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Sneak Peak: Chasing Sunrise

Have you read Chasing Sunrise?

Chasing Sunrise explores betrayal, friendship, integrity, and the life-changing gifts of love and hope.—Richard Paul Evans, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Get a sneak peak at the adventure novel Chasing Sunrise in these first four chapters.

Chasing Sunrise Chapter 1

Captain Michael Northington looked toward the patient’s room. The door was closed.

“There’s a VIP patient at Bethesda.” Corbin MacIntyre, the special ops commander had briefed him earlier. “Protect the room. No one is allowed access except medical staff, and they already have their orders.”

“You’re expecting an attempt on the patient’s life?”

“Monitor the floor. Apprehend anyone.”

The night watch in a hospital in the late 1980s was atypical for the parajumper accustomed to more active assignments. Establishing a runway before an invasion, rescuing a downed pilot, or descending from a hovering helicopter to a ship bucking like a bronco in a wildly choppy sea were customary fare for Michael and his four-man team. But tonight found him and his partner serving more as security guards in the upscale medical center than as trained rescue personnel. Still, orders were orders.

Now Michael casually observed a gray-haired janitor as he lugged a wash bucket into the hospital corridor. Mop. Slosh. Wring. Mop. The overhead fluorescent lights gleamed off the man’s glasses, and his name badge swung back and forth as he swept the mop from side to side.

“Evenin’,” the custodian mumbled as he shuffled up to Michael.

As the old man swished the ammonia-smelling mop, Michael stepped away and let the man do his job. The janitor mopped his way into the room across the hall from the room occupied by the protected patient.

From her station around the corner, a thick-waisted nurse in soft-soled shoes walked toward the patient’s room. She frowned when Michael stepped in front of her, and flashed her identity badge and an irritated attitude. He nodded and moved aside. She brushed past and entered the room, closing the door behind her.

Suppressing a yawn, Michael checked his watch. In a couple of hours the sun would rise and his shift would end. He anticipated a platter-sized breakfast at the twenty-four-hour diner followed by a nap. Maybe wake at the crack of noon.

Eager for morning and breakfast, Michael glanced at the window. A pale glow promised daybreak and he could almost smell bacon spitting on the grill. He thought of the diner with its chrome and red vinyl seats that let him belly up to the counter. Early in the morning before the pert waitress arrived, the cook took orders and slathered the hot grill with margarine. Like a symphony conductor, the white-aproned expert threw eggs and hash browns simultaneously to sizzle, adding ladles of melt-in-your-mouth flapjack batter to the crackling, popping breakfast serenade. Michael’s stomach growled and he looked again at his watch.

The nurse came out of the room, adjusted the stethoscope around her neck, and shut the door behind her. Michael watched as she entered another room, continuing her rounds. Turning his attention back to the patient’s room he observed the slightest movement as the door silently closed.

Jaguar-fast, Michael covered the space down the hall. He opened the door without a sound. In the darkened room, bending over the still form in the bed was the janitor.

Light from the hall spilled into the room behind Michael. The janitor whirled around just as Michael lunged at him. With well-trained maneuvers Michael quickly pinned the man’s arms and muscled him into the hall.

“Send someone to collect.” Michael spoke into his radio.

The janitor struggled like a wild man, surprising Michael with his desperate fight.

“Please,” the man pleaded. “She needs water.”

“Easy, old-timer.” Michael gripped the man tighter.

From the stairwell, Captain Bryce Lassiter ran to meet Michael. “Okay, partner?”

“Yeah.” The man in his grip stopped struggling and went limp.

Bryce’s attention shifted to the elevator as the doors opened and four uniformed men stepped out and strode toward them. Suddenly the janitor jerked from Michael’s hold and ran back toward the patient’s room. Michael dove and tackled the man and the two fell hard on the clean linoleum.

“She needs me,” the man rasped.

Without a word Michael jerked the man to his feet. The janitor’s glasses were broken from the impact and blood from his nose mingled with tears on his face as two special-forces officers roughly grabbed his arms and nearly carried him to the elevator.

“Let me care for her,” he sobbed.

As the group reached the elevator, the old man craned his neck, the tendons standing out like cords, to look back toward the patient’s room. The look of anguish on his face twisted Michael’s gut.

“Verity,” the man wailed. “My Verity!”

The two soldiers pushed him into the elevator and the doors whispered shut.

“Back to work.” Bryce made shooing motions to the two remaining soldiers who turned toward the elevator.

“Back to my post.” Bryce clapped Michael on the back. “Call if you need me.”

He took several steps toward the stairway and then looked back. Michael stood rooted to the spot. His partner returned to his side. “What’s up? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Michael spun on his heel and strode to the patient’s room. Three paces took him to the bedside where he looked at the still form. The light was dim, but enough to see the spilled cup of water on the floor. Enough to see her.

The irritated nurse brushed past to check on her patient, scolding everyone for the mess, and reminding them to keep quiet. In a rush of motion, two sets of strong arms grabbed Michael on either side and hauled him from the room. Too stunned to resist, Michael was unceremoniously dumped in the hallway.

One soldier closed the patient’s door and stood in front of it. “I’m sorry, sir.” He addressed Michael. “Orders are that no one goes into this room.”

Bryce pushed his nose into the man’s face. “He’s your commanding officer, you moron.”

“Sir, yes, sir.” The soldier straightened his shoulders. “Our orders are no one goes into the room. Not even my commanding officer.”

“I have to relieve you of your post.” The second soldier took a position between Michael and the room.

Staring at the closed door, Michael murmured, “No problem, soldier. I was just leaving anyway.” He turned and walked toward the stairway.

Bryce caught up. “Where we goin,’ partner?”

A soldier jogged after the two and blocked their way. “Sir, I have to escort you out, sir.”

“Knock yourself out.” Michael brushed past him.

The soldier ran and blocked the way again.

“You’re getting redundant,” Bryce said to the man.

“By way of the elevator.” The soldier spoke to Michael.

“I prefer to walk.” Michael’s hands were fists at his sides.

“I realize that, sir.” The soldier swallowed. “Orders are that we use the elevator.”

“Friggin’ orders.” Bryce sighed.

Michael looked at Bryce.

“I love it when you do that,” Bryce said.

“Do what?”

“Raise one eyebrow like that.”

“I can’t believe you used that word.”

The soldier cleared his throat. “Sirs, can we continue this conversation in the elevator?”

Casually Bryce turned toward the elevator and started walking. “What word?”

Michael followed while the sweating soldier trailed behind. “My word.”

Bryce’s expression was the picture of innocence. “Your word?”

The elevator doors opened and Michael stepped inside. Nervous and perspiring, the soldier stood to Michael’s right. The second soldier occupied the post Michael had kept near the patient’s room.

“Yeah, my word.”

Bryce remained in the hall. “Who said it’s your word?”

The elevator doors closed.

Chasing Sunrise Chapter 2

Absently Elise Eisler lifted her hair off her neck and held it coiled in a bun at the back of her head. The trade wind blew through the open window and cooled her as she gazed out at the familiar view. The view she had known all her life. The Atlantic was lively today. Playing under the golden yellow of the warm sun like a child frolicking under the loving, watchful eye of a doting mother.

She shifted her weight and the breeze made her sundress dance against her legs. Her own mother had been watchful and doting. Gentle and loving. Elise remembered sitting in this room, her tanned bare feet swinging from a Queen Anne chair much too big for her skinny nine years. Smelling of fairy stories and happily-ever-after, her mother bent over her, helping position the finely crafted viola in her young daughter’s eager hands.

“Antonio did his usual fabulous job.” With professional efficiency a middle-aged woman bustled into the empty room, interrupting Elise’s reverie. “Honestly, Elise, I don’t know what this island did before he came here. Everything is moved out, the corners and closets are clean as the kids’ stockings after Christmas. This is the only thing I found.”

She held out a paintbrush.

“Thanks, June.” Dropping her hair, Elise blinked away the sweet memory of her mother, took the brush, and drew the long, delicate handle through her fingers. Feeling the well-worn wood triggered a different remembrance, this time of her father. His blue eyes twinkling with success, he coaxed Robson, Ava, and Elise through the final movement of Beethoven’s chamber piece. The four of them perched on the front of their chairs in a semicircle. Three adolescent music students and their instructor with music stands low so they could read the notes, like so much black confetti on the yellowed pages, and still make eye contact with one another.

“Why this piece?” Robson always needed the why.

Her father had placed the pages of music on each stand. “The String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, opus 131 was Ludwig van Beethoven’s favorite of his chamber works.”

Ava scanned her violin part. “How is it played?”

He bent to retrieve his conductor’s wand and Elise noted the whimsical curl of gray hair at the base of his neck. He placed the delicate wand in Ava’s fingers and guided it to several places on the score. “The Quartet is about forty minutes in length and consists of seven movements.”

“Seven pauses in forty minutes?” Elise could see Ava doing the mental math.

“Played without a break. And another mathematical inconsistency with this piece.” He indicated the black letters of the title. “This is actually Beethoven’s fifteenth quartet by order of composition, but it is titled the fourteenth based on the order of its publication.”

Turning his attention to her, Elise’s father put an affectionate hand on his daughter’s head. “And you, liebste, you are your mother’s daughter and want to know the story behind the composition.” He hummed a few measures, thinking. Suddenly he brightened and she knew he had matched the tune to the tale. “The illustrious composer dedicated this work to Baron Joseph von Stuttenheim. It was a gift of appreciation for finding a place in the military for his nephew, Karl, after an attempted suicide.”

