Let's check out the details, shall we?
Dream trip, tragic destination.
Follow Mara Ellington’s trip across Europe riding the Orient-Express where she suddenly gets entangled in a complicated terrorist attack threat.
As she rushed down London’s Victoria Station, feisty Air Traffic Controller Mara Ellington fought her apprehensions about this journey. It was no longer the trip of a lifetime she had dreamed about with her best friend. Instead, fate had turned this exciting adventure into a lonely voyage to honor her deathbed’s wish. After arriving at the train’s platform, a strange incident will leave her baffled but not as much as her unexpected confrontation with Counter-Terrorist Agent Drake Steinfield who has also boarded the legendary Orient-Express, on a mission to thwart a terrorist threat.
The sexy and tenacious agent is on the tail of an elusive Al-Qaeda Extremist leader who has planned a string of massive explosions along the train’s route. Additionally, he may be using the tourist as a pawn in his schemes and according to the CT agent, this makes her his best lead to stop him. Mara and Steinfield will need to join their forces and race against the terrorist’s deadline to prevent these massive tragedies, if they can put aside their clashing personalities and growing attraction. What destiny awaits them down the line of this Express Pursuit?
August 25th, 2017, London, Victoria Station, Morning
I never go back on my word because a promise is a promise. But still, rushing to catch a vintage Express train instead of using a modern aircraft seemed ludicrous to me. Granted, I wasn’t laughing last night when my New York to London flight took off with a ninety-minute delay.
Like a maniac, I ran across London’s Victoria Station, afraid that I’d be too late to reach Platform No. 2 in time for my departure. I caught my breath for a second and glimpsed at the legendary train up ahead, painted in milk-chocolate brown and custard gold. Further up, the stationmaster, in full livery, waited for the passengers to complete their boarding procedures. At a small temporary desk, over which stood a banner reading Venice Simplon Orient Express, a steward was greeting the last incoming travelers for the VSOE while handing out glasses of champagne. I, Mara Ellington, was about to embark on a trip across Europe aboard one of the most illustrious trains in history.
I resumed my sprint, racing past the different gates. Platform No.2, along with Platform No.1, stood at the extreme end of the station. As I approached, my eyes began to sting and water. After a couple of useless blinks, I had to stop again as my throat also became irritated, as if I had been running at a breakneck speed for hours. The pause allowed me to rummage for my ticket in my overstuffed Chanel purse, but my eyes burned like hell now. I lifted my head and wrinkled my nose from the strong acrid smell coming from a white cloud of smoke spreading on the nearby platform about fifty feet away.
The noise level in the station moved up a couple of decibels as I got closer to my destination. A moment later, dozens of travelers were running in all directions, some coughing and crouching. The chaos was denser up ahead at the front of the platform. By now, whistles and automated alarms were ringing all around the platform. I didn’t have time to examine the scene further as something forceful yanked me down from behind.
The impact reverberated in my skull when I hit the concrete floor and within seconds, a sharp pain detonated in the back of my head as dark spots flashed in front of me. Did I black out? I couldn’t be sure, but my eyes struggled to focus.
The hard surface of the concrete offered no comfort to my aching head and stiff back. What in the world had hit me? It appeared that I was the only one to have been a victim to this invisible earthquake, judging by my quick survey of my surroundings. The white cloud at the next platform had dissipated. Dozens of uniformed security men arrived, running and barking orders.
Everything happened so fast and l still had no clue what I was doing on the floor.
I took a visual inventory of my body parts, checking for visible injuries. I lay sprawled with my left knee up while my other leg was stretched out at an awkward angle. The slit of my skirt had ripped further up, revealing the full length of my thigh. I pushed the now messy tangles off my flushed face. At least I wasn’t bleeding. There was nothing graceful about my fall. I kept looking around to see what had hit me. My purse’s contents, scattered everywhere around me, had likely flown out during the fall. My carry-on had tipped on the floor. As I turned my head the other way, I saw a man crouched beside me. His turned down face was hidden by the hat, sunglasses and bandana he wore over his nose. I couldn’t discern much of his cast down face. Following the direction of his eyes, I caught a pair of hairy hands and a flash of silver, but before I could make any sense of what I saw he was already up and running away toward the exits. Had he stolen anything from me?
“Hey! Wait! Stop!” I croaked, unable to yell louder because my throat still burned from the scratch of the pungent smoke. I coughed several times and tried to get up to run after the likely thief, but a fit a dizziness prevented me.
