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Dangerous Choice

Dangerous Choice

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"Wow! I truly loved reading this book! DANGEROUS CHOICE is a captivating, sexy and thrilling story. It grabs you from the beginning, wanting to know what happens next." Doni - Goodreads

FBI Special Agent Diego Rivera is searching for his family when a clue leads him to a quaint Colombian village, which suddenly erupts into violence. Diego is caught in a shooting and discovers an explosive family secret.

Tara Powell comes to Colombia to look for her missing friend. When the village priest who's supposed to have information for her is gunned down, she finds herself entangled with Diego, who is on a personal mission of his own.

Danger follows Tara and Diego from Colombia to the US, and it's not clear which one of them is the target. As they search for the people they love, shocking details emerge. Will their fierce loyalty blind them to the truth...or will their trust in each other save them?

Family secrets, dangerous drug cartels, and a missing friend spin this romantic suspense in a dozen different directions!

What the readers are saying…

"I loved all the twists and turns in 
DANGEROUS CHOICE. Tara and Diego work so well together, and the chemistry between them is intense! Once I started this book, I just couldn’t stop! I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!" Mindy - Goodreads

"Loved Diego and Tara's story in DANGEROUS CHOICEFull of action, intrigue, love and honor. Friends, family and friends who are family. Thrilling adventure across the globe. Another excellent Barbara Freethy novel." Carol – Goodreads

"Barbara Freethy is a master at romantic suspense. 
This series has been one of the best I’ve read. The characters are realistic and well formed. The action grabs you from the first page ad keeps you interested until the very end." Pam – Goodreads on DANGEROUS CHOICE


The church bells rang through the small village of Cascada in the hills of Colombia, overlooking the Suarez River Canyon. The bells called the believers to Holy Thursday Mass at St. Catherine's. It was the official kickoff to Easter week, otherwise known as Santa Semana. 

In this picturesque village, there was no shortage of believers. There was also no shortage of violent criminals, many of whom lived hidden away in the rolling hills surrounding the town and conducted their business in Medellin, only an hour away. But on Holy Thursday at almost four p.m., everyone became a child of God. 

FBI Special Agent Diego Rivera left the hotel he'd arrived at thirty minutes earlier. He'd only had time to drop his bag and ask directions to the church, which proved to be unnecessary since hundreds of people were heading to Mass. As he joined the throng of tourists and locals walking through the centuries-old plaza with its cobblestone streets and colorful Spanish Colonial buildings, his practiced gaze swept the surroundings, searching for potential trouble.  But there was a festive feeling in town. It was early April, almost Easter, a time of rebirth. People were talking, laughing, in the late afternoon sunshine, as if they didn't have a care in the world.

He couldn't quite get into the holiday spirit. He'd been seeking answers to questions he'd had for eighteen years, and now a tip had led him around the world, to this pretty village. He hoped he would not leave disappointed, as he had so many times before. 

As he walked through the streets, he noted signs of modern life: an internet café, a new urgent care center, and an electronics store. But there were also signs of the past: an open-air vegetable and fruit market, a couple of goats grazing through a nearby yard, the squawk of chickens from a coop behind a café, and boutiques with hand-crafted artisan goods and clothing. 

According to the front desk clerk at his hotel, a young man by the name of Enrique, Cascada had been founded in the seventeen hundreds and named for an amazing gold waterfall that shimmered in the sunlight and fell into a pool that allegedly provided healing properties. A story in a major travel magazine six years earlier had quadrupled the tourist dollars, and now there were only rare months when the hotel rooms weren't full. 

An older woman caught his attention, her long brown hair drifting down her back, and his heart skipped a beat. Then she turned around, and her features were those of a stranger. She wasn't his mother. But he couldn't help wondering if his mom had left her hair long all these years, if she'd walked these same blocks, if his younger brother had played in the fountain in the square like so many of the local kids. 

Or maybe they'd never been here at all. Perhaps this trip would be another waste of time.  

He forced the cynical thoughts out of his head. Until he knew one way or the other, he wasn't going to speculate. He'd been actively searching for his mother and brother since he'd graduated from college. But they'd been out of his life eight years before that, eighteen years in total. 

Their trail had gone very cold. There had also been a lot of false clues, wasted trips, dashed hopes, disappointment, and frustration in the last decade. He was afraid today would bring more of the same, but the remote location gave him a small hope. Perhaps this was exactly the kind of place one would come to if they wanted to disappear.

And disappear was exactly what his mother had done. 

It was almost impossible to believe that even with all his resources at the FBI, he hadn't been able to find her or his brother. 

