Bravery Not Included - Excerpt

Bravery Not Included launches my Amazon series. Here is the excerpt:

Being an Amazon didn’t automatically make you a morning person. “Whose idea was it to go so f’ing early?” Liesel Grant turned her head so her little sister wouldn’t see her stifle another yawn. She could always attribute the moisture in her eyes to the glare of headlights from other cars. Harriett saw anyway and laughed, the dork.

“It’ll give us more time to talk.” Harry grinned at her sister, annoyingly chipper and fully awake without the aid of caffeine. “This once-a-week get together has been canceled twice.”

 Liesel could hear the hurt in her sister’s voice. “I really am sorry I canceled last week.”

 “You’d better be. And you can prove just how sorry by buying breakfast.” Harriett kept her eyes on the road.

“Crap, Harry. I’ll do better—”

“What? Like it’s just you?” Her baby sister flipped her golden hair off her shoulder to look at Liesel. Then Harry looked back at the road and sighed. “How long since you’ve seen Karma for anything but babysitting? She doesn’t return my calls and I’ve not seen her for over a month.”

Liesel didn’t want to fight. The sun had to be up before people could fight. It was a rule. And if she tried to defend their older sister Karma, they’d fight. It wasn’t that she didn’t agree with Harriett. She did. But you stuck up for your sister.

Headlights flashed in their eyes again as they took the sharp corner. A Suburban ignored the twist in the road, popped the curb, hit the canal’s guardrail and kept going. The sound of steel folding like aluminum foil, ground down Liesel’s spine as the Suburban pushed through the metal barrier. The sound, like a fucking dog whistle, had all her senses on full alert. It switched Liesel to ready mode.

 “It’s going in.” Her sister Harry shifted gears and turned the wheel on the old pickup. The central canal would be high and swift with ice runoff. Harry straightened out and headed for the space of missing rail, her headlights cut across the early morning traffic as other cars stopped along the roadside. Before the truck halted, Liesel had her seatbelt off and door open. Harry was right behind her.

The engine’s heavy weight had pulled the vehicle nose-down into the water. The back-end of the suburban formed a new dock which swayed as the rapid current battered at its sides.

“They’re not coming out,” Liesel whispered to her sister. Oh, please no. Was there a mom and her children caught in there, the cabin filling with water and fear? She needed to save them.

Harry touched her arm. “Just because you’re more powerful than a locomotive,” she kept her voice low and looked directly into Liesel’s eyes, “doesn’t mean you have to play superman. Let the trained professionals handle this.”

The addictive drive to run into danger was part of her inner wiring. Add a loved one into the needs-saving category and need turned into instinct-driven process, right along with breathing air and pumping blood. “Harry, promise you’ll stay up here.” The only reason she wasn’t already in that water was Harry.

Harry crossed her arms and glared. There was no time. Every minute the oxygen the passengers needed to live slipped away. Heat flashed across her chest and roared through her head. She needed to save them. Move, move, move. “Stay. Up. Here.”

Liesel jumped in feet first and scissored her legs to keep her head above water. It was cold. Colder than drinking-from-the-hose cold. Liesel’s chest ached as she drew in a sharp breath. Glacier runoff kicked summer’s ass every time. Her sister yelled directions up on the bank, “Let’s get your car turned around there. You too. Turn on your lights so we can see.”

The twenty foot wide canal was easily fifteen feet deep. The slanted cement sides had cracked from overgrown vegetation. Liesel swam to the rear of the vehicle and pulled herself up on top of the car. Her wet jeans sucked to her legs like frozen saran wrap.

The back door didn’t have a handle, so she punched the rear window and two thirds of the glass crinkled like a massive spider web. Her second punch was at a corner of the window frame, angled slightly so it would bend, giving her a hand hold. Liesel tossed the glass to the side and the vehicle groaned and swayed with a slow-to-accelerate motion as the pressure leveled out. The vehicle’s back-end tilted down into the water and Liesel took a deep breath preparing to go under with it.

Even with the headlights from above, she could see little of the interior; a black on black comparison of images. Flat black. Shiny black. Less black. She moved in the less black area and reached the first rear seat. It was empty. As the car finally settled to the bottom of the canal, she bumped against the ceiling and started moving parallel, feeling disoriented.

There was a car seat, but it was empty. Desperate for air, she pushed back through the vehicle for the surface. She surged out of the water like soda in a shaken bottle.

The group of early commuters had rallied Good-Samaritan-style and waited on the bank with blankets. Two large men lay over the edge on their bellies, arms outstretched, ready. Another breath and she went back to the vehicle.

Was there a child floating loose in the darkness?

Was there only a driver left?

More familiar with the lay of the land, she made better time into the vehicle. Her body had adjusted to the cold. The rest of the forward seat was empty. No one in the passenger side. She unclicked the driver’s seatbelt. He was big. Maybe three-fifty. Maybe more. She wouldn’t be able to pull him back through the rear of the vehicle. Not enough clearance.

How long had she been down here? The sense of disorientation grew and she panicked. It felt like a tangle of burrs clawed up her throat and her sense of reality blinked off like a television, fuzzy grey at the edges. When she opened her mouth, ready to breathe in, large bubbles rippled out around her and she fought the urge a second longer. Turning to face the large windshield Liesel braced herself against the ceiling and kicked the windshield loose.

She pushed for the top, her lungs opening up so large in her chest she felt her ribs strain to keep them in place. She coughed and sputtered as she reached open air, trying to remove water from her mouth and nose while sucking in oxygen for her empty lungs. The current had carried her and the car farther down the canal and the helpful bystanders were trying to establish climbing ropes closer to the new location.

Harry watched from the bank and, seeing that Liesel’s arms were empty, jumped into the water to help. Damn it. No.

Going back was hard. Her body told her there was no way she was going down again and she fought it.

The man had floated to the top of the SUV, a tangled twist of limbs. She grabbed hold of him under his arms and tried to pull him out but part of him caught on part of the car. Harry swam past Liesel’s right side, perhaps checking that the driver was the only one. Liesel gave a quick jerk and the man came free. She surfaced a foot from the rescue team.

“Is there any more?” someone asked.

“I don’t think so. My sister is down checking.” Her stupidly brave and completely non-amazon sister. Liesel grasped the high cement wall with her cold finger tips. She realized the psychedelic blur of colors wasn’t a precondition of nearly blacking-out but rather emergency lights from a fire engine. The cavalry had arrived.

She placed her feet in the cracks the old tree roots had battled into the sidewall. With the man over her right shoulder, she lifted them both up, using only her left hand and her feet. She handed him up, like a wet ragdoll, kept her hands in place until she was sure they had him.

Then she turned at the waist, more than half out of the water and looked for Harry. Surely she had come up by now.


The vehicle headlights illuminated the opposite bank. Nothing.

Oh, god no. “Harry!”

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