Exclusive Chapter 1 Reveal: Closer to the Edge (#4, Playing with Fire) by T.E. Sivec - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Exclusive Chapter 1 Reveal: Closer to the Edge (#4, Playing with Fire) by T.E. Sivec

closer to the edge

So excited about Tara Sivec’s final book in the Playing with Fire series, Closer to the Edge!!! It’s out September 22nd and you can add it to your Goodreads TBR here. I’m thrilled to be able to share with you the first chapter of this romantic suspense book below!

Synopsis

The fourth and final book in the best selling Playing With Fire series from Tara Sivec.

Cole Vargas has battled the demons that have plagued his nightmares, but winning the heart of the woman he destroyed is going to be the fight of his life.

When Cole returns home wounded from his latest mission, his only thoughts are of the woman who still owns his heart and getting strong enough to stand on his own two feet in front of her, to beg for her forgiveness.

Olivia Lafierre had her own nightmares to deal with since Cole said good-bye to her. Broken and alone, she lost everything the day Cole left and is still paying the price for loving him.

When the two are thrown together before either are ready, secrets will be revealed, friends will become enemies and past mistakes will push them…closer to the edge.

Chapter 1 – Closer to the Edge

“I need two men covering the southwest entrance. We’re not letting these assholes disappear into thin air again,” I mutter into my wireless mic.

Scanning the dense rainforest that has served as our basecamp the last few days, I wipe a bead of sweat from my forehead and silently curse the bulletproof vest and tactical gear piled on my body, the extra layers making the humid weather in this place a thousand times worse.

Please, God, don’t let anything get fucked up this time.

After nine months in the Dominican Republic, gathering intel, living out of fleabag motels and completely cut off from communication with anyone back home, I’m ready for this to be over. I’m ready to put an end to the monster who’s haunted my dreams for two years, who kept me from a future with the woman I love and who was directly responsible for the deaths of my best friends.

My thoughts, momentarily consumed by all the things I’ve lost and the hope that it’s not too late to get at least one of them back when this is all said and done, are interrupted by the static from the mic in my ear. “I’ve got movement coming from an upstairs window, south side, third from the left. Permission to fire?”

Crouching down, I slowly inch my way through the brush two hundred yards from the two-story shack hidden in the woods. “We need a positive I.D. on Fernandez before you take the shot. I repeat, do not take the shot until identification is established.”

I hear Hoss curse through the mic. “Motherfucker keeps moving in and out of range. I’m going to try and get closer.”

Chuck ‘Hoss’ Miller is one of the best sharp shooters I’ve ever met, aside from myself, and I trust him to finish this job. He earned his nickname the very first time he opened his country bumpkin mouth and his Tennessee twang boomed through the room.

Pressing my back up against the trunk of a palm tree, I take a deep breath, the muggy tropical air making it feel like I’m breathing in water.

It fucking pisses me off that I’m not going to be the one to put a bullet through Luis Fernandez’s head, but it was more than obvious to my SEAL commander that I’m too close to this situation to be the one to pull the trigger. Just knowing the fucker who ruined so many lives is almost close enough to spit on makes my blood boil. As much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t know if I could actually go through with ending his life with one shot between the eyes. A quick and painless death is too good for this worthless piece of shit.

A rustling in the trees to my left has me swinging in that direction, both hands firmly clasping my Navy-issued Sig Saur.

“Don’t shoot, dick head,” Hoss whispers as he weaves his way in between the vegetation that surrounds us. He may sound like an extra on Hee Haw, but the dude is built like a brick shithouse. Tossing bales of hay and wrestling steer on the family farm helped produce biceps roughly the size of my entire body. He looks like one of those steroid-induced body builders whose arms are so big they probably can’t even wipe their own ass, but he’s a hell of a shot and can take down ten men without breaking a sweat, so I don’t give a fuck about his bathroom hygiene.

I lower my weapon and turn back to face the house. “Everyone in place?”

Hoss stops next to me and we both stare straight ahead, waiting for movement from within. “Yep. Lucky followed Zeus to the southwest entrance so he could babysit him.”

