Friday, September 3, 2021

Book Spotlight & Free Book: Spies Never Quit by M. Taylor Christensen

About the Book: 

Title: Spies Never Quit (Banana Girls, #1)
Author: M. Taylor Christensen
Publisher: Moon Zoom Press
Format: eBook
Page Count: 216
Publication Date: August 2, 2021 
Genre: Spy Thriller / Romantic Suspense.

If the only way to save her mother is to act like a spy, Mari can act like a spy.


After her mother is abducted, Mari Sandoval breaks into her mother’s research lab in an ill-advised attempt to appease the kidnappers. Fortunately, she’s thwarted by two spunky sorority girls who offer her a better way to save her mother—become a spy.

In the fast-paced world of undercover agents—where fabulous new clothes, high-tech gadgets, and flirting for secrets are the norm—Mari’s inexperience could ruin everything. Will she be able to master the art of espionage in time to rescue her mother from the clutches of a maniac? Or will her undercover mission doom them both to imprisonment?

Spies Never Quit is a cute spy-thriller where the romance is sweet and the suspense is cozy.

Purchase at: Amazon ($.99 until 9/31/21).

Or until 9/07/21, Spies Never Quit is available as a free ebook download.

Excerpt (Chapter 1):

The humid Atlanta air settled around Mari like a sticky sweatshirt as she walked briskly down the sidewalk past the science building heading toward the baseball field. Even after three weeks as a college freshman, she still wasn’t quite used to the walk across campus toward Midtown. It probably would have made more sense to choose on-campus housing, but the part of the application that asked for roommate preference had freaked her out. Some of her friends from high school had come to Georgia Tech, but they all had closer friends they had wanted to room with.

At least, that’s what Mari had assumed. It would have been far too embarrassing to have actually asked them. Better to just get a contract at some off-campus apartment complex and let them assign her a friend.

Days like these when she was trudging home after a long day on campus made her seriously second guess that decision.

Mari hustled to cross the street before the light changed. Tall, white-columned entries and Greek letters stared down at her as she continued along the sidewalk. As if the long walk to her condo wasn’t enough, living off campus also forced her to walk through the Greek Sector on the way to and from school. She didn’t mind the walk, per se. It was just seeing all of those other students clustered together with their friends, talking and laughing, belonging. Her loneliness was difficult to ignore in those moments. Not that she minded that either; she and her mother had been alone for as long as she could remember.

And now the time had come for her to be alone . . . by herself. That was rough.

Georgia Tech was her mother’s alma mater and current employer, so there’d never been any question about Mari’s first choice of universities. She had only asked her mother once if she could continue living at home while she went to college. Her mother’s response had been firm. Mari needed to be independent, learn to live on her own, and fend for herself. Being left to raise Mari alone had taught her mother the importance of independence. But sometimes Mari wished she hadn’t been forced to suffer twice for her father’s decision to leave.

Mari pulled out her phone and tapped her mother’s picture, hoping to see a new message.

Still nothing.

She didn’t remember exactly when her mother’s flight to the Netherlands had left the day before, but Mari was pretty sure the research conference in Amsterdam had started this evening. Or was it already tomorrow in Europe? Either way, she figured her mother should have texted to say she had gotten there okay.

Her mother was a self-reliant woman and a brilliant scientist, but time awareness had never been her forte. Jet lag from traveling halfway around the world certainly wouldn’t help.

And did her mother even have one of those European SIM cards?

Mari tapped out a quick message.

- How was your flight? Hope you got there safe. Miss you.

Another breath of hot air swept by as Mari walked out onto the overpass bridge. No matter what the calendar said, it was definitely not fall yet. It wouldn’t even start cooling off for another month, to say nothing of the leaves changing colors—green boughs still lined the streets as far as the eye could see. Fortunately, in addition to the trees, the midsized office buildings and condos along her walk home offered some shade from the evening sun.

As she turned right on the next road, Mari heard quick footsteps approaching. Her muscles tensed, and her heart raced. She gripped her shoulder bag tighter.

When she turned eighteen last spring, her mother had paid for her to attend an evening self-defense course. To say that it was a polite offer would have been misleading. Her mother hadn’t even given Mari the option of refusing. Of course, she was grateful for her mother’s insistence. Mari wondered how scary her walks home would have been if she hadn’t felt confident in her ability to fend off potential assailants.

Was this the moment her instructors had prepared her for?

“Hey, Mary,” a voice called out.

Mari glanced quickly over her shoulder.

A guy she recognized from biology class huffed to catch up with her. “Wow, you’re a fast walker,” he said.

She forced her arms to relax, but she didn’t slow down. “Actually, my name isn’t Mary; it’s Mari. It’s not mare like a female horse; it’s more like mar, you know, when something gets scratched. And it’s a light r that sounds almost like a soft d where you—”

“Aren’t your legs tired?”

Mari’s mouth hung open, her well-practiced explanation of Spanish pronunciation only half-finished. Given her very obvious Latina appearance—dark brown hair, olive skin, and brown eyes—people usually listened politely and then corrected the way they said her name. But not this guy. She blinked at him. “Uh, no.”

“They should be—you’ve been running through my mind all day.” He smirked at her.

A cheesy pickup line? This guy was pathetic. “Anyway . . .” Mari rolled her eyes and increased her pace.

“We’re having a party at the Zag-Shack tomorrow night,” he said, still hustling to keep up. “You interested?”


“Zeta Alpha Gamma. My frat.” The guy was seriously sucking wind now. “Can we . . . stop and talk . . . for a sec?” He grabbed Mari’s elbow.

In one quick motion, she jerked her arm from his grasp and spun around. He looked amused as she glared at him. “Do not touch me,” she said, backing down the sidewalk.

A slow smirk spread across his face. “Wow, you’re feisty, too. I don’t mind that.”

Mari turned and jogged away from him.

The Zag-Shack guy surged forward. “C’mon back to my place and I’ll show you—”

Mari would never find out what he would have shown her, because he chose that moment to grasp Mari’s wrist. Her two weeks of self-defense classes kicked in.

In less than a half a second, she jerked his arm forward and swung her elbow out to break his grip. He winced in surprise and discomfort as his momentum carried him forward. She could have stopped at that point. She probably should have. But without really even thinking about it, she finished the move with a quick little lift of her elbow right to his throat.

The guy stumbled off balance and crumpled to his knees on the ground next to her. He was hunched over, wheezing and coughing, his hands on the asphalt.

Hoping he’d had enough, Mari hurried away, putting some distance between them. Several passersby watched her with apprehension. She hadn’t really hurt him, had she? And if she had, it wasn’t like it would cause any permanent damage. Not that he hadn’t sort of deserved it.

A tall girl with deep brown skin and an athletic build was leaning against a tree across the street. She seemed to take particular interest in Mari as she passed. Mari watched out of the corner of her eye as the girl pushed off the tree and crossed the narrow road toward her. She didn’t seem in any particular hurry to catch up, but Mari wondered whether she could outrun the girl. Mari was fast, but there was a limit to what her medium-length legs could do in a footrace against a girl built like an Olympic track star.

Suddenly, the Zag-Shack punk appeared in front of her, blocking her way. He rubbed his throat and scowled at her. When he spoke, his voice was raspy. “What’s the matter with you?”

Mari’s body tensed. What more she could do to get this jerk to leave her alone?
His eyes had a maniacal look in them. “I take back what I said earlier,” he said. “You are one crazy little—”

Without warning, a hand slid gently through Mari’s arm. “Hi! I wondered if I would see you today.” The fact that the voice was soft and friendly was the only thing that kept Mari from lashing out. Mari glanced up to see the tall black girl who had crossed the street to follow her. The smile on her face and the lilt in her voice made it seem like they were old friends. “You wouldn’t believe the kind of day I’ve had.”

Mari gave her a bewildered look, then followed her gaze back to the boy in front of them. His fists were clenched, but his expression was just as confused as Mari’s. He looked back and forth between Mari and the newcomer. Finally, he shook his head and sulked away, muttering.

The tall girl pulled Mari forward and continued talking about what she’d been doing that day. The girl was easily six feet tall and muscular, but more in a fitness way than a body-building way. She wore a green shirt and jean shorts. Though it felt forced, the girl continued yammering for several minutes before Mari had a chance to get a word in.

“Look, I really appreciate your help with that guy,” Mari said to her new friend. “Not that I couldn’t have handled it,” she added.

The girl gave Mari an appraising look—not a silly, sarcastic one, but a serious evaluation of her size and strength. “Hmm,” she finally said before looking forward again.

They walked in silence for another half a block, surrounded by the sounds of evening traffic and shoppers, while Mari stewed over what the girl could have meant by that “hmm.” At a small side street, the girl turned and tried to pull Mari with her.

Mari resisted. “I’m going this way,” she said, pointing along her normal route to her apartment.

The girl smiled sweetly at her. “I don’t think you want to go that way home today, Mari. You should come this way. It’s much safer.”

Something wasn’t right about this.

How did this girl know her name?
She even pronounced it right.

The route this girl had chosen would force Mari to walk the long way through several unfamiliar streets. Mari tried to pull her arm out of the girl’s grasp, but she held tight.

“You need to let go of me,” Mari said through gritted teeth as she prepared to free herself, by force if necessary.

Again came the scrutinizing gaze from the girl. Mari glared back at her. She could feel her breathing increase, her muscles tightening involuntarily.

A moment later, the girl released her. Mari backed slowly away. The girl didn’t move. She didn’t look mad or upset, just resigned.

After a dozen backward steps, Mari turned forward again and proceeded on her normal walk home—if anything about this particular evening could be considered normal anymore. She waited half a minute before glancing over her shoulder.

No tall girl following.

Mari allowed herself to relax a little.

As usual, pedestrian traffic thinned the farther she got from campus. The buildings became shorter, too. After her run-in with the Zag-Shack guy and the tall girl, her senses were on heightened alert. Was it too much to ask that she make it back to her condo without any more problems?

She scanned the street around her, watching the few people close enough to observe. Half a block ahead, a guy caught her attention. He was headed the same direction as she was, but he seemed lost. He kept looking over his shoulder and changing speed. He was well-dressed, but nothing fancy; he looked pretty much like any other office worker with a job in that part of town.

What was going on today?

Maybe she was being paranoid. He was probably just a normal guy on his way home from work.

But why would he be lost on his way home?

Maybe he was on his way to a new job at a Midtown software company . . . doing database programming . . . on the swing shift.

Mari would have laughed at the absurdity of it all if she weren’t in the middle of living it.

No need to catch up to this guy too soon. If he was just an innocent pedestrian, he’d never notice. Mari slowed way down and pulled out her phone again. She pretended to send a text, glancing up every few seconds as if absently trying not to run into anything.

The lost guy seemed to suddenly become even more confused with his surroundings. He came to a stop and squinted up at the buildings around him.

Just in case, Mari casually tilted her phone’s screen to check behind her. She caught a glimpse of a similarly-dressed guy walking intently toward her. It could have been her imagination, but he seemed to be looking straight at her.

Wow, the freaks were out today. What had she done to draw so much attention?

And how was she going to make it to her apartment in one piece?

She stopped and pretended to tie her shoelace. The guy behind her suddenly became as lost as the guy in front of her. He went from a determined straight line to a wandering mess in half a second flat. If this was his way to trail someone, he was completely clueless.

That’s what she’d call them: Lost and Clueless.

And she was definitely their mark.

In her self-defense class, the instructor had said the best way to escape a confrontation was to avoid it in the first place.

Mari assessed her surroundings.

Were there any concerned citizens nearby who could reliably help her take on two sturdy-looking guys intent on trapping her?

There was an elderly lady across the street walking her dog. Mari couldn’t quite see her as she passed behind the parked cars, but unless she was packing heat, the woman probably wouldn’t be much help. If only she had one of those vicious attack dogs . . .

The dog walked out from behind the car.

Nope. It was a wiener dog.

With a quick glance ahead, she saw a side alley that would take her a different way home. It wasn’t ideal, but she was closer to the alley than both thugs, and she might be able to lose them in a full sprint.
She stood up and darted forward. Giving up all pretenses, Lost and Clueless pelted after her. Mari leaned into the curve as she turned the corner down the side alley. She couldn’t remember what her self-defense instructor had said about dark alleys, but this was probably a bad idea. The freedom of the open street at the other end beckoned her forward. She was halfway down the alley, and if she could beat them to the end, she might just be able to lose the jerks.

At the sound of squealing tires, Mari skidded to a stop. A silver SUV pulled up at the end of the lane, blocking her escape. Two thugs jumped out; they hadn’t even pretended to dress nicely. She glanced back and saw her two pursuers slow down, blocking the narrow alley.


One against four and trapped.

They had definitely not covered this in the self-defense class.

If she screamed, would anyone on the street hear her?

The first guy out of the car looked like the boss. “Hey, sweetie. You need a lift somewhere?” His face pinched in a sneer.

“No.” She glared at him, heart pounding.

His lips pressed together in a thin, mirthless smile. “Actually, from what I hear, you do need a lift. In fact, a friend sent us to make sure you made it safe to his place.”

“My friends always tell me if they’re planning to send a bunch of goons to trap me in a dark alley,” Mari shot back. She realized a split-second too late that she’d need to do a better job of keeping her mouth shut in situations like this.

The other goons chuckled. The boss scowled at them then jerked his head in Mari’s direction. His right-hand man started toward her. She checked behind her; Lost and Clueless were moving in, too.
She would never be able to fight three at once. She’d need to improvise. Maybe she could take one down quickly.

