"Everyone has a secret!"
Reviewed by Viki Ferrell
Posted August 5, 2018
Thriller Crime | Inspirational Mystery | Suspense
Bodies are piling up in Washington, DC, but a strange
coincidence links them all together. They are glowing and
gooey, melting away from the inside. This can only be the
work of the AFO (Arrow and Flame Order). Cole "Tox"
Russell and SAARC (Special Activities Artifact Recovery
and Containment) have been trying to shut down this group
for several years now. As the FBI begins to work these
cases, they learn there are similar ones popping up all
over the world. But what is the common denominator?
Tox began transforming himself into Kazimir Rybakov
several months ago, posing as a Mossad operative and
infiltrating Mattin Worldwide in Moscow, Russia. SAARC
believes that the head of this company, Nur Abidaoud, is
also the head of the AFO. If Tox can extract the right
intel on the AFO, SAARC can take them down. Working with
the FBI, CIA, and DOD, SAARC goes into action following
leads that are coming from Tox and Ram Khalon, his
handler in Moscow. But Ram's sister, Tzivia, throws a
monkey wrench in their plans when she shows up in Moscow,
believing their father is being held there. Nur Abidaoud
has lured Tzivia, an archeologist, to bring him a century
old sword, the Adama Herev, that is believed will wipe
out the Jewish race if one Hebrew is killed with it. Nur
promises to release Tzivia's father if she succeeds. Can
Tox and SAARC bring down the AFO before Tzivia finds the
parts of this sword?
THIRST OF STEEL is an inspirational thriller whose storyline
globe-hops from the US, to Russia, to the Congo,
London, Latvia, and Israel. It is filled with
international espionage and century old tales about
Biblical artifacts. The diverse characters in this
riveting story are strong, intense, and determined. The
covert missions are spine-tingling and immersed with
suspense. The storyline moves at break-neck speed, as the
team spans the globe and uncovers one clue after another,
then ties them together. Has the AFO infiltrated
governments all over the world? Ronie Kendig brings us an
extraordinary tale with this installment of her TOX
series. She even incorporates a few romantic surprises!
This is an adventure you do not want to miss!
Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still
rumored to thirst for its enemies' blood. Cole "Tox"
only wants to begin his life with Haven Cortes, but he must
first complete a final mission: retrieve that sword and
destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.
The AFO, however, is determined to claim the sword.
their father's life over Tzivia and Ram Khalon, they
threaten to expose Ram's long-held and dangerous secret
while demanding Tzivia locate the sword. With the Wraith
team slowly being torn apart, things only worsen when Mercy
Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news
the sword is tied to both Ram's secret and a string of
unsolved serial murders.
Tox, Ram, and the others are forced to set aside fear and
anger to focus only on the enemy. No matter the cost,
must stop or take the enemy down with them.
The old man trembled as he heard, but bade his followers
yoke the horses, and they made all haste to do so. He
mounted the chariot, gathered the reins in his hand, and
Antenor took his seat beside him; they then drove through
the Scaean gates on to the plain. When they reached the
ranks of the Trojans and Achaeans, they left the chariot
and with measured pace advanced into the space between the
Beside Joseph Cathey, the air stirred, and he released a
long, grieved breath. âCould you not come during a less
daunting part?â he muttered as he tugged down his reading
glasses and looked up at his visitor. âAnd has anyone
mentioned to you that it is impolite to appear twenty years
younger than a man you outnumber by centuries?â
Ti Tzaddik grinned. âYou are too easily riled, old friend.â
âOld? Speak for yourself.â Joseph tapped his book with a
glower. âI should make like the son of Atreus: âAs he spoke
he drew his knife across the throats of the victims.ââ
âGood thing there are no victims here.â
Joseph grumbled, setting aside his tattered copy of the
Iliad. âSince you are not prone to coincidence . . .â He
sighed and looked at the old text. Sensed the heaviness of
the one who had joined him without so much as a rap at the
door or even opening one. âI guess there is work to be
