Excerpt and Review: Masked by Janelle Stalder

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    **Blogger Note: This book is not recommended for teens due to violence and sex**

About the Book:

Masked Book CoverHatred paralyzes life; love releases it.

New Berlin, 2040. Rebels prepare to fight against the New World Order, bent on bringing down the world’s greatest tyrant. One girl wanted nothing to do with it, content to keep her head down and make the best of this new world. That is, until she has no choice but to work with the rebels and infiltrate the NWO headquarters. Every moment she spends there puts her in danger, especially when one man, the second in command to the New World leader, continues to make his way into her every thought. She must stay focused and protect not just her mind and body, but also her heart. Will she be able to complete her task without being unmasked? Or will the one man standing in her way ruin it all?

 

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

5 years later…

New Berlin, 2040

Bridgette pressed her back against the door, her breath quick, heart pounding. Smooth, Bridge. Real smooth, she thought. Footsteps stopped just outside the door. She could hear his breathing through the wood. Bridgette bit her lip beneath the mask she now wore, waiting for what would happen next.

“Lottey?” he called out. There was a small thump from the other side, and when he spoke again his voice sounded closer and slightly muffled, like he was resting his forehead against the door. “Look, I know you’re mad at me, and you have every right to be,” he started.

Charlotte was mad at him? A sliver of hope spread through her chest. If her sister was mad at him, it would make Bridgette’s job a heck of a lot easier. Roman Adamson was not only the second in command of the New World order, but he also happened to be the sexiest man Bridgette had ever seen. It made coherent thought difficult around him, and right now she needed all her wits on full alert. If she was going to pull off this disguise of her younger sister, Charlotte, who she had discovered was still alive, she couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. Especially around the man standing outside her room. Well, Charlotte’s room, but for now it was hers.

What I have gotten myself into? She asked herself for the millionth time since she’d agreed to do this. If it hadn’t been for the fact that her evil, sadistic father was holding her sister captive, there was no way Bridgette would have been doing anything to help the rebels. She’d long ago decided to make the best out of the new life she’d been forced to live, and that meant no involvement with the group of men set on destroying the new government. Considering her father was their leader, she definitely hadn’t wanted any part in this. But once again life had thrown her a curveball in the form of her sister, and she was forced to play along. At least until she planted the bomb.

Her back felt sticky with sweat beneath the fabric of the uniform she wore. All she wanted to do was strip out of it, pull off the mask her sister had been wearing for the last five years – how Charlotte had stood it, she had no idea – and take off the boots that were a size too small and pinching the crap out of her toes. Instead she had to deal with Roman, who had caught her in the hall. And of course, Bridgette had done the first thing that had come to mind, which happened to be to turn and run like an idiot, locking herself inside this room.

Again, real smooth, Bridge. Shut up, she told herself. What else could she have done? Stood there and had a conversation with him? Sure, eventually she’d have no choice. She just wasn’t expecting to have to do it within her first ten minutes of being in the headquarters.

“I know you’ll probably never forgive me,” Roman was saying. Forgive him for what? She wondered. What had he done to her sister? Anger simmered inside her. No one hurt her sister. “Just, please know that I truly am sorry if I’ve messed things up for you. It’s the last thing I would ever want.”

Her entire body stilled at the remorse she heard in his voice. Did Roman have feelings for Charlotte? Why did that make her feel sick just thinking about it? No, there was no way. Charlotte was in love with Bridgette’s best friend, Pete McKay. She hadn’t said as much, but you’d have to be blind not to see it when they looked at each other. She had no doubt Pete was working to find Charlotte even now. At least, she hoped he was. The longer Charlotte stayed with their dad, the greater the chance she’d get hurt. Her sister did not know how to shut her mouth, and their father had zero patience.

Bridgette shuddered at the thought of how her sister had looked the last time she had seen her – beaten and bloody, their father standing to the side watching it all. She needed to accomplish what she was here to do – fast. Then she needed to get back to her sister and away from all of this.

“Look, I know you don’t want to see me right now,” Roman said, jarring her back to the situation at hand, “but Ludwig’s been looking for us both. I told him you weren’t feeling well, but I can’t put him off any longer. I need you to come with me to his office.”

Crap. Crap, crap, crap. Roman was bad enough, but Ludwig? That was just a disaster waiting to happen. Bridgette was terrified of the New World leader, who was responsible for destroying more than half the world’s population with his bombs and war. What if he saw through her right away? Charlotte had been in their camp for five years. Long enough for them to recognize all her little quirks and know if things seemed “off”. Bridgette needed to bring her A-game, and she wasn’t quite sure if she even had one.

