My pen name is CD Bradley. I have poured everything into this series. The Stark Trilogy will catch you off guard, much like falling in love for the first time. Every butterfly, every tingle, will pull you in to the magic of the moment. In Stark September you will fall in love with Owen Stark and Kira Riley as they fall in love with each other. In Stark Shadows you will walk through hell and feel the pain of the flames. Many have been waiting in breathless anticipation for Stark Resolution and the wait is finally over. On March 25th Stark Resolution will be here. Be prepared, this one will rip you apart and then make you fall in love all over again.
Let’s Get To Know CD Bradley
Q: What are the top five books that have influenced your career?
Q: What’s the funniest thing a reader has ever said/emailed to you?
A: After starting Stark September on her lunch break a reader from the other side of the world messaged me to tell me she was going home sick from work to finish the book because she couldn’t wait till after work.
Q: If you could go back in time before you published your first book, what advice would you give yourself about publishing?
A: There are so many things I would do differently. First more editing, and never ever use the publishing company I did the first time. It ended up costing three times as much as then next two combined.
Q: What fictional character would you punch if the face if you thought you could get away with it without going to jail?
A: Simone Preston. Hands down. That plastic bitch barbie deserves it.
Q: Pick a super-power and tell us what you’d do with it.
A: The ability to never need sleep. I could get so much more done while my five children are sleeping.
Q: What’s your favorite AND least favorite thing about being a writer/author?
A: My favorite thing about being a writer is creating all the amazing adventures and letting the characters have their own voice. My least favorite thing would be making time to write. The stories swirl around in my head and almost plague me until I can get them on paper. It makes doing anything else painful at times.
About Stark Resolution by CD Bradley
Actions have consequences. In the blink of an eye everything you have held dear, everything you have taken for granted… can vanish.
Lub dub … Lub dub… when you are taking out a target at 800 meters every part of your body slows. Complete control is mandatory. Muscle memory takes over. Action and reaction are instinctual. But what if something is off? The little voice in your head screaming STOP!
The moment Owen Stark’s finger squeezed the trigger all hell broke loose. The deadly round traveled at 2,550 feet per second straight into his target. As she fell, her identity became as evident as the growing crimson stain on her chest. The world fell silent. Despite the chaos around him, Stark could hear nothing but the pounding of his heart and the screaming inside his head. For the love of God woman, please GET UP! He begged over and over, but the blue heap of fabric that shrouded Kira Riley did not move.
All his training, everything he had spent the last decade preparing for came down to this moment. Faced with desperate circumstances, Owen Stark must make the impossible choice between the safety of his team and the chance to save the love of his life. When the last tear has fallen, and those lost are laid to rest, will he be able to open his heart and live again, or will the nightmares drag him to an unthinkable resolution?
Sometimes, when the sacrifice is too great to bear, Love finds a way to bring you home.
A string of bullets sailed over Stark’s head and peppered the tree behind him. Their location was no longer a secret. The moment they had taken their shots, the hacienda enforcers on the ground opened fire erratically in their direction.
“What the hell happened, man? Are you ok? Why did you fucking hesitate? You never stall. What the fuck, man?” Colin’s questions came rapid fire over the earbud, but Stark did not move. All he could do was stare at the blue heap on the floor of the hacienda through his scope, and pray. Please get up. For the love of God, woman, please GET UP. The blue heap did not move. It just lay lifeless, in an ever-growing pool of crimson, as all hell broke loose around them. He was still perched at a high point that provided a perfect line of site to remove his targets. The mission had gone exactly by the book until she showed up. What the fucking hell was she doing there?
Colin came up behind him and grabbed him by the shoulder. “Stark, God damn it, are you ok? Are you hit? Fuck man, answer me,” he said, shaking Stark and checking him over.
The movement caused Stark to lose his visual. He looked up to meet Sergeant Colin’s panicked stare. The rest of the team could be heard checking in over the earbud and moving to rally point A. When he found his voice, he answered in a tone so low bats would struggle to hear him. It was all he could muster at the moment.
“It was her.”
“What was who? What the fuck are you talking about? Jesus, did you get hit in the head?” Colin’s frustration drove his voice up as the enemy closed in around them. “We’ve got to go, man. Get up … we have to get the fuck out of here, and back to the rally point. Don’t beat yourself up for hesitating; you are one lucky bastard. I saw your target hit the floor. You got her. Don’t worry. Let’s Go!”
