Being an agent revoked her license to love . . . until she met the man sent to kill her.
Jesse Evans' most recent mission turns deadly when Colombian mercenaries ambush her and her informant. She races across the jungle to warn the Special Ops team she sent to save an American Senator's young daughter, but arrives just as the team is slaughtered by drug runners.
Within the hour, branded as the traitor who leaked the mission intelligence, Jesse Evans is now the most wanted woman in the world. She must prove she didn't sell out the team or her sister dies. Only one man can save them both, but that man isn't who Jesse thinks he is...and she can't afford to fall in love with him.
A gunshot silenced jungle-chatter for a heart stopping instant. The bullet ripped nearby foliage as Jesse vaulted over the decaying trunk of a fallen corozo palm. She landed on the soft, sloping Colombian jungle floor and bolted to the right deeper into the foliage—and away from where her informant Martinez had been gunned down. She choked back anguish. He shouldn’t have run when mercenaries burst upon their meeting place. He had a young wife and child who would now have to go into hiding in order to avoid being tortured and killed by the Colombian drug lords in payment for his having aided an American spy.
She scrambled down the slope into a patch of dense undergrowth, pushed through vines and spider webs, and finally emerged on the bank of a slow moving stream. Sunlight streamed through a wide break in the canopy. Blue sky arched overhead in backdrop to dark green foliage. A satellite signal might be possible through the gap in the trees.
Jesse slowed to a crawl and concentrated past the red howler monkey screeches and parrot caws for footfalls or leaves rustling to indicate Martinez’s killers slinked through the foliage in search of her. Nothing.
She dropped to her knees, yanked open a pocket of her camouflage fatigues, and pulled out the secure satellite phone. She flipped it open, punched out home base’s ten-digit number, then pressed the receiver to her ear and held her breath until the first elongated ring began. By the third ring, her heart pounded so hard, the thud echoed in her ears.
“Come on. Pick up.” She tried to ignore the dribble of sweat trickling down the valley between her breasts as the fourth ring began.
What was wrong? HQ verified the source of incoming calls on the first ring and picked up on the second. She jerked the phone from her ear and squinted at the display. Five black bars along the left indicated a strong signal. She pressed the phone against her ear and shoved aside a lock of hair which had worked free of the brain numbingly tight ponytail. Why weren’t they—
“Designation, please,” came the operator’s voice.
“Control, this is Blue Delta Four.”
“Zebra, four, eight, two, seven, golf,” Jesse replied in a low voice.
“Confirmed, Delta Four. What is your status?”
“I am not at target. Must speak with Blue Leader.”
“Blue Leader is out of communication range.”
“Code blue,” Jesse hissed. “Get me Blue Leader Five.”
A click sounded on the line, a quick ring, then a male voice answered, “Delta Four, this is Green Leader. What’s happened?”
Jesse froze. Green Leader? Why had Robert Lanton intercepted her call? “Where is Blue Leader?” she demanded.
“Out of communication range. What’s happened?”
“What is your status?” he asked.
She silently cursed, but gave in. “We have a leak. The Colombians knew about the meeting.”
Silence, then, “That’s impossible.”
“Negative, Green Leader. Repeat, they were waiting. Abort Operation Hangman.”
“What is your source?” he asked.
Her heart thumped harder with memory of Martinezlunging for the trees when the mercenaries rushed them. “M-2,” she replied with effort.
“How did M-2 obtain his information?”
She wondered the same thing. “I don’t know. Before he could confirm his source, the Colombians shot him. But he was scared, really scared. The leak has to be high up.” Anger, hot and hard, shot through her. Martinez’s life had been forfeit—and for nothing. “If that little girl dies because someone at HQ leaked the mission, I’ll kill—”
“Verify your designation code,” Green Leader cut in.
What? She’d never been asked to verify her identity a second time. The control operator had already verified her code. “Zebra, four, eight, two, seven, golf,” Jesse counted off.
An almost imperceptible pause followed, then, “That code is outdated, Delta Four. Give me your current verification.”