But now he had a lead. It had come from Special Agent Tracy Cox, a woman with whom he'd spent an impulsive night a year earlier. That night had been a mistake, but Tracy had caught him at a bad time, and they'd drunk a lot of alcohol. He'd told her way too much about himself, and their very brief fling hadn't ended particularly well when she'd suggested another night and he'd said no. 

They'd managed to work through it; they were friends, he supposed. Although, he wasn't really sure why she'd suddenly decided to help him in his search. But a clue was a clue. Her motivation for providing it was something he'd deal with later. 

His phone buzzed, and he pulled it out of his pocket, moving over to the sidewalk as he checked the text. It was from his boss, Roman Walker, asking when he'd be landing in DC. He'd just finished up a two-month counterterrorism assignment in Brazil, where they'd managed to uncover two active cells and stop the flow of weapons to that group. 

He replied that he needed a few personal days but would probably be back by Wednesday. That gave him a little time to figure things out. And he had plenty of leave on the books. He'd been working sixty-hour weeks for months. 

Slipping his phone into his pocket, he headed down the street once more. He wished he'd arrived earlier. It might be difficult to see Father Manuel before the Mass, but hopefully he could grab him for a few moments. 

When he got to the church, he headed toward a side door rather than get bogged down with the people crowding the front steps. 

As he moved down a side hallway, he saw an older priest engaged in a very heated conversation with a woman whose golden-blonde hair stood out in a village where dark hair and dark eyes, like his own, were the norm. 

The woman wore white jeans and a flowing sleeveless floral blouse, a pair of high-heeled wedge sandals on her feet. She had a large tan bag hanging over one shoulder, and her long hair moved in silky waves as she shook her head and interrupted the priest. 

Despite the fact that they were speaking Spanish, he thought she might be American. 

He took a few steps closer. They were so involved in their conversation, they paid no attention to him. 

"Por favor, please," she begged. 

The priest, who was tall with thinning gray hair and appeared to be in his late seventies, patted her arm and spoke in a hushed tone, so quiet Diego couldn't hear what he had to say. 

The woman uttered a desperate, hopeless sigh, but when the priest motioned her toward a side entrance into church, she reluctantly moved in that direction. 

As the priest started to follow, he hurried down the hall. "Padre," he said. "Father Manuel?"

The older man paused, giving him a sharp look. "Sí?"

"I'm Diego Rivera. I understand you might know my mother, Camilla Rivera, or she might go by the name Camilla Lopez," he added, referring to his mom's maiden name. "Do you know where she lives? Where I can find her?"

"Camilla? You don't know?" The priest's dark brows furrowed together. 

"Know what?" A bad feeling twisted his gut.

"I'm sorry to tell you, but—"

Before Father Manuel could finish his sentence, an altar boy came through the side entrance, motioning to the priest that it was time for the Mass to begin.

"I must start the service. We will speak after that," Father Manuel said.

"I only need a minute," he started, but his plea went unheard as the priest disappeared into the church. 

His stomach churned as he followed him inside. 

The priest had told him he was sorry…that hadn't sounded good at all. He hoped it just meant that his mother had left town, and he didn't know where she was anymore. 

When he entered the church, it was standing room only. He walked down the side aisle toward the back, sliding into an empty space next to the confessionals and right behind the beautiful and stressed-out blonde. She turned her head, giving him a sharp look. Her eyes were a deep sea-blue, and his body tightened as their gazes met. She offered a slight nod, but not a hint of a smile. Then she directed her attention toward the altar where Father Manuel began the service. 

As the service progressed, his gaze moved around the church, noting several men who looked like bodyguards standing near the front pews. As one shifted, he saw a gun at the man's hip. He wasn't surprised. While the village was a tourist mecca and the residents extremely devout, the nearby farm lands were a haven for coca growers, fueling Colombia's cocaine market. 

As the priest raised his hands in the air in prayer, a gunshot blasted through the church. 

Stunned, he watched as Father Manuel fell backward against the altar, blood spattering across his chest. A second and third shot came amid screams of terror. 

He pulled the woman in front of him down, as more bullets sprayed from the choir loft. Some of the men he'd noticed earlier by the front pew started firing back, but he couldn't see who they were shooting at. 

"Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" the woman in front of him screamed, her eyes now wild and panicked. 

"We have to get out of here." He grabbed her hand, and she clung to him, as they ran toward the side door at the back of the church. There were many others also trying to escape, and he feared they'd be trampled or gunned down before they could get outside, but somehow, they made it. 

When they reached open air, the woman gave him a terrified look.

