Saturday, November 3, 2018

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Sanctuary by RJ Scott Part 2

A series of connected stories set against the backdrop of the Sanctuary Foundation.

Sanctuary, a foundation offering witness protection to anyone whose safety is compromised.

Still Waters #4
Adam's newest assignment for Sanctuary means working with the man who didn't trust him two years ago and destroyed their relationship. He still hates Lee but Jake Callahan, boss of Sanctuary, doesn't give him a choice, insisting they need to get along for the good of the cross-agency case.

Lee wants desperately to understand why Adam betrayed the Bureau. He is still angry and disappointed, but the memory won't leave him alone. The Bullen case is the perfect cover to get back in his ex-lover's life, and he is determined to find out the truth.

Against the backdrop of Sanctuary and the Bullen case can they learn to understand and believe that not everything they thought was true was real?

Full Circle #5
Manny Sullivan is the backbone of Sanctuary. He has his fingers in every pie and when he spots Josh Headley where he shouldn't be, it is Manny who goes in and rescues him.

Josh is in Sanctuary witness protection after his dad turns on the Bullens. Not only is his dad a murderer but his ex is a liar who was using him for information. With his skill in information retrieval, he hopes to make a contribution to the solution.

What started with the death of Elisabeth Costain is drawing to a close and Josh and Manny are in the middle of it all. When Manny risks his life could it finally be time for Josh to risk his heart?

Volume 2
Still Waters
Adam is given an assignment - to work with a man he hates. The same man that didn't trust him two years before and destroyed their relationship in a single day.

Full Circle
Manny Sullivan is the backbone of Sanctuary. He has his fingers in every pie and when he spots Josh Headley where he shouldn't be, it is Manny who goes in and rescues him.

Original Series(#1-7) Review July 2015:
I'm doing an overall series review because in my opinion you can't just read one book, you must read the whole series to fully enjoy the tale.  Yes, each book is a standalone in regards to the couple that is featured and that each book has a separate part of the mystery that begins and ends but the series is centered around the bringing down of the Bullens family.

Now, I will say that some people might be a little put off by the suddenness of each couple getting together but I found them perfectly acceptable for both the characters and the scenarios.  Because of the possible life and death situations that the Sanctuary team members and their subsequent charges are placed in, I felt that it was very believable for each couple to realize grabbing life and love with everything they have when it's right in front of you, the right call.  This might be a turnoff for some but it was not for me.

I found it to be a well written, character driven tale that is definitely worth reading.  As I started out with, I think it should be read as one long story to get the sweeping effect of both the mystery and the love as well as the friendships that are explored.


Still Waters #4
Chapter 1
"Have you ever wondered how much Jake is worth? Or how much it costs every day to run this Foundation?" Nik Valentinov asked as he sat down opposite Adam Brooke.

Adam was looking around at the luxurious décor of Sanctuary Imports and Exports. He concentrated on what Nik had said, not entirely sure if the other agent was asking a rhetorical question. If other operatives were like him then he'd bet Nik had contemplated their boss's fortune at one time or another.

"Probably one hell of a lot," Adam finally offered. Leaning back in the leather chair and resting his feet on the small coffee table he closed his eyes. He wasn't being rude intentionally but his body was winding down and he really needed sleep. He should probably be considering downtime but getting caught up in the problems on the Bullen case had his juices flowing.

His last real case—the Canada safe house gig—had been a bad one. Even Sanctuary had to help hide the bad guys sometimes but not a single one of the hundred or so men and women that worked for Jake were impressed when it was their turn. Low-level drug dealer or not, the guy had been caught at a school peddling his wares to kids not much older than twelve. The 'get 'em hooked young' policy was one the scumbag clearly subscribed to. Unfortunately for Adam, his charge had been the lynchpin in a much bigger case and that was what had been deemed important. The FBI didn't have the capacity to look after the guy. Sanctuary stepped in. Adam hated it when Sanctuary stepped in to mop up FBI shit.

Three weeks with a guy who gave slimy a bad name and Adam was way past over it with the whole drug thing. He really hoped this new assignment, whatever it involved, was something he could get his teeth into. Action, cars, guns, and maybe a good beat down would rid his body of the itch of isolation with someone who thought Jerry Springer re-runs were high art.

"Did your guy get sent down?" Nik began conversationally.

Adam opened his eyes and quirked a smile. This he could handle talking about. "Yep. Heard he got max what they could give even with the deal on handing over his suppliers."

