Winner: Indie Book of the Day Award
What it's aboutAnonymous. That was Jennifer's life. But when she survived a domestic terrorist attack and her last-minute escape became the iconic image of the event, that life was over. Wanting only to disappear and become just another face in the crowd, she cashed in on her unwanted fame and moved to a small town, hidden away and safe.
Retired. That was Sean's life. A former covert operative — the kind the government denies exists — he'd been pushed unwillingly into a life of suburban peace and quiet. But his retirement ended when he saw Jennifer's rescue; from then on he only wanted to find those responsible for the attack, even if it meant turning rogue.
What Jennifer and Sean will both find is that nothing goes to plan, and their paths will cross in a way neither could have foreseen.
Ashes is the first in a two-book series.
What the reviews are saying"From the mind-set of a survivor of a terrorist attack, as well as a well-meaning retired government operative bent on revenge, it flows effortlessly between the two while also drawing a vivid picture of both characters' emotional state... It will resonate long past the last page, and leave you longing for the sequel." - Literary R&R
"Had me glued by the first few pages... the most suspenseful story that I have read in a long time." - The Reading Cafe
"Ms. Cozy has a remarkable way with words, and has made Ashes a definite must-read novel." - The Bibliophilic Book Blog
"Cozy did a superb job of weaving an intricate web that will draw the reader in and unable to tear themselves away from the ending... I crave books that make readers question their beliefs, that leave room for speculation and end with a bang. Cozy satisfied this craving and left me hungry for more. I look forward to the second book in this series." - Erica Moulton, POD People
Available in print, and in ebook for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo readers.
Read an excerpt from Ashes
The house was like the others on the block: small, undistinguished. The lawn was a vibrant green well-nurtured by the Florida rain. Jade plants and bird-of-paradise, low-maintenance and pleasant enough to look at, flanked the doorway. The mailbox was bright white, the numbers 606 and the name Anderson neatly lettered in black. The red flag on the mailbox was down; no letters to go out today. A dwelling unremarkable in every way.
The man who walked out of the house was equally unremarkable in appearance. He wore running shorts and a T-shirt that suggested people visit Reno, Nevada; he himself had never been there. He stood in his driveway and stretched, warming up for his morning run. If someone had looked closely they would have noticed a wiry strength that set him apart from an ordinary runner; would have seen watchfulness in his eyes as he gave the street a quick up-and-down glance, a careful assessment of details.
But no one looked closely. In this central Florida town, few people paid attention to much of anything. Not that he cared. After all, it was the reason he was here.
He jogged in place a moment, then began his run. Up and down the suburban streets with names like Sunflower and Cypress and Sycamore. He had seven different routes for his run, one for each day of the week. It kept the routine from getting stale, kept his observation of the surroundings sharp. There was no need for it in this place, after all this time, but old habits died hard.
Old fears died hard as well.
He ran until his lungs burned and ran some more, as he always did. He came back, as he always did, with his shirt and shorts plastered to him with sweat; with the nagging feeling that he had not run enough; with the unwelcome awareness that he was not as fast as he used to be. As he walked up the drive to his house he saw his next-door neighbor, out tending her roses. He went quickly through his bag of disguises and came up with the placid suburban smile. “Hello, Gladys.”
“Oh, hello Mr. Anderson,” she called out. “You know, you shouldn’t run like that when it gets so hot. You’ll have a stroke.”
“I'll be careful. I promise,” he said.
She waved goodbye to him and watched him go inside. Such a nice young man (Gladys was pushing ninety and any person under sixty qualified as young to her). She felt sorry for him, here on his own. An early retiree, he said. He’d taken a big pension and lived here. Alone. No wife, no children. But so nice and polite.
She went about tending her roses, unaware that her next-door neighbor had not been a telecommunications professional, and that he was not a retiree — at least, not the usual kind of retiree. And that his name was not Anderson.
His name was Sean Kincaid, and like everyone else in America he watched the day’s events unfold on television. It was the time-honored ritual. They’d done it when Kennedy was shot and they’d done it for the space shuttle explosion, for Waco and Oklahoma City, for 9/11. And, he thought with a sardonic grin quite unlike the smile he’d bestowed on Gladys, they’d likely do it for the Four Horsemen.
Why not? What could be more truly American than to watch disaster from the comfort of an easy chair, the remote ready to skip from network to network, snacks just a few steps away in the kitchen? The audiences at the gladiatorial matches in Rome never had it half so good.
