Finn’s instincts told him to slow as he passed the big cemetery, told him to go into stealth mode. But some other sense, some deeper instinct, pushed him to keep running at full tilt, noise be damned. Told him another life depended on his speed, not his silence. 

 

So he was still darting through the fog at top speed when he sensed the flash of movement at the left edge of his field of vision, felt that static charge in the air a split second before he saw it—a figure bursting out of the cemetery’s western gate and coming at him from his left flank. 

 

The big obsidian blade leaping at his throat.

 

“Exsanguination doesn’t happen like in the movies, gents. You don’t hit the floor a dead man seconds after your assailant slits your throat. But it happens fast enough, and it kills you just as dead.” 

 

Finn’s peripheral nerves fired off thousands of directives at once, screaming orders through a billion neurons, a trillion synapses, signaling a shift in tactics, constricting some blood vessels and muscle fibers and shouting at others to ease up— 

 

“Depending on severity of the wound you can lose twenty-five percent of total blood volume in anywhere from thirty seconds to three minutes. You’ll feel weakness, disorientation, nausea . . .” 

 

Twelve guys in a room, sitting in a circle, instructor in the middle, another lifetime: advanced SEAL training in close quarters combat—

 

“At fifty percent your organs start shutting down. Which you want to avoid. So here are two simple rules of close-quarters combat. Don’t get shot. And don’t get cut. Welcome to CQB, gentlemen.”

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Training and instinct rotated Finn’s body to the left as he side-stepped to the right, like a fighter jet banking into a sudden dive, then continued the rotation, bringing his left leg around in a full 360-degree spin, lashing out with his boot—

 

And met nothing but air. 

 

Too late to react, he felt the impact of Boone’s steel-toe boot crashing into his right leg. The impact knocked Finn into an awkward two-step stagger, enough time for Boone to deliver a second kick, this one straight to the chest.

 

The second kick drove Finn to the ground. 

 

As he fell he pulled his ring knife and a fraction of a second later it was flying toward Boone’s gut—

 

And in the next fraction of a second Boone swatted it away with his obsidian blade.

 

Jesus, he was fast.

 

“Best way to avoid being shot or cut is to be the guy who shoots or cuts first. When you leave this room at the end of the week, you will be that guy.”

 

Except that Finn and Boone had both been in that room.

 

And Finn had no gun to shoot with, and now no knife to cut with. 

 

He popped up out of his roll and into a crouch, at the same time yanking off his belt and flicking it around his left arm, holding it across his front in a defensive stance. 

 

The first slash bit deep into the belt, but the thick leather held. 

 

The counter-slash was more destructive. Boone’s blade sliced clear through one strap of Finn’s backpack, severing the pack from his shoulder, then continued on its trajectory across his upper chest, biting deeper, slicing through his clothing and into his flesh.

 

The long knife stroke left Boone open and Finn charged in, launching a palm strike to the nose, throwing all his weight into it. 

 

The impact broke Boone’s nose and sent him staggering back, blood pouring from the burst capillaries and small vessels, before quickly recovering and running again at Finn—

 

And Finn turned his back on him.

 

It was such a shock, such an insanely, incomprehensibly foolish move, that it caused Boone to hesitate for half an instant.

 

Which was all Finn needed.

 

Finn was not a big man, and not as strong as some, but he was blindingly fast. In any face-off, speed was his prime advantage. But Boone was jacked up on massive amounts of chemical rocket fuel. Finn could read that on him like a billboard. Boone could match him move for move, and then some.

 

And Finn was cut.

 

The slash across the chest was not the perfect kill strike—there were ribs and clavicles and hard muscles to get past and the arteries and veins in the chest were tough to reach. But vulnerable enough. Finn was bleeding badly. He wouldn’t last too many rounds. If he wanted to walk away from this contest alive, he needed something to increase his velocity. 

 

Not chemicals.

 

Physics.

 

Angular velocity.

 

As long as Finn himself was the weapon, he would be dead in seconds. Fast as he was, he was too slow.

 

So don’t try to be fast. 

 

Be still.

 

A point of stasis. 

 

A pivot point. 

 

In the traditional Filipino knife arts, they had a favorite tactic they called “defanging the snake,” which involved severing muscles or tendons of the forearm, thereby crippling the attacker’s ability to grip his weapon. Finn had no knife to sever with. 

 

But there was more than one way to defang a snake. 

 

As he turned away from Boone, he shifted his weight to the right while whipping the belt off his arm, then launched into a counterclockwise spin on the opposite foot, gripping onto the tongue end of the belt and flinging it like a bullwhip. 

 

Angular velocity.

 

As he launched off his left foot he made a split-second decision: head? or hand? A solid shot to the head could put Boone down permanently. And Finn didn’t want that. 

 

He didn’t want Boone dead.

 

He wanted to ask Boone a question—and he needed an answer.

 

He spun one-and-a-half rotations, the steel belt buckle whistling through the air until it came into violent contact with Boone’s knife hand, crushing several fingers and causing the knife to go clattering off over the pavement.

 

Boone dove for the knife, retrieved it in an instant and turned.

 

Finn had vanished into the fog.

***

Order your copy of “Cold Fear” today!

Order at least two copies of Cold Fear or Steel Fear (soon to be a streaming series) for the Holidays and receive a limited offer to have your gift recipients receive a personalized cameo style video emailed to them directly from the authors and there’s more.

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You’ll also receive an exclusive live Zoom SNEAK PREVIEW where the authors will reveal glimpses into their next book, Blind Fear (spring/summer 2023 release).

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Brandon Webb is founder of SOFREP and the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Circle and Benghazi: The Definitive Report. A former U.S. Navy SEAL whose last assignment was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, he was instrumental in developing new curricula that trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century. Webb has received numerous distinguished service awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Commendation Medal with a “V” for “Valor,” for his platoon’s deployment to Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.

John David Mann is coauthor of more than thirty books, including four New York Times bestsellers and five national bestsellers. His writing has won multiple awards and been featured in American ExecutiveFinancial TimesForbesLeadership ExcellenceHuffingtonWired, and CrimeReads. His bestselling classic The Go-Giver (with Bob Burg) has sold over 1 million copies and won the Living Now Book Awards Evergreen Medal for its “contributions to positive global change.”

John and Brandon have coauthored ten books together. Steel Fear, the debut novel in their Finn series, was nominated for a Barry Award and hailed by Jack Reacher author Lee Child as “an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.” Cold Fear is the second book in the series; the third, Blind Fear, comes out summer of 2023.

Visit Webb & Mann here.