Nik grinned at this and crossed his arms over his chest. "Did you hear from Doc at all? Did the direct hit break any of his ribs?" Nik was referring to Doctor Kayden Summers getting shot in the chest at the bank vault where he and the Bullen kid were retrieving evidence. Adam had been there to spirit Beckett away before he became the subject of the late news.

"Yeah. He has access to good meds," Adam smirked. "How's Morgan?"

Nik's expression changed immediately. Adam saw pride and affection and it was a nice thing to see in another person. Nik had spent at least five minutes with his cell stuck to his ear talking to Morgan. Adam had to wonder at what they found to talk about for so long when they were together so much of the time.

Nik and Morgan had the cliché bodyguard-victim relationship that appeared to be stronger than two-by-fours joined together with a nail gun.

"He's good. He's still doing well with his art and he's not really under Sanctuary anymore." Unspoken was the 'but I look out for him anyway'. That was given. Adam hadn't actually met Morgan but he knew all the details of the case. Three weeks alone, avoiding the idiot he was guarding, gave him a lot of time for reading.

"Do you know where we're being assigned?" Adam was curious.

Nik shrugged his wide shoulders.

"Is this a double team assignment?" It was a valid question. Sanctuary operatives generally worked alone unless the case was so diverse or volatile that two were needed. The last time Adam had doubled up had been with Jennifer out of LA and it had been kind of nice to have intellectual company. Not that he was saying some of his charges weren't clever. Jeez, he'd been the one tasked with that physicist job last fall. But the last job had frazzled any and all of his remaining brain cells.

Normally, unless operatives were working together on a case, briefings were kept separate. So he assumed they were being assigned together. Despite having crossed paths with Nik at the FBI he had never worked with Nik before at Sanctuary so it should be interesting. Although he'd probably find Morgan hiding in Nik's suitcase.

"Come in guys," Jake called from around his office door and Adam pushed himself to stand. Stretching tall he followed Nik into the large corner office overlooking downtown Albany.

"Coffee?" Jake was busying himself with the huge chrome contraption that wouldn't have looked out of place in a science fiction movie but under Jake's skilled touch it made the best coffee Adam had ever tasted. He nodded yes, as did Nik, and finally all three men sat on sofas.

Jake didn't waste any time and cut right to the chase. "As you are both very aware Sanctuary, for obvious reasons, is way in over its head with this Bullen case. Not only did we add Morgan but we now have Beckett Jamieson under our care. To complicate it further you're probably also aware I have an FBI liaison at the moment auditing our procedures and writing up channels of communication between us."

Adam searched Jake's expression for a clue as to how the guy felt about this shadow but, ever the professional, Jake's expression was impassive.

"He is not party to all information concerning our actions on the Bullen case but on each occasion, after we got involved, the FBI have wanted first Morgan, then Beckett, back under their auspices."

Nik had moved forward in his seat at this; there was nothing that could pry Morgan away from him.

Jake held up a hand. "I won't allow that. We have enough leverage with the Feds that I can have my say at the moment. In a strange way it helps us that the FBI has this leak. I don't think the FBI liaison trusts his teams."

He stopped and drank a healthy amount of caffeine and then, placing the coffee back on the table, he sighed.

"Nik, you and Morgan are working on our 'in' with the senator. I agree you are best placed to pull this together but I need your promise that you keep Morgan out of this and in the periphery."

"Of course."

"Beckett obtained some useful information and Manny is currently sifting through it. Work with Manny. We're looking for an in on the senator; some kind of financial information that ties him to his brothers and the family business. Is that okay?" Nik nodded his agreement. "You can't tell me that the senator doesn't have some financial gain from the family itself, so that is the trail we are following. Why was his aide killed by his brothers? Beckett said Elisabeth Costain told him she was close to finding information. What was that information?"

"Manny already sent over some files to the analyst team. I'm going down there after this," Nik confirmed. Manny had a huge area set aside for him and his team on the floor above this one alongside the conference rooms. Analysts, programmers, and Manny the wonder boy himself.

"Adam," Jake began.

Adam switched his attention from what Nik was saying to whatever Jake was giving him to do. Evidently, he wasn't part of Nik's assignment so it was odd they were in the same briefing.

"Even though Alastair is forensically linked to blood on the necklace from the box, there is no body. We couldn't get anything to stick when the party line he is spouting is that it belonged to an ex-girlfriend who liked it rough." Jake shook his head and then worried his lip with his teeth.

