Here’s a first chapter sample of the fifth novel in the Gems young adult spy thriller series. Now available at these online book retailers.
Emma groaned as she circled the Mercedes around the city block and discovered there were no more open parking spaces. She was the one who talked herself into a slight detour into downtown San Francisco to check out a sale on Sergei Sackmonov bags at Tousant’s right after school choir practice. So when the Gems asked her to pick them up some coffee while she was out, Emma headed to the nearest Kaffee Kadre cafe according to her car’s GPS. However, this location didn’t have a drive-thru or its own parking, so Emma had to find a place on the street.
The sun moved across the glass windshield as she made another circle and found no spaces had opened up. Emma surrendered to the situation and drove over to the next block, where she found a parking space across from a private Catholic school. It would be a long walk to the Kaffee Kadre, but the weather was mild, and Emma wore flats today.
Emma slipped out of her Mercedes and locked it. Across the street, she caught a glimpse of two little girls walking and talking to each other without a care in the world. Emma guessed they were about nine or ten years old, with both wearing private school uniforms. The girls were loud enough that she could hear them from across the street. The brunette girl reminded Emma of Hailey, her best friend from New York. And the blond girl—well, of course she saw herself under those locks of golden hair. The two girls would constantly touch each other, making new points or wanting the other girl’s reaction to a question or a thought she had. Emma could tell they were close, like she and Hailey had been at that age. Then Emma realized she hadn’t spoken to Hailey since she moved out to California.
Emma shook off her guilt and headed down the concrete sidewalk. But then a little girl’s scream made her stop.
The blond girl kicked her feet in the air as one man had her trapped under his arms as he ran down the sidewalk. A second man pushed the brunette girl away, causing her to stumble and fall. He ran in the same direction as the first man.
Emma couldn’t stop watching. What was going on?
The man with the girl hauled her over to a Pinnacle rental van with the back doors open.
Emma’s flats were already crossing the street. This didn’t look right at all. The girl screamed like the man was a stranger, not someone she knew.
The first man climbed into the back of the van with the little girl. The second one shut the back door as he ran to the passenger-side door.
Her heart pulsated. Emma couldn’t believe this was happening. She took a quick look around, and there was no one else seeing this. She hustled over to the brunette girl, who was still on the ground. “Are you okay?”
The brunette girl nodded.
The van’s front rubber tires squealed as it took off down the street.
“Who are those men? Do you recognize them at all?”
The girl shook her head as tears formed in her eyes.
Emma took another look. Still no one else to help. It was up to her. She knelt in front of the girl. “Go back to your school, find an adult, and tell them what happened. Can you do that?”
The girl nodded again. She turned around and ran down the sidewalk towards the school.
Emma jumped into her car. The engine roared as she spun the Mercedes around and gunned it down the street. She drove down one block and didn’t see the van. The next block fed into a major intersection. Emma’s gut told her they most likely turned there. The big question was…left or right?
Generally, Emma hated left turns. She liked right ones because they were easier. Since the men in the van were in a hurry, maybe they took the easy way too. Emma turned right. She guided her Mercedes on to a six-lane road, which was one of the main arteries heading south to San Jose. The late-afternoon traffic was heavy, but Emma pushed herself to drive more aggressively as she weaved her car through.
Finally, the Pinnacle company logo popped into view…then disappeared in traffic.
Emma changed lanes for a better look.
The Pinnacle van was headed south, moving along with traffic as if everything inside it was normal.
Emma hated driving fast. While training to be a spy, her last evasive-driving instructor had quit in exasperation. Thank goodness Lioness stepped up and did her best to teach Emma basic car control, which did give her some much-needed confidence. Emma knew that if she stayed focused and didn’t go too fast, she could drive safely enough for most situations. Trouble is, when you’re a spy and bad guys are chasing you…or in this case you have to save a young girl’s life…average driving won’t cut it.
Emma wedged her car into the next lane. Sped up. Then forced her way over to the next lane and was greeted with an angry horn. She was now behind the rental van. She checked the rear windows and couldn’t see anything, but she did recognize the plate. It was the same van.
