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Fourth in the Inside Out series


Body Thief, November 2011
Body #2
by C. J. Barry

Berkley Sensation
Featuring: Griffin Mercer; Camille Solomon
304 pages
ISBN: 0425243311
EAN: 9780425243312
Kindle: B005GSZZGK
Paperback / e-Book
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Fresh Fiction Review

"Engrossing and Intricate, Book Two in the Body Series is Riveting."

Body Thief
C. J. Barry

Reviewed by Diana Troldahl
Posted November 14, 2011

Paranormal

Camille Solomon has always taken care of herself and her father. As an alien shifter on Earth, she uses her skills and special abilities to make certain they can live, and live well, refusing to align herself with any group, no matter how much they need her. That all changes when XCEL captures her and her father, and holds his life hostage unless she does everything in her power to aid those who seek out shifter lawbreakers for retribution.

Griffin Mercer has more cause than most to hate the alien species that has made Earth their home. A shifter he trusted took on Griffin's face and used his identity to destroy his life as he knew it. Now he is out of prison and working his way back into the trust of those in power at XCEL. He only needs to solve this one case to gain back at least a portion of the life he lost the last time he trusted a shifter. He will do anything to reach that goal, even partner with the treacherous Camille.

But there is a deeper game being played at XCEL, lead by a man that is using the skills of Griffin and Camille to set up an act of unthinkable horror unless they can find a way to trust each other and find the truth before it is too late.

BODY THIEF is book two in C. J. Barry's Body Series. Just as engrossing and intricate as the first, it helps tie off some of the threads started in book one, Body Master. Barry's sweeping and complex plotlines that over arc in the series as a whole are stellar but best savored when the reader has all the pieces in hand. That being said, it is more than worth the investment of time and money to keep following where Barry leads. She has a rare talent for balancing the large and small elements of plot and character, keeping her readers riveted.

Learn more about Body Thief

SUMMARY

Her family in danger…
Shapeshifter Camille Solomon has one motto when it comes to dealing with humans: Use, or be used. Luckily, she has the skills to use—fleecing gambling casinos. But when her father falls deathly ill, to save him she must track down her brother, and the last thing she needs is to be captured by sexy XCEL agent Griffin Mercer.

His life in ruins…
Last year, Griffin Mercer was an exceptional shapeshifter hunter, one of the few agents able to identify shifters in their human form. All that ended when his shifter partner destroyed everything he loved. He vowed to get his life back if it killed him. And after laying his hands on Camille, it just might.

A hot-blooded combination…
To find her brother, Cam agrees to help Griffin search out the shifters terrorizing New York City . While danger grows at every turn, Griffin discovers that Camille is hotter than the city nights, and Cam learns that having Griffin “handle” her is the riskiest—and most tempting—gamble she’s ever taken.

Excerpt

"Next time I use the valet service," Cam muttered to herself as she dragged her suitcase to her car on the fourth level of the self parking garage. The Atlantic City morning sun gleamed across car hoods and the smooth concrete in the open garage. It was bright and quiet, and a long freakin' way from the hotel and casino.

It was her own fault. She should have opted for valet parking, but then again, she was trying to be a normal human being. Blending in with the locals was an important part of her modus operandi. Swoop in, make tons of money off the casinos, and sneak out quietly. It'd worked for the past year, and unless proven otherwise, she was sticking with it.

She finally reached her Honda Accord and popped the trunk. As she threw her suitcase in the back, a prickle of foreboding spread across her body. In a split second, her senses heightened. Footsteps shuffled behind her. She concentrated on the movements. Men's suit pants legs brushed together; three, maybe four of them silent and moving fast. Her nose picked up aftershave and sweat, definitely human males.

Maybe they were for her, maybe not. She wasn't taking any chances. Slowly, she bent over her suitcase and reached inside the outer pocket for her Glock 17 9mm. It was small, but a gun was a gun in close quarters. She pretended to look for something in the trunk and tilted her head just enough to pick them up in her peripheral vision.

Three men, one in front in a gray suit, two behind in military clothes and carrying assault rifles. Yup, they were definitely here for her.

She had about one second to weigh her options—make a run for it or stand and fight. Cam smiled, she'd never been one to run. After all, there were only three of them. She'd bet on those odds any day.

She stood up slipping the Glock into the back of her jeans as she turned around to face them.

Then she tried to appear as innocent and naïve as possible, for her.

The gray suit stopped ten feet away, and she inhaled a quick breath when she met his eyes for the first time in bright daylight. Deep brown, confident and serious. Nice, aside from the predatory gleam. He appeared to be about thirty. Just from the way he moved, she could tell he could handle himself well in a fight. Military-trained, perhaps. The two other men regarded her with dutiful intensity. She could take them, but the suit was different from your run- of-the-mill human, which intrigued her. Could be an exciting day after all.

He said, "I'm special agent Griffin Mercer working for the local extraterrestrial law enforcement agency."

