Internet Dating for Gnomes
Bernard decides to take his love life into his own hands. Who the gnome finds might be more interesting than he’d expected.
(Timeline note: This free read takes place prior to Chapter Four in Hacked Investigations 2: Savage Bytes.)
Bernard watched the door to the apartment close as Ian and Hannah left to follow a lead at the hospital. He rubbed his hands together mischievously. Time to have fun! The apartment was now his playground.
He eyed Ian’s computers in the home office corner of the living room. Little did the technomage know, Bernard watched Ian type in his password over and over again, one which he rarely changed. Silly hacker. Such confidence, only to be knocked down a notch by a gnome.
On Thin Ice
A superhero discovers a reason to fight... love.
When Kit blows a field assignment and the thief he's supposed to be chasing escapes, his superiors aren't pleased. At least until they discover the woman Kit saved -- the distraction that let the thief get away -- has powers of her own.
Erica's nightmares have led her to a dark and dangerous place, but with Kit, somehow she feels safe. Together they set out to trap a thief -- and rescue one another from themselves.
Kit leaned back in his chair before the large monitors. Ever since Regina met Michael, things were different around the Hub. Jealousy gnawed at Kit. However, there was no chance of having her to himself, and she'd chosen Michael. That hurt, but he'd dealt with his emotions by trying out various new hobbies. None of them had worked.
His gaze dropped to the control panel, and he typed in a few words, zeroing in on Regina's and Michael's comm-links. The temptation to listen in toyed with him, but the blaring alarm took the decision away.
Kit cursed under his breath at the interruption, but he swept his fingertips over the keyboard while he kept his gaze up on the large screen. He wasn't sure what he'd do since Regina wasn't here. Before Michael, his boss had never sent her to other locations.READ MORE
He grimaced when he recognized the man on the screen, Colonel Jones... their boss. Jones wasn't Kit's favorite person, especially with Michael gaining recognition and acceptance over Kit. Kit had been the one working hard for years now whereas Michael was brand new to the job.
"Kit, I have a new assignment for you," Jones said, leaning toward the screen, probably trying to intimidate. That wasn't anything new, just the way he came across.
"Sorry, sir, but the Dark Huntress and Electrifier are out in the field. There's no one here to handle it." He started to lean back in his chair, but thought better of it. This was his only employment, and he didn't want Jones to think he was too laid back.
"Actually, we had you in mind."
"Sir, you want me to do the assignment?" Surely Kit hadn't heard right. His boss hadn't just asked him to get back into the field. "No offense, but why do you need me for this?"
"You're qualified. Your speed and intelligence make you the perfect candidate." Jones leaned back for the first time, and Kit breathed a slight sigh of relief.
"Thank you, sir. I'll do my best." He tried to keep a calm demeanor, but this was beyond his comfort zone. If Regina had been here, he'd have her help, but she wasn't. She was with Michael.
"The details of your assignment should be coming up now." And as Jones said that, the data started spreading over the gigantic screen covering the wall.
Kit turned his attention away from the boss, placing it instead on the assignment's details. Handling data was no problem, but doing something with it... It had been too long since he'd been in the field. The last time was a few years before he'd met Regina. With his previous partner. Jeanie had... died in his arms.
Blood had smeared her face, and he couldn't erase her dull, searching eyes from his memory. Just remembering brought back the immense hurt he'd experienced at the time.
"Yes, Kit. I realize why you're no longer in the field, but that was years ago." Jones smiled. "It's about time you moved on. It'll be good for you, your team, and your country." With that last message, the boss ended video communication. All that remained was silence and data in need of processing.
Kit sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He wouldn't be able to delay. The deadline was within a narrow window, and Regina wasn't scheduled to be back before then. He shook his head. He wasn't partnering with anyone else. If he failed, this would be his mistake -- and his alone. No one else would be injured, or worse, killed because of him.
He straightened in his chair, then typed at the keys once more, determined to succeed. Information flowed over the screen, helping him piece together what he needed to do. From what he saw, he was to stop a female thief who mostly worked alone, but sometimes she worked with twins known for their ability to get things done.
The thief stole high-value art pieces. Didn't matter if the building's protection was solid or not.
None of that boded well for him. How was he supposed to stop someone who was unstoppable?
Kit dug further into the assignment, reading her criminal history and that of the twins, for good measure. When he'd read most of the material, he leaned back in his chair. Why had the government chosen him for this?
After a while, his stomach rumbled, interrupting his thoughts. He glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was near dinnertime already. Last time he'd looked, it had been lunchtime.
