Cutting Edge

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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 7/28/2009
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books

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Called one of today's hottest writing talents ("Romantic Times"), Brennan, the "New York Times"-bestselling author of "Sudden Death," takes the danger and desire all the way to a razor-sharp finale, in the concluding novel of her latest thrill-packed trilogy. Original.

Author Biography

Allison Brennan is the author of ten bestselling romantic thrillers, including The Prey, Speak No Evil, Killing Fear, and Playing Dead. For thirteen years she worked as a consultant in the California State Legislature before leaving to devote herself fully to her family and writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children.


Chapter One

The arson had been hot, fast, and lethal.

The cloying, acrid scent of the extinguished arson fire had FBI agent Nora English breathing through her mouth as she walked carefully through the remains of what had been the research wing of Butcher-Payne Biotech. The bright white light from emergency spotlights cast an eerie starkness throughout the burned building. Her boots sloshing through the water left behind by the firefighters. Tens of thousands of gallons had flowed into this building to put out the blaze, and the fire crew was surveying the structure to insure there were no remaining hot spots.

They’d been damn lucky. Last winter had been dry, creating a summer combustible with dry brush and trees. The hill of dead, brown foliage behind Butcher-Payne, and the arid canyon across the two-lane highway, could easily have caught fire, spreading through the crisp timber and underbrush faster than they could respond. Fortunately, there’d been no wind to push the fire, and the first responders had done a magnificent job saturating the rooftops and surrounding grounds. In addition, the solid exterior and internal firewalls of the five-year-old building had contained the fire within the research wing.

“The fire sprinklers didn’t go on as they were supposed to,” the Placer County fire chief, Ansel Nobel, said while he escorted Nora to where the body had been found. “The most recent inspection was three months ago; then, they were functioning properly. I don’t understand.”

“Have you checked the water-pump station? Is this area on city or well water?”

“There’s a water storage tank uphill for—damn, that’s it.”

“Excuse me?”

“The water storage tank is for the hydrants. The sprinklers are on a pump system maintained by the county. We hooked up the hydrants without any problems, so when my crew chief told me the sprinklers hadn’t come on, I assumed they were faulty.”

He gestured at the ceiling with his flashlight. The sprinkler heads had distended, but had no water.

“I’ll ask my partner to check it out.” She called Pete Antonovich using the walkie-talkie feature of her BlackBerry. Technically he was no longer her partner, now that she’d been temporarily promoted to squad leader while their SSA was teaching for four months at Quantico. But old habits; she and Pete had been partners since she transferred to Sacramento FBI headquarters nine years ago.

“Pete, it’s Nora. Chief Nobel said the sprinklers didn’t activate. The pump may have been sabotaged—can you talk to the sheriff’s department and get a team over there to check it out?”

“Will do. What’s it like inside?”


His voice had a modicum of restrained humor. “I meant damages.”

“Same apparent burn pattern as the previous arson fires. Started in the lab and was contained ninety percent there and adjoining offices. The lobby walls have some damage. Hot enough to melt electronic equipment. Arson investigation will know more.”

“When’s Quin going to get here?”

Nora hesitated a moment. Her sister had a reputation, and she hated to fuel it. But this was Pete, so she simply said, “She had a date.”

“It’s five-thirty in the morning.”

“In San Francisco. She promised she’d leave immediately. She wasn’t on call tonight,” Nora defended.

“I’m not being critical, but we need her. I don’t need to tell you they’re escalating.”

The arson gang they’d been investigating for twenty months had never killed before. The three previous arsons had targeted the same industry—biotechnology—but the

Excerpted from Cutting Edge: A Novel of Suspense by Allison Brennan
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