Book 2 in the New York Times Best-Selling Intervention Series
When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of a car, he knows she's the newborn daughter of a meth addict he's been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse.
His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan—the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies.
I should have died.
Jordan lay on her bloody sheets, her newborn daughter in her arms, and longed for one more hit. She had never hated herself more. Her baby had come two weeks early—probably because of her drug use—and she hadn't been sober enough to get to the hospital. Giving birth at home had never been part of the plan, but there was no one in her house whose mind was clear enough to do the right thing.
What kind of mother traded prenatal vitamins for Crystal Meth? Her age was no excuse. At fifteen, Jordan knew better than to get high while she was pregnant. Now she had this beautiful little girl with big eyes and curly brown hair, innocence radiating like comfort from her warm skin. That innocence, so rare and short-lived in her family, made the birth all the more tragic to Jordan. Worse, the baby seemed weak and hadn't cried much, and sometimes her little body went stiff and trembled.
Was she dying? Had Jordan tied off the umbilical cord wrong? Her mother, who had once worked as a nurse's aid, had told her to use a shoe string. What if that was a mistake? What if she'd waited too long to cut the cord? It wasn't like she could trust her mother.
All Jordan's plans were ruined now. She had made up her mind to give the baby up for adoption, even though she'd felt so close to it in the last few weeks as it had kicked and squirmed inside her. While she was sober, she'd come to love the baby and dream of a future for it … one that bore no resemblance to her own. But once Jordan had gone back into the arms of her lover—that drug that gave her a stronger high than the love of a boy—the baby had stopped kicking. For the last week of her pregnancy Jordan had believed it was dead. So she'd smothered her fear, guilt, and grief in more drugs.
Then today her water broke, and cramps seized her. She had responded to her fear as she did every emotion—by getting high. By the time she'd felt the need to push, it was too late to get to the hospital, and there was no one who would drive her.
She craved another hit, but her mother and brother were out of Ice. They'd already burned through Zeke's casino win, so one of them would have to find a way to score. Maybe it was better if they didn't, though. Her baby needed her.
She wrapped the baby in a dirty towel, swaddling it like she'd seen on one of those baby shows. She hadn't expected to love it so fiercely. The baby had big eyes, much larger than the average baby, and now and then she would open them and look up at Jordan, as if to say, "So you're the one who's supposed to protect me?"
The door to her bedroom burst open, and her mother, eyes dancing with drug-induced wildness, swooped in with sheets in her hand. She must have been holding out on Jordan. She had a secret stash of dope somewhere that she didn't want to share.
"Up, up, up," she said with trembling energy. "Come on, girl, you've made a mess. Now let's clean it up."
Since when did her mother care about neatness when rotten dishes festered in every room, and garbage spilled over on the floors? "Mom, I have to get the baby to the hospital. She's not acting right, and I don't know about the cord."
Her mother leaned over the baby, stared down at her with hard, steel-gray eyes. "Looks fine to me. I've called the Nelsons. They'll be here soon. They're deliriously excited."
The Nelsons? No, this wasn't how it was supposed to go.
Her mother released the fitted sheet from the corners of one side of the mattress and pulled it up, clearly trying to roll them both out. Jordan tried to brace herself. "Stop! Mom, I can't."
"Get up," her mother said, clapping. "Come on. We've got to get the little thing cleaned up before it's mommy and daddy come. And if they come back here I don't want them to see these sheets."
"Mom—you don't get to pick her parents!" Jordan got up, clutching the baby. Blood rushed from her head, blotches blurring her vision. "I've worked it all out with the adoption agency. I'll call them and tell them—"
Her mother's face hardened even more, all her wrinkles from hard living starkly visible now. "It's a done deal, darlin'. Baby, we have to do this. It's great for our whole family! This is the whole reason we let you leave rehab early."
"It's not the reason you gave me, Mom. You said you missed me, that I needed my mama while I was pregnant. It was all a lie."
