Hi guys! We have Ari & McKay stopping by today with their new release Herc’s Mercs Collection Vol III, we have a great excerpt, a fantastic giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~ ❤️ ~Pixie~
Herc’s Mercs Collection Vol III
No matter where in the world they have to go, the men of Hercules Security are ready to kick ass, take names, and, above all, save lives. Putting themselves in harm’s way is second nature to these men, and they’ll do whatever it takes to protect the innocent. Unfortunately the cost of such bravery is often brutally high, and sometimes the price a hero must pay isn’t always obvious…
Hunter Callahan loved his job as an explosives expert, but when a seven-year-old boy walks into camp wearing a suicide vest, the explosion that rocks Hunter’s world leaves him with wounds too deep to see with the untrained eye. Payne “Pita” Gibson is the only one who stands a chance of saving Hunter from self destruction, but doing so means Payne must share private facets of his own life. Could his unusual form of therapy not only help Hunter, but also win his heart? Pushing Hunter’s limits so hard is a test of Payne’s own strength of will — but everyone knows that it’s No Pain, No Gain.
When Joe Morrissey returns home from a traumatic mission, he never expects to discover that his longtime partner and lover, Brian Finnegan, has fallen in love with someone else. Even though he wants Finn to be happy, Joe finds it difficult to share his lover with Drew Martin. But when fallout from Joe’s recent mission puts Finn in danger, Joe must work with Drew to save Finn’s life. With everything he holds dear at risk, Joe is pushed to the breaking point — and Drew must step in to help put him back together. As Drew develops feelings for Joe as well, can Joe open his heart to the possibility of there being Room For One More?
from No Pain, No Gain
Hey Able, look at this!”
Hunter Callahan, also known as Able, glanced up from his tablet, looking across the tent to where is best friend, Mark “Stack” Hansen held up his tablet, which was playing a video of a small blond boy: Stack’s two-year-old son, Jake. Jake was throwing a ball to someone out of frame, laughing and squealing with delight as he caught the ball when it was tossed back to him.
“You’ve obviously got a starting pitcher on your hands,”
Hunter said, giving a snort of laughter at the proud expression on Stack’s face. Stack had married late, believing no woman would be willing to take on a rough mercenary who blew things up for a living, but he’d been wrong. Jennifer Hansen was fifteen years younger than Stack, a tiny brunette who had fallen hard for the big, burly merc, and Hunter had been best man at their wedding three years before, then stood as godfather a year later when Jake was born. He was happy for Stack, but he was a bit envious as well. Not that Hunter was looking for a wife and kids; no, he was hoping for the right man to come along.
“You just wait. My kid is going to take the world by storm someday,” Stack said. “With my looks and Jen’s smarts, he can’t help but be a winner.”
“Of course he is. He’s my godkid, after all,” Hunter said, returning his attention to his book as Stack lowered the tablet and continued to watch the video.
Hunter knew Stack cherished the videos Jen sent him, which were the only real contact Stack had had with his family for the last six months. But Stack had been with Lawson and Greer, the private military contractor they both worked for, for almost twenty years now, and he was set to muster out and collect a pension in less than four months.
If he managed things carefully, Stack could be a stay-athome dad if he wanted to and be there for Jake all the time, making up for his absences during Jake’s first two years.
“Able! Stack! We have a situation out here!”
The deep voice of Blaze, their unit commander, sounded from outside. His tone was urgent, and Hunter tossed his tablet aside before crossing the tent in three long strides and slipping out between the flaps, with Stack
hot on his heels.
“Where’s the fire?” he asked, seeing Blaze a few feet away with his back to them.
Blaze didn’t turn around, but he gave the hand gesture for them to approach slowly. As Hunter stepped forward, he saw Joker, their second-in-command, standing off to one side and speaking into a walkie, his face betraying his tension. Around them, men began to step from other tents in the billeting area, and Joker waved them away, indicating they should get the hell out of the area fast. As his cadre moved away, Hunter drew abreast of Blaze and saw the reason why.
The kid couldn’t have been any more than seven or eight years old, and he was barefoot and dressed in ragged clothing. His face was smudged with dirt, but there were clean streaks down his cheeks from his tears, and as Hunter stepped closer, it wasn’t hard to see why the kid was crying. If someone had strapped a bunch of bricks of C4 around his body, Hunter would be pretty fucking upset too.
“Ah, shit.” Stack stepped up beside him, the anger in his voice echoing Hunter’s feelings. “God damn these bastards! What sort of monster does that to a kid?”
“Let’s leave the philosophical debate on the table for the moment,” Blaze snapped. “Why don’t you tell me what the fuck we’re going to do about this?”
Hunter had dealt with suicide bombers, or at least with the aftermath once the snipers got through with them. If their vests didn’t have a dead man switch, Hunter and Stack were called in to disarm the unexploded ordinance. One had never gotten past the sentries and into camp before — but then, none of them had ever been a kid either.