I shake my head with a snort. Rob ‘Lucky’ McKenzie, aptly named for his ability to cheat death every fucking time it comes knocking on his door, doesn’t have arms the size of tree stumps like Hoss, but he does have a guardian angel perpetually perched on his shoulder. Since everyone who fucks with him easily meets his Maker, Lucky is usually charged with keeping an eye on Paul ‘Zeus’ Simpson. The youngest of us and the one voted Most Likely to be Distracted—Squirrel! Zeus (Zero Effort Unless Supervised) always needs a keeper.

This is my team, the men I handpicked to come back to hell with me.  They have no wives, no children and no family left waiting for them at home, worrying and praying for their safe return. They are loners who live and breathe the SEALs, and they are exactly the kind of men I wanted with me this time.

When I left the Dominican after the mission that killed my best friends two years ago, I thought I could move on. I honestly believed I could forget the horrors I’d witnessed, settle down with a good woman and never look back. For a year and a half, I managed to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I could be the guy who left the SEALs, set up house on the beach and did nothing but make love to his woman and dream about a future that was just within his grasp.

It was working, too.  For eighteen months, my life was damn near perfect, but one late night call from my old section chief completely obliterated the fantasy I’d created. Luis Fernandez, brother of Emilio Fernandez, the former president of the Dominican Republic and the man we took down two years ago for running an underage prostitution ring, was taking up the reins of the family business. Behind the scenes, with the help of Emilio’s loyal followers, Luis Fernandez picked right up where his brother left off after he was killed in prison. Under Luis’ watch, the prostitution ring had become more organized and more deadly, with young girls disappearing right under people’s noses and a steadily climbing body count.

I had no problem reminding the chief that I was retired, living the good life on the beach in California, and that this mission, not on US soil or involving US citizens, was not my problem. The first time we ventured into the Dominican to break up the prostitution ring, it was personal. One of our own had faked his death and claimed his spot as the son of President Fernandez, helping the sick bastard kidnap and rape young girls.

Risner would have to find someone else to lead the SEAL team back to the Dominican this time, though. That mission stole two of my best friends and left nightmares, cold sweats and enough fucking guilt to fill an ocean in its wake. I certainly wasn’t immune to the suffering of this new batch of girls, but I didn’t want to go back to the place where I lost part of myself. I didn’t want any reminder of the men I let down and left behind.

It didn’t take much from Risner to change my mind, to walk away from the best thing I’ve ever known, telling her not to wait for me because I might not be coming back. Chief knew what he was doing when he told me their newest intel proved that Luis Fernandez was the one who pulled the trigger that took down King and Dragon.

Jared King and Chris Dragon, my best friends since high school and men I thought of as brothers, were my backup during every mission and, for all intents and purposes, my family. My own flesh and blood didn’t give a rat’s ass about me after I refused to follow along in my father’s footsteps and become the Chief of Staff at UC San Diego Health System.

The night the chief delivered that news was the same night my nightmares returned with a vengeance. The same night I relived holding Dragon in my arms as his life bled out into my hands. The same night I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the look on King’s wife’s face when I informed her that her husband wasn’t coming home, that he would never get to meet the baby boy she carried in her stomach. For hours that night, I tried to block out the sound of Dragon’s mother sobbing as she crumbled to the floor, King’s wife screaming while she punched me in the chest and the raspy, painful breaths Dragon took as the bullet in his collapsed lung ended his life.

She held me through the nightmares, promising me that they would get better and she would always be there to help me forget, but I could tell from the look on her face that she knew. She knew as soon as I took that call that it was the beginning of the end, knew I would never rest while their killer was still out there somewhere. I shut down, I pushed her away and I forced myself to forget all about the future we were trying to build. Out of everyone in my life, I knew she would understand my need to finish this, to see it through to the end, but, from the very beginning, I shielded her from the truth. I should’ve been honest with her.  Now, along with the rest of the memories that plague my sleep at night, I have to relive the look on her face when I told her good-bye, when I told her that she should move on and forget about me in case I didn’t come home. She’s too good a woman to be sitting around, waiting for a man chasing ghosts halfway across the world.

