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Seduced By The Enemy

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He’d defied them by staying ahead of the supposed good guys. By drifting from one small town to another, losing himself in large cities. And until his one fatal mistake, he’d never stayed in one place for too long. Careful never to draw too much attention to himself, he worked whatever jobs he could find to provide himself with basic sustenance and the bare minimum in creature comforts. Creating a new identity each time he moved, he searched relentlessly for the truth—and continued to slam up against one brick wall after another.

Thanks to Chase Bracken, the undercover agent who’d fallen in love with his younger sister, Dee, Jared finally had been handed the truth. At least a part of it. He prayed it was enough.

Time was running out.

Once the wheels that were set into motion started to grind, it would be too late. For him. And for her.

At one time he’d been a highly trained deep-cover agent for the FBI. They’d trained him how to hide. As a former Naval Intelligence officer, reinventing himself and creating opportunity where none existed was second nature; they were skills that had served him as well as they’d hampered him since he’d gone underground. Thank God it was all going to end soon.

To anyone who might happen to gaze out their pretty curtained window on this sultry Indian summer night, he was nothing but a neighbor who’d stepped outside for a smoke. Nothing unusual. Nothing to draw too much attention to himself in the modest Arlington, Virginia, residential district where the neighbors kept to themselves.

He waited and watched.

His time was nearly up.

He’d been standing in the shadow of the tree for almost thirty minutes, and it was now close to midnight. Any longer and his presence might raise suspicion. He knew where she lived. He could come back again if it became necessary. Still he waited outside her house, shifting his gaze from the surrounding area to her bedroom window and the moderately priced sedan parked in the drive of her moderately priced home. The perfect life she’d always wanted for herself.

Once upon a time, it would have been their perfect life.

No lights shone through the windows of her perfect little house in the suburbs. Was she sleeping, or sitting in bed reading some brief she’d brought home from the office? He envisioned her curled beneath the sheets of the bed they’d once shared, with one hand tucked beneath her chin and the other hidden beneath the mound of pillows she insisted on having, but rarely used. Did she still sleep in worn flannel pajama bottoms and a skimpy tank top that barely reached her navel? Had she stopped reaching out for him in the middle of the night when she’d had a bad dream? After all the time that had passed, undoubtedly.

He heard the slamming of a screen door and stepped deeper into the shadows. Peering cautiously around the tree trunk, he watched as a portly, middle-aged man in a bathrobe and slippers stepped off the porch of the house directly across the street. Seconds later a light flared, followed by the steady red glow from a cigarette.

“Hurry it up, Henley,” the guy said to the small, scruffy white dog who’d accompanied his owner out into the warm, sultry night.

Henley darted off to a neighbor’s yard to leave his calling card. The dog took a dump and the heavyset guy chuckled. “Good work, boy. That’ll teach that old bat to let her cat dig in the missus’s flower beds.”

Henley finished his business, then pricked his ears forward. The dog’s attention zeroed in on the tree Jared hid behind.


He couldn’t make his move now. He’d have to wait until there was little or no chance of him being spotted entering her home. He’d have to remain patient for just a little while longer. Except he didn’t have a lot of time left. If his instincts and Chase were right, the whole mess was close to blowing up and taking with it another person he’d once cared for deeply. The woman who’d betrayed him.

When he’d met with Chase and Dee four weeks ago, he’d realized they were unaware of the fact that she’d turned him over to the feds. After reading the information he’d found in the case file, Chase had suspected a no follow-up order had been issued. Which confirmed Jared’s own suspicions that whoever was involved in framing him was pretty high up the ladder in the bureau, based on the lack of information regarding her involvement in their failed attempt to arrest him.

Henley must’ve decided there was no threat. The dog ran back to his owner and together they entered the house.

Jared turned and headed down the quiet side street. He’d been coming here for a week, watching and waiting. Other than himself, no one else was conducting surveillance on her, of that much he was certain.

Now he knew what he had to do. She was predictable, except for tonight, when she’d arrived home after eleven. Usually she left her office no later than seven-thirty and was home by half past eight, nine at the absolute latest.

Tomorrow he’d make his move, because time was running out.

PEYTON DOUGLAS SNAPPED the heavy volume of federal codes and procedures closed with a disgruntled sigh. The thick lexicon hadn’t contained the information she’d been hoping to find, but the Justice Department had an extensive law library at their counsels’ disposal, where she hoped she’d find the answers…eventually.

U.S. v. Howell wasn’t supposed to be a difficult case. It should have been a slam dunk for the Justice Department, except for that nasty business about a Fourth Amendment violation by the Drug Enforcement Agency credited with busting Howell. A rookie mistake by a seasoned agent that frustrated her, because the agent in question knew better. If she couldn’t turn this case around by winning her argument against defense counsel’s motion to suppress evidence, Howell could very well walk right back to the street, where coordinating large scale heroine deals was his way of life, instead of doing ten to twenty in a federal prison as he deserved.

A quick glance at her thin, gold wristwatch told her it was time to go home. She never stayed in the office past seven-thirty if she could help it. Tonight, instead of shutting down her computer and doing just that, she slipped the defense motion from the file and started reading…again. She’d already put in a long week, spending more time in court than in the office, where she needed to prepare for the upcoming Howell motion. At least she had the weekend to continue her research. Maybe she should call it a night and come back early in the morning, she thought, then kept reading the defense motion.

