Running Out Of Time
Book description: When a terrorist is on the loose, the Tactical Crime Division is on the case. To find out who poisoned medications, two of TCD’s agents are tapped to go undercover posing as a married couple and infiltrate the company. But as soon as Jace Cantrell and Laura Smith arrive at Stroud Pharmaceuticals, someone ups the ante by planting explosives in their midst. Turns out that the small-town family business is hiding a million secrets. Could they unknowingly be protecting a vengeful killer?
About Cindi Myers: Cindy Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote a torrid historical romance and passed the manuscript around among friends. Fame was short-lived, alas; the English teacher confiscated the manuscript. Since then, Cindy has written more than 50 published novels. Her historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction have garnered praise from reviewers and readers alike.
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Excerpt, Running Out Of Time by Cindi Myers
Love CSI and Criminal Minds? Meet the Tactical Crime Division.
Get to know a team of dedicated crime solving experts as they fight for justice, safety, and one by one are rewarded by finding love.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Special Agent Laura “Smitty” Smith—A disciplined agent who never breaks the rules, Laura must go undercover as a newlywed to find the person responsible for a rash of poisonings and bombings in a small West Virginia town.
Special Agent Jace Cantrell—The military veteran and special ops expert has a reputation as a rebel and a rule breaker—exactly the kind of man to clash with Laura, yet the two must pose as husband and wife to solve a case that brings death to their very doorstep.
Donna Stroud—The head of Stroud Pharmaceuticals intends to keep her company going and her family together in the face of tragedy, but how far will she go to do so?
Parker Stroud—Donna’s son chafes at his parents’ unwillingness to put him in charge of the family business.
Merry Winger—Parker’s girlfriend has big plans to marry Parker, despite his parents’ disapproval of their relationship and Parker’s own reluctance to make their relationship public.
Leo Elgin—His mother was poisoned by tainted medication manufactured by Stroud. He holds a grudge against the Stroud family.
“We’ve got another tough case on our hands.” Jill Pembroke, director of the FBI’s tactical crime division, surveyed her team from the head of the conference table in the Bureau’s Knoxville headquarters. “One that re-quires a great deal of discretion.”
Something in the director’s tone made Agent Laura Smith sharpen her focus. Pembroke, with her well-cut silver hair and feminine suit, might be mistaken for a high society grandmother, but she was as hard-nosed as they came, and not prone to exaggeration. That she reminded her team of the need for discretion pointed to something out of the ordinary.
The door to the conference room opened and a man slipped in. Tall and rangy, Agent Jace Cantrell moved with the grace of an athlete. He nodded to the director and eased into the empty seat next to Laura. No apology for being late. Typical. Laura slid her chair over a couple of inches. Cantrell was one of those men who always seemed to take up more than his share of the available space.
“We’re going to be investigating product tampering at Stroud Pharmaceuticals in Mayville, West Virginia.”
Director Pembroke stepped aside to reveal a slide showing a squat factory building set well back on landscaped grounds.
“The antacid poisonings.” Agent Ana Ramirez spoke from her seat directly across from Laura. She tucked a strand of dark hair into the twist at the nape of her neck, polished nails glinting in the overhead light. “That story has been all over the news.”
“Do the locals not want the FBI horning in?” Agent Davis Rogers—the only member of the team not wearing the regulation suit—sat back in his chair beside Ramirez, looking every bit the army ranger he had once been. “Is that why the extra discretion?”
“No, the local police are happy to turn this over to us,” Pembroke said. She advanced to the next slide, a listing of the deaths—six so far, with two additional people hospitalized—attributed to Stroud’s Stomach Soothers, a natural, organic remedy that claimed a significant share of the market as an alternative to traditional antacids. “This hasn’t been released to the public, but the poison in the contaminated tablets was ricin.”
Laura would have sworn the temperature in the air-conditioned room dropped five degrees. “Any suggestion of a link to terrorism?” Hostage negotiator Evan Duran, bearded and brooding, spoke from the end of the table. “Anybody claiming credit for the deaths?”
Pembroke shook her head. “At this point, we aren’t assuming anything. Obviously, we want to avoid panicking the public.”
“The public is already panicked,” Rowan Cooper, the team’s local liaison, said. “People have been organizing boycotts of all Stroud products.” She absently twisted a lock of her jet-black hair, brow furrowed. “We’ll need a strategy for managing the public’s response.”
“The facility where the Stomach Soothers were manufactured has been closed for the time being and the product is being pulled from store shelves,” Pembroke said. “But another facility in town, which manufactures other items, remains open, and the company has reduced hours and reassigned as many employees as possible to the single plant. The company, the town, even the state officials, are very anxious to downplay this tragedy and get Stroud up and running full-speed as soon as possible.”
“Why do that?” Kane Bradshaw, Agent-at-Large, said. Laura hadn’t noticed him until now, seated as he was behind her and apart from the rest, almost in the shadows. Kane always looked as if he’d just rushed in from an overnight surveillance, all wind-blown hair and shadowed eyes. The fact that he was here spoke to the gravity of this case. While always on hand when the team needed him, he wasn’t much on office decorum.
“Jobs.” Cantrell’s voice, deep and a little rough, like a man who smoked two packs a day, sent a shiver through Laura. He didn’t smoke, but maybe he once had. “Stroud Pharmaceuticals is one of the biggest employers in Boone County,” he continued. “The coal mines are shutting down, and there isn’t a lot of other industry. Stroud has been a savior to the community. They—and the officials they elected—are going to do everything in their power to keep the company running and redeem its reputation.”
“Even covering up murder?” Laura asked.
Cantrell turned to her, his gaze cool. “I doubt they want to cover it up, but they’ll definitely downplay it and keep it quiet.”
“They want us to help, but they don’t want us to be obvious.” The youngest member of the team, computer specialist Hendrick Maynard, jiggled his knee as he spoke. A genius who looked younger than his twenty-six years, Maynard never sat still.
“Precisely.” Director Pembroke advanced to another slide of a small town—tree-shaded streets lined with modest homes, some worse for wear. A water tower in the distance displayed the word Mayville in faded green paint. “Agents Smith and Cantrell, you are to pose as a married couple and take jobs at the Stroud factory. Investigations so far point to the poisonings having originated from within the plant itself, so your job is to identify possible suspects and investigate. Agent Rogers, you’ll be in town as well…”
Laura didn’t hear the rest of the director’s assignments. She was focused on trying to breathe and holding back her cry of protest. She and Cantrell? As a couple? The idea was ridiculous. He was rough, undisciplined, arrogant, scornful…
“You look like you just ate a bug.” Cantrell leaned to-ward her, bringing with him the disconcerting aroma of cinnamon. His gravelly voice abraded her nerves. “Don’t think I’m any more excited about this than you are.”