Excerpt from DEADLY REBOOT by CJ Matthews

CJMatthew_DeadlyReboot_2500pxGinger Odom tapped a finger on the steering wheel, impatient for the red light to turn green. From out of nowhere, a Peachwood PD patrol car loomed in the rearview mirror and rolled to a stop behind her. “Not tonight,” she groaned and blotted the perspiration from her upper lip. She’d never put much stock in the concept of Karma. Instead her life fulfilled the adage that no good deed went unpunished.

Earlier today, in a marshmallow moment, she’d agreed to cover for a fellow waitress with a sick kid. Ended up working a full second shift at the Shamrock Café. Besides helping a friend, the extra money would add to her growing savings for nursing school. The fulfilling career of her dreams, especially now that she lived alone. Just after 2:00 a.m., her feet screaming in protest, she’d stumbled out to the café parking lot. Only to discover the air-conditioning in her late husband’s old pickup had chosen tonight to completely conk out.

Now a traffic cop was stopped right behind her? Head throbbing in time to her heartbeat, she chewed on her lower lip. Maybe she’d expire from heatstroke before he figured out a reason to write her a ticket.

The signal turned green. Ginger winced as her aching foot pressed cautiously on the accelerator. She prayed the old clunker wouldn’t decide to act up now. The fact the rusted heap was paid for didn’t begin to make up for its history of sudden backfires, puddles of dripped oil, or frequent burping billows of smoke.

Strictly adhering to the posted speed limit, she approached her turnoff and once again checked her rearview. Thank heavens, no exhaust smoke. Plus, no blue flashing lights. A flicker of hope dared to tease her until the police car followed into the turn, staying right behind her.

She could barely make out the patrolman inside his automobile. On this dark stretch of road, even the street lamps seemed dim and too far apart. Ginger tilted her head and enjoyed the slight breeze from both the open windows. Almost home, she consoled herself, where the new AC unit in her small mobile home worked great. The deserted street wound through graded but otherwise undeveloped land. As she passed the neighborhood’s solitary construction site, Ginger relaxed her grip on the steering wheel.

Suddenly blue-and-red flashing lights filled the mirrors. Her heart thundered. What had she done wrong? Damn. A traffic ticket definitely had no place in her already anemic budget. She pulled over until half the truck was on the dirt shoulder, turned the key to shut down the engine, and dug for her wallet. Driver’s license and car registration in hand, she waited.

After several long minutes, the uniformed patrolman slowly approached her side of the truck. From a cautious angled position at the open window, he tipped his head slightly. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

She gritted her teeth but managed a pleasant voice. “No, Officer. No idea.”

“Your right taillight’s not working. License, please.”

“Sorry.” She extended the laminated document through the open window.

“Stay right here, Ms. Odom.” Head down, he strolled back to his police car. Sliding behind the wheel, he pulled his door closed.

While the oppressive Georgia heat made her aching body reek of fried grease and her deodorant fail, he sat in air-Knights chessconditioned comfort. Did he have to keep those lights flashing? Talk about humiliating. Twin beads of sweat rolled down her forehead. How much did a ticket for a burned-out taillight cost? More than she’d made in tips tonight?

A new unbudgeted expense meant she’d need to pick up yet another extra shift. No way was she dipping into her nursing school tuition savings. Tears burned at the back of her eyes. She had no one to blame. Since her husband’s death, the responsibility of maintaining the truck fell to her.

Headlights from another vehicle appeared in her side mirror. Then just as quickly clicked off as the new arrival pulled to a stop behind the patrol car.

Ginger’s self-pity evaporated. Replaced by hot indignation. She gritted her teeth. The uniformed traffic cop checking her license had called for backup? For a routine traffic stop? At what point had she or her crap pickup truck presented a threat?

Squinting at the rearview mirror, she couldn’t see anything but the garish colors of the pulsing lights. She switched back to her side mirror. Through the strobe effect, she watched a dark outline step from the newly arrived car. Was it an unmarked vehicle? Maybe the patrolman’s supervisor checking up on him? Somewhat comforted at the thought, her anger ratcheted down a couple of notches.

