The Soldier's Secret Daughter
“I hated you, but I still wanted you.” Dashing spy Jagger lived in a world of danger. Not even a sweet brown-eyed siren could be trusted, especially when he had to bring down her employer. Somehow Emily broke through his defences – and set him up for two years of captivity. Or so he thought. Emily hadn’t expected a cryptic message to lead her to rescue the man who’d disappeared after their night of passion.Nor had she known that he’d been held prisoner and believed she was responsible. Despite the suspicion, they must work together to stop the threat against them…and protect their precious daughter.
He spoke quietly, without looking at her.
“There were times when my rage, my determination to find you and get even with you, was the only thing that sustained me.”
She smiled a sad little smile. “I swore never to speak to you again. I vowed to myself never to need you again. Never to ask anything of you.”
When she didn’t go on, he prompted, “And now?”
“I realize you’ll never look at me and see something other than a collaborator with your enemies.”
He peered at her in the dusk, trying to make out the expression in her eyes. But she’d averted her face until all he saw was a glistening track down her cheek.
After a moment, she continued. “If there’s anything I can do to help you catch the people who kidnapped you, I’ll do it. Just say the word.”
He turned over her words for a while. Finally he said gravely, “I do have one request of you.”
About the Author
CINDY DEES started flying airplanes while sitting in her dad’s lap at the age of three and got a pilot’s license before she got a driver’s license. At age fifteen, she dropped out of high school and left the horse farm in Michigan where she grew up to attend the University of Michigan.
After earning a degree in Russian and East European Studies, she joined the US Air Force and became the youngest female pilot in the history of the Air Force. She flew supersonic jets, VIP airlift, and the C-5 Galaxy, the world’s largest airplane. She also worked part-time gathering intelligence. During her military career, she traveled to forty countries on five continents, was detained by the KGB and East German secret police, got shot at, flew in the first Gulf War, met her husband and amassed a lifetime’s worth of war stories.
Her hobbies include professional Middle Eastern dancing, Japanese gardening and medieval re-enacting. She started writing on a one dollar bet with her mother and was thrilled to win that bet with the publication of her first book in 2001. She loves to hear from readers and can be contacted at www.cindydees.com.
My warmest thanks to Carla Cassidy and Marie Ferrarella for their inspiration and support with this series. You two wear some pretty classy coattails— thanks for letting me hitch a ride on them!
Jagger Holtz crouched in the dark as the helicopter overhead peeled away, ostensibly to continue tracking traffic jams on the highways below. They’d hovered over the AbaCo building a total of twenty-eight seconds. Just long enough to drop him on a zip line to the roof of the twenty-story-tall glass-and-steel tower. And hopefully not long enough to trigger the intense security of AbaCo Inc., one of the largest—and most shadowy—shipping firms in the world.
Bent over at the waist, he ran for cover, ducking behind a giant air-conditioning vent and taking a quick time check. He’d give AbaCo’s goons three minutes to respond. Then, barring any company on the roof, he’d move on to phase two: infiltrating the building proper. He didn’t expect to find his missing colleagues tonight—Hanson and MacGillicutty were fellow government agents sent into AbaCo undercover months ago. And both of them had disappeared. No messages. No distress signals. No evidence of foul play. They were just … gone. When his superiors had approached him, he’d leaped at the chance to do this risky mission.
It was starting to look as though his rooftop landing had gone unnoticed. He tied off a rope to a sturdy steel grille and checked his rappelling harness one more time. Down the side of the building, in through an office window and then they’d see if the password they’d bought from the snitch worked.
Without warning, all hell broke loose. The heavy steel doors on each of the four stairwells leading to the roof burst open with a deafening crash. Armed men rushed out, sweeping the roof with automatic weapons. They sprinted forward, quartering the roof with brutal efficiency.
Holy crap. Commandos for a helicopter overhead for twenty-eight seconds?
He slammed to the ground just as a high-intensity flashlight beam passed over his position, barely missing lighting him up like a Christmas tree. He was trapped. He gripped the metal grille in front of his face in frustration as they closed in on him. Warm, moist air blew at him like an incongruous sea breeze on this frigid Denver night.
Air. An air vent. It might be a dead end, but it was better than lying here and getting captured or killed in the next few seconds. He grabbed his pocketknife and used the blade to unscrew the nearest fastener holding the vent shut. He lobbed the thumb-sized screw as hard as he could across the roof. It clattered loudly, and shouting and a scramble of men reacted instantly.
The second screw popped loose. It went flying in another direction.
C’mon, c’mon. The last screw finally popped free. He grabbed the bottom of the grille and yanked. Someone was shouting irritably at the guards in German to quit running around like chickens, to form up and to search the roof methodically. Not good. AbaCo’s serious security team was up here if they were speaking German.
Working fast, he slapped the clip from the rope he’d already tied off onto his climbing harness and rolled over the edge. He fell into space, fetching up hard as the rope caught. He bit back a gasp of pain as his groin took a hit from the harness that all but permanently unmanned him. Oww. So much for the glory of being a special agent.
