Hi Tee and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Tough Justice!
Hi everyone! It’s so exciting to celebrate the release of Tough Justice with you!!
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
When a lethal opioid cocktail hits the streets of Denver, a DEA agent and an ER doctor are forced to put aside their mutual animosity and team up to combat the deadly concoction and track down the source.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Okay, so this is 5 sentences, not 5 lines…
“MOS arriving now!” one of the nurses called out from the hospital’s emergency room desk.
Dr. Tori Sampson stood just outside ER 2, waiting for the ambulance to roll in with a “member of service,” either a police officer, firefighter, or EMS injured on duty.
Seconds later, a large man wearing black cargo pants, a black shirt, and a gun strapped to his thigh, along with Aiko, one of the nurses who’d been waiting curbside to assist, rushed a stretcher through the ER doors. A paramedic held a bag-valve mask over the patient’s mouth and nose, squeezing the bag, while another paramedic administered walking chest compressions as he kept pace with the stretcher. More uniformed officers crowded in behind them.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- I interviewed a lot of medical personnel for this book, and oh my god, I will do my best to never, ever write another book with so much medical stuff. Not being in the medical profession, it was difficult and time-consuming to nail down all the deets of the ER and field medical treatment in this story. Everything has to be perfect, and wow…never again! That said, it was really interesting to talk to ER doctors and paramedics.
- I was so happy to finally write a book that wasn’t set in New York or New Jersey. I lived in Colorado for five years and absolutely loved it. There’s a car chase scene that takes place on the road where I used to live. As I was writing that scene, I could recall every curve of the road, every streetlight and every ramp to the nearby highway. It was like being back there again!
- Thor, the courageous and protective Belgian Malinois K-9 hero in Tough Justice, has a soft spot for cats. He’s a cat-whispering dog. Who knew there was such a thing? I think I just invented it!
- An unexpected side benefit to writing this book was that I renewed many old friendships with those I left behind in Colorado. I needed to verify some medical aspects specific to Denver, and one of my colleague-friends is now chief of security for a major Denver hospital. Another friend hooked me up with an ATF canine handler for book 2 of this series, Burning Justice. It was great to reconnect with everyone.
- My mother gave me the foundation and love I have for gardening. She adored her perennial garden, and she also loved houseplants. One of the things she taught me long ago was how to make terrariums. Every character in a book needs a hobby, something they do for fun, relaxation, diversion… So you’ll see terrariums nestled somewhere on the pages of Tough Justice.
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Given his family history with the medical profession, initially Deck doesn’t trust Tori, but he sees she’s totally in command of her environment – the ER. She’s like a drill sergeant, barking out orders as she saves his friend’s life. He admires her competence enough to put his personal feelings of mistrust aside. Doesn’t hurt that she’s the prettiest doctor he’s ever met and has fiery green eyes that slowly begin to melt away the wall of emotional ice wedged firmly between them at the beginning of the book.
Likewise, Tori has a beef with all things DEA. Her family history with that agency has been problematic, to say the least. Reluctantly, she acknowledges that while Deck is certainly good looking (colossal understatement of the year), there’s more to the man than just a handsome exterior. His motivations are pure. He’s driven to help people and to get illegal drugs off the street. In fact, his entire life is dedicated to that purpose. At times, to a fault. And who wouldn’t be attracted to a big hunky guy who loves kids? It’s hard not to fall in love with a hero.
Using just 5 words, how would you describe Hero and Heroine’s love affair?
Yowza! (Okay, so that’s 6!)
The First Kiss…
This scene takes place right after Deck nearly loses Tori in a gunfight with a drug dealer…
Where only moments ago, she’d been trembling and unsteady, she shot to her feet, steady as a rock. “I need to be out there with you. It’s given me purpose. Instead of waiting on the sidelines for another DOA, I finally feel like I’m being proactive, doing something out there to help you.”
He pulled his hands from his pockets. “How does it help me if you get killed?” Not for the first time, the thought of her with a bullet hole in her head gutted him. He stared into her clear green eyes, thinking how incredibly beautiful they were when it struck him. “The answer is no.”
