Toni has graciously agreed to give an ebook copy of Storm Warning to one lucky commenter.
What We Are Saying...
Toni Anderson, a native of the UK, is a former marine biologist who conducted her Ph.D. at the Gatty Marine Laboratory in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. However, she now lives in Manitoba, Canada with her husband and children.
So what does a marine biologist do to escape the long brutal winters in the Canadian prairies? She writes romantic mystery and suspense and sets her stories in stunning locations where she's lived and worked--the blustery east coast of Scotland, the remote isolated mining communities of Northern Labrador, the rugged landscapes of the U.S. and the Red Center of Australia. Toni joined us for a discussion about her books on Monday, now she's sharing an excerpt of her new book Edge of Survival. So grab your favorite beverage, relax and prepare to be entertained.
Back Cover Copy...
Dr. Cameran Young knew her assignment wouldn't be easy. As lead biologist on the Environment Impact Assessment team, her findings would determine the future of a large mining project in the northern Canadian bush. She expected rough conditions and hostile miners—but she didn't expect to find a dead body her first day on the job.
Former SAS Sergeant Daniel Fox forged a career as a helicopter pilot, working as far from the rest of the human race as possible. The thrill of flying makes his civilian life bearable, and he lives by his mantra: don't get involved. But when he's charged with transporting the biologist to her research vessel, he can't help but get involved in the murder investigation—and with Cameran, who awakens emotions he's desperate to suppress.
In the harsh and rugged wilderness, Daniel and Cameran must battle their intense and growing attraction while keeping ahead of a killer who will stop at nothing to silence her…
In Harm’s Way
USS John Paul Jones
“Hey, boys! The strippers are here!”
Guffaws of laughter hooted through the crowd as Cam dropped her backpack to the bare wooden floor and released a whoosh of air. “Yeah, yeah. Very funny.”
She leaned on the bar, adjusted her ball cap, feeling hot and lightheaded. Her hands shook, her mouth tasted of aviation fuel and dirt. Not a good way to start a twelve-week stint in the Canadian wilderness. She slipped her hand into the back pocket of her worn-out jeans and grabbed her wallet, relieved to have almost reached her destination.
“Give me a cranberry juice and a tomato juice, please,” Cam asked the bartender. On today’s four flights—so far—she’d used up half her emergency granola bars. A helicopter was supposed to pick them up here in Frenchmans Bight for the short hop to the ship where they’d be stationed for the next three months, but the pilot wasn’t here yet.
The bartender put the cranberry juice in front of her and she chugged back half the glass and left the rest on the bar. She needed a quick sugar fix. The tomato juice would stop her stomach from feeling as if her throat had been cut.
“Vikki? What do you want to drink?”
“Get me a vodka and tonic, hon, and make it a double if this ship we’re on really is dry.” The blonde made dry sound like leprous.
Vikki Salinger was a Ph.D. student in the lab where Cam was now a post-doctoral research fellow. They’d been friends as undergraduates, but the other girl had taken a break from science to earn a mint modeling. Needless to say, Cam didn’t have any catwalk in her past, present or future.
Vikki looked around the shabby room for somewhere to sit. Cam took stock of her surroundings and figured this remote Labrador mining community wouldn’t know what hit it. Every person in the bar had a Y chromosome, and testosterone lit the air like campfire smoke.
Cam paid the bartender and, drinks in hand, shoved her backpack across the floor with her foot toward the table Vikki chose. Cam left Vikki’s luggage where it sat, blocking the entrance like some oversized Barbie accessory. Yes, she was cranky. Eighteen hours of traveling had taken some of the pep out of her usually sunny demeanor.
An older guy with bushy silver eyebrows, wearing mud-caked boots and a black-and-gray plaid shirt, sidled over from the herd of men.
“So, what’re two purdy things like you doing in a roughneck joint like this?” His cheeks were ruddy, and a gold tooth winked from deep inside his mouth.
Vikki leaned back and let her eyes travel over him the way she did every man who came within touching distance. Age didn’t matter. The fact she was already screwing Cam’s boss, her own Ph.D. supervisor, didn’t matter either.
“What’s your name?” Vikki asked.
“I’m Dwight Wineberg. I’m in charge of the exploratory mining operation ’round here.” He puffed out his chest and hid the hand with his wedding band beneath the table.
Cam took a long draw of tomato juice and watched the interaction from beneath her lashes. In terms of attractiveness, Dwight turned her stomach, which, as a reaction based purely on looks, proved she was just as shallow as he was.
