Friday, March 26, 2010

Sworn to Protect by Diann Mills, Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Sworn to Protect


DiAnn Mills

Tyndale Publishers

Danika Morales has sworn to protect our borders. But that oath has come with a price.

Two years ago, her husband was shot and killed trying to help undocumented immigrants--the very people Danika, a Border Patrol agent, is responsible for deporting. His murder was never solved.

Now, a recent string of attacks and arrests leads Danika to believe her husband's death may have been part of a larger conspiracy, and it appears that she's the next target, When the Border Patrol discovers that one of their own is leaking top-secret information, Danika turns to the only person she can trust--a doctor at the local medical clinic. Together they search for answers before more innocent lives are destroyed.

"We are truly a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws." Brent


Chapter 1

McAllen, Texas

The Rio Grande River separating Mexico and the US was not just murky. It was

toxic. Danika Morales respected the river's temperament—lazy and rushing, crystal and

muddy, breath-taking and devastating. To many illegal immigrants, its flowing water

signified hope and an opportunity for a better tomorrow, while others viewed the river

crossing as a means of smuggling drugs or spreading terrorism. But for Danika, the

depths meant death, and it didn't discriminate among its victims. That was why she chose

a Border Patrol badge and carried a gun.

Shortly after the 8:00 a.m. muster, Danika snatched up the keys to the Tahoe

assigned to her for the next ten hours and checked out an M4. A hum of voices, most with

Hispanic accents and clipped with occasional laughter, swirled around the station. A

labyrinth of sights and sounds had succeeded in disorienting her. A daze. She took a sip

of the steaming coffee in hopes no one saw how the day's date affected her. Her hands

shook. The twelfth of July. The second anniversary of Toby's murder. She thought she

could handle it better than this, but the raw ache still seared her heart.

"Tough day for me too," Jacob whispered beside her. "We can get through this

together." The familiar tone of voice, as in many times before, nearly paralyzed her.

Jacob sounded so much like his brother.

She stood shoulder to shoulder with her brother-in-law and glanced at his

muscular frame and the silver streaks in his closely cropped hair, everything about him

oddly different from Toby. Gone were the gentleness, patience, and the out-stretched

arms of love.

"Thanks. But I'm all right."

He frowned, a typical expression. "Well, I'm not, and you shouldn't be either."

She was in no mood to rile him today. "I miss Toby every minute of the day, but

we have to move on. He would have wanted it that way."

"Not till his murderer is found." Jacob's jaw tightened. "I'm disappointed in you."

Danika took another sip of the hot coffee, burning her tongue. Caustic words threatened

to surface and add one more brick to the wall dividing them. "I want the killer found too.

I'm committed to it. I think about him everyday and mourn for our daughter who will

never know her daddy. But I choose not to spend my time harboring hate and


"You must not have really loved my brother."

The words cut deep, and Jacob knew they would. No woman could have loved

Toby like she did. "I refuse to be brow-beaten by you any more. Your hate is going to

explode in your own backyard one day." She stopped herself before she lit a match to his

temper. Actually, she'd rather have been dropped in the bush for the next ten hours with a

shotgun and a can of OFF than argue with him. But the time had come to distance herself

from Jacob.

"Hey, Danika," an agent called. "Do these belong to you?"

She turned to see wiry Felipe Chavez carrying a glass-filled vase with a huge

bouquet of roses. They remembered. She swallowed a chunk of life. "Oh, guys, you

didn't have to do this."

Felipe made his way toward her. The other agents hushed, then one of them

started to clap. She smiled through the tears as he handed her the clear glass vase. The

sweet fragrance no longer reminded her of death, but of life and her resolve to live each

day in a way that commemorated Toby's devotion to her and their little daughter. Perhaps

this was what the two-year marker meant. She took the roses and studied the small crowd

of agents. Good men, all of them—even Jacob.

"We cared about what happened to Toby too," Felipe said, with a grim smile.

Danika brushed her finger around one of the delicate petals and formed her words.

Memories had stalked her like a demon since last night. "Don't know what to say except

thank you. Toby was a soldier for his own cause, and he spent his life doing what he

believed in. Just like all of us."

One agent shook his head, frowned, and left the room. Far too many reasons for

his disapproval raced through her mind. But Danika needed to put the ugliness behind

her. She set the flowers on the long table in front of her. "Today is the second anniversary

of Toby's death."

These books may be obtained from good bookshops everywhere.

Tyndale Publishers

ISBN: 9781414320519

Please do not reproduce without permission.

©DiAnn Mills 2010

Expect an Adventure


Stuart Vaughn Stockton

On an alien world far removed from Earth, Rache of Yanguch seeks to rise from lowly origins and achieve greatness in the Karn Empire. His chance comes on a military mission when he is imprinted as the protector for a childlike artificial intelligence from an all-but-forgotten civilization. Soon Rathe finds himself in the center of a war that threatens to tear his empire apart, and in search of a weapon that could save his nation or doom his world. Rathe must navigate treachery and prophecy to make a decision that will change Sauria forever.