Outdated? Her mind whirled. “What the hell is this?”
“Current verification, Delta Four.”
“Get Blue Leader on the line right now, and put me through voice recognition,” Jesse ordered.
“Negative,” he replied. “Not without current verification.”
“Get the director on the line—now! Don’t send in Green Team until you’ve verified with him. The Colombians were waiting for us—they murdered M-2. They knew about our meeting. That confirms what he told me. The Colombians have intel on Operation Hangman. Our men will be slaughtered.”
The line went dead.
Jesse yanked the phone from her ear and looked at the screen. Five bars of signal strength held strong. She punched the direct emergency number to Blue Leader. A fast busy signal resonated through the connection. She pressed the phone’s display button. The display blinked unavailable. The network—satellites, ground stations, handsets—had never, ever been unavailable. It was designed and built by the best to be always available. HQ had scrambled the access code.
Her heart went stone cold. Green Team was headed straight into the arms of the Colombian mercenaries.
Only two hours ago, she gave the go ahead to move in and rescue Maria Hamilton, Senator Hamilton’s daughter. Jesse hadn’t spotted any guerrillas hidden among the villagers, but she now knew they were there, just as they’d been there when she met with Martinez.
A slight breeze wafted past, cooling the sweat soaked shirt that clung to her back and sending a chill down her spine. She was Blue Team—recon—working solo. She should have smelled the trap. Yet she’d sent her team in to be murdered—unless…
Jesse drew a deep breath to slow her heart rate while visualizing the map of coastal Columbia. The village sat three kilometers to the south over a small but treacherous pass jungle pass. Forty people lived in the village, farmers—or so she’d thought. How many were mercenaries employed by Amadeo Perez, the most powerful drug lord in Columbia, and the man responsible for kidnapping Senator Hamilton's daughter?
Probably every last one of them.
Forty minutes later, the nearby staccato rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire sounded in rapid succession.
Jesse pumped her legs faster, thrashing and clawing through thick foliage. Another volley echoed.
“Come on, Green Team,” she urged. “Kick some drug runners’ ass.”
Muscles burned with the final effort to reach the summit overlooking the village. Branches whipped and tore at her face as she flew through the foliage and burst into the open above the village. She fell to her knees, fumbled the compact binoculars from a thigh pocket, and forced her shaky hands steady enough to scan the village as she dropped to her belly. Armed mercenaries danced in drunken celebration in the village center. Relief tightened her chest at sight of two men wearing U.S.fatigues, hands tied behind their backs and kneeling within the circle of mercenaries.
But Green Team was comprised of six men. Where were the other four? Her heart surged. They had to be hidden in the jungle, preparing to rescue their teammates. If she could find them—several mercenaries near the two men swung their rifles heavenward and fired bursts.
Stay calm, Jesse mentally urged the two Americans.
She scanned the village perimeter. No eyes, glint of metal, or shadow out of place. Dammit, until Green Team wanted to be seen she wouldn’t detect so much as a leaf flutter. She swung the binoculars back to the village center and counted forty-two armed men crowding the small square. Between herself and the four remaining Green Team members, they could—one of the men who had fired his rifle into the air swung the weapon downward. Jesse realized his intent and pushed to her knees as she yanked the 9mm Beretta from her thigh holster. The rifle barrel halted an inch from the nearest Green Team member’s temple. He lunged for the mercenary. The second Green Team member shoved to his feet.
Jesse fired in unison with the boom of the mercenary’s rifle. Blood gushed from the hole blown in the first Green Team member’s head. Jesse’s stomach lurched as he dropped to the ground. She fired again. Pandemonium broke out. The second Green Team member staggered back under the onslaught of AK47 bullets. Jesse aimed the Beretta on the man shooting at him and fired three shots. Then she froze.
A gap had opened between the mercenaries at the north end of the village. On the ground behind them, four ops-clad bodies lay piled atop one another. The hand holding the binoculars shook so badly the bodies looked as if they bounced in the throes of an earthquake. She couldn’t tear her eyes from the blood stained fatigues. Green Team dead? It wasn’t possible.