Vikki curved her lips into a smile, and the whole bar lit up like dry tinder in a forest fire. Cam grinned around her straw. She eyed the menu written on a chalkboard behind the bar—moose stew and caribou burgers? Ugh. Hopefully she’d get something more appetizing on the ship.
“And who are you?” Dwight asked.
“I’m Vikki, and this here is Cameran.” Vikki indicated Cam without looking at her and Dwight didn’t even pretend to glance away from the blue-eyed blonde.
Cam held her glass with both hands. “We’re part of the Environmental Impact Assessment team looking at how building a hydroelectric dam will impact Arctic char migration.” She spoke loudly because some of the guys were still looking pretty hopeful about the stripper thing.
Dwight swiveled his head and assessed her with heavy-lidded eyes. “You gonna wreck the chances for these men to earn a decent living?”
She blinked. Crap, she should have kept her mouth shut; the miners would be naturally suspicious and hostile.
Vikki raised her glass and fluttered her lashes. “Why, Dwight, what on earth do you mean?” Her voice was pitched dumb-blonde perfect. Cam wondered why men didn’t hear the steel mechanisms turning with quartz precision inside the other girl’s mind.
Dwight shot Cam a glare. “You tree-hugger types.”
Cam had never hugged a tree in her life, although some of her ex-boyfriends were a bit wooden. She snorted, pulled a pack of Life Savers from her pocket and popped one in her mouth.
Saliva glistened on Dwight’s lips. “Interfering with a man’s right to take what’s his.” He looked between her and Vikki, anger settling into his jaw. “Hunting, fishing, mining…”
If he added women to the list, Cam was going to sock him. Save her from middle-aged machismo. “Look, we’re doing a baseline study on fish migration to try and minimize the impact of the mine on wildlife. We are not trying to close you down.” Her goal was to run a before-and-after study on the effects of hydroelectric dams and mining industries on char physiology and behavior. She couldn’t do that unless they built the dam.
Dwight didn’t look convinced. Maybe if she flashed her boobs he’d be charming again? She grimaced because he gave her the creeps. A few guys were staring at them like they were fresh meat.
“Aren’t there any women in this camp?” Cam eyed the distance to the exit, a little unnerved to find herself in the middle of a Stephen King novel.
Dwight’s eyes glittered beneath those thick caterpillar brows, and a small, cruel smile played around his mouth. “Sure, there are women.” His voice carried over the low buzz of conversation, and everyone went quiet. “A secretary, a cook and a couple of camp bikes.” His washed-out brown eyes fixed on hers, waiting for her reaction.
“Bikes?” At first she didn’t get it.
“Everybody’s rode ’em.” His smile was tight and satisfied. A couple of the guys laughed as they listened to the exchange.
Cam narrowed her eyes. She was a big believer in live-and-let-live, but this guy was a piece of work. “What does that make you?” she asked him.
“What d’you mean?” He pulled back his shoulders.
“If you all rode them, by which I assume you mean had sex, then that makes you their bike too, doesn’t it?”
Vikki’s lips puckered as if holding back a laugh. Cam shot her a look, but the other girl concentrated on wiping lipstick from the edge of her glass. It pissed Cam off when men treated women badly, but that sort of talk never seemed to bother Vikki. Probably because she dissed men the same way men dissed women. And Cam hated it.
But she needed to diffuse the situation because her blood pressure was way more important than debating environmental issues or equality with fifty hulking miners who looked like they knew exactly where to dump their dead battered bodies. Surreptitiously, she slipped her medical emergency bracelet under her cuff.
She checked her watch, wondered where the hell the pilot was. On cue, a dark shadow fell across her shoulder. But the guy wasn’t looking at her. His indigo eyes were fixed on Vikki with a gleam Cam had seen a thousand times. She resisted rolling her eyes and instead used the time to study his face, the slightly bent nose, the deep cleft in his chin, the short dark hair. Good-looking for sure, but no pretty boy.
Handsome with attitude.
Vikki stared at the stranger like a cat about to lick cream from all over his naked body.
Cam caught her friend’s eye. “Stripper’s here,” she whispered, trying to summon a smile.
“About damn time,” Vikki agreed, looking back at the guy and flicking her hair across her shoulder.
“You must be the ladies I’ve been looking for.”
The accent was British and Cam didn’t like the way it stroked her James Bond fantasies. Even so, a huge bubble of relief swelled inside her. He must be their pilot and she couldn’t wait to get out of here.