Adam watched with growing concern. What the hell was he going to be asked to do?

"We need something on him that will stick and this is where you come in, Adam. Doesn't matter what information we have, unless we can get someone to roll on Alastair we have nothing. Our first port of call is Gareth Headley."

"He's kept it zipped so far." Nik summarized the fact that the cop was staying silent about who paid him to kill Elisabeth, and why, in that single small sentence.

"Dale reported that when he and Joseph Kinnon retrieved Robert Bullen, aka Beckett Jamieson, Greg actually admitted he and Alastair had Elisabeth killed and used Headley as the gunman. It's all hearsay—we don't have a grain in a barn's evidence to go to the DA with."

"Manny couldn't pull anything worthwhile from the files?" Nik asked.

"It isn't officially our job to prove or disprove cases." Jake raised a hand to forestall whatever Nik and Adam were going to say in protestation. "Okay, as much as we get involved, we are here to provide a safe place for people. Although over eighty percent of Sanctuary operatives are ex-law enforcement, that doesn't mean we can provide a chain of evidence. We're unofficial and unless I give in and get Sanctuary pulled under the Fed umbrella that is the way it stays." He paused briefly. "I need you both out there working on this in full cooperation with the Feds."

Jake wouldn't look him in the eye and Adam frowned. What the hell was going on here? Adam bristled. He couldn't help his instant and visceral reaction. He'd been an FBI agent for five years and look where he'd ended up. Branded dirty and with his freaking heart stomped into a million fragments. The last thing he wanted was to get anywhere close to that agency again.

"We can still work on our own and pass results up the line when we have a chain of evidence situation," Adam said firmly. Jake still wouldn't look him directly in the eye. He was starting to get a very bad feeling about this.

"Liaison won't go for that. They're willing to work with us but only until their own internal leak is plugged. So we need to get this moving. The Feds have a team in place looking into the internal leak." Jake checked his notes. "The Office of Professional Responsibility?" he looked to Adam for confirmation but all Adam could do was nod yes, that is what the department was called. Actually opening his mouth and forming words to vocalize the flood of memories the title bought back was going to be impossible. Freaking FBI internal affairs had destroyed him and his career.

The Office of Professional Responsibly. And Lee Myers.

Jake continued, "Alastair has been released without charge. He says, and I quote, 'it's ridiculous that a woman who is probably alive and partying in the Caribbean is being linked to me as someone I murdered'. Problem is, he's not far off. We don't actually have anything conclusive. Forensics isn't irrefutable and there is apparently other familial DNA on the necklace. We have unsanctioned and limited surveillance in the senator's office that the Alphabets don't know about. But it's been quiet there. Adam, every little thing we have is in the briefing notes I'll give you. Your partner is FBI."

It was no secret Adam was ex-FBI, nor that his time with the security force was cut short when he resigned before charges of bribery or evidence tampering could be thrown at him. No one at Sanctuary ever gave him reason to think they believed he was crooked; hell, Jake wouldn't have hired him if he had thought for one minute Adam was a criminal in Fed clothing.


"You need to stay calm and try and handle this as best you can."

The words trickled into his understanding. If Jake was warning him to relax, then there must be some real shit about to rain down on Adam Brooke's world. It couldn't be Lee. Jake wouldn't do that to him. He was the one person who knew about Lee Myers and what he had done. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of FBI operatives out there. And Lee was seconded to internal affairs. They wouldn't send him out to some third-party shit fest.

Everyone knew Adam had left the FBI under a cloud of suspicion. But not everyone knew that the person who had signed the reports indicating Adam's guilt was the very guy who Adam had called best friend and lover. Nik looked confused. Adam didn't blame him—he was probably picking up on the sparks of temper snapping from Adam.

"Who, Jake?" Adam could hear the frustration and heat in his voice.

"You know who it is Adam—"


"Look Adam, I don't have a choice, I'm between a rock and a hard place. I've been given an ultimatum. The Feds want in on this case at our level or they take over entirely. It's you working with Lee Myers or we hand Morgan and Beckett over."

Adam stood in a flurry of movement. Playing the Morgan card while Nik was in the room was below the belt but it explained the joint briefing."You heard me. No. I'm not working with the FBI. We don't need them anywhere near this. Not internal affairs. Or Lee freaking Myers." The words snapped from him quickly and with instant heat.

Nik looked confused and Jake's expression hardened from appearing supportive to that of implacability. Clearly this was a point that Jake was going to call as the owner. Seemed like the boss had already agreed things above and beyond Adam's head.

"We have no choice—"

"So get Dale in, or Manny, or hell, Jennifer, Michaela? Anyone else except me to figure him out."

"They asked for you and given I have Feds on my ass every day I'm doing all I can to keep them sweet and happy."

"Fuck Jake, they didn't ask for me. They wouldn't. There's nothing worse to serving FBI than an ex-FBI agent who left covered in crap. If Lee requested this, then there has to be an ulterior motive. What the fuck do they want?" Adam crossed to the window looking down at the city below and the anger and hurt and hate that built inside him was crippling. He never lost his cool like this. But seeing the blond agent back at the bank when he extracted Beckett Jamieson had started to lift the bandage on some very old wounds and Adam was pissed. Why would Lee request to work with him? Adam was everything Lee hated, one of the bad guys, one of the chosen who had fallen.

Instant dislike and his own temper pushed him to remembering. Back there to his last day with Lee handing him papers and surveillance showing Adam compromising his role with the FBI. Back to Lee looking at him like his world had ended. Hell, it wasn't Lee whose world had ended. He heard the door close and glanced up to see Nik had left the room. Well, that was one pressure point gone. Jake moved quietly to stand at his side.

"I wish there was another way, Adam." Jake sounded regretful. "When I started Sanctuary I wanted so badly for this to be a place where we didn't have to deal with all this shit. I hate this as much as you do but when Nik pulled in Morgan it started a chain of falling dominos that I could never have foreseen."

Adam looked at his boss, at the man who had offered him a role at Sanctuary based on Nik's recommendation. Jake had been nothing but fair to him and had trusted him from day one.

"Lee Myers is the lead on this case for the Feds, Adam. He's not with the internal affairs department any more or so I am led to believe. I'm sorry. I don't know what kind of games the Feds in general, or Lee in particular, are playing, but I had no choice in this. I hate it as much as you do."

"I doubt that," Adam snapped. He immediately regretted opening his mouth. He wasn't the loose cannon with no respect for the guy who had given him a safe place to be. He was the stable mass that kept things together, the strong, dependable, and quiet one.

"You're probably right," Jake admitted. "Maybe I don't fully understand any of this Fed crap. At the end of the day I'm just doing what is best for Sanctuary and for the people we protect— people like Morgan and Beckett."

"You don't have to mention them or involve Nik," Adam said wearily. "Bringing Nik into the meeting to make sure I played ball or throwing down the Morgan and Beckett card is unnecessary. You know I would do anything for Sanctuary and I know I owe you—"

Jake's head reared up and he interrupted what Adam was going to say. "You don't owe me shit. From the day Nik told me what had happened to you I knew you were what I wanted for my team. He said he knew you and trusted you. That was good enough for me. You're one of my best operatives and if anything, I owe you. The people you protect owe you. Simply for being the best at what you do and for putting everything to one side to get the job done." Jake placed a hand on his arm and Adam winced at the contact. He couldn't handle emotions as strong as the ones Jake was laying on him. "You do this and we will have your back. The minute you feel like it's all part of some Fed agenda and they are screwing with you, and I mean the absolute minute, you contact Ops and you pull out."

Adam waited a second before answering. Jake giving him an out away from the asshole who had framed him and caused him to leave the FBI was something he didn't need. He was a grown man and he was over the destruction Lee Myers had wrought in his life.

So over it.

Full Circle #5
Chapter 1 
Manny Sullivan was way past pissed and straight on down the road to furious. Sean freaking Hanson had infected the system, sent a worm digging around in Manny's protected-to-hell private files.

"What did it do?" Jake asked. He was watching as Manny stripped the viral attack from file after file. Leaning against the desk next to Manny, his expression still held that disbelief that was all pervasive in the office at the moment.

No one had ever managed to get close enough to the hub and ops to actually get inside Sanctuary files. Considering it was Manny who was in charge of security and that what he didn't know about the Sanctuary system wasn't worth knowing, the attack had been one huge clusterfuck.

"I'll give Sean fucking Hanson this," he said grudgingly. "It's damn good coding. Gave him back door access to lower-level stuff. It's odd though…" Manny paused and peered at the screen closest to him.

"What's weird?"

"It could have been so much worse. Whoever created the code knows their stuff. The infection itself is clever and Sean could have taken so much more than he did. Instead he's left a trail here like a pair of size tens in fresh concrete."

"Which means what?" Jake leaned even farther in, his gaze flicking from screen to notes and back again.

