Wedding Day

Wedding Day
Enjoy EVERY moment in your wedding gown. You can't stay in it forever...SO UNFAIR!!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sweat, Blood, and Tears: What God Uses to Make a Man by Xan Hood

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Sweat, Blood, and Tears: What God Uses to Make a Man

David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Xan Hood is an author and speaker ministering to young men between the ages of 18 and 25. He is the co-founder and co-director of Training Ground in Colorado Springs where he disciples young men through their program in work, wilderness, and worship ( He has also written for New Man magazine and Discipleship Journal. Xan began working with young men in Tennessee and in youth groups in Nashville and Knoxville. He and his wife live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with their first child.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766810
ISBN-13: 978-1434766816



You would be amused to see me, broad sombrero hat, fringe and beaded buckskin shirt, horse hide chaparajos or riding trousers, and cowhide boots, with braided bridle and silver spurs.

Theodore Roosevelt

I had always heard that Theodore Roosevelt was a tough, hardy “man’s man” sort of guy: a hunter, outdoorsman, activist, soldier, explorer, naturalist, and “rough rider.” But it wasn’t always so. Much like me, he was raised a refined, tame city boy, a member of a wealthy, powerful family with political influence. He was a sickly, asthmatic youngster who at the age of twenty-three still appeared boyish and underdeveloped. Both the press and his fellow New York state

assemblymen made light of his high-pitched voice and “dandified” clothing, calling him names like “Jane-Dandy” and “Punkin-Lily.”2 He was what we now refer to as a “pretty boy.”

It seems Theodore knew he needed to escape the confines of the city, to be tested and initiated beyond his Jane-Dandy world. There was only one direction to go: west.

“At age twenty-five, on his "first trip to the Dakota badlands in 1883, Roosevelt purchased a ranch, bought a herd of cattle, hired ranch hands, and, spending considerable time there, began to develop his Western image.”4 It is said he took rides “of seventy miles or more in a day, hunting hikes of fourteen to sixteen hours, stretches in the saddle in roundups of as long as forty hours,” pushing himself physically and mentally.5

Within two weeks of moving to Colorado, I drove up alone to the Orvis store in Denver to purchase a complete set of official Orvis gear: waders, boots, vest, and a fly rod. I had come to the West to bond with earth, wind, and rivers that I could fly-fish—and to find God. The fishing needed to be done in official Orvis gear—only the best.

You see, coming from a town of status and wealth, the type of gear you chose was very important. It needed to function, but it also needed to make you look good so you could feel good while looking good.

In my eyes Orvis was the status symbol of real and serious fly fishermen, the hallmark of class. I stocked up on floatant, little boxes, nippers, and line—all Orvis products and logos, of course. I paid with a new credit card and walked out.

While Theodore would become a great, brave man, his first attempts out West were about as comical as my own. It is written that he “began to construct a new physical image around appropriately virile Western decorations and settings.” These photographs show him posing “in a fringed buckskin outfit, complete with hunting cap, moccasins, cartridge belt, silver dagger, and rifle.”6 In a letter to his sister back East, he bragged, “I now look like a regular cowboy dandy, with all my equipments finished in the most expensive style.”

Though he looks like a young man in a Halloween costume, something much deeper than child’s play was occurring. A rich city boy was exploring another side of himself. The costumes, however foolish they appeared at the time, were a part of this becoming and would, in time, become him.

I was also searching for a new image, one more closely connected with nature. In his book Iron John, Robert Bly writes, “Some say that the man’s task in the first half of his life is to become bonded to matter: to learn a craft, become friends with wood, earth, wind, or fire.”8 I had yet to experience that. Ralph Lauren Polo shirts and a posh lifestyle were simply not enough. And while it’s likely that neither of us could have verbalized it at the time, Theodore and I were learning that a man had to find something away from all of it. I think his fringed buckskin and my Orvis gear were safe compromises between the worlds we were straddling.

A week after I bought my Orvis gear, I drove about an hour away to the South Platte River. An Internet search revealed that I could quickly access it from the road. On my way I stopped at a little fly shop in Woodland Park, Colorado. A retired-looking man had blessed my obvious naïveté but left the teaching to a sheet of paper, diagrammed for a nymph-dropper rig. He made a few fly suggestions and sent me on my way with the paper and a pat on the back. It was time to become Brad Pitt: Orvis-endorsed, perched on a rock, waiting for a fish.

I arrived on the water’s edge at about 2 p.m. Like a warrior dressing for battle, I donned my Orvis gear and set to work on the nymph-dropper rig. About an hour later, after clamping on weights, indicator, and tying two flies onto the razor-thin line, it looked like I’d tied my grandmother’s collection of jewelry to a string. I stood in the middle of the river, flung the line out, and whipped it back and forth, feeling good and enjoying the four count rhythm.

Though I filled the hours with flipping and whipping, I could not seem to hook a fish. Were they in the rapids? The calm water? Should I cast upstream or downstream? The paper didn’t say. It didn’t help that every few minutes I would get caught on a branch, or grass or algae would get on the flies, tangling them with knots. It was getting dark, and I was getting lonely and frustrated at Orvis, God, and myself.

But there came a last minute hope: I remembered Dan Allender telling a story at a leadership conference about going fly-fishing with his son. As an unsuccessful day of fishing came to a close, he told his son they needed to call it a day. But his son kept fishing, and then, on the fifth and final cast, as all hope was fading like the sun—BAM!—a massive trout on his fly rod. It was a miracle. Dan concluded his speech with this lesson: “God is the God of the fifth cast … He comes through in the end.”

And so I began my count. Okay, Lord, I prayed. This is for You. Help me fish. Catch me a trout. One cast … nothing. Second cast … nothing. Third cast … nothing. Cast again … nothing. God of the fifth cast … not for me. Eleventh? Nope. I kept going. God of the seventeenth cast … God of the twenty-second cast …

Before long, darkness covered me, and I could no longer see my orange indicator. It was over. There would be no fish that day.

I stood all alone in the middle of the river, holding my empty net. There wasn’t a soul in sight—not a fish, not even God. It was haunting. I demanded an explanation. Where are the fish? Where are You? Just one, God. All I wanted was one. One simple fish would have made this day worth it.

Would God not give a man dressed in Orvis a fish if he asked?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ransomed Dreams (Side Roads) by Sally John

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Ransomed Dreams (Side Roads)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc for sending me a review copy.***


When the going gets tough—or weird or wonderful—the daydreamer gets going on a new story. Sally John has been tweaking life's moments into fiction since she read her first Trixie Belden mystery as a child.

Now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life. Her passion is to create a family, turn their world inside out, and then portray how their relationships change with each other and with God. Her goal is to offer hope to readers in their own relational and faith journeys.

Sally grew up in Moline, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, married Tim in 1973, and taught in middle schools. She is a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois.

She and her husband currently live in southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414327854
ISBN-13: 978-1414327853


Topala, Mexico

Eighteen months later

Like everything about the small village tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Madres in central Mexico, sunrise was a leisurely event.

Sheridan waited for it, tea mug in hand, shawl over her cotton nightgown, bare feet chilled against the tile floor of the second-story balcony. Alone, she listened in the dark to the squawk of roosters and clung to their promise that the world would once again know light.

“Oh, good grief,” she murmured to herself with a groan. “That is so maudlin. Truly and hopelessly maudlin. You might try something more chipper. Something like . . . Something like . . .” Her foggy brain offered nothing.

She scrunched her nose in defeat. The morning had shuffled in on the heels of a sleepless night. Chipper was not going to happen, no matter how hard she tried to talk herself into it.

If she could turn the calendar back eighteen months, she would not be talking to herself. No. Eliot would be right next to her, responding, most likely pointing out a dozen chipper thoughts in that funny way of his.

Nostalgia and regret hit her, a powerful one-two punch that still took her breath away. She clenched her teeth, waiting for it to pass, mentally spewing forth a verbal attack at the counselor who had promised her that time healed all wounds, that month by month they would see improvement.

What drivel that was! Eighteen months—or to be more precise, seventeen months, three weeks, and two days; but who was counting? All that time had passed and only one thing was healed: Eliot’s gunshot wound. His other wounds, the invisible ones, still oozed like toxins from a waste dump site. He was not the same man she had married.

Sheridan took a deep breath and let the bitter argument go. Nostalgia and regret settled back down into whatever corner of her heart they’d found to hide out in. Their impact, though, lingered.

Would time ever erase her longing for the Eliot she had married? The animated one, the one others adored, the one who was engaged in every detail of life, whether simple or complex, with every person who crossed his path. The one from B.C.E., Before the Caracas Episode. Now, in their A.C.E. days, he might as well be a deaf-mute for all the interest he showed in the world around him.

