March 12, 2019

Off the Grid (To Catch a Thief Book 3) -- First Chapter Reveal!!

Happy #TeaserTuesday!

Off the Grid goes on sale in FOUR WEEKS!! Woohoo! Leo and McKenzie completely stole my heart while I was writing this book, and I just know the same thing will happen to you! I'm ready for everyone to be as excited about their love story as I am, which is why...

I'm revealing the entire first chapter today!

When my first beta reader finished the book, she told me, "I loved it so much that I immediately went to Amazon and got the first two books in the series. Well done! =)" 💖💖💖There's no greater compliment than that! If you've already started this series, I think you love this final book. And if you haven't, I hope you give it a try! 

Off the Grid goes on sale on April 8th, 2019! If you want to pre-order your copy, just head to Amazon.

Hope you enjoy the preview!

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- 1 -

Leo

Agent Leo Alvarez stared out the window and across the tarmac at the sinister gray clouds looming on the horizon.
I will not allow a little rain to ruin my first vacation in months, he decided, refusing to let any worry or anger bubble to the surface. Instead, he leaned back in his cushy chair and took another sip of the red wine he’d grabbed for free at the bar a few feet away. Business class was great—well worth the splurge. He hadn’t flown anything besides coach, well, ever, but this lounge thing? He could get used to this. There was free booze, free food, and free newspapers, not that he’d read the one draped across his lap too carefully. He was on vacation, after all. But he’d wanted to skim the headlines.
Fifty-Seven Arrested in Second-Largest Mob Roundup in History.
Famed Art Thief Robert Carter Finally Brought to Justice.
Wanted Felon Thaddeus Ryder on the Loose with a Twenty-Million-Dollar Degas.
Yada, yada, yada.
Leo knew the details by heart—heck, he’d lived them. He and his partner, Nate Parker, were agents in the Organized Crime Unit of the FBI, and they’d been working on infiltrating the Russian mob for nearly four years. Two years ago, they’d caught their big break on the case that would eventually lead to all these arrests. One of their undercover agents sent word of stolen art being used as collateral in an arms deal their team had been tracking. The painting led them to Robert Carter, an infamous art thief who’d been evading the Feds for nearly half a century. Two weeks ago, Nate had managed to turn Carter’s daughter, Jolene, into an informant in exchange for a plea deal. The Russians had somehow gotten word, which sent him and Nate racing down to the Caribbean to save their lead. After a high-speed boat chase, a shoot-out on a private island, and a massive explosion, they’d finally gotten what they’d been after all these years—evidence to use against the Russian mafia in court. Jo gave them access to all her father’s files, and though it wasn’t airtight, it was more than enough to begin making arrests. Fifty-seven arrests, to be exact.
During the shoot-out, Nate had taken a bullet to the calf, and was off on medical leave for a few weeks. Despite his partner’s absence, Leo had tried to stick around the office to help with the paperwork, but his boss practically shooed him out the door with a pat on the back. You deserve a vacation, Alvarez. And I don’t say that lightly. Now get the hell out of my office before I change my mind.
Leo had done just that, booking a flight to Hawaii before he had time to second-guess. Because, well, the boss was right—he damn well did deserve a break. The beach, the surf, and a Mai Tai or two sounded as close to heaven as a guy like him could possibly get. His little brother, Manuel, agreed to meet him out there for a few days. Manny lived in San Francisco, so a hop over to Hawaii was practically nothing for him, and he was headed to Hong Kong for business next week, so the timing was sort of perfect. Leo couldn’t wait to greet him with a forearm around the neck and a knuckle scrub to the top of his head. Little Manny Alvarez may be a hotshot tech executive now, but before he’d founded the start-up that made him millions, he was a scrawny street kid. To Leo, he’d always be the little brother who needed protecting, no matter how old or how rich he got.
The phone in Leo’s pocket vibrated, pulling his thoughts from the past and the ever-darkening sky outside. He jolted, then slid the phone out to read the name across the screen.
With a sigh, he answered. “Don’t even think about it, Parker.”
“Leo,” his partner said slowly, apology already heavy in his voice.
I’m not going to like this. Not one little bit. “Do you know where I am?”
“The airport.”
“Do you know where I’m going?”
“That’s what I’m calling you about.”
“I’m going to Honolulu, Parker. It’s six thirty in the morning, my flight leaves in half an hour, and I didn’t sleep at all last night so I could finalize all my reports before I left.”
“I know, but—”
“Vacation, Parker. A much-needed vacation. I’ve already bought a packet of Twizzlers and a bag of chocolate-covered almonds for the trip. I spent twenty minutes reading through the in-flight entertainment, picking out the movies I want to watch. Do you know you get a personal TV in business class? And free liquor? And food? And a seat that goes completely flat? Don’t take this away from me, Parker. Not now. Not after I saved your ass on that Caribbean island, and helped you get Jo a plea deal, and convinced the guys that your relationship with her was completely legal and not at all a violation of the code of ethics.”
“I know.” A heavy sigh came through the line.
Leo knew that sigh.