An alarm sounded, accompanied by red strobe lights, and he typed in his code to kill the alarm. There was an armed robbery in progress at a convenience store.
Kit reached for the talk button for the comm-links, but that wouldn't make a difference. He was the only one who could stop the robbery. Regina and Michael were out of town. Talking with them wouldn't do any good.
Sliding his gun from the holster, he dodged through the computer room's glass door, then he checked the clip as he raced down the spiral staircase. Perfect.
Without another thought, he holstered his weapon and ran to the airlock door, typed in his code, then made his escape. Now was his chance to prove he hadn't lost his touch. Kit would do whatever he could to help whoever was in need.
Picking up his pace, he wasn't worried about taking a vehicle. A car would slow him down, and he disliked Regina's choice of ground transportation. Motorcycles weren't safe in his opinion. Instead, he stuck with the shadows, racing through the night on foot at superhuman speed.COLLAPSE
The Dark Huntress meets a man whose electrifying power is a fine match to her own...
Regina Blake is a normal secretary until there’s trouble -- then she becomes the Dark Huntress. Things are about to change when she meets a man whose electrifying power is a fine match to her own, and he’s set on winning her heart. To top it off, there’s a string of bank robberies which escalate into the high-profile kidnapping of a famous actor.
Michael Flynn hadn’t realized the extent of superhero and supervillain society. When he rushes to a bank to find it destroyed, he meets a black latex-clad woman who makes his pulse race. As he’s drawn deeper into her world, he finds himself intrigued and eager to have her.
If Hannah can't find Ian soon, he'll be lost to her forever as a digital slave...
Hannah and Ian face a drugged gang of werewolves forced into working for MAX Home Security while one of their many enemies is hell-bent on revenge. Things get worse when Ian is kidnapped by the werewolves and taken to a secret facility. Hannah will have to use all her resources to find him after someone from upper management stumbles upon Ian’s innate gift of technomancy. If not, MAX may turn Ian into a brainwashed slave to harness his abilities.
A werewolf's shrill howl sent Hannah Franklin's heart hammering. How would they get out of this? Ian's apartment was on the second floor. It wasn't as if they could make an easy escape through a window, unless either Ian or Bernard had the ability to fly and they hadn't informed her. After the last few months, she wouldn't be surprised.
No, they wouldn't be getting out of here without a fight. Unfortunately, she couldn't picture them coming out unscathed, not against werewolves.
Bernard squealed as another full-bodied bang reverberated from the door. The gnome darted toward her and Ian. "You people are crazy. What have you gotten yourselves into?" He shoved past Ian and rushed into the kitchen, muttering all the way to his gnomish house.
"Hell, I wouldn't mind knowing the answer to that myself." Ian cursed. "We have to get you out of here. There's no way to know how many werewolves are out there, and I don't want you hurt." The intensity in his voice scared her.READ MORE
By no means did she want this to be their final stand against MAX Home Security's newest minions, but there had to be something they could do.
"I don't want them to hurt you either. Let's just try to make it out of this alive. Both of us. So don't do anything irrational. What's the plan?" Hannah dug through her purse, grabbing the handgun she kept there. There'd been very few times when she'd had to use it, but now was the perfect time.
Ian closed his eyes, extended his hand toward the door, and whispered in the foreign language he used for his magic. The energy in the room spiked, and she scooted away from him, unable to bear the sting.
Hannah aimed the gun at the door. The door wouldn't hold out much longer, wards or not. The wards weren't nearly on the same level as the werewolves. Those feral beasts would rip them apart in this confined space. The gun barely helped to even the odds.
Fear chased through her, and she whispered a prayer, hoping they would all survive.
The clomping of feet on the kitchen's tile floor drew her attention to Bernard, who paced back and forth. "They are too upset to manipulate. They're berserk, if you will. Any ideas, Ian?" the gnome said, keeping his voice low.
"Wards will fail soon. There's no way out of here now, unless we jump the porch. Who says they wouldn't be there too? Or we could break a leg, unable to run... We have to fight. On the other hand, we could ask what they want, if anyone out there has any remaining sanity left. Who knows?"
Ian focused on the door. Beads of sweat trickled down his face. He was fighting to hold the wards in place. That was the only explanation.
The reinforced hinges on the door shook, the wards barely keeping them connected to the door. Regardless of what Ian was doing, the door would soon fail.
"I heard you knocking. What do you want?" Bernard piped up, his voice carrying a thread of panic.
