Jigsaw

 

Barcelona writes for those of us who want intelligent protagonists and an intriguing mystery. – Cherry Adair, New York Times Bestselling Author

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Jigsaw, A Black Raven Novel – Excerpt


Of all the variations of hell Zeus had confronted in his life, this one would be the hardest to navigate. It was a hell that defied reason—a scorching, internal inferno that he’d created. He wasn’t a man who walked away from anything or anyone without closure. Except her, and now it was coming back to bite him in the ass.

Embrace the suck.

Over the years, the phrase had become a Black Raven mantra. When the going got tough, Black Raven agents powered through.
Embrace the suck and do the job. Get. The. Job. Done. Any way, any how.

This job, though, wasn’t going to be just a job. Walking through this fire-filled cauldron was going to test him in ways he didn’t want to think about, and that was even without worrying about the risks the ...

Of all the variations of hell Zeus had confronted in his life, this one would be the hardest to navigate. It was a hell that defied reason—a scorching, internal inferno that he’d created. He wasn’t a man who walked away from anything or anyone without closure. Except her, and now it was coming back to bite him in the ass.

Embrace the suck.

Over the years, the phrase had become a Black Raven mantra. When the going got tough, Black Raven agents powered through.
Embrace the suck and do the job. Get. The. Job. Done. Any way, any how.

This job, though, wasn’t going to be just a job. Walking through this fire-filled cauldron was going to test him in ways he didn’t want to think about, and that was even without worrying about the risks the job would present. While his thoughts raced with legitimate reasons he should refuse, adrenaline played tricks throughout his body. His dick had long ago sworn an oath of allegiance to her that produced a hard-on whenever he dwelled on what sex with her had been like. His dick rejoiced by hardening as his mind raced through the possibilities that lay in store. His palms became clammy. His heart pounded.

Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell.
“Zeus?”
“Dixon’s right. I’m in.”
“Maybe you should think about it.”
“Don’t sound so concerned. I can han—”
“If you say it’s just a job. That you’ll keep personal issues out of it,” Ragno retorted in a tone that was more worried than teasing, “I’ll strangle you next time I see you.”
“With you, I won’t even pretend.” He chuckled, though the sound came out more like a choke. “You’re damn straight it’s personal.”

The silky feel of Sam’s long blonde hair, the coolness in her ice-blue eyes, and the warmth of her ivory skin on his fingertips had been immediately imprinted into his psyche. On the outside, she was more ice than fire, but once he chipped away the icy coolness, the fire within burned so hot he’d never been able to get her out of his system. Memories of her urgent, demanding style of making love—a surprise at first, and positively addictive within seconds—had haunted him for years.

It’s well past time for those memories to die.
He’d do the job he was paid to do. She’d be safe. Personal issues wouldn’t interfere with that. Somehow, he’d make amends for what he’d done in their past. Not that she’d ever acted like she gave a damn, but his gut regretted what he’d done to her. His gut told him all kinds of things, and he had to figure out if he was right.
As his mind clicked into gear, he shook off the feeling that a freight train was bearing down on him. “Occurs to me this job could provide firsthand exposure to information for Jigsaw.”

Jigsaw was the code name for an intelligence gathering and assimilation program that Barrows designed, which Zeus and Sebastian had, in turn, marketed to the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency. In a rare move, DHS and NSA had acted together and hired Black Raven to use Jigsaw to assist them in their joint goal of defeating terrorism. The hiring decision—made just six months earlier—was top secret. With the off-the-record hiring decision made, Jigsaw was now more than a computer program; it was a highly lucrative, top-secret intelligence gathering job for Black Raven. Only a handful of people in the government—or even in Black Raven itself—knew the job existed.
“I thought of that as well,” Ragno said. “The more puzzle pieces we have, the better off Jigsaw will be. Right now we have no links in the data that can pinpoint where the next terrorist attack will be, or who it will come from.”

Puzzle pieces was Ragno’s term for cyber data, which Jigsaw accumulated, dissected, and manipulated, until the program made order out of seeming chaos. Jigsaw collected data of U.S. intelligence agencies, and also analyzed European, Asian, South American, and African intelligence gathering efforts. It didn’t ask for permission. It simply scrolled through cyber-data and took. The program didn’t limit its cyber-assimilation to intelligence agencies, either. It scrolled through world-wide networks and assembled cyber data without being detected. Personal phone calls, banking records, emails, text messages—in short, anything was fodder for Jigsaw. The data became pieces to the largest jigsaw puzzle ever conceived, with the pieces cyber-enhanced and sorted through by the brilliance of Barrows and his ability to engineer computer code that assimilated raw data into meaningful information.

The puzzle pieces would one day fit together. Not one minute too soon, because the goddamn terrorists needed to be stopped.
Zeus turned towards the reception hall. “Ragno, on top of the business aspects of the ITT job, I need your help with a personal issue. Keep this between us. Help me figure Sam out. I really only know the things about her that she told me, or that Samuel told me. I want to know everything about her that makes her act the way she acts, like she’s encrypted code. This time, I’m damn well going to crack it.”


Jigsaw, A Black Raven Novel - Reviews


A well-written mashup of thriller, political intrigue, terrorism, cyber-intelligence, second chances, romance, and sex.