“Beethoven attempted suicide?” Elise couldn’t imagine a composer like her father being anything other than fulfilled. He had music, after all.

Ava and Robson laughed.

“Not Beethoven.” Robson’s condescending tone reminded her that once again he understood something she didn’t. “His nephew.”

Under the tutelage of the conductor, the three young friends practiced separately and met together regularly at the cottage that served as a studio. Each week after the young students had gone, Elise’s father put on a music recording and turned to his painting. Sometimes Elise’s mother walked down from their house on the same property and joined him. From the time Elise was able to stand and hold a brush, her parents had set an easel between them for her to paint as well, encouraging her immature attempts.

Now she flicked the soft bristles across her palm. A round paintbrush of fine Kolinsky sable derived from a pale red weasel with fur—according to her father—“of superior strength, slenderness, and resiliency for the purpose of applying paint.”

Savoring the sleekness, she drew the brush across her cheek and looked up to find June studying her. “Where did you find it?”

“On the top of the refrigerator. It must have rolled back out of sight. Probably when you closed the fridge door. I can just see you searching for it—”

Elise shook her head. “It’s not mine.” She sighed. The vacant room felt like the empty pit in the depth of her stomach. She hadn’t been able to soothe the vicious acid of regret that burned in her core. Was there another way? Did she have to sacrifice one part of her parents’ treasures to save the other?

June put a hand on Elise’s arm. “This is a good decision, my dear.”

“But—”

“Don’t mistake good with easy.” The older woman fingered her earring and Elise recognized the jewelry as a set her mother had given to this dear family friend. “Sometimes the two are companions. Often they are polarized. Much like a grand marriage.”

June surveyed the room and inhaled deeply. “Even empty, this special place smells like creativity. The salty sea, rosin, oil paint.” She met Elise’s eyes. “It smells of you.”

“It smells like memories.”

“You’ve made a lifetime of them here.” June clucked her tongue. “And this is the beginning of new ones, my dear. You’re making this into a goodbye.”

“Isn’t it?”

June flung open the glass double doors and beckoned Elise outside. “By the gods, no! This is a new beginning. A fresh new canvas. The beginning notes of a never-before-heard symphony.”

Grinning, Elise twisted her hair into a bun once more and stuck the paintbrush through to hold the knot. Following June outside, she picked a smiling yellow hibiscus and tucked it behind her ear.

Chasing Sunrise Chapter 3

Corbin MacIntyre was on the phone when Michael barged into his commander’s office. Corbin waved him to a chair, but Michael walked straight to the large desk and tossed his parajumper insignia across the dark wood surface.

“Listen, something just came up.” Corbin spoke into the phone, but his eyes were still on Michael. “Call me later.” He dropped the receiver into its cradle.

“You used me.” Michael knew his tone was accusatory.

Ten years Michael’s senior, Corbin was handsome and fit with a quick mind and an unending supply of Scottish witticisms. When agitated he also had an unlimited string of Scottish insults and, as far as Michael could remember, never repeated any. Michael would know. He’d been the frequent recipient of the salty tirades during their years together.

Now Corbin regarded Michael. “I heard there was an incident on your last assignment.”

“I didn’t become one of America’s fighting elite to kill women.”

“My information was sketchy, Michael. We were ordered to protect the patient.”

“Cut the crap, Corbin.” Michael waved a hand at the television on a low coffee table. His boss kept it tuned to a news channel to stay updated on world happenings. Though muted now, the screen showed Senator Bennett Taylor wiping his eye as he told the press of his wife’s passing. “The patient was a general’s wife, mysteriously hospitalized.”

“Don’t you watch the news? Taylor’s a senator now.” Corbin crossed the room and closed the office door. “A general’s wife or a senator’s wife should receive extra protection.” He returned to his side of the desk.

“Mr. God-and-Country barred all visitors and ordered life support withheld. That’s not protection. It’s a death sentence.”

“But you did apprehend someone who was making an attempt on the patient.”

“I apprehended her father, Corbin. Her father was attempting to give water to his only child.”

Corbin sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He indicated the chair again. “Sit down, Northington.”

“No.”

The phone rang. Corbin pushed a button on the display and spoke. “Saundra, hold all calls.” The ringing stopped. “I’ll look into things, Michael.”

“Don’t bother. She’s dead.” Michael slapped his palm on the desk. “She was murdered.”

Corbin picked up the insignia and held it out for Michael. “Take some time off. Cool down.”

The metal flash in Corbin’s hand was the image of an angel enfolding the world in its wings. Michael ignored Corbin’s outstretched hand. “I’m done.” He turned and walked away. He had his hand on the doorknob when Corbin spoke again.