The vent was about six by six feet square. Twisting until his feet braced against the side, he walked backward down the galvanized aluminum wall, doing his damnedest to be as silent as possible. The echo of any noise in here would be magnified a dozen times.
How far down the black shaft he descended, blind and lost, he had no idea. He counted steps and tried to estimate how far he’d gone. But it was hard to focus with periodic bursts of air from below knocking him off the wall and sending him spinning wildly in space, hanging on for dear life at the end of his single, skinny rope.
Hopefully, the AbaCo powers that be would declare the whole thing a false alarm and satisfy themselves with complaining to the radio station about its helicopter parking in their airspace. Otherwise, guards were probably waiting for him at the other end of this shaft, licking their chops at the prospect of nabbing themselves a third hapless federal agent. The idea of failing galled him, not only because he never failed, but also because it would mean Hanson and MacGillicutty were no closer to being found, their families no closer to any answers. Both of them had wives. Kids. Christmas last week had been hard on them all.
He guessed he was about halfway to the ground floor when the main shaft narrowed enough that he was forced to stop using his feet. He lowered himself hand over hand down the rope until his arms went so numb he could no longer feel them. His watch said the descent took twenty-four minutes. It felt like twenty-four hours.
Plenty of time to ponder the symbolism of his descent. Into darkness and silence and utter isolation. The hell he so richly deserved. He pushed away the encroaching panic. He could not afford to lose it now. He was a long way from out of this mess.
The air rushing up at him began to smell of car exhaust. The underground parking garage, maybe? Hmm. It had possibilities. Light began to glow faintly from below. Between his feet, he made out what looked like a metal grille. It was a miniature version of the big one on the roof.
The screws holding it in place were unfortunately on the other side, out of reach. He paused, listening carefully for any sound of humans nearby. Nothing. He damn well didn’t intend to climb all the way back up that rope, some twenty stories. He slammed both feet into the metal panel, jumping on it with his full body weight. The slats bent slightly. He jumped again. And again. After a few more tries, a tiny gap showed at the edge of the grille as the metal began to buckle. He kicked again.
Crud. It sounded like Godzilla tearing a car apart with his teeth. Metal screeched, protesting harshly. This had to be drawing the entire cavalry to the garage. His only hope was to break through fast and get away from here before they arrived.
The grille’s fasteners gave way all at once. He tumbled to the floor below, landing hard on the concrete. He grunted and rolled fast toward the nearest large object, a sedan parked on the slanting ramp, pulling his sidearm as he went. He scrambled under the car, then paused, scanning the area carefully for any feet. The goons weren’t here yet.
He froze as a car drove past his position, winding its way out of sight into the bowels of the parking garage. Hurrying, he unzipped his backpack and pulled out a dark gray tweed suit coat before he stuffed the pack behind a concrete pillar. He donned the jacket over his black turtleneck and black slacks. A quick tug into place, and he was instantly transformed from commando to party crasher.
Now to find a patsy. A single female to walk him past the inevitable security. He glanced around at the cars. Mostly modest domestic cars and the occasional junker. Perfect. The worker bees’ parking level.
The party was scheduled to start at eight o’clock. His watch said it was 8:05 p.m. The guests should be arriving in quantity right about now. He stood in a shadow near the elevator and settled in to wait. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes in case he needed a quick excuse to be loitering here. He didn’t smoke, but the many other handy uses of cigarettes—including convenient cover story—made them a staple in his arsenal of secret-agent equipment.
In a few minutes, he spotted a vaguely human shape coming down the ramp toward him. Pink parka. Scarf wrapped around the face. Mittens. Ski hat under the parka hood. Fleece-lined suede boots. The apparition looked like a four-year-old kid bundled up by Mom to go out in the first big snow of the year to play. But more importantly, the apparition was alone.
Bingo. He had target acquisition. Or at least a way into the party.
Emily Grainger looked up, alarmed, as a tall man stepped out of the shadows next to the elevator. He stopped beside her, staring at the elevator door for a moment before surprising her by speaking. Men didn’t usually speak to her. “Cold night, eh?”
She had to turn her whole upper body to see him out of her deep hood, and she did so awkwardly. She caught her first good look at him and started. Men like him definitely didn’t speak to her. “Oh!” she exclaimed softly. “Uh, yes. I guess it is. Cold, that is.”
She looked away, embarrassed at the way she was staring. He wasn’t so much handsome as he was intense. His cheeks were deeply carved, his skin tanned as though he spent most of his time outdoors. His eyes were pale blue, nearly colorless, and as intense as the rest of him. His mouth was a little bit too wide, his nose a little too big. But still, it was a face a person would struggle to look away from. The man looking out through those intelligent, all-too-observant eyes was captivating.
He looked ready to explode into motion at the slightest provocation, just like … just like James Bond. He gave off that same restless, devil-may-care charm guaranteed to sweep a girl right off her feet. And he’d just said hello to her! Well, then.