Book Eight in the Sam Jameson series. Over 1,000,000 fans in 17 countries.
The runaway #1 Bestseller from USA Today Bestselling Author Lars Emmerich, read for you by Audie winner Nancy Peterson.
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***SPOILER WARNING: Do not read further until you have read BLOWBACK!
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A mysterious note. A shadowy figure from Sam Jameson’s past. They invade Sam’s self-imposed exile to deliver shocking news: Alexander Wells, the man who murdered a five-year-old girl and framed Sam to take the fall, didn’t die in the fiery blast that almost claimed her life.
Wells is alive.
And he’s recruited a team of hardened criminal operatives with just one target in their sights: Sam Jameson.
Sam soon finds herself at the mercy of forces with unthinkable reach and resources. With rogue government elements, a brutal organized crime family, and the world’s most powerful clandestine cabal all lined up against her, Sam must escape a terrifying fate at the hands of a madman to make the most difficult choice of her life.
And along the way, Sam must reconcile her growing feelings for an old friend with her heartbreak over the loss of Brock James, the man she planned to spend her life with.
BURN is the most explosive installment yet in USA Today Bestselling Author Lars Emmerich’s runaway international hit Sam Jameson series, loved by over 1,000,000 fans of espionage, conspiracy, and crime thrillers from masters such as James Patterson, David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Catherine Coulter, and Daniel Silva.
"WHOA. So intense! And that ending blew me away."
"Love love LOVE this series!"
"I called in sick to finish this book LOL!"
"Lars is the best in the business right now. Burn is world-class."
"I'm completely speechless. SO GOOD!!!!"
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Enjoy a sample from BURN
SPOILER WARNING: Do not read this excerpt until you have read BLOWBACK.
It was August. My personal Chernobyl happened in March, and I was still a long way from okay.
I walked out of the movie theater and into the brutal Charleston heat the same way I had walked in nearly three hours before: alone. I’d shown up early to get a good seat and catch the previews, because I had nothing better to do. Solo moviegoing, along with solo dining and a solo yoga practice and a solo existence in the tiny little studio apartment I now called home, had replaced a career and a long-term relationship.
I was upset as I walked out of the theater because the movie had turned into a love story. I avoid love stories like the plague. Too painful, on account of a man named Brock James. We were made for each other and we had an amazing life together. I was as happy and content as I’ve always dreamed of being. And then, in March, Brock left.
Of course, I handled it exceptionally well. I left him 473 phone messages, wrote several thousand emails, and sent him two billion text messages.
At some point during this amazing display of dignity, I quit my job catching spies for the Department of Homeland Security. I also sold my home and just about all the things inside of it—everything reminded me of Brock, so everything had to go. Then I drove south out of DC and kept driving until I happened upon an intersection somewhere in the middle of South Carolina, where for no good reason I turned left. Then I drove until the road ran into the ocean.
I wound up in Charleston. It seemed as good a place as any and I had grown tired of driving, so I rented an apartment. There was no need to find a job, because I had saved plenty and invested over the years. I didn’t need to work, but I definitely needed something to do. Solo yoga, solo dining, and solo moviegoing didn’t quite fill the void, but they kept me from totally losing my mind.
Looking back, it all seems pretty pathetic. But I’m allergic to cats and I don’t have an interest in knitting or needlepoint, so I had no idea what to do in my premature spinsterhood. Just how premature will have to remain my little secret. Let’s just say that I’m too old not to have a family but too young to give up on the idea. That should put you in the right ballpark.
I put on my sunglasses as I left the theater. I didn’t want anyone to see my eyes, because they were red from crying at the damned sneak-attack love story. Normally the movie poster and previews will give you a clue about those kinds of hazards, but not this one. It was like stepping on an emotional landmine, and I thought it was a dirty trick to pull on someone.
I started sweating a few paces outside of the theater. Walking around Charleston in the late summer is like walking around inside a bowl of soup. The air is hot and soggy and sticks to the inside of your lungs, and on the days when there is no breeze, which in my brief experience was every day, your clothes cling to you like a bad date.
Not that I would know much about bad dates. I hadn’t been on a “real” date in years and I had no plans to ever do so again. Ever.
At the time, I hadn’t been in Charleston but a few months, but my feet knew the route between the movie theater and my apartment well enough to carry me between the two destinations pretty much without my involvement. That freed my mind to ruminate on all the crap I’d left behind in DC.
More accurately, I ruminated on all the crap I’d carried with me from DC.