Manny laughed inwardly. Billionaire owner and creator of Sanctuary, Jake Callahan was a lot of things. Computer programmer wasn't one of them. To Jake the code scrolling on the screen would look like something out of The Matrix. Manny checked the percentage done, nearing seventy-two percent and painfully slow. He had an awful lot of sitting around time watching the clearance programs run and thinking on why Sean had left such an easy to follow audit trail to locate the infection. The suspicious side of Manny immediately assumed the worst. That the easy stuff had been telegraphed to find so that anything deeper down would be ignored. Thing is, he had completed an incredibly deep clean and there was nothing untoward other than this shit curling and edging its way into comms. He wasn't normally hesitant to bring his thoughts to Jake's attention but he was honest enough to admit to himself that he was suffering from acute embarrassment that Sean had even gotten this close to Manny's baby.

Jake had said nothing. Accused Manny of nothing. But Manny's pride was dented.

Manny pressed the escape button to halt the scrolling and pointed at the screen. "Look," he said. "This part here is almost as if the interruption to comms was simply designed to hide what happened at the cabin. Then it began to self-delete. As if it had a sell-by date."

"Just to cover Sean killing Adam and Lee?" Jake leaned back and away and the familiar bitterness laced his voice. He hadn't been the same since Sean had exposed himself as the FBI mole, working for Alastair and Greg Bullen. Sean was now in Federal interrogation. He hadn't put up much of a fight when Adam and Lee had confronted him but in an ensuing altercation between two other gunmen accompanying Sean, Lee had been shot. Sean and Jake hadn't exactly been friends but Manny had seen a defrosting in the iciness caused by Jake having to accept an FBI rep trailing his every move. Jake had given in to the request that Sanctuary and the Bureau should have close ties. That went well, considering Sean turned out to be one of the bad guys.

Manny shrugged. "I wish I knew. All I do know is it was easy to find once the event happened. Markers showed up on every part of my system. Inconsistencies and warnings. As it was, comms were down for little more than ten minutes."

"That was enough though. To ensure Adam and Lee were dead."

Manny looked up at Jake. His boss looked exhausted. Pale and with dark rings around his eyes, he was rough around his normally very straight edges. He'd taken Sean fucking them all over very hard. He hadn't had much choice in having a Fed liaison mirroring his every move and auditing procedures but he still blamed himself for letting Sean anywhere near operations.

"From the reports he wasn't exactly going in guns blazing to take our guys out. Also, a trail in the computer still doesn't tell us why he was involved with the Bullens or with Headley."

"He's still not giving the Feds anything." Jake yawned widely behind his hand. "At least nothing they are sharing with us."

Sean Hanson had been secreted away by the FBI and was currently being, in their words, vigorously debriefed. They were as stunned as Sanctuary that one of their own had turned quite so spectacularly. Information was not being streamed to Sanctuary. So much for cooperation.

"And still no chance of us having a chat?" Manny had been all for getting up in Sean's face with a well-thought-out 'what the fuck?' Jake had shot that one down instantly.

"It's not our remit," he commented softly. Repeating what he had said before was more telling than he realized. The first time Jake had said it had been full of anger. This time there was only sadness and resignation.

"I'll keep going with the digging," Manny offered. He had to say something to break the tension. "Maybe he'll show up on some surveillance feed. Do we really not know anything of what the Feds have on him yet?" Manny huffed a laugh. The FBI putting barriers up and not sharing was so not going to be a problem to Manny. "You want me to hack into their systems?"

Jake laughed. "Not today. I'll let you know when."

Jake pushed himself up and away from the desk. "Do we have any reports back on the Headleys?" he asked. The Headleys were the wife and son of the guy who started this whole mess. The cop who had shot Elisabeth Costain in an alley. Only because Sanctuary offered them safety away from FBI involvement did Gareth Headley finally agree to turn state's evidence on Gregory Bullen.

"Jennifer reported in a few hours back. Everything's clear but Josh Headley is getting antsy."

Josh Headley was a really bright guy—some kind of genius-level criminology student with an added layer of brilliance in computers, apparently. Although Manny doubted the guy's expertise was at his own level it was an interesting fact about an otherwise on the surface boring kind of guy. Good-looking. Tall. Dark-haired. Green-eyed. Gay. But the son of a murderer and likely to be disappearing off into witness protection sometime soon.

