All For Spilled Blood
by R. Ann Siracusa
Harriet Ruby, Tour Director Extraordinaire, and her fiancé and favorite spy, Will Talbot, travel to Russia undercover as tour directors for the US delegation to an international youth conference. Harriet tackles her first covert assignment to investigate smuggled artwork while Will’s mission is to locate and destroy a group of terrorists recruiting young computer experts.
Their marriage plans hit a snag when Will locates a long-lost cousin with startling news about his heritage. When the artwork being smuggled has particular significance to one of the terrorist sympathizers, their missions entangle and begin to unravel, leaving Will at the mercy of terrorist kidnappers and Harriet holding the bag.
We waited without speaking.
I crossed and uncrossed my legs a dozen times and pulled nervously at the hem of my skirt, still unsure whether I wanted to be a spy.
I could get killed doing that.
While I stared out the large window overlooking the pink carpet of cherry blossoms arching over the streets of Washington, DC, the woman we waited for breezed into the office and took her place behind the desk in front of us.
"Good morning, Ms. Ruby." Eleanor Morrison nodded formally, speaking as if the Department of Homeland Security required the use of surnames, then added, "Harriet." She turned her smile to my fiancé. "Agent Talbot. Will."
The formalities dispensed with, Eleanor settled into her leather chair, rested her elbows on the surface of the teakwood desk, and leaned forward. Her intense gray eyes studied me and then flicked to Will.
"Thank you for coming." She spoke as though we happened to be in the neighborhood and dropped in for a visit on the spur of the moment.
I returned her smile with a broad grin. "Our pleasure."
Will and I liked Eleanor. Otherwise, I wouldn't have traveled all the way from Rome, and Will from Spain, to be there. Of course, Eleanor Morrison was not her real name, only the cover name we knew and used. One of the rules of spydom.
"I wasn't sure if you would still be interested in doing work for me." She peaked and unpeaked her fingers. "I thought you two would be married by now and have other things on your minds."
Will and I exchanged a glance. Eleanor quirked an eyebrow. She didn't miss much. Being the definitive perfectionist, her nature didn't permit her to overlook even the slightest innuendo or gesture. Her attention to detail defied reproach, particularly when it came to her official responsibilities.
Fortunately for the US, she worked for our side.
"We're still engaged," Will replied, his tone curious. "Does it make any difference whether we're married or not?"
She pursed her lips. "Married might be better for this mission, but we can make it work." Her sentence ended in a shrug. She picked up a sheaf of papers and tapped them on the surface of the desk until the edges aligned perfectly, then set them in front of her.
I shifted in my seat and clasped my hands together in my lap to keep from waving them around or picking at the arm of the chair. At best, patience and I maintained an uneasy alliance, although I'd learned a lot during the past two and a half years with Will, some of it too personal to even think about without getting hot.
He and I shared such a profound emotional connection, almost at the molecular level, that at times it seemed we read each other's minds. But sitting there in Eleanor's office, as I searched his face and body language for his reaction to her offer, I read nothing. He was playing it close to the vest and screening me out.
My decision. He would not intervene.
Welcome R. Ann Siracusa!
Ann is a California girl who earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, then went immediately to Rome, Italy. On her first day there, she met an Italian policeman at the Fountain of Love, and the rest is history. Instead of a degree from the University of Rome, she got a husband, and they've been married going on fifty years. In Rome, she worked for as an architect and planner for a land development company for several years until she and her husband moved to the US.
Now retired, she combines her passions—world travel and writing—into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh. Her most recent release, All For Spilled Blood, is the fourth book in a five book romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire.
Jillian: What’s the first book you remember reading?
Ann: Horton the Elephant by Dr. Suess
Jillian: What’s your favorite cartoon character?
Ann: For those of you who may remember, it's Pogo.
Jillian: Be honest, when reading 1st person...do you miss the hero’s POV?
Ann: Not if the book is well written. I find that a good writer can convey what the hero is most likely thinking and feeling through action/dialogue/showing (even the subtext). First person is challenging to write, but for certain types of books and characters, it's the best way to tell the story.
Jillian: What's your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Ann: I'm pretty eclectic in my tastes, but I'd say mysteries/intrigue/thrillers and science fiction are my favorites.
Jillian: If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?
Ann: I did it the other way around. My first profession was architecture and urban planning. When I retired, I became an author.
I'd select the same career path if I had a chance to do it over. My only regret is that I didn't realize at a younger age that I wanted to be a writer. I would have learned the craft of novel writing and associated myself with other writers at a much earlier age, so that when I could write full time, I would be closer to publication.
Jillian: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Ann: I find finishing a book is rather anti-climactic. I've been over and over it already. I'm tired of it and anxious to get on to the next project (your next book is always the best). Usually, I don't have the luxury of putting the manuscript away for a few weeks before I begin fine tuning and editing.
My advice would be to not wait to begin the next book, even though you're still polishing the one you just finished. It's very easy to get out of the habit of writing, and very hard to reestablish it.
Jillian: What do you do to unwind and relax?
Ann: You mean I'm supposed to get time to unwind and relax? Why didn't someone tell me that? If I ever had such a miraculous moment, I'd read or quilt. I used to ride quads in the desert, but I don't do that much anymore.
Jillian: Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner, and why?
Ann: I'd most like to invite the hero and heroine from my Tour Director series, Will Talbot and Harriet Ruby. Why? I find them both intriguing and fun, and I'd love to hear more about their adventures—and I'm definitely in love with Will. (Sorry, Harriet.)
Jillian: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
Ann: I do read reviews of my books (when I find them) and look for things that will help me improve my writing. If the review is negative, I put it away for a week or two, then read it again. There is always something I can learn from it.
I never respond to reviews, positive or negative, and I wouldn't change my style or voice because of a review. It's only one person's reaction.
Ann has a question for commenters: Do you like a lot of physical description of the hero and heroine in a novel or do you prefer a few key points and then imagine what the character looks like? I'm giving away the first four e-books of the Tour Director Extraordinaire series to one lucky commenter!
Where to find Ann online:
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***Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. If an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is available, the author may utilize that option for International participants. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.