outer Rim books). I run a tavern in Astron Colony on Galeria 7. I mean Galeriana. The Powers That Be decided to give our planet an official name. I’m still not used to it. Anyway, my tavern caters to space crews and miners. Two companies mine the valuable minerals up in the nearby mountains. Thank the Matriarch they all don’t come at the same time.

Tell us about your family.

What family? My father is/was (I have no idea if he’s still alive) an itinerate preacher. He dragged my mother and me from colony to colony until she had enough and went back to our home planet. I was 12 and wanted to go with her. My father insisted I stay with him, until the day he abandoned me in the worst outpost on the hind end of the universe. How could he preach morality when accompanied by his unmarried pregnant daughter?

How did your upbringing influence who you are today?

I vowed nobody would make me leave my child behind. I’d protect her with all my might. Or so I thought until traffickers stole her <swallows hard> from the sitter while I was at work. I’ve been searching for her ever since.

What was your first thought when you met the hero?

He was a kid. Tall, gangly, bony shoulders that hinted at what he’d look like as an adult. He and his friends—rich kids from the Central Planets who had too many credits, no supervision, and fast starships—came to Astron to rock climb. They were reckless, thrill-seeking fools. To be honest, Dillan was different from the other boys. Instead of hitting the pleasure house across the street with his friends, he hung around my tavern. He helped me a lot, serving thirsty miners and even cleaning up the place after close. I tried shooing him away, but he always came back. I could see he was infatuated with me, the older fem. He was 16, I was 24. For 10 years, I tried to discourage him.

Why did you fall for him?

Who says I did? When he returned after a 6-year absence, I didn’t even recognize him as he helped my friends and I rescue a bunch of kids from a slave ship. Whoa, had he ever changed. He wasn’t a kid anymore. He was a 32-year-old man. I’m a big fem, tall and strong. I have to be to survive on the Frontier. But he’s taller with broad shoulders and a real presence. His sense of humor is irritating but makes me smile. A little. His dogged insistence that we belong together despite our 8-year age difference drives me crazy. I wasn’t going to succumb to his cute smile or the desire lurking in his eyes. Or his kisses. Well, you know what they say about the road to Lexol being paved with good intentions.

Why did you choose your occupation?

It sort of happened. What kind of a job is there for fems with little formal education on the Frontier? I sure wasn’t going to be a pleasure provider. Not that there’s anything wrong with that life if a fem chooses it. Owning a tavern isn’t for the weak. Morning to night, it’s work, work, work. But it’s worth it. I’m my own boss. I take care of what’s mine.

What is the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

<swallows a sob> Losing my baby daughter to traffickers. I spent years searching for her, worrying about her, praying that she was safe. Did they sell her to a good family? Or was she raised to be a prosti? When worry made me so sick I almost died, I knew I had to close off that part of my life. I never stopped looking for her, but I can’t be around babies. Too much pain knowing I’ll never see my child again.

Do you have any hobbies?

Who has time for hobbies? I’m up at dawn to make bread and stew for the customers. Even though I close the tavern at Mid-Night, I still have work to do, tallying receipts, cleaning and preparing for the next day. I don’t even have time to read. That’s why I gave my reader to a girl I rescued. It’s uncanny how much she looks like me at 15. Now she imitates my walk, my mannerisms, even wears her dark hair in one long braid the way I do. I’ve grown quite attached to her. She’s the daughter of my heart.

How would you spend a free day?

Sleep. Actually, Dillan wouldn’t let me. He’d bully me into doing something fun with him, like the time he made me go on vacation with him to a rainforest. He took me up into the canopy. A fantastic sight! When I had to traverse the space between platforms, I was scared to death. He made me go anyway. What a thrill. But the best part was sliding down to the ground. I finally understood what Dillan felt all those years ago. Thrills and excitement like I’d never experienced. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much if I’d know what was to come.

The Protector - Cover 750

Blurb

After tavern owner Rissa Dix rescues two girls from a slave ship, she must rally the townsfolk to prevent traffickers from raiding the frontier colony. She’s met with apathy and disbelief. Because she lost her own baby to traffickers, she’s determined that no other mother will suffer the same heartache. Industrialist heir Dillan Rusteran aids her in rescuing more children. Little do they know they’re about to tangle with a trafficking ring that puts Rissa in danger. Dillan’s loved her for years despite her claim she’s too old for him. As they fight the traffickers, will she finally see him in a new light?

Excerpt

When she heard the rustle, Rissa stopped in the middle of the sanitary. “Whoever you are, come out. Right now.”

Another rustle then the sound of feet lightly hitting the floor. The lock slid open then slowly the door moved.

“Please,” a soft voice whispered. “Don’t hurt us.”

That sounded like a young girl.

“Come out where I can see you.” Rissa, too, whispered.

A tall, dark-haired teen stepped out, followed by a smaller girl with light brown hair. They both looked terrified. Their hair was matted and dirt smudged their faces. Their clothes were filthy. The smells emanating from them contributed to the general san-fac odors. Rissa did her best not to react.

Holding the other girl behind her, the tall one stepped forward, jutting out her chin. “We are not going back.”

“O-kay. Back where?”

“You can’t make us. We’ll escape again.”

Rissa had to admire her bravado. “You escaped? From where?”

“Did they send you in here to get us?”

Since the taller one seemed to be the spokesperson, Rissa kept her eyes on her. Something about her was compelling. Rissa could be looking at herself at the same age. Then it hit her hard, like a blow to the stomach. That was what Miri would have looked like at that age. Same strong Traishan features—olive skin, dark hair and eyes. Same strong will.

Rissa took a deep breath to steady herself before locking the outer door. “Nobody sent me. You asked for help. What can I do?”

“Get us out of here before they discover we’re gone.” Despite the strength in the tall girl’s voice, she worked hard to keep her chin from wobbling.

“Who?” Rissa was afraid she knew.

“Those men. The Chellians. We can’t go back. We won’t.”

By the Matriarch, traffickers.

Her lungs seized, her heart hurt so badly Rissa clutched her chest. Be strong, she told herself. Pull yourself together. No traffickers had ever come to Astron Colony before. Or even to Galeriana. She had to help the girls get away.

She glanced at the window on the far wall.

“We couldn’t open it,” the smaller girl sobbed. “We were trying when you came in. We thought you were them.”

Since Rissa was taller, she could easily reach the window. With a shove, she got it open. “Come.” She motioned to the tall girl. “You first. You can catch your friend. She’s too small to catch you.”

She cupped her hands for the girl’s foot. “Hide outside. I’ll come around and take you somewhere safe.” At the girls’ wary looks, she added, “I promise. Now go before someone comes looking for us.”

Rissa boosted her up to the open window. The tall girl hoisted herself through, disappeared for a moment then stuck her head inside.

“The ground is higher out here. Come, Anaris.” She held out her arms.

The small girl, Anaris, gave Rissa a panicked look. “You’ll come for us?”

The door rattled. “Hey,” a male yelled. “Open up.”

Anaris gave her a panicked look.

“Gimme a min,” Rissa yelled back.

“I promise to come for you,” Rissa whispered then gave her a boost. Like the tall girl, Anaris disappeared through the window.

As Rissa reached to close it, the tall girl was there about to do the same. “Thank you.” She shut the window and ducked out of sight.

Hoping they would wait for her, Rissa walked out of the san-fac. A mech glared at her. “Whadda mean by locking the door?”

“Didn’t want you walking in on me.” She glanced over at a commotion near the freighter where she’d just delivered supplies. “What’s going?”

The pilot was yelling and his two crewmen were darting between ships, searching.

“Damn offworlder.” The mech brushed past her into the san-fac.

When the pilot saw her, he yelled, “What did you do with them?”

Rissa looked around to see who he was shouting at.

“You there.” He stormed up to her. “Where are those two girls?”

She affected a confused expression. “What girls?”

“My cargo, I mean passengers. Damn you to Lexol’s Fire. How did you get them out?”

The pilot’s slip confirmed what Rissa feared. The girls she helped escape had been cargo. The pilot and crew were slavers, bastards who trafficked in children. A primal urge swept through her. Kill them. Kill them now.

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Diane Burton

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and The Case of the Bygone Brother, a PI mystery. She is also a contributor to the anthology How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.

For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com

Connect with Diane Burton online

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Books by Diane Burton:

Switched

Switched, Too

Switched Resolution

The Pilot: An Outer Rim Novel

The Chameleon: An Outer Rim Novel

The Protector: An Outer Rim Novel

One Red Shoe

The Case of the Bygone Brother: An Alex O’Hara Novel

How I Met My Husband (contributor)