"We need to get them moved on," Jake said absently. He was gazing into the distance with a thoughtful look on his face. He was probably contemplating what Sanctuary could finance and where would be best. Sanctuary wasn't just a foundation to Jake. It was his life.

"You should go home, boss," Manny said firmly. "Make decisions tomorrow."

"Says the guy who may as well pitch a tent in the corner of the comms room."

Manny ignored the comment. How could he keep on top of everything if he wasn't here? "I'll come find you if I track anything down." He concentrated on the screens and the code that was being stripped and barely noticed when Jake left. The lines of code were actually very intricate and he again felt that wash of admiration for Sean if indeed it had been him who had planted the code. Someone brought him coffee. People did that. He tended to get so buried in his work that he forgot to eat. Inevitably he would turn to do something and a plate of sandwiches would be next to him, or a coffee, or a soda. Sometimes all three. He suspected Abbey in accounts or Cain in ops, but had never actually been able to catch either of them at it.

Sitting back in the seat he checked the time—a little before midnight. By habit he scrolled through each individual camera feed on the eight locations that Sanctuary was keeping tabs on. He didn't really need to, ops was on a twenty-four hour watch alongside their normal work. The cameras and feeds were focused tightly on the senator's house and office, the Bullen mansion in the Catskills, and several other key positions including the house owned by the Bullens' lawyer. Of course none of this observation was strictly legal; it was Manny hacking into government feeds and street cams. The picture was sharp in the clear night and all was quiet. The mansion was empty as far as Manny knew. Intel had the senator in his own house and of course Greg was dead and Alastair was under arrest. As for the Bullen lawyer—he was a quiet guy with two sons who seemed to spend his entire working life nixing cases against the family. He was probably incredibly well paid for that as well.

There was no link between him and the senator—he worked to protect the other two Bullen brothers. But given what Morgan was presenting to the masses tomorrow it paid to be watching everyone. Midnight came and went and Manny drank cold coffee. The bitter taste was something he was accustomed to and he wasn't hungry so the chicken sandwich joined a half-eaten banana in the bin. Settling back in his chair he reclined it and lay back. To settle at Sanctuary and fall asleep was not an unusual occurrence. Ops had his back and would inform him if anything came up. Hell, traipsing all the way across town to his place just to sleep seemed to make little sense to him. Anyway. He was happy here with his computers and his statistics. He felt important and that the job he was doing was worthwhile.

He yawned widely and stretched. His neck was aching from being bent over printouts of code but after some sleep he should be relaxed enough to be able to concentrate on the tasks at hand again.

A small movement on one of the scrolling screens caught his attention and he blinked away tiredness to focus. At the lawyer's house? He paused the rotating screens on that feed. Was that someone hovering by the back wall? Climbing over it? No one would be that stupid. The house was walled, secure, and gated. Going over said wall was the work of an idiot. He clicked to zoom in on the feed. The closer the zoom the more pixilated the image but there was no denying who the hell it was taking his life in his hands.

"Shit." He pushed himself to stand and within seconds he was in the ops room.

"Manny, we have movement at location K," ops reported. Cain was on rotation and sat at the desk already tapping away at a keyboard. Doing his job. Finding out who was in the locale and trying to pull as much information as he could.

"Who do we have in the field?" Manny asked quickly. The question in itself was stupid. It didn't matter if any of the Sanctuary operatives were available, none of them would be able to get to the house as quickly as he could.

"Thirty out for two operatives." Cain blinked up at Manny as he reported, his eyes wide behind large round-rimmed glasses.

"Forget it," Manny said brusquely. "I need comms."

Cain passed Manny a small box that contained an ear bud and he grabbed it quickly. Pushing it in his ear he left comms at a run. He took the stairs three at a time and was in the parking lot in the space of maybe two minutes after seeing the figure climb the wall.

Calling details in as he started his car, ops were booking everything and finally Jake was there on the line with him.

"Talk to me, Manny."

The roads were quiet and Manny pulled out on to the main road from the business district to the outskirts of the city. "Punch in the lawyer's house," Manny instructed comms and didn't check as the soft tones of the sat nav filled the car. Cain knew what he was doing and Manny glanced at the screen. Eight miles out. Eight minutes with no traffic and sticking to the speed limit. Six if he pushed it.

"Manny?" Jake asked again.

"Just saw Josh freaking Headley at the lawyer's house."

"Wait." Jake was firm and the line was quiet for a second. Downtown Albany sped past the car and Manny narrowly avoided running a red in his determination to find out what the fricking hell was going on. "Jennifer says he's gone from the safe house and that security was down."

