“Tense, breathless, multi-layered– and highly recommended.” –Lee ChildA BLOOD-SOAKED MATTRESS. A TERRORIST ATTACK. AMONG THEM, A TRAITOR. BETH DIDN’T TRUST ROBERT. NOW HE’S MISSING AND BETH IS BEING BLAMED.
Sara and Beth built a multi-million dollar business and act as anti-terrorism consultants. Now their business and friendship are strained because Beth is leery of Sara’s husband. When he goes missing and is verified kidnapped, authorities consider Beth their prime suspect.
Then their hometown, Seagrove Village, Florida, is rocked by an act of terrorism, and Beth doesn’t know who to trust. Someone close to her is connected to the attack, but who? Is there a connection to Crossroads Crisis Center? In the midst of the confusion and fear, Beth finds herself attracted to a man from her past, the former Shadow Watcher, Joe. She knows she shouldn’t fall in love with him–she can’t resist or even explain their bond. And as her world unravels around her, she wonders…
Will the truth set her free or ruin her life? Is it possible to be pushed beyond redemption?
“Vicki Hinze has… talent for transforming the unlikely into something beautiful.” –Publishers Weekly
“Not This Time by Vicki Hinze is the conclusion *sob* to her Crossroads Crisis Center series. Hinze writes top-notch romantic suspense. She tackles tough topics including human trafficking and domestic violence, and her characters are great. Hinze does a fantastic job with her romantic leads. She knows how to write swoon-worthy heroes! Her bad guys *semi-spoiler alert* (and gals) *end semi-spoiler* are also very well done, even sympathetic at times. I was really hoping that this series would be longer, but Hinze has a new title, Survive the Night, coming in October from Love Inspired Suspense that looks like the first in a new series so Yay!!!”–ADDLIBRARIAN
“Tense, breathless, multi-layered – and highly recommended.”
–Lee Child, International bestseller
“Vicki Hinze’s new thriller, NOT THIS TIME, hones suspense to a razored edge. Riveting, relentless, and fraught with betrayals, here is a novel that cuts both to the bone and to the heart. Not This Time should be retitled Not to be Missed.”
–James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil Colony
“If you’re not already hooked on Vicki Hinze’s Crossroads Series, you will be this time. NOT THIS TIME is a tense and involving tale of crime and violence that takes the reader from the deepest darkness of the human heart to the light of redemption.”
–Susan Wiggs, NYT bestselling author
“In NOT THIS TIME, Vicki Hinze has created a tense, suspenseful story, peopled with vivid characters and set against a backdrop of deadly danger. I know I can always count on Vicki for an absorbing story I’ll remember long after I’ve closed the book, and NOT THIS TIME was no exception. Do yourself a favor and pick this book as your next read.”
–Kay Hooper, NYT bestselling author
“Hinze paints her tale on a broad canvas, her writing expertly controlled, rich in imagination, deep in characterization. It’s a race against time and shadowy instincts, the narrative loud with surprises, the premise all-too-believable.”
–Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Jefferson Key
“Vicki Hinze has created a “Keeper!’ Not This Time is engrossing, entertaining; the pages are filled with excellently drawn and very real people, and a story that keeps you turning the pages!”
–Heather Graham, NYT bestselling author
Interview in THE BIG THRILL
Interview at Suspense Zone
Book Specs: Crossroads Crisis Center series, Book 3, Random House Religious Waterbrook-Multnomah, ISBN-10: 1601422075 ISBN-13: 978-1601422071 February 21, 2012, Formats: TRADE Paperback LARGE PRINT AUDIO
Reviewed by Joy H. for Readers Favorite “Vicki Hinze pens another intriguing thriller with so many twists and turns in the plot that it will keep you on your toes and make you guess what is gonna happen next! The characters are unique and well-developed, intriguing and very well-liked. This book is full of just what we want in a thriller-suspense. With the crime, attacks, kidnapping, murders, and the constant fear of the characters that someone is after them, this book will captivate you until you read the last pages! If you like thrillers/suspense/crime/murder mysteries this book is a must for you. You will not be disappointed in this latest book by Vicki Hinze. I am eagerly awaiting the next book from this author. Go out, no, run out and grab a copy of this awesome book to read and enjoy!“
“Hinze has written many award winning books. She uses her skill to take risks with writing and genre to excellent effects. Definitely a book to be enjoyed by all readers.” –Suite 101
“Oh My Word…i just came off a wild ride…or, a wild read. Not This Time by Vicki Hinze is a intense novel, full of surprising twists and turns with a satisfying end. The third book in the Crossroads Crisis Center it can easily stand alone. Vicki Hinze is an awesome suspense author, and I found it very difficult to put this novel down, or away for even a little bit, as I needed to find out what happened next.” –Reviewing Novels On Line
“Not This Time is as much about second chances as it is taking a stand against evil.
“Although books of this genre are usually geared toward a female audience, Hinze develops enough action and plot twists to keep readers of both genders engaged. Its jumble of characters can seem a bit confusing, but every mystery needs a large supporting cast to keep us guessing. If you were to suggest Not This Time to the man in your life, he probably won’t find it that easy to put down. After all, love that can save one’s life isn’t just for women, is it?” –Crosswalk
“Seriously mind-boggling good. Guaranteed to induce a rabid-reading frenzy in even the most stalwart of readers. You will be awestruck, dumbstruck and just plain struck by the intrepid plot. Impeccably paced, Hinze expertly balances suspense and romance and throws in enough angst to keep her readers on their toes for the duration. And the romance? Intimacy leaps off the page even though the hero and heroine spend most of the book apart. How did Hinze manage that? Read and find out. Delicious!“ –Best Reads
“NOT THIS TIME is a good read and not to be missed by those who love mysteries.”–Fresh Fiction
“With it’s intense, high velocity plot, “Not This Time” is a suspense filled novel that kept me turning the pages until its end. Several subplots that might or might not be connected kept me guessing about a potential outcome for the story. Several characters were possible candidates for the role of bad guy (or gal) but it was difficult to discern the culprit(s) until near the end. Every time I KNEW the answers, the author threw in a new twist that changed everything. ‘Not This Time’ has all the required elements for a great romantic suspense novel. I highly recommend it to lovers of the genre.” –Daysong Reflections
“I was highly entertained, challenged in my faith and would definitely recommend this novel to others.” –Kate, Goodreads
“Completely different than any other Christian fiction I’ve read, and it was a good different.” –Julie, Amazon
“Vicki pulls out all the stops and brings you a story that grabs you from the start with a wild bizarre wedding reception with the endearing characters you’ve enjoyed in all the books to wild and crazy action that has characters running for their lives. This book will keep you on the edge of our seat as the mystery unravels. You’ll be staying up late because you just have to read how this all works out. I know I did. That’s what I love about Vicki’s books; she makes me care about her characters and situations at the same time challenges me and my faith. Love her books and looking forward to the next series.”–The Suspense Zone
“Plunging her readers into the middle of the action from the beginning, Vicki Hinze delivers an electrifying plot in Not This Time. I hadn’t read the first two books in the Crossroads Crisis Center and consequently found the beginning a bit confusing because there were so many characters to meet. However, that didn’t stop me from quickly becoming totally engrossed in the novel. The characters are so captivating it made me wish all the more that I’d read Forget Me Not and Deadly Ties first.
“Hinze has definitely secured herself a spot on my “be-on-the-lookout-for-more-of-her-books” list. I strongly recommend Not This Time to readers searching for exhilarating suspense without sacrificing a clean plot.” –Radiant Lit
“While this is a Christian thriller, it’s not slap you in the face religion. The characters faith, or lack, is subtly woven in throughout the story. Reliance on God is evident and comforting. I really love how this author was able to make the story exciting and fluid without having to remove the presence of God in the character’s lives.” — M. Rogers
“Suspense. Danger. Emotional and spiritual turmoil. Murder and mayhem. And a nice little thread of romance. Not This Time has it all and then some… Vicki Hinze knows how to write a novel. Packed with suspense, intrigue, and danger hand in hand with sweet romance, redemption and the unfailing grace of God, Not This Time is an experience. Don’t miss it.” — Della, Goodreads
“If you like contemporary thrillers ripped from the headlines, Not This Time is for you! Hinze’s stories are “destined to thrill, fated to heal!” They are intense, overflowing with intrigue and full of hope and faith. “Not all is as it appears” with this story’s multiple layers, twists and turns and unexpected surprises. After the epilogue, the discussion questions are pinpoint poignant and will nudge the reader into digging beyond the forefront themes of betrayal, faith and redemption.” –Dale Lewis, Titletrakk
“Hinze maintains a fast pace throughout the novel keeping the suspense going. Intriguing characters made me wish all the more that I’d read Forget Me Not and Deadly Ties first so that I could have better understood and known them and their background from the start. I must even admit I found myself developing a bit of a crush on Beth’s hero, Joe. The way he talks to her and looks out for her is enough to win any girl’s heart. I definitely recommend this book.” –Fiction Addict