Her pulse jumped. Senator Hamilton’s daughter.
Tears streamed down Jesse’s face. She yanked open a vest pocket and pulled out the sat-phone. Blood roared in her ears. She redialed Blue Leader Headquarters at Langley. This time, there was no tone, no click of a connection. Nothing but static. She pushed the display button on the sat phone. Unavailable blinked as it had earlier. The code had been scrambled. She'd been locked out…and the mercenaries had murdered Green Team.
Someone inside the Office of Internal Affairs had sold out the U.S.
The same person who had locked her out.
Green Leader, Robert Lanton.
Traffic oozed along New York’s Second Avenuelike butter melting in a midsummer heat wave. In the backseat of a cab idling at a red light, Jesse scanned the street. Three blocks ahead loomed the Bank of America branch that housed a safe deposit box belonging to her alias, Joanne Anderson. The light changed and the cabbie merged into the right lane, then stopped at the sidewalk.
Jesse pulled a twenty from the open zipper of her small purse and handed it to him. “Keep the change.” She wanted to walk the last few blocks and get a look around.
She stepped from the car and breathed deep of the heavy city air. The next half hour was as crucial as had been the last three weeks dodging U.S.and foreign agents. Jesse headed south, noting every car, every person, on the avenue. If anyone followed, they were good—very good—but she expected nothing less.
Despite the inconceivability that Green Leader Robert Lanton could locate her safe deposit box, Columbiahad taught her that earlier suspicions about the man hadn’t come close to revealing the depths of evil to which he was capable. Memory flashed of blood spurting from the Green Team member’s head when the mercenary shot him. Her step faltered. A passing man looked in her direction. She caught the concern in his eyes—felt the burn of tears—and hurried past without a word.
She had to get a grip on the memories. She couldn’t afford to draw attention to herself. Her jaw tensed at recollection of The Professor’s forwarded email: The Office of Internal Affairs reporting Green Team’s massacre. No survivors.
Missioncompromised by Blue Team operative Jessica Evans. Tom Montague, AKA The Professor, had included a copy of the transcript of her call warning Headquarters to pull Green Team out. But instead of a warning, the call had been altered to sound as if she had threatened Green Leader. And she had, but because of his inaction. Damn her temper. Lanton, the fucking puissant, had made it sound like she had killed Martinezand threatened him for trying to stop the massacre.
Jesse had made a thousand guesses as to how Green Leader intercepted her call to Blue Leader. No team leader had authority to interfere in another cell’s mission—nor did they have the authority to order an agent’s access code denied.
But Robert Lanton was smarter than she’d given him credit for. Three years ago, when Madridgunrunners were waiting for The Professor as he slipped into their compound to crack their computer system she’d known something was wrong. A year later, she scouted a Hong Kongwarehouse and Chinese secret agents appeared minutes after her call to headquarters. Lanton had headed both missions.
After Hong Kong, she began a quiet investigation that uncovered the fact he frequented a secret and exclusive DC BDSM club. If word got out one of OIA’s top handlers liked his sex with whips and chains, he would be ruined. Setting her up for killing his team meant he knew that she knew. But why not simply contract a hit on her? Because he needed someone to take the fall, if she survived the mission. That made the most sense, but why ally with Perez, and sabotage this mission in particular? Something more was going on. Lanton had been waiting for her call, which confirmed what Martinezhad been about to report; Lanton was the leak to Amadeo Perez.
Jesse glanced at the flashing neon sign on a deli window that read Pizza and Wedges. Perez had ruined thousands of kids’ lives by shipping cocaine into the U.S., but it had taken the kidnapping of a senator’s daughter to light a fire under the government. Now they wanted Perez’s head on a platter. Lanton wanted the silver platter. He’d made Martinezhis first sacrificial lamb. His six team members had followed, and Jesse was the final sacrifice that would ensure he got away with his crimes. No, there was one more possible sacrifice, Jesse’s sister Amanda.
