Sneak Peek – Chapter One
I promised I’d post part of the first chapter of my latest book, The Knight Before Chaos. This is #6 in the Enigma Series. Although there are always some funny parts in this series, the books read like an action adventure. However, this latest book is not only action packed, but laugh out loud funny. I’ve been told it’s Die Hard meets Home Alone. https://amzn.to/2lNoSQ0 is the link to the ebook on Amazon which releases on Tuesday, November 5th. Pre-orders for the next week will be .99.
The Knight Before Chaos – Chapter One
The car skidded
on the slick road, causing the three passengers to squeal with childish
delight. Captain Chase Hunter did not share in the jovial mood, since he’d been
assigned this particular mission of retrieve and rescue for his agent Tessa
“Awesome,” Sean Patrick, the oldest child, cheered before landing a fist against Chase’s arm. “Where’d you learn to drive like a badass? My mom teach you?”
Chase could feel his brow pinch in irritation at the suggestion the boy’s mom could teach him anything. Well, maybe how to handle three rambunctious kids would have been a good idea. Talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The snow had started a few hours earlier, flurries at first,
and now he could only use the low beams on his car to see the road clearly. He
didn’t want to be responsible for kids, especially these kids. He’d rather walk
on burning coals with the Taliban in hot pursuit than do this job. Now he could
hardly see the road and second-guessed whether or not he’d secured the two in
the back in their car seats he’d removed from his agent’s SUV. Sean Patrick was
buckled in next to him, but he kept pulling the belt forward to loosen it.
He could imagine slamming into an out-of-control truck after
slip-sliding on the freshly fallen snow. The next image was the kids lying
facedown in the snow with blood pooling under their heads. Tessa would never
forgive him. No. She would kill him if anything happened to her angelic
monsters. Even now, he could almost hear the wheels of mischief turning in
their underdeveloped brains. Had he ever been in this kind of danger?
“Can we play Christmas music, Chasey?” Heather, the
youngest, chirped from the back seat. Before he could answer, she burst into a
chorus of “Jingle Bell Rock.” With a glance in the rearview mirror, he could
see her moving back and forth in her car seat, the flaps on her unicorn hat
flopping with each new verse. Her sweet voice softened him enough to smile.
“Don’t call me Chasey,” he demanded.
Sean Patrick turned to smirk at his little sister. “Yeah,
Heather. Call him Badass.”
“I’m tellin’ Mom you said ass,” Daniel, the middle child
declared. Chase adjusted the mirror to see him cross his arms on his chest and
raise his nose in the air. “Dr. Hunter is more appropriate.”
Sean Patrick mocked him by repeating his words in a baby
“Enough, boys. Call me Chase.”
“The church is up ahead—Chase.” He pointed to the right.
He pulled into the back row where all the other cars had
shied away. Even after removing the key, Chase sat for a few seconds and
surveyed the surroundings. Spending the last few years in Afghanistan had
instilled a heightened sense of awareness of his surroundings. First, he took
note of the roof of the church then the cars already parked. When Sean Patrick
clicked out of his seat belt, he threw his arm out to hold the young boy in
“What?” Sean Patrick lowered his head to mimic the way Chase
watched the falling snow. “We’re goin’ to be late,” he informed Chase as the
others escaped their restraints.
Chase nodded, opened the door, and quickly moved to the
passenger door to assist Heather. The snow had accumulated to at least six
inches, and the boys decided a snowball fight was in order. He reached in and
lifted the little girl in his arms, but before he could set her feet down, she
circled his neck with her arms. Her little face came so close, he couldn’t help
but see the resemblance to her mother. The dimples appeared when she smiled and
patted his cheek.
“Will you carry me, Chasey? I don’t want to get my boots
“Spoken like a real diva.” Chase chuckled as he locked the
car door. “Boys,” he scolded when Daniel hit him in the back of the head with a
snowball. When the wetness fell into his collar, he pivoted and leveled a
warning glare at the boy.
“Oops. Sorry, Dr. Hunter. I meant to hit Heather.”
He wanted to be irritated, but Heather cleared away the snow
with her little gloved hand. Like her mother, she had him wrapped around her
Sean Patrick darted through the parking lot, periodically
kicking up snow and tumbling into the snow, accidently on purpose, Chase
guessed. To try and halt the activity would only encourage a lie or more
rambunctious behavior. It hadn’t taken him long to evaluate the oldest of
Tessa’s kids. This one had mischievous written all over him. He also barked
orders to his siblings. The kid might be practicing for an officer position in
By the time they reached the front door of the church, both
boys were splattered with snow. They walked in, stomped their boots on the rug,
and peeked into the sanctuary where an organist played “Joy to the World.” He
kneeled down to help Heather out of her parka and removed her hat, revealing a
lot of smashed strawberry-blonde curls, another likeness to her mother. The
temptation to push her hair behind her ears became too great for the soldier as
he toyed with one of her curls.
“You look pretty tonight, Heather.” Chase stood, and the
little girl slipped her hand into his.
“I don’t want to go in there.” She looked up at him with
pleading eyes, round and afraid.