Stark got up on one knee, stowed away his bolt gun and switched to his M4. He dodged another string of bullets that whizzed far too close to his head, and jumped behind a tree. Colin followed him, letting out a sigh that Stark had finally moved. He stood waiting for his orders.
The look of relief faded from Colin’s face when he saw Stark turn off his throat mic. Colin’s forehead creased into canyons and his eyes widened. He mouthed, “What the fuck,” as he turned off his mic too.
Once off the monitored frequency, Stark could finally explain what the hell was going on. “I just shot Kira,” he started, and placed his gloved hand on the tree to balance himself, as if just saying the words struck him with a physical blow.
“Have you lost your mind? Are you having some kind of psychotic break? Dude, that was not Kira, ok. Let’s just get you the fuck out of here and back to the rally point. You can call her once we are out of this shit storm. I’m sure she is tucked in her nice little bed, safe and sound.”
Shouts and footsteps could be heard running up the bank toward them. The enforcers would be on them in minutes. The rest of their team was falling back to the rally point as instructed. Colin urged, “We have to go now.”
Stark continued as if he hadn’t heard a word Colin said, “I hesitated, because there was something familiar about her. Something was off, I could feel it. The count started, I snapped back to reality, and pulled the damn trigger. She moved her arm, when she fell, and the bracelet I gave her caught the light. I know it sounds fucking crazy, but that was Kira.” Stark took a shaky breath, then like a wave, the steel resolve washed over him. He knew exactly what he had to do.
“Stark, man you are not thinking clearly. Possibly she reminded you of Kira. Listen to me. There is no reason for her to be out here in the middle of the jungle, at a meeting between a drug lord and a terrorist leader. Do you hear how crazy that sounds?” Colin tried to reason with him as one would with a stubborn two-year-old.
“I’m going in.” Stark inserted a fresh magazine into his M4. “Go with the others. I will radio for help when I find her, and we can plan an extraction.”
“What the fuck? No. I’m not letting you do this,” Colin said, as he grabbed Stark by the shoulders. “Something is very wrong with you right now. Going down there is suicide. Even if it was Kira, which it’s not, you took her down. She is dead by now.” He shook Stark in a desperate attempt to pull him back to reality.
Stark threw Colin back. “I don’t blame you for thinking I’m crazy, but I know what I saw. That is her, and I am going in. I have to know what the fuck is going on down there. If there is even a chance she is still alive, it’s worth it.” He turned down the hill toward the oncoming fire.
“Viper One, do you copy?” came over the earbud. “Viper Two, do you copy?”
Colin tackled Stark from behind, taking his legs out from under him, and they rolled into the bushes. Engulfed in the dense foliage, they heard a group of enforcers approaching quickly. Stark and Colin froze in their protected position. Years of training kicked in, and they almost disappeared into the jungle around them. One enforcer paused for a moment, and scanned the area. His black boot came to rest inches from Stark’s face. He maintained complete resolve.
“Viper One, Viper Two, do you copy?” Sergeant Miller called again.
Stark depressed the remote PTT button for his throat mic. He signaled to the team that they were there, but could not answer at the moment. Standard operating procedure when danger was too close to speak was to toggle the mic twice.
“Viper One, this is Viper Three. We hear you. We will draw them off and meet you at rally point A,” Miller sounded over the headset. Stark was confident that they would be able to lead the enforcers on a hot trail. Then, they let the trail go cold and circled back to the rally point. This would draw the enforcers away, giving him the opportunity to get down to the hacienda.
Stark could hear one of the enforcers up ahead calling the others, letting them know that he had found evidence of the group. The man that was standing inches from his face began running again, never knowing just how close to death he had been. Once the area had cleared of the first wave of men, Stark stood and prepared to make his way quickly and quietly to the hacienda.
Sergeant Colin stepped in front of him. Stark pushed him out of the way, but Colin grabbed his arm. “Stark, you have to know that going down there, even if you are right, is suicide. Are you that sure that you are willing to risk losing everything?”
