Hi peeps, we have Ava Drake popping in today with her upcoming release Seven Card Stud, we have a fantastic guest post from Ava and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~
Seven Card Stud
Temptation, peril, and dirty poker.
Love is a high-stakes game.
When Collin Callahan, British secret agent, goes up against math genius turned surfer bum Oliver Elliot, the battle is epic—and so is the attraction. They’re pitted against each other in an exclusive, ultra-secret—and ultra-illegal—poker match in Gibraltar, but when players start dying and they could be next, they find a common goal: catch the killer before it’s too late.
Evenly matched at poker and romance, they each wrestle personal demons that threaten to consume them as the stakes climb. It’s an all-or-nothing gamble with both life and love on the line as they fight to be the last seven-card studs standing.
Greetings and salutations, MMGooders! Thanks for having me here with you this week! I’m excited to talk about my new book, SEVEN CARD STUD. As the title suggests, the story revolves around poker.
I’m a pretty bad poker player, personally, which begs the question of why I chose the subject. The answer that that starts with me confessing first that I have a twisted mind. I got stuck watching a poker tournament on television with some friends a few months ago, and I might have gotten a wee bit bored. I started pondering ways that I would spice things up if I were queen of the casino. And of course, the first thing that popped into my twisted little brain was how much more interesting the tournament be if the players started knocking each other off in the middle of play. Now THAT would be an interesting poker game.
And voila, SEVEN CARD STUD was born.
Given such a wild premise, I obviously needed an exotic setting for my homicidal poker tournament. It so happened that I got an amazing opportunity to visit Gibraltar last winter, and it seemed like the perfect place to set my story.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Gibraltar basically has no crime. The big scandal during my visit there was that someone was caught in possession of an air rifle. It was front-page news, I kid you not. It’s a tiny, important British principality on the south coast of Spain right at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the peninsula is taken up by the mighty Rock of Gibraltar, and the people live all around its base. The city has the feel of an old English village, but situated on the gloriously beautiful Mediterranean coast. It’s a cozy family town, with winding cobblestone streets and kids and dogs. But it also has luxury yachts, cruise ships, casinos, and all the trappings of a jet-set playground. In short, it was perfect setting for a book of intrigue and sexy mayhem.
This story was a ton of fun to write, and I hope readers have as much fun reading it. I’m a big believer in books that make people feel good, and I hope this one accomplishes that for everyone who tries it! Do let me know what you think of it. I love hearing from readers…
COLLIN CALLAHAN stepped onto the beachside veranda and turned his face up to the warm sunshine. The south of Europe was a blessed relief after England, which was gray and dreary at this time of year. God knew, he was ready for more than a change in weather.
The Mediterranean Sea crashed against the seawall that formed the outer foundation of the veranda. A torrential rain had passed through last night, and the weather was still blustery today. In front of Gibraltar’s El Rocca Resort was a curving, man-made beach of pale gold sand. The waves were more gentle there. But here, the transition from stucco to sea was abrupt.
He spied a swimmer a ways out in the choppy water moving from right to left, blond hair bright against the black sea. The man wore a neon yellow wet suit and his swim strokes were angular and even. Strong swimmer. Christ, the water had to be freezing. What nutball would go out for a swim in that?
From the opposite direction, he heard the roar of a Jet Ski emerging at high speed out of the El Rocca marina at the far end of the sprawling beach. The driver wore a black wet suit and goggles. And his craft was headed directly for the swimmer.
Collin rushed over to the edge of the veranda in alarm and waved his arms, trying to get the Jet Skier’s attention, but to no avail. The guy seemed oblivious. In fact, as Collin looked on in dismay, the bastard turned slightly, lining himself up even more exactly with the swimmer.
Collin shouted futilely in hopes of the swimmer hearing the warning, but the fellow just kept his head down in a crawl and plowed onward, unaware that he was about to die.
The gap between Jet Ski and swimmer evaporated in an instant. Crap. That Jet Ski was flying.
He didn’t want to watch, but he couldn’t look away from the unfolding disaster. At the very last second, the swimmer lifted his head and then waved his arms frantically, but it was too late for the poor guy to do a damned thing to save himself. The Jet Ski ran directly over him. And the bastard driver kept right on going.
Surely the driver had seen the swimmer in those last few yards, when the guy would have been looming directly in front of him waving his arms. And yet there hadn’t been a swerve, a reduction of engine power, or even an attempt at a turn. Son of a bitch.
Staring at the spot where the swimmer had last been, Collin muttered, “C’mon. Surface, buddy. Pop up and lemme see you’re okay. Live, dammit.”