He loathed that sigh.
Suddenly, the storm clouds on the horizon weren’t what had his heart plummeting. He downed the little bit of red wine he had left and rubbed his palm over his face. I’m going to regret this. I already do. He sighed. “All right. What is it?”
“It’s Jo.”
Of course it’s Jo, Leo thought, shaking his head. For the past month, every aspect of their lives had been about Jo. First, she’d been their target during their stakeout in the Caribbean to get information about the heist she, her father, and her partner, Thad Ryder, were planning. Then, she’d been their lead as they spent a week following her around New York City, trying to uncover her plan and turn her loyalties. Now, she was their informant, giving them everything she could against the Russians and helping them answer the only question left in the case—where exactly Ryder and the twenty-million-dollar Degas she’d helped him steal had gone.
It wasn’t that Leo didn’t like Jo—he did. She was bubbly and fun, smart and savvy, and watching her turn his buttoned-up partner into a lovesick puppy had been entertaining as hell, but…
Hawaii, he thought longingly. And Mai Tais. And a few days with my little bro, who I haven’t seen in, God, I don’t even know how long.
Leo squeezed the phone in his hand and sighed as the dream slipped away. Nate was his partner and his best friend. They’d saved each other’s lives on more than one occasion. If he was calling, it meant something serious was going down, and Leo needed to hear him out.
“What about Jo?”
“Not Jo, so much as her friend.”
He scrunched his brows together in surprise. “Her friend? Who? How is she connected?”
“Her name is McKenzie Harper. Age twenty-five. Professional pastry chef. Lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, blonde and about five—”
“Yeah, yeah, you can skip the rundown. What’s going on?”
“This morning, Jo told me someone hacked into her personal computer. She ran a trace on the IP address but it was scattered. There’s no way to know for sure, but she thinks it was the Russians hacking into her messages, looking for contact from Ryder. We both know they’re trying to permanently silence the asshole before we can find him.”
Leo frowned and nodded. Jo’s partner, Thad Ryder, was the only person left who could positively ID the Russians her father had been working with and who could provide eyewitness testimony to their crimes in a court of law. The Feds were after him to offer a plea. The Russians were after him to offer a bullet to the head. It was a race against time to see who found him first. But Leo and Nate had been taken off the case due to Nate’s less-than-professional relationship with Jo, which was fine with Leo. Because…Hawaii.
“Anyway, they were nosing around her chat with two of her online friends, McKenzie and a girl named Addison. Jo tried calling them both, but no answer. I called the local precincts and there’s been a missing person’s report filed for Addison. Apparently, her boss arrived at her place of work this morning to find a dead body, bullet casings, and a whole lot of blood. We think she was possibly approached by Ryder as a way to contact Jo, but the Russians got wind and interfered. As of right now, we’re working on two theories—Ryder kidnapped her to get to Jo, or she was taken by the Russians to use as collateral.”
“And McKenzie?” Leo asked, though he had a sneaking suspicion of what was coming next.
“No word.”
There was a pause. The silence stretched, full of hesitation on one end and stubborn denial on the other.
Leo caved first. “You want me to go to New York?”
“I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important,” Nate pushed forward, taking the opening. “I tried the boss first, but he doesn’t want to waste an agent on a hunch, not when this police report about Addison down in South Carolina might be a lead on Ryder. He told me to call the NYPD. They’re on their way to stake out her apartment. And they’re good. I know they’re good. They’re one of the best police forces in the country, but—”
“They’re not me,” Leo finished, not bragging, just being honest. Before joining the Feds, he’d been a marine. And before that, the streets in the less-than-desirable neighborhood where he’d grown up had done their part to train him. More importantly, Nate trusted him. Which meant Jo trusted him. Which meant he was the only one either of them would trust with one of her dearest friends.
“They’re not you,” Nate echoed.
“Okay.” Leo hardly believed his ears as the word slipped through his lips. Then again, he did. He’d always had a hard time saying no to the people he cared about, especially when they needed his help. It had never seemed like a character flaw until right now, with the sands from those Hawaiian beaches slipping through his fingers. Why, why, why did I answer the phone?
“I’d go myself, but I’m still on crutches dealing with this damn leg injury, and— Okay?”
“You heard me.”
“Thank you, Leo,” Nate rushed to say, gratitude heavy in his Boy Scout voice. “Really, thank you. I know how much this trip with your brother meant to you, how much you need a vacation—”
“I said okay, Parker,” Leo cut in, shaking his head as his partner laid it on thick. “I never said I was happy about it.”
Nate snorted over the line. “I owe you for this, Leo. Anything you want, just tell me.”
“Oh, anything I want? How generous.” Leo grinned. He didn’t need anything. This was what partners did for each other, what friends did, but he couldn’t help pushing when Nate left him such an easy opening.
“Anything, Leo. Name it.”
“How about a new partner?”
“Very funny.”
“I’ve been eying a new Harley…”