Emma snapped a picture of the van with the plate, then her thumb danced on her phone as she tried to send an email with the pic to the police. But doing this while driving was more than Emma could—
The seat-belt gripped her chest as the car came to a sudden stop. The Mercedes’s auto-braking system had activated to prevent Emma from plowing into the back of the van. Emma then caught a man’s face watching her from the van’s large side mirror.
The van then scampered off like a scared cat as it crossed over the center line and raced down the wrong side of the street.
Emma didn’t want to do this, but she followed the van over to the wrong side of the street and pressed the pedal down as far as it could go. The Mercedes surged forward, cutting down the distance between them.
The van swerved out of its lane to reveal a large garbage truck heading right at her.
Emma almost hit the brake…but used her steering wheel instead, maneuvering her car around the garbage truck, and followed the van back onto the correct side of traffic.
The van swerved in front of her as it cut into a hard right turn.
Now Emma used her brakes as Lioness’s patient teaching voice lingered in her head…
Always brake before the turn, then you accelerate through it. That way you keep control of the car.
Emma cranked the wheel and pumped the accelerator, giving the Mercedes enough juice to push through the right turn as she followed the van down a narrow two-lane street. Emma was on him. Close enough to let him know she was there, but far enough away to match whatever turn he was about to make. She glanced at her phone. Emma wanted to send a message to the police, but if she pulled over to do that, then the van and the little girl would be gone.
Then tell your car to call them, you stupid girl!
Her brain was right. Emma totally forgot about that. “Mercedes, call 9—”
The van made a hard left, back onto another major street. She matched the turn and accelerated.
The van was flying now. Swerving in and out of traffic. Driving recklessly.
A pleasant female voice came over the car’s speakers. Who would you like me to call?
The van sailed through a yellow light.
Emma hated yellow lights. She stopped at most of them. But this time she kept off the brake and bit her lip for luck.
The light turned red as another car moved across the intersection on green.
Emma braked lightly, just enough to coast right behind that car and out of the intersection. Her foot then slammed down on the accelerator.
“Mercedes, call 911,” Emma repeated.
I can’t find a signal. Would you like me to keep trying?
She wanted to scream. “Yes.”
Emma kept up her pursuit as the van raced its way out of downtown and did a sharp turn into a local air-strip. It was a private airport. Or that was what the sign on the gate said before the van obliterated it.
Emma braked hard as she slid her Mercedes through the broken gate. This private airstrip had a series of long “driveways” that connected up to the small concrete taxiway that ran parallel to the single runway. The van raced up a narrow access road that ran along the edge of the taxiway itself, passing by several large houses owned by people who enjoyed the luxury of flying straight home.
I can’t find a signal. Would you like me to keep trying?
“Yes!” Emma yelled as her car skidded across the access road before she could point the Mercedes in the right direction. After the correction, Emma scrambled down the access road. But then she brought the car to a stop.
At the other end of the runway was a small private plane with two spinning propellers. Its bright take-off lights shined down the runway. The plane was all ready to go. The Pinnacle van skidded to a stop, and the three men carried the little girl towards the plane.
This caught Emma by surprise. Once they flew the girl out of the city…she’d be gone forever.
The men boarded the aircraft with their prisoner. The side door was latched shut. The two engines revved to a high pitch as the plane rolled forward for take-off.
Emma began to panic.
I have a signal. Calling 911, the pleasant lady announced.
It was too late. What could the police do now? There was no van to stop. They’d need a police jet or something.
Oh my God, that poor little girl is about to suffer through some horrible crap because you suck at this.
As panic clouded Emma’s mind, a different voice cut through all the emotions…
Focus on your actions. What can you do in this situation? Take those actions. Change the situation. Put it under your control.
Lioness’s words filled Emma with new confidence.
Remember, Black Opal, a Gem doesn’t call for help. She is the help.
The plane was moving faster. Soon it would pass right by her.
“I am the help,” Emma told herself. She gripped the leather steering wheel. She had her car. She had her purse, which had some spy equipment she could use. She could act. And she knew she had to act.
Emma stomped on the accelerator. The Mercedes burned rubber as it drove off the small access road and fishtailed across the grass and mud, finally pulling itself up on to the runway. Emma put the Mercedes on a collision course with the small plane. Its take-off lights blinded her as they pierced through the windshield.
But Emma didn’t stop.