Sleep-deprived, she totally blamed him. She didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. The bullet that shattered his nerves shattered their life. Everything about it was over. Health, career, home, friends. All gone. Kaput. Some days she barely recognized herself and Eliot. Where were the Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery she once knew? These routines, hometown, health, acquaintances, and even personalities seemed lifted from the pages of some stranger’s biography.

“Oh, honestly. Get over it already, Sher.” She forced a swallow of tea and focused on the scene before her.

A lone sunbeam pierced between two mountain peaks and sliced into the distant mists. Another followed. And another and another until finally pure light broke free. Valleys and canyons burst into sight. Loud birdsong erupted. Then, as if God had uncurled His fist, long fingers of sunlight shot forth and touched the wrought-iron railing where she stood.

It was achingly gorgeous.

Sheridan flicked at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye. “You should have stayed in bed, you foolish, stubborn woman.”

Sunrises were the worst because they represented the best of what had been.

Most days she could ignore that thought. Evidently not today. She and Eliot were morning people. Had been morning people. Their daily ritual of tea and conversation at an east-facing view, awaiting dawn, was seldom missed. With crazy-full schedules, they needed such a time to relate on the deepest levels. Some days their hearts positively danced and sang in union. Naturally, through the years the tune changed now and then, the tempo sped up and slowed down, but the music never stopped. It never stopped. They always talked. They always connected.

Until that day in Caracas.

Now she watched sunrises by herself.

“You really should’ve stayed in bed.”

But it was so beautiful. And it went on and on like a slow waltz. At the bottom of her street now, purple haze still shrouded the town square. The sky brightened in slow motion above it, the fiery ball itself still hiding behind a peak.

Something moved in the semidarkness below. A person. Early risers were not uncommon, but she was startled. Something felt off about this one.

Or was that just her hypervigilance? Compliments of the incident in Caracas, it kicked into gear at times without warning, filling her with anxiety and suspicion.

Now she could see that it was a man. He passed the bandstand, his strides too deliberate for a villager, too American. He headed straight for the steep incline that led up to her house. In city terms, the distance was perhaps a block. In Topala terms, it was simply up beyond the sculptor’s shop.

The sun overtook the peaks and the man came into view.

“No way.” Her heartbeat slowed, but not quite to normal.

Even with his face concealed by a ball cap, his body clothed in a generic khaki jacket and blue jeans, a city block separating them, she recognized him. She recognized him simply because the air vibrated with him.

Luke Traynor owned whatever space he occupied.

Sheridan set the mug on the table beside her, tightened the shawl around her shoulders, and massaged her left arm. She felt no surprise at his unannounced arrival nor at the early hour. It was as if she had always expected him to show up sooner or later.

But as he climbed the narrow street, an uneasiness rose within her. Her muscles tensed. Why was he here? He had promised not to come. Sixteen months ago he promised. Not that she was keeping track. . . .

The sound of a soft whistle drew her attention back toward the square. Javier, the young sculptor, stood on the porch steps outside his shop. Behind him, the handicraft shop owner emerged from his door.

Javier raised his chin in question.

Sheridan gave a half nod. They needn’t be concerned. The stranger was, so to speak, a known quantity. Not that she felt the least bit glad to see Luke. Eliot would most likely be severely distressed at his arrival.

Wishing Luke were an apparition did not make it so. He continued his steady pace, arms swinging gently, head down as if he studied the cobblestones, making his way to her house.

Since that day in Caracas—the day her husband died in every sense except physically, the day this man saved her life—Sheridan had understood intuitively that Luke would always be a part of her life. And there he was, out of the blue, ascending her street in the middle of nowhere on a spring day as if he visited all the time.

She suddenly remembered the date. “Good grief.”

It was Annunciation Day, a day of remembrance, of celebration for when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced her future. How apropos. Luke appeared without warning. He would not have come unless he had something to tell her, some message that would irreversibly change her future.

Was this his joke or God’s?

Luke neared and looked up, straight at her.

She saw not the man whose presence had always triggered apprehension in her, but rather the guardian angel who had saved her life.

Sheridan turned and made her way inside, down the stairs, and through the house.

* * *

Sheridan opened the front door and stopped.

Luke Traynor stood less than six feet away, at the low gate in the stone wall where her front terrace met the steep hill.

She returned his steady gaze, knowing full well her own expression did not mirror the one before her. While dread, relief, and excessive gratitude rearranged every muscle on her face, his remained perfectly composed. The sharp nose, thin lips, and deep-set eyes could have been made of the same cobblestone he stood on.

He flashed a rakish grin. “I was in the neighborhood.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

He cocked his head, somber again. Always the gentleman, he waited for her to make the first move.

Sheridan clutched her shawl more closely and resigned herself to riding out the emotional disarray rumbling through her. She both loathed and loved this man. Of course he knew that, so it didn’t matter how she reacted to him except that she’d like herself better if she were polite.

With a quiet sigh, she walked to him, planted a kiss on his scruffy, unshaven cheek, and eased into his embrace. Nestled against the rough collar of his jacket, she smelled the familiar scent of him, an indescribable mix of earth, sun-drenched air, and confidence that bordered on lunacy. She felt the hardness of his body, always unexpected given his average height and build.

“Sheridan. How are you?”

“Fine.” She backed away, crossing her arms.

“And Eliot?” he said. “How is he?”


Luke blinked, a slow movement of lids indicating he could take the truth.

She wanted to shriek obscenities at him. The disconcerting thing about angels, though, was that it was impossible to keep up any sort of pretense. Like an angel, Luke had stayed close beside her for long weeks after the shooting. He had gone with her to the edge of hell, holding on to her until she came back. He knew her better than she knew herself. Glossing over answers was a waste of time with him.

She tried another phrase. “We’re doing about as well as could be expected.”

He nodded.

“Eliot is still asleep.”

“It’s early. Perhaps I can greet him later.”

The resistance drained from her. Yes, Gabriel had come to deliver a message, and he would not leave until he’d done so.

She had no inkling how to shield Eliot and herself from this unexpected source of distress but gave a lame attempt. “I don’t suppose you’re passing through town and simply must be on your way right now, this very minute?”


She inhaled, her shoulders lifting with the effort, and blew the breath out with force. “Coffee?”

“Love some.”

Excerpted from Ransomed Dreams by Sally John. Copyright 2010 by Sally John. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rise Up and Sing: Equipping the Female Worship Leader by Lex Buckley

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

Lex Buckley

and the book:

Rise Up and Sing: Equipping the Female Worship Leader

David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Lex Buckley has worked for Soul Survivor Ministries in the UK as one of their worship pastors, alongside Tim Hughes and Ben Cantelon. She has sung on albums such as Matt Redman’s Facedown and Soul Survivor’s live albums We Must Go and Love Came Down and has released an EP with Survivor Records, Through the Valley. Lex and her husband Paul now live in Jacksonville, Florida, where they head up the worship department at River City Church. They recently became the proud parents of Bella and Finn.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434700585
ISBN-13: 978-1434700582


The call to lead

Do you ever look around you and wonder where all the female worship leaders are? I don’t know about you, but I predominantly see men leading worship. In many cases this is because women have not been encouraged to step into any church leadership roles. But amidst this reality is one thing that excites me more than anything:Through all the arguments for and against women in leadership roles, we see in the Bible that God does use women to lead His people in worship.

The book of Exodus tells us about the life of Miriam. We don’t know too much about Miriam, but we do know she was a prophetess and one of the leaders of Israel alongside her brother Aaron (they both led under the authority of Moses). She was also a worshipper. In Exodus 15:20–21, after God had parted

the Red Sea and the Israelites had escaped the Egyptians, it says, “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.’”

The word sing in Hebrew used here is shiru, which is a masculine, plural command. This means that Miriam is addressing men and women in verse 21. The natural reading of the Hebrew is that Miriam leads a group of women who become her backing vocalists (so to speak) as she leads the whole community in worship. Some might question that she actually led them in worship because it says she sang to them.

But throughout the Psalms, we see the psalmists write songs like this, encouraging others to worship God (Psalm 30:4, Psalm 33:1–3). The psalmists wrote songs to God, about God, and to the Israelites encouraging them to worship God, just as many worship songs do today.

Miriam’s response to what God had done was to worship Him and then encourage the people of Israel to worship Him with her. At the end of the day, a worship leader is a passionate worshipper who through their voice and instrument encourages others to worship God as they seek to worship Him themselves. And this is what Miriam did. She was a worshipper whom God used to lead His people in worship for His glory.

So now that we know that God does use women to lead worship, the question is whether He is calling you to lead. Here are some general questions you might want to ask yourself to begin the process of finding your answer.

Are you a passionate worshipper?

The most obvious and important question is, do you love to worship God? More than anything a worship leader must be a worshipper. Genuine worshippers are people who are just as passionate about pouring out their praise to God when they are on their own as when they are at church. As Mike Pilavachi, leader of Soul Survivor Ministries in the UK, always says, “You can’t lead people somewhere you haven’t been yourself.” Our first passion must always be to worship God, and it’s only out of our passion to worship Him that He will call us to lead others.

Do you have the practical skills required to lead worship?

Another important factor is skill. Can you sing in tune? Are you musical? You don’t have to have an incredible voice to lead worship, but if you can’t sing in tune, leading sung worship might not be your

gift. Not everyone who starts out leading worship has a fantastic voice or is an incredible musician (and not all worship leaders lead on an instrument), but if you’re called to lead worship, usually those in leadership over you will see your potential, and it will be clear to them that you are someone to invest in.

Have others confirmed that you are called to lead worship?

If you are called to lead worship, usually those around you will be in agreement. But if leading worship is something that you’re passionate about and you have not been encouraged to step out in it yet, ask your pastor, ask your friends, ask those around you who will be honest with you. Make sure you aren’t just asking your mother though! Mine thinks I should try out for Australian Idol, and although I am so grateful that she totally believes in me, I know full well that I am not gifted enough to do well in a competition like that! You’ve got to trust that if you are called to lead worship and it’s the right time for you to step out, those around you will encourage you to do so.

Are you being given opportunities to lead worship?

If you are called to lead worship, opportunities will arise for you to do so. I never had to try to push doors open myself—God opened them in His timing. First, I began singing backing vocals at church. Then I led worship in my small group for a season. Later I began coleading at church, and after six months of coleading, I finally began leading on my own. I know it might seem more appealing to just start leading up front at church straightaway, but the journey that God took me on totally prepared me for what was

ahead. Leading a band, trying to remember the lyrics, melody, and chords for the songs, and arranging the band are all pretty tough sometimes, especially while trying to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow where He is leading. I would not have been ready to lead on my own at church if I had been thrown into it without all those years of worshipping on my own and leading in small groups. So value every opportunity given to you, because every opportunity enables you to learn and grow.

You may not be able to fully answer all these questions yet, but if you feel passionate about leading worship, keep worshipping God. Keep growing in the practical aspects of leading worship, and trust that He will give you confirmation and will open the doors for you to lead if that is something He has created you to do.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Day Another Dollar - Posting from My Day Job

Finally I am done with the California trips. Well done until August 9th when I go back to see how the latest meds (doc has me on Armour Thyroid and Cytomel) are doing. Soooo posting has been kind of stinky. Sorry about that. Here is today's posting from my thrifty tips spot at the station.

Another thing I have been a little lax in is my keeping track of spending. I am okay, but I am really going to make a concerted effort. It really does make a difference. With back to school shopping ahead, I have to stop being such a slacker. :)


Okay. We are definitely nearing the big back to school countdown. Last week I talked about getting a total inventory of all the kids clothing. If you haven't done it yet, seriously do this. Figuring out what your children need can keep you from over spending. This week I highly recommend doing the same thing with your kids school supplies. In fact this is something to keep in mind for next year. On the last day of school. Separate the pencils, pens, papers and folders and put away what you think is in good enough condition for next year. We do this every year which usually makes going through all the school supplies pretty easy. I like to box them up if possible. It keeps us from looking around the house for things like the special calculator that my son had to have for Algebra. :)

Now for shopping. Shop around because there are deals everywhere. If you have a computer look around online at the online fliers. If you have a good idea of size, check the online clothing sales too. When it comes to clothes, take advantage of thrift stores, yard sales, rummage sales and consignment shops. Now is a great time to pick up some great items at these outlets as people are thinning out closets and making donations in preparation for back-to-school shopping. Hit those clearance racks at the retail stores. I have been continually stunned at the amazing deals I have been finding at retail stores. I went to a GAP outlet about a month ago and was quite literally stunned by the great deals out there in the clearance sections.

School supplies can be purchased all over, but it is important to get going while the sales are in full swing. Shop at the grocery store, office supply stores, drug stores and mass merchandisers like Walmart and Target. The important thing is to know your prices again, and do not be afraid to shop at more than one store for the best sales. If you take the time to plan your route, you can usually take advantage of the sales without wasting gas.
When buying school supplies don't forget things that might not be on your child's list now but your child will need in the future like report covers and index cards. You can find these items for a seriously good price now so take advantage while they are inexpensive.

PS I have noticed lots of great deals on hand sanitizer and tissue too. You might want to pick up some of these deals for your child's classroom. I know my son's teachers have appreciated it.

And don't forget whether you are shopping for school clothes or school supplies, bring your lists!


While supplies last get your hands on a sample of
Oxy Skin Care. The sample will arrive in two to three weeks!

LINK: Oxy Skin Care Sample

If you like Estee Lauder, you may want to head to their counter today (July 22nd) between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm to get a
ten day supply of Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye or Face Serum. No purchase necessary!

Estee Lauder free 10-day supply Advanced Night Repair Eye or Face Serum

For the time being YOU can get a sample of Nexxus Therappe Shampoo, Humectress Conditioner and the new Humectress deep conditioner from I love this stuff! I have no idea how long this Walmart free sample will last so hurry on this one!

LINK: Walmart Nexxus Samples

Walmart also has a free sample of
Schiff Mega Red Omega 3 Krill Oil. Check out the details at the link below.

Walmart Mega Red Omega 3 Krill Oil

Nature's Bounty is offering a
free pedometer again! We got one a little while ago, and my son loves it. If you have wanted an easy way to monitor your steps and walking this is a cheap way to get at it.

Nature's Bounty Pedometer

Choose You is a movement created by the American Cancer Society that encourages women to put their own health first in the fight against cancer. Choose You challenges women to make healthier choices, and supports them in their commitment to eat right, get active, quit smoking and get regular health checks. Register now and you can get your own
Choose You flower pin. A pretty little reminder of how you should do things to improve your health.

Choose You Pin

FreeCCM has a free download this week of Todd Agnew's "Give Me Jesus." They also still have songs by Chris Rice, Laura Story and Jeremy Horn.

Free CCM

Monday, July 19, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour - God Knows My Name: Never Forgotten, Forever Loved by Beth Redman

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

God Knows My Name: Never Forgotten, Forever Loved

David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Beth Redman is an evangelist, songwriter, singer, and author of several books, including Soul Sister and Beautiful. She is also the co-author, along with her husband Matt, of the book Blessed Be Your Name. Recently, Beth and Matt received the Dove Award for the Worship Song of the Year for “Blessed Be Your Name,” which they wrote together. Their combined song-writing skills also produced the popular worship songs “Let My Words Be Few,” “Facedown,” and “You Never Let Go.” The Redmans and their five children live in Atlanta where they serve as part of a team leading Passion City Church with pastors Louie and Shelley Giglio.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403650
ISBN-13: 978-0781403658


Our parents are often broken people wearing big learner’s plates, like drivers in training, when we arrive in their world. We shouldn’t judge them harshly, but sometimes the parents we need to love us the most can hurt us and let us down.

As a mum, I take it very personally and get a little feisty when my daughter, Maisey-Ella, is bullied or mistreated. I consider it outrageous when I know someone has hurt her, and I find it hard not to intervene.

My husband has told me on many occasions, “You can’t give little girls evil looks, Beth!” My daughter is, quite simply, utterly gorgeous inside and out. Of course she is not perfect, but the problem all of us face is that the world is not going to like us, love us, or be on our side all of the time. Some days we will be misunderstood, blamed, and rejected. But in our home, when Maisey-Ella returns from a miserable day at school, two pairs of loving arms wait for her. Arms that without question are available to wipe away any tear, and hearts of love that speak gentle words of acceptance, reassurance, and a promise that no matter what … we love you, beautiful girl, and we are for you.

Every single human being needs the comfort and reassurance that on the days the tears fall—even if the “world” rejects us—the people who really know us (warts and all) will be there for us. Those people are our parents, our family. Sometimes, though, our family isn’t there.

However, God is an ever-present, all-loving, all-forgiving, amazing Father in heaven. He can override imperfect parenting, soothe any broken spirit, and free any bound-up heart.

I want to tell you my story.

I want to share an amazing story of restoration, a story of the hope that we all have and the truth that I pray will fill you with joy, freedom, and power! I’m not pointing the finger at anyone or trying to make anyone look bad. I simply want to shout out that God heals, restores, has plans for you, and utterly adores you! If we can truly breathe in that truth, we become free to live, free to give, and free to love and accept both others and ourselves. Then, as you breathe that truth out into a hurting and broken world that desperately needs this message of God the Father’s heart for us, God is glorified, and lives are changed and transformed by Him.