“Leo.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll settle for a business-class seat to Hawaii, leaving from JFK tomorrow night, assuming all goes well.”
Nate sighed. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Leo turned and scanned the board over his shoulder. “So will I. There’s a shuttle to New York that’s boarding now. I’d better go if I want to catch it.”
“Thank you.”
“Enough, or you’ll give me an even bigger ego than I already have. Don’t worry about the flights—that was a joke. I’ll figure it out later after I have McKenzie secure. Just tell Jo I expect some cupcakes or brownies, anything gooey and chocolatey really, as soon as I get back to DC.”
“Th—”
Leo hung up and shoved the phone back into his pocket. He hated being thanked for things he felt were common decency to do. Given the choice between a vacation and saving an innocent life, well, there was no contest. If he chose Hawaii only to find out that something serious had happened to Jo’s friend, he’d never forgive himself. Leo had waited months for a break. He could wait a few days more. Manny would understand. It was hardly the first time his job had come between him and his family, and it wouldn’t be the last. Life as a Fed was unpredictable, to say the least.
Leo slung his bag over his shoulder and ran across the business-class lounge, ignoring the not-so-subtle looks from the people around him. He burst through the doors and kept going, not pausing until he reached the gate he’d seen on the board, the one flashing final call to New York.
“I need to get on this flight, now,” he said as he barreled into the information desk.
The attendant kept a pleasant smile on her face, unfazed. She probably dealt with more crazy in a day than most people did in a lifetime. “Of course, sir. If you give me your ticket, I’d be happy to scan it.”
Leo flashed her a grin and held up his finger. “About that…”
“You don’t have a ticket, sir?” The attendant’s lips twitched, but she kept that slightly dead-in-the-eyes yet accommodating expression plastered to her face.
Oh, she’s good, he thought. I’m going to have to be better.
“I do have a ticket,” he answered smoothly, and forced the frustration down as he brought his most debonair expression to his face. “It just happens to be to Honolulu. But there’s been a change of plans, and I need to get to New York as soon as possible. Please.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she replied calmly. “This flight is full, but I’d be happy to get you on the next available one leaving in…” She looked down and quickly clicked a few buttons on her keyboard. “About two hours.”
“That’s wonderful of you. Thank you so much for the help. Really, I mean it,” he said, holding her gaze. The edges of her lips twitched appreciatively. He’d learned in his life a little kindness could go a long way, especially when mixed with flirtation—hell, he could only imagine the amount of mistreatment she experienced on a daily basis from stressed travelers. But sometimes, he had no choice but to play the federal-agent trump card. Abuse of power wasn’t his typical modus operandi, but if those storm clouds he’d been watching from the business-class lounge were any indication, this airport wouldn’t be functioning in two hours. If McKenzie’s life was really on the line, he couldn’t afford to wait. “But I’m afraid I have to get on this flight, right now. It’s a matter of national security.”
Her eyes popped wide.
Leo leaned in before she got too alarmed and darted his gaze left, then right, as though what he was about to say were some incredible secret. Then he slipped his badge out from his backpack and casually slid it across the desk. By the time he met her gaze again, curiosity lit those dark brown eyes. She leaned closer, lured by his voice and his words. He almost had her.
“I’m Special Agent Leo Alvarez with the FBI, and I’m needed in New York as soon as possible. There’s been an incident. It hasn’t hit the news yet, but I need to be there before it does.” Not a lie, technically, just a very, very exaggerated version of the truth. “And I need you to help me. Please.”
The attendant glanced around before she spoke to make sure no one else was listening, as though the two of them were in cahoots. “What happened?”
He shook his head slightly and grabbed his badge, then stuffed it back into his bag. “I’m not at liberty to say, but trust me, you want me in New York.”
“Well…” She stood straight, looking down at her screen, then up at him, then down again. “I could call my manager, quickly. Maybe there’s something she can do…”
“That’s all I’m asking,” he said, letting gratitude give weight to his words. “Thank you. And your country thanks you too.”
He was laying it on thick, but hey—it worked. Ten minutes later, someone offered up their seat for a five-hundred-dollar credit, and Leo took the man’s place. While the flight attendants prepared the cabin for boarding, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed. There was one more call he had to make.
“Leo?” A muffled, sleepy voice crackled over the line.
He sighed. “Hey, Manny.”
“You do know it’s like four o’clock in the morning on the West Coast, right?”
“I know. Sorry, little bro.” No turning back now. He scrubbed the sleep from his eyes and pressed on. Goodbye, Hawaii. Goodbye, vacation. Hello, frigging New York. “There’s been a change of plans…”


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Thanks for reading!

Click here to read the second chapter, which introduces our leading lady, McKenzie!

For now, you can check out Off the Grid on Amazon for more info!


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