“‘Ana la ‘urid ‘an ‘amut!” The kid startled them all by calling out, and Hunter translated the Arabic in his head. I don’t want to die!
“Smart kid,” Blaze said. He looked at Hunter and Stack.
“Can you two handle this?”
“I guess we have to, don’t we?” Stack said, his brown eyes dark with anger.
“We have this,” Hunter agreed. “Go on, boss man. Get everyone, including yourself, out of here.” He looked at the kid and spoke rapidly in the same dialect the child had used. “We will help you, but you have to stay very still. Can you do that?”
The kid nodded, and Hunter looked at Stack. “Go get our tool bags. I’ll make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.”
“Right.” Stack took off, and Hunter stepped closer to the little boy.
“I need you to answer some questions, so I can be sure we’ll get this off you without hurting you,” he said. He kept his voice calm as he asked about what the boy remembered from when the vest had been put on, and about what the men who had wired him up and said as they were doing it. By the time Stack came back, carrying their tools and an anti-ballistic box, wearing his disposal suit and carrying Hunter’s, Hunter had gotten all the information out of the kid he could.
“They told him to keep his thumb on the trigger until he got to the middle of the camp,” he relayed as he got into his suit. “Two connections, it looks like, one under each arm. The boy doesn’t remember them saying anything about failsafes, but be careful.”
“Got it,” Stack said, his voice echoing hollowly within his helmet.
Hunter finished donning everything but his own helmet and turned to the boy. “Don’t be scared. These suits are just for protection, okay? Like spacemen.”
The kid nodded jerkily, and Hunter could see he was on the verge of hyperventilating. “Hey, don’t worry! Breathe slow and deep, right. In… out… in… out…”
Stack was already on his knees next to the boy, and once Hunter was sure the kid wasn’t going to pass out, he moved to the other side. He wondered about the wisdom of taking the trigger from the kid, but it was a big risk. If they fumbled the transfer, it would be all over — even their state of the art bomb suits wouldn’t protect them from that much C4 going off in their faces.
They’d done this before, but on corpses, not a living person, and that made it a hell of a lot more dangerous.
Hunter was already sweating inside his suit, and he knew they didn’t have long to work before heat fatigue started to take its toll.
“Looks like basic stuff,” Stack said, tracing the wiring path through the cloth of the “vest.” It was no more than rough-cut fabric with pockets to hold the C4 and the shrapnel it would hurl in the detonation, acting like a massive shotgun blast going off in all directions. The wires sticking out revealed the job had been done quickly and sloppily — but that didn’t mean it was one less bit deadly.
They started by removing as much as they could of the mess of ball-bearings, screws, and small pieces of metal scrap that made up the shrapnel, then started on the vest itself. After a moment Stack held up his hand.
“Wait… aww, fuck. We can’t remove it all at once.
We’re going to have to do it brick by brick.” He pointed to a second circuit hidden in the pouches under the shrapnel.
Hunter resisted the urge to grind his teeth. Instead of being able to take the vest off the boy intact, they’d have to take each piece of C4 off by itself, then break the circuit connecting it to the mass of the vest. It was as though there were ten separate bombs instead of only one.
Grimly they set to work, removing each block of C4 one at a time, placing it in the protective box before going on to the next. By the third brick, Hunter was panting, but he’d learned to work through stress before, and he kept his focus on what he was doing, making each movement precise.
After the ninth brick had been removed, Stack looked at what was left, then drew in a deep breath. “Good. I think we took out all the redundancy,” he said. “Now we can remove it like a regular one.”
“Got it,” Hunter said. They carefully loosened the last of the wires and lifted the vest off over the kid’s head. As he was freed, the boy cried out in relief, and Hunter had to grab his hand. “Don’t release it yet! We’re not done.”
The boy nodded, trembling where he stood, as Stack disabled the detonator circuit. Hunter took the trigger from the boy, and the boy dropped to the ground, sobbing as he wrapped his arms around his knees and pressed his forehead against them.
Stack put the vest on the ground, then popped open his helmet. “Hey, kid, it’ll be okay,” he said, patting the boy on the back.
Hunter opened his helmet as well, drawing in a deep breath of desert air that felt positively cool in comparison to what was inside his helmet. And that was when he heard it — a soft beeping. Coming from the vest.
“It’s hot!” He cried out, instinctively reaching out one hand to push the kid back, as though an extra few inches would do anything to protect him from the live bomb in their midst. Then time slowed down, as Hunter was pushed, a hard hand ramming into the center of his chest and knocking him off-balance. He’d still been on his knees, and he twisted as he fell, unable to believe Stack had pushed him away. But Stack was turning away, too — in the direction of the bomb.
“No!” Hunter cried out, but he was too late. As Stack fell across the vest, the C4 detonated. A brilliant flash enveloped Hunter’s world, a sharp, burning pain sliced along one side of his head, and then everything faded to black, as Hunter’s soul screamed in horror that his last sight was his best friend being blown to bits right before his eyes.
About Ari & McKay!
Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.
Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.