Her mother snapped the sheets. "Forty thousand dollars, baby. Do you know how much Ice that'll buy?"
"Just take her to the hospital to make sure she's all right. Then we can talk about who—"
"No!" her mother shrieked, and the baby jerked and started to cry.
Jordan pulled the baby's little head up to her shoulder and rubbed her back. She was so tiny, just a little ball. Her arms and legs thrashed, as if to say that someone had made a mistake, that she wasn't supposed to enter a world of chaos and madness.
"His new parents can take him to the hospital," her mother said.
"Not him—her!" How could her mother not know whether her grandchild was a girl or a boy? "And they're not her parents. I don't know them. I don't care about the money. They're not on the list the agency gave me."
Her mother flung the sheets into a corner. The blood had seeped through the sheets and now stained the mattress. "Look what you did, you piece of trash! Bleeding all over that mattress."
"If you'd taken me to the hospital—"
"To do what? Let them arrest you because you were high as a kite while you were giving birth to that kid? Let them arrest me? I'm on probation. You know they can't see me like this. And you're fifteen. They might have taken you away from me, put you into foster care, and then where would you be? Worse, they could take the baby away and put it into foster care. Then we got nothing to show for it. I ain't gonna let that happen."
Jordan squeezed her eyes shut. If she'd only stayed in rehab, under the protective wings of New Day.
She felt dizzy, weak, but as she held the baby, her mother threw the clean sheets at her. "Put these on that bed. But first get that stain out of the mattress."
"Mom … I need some things." She kept her voice low. "Something to dress her in. Some diapers. Bottles."
"You can nurse her until they take her. I'm not putting one penny into this. They're paying me!" She yanked the baby out of Jordan's arms. "I'll hold it while you change the bed."
Jordan hesitated, uneasy about the fragile baby in the hands of a wild woman who didn't know her own drug-induced strength.
"Do it!" her mother screamed.
Again, the baby let out a howl. Jordan took her back.
"I will, Mom," she said softly. "Just let me put the baby down."
Breathing hard, her mother watched as Jordan laid the baby on the floor. Then Jordan got a towel and blotted at the blood stain on the mattress, watching the baby from the corner of her eye.
Buy Vicious Cycle Now at http://www.terriblackstock.com/books/adult-fiction-books/the-intervention-series/
Buy Book 1, Intervention at http://www.terriblackstock.com/books/adult-fiction-books/the-intervention-series/
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Protecting Her Own
By Margaret Daley
Bodyguard Cara Madison must protect her own father when an assailant targets him. With the help of an ex-boyfriend, Connor Fitzgerald, she searches for a would-be killer while fighting her feelings toward Connor.
Blurb for Protecting Her Own, second book in Guardians, Inc. Series:
Nothing short of her dad's stroke could bring professional bodyguard Cara Madison back to Virginia. But her homecoming turns explosive with a pipe bomb package addressed to her father. Cara knows two things for sure. First, someone's after either her father or her…or both. And second, this job is too big to handle on her own. Unexpected help comes from Virginia state police detective Connor Fitzgerald. Years ago she'd walked away from him…and love. Now, despite their unresolved feelings, they must join forces—and settle their scarred differences.
Heartwarming to Heart Pounding
An Electrifying Read
Excerpt from Protecting Her Own by Margaret Daley, Love Inspired 2011:
"I thought that was taken care of." Cara Madison gripped her cell to her ear so tightly her hand ached as she hurried toward the foyer of her childhood home to answer the door. Exhaustion clung to her as though woven into every fiber of her being.
The bell chimed again.
"No, the State Department still has some questions," Kyra Morgan, her employer at Guardians, Inc., said.
"Hold it a sec. Someone's at the door."
She peered through the peephole, noting a deliveryman with a package and clipboard, dressed in a blue ball cap, blue shorts and white T-shirt. Probably another birthday present from one of Dad's friends. She thrust open the door and cradled the cell against her shoulder to keep it in place.