It was strange to be on the observer’s side of the television screen. But this was the first catastrophic event to rock the U.S. since they’d put Sean out to pasture, and it was apt that he sit here in his bungalow with its tasteful Navajo White exterior, and watch the horror unfold on the idiot box like the rest of his neighbors.
It made him one of them. After all, blending in had always been his best talent. The Chameleon, Fredericks had called him. Not that Sean had liked the nickname, or Fredericks, either. Fredericks had clever nicknames for all the agents, and for himself as well; thin and fast and wiry, he’d called himself the Snake. Behind Fredericks’ back they’d called him the Ferret, hyperactive and sticking his nose where it was likely to get him in trouble. Though, when Sean thought about it, maybe the Snake had been appropriate; when Fredericks had come back from the mission in Chechnya it had been in pieces. Don’t tread on me.
Sean blended in, more than he wanted to. What he saw on the TV should have made him angry. It should have roused the quiet, cold anger that made everyone — even his superiors — walk carefully around him. The Chameleon could bite. He should have said, How could you not see this was going to happen? When a wasp stings you, don’t shoo it away. Kill the son of a bitch before he brings his whole nest down on you.
But he was out now, had been for four years — long enough to let cheerful cynicism take over. It was what all the “retirees” did. That, or eat a bullet one night, and despite everything he still liked to live.
Even in Florida.
Sean wondered if any of the old crowd — those who were left — were watching. Wondered what Robert, especially, thought of it all. Wondered if Halsey was regretting all those walking papers he’d issued.
He hoped Monique was nowhere near L.A., but did not worry too much. Her business travels seldom took her to the Left Coast, as she called it, and no doubt she was safe from this trouble. He might call, though. Just to be sure.
The volume of the TV was low; his experienced eyes saw more than any newscaster could tell him. A federal building in Los Angeles, half of it torn away by a bomb blast, the other half ready to collapse at any moment. Soon, it would be very soon. Pieces were coming down already, the whole thing was beginning to shiver like a man in a dying tremor. Anyone who wasn’t out by now was most likely —
The camera whipped from the newscaster to the building. They’d all seen it.
There. Coming out of the building. A young woman, mid-twenties, in a gray skirt and pink sweater. She knew what was happening; Sean could not read her expression but saw her fear in the way she ran.
He had been sitting back in his chair, watching disaster unfold. Now he leaned forward. His hand crept to the TV’s remote and he turned up the volume.
“A person just got out of the building,” the newscaster was saying in a surprisingly composed voice. “This is the first we’ve seen come out in almost a half hour and...Oh God.”
The building was coming down.
“Holy fucking shit!” yelled a voice from somewhere off camera, the live feed uncensored. America had bigger problems than profanity today.
Down. It was down, and a huge cloud of dust and debris billowed out, swallowing up the woman in the gray skirt.
Babble of voices from the TV.
“—chances of survival are—”
A firefighter ran into the dust cloud.
Sean waited. They all did, millions across the nation forced into an unwilling communion, all waiting to see if the woman was going to make it.
Seconds passed. He wanted to look at his watch to see how long, but dared not take his eyes off the screen.
Something coming through the dust cloud. Blurred, indistinct. Then, a firefighter, carrying something in his arms. The woman. For a moment, mere silhouettes in the dust, they might have been lovers, he carrying her away to some romantic destination. Then they were out of the dust cloud, into the clear.
Sean leaned forward, closer to his television. For the first time, something flickered behind his eyes.
Both firefighter and woman were covered with dust. Dove-gray with it, they reminded Sean of the human statues in Pompeii caught by the volcano’s ashes. Her left arm dangled limply, broken. Her scalp was lacerated and blood trickled down the side of her head, making dark trails through the dust. Her shoes were gone, her feet scored and bloody. Her right hand clutched at the firefighter’s coat, and he cradled her in his arms as if she was a weary child who needed to be carried to bed.
Sean, quite unaware of what he was doing, rose from his chair. He knelt in front of the television and placed a hand on the screen, as if he could reach across the miles to the two people there. He watched as the woman let her head fall against the firefighter’s shoulder and she began to cry, tears mingling with her blood. Sean's eyes, which had looked on countless sights of destruction and death with nothing but businesslike detachment, brimmed with tears.