"We have to keep going," he said, pulling her along with him as they ran across the grass and down the block. Seeing the cemetery ahead, he plowed through a thick line of trees, entering the cemetery through a gate. There was a mausoleum at the back of the property and the building could provide cover. 

They dashed through rows of graves, moving around the mausoleum, where they ran into a brick wall too high to scale. 

"We're trapped," she said in a panic.

"We're safer here than in the street," he replied, peering around the wall. 

"What's happening?" She put her hand on his back as she tried to look over his shoulder. 

Before he could reply, a white van went screaming down the street, away from the church. Police cars were coming from the opposite direction, sirens blaring. 

"Was that the shooter?" she asked. "Is he gone?" 

"I don't know." He turned to face her. "Let's give it a few minutes."

She gave a tight nod, her breath coming short and fast. "Father Manuel?"

"It didn't look good."

"I was supposed to talk to him after the service." She shook her head in confusion and despair. "He said he would help me. Now he's dead. It doesn't seem real. Why would anyone want to shoot that old man? He's a priest, for God's sake."

The same questions were rocketing through his head. And like this woman, he'd been hoping to get vital information from Father Manuel after the Mass.

"Was it one person or more than one who was shooting?" she asked.

"I couldn't see. The shots were coming from the loft above us."

"People were shooting back."

"I saw that. Probably local cartel members. We may have ended up in the middle of a turf war. This part of Colombia is rife with drug trafficking." He paused. "What's your name?" 

"Tara—Tara Powell," she said, her voice shaking. 

"You're American?"

"Yes. And you?"

"I'm also American. I'm Diego Rivera."

"Like the painter?" she asked in bemusement. 

He smiled. "Yes. My mother had a fascination with his paintings. I, unfortunately, have no skill when it comes to art."

"Oh," she said, as she tucked her hair behind her ears. 

"You looked upset earlier—when you were speaking to Father Manuel. What was he helping you with?"

Surprise flashed in her gaze. "You saw us talking?" 

"I was in the hallway waiting to speak to him. I didn't want to interrupt your conversation. It looked emotional. You seemed upset."

"I was upset. I spoke to Father Manuel yesterday. He had told me to come back today, that he could help me, but then he was unwilling. I don't know what happened, why he changed his mind. He said we'd speak later, and I had to wait. Now…" She shook her head. "Whatever he was going to tell me died with him."

"What was he helping you with?" 

"It doesn't matter now. The police are at the church. It's okay for us to leave, don't you think?" 

"In a minute. In this part of the world, sometimes the police aren't always the good guys." 

"I know. But in this case, I think they are. I hope they are." She pulled a silver heart across a chain at her neck, her fingers nervous and twitchy. "I can't believe someone would kill a priest in a church. They must not believe in godly retribution." 

"I wouldn't think so," he agreed. "When did you arrive in town?"



A guarded look came into her eyes. "Not really."

"What does that mean?"

"You ask a lot of questions."

"I'm a curious person. What was the priest helping you with?"

"It's personal. What were you talking to him about?" she countered.

"That was personal, too." 

She blew out a breath. "Do you think Father Manuel was targeted, or did someone just want to shoot up the church on Holy Thursday?"

"It felt targeted."

"Do you think a lot of people were killed?"

"I don't know. I hope not."

He looked around the wall of the mausoleum. The street beyond the cemetery was empty now, but as he watched, an ambulance sped by on its way to the church. Was that for the priest or someone else? 

"I want to go back to the hotel. I want to get out of here," Tara said, a desperate note in her voice.

He was about to tell her she could go, when his gaze caught on a nearby headstone, and Father Manuel's last statement to him rang through his head. "I'm sorry to tell you…"

A statement that was often finished by words like…your loved one is dead.

"The cemetery," he said aloud, moving around the wall, caught up in the unspeakable idea running through his head. 

"Are we leaving?" Tara asked.  

"I have to see if she's here."

"Who's she?"

Ignoring her question, he strode down the first row of graves, reading the headstones as quickly as he could.

"What are you doing?" Tara asked again, as he came back in her direction. 

"I'm looking for a name," he said shortly.

"Can that wait? Or you know what? You do that, and I'm going back to the hotel."

He couldn't answer her. His gut was twisting with agonizing fear. He jogged down the next row and the next, regaining hope with each grave that maybe he was wrong, that Father Manuel hadn't been about to give him horrible news. 

And then he saw the name Camilla, and he stopped abruptly. 

