Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for 66 Metres by J.F. Kirwan! This is the first book in the Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller series and I have an extract to share with you all, right after the all-important information about the book. Huge thanks to Noelle and Kate for having me on the tour and providing me with this extract!
Author : J.F. Kirwan
Title : 66 Metres
Series : Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller
Pages : 232
Publisher : Carina
Publication date : August 25, 2016
The only thing worth killing for is family.
Everyone said she had her father’s eyes. A killer’s eyes. Nadia knew that on the bitterly cold streets of Moscow, she could never escape her past – but in just a few days, she would finally be free.
Bound to work for Kadinsky for five years, she has just one last mission to complete. Yet when she is instructed to capture The Rose, a military weapon shrouded in secrecy, Nadia finds herself trapped in a deadly game of global espionage.
And the only man she can trust is the one sent to spy on her.
Nadia ran with long strides through a mosaic of puddles reflecting the dawn sun. She threaded through the water-logged obstacle course of bollards, nets and stacked crates, feeling slightly chilled from running into the steady breeze. She preferred it that way, it reminded her of home. Besides, it made her run faster, and the rising sun would warm her on the way back.
She slowed to a stop as she came to a wooden diving shack. It stood at the top of worn stone steps descending to a jetty where a five-metre rigid inflatable boat – a RIB, as all divers called them – gently rocked, two sturdy Jefferson engines at the rear, two hundred horsepower apiece. She smiled. This boat would do. A lean young man with dark hair and a ragged fringe, wearing a slightly ripped grey wetsuit, moved nimbly in the wavering rubber dinghy as he stowed gear. He hefted two cylinders at a time as if they were paperweights, sure-footed as he bounced across the boat’s inflated rubber tube onto its aluminium deck to stand them upright on the stainless steel centre-rack. He wrapped elastic around the top valves so the tanks wouldn’t come loose when surfing big waves. She watched his hands: long, flexible fingers, strong but not wizened like a fisherman’s. Nadia had a thing about hands.
Clear water slopped against the sides of the grey boat. The visibility was good. She could see the bottom. Granite boulders and sea-grass, three metres down. Two close-knit schools of silver fish hung underneath the boat, looking for food amongst the seaweed and algae slime of the harbour wall.
She stared out to the horizon, shading her vision from the sunlight shimmering on the waves. The sea looked calm, maybe Force Two, no visible wave crests or white horses outside the harbour walls. Beyond lay the beginnings of the Atlantic Ocean. Next stop after the Scillies was America. There would be big ocean rollers further out.
Another man exited the shack. Podgy, with an unruly mop of curly, straw-like hair, sporting a faded blue Seven-Tenths dive t-shirt, oil-stained white shorts and cheap trainers. He hopped down the steps carrying a plastic crate of diving knives and grey Aladin dive computers.
The first man spoke to him while tying up the last of the cylinders. ‘We need to get a move on, Ben.’ He didn’t add ‘Careful!’ as the second man bounced and almost fell into the boat, but his look said it all.
The chill morning air bit deeper through Nadia’s top, raising goose-bumps on her thighs and arms, chiding her to start running again. But she stayed to watch, forearms across her chest. She cupped both hands over her mouth and nose to stave off the chill breeze.
The one called Ben looked hungover, unsteady on his feet, the colour of his face not too far from that of the algae sticking to the underside of the boat. As he set down the crate, she noticed he had a jumble of keys in his left hand – presumably for the dive shack, maybe the ignition key for the boat, too. She saw Ben’s immediate future.
Her father used to play a game with her when she was five. He would hold something out – a pencil, or something more fragile or precious, even one of her prized crystal figurines – and then stare into her eyes, daring her to blink. When she did, a few seconds or maybe half a minute later, he would drop the object, her mission being to catch it before it smashed onto the ground. This ritual drove her mother nuts, though she never complained, even when Nadia didn’t react fast enough, understanding that her husband was determined to teach his daughter a valuable lesson.
Ben was going to puke. The lean one, whom she presumed to be the skipper, had his back to him, hauling the last two cylinders and weight belts on board. She moved to the edge of the harbour wall, just above the boat. She had no credit cards or electronics on her, save her waterproof diving watch and the room key. Nothing perishable in seawater.
Ben put the keys on the boat’s outer tube, then suddenly pitched forward and retched, spraying vomit into the water, making the fish underneath first dart away then return into the mustard cloud. Breakfast time. She focused on the keys. Still there. The other cried ‘Jesus, Ben!’ even as his eyes spotted the keys. Ben leant heavily onto the boat’s outer rubber tube, scooping a handful of seawater to wash the vomit from his mouth. The keys slid off, and plopped into the water.
‘Fuck, no!’ shouted the other one.
Nadia’s feet had already left the ground. Her hands and head hit the bracing water. She arced underneath the plume of puke-soup, opening her eyes as silver fish flashed out of her way. A glint of bronze sank to the bottom. She kicked down with a measured pace to follow it until the keys landed on a small rock. Grasping them, she stayed a moment, unable to focus on anything clearly, but not caring; life was so uncomplicated down here. She kicked off the slimy rocks and swam around the fish-and-vomit plume to reach the surface, breaching it with a big smile, hoisting the keys high in her right hand. The two men gaped at her. The lean one burst out laughing, and reached out with both hands. Nadia swam towards him.