My mum was a true saint when I was growing up, and my closest friend. She brought me to church and taught me about God. In public my dad seemed the perfect father, but in private he struggled with anger … and we suffered terrible violence. In my very late teens my parents separated. I don’t think we should place our parents’ mistakes or faults under the microscope and blame them for all our problems and baggage. God teaches us to forgive, and He gives us the grace to do so. He enables us to rise above the harshest of circumstances and to begin again. He rewrites generations of brokenness to give us an incredible hope and future with Jesus.

But I want to tell this story because I believe in a God who restores, and through His power I have seen reconciliation and healing occur in the most broken of families. I know it is possible, and I have always prayed for that with my own father. However, it takes more than just a miracle for that to happen—it also requires the openness and humility of all involved. Since my parents divorced, my dad and I have had sporadic contact. Throughout that time I found it impossible and even destructive to have a normal father-daughter relationship, so I have walked carefully and lived my adult life without him.

During my pregnancy with our third child, I began to have some worrying symptoms, and after the baby’s birth, doctors began to test me for suspected liver disease. The specialist I was seeing told me that, before my liver biopsy, he needed to know as much about my medical background as possible. He asked me to contact all my living relatives and find out if anyone in the family had ever had liver problems. I contacted each family member and very nervously sent an email to my dad. He wrote back immediately, and still to this day I cannot believe his parting words.

He wrote that, yes, there was liver disease in the family, and also cancer, and he hoped I had both.

“Beth,” he wrote, “you deserve to suffer, because suffering would make someone as egotistical and vile as you a better person.”


He also threw in some awful comments about Matt and our children that need not be repeated. The email ended with him telling me I was cut out of his will and he had instructed his solicitor never to disclose his death or where he would be buried. While I was waiting for news of my liver condition, my earthly father had just cursed me and condemned my life.

God made us to love and to be loved. My earthly dad knew me, rejected me, and also detested me. Could anything be more painful?

I could hardly breathe. I phoned Matt and read him the email. I called my mum and my best friend, Anna. Inside I was crying out, Someone tell me I am loved! Please take away the pain of this horrific rejection—the words had gone so deep it felt as though my inmost parts were bleeding. I was desperate for a deeper love, validation, and acceptance. No human words could soothe me.

I put down the phone and gasped for air.

I cried out to my God … my true, amazing Father, my heavenly, forever Father, the One who knows all my failures and shortcomings and yet has never ever rejected me. He wrote my name on the palms of His hands and He stretched out His arms, and as He was viciously nailed to a cross, He separated me from my sin forever and loved me enough to die unjustly. He walked a journey of horrific agony—pleading, being taunted—and He carried my cross, my death, my past, and my sin. His love was enough as He cried out, “It is finished!” So now death and pain, brokenness and rejection, where are your sting? Everything I ever need in life is now accessible and available to me through His death.

Our God is a God who saves and who accepts and who can heal us completely. His love outweighed the words of a wounded man whose own life was so broken that he knew only how to crush others. I faced up to the pain of the situation, but at the same time knew a beautiful and powerful revelation that spoke louder than all of those other words: Though my father may forsake me, my God will never reject me. Though my earthly dad may try to erase me from his life, I shall never be forgotten. In that moment I knew a deep and permanent truth covering over the whole of my life: that God knows my name.

My Father in heaven adores me, has plans to prosper me and supernatural arms to hold me. He is with me by His Spirit every time a situation threatens to overwhelm and whenever I want to hide away and give in to the insecure, evil thoughts that come knocking. My God would never reject or forget me. He did not forget me in my time of need. From heaven He called out to me reminding me that I am His! Because He made me, He knows me, and He loves me! I am His forever. God spoke to me powerfully from His Word:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and

have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See,

I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

(Isa. 49:15–16)

You are known by name by the Living God, the loving heavenly Father. He made you, He redeemed you, He hears you, and never ever will He forget you. Hallelujah!

In this book I want to share with you some of the powerful ways that God helped me overrule such a massive rejection with His glorious eternal truth. I hope this can help you in your own life and enable you to help others.

Isaiah 43:1–4 says this:

But now, this is what the LORD says—

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.…

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,

and because I love you.”

In this passage, there are several truths for us to grasp, which I want to break down and look at one by one in this chapter.

God Knows Your Name

“I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isa. 43:1)

A name is given and considered. A name imparts meaning, value, identity, and significance. Your name was chosen specifically, and especially, for you. A name gives both humanity and dignity to a person. The Enemy would have you live a nameless existence—feeling anonymous, illegitimate, unknown, unimportant, inglorious, and unfit to be named. Nineteenth-century London was a time of such material, emotional, and spiritual poverty that “children were so utterly uncared for that some were even without names, and were known to each other by nicknames.”

In direct contrast, God says that He has a name for us. Where we feel worthless and insignificant He bestows worth and significance upon us when He calls us by name and chooses us for His glory.

Anyone expecting a child has flipped through baby-name books, looking at the meanings and origins of names and thinking about how they sound. I’ve found names I loved and then been dismayed to find out they meant something like harlot, wench, or crooked nose!

Someone recently told me of a child who had been named Jezebel Harlot! That’s a pretty negative connotation to speak over a child every time she is called. Ideally, a name needs to suit the person carrying it. When my husband suggested that we name our third child “Rocco Redman,” I thought he had gone a bit mad! Normally my husband’s track record in making decisions is spot on. There really is no point arguing with Mr. Matthew Redman because over the years I have found he is nearly always right. However, on this occasion, I wasn’t so sure.

I wanted our third child to be called Benjamin, but Matt got the older children on board—and in the end I came to peace with the fact that if he was anything like his dad and his brother and sister, he would easily live up to something as strong and bold as Rocco! The name means “rest,” and so far he has turned out to be the most relaxed, peaceful, deep-sleeping, and gentle-spirited boy… and he has the confidence and joy required to be Rocco Redman. In new environments, his name still causes a little reaction, but it is so perfect for him, and I love that every time I write or call him by his full name, Rocco Benjamin Courage, I am affirming and speaking rest, sonship, bravery, and boldness over him.

In the same way, your Father God named you as precious, chosen, and beloved. You may not be named Rocco, but when God calls you, He speaks over you His truth, freedom, and life. Your part is to make a good choice—to continually believe and live under those things He named you and never to seek to hide behind another name. Many of us each day live under other labels that the Enemy has given us from past or present experiences—unwanted, failure, doubter, ugly, unlovely, needy, drama queen, mistake, disgrace, shamed, forgotten, and many more lies.

Those thoughts and feelings cannot possibly originate from God—for He is the giver of good and perfect gifts, and the God of all comfort. Those negative impressions of yourself and the words my own dad wrote in his email to me originate from the Enemy—who we know to be a dirty liar.

Perhaps you think your problems and insecurities are too great to overcome. By the kindness and mercy of God in my own life, I can assure you that this is not the case. I was abused physically, put down verbally, and rejected. I suffered humiliation many times and sadly began to act out how I felt about myself. In public I felt wretchedly insecure. I couldn’t go out with friends without feeling self-conscious and unimportant. I hated myself inside and out.

Then Jesus called my name. And everything changed. I hardly recognize the person I was back then. Our names may conjure up memories, but not always truth. I know that ultimately I am defined not by what others think of me when they hear my name, or what my earthly father says about me. Instead, the authority and compassion of the God who called my name define me. He loves, He shapes, He convicts, and He lavishes us with affirmation.

It’s time we heard His voice the loudest.

God Made Me

This is what the LORD says—

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel. (Isa. 43:1)

Part of understanding the depths of God’s knowledge of us lies in grasping the importance of the fact that He made us.

Psalm 139:13–14 puts it beautifully:

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and

wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

The phrase inmost being is literally translated “kidneys.” In Hebrew idiom this meant the innermost center of the emotions and the moral sensitivity of a person’s heart.2 Here we see that God does not just know us as a casual acquaintance or simply acknowledge our existence, marvelous though that would be for the God of heaven to do such a thing. Rather, He knows who we are right down to the final detail. God knows how you work, how you think, what makes you happy, what makes you sad. He knows the last time you cried, and what you cried about. He knows what you would like for your birthday, and He actually cares about it too. The amazing thing is you don’t actually have to tell Him all of this. He just knows, because He made you, He sees you, He hears you, and He loves you. He knows you better than you know yourself.

He knows what you need before a word is even spoken from your mouth or articulated in your heart.

God Speaks Worth Over Me

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” (Isa. 43:4)

The first thing God said when He looked at His creation was, “It is good.” The very fact that God made you means you are wonderful!