He read her name with a growing sense of horror and disbelief. Camilla Lopez Salazar was etched on the stone with the words Madre Amada—Beloved Mother. He didn't recognize the Salazar part of her name, but her birthdate was the same as his mother's. 

As he read the date of her death, he was hit by another wave of shock. She'd died fourteen years ago. Fourteen years ago!

He'd been seventeen when she passed away. He hadn't even started looking for her then. 

The pain cut through him like a knife, and he fell to his knees, his breath coming hard and fast. 


He stared through dazed eyes at Tara, who had left her hiding place to regard him with great concern. 

"Who is buried here?" She tipped her head toward the headstone. 

He looked back at the grave. "It's my—my mother." He could hardly get the words out. In all the outcomes he'd imagined, he'd never thought she was dead. Never. And she'd died before she'd turned fifty. What the hell had happened to her?

"This is your mother's grave?" Tara asked in shock. "You didn't know she was buried here?"

"I didn't know she was dead," he said flatly. "I've been searching for her for a very long time. But she died years ago. All this time, she's been here, this small cemetery, a world away from where we lived. Father Manuel started to tell me something was wrong, but he didn't get a chance to finish. Now I know what he was going to say."

"I'm sorry," Tara said quietly. 

He shook his head in anger and regret. "If I'd started searching for her earlier, if my father hadn't been such a complete ass, if my grandmother had had the guts to stand up to him…maybe…" He drew in a hard breath, the reality stabbing him again, like a knife to the gut. "I can't believe she's dead." He suddenly noticed the fresh flowers on her grave. Someone had placed those recently, maybe only a few days ago. 


Could he dare to hope that he hadn't lost everyone?

As he got to his feet, he saw a shadowy figure moving through the trees. For a split second, he thought maybe it was Mateo…

But he didn't recognize the tall, thin man in jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt. 

When the man caught sight of them, he pulled out a gun. 

Diego shoved Tara out of the way as the bullet bounced off the headstone. Then he grabbed her hand once more, and they ran through the cemetery, slipping through a thick crush of trees on the far side that thankfully provided some cover. Several more shots rang out, some coming dangerously close. 

They ran into the wild, unincorporated hills behind the village, trying to lose themselves in the brush. The shots eventually stopped, but Diego kept running for another twenty minutes, not coming to a halt until they were halfway up a hill, a mile or two away from the church. From their vantage point, they could see the village, the cemetery, the police cars lined up in front of the church. But there were enough trees and rocks around to keep them in the shadows. 

"Why was he shooting at us?" Tara asked, her breath coming fast. "I thought the shooter from the church had left."

She'd done well keeping up with him in her sandals. She'd stumbled a few times, but he'd dragged her back to her feet. 

"So did I," he said grimly, meeting her questioning gaze. "Maybe there was more than one shooter, and the other stayed behind. He might have been surprised to see us in the cemetery. We caught him off guard."

"And he decided to shoot us? Why? It doesn't make sense."

It didn't make sense. 

Had someone tracked him to Colombia, to the priest, who'd been his one chance at finding his mother? But why? Who would care about his personal family history? 

As his gaze moved back to Tara, he thought about her intense conversation with the priest and wondered if the shots were about him at all. "Are you in trouble, Tara?"  

A mix of emotions ran through her eyes. "Why would you ask me that? Do you think he was shooting at me?" 

"You tell me."

"Maybe the shooter was after you," she countered. "Maybe he's tied to your mother."  She licked her lips. "The real question is—what are we going to do now?"

THE FBI SERIES takes readers on thrilling, romantic, and suspenseful adventures! While an overarching mystery plays out over the first five novels, every story stands completely on its own and there are no cliffhangers!

The books feature complex and exciting storylines ranging from kidnapping to organized crime, terrorism, and espionage. Personal stories often play out against a bigger, broader storyline, and surprising twists will keep you up all night. Start reading today!

Check out more books in the series!

THE FBI SERIES takes readers on thrilling, romantic, and suspenseful

adventures! While an overarching mystery plays out over the first five novels,

every story stands completely on its own and there are no cliffhangers!

The books feature complex and exciting storylines ranging from kidnapping to

organized crime, terrorism, and espionage. Personal stories often play out

against a bigger, broader storyline, and surprising twists will keep you up all

night. Start reading today!

Check out more books in the series!

  • Perilous Trust
  • Reckless Whisper
  • Desperate Play
  • Elusive Promise
  • Dangerous Choice
  • Ruthless Cross
  • Critical Doubt
  • Fearless Pursuit
  • Daring Deception
  • Risky Bargain
  • Perfect Target
  • Fatal Betrayal
  • Deadly Trap