Beneath the Surface

Winner of the 2009 R*by Award for Romantic Book of the Year (Romantic Elements)

Finalist 2009 EPPIE Awards

Jo has the darkest of secrets in her past, which drives her to seek out the most traumatic of hotspots in the world as a war correspondent so she never has the time to confront what she did. A fellow reporter, Craig, accompanies her into war-torn Sergavia to recover rolls of film from a dead colleague and along the way Jo finds love and a reason to go back to the beginning so she can move forward.

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REVIEWS

Wilga Hill Boomerang from Cocktail Reviews says, “Beneath the Surface has it all. Voice, plots, emotions, imagery, and high-calibre penmanship. I applaud Ms. Perazzini. She is one very talented lady.”

Coffee Time Romance Review says, “Ms. Perazzini is an extremely talented writer, giving life to the thrill seeker in all of us. I am so excited to have read this, and eagerly encourage you to purchase this fantastic book.”

Aucklandgal (Amazon), says, “Perazzini has created a powerful, fast paced and full of action novel in BENEATH THE SURFACE with characters that don’t gloss around the hard stuff and face what life throws at them full on. …. Suzanne Perazzini’s BENEATH THE SURFACE is a gritty novel, filled with the futility of war between countrymen and balanced by the strength of purpose and the slowly blossoming love between two people who have seen it all too many times before. I highly recommend this story and look forward to reading more from this author.”

 

EXCERPT

Chapter One

December

 

“Jo, get over here and look at this,” Ryan shouted across the room.

I looked up from my paper-strewn desk to see my boss gazing up at one of the televisions fixed to the office walls. Grim lines shadowed his usually cheerful face.

“What is it?” I called back.

“Just get your ass over here and take a look. These ethnic skirmishes over in Sergavia are looking a tad more serious than we thought.”

I dropped my pen and moved across the open-plan room to join my fellow journalists gathering beneath the screen.

“Shut up for a bit,” Ryan said to silence the babble of voices. “Listen.”

Images flashed up on the screen of tanks rumbling through village streets, of human beings distorted in death, people fleeing in panic before advancing soldiers.

The room, usually abuzz with conversation, was silent but for the announcer’s voice telling us of the horrors of what had changed from ethnic skirmishes to ethnic cleansing.

“Where’s this report coming from?” someone asked.

“A freelance journalist. No one thought to send anyone until recently,” Ryan replied.

“But Dylan’s over there, isn’t he?” I said, unable to look away from the scenes on the screen. I’d been working for the New Zealand Tribune for the last thirteen years, since I had finished my degree in journalism at twenty-one, and though I’d seen much death and carnage, this was among the worst.

Ryan turned to look at me, his heavy brow all but hiding his eyes. “That’s why I tuned in to this station in the U.S. I want to talk to you, Jo.”

I raised an eyebrow at him, and he nodded in the direction of his office behind floor-to-ceiling glass. The others looked at me, so I shrugged and followed him down the aisle, past the rows of metal desks littered with photos, half-written articles and coffee-stained cups. A quick glance at one of the many clocks set to different international times told me it was almost ten at night in Sergavia.

Ryan already sat behind his wooden desk, his feet flat on the floor. This was serious—he usually had his feet crossed on the desktop. I sat on the edge and peered down at him.

“Ryan, you’re worrying me. What’s up?”

“Dylan’s been killed.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ, no. He’s got a wife and two little kids. Why the hell did he go?”

“It was his choice. He was an adrenaline junkie like you, and we didn’t know how bad it was over there until now.”

I slid off the desk and sat in the leather chair opposite Ryan. “Did he get any rolls of film out?”

“No, and that’s the problem. They must still be on him.”

“On his body, you mean?”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean.”

“Actually, Ryan, what do you mean? You’re giving me some serious chills here.”

“Look, I know I should be talking to Neil or Rob about going over there, but they’re both family men too, and I don’t want to lose them.”

My eyes had grown large with the realization of what his words meant. I stood up in consternation.

“Are you saying it would be okay to lose me because I have no ties?”

He wiped at his forehead and had the good grace to blush. “No, of course I didn’t mean that. Well, actually…. No, I didn’t mean I can afford to lose you, it’s just that…. Oh, for God’s sake, Jo, help me out here.”

I continued staring at him—his discomfort was his punishment.

“Look, Jo, you’ve proved you’re as good as any man at this job. You have a strong survival instinct and can stick up for yourself. I need those photos and any more you can get. It’s you I want out there. Men can be too gung-ho and get themselves killed. There’s a higher chance you’ll come back in one piece.”

“When?” I asked, glaring at him.

“I want you on the plane tonight.”

“Oh, shit. It’s my kickboxing class tonight. I don’t want to miss it again. Can’t I leave in the morning?”

“Sorry, pretty lady. Go home, pack your bag, and I’ll call you. Jake will go in with you as your photographer,” he said, getting up.

I nodded, but I still hadn’t forgiven him for ranking me as dispensable. “Don’t think I’ll forget this, and don’t call me pretty lady,” I snapped as I left the room.

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