Friday, June 23, 2017

Blog Tour - Survive By The Team by Cindy Skaggs + Giveaway!

Title: Survive By The Team
Series: Team Fear #3 
Author: Cindy Skaggs    
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: June 23, 2017

The wild ride continues in this highly addictive series...

Mandi Gault never met a man brave enough to openly date a mortician, so when a good-looking man with twelve-pack abs invites her to coffee, she’s not asking any questions. Too bad he’s trying to kill her.

Danny Gault died in a conspiracy threatening Team Fear—his defunct military team—so when Gault’s sister winds up in the hospital, former teammate Stills is forced to leave the safety of the team’s compound. He recognizes her attacker as a member of a rogue military unit with orders to eliminate Team Fear. Now they’re on the run while they unravel why Team Echo wants her dead.

As the danger escalates, they share a wild night of down and dirty fun that would put a blush on a corpse, but Stills made it clear it was one and done. Now he must decide if he’s brave enough to forget about vengeance... and live.

Military trained, medically enhanced, designed to kill. The surviving members of Team Fear are out of the military and in a world of secrets, lies, and cover-ups in this fast-paced romantic suspense series by Cindy Skaggs.

The thwack-thwack-thwack of the rotors vibrated the seats and echoed through the interior of the Chinook helicopter. The team lined up along one side of the bulkhead with their gear stacked on the floor in front of them. 

Dust permeated every pore and coated his beard. A dull throb that had no beginning and no end pounded through his skull despite the wrap-around sunglasses that blocked most of the light.  

Stills gripped his rifle between his legs and dropped his head back. Since they’d been cut loose to do what the Army designed them to do, the missions had rolled one on top of another until they bled into one disgustingly dirty deployment. The interior of the helo reeked of man funk. 

He hadn’t shaved in weeks; hadn’t showered in nearly that long. The ache in his lower back spread around his hips and down his thighs. He was getting too fucking old to sleep on the ground in the middle of BFE where they’d been holed up the last two weeks. 

He was tired to the bone, sore, and too annoyed to take part in the chatter of the crew and his team. He’d give half his signing bonus for a soft bed and a warm woman. Instead, he tuned out the noise and closed his eyes to catch some rack time because they’d likely spend the next month hunkered down in the Afghan mountains. 

A kick to his boot woke him with a jolt. He gripped his rifle as he straightened. Next to him, Gault gave his boot a harder kick. What?  

Gault answered by nodding at Captain Johnson pacing the aisle and kicking their gear out of his path. A black comm cord followed like a snake as he spoke into a boom mic that swung down from his headset.  

A muscle along his jaw tightened as he nodded at whatever was being said on the other end. His eyes narrowed before he said something Stills couldn’t hear over the ambient noise.  

“Something’s going down,” Gault said.  “No shit,” Stills muttered. In the months they’d worked for Captain Johnson, the officer had maintained an even keel. With everything they’d gone through during the initial protocol, Johnson had never once lost his temper, and they’d done some seriously stupid shit.  

Johnson didn’t smile much either. If the Army made them fearless, then Uncle Sam had made Johnson emotionless. Right now he was a firestorm blazing a trail of anger as his hands jerked in agitation.  

At the end of the row, Ryder removed his helmet like he was trying to hear the conversation. Stills did the same. 

Johnson whipped the comm cord behind him as he paced toward the front of the craft. “No, sir. What you are suggesting is ill-advised. We need more information before we—” The lines around his eyes tightened as he listened. 

“Sir, after everything we’ve invested in these men—” He yanked the headset from his head and slammed it against the bulkhead. “Fuck.”  

The boom mic broke free and bounced under Rose’s boot. No one said a word. Johnson glared at the twelve-man team, his gaze sweeping down the line at each man in turn. He cursed before heading to the cockpit to talk to the pilots. 