“Hey, fuckers, we’ve got men exiting the building on this side,” Lucky announces through the mic.

Hoss and I get low to the ground as we rush towards Lucky and Zeus’ location, careful not to make a sound as we step over fallen branches and trudge through the dense ground covering.

We were led to this old, abandoned house in the middle of Bum Fuck, Nowhere, where Luis has scheduled a meeting tonight, by a tip from a confidential informant. For nine long months, the slippery little fucker has managed to elude us, using decoys and feeding false information to the right people, but we’ve got him cornered this time. Our plan is to wait until they exit the building and take them out when they are in plain sight. Even though the four of us are the best at what we do, it’s still four against entirely too many shady assholes who fight dirty for us to risk barging into the house, guns blazing. I’m not taking any unnecessary chances with my men this time. We stay hidden, we get the job done and we get the fuck out of Dodge. I refuse to bring any more of my men home in flag-draped caskets.

As we continue working our way through the undergrowth, smacking low-hanging branches and shrubs out of our way, the sharp crack of a bullet hitting a tree trunk inches from my face has Hoss and I diving to the ground.

“MOTHERFUCK! How do they know we’re here?” Hoss growls as we army-crawl through the leaves and dirt while the zipping sound of more bullets soar through the air above our heads, hitting trees in a staccato ping ping ping or disappearing into the brush when they don’t smack into their target.

“Lucky, what the fuck is going on?” I shout into the mic, crawling across the forest floor as fast as I can.

“Zeus is down! Son of a fucking bitch, he’s been hit!” Lucky screams in my ear. “Jesus Christ! I don’t know what the fuck happened. We were just sitting here when bullets started flying. Goddammit, Zeus, open your fucking eyes!”

I don’t even realize I’ve stopped crawling until Hoss looks back over his shoulder at me. I can see his mouth moving, but I can’t hear what he’s saying. My ears are filled with the whooshing sound of my blood pumping and the echoes of my own screams as I recall in stark clarity the events of two years ago, memories of Dragon and King, flat on their backs, struggling to survive, completely paralyzing me.

This can’t be happening again. God, please don’t let this happen again.

A hard punch to my arm shakes me out of my nightmare.  Blinking my eyes into focus, I see Hoss’ ugly mug two inches from my face. His shouts, blocked out by my own mind a few seconds ago, quickly explode around me like someone hit the power button on a radio they forgot they left turned up full blast when they last shut it off.

“…MOTHERFUCKING HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS, VARGAS, AND MOVE!”

It would be one thing if he was just pissed off, but I see a look of concern on his face that I don’t fucking need right now. Shoving his hand off of my arm angrily, I get back up on my knees and move, keeping my body as low to the ground as I can as I quickly shuffle past him.

The bullets are still soaring around us and Lucky continues to shout through the mic, but I tune it all out. I don’t have time to get sucked into the past; I have a fucking job to do.

As I weave in and out of trees and shrubs, I take a few of my own shots in the direction where the bullets are coming from. With all the foliage, I don’t have a clear view of where these assholes are. I specifically put Lucky and Zeus on the other side of the house because that’s where the men have been coming and going and where they would have a clear view of everyone. Hoss and I are running blind, shooting at anything we can as we rush to Lucky and Zeus.

“I see them, fifty yards to the right!” Hoss yells from behind me.

I continue firing as my eyes locate Lucky, crouched down on the ground, hovering over Zeus.

Swallowing back the bile that hovers in my throat as I get closer, I see blood seeping between Lucky’s fingers as he holds pressure to the wound in Zeus’s shoulder.

Hoss and I dive to the ground next to Lucky. Hoss covers us with a rain of bullets while I unzip the pocket in my tactical vest that holds medical supplies. Pushing Lucky aside, I quickly press a wad of gauze to the hole in Zeus’s shoulder. His eyes pop open and he screams in pain when I push down on the wound.

“Hey, look who’s awake. Stop being a pussy, it’s just a flesh wound,” I tell him, lightening the situation with a little humor so I don’t completely lose my shit.