Taking a deep breath, she stepped back from the door, wincing at the pain in her feet. The first thing she was going to do tomorrow was demand new boots. She didn’t care if it looked odd that her feet had gone up a size overnight, there was no way she was walking around in these boots for the next couple of weeks. She was there to plant a bomb when the arms dealers came to visit, which meant she’d have to play Charlotte for quite a while yet. Her feet were not going to survive.

She opened the door slowly, readying herself for the next step in this ridiculous plot. Her plan had been to practice her voice and mannerisms tonight, so she was ready tomorrow, but it looked like there wouldn’t be time for that. Thankfully Bridgette had a good ear for tone. It probably had a lot to do with her vocal training. She knew how Charlotte spoke. It was softer, smoother than her own voice. Bridgette always spoke a little huskier than her younger sister, but she had faith in herself that she’d be able to pull this off.

As soon as her eyes met Roman’s, all the breath left her. All thoughts of courage disappeared under his stare. He was just so handsome. His eyes were a deep blue, his skin a flawless bronze, dark hair flowed to his shoulders. Shoulders that were massive and intimidating, and yet she wanted to be snuggled into them with those thick arms wrapped around her.

Snap out of it! She scolded herself. Her eyes had been making their own journey down the front of him. She shot them back up to look at his face, thankful for the first time that she wore a mask to hide the flush on her cheeks. He was watching her too, closely enough to cause the flush to spread down the rest of her body.

He thinks you’re Charlotte, she reminded herself. Was his look one of lust, or concern for whatever he’d done to her? She couldn’t tell. Bridgette motioned with her head for him to lead the way, not trusting her voice just yet. The silent treatment – the most effective weapon of women to be used against men when they were pissed. She was going to use it to her full advantage.

He sighed loudly, his shoulders drooping a bit. Then he spun around and started down the hall. Bridgette hurried to keep up. She had no idea where Ludwig’s office was in this building, so she couldn’t afford to get left behind. They walked in silence, with her just a bit behind him. She tried her best, but her eyes kept looking to him, watching the way his body moved as he walked. Every step was controlled, purposeful. Every shift in his muscles screamed of strength and power. She’d never met a man quite like him. He demanded respect and attention. Well, he certainly had hers, and that wasn’t good.

Finally they came to a set of double doors. Roman opened them, standing back to let her enter first. She kept her gaze away from his as she walked by. The heat off his body had her swaying a bit, but she forced herself to keep going.

The room was dark, and clearly a man’s domain. There was nothing feminine about the deep, burgundy walls, leather chairs, and large, wooden desk. Standing in front of floor-to-ceiling windows was her biggest obstacle yet, Ludwig Tennebris. Crap, crap, crap. She stopped just inside, watching him as the prey watches a predator. Roman was scary, but Ludwig, he was terrifying. He didn’t give off the same sort of strength that Roman did. His was more an aura of unpredictability; a man who could and would do anything and everything at any moment. She didn’t like men like him. She liked to know what to expect, and she doubted that would ever be the case with the New World leader.

His eyes swung to hers, his blonde hair messy, probably from running his hands through it. She could tell he was agitated, which didn’t bode well for her.

“Finally,” he said, stepping closer to her. The desk remained between them, a fact she was thankful for. “How are you feeling, Di?”

Bridgette paused for a second. She had forgotten that most of the New World soldiers thought Charlotte’s name was Dinah. It made her wonder why Roman called her Lottey. It also shocked her that Ludwig had asked how she was. If she was being honest, she wasn’t expecting that. From the look of him, she had thought he was going to start yelling, not look genuinely concerned for her.

“Better,” she answered.

He nodded, taking a seat behind his desk. “Good,” he said. “A lot has happened, or hasn’t happened would be more accurate,” he continued. Rubbing a hand down his face, he leaned back in his chair, his mouth set in a thin line. “Those rebels you’ve been watching, did they ever mention anything about a traitor in their ranks?”

Bridgette shook her head. “Not that I heard,” she said, changing her voice.

“Well someone tipped them off tonight. When my men got to that church, the whole place had been cleared out.”

Charlotte must have warned them, Bridgette thought. Ludwig didn’t seem to suspect her at all. How much did he trust her sister? Roman stepped forward so he was no longer in her peripheral vision.

“Could they have someone on the inside here?” Ludwig said.

Her heart rate kicked into high gear.

“I highly doubt it,” Roman said immediately. “Our men are loyal. Perhaps it was your inside man. Could he be playing both sides?”