“The action in NOT THIS TIME starts off running and does not stop, making this novel a very exciting finale. Secondary characters are many. They are dynamic and round out the story, but it’s a guessing game to tell the good guys from the bad. The group NINA is bent on destroying the town of Seagrove Village, this time by chemical weapons and good old fashioned murder. As Beth tries to keep Sara safe, she fears she is trusting the wrong people. NOT THIS TIME is a thrilling end to a great series!” –Diana Risso, Romance Reviews Today
“Terrorist! Suspense! Intrigue! All packed into this book.”–Very Godley
” From page one of Not This Time, I said to myself, “Hang on girl, this is gonna be a good one!” Hinze is a master at weaving a story full of intrigue, faith, love, redemption and plain ole “sit on the edge of your recliner” suspense.” –Jennifer C. Mcilwain
“An exhilarating action-packed thriller.” – Harriet Klausner
“I enjoyed the fact that for every mention of evil there was always something good to overshadow it. This series is strong on faith and redemption, two traits that we should carry with us at all times. In the end, from this guy’s perspective, this book has plenty of suspense and intrigue to satisfy any guy’s interest and just enough romance for him to remember that special woman in his life.” –LibraryBoy
ⓒ 2011, Vicki Hinze
1Saturday, June 5 at 6:00 p.m., Seagrove Village, Florida
He was late. The country club’s parking lot was nearly full, but Detective Jeff Meyers spotted an empty slot in the last of five rows. He parked and cut the engine, grabbed the invitation to Harvey and Roxy Talbot’s renewal of their wedding vows off the center console, and then rushed through the humid heat back to the main entrance.
Cold air blasted him in the face. He breathed deeply, relishing it. No doubt all the Crossroads Crisis Center staff was already out in the courtyard. He hated to show up for a classy event late and sweaty, but thanks to clashing factions over the coming mayoral election at Ruby’s Diner, there hadn’t been time to shower and change clothes.
Bypassing a grouping of sofa and chairs, Jeff headed toward the back of the building. With all its polish and gold-framed original art, the club was too elegant for his tastes, but the people were friendly enough to make it semicomfortable. There was no need to ask anyone where to go, which was a good thing since not a soul was in sight— kind of funny, that—but Annie and Nora, the self-appointed Seagrove Village wedding planners, had made sure if a body found the front door, there’d be no confusion.
Rose petals on the cool marble floor created a path between stretched white columns to a set of French doors that led outside to the courtyard. A sign would have worked, but the club didn’t allow them. There were limits to its tolerance for things that pricked at its perception of class.
Since Roxy had her heart set on the inner courtyard, they had scheduled the ceremony later in the day to avoid the relentless heat, but it still radiated. With reluctance Jeff left the cool lobby and closed the French doors behind him. Doing his job or not, he would get his ears blistered by Nora for being late. His only hope was that the village matriarch was so focused on the ceremony she wouldn’t notice. She was getting up in age and bat-blind, seeing walls only when she bumped into them, but Jeff had never known Ben Brandt’s housekeeper to miss a thing that mattered to her, which meant Jeff was going to get reamed. He resigned himself to it.
Nora had put everyone on notice. This ceremony had to be perfect for Harvey and Roxy. Dr. Harvey Talbot worked at Ben’s crisis center and Nora worked for Ben. That put Harvey under Nora’s protective wing as one of her “boys.” She was beloved in the village, and anyone who messed with her would answer to everyone—Jeff included.
Truly, Harvey and Roxy getting back together was a miracle, and all the villagers were glad to see it. They never should have gotten divorced. Harvey hadn’t wanted it, but Roxy was with the FBI and she’d pulled a case that involved NINA—Nihilists in Anarchy—a group of terrorists with a criminal wing so ruthless, it gave Homeland Security, law enforcement, and crooks cold chills. Roxy had divorced Harvey to get him out of the line of fire so NINA wouldn’t hurt him or use him to get to her. Not that she’d explained that to Harvey, which is why he’d been as miserable as the men on death row. Apparently, so had she.
Jeff followed the rose-petal trail onto a stone walkway that wound between fat shrubs and fountains that cooled the air with a welcome mist. He’d like to pause to cool down but didn’t dare; if he was lucky, he’d get to hear the “I do agains.”
Intended to seat fifty, the intimate courtyard was surrounded on all sides by brick buildings that held in the heat. He rushed his steps, rounded a cluster of petite palms and spiny palmettos—and came to a dead halt.
Bodies lay everywhere.
All the white-slatted chairs stood empty, and every guest who should have been in one was sprawled on the ground. Under the arch draped in leafy greenery and pink roses lay Harvey and Roxy and Reverend Brown.