"What are you doing?" Hannah asked, surprise creeping into her voice.
"I'm not going to die today, and if I can help it, neither are you two. I've survived wars, famine, plague, and I won't die now because you two dragged some puppies home. This gnome's ass won't be burned by you two!" Somehow, despite his words, Hannah could tell the gnome cared more than he let on.
A low, growling voice came from outside the door, the words barely recognizable. "We want Ian Bradley, puppet. Give him up, or we will continue knocking until the door falls down. My pack is hungry. If he comes out, we'll leave without eating you two. Maybe."
Another loud bang and Ian dropped to his knees grabbing his head. The top hinge fell to the ground. As he turned his head toward Hannah, she could see his mouth forming an I love you, but the sound was lost to the massive crash of the door.
Hannah was thrust back from Ian as the half-human, half-beast monsters surged at him. She fired off a shot, but one of the creatures knocked the gun from her, sending it sliding to the other side of the living room.
"Now, now, Ms. Franklin, I'd hate if you did anything that might get you hurt." His accented voice was familiar even through the gravelly pitch. He placed a big, furry foot on her chest, pinning her to the ground, then he cocked his head to the side as the other beasts clamped their clawed hands onto her boyfriend.
"Don't hurt her, or I'll kill you all," Ian yelled, thrashing about in their grasp.
Fear curled in Hannah's gut. She hated this. Hated that after all they'd been through, they would be torn apart by werewolves. Literally and figuratively.
"Go with us, and we'll keep her alive. She'll live on, and no one will be the wiser about what happened here. Don't go with us peacefully, and she dies right now." The werewolf stared her down, the pressure of his foot on her chest heavier now.COLLAPSE
An old enemy comes asking for help, but will Ian and Hannah make it out alive?
When MAX Home Security tries to hire their private investigation firm to prove the corruption the company is on trial for occurred without the knowledge of the upper management, Ian and Hannah are reluctant to help.
Unfortunately, MAX's legal team thinks it looks good for their PR to have Hacked Investigations involved, forcing Ian and Hannah's hand. But Ian's headaches are getting worse, and Hannah and Ian will have to rely on each other even more if they stand a chance of getting out of this mess alive.
Ian Bradley hit send on an email to one of Hacked Investigations’ frequent customers. This time, the business owner had needed him to check on his future partner to make sure there wouldn’t be trouble if he signed the partnership agreement. Ian had the potential business partner’s email hacked in no time, and within five minutes, he’d completed his task.
The client was paranoid, and, even if Ian thought those types of assignments were frivolous, he had a paycheck on its way.
Slender, feminine arms wrapped around his chest as Hannah hugged him from behind. Her lips brushed his earlobe, and her velvety tongue slid along the edge of it. “Now that we’ve wrapped another case, how about we celebrate?” Her voice was a low purr.
He shivered and placed his hands over hers. “I’ll be right there. Let me shut down the computer. Bernard has been surfing some nasty porn sites. I’m not chancing that he’ll get another virus on my machine.”READ MORE
Hannah nibbled his neck, and he groaned. She pulled away, trailing her fingertips over his chest and shoulder.
Swiveling in his chair, he watched her saunter toward the bedroom. Once she got to the doorway of the bedroom, she looked back at him, giving him a seductive smile.
Ian grinned and then spun around to face the computer. He changed the password again, tweaking the system’s safety features, and shut it down.
From the living room, he heard Bernard, the pint-sized gnome, talking in hushed tones entirely different from his usual loud, obnoxious demeanor.
The urge to see what mischief Bernard was getting into nearly drove him toward the living room, but Hannah’s sexy smile won out. He headed toward the bedroom, thinking of the things he’d like to do to her. His hand was hovering over the doorknob when the phone rang.
Sighing, he walked to the office phone, but it fell silent.
From the other room, Bernard spoke in an annoyed, yet strangely husky voice. “Uh huh. Well, buster, I don’t care who you are. There’s someone important on the other line giving me some, uh, juicy details about something,” Bernard said. He had a slight manic pitch that always grated on Ian’s nerves.
Reaching for the phone and fearing the worst, Ian hoped whoever had called their business line wasn’t already completely insulted by Bernard’s behavior. He mentally made a note to keep Bernard caged when at all possible.
“Oh, stop your whining. You can call back later.” Impatience picked up in the gnome’s voice as did his volume.
Ian barely managed to pick up the office phone as he heard the other phone slam onto the receiver in the living room. “Hello? Anyone there?”
