Bridget Jamison's heart raced as she hurried down the hall to Bran Frost's office inside Delta Star Headquarters. Her high-heeled pumps clicked on the gleaming marble floors as she ran. Maybe this would be the end of her quest. Increased chatter said that international terrorist Simon Perez was on the move. All her instincts as an agent told her something was going to break soon, and, for her ex-fiancé's sake, she hungered to be in on the kill.
James Clayton was killed in a terrorist bombing orchestrated by Perez three years ago. His death happened only hours after their breakup, and his body had never been recovered. Until the end of time, she'd feel responsible; thinking their breakup might have distracted him, leading to his death. It prompted her subsequent career move from systems analyst to field agent.
At any rate, a summons from the director wasn't something she could afford to ignore, especially since disobeying his direct orders in Homburg last month. Her instincts had proven right, a fact that secretly gave her pride. She'd apprehended the arms dealer, Hans Booker, after her superiors ordered her to pull out, thinking he'd fled the scene.
Intel, combined with her intuition and computer savvy, worked every time, but Director Frost didn't like having his commands countermanded, or ignored. She'd have to watch her step for a while to get back in his good graces.
Skidding to a halt in the director's anteroom, she breathlessly waited for Thelma, his personal assistant, to buzz her in. The stylish older woman remained focused on her task, her fingers flying over her keyboard as she typed. Bridget looked fondly at her mentor. The woman was a model of efficiency, while maintaining her fierce technical capabilities. Thelma could outshoot most of the agents on the gun range. The woman had befriended her when she'd changed career paths. Back then, she'd been a feisty trainee with a huge chip on her shoulder, resenting the establishment's contention that James had been careless, or worse. She'd had to work twice as hard to make her way up the agency's ladder, but she didn't mind. It made her stronger and sharper than most of her male counterparts.
She took in Thelma's dark hair, swept up in a sleek twist, her chic tailored suit, elegantly understated. She flicked a glance over the modern chrome and glass desk, topped as usual with a single red rose in a bud vase, and felt a bit more grounded. All was as it should be, no hint of disaster loomed.
Bridget admired Thelma's style and tried to emulate her. Unfortunately, her own long red hair had ways of escaping from the bun she put it into each morning, and she took pains to make sure that her drab business suits concealed her too curvy figure. She couldn't afford to let her sexuality detract from her efficiency. Cocky, immature agents, who thought they were God's gift to women, pissed her off.
Fraternization was frowned on, if not downright banned in the secret government agency, and she liked it that way. It kept her from getting her heart broken. It also kept her sexless. She'd learned the hard way that it was far better to keep her love life separate from her work, not that she was having much sex lately. Working nonstop could leave a woman unfulfilled. But on the plus side, being sexually hungry heightened her senses, made her sharper.
Thelma looked up at that moment, and frowned, her gaze cautious. Bridget tensed, detecting the worry in her mentor's gray eyes. No friendly chitchat this morning.
Shit...I really am screwed.
"He's waiting," Thelma said, pressing one of the buttons on her desk. The director's door swung silently open on well-oiled hinges.
Bridget swallowed the lump in her throat and walked inside, her head held high, to take her medicine.
Director Frost was seated on his throne-like leather desk chair, behind a huge antique mahogany desk. The burnished top glowed with a rich patina that only time could create. His desktop was cluttered with papers and two executive desk toys he liked to fidget with. Listening to Frost's crisp tone as he gave orders into the phone, she decided the director's last name fit him to a "T". His prematurely white hair belonged on an older man, but somehow fit him, and, coupled with his ice-blue eyes, gave him an air of authority. He gave the circular toy a spin as he offered a pithy reply to the person on the other end of the phone.
Even with Bran Frost's leashed energy, he still reminded her of the hard-charging field agent he'd once been, a protégé of her father's. He'd been close to her father, succeeding him when he retired. But that didn't mean he cut her any slack, quite the contrary. He seemed to hold her to a higher standard, and she was glad of it. There was no way she wanted others to think she'd climbed up the ranks based on favoritism.
Frost kept talking, while casting an inscrutable glance her way. He motioned her toward a chair with a curt wave of his hand, and she rushed to comply. She perched on the stiff wing chair, meeting his ice-blue eyes with a relaxed look, determined not to show any anxiety. The first lesson a would-be field agent learned was never to show weakness. He could have summoned her to tell her good news about Perez. Yeah, and pigs will fly some day soon.
Waiting patiently wasn't her forte, but she endeavored to appear serene just the same, feeling much like a kid called to the principal's office. Taking a calming yoga breath, she smoothed her drab gray wool skirt down her toned legs, and sat up straight, checking to make sure the top button of her matching gray jacket was secure. Not that Frost was the type swayed by womanly wiles.
A tingling sensation broke though her tension, making her nerve endings sizzle in response. Someone was watching her, their gaze palpable—like it was caressing her back—making her skin tickle. She turned in that direction, glancing casually toward a dimly lit corner of the room, and all her hormones went haywire. Condor. His code name beat like a drum in her mind, as her eyes locked with the disreputable ghost agent's compelling brown ones. Lounged in an armchair in the corner, he watched her closely, tracking her like the predator he was. His thick dark hair curled over the collar of his black leather motorcycle jacket. His square jaw covered with stubble, on his harshly compelling face. Dressed in biker leathers, the ruggedly handsome stud looked like he'd just come off the road. A notorious loner, he seemed immune to Delta Star rules, or the agency dress code, for that matter.
Her fascinated gaze roamed over him, despite her disapproval. He carried the cool self-confidence of a gunslinger, and the adventurous part of her personality was foolishly drawn to him. Hot chocolate brown eyes drew her in, and seemed to strip her bare of her defenses, making her want to learn all his secrets. Sprawled nonchalantly, his scuffed boots stacked atop each other, and she noticed that even his pants were leather. Her gaze swept up his long powerful legs, to the distinct bulge at his crotch. Blushing, she tore her gaze off his overgenerous manly package in time to see his hunky mouth kick into a slow grin that said, Who's your daddy?
Her whole body tingled in response, her nipples beading. Not you, honey, the rational part of her lust-addled mind screamed as she told herself to get a grip. The few times she'd seen him, she'd had the same fierce primal reaction, but she hadn't been stupid enough to get this close, within his striking distance.
Bridget scowled back at him, her lips tingling as she stared at his sensual mouth. Suspicion fizzled the rest of her inappropriate arousal. She put her aberrant sexual response down to stress. Something was very wrong. Frost didn't have visitors in his office unless it was business related. Condor swooped in when other agents failed. It all added up to one career-shattering explanation.
Damn it all, she hadn't failed. The worst she was guilty of was insubordination over the Booker incident. Frost wouldn't take away one of her cases for that, would he? She bit her lip. The man did run a tight ship. She'd learned that the hard way when she ran up against a brick wall insisting he delve deeper, work harder, to investigate James' death. The man had even sent her for a psych evaluation, much to her embarrassment. She wasn't crazy, but knew a cover up when she saw one. James had died under a cloud of controversy.
The only case still open on her desk was James'—the Perez case. It'd been open for three years. Why bring in Condor now? Her spine went rigid at the very idea. No damned way would she give it up! Her tech squad had recently managed to ferret out information as to his possible whereabouts. She was too close to closure to kiss it goodbye. And she so badly needed to bring down the terrorist responsible for so much carnage.