Jeff didn’t dare move. Hyperalert, he scanned the scene. The Crossroads group was clustered together. Nora lay facedown, her arm outstretched as if reaching for her companion, Clyde Parker, who was flat on his back with a toppled chair parked half on his stomach. It wasn’t moving. With breaths, that chair should be moving.
Jeff whipped out his phone and hit speed dial, phoning the station. Busy. No surprise; most who’d answer were here, supine on the grass. The silence in the courtyard was deafening. They all lay motionless. What had happened here?
His heart thudding, he pulled his gun, continued searching. Nothing. Fearing a trap, he checked the rooftops but saw only clear blue sky. The lingering scent of something pungent burned his nose. It sure wasn’t the flowers, but he couldn’t tag its source. The building’s walls had trapped the scent, but now a breeze stirred. Whatever the smell, it was faint and fading fast; another minute or two and it’d be gone.
Chemical. Get out of here. You’re getting exposed.
He ignored the warning. He was already exposed, and these people mattered to him; he couldn’t just leave them. Keeping his eyes pealed, he thumbed off the safety and readied for rapid firing, then moved toward the people closest to him: Beth Dawson and her SaBe, Inc. co-owner Sara Jones-Tayton. Sara’s husband, Robert, wasn’t with her. Strange. He seldom missed a social event, and Sara rarely attended one without him. Beth and Sara volunteered at Crossroads, kept the center’s computers safe from hackers, and helped out Quantico when it got in a pinch. Crumpled on the grass behind the chairs, they too must have arrived late and not made the last half-dozen steps to their seats.
His mouth went stone dry. These were all his friends—many of them, since birth. Were they all dead?
Nothing. Not one unexpected sight or sound or movement. He tried the station again. Still busy.
A table draped in crisp white linen stood between the others and him. Flowers and crystal filled one end; a two-tier wedding cake, the other. The breeze bent all the leaves to the north and that faint, pungent smell had disappeared. Whatever it had been, it’d dissipated.
Get out, Jeff. Wait for Hazmat.
The internal battle escalated to a war. He should wait for a hazardous-material team, but his heart wouldn’t let him. Covering his mouth and nose with his handkerchief, he stepped behind the table and bumped his back against the brick building, then slid down the rough wall to Beth. Don’t let her be dead. Please.
In a cold sweat, he squatted and pressed his fingers to her throat. A steady thump pulsed against his fingertips. She was alive. Thank God.
“Beth?” No answer. “Beth?” They had dated a couple times. He had been crazy about her, but she just hadn’t been into him so they settled for being friends. “Can you hear me?” No response.
What about the others?
No. Backup first. You need backup.
Reverting to his life as a beat cop, he reached for the radio clipped to his collar before remembering he no longer had one and his phone was already in his hand. Darting, wary, he tried the station yet again. Finally, it rang.
“Seagrove Village Police.” The rookie, Kyle Perry. “It’s Jeff Meyer. Who’s there with clout?”
“The chief’s in, but he’s in conference.”
“I can’t, Detective. He said not to disturb him.”
It was quicker to switch than to fight a rookie under orders. “Who else is there?”
Hank would do. “Get him on the phone.”
A moment later, Hank came on the line. “Hey, why aren’t you at the ceremony?”
“I just got here. Everyone’s out cold, Hank.” Jeff briefed him, requested backup, and then added, “I need a Hazmat team—medical too, but put them in a holding pattern away from the building until Hazmat gives an all-clear.”
“What do you think happened?”
Sara Jones-Tayton was breathing. Shallow and slow, pulse thready but there. “I don’t know.” Jeff stood, his knees crackling. Still no one conscious in sight. He moved on to the next closest group. “No signs of a struggle. They’re just all on the ground, out cold.”
“White powder? Oily residue? Funny smell? Anything like that?”
“No residue or powder. I caught a whiff of something when I arrived, but it’s gone now. There’s nothing else to see—wait a second.” Beth lay on her side, her hand buried beneath her. He looked closely, then checked the others, homing in on their hands. Beth, Sara, Kelly Walker, and Lisa Harper all had strings tied to their fingers— and Roxy did too. “Five women have strings tied to their fingers. Looks like monofilament.”
“Appears so.” He followed the lines to where they converged. “All five lead to one place—the wedding cake.” Jeff double-checked, then added, “To the bride. She’s half buried in the bottom layer of the cake—not Roxy, the plastic bride that usually sits on top of the cake.” He moved closer. The plastic was cracked, its edges jagged. “The plastic groom was ripped off.” Jeff checked beneath the table. “He’s missing.”