There was no time for argument as to how the idiot had managed to get out of a Sanctuary cabin lockdown and away from a bodyguard as switched on as Jennifer. "I'm three minutes out," Manny confirmed.

"Nik's on his way. He's twenty out now. Fuck." Jake paused. Manny concentrated on winding his way past cars parked in the first lanes of the housing outside the city limits. "We can't let the lawyer get Josh. It'll blow everything up that we have with his dad. Can you get Headley without being seen?"

Manny imagined the layout of the house and the walled garden as he narrowly avoided a parked Toyota with its ass too far out onto the street. To cross the garden would take mere seconds but it would be longer to break security. Could Josh even do that? What was Josh doing breaking into the house? Was he after some kind of revenge on the Bullen lawyer? Was this a misplaced sense of justice? Why did he leave the safe house? Why was he screwing everything up?

"I'm on it, Jake," Manny answered instead. No point in rehashing fears, concerns, and his own questions. He pulled up a street down from the house and was out of the car and at the wall in little more than a minute. The property was set back from the road, entirely walled, and had security on the house itself. He calculated Josh had been on the lawyer's property a good ten minutes. Fuck. Anything could have happened.

Inhaling and centering his focus, he pulled his gun from the small of his back, the weight of it in his hand was settling him. He wasn't entirely sure what he would find inside the gardens or the house. The lawyer could have muscle. Hell, the lawyer could have Josh at gunpoint. Checking the chamber, he imagined the path from here to the house. He was very aware of the cameras put in by the owner's security company. Facing away from the camera that formed part of the Sanctuary feed he briefly gave ops the thumbs up. If comms crashed again he wanted them to be sure he was on-site but there was no sense in having his photo plastered everywhere. He turned up the collar on his jacket, took a few more calming breaths and then he was up and over the wall and dropping noiselessly to the grass on the other side. He listened carefully but couldn't hear anything.

"It's all quiet, guys," he reported to the mic that sat in his ear. "No guns. No police. No dogs. No shouting."

"Get him. Get out," Cain said quickly. "Three entrances," Cain interrupted. "One front, two rear. All alarmed."

Manny passed over entrance one and stopped outside two as the breeze that moved the leaves in the trees made the flimsy door move slightly. It was open and the security panel to one side was unhinged. Clearly Josh wasn't waiting around with this one. Although why anyone would spend money on A, such a crap system and B, on a door as fragile as this one, was beyond Manny. He moved in as quietly as he could, gun at chest level and every nerve ending in him alive.

"Don't get caught," Cain said very carefully.

I never get caught, Manny thought. He followed the sound of a raised voice. Seemed like one person had a lot to say and get it off his chest. Manny stopped outside the door that was open. He chanced a quick look but all he could see was the back of tall, dark, and handsome whom he clearly identified as Josh. Josh was the one doing all the talking.

"…naive to think I wouldn't find out. What was it? That day at the club? Was that you muscling in on someone who you could keep your eye on?"

"Josh, please—"

"What did you do, E?"

E? Eric Santez. The lawyer's eldest son.

"He's my dad. He said it was important—"

"Did you report back to him every time I let you bend me over the sofa? Or the night we fucked in the back room—"

"He'll hear you—" Eric was sounding way past overwrought and working his way up to really damn worried. "You need to go."

"Did you ever mean it?" Josh's voice again. "When you said you loved me?"

Manny thumped his head back against the wall. Shit. Why had no one joined the dots? The boyfriend Josh wanted to say goodbye to was the Bullen lawyer's son? That made an awful lot of shit-filled sense. Josh had been played. Clearly he'd found out.

Cain's voice echoed in his head. "Jennifer called in. There's a load of intel that Josh has pulled together on Emilio Santez and Eric Santez. It's all on the PC. Josh wasn't hiding what he found. He broke the code on the shutdown."

"I didn't," Eric was saying. "I couldn't love you. It was never going to amount to anything—"

Manny heard the sound of a fist hitting flesh, followed by the noise of someone falling back on maybe a table. Fuck. Josh was going to be bringing down a rain of crap if he didn't cool it.

Taking a deep breath and exhaling, Manny entered the room gun high. He catalogued the room in an instant. Eric Santez sprawled on the floor, his chest rising in a breath and blood trailing from his nose. Josh Headley stood over him with cold fury etched onto his face. Then Josh looked at Manny with glassy-eyed shock.

