The next Gems young adult spy novel is coming out tomorrow and I’m so excited! This will be number four in the series and here’s a sneak peak at the first chapter…
Emma Rothchild peered through the high-powered binoculars at four armed terrorists guarding the entrance to a small Namibian village with circular huts and thatched roofs. Three out of the four wore some sort of headscarf while the fourth terrorist wore a Yankees baseball cap. Emma didn’t care much for the hat. Not that she didn’t love the Yankees, because she was still a New York City girl at heart. However, that Yankees cap didn’t belong on the head of some dirt-bag who kidnapped young women and assaulted them because they had the nerve to want an education.
“May I see?” Miyuki’s sweet voice asked.
Miyuki Kaiko wore sunglasses as her straight dark hair flapped in the desert wind. Her normally pink-tinted skin had a slight orange burn. The rubber wheels of the Yamaha motorcycle she sat on were half buried in the hot sand.
Emma gave her friend the binoculars, then checked her own face in the dune buggy’s side mirror. Her creamy white skin was baked orange as well. Even with a gallon of sunblock, the desert sun was still brutal on a girl’s skin. At least her blond hair didn’t look too bad, although it was probably dry as heck now.
“If you can distract them, I should be able to race inside for a little mischief,” Miyuki said with a hopeful grin.
Emma shook off her personal appearance and studied her target instead. The terrorist-held village was tucked under a high cliff that overlooked the South Atlantic Ocean. Any ships passing by would easily miss the village. Something the terrorists had obviously thought of when they took over the village and ran off all the people. Emma noted a barbed-wire fence that protected the perimeter of the village.
“I wish there were a ramp on the outside so I could jump the fence like Evel Knievel!” Miyuki said.
“Evel Knievel! He jumped all kinds of things with his motorbike. One time, he jumped over a row of thirty school busses.”
“Why did he do that?”
“Because it’s fun!”
Emma ignored her friend’s enthusiasm and listened to the nerves poking at her stomach. Personally, she wasn’t looking forward to this part of the operation. Driving a dune buggy in the desert wasn’t a problem—there were fewer things to hit out here as opposed to a city street—no, the problem was the creating-a-diversion part. If Emma didn’t get close enough to the terrorists, then her diversion wouldn’t work, and her friends would be trapped inside that village forever. And getting close meant Emma would be close enough to get shot.
But those men wouldn’t shoot a pretty blonde girl in a dune buggy, would they? Not if she acted friendly. Emma found that most guys would loosen up when she smiled at them.
“Are you ready?” Miyuki asked.
Emma took in a deep breath. She reached for the sand goggles hanging around her neck and placed them over her eyes. “No, but let’s do it anyway.”
“Okey dokey. I’ll wait for you.” Miyuki jumped on the starter and the Yamaha roared to life. She put on her helmet and slipped on a face mask with a pipe attached to a slim oxygen tank on the bike.
Emma started the dune buggy and put it in gear. Lately, Nadia had been teaching Emma how to drive a stick, and so far Emma had the basics down. Well, kinda. At least she didn’t stall the car most of the time by letting the clutch out too early. Emma concentrated as she eased her foot off the clutch and squeezed the gas pedal. The engine revved and the transmission engaged…throwing the buggy backward.
Emma hit the brakes. Wrong gear.
Miyuki watched her through those scary-looking black goggles, probably wondering why Emma couldn’t get her crap together.
“I got it. Don’t worry,” Emma said as she found first gear and the dune buggy went forward through the sand.
As she cleared the second dune, Emma knew the terrorists at the front gate had now spotted her. She was committed. Emma put her foot to the floor and let the buggy bounce along the sand like a happy dog playing in the snow. When Emma was about five hundred feet away, she turned the wheel and did a few donuts, kicking up sand and letting the wind carry it into the air. She then eased her dune buggy back on course towards the checkpoint.
Emma noticed the men gripping their weapons as they spread out into defensive positions.
At two hundred yards, she waved at them and smiled.