Mari slowly backed up, pretending she was scared—which wasn’t difficult at the moment. When she could feel the goons behind her breathing down her neck, she kicked quickly backward. Her foot connected hard with Lost's midsection. He flew onto his butt and rolled over with a moan.
The other two stopped in surprise, so she seized the moment. She stepped forward and wildly side-swiped Right-Hand Man's leg. Her heel connected with his kneecap, and he buckled to the ground clutching his knee.

Clueless backed off a bit.

“How hard could this be?” Boss-Guy said in obvious frustration. “Just grab her.”

Lost—hunched over but on his feet again—and Clueless moved in and grabbed Mari’s arms. She struggled and kicked, but they easily held her off the ground.

The boss stepped toward her. “See, was that so hard?” He struck Mari’s cheek with the back of his hand. “That was for Johnny,” he said, nodding to the guy still on the ground moaning in pain.
Mari’s face burned. She thought through her options.

A blur of green and brown flashed from behind the thugs’ SUV. The tall girl who had helped Mari on the street sailed through the air and landed a large high-heeled sandal into Boss-Guy’s back. He stumbled toward Mari. With her arms pinned, all she could do was knee him in the groin on his way to the ground.

“Hey!” Lost yelled, letting go of Mari's arm to go after the tall girl.

Big mistake.

With her free arm, Mari swung her open palm up into Clueless’ face. He dodged and caught a glancing blow against the side of his head. The goon immediately released her and stepped back.

Mari looked around and saw Boss-Guy getting slowly back to his feet. The advantage that the tall girl had created for them wouldn’t last long unless she did something. With three quick steps, Mari closed the distance. Then two well-placed kicks sealed the deal, putting Boss-Guy back on the asphalt.

The tall girl had Lost in a sleeper hold, and within a few seconds he was resting his face in the gravel.

Clueless’ expression was priceless. His eyes went wide, and he spun on the spot and ran.

“We can’t let him get away!” the girl called out.

Mari stared, dumbfounded, back at her. What did the girl expect Mari to do? She wasn’t about to chase down her own attacker.

The tall girl gave Mari an exasperated look as she grabbed one of her sandals and ripped the heel off. The rest of the shoe dangled by a long wire. The girl swung it over her head and threw it at the fleeing thug. The shoe-turned-bola wrapped around his legs and brought him to a chin-scrapping halt.

The girl smiled. “Good thing Susan let me borrow these.”

“Why were they . . .? How did you . . .?” Mari’s head spun to the point that she didn’t even know what question to ask.

The girl pulled several long plastic zip-cuffs from a small backpack. Taking her sandal back, she bound the goon who was still conscious first. She tossed a few to Mari, indicating she should take care of the others, then pulled out her phone.

Mari glanced around the alley as she approached the incapacitated thugs. She wondered if anyone else had witnessed the bizarre scene of two college girls taking down four muscly goons.

While she zip-cuffed their assailants, Mari listened in on the tall girl’s phone call.

“I need a cleanup team at this location,” the girl said as she surveyed their handiwork. “Yeah, they slipped on a banana. No, just one. Well, one banana and their mark. She was pretty slippery, too. Yeah. Thanks." The girl pulled a coin out of her pocket and tossed it onto the ground next to Boss-Guy. It was silver with a shiny gold ninja star embossed in the center.

Mari looked up at the tall girl, hoping now she would finally get some answers. “How did you—”

“Turn off your friend locator,” the girl instructed.


“The locator app on your phone. Disable it.”

“Okay . . .” Mari pulled her phone out and fumbled through the settings menus.

“And you can’t go back to your apartment for a few days.”

“Wait. Where am I supposed to—”

“Crash at a friend’s.”

“But I don’t really—”

The tall girl continued as if Mari hadn’t said anything. “. . . basically anywhere but your place or your mother’s home.”

Mari frowned. “Wait. What do you know about my mother? What’s going on? Who are you?”

“I can’t tell you. You’ll just have to trust me.” The girl was already moving away toward the alley entrance. “Don’t go back to your place, and don’t walk into any more alleys.”

The girl jogged to the end of the street and disappeared around the corner.

Mari slowly backed away from the chaotic alley scene. She wasn’t sure what the cleanup team was going to do, but she didn’t want to be there when they arrived.

They might think it had been her fault.

About the Author:

Myles Christensen writes cozy thriller/suspense with sweet romance under the pen name M. Taylor Christensen.

He loves to write exciting adventures because he loves to read exciting adventures. The hopeless romantic in him can’t resist adding those fun moments of kissing tension (sorry, readers). While writing, he listens to music that matches—and sometimes inspires—the storyline.

His mild-mannered alter ego is a product development engineer, university professor, and game inventor. He lives in Utah with his wife and children.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting. I've never read a book where someone tries to pretend to be a spy.