Hello and welcome. I have a wonderful author to introduce to you today. I met Sarah Ballance quite by chance on social media, and for that I am so grateful! Read on to find out more about Sarah, one of her many books, LAST CALL, my review and an excerpt from the book, and then follow the links to connect with Sarah and/or buy some of her books.
Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or seeking that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her.
She loves creating unforgettable stories while putting her characters through an unkind amount of torture—a hobby that has nothing to do with living with six children. (Really.) Though she adores nail-biting mystery and edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Sarah writes in many genres including contemporary and ghostly paranormal romance. Her ever-growing roster of releases may be found on her website.
LAST CALL by Sarah Ballance – Romantic suspense for just 99 cents!
In a perilous game of trust, a shocking betrayal deals a dangerous hand.
An accidental witness to a murder-for-hire, ex-cop Rhys Clark becomes the target of ruthless killer—one determined to silence her at any cost. Playing dead seems to be the most likely way to stay alive, but when her protection comes in the form of mega-sexy former adversary Nick Massey, Rhys can think of a few fates worse than death.
Nick Massey may have walked away from his troubles, but he never got past wanting Rhys. Once paired undercover, they’d been nothing but fireworks until a botched assignment ended her career, sending his into a tailspin. Now a mysterious client threatens Nick’s life if he doesn’t keep Rhys safe, but it isn’t until fate takes a critical turn that he realizes the devastating truth: he’s been her greatest threat all along.
LAST CALL is available from: For the Muse Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (formats: .mobi, .epub, HTML, PDF, RTF, LRF, PalmDoc, and Plain Text). Click here to add to Goodreads or here for reviews.
Cover art by For the Muse Design
Last Call – Excerpt
Rhys Clark swore and jerked her foot from the murky puddle that had just claimed one of her new running shoes. Perfect. The day was now officially perfect.
She blamed Nick Massey.
Blaming him was easy enough. She didn’t know which required more nerve on his part—leaving town or crawling back—but both events left her bitter and raw. And wet, she grumbled inwardly. With the sky spitting rain and the occasional pellet of sleet smacking her face, she should have skipped her evening jog. The street was little more than a concrete alley of shuttered businesses, and the bleak weather amplified the emptiness. But tonight, with Nick hot on her mind, running through the cold was her last ditch effort to return to her senses.
It hadn’t worked.
Another blast of icy air howled through the narrow street. If she hadn’t been standing still, she probably wouldn’t have heard the shouting that followed.
A few months ago, an altercation wouldn’t have been unusual in this part of town. But the whole area was under reconstruction. Local crime dissipated to nothing with the razing of several apartment buildings, and until now Rhys had long found her route to be a place of solace. She glanced around as the voices drew closer and more intense. Rapid footsteps smacked the wet pavement. Then the echo of a gunshot cracked the night.
Where fear left her paralyzed, instinct insisted she get out of sight. She looked around and found an unbroken expanse of concrete wall offering few options. Heart pounding, Rhys ducked into the recessed doorway of a vacant storefront and hoped the deep shadows would keep her concealed.
Terrifying seconds passed. The sound of her own suppressed breath roared in her ears.
Voices came, clearer this time. Close.
“If we screw this up…” The words, terse and hushed, were encapsulated in panic.
“Shut up,” demanded a second voice. “No one messed up. He’s as good as dead.”
“You think you’re going to sell that without a body? We didn’t get paid to lose him.”
“He took one to the gut. He won’t get far. We’ll find him.”
“He’s leaving a trail. Blood. We got the big bucks for a clean—”
A hit? Rhys shuddered, fear scaling her spine. A professional hit would have been silent—something not accomplished by the gunshot or the ensuing conversation—but in this game, experience wasn’t always a prerequisite for willingness to pull the trigger. Two years of undercover work had taught her as much.
So had a bullet.
Rhys froze, waiting for the voices to pass. But luck was not on her side. Rather than drawing away, the footsteps ceased.
“Well, well, well,” said the confident one. “Looks like our little game of hide and seek is over.”
Hope crumbled. The voice was far too close. Had they seen her?
She dared not move. Through her lashes, she saw nothing in her narrow view of the dimly lit street but dirty puddles and the occasional bit of trash plastered to wet pavement. She prayed they didn’t look her way should they walk past.
Grunts erupted nearby, followed by the sound of sneakers scuffling on concrete. Then two shots fired, and all sounds of struggle gave way to profane celebration.
In the same instant, a man fell to the sidewalk in front of Rhys. His eyes, sightless and familiar, bore into her.
She choked a gasp.
A man stepped into her line of sight, his weapon at the ready. Before she could stop herself, she locked eyes with him. Big mistake. The decision threw her into a cloud of emotional shrapnel, the past flying at her in shards. She’d been shot once before.
It hadn’t ended well.
The gunman opened his mouth and formed an ugly grin, his breath coming in visible puffs through yellowed teeth. “Looks like a double header tonight, T,” he said, never taking his gaze off Rhys.
“Whaddya mean?” came the reply. The voice . . . she blinked until the second man shifted into focus.
She knew him. From where? She couldn’t think.
She glanced to the dead man, and her vision wavered. Panic shifted her world into a screen of jarred pixels, the flashback jagged and severe.
“Rhys! Stay with me, Rhys. Do you hear me? Rhys!”
Blood. So much blood.
“Nick.” She touched his face, feeling stubble beneath her fingertips. Then the weight of her arm was too much; as gravity won he slipped away. The world twisted into a sickening spiral until all that was left was his voice, the desperation in his tone bringing warmth to the darkness.
Motion jarred her to the present.
The gunman gestured. “Our witness here is about to have an unfortunate accident.” He raised the weapon, aiming for the kill.
It was a short view down the barrel at point blank range. She expected that.
What she didn’t anticipate was the speed with which he pulled the trigger.
Or how quickly the pain hit.
LAST CALL is classified as romantic suspense. I’d have it as murder/mystery.
Rhys Clarke’s life explodes in the first chapter, when she witnesses a cold-blooded murder. With her life expectancy considerably shortened, she falls into the care of unlikely hero Nick Massey, who is also the person responsible for ending her career as an undercover cop, and the man she holds a candle for. What neither of them know is that the Puppetmaster is using Rhys as bait in a game of revenge.
Sexual tension has always sparked between Nick and Rhys, but the job kept getting in the way. Now they no longer work together, what’s still keeping them apart? You’ll have to read the whole book, to find out.
Sarah Ballance has a precise, crisp writing style that makes this book un-put-down-able. This is the perfect writing style for this genre – it’s intelligent, fun, sharp and neat, and I absolutely loved this reading experience. Every single word is used to achieve its maximum effect; there is no fluff, no padding, no unnecessary turn of phrase.
The story is character driven, and we learn a lot through their interaction. Descriptions are good, and just enough to set the scene and atmosphere. The dialogues flow naturally, instinctively, and intelligently. The fluency of dialogue and narrative pulled me in and kept me interested from page one till the end. I was actually annoyed for having to go to sleep, and picked up the book again as soon as was up again in the morning.
Was there anything I didn’t like? Hmm, the cover really doesn’t do the book justice. There is so much excitement in the story, so many twists and turns, and so much energy. Shame it didn’t seep onto the cover. Still, that is nothing to do with the author. You won’t be able to fault the writing, I promise you that.
A very enjoyable read, by an author who has skilfully wriggled onto my lengthy TBR list. Sarah Ballance fully deserves five stars for this book. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
If you’d like to learn more about Sarah Ballance, or have stalking tendencies you find difficult to control, here’s how you can indulge them: