Crave(CD)(Unabr.) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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About the Author
J. R. Ward lives in the South with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. After graduating from law school, she began working in health care in Boston and spent many years as chief of staff for one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Desert, Far from Caldwell, N.Y. or Boston, M.A. or... sanity.
Some two years after the fact, when Jim Heron was no longer in special ops, he would reflect that Isaac Rothe, Matthias the Fucker and he, himself, had all changed their lives the night that bomb went off in the sand.
Of course, at the time, none of them knew what it all meant, or where it was all going. But that was life: nobody got a guided tour to their own theme park. You had to get on the rides as they presented themselves, never knowing whether you would like the one you were in line for... or if the bastard was going to make you throw up your corn dog and your cotton candy all over the place.
Maybe that was a good thing, though. Like back then he would have believed he’d end up duking it out with a demon, trying to save the world from damnation?
Come on now.
But that night, in the dry cold that washed in the second the sun went down over the dunes, he and his boss had walked into a minefield... and only one had walked out.
The other? Not so much...
“This is it,” Matthias said as they came up to an abandoned village.
They were fifteen miles northwest from where they were staying in a barracks of Army boys. Being in XOps, they were outside the stream of defined corps which worked to their benefit: soldiers like him carried I.D.s from all branches of the service and used them whenever it suited.
The “village” was more like four crumbling stone structures and bunch of wood and tarp huts. As they approached, his green night vision goggles tracked movement all over the place. He hated those fucking tarps- they flapped in the wind, their shadows darting around like fast-footed people who had guns. And grenades. And other varieties of sharp and shiny.
Or in this case grungy and gritty.
He hated desert assignments; better to kill in civilization. More exposure, true- but at least you had a shot at knowing what was coming at you. Out here, people had resources he was unfamiliar with and that always made him twitchy as fuck.
‘Course, no one wanted to get their balls blown off. So most people felt like he did, including the enemy.
Plus he didn’t trust the man he was with. Yeah, Matthias was his boss. Yeah, he’d trained with the guy way back when. Yeah, he’d been under him for the last decade.
But all of that just made him more certain he didn’t want to be alone with the big man- and yet here they were, at a “village” in the fine township of Nowhere-Anyone-Could Find-A-Body-ville.
A gust of wind went Nike across the flat landscape, sprinting over the sand, picking up those tiny little particles, carrying all of them right smack into the collar of his digi-fatigues. And beneath his black, lace-up boots, the ground was constantly shifting, as if he were an ant walking across the back of a giant and irritating the piss out of the bastard.
You began to feel that at any minute, a great palm could come down of the sky and flatten you.
The meeting had been Matthias’s idea. Something that couldn’t be discussed anywhere else. So naturally, Jim had worn a Kevlar vest and about forty pounds of weapons. Along with water. MRE’s.
He was a pack animal for real.
“Over here,” Matthias said, ducking into the door-less entry of one of the stone structures.
Jim paused and looked around. Nothing but tarps doing the running man as far as he knew.
He got out both his guns before going inside. Bottom-line? This was the perfect locale for a forcible inquisition. He had no idea what he’d done or what he’d learn to warrant it, but one thing he was clear on- there was no reason to run. If that was the reason he’d been brought here, he was going to go in and find another two or three XOps guys in there to work him over while Matthias asked the question. If he bolted? They’d just hunt him down in the desert even if took weeks.
Maybe that was why Isaac Rothe had showed up this afternoon with Matthias’s protégé and second in command, Ezekiel. That pair were straight up killers, a couple of bit bulls ready to go for anyone’s throat.
Yup, this made sense and he should have figured it out sooner. But even if he had, there was no getting anyway from a reckoning. No one got out of XOps alive. Not the operatives, not the fringe-playing Intel guys, not the bosses, either. Die with your boots on was the way you lived- not that you knew that going in.
And the thing was, he had been thinking of ways to get out. Killing people for a living was all he knew how to do, but it was starting to fuck with his head. Maybe Matthias had somehow figured that out.
Time to the face the music, Jim thought as he went through the doorway with both his guns up.
Might as well give ’em a fight-
Just Matthias. No one else.
Jim slowly lowered his guns and looked around the cramp space just to make sure. Turned out, it was true: According to his night goggles, there was just the man and no one else. With a flick of a switch, he went to heat seeking mode. Nothing but Matthias. Still.
“What’s going on?” he demanded.
Matthias was over in the far corner, about ten feet away. When the man’s hands came up from his sides, Jim flipped his weapons back into firing position... but all his boss did was shake his head and loosen up his gun belt. A quick toss and it was in the sand.