The distance between the two objects closed. So much so that Emma didn’t want to chance it…
She cranked the wheel and spun the Mercedes to a stop…right across the runway.
The lights grew brighter. The plane was still roaring towards her. Emma realized it might not be able to stop in time.
Instead of saving that little girl…Emma might have just killed her.
She shut her eyes and braced for impact.
Then the plane’s noisy engines suddenly veered away from her.
Emma opened her eyes. The aircraft had taken a runway exit back to the taxiway. It was now rolling quickly up that taxiway. Were they going back for another try? Surely they knew Emma wouldn’t move her car off the runway.
When the plane got to the end of the taxiway, it did a one-eighty, and the pilot increased power again.
He’s taking off from the taxiway.
Emma burned more rubber as she drove up the runway. This time she slid the Mercedes right across the front of the aircraft, causing the pilot to bring his plane to an abrupt halt. Even as their landing lights blew up the inside of her car, Emma did her best to glare at the men inside the plane. To let them know she wouldn’t let them take off.
The plane’s engines lowered in pitch, as if they were being powered down.
Emma grabbed her bag and dug through the contents. She had her Forest Fire mascara smoke grenade. The Sunburst hair conditioner and chemical-based flame-thrower. Raise the Roof rouge, which was actually a plastic explosive. And she had one Blitzed mascara pin dart.
She grabbed the hair conditioner and the mascara pin before carefully moving out of the car.
The side door of the aircraft popped open, and three men jumped down to the taxiway.
Emma stood behind her car with her mascara in one hand; and the hair conditioner in the other.
“Come over here,” one of the men yelled over the engines as he came around Emma’s car. He was young and muscular with tattoo art running down both arms.
Another man with bushy eyebrows followed. “You deal with her, and I’ll get the car out of the way.”
The third man stayed near the plane. He was big and tall, but Emma couldn’t quite make out his face.
The young man with the tattoo art reached out to grab Emma, but she retreated and pointed the hair conditioner at him.
“Back off or you’ll get hurt,” she yelled.
The man ignored her.
Emma pointed at the ground and gave a little squirt, unleashing a small fireball that lit up the taxiway.
The young man jumped back.
Emma pointed it at him. “Move away.”
Tattoo man held up his arms as he backed away. Behind him, the man with the bushy eyebrows was digging something out of his pocket.
She gave another squirt above the second man’s head. The fireball lit up his eyes in terror as his hand froze on the grip of a gun still in its holster.
“Both hands up. Now!” Emma yelled, the actor inside her slipping into the new role of a bad-ass female cop.
The two men backed away. Now Emma would back them up to the plane, force them to take the girl off. Then the little girl would run to Emma’s car, and she’d drive her to safety. But Emma realized a flaw in that plan.
Where was that third man who got off the plane?
The answer came from behind as the man’s thick arms clamped down on Emma like a vise. His arms were too strong to break out of. Emma did try to roll forward and toss the big man off her, but he quickly lifted her feet off the ground, making it impossible.
She took her mascara pen and rammed it in the side of her attacker, who shook her until Emma dropped both the pen and the hair conditioner. The man’s arms continued to squeeze her mid-section, convincing Emma she was about to be literally crushed to death.
Emma kicked the man’s shins as hard as she could, making it painful for him to hold on to her.
The man’s grip loosened enough that Emma brought her foot up and used it to push him off her. Now free, Emma spun around and jumped into a fighting stance. She cocked her arm back for a palm strike when Emma saw the face of her attacker.
It was Aardvark.
Emma rubbed her eyes as if they were malfunctioning.
The man was bald, with a chest the size of a refrigerator. He also had a long scar running down the length of his throat.
Aardvark smiled as he held up his hands in surrender.
“What are you doing here?” Emma yelled, still trying to be heard over the engines. “What’s going on?”
Suddenly the plane’s noisy engines were both shut off. The two other “kidnappers” put down their hands and simply walked away as if someone on a film set had yelled cut.
A middle-aged woman emerged from one of the small private hangars near the taxiway. Her short blond hair whipped around in the breeze. Emma recognized her too. It was Lioness. Her Authority training instructor. Which meant…this all had been a test.
End of Sample.
GIRLS ONLY LIVE TWICE is now available at these online book retailers.