“Don’t you think I should have a say in this? Maybe we can figure something out.” Ignoring his slowly shaking head, she continued, “I can take my own car. I can park down the street. I can still be in the vicinity if anything goes wrong. I can—”
“No,” he repeated, crossing his arms. She must be out of her mind. No way would he risk losing her again. “You can still feed me information if another OD comes into the hospital and wants to talk, but that’s it.”
“There must be some kind of workaround we can come up with.”
When she stomped her foot, it was so adorable he wanted to take her in his arms. When she pressed her lips together, all he wanted was to kiss the annoyance off of them. That urge to kiss her rose steadily until he could barely concentrate on anything else.
“What’s really the issue here?”
The issue? The issue was that he couldn’t take it if anything happened to her. The issue was that he wanted to keep her safe. The issue, dammit, was—
He took another step toward her, invading her personal space and giving in to the craving obliterating all rational thought. “This is.” Gently, he cupped her face. Her eyes rounded with shock as he leaned in…and kissed her.
“Deck,” she said against his lips.
“Don’t talk,” he whispered then angled her head to cover her mouth with his, slipping his tongue inside and uttering a throaty groan.
Kissing her hadn’t been in the ops plan, yet something about it seemed…right. She ran her hands up his chest. When she reached his neck, she touched one finger to the part of his neck that was thumping wildly.
The taste of her was like nectar on his tongue, and it was all he could do not to lap her up like a honey bee and beg for more. But she was more than a quickie on the counter, and he didn’t have time for relationships. Nor did he want one. If only she didn’t feel so good in his arms, all soft and curvy, so incredibly warm and sexy.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book?
I swear, if the romantic suspense thing doesn’t work out, I’d LOVE to write rom coms! Sometimes, my editor has me cut something because it’s a bit too humorous for a suspense novel. You should have read the original version of the chipotle chile scene my editor had me tone down in Burnout, book 1 of my NYPD Blue & Gold series…hilarious! Maybe I’ll post that as a bonus scene somewhere on my website.
“Coming or going?” he asked, completely changing the subject.
“Going.” Trying to. “I think my battery’s dead.”
“Pop the hood.” He moved to the front of her car. “I’ll jump you.”
“What?” She blinked then blinked again. Oh, right. Jump the battery. Not her. A tiny seed of disappointment nestled somewhere deep inside her belly. Do I want to be jumped?
Of course not. She didn’t have to be a doctor to understand the problem was that her basic biological needs were manifesting themselves. For the last two years, she’d essentially been a virgin. She was horny, that’s all it was. That had to be all it was because there was no way in her orderly world that she’d ever have sex with Deck. Not that he’d offered or anything.
Tori reached inside her car and found the lever beneath the dashboard, popping the hood. She joined Deck and peered at the engine. Considering she could identify every part of the human body one would think she could find the battery. Wrong.
“See that?” He pointed to a dirty black box, on top of which were thick wires connected to two metal thingies, one encrusted with bluish-green crud and the other with yellowish-white powder.
“What is all that gunk?”
“It happens when the sulfate in the battery reacts with the lead in the terminal posts.”
“Can you dumb that down for me, please?”
“It means your battery is probably kaput. How old is it?”
“Five, maybe six years old.”
“You need a new one. I can clean the terminals for you, but you really need a new battery.”
“How can you clean all that crud off?”
“Simple.” He touched the tips of his index finger and thumb together, forming a circle, then he inserted his other index finger through the hole. “I shove a wire brush through the terminal clamps and clean out the crud.”
Tori gulped. Who knew auto repair could be so sexual?
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include?
This scene would be super-important to include in the movie because it’s the setup for the entire story–the deal that is struck between Deck and Tori that forces them to work together, get to know each other, and fall in love, all while trying to locate the source of the deadly drug that’s killing people. It showcases their personalities, initial attraction, and highlights their personal conflicts…
Decker leaned back in the chair. His brows lowered as he stared at a spot over her shoulder. He began tapping his fingers on the desk, as if he were deep in thought. Abruptly, his fingers stilled, and he refocused his sharp gaze on her. “I need fresh intel on where people are buying this drug. I’d like to speak with every overdose victim that comes into this hospital. I need you to make that happen.”
Tori snorted, suppressing a full-blown laugh. “You expect me to betray patient confidentiality by calling you every time some poor soul overdoses? That’s if they even live to talk about it.”