done. The final work.â
âAre you ready, Joseph?â
Joseph glanced down at the book. âThey âwere too old to
fight, but they were fluent orators.ââ
âI am afraid, I am neither an orator nor too old. You must
go to the Americans. Our enemies have hastened the search
for the sword and set your apprentice on its path.â
âTzivia?â Joseph blanched. âHow have they . . .â He
groaned. âHer father.â
âAye. She must not return it to them, old friend. You know
Joseph grunted, looking at the bookshelf. âThat I do. But
unless you are aware of things I am not, the final piece
remains unaccounted for.â
âThat has not changed, but neither will I discount our
enemyâs fervency this time. You know what hour draws nigh,
and the way the air buzzes . . .â Tzaddik shook his head
and rubbed the back of his neck. âI have not felt this in a
very long time.â
Tzaddik stiffened. âWe must meet their efforts head on. Go
to them. Have them search for the sword.â
âHow?â Joseph complained. âThey are rigid in their
thinking. If there is no crime, if there is no activityââ
âThere is. When you go, they will know it.â
With a labored sigh, Joseph watched his friend rise, and
with him went his blood pressure. âYouâre not going to tell
me more than that, are you? Always with the mysteries.â
âI trust you to sort it out. If I show it all to youââ
âYes, yes.â Joseph waved a hand. âImportance is lost and
all that.â He couldnât believe he was stepping into this
again. But what did he expect? âAm I going to survive this
âWere this battle about you, perhaps I would offer
assurance, but as the battle is Gulatâs blade and ensuring
the assassins do not rise again, I can only give one
Eyebrows raised, Joseph looked at him expectantly. âNot
especially reassuring, that. Go on.â
ââDeath and destruction shall be theirs . . .ââ
Joseph laughed. âIdomeneus.â He nodded. âYou chose well,
old friend. He is one of the few alive at the end of the
âWhy do you think I quoted him?â
Deserving to die and wanting to die were two entirely
different things. A greater desireâto live!âpropelled her
down the dirty streets of Moscow. Shoes slapping the
pavement, she bolted from an alley into the dark, yawning
emptiness of a street. Sprinted toward a narrow passage.
From the shadows, a form coalesced. His shape was
distinctive. Though there were no lights, she saw him. Knew
him. Remembered his hands around Nadiaâs neck.
Tzivia Khalon skidded to a stop, her feet sliding out from
under her. She fought for purchase, using a wall to shove
away from him.
âOstanovis!â he shouted.
Ha. Right. She wasnât stopping. Not for anyone, especially
the guy whoâd just murdered the only friend she had in this
godforsaken country. Tzivia threw herself around and
sighted her exit. Lunged.
Three men manifested from the void. Tall buildings on all
sides had her surrounded.
Darting right, she pulled in a hard breath. Walls hemmed in
her front. Men behind.
She cursed her carelessness, her desperation, as she
scanned for an exit. A gutter. Fence. Fire escape.
Anything! Yet the night closed in, drawing the men and her
Nerves thrumming, she swung around. Faced the converging
four. They arced out in a solid mass of muscle and threat
that prevented her from escaping.
It wasnât in her nature to give up. Still, four to one . .
. âNot exactly a fair fight,â she muttered, gauging her
opponents. Three average-sized men. One a little taller
than her brother, Ram, but shorter than Tox Russell.
Beefier than both. Beneath his jacket bulged the imprint of
Yet he hadnât drawn it.
So you arenât here to kill me. Good to know. Their orders
must be to leash and retrieve, the way one might a stray
dog. Drag her back to their alpha.
The biggest man stalked closer. When he came into the wan
light of a streetlamp, he hesitated. Darted a look up, as
if the beam seared his dark soul. The illumination had an
eerie effect, tracing thick, calloused fingers that danced
in his eagerness to kill.
Time to plan. First she had to get the giant to her left
talking. Force him to engage his brain by asking him a
question, which would give her a one-tenth of a second head
start. As soon as his mouth opened to answer, sheâd lunge.
Wicked-fast kick to the groin.
Heâd bend, protecting the family jewels, bringing him down
to size. Sheâd close the distance and drive two sharp elbow
strikes to his temple. If that didnât take him down, it
would at least stun him. Then sheâd use her blade. End him.
She hated the thought, but heâd spared no mercy with Nadia,
and she could not risk being captured.
During his takedown, a task of two to three seconds, the
others would be so stunned at the flurry of violence she
unleashed on their leader that it would lengthen their
reaction time. Thereby giving her the necessary edge.
The stench of rotting waste swept her nostrils, awakening
her. Alerting her to movement. They were advancing.
Ready or not . . . Tzivia kept her hands at her side,
loose. Comfortable. Trying to give them false confidence,
she skated around a nervous look. âWhat do you want?â she
shouted in Russian, making her voice pitch.
The giant drew up his chin. Eyed her lazily. âTy malenâkiy
Tzivia surged. Snapped a hard front kick between his legs.
The giant doubled and groaned.
Sliding in closer, she twisted her torso. Drew up her left
arm. Rammed her elbow into his temple with a shout. âHiya!â
Again. âHiya!â Her shout was psychological. Her blows
physical. Nailing him on two fronts.
Moaning, he stumbled, his faculties compromised.
As the giant wobbled to the ground, another fist flew. The
strike collided with her cheekbone.
Jarred, Tzivia grabbed the forearm. Twisted it as she
caught the back of the attackerâs neck. Hooked him around,
forcing him to kneel, spine against her knees. She arched
his arm up over his head. Even as he howled at the pain of
the maneuver, a third man came out of his stupor. Started
Holding tight to her prisoner, Tzivia drove her heel into
Thirdâs face. Knocked him around. He face-planted. She
focused on Two, tangled in her firm grasp. He was reaching
for something. No doubt a gun.
Hauling his arm higher, Tzivia realized time was her enemy.
The pistol came up.
She whipped out her KA-BAR. Drove it into his neck. In a
flash, she sheathed the knife, snatched the gun from his
limp hand, and spun to the othersâThree and Four were
gauging her. Staring down the barrel as the slack-jawed men
shook themselves gave her time to gather her own wits. She
dared them to come. Sheâd had enough. All she wanted was to
save her father. Was it so much to ask?
Three bolted back down the alley.
Four went right.
Tzivia pivoted. Aimed at Three and fired. The suppressed
crack wasnât silent but close enough. He tripped yet
struggled on. She sighted lower, where he lay scrambling on
the ground, and fired again. He slumped flat.
Feet beat a hard path away from herâto the right. The
fourth man. She whirled. Darkness warred with her need to
A shape blurred at her. Unprepared, Tzivia took the impact
in her side. Pain exploded, but she shoved it away. Focused
on her attacker, the giant. Furious, she shifted her
stance. Glowered beneath a sweaty brow. Threw a right hook
straight into his liver to inflict a shockwave of fiery
A gargled scream preceded his fall. But he staggered back
to his feet.
She sliced her knife-hand at his throat. He clutched his
neck as he went down, gasping. Dying.
But only as she staggered back did the rage of adrenaline
surrender to a searing, unrelenting pain. She glanced at
her side. Dark crimson spurted from a wound just above her
hip. She flicked her gaze to the giant, to the bloody knife
dangling from his hand. Stunned that he had stabbed her
when sheâd nailed his throat.
Gripping her injury, she stood in the alley, sensing the
oncoming adrenaline dump that would weight her body in
exhaustion. Her limbs felt rubbery. Shuddering through a
breath, Tzivia swiped a hand across her sweaty brow. She
needed help. Needed . . .
A deep, empty ache rose within her. She closed her eyes.
Reached for him, for someone. Anyone. For comfort.
Reassurance. But she was alone. As it had been for the past
six months. Since sheâd forsaken everything to seize a tip
breathed in passion.
A scream jolted her back to the present. A woman stumbled
toward the man Tzivia had shot first. Fists in the air, she
railed at Tzivia.
The distant bells of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
gonged their summons. Signaled that her time was up.
âNo,â she whispered. Tziviaâs heart kick-started. It would
take at least ten minutes to reach the cathedral. Sheâd
already missed the appointment. But heâd wait. He had to.
Because she had what he wanted.