The truth was she enjoyed her Saturday mornings in the office, when the hallowed halls of the Justice Department were unusually silent. More often than not, she did some of her best work on those quiet mornings when the only sounds that could be heard were the occasional radio broadcast from the office of another junior attorney, or the gentle hum of her own computer. What she really enjoyed was being alone with all that history within the sacred halls of justice. One Saturday morning a few years ago she’d ventured into the old case files room and spent the entire morning and half the afternoon reading dusty old court transcripts and files involving some of the biggest mobsters from the thirties and forties. They were the stuff old gangster movies were made of, but a thousand times more colorful and twice as deadly as their Hollywood depictions. What she wouldn’t have given to be around back then, to be the lawyer who finally brought the big guys like Al Capone and his equally evil counterparts to justice.

“I’m calling it a night just as soon as I finish up your research notes for the Points and Authorities,” her secretary, Kellie Nicols, said from the doorway, interrupting Peyton’s delusions of grandeur. “Do you need me to come in tomorrow to work on the reply to the Howell motion?”

Peyton glanced up at her secretary. She’d worked with Kellie since her first day in the Justice Department four years ago. The two women had hit it off right away and were more friends than boss and employee. In fact, there was only one other person who knew her as well as Kellie, and as much as Peyton swore she wouldn’t think about him, he’d steal into her mind at the oddest times, leaving her with a deep sense of melancholy and regret.

“No,” she answered with a shake of her head, hoping to dislodge thoughts of Jared Romine just as easily. “You have a life. Go live it.”

Kellie grinned, her brilliant green eyes sparkling with laughter as she crossed the room. She smoothed her short black skirt before she sat in one of the chairs in front of Peyton’s desk. “Who told you that line of garbage? I’m single, I live alone with two cats and have no potential prospects on the horizon. How pathetic is that?”

Peyton leaned back in the warm leather executive chair and slipped off her reading glasses. “You’re twenty-eight years old, Kel, not eighty-eight. I wouldn’t exactly call you a spinster.”

Kellie laughed while she pulled the pins from her hair, letting the auburn waves fall around her shoulders. “My downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Markum, is sixty-seven years old. She has more dates than I do. And she doesn’t own any cats, either. It’s Friday night and where am I? Typing up research notes for Points and Authorities on a case we’re probably going to lose. Pathetic, I tell you. Just pathetic.”

“I didn’t ask you to stay,” Peyton retorted with a grin. “And what makes you think we’re going to lose Howell?”

Kellie shrugged. “Gut instinct. The Fourth Amendment’s a hard one to get around, and that agent definitely blew it big time. Sorry, Counselor. There’s just no way around something like this. And from the notes I’ve already typed, you agree with me.”

“Don’t I usually.” Peyton really couldn’t argue. She’d been feeling the same way since her direct supervisor, Bradley Jacobs, had handed her the case last week. “I hate to let Howell walk, though. He’s one of the bad guys that really deserves to be behind bars.”

Kellie shrugged her slender shoulders again. “Win some, lose some. Now, let me see that rock again.”

A slow grin touched Peyton’s mouth. “You’ve seen it a dozen times today already.”

“So, what’s one more? It’s gorgeous, Peyton,” Kellie said, standing. “If someone like Leland Atwood had just given me a two-carat-diamond engagement ring, you can bet I’d be shoving that puppy under everyone’s nose for them to admire.”

Peyton laughed and allowed Kellie to lift her hand so she could get a closer look at the emerald-cut diamond solitaire Leland had given her last night, when she’d finally accepted his proposal of marriage. Now that she’d said yes, she still couldn’t explain why she’d waited. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Leland. She admired him and respected him, two elements she knew would make their marriage a comfortable one. Leland wasn’t the type to run at the first sign of trouble, either. He was the kind of man who was committed to anything he chose to accomplish.

A former Justice Department attorney himself, he’d left the DOJ to accept an appointment as a federal court judge shortly after Peyton joined the department. Leland’s career was definitely on the fast tract, as evidenced three years later with an appointment to the federal appellate court as a circuit court justice. His goal was to one day make it to the Federal Supreme Court. Peyton had little doubt Leland would one day realize his dream.

With all his potential, she should have found the decision to marry him an easier one to make. He had a bright future ahead of him as a relatively new appointee to the appellate court, and at thirty-nine he kept in shape by playing racquetball twice a week and jogging five miles daily regardless of the weather. But for reasons Peyton couldn’t pinpoint, every time he’d asked her to marry him during the last two months, she’d hesitated, claiming she wasn’t sure if she was ready to settle down.

Settle down? she silently scoffed. Her work was her life. What was there to settle down? She didn’t own a cat, or even so much as a goldfish. About the only wild oats she’d ever sown were the ones she sprinkled with salt and a little butter in her cereal bowl each morning.

It hadn’t always been that way, she mused. Once upon a time, she had had a great love affair. One man had stolen into her heart, into her soul, but it had ended badly, as great affairs often do. Except most didn’t end with one of them turning the other over to law enforcement.

“You’re lucky, Peyton. Most people find a great love only once,” Kellie said, as if reading her mind. “You’ve had it twice.”

Peyton pulled her hand free, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. “Jared was a mistake. Leland and I are much more suited to each other.”

Kellie frowned down at her. “But you’re in love with him, right? I mean, he’s obviously in love with you. Two carats’ worth.”

“I love Leland, yes. He’s gentle and kind, and he appreciates me the way I am. He isn’t always trying to change me, to get me to loosen up and live life on the edge. Leland is…comfortable, and that’s something I need in my life.”

“Comfortable, or safe?” Kellie challenged.

“Is there a difference?”

Kellie walked to the window overlooking the busy street ten floors below, and stared out into the darkness for a moment. “Do you want to know what I think?” she asked, keeping her back to Peyton.
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