Her pulse jumped. XCEL agents. Shapeshifter hunters. That explained all the guns. Exciting just jumped to dangerous.

"You're under arrest," he added firmly.

"I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong person," she blurted, her eyes widening in horror. It was a damn fine acting job, if she did say so herself.

While Cam talked, she glanced around the parking garage for casino security or guests that could provide an easy diversion. She noticed the black van parked two spots down. That's how they'd snuck up on her. Her hopes for any diversions faded. They'd planned this, and probably shut down the entire garage. Plus she was alone, and it was daylight. Daylight was a problem for a shapeshifter.

Mercer said, "Today, you're Camille Solomon. Alien shapeshifter, 28 years old, five foot five inches tall, no permanent residence, fake identity, you make your money by cheating casinos, and there's a gun tucked in the small of your back." Then he smiled like the devil. "How am I doing?" Not bad, she conceded. "I'm five-six."

"I'll note that in your file," he said, and his smile vanished. "Throw the gun in the trunk please." Behind him, the van had pulled up and every molecule in her body aligned for battle. She could see a driver and a passenger who got out and opened the back doors. That made five. The odds were stacking against her fast.

"What am I under arrest for?" she said, dropping the innocent act. "Being different?" A hint of irritation crossed his features, ever so slightly, but she saw it. Ugh, he was one of those XCEL agents. The ones who hated shapeshifters with a vengeance and noble intent. She hated noble intent. It was highly overrated.

He replied, "Cheating the casino. Federal offense."

She laughed at the irony. "Right, like the casino doesn't cheat anyone."

"They report the odds. It's all legal and everything," he said. "Gun in the trunk."

Now she was getting pissed. Damn, how had she tipped them off? She was very good at cheating. Like, the best. On the other hand, it didn't matter how they knew, and she really needed to focus. It was time to get this show on the road. She had a dinner date with her father in SOHO tonight.

"Of course," she said. "Anything for XCEL."

Mercer's eyebrows raised a fraction, but he didn't respond to her acknowledgement of his agency. She knew all about XCEL and their weapons against Shifters—disrupters with localized paralysis effects, UVC grenades that mimicked the sun's rays to prevent shapeshifter transformations, and tranquilizers that no one ever woke up from.

Fortunately, she didn't see any of those weapons, just assault rifles. And that was because they thought it would be enough to capture her. A human form was a human form, and she'd suffer the same damage as any human would.

Boy, were they ever in for a surprise.

Every rifle pointed at her as she reached around and tugged the Glock out of her jeans. She held it out in front of her with two fingers on the gun butt.

"You want it," she said to Mercer. "Come and get it."

His eyes narrowed dangerously. "Trunk. Please."

"Here," she said. "Please."

"Trunk," he repeated, more tightly this time. "We don't want to hurt you."

She smiled. As if that could happen. "Have it your way."

Cam hurled the gun against the open trunk top with all her might, which considering she was a shapeshifter, was pretty mighty. It bounced hard off the metal and fired indiscriminately. Every man ducked, which gave her the split-second she needed to shift into Primary form. A collective gasp arose once she'd transformed.

Surprise, she thought, reveling in the look of disbelief on their faces.

And then everything moved really fast. Someone shot at her. She thinned her molecular structure, and the bullets passed through harmlessly. Her form remained vaporous but whole, prepared for anything else they might throw at her.

"Don't shoot!" Mercer yelled. "We want her alive!"

His orders only made her more determined. She thinned her structure even more and ‘popped' through the thick air, re- forming in front of the men with the rifles. She grabbed both their rifles and jammed the butts to their heads, knocking them out in tandem.

Someone screamed, "Get the disrupter!"

She popped to the van and wrenched an agent out of the back by his belt, tossing him across the garage concrete floor. He rolled a few times, struck a support column and didn't move. The driver came around the corner with a disrupter, and she kicked it out of his hands. It hit the ceiling and shattered into pieces.

Then he had the nerve to get all pissy and reach into his jacket for a gun. She grabbed his forearm and broke it with a loud snap. He yelled, dropped to his knees and cradled his arm with his other arm, and she dropkicked him in the face. He flipped backwards and landed ten feet away. Then Cam spun around to find Mercer standing behind holding the disrupter, looking stoic and dark. Everyone else was down, and she didn't see or hear re-enforcements. Too bad for them. "That's quite a trick you have," he said. "Shifting in daylight."

She took a step toward him, wary of the disrupter. It wouldn't slow her down for long, but it would hurt like hell. "I find it comes in handy when someone tries to kill me."

"We just want to talk to you."

She laughed. "Right. And the rifles and disrupter are, what, conversation pieces?"

He stared her down, which was pretty intimidating. A human would have been afraid. He said, "I know you don't trust us—"

"Why would I?" she snapped. "XCEL has spent the last two years hunting us, freezing us, killing us, and moving the lucky ones to prisons."