Tzivia made for the alley Four had fled down. Slipping the
gun into her waistband at the small of her back, she
shifted into a jog. Pain pinched her side. Each step
spilled warmth down her hip, saturating her pants. The
alley emptied into a tight passage that skimmed her
shoulders and dumped her onto a well-lit road, wet from a
fresh rain. A trolley clanged past.
Minarets with white plaster bell towers gleamed over
rooftops and served as a beacon. At this late hour, few
walked the dark streets. Tzivia hung back, scanning for
Four. Heavy air threatened more rain, but she forbade it
until she reached the cathedral. She skirted buildings,
staying close to walls and shadows, then broke into a run,
grimacing at the fresh squeeze of pain. Cursing the man
whoâd stabbed her, she wondered how sheâd missed his knife.
Hadnât even seen it coming.
Curse yourself. Sheâd brought it on herself, coming here,
believing she could actually do this alone. But she hadnât
wanted to hear Ramâs remonstrations. Didnât want him
clobbering her ears with his chastisements, telling her to
let it go. That they must accept the truthâtheir father was
That was what everyone had thought of Tox Russell for four
years. Turned out he wasnât dead. She was now very close to
proving her father wasnât either.
âFoolâs hope,â Ram growled.
Then I will be a fool! Because she could not give up on
this, not when Omar relinquished the secret of this cityâs
name in his sleep. Even as a girl, she hadnât believed her
father was dead. There was no proof, just the ardentâalbeit
naĂŻveâhope of a daughter to see her father again. Over the
years, that hope had bloomed into stubborn determination
that he was alive.
The tower grew as she closed the distance, until finally
the glittering white cathedral glared at her. The cobbled
footbridge summoned her across the Moscow River and into
With relief, she started forward, aware of her
surroundings. Cars and trams added to the noise of the city
scampering around the luxurious site. By this time most
tourists were gone. Crossing the footbridge with its evenly
spaced lamps made Tzivia feel exposed. Surely they wouldnât
attack here on the cathedral steps.
Illumination grew, as did her hopes that he still waited.
She eyed the two men in long, black trench coats waiting
just inside the wrought-iron fenceâmore confirmation that
her contact was still here.
It wasnât a sanctuary, not for her. This was where sheâd
sell her soul to Nur Abidaoud.
Bolstering her courage, she crossed the open courtyard
filled with people whoâd come for the midnight mass. The
guards chatted quietly, each drag of their cigarettes
lighting their faces. Fierce. Discerning. Both
straightened, locking onto her and dropping their
cigarettes. Weapons bulged at their sides, but they didnât
reach for them. Or stop her.
Tzivia swallowed as she climbed the steps, the wet squish
of her pants seeming to echo in the strangely quiet area.
Too quiet. Quickly, she stepped inside. She wobbled,
momentarily taken aback by the enormity of the cathedral
and its lavish, brightly colored stained glass. She might
not understand religious fervor, but she could appreciate
the beauty of cathedrals. Just as she had reveled in the
beauty of archaeological finds. Like the one sheâd hidden
before this fateful errand.
The ominous drone of voices filtered from the main altar,
whereâlike cultists chanting in unisonâthe churchgoers
offered prayers to the white arches, gilt ceilings, and
She walked the corridor to the cordoned-off area where
worshipers peered over their shoulders at her, brows
knotting. What were they . . . ?
A fresh squish of her pants made her check the wound. She
was relieved to find the black tactical pants concealed the
blood sliding down her leg, but she was probably leaving a
trail. Smart, Tzi. So smart.
Curling her elbow over the stab wound, she kept her gaze
low, searching for Nur. He was there, on the far right.
Moving toward her target, she continued down next aisle,
then shimmied to his side, gaze on the priest directing
young men in robes. With a breath, she clasped her hands.
âYou are late.â
Teeth clenched, she kept her face impassive. âI am here.â
âYou have it?â he asked as the believers chanted in Latin.
âWould I be here if I did not?â she hissed, cringing as she
thought of the man she toyed with.
âWhere is it?â
âYou will not get it until I get what I wantâmy father.
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