Stills shifted his gaze to Ryder, the second in command. Ryder shrugged as he unbuckled and followed Johnson. The helo dipped and made a sharp turn. 

Moments later the craft tilted forward and headed for the dirt. They rode low and fast over the desert as the door gunner set up a machine gun in the crew door on the starboard side. 

“Must be going somewhere hot,” Gault said. “About time.” Stills nodded. They needed a briefing if they were deploying to a hot zone, but Ryder and Johnson didn’t come back from the cockpit. 

Fifteen minutes of high turbulence passed before gray smoke muddied the horizon. The helicopter headed for the smoke, maneuvering to come out upwind of the scene.   

The acrid odor of a chemical burn hit moments before a village shimmered through the gray and white vapor. Soot, ash, and smoke scraped his throat like sand paper.  

Stills unbuckled and stepped over his rucksack to peer out the crew door behind the gunner. The buildings at the edge of the village were rubble with masses of rock, metal, and bits of fabric poking through. 

As they made a sweeping pass over the village, they flew over more demolished houses. The closer they got to the center, the more smoke interfered with visibility and stung his watery eyes.  

The pilot swung around the other side where smoke rose from holes in the walls of cement buildings. When Stills caught sight of people, they were too distant to make out the details. “Fowler.” He motioned their sniper close. The man had the eyes of a hawk. “What can you see?”

Fowler pulled his rifle up and peered through the scope. “Where?”  “Three o’clock. Near the line of black smoke.” Fowler adjusted his scope as he focused on the scene. “Two men down. Locals. 

Female in a black hijab about ten yards behind them. Kid right next to her. Smallish. Can’t be more than five.”  

More men stepped across the aisle at Fowler’s words. Stills’ gut ached. Wherever they were, they’d gotten there too late. The sickly sweet smell of death hovered over the village. Details jumped out as they drew closer. 

The bodies were bloody as fuck. Additional bodies littered the dirt road that ran through the center of the village. “That’s a helluva lot of bodies down there. Anyone know what happened?” 

Responding to something on the headset, the gunner motioned everyone back and slammed the door closed. Stills couldn’t get the image of the family from his head. The way they were laid out, they’d been running and someone had gunned them down from behind.  

The woman and kid first. Who the hell did that shit? The helicopter banked hard right and lifted like a fat bird. Stills gripped a seatback until they leveled off. 

Captain Johnson stepped back from the cockpit and leveled Stills with a hard glare. The past half hour had aged the officer. Circles rimmed hard eyes. You didn’t see that. Sir?  

You never saw that village. We were never here.” Johnson did an about-face before anyone could question his order. Moments later, Ryder came through carrying a Ziploc bag. “Take a seat.” 

Stills did as he was told, settling between Gault and Craft. They’re pulling us in, Ryder said without inflection. We’re not going after the assholes that did this? The assholes that did this are on our side, Ryder answered.  

Stills dropped back against the bulkhead as the implications hit him. What happened in that village happened with American soldiers. Drones? Fowler asked. 

Couldn’t be drones, Gault argued. A drone isn’t perfect, but it’s more precise than taking out the entire village. This was up close and personal. Stills gripped his rifle. All the more reason to send us in to bag and tag the fuckers. 

Shut it, Ryder ordered. You heard the captain. We were never here. Now pull out your meds and put ‘em in this bag. He handed the Ziploc to Bennett on the end closest to the cockpit.  

Stills reached into a pocket on his vest and pulled out what amounted to a million dollars in research. Inside those innocuous pills was artificial courage.  

They were down to one pill a day after months of titrating the right dosages to induce fearless. Honest to God killing machines with no fear and no regrets. Like an addict, he gripped the bottle in a fist; noticed the men down the line doing the same.  

Giving up the meds felt like a death sentence. Beside him, Gault continued to dig through his backpack. He pulled out a secondary pair of boots and lifted the insole. He dropped three white pills into the heel before covering it with the black flap. 