And then he opened his mouth and said something softly—
Jim came back to consciousness sometime later. The explosion had thrown him against the stone wall, knocking him cold, and going by how stiff he was, he could have been out for a while.
After a couple minutes of what-the-fuck, he sat up cautiously, wondering if anything was broken-
Across the way, there was a pile of rags where Matthias had once been.
“Jesus Christ...” Jim repositioned his night goggles and retrieved his weapons then crawled through the sand to his boss.
“Matthias... oh, fucking A...”
The man’s lower leg looked like a root that had been torn up out of the ground, the limb nothing but a ragged stump that was shredded at the end. And there were patches of darkness on his fatigues that had to be blood.
Jim checked the pulse at the neck. There was one, but it was faint and uneven.
Unbuckling his belt, he cranked the leather around Matthias upper calf and pulled hard, torniqueing the leg. Then he quickly searched for other inj-
Shit. When Matthias had been tossed back, he’d fallen onto a wooden spike. The damn thing went right through him, the toothpick to his pig-in-a-blanket.
Jim pretzeled up and tried to see whether it could stay in place-
It appeared to be free standing. Good.
“...dan... ny... boy...”
Jim frowned and looked at his boss. “What?”
Matthias’s eyes opened like his lids were steel shutters he could barely raise. “Leave me.”
“You’re blown to shit-”
“Leave me here-”
“Fuck that.” Jim reached for his transistor and prayed that Isaac, not that freak Ezekiel, answered. “Come on... come on...”
“What ya’ll needin’?” The soft Southern drawl that came over his earpiece was the only good news he was going run across until he got them both back to camp.
Thank God for Isaac. “Matthias is down. Bomb. Coming in. Look out for us.”
“Where ya’ll at? I’ll come and get you.”
“We’re forty-six degrees n-”
The gun went off right next to Jim’s ear and at first he assumed he’d been hit in the head and the pain had yet to register. As he braced himself on one palm, Matthias let his gun fall to the side... and what do you know, Jim did not follow suit thanks to some kind of head wound. Warning shot, evidently.
His boss’s eyes shone with unholy light. “Get yourself... out... alive.”
Before Jim could tell Matthias to shut the fuck up, he became aware that something was biting into his palm. Lifting his hand up, he found... part of the bomb’s detonator.
Turning it over and over, at first he didn’t understand what he was looking at.
And then he knew all too well what it was.
Narrowing his eyes, he focused on Matthias. Then he put the fragment in his front pocket, and leaned down to his boss.
“You’re not playing me like this,” Jim said grimly. “No fucking way.”
Matthias started to babble, but Jim didn’t give a shit what the guy went on about.
“I’m okay,” he said to Isaac’s squawking curses. “Misfire. I’m starting for camp. Make sure we’re not shot as we approach.”
The southerner’s voice became instantly strong and steady, just like the guy’s killing hand. “Where you at. I’ll get a truck-”
“No. Stay put. Find a medic on the QT and make sure the doc can keep his mouth shut. And we’re going to need a chopper. We need to airlift him out- discretely. No one can know about this.”
The last thing he needed was Isaac out in the middle of the night looking for them. The guy was the only thing standing between Jim and an accusation that he’d murdered the head of XOps, the deadliest shadow org in the U.S. government.
He’d never live that one down. Literally.
And the hush-hush was not going to be a newsflash to the solider. Keeping quiet about shit was the M.O. in XOps- no one knew exactly how many operatives there were or where they went or what they did or whether they went by their own name or an alias.
“Do you hear me, Isaac,” he demanded. “Get me what I need. Or he’s a dead man.”
“Roger, that,” came the reply over the ear piece. “Over and out.”
After confiscating the gun that had been put to use, Jim picked up his boss, settled the dead, dripping weight on his shoulders and started hoofing it.
Out of the stone shack. Out into the blustering, frigid night. Across the sand dunes.
His compass kept him right, the true north orientating him and leading him on through the darkness. Without it, he would be utterly lost because the desert looked the same.
God damn him.
Then again, assuming the guy lived, he’d just given Jim his ticket out of XOps... so in a way, he owed the guy his life.
Guess Jim wasn’t the only one who wanted to be free.