“Ah, Ian, hello. It’s been a while.” Senator Kendall’s voice came through clearly.COLLAPSE
I've really enjoyed this series... the danger combined with computer security technology keeps the pages turning!
Ian works to keep his relationship with Hannah strong as they solve a case that baffles the police.
Private investigator Hannah Franklin has a new partner, her sizzling hot lover and technomage, Ian Bradley. But they may be in over their heads when brought in by their friend from the hospital to quietly solve a case that baffles even the police. The victims are being drained of blood and having their organs removed in a ritualistic fashion.
When Ian's attention narrows to solely encompass their work, he'll need to keep their relationship strong, or he could find himself repeating a painful past.
Hannah Franklin froze in the doorway of Ian Bradley's weight room. Ian lay shirtless on the bench as he pressed the bar into the air over his muscular chest. With each rep he did, the muscles in his chest rippled deliciously. She licked her suddenly dry lips and cleared her throat.
His gaze caught hers, and he smiled. He rested the weight on the stand. "Hey, is everything okay?" He sat up and wiped his palms on his khaki cargo shorts.
"Yeah, we just received a call about a new case." She still found it hard to believe how many people had wanted to hire them after going against MAX Home Security. Sometimes, they actually had to turn people away. What a feeling.
Ian raised an eyebrow at her. "Tell me more. What is it about?"
"It's Leon. He wants to meet with us at St. Gregory's hospital in a little over an hour. He seemed pretty stressed." She leaned her shoulder against the doorframe, and a frown tugged at the corners of her lips.READ MORE
Ian stood and then crossed the room to her. His hands cradled her neck, and he pulled her in for a warm kiss. His lips brushed hers, and she opened her mouth to him, allowing his tongue to stroke hers and fan the burning flames within her body.
Hannah gently pushed away after a moment. "I said we would be on our way." She raked her gaze over his firm, sweat-slick torso. "Besides, I think you need a break from working out."
Ian grinned and reached for his white towel. "I'll go hop in the shower real quick." He wiped off his face and hung the towel around his shoulders as he sauntered away.
Hannah's life had been a roller coaster after reuniting with Ian, her once ex-boyfriend. Now he was her partner in their private investigation company, Hacked Investigations, which specialized in technology-related crimes. The clientele so far had kept them busy, with common requests that involved backtracking various network intrusions to their point of origin and leaving the rest to the customers. Others required mundane tasks such as verifying the authenticity of gray-market implants and other upgrades not sold in broad daylight.
Up until recently, they'd been financially stable. The last two weeks had been slower, and their bills this month were a lot higher than expected. It didn't help that the silly gnome was as ravenous as ever.
She sighed and returned to Ian's small home office to retrieve her jacket. The weather outside was fine, but it could change so quickly, especially this time of year.
"Hey, if you're going out anyway, bring me back a bag of those chocolates I like! We can't all live on coffee, pasta, and CONDOMS, you know?" An obnoxious voice came from the kitchen before she had an opportunity to see the loud-mouthed gnome it belonged to.
"Nice to see you too, Bernard. Finished with the garden so soon?" Hannah forced a smile. "We're heading out to interview a client. Leon called, and we're going to see if we can help him," she said.
Bernard wore classic lederhosen and had a maniacal grin on his face. "Well, the garden can take care of itself for a while. So, why are you heading out to see that flamboyant rainbow-licking nurse? Unless, of course, he wants to trade make-up tips," Bernard said. A devious glint lit his eyes.
Hannah sighed. She could only take so much from the gnome today. Ignoring the other foul comments, she shrugged into her jacket and walked by him. Water sounded from the shower behind the bathroom door. She'd love to join Ian, but they'd be going nowhere fast if she did.
Instead, she sat in Ian's favorite recliner. A quick glance proved the gnome had vanished, giving her a moment's peace.
During their struggle against MAX Home Security, Leon had played a crucial role in getting past security guards and helping them talk with Senator Kendall, who cleared their names after the police had suspected them of attacking the senator. Leon lost his boyfriend, Rich Granger, due to MAX's overeager employee termination program, and he'd been more than willing to help them take MAX Home Security down.
The lack of background noise alerted her to the fact Ian was done in the shower and would be ready to go soon. She glanced in the mirror to reassure herself that she looked professional enough, and then she crossed the room to her safety box for her gun and a clip of ammo. The streets were more dangerous than ever now that MAX Home Security had restrictions placed on them by the legal system. Despite their corruption, MAX held low-level criminals under better control than what the police were capable of.