-Liz Gavin, Review Blog

“Wow! What a ride! . . . Jigsaw is everything I expect in romantic suspense. It has the perfect balance of balance of sexy romance and edge-of-your-seat suspense.” –Long and Short Reviews, Review Blog

“[A] thrilling world of intrigue, terrorism, love, and hate, where her characters come to life in the pages of her book. The heroine has backbone and the hero is smart enough to let her do what she feels like she needs to do. The plot is incredibly unique and carefully thought out. . . . Ms. Barcelona is a master story-teller and readers will be coming back again and again.” – InD’Tale Magazine

“[A]bsolutely fantastic . . . Finally an author who understands romance readers aren’t delicate flowers who can’t handle kickass action ...

A well-written mashup of thriller, political intrigue, terrorism, cyber-intelligence, second chances, romance, and sex.

-Liz Gavin, Review Blog

“Wow! What a ride! . . . Jigsaw is everything I expect in romantic suspense. It has the perfect balance of balance of sexy romance and edge-of-your-seat suspense.” –Long and Short Reviews, Review Blog

“[A] thrilling world of intrigue, terrorism, love, and hate, where her characters come to life in the pages of her book. The heroine has backbone and the hero is smart enough to let her do what she feels like she needs to do. The plot is incredibly unique and carefully thought out. . . . Ms. Barcelona is a master story-teller and readers will be coming back again and again.” – InD’Tale Magazine

“[A]bsolutely fantastic . . . Finally an author who understands romance readers aren’t delicate flowers who can’t handle kickass action along with high levels of terror.” – SherrybytheSea, Amazon Review

“[A] well-written mashup of thriller, political intrigue, terrorism, cyber-intelligence, second chances, romance, and sex. The plot, although highly complex, is so engaging you’ll be glued to the pages so that you won’t miss anything.” – Liz Gavin, Review Blog

“Jigsaw rocks! [E]dge of your seat action and romance at its finest.” – J. Schultz, Amazon Review

“Fabulous . . . A must read page turner.” – L. Pleasant, Amazon Review

“[A]n exciting and spellbinding tale of terrorism, politics and global cooperation with a delicious counterpoint of lost love and dedication to ethics and the requirements of the job, no matter how unpalatable. . . . This series is a thought-provoking and thrilling read thus far and I definitely look forward to reading more about the sexy and extremely capable members of Black Raven.” – The Reading Addict, Review Blog

“Intrigue, terrorism, exhortation, bombs, blood, mayhem, and starcrossed lovers reuniting. At just over 400 pages, this was a perfect afternoon read for me. I couldn’t put it down, and found myself on the edge of my seat more than once. Well worth reading.” – ilookfamous, Amazon Review

“Can’t say enough wonderful things about this book! . . . The plot is timely and chilling but also very believable. . . . This book challenged me more than most because the plot was so involved and you never stop guessing who is behind all the trouble and why? ‘Jigsaw’ and the previous book ‘Shadows’ do all this and more for the reader!” – R. Dugan, Amazon Review

“Fascinating, thrilling, intense, heartfelt, romantic and wonderful. I could not stop reading it. I was biting nails, laughing and crying. What a wonderful story.” – D. Laine, Amazon Review


Jigsaw Book Club Discussion Questions


  1. Jigsaw’s lead characters, Samantha Dixon Fairfax and Jesus (“Zeus”) Hernandez have personal history that predates the opening of the story. In light of their history, what do you think of Samantha’s resistance to Zeus’s attempts to rekindle their relationship?
  2. Zeus believes Samantha is “the one” for him. Have you ever felt like this about anyone? How long into the relationship did it take you to know it? Do you believe in love at first sight?
  3. In your opinion, how were Zeus and Samantha ...

  1. Jigsaw’s lead characters, Samantha Dixon Fairfax and Jesus (“Zeus”) Hernandez have personal history that predates the opening of the story. In light of their history, what do you think of Samantha’s resistance to Zeus’s attempts to rekindle their relationship?
  2. Zeus believes Samantha is “the one” for him. Have you ever felt like this about anyone? How long into the relationship did it take you to know it? Do you believe in love at first sight?
  3. In your opinion, how were Zeus and Samantha alike, and how were they different?
  4. Do you have an Achilles’ heel? Can you identify the Achilles’ heel of both Zeus and Samantha?
  5. How did you feel about the level of sensuality in Jigsaw?
  6. What did you think about the fictional court of the International Terrorism Tribunal? Do you believe countries should unify their efforts in combating terrorist groups? How?
  7. Were the motives of the fictional terrorist groups identified in Jigsaw plausible?
  8. Who was your favorite character, and why? Your least favorite, and why?
  9. Settings in Jigsaw include Paris, France; London, England; Miami, Florida; and the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico. Have you visited any of these places? Were the settings in the story consistent with your impression of these places?
  10. What is your favorite French food?
  11. Have you read Deceived and Shadows, Stella Barcelona’s prior novels? How would you compare this novel with Deceived and Shadows? What did you think of Gabe, Zeus’s brother, who will be featured in the next Black Raven novel, Concierge? Did Gabe appear in Jigsaw enough for you to make observations about his personality?
  12. Can you imagine a scenario where you would hire Black Raven Private Security Contractors? Can you identify with the Black Raven saying, “embrace the suck?” What does this saying mean to you?