“Did you know her?”

Michael paused before he answered. “Yeah, I knew her.” He slammed the door behind him.

Chasing Sunrise Chapter 4

“Figured I’d find you here.” Several days later, wearing a T-shirt tucked into worn jeans, Bryce dropped into a chair across the table from Michael.

Folding the classified section, Michael sat back and regarded his partner and friend. “Buy you a cuppa?”

A fit five-foot-ten, Bryce was more powerful in upper body strength while Michael was superior at distance running. He took in the scattered newspaper with several items circled in blue ink and Michael’s empty glass. “Since I’m the only one here still employed, I’ll do the buyin’. What’s your brew?”

“Beer. A tall one.”

Bryce signaled to the waitress who took his order.

Michael broke the silence. “Corbin send you?”

Bryce stretched and glanced around the restaurant, a small gem tucked among the bustling Washington, D.C. commerce area. The island theme appealed to the two. Made them feel like they were anywhere but here. “You did get the Scotsman’s underwear in a wad. An accomplishment few have been able to pull off.” He smiled at the memory. “But I came on my own.”

The beers arrived smelling thickly of malt. Michael downed half the tall glass.

Bryce pushed his sunglasses up on his head. His brown eyes were flecked with gold which the ladies found attractive, particularly combined with Bryce’s easy humor and ability to get along with just about anyone. He looked pointedly towards the discarded want ads. “So, battle buddy, what’s the plan?”

Michael clicked the pen absently. “I’m making this up as I go.”

“This from the guy who was on a fast track to his goals when he was still in diapers.” Bryce took a drink of his draft and licked the suds from his top lip. “Scary.” Michael drained his beer and Bryce nodded at the empty glass. “If I get you another will you humor me with something more than monosyllables?”

“Deal.”

Bryce signaled the waitress again and turned his attention back to Michael. “You were prepubescent when you joined Civil Air Patrol.”

“I was fourteen and you weren’t.”

Bryce casually rested his elbow on the back of his chair. “Being the older, more mature member of this dynamic duo, I was sixteen. And driving myself to meetings while your mom dropped you off in that stylish station wagon.”

Remembering, Michael smirked. “You were driving that rust-fringed, dilapidated pick-up truck older than Methuselah.”

“Don’t poke fun at that ride, Mikey,” Bryce warned. “It got us to a lot of great places.”

Michael listed. “Training weekends, ground team practice, survival school, flight school…”

“Before it died on the side of a deserted highway. It’s probably still there.” The two sat in companionable silence as the waitress delivered Michael’s beer.

Michael lifted his glass in toast. “To the Adventure Mobile.”

Bryce raised his own and they drank. “Before you could shave you had your eyes on the sky, Michael.”

As a teenager, the sight of the military jets practicing formation in the sky above his house had stirred Michael’s blood. “I only wanted to fly then.”

“And I was gonna be your ground team.”

“You were too chicken to get your sorry bohunkus in a plane.”

Bryce folded his sunglasses and tucked them into his t-shirt pocket. “The plan was I’d watch your back as crew chief. ’Cept you got too tall to fly that fighter jet you dreamed about. So you switched to Plan B.”

Michael filled in. “Parajumper.”

“Heck, there’s only five hundred of us in the nation. You made it through the toughest training regimen in the world. Number one in your class.”

“And drug you kicking and screaming the whole way.”

“More like I carried you, partner.” Bryce leaned forward on the table. “Parajumper is all you’ve wanted to be since you were sixteen. It’s what you’ve been for ten years. It’s who you are.”

Studying his mug, Michael nodded.

“Come back, partner.”

Michael spun his glass in slow circles, the condensation leaving wet rings on the table. Finally, he spoke. “I can’t.”

Bryce sighed. “This is about the general’s wife.”

Michael respected Bryce’s keen sense of measuring a person, but hadn’t come close to mastering his buddy’s winsome knack for rarely allowing anything or anyone to annoy him. “It’s about her murder.”

Bryce remained quiet. Waiting.

“What’s our prime directive, Bryce?”

“So that others may live.”

“Two people have done something for me in my life. One of them was Verity. They used me to kill her. I can’t work for people like that.”

Bryce locked his fingers behind his head and stared at the ceiling fan. “You know what this means.”

“What’s that?”

“Besides being there to see Corbin come unraveled.” He grinned at Michael. “You’d have loved it.”

“Dinner and a show.” Tipping his chair back on two legs, Michael finished his beer.

“It means I gotta partner with Wingnut Wolcutt.”

Michael grimaced. “Sucks to be you.”

And There’s More Chasing Sunrise

Excerpt from Chasing Sunrise by P.S. Wells. Get your copy HERE.

Read the bonus chapter, Wings for Christmas.

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Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.