But no matter how he cajoled the swimmer, there was no sign of the guy. The seconds ticked away as panic built in his gut. He couldn’t wait any longer. He kicked off his shoes and stripped off his jacket and sweater. Down to just slacks and shirt, he climbed the railing and dived into the water.
The cold shocked him into immobility, but the trajectory of his dive had been shallow and he arced back up toward the surface, breaking through, gasping. He sighted off the corner of the veranda and headed for the spot he’d last seen the swimmer.
He’d never swum in full clothing that weighted down all his limbs, or in water that turned him into a human ice cube, numbing his fingers and setting his teeth chattering uncontrollably. But he pressed on determinedly. The swimmer would die if he didn’t find the guy and fast. He was the only one who’d seen the collision, the only person who knew the spot the swimmer had gone down, the only one with a chance to save the guy.
It took a never-gonna-be-warm-again eternity to get to the spot where he estimated the crash had happened, and he treaded water, turning in a circle in search of a body. Hell, he’d settle for a blood slick. Nothing.
Crap. He took a deep breath and dived. The visibility sucked, and the icy salt water burned his eyes, but he doggedly stayed under, searching until his lungs felt like they would explode. He popped up to the surface, took several deep, gasping breaths, and went down again. The water was deeper than he expected, and around fifteen feet down, if the painful pressure in his ears was any indication, it got too dark for him to see a thing.
If the swimmer had already lost all buoyancy and gone down to the bottom, the man was a goner anyway. He had to confine his search to the first twelve feet or so of water but widen the search area.
Collin ran out of air, his lungs screaming for oxygen, and swam for the surface, bursting clear at the last possible instant before his chest exploded. He took a bunch of fast breaths and went down a third time.
He wasn’t able to stay down as long this time, but he swam in a wide circle around the impact point. No sign of the swimmer. Dammit!
Surfacing again, he paid close attention to the current, trying to sense which direction the guy’s body might have drifted. Time was running out for the swimmer. He had to find the guy, and soon, or resuscitation wouldn’t do any good.
He dived yet again, angling toward the current flow, his body growing sluggish with the cold and oxygen starvation. But a man’s life depended on him. He pushed through the pain with grim determination.
Despair heavy in his mind, he was rising toward the surface yet again when something large rocketed at him from above. He jolted, fearing the return of the Jet Ski. The object slammed into him, knocking what little breath he still had out of his chest. Something gripped his left arm in a viselike grip.
Crap. Were there sharks out here? Panic for his own survival roared through him. He punched at the attacking fish with his free fist, writhing and twisting to free himself of its grip.
The beast breached, yanking him up and breaking the surface of the water. He dragged in a desperately needed lungful of air. He managed another breath before the beast tried to roll him over onto his back. Muscles temporarily refueled with oxygen, he fought harder to release himself. He must get free before too much damage was done. Before he bled out.
“Jeez, quit fighting already!” a voice complained behind him.
It took his cold-numbed mind a moment to register that a human being had spoken the words, not a great white shark.
He grabbed for the chokehold around his throat and realized it was an arm. Not a tooth-filled jaw. And that was a big, warm, hard body spooning against his in a way that would have been provocative as hell in any other circumstances.
“Let me go!” he rasped past saltwater and that damned arm all but choking him to death.
“You need help to stay afloat. I’ve got you.”
“A swimmer got hit by a Jet Ski, you moron. I’m out here to save him!”
“You’re drowning, dude.”
“I was diving. Intentionally. Let me go and help me find the guy before he dies!”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Ava Drake, grew up in the heart of the rural Midwest, but beat a hasty retreat to the big city and bright lights as fast as humanly possible. Armed with a pilot’s license, fluency in several languages, and a large dose of daring, she took off to travel the world.
She flew everything from single-seat private airplanes to supersonic jets and the western world’s largest airplane, the mighty C-5 Galaxy. In her adventures, she visited forty-two countries on five continents, was detained by the KGB and East German secret police, got shot at, flew in the first Gulf War, met her shockingly handsome husband, and amassed a lifetime’s worth of war stories. Along the way, she engaged in a little light espionage and met more than her share of dark, dangerous, and good-looking men.
Travel weary at last, she came home and settled down to the business of writing stories of romance and adventure, which may or may not be autobiographical. Winner of a Golden Heart and Holt Medallion for writing, Ava is a five-time finalist and two-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award for Romance Fiction. She’s also a two-time winner of RT Book Review’s Best Harlequin Romantic Suspense Novel of the Year, and is a Romantic Times Lifetime Career Achievement nominee.
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