Mercer’s War Series

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Mr. January

Book 1

Zoey Meager stares into an inferno as she struggles against two firefighters while an abandoned warehouse is gutted by a raging fire. She is desperately afraid her best friend Kaity is trapped inside, held hostage by a merciless gang of human traffickers. Denver SWAT has blocked anyone from getting near the blaze—but the police don’t know Zoey.

She ignores the danger and races inside a firestorm, but she’s not alone. A mysterious man dressed in black is wounded. When he tries to escape her and the police, Zoey grapples him to the ground, convinced he knows where Kaity is. In Zoey’s oxygen deprived brain, she’s sure he’ll kill her, but she won’t give up. The man is her only connection to a friend closer than a sister.

After the fire, Detective Estefan Cruz finds the bodies of three young women, bound and gagged in a locked storeroom. The blaze had been deliberately set to kill the witnesses. An unconscious Zoey Meager is found outside the charred building—a woman with more secrets and courage than sense—but the detective is suspicious. Is Zoey the only witness or did she have something to do with the horrific deaths? After she disappears, Detective Cruz is sure she’s hiding something.

Distrusted by the police and tailed by a sinister white van, Zoey is forced to hunt her mystery man alone—a dangerous stranger with a large black dog, completely devoted to its shadowy master.

 

International Digital Award Finalist 2017 – Second Place

Excerpt

Denver, Colorado

Midnight

“My friend could be inside. Please! You can’t just let her die.”

The heat of the flames seared her body, but Zoey Meager didn’t care. She seethed against the two firemen holding her back. When she heard another explosion from the three-story warehouse, she raised an arm to cover her face and cringed as more windows blew out. Glass pummeled the ground like molten rain and black smoke mixed with red embers to spiral into the night sky.

“Let me go in. I’ll take my chances.” She struggled against the two burly firemen.

“No one goes inside.” A familiar voice cut through the din.

Larger than life and dressed in turnout gear, Sam Riggs blocked her path and placed a gloved hand on her shoulder. She knew the fireman from the hospital where she worked as a nurse.

“Police say we have a potential hostage situation, Zoey,” he said. “It’s not safe for my men, or anyone. I’m sorry. We have to stand down until we get the ‘all clear’ from the police.”

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When she saw the pained look on his face, she stopped fighting. He hated this as much as she did. The Denver SWAT team—dressed in full tactical gear in their navy BDUs—had established a perimeter. Even if she found the guts to run into a burning building, she didn’t know if she could evade a highly trained SWAT unit.

She stared into the raging fire and hopelessness consumed her. Tears stung her eyes and drained down her cheeks. Kaity. She’d been sure this time. Now she prayed she’d been wrong with all her heart as the fire destroyed everything.

“I’m sorry, Zoey.” Riggs gripped her shoulder before he let her go. “Real sorry.”

She knew Riggs and his men resented being sidelined when lives were at stake. If a gunman held hostages inside, she understood why police had taken control of the scene.

Zoey quit fighting the two men who braced her arms until they released her. She sank into the shadows, feeling useless, and took a deep breath. She slumped against the hood of a police cruiser with its spiraling light bar and stared up at the beams of red and blue cutting through the darkness, with her mind reeling.

Firefighters stood to her right. They could only watch as flames ravaged the abandoned warehouse. Each face had a grim expression colored by regret. She understood the anger of being forced to accept defeat before the fight had begun.

Dense smoke tainted the acrid air and an intense red glow painted the pitch-black sky. Ambulances and police vehicles continued to arrive—Code 3—with bystanders and news crews gathering in the distance. The scene looked and sounded chaotic, but nothing distracted her from imagining the horror her friend Kaity could be facing inside.

She pulled out her cell phone and raised it to her ear, listening to the last message she’d received from Kaity—a message she couldn’t delete. She hadn’t played it for anyone. Oh, Kaity, I’m so sorry. Zoey felt a lump in her throat and shut her eyes to pray, hoping God would hear her. When she opened her eyes again, she saw movement inside the warehouse.

Someone lurked in the shadows.

“Kaity?” she whispered.

This time she wouldn’t let anyone stop her.

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Praise

“Dane brings surprising grit and hard-boiled heft to her books. She’s as cozy as a set of brass knuckles.”
—Kevin Burton Smith, The Thrilling Detective Website Founder & Editor

Mr. January grabs your attention from the first word to the last. Dane has drawn her characters with a vivid pencil, making them come alive on the pages so they are easy to visualize and feel their emotions.”
—Desiree Holt, USA Today Bestselling Author

“Dane’s novels are twenty-first-century noir with guts, heart, and a wicked sense of humor.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times Bestseller