The psalmist declares: “Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14). Yet God didn’t just make you, then say, “What a great job,” and leave you on a shelf. No, He pursues a relationship

with you, He gives His life for you, that He may know you daily, deeply, and eternally.

Just before we were married, Matt received an invitation from Buckingham Palace. When Matt read the guest list he was a little intimidated. Top sports personalities, journalists, and film stars— and my fiancé! When he eventually met the Queen, along with Prince Charles, Matt performed a fumbled bow and stood back in shock. That was the Queen!

He couldn’t believe he had been chosen to hold out his hand and meet her majesty face-to-face. Somehow Matt had been deemed worthy of a moment with the Queen and her son, and he felt truly humbled. What a privilege!

Yet the truth is that there is a higher honor—a more amazing invitation that lies open for all of us. God in heaven; the Lord of all creation; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of your pastor and your friends who are missionaries abroad; the God of Corrie ten Boom and Martin Luther; the Author of life; the Beginning and the End—He extends the hand of friendship to you! Just as Matt was invited to stand alongside celebrities and dignitaries before the Queen at Buckingham Palace, so too are we invited to stand before the God of heaven and earth as an equal alongside great heroes of the faith … and not just to meet Him but to know Him! He speaks His love and your worth loudly over you today.

Listen closely: Isaiah 61:3 says that He bestows on us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” and Psalm 103:4 says that God “redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”

Anyone wearing a crown holds her head up high. She does not have an identity problem. She has been given honor and dignity.

God speaks worth over you. He declares His love for you. You are precious in His sight. Just like when I speak rest, sonship, and courage over my child, every time God calls your name He speaks worth and

value over you. He knows you intimately because He made you, and He loves you completely.

God Hears Me

“I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isa. 43:3)

It is a fundamental human need to be heard and understood. In fact, if we feel that we are not heard, we feel a vast sense of loneliness and emptiness. If we are not heard, we do not feel understood, and if

we do not feel understood, we will not feel known. The whole point about God knowing our names, and about Him making us, is that He knows us. When we discover that we are known and understood by a friend, it can be profoundly moving. Sometimes a really good friend may understand us better than we understand ourselves.

Tom Marshall, in his book Right Relationships, says that no one can survive for long unless “we feel that somebody understands us, somebody knows what we are feeling and somebody appreciates our real desires and intentions.”3 And yet, however powerful being known and understood by a friend or your partner can be, no one can know you better or understand you more than God Himself.

Psalm 139:1–4 puts it magnificently:

O LORD, you have searched me

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

Some people might find this depth of understanding quite frightening—and indeed there is always a risk attached to loving and being loved, knowing and being known. God knows us completely and utterly. Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are an open book to God. He sees what we do, and He hears what we say even before we say it, or even when we’re not talking to Him! He knows what you are doing and why you are doing it. More importantly, He knows your dreams, your ambitions, and your longings. But how can we know for ourselves that God really knows us in our inmost being, completely and utterly?

We know that we are known because He hears us.

When we know that God hears us, it transforms us from being fearful, doubting God’s love, mercy, and goodness, into people who can be certain of His love for us. When God spoke to me through that song on my iPod, through the beautiful words of Isaiah 49, I knew that He had heard my cry—and He stepped in very powerfully at that moment, speaking His Word of life over me.

God was faithful to me through His real, tangible words of truth. I had a choice. I knew I did not have to believe my earthly father’s words. My heavenly Father had seen my pain and had answered me in a deeply personal way from His Word.

God Has Not Forgotten Me

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” (Isa. 43:2)

Sometimes we can know the truth of God in our minds, but not let it sink into our hearts. Or perhaps we have experienced a time of spiritual dryness, a time of suffering, or a time of God’s silence. During these times, it can feel like God has forgotten us. This can be frightening and even cause us to question the truth and reality of God.

A friend recently told me that her current situation makes her feel as though she was five years old again and her father has forgotten to pick her up from school. That is a very real and deeply unsettling feeling, and it can shake our faith and our trust in God to the core. My situation is telling me You are not here and You are not coming. Where are You, God? Yet the true extent of God’s care and concern for us is breathtaking:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)

God is not like your earthly father. Difficult circumstances do not mean He has failed or abandoned you. He has not left you at the school gate. God does not forget the child He made. He has not put you to one side while He is busy with other people. He is not bored with you, and He did not leave you midproject. He adores you. In fact, He promises (and God is incapable of breaking a promise) in

Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He continually watches over you. “He [takes] great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).

God is continually at pains to remind us not to be afraid, because He is with us. If He is with us, how can He forget us?

If you feel forgotten, I want to encourage you to believe the Word of God when He says, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Call out to the Lord, and He will answer you. Wait patiently for the Lord, for He will turn to you and hear your cry. God loves you, He hears you, He speaks to you, and He will rescue you. Amen!

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. God Knows My Name by Beth Redman. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hollywood Moon A Novel by Joseph Wambaugh - Audio book Review

(This is an Amazon Associate's Link)

I won Hollywood Moon several months ago in a blog giveaway. I am a huge fan of audio books, and after reading a review by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, I was absolutely sold. Somehow I didn't catch that this was third in a series. The Hollywood Station series to be exact.

About the Book (from publisher Hachette Book Group site):

There's a saying at Hollywood station that the full moon brings out the beast--rather than the best--in the precinct's citizens. One moonlit night, LAPD veteran Dana Vaughn and "Hollywood" Nate Weiss, a struggling-actor-turned cop, get a call about a young man who's been attacking women. Meanwhile, two surfer cops known as Flotsam and Jetsam keep bumping into an odd, suspicious duo--a smooth-talking player in dreads and a crazy-eyed, tattooed biker. No one suspects that all three dubious characters might be involved in something bigger, more high-tech, and much more illegal. After a dizzying series of twists, turns, and chases, the cops will find they've stumbled upon a complex web of crime where even the criminals can't be sure who's conning whom.

Wambaugh once again masterfully gets inside the hearts and minds of the cops whose jobs have them constantly on the brink of danger. By turns heart-wrenching, exhilarating, and laugh-out-loud funny, Hollywood Moon is his most thrilling and deeply affecting ride yet through the singular streets of LA.

My review:

This was my first Joseph Wambaugh book.

I listened to Hollywood Moon while on a road trip to California. It literally made the miles fly by.

I had not read nor listened to the two previous books in this series, but I didn't feel lost at all. The story showed moments in the patrol life of the police at Hollywood Station, but also focused on the seedier side with the criminals, street hustlers and drug addicts. At times things were serious and others just humorous. Wambaugh's characters were all very well done and surprisingly sympathetic. I found myself with a torn loyalty with Dewey Gleason who was living his dreams as an actor by using his talents to portray several different characters he used for his various scams. It was hard not to sympathize with the guy considering his partner was his wife and his biggest critic. The police portrayed were as varied as all human beings are. There were some you could just love and some you tolerated, and really that is absolutely the way the world is. Nothing was sugarcoated nor too graphic.

Finally, the audio book was read by Christian Rummel who did a great job with distinguishing between the character's voices and bringing them to life. My only complaint was the surfer cops sounded like the ninja turtles, but then again, that is really probably the only way to perform their dialogue.

All in all this book was well done, and it truly made me want to check out the rest of the series. I hope that it continues. I am also glad that I have found an author that is new to me as Joseph Wambaugh has a lot of great books under his belt.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour - Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***


Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children and a Golden Retriever. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers.

Visit the author's website and her book website,.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 160260777X

ISBN-13: 978-1602607774



Crazy lights swirled against the evening sky. Day morphed into the merriment of night. Cotton candy and hot dogs. Teens decked out in Goth gear contrasted sharply with young couples dragged from ride to ride by squealing offspring. White smeared over a man’s face as red encircled his mouth. Like a giant maraschino cherry, his nose squawked when a child squeezed it. He threw his head back and laughed. The little boy stood perplexed, as if uncertain whether to laugh or break into tears.

Olin Lambert shifted on the park bench as a parade of kids trailed the balloon-toting clown through the park. He glanced at his watch. His contact was la—

The boards under his legs creaked. A man dressed in a navy jogging suit joined him.

“You almost missed the fun.” Olin tossed a few kernels of popcorn into his mouth.

Rolling his shoulders, the man darted his gaze around the carnival insanity. “You know how dangerous this is? What it took for me to get out here without being seen?”

The danger and risk to his contact were no greater than what was stacked up against Olin. They both had a lot to lose—careers, reputations, families. . . . “We could leave now.”

“You know this has to happen.”

After a sip of his diet cola, Olin stuffed the half-full bag of popcorn on top of the overflowing trash bin. He wiped his hands and turned back to the man. “So, the body count’s finally high enough?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “I’m here. That should tell you something.”