Surprise, surprise.--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Continuing 4 days after the end of Covet, Fallen Angel Jim Heron finds himself in familiar territory as the soul he has to save this time around is that of AWOL Black ops soldier Isaac Roth. The back story here is extensive as Jim and Isaac share a history together both having served under the treacherous leadership of Matthias. When we begin Isaac is making some quick cash as an underground cage fighter. After the ring gets busted Isaac lands in jail where we meet his beautiful, court approved defence attorney Grier Childe. Despite their differences (or maybe because of) the sparks fly with Grier going so far as to post his bail using her own money. With Isaac now free he plans on disappearing and fast the only problem is he owes Grier and can't seem to get her out of his head even though he knows all he could possibly bring her is trouble. When Jim and his fallen sidekicks make contact Jim realizes that its not just Devina stealing his soul that puts Isaac in danger but their former commander Matthias has put a death sentence on his head because the only way you can leave their covert little organization is in a body bag.
The story moves along fast but smoothly and with a whole lot happening in the mere three day span of the book. So even though our romantic couple isn't given a whole lot of time to fall in love (or enough romance period) they still managed to capture my attention and even gave me a couple of *sigh* moments.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Jim owes Isaac a debt from their former XOps days and knows Matthias has thrown in the call to have Isaac taken out. Jim figures the least he can do is get Isaac out of the country - alive.
Attorney Grier Childe takes on public defender cases every so often, and the one she is handed is a doozy. Isaac is a mountain of pure muscle, and the very successful Grier can't help but set aside a little of her professionalism to drink in the sight of Isaac. Although beaten, and very rough around the edges, Grier likes what she sees.
With a brother dead from a drug overdose (who shows up as a ghost and felt very misplaced throughout the book), Grier feels the need to do something to save or protect Isaac from whatever he is running from. Isaac in turn feels the need to repay Grier for her kindness and cash to get him out of jail. But Isaac's dark world is about to descend upon them, and the light is far from the end of the tunnel.
The first half of Crave is so good! I became very excited, because for me, Covet (book one) left much to be desired. Isaac has a very messy past, and I don't know if I would call him a tortured hero, but definitely one that sees himself as no good, especially for the gorgeous Grier. As for Grier, I immediately liked her better than the heroine from Covet. She stands her ground and doesn't cower in the presence of the roughed up Isaac. They have this whole "are you going to kill me or have sex with me" vibe that really notches up the sexual tension in the first half of the book.
But then the second half of the book comes around and the romance fizzles to lukewarm. Where did my sexy, murderous Isaac go? Much more of the second half focuses on the other characters. There is a lot going on in this book and does not leave a lot of room for the romance to develop between the two main characters. Jim has a huge side story (which makes sense and I enjoyed). Eddie and Adrien, Jim's angel friends have their thing going on, as does Devina, Matthias, the four dudes in heaven. I'm not saying the other storylines were boring - far from it. But I just wanted Isaac and Grier to build up their romance more - they make it to the bedroom quick - and then that is it.
I also don't know if I like (or understand) the cheating that occurs on both sides. The four dudes in heaven make it such a point that they can't interfere at times or the entire "game" will be forfeit, but then one of them does - without consequences from the Creator. Same thing with Devina - what are the rules of this game they are playing? They seem very wishy-washy. Devina does make for a worthy villain and I like her continuing story.
Crave kept my interest much more than Covet did and also had a better hero and heroine. With more focus on the romance throughout the book, I would have really liked it.
(Fallen Angels: Book Two)
Oh, how I struggled with Crave. Normally I can blast through a J. R. Ward romance novel like a blowtorch through butter, but this one did not click with me on any level. For years now, I've heard readers grumble about her ultra-masculine heroes, but this is the first time that one of them really grated on my nerves. Isaac was the biggest, baddest, meat-head hero I've ever encountered, and I'm finally sending up the white flag. I surrender. I had a bad premonition within the first couple of pages, where it was all f-this and f-that, and sentences like this:
"As they approached, Jim's balls went tight when his green night-vision goggles picked up movement all over the place."
Okay, I get it, he's a MAN, but these kinds of mucho macho references are all over Crave like fleas on a dog. It was just too much, but I could have overlooked the alpha overload if the heroine hadn't pissed me off too. Grier reeks of wealth, class, and beauty, and we're also supposed to believe that's she's an angel on the inside. Grier was nothing more than an object for Isaac to worship and protect with the rabid devotion of a junkyard dog, and it's not a fantasy that interests me at all. I think it's a huge mistake to set a character up on a pedestal and pretend that her poo doesn't stink like everyone else on this planet. I just can't buy it.