"So I have to make a trip into Washington, D.C., to see Mr. Richards at the State Department?" Cara asked her boss while she scribbled her name on the sheet of paper then took the box.
Stepping back into the house, Cara shut the door with a nudge of her hip and carried the package to the round table in the center of the dining room to put it with the multitude of others—all presents from people around the world whom her father knew.
"Cara, I'm sorry you need to go at this time. I know that last assignment was rough and now with bringing your dad home from the rehabilitation center, you don't need this complication. Mr. Richards assured me it's just a debriefing about the riots occurring in Nzadi."
She wished she could say that wasn't her fault, but what she did had set the protests off. Guilt swamped her. In protecting her client, a revered humanitarian in Nzadi was killed instead. "Don't worry. I'm tough. I'll survive. I'll call the man and set up an appointment after I get Dad home and settled."
For a few seconds she studied the plain brown box from Global Magazine with C. Madison on the label before peeling back the top flap on the carton. The sound of the tape ripping the cardboard reverberated in the stillness, exposing the top of a gift wrapped in black paper. Black? True, her father was turning sixty tomorrow, but wasn't black wrapping a little too macabre after he suffered a stroke eight weeks ago?
"I'm sure it's only a formality." Her boss's assurance drew Cara's thoughts away from the gift. "My impression from the State Department was you won't have to go back to answer any more questions from the Nzadi government."
The word Nzadi shivered down her length, leaving a track of chills even though it was summer. "I'll call you after I talk to Mr. Richards. Bye." Cara clicked off and stared down at the open box that nestled the new present, wrapped in black paper. Black like people wore to funerals. Black as the dress of the beloved lady who had been killed in the café. Cara shivered again. She wanted to forget Nzadi, but she didn't think she ever would.
The image of the beautiful woman, bleeding out on the floor of the café, nudged those last days in the African country to the foreground. She'd managed to push the trophy wife she was protecting out of the way of the assassin's bullet, only to have it lodge in the woman across from them. Again she heard the angry shouts from the crowd as she'd been driven to the Nzadian airport. The people's grief over the death of Obioma Dia had evolved into fury at Cara and the woman she'd been assigned to protect.
A shrill whistle pierced the air.
Shaking the image and the shouts from her mind, she glanced toward the kitchen. The water she was heating for her tea. The noise insisted on her immediate attention and grated her frazzled nerves. But the sound was a welcome reprieve from the thoughts never far away.
She quickly headed toward the kitchen and a soothing cup of tea along with a moment to rest and think about her father's situation—the reason she was in Clear Branch. She craved peace after the past couple of hectic days—after her last disastrous bodyguard assignment in a country that fell apart around her. Nzadi was still suffering the worst unrest in decades.
Just inside the kitchen she pocketed her phone, wishing she could silence it like she could the teakettle's racket. But her cell was her lifeline, especially when she was on a job. And now also because her dad's homecoming celebration was cancelled because of a reaction to a new medication that made the doctor decide at the last minute to keep him a few more days. She'd planned a small birthday party for tomorrow and would need to finish calling his friends to tell them she'd have to postpone the festivity.
As steam shot out of the spout on the white pot, she snatched it off the burner and set it on a cool spot on the stove. Finally the loud, annoying sound quieted. She turned toward the cabinet behind her to get a mug.
Blissful silence—no angry people in Nzadi yelling words that still curdled her blood, no rehabilitation center—
A boom rocked the foundation beneath her feet. She flew back and slammed against the edge of the counter so hard the air rushed from her lungs. Her momentum then spun her to the side, her hip clipping the corner. Her head swung back against the freezer handle then forward. Darkness swirled before her eyes as bits of wood and plaster rained down upon her, stinging her skin. Her ears rang, drowning out any sound except the thundering of her heartbeat vying for dominance.