“Indeed.” Olin waited as the ice cream vendor wheeled his musical cart past. “I need full autonomy for me and my team.”

Music burst forth as swings whirled occupants in a monotonous circle. A performer tossed flaming sticks and maneuvered one down his throat, swallowing the flames. Ohs wafted on the noisy, hot wind from the audience gathered around him. A scream pierced the night—a woman startled by another clown.

“Okay, fine. Just get on with this. I’m a sitting duck out here.” He rubbed his hands and glanced around.

Olin swiped his tongue along his teeth, took a draught of his soda, then slumped back against the slats. “I want it in writing. Two copies. Mine. Yours.”

The man shook his head. “No trails.”

The corner of Olin’s mouth quirked up. “You’ve already got one.” He nodded to the ice cream vendor, who reached over the register and tapped a sign with a hole in the center where a camera hid.

A curse hissed through the night. “You’d bleed me out if you could.”

“Whatever it takes to protect these men.”

Eyeing him, the man hesitated. “The men? Or you?”

“One and the same. If they’re protected, I’m protected. Whatever happens out there, we’re not going to take the fall for it.”

“If it goes bad, someone will get blamed.”

Olin pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. “More dust has been swept under the proverbial Capitol Hill carpet than anyone will ever admit. You have to decide: Is the cost high enough? How many more lives are you willing to sacrifice?”


On his feet, Olin tugged up the hood of his jacket. “Then we’re through.”

The man caught his elbow. “Sit down.”

Teeth clamped, Olin returned to the bench. He bent forward and rubbed his hands together, more than ready to forget he’d ever tried to deal with this man, the only man with enough power on the Hill and the right connections to both fund and authorize deep-six missions. Missions nobody wanted to acknowledge.

The din of merriment swallowed the silence between them. A beat cop worked the scene, glancing their way as he walked, no doubt making a mental note to watch them.

“Get me their names. I’ll write a carte blanche.”

Olin’s gut twisted. “Not happening.” If he revealed the names of his elite, he would essentially place them on individual crosses to be crucified by some politician who got wind of this or by someone far more dangerous—media—if something went south. “Project Overlook happens under my guidance with all the freedom and resources I need, or it doesn’t happen and you have one heckuva mess to clean up.”

“If I do this, I could get put away for a long time, Lambert.”

“And a million people will die if you don’t.”

“We should sit back and let Congress grant the authorization to go in there.”

A deep-chested laugh wormed through Olin. “You’ve been around too long to believe that. Thick bellies and big heads crowd the halls of the Hill. They want the power and none of the responsibility.” Had he been wrong in talking to the man next to him? What if he went to the Hill and spilled the news about Project Overlook? They’d be dead before the elite soldiers he had in mind could get their feet wet.

He let out a long exhale. “If you aren’t going to pony up, this conversation is over. You contacted me because you knew I could take care of this little snafu. So let us go in and quell this before it destroys more and the body count rivals 9/11.”

He eyed Olin, a slow grin cracking his lips. “You’ve always impressed me, Lambert, even though you’re Army.”

“Navy lost the last game, Admiral.” Olin let his gaze rake the scene around him. “These men are fully capable, and the situation can be tamed before anyone is the wiser. We don’t have time to wrangle the pundits. Let’s get it done, Mr. Chairman, sir.”

Chairman Orr stood and zipped his jacket. “You’ll have it by morning.”

Chapter 1

Cracking open the throttle ignited a wild explosion of power and speed. Zero to sixty in less than three seconds left Max Jacobs breathless. Gut pressed to the spine of his Hayabusa, he bore down the mountainous two-lane road away from civilization, away from . . . everything. Here only pine trees, concrete and speed were his friends.

His bike screamed as it ate up the road. The thrill burst through him. He needed the rush. Craved it. Stop running, Max. Her words stabbed his conscience. Made him mad.

Rounding a bend, he slowed and sighted the drop-off in the road—remembered a full 10% grade, straight down. His gaze bounced between the speedometer and the cement. Common sense told him to decelerate. The boiling in his veins said otherwise.

He twisted the throttle.


Max leaned into the bike and felt the surge.


He sucked in a breath as he sped toward the break.

The road dropped off. The Hayabusa roared as the wheels sailed out. He tried to grip the handlebars tighter as nothing but tingling Virginia oxygen enveloped him. Silence gaped.

This could be it. This could end it all. No more pain. No more life without Syd . . .

Take me. Just take me.

The Hayabusa plummeted.

Straight down. Concrete. Like a meteor slamming to earth.

The back tire hit. A jolt shot through the bike. Then the front tire bounced. Rattling carried through the handlebars and into his shoulders. He grabbed the brake—

Stupid! The brake locked. Rear tire went right. He tried to steer into the skid but momentum flipped him up. Over. Pops snapped through his back as he spiraled through the air. In the chaos his bike gave chase, kicking and screaming as it tore after him.

Crack! Pop! The sound of his crashing bike reverberated through the lonely country lane. Scenery whirled. Pine trees whipped into a Christmas-color frosting. Tree bark blurred into a menagerie of browns, drawing closer and closer.

Thud! His head bounced off the cement. He flipped again.

Finally. It’d be over. He closed his eyes. No more—

THUD! “Oof.” The breath knocked from his lungs. Pain spiked his shoulders and spine. Fire lit across his limbs and back as he slid from one lane to another. Down the road, spinning. Straight toward the trees.

He winced, arched his back. Kicking, he tried to gain traction. If he wasn’t going to die, he didn’t want to end up paralyzed. Just like you not to think it through.

He dumped into a ditch.


Everything went black.

He blinked. Pain shrieked through his body, his thighs and shoulders burning. “Argh!”

Max pried himself onto all fours, hanging his head. A crack rent the face shield. A wicked throb pulsed through his temples and . . . everywhere. He fought with the helmet. Growled as he freed the straps. He pawed it off, cursing at the thing for saving his life. Those head whacks as he somersaulted through the air should’ve punched a hole in his skull. Warmth dribbled down his brow. He pressed a palm against his forehead. Sticky and warm. Blood. He grunted and strained to look across the road. Mangled. Twisted. His bike. Him.

Why couldn’t God just let him die? Humanity would be one up, and he wouldn’t have to face his consummate failures in life. “Just let me go!” he growled and pounded a fist against the pavement. He’d do anything to go back to the Middle East, pump some radicals full of lead, and unleash the demon inside. Anything that told him he still had purpose in life.

But that wasn’t an option anymore. Another bad choice. Could he get anything right? Maybe his father had been right to up and leave them. Just like his mother.

A glimmer of light snagged his attention. Less than a mile down the road, a black SUV barreled up the road from town. Max tensed. He’d seen a vehicle like that three times in the last week. But out here? In the middle of nowhere, invading his self-inflicted punishment? This wasn’t a coincidence. And he didn’t like being hunted.

Max dragged himself into the trees, wincing. Using his forearm, he wiped the blood from his face. Why? Why couldn’t he just die? Nothing here for him. No reason.

Sydney. . .

He banged the back of his head against the tree. Pain drove through him like an iron rod. Good. It felt good to hurt. A relief to the agony inside.

Glass popping and crunching snapped his attention to the road. The SUV sat like a giant spider. He wondered who was in the vehicle as he eased farther into the foliage. A carpet of pine needles concealed his steps. He glanced back to the intruder.

The SUV shifted as a man climbed out. Large, African American, and an expression that said he didn’t mess around. Whatever the guy wanted, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. At least not easily.

Even from ten yards away, Max could see the muscle twitching in the man’s jaw. He swallowed and licked his lips, readying himself for a confrontation. He swung back and gazed up at the canopy of leaves. Could he hoof it back to his apartment? Gathering his strength, he shrugged out of the shredded leather jacket, wincing and grunting as it pulled against raw flesh.

“You through? Or you want another go at it?”

What? Max peered around the trunk, surprised to find the man at the edge of the road, hands on his hips as he stared into the trees.

“We took you for stronger.” The man glanced back at the bike. “But maybe you’re nothing but broke and no use to no one.”

Heart thumping, Max jerked back and clenched his teeth. Who was this joker?

“So, what’s it going to be, Jacobs? You ready to face a little reality?”

How does he know my name? “Who are you?” Max hissed as the tree rubbed his raw shoulder. “What do you want?”


Max drew the SOG knife from his pocket and opened it. Holding it down, he pushed into the open, making sure his injuries didn’t show him weak. “What’s the game?”

The man’s eyebrow arched. He angled his left shoulder forward, tugged up his sweater’s sleeve, and flexed his oversized bicep. A tattoo expanded across his muscle. Marine. Force Recon, if Max made out the symbol correctly.