‘And to think I never believed in mermaids,’ he said. He took both her hands, braced himself with one foot on the tube, and hauled her clean out of the water. She stepped onto the tube in front of him. Still holding her hands, he looked her up and down. ‘Well, bugger me backwards if I haven’t just fallen in love.’ His grin was infectious. ‘I’ve just salvaged you,’ he said, ‘which means by international law you’re mine now. I’m Pete, by the way, your new owner.’
‘I’m cold,’ she said, holding his gaze.
Ben grabbed a towel from one of the boat’s small cupboards and cast it around her shoulders as she stepped onto the boat’s deck. She shivered, then smiled at them both ogling her. ‘Nadia,’ she said.
She handed Pete the keys. When he took them he stroked her hand.
‘Spasiba,’ he said, putting on a Russian accent, his grin transforming into a handsome smile.
‘You’re welcome,’ she said, holding back from smiling too broadly.
Ben mumbled something, the only intelligible word being ‘coffee’. She nodded and he loped up the steps, then returned. Pete handed him the keys to the shack.
‘I fire him almost every day,’ Pete said, gesturing for her to sit while he perched on the opposite tube.
‘Is it that hard to find help here?’ she asked.
‘Nope. But he’s my brother.’
Ben returned, keys dangling from the ring held between his teeth, coffee spilling from two steaming white tin mugs.
Pete took his drink and frowned at Ben, who shrugged and moved to the front end of the boat to fiddle with something on the console. Pete returned his gaze to Nadia. ‘I know, who’d have thought we were brothers? I asked my mum, but she just winked.’ Pete lowered his voice, a crafty smile playing across his lips. ‘Anyway, Ben has his moments.’
Nadia took a sip. The instant coffee was bitter but hot. It warmed her throat. She cradled the mug in both hands close to her lips, steam rising over her face.
‘You take after your mother, then?’ she asked.
She caught herself – the easy banter, the flirting – and backed up, remembering recent events. She shivered.
‘What just happened?’ Pete asked. He was staring at her intently.
She dipped her eyes towards her coffee. She’d never been as good at masking her true feelings as her sister Katya. ‘What do you mean?’
He put his mug down, his smile fading. ‘I reckon I just saw our lives flash before your eyes.’
Perceptive, too. Must have a string of women. She swallowed more coffee, not tasting it, watching him. No, she told herself. Not a good idea. She called up Katya’s face, then dredged up Kadinsky’s. The Mafioso liked Katya – she’d lasted longer than most – but he had a harem of captive concubines just as beautiful.
Her resolve steeled. The look of recognition dawned across Pete’s face, his understanding that the moment where flirtation could lead to something more had passed. She felt a pang. Another time. Another life.
Pete stood, his face a mask. ‘Want us to drop you back at your hotel?’
‘No, that’s okay, the run will get the seawater out of my trainers.’
He looked genuinely concerned. ‘You don’t want to catch a cold.’
She stood up, downed most of the coffee, reached the granules at the bottom, and flicked them over the side. ‘I’ll be okay. As you guessed from my accent, I’m Russian. Used to the cold.’
She towelled her hair brusquely, then flung the damp linen towards Ben. He did a nice catch for someone pretending not to be watching. The breeze had dropped and the sun’s rays were already heating up. She turned back to Pete. ‘But I am a diver, and I was wondering –’
‘Any time,’ he said. He held out his hand to help her step out of the boat.
She didn’t need the hand but took it anyway, and stood on the granite steps. ‘How many dive operators are there here?’
His lips tightened, and he bent over, loosening the ropes tendering the rear of the boat, while Ben untied the front. ‘Two others, down the quay, Kennedy’s and O’Hawkes.’
‘I didn’t mean… Pete, when are you back?’
‘Lunchtime,’ he said, without looking her in the eye. He flicked on one of the engines, revved it twice, then let it settle to a sputter. Moving forward to the central console with its steering wheel, he flicked the gear lever into reverse. With a clunk the boat began backing away from the jetty.
‘I’ll be here,’ she said.
Pete caught her eye once, then pushed the throttle forward and spun the boat around, heading out of the harbour, not looking back. Nadia shivered, and began her run back to the pub-hotel, her trainers squelching for the first few hundred metres. She’d have to buy new ones. In fact, new clothes all around. As she neared her hotel she glanced over to the horizon, but Pete’s boat was already gone.
66 Metres is available now!
Amazon US – Amazon UK – Barnes & Noble – iTunes/Apple – Goodreads
In his day job, J. F. Kirwan travels worldwide, working on aviation safety. He lives in Paris, where he first joined a fiction class – and became hooked! So when a back injury stopped him scuba diving for two years, he wrote a thriller about a young Russian woman, Nadia, where a lot of the action occurred in dangerously deep waters. It was the only way he could carry on diving! But as the story and characters grew, he realised it was not one book, but three…
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