A man flicked a glance at Jesse. She tensed, then relaxed when she realized his attention was aimed at her breasts. Choosing a disguise with blonde hair—even the dishwater-blonde wig—and blue eyes may have been a mistake. She had gotten a couple of stares in transit from the East side. She’d chosen the blonde hair as the opposite to her straight black hair.
She reached the corner and joined the crowd waiting to cross Second Avenue. Along with her false identity, a second identity for Amanda sat in the small Bank of America branch, one of hundreds of banks in a city close enough to Langley to be accessible in hours, but far enough away not to show up in a sweep of Washington, DC regional banks.
The light changed, and Jesse joined the others crossing the avenue. Two men in navy blue suits left the bank. Her heart rate accelerated. She’d seen FBI agents who were more relaxed. She kept pace with the moving crowd and, as the men angled on an intercept course for the corner she approached, she looked right, causing the locks of the lush wig to fall across her face.
The man on the left turned his head and said something to his companion. Jesse detected no wire in his ear. She stepped over the curb and peered down at the men’s shoes. One wore brown Forzieri dress shoes—too fancy for a federal agent. No FBI issue black leather, black-soled shoes. FBI and CIAclothing allowance didn’t cover four hundred dollar shoes, and in brown, no less.
The men passed without any indication they knew her. She stopped at the bank, pulled open the thick glass door, and plunged into the air-conditioned interior. A pink marble floor with gold inlay and fifteen-foot ceilings made the space feel even cooler. On the right, eight people stood in a roped line waiting for one of six glass-protected tellers seated behind a marble counter. Straight ahead were two freestanding counters with deposit slips and pens on chains. In the back, the vault’s massive door stood wide open, revealing the rows of safety deposit boxes.
To the left sat mahogany desks for the managers, loan officers, and the assistant manager, Louise, who handled safe deposit boxes. A shiver traveled across Jesse’s shoulders as much from the room’s chill as the prospect of spiriting Amanda out of the country. It wouldn’t be easy traveling unnoticed with an autistic sister. Jesse strolled to Louise’s desk and pulled the safety deposit key and New York Driver’s license from the inside pocket of her purse.
Louise looked up from her terminal. “May I help you?”
Jesse extended the key and license. “I’d like to get into box1271.”
Louise’s eyes widened, then her expression melted into the bland professional look a customer might expect. Jesse smiled as if unaware of the reaction.
“I’m afraid there’s a problem, Ms. Anderson.”
Jesse raised her brows in question. Louise didn’t know her by name.
“There’s a small administrative issue.” Louise returned her attention to her monitor and began typing.
Jesse studied her. “What sort of issue?”
“Just a new policy.” Louise’s eyes remained on the monitor.
Tiny hairs on the back of Jesse’s neck prickled. How would Louise know she hadn’t been there since this new policy had been instituted?
Jesse glanced at her watch. “My lunch break is short. I don’t have much time.”
Feigning frustration, she took a casual step back and peered past the iron barred door into the vault’s subdued, gray interior. Her eye caught the nearest box number in her row, 1011, and scanned the row. Her gaze sharpened on the gaping rectangular hole where her box should have been.
Gone—her passport, Amanda’s new identity, all gone. How? But she knew how. When the Office of International Affairs wanted something, no one asked questions. She’d underestimated OIA—no, underestimated Robert Lanton—again. Suddenly, her six years in the world of black paled in comparison to his twenty years.
Jesse stepped back to Louise’s desk. “When did they clean me out?”
The woman’s eyes snapped up and locked with Jesse’s. Jesse read fear and a trace of anger. Louise licked her lips. Jesse didn’t think she would answer, but she said, “A week ago.”
Jesse spun and hurried toward the front door with a crushing emptiness in her chest. Nobody in line or behind the desks broke position. The guard didn’t shift at his post as she pushed open the door and stepped into the stifling heat. She scanned the sidewalk and the upper windows of the buildings across the street for evidence of surveillance as she headed south on Second at a fast clip. She didn’t spot anyone looking out, which didn’t mean they weren’t there.