“Your whole life?” Cam quipped, twisting to look over her shoulder.
“Just the last ten minutes.” His brow rose in amusement.
“I’m wounded.” She plastered a hand to her heart.
“I bet you are.” A dimple flashed, camouflaged by stubble. “Dr. Cameran Young and her able assistant, I presume?”
“You’re the helicopter pilot?”
Thank God. She might have hugged him if he hadn’t been so overtly male. But he got marks for maintaining eye contact when most men would have shoved her out of the way so they could hit on Vikki.
With the scrape of a chair across the floorboards, Dwight Wineberg rose to his feet, swinging the neck of his beer bottle loosely from his fingers. “You ladies watch yourselves out here. World’s a dangerous place.” And he turned and walked away, back to his cronies.
Cam didn’t know if that was a threat or a warning.
“I’m the able assistant,” Vikki held out her hand, “Vikki.”
“Daniel Fox.” He bent to kiss her hand. “Nice to meet you, Vikki.”
This time Cam did roll her eyes. She kicked back her chair and stood, knocking her shoulder into Daniel Fox’s steel-plate chest.
“Sorry.” Cam flashed her own dimples and tried to maneuver around him, but he took a half step to block her path. The bill of her cap obscured her view so she had to tilt her head way back to meet sharp, intelligent eyes. For a split second they flashed with some indefinable emotion before studiously going flat. She backed up, bumped into the table.
“Two minutes—” he glanced at the bartender, “—and we’ll be on our way.”
“I’m just going to the restroom.” Cam tried to circle around him, but he stopped her with a firm grip on her shoulder and leaned close to her ear.
“Don’t wander off.” His voice was low and hypnotic, his eyes fixed on hers. She didn’t like the heat his touch spread to parts of her body that should have been stone cold. Some of the other patrons watched them speculatively. The warm, smoke-filled bar felt suddenly claustrophobic, and Cam’s cheeks burned.
“I’m not a kid.”
But he wasn’t looking at her anymore, he was smiling at Vikki. Cam pulled out of his grasp and walked away, irritated that her friend was already laughing at something he said in that rich, smooth accent of his.
It was belittling to recognize the green-eyed monster jumping up and down like a big fat frog in her head. She headed out of the main bar and down the narrow corridor toward the washroom. Men fell for Vikki like dominoes in an earthquake, but jealous was not the sort of person Cam wanted to be. Unfortunately she wasn’t the sort of woman to settle for second best either, which left her a little short on dates lately.
A single naked bulb lit the corridor, highlighting the rough timber floor stained various shades of brown. Every time she raised her foot, the soles of her boots stuck slightly and made a noise like sticky-tape being stretched off a roll. Yuck. She didn’t want to think about the origin of those brown stains.
A corkboard on the wall covered in flyers and notices advertised everything from snowmobile and guide services to local Inuit and Innu handicrafts. Cam passed the gents’, heard the flush of a cistern and hurried because she didn’t want to meet whoever was in there when she was alone. Farther along the hallway, she pushed open the heavy door into the ladies’ room and stopped dead.
Although it was still daylight outside, it was impenetrably dark inside. She tried to hold her breath as she groped for the light switch, her hands scrambling over the cheap paneling in short frantic swipes. The floor was tacky, water hissed through pipes in the background, and the smell… Dear God. She found the switch, and the fluorescent tube flickered and spat until it finally settled on a sullen half glow. She hurried into the second cubicle, noticing the first door was shut.
When she was done, she came out of the stall, pumped soap into her hands and held them under the tap. The fine hairs on her nape vibrated with apprehension. Why is that first stall closed? There was no movement within, and chills crept over her skin. The place stank badly enough that she didn’t want to spend any longer than necessary here, but still she hesitated.
A bag was propped against the bottom of the door, suggesting someone might actually be in there. Was someone sleeping off a drinking binge? Alcohol was a huge problem in some of these remote communities.
“Hey, do you need any help?” she called, trying to make her voice bright and cheery. She ended up sounding weird.
There was no reply. What if they were sick? Alcohol poisoning? Influenza? Diabetic coma? Approaching the door, Cam rapped her knuckles on the chipboard. No response, but the door creaked slightly.
“Hello?” She raised her voice. “Do you need any help?” Still no answer. No sound at all except the hiss of pipes and wasp-like buzz of the light. Maybe there wasn’t anyone there, just a bag of stuff on the floor.
She hesitated. She should just walk away.
Unlike most public restrooms, there were no gaps between the door and the walls. Chewing her bottom lip, Cam decided to risk a swift peek beneath the door. If the person was drunk they might be a little annoyed to be spied on. If they were ill, they’d be grateful. She crouched down and peered awkwardly under the door, past the bag.
A young woman sat on the toilet, fully clothed, her head resting against the bare wooden wall, long raven hair spilling in a tangled heap around her shoulders. Mouth stretched wide, throat slit, exposing the blue-white gleam of cartilage, cuprous blood drenching the front of her sweatshirt.
Dead. Definitely dead.
Cam’s stomach coiled into a thousand snakes. She stumbled away, wanting to yell for help even though the woman was long past saving. Blindly she ran, yanking open the door then slamming into a chest that brought her up short and hard.
“Easy.” Daniel held tight to the woman who quivered in his grasp. “What’s the problem?”
The Doc wrapped her arms around his waist in a vise-grip and buried her nose next to his heart. It felt odd, holding someone like this. So odd that for a brief moment he allowed the contact and squeezed her back, experiencing a weird flutter inside his chest.
“There’s a d-d-dead woman.”
He maneuvered her back into the restroom, propped her against a sink, untangling her fingers from their death grip across his spine. He needed to assess the situation but he hesitated when he saw the expression on the Doc’s face—he’d forgotten what true innocence looked like.
Huge sea-green eyes rose to meet his. She pointed at the cubicle door. The only unknown in the room.
Whoa, that smell…blood and bowels and violent death. He checked beneath the stall, careful not to touch anything because he did not want to get on the radar of a criminal investigation. Sylvie Watson. Throat cut. Dead as a doornail. It felt like one of his more vivid flashbacks, but without the pounding heart or cold sweat.
He looked at the Doc. She was shaking violently, her hand covering her mouth as if fighting the urge to throw up.
“D-did you know her?” she asked.
He didn’t know anyone. Not anymore. And they didn’t know him. That was the way he liked it.
“Her name was Sylvie Watson.” He waited for some form of emotion—sadness, regret, guilt—but all he got was numbness. Death didn’t feel real anymore. Maybe the problem was that death had never felt real.
The sound of the Doc’s breathing was harsh, matching the hiss of the light strip above his head. The nearest she’d been to a dead body was probably curled up on the sofa watching CSI. Her chest hitched repeatedly as she started to hyperventilate. Shit. He wanted to turn on his heel and walk away, leave her and her friend to maneuver this minefield on their own. He didn’t want to rescue her. He didn’t save people. Not anymore.
But these women were his job, and his job was the only thing that stopped him from stepping out of an aircraft at ten thousand feet without a chute.
“We have to call the cops.” Her voice was hoarse with strain.
“We’ll radio RCMP from the aircraft.”
“We can’t just leave her here!” she shrieked.
He grabbed her shoulders and shook her hard enough that her gaze snapped to his. Close protection training kicking in after a two-year void. “She’s dead and I have no clue who killed her.” He hated the way his instincts took over. A cop would have protected the scene but he wasn’t a cop. “They could be in the bar just waiting to pick out their next victim.”
Her face lost the last vestige of color.
“Let’s get you to the ship.” He took her arm, pushed her out the door and down the corridor so fast she tripped and he had to catch her under the arms to support her. “Stay here.” He left her by the door. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Frenchmans Bight when the Mounties discovered this mess. He’d had enough notoriety to last him ten lifetimes.
The Doc clung to the doorjamb while he marched over and hoisted her rucksack onto his back.
“Time to go,” he told the blonde. He glanced around the bar, looking for anyone paying them too much attention. But no one was giving themselves away except Dwight glaring at him with his usual bulldog scowl.
Daniel had already squared his tab with the barman. He gave the guy a nod, and he knew he should tell him about Sylvie. But his priority, whether he liked it or not, was getting these two women out of harm’s way. He turned and headed to where the Doc was still hanging onto the doorframe like a drunk on a rough sea.
She was shaking uncontrollably, so he put his arm around her waist and half carried her out of the bar. She wasn’t delicate or weak, thank God. She felt strong and supple beneath his fingers, but she was in danger of slipping into a state of shock that would slow him down. He wasn’t being nice. He was being efficient.
Moving fast, he propelled her over the wooden boardwalks and scanned the nearby black spruce forest. If the killer wasn’t in the bar, he was in those woods watching the action. Awareness prickled as unseen eyes followed their progress.
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