Bridgette breathed a sigh of relief. Did Roman know about her sister’s relationship with McKay? His denial had come quickly; making her wonder if he was protecting Charlotte from Ludwig’s suspicion.

Ludwig rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “We’ll have to interrogate him and see, I suppose.” His head turned to her. “Have you had any contact from the rebels you’ve been watching?”

She shook her head. “They’re gone as well,” she said. At least she hoped they were. If McKay and the gang were smart, they would be far away from New Berlin. She had a pretty good intuition that Ludwig and his men were going to tear the eastern ghetto apart looking for them.

His lips pressed together. “Did you ever break through their walls?”

She shook her head again.

He let out a long breath. “I’m disappointed, but at least that means you can stop going out. I didn’t like you being in the lower’s section. Stay around headquarters until we figure out where they are. I’m worried they might have figured out who you were, and realized it was only a matter of time before I found them.”

They definitely knew who Charlotte was now, she thought wryly.

“We need to find these rats and get rid of them once and for all,” Ludwig continued. “I can’t have them running around out there causing trouble when our dealers are coming to town. We need this problem taken care of.” His eyes focused on Roman.

His second in command nodded in understanding. “We’ll find them,” Roman said.

“You’d better.” Ludwig’s eyes went back to Bridgette, dropping down the front of her body and up again. A small smile played on his lips as amusement danced in his eyes. “Have you gained weight, Di?”

Her whole body stiffened. This was exactly what she’d been afraid of. When people have been around each other for long periods of time, they would be more likely to notice slight changes. What the hell was she supposed to say now?

“You did not just say that,” Roman said. Bridgette turned to look at him. Bad idea. Looking at him just made maintaining her charade harder. She still remembered the last time they were together when she was still working at the Red Lounge. “Do I make you nervous, Bridgette?” he had asked. The answer was, then and now, a resounding yes. Having to hide that fact from him was probably going to be the hardest thing about this entire mission.

“What?” Ludwig said with a laugh. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. She’s just looking more – curvy. It must be that lower section diet. Pub food looks good on you.” He gave her a playful wink. She was being teased by Ludwig-friggin-Tennebris. This was surreal.

“Never talk about a lady’s weight,” Roman said. Bridgette glanced at him and saw that he was smiling too.

Time to play this right, she thought. From now on she was going to live by the code – W.W.C.D. What Would Charlotte Do. Bridgette flipped them both off, stopping herself from cringing at the rude gesture, and turned to leave, calling over her shoulder, “I’m going to bed,” and quickly walked out of the room. Their laughter followed her out.

Review:

5 out of 5 stars

Wow. Janelle Stalder has outdone herself again!

Masked, the second in the New World series, follows our beloved characters once again, putting a little more focus on Roman and Bridgette this go around. But don’t let that put you off, you’ll enjoy the tension that mounts between these two as Bridgette is pretending to be Weapon X in the compound of her father’s enemy. But, will Bridgette have the guts to pull the trigger when the time comes?

Charlotte and Pete and the other “rebels” are fighting to get Bridgette out of that compound. But at what cost?

Things fall apart, secrets are revealed, and people fall in love. What more could you ask for in a novel?

I adored every single second of this novel, and I CANNOT wait until the next book!

Catch up on Switch, Book 1, before reading Masked!

Switch ebooksmAll’s fair in love and war.

Two thirds of the world’s population has been wiped out, devastated by the worst war earth has ever seen. Still standing amongst the ruins is a mind reader who finds herself on the wrong side of the war. Everyone does what they must to survive. When the rebels bent on bringing down the New World leader start to rise up, it is her job to make sure they stay down where they belong. That is, until one rebel sneaks past her defences and into her heart. Love will blossom from the ashes, but will it be enough to save them, or will it mean the end of them both?

 

About Janelle:

jsJanelle Stalder was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario. At an early age she developed a love for literature. Her debut novel, Eden, was the first book in a series of four, released in September of 2011. The second book, Eden-West, was released in July of 2012, and the third book, Eden-South was released in March of 2013. The fourth book of the Eden Series, Eden-East, will be release at the end of 2013. She is a strong supporter of other independent authors, and loves to interact with her readers. When she’s not writing, Janelle is at home with her husband, two children, Aiden and Elora, and her two furry children, Alice and Lily. She now resides in the small town in Ontario in her old, possibly haunted, century home.

Author Contact Information:

Facebook: Janelle Stalder

Twitter: @jmstalder

Website: www.janellestalder.com

Email: jmstalder@gmail.com

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