"I have to admit I picked up this book, thinking it was a guy's book. It is a tribute to Stuart Vaughn Stockton's writing that within a few pages I was thoroughly enmeshed in his 'out of this world' world." ~Donita K. Paul, author of The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, WaterBrook Press


Rough stone tore Rathe's palms as he stumbled through the gaping maw of the cave. He tore away the makeshift leaf filter covering his mouth and sucked in the cool underground air, soothing his burning lungs. Pain lanced through his side as each breath tortured cracked ribs.

He turned to the entrance and gazed into the ash-clogged air outside. Grey blanketed the world like a shroud, quickly swallowing his large three-toed tracks, and obliterating any scent that would lead the trackers to him. Satisfied that he would be safe for the duration of the ash fall, Rathe staggered farther into the cave. His claws echoed hollowly on the stone floor, their quiet clack, clack, clack bouncing into the darkness.

The musical trickle of water sounded nearby, and Rathe angled toward it. Sudden wetness at his feet alerted him to the presence of a shallow pool. He lowered gingerly to the ground and stuck his snout into the chill liquid. The bitter taste of ash flowed over his tongue, but sweet relief filled his parched throat. Yet each swallow intensified the pain in his ribs. The cool, moist rock felt good against his hot skin, and he rolled onto his left side, away from the fire in his battered ribs, and stretched out to his full twelve-foot length. His tail-tip lazily slapped against the ground as drowsiness flowed over him. the water's flow sung him to sleep.

A shrill cry jolted Rathe from soothing darkness, pain seared through his right side and down his tail. Through the agony the fading echo of the cry played at the edges of his mind. He groaned as he rolled onto his belly and forced a few swallows of water despite the agony in his side.

After a moment's rest he pushed to his feet, swaying slightly as his stiff muscles adjusted to his weight. He cocked his head and listened, but whatever had made the sound had gone silent, or the cry had been only the vestige of a nightmare.

A glint of light drew his attention to the cave entrance. The remaining half of his sokae lay just inside the entrance. The curved blade winked in the renewed light filtering through the lessened ash-fall. He staggered to the entrance and slowly retrieved the weapon. Hefting its five-foot shaft gave him a renewed sense of confidence.

His gaze wandered the gray-toned landscape outside the cave. Ash blanketed the valley, yet even now bright flecks of color began stirring, as klants uprooted themselves and began skittering about, feasting on the bounty, their light-red fronds swaying as if in a gentle breeze. More plants joined in, some slowly moved about, scooping their harvest into their innards. Others made due with what fell nearby, slowly leeching away at the nutrients expelled from the volcano.

Just down the slope the Hekaret River rushed along its course, choked with the ash. Rathe grinned at the fortune that had washed him ashore so near to this shelter. By all rights he never should have emerged from the torrent after his failed fording. But the same rock that had cracked his ribs had enabled him to reach the shore. And though he had lost half his weapon, and all of his gear, he was still alive.

Rathe craned his neck and surveyed the damage done to his right side. A wide black-green bruise spread from just behind his shoulder, over his hip to just past the base of his tail. The skin over his ribs was torn, but he was close enough to shedding that only a few scrapes showed blood, already scabbing over.

A klant wandered close to the cave entrance, little spurts of dust spouted from under its hard shell as it moved. With a quick thrust, Rathe speared the plant on the end of his sokae. He grimaced as the impaled plant's legs continued moving as if nothing had happened. A savage jerk tore one wrigling leg free, releasing a pungent odor and dripping sap. Rathe's lips formed an involuntary snarl as he lifted the limb, crushed the hard exterior between his teeth, and sucked the pulp out.

Three legs later he tossed the boxy plant back into the ash-covered valley. Warmth and strength flowed through Rathe's body, renewed by the meager meal, despite a slight queasiness. He turned his gaze back to the landscape, scanning for any movement that wasn't a plant.

A bloodcurdling scream tore out of the depths of the cavern, chased by a savage roar. Rathe spun around, brining his weapon to bear as he scoured the darkness. The cries echoed into a skin-crawling silence. He backed toward the entrance a step at a time, but then froze as a new sound reached his ears.

The guttural cry of thorniks on the hunt sounded from the valley. A group of trackers, barely holding the beasts under control, appeared from behind a grouping of rocks on the far side of the river. There was no way they would have missed the scream or the roar. Rathe shrunk back into the shadow of the cave entrance as the group stared in his direction. After three weeks of dodging and hiding, he was finally trapped. It would take time for the trackers to cross the river, but even so, with his cracked ribs he'd never be able to outrun them.

He turned back to the black cave depths. Death waited within the abyss, he felt it. But better to chance death than face the humiliation of capture. With his sokae held in front of him, and his right hand pressed to the stone wall Rathe took soft steps into the dark.


Stuart Vaughn Stockton

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