Grabbing the medical tape out of the pocket with one hand while I continue to hold the gauze to Zeus’s arm, I rip off a long strip with my teeth and wrap it around his upper arm.

Lucky moves back in once I’ve got Zeus bandaged up. He grabs Zeus’s good arm and pulls him up, wrapping that arm around his neck while he holds him around the waist.

“Get his ass to the retrieval point, Hoss and I will finish this off,” I tell Lucky.

“Fuck you! I’m not leaving!” Zeus argues as he winces in pain when Lucky starts to drag him away.

“This is not up for discussion. You’re wounded and you need to get the fuck out of here!” I yell back as I load a new clip in my piece and give Lucky a look that clearly says ‘Get him the fuck out of here before I beat both your asses’.

Lucky drags Zeus away bitching and moaning while Hoss and I get back into the game.

“They stopped firing, I don’t like this shit,” Hoss mutters as we get in position behind a huge tree and look towards the house.

“Where the fuck is everyone?”

I search all around the house and see nothing but five black SUV’s still parked in the driveway on the side. There’s no one outside and there’s no movement in any of the dark windows. The sun has started to set but luckily there’s still enough daylight for us to not have to pull out our night vision goggles.

“We need to get closer. They haven’t left. Those fuckers must have been shooting at us from inside the house. We’re going to have to go in,” I tell Hoss.

It’s a bad idea. I know this and Hoss knows this, but he keeps his mouth shut. We don’t have backup and even though we know how many people are inside that house, we don’t know what kind of firepower they have. They know we’re here so the element of surprise is good and truly fucked. Our only option is to turn tail and get out of here, or do what we came here to do. I want this to be over, one way or another. Hoss knows I’ll do whatever it takes to end this, even if it means I don’t make it out of this rainforest alive.

“Well, what are we waiting for, let’s end this piece of shit,” Hoss says with a nod.

We silently get closer to the house, covering each other while keeping an eye on the house for the glint of a gun poking out of one of the windows. We make it to the front door easily and with one last fist-bump for good luck, I take a deep breath, kick in the door with my booted foot and charge into the house with Hoss right on my heals.

Luckily, the dick heads gathered inside didn’t think we were suicidal and had no clue we would just come barreling inside their little hidey-hole. They were too busy arguing and looking out the windows to worry about us walking right through the front door.

In a matter of minutes, seven of Fernandez’s men have matching bullet holes between their eyes as they all lay slumped in the middle of the living room. They managed to fire off a few defensive shots, but Hoss and I were faster and better skilled. Even though it was decided that I wouldn’t go near Fernandez, once I found him cowering in a closet, I wasn’t about to hand the kill over to Hoss. I looked right in the bastard’s eyes, said the name of my friends he took from me, and emptied my clip into his pitiful face, blood and brain matter splattering the entire inside of the closet by the time my gun began clicking, signaling it was empty.  I continued to pull the trigger, growing angrier and angrier by the second that I had run out of bullets.

“Dude, I think he’s dead,” Hoss states, his arm coming down on my shoulder.

With one last look at the mess I made of Fernandez, I turn to face Hoss and a sharp pain shoots up my right leg. I lose my footing, my leg unable to hold my weight and Hoss quickly moves to catch me before I hit the ground.

We both look down and a wave of nausea rushes through me when I see my shattered kneecap with a bullet lodged right in the center of it. During the commotion, I was running on so much anger and adrenalin that I didn’t even notice one of those fuckers managed to get in a shot at me. Now that I’m coming down from that high, I can feel every single mangled piece of my knee radiating so much pain that I can’t stop the blood curdling scream that comes out of my mouth.

The last thing I remember before I black out is Hoss shaking his head, complaining about having to carry my ass all the way to the retrieval point.

As I close my eyes and let the darkness wash over me, my only thought is of going home and begging her to take me back.

✦✦✦✦

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Reading Order and Links

Each book can be read as a standalone. Click images to purchase from Amazon U.S.

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One Comment:


  1. glam009 said:

    I can’t wait to read it!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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