“Some risks are worth it,” Stark answered him, deadpan. “If Kira is dead, I’ve already lost everything. I have to go down there and see if there is even a chance of saving her. I’m not leaving her in this jungle to die alone.”
“What if she is already dead?” Colin shot back, doing his best to stay between Stark and the path to the hacienda.
“Then she is a fucking United States soldier, and I am going to bring her home,” he said, as he pushed Colin out of the way with one final shove. Stark knew it didn’t make a bit of fucking sense for her to be down there, nor could he explain his certainty that it was her. He could feel her in his bones. The helplessness of watching his mother and sister flying away to their deaths, and knowing he did nothing to prevent it, ate at his soul. The image of the terrorist that took their lives flashed through his mind. This time it would be different. He was not an inexperienced boy. This time he was a man who had spent the last decade training and killing those fuckers, one by one. He would go down there, and he would bring her home.
Sergeant Colin stepped into line behind him, and began to follow him down the hill.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Stark asked puzzled, “I told you I’m going down there.”
“I know. I’m going with you. You have saved my life more times than I can count. You are my brother. I’m not letting you do this alone. If I can’t stop you, then I’m going with your crazy ass to watch your back.” Sergeant Colin’s face was set firm. His usual goofy grin was replaced by the stone resolve to protect his best friend, no matter the cost. “Let’s go.”
Stark reached up to his mic. He had to inform the team of the new plan. “Viper Three, do you copy? Viper Three, do you copy? This is Viper One,” he began.
“Viper One, this is viper Three. The enforcers are hot on our trail. You guys good?”
“We’re good. You’ve got fifteen enforcers headed your way. I need to go down and recci the hacienda. I believe they may have one or more American soldier hostages,” Stark informed the team.
“What the fuck?” Miller came back, “Our intel didn’t mention any potential hostages. Are you sure?”
“You guys know me, I wouldn’t alter a mission unless I was damn sure it was worth it.” Stark was already moving through the jungle toward the hacienda. “When you are clear and your tail is eliminated, move to Overwatch site B and take up position. Viper Two and I will move toward the hacienda,” he said. Stark knew that a recci (recon mission) spur of the moment was not their standard protocol, but at this moment he had no choice.
“Copy that, Viper One,” Miller responded.
The hacienda lay in a natural bowl in the jungle. They would need to descend the hill without being detected. Dense foliage around the perimeter of the property would allow them to get close. However, the wide expanse of lawn between the perimeter and the actual hacienda would leave them exposed. Stark also knew from previous intel and recci before the mission, that the enforcers had overwatch locations of their own.
Stark paused, kneeling by a vine covered tree at the base of the hill. He motioned for Sergeant Colin, who crouched beside him. Colin pointed out the four enforcer lookout points on the surrounding hills. Each mission required a great deal of planning. Every contingency and possible complication was prepared for.
Prior to coming on this mission, they had lain out three possible overwatch locations, just in case one or the other became compromised. The same had been done for rally and extraction points. There was always a backup for the backup.
The one obstacle Stark never dreamed he would encounter here, was Kira. He didn’t have time to second guess himself now. What the hell had she gotten herself into? Could this have anything to do with the enforcer that was following her for months?
At first, when Paige had told him that the enforcer was hired, Stark suspected it had to do with the investigator Simone hired, or at least the investigator should have some intel that should point him in the right direction. After seeing her here, he knew there had to be something more. Why else would she be involved with the Sinaloa Cartel on two different continents? What was the connection?
They counted six enforcers still on the lawn, on this side of the hacienda. More would be inside. He heard women inside the house screaming and crying, as they most likely discovered the dead. Stark prayed that Kira was hanging on. Fight, damn it. You are strong. You can make it. I am coming for you. Stark’s heart clenched, as the image of her bracelet seared in his mind.
Hang on. Please hang on.
In the edge of the jungle, they were surrounded by darkness, and sheltered by plants. They watched the guards moving about the lush lawn, searching for a possible point of cover. About ten yards away, there was a feature of shrubs surrounding a fountain. Beyond the fountain was a small stucco wall that lined the large parking area and drive. If they could get to that wall without being detected, they could potentially follow it to the edge of the main house. Flowering bushes and trees along the side of the house provided cover from all but one of the enforcer overlook sites. If they could take out that guard without raising suspicion, they would stand a much better chance.
“We have to take out that guard and cut the power to be able to move through the house,” Stark observed out loud, and Sergeant Colin agreed.
“If you can, circle around behind him and take him out, while I make my way to the generators,” Stark suggested. “Then when I cut the power you can join me from the north side of the lawn. We can rally by the large bird of paradise tree on the north-west corner of the hacienda.”
They reviewed their options, but this was the best plan. Time was running out for Kira, and if they were going to find her alive, they would need to do it fast. She was moving when she was hit, so he wasn’t sure exactly where the bullet hit her. Years of training told him it was either her chest or shoulder, and based on the amount of blood he saw, she wouldn’t last very long if left alone.
Colin took off through the dense jungle. In just a few steps, he had disappeared into the underbrush. Stark turned his sights to the lawn. The generators were about twenty yards north of the fountain. He watched the guards milling around the grounds and parking area. They were on high alert, but fewer in number since the attack.
He knew at least fifteen of their men were chasing his team through the jungle. Stark emerged from the jungle, low and fast, staying in the shadows. He had developed the skill of running light and low, silently moving through the night, no matter how much he had to carry. Without making a sound, he slipped into the bushes at the base of the fountain and waited for Sergeant Colin to give the all clear. Two guards moved past on their route. Stark froze. The shrubs around the fountain felt about as concealing as Kira’s lace underwear, with enforcers standing three feet away.
Minutes felt like hours. Stark had mastered the technique of slowing his body, breathing, pulse, and blood pressure through meditation. He literally willed himself to relax, breathe, and be patient.
This was his secret weapon with women. He could maintain for their pleasure until they could not take another orgasm. Then, and only then, would he let himself finish. He thought back to nights at The Apex Club before he met Kira. Paige and her ladies had put him to the test, but none of that mattered now. He would give anything to have Kira back and safe. If she could just hang on a little longer, he would spend the rest of his life proving it to her.
“Viper One, this is Viper Two. Overwatch is secure. I have a visual on you. You have two enforcers at one o’clock,” Sergeant Colin called from the enforcer’s post.
“Roger that, Viper Two. Good work. As soon as they move out of range, I’ll move toward the generators.” Stark crouched, ready to spring into action as soon as it was clear to move.
“Viper One, as soon as you are clear to go, I’ll let you know,” Sergeant Colin’s voice reassured him over the headset. “Viper Three, this is Viper Two. What is your location?”
“Viper Two, this is Viper Three. We have evaded our pursuers, and are heading back to Overwatch B.”
“Roger that. Viper One is on the ground. I have secured the north overwatch. Viper Five, you join me here, so that I can support Viper One on the ground. Lights in the compound will be going down on my count,” Sergeant Colin replied. “Viper One, your sector is all clear, you are good to move.”
“Copy that, Viper Two,” Stark replied. He was on the move before he even finished talking. With the stealth and speed of a panther, he moved undetected through the darkness, crossing twenty yards to the northern end of the compound. He was only visible to Sergeant Colin, and he would prepare to take out the power.
A new commotion inside the house caused him to pause and listen. Several women were screaming and yelling in Spanish, but he couldn’t hear well enough to understand what they were saying. What the hell is going on in there? Had they found Kira? Was she still alive … Stark’s heart rate began to speed up, unlike any mission he had been on before. He had to get in that house.
“Viper One, are you ready?” Colin’s voice over the headset brought him back.
“Viper One, ready,” Stark responded, taking the side panel off the generator. This would have to be done extremely carefully, so that he didn’t electrocute himself. He located the main utility disconnect and opened it, “Viper One, ready for your count.”
“Viper Three, power is about to go down. Ready your NVGs and check your tape,” Colin called over the mic.
“This is Viper Three. We are in position to take the overwatch when the power goes down. NVGs functional and tape visible. Viper Five is on the move to your position,” Miller responded.
Stark checked his NVGs (Night Vision Goggles) and double checked the infrared reflective tape on his chest, legs, arms, helmet, and equipment. In the dark, the tape was invisible to the naked eye, but with the infrared NVGs, they could easily distinguish each other from the enemy.
“Viper Two, this is Viper Five. I am closing in on your position,” Sergeant Reed called over the mic.
