This is my stop during the blog tour for Pretty Little Creatures by Vince Milam. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 1 till 14 December, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.
So far this series contains 2 books: The Unknown Element (The Challenged World #1) and Pretty Little Creatures (The Challenged World #2).
Ebola, jihadists, blood diamonds, drug cartels, and a dark force driving events. In pursuit, an eclectic team of three very dissimilar individuals.
A reserved small town sheriff on a reluctant quest for justice. A beautiful and eccentric technology genius striving to piece together international clues to terrorism. An epicurean French priest committed to combat. Can they work together to challenge a nightmarish conspiracy without driving each other crazy?
The resurrection of the blood diamond trade in the fetid jungles of Ebola-infected West Africa draws the trio together. They are joined by a stunning CIA professional killer with a clear and final solution to any problem. Together they struggle against the leaders of the illicit diamond trade and the foul entity providing the child slave labor.
Have they won? The doggedness of the technology genius and the assuredness of the French priest uncover deeper plans—a game of misdirection and intrigue masterminded by a powerful source nested in the evil enclaves of ISIS.
The stakes rapidly rise as the trail leads them into the wild heartland of a Mexican drug cartel—a launching point to unleash a hellish scenario into the U.S. The final conflict looms as forces for good and evil muster for battle. Can three regular people prevent this terrorist attack? They need to, because failure will forevermore alter the life of every American.
Cole remained planted in the center of the room. The priest sat on the sill across from him and smoked, while heat wafted in from the open window. Deputies and staff moved along the hallway, attending to their duties. “Sir, I have my doubts as to your understanding of evil given your life experiences. No offense. You’re a priest. I’m a lawman. I’ve performed this business of mine for some time, seen a lot, and still wrestle with what drives the terrible things I’ve seen, and how it all fits the human experience.” He paused and Francois waited. “I don’t mean to insult you, but the life of a priest is a heckuva lot different than that of a lawman.”
“A valid point,” replied Francois. “Allow me to provide some history. Some context. For many instances, I would agree. Perhaps you will see I possess some rather unique experiences.”
Francois gave a high-level overview of his work. He talked of possessions and exorcisms, his research into the nature and manifestations of evil, and his conviction that the human experience included evil external forces.
“It is not my intention to be intrusive, Sheriff. No. It is my intention to pursue a personal endeavor. Your knowledge of the current situation may be of great help. With such matters, I fear great danger for those unprepared. Therefore, I do not seek physical assistance. No. I seek your perspective. Private insights.” Francois extended his hands, palms up, as if to receive something.
Cole’s chin dropped to his chest and his defenses began to fade under the weight of uncertainty and isolation. Other than the phone call to Nadine to gather intelligence on Moloch, he had dealt with all of it alone. No definitive third-party ties or motives looped back to the nursing home horror. Burt Hall had killed his own mother, for God’s sake. But something didn’t fit. On a visceral level, something felt wrong. After three days, it had worn on him. Justice had not been fulfilled. He suspected answers might not be available through any normal or rational means. The thought of that dismissive SOB Moloch—flicking his damn hand—in the middle of that mess made for sleepless nights. Now this priest had arrived out of nowhere and clearly had no intention of leaving him alone. But the guy had different perspectives, for sure. There was a strange comfort in that.
He closed the office door. Francois stayed perched on the windowsill. Cole sat on the edge of the desk and let one leg dangle. The giggles of two young girls carried from the sidewalk through the open window, mixed with cigarette smoke and the musk of old-fashioned roses.
“I need to bounce some things off somebody, and do it without getting straitjacketed. Maybe …” Cole hesitated. “Maybe you can, or maybe you are able to—and I’m pretty hesitant to mention it—shed some light on some things. Things that I’d sure like answers to.”
Francois remained motionless, so Cole continued.
“I don’t know you. And I’m fixin’ to trust you with something. Something I haven’t talked with anyone about.” He was crossing the Rubicon, hell-bent on answers. “Sorta confessional, isn’t it?”
“You can trust me, Sheriff. I give you my word as a man of God.” Francois took another drag, crushed the cigarette against the outside brick wall, and showed Cole the butt as he tossed it in a nearby wastebasket. “And you can trust me as a man who can relate to your experiences.”
Gulls called from the outside salt air, and the sounds of coins as they slid into the soda vending machine drifted through the closed door from the hallway.