“Why not? Your mom said you’re supposed to sing a song for
the play. She’ll be so proud of you. Your grandparents are coming all the way
from Tennessee to hear you.”
“I’m not very good.” Her bottom lip stuck out.
“You sang all the way here. You were amazing.”
“Katie Shoemaker says my voice sounds like a rooster
A tall girl about Sean Patrick’s age moved to the front of
the sanctuary. She smirked at Heather then put her hands under her armpits as
she let out a loud crowing sound. Heather came to a screeching halt and leaned
“Shut up, Katie Shoe Leather,” Sean Patrick yelled. He
pushed his nose up to resemble a pig’s and snorted his way to the front of the
church, twisting and turning like a farm animal. Daniel laughed so hard the
choir director turned to see about the commotion. The kids already on the stage
Chase’s opinion of Sean Patrick went up considerably.
“Don’t listen to that brat, Heather. She’s jealous of your
beauty and talent.” He patted her head then stroked her cheek. “She’s a bully,”
he whispered. “Stand up to her.”
“I’m scared,” she mumbled, continuing to stare up at him.
Some of the parents were engrossed in visiting instead of
watching their kids get into place for practice. He chewed the inside of his
jaw and continued to scope out the sanctuary for problems.
“Boys, come here,” he called to her brothers. They hurried
up and hugged their little sister. “Take your sister to her place. I’ll sit
here until practice starts. I’ll move to the back in a few minutes. Good job
taking up for her, Sean. Proud of you.” The boy puffed out his chest a bit.
Sean Patrick took his sister’s hand. “Come on, Tooki.” He
smiled at her as Daniel took her other hand.
“I’ll sit by you and help if you forget your lines.” Daniel
shoved his glasses up on his nose.
“Thanks, boys.” Chase scooted into a pew. “I can’t wait to
hear your song, Heather.”
She looked over her shoulder and offered a sad but angelic
He gave her a thumbs-up. “Show no fear.”
The mean girl ran up to a beefy young boy in his early teens
and whispered in his ear while pointing at Sean Patrick.
“This can’t be good,” Chase mumbled.
The two boys found Heather’s place, but the choir director
refused to let Daniel sit with his sister. They both offered some words of
encouragement before moving to their seats.
When Daniel started to sit down, the beefy teen jerked the
seat back, and Daniel landed on the floor. When Sean Patrick’s face turned to a
mask of anger, he jammed a fist into the attacker’s shoulder. Laughter broke
out among the other children.
Before Chase could scramble out of the pew, both boys were
rolling on the floor, their grunts accompanied by yells of stop by the choir
director who took a spill trying to separate them, and other children laughing
and urging them on. All the while, the redheaded girl sat with her arms crossed
on her chest and an evil smile stretching across her freckled face.
By the time Chase jerked the director up by his collar, the
older boy had gotten the upper hand on Sean Patrick. He easily separated the
boys and held each at arm’s length. Sean Patrick struggled to get free and land
another blow, but the pastor showed up, clapping his hands for order.
“What is going on?” he demanded.
“This guy thinks it’s funny to jerk a chair out from a
younger, smaller kid.” Chase released him so fast, the boy staggered back into
“Sean Patrick is kind of a bully these days.” The pastor
looked down his nose. “Since his mother isn’t around as much, the Scott
children are a bit of a handful.”
Chase glanced out at a few of the mothers who appeared to be
all ears then back at the pastor. He stuck out his hand. “I’m Chase Hunter, a
friend of Mrs. Scott. She asked me to bring them to practice. She is stuck at
“I need to speak to Sean Patrick about his behavior for a
few minutes.” The pastor pointed to the music director. “Go ahead and get
Sean Patrick stared down at the floor and sighed, probably
used to getting called on the carpet.
Chase nodded. “Well I’ll go along to make sure I can inform
his mother of the conversation.” The pastor hesitated, and his eyes rounded a
little too much for Chase’s liking. He slipped a hand on Sean’s shoulder and
squeezed. “We’re buddies, aren’t we, Sean Patrick?” The boy looked up at him in
surprise but quickly nodded. “I would be remiss if I didn’t come along.”
“Have it your way. Come on.”
“Aren’t you going to take the other kid?” Chase glanced over
at the bigger boy and noticed a smirky grin.
“My son and I will talk about the incident later.”
“He’s your son?” Chase laughed, drawing a frown from the
pastor. “Figures. The preacher’s kids are always the worst ones in the church.”
“Excuse me?” the preacher huffed.
Chase laughed again and patted Sean’s shoulder. “No offense.
I’m the son of missionaries and a holy terror.” His laughter stopped, and he
arched his eyebrow. “Guess I still am. Or so I’m told.”
The introduction to the music cantata began as the pastor
motioned for his son to follow after all then led them into a room off the
sanctuary. A crash sounded at the far end as the pastor flipped on the lights.
An elderly man with a bloody head fell to the floor as two others froze like
deer in the headlights. Scattered coins and greenbacks left no doubt as to what
had taken place.