My third problem with this novel is a structural issue that concerned me when I read the first book in Ms. Ward's new Fallen Angels series, Covet (Fallen Angels, Book 1). Paranormal romances should be all about the couple, but the way these stories are set up, a significant portion of the story is devoted to the angel Jim Heron, and his mission to save souls. I find that this splinters the novel and it makes the relationship feel watered-down and neglected, which is not the best approach with a romance novel. Perhaps Ms. Ward is aiming for something of an urban fantasy hybrid with this new series, but I can't say that I'm digging the mix this time. It fell flat because the characterizations - with the sole exception of Jim - were painted in extremes that were entirely too predictable.
It took me three days to read this one, and it was a struggle to finish. At the halfway point I even considered quitting. I admire Ms. Ward's writing, but I consider this one a miss.
Heaven is ahead by one soul, but Hell is up to bat and in Crave, Jim has more of a vested interest in this skirmish since several of the players are people from his not so distant human past as a black ops soldier. This when combined with the fact that I also liked the pairing for the romance better this time are also strong plusses in Crave's favor. Jim's former black ops comrade Isaac and lawyer Grier Childes both are solid characters and the intense attraction between them as they are thrown into danger together seems real - even though it is hard to imagine a HEA for a pair from such different worlds.
Crave is definitely darker than the Covet and there are some difficult to read moments when one of the characters is tortured and violated - and in the aftermath of that as well. I can see Ward's purpose in this, as it affects relationships between several characters, but it still was hard to take.
I guess the bottom line with Crave was that I enjoyed the immediate story of Isaac and Grier and thought that Crave effectively advanced the elements of the larger series arc. With all that happened, I felt as if that there was a real battle going on and not one with a quick and easy resolution - and I didn't find the outcome to be predictable. Despite my discomfort with the extent of the darkness, I still am interested in seeing how things unfold for Jim and how the battle progresses in future books
As those who have read #1 know, Jim is playing a game where the fate of the world is in balance. Devina, the demon, and Nigel the Archangel are captains for their respective sides. Jim is the "quarterback" that was agreed to by both sides since they both thought that Jim would sway things in their favor. Nigel and Devina aren't supposed to interfere, but Devina is the queen of interference. Nigel has his moments too, although they aren't as direct and that's where Jim's boys, and Colin (another Archangel) come into play. Good 1- Bad nill at the end of the first book. Now it picks up where we left off.
It appears that the soul in question is Isaac. And he is the male half of the love story duo here. For a military assassin, he really is a likable, or really lovable, guy. Ms. Ward's take on unsanctioned MMA style cage fighting is amusing - and it appears that she must be a fan of the sport. The female half is Isaac's public defender. We know that Matthais (from the first book) is after Isaac and that's where things get interesting. Without spoiling things, there is a pretty decent twist with respect to who the right soul is that the folks are after. And, the way the winner is determined played out other then I would have expected.
Like all of the PNR books, the two who fall for each other do so without really knowing each other, in a really short period of time, and they have some killer sex. And, I don't think it's really a spoiler here to say that all ends well for them (I mean if it didn't it probably wouldn't be published since us readers don't read this stuff for the non-happy ending, right?). The sex isn't as heavy as it is in the first of the BDB, but is a little more then the last few BDB.
The language, the slang and the relationships feels more like the JR Ward that I know and love. The BDB have started to drift (I think the shift to "urban fantasy" and the publishing in hardcover first really impacted that series in a bad way) but this book seems to put the reader back where those books started. It's fun to see references to the familiar setting of Caldwell too. I wonder if there will be any cross over at any point... hmmm.... that could be fun!
The trio of Jim, Ad and Eddie is great. I know there is more to the relationship between Ad and Eddie then has been revealed, but there are hints of it. I hope we come to understand it. And Little by little, I think we will see those three become much closer. The relationships that Ward creates, between those other then our 2 love-birds, is really one of the reasons I like her stuff so much. We get a great glimpse into the whole world she has created, she has rules that govern and she sticks to them (pretty well anyway), and I feel like it is a large group of characters that the books are about, not just the 2 love-birds and one particular adversity.
The biggest downfall here is the villain. Devina is disturbing, to say the least. Reading her chapters is way more important then ready some of the "Lessers" chapters in BDB, but the scene with Jim down in her lair is not something I really wanted to focus on. And thinking that Devina had her hands on Ad and Eddie is all the more creepy. Although it is kind of funny to think about her need to see a therapist about her hoarding/OCD.
I am looking forward to the next one. Hopefully the publishers don't pull the same bait-and-switch into the UF realm with this series. Extra bonus: the preview of Lover Unleashed... :D awesome!! I was wondering who Payne's love interest was going to be - it's given to is with the first 2 words of the preview!