“There was someone.”
Francois slid off the windowsill and eased toward Cole, as if any sudden movements might spook the sheriff.
“You saw. Your eyes observed?” asked Francois.
At that moment, a clerk gave a cursory knock and stuck his head in the door to announce, “Sheriff, there’s a call on line two you’ll want to take.”
Francois raised both hands, blew out a puff of disgust, and gave the young clerk a glare that caused the door to slam shut. Cole snapped out of his reverie and moved back behind the desk, grabbed the phone, and punched line two on the antiquated system. “Yes, sir. No problem. No, sir. Three hours. Will do.” He set the phone down and turned to grab his hat. “I’m afraid I have to go, Father. Right now.”
“Again, call me Francois. And to where, might I ask? It is most important, our discussion.”
“Austin. It’s three hours. I won’t be back until late today.” A decision made and potential lunacy averted, Cole added, “I believe our discussion has ended. It’s all craphouse crazy. There’s nothing I can do for you, Francois.”
“Bon. I shall see you tonight then.” The priest moved with his determined style to the door, apparently unable to grasp the meaning of “ended.” Before he exited, Francois spun and pointed a finger at Cole. His round, florid face had taken on a hard intensity.
“You saw. Your heart. You felt. You saw.”
A loud, puffed-cheek exhale, rife with resignation and relief, accompanied Cole’s reply. “Yeah. I saw.”
As they approached Houston, Cole gave Francois background on Nadine. He tried to explain in a digestible format how people might construe her as different. She had always been infatuated by computers, the languages of software, puzzles, and games. Her analytical mind frightened those who chose to get close. When the Internet and all its tendrils bloomed, she dove in lock, stock, and barrel. She had found her calling. No encryption existed that she could not break, no firewall she couldn’t breach, no system she couldn’t hack, and no information she couldn’t find. She carried a Top Secret clearance.
The main house had ionic columns and a porte cochère through which they drove to park in the shade of a huge river oak next to the garage. Francois couldn’t wait to smoke and lit one as they ascended the peeling wooden stairs to Nadine’s apartment.
Nadine flung open the door and admonished them to hurry before the cold air escaped. She stood in flip-flops, shorts, and an old Colt .45s T-shirt. As Cole approached, she panicked a bit, not sure how to greet him. Cole removed that concern when he gave her a big hug and a “How’re you, Nadine?” She hugged back and patted him on the back as he entered. “That’s Francois,” he tossed over his shoulder, followed by “Howdy, Mule.” She thought it was a nice touch to remember the cat’s name. The guy was authentic, no doubt.
Francois stood before her. “Mademoiselle. Francois Domaine at your service.” He gave a slight bow.
“Can I have one of those?” she asked, pointing at the lit cigarette.
“But of course!”
As he reached for the pack of smokes, she grabbed him by the arm and led him inside. The insulated metal door closed with a heavy clank.
“I know you fellas are thirsty after that drive. Drinks? Ice tea or adult beverage? How was traffic? Francois, sit anywhere. You’re a priest? Can I call you Francois? I like your socks.”
She turned and flip-flopped into the small kitchen while Cole relaxed in a comfortable chair and signaled for Francois to do the same. She paused long enough for an answer and to watch Francois inspect the couch and its resident, Mule the cat.
“Oui. Francois will be quite adequate.”
“Adult beverages, please,” Cole said.
“Cole, I haven’t seen you for almost a year. Tell me about the kids,” she said as kitchen cabinets opened and slammed shut in her quest for glasses.
“College appears to suit Lisa. Jeri Ann still hangs with the bum in Lubbock,” said Cole.
“Jeri Ann may not agree that her beau working toward a PhD constitutes bum status,” came back from the kitchen, followed by, “there they are.”
Francois settled on the opposite side of the couch from Mule and viewed the mishmash of computers, monitors, servers, and assorted blinking lights while she poured. He held one hand under the cigarette as a portable ashtray.
Nadine carried in three Flintstone jelly glasses and a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon—the latter stored in the freezer with a handful of mint from under her stairway shoved down the neck and mixed with the liquor. She always believed it made for a nice cocktail on a hot summer evening. She balanced on one foot and used the other to sweep documents off the coffee table in front of Francois. His long ash and lifted palm prompted a rush back into the kitchen to return with a vintage Tiffany silver ashtray.