They aimed their weapons at her.
Her heart beat faster than the dune buggy’s pistons. This was a terrible idea. Olivia’s grand plan was about to get her shot. But the actress inside Emma was still in character. She was portraying a fun-loving girl out for a joyride, and that girl wanted the whole world to have fun too. Her character would say, What terrorist camp? That girl only saw some local people standing around a fence, and she wanted to brighten their day.
Emma yanked the wheel hard to the left and did a few more donuts, causing the sand to kick up and surround her dune buggy before she braked to a stop. She allowed the sand in the air to clear before she climbed out of her buggy.
The men had their weapons drawn, but Emma could read their faces from here. They weren’t sure what they were looking at.
Emma slipped off her goggles and waved at them again. “Hi! I didn’t mean to disrupt your large family get-together. I’m only passing through. I’m sure having fun in your desert. My family and I are from Texas—the Lone Star State. Y’all have a lovely country. It’s so sandy.”
Emma felt her character would be from Texas. Maybe her daddy had hit it big in oil and gas a long time ago and invested it in real estate. Anyway, Emma went with that and her thick Texas accent.
The three men with head scarfs all checked with the man in the Yankees hat. That man lowered his rifle.
“You’re American?” he asked in decent English.
“Well, I’m a Texan. But basically, yeah.” Emma rubbed the sand off her legs and readjusted her tank top. The other men were shouldering their weapons. A few cracked some grins. Yes, they were all getting a better look at her. So far they didn’t look too alarmed. “Do you mind if I play around in your large sandbox out here? If I’m disrupting anything, you just let me know, and I’ll go elsewhere.”
The man with the Yankees cap walked toward the buggy. “Come here.”
Emma played stupid. “What’s that, sugar?”
“Come. Let us speak with you.” The man with the Yankees hat was getting closer. His eyes wandered down her legs and stayed a little too long on her tank top.
A shiver went down Emma’s spine. Her body was telling her to run. Her eyes were noticing a pistol strapped to the man’s side as well as the rifle hung over his shoulder. If she let him, he would grab her and drag her into the compound to do God knows what
Emma swallowed her fear. She needed to act. “My daddy warned me about talking to strange men in the middle of the desert.”
The man in the hat gestured for her to approach him.
Emma backed away. “It’s nice for y’all to invite me to lunch, but I have other places to visit, so I’ll just be on my way.” Emma hopped back into the dune buggy. As her hands touched the steering wheel—the muzzle of a pistol pressed against her cheek.
The man with Yankees cap was not smiling now. “You…come with us.”
Emma knew she would mess this all up. Now these men would kidnap her too.
Olivia would be pissed.
A motor revved in the distance.
The man took his attention off Emma as he glanced over at the dunes.
Emma seized the opportunity. She slapped his arm to the side and fell back on the passenger seat while twisting her body towards the threat. Then she used both legs to drill the man in the face with her sneakers.
Emma jumped on the clutch, shoved the stick into first, and feathered the gas pedal, coaxing the dune buggy forward. As the men were breaking out their rifles again, Emma spun the dune buggy in circles, kicking up the sand around her to obscure their vision. She then pointed the dune buggy away from them as she felt around in the back seat and took out a gas mask.
She slipped it over her mouth, turned on the oxygen, then pointed the dune buggy towards the checkpoint. The men were struggling to see through the sand, but they fired anyway. Emma’s windshield exploded.
Emma ducked down and turned the wheel hard to the right, making more circles in the sand. But this time she clicked a switch on the buggy’s dashboard, which unleashed a plume of gas that blew out of a third tailpipe. The wind carried this gas toward the checkpoint, making the men cough and cover their mouths.
Wearing a gas mask over her face, Miyuki raced her motorcycle towards the checkpoint. All four guards were passed out. Miyuki stopped her bike to pull open the large wooden gate.
Emma put the dune buggy in gear and gunned it through the front gate while Miyuki followed her inside the camp.