An ally? As he struggled out of the ditch and back onto the road, Max collapsed the blade. Heat rose from the cement, aggravating the exposed flesh on his back and legs.

“Navy and Marines, you and me. Almost brothers. It’s the Rangers I don’t like. So, I forgive you for coming at me with a blade. This time.”

Max stared. Confusion—and pain—wrapped a tight vise around his skull.

“What’s it going to be, squid?” The guy pointed to the wreck of a bike on the road. “You don’t have a ride back to town. So why don’t you climb in and listen to what I have to say?”

Might ignore the nickname jab, but the guy assumed too much. “You flash a tattoo and think I’ll just bend my knee? I don’t think so.” A silent brotherhood had closed Max’s knife. But he didn’t want company. The oaf’s or anyone else’s. But how else would he get home?

“What? You think you’re going home? To your can opener and mattress?”

Mr. Recon had a point. Still, he knew too much, and that made Max stiffen—fiery shards prickling his back.

“No obligation. Show me a little respect, and just hear me out.”

At least, as the man had said, he’d have a ride. Eyes on the large man, Max pocketed the knife as he trudged to the other side of the SUV and opened the door.

He paused at the plastic covering the seat. He jerked his gaze to the driver.

Mr. Force Recon grinned. “You’re predictable, Jacobs.”

Max lowered himself onto the seat, cringing as new fire crawled over his back and legs. He buckled in, the irony of the seat belt crossing his mind. “So what’s this about? Why have you been following me?”

A crisp cologne swirled in the air-conditioned interior as Mr. Recon folded himself behind the steering wheel. “You’ve been recruited, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Max snorted. “Already did my time. I’m out.” He gulped against the flurry of emotions within.

“Yeah? How’s that working out for you?”

Glaring, Max resisted the urge to thrust his SOG into the guy’s gut. He’d left the service for Sydney. Only it’d been too late. And in one fell swoop, he lost everything. “Why don’t you tell me? You seem to know everything.”

Mr. Recon pursed his lips and nodded. “Okay.” He rubbed his jaw. “You were discharged ninety days ago. In that time, you’ve been arrested twice, once for fighting. The second time—less than three days ago—for assault against your now-estranged wife.”

The words cut deeper and stung worse than his now-oozing flesh. Max looked at his hand and flexed his fingers.

“Yesterday you were hit with a permanent protective order by said wife. She filed for separation.” He leaned on the console and again arched that eyebrow. “How am I doing?”

“If you knew anything about me, you’d dull your edge.”

Wrist hooked over the steering wheel, Mr. Recon continued unfazed. “The military discharged you. Honorably. A veteran of two wars. Untold combat situations and medals. They tried to put you out medically two years ago, but you fought it.”

“And won.”

“Yessir.” The man nodded for several seconds. “So, why now? Why’d you let them put you out this time?”

Max shoved his gaze to the heavily tinted windows. That was a story nobody needed to hear. Bury it six feet under and walk away.

“You’re a discarded hero, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Head whipped back to the driver, Max fought the urge to light into the guy. But something in the amused eyes betrayed a camaraderie. An understanding. Acceptance.

“Who are you? What’s your story?”

“Name’s Griffin.” He bobbed his head as they pulled onto the highway, driving east toward the Potomac. “My story. . . ?” A toothy grin. “Let’s just say I got smart.”

The sound of crinkling and rustling plastic pervaded the cabin as Max shifted to alleviate a pinprick fire shooting down his leg. He hissed and clamped a hand over his thigh. “So, what’s the gig?”

“The gig is whatever nobody else will do. What you should ask about is our group—and I do mean our group, Lieutenant. Because you are fully a part of this. Are you ready to step out of the medical trappings of your discharge, of the devastation that has become your life since you’ve returned from your last tour?”

Max grunted. “Yesterday.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” Tires thumped over docks as Griffin steered into a warehouse. “Then this is where it starts.”

Elite soldiers stood in a semicircle, waiting. For what, Max wasn’t sure. And he wouldn’t ask. If his guess was right, then time would tell—because Griffin seemed to be the guy in the know, and his relaxed posture against the SUV said things were going according to plan.

“Hey, dude, want me to look those over?” A blond guy dressed in khaki shorts, a faded tank, and a pair of flip-flops motioned to Max’s scrapes and lacerations.

Right. Beach bum wanted to play nurse. “I’m good.”

“About as good as a dog in a meat grinder,” the guy replied.

Max clenched his teeth. Whatever kind of circus Griffin was running. . .

A diesel engine growled, the sound reverberating off the aluminum in the cavernous space, preempting the shiny blue dualie truck pulling into the dank building. The engine cut. A guy stepped out and donned a black cowboy hat that added about five inches to his six-foot-two frame.

Griffin’s laugh rumbled as he pushed off his SUV. “Colton.”

A broad grin spilled under the rim of the man’s Stetson. “Hey.” The two clasped hands and patted backs. “How’s Dante?”

A quiet dialogue carried between the two for several minutes that effectively cut out the rest of those gathered. Yeah, they had a friendship, one that said they trusted each other with more than superficial things. Something about the tight bond rankled Max. Hit deep.

“Why are we here?”

Max’s gaze bounced to the shortest and youngest of the six men in the building. The Kid had read his thoughts. A warehouse full of warriors? This setup smelled rotten.

“If you’ll be patient—” Griffin paused and glanced behind him. “I think it’s time.”

A black Chrysler 300 glided into the middle of the grouping. The hollow clunk of an opening door echoed off the steel rafters and grime-laden windows. A man emerged. White hair feathered back. A sun-bronzed nose sported dark-tinted sunglasses. The thud of the door almost swallowed the crunching of his squeaky shoes. New, expensive shoes. Maybe even tailor-made. He gripped the rim of his glasses and drew them off.

Was the old man supposed to mean something? Be someone who mattered? Irritation skittered along Max’s shoulders as the old man shook hands with Riddell and the cowboy.

“Who’s the hoo-hah?” Max mumbled to himself.

“You kidding me, man?” The blond look at him and smirked. “That’s—”

“For those not enlightened,” an authoritative voice cut through the surfer’s explanation, “my name is General Olin Lambert. I am a member of the Joint Chiefs. But among the seven of us, I am merely a citizen of the United States just like you.” Blue eyes probed each man.

Right into Max’s soul.

“With Mr. Riddell’s help, I’ve hand-chosen each and every one of you for a very specific purpose. There isn’t anything about you or your lives that I don’t know.” Lambert paused, as if to let his words sink in, but Max just wished he’d get on with it. Scabs were forming on his scrapes.

“Chosen us for what, ese?” asked the Hispanic man.

“A black ops team.”

And that meant two things: military and that this meeting was over. Max turned and started walking.

“It’s not military, Mr. Jacobs.”

Hesitation held him at the large, garage-style door he’d entered. “How can you do black ops without military aid, intelligence, and backup?” He turned around, ignoring what felt like glass stuck to his calves and thighs.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t have aid or intelligence.” Creases pinched Lambert’s eyes at the corners. “I said it’s not military.”

“Come again?” the beach bum asked, disbelief coloring his words.

“Let the general explain.” Griffin leaned back against the truck with his cowboy buddy.

“Thank you, Mr. Riddell.” Lambert tucked his sunglasses in his left breast pocket, then threaded his fingers in front of him. Impressive and commanding. “Each of you has returned from combat changed, affected.”

Nervous glances skidded from man to man. Max glued his attention to the general, refusing to acknowledge the truth of Lambert’s words.

“You’re what I’ve dubbed discarded heroes.”

Grunts of approval rang through the building, and the group seemed to tighten in around the old man. Being a general, he knew what it was like to have slanted glances of pity from those who knew where you’d been, what you’d probably done, and what it was like to go against a politically correct ideology and fight for freedom on foreign soil. Or to have some tree hugger spit in your face and call you a murderer.

“You served your time, saw and experienced things no normal person would be expected to deal with. Sure, you were trained. Taught to expect evil. Demanded success. However, when confronted with the true terrors of war, no human mind can dissolve the images embedded in memory for all time.

“Then it’s time to get out. They yank you back here, give you a once-over, and toss you out with a ‘thank you very much and have a good life.’ So you go home, try to reintegrate into society, and—”

“It’s screwed up,” the Kid said. He shrugged when the others scowled at him. “Well? I’m right, aren’t I? From what I heard you saying earlier,” he pointed to the beach bum, “you’ve spent time in Afghanistan—a lot.” Then to the Latino, “You probably did your tours of duty in Panama or the like.” His gaze came to Max.

“Don’t.” Fists balled, Max willed his feet to remain in place. He didn’t want anyone digging in his brain.

“Mr. Vaughn is correct,” Lambert said. “You’ve all seen combat. You’ve all been trained to kill; then you come back, and what do you do with those skills but go out of your mind?”

