BODY OF EVIDENCE is the second book in my series of romantic thrillers that explores the intersection of archaeology, politics, and war, and today I’m excited to share with our Kiss and Thrill readers an excerpt.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
“Rise, Mara Garrett.”
Mara understood only a handful of Korean words, but she’d learned that phrase early in this farce of a trial and was on her feet before the interpreter finished speaking. Tremors radiated from her belly. This is just a formality. I’m one step closer to getting home. Her token lawyer had warned her she would probably be sentenced to ten years’ hard labor; then the real negotiation for her release would begin. With her conviction and harsh sentence, North Korea would be in a stronger bargaining position.
Of course, North Korea, the most secretive and unpredictable regime on earth, wasn’t known for negotiating. They would make demands, and the US would either meet them or not.
She’d traveled the world for her job with the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, conducting excavations to retrieve the remains of American servicemen who’d died in wars fought by the United States in the last century. Her work for JPAC was hazardous. She’d faced down poisonous insects, dug up unexploded ordnance, and suffered third-world diseases. But never, not even in her wildest imagination, did she think her work could lead to being arrested in North Korea.
But that was what happened when she ended up alone on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone.
She looked to her lawyer for some sort of reassurance and caught the glint of a camera lens. Cameras hadn’t been permitted in the courtroom during the trial; the presence of one now filled Mara with a foreboding chill. It seemed the North Koreans expected a dramatic, newsworthy reaction.
She stood straight with her head high so the camera wouldn’t see her clenched hands behind the table. She refused to give them the spectacle they wanted.
The judge spoke. She forgot to breathe while waiting for the translator. Finally, the man said, “Mara Garrett, you have been convicted of spying. The penalty is death by firing squad. The sentence will be carried out in twenty-four hours.”
The room tilted. A shriek built in her throat, while her bones turned to jelly. Sheer will kept her face blank while she battled dizziness. She’d been alone when she was arrested but had spent the last two months worrying her coworkers had been detained as well. For their sake, she needed to take the blame. If they were being tried in another courtroom, her admission of guilt could prevent them from receiving the same sentence. She pressed her nails into her skin and fixed her gaze on the lens. “This is my fault. My JPAC team is blameless.”
The judge spoke again, yelling now, and the translator matched his tone. “You are guilty and have been sentenced!”
“It was a mistake,” she said, desperation building in her voice. “I was separated from my team by accident.” But that wasn’t true, and she feared they saw through the lie.
Panic threatened as a guard grabbed her arm and tugged her toward the door. He wasn’t taking her to the firing squad. He couldn’t be. Hadn’t they given her twenty-four hours?
They’d almost reached the exit when the door swung open and slammed against the wall. The guard jerked to a stop. Framed in the opening was a portly, highly decorated military man.
A rapid-fire exchange between the judge and the newcomer ensued. Mara twisted in the guard’s grip and watched in horror as the judge angrily ejected the cameraman from the room.
Panic morphed into bone-melting fear. What the hell was happening?
The military official waved a magazine in the air. In a haze, she recognized the Asian edition of TIME magazine from the bold font and familiar red border.
At last the man looked away from the judge and addressed her, causing the translator to jump to his feet and race to her side to voice his words. “Our leader, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to grant you amnesty on one condition.”
Hope flared but was soon tempered with the fear that this interruption was a stress-induced fantasy, like the ones Mara had suffered years ago after her father’s death. Each time the fantasy faded, hope went with it, and she was slapped with grief as fresh and intense as the day he’d died.
Hope would break her, making it her captors’ ally. She knew that better than anyone.
“Our beloved Dear Leader once got your President Clinton to come groveling.”
No. Not again. This wasn’t a pathetic fantasy. It was an all too real nightmare. Cold sweat dripped from her brow. The idea of a rescue mission headed by a former president terrified her. She wasn’t a reporter dipping her toes in the Tumen River. She was the niece of a former vice president of the United States, and as such could be seen as a valuable bargaining chip.
The North Koreans knew exactly who she was. Because of her family connections, it was especially important she downplay her significance. A presidential envoy would open the door to other outrageous demands, and she was horrified by the thought that the unpredictable dictator could gain the upper hand with the US because of her.
Her situation wasn’t helped by the fact that her uncle was facing trial on ridiculous corruption charges. She could only assume her arrest had added to the ongoing media frenzy in the United States, further convincing her captors of her importance. She’d repeatedly begged her interrogators to tap a low-level politician as envoy, but each time her pleas were met with disdain.
“Our leader wants to meet the man on the cover.” The translator pointed to the magazine. “If he comes to P’yŏngyang before your execution, we will allow him to take you home.”
The man stood too far away; she couldn’t see the face on the cover. She had no idea who had been selected. But even more important, was twenty-four hours enough time for an envoy to fly to North Korea?
The official waved the magazine as if it offered hope, but there was no such thing as hope. She was going to die.
Want to know what happens next? I hope so, because I’m excited to announce this book will be published soon! Very soon. I can’t give an exact date, but if you sign up for my new release mailing list at www.Rachel-Grant.net you’ll receive an email the day the book is available and you’ll be entered in my drawing to win a pack of Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program playing cards.
When archaeologist Mara Garrett traveled to North Korea with JPAC, the organization that retrieves the remains of GIs lost in combat, she never imagined she’d be betrayed, convicted of spying, and sentenced to death by firing squad. Her only hope is Curt Dominick, the powerful and ambitious U.S. attorney prosecuting her beloved uncle, a former Vice President of the United States.
With betrayal around every corner, Curt and Mara have little reason to trust each other, but the sparks between them blaze hotter than the Hawaiian sun, and fighting their growing passion tests both their will power and their loyalties.
What starts off as a rescue mission quickly morphs into a race across the Pacific. It’s not just Mara’s safety on the line anymore. They’ve stumbled into a conspiracy that threatens not only their lives, but national security of the United States.
I have a very special prize today to celebrate the coming release of BODY OF EVIDENCE. I’m giving one commenter a print Advance Reader’s Copy. This is your chance to read BoE in print before it’s available online. Check back on Thursday to see if you are the winner. Winner must provide a U.S. mailing address.