“Wilma, Fred, and Bam-Bam,” she said. Nadine figured two fingers each of the Tennessee liquid ought to do it unless this priest wanted something different. If that was the case, she had wine cooling in the fridge.
Cole got Fred. Francois stared at the offered Bam-Bam glass, and then with quick, sure movements placed the cigarette in the ashtray and accepted the drink. He took a long and loud sniff of the bourbon, gave a grunt of satisfaction as he took a first sip, smacked his lips, and settled back, giving Mule a look with every bit as much attitude as Mule conveyed toward him. This was good to see, since the priest and Mule both needed to find personal demarcation even if it resembled the Maginot Line. The grunt of satisfaction struck her as a nice touch.
Nadine sat at her computer console and swung the chair around, planted her now flip-flop-less feet on the coffee table, and began rummaging through a Folgers coffee container filled with small bottles of nail polish.
“I suppose I could have offered something other than bourbon,” said Nadine. “I have some wine.”
“No, don’t go there,” said Cole. He smiled at Francois. The priest responded with a shrug.
“It’s good to see you, Cole. It really is. First time in Texas, Francois?”
Francois adjusted himself on the couch and said, “Oui. I have purchased a belt.”
She gandered at the snakeskin around his waist. “Nice. Are you celibate?”
“Oh, Nadine,” groaned Cole.
“It is part of my calling,” said Francois.
Cole rolled his eyes and cleared his throat. “Those murders were a bad, bad deal, Nadine. You and I aren’t going to see worse.”
“Meadow Green or Mystic Purple?” she asked, and lifted two small nail polishes from the container, then took the proffered cigarette, already lit by Francois.
“And this Moloch character. I just don’t know,” continued Cole.
“And the effect. To what effect?” asked Francois, as one hand gave a broad sweeping gesture, directed toward Nadine.
“Analytical but passionate. Vulnerable but in control. Right, Cole?” She didn’t take her gaze off the two bottles of polish.
Cole appeared undaunted by the other two’s conversation and said, “This isn’t the usual crime story. Not by a long shot. Something is going on. Some connectivity I cannot get my head around.”
“Pourpre. Purple,” said Francois.
Nadine pursed her lips. “Yup. I think you’re right.”
Francois took a sip and said, “For such lovely feet, one may wish to improve on those.” He pointed with his chin at her Walmart flip-flops.
“Folks, this is serious. Nadine, pay attention please,” said Cole.
She heeded Cole’s admonition to a small degree. “I’ve got nothing on Mr. Moloch yet. But I will, bucko. I will,” she said, shaking the purple nail polish and waving her other hand in the general direction of all the computer equipment. “Retro. Very much a throwback to simpler times,” she said to Francois, pointing at the flip-flops.
You can find Pretty Little Creatures on Goodreads
Three very different individuals. A dark force rising. The chase begins. A reserved small town sheriff in pursuit of justice. A beautiful and eccentric technology genius striving to understand. A bon vivant French priest committed to finding answers.
A horrific event in a sleepy Gulf Coast town pulls them together and the trio find themselves on a quest for the truth about good and evil, travelling first to Wales and the scene of another shocking nightmare, then on to the ISIS killing fields of Syria where the stakes rise even higher.
Can these three dissimilar people find answers without driving each other crazy? Can they survive while Middle East factional war rages around them? They need to, because the potential fate of millions hangs on it.
You can find The Unknown Element on Goodreads
About the Author:
VINCE MILAM has lived all over the world, traipsing through the Amazon, Congo, and Papua New Guinea—all the while demonstrating bourbon has medicinal qualities. Raised in Texas, he lives in the mountainous West where he proves—annually—that God doesn’t want us driving on snow. He relishes great reads, fine trout streams, family, old friends, and—especially—writing fast-paced thrillers with a dose of humor and a spiritual twist.
The first two books in the Challenged World series rank high on the Amazon lists in both Thrillers/Terrorism and Christian/Mystery. You can visit him at www.vincemilam.com to learn about new releases and writer’s angst. He can also be visited at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006177615953 or on Twitter @vince_milam
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Pretty Little Creatures. These are the prizes you can win:
– 5 ebook sets which include the following ebooks: The Unknown Element and Pretty Little Creatures by Vince Milam
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway