Julie Ann Walker stops by with Richard “Rock” Babineaux from her new novel Thrill Ride. Thrill Ride is the fourth novel in the Black Knights Inc. series and was released on April 2, 2013 from Sourcebooks, Incorporated.
This is the tale of Richard “Rock” Babineaux, a ragin’ Cajun and secret government agent, who has been tossed from the Real World into the Make Believe World of The Brothers Grimm and Rapunzel…
”Merde,” was the first word Rock muttered when he opened his eyes to find a himself proned-out beneath a large tree. The ground was cool beneath his back. The sun was shining through the canopy in dappled droplets. The tart, earthy smell of lichen filled his nose when he sucked in a deep breath. And a soft breeze rustled the fat, heart-shaped leaves overhead. Unfortunately, it did nothing to blow the cobwebs from his mind…
How did I get here?
He couldn’t remember. One second he was crouched behind a wasted, pockmarked concrete wall in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, breath sawing from his lungs, sweat slicking his body, waiting for two of Al-Qaeda’s most nefarious and murderous leaders to pass by. The next second he was… here.
Wherever the hell here is…
He pushed into a seated position, scrubbing a callused hand across the back of his neck, and glancing around at a deep, dark forest that was hell and gone from anything found on the wild, rugged border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then he heard it. A voice. A woman’s voice.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”
What the… huh? Rapunzel? As in, fabled maiden with the extra-long tresses? Nah. Couldn’t be. And yet…
He craned his head around the sturdy tree trunk and blinked once, twice, three times. Then he rubbed his eyes with his fists for good measure. But nothing he did changed the scene that filled his vision. A door-less tower stood tall in the middle of a flower-filled glade. A woman in a black hooded cloak waited at the bottom as a glistening rope of braided, amber-colored hair cascaded out through the lone window at the top of the tower.
Okay, so, he’d officially lost it. He’d gone off his rocker. Maybe from the adrenaline. Maybe from exhaustion or sleep deprivation. Or, heck, maybe he was tripping balls after humping it through that field of poppies. Was that possible? Could a guy go on an opium bender simply from running through the unprocessed flowers?
He didn’t have long to contemplate the question because the cloaked woman began scurrying up the rope of hair like a cat scurries up a tree.
The sound of footfalls behind him had him spinning on his heels, both of his Sig Sauer P229s lifted and at the ready. His fingers tightened on the triggers. His vision tunneled. But his heart’s beat was metronome steady. Such was the way with highly-trained operators…
“You cannot have her,” a man in weird-looking military finery – the getup actually came equipped with epaulets, friggin’ epaulets – growled as he unsheathed a long, shiny sword. “She is mine. She has promised herself to me.”
Rock couldn’t help it. One corner of his mouth twitched. “Prince Charmin’, I presume?” he drawled, flipping on the safety of one of his Sigs before tucking it into the waistband of his fatigues. He kept the other pistol out. You know… just in case. That sword look awfully sharp.
“Yes,” the man said, tilting his chin regally. “I am a prince. Though I’ve never heard of this Charming you speak of.”
“Oui,” Rock nodded, narrowing his eyes in contemplation. “That’s a different fairytale.”
“What? You speak in riddles, sir.”
“Ah, nothin’,” Rock made a dismissive gesture. And, really, this dream, or bad opium trip, or whatever it was was really beginning to give him the heebie jeebies. It was time to wake up or sober up, or whatever. And in the name of waking up, or sobering up, he pinched himself. Nope. That didn’t work. Mr. Epaulets was still standing there. He reached up and slapped his own face. Nada. He was still in the dark forest, and now Mr. Epaulets was eyeing him in alarm.
“You have lost your mind, sir,” the prince said. And, oui, Rock couldn’t argue with that one. “But not even a crazy man can steal my dear, sweet Rapunzel from me.”
Rock opened his mouth to tell the prince he had no interest in Rapunzel, but the guy just continued. “I will have her. She will be mine. Just as soon as I finish bringing her the scarves with which to fasten a ladder she can use for escape, we will ride off into the sunset and live happily-ever-after.”
Rock managed to contain his snort of disbelief. Because if memory served, the way this story went was that the sorceress cut off Rapunzel’s hair, banished her to the desert, and blinded Mr. Epaulets here for years. Rock tugged on his earlobe, screwing up his face. “Uh, if you don’t mind me sayin’, you’re dead-eye wrong, mon ami.”
“The sorceress is gonna find out what you and the walkin’ advertisement for Rogaine for Women have been up to, and she’s gonna curse you both.” The Prince’s brows formed a perfect V. “If you want my advice, I’d eighty-six the witch before she gets the chance.”
“Kill her,” Rock emphasized, nodding toward the prince’s shiny sword. “Sooner rather than later.”
Mr. Epaulets’ eyes rounded. “What are you? Some sort of prophet?”
Rock opened his mouth to answer, but the prince’s gaze darted over his shoulder and he turned to see the sorceress shimmying down Rapunzel’s braid. Spinning back to Mr. Epaulets, and despite the fact that this was all just some weird dream or bad trip, he said, “Heed me advice, mon frère. Unless you’re fine with years of misery for you and Rapunzel both, you need to end the witch’s life.”
Rock thought he saw the prince nod. But he couldn’t be sure, because, just like that, he was back behind that crumbling concrete wall, listening to the Al-Qaeda leaders arguing loudly in Pashto. He looked around, feeling disoriented at best, downright scared-out-of-his-gourd at worst. But he had to shake it off. Because he had one chance to take these two men out. And the time was now. He stepped from behind the wall, pistols locked and loaded, fingers squeezing the triggers…
Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. Look for the first four books in her fast-paced series: Hell On Wheels (August 2012) In Rides Trouble (September 2012) Rev It Up (October 2012) and Thrill Ride (April 2013).
Want to read more from Julie Ann Walker?
Available April 2, 2013 from Sourcebooks Casablanca
About this Book:
He’s Gone Rogue
Ex-Navy SEAL Rock Babineaux’s job is to get information, and he’s one of the best in the business. Until something goes horribly wrong and he’s being hunted by his own government. Even his best friends at the covert special-ops organization Black Knights Inc. aren’t sure they can trust him. He thinks he can outrun them all, but his former partner—a curvy bombshell who knows just how to drive him wild—refuses to cut him loose.
She Won’t Back Down
Vanessa Cordova hasn’t been the team’s communication specialist
very long, but she knows how to read people—no way is Rock guilty of murder. And she’ll go to hell and back to help him prove it. Sure, the sexy Cajun has his secrets, but there’s no one in the world she’d rather have by her side in a tight spot. Which is good, because they’re about to get very tight…
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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