While investigating border violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Denver journalist Natalie Benoit is caught in a bloody ambush and taken captive. Alone in the hands of ruthless killers, she will need every ounce of courage she possesses to survive.
Betrayed by another operative, Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride has endured a week of torture and interrogation at the hands of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Ready to give his life if he must, he remains unbroken—until he hears the cries of an American woman.
Although Natalie is only a voice in the darkness of their shared prison, her plight brings renewed strength to Zach's battered body. With her help, he overpowers their captors, and they flee through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun.
But past loss and tragedy leave both of them reluctant to follow their hearts, even when the passion between them reaches its breaking point. Faced with feelings neither expected, they fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both...
Read an excerpt below...
(Starred review) Clare's fifth I-Team novel (after Naked Edge) sizzles with constant adventure and romance. U.S. Marshal Zach McBride is the unwilling guest of Mexican drug lords when he meets another prisoner, American journalist Natalie Benoit. The two join forces to escape and make their way across the treacherous Mexican desert toward the U.S. border. Their romance and mutual attraction develop as they share their unhappy life stories and dodge their enemies in one harrowing encounter after another. Natalie's initial fragility is juxtaposed against Zach's stalwart nature as he helps unearth her hidden strengths and she encourages him to listen to his heart. Complex characterizations and a fast-paced plot filled with sensual romance and mystery make this a highly enjoyable read for newcomers and series fans alike. (May)—Publishers Weekly
"Clare consistently delivers! Breaking Point is packed with gut-wrenching tension, tragedy, romance and passion. The characters are riveting and the story of Mexican drug lords, journalists fighting for the truth and marshals seeking justice is timely and effective." Four stars —RT Book Reviews
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Natalie took a sip of coffee, studying Zach over the top of her porcelain cup as he devoured what was left of his breakfast. Most of the time when she interviewed someone, she had a good sense of whether that person was telling her the truth.
Maybe the stakes were too high this time. Maybe she was too caught up in her own emotions and too close to the situation to focus clearly. Or maybe Zach was just harder to read than most people.
If only he would put on a shirt!
It wasn't right for any man to be so dangerous and so sexy at the same time. Her adrenal glands and her ovaries were locked in a shouting match now, the former insisting she needed to run away fast, the latter wishing he'd kiss her again.
And that's why you need to think with your brain.
She set her cup down. "How did you get shot? I've seen the scar."
"A man aimed an AK-47 at my back and fired." He shoveled the last bite of hash browns into his mouth and chewed.
Okay, so he wasn't going to answer that one.
"What's your last name?"
He set down his fork and napkin. "Smith. No, Jones. No, wait—it's Black. I like that better. Zach Black. It rhymes."
He wasn't going to answer that one either.
"If you didn't steal the cocaine, Zach Black, why didn't you just tell me that right away? Why let me believe you're some kind of criminal if you're not?"
"I was afraid you'd start asking a lot of questions, like you always do, and we both had more important things to deal with." His plate clean, he reached for his coffee, then leaned back in his chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his pants riding low enough on his hips to expose a trail of dark hair that disappeared behind his zipper. "Besides, it's not like you were going to say, 'Please leave me with the Zetas.'"
He took a sip.
"Why did the Zetas think you'd stolen the drugs if you didn't?"
He seemed to think about this, as if deciding whether or not to answer. "The person I believe stole the shipment drugged me, then handed me over to them and told them I'd stolen it, making me the scapegoat for her actions."
A woman? "She drugged you?"
He nodded. "She called, asked me to meet her at a bar in Juarez, and the next thing I knew, I was a guest in Hotel Zeta."
More like Hell on Earth.
Natalie couldn't fathom how he could make light about his captivity after what he'd been through. "Didn't she care what they would do to you?"
"I guess she cared more about money." He took another sip.
Proof of how much he'd suffered was still visible on his body—from the dark purple bruise on his ribcage to the faint pink electrical burns on his chest and belly to the gauze bandages on his raw, blistered wrists. If what he'd said was true, this person had turned him over to the Zetas, knowing full well he would be tortured and killed.
How could any woman be so heartless?
The next question that popped out of Natalie's mouth was not the one she'd been about to ask. "Was she your lover?"
How incredibly rude! That's none of your business, girl!
Zach didn't answer right away, his lips curving in a smile. "Now why, oh, why would you ask me that, Ms. Benoit?"
"No reason." She felt herself blush. "Just curious."
"Ah, I see." He set his coffee cup down on the tray, the amused expression on his face telling her that he did see—right through her. "No, she wasn't my lover—though not for lack of trying on her part."
So Zach didn't sleep with every woman who threw herself at him. That was good to hear. "Are you married?"
He shook his head. "No."
Natalie couldn't seem to stop herself. "Divorced?"
He came face to face with her in one smooth motion, so close that she could see flecks of gold in the gray of his irises, the spicy-clean scent of his skin filling her lungs. "Oh, angel, I think you know the answer to that one, but if you need proof? "
A big hand slid into her hair, cradling the back of her skull, angling her face upward. Pulse tripping, she found herself looking into his eyes, wondering if he would was really going to do it, if he was really going to kiss her.
And then he did kiss her.
He brushed his lips over hers, the mere whisper of a touch sending shudders through her, making her breath catch. Then he slipped his other arm around her and drew her against his bare chest, the hard feel of his body making her go weak. But still he didn't kiss her full on, teasing her mouth with his, nipping her lips, tracing their outline with his tongue, until her lips tingled and ached and she was trembling.
She shouldn't let him do this. Zach was a dangerous man, a killer. She knew next to nothing about him, not even his last name. All she had was his promise that he wasn't a criminal. But it had been so long since a man had touched her, so long since she'd wanted a man to touch her.
She slid her arms around his neck, arched into him, desperate for more.
He groaned, and the hand in her hair became a fist. And in a heartbeat the kiss transformed, his lips pressing hard and hot against hers, his tongue thrusting deep.
Oh, my stars!
Heat lanced through her, striking deep in her belly. With a whimper, she kissed him back, welcoming his tongue with her own, breathing in the male scent of him, her insides going liquid as his hand moved slowly down her spine.