The shadowy figure crossed behind the patrol car and moved along the passenger side. The dark outline finally stopped in her blind spot near her truck’s tailgate and right rear fender. She recognized the positioning from TV police shows and movies.

No doubt in her mind, the new arrival was here as backup. Jeez.

Finally, the uniformed cop stepped out of his car and approached her window. She strained to hear any sounds, voices. The two didn’t exchange a greeting that she could hear. Apparently full of newfound bravery thanks to backup buddy, this time the officer stood squarely in her window frame. Bent forward a bit, and she could see his face.

“I cited you for the nonfunctioning taillight.” He eased a metal ticket holder toward her. “You need to sign at the bottom.”

Ginger thought she heard a faint crunching sound. Footsteps in the dirt. Approaching the open window of her front passenger door. She started to turn, to check it out, when the cop with the ticket said, “It’s not an admission of guilt.” Readjusting her gaze, she looked him square in the eye.

“You’re simply agreeing,” he said, “to appear at—”

A gunshot exploded across the inside of the truck. The deafening sound reverberated through the interior. Ears numb, she screamed but couldn’t hear her voice.

The ticket holder and a pen dropped into her lap. Grabbing for his neck, the traffic officer made a horrible gurgling sound. Warm blood spurted through the window, splattering on her face. Ginger froze in horror.

A second shot blasted through the car. It drove the patrolman back with one staggering step. He wobbled, pitched backward, and landed flat on his back in the road.

She gasped for air. Screamed again. Her heart thundered in her chest. She had to help him. Gripping the bloody door handle, she craned her neck to see out the window. The top half of his body was visible. But it was enough.

Blood from his neck wound drenched his shirt. Stained the pavement around his head. A dark circle, the bullet hole in his forehead slowly oozed blood. Lifeless eyes stared up at the night sky. He was dead.

Ginger screamed again and again. Gagged as her dinner rose in her throat. She swallowed fast. Dipped her head to fight the blackness and nausea. That’s when she noticed his ticket holder in her lap. Her driver’s license clipped to the corner. Everything was spattered with the dead policeman’s blood.

He’d been murdered. A new fear clenched at her chest. Was she next? She whipped her head around, searching for the backup guy. The killer.

Shadow man had disappeared. The only thing framed in the open passenger window was darkness. Her startled gaze dropped to the passenger seat. Her purse was gone.

In its place, on top of her grease-stained work apron, was a big gun. Like the one Dirty Harry used in the movie. Next to the gun sat two crumpled latex gloves.


Ginger Odom has sworn to become self-reliant…

Until she is arrested in a small town and framed for the murder of a police officer. Seems everyone in the community wants her behind bars, regardless of the truth, so her aunt enlists the help of the Paladin Group. A team of wounded former military men and woman, now civilian lawyers and investigators, they rescue people in serious trouble.

Hale Peters is determined to ignore his knee injury…

The former Air Force Pararescueman, wounded during a rocket attack on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, accepts his first reboot for Paladin. His mission—keep Ginger safe until he can prove her innocence—becomes a bigger challenge than expected when he and Ginger clash over who’s in charge.

The Devil Dogs just want to help…

The group of older veterans steps up to assist, but when Ginger’s life is threatened by the real killer, Hale and Ginger need to work together if they hope to stay alive.

Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1QnmjLm

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CJ at DellCJ Matthew grew up in an Air Force family traveling and living all over the US and around the world. It proved to be the perfect experience for gathering ideas and material for future books. And for meeting real heroes and heroines in uniforms or flightsuits.

When she isn’t writing or reading romances, CJ enjoys spending time with her two grown children and their spouses, her brilliant grandson, and feisty cat, Max. Schedule permitting, CJ loves to travel, to discover new favorite places as well as meeting new friends in both the US and around the world.

Max flatly refuses to travel.

CJ also writes a paranormal romantic suspense series. The Dolphin Shore Shifters features dolphins capable of shape shifting into human form. Posing as humans, they are committed to protecting the oceans at any cost through their high-profile conservation corporation, Save Blue Water, based in Santa Barbara, California.

Website: www.cjmatthew.com

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/CJMatthewauthor

Twitter: twitter.com/cjmatthew

Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/cjmatthew

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/CJMatthew

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