“The plastic groom is missing.” Hank stuttered. “Harvey—”
“Then what does it mean?”
“I don’t know, but this was no accident.” Not with those strings. Jeff didn’t like where his mind was going, yet he’d have to be a brick short to ignore the obvious. “Professionals knocked out everyone and singled out specific targets.”
“Oh, man. Not NINA again.” Hank sounded as nervous as Jeff felt.
The international terrorist organization that, to fund its ideological objectives, black-marketed anything of value—weapons, intelligence, drugs, people. “It’s crossed my mind already.” They’d had two run-ins with NINA; of course it’d crossed his mind.
“I could see NINA coming after Kelly or Lisa—and Roxy busted up their human-trafficking operation—but why Beth and Sara? They can’t identify anyone in NINA.”
“They helped us take NINA down in the human-trafficking case.” When it came to computers, Beth and Sara were two of the best on the planet. Their SaBe was a megasuccessful software company, and everyone in the village knew they helped out the government all the time. Quantico tried repeatedly to hire Beth but couldn’t afford her, and before Sara had married Robert Tayton, she’d spent nearly as much time at Quantico as she had at home. NINA could want them both out of the way for that. “Revenge, maybe?”
Jeff turned to examine the next of the fallen. Darla Green, the wife of the deceased mayor, lay alone. Jeff wiggled his fingers into position on her throat. Breathing. He moved on.
Hank grunted. “NINA can’t afford idle revenge. If they’re behind this—”
“Who else has the ability or guts to pull off something like this?”
“No one who’d actually do it. But that means there’s more to it than revenge.”
“We don’t even know what it is yet.” Jeff kept moving through the crowd, person to person, finding throat pulses and growing more and more relieved. “Whatever it is, we never saw it coming. They came in and did what they wanted—they could have killed them all.” That truth sent shards of fear slicing through Jeff’s veins. His friends—all his friends—could have been murdered on his watch.
“But they didn’t kill them.”
“Not this time.” Jeff gazed down, then glanced over, seemingly seeing double senior women. His heart sank, then slammed against his chest wall. “Maybe something is still in the air, Hank. I’m seeing two Noras.”
“Probably Nathara, Nora’s identical twin. She’s here from New Orleans to take Nora to some eye specialist.”
“Oh.” Jeff had never seen her before. He blew out a relieved breath and checked them both. Strong. Steady. He moved on, past Nora and her sister, and placed his fingertips on the next throat. Nothing.
He tried again.
Tried a third time but it just wasn’t there. No pulse. A lump rose in Jeff’s throat. “Oh, man.”
“What?” Jeff’s eyes burned. Bury it. You’re a professional. Remember it. His throat went thick and strain flooded his voice. “You’ll need to come out too, Hank. I—I, um, can’t lock down the crime scene by myself, and the rookie won’t be much help.”
“Got it. Backup’s already on the way.”
Not the kind of help he required. “I need backup and high-powered help.”
“How high?” Uncertainty elevated Hank’s voice. A tear leaked from Jeff’s eye. “All the way.” Hank was sharp on the uptake. The chief was too. They’d know to contact Homeland Security and to get the FBI on-scene immediately.
“Al won’t like it. Not without some preliminary work being done first.” Hank Green was wrong on that. “The chief will dial the phone.” Jeff looked into sightless eyes that once had twinkled kindness and his own vision blurred. He gently swept the eyelids closed with his fingertips and searched for his voice. “This has to be some kind of chemical attack. We don’t have the resources—”
“Let’s don’t jump to conclusions, Jeff.”
He started snapping photos with his cell phone. Hank, not the chief, was reluctant to call in outsiders. Why? Protecting the village tourism? He was running for mayor… “You either jump or get dragged into this one, Hank. Chemical is all that makes sense.”
“We don’t have to rush to judgment. They’re alive. We can—”
“I’m afraid we do need to rush,” Jeff interrupted. The first forty-eight hours were critical to successfully solving any case. Stats backed him up on that. “We have a fatality .”
A long second passed. Then another. “Visitor or villager?”
Jeff’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat. No way was he identifying this victim over the phone. Word would sweep through Seagrove like wildfire. “A villager.” He moved over to the cake, snapped a shot. A curled edge of paper was half buried in the frosting. “Whoever did this left a message. It’s attached to the bride buried in the cake.”
“Can you read it without disturbing it?”
Jeff moved around, positioned at an angle and the bold black print became clear. “I can read one word.” Chills slammed through his chest, spread like fingers to his limbs. He jerked away, stiffened.
“What does it say?”