She hailed a cab, but it whizzed past. She lengthened her stride, waved at a second taxi. The cabbie swerved from the middle lane and halted at the curb ahead of her. She hurried forward. The driver leered with lusty black eyes as she hopped in the back. She gave him the address of an Ethiopian restaurant on the Upper West Side.
Jesse glanced back and memorized the cars, then slumped against the seat. The remainder of the afternoon would be spent taking random cab rides and subway lines to be sure no one was tailing her before she could make another move. Precious time she couldn’t afford to lose. She closed her eyes, picturing the hole that used to be her safe deposit box. Lost, all lost, the Andersonalias Amanda’s papers, and—Jesse opened her eyes, the disc containing the entire Green Team roster.
Her fingers tightened convulsively on her purse. She should have destroyed the disc after finding it in Juanita Pinto’s purse the weekend they’d been in Madrid, then told Tom that the Spanish agent he’d fallen hard for had stolen it from him.
Jesse stared through the windshield at the slowing traffic. Lanton had been looking for evidence he believed would incriminate him but, instead, hit the real jackpot. If her encryption scheme wasn’t good enough, he would crack the code, then take down Tom, the infamous Professor, and use the roster as proof she was a traitor. Dammit, she had played fast and loose with sensitive information…and had been careless with Amanda’s future.
OIA knew about Amanda and the fact Jesse had been her legal guardian the last twelve years. Four months shy of Jesse’s eighteenth birthday, their mother had died. Those months until Jesse became of age had been sheer hell. But the morning she turned eighteen, before the doors to Berkline Hall for Autistic Children opened, Jesse stood at the entrance waiting to bring her sister home.
Berkline Hall for Autistic Children. Jesse mentally sneered. Their mother never minded telling people her daughter lived at Berkline. The title leant respectability to the fact she had abandoned Amanda in an institution. When Jesse joined the military, she found a home, not an institution, for Amanda. Jesse had purposely neglected to inform her bosses the last few times she had moved Amanda. Where Amanda lived was none of their business.
Fear unlike any she’d known since her father’s death settled in Jesse’s gut. Lanton had torn down all but a narrow rope between her and Amanda. Now, with her sister's only identification gone, Jesse would have to perform a balancing act unlike any she’d ever imagined in order to get Amanda to safety. Even then, how easy would falling off the radar really be? Robert Lanton wouldn’t give up looking for Jesse as long as he believed she could hurt him, which meant Amanda would never be safe.
Jesse flipped open her cell phone and dialed her attorney’s number.
“Ms. Evans,” Jason Barrett said once his secretary put her through. Having a four million dollar trust that needed management had its perks. “Where the hell have you been?” he demanded. “We’ve got a problem.”
She tensed. “What problem?”
“Your assets have been frozen by order of a federal district judge.”
Amanda’s trust fund.Jesse choked back a cry. “When?”
“Day before yesterday. They also served a subpoena for the records.”
“Can you file an injunction?”
“Already tried,” he replied. “No go. The records are sealed for reasons of national security. What have you gotten yourself into?”
Jesse cast a glance at the cabbie. His eyes were straight ahead. “I can’t say right now. What else can we do?”
“I’ve filed an appeal, but it’ll take time.”
“Can they seize the assets?”
“Not while appeals are pending. We can keep this tied up in court for years, but you can’t access the funds either.”
Years! Amanda’s ninety thousand dollar yearly bill at Houghton House came due in three months. What if she couldn’t prove Lanton’s guilt before then, or worse, he permanently silenced her? Without the trust fund, the state would stick
Amanda in another institution.
“Do what you can,” she said.
“How do I get a hold of you?”
“You can’t. Call Harris.”
She heard the understanding in his voice. Harris was her inside man at Houghton House and had power of attorney if anything happened to her.
“I’ll need you in court to get the order lifted,” he said. “Oh, and keep in mind, don’t touch any of the funds.”