"They aren't prisons," he said. "They're safe zones."

That did it. The disrupter would hurt for a moment, but it would totally be worth it to kick his ass. "When you lock someone up and don't let them leave, that's a prison. Even for humans."

"You're not human," he said, challenge in his eyes.

Her temper flared. Cam popped a split-second before he dropped the rifle. When she re-formed beside him, he gripped her arm. Shocked by his speed and strength, she froze. How did he know where she was going to re-form?

She tried to strike him, but her arms wouldn't move. In fact, nothing would move. She started at him in disbelief and panic. What was happening to her?

"I have a few tricks of my own," he said softly.

Then he jabbed a tranquilizer dart into her arm. The tranquilizer swamped her senses, and she couldn't do anything to fight it. Her body simply wouldn't respond, and it occurred to her that he was the reason.

Just before she blacked out, she heard him say, "So sorry."

# # #

Griffin stood on the safe side of a bulletproof, shatterproof, Shifter-proof glass wall and watched his captive sleep off the tranquilizer. She hadn't moved since they dumped her on the bed in the holding cell two hours ago.

Her Primary form was a charcoal black humanoid-like body that was just female enough to be interesting. Her skin was smooth and tough, like a form-fitting bodysuit. Her face was more delicately featured than the male Shifters he'd seen, her body leaner, and her frame tall and leggy. In Primary form, shifters were like blank canvases. All they needed was a little bit of DNA to replicate any human they wanted.

Any human they wanted, and they didn't care what they did as that human. Who they hurt. Who or what they destroyed. They were opportunists. Like vultures, only bigger.

The door behind him flung open.

"For Christ's sake, what were you thinking?" Griffin's boss yelled, loud enough to shake the long glass. He marched toward him. "You think that tranquilizing her is going to help our cause? Did you not understand your orders?"

Griffin didn't look at Roger Harding. His miserable mug was forever etched in Griffin's mind as it was. "I understood them."

His boss stood next to him, his cologne sucking up all the good oxygen. He wore a black suit, as always, along with a black tie and black shoes to go with his black personality.

"Those orders came from the President. Do you want to be the one who tells him that our one chance of protecting this city was blown because you couldn't apprehend a shapeshifter without incident?"

Technically, the orders came from a Special Senate Committee, but Harding liked to think he was bigger than that. Griffin responded calmly, "No sir, I wouldn't."

"Then what was the problem?" Harding said, his voice getting higher by the minute. If Griffin were at all lucky, Harding would have a heart attack right then and there. He waited, but it didn't happen. Maybe next time. Griffin was, after all, a very patient man. It had been a hard lesson to learn, but he'd learned it very well.

"We didn't have a choice. She shifted."

Harding frowned. "You were supposed to prevent that from happening. You blew the operation—"

"She shifted in broad daylight," Griffin amended.

Then Harding put his hands on his hips. "That's crap. Shifters can't do that."

"She can. Ask the team. I don't know how, but she converted completely in a millisecond. All her abilities were full strength. It didn't slow her down at all."

"Christ, what next with these damn things?" Harding said, running his hand through his hair. He stared at her through the glass. "Has anyone else reported that ability?"

"No," Griffin said. "Obviously, she's more special than we originally thought. It will certainly work to our advantage."

Harding frowned deeply. "Well, that's just ducky. But we can't force her to work with us, and this was not a good takedown."

Griffin took offence to that but didn't say so. The fact was, the takedown had gone as well as it could have. Everyone survived. Camille Solomon had been captured unharmed and was recovering nicely. And no one outside of XCEL even knew it had happened. It couldn't have gone better. Except the part where he tranquilized her.

Details.

Harding asked, "So how do you intend to guarantee her cooperation now?"

"We have plenty of motivation for her."

"Those motivations better be bullet-proof, Mercer," Harding muttered.

They were. Griffin hadn't spent the last two month's tracking her for nothing. He'd memorized her file, watched her on video, tailed her movements, and documented every single one of her identities. He knew more about her than she probably knew about herself.

Harding asked, "You're positive that you can handle her? If she gets off your leash and does something stupid, it's my head that will roll."

Griffin could always count on Harding to cover his own ass. "I'm positive." "What, are you going to use your Indian voodoo to track her?"

Griffin felt the rush of anger through his bones. Harding hated him because he was special, and he'd use any tact to attack his self-confidence, including his half-Navajo heritage. Tough shit for Harding. "If I have to."

For a moment, Harding just stood there staring at him, and Griffin knew he was considering putting another agent on this case. Someone who didn't drink too much, who followed orders to the letter, and who would kiss his uptight ass. Well, screw that. Griffin wasn't the perfect agent, but he was for this case. Besides, his assignment had come from the above Harding's big head, and that's really why Harding hated him.

"Let me know when she wakes up," Harding said as he turned to leave.

Right after I talk to her. Griffin replied, "Yes, sir."

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