I didn’t see that, Stills said in low voice. We were never here and this shit didn’t happen, Gault answered. True. They’d blocked more than their share of operational bullshit, so it wouldn’t take much to forget one small breach in protocol.  

Stills wished he hadn’t seen Gault’s dumbass move, though. He damn sure wasn’t going to talk about it, especially since the company decided to pull them in after something they weren’t supposed to see.  

Tell me your gut isn’t screaming, Gault said. On the other side, Craft handed him the bag nearly full of prescription bottles. Yeah, it’s screaming like a girl at a Bieber concert. Stills dropped his meds into the clear plastic. Not a damn thing I can do about it.  

You’ve got that wrong. Gault dropped the prescription bottle into the bag and held it out for Ryder. When Ryder stepped out of earshot, Gault leaned close. I’ve got my ace in the hole against those dodgy bastards. 

The ride smoothed out as they lifted in altitude for a fast trip across the desert. Next to him, Craft drifted to sleep, but Stills was too spun up. Gault was right.  

Shit was about to hit the fan. On the other side, Gault patted his pocket before pulling out a picture of a petite brunette with eyes as bright as the sky behind her. She stood in front of an old Victorian wearing a green and gold cap and gown. 

Girl back home? Stills asked. They all had one, that dream they clung to when the job cut too close to the bone. Gault shook his head no. Sister. He swapped it out with another picture, giving Stills one with the girl and another graduate.  

The girl looked nothing like Gault, except the color of her hair. She was petite standing next to a giant of a man with dark skin contrasting to her pale freckled complexion. Her boyfriend?  

Gault laughed. Not even. She’s not his type. That wasn’t possible. The woman was petite, curvy, and had a smile on her face that could burn away the cold threatening to destroy him. 

Everything about the woman in the picture was sunshine and light. She’s every man’s type. Gault started to laugh like a jackass. Dude, you’re more his type. Oh. Stills kept staring at the picture.  

At her smile, at the way she hugged the big black man. His loss. Stills handed the photo back, but Gault shook him off. Keep it. He ran a hand along the edge of the first photograph as if he needed that connection.  

Anything happens to me, I want you to watch out for her and— Fuck you. Nothing is going to happen to you. Odds aren’t good. And she’ll be alone if I don’t make it home. If... Gault cleared his throat. Anyone you want me to contact, if?  

Stills tried to bring up a memory of Shelley, his phantom girl back home, but his mind blanked. Somewhere in his ruck was a picture she’d sent, and a few printouts from her recent emails, but the longer he stayed in the desert, the less he remembered. 

The less he wanted to remember. He’d tucked her away to be pulled out if and when they survived their tour. Did he want Gault to contact her... if? Leave her in peace.  

No final message, no letter, no need to prolong the grief. The girl back home deserved a life free of this shithole. 

Ryder returned empty-handed. He’d turned in their medicine, and with it, their reason for existing as far as the Army was concerned. Rest up, he ordered. Not one for words, he took his seat, leaned back, and closed his eyes.  

Less than a hundred miles later, they descended to land at a forward operating base. The team stretched and reached for their packs.  

Hot shower here I come, Santiago said with a grin. His dark mustache had turned to a full beard in the desert. Ryder’s lips thinned into a frown as he blocked their path. This is a fuel stop. They’re pulling us all the way back to Germany. 

Fuck me. Stills zipped up his pack, the sound vibrating against his skin much like the now silent rotors. 

 One by one, the men reclaimed their seats. Stills shook his head to clear his thoughts. The girl back home no longer mattered. “They’re cutting us loose. 

Purchase Link

The Series

Live By The Team
(Team Fear #1)

Fight By The Team
(Team Fear #2)

About Author

Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. 

Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado. 

Now she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into a career she loves. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. 

She also plays the flute, makes crazy-good sculptures out of tortilla dough, and can wrangle the neurotic dog without getting mauled. 


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