“No.” Decker’s perfectly chiseled jaw hardened. “I’m asking you to inquire if they would be willing to speak with me. If they will, I want you to notify me right away. I’ll come to the hospital and conduct a quick interview, and that’s it.”
Beneath the table, Tori curled one hand into a fist. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I’m not, and there’s more.” He held up his big hand. “What happened to Dan Prince could happen again. We’re putting together a seminar to train our people on the use of naloxone auto-injectors and the specific dosages they might be looking at if they come across gray death. We need someone from the medical profession to give this training, preferably someone familiar with this drug and with current, hands-on experience treating overdoses from this particular drug. We need you, Dr. Sampson.”
Shock spread through her system. When she’d agreed to speak with him, she’d had no idea what he wanted. Hooking him up with patients and training DEA agents were most definitely not possibilities she’d considered.
“First of all, your request for me to hook you up with my patients is inappropriate.”
“Is it?” he countered. “If they agree to speak with me voluntarily, it’s not illegal.”
“Perhaps not, but it’s highly irregular.” To say the least. “Secondly, you must have trained personnel in your agency who are perfectly capable of giving that kind of training. I have very little spare time as it is.” More accurately, there was no way on earth she would ever help the DEA. Twenty years ago, they’d done nothing to help her father, just the opposite, so there was absolutely no chance she would help them now.
“First of all,” Decker said, using the same words she had and annoying her further, “this is a one-time training, a few hours at most. Secondly,” he added, again mocking her word choice, “there’s a precedent for this. A few years back, a doctor from St. Anne’s gave us first aid and CPR refresher training. The DEA worked something out with the hospital’s administrators, and we can do the same for you.”
Tori leaned forward slamming her palms on the table. “You must be out of your fu—freaking mind.” She stood, appalled at her outburst. “I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time. Perhaps you can try another hospital and another doctor. Maybe the same doctor at St. Anne’s wants another thrill.”
“They wouldn’t have your experience, and I want the best for our people.” Decker remained seated, his handsome face a blank mask. “Dr. Sampson,” he said in a low voice. “If we don’t stop this, more people will die.”
They locked gazes, his so intense and mesmerizing that she couldn’t look away. “Clearly, you’re passionate about your work, and I can appreciate that. But it doesn’t change anything. I can’t help you.”
Getting into bed with the DEA wasn’t something she was prepared to do. Not after the callous, unconscionable way they’d treated her family. They’d ruined her father’s life, altered the course of her and her sister’s futures, and broken her mother’s heart to the point it had actually given out. Some things could never be forgiven.
Readers should read this book …
…if they like reading romance stories set against a backdrop of action, suspense, and a whodunnit. If they enjoy romances that take a bit of realistic time to develop. The H&H might be attracted to each physically from the get-go, but to fall in love takes time, the get-to-know-you phase. If their personality doesn’t live up to their exterior, it doesn’t matter how handsome or beautiful someone is on the outside.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently working on the last book of my Federal K-9 series, the title of which has yet to be determined. This is Jamie Pataglio’s story. There are a total of 7 books in this series. Honor ”N’ Duty, Fed K-9 #6 (Kade Sampson’s story), releases this June, while Jamie’s story releases in September. Book 2 of K-9 Special Ops, Burning Justice, is set to release in early 2023.After that, I’m starting a brand-new thriller series!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: One print copy of Tough Justice to a U.S.-based winner
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: The Tough Justice plot is based on a very real, very devastating problem sweeping the nation more than most people realize – opioid addiction. Most recently, six young men vacationing in Florida overdosed from fentanyl-laced cocaine. Have any of you, or someone you know, experienced opioid addiction? If you’re comfortable, please share something about yourself or that person that might help someone else.
Excerpt from Tough Justice:
This scene takes place shortly after Deck and Tori agree to work together for the greater good. Not that they’ve cast aside their mutual distrust, yet, but they’re doing their best to make things work between them…
Her eyes softened, turning pensive. “If there’s something I can do proactively to stop the rising body count, I want to do it.” Absently, she stroked Thor’s ears, allowing him to lean his head against her thigh. Deck suspected the change of heart had something to do with the dead teenager. “But let’s be clear on something.” Her pretty eyes glittered like shards of green ice. “You have your rules, and I have mine.”