One gem of an episode ran through my head with alarming regularity during that period of my life. It involved a park in Alexandria, Virginia, six months earlier on a dreary February day. I had a team of counterespionage agents with me. It was my op. I wore an earpiece and spoke into a radio mic, and I had a difficult decision to make.
I issued the order to apprehend a terror financing suspect named Tariq Ezzat. He was a middle manager in a gang of loosely affiliated minor criminals who sent fistfuls of pilfered cash back home to Asspackistan in order to fund global jihad. In case you’ve been on an extended bender (I’m not judging), global jihad is a thing that people under the influence of a certain religion do that involves angry internet videos and an occasional suicide bombing. I spent most of my career at Homeland trying to keep all the global jihad contained somewhere else on the globe.
Tariq Ezzat didn’t have a history of violence and I didn’t expect him to be a problem, but on that day in the park, as my men closed in around him, he took off at a sprint toward a mother and her five-year-old daughter, pulled his gun, and shot the little girl through the heart.
Sarah Beth McCulley was her name. She died right there in the park, right in her mother’s arms, her blood spreading in a widening pool around her little body. When she died, so did an important part of me.
People blamed me for the tragedy—the US Attorney General even obtained a grand jury indictment against me. But as it turned out, the Director of National Intelligence, a man named Alexander Wells, along with a senator named Oren Stanley, had conspired to engineer the tragedy. They were up to their eyeballs in illegal activity, and while I didn’t know it at the time, my investigation was bearing down on them. They had Sarah Beth killed to stall the investigation, and they went after me over her death as a way to make sure the investigation stayed dead. It was a horrific episode, and I’m sure it took decades off my lifespan.
As I wandered around Charleston for weeks on end in a terminal funk, I tried to come to grips with my toxic levels of unresolved anger toward Oren Stanley and Alexander Wells. All of that angst was a bummer, because there wasn’t any way for me to exact even a small amount of revenge. Both of them were already dead. A legendary über-spy named Artemis Grange sliced Oren Stanley’s throat, then engineered an explosion in downtown DC that killed Alexander Wells—and nearly killed me too.
Artemis Grange gave Wells and Stanley what they deserved, but the two of them lived on in my mind, which twisted itself into angry knots about seventy times a day. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about what had happened and how it had laid waste to my life and many others. I still struggle with it to this day.
I had gotten out of the habit of paying careful attention to my surroundings. Disciplined counter-surveillance measures had saved my life countless times during my career catching spies, but in the aftermath of everything that happened over the past few months—witnessing the little girl’s death, climbing out from under a federal indictment, losing Brock, barely surviving an explosion that killed a dozen people, and walking away from my career—I simply didn’t have the energy.
I guess I also assumed that since I was done with the clandestine world, it would also be done with me, and I wouldn’t need to spend my life looking over my shoulder. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As Wells and Stanley and Artemis Grange and Sarah Beth McCulley and Brock James—that perfect, beautiful, amazing bastard of a man who wouldn’t return my calls—swirled around in my head, I absently pulled my apartment key from my pocket and pushed it into the lock. The door opened and I walked in.
The apartment was small and outdated. But for the meager furnishings that came with the rent, it was empty. I’d fled DC in March with just a few suitcases. I had donated the pile of things that hadn’t sold at the estate sale, where people kept wondering who died. “Me,” I had started to answer a few times, but I caught myself before it tumbled out of my mouth. It was just too pathetically weepy and wildly self-involved to say something like that out loud, yet the sentiment wasn’t entirely off the mark.
I tossed my keys onto the table in the kitchenette and they skidded to a stop just shy of an acrylic award from Homeland. “To Special Agent Samantha Jameson, in recognition of your hard work and dedication.” I remember especially well the case that earned me that worthless slab of plastic because “hard work and dedication” involved death by torture and electrocution. A friend and fellow agent kept my blood moving until the paramedics arrived with paddles and potions to restart my heart.
It was an e-ticket ride, but I didn’t get a raise or a promotion or a handshake from the president, or even one of those cheesy gift cards. Instead, they gave me the same bulk-ordered hunk of junk they hand out to the Bureaucrat of the Quarter and the Pencil Pusher of the Year. It’s a worthless piece of throwaway crap that cheapened my sacrifice, I felt, yet it’s the only memento from nearly two decades at Homeland that I chose to keep. I keep it as a reminder, in case I’m ever tempted to ask for my old job again.
Also on the table was the ticket stub from the movie. It had evidently gotten tangled up with the keys in my pocket, and must have fluttered loose when I tossed the keychain onto the table. The ticket stub rested face-down, its edges curled up. Written in red marker on the back was a message:
Sam, we need to talk. --PK