This whole situation was beyond crazy. Had the smoke been caused by a fire or had a bomb exploded? I struggled to get up again, pulling down my skirt while straightening myself up. Upon sitting upright, I checked my head, sliding my fingers over the painful small lump forming on the back of my skull. Ouch. A steward rushed in my direction but someone else got to me first.
Dressed in black from head to toe, the approaching man reached me with a swift grace and leaned over me. Definitely eye candy. Mid-thirties, tousled brown hair, and a light stubble on his jaw. He was sporting a rugged sophistication typical of publicity shots for Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine.
“Are you hurt, Miss?” He frowned with an unusual pair of green eyes.
“No, I don’t think so, but I think someone may have robbed me. I caught him hovering over my purse for a second, but he ran out when I called after him.”
He studied me from top to bottom, like a doctor assessing a patient for injuries. Satisfied with his findings, his frown morphed into another kind of expression. This one had nothing professional about it. A slow grin eased his well-defined jaw, a hint of the mischievous nature hiding behind his features. I could have sworn that he was giving me a quick overall glance as if assessing my figure!
The man certainly had an imposing presence. Measuring, I’d say, six foot one, with a lean but athletic build, he gave a commanding presence despite the laid-back attitude he had first shown. Not what one would call a beefcake, but he sure exhibited an aura of strength and determination. The easiness with which he could shift from a devil-may-care feline grace to a calculating predator disconcerted me. My primal instincts warmed me against his magnetic animal charm. I hated to admit it, but I was ill equipped to deal with such a potent combination.
“Did you see what he looked like? Which way did he go?” he asked, his attitude now turned all businesslike.
“Gray trench coat, baseball cap and a bandana over his nose. He ran off toward the exits before I could stop him,” I said.
The handsome man turned and scanned the area, but it was already too late. Likely, the mystery man with the bandana must be far away by now.
“Here, let me help you…Miss?” He bent, handing me with precise dexterity all the items from my purse that had flown down on the floor.
“Ellington, Mara Ellington.” With haste, I stuffed the items back into my purse. When he handed me my wallet, I opened every section to take an inventory.
“Anything missing?” A brief look of concern creased his brow.
By this time, a security officer was arriving in my direction while an army of other ones where bringing order back on Platform No.1.
I frowned, closing my wallet. “No, there is nothing missing.”
Now, I should have been relieved, but I was not. This incident was beyond strange. Someone must have pushed me down. This couldn’t be an accident. But if it was not to rob me, what was this about? I scanned the crowd in case I spotted the man I thought was running away, but it was in vain. There was too much commotion with the chaos going on in the next platform and whoever he was, he must have used the disruption to disappear quickly.
“Did you see the man running away from me?”
“No, I’m sorry, I was busy helping the team of security agents by Platform No.1.”
“What happened over there?” I pointed my chin in that direction.
“It’s still under investigation, but it looks like someone threw a tear gas bomb.”
He leaned over, offering me help to get up. His large hands were strong and sure, but the contact of his skin shot a flash of tingling electricity through me. He lifted me without the least bit of effort although my legs were still unsteady. His tall and solid frame exceeded my height by a good six inches.
He ran his right hand along the back of my head. “Maybe you should have yourself checked out by the paramedics over there.” He jutted his head toward Platform No. 1. “You might have a concussion.”
His proximity sped my heart rate and flushed me with erratic heat waves followed by cold sweats. Let’s stay calm, I reminded myself.
“No. I think I’ll be fine.”
“Well, have a safe trip, miss,” he said, extending his hand. His eyes bore into mine as if he was looking for something. Under different circumstances, I might have looked for an excuse to prolong the conversation, but I couldn’t find anything smart to say as my mind remained still half dumb from my fall.
I stared at his outstretched hand and mumbled a stupid, “Thanks for your help, sir.”
“No problem, and stay out of trouble.” He winked, flashing me a killer smile before leaving to rejoin the team of security agents and police force busy with the nearby commotion. Because he wore no uniform, I gathered he wasn’t part of either group, but still his attitude hinted he might be someone working on official business here. That’s it. That’s what I should have asked him about, but it was too late; he was already out of ear shot.
Perhaps I was suffering from a distorted imagination because I had been half knocked out, but the moment his warm fingers left my hand, I almost missed their contact on my flesh for some inexplicable reason. I dismissed the fleeting sensation.
I must have been jittery from the accumulated stress built over these last few weeks. To start, three weeks ago my lifelong best friend and confidant, Josie, who was supposed to accompany me on this trip, had passed away as a result of a car accident. I felt responsible for her death because I’m the one who had been driving that fateful night. There was not a single day that passed since when I did not feel the snaking tightness of remorse. I didn’t want to go on this journey alone, feeling sorry for myself, but she made me promise, before she died, to go on with this trip as planned. I guess she thought it would give me time to get over another failed relationship and give me the occasion to travel.
Two months ago, I had caught my boyfriend cheating on me. Could this get any worse? Josie always complained that as an air traffic controller, I insured the safety of thousands of airline passengers daily, but the irony is that I seldom traveled myself. At least, when I arrived at my final destination, I’d get to reunite with my globe trotter elder sister Sylvia whom I hadn’t seen for two years.
As I walked along the side of the train glancing through its windows, I noticed that almost everyone had already boarded. Most travelers were darting looks toward Platform No.1 as disorder still reigned in the station. Like me, they must have been wondering if they would be asked to disembark and evacuate the train station.
“Did you actually think this whole situation would disappear overnight? They need a full deposition. Must I remind that you may carry a deadly piece of equipment and that until I or the local authorities find it, I expect you to follow police and securities official requests.”
I took a step back upon hearing his loaded statement.
“What do you want me to do?” I almost yelled at him. “I don’t have your bloody piece of equipment. You searched all of my luggage already.” Taking a quick look around the room and at his face, I added, “And I’m sure you had another go at it last night while I slept.” His lips curved discreetly, but the cat was out of the bag. He didn’t deny it. During my quick survey of the room, I noticed a strange recess on the mattress beside where I slept.
A group of tourists passed around us with their camera aiming everywhere. A few were focusing on us. He locked his attention on something behind me, and his expression became even more rigid, calculating. I had reached my limit of intrigue for the day and was about to open my mouth to protest when he grabbed me by the waist with a firm hand and pulled me to him.
“Be quiet,” he ordered.
A soft gasp escaped me as he crashed his lips on mine, muffling my protest. Shocked, I only registered his brutal attack which held an unsuspected need and possessiveness. He was quick to readjust his pressure and eased up his mouth over mine to hover his lips in a most frustrating and teasing manner. Bewildered, I should have resisted or at least tried to pull back. To my defense, the firm hand on my back was now massaging me slowly into submission while his other hand remained tangled in my hair. He continued his superficial lip exploration, and a moment later I almost fell backward when without warning he pulled away, straightening up to scan the street again.
“It’s okay, they’re gone now,” he said with a cool and detached tone.
So, what are readers saying about this book?
★★★★★ “Overall, a really interesting romantic thriller. Romance, international luxury travel, saving the day from terrorists - there are a lot of fantastic elements that make this story really appealing to readers.” - M. Szep, Amazon
★★★★★ “A mix of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series (FBI agent, terrorists, etc) and Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense). It’s classic romantic suspense meets espionage meets history and international travel all rolled into one.” - M. Lottele, Amazon
★★★★★ “The balance between suspense and drama, with a splash of comedy, was perfect. There was enough romance and sexual tension to keep me entertained, yet it was clean enough for me to consider buying for my nieces.” - Kathy B., Amazon
★★★★★ “Fantastic debut novel. Wow, is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about this story. This author's debut novel is nothing short of an amazing read. Her characters are so well written and developed that you feel like you know them. So precisely laid out and detailed that you don't just read it, you live it with her characters. I immensely enjoyed having the chance to read and experience this story of suspense and just the right dose of romance.” - Nikkita B., Amazon
★★★★★ “Action-packed with plenty of romance. This is a great book from a new author that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. I loved the tension between the two main characters and all of the twists and turns along the way.” - GirlMom2, Amazon
Average rating - 4.5 stars on Amazon
Wow, it sounds like such a riveting read!
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Now, for the fun prize...
☆.•°☆ GIVEAWAY! ☆°•.☆
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MORE DETAILS: The prize is 5 ebook copies of Express Pursuit. If the five champs leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads for Caroline's book, they get a chance to be put into another raffle to receive a $20 Amazon gift card and a complimentary copy of crime thriller novel, The Rescue Nurse by J. Philip Horne. For this giveaway, there will be five winners, but for the off-site future contest, there is only one winner. So, basically two chances to win in one shot! How cool is that? 😉
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About the Author:
Caroline Beauregard draws her inspiration for her romantic thriller from her passion for travel. She works in Health Care and her broad background ranges from comparative literature, anthropology and history of art. She lives in Montreal with her husband and Siamese cats. Her newsletters about fun facts and bonus material about the book are available on her website.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Beauregard/e/B086HYJL4T/
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