Ian entered the doorway, dressed in jeans and a polo shirt that revealed enough of his build to make her gaze linger over his toned body.
Savage Bytes by Sarah Makela carries all of her signature snark, wry humor, danger and epic imagination as she puts her characters through their paces. Ian and Hannah have a chance at their version of happy ever after and Bernard, well he continues to be like that unseen sliver you can’t get out. Another great read filled with all things funny, deadly and a little creepy, while the sizzling romance is, well, sizzling! I loved it!
He will risk everything to protect her...
Private investigator Hannah Franklin's life is turned upside down after being contacted by a former employee of MAX Home Security, the leader in security services. But they're not just protecting people anymore. Hannah's informant claims to have proof that MAX has ordered the assassination of politicians who stood against the corporation.
When her informant is killed and an attempt is made on her life, Hannah has no choice but to contact a freelance hacker. Her only hope now lies in the hands of a man she never expected to welcome back into her life.
Ian Bradley has lost his girlfriend and his job, as well as having acquired a very annoying gnome. Now his ex, Hannah, is in danger, and she needs his help. Ian vows to protect Hannah with every resource available to him -- and as a technomage in a high-tech world, his resources are almost endless...
Hannah rested her forehead against the cool, metal desk. She anxiously awaited the moment when she could dive into bed and close her eyes. Cheating spouse cases currently flooded her office. Most of the ones she’d worked were fueled by insecurity and simple misunderstandings that could’ve been resolved through conversation or therapy. Just two more reports to file, then she’d be able to call it.
Memories of her soft blankets and the comfort of her pillow relaxed her bunched shoulders. Her eyelids drooped, and she exhaled, ready to give into her exhaustion.
Ringing jarred her from the edge of sleep. She jerked upright and rubbed her eyes. Clearing her throat, she reached for the office telephone. She used an old landline since they were more secure than the wireless communication devices on the market, which ranged from implants in the ear to high-tech cell phones.
“Franklin Investigations, how may I help you?” she asked, stifling a yawn.READ MORE
“Is this Hannah Franklin? I need to speak with Hannah.” The male’s deep voice radiated urgency, with panic underlying his tone.
“This is she. Who’s calling?” Her spine stiffened, and tension tightly wound its way through her. She grabbed a stylus pen and poised it over her e-ink notepad. The electronic leaflet awoke within seconds filled with comments from her previous assignment. Tapping an icon in the top right corner, she brought up a clean page.
“Rich Granger. Listen, I can’t talk for long.” He paused. “Shit! Hold on.” Rummaging and his frantic breathing sounded over the phone. “Okay. This is the deal. I used to work for MAX Home Security. Everything was fine until a few months ago. A turnover happened with the corporate execs. You’ve heard the news, right?”
How could she not? Everyone was talking about the scandals involving the home security giant. Some of it was a bit too sci-fi weird, even for her. Yet, it also made her think of… Grrr… No, she wouldn’t do that to herself.
“Yes, I have. What’s this about?” She kept her voice professional and scribbled down notes about the new potential client.
“You know the senators who spoke against them are dead, yeah? Well, that’s not a coincidence. I have proof that MAX killed them. Meet me at the donut shop on the corner of Fifth and Main Street. You need to see this. Shit!” Sneakers smacked pavement and tires screeched over the phone line. “It’s too late,” Rich said. “They’re here. A freelance hacker I know can help you finish this. Malloc. Reach out to him. This needs to stop.”
The hackers she’d met weren’t the most trustworthy, but if he could help… And wait, she’d be finishing this? Alone? Reluctance rose within her. Her caseload was already full. Besides, after opening her own firm, she needed compensation for her time. Bills streamed in faster than paychecks. However, none of her current assignments held this level of excitement. This case could drive in more business.
“All right, I will.” She scribbled down the hacker’s name and notes about the donut shop.
Men yelling and the distant sound of thundering footsteps disrupted her thoughts.
“Mr. Granger? Rich? Hello?” She glanced at the caller ID to write down Rich’s number and turned to her computer, keying in the digits to a reverse lookup search engine. She needed to know who exactly this guy was.
A gunshot blast rang through her ear, and she jumped out of her chair, dropping the phone.COLLAPSE
Kinley Baker, Author wrote:
Fun and unexpected... Sarah weaves futuristic society, magic, and a grumpy gnome into a fun story!
Techno Crazed is a fantastic beginning to the series. The story is full of diverse, engaging characters and fun twists along the way... I can't wait to read more about Hannah and Ian.