Max shifted. Was it over yet? He eyed the wide-open berth to freedom behind the blue dualie.

“Max Jacobs.”

Hearing his name felt like a detonation that blasted his attention back to the general.

“You served eight years with the SEALs. Your experience in command and combat no doubt left indelible scars. Watched your best friend toss himself on a grenade to save the team.”

Bile pooled at the back of Max’s throat as the memory surged. He flared his nostrils, pushing the images back into the pit from which they’d been drawn.

Lambert stalked the inner perimeter, as if prepping troops for war with a pep talk. “Lieutenant Jacobs is the man I’ve chosen as team leader, but his position is no more valuable than anyone else’s. You’ve all seen war. In this building are years of tactical experience. Incredible wisdom. And one element that makes each of you vital for this to work.”

“What’s that?” Cowboy asked, his arms folded over his thick chest.

“Loyalty, Mr. Neeley. Your duty with the Marine Special Operations Team is bloated with exemplary conduct, commendation after commendation.” He waved his hand around the cozy circle. “I’ve reviewed all of your files and found the same thing in every one.”

Awkward silence cooled some of the tension in the room, and once again Max eyed the exit.

“Mr. Reyes, your career as a pararescue jumper, specifically your medic skills, saved dozens of lives.”

“Pair o’ what?” Cowboy taunted.

“Hey,” Reyes grinned. “You’re just jealous. I’m a PJ. Why you think they call me Fix?”

“Because you put everyone in one?” Griffin chuckled, eliciting more laughter.

“Nah, man. It’s ’cause of this,” he said as he drew out a crucifix from his shirt and kissed it. “My crucifix. They called me Cru at first, then since I’m a medic, they started calling me Fix.”

Swallowing his groan, Max ran a hand through his short crop. Religion and military. This was starting to feel worse than an AA meeting. And there wasn’t a point. “This is a lot of flowery, moving discourse, but what do you want from us?” Max mentally shook off the way the others looked at him. Was he the only one who was still waiting for the boom to lower?

“Mr. Riddell, if you please.” Lambert pointed to the black SUV as Griffin opened the tailgate. “Give each man one.”

Griffin handed out small black packs that bore a lone symbol. A strange star backed by a sword and wings. The Kid, the Beach Bum, and the Latino dug into the packs, almost excited. In seconds, a black phone, keys, a watch, and a set of duds spilled across the gray cement floor in front of them.

Max remained in place, his pack dangling from his clenched fist. He didn’t like being played. And this definitely felt like a setup.

General Lambert faced him. “Is there a problem, Mr. Jacobs?”

He dropped his pack onto the floor. “Not seeing the point.”

Behind the general, Griffin seemed to grow several inches as he towered over the aged officer. “What?” he growled. “You want to take another nose-dive off that hill? Hope this time there’s only enough of you left to fill a baggie? Want to make that estranged wife of yours a widow before you can be called a failure?”

Hands coiled, Max drew up his shoulders. Saw red. No. No. He wouldn’t give in to the goading. He dragged his attention back to the general.

“Ease up, Legend,” Cowboy said, patting Griffin’s chest. “Give the guy a chance.” Lambert remained unwavering. “The point, Lieutenant, is to establish a team that can penetrate hostile situations without any entanglements, without any blame on the good ol’ US-of-A or any other entity or government. You returned from two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a covert mission nobody in this room will ever know about. You were the best, a natural, your CO said. But you were so volatile after those experiences took their toll they tried to discharge you, and your compatriots nicknamed you after a volatile chemical. Somehow you held it together. Then jumped ship out of the blue.” More than recitation of information lurked behind the general’s blue eyes. A knowing—no, an understanding, quiet and unnerving. “Tell me, Mr. Jacobs, what are you doing with your life now?”

“Minding my own business,” Max answered through tight lips.

Lambert laughed. “And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing as part of my team. Funding isn’t a problem. You’ll have unlimited resources.”

“That’d be a change,” the Kid grumbled.

“To go where?” the Beach Bum asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” the Kid interrupted. “Man, how is this any different than military? Igot out for a reason.”

“You’ll go wherever needed.” The general turned toward the younger man. “Yes, Mr. Vaughn, you did get out for a reason. Tell me, did abandoning the one thing you loved the most give you the love of your father after all?”

The Kid paled.

“Why?” Max couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why are you doing this? What’s this thing to you?”

Lambert lowered his head then looked back at Max. “I am. . .discarded just like you.”

“Bull.” Max tucked his hands under his arms. “You sit in a cushy chair in a carpeted office. You’re paid, you’re connected—”

“I know what you guys have been through.” The general tapped his temple. “MAC-V SOG in Nam. Two tours.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. That meant the man before him had likely seen more carnage than the rest of them put together.

“Heard the phrase ‘peace with honor’?”

Max shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Who hasn’t?”

“It was a platitude.” Lambert’s eyes flamed under his passion. “The armchair generals lost the war, not the grunts on the ground. We won every battle they let us win. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re the only guy who comes home from your unit with all his parts and pieces still connected where God put ’em.

“I may not be young, I may not have done combat tours in Iraq like you, Lieutenant, but I was tossed aside, too. For years I languished.” The general pushed to his feet, his voice thick and his eyes weighted by the story. “But I slowly remembered that I’d joined the military for a reason—I wanted to be a man. A real man willing to defend my country with life and limb. I knew then I could screw up my career or I could do my best to make a difference in the lives of those who came after.”

Silence hung rank and thick in the abandoned warehouse. Something akin to admiration leaked past Max’s barriers as he watched the indignant rise and fall of the old man’s chest. A smile threatened his resolve as the old man glared at the hulking men around him.

Lambert’s lips tightened over a clean-shaven jaw. “What’s it going to be, gentlemen? Do you have what it takes to finish the fight with the gift God gave you? Or are you going to turn tail, accept what the government stamped on your papers, and leave—go quietly into the night?”

“Whoa-hoa!” Laughing, Beach Bum stepped forward. “Old Man’s got some fire under that shiny dome.”

Lambert spun toward the bum. “What’s it going to be, Sergeant Metcalfe?”

The blond pursed his lips, considered Lambert, then nodded. “I’m in.”

The bright blue eyes shifted to the Latino.

“You need some CPR, ese? You look worked up.”

A half smile slid into Lambert’s face. “A little passion never hurt, eh, Mr. Reyes?”

“You all right, old man.” He hooked Lambert’s hand and patted his back. “You all right.” Reyes leaned in toward the general’s shoulders and looked at the Kid. “But I don’t know about this kid. He don’t look like he’s out of diapers yet.”

“That’s wrong. That’s just wrong.” The Kid’s face flushed. “I spent six years in the Rangers. I have enough—”

“Rangers.” Max couldn’t help but grunt his disapproval. “That explains a lot.”

The Kid’s chin jerked up in defiance. “I’m in.”

It seemed Lambert grew with each affirmation. He shifted to the cowboy. “Mr. Neeley?”

Cowboy gave a slow, firm nod, his hat shading his eyes. “I’m ready.”

Lambert smiled. “Good. Good.”

They were all crazy. Joining a group like this meant more problems. “What if we get in trouble out there?”

“Then get out of trouble,” Lambert said. “Understand that this team does not exist. If anyone comes looking, there will be nothing to find. Only one man besides those of us in this facility knows it exists, and he’ll pay the highest cost if that confidence is broken. No one—and I mean no one—will know your names.”

“So our orders are coming from on high?” Metcalfe asked.

A twinkle brightened Lambert’s eyes and gave silent assent to the question, although he gave no answer. Instead, he continued. “Any mission, any activity will be utterly and completely disavowed by the United States. You will be disavowed. If you get into trouble, Mr. Jacobs, count on your ingenuity to get out. If you are killed, no one will know.”

“Or care.” The Kid shrugged, a sick smirk in his face.

Max wanted to punch him.

“Or maybe that’s where Sergeant Metcalfe, call sign Midas, will come in with his golden touch.” Lambert ambled toward him.

The beach bum made a tss noise and shook his head. “Nothing golden, just hard work.”

The general’s smile disappeared behind a stern facade. “What is your answer, Lieutenant Jacobs?”

“This is crazy.” What else could he do? Flip burgers at the nearest fast food? What was worth staying here for? No wife. No family. “Fine.” The separation papers told him he had nothing left here anyway. “I’m in.”

“Good.” General Lambert’s smile softened his commando persona. “Look around. The men here are your new brothers, your family. Only they will understand when the horrors of war invade your sleep. Only they will be there when you’re pinned down and need an extraction.

Arms wide, Lambert smiled like a proud father. “Gentlemen, welcome to Nightshade.”