“One … ready your night vision … two … three,” Sergeant Colin whispered out.
On three, Stark turned off the main utility disconnect and opened the main line circuit breaker. Once it was partially dismantled, he turned off the generator leaving it impossible to turn back on without repair. Stark placed a small C-4 charge, so that if they tried to repair the generator tonight, the whole world would know. That would keep them busy for a while. Immediately, the compound fell into complete darkness. Even the moon seemed to have turned its back to the dark corner of the world, as it sulked behind the clouds.
The compound erupted with new chaos as shouts of fear and screams filled the void. Stark turned on his night vision, and moved quickly to the rally point in the large bird of paradise tree at the corner of the house where he waited for Colin. He could hear enforcers shouting to one another, calling over their radios. Some fled, some began moving toward the generator, and others moved into the house. Shouts and screams came from inside the house. God, Kira please. I would give anything to keep you safe. Live, just fucking live.
Stark could see Colin moving across the compound. “Viper Two, watch your two o’clock. There are two enforcers headed toward that generator. They are struggling a bit in the dark, but they are coming toward you.”
“Roger,” Colin responded in the whisper that can only be heard with a throat mic.
Within minutes, Colin was at his side. They slipped down the wall to a side entrance. To enter and clear a building with only a two-man team was not ideal, but they had done it before.
Stark and Colin had walked through every corner of hell together. Stark had no doubt that his brother had his back. They moved tactically and silently, staying in order, and avoided any unnecessary movements. The door was unlocked, opening with ease. Stark and Colin stacked at the door. Stark took everything to the left and Colin cleared everything to the right. Methodically, they moved in, as they cleared the entrance, then a small hallway that led to a kitchen. The house opened up to a large central space. They continued clearing and moved to the stairs. The office where they had taken out their targets was on the second floor. Stark noted blood on the steps. His heart rate sped up, but he maintained control. They would find her. He was not giving up.
He fought the urge to run down the hall as they crested the second floor landing. Four doors down on the right, lay the love of his life, possibly bleeding to death from a wound he gave her. He regained focus. He had to keep a clear head. Her life depended on it. Their lives depended on it.
Carefully, they moved down the hall. When they reached the fourth door, Stark’s mouth went dry. The door was open and all was silent inside. They began clearing the room.
Amibel, the terrorist leader, lay dead half slumped out of his chair. The damage from Colin’s high velocity rifle left a combination of initial impact and explosive effect. The force pushed the brain to the side of the skull, fracturing it from the inside out. One target, one confirmed kill.
Two top enforcers lay on the ground. The living, injured, and dead, must be searched to ensure that they no longer pose a threat. Colin covered the room while Stark searched the two enforcers. They were both dead. Three targets, three confirmed kills.
They both bore the same scorpion tattoo as the man who had taken Paige. The same man had followed Kira, breaking into her home. Stark knew this was more than a coincidence. How the hell was all this related? He was desperate for answers, but more desperate to find Kira. Everything else would come later. At that moment, he just needed to see her face and feel her breathe.
He turned his attention to the desk by the large window. Broken glass covered the desk and surrounding area. A partially torn drape hung awkwardly, piled onto the floor. Next to the desk, he could see the body of Gerson Galvez. One of the most powerful and notorious cocaine traffickers in Peru’s history, lay crumpled on the tile. His eyes were still open, but his crisp white shirt was stained crimson. The chest wound was non-survivable, indicating that he died within seconds. Stark checked his wounds. Four were confirmed. Where was the fifth? Where the fuck was Kira? Panic began to rise in him. There were five people in this room. He knew he had hit her. He saw the pink mist as the bullet exited her. When he pulled back the chair, he gasped. In the pool of crimson on the floor lay a bloody, but empty burqa.
My favorite quote from Stark Resolution is:
“Hang on, baby,” he began, softly leaning in to speak into her ear. “I’m so sorry. God, what I would give to trade places with you right now. Please, hang on. I promise you with everything that I am, I’m going to get you home.” Or die trying, he thought. His mind drifted to the small box still in his pocket. He had carried it every day, on every mission since he bought it for her. If he did not make it home, he wanted her to at least know she was everything to him. Now he shuddered as he realized he may never get the chance.