Her heart rate increased. He wasn’t talking about the trust fund, but was covertly warning her away from the
endowment she’d set up four years ago to fund research for autistic kids. Barrett had insisted he not be put in charge of the grant in case he was compromised as her attorney. Seems he’d been right.
“You don’t want to lose control,” he said.
So Lanton hadn’t found the endowment fund—yet.
Jesse recalled the two hundred thousand dollar Cayman account under her name—an account that wasn’t hers.
She’d discovered the account while digging through Lanton’s financials along with a two million dollar Swiss account in his name. She had yet to connect the two accounts, but there was no doubt he had set up the Cayman account to look like she’d taken a payoff.
“Understood,” she said into the phone.
“Keep in touch,” Barrett said.
“Thanks.” She closed the phone.
Jesse stared out the window as if deep in thought, her attention on the nearby motorists. She had known her covert lifestyle would catch up with her, but hadn’t expected it to be so soon, or so violent. At thirty, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. That’s what she got for watching all those old spy movies.
“Thank you, Mrs. Peel,” she whispered, remembering all too vividly night after night of late TV with The Avengers. “And how do you propose I get out of this?”
Ah, yes, The Professor. If he couldn’t help, no one could.
The padded, red, leather door swung closed behind Jesse, dulling the painful blare of punk music from the West Sideclub dance floor. She paused on the dimly lit landing and gazed down the stairwell leading to the private room where The Professor said he would be waiting. The narrow tunnel of stairs disappeared into a murky bottom. She had been lucky so far, but luck was like baking a soufflé in a blasting zone. Plus, the hour had just struck midnight; the witching hour.
A dull thump, thump resonated through the walls, and Jesse shook her head in an effort to clear the calamity of music from her mind. She grimaced. The snakes and spiders she’d encountered in Columbiawere preferable to the solid wall of skin, leather, and pierced body parts she’d slithered through in order to reach the back of the club.
She started down the worn treads. A lone black light at the bottom landing cast iridescent shadows off purple walls, and her sneaker laces shimmered as if energized. She hesitated before continuing forward. A blind man could spot her shoelaces a mile away. Leave it to The Professor to pick a place like this. She hit the landing and turned left down a narrow hallway. Jesse spotted the door he said she’d find and stopped just short of it. She pressed her back to the wall, reached out, and rapped with her knuckles.
“Come,” he called from within.
Jesse slipped inside. More black lights lit the room. Two white floor lamps were located beside the two stained red leather sofas, and two beanbags sat beneath glowing, florescent-colored posters of Jimmy Hendricks and Bon Jovi. The velvet painting of Elvis that hung behind the sofa where The Professor sat added the finishing touch of tackiness to the odor of moldy leather and BO tinged with dried semen.
The Professor reclined on the sofa, a cigarette pinched between thumb and forefinger. His eyes exuded sparkling innocence. His nerdy persona didn’t quite hide the good-looking devil lurking behind his dark brown eyes. At forty-four years of age, in three years, he could retire with thirty years in the service. Government intelligence was one place a teenager with three Ph.D.s could get a job. In many ways, he was still a kid.
“What a god-awful place, Tom,” she said.
He chuckled. “Don’t knock it. Anyone following wouldn’t make it past the skinheads upstairs. One is my sister’s husband.”
Jesse strode to the sofa, dropped to a squat in front of him, placed a hand on his shoulder, and kissed his cheek. He returned her kiss with one on the mouth. Affection rippled through her. He was the only Blue Team member she had any real affection for. He was The Professor to her Mary Ann. Or would she be Ginger? She sat beside him and crossed her legs.
“You’re in deep,” he said in a conversational tone.
“Uh huh,” she replied.
“You’re lucky I owe you,” he said. “This will square us for Lisbon.” Jesse raised a brow, and he grinned. “All right. I would do it for you anyway.”
He meant it. She had saved his life in Madridwhen the gun dealer took him hostage—imprisoned and tortured him, is what the bastard had done. Jesse had gone in for him.
She smiled gently. “I know.”
“I hadn’t expected to hear from you so soon,” he said.