"I hit him," was all Josh said as he raised his hand and shook it disbelievingly at what he had done. "Shit."

Shit indeed.

"Hands where I can see them."

"I'm not going anywhere—"

"We're leaving," Manny instructed brusquely. He indicated with the gun and Josh got with the program fairly quickly. He strode out of the door with his hands high and Manny followed. Only after they passed out of the main room with the unconscious Eric did Josh try his luck. With a move worthy of a man who watched too many action movies he twisted on his heel and grabbed for the gun. Manny allowed him to move his balance and in a practiced move of his own he had the other guy face to the wall and one hand pushed up and held hard with the barrel of the gun in the small of Josh's back. Six foot of man was effectively imprisoned between wall and hold. Manny felt a small thrill that yet again someone had underestimated him based on his size and felt he would be an easy target.

"Manny Sullivan," he whispered harshly. "Sanctuary. Stop fucking fighting me and get yourself out and over the damn wall."

Josh relaxed in Manny's hold and without turning he moved out of the house as soon as Manny released him. Lights began to switch on as they reached the wall and as they dropped to the other side the sound of an alarm from inside the house interrupted the silence. Manny put his gun back in the space at the small of his back and started to half jog to his car. Josh was on his heels and without argument he climbed into the passenger seat.

Within a minute they had moved away from where Manny had parked, and the car was pointed back to Sanctuary.

"I'm sorry—" Josh started.

"Shut the hell up," Manny snapped as he exited the housing area and entered the city again. Josh did as he was told and in a few more minutes they were back in Sanctuary's underground parking and out of the car to the elevator. Josh remained quiet when Manny pressed in the code for the right floor and then leaned back against the wall.


"I said shut up." Manny was pissed. Why did Sanctuary bother with any of this shit when people like Josh screwed it all up?

Josh bristled and stood away from the wall. Clearly he had something to say. Manny simply pulled his gun from where he'd placed it, made a show of checking it and refused to meet Josh's eyes. Josh in return heaved a sigh and relaxed his stance.
Author Bio:
RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

RJ is the author of the over one hundred novels and discovered romance in books at a very young age. She realized that if there wasn’t romance on the page, she could create it in her head, and is a lifelong writer.

She lives and works out of her home in the beautiful English countryside, spends her spare time reading, watching films, and enjoying time with her family.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit and has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the following links below.


Still Waters #4

Full Circle #5

Volume 2


Book Blitz: The M/M Romance Christmas Box Set by Isobel Starling

Title: The M/M Romance Christmas Box Set
Author: Isobel Starling
Genre: M/M Romance, Holiday Romance
ebook Release Date: September 7, 2018
Narrator: Gary Furlong
Audiobook Release: October 5, 2018

With the holidays approaching Isobel Starling presents The M/M Romance Box Set containing four delightfully humorous and kinky seasonal romances.

This box set is available as an e-book; you can read it free in Kindle Unlimited or listen to the exceptionally funny audiobook by award-winning narrator Gary Furlong.

The total word count is approximately 46k, the audiobook is just over 4 hours long. These stories have all the Christmas feels to give you a warm glow inside.

Fred & Ginger
Chris Miller, a patisserie chef for Big Boy Cupcakes has to rush the last minute order of cock cupcakes for the party of a celebrity, but in his haste to deliver, he falls foul of an over-keen chocolate labrador named Fred, and his handsome owner...

The Christmas Bonus
The Investobank Christmas shindig at the Lorien Hotel puts Jake Walters, and the object of his lust in the same place at the same time... and it's Christmas!

Daddy Christmas 
(Daddy Kink short story) NEW! 
Ryan Sutherland, a side character from 'Detective Fox and the Christmas Caper' at last gets the happy ending he deserves.

Back Where He Belongs 
(M/M Puppy Play Novella)
Kier Campbell returns to Scotland from Australia to spend Christmas with his family. What he finds there is a gift that is worth more than money could buy.

Author Bio:
Isobel Starling is an award-winning author of gay romance.  Isobel spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK, and faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

The Shatterproof Bond series is an Amazon Gay Romance bestseller and has been translated into French, German and Italian.

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond #1), narrated by Gary Furlong, won the Audiobook Reviewer Award, Romance Category 2018. Isobel and Gary have produced ten audiobooks together, including whole Shatterproof Bond series.

Isobel will release the first book in her thrilling new fantasy series The Quiet Work in March 2019.


Brought to you by:  GAY BOOK PROMOS