Although one man wore a ripped jean jacket, Chase quickly
spotted tattoos on his neck and a knife in his hand. The taller one hunched and
reached into his tattered coat pocket.
They stumbled back when Chase rushed them. He landed an
uppercut to the knife guy’s throat, dropping him to the floor as he elbowed the
other’s nose, grabbed his free hand, and twisted it so he dropped to his knees.
Chase quickly relieved him of a pistol before pounding him to the floor and
placing his boot on his neck.
“Well, you guys are going straight to Hell. Robbing a church
at Christmas? What were you thinking?” The knife guy tried to get up but got a
swift kick to the gut. “Get me the extension cord over there, Pastor. Will you
call 911?” In seconds, the two Christmas burglars were hogtied.
He focused on the injured man as Sean Patrick ran to his
side and kneeled by him. “This is Mr. Cooke. He’s my Boy Scout leader.” Sean
Patrick’s voice quivered as he spoke. “Is he going to be okay?”
The sound of distant sirens mixed with concerned voices from
the sanctuary. Several mothers entered to check things out only to gasp and
hurry back to make sure the children remained calm. Police soon arrived, along
with paramedics. Chase had already evaluated the injured man and tried to
reassure him he would be fine. The paramedics confirmed the good news before
the police pulled Chase aside. Two other officers took the would-be burglars
out the back door to keep from scaring the children in the choir. He tried to
keep an ear tilted toward the boys while the pastor talked to the police.
“That guy is awesome. Where did he learn to do all the kung
fu stuff?” The preacher’s kid now engaged Sean Patrick with the appearance they
were old buddies. “Who is he?”
Sean shrugged nonchalantly before speaking. “He’s my
personal trainer. Teaching me how to fight without fighting. You know. All the
ninja training you see on Assassin’s Creed. I think he invented it.”
“No kidding!” The teen stared at Chase in awe.
He asked the police officer to wait a second then moved
toward the boys with a deliberate narrowed stare at Sean Patrick. “You boys
“Yes, sir!” the teen blubbered. “You getting those guys was
about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. You got those guys good.”
Chase shifted his attention to Sean Patrick who watched the
police before he turned a challenging gaze toward him. The kid reminded him of
himself at about the same age, openly defiant, and unafraid of the
consequences. “Sean Patrick?”
“I’m good. Nice moves there, Mr. Badass.”
Chase narrowed his eyes to slits. “Watch your mouth.”
Sean Patrick grinned as he saluted him. “Yes, sir. I was
tellin’ Luther you been teaching me some of those moves.” His voice slowed as
if he might be trying to send a message.
Chase lowered his head and eyed Luther. The kid wasn’t much
different than a green recruit shifting with unease at the scrutiny. He nodded
then offered a fist that Sean immediately bumped with his own. “Yeah. He shows
a lot of potential.”
The teen eyed the younger boy with a new appreciation.
“Sorry about being mean to Daniel earlier and fighting with Sean Patrick. My
sister is such a tattletale. Dad says I should take up for her.”
“Tell her to stop making fun of Heather.” Patrick rolled his
shoulders and straightened. Chase wasn’t sure if he should laugh or give him an
The teen seemed to take offense at the demand. But, to the
bully’s credit, he stole a look at Chase, who decided to arch an eyebrow and
cross his arms across his chest.
“Sure, Sean.” He stuck out his upturned palm. “No hard
Sean slapped it but remained stoic. “No hard feelings.”
The choir director stuck his head in the door and motioned
“What’s the problem?” Had Sean Patrick committed an
infraction toward another person?
“It’s Heather. She refuses to sing her song unless you and
Sean are there to listen. I even let Daniel sit by her, but she’s having none
“Okay. Be right there.”
Chase eased into the front pew as Sean Patrick took his
place on stage. He smiled at Heather and Daniel like a conquering hero, adding
a pat on the head to each of them.
The organist played the intro bars, and the director cued
Heather when to begin. She waved to Chase, walked up to the microphone that had
been lowered for her, and sang “Silent Night” in a sweet little voice.
Something inside him lurched, and he touched the spot over his heart. It
usually ached when her mother walked into a room. He pictured Tessa when she
was a little girl. Why did he feel so powerless around these two females?
One minute he was staring a hole in a burglar and thinking
about doing an adjustment in his ability to walk upright, and the next he
couldn’t stop smiling at a little curly headed girl with the voice of an angel.
He suddenly realized the existence of a God. Being with these children might be
a test of endurance and patience, but maybe in a small way he could redeem
himself for all the suffering he’d handed out over the years.
When she finished, Chase stood and applauded and cheered.
Apparently, the timing in showing admiration needed some work because the music
stopped and everyone looked his way. A few of the kids snickered, the director
appeared confused, and the organist rolled her eyes. But Heather bowed and
curtsied princess style before she stepped cautiously off the stage. She ran to
him with outstretched arms. He scooped her up to receive a grateful hug.
“Awesome!” he praised. “You’d better go finish your
practice.” When he set her down, she kissed his cheek, and scampered back to
her place. “Dear God in Heaven. Help me through this night,” he mumbled.