“Good. I’m counting on Green Leader thinking the same way. The longer I wait, the deeper he’ll burrow. Not to mention, he’s got his wife’s family connections. The last thing I need is for him to call in favors. He’ll bury me six feet under and piss on my grave if I give him the chance. Right now, it’s still early. He’s got to figure I’m running scared.”
“I don’t know how scared he is. They’re keeping quiet. But I heard he tracked you, and you stayed ahead of him.” Tom put his cigarette in his mouth and clapped softly. “Bravo.”
Jesse frowned. “Those things will kill you.”
He took a long drag, then snuffed out the butt in an ashtray on the floor beside the sofa. “They’re my only vice. Besides, our friends have enough of my DNAto grow me new lungs.”
“They probably could, at that.” Jesse folded her hands on a knee. “As for me, I’m expendable. He cleaned out my safe deposit box.”
The Professor scrutinized her. “I hope the information he’s after is somewhere safe.”
Jesse nodded. She had debated whether or not to tell him about the disc, and decided against it. She'd dragged him into this mess, but wouldn’t take him down if she fell. If Lanton deciphered the encryption, she would never confess that Tom had been involved in it ending up in her possession.
In the meantime, Lanton would drive himself crazy trying to break the encryption, but wouldn’t chance handing it over to anyone for fear it contained evidence that would incriminate him. Too bad she hadn’t saved the article written by DC’s most prominent gossip columnist Zoe Shelby about a certain RL who had been spotted in an off-the-beaten-path restaurant with a swanky uptown escort. The information was public knowledge, but the look on his face when he found the article in her safe deposit box would have been worth a year’s salary.
Gossip columnists thrived on stories that turned a boring marriage between a civil servant and socialite into a debutant done wrong by playboy husband story. They weren’t off the mark this time. The pre-nup Helen Beaumont’s family insisted Lanton sign hadn’t stopped him from squandering her considerable fortune over the past eighteen years on women and fast living that had graduated into BDSM at its best.
Jesse could imagine Helen’s face when she received the first consoling phone call from one of her socialite friends. Pissing away a woman’s fortune was one thing. Being seen about town with prostitutes was another. Lanton’s penchant for BDSM had yet to leak. Would that be enough for Helen Lanton to divorce him?
At five-ten, two hundred pounds, and a balding head, he didn’t fit the profile of a playboy with a rich wife and lovers. High priced hookers and exclusive BDSM clubs would be a thing of the past if his wife cut him off. At best, his GS-13 salary would buy him a back alley fuck.
“How’s Amanda?” Tom asked.
His question pulled her back to the present and the fear that hovered too close to the surface. “No one’s bothered her.”
Jesse pictured Amanda’s face as it lit up whenever Jesse appeared. Despite Amanda’s chronological age of thirty-five, her smile was that of an innocent eight-year-old—hell, she was an eight-year-old.
“She’ll be all right,” Tom said.
Jesse smiled with affection. Tom was one of the few people who appreciated Amanda’s special gift of statistical calculus. He would want to help keep her safe, but Jesse wouldn’t drag him any deeper than this one meeting.
“Madridand Hong Kongconvinced me Lanton was dirty, but massacring his own team shocked me.” She blocked the mental picture of the two Green Team members’ deaths before it rose this time. “He deserves a slow death.”
The Professor raised both eyebrows. “Remind me never to piss you off.”
Jesse took a deep breath. “I thought you felt the same way.”
He grinned. “Well, seems I’m going to have the last say, doesn’t it?”
“If we can track the source of the two million dollar Swiss account you will. That has to be the money Amadeo Perez paid for Green Team’s slaughter.” She paused. “What do you know about them, Tom?”
“Nothing. Sorry. You didn’t ask—”
“No.” She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
He paused for a long moment, then added in a hushed voice, “Those men aren’t the only ones who died as a result of Lanton’s double-cross.”
Jesse remembered Martinez, and started to agree, then realized what he meant. “No!” she cried. but saw the truth in his eyes.