"Nobody writes to-die-for military heroes like Catherine Mann!" -- Suzanne Brockmann, New York Times bestselling author of Tall, Dark and Devastating
It should have been a simple mission...
Pararescueman Wade Rocha fast ropes from the back of a helicopter into a blizzard to save a climber stranded on an Aleutian Island, but Sunny Foster insists she can take care of herself just fine...
But when it comes to passion, nothing is ever simple...
With the snowstorm kicking into overdrive, Sunny and Wade hunker down in a cave and barely resist the urge to keep each other warm... until they discover the frozen remains of a horrific crime... Unable to trust the local police force, Sunny and Wade investigate, while their irresistible passion for each other gets them more and more dangerously entangled...
"When you read Catherine Mann you... get nonstop action, nail-biting suspense, and heart-stopping romance." --The Romance Studio
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July 05, 2011
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Excerpt from Cover Me by Catherine Mann
It was a cold day in hell for Tech Sergeant Wade Rocha--standard ops for a mission in Alaska.
He slammed the side of the icy crevasse on Mount McKinley. A seemingly bottomless crevasse. That made it all the more pressing to anchor his axe again ASAP. Except both of his spikes clanked against his sides while the underworld waited in an alabaster swirl of nothing�ness as he pinwheeled on a lone cable.
Wade scratched and clawed with his gloved hands, kicked with his spiked shoes, reaching for anything. The tiniest of toeholds on the slick surface would be good right about now. Sure he was roped to his climbing part�ner. But they had the added load of an injured woman strapped to a stretcher beneath them. He needed to carry his own weight.
Chunks of ice and snow pelted his helmet. The un�stable gorge walls vibrated under his gloved hands.
"Breathe and relax, buddy." His headset buzzed with reassurance from his climbing partner, Hugh "Slow Hand" Franco.
Focus narrowed, Wade tightened his grip on his rope. He'd earned his nickname, Brick, by being the most hardheaded guy in their rescue squadron. Come hell or high water, he never gave up.
Each steady breath crackled with ice shards in his lungs, but his oxygen-starved body welcomed every atom of air. Lightning fast, he grabbed the line tying them together and worked the belay device.
Whirrr, whippp. The rope zinged through. Wade slipped closer, closer still, to Franco, ten feet below.
"Oof." He jerked to a halt.
"I got ya, Brick. I got ya," Franco chanted through the headset. Intense. Edgy. Nothing was out of bounds. Franco would die before he let him fall. "It's just phys�ics that makes this thing work. Don't overthink it."
And it did work. Wade stabilized against the icy wall again. Relief trickled down his spine in frosty beads of sweat.
He keyed up his microphone. "All steady, Slow Hand."
"Good. Now do you wanna stop horsing around, pal?" Franco razzed, sarcastic as ever. "I'd like to get back before sundown. My toes are cold."
Wade let a laugh loosen the tension kinking up his gut. "Sorry I inconvenienced you by almost dying there. I'll try not to do it again. I'll even spring for a pedicure, if you're worried about your delicate feet chafing from frostbite."
"Appreciate that." Franco's labored breath and hoarse chuckle filled the headset.
"Hey, Franco? Thanks for saving my ass."
"Roger that, Brick. You've done the same for me."
And he had. Not that they kept score. Wade rec�ognized the chitchat for what it really was--Franco checking to make sure he wasn't suffering from alti�tude sickness due to their fifteen thousand foot perch. They worked overtime to acclimate themselves, but the lurking beast could still strike even the most seasoned climber without warning. They'd already lost one of their team members last month to HACE--high altitude cerebral edema.
He shook his head to clear it. Damn it, his mind was wandering. Not good. He eyed the ledge a mere twenty feet up. Felt like a mile. He slammed an ice axe in with his left hand, pulled, hauled, strained, then slapped the right one in a few inches higher. Crampons--ice cleats--gained traction on the sleek side of the narrow ravine as he inched his way upward.
Slow. Steady. Patient. Mountain rescue couldn't be rushed. At least April gave them a few more daylight hours. Not that he could see much anyway, with eighty-mile-per-hour wind creating whiteout conditions. Below, his climbing partner was a barely discernable blur.
Hand over hand. Spike. Haul. Spike. Haul. He clipped his safety rope into a spike they had anchored in the rock on the way down. Scaled one step at a time. Forgot about the biting wind. The ball-numbing cold.
The ever-present risk of avalanche.
His arms bulged, the burden strapped to his har�ness growing heavier. Remember the mission. Bring up an unconscious female climber. Strapped to a litter. Compound fracture in her leg.
His job as a pararescueman in the United States Air Force included medic training. Land, sea, or mountain, military missions or civilian rescue. With his brothers in arms, he walked, talked, and breathed their motto, "That Others May Live."
That people like his mother might live.
Muscles burning, he focused upward into the growl
of the storm and the hovering military helicopter. A few more feet and he could hook the litter to the MH-60. Rotors chop, chop, chopped through the sheets of snow like a blender.
The crevasse was too narrow to risk lowering a sway�ing cable. Just one swipe against the narrow walls of ice could collapse the chasm into itself. On top of the injured climber and Franco.
On top of him.
So it was up to him--and his climbing partner--to pull the wounded woman out. Once clear, the helicopter would land if conditions permitted. And if not, they could use the cable then to raise her into the waiting chopper.
Wind slammed him again like a frozen Mack truck. He fought back the cold-induced mental fog. At least when Hermes went subterranean to rescue Persephone from the underworld, he had some flames to toast his toes.
Wade keyed his microphone again to talk to the heli�copter orbiting overhead. "Fever"--he called the mission code name--"we're about five minutes from the top."
Five minutes when anything could happen.
"Copy, the wind is really howling. We will hold until you are away from the crevasse."
The rest of his team waited in the chopper. They'd spent most of the day getting a lock on the locale. The climber's personal locator beacon had malfunctioned off and on. Wade believed in his job, in the motto. He came from five generations of military.
But sometimes on days like this, saving some reck�less thrill seeker didn't sit well when thoughts of people like his mother--wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq,
needing his help--hammered him harder than the ice-covered rocks pummeling his shoulder. How damned frustrating that there hadn't been a pararescue team near enough--he hadn't been near enough--to give her medical aid. Now because of her traumatic brain injury, she would live out the rest of her life in a rehab center, staring off into space.
He couldn't change the past, but by God, he would do everything he could to be there to help someone else's mother or father, sister or brother, in combat. That could only happen if he finished up his tour in this frozen cor�ner of the world.
As they neared the top, a moan wafted from the litter suspended below him. Stabilizing the rescue basket was dicey. Even so, the groans still caught him by surprise.
The growling chopper overhead competed with the increasing howls of pain from their patient in the basket. God forbid their passenger should decide to give them a real workout by thrashing around.
"Franco, we better get her to the top soon before the echoes cause an avalanche."
"Picking up the pace."
Wade anchored the last... swing... of his axe... Ice crumbled away. The edge shaved away in larger and larger chunks. Crap, move faster. Pulse slugging, he dug deeper.
And cleared the edge.