He and Thor led the way to the elevator. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure she was behind him. “Meaning?” Two seconds into their alliance, and he was already on the verge of regretting it.
“Meaning”—she stared up at him frostily—“you will not skulk around the ER, waiting or searching for overdose victims. You’ll wait until I notify you that a patient is willing to speak with you.”
“Skulk?” Deck held back a snort. Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. “DEA agents don’t skulk.”
She pursed her lips. “I beg to differ. History has shown otherwise.”
He leaned his shoulder against the wall by the elevator bank, tensing. “What history?” He had no idea what she was talking about. Whatever it was, they really needed to clear the air fast or this partnership would sink faster than the Titanic.
“Never mind.” She shook her head and looked away, as if she’d said something unintentional. “There is one other thing, however.”
“What other thing?” Yeah, two minutes into it, and this arrangement was already fixing to be a cluster.
“If a patient changes their mind in the middle of your interrogation and no longer wishes to talk, you’ll leave, no more questions asked.”
“Fine.” Between them, Thor swung his head back and forth, as if watching a tennis match. “And for the record, it’s not an interrogation. It’s an interview. Anything else?”
“Yes. You have to promise never to use a patient’s name in any report.”
Deck pushed from the wall, towering over her, but she stood her ground, craning her neck to look up at him. The elevator door opened, but he ignored it. “No dice, Doc. That’s how I get my PC—probable cause. If an OD victim has information about the source of the opioids and can direct us to the location where they purchased it, I may need to put their name in an affidavit for search and arrest warrants.”
She crossed her arms and jutted her chin up at him. “Then that part of the deal is off.”
What had he gotten himself into? They’d made a deal over the phone, and she was already changing the rules. He should’ve known he couldn’t trust her. Maybe he should find someone else. But they were here, and he didn’t want to waste more time finding another doctor. “Let’s compromise. I’ll do everything in my power to leave names out, but you have to understand that sometimes that’s what it takes to get a dealer off the street. If a judge allows me to refer to victims as ‘confidential sources’ instead of using their real names, then I’ll do it. Deal?”
Before meeting his gaze, her lips compressed into a tight line, and he expected her to tell him to pound sand. “Deal.”
“Good, and I have a condition of my own. Everything we do together, everything we discuss, is confidential. You need to be discrete about DEA operations.”
“Understood,” she said curtly. “And for the record, that seems obvious.”
The door began to close, and he reached out his arm, stopping it. “Is there anything else I should know?”
Her lips twitched. “If there is, I’ll tell you.”
“I’ll bet you will.” This woman was hardcore. Delicate and pretty on the outside. Inside, she was a drill sergeant, barking out orders like a seasoned federal agent. Like him. He’d bet she could hold her ground against some of the best defense attorneys he’d ever run into.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It should have been a routine investigation. Instead, DEA K-9 agent Adam “Deck” Decker watches in horror as one Denver hospital seems to be Ground Zero for overdoses of a new drug. Now Deck can only hope a certain icy, green-eyed ER doctor will help him and his canine partner track down the deadly source.
Dr. Tori Sampson has her reasons for not trusting federal agents, especially ones working for the DEA. But the rash of overdoses—including a heartbreaking case involving a teen—is alarmingly high. And the new opioid is not only extremely dangerous, it defies all the usual medical treatments. So Tori has a choice: work with the big, brawny, and annoyingly hot DEA agent…or watch more innocent people die.
Tori’s the only person who can help Deck break the case, and they’ll need to trust each other, no matter how high the tension and attraction sizzling between them runs. But with every question answered, they realize there’s something more behind these typical teen overdoses. There’s a pattern here, and a pattern can only suggest one thing. There’s a killer on the loose.
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Meet the Author:
Tee O’Fallon is the author of the K-9 Special Ops, Federal K-9, and NYPD Blue & Gold Series. Tee spent twenty-three years as a federal agent conducting complex, long- and short-term criminal investigations, especially undercover operations, across many agencies at the federal level, and multi-state investigations as a police investigator. It felt only natural to combine her hands-on experience in the field with her love of romantic suspense. She has lived in New York State most of her life with a five-year stop in Colorado. When not writing, she enjoys cooking, gardening, chocolate, lychee martinis, and kicking back with her Belgian Sheepdogs, Loki and Kyrie.
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