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Excerpt: Deadly Reunion

Excerpt: Deadly Reunion

Book 1: Covert Liaisons

CHAPTER ONE

Feet first, Ellie Holt sped across the sky and wished the night was a whole lot darker for this mission.  

With luck, the milling crowds twenty-four floors below were too focused on their own business to notice the metal cable swaying between the construction site of a new building and Triphibian Electronics International’s roof.

As she neared the building, Ellie engaged the friction brake. Moments later she swung her body over the edge of the parapet and onto the tile of a shadowy rooftop garden. As soon as her feet hit the tile, her usual crazy craving for a burger and fries disappeared. So did the music in her head. She hoped Assassin’s Tango wasn’t prophetic.

“Safe,” she murmured into her mike, and glanced back along the cable to the building site where her backup waited in the darkness of an unglazed window two floors up. 

“Roger.” Hiram’s voice in her earpiece sounded calm. “Disengage when clear.”

Ellie stripped off her gloves, then set the grappling hook’s automatic detach timer. “Disengaging in three.” As she removed her harness, a klunk and scrape of metal told her the zip line had dragged the grapple over the parapet and into the void. 

Once free of the harness, she arranged it and her gloves carefully at the base of the parapet near the closest trellis windbreak ready for the return trip. 

She adjusted her headset and shrugged her backpack into a more comfortable position. Pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Ready surveillance camera looping.” 

“Ready,” Hiram said.

A quick scan around told her little had changed since she’d last been in this pretty landscaped garden. Back then, she’d been the boss’s girlfriend, and used the ground floor entrance like everyone else. 

How many women had he made love to in the shaded privacy of the summerhouse since— Ellie stomped on the thought before it could take hold, and focused on the job. Jake Granville’s love life was no longer any of her business.

At the stairwell door, she considered the keypad. For an insane second she was tempted to input her personal access code just to see if he’d wiped it from his security system as clinically as he’d wiped her from his life. But while she might have fallen in love, she hadn’t lost her mind. Quickly, she tapped in other numbers and then hit ENTER.

The lock clicked open. 

She blew out a disbelieving breath. Seriously? He hadn’t changed his own access code? She’d thought a decade of intelligence gathering for Anonyme had given her every kind of rush there was. Then she’d met Jake Granville. But in love or not, she’d have changed the damn code. 

On the other hand, why would he see her as a danger? He probably thought “translating and interpreting sensitive data” for her family’s flagship company meant she spoke several languages. But being multi-lingual was only a small part of her skill-set. 

“Start the clock,” she told Hiram. “And then head down to exit position.”

“Roger,” Hiram said. “Surveillance cameras looped in the stairwell and primary office for fifteen minutes, starting . . . now.”

Ellie opened the door, stepped quickly into bright light—and caught her breath at the sight of the floor-to-ceiling mural depicting a desert scene. She’d taken that very shot her first week in Texas, with the desert’s age and the echo of its lonely silence reverberating in her bones. She hadn’t understood then what true loneliness was. Would she have gone on that first date if she’d known Jake was Benjamin Lucas’s godson—if she’d even imagined the extent of Lucas’s grudge against her family? No. And then … she’d have lost even more.

She jogged down one flight of stairs to the executive floor. Ignoring the public access door, she tapped another series of numbers onto the keypad of the unmarked door directly in front of her. 

When this lock also clicked open, she shook her head in disbelief. He hadn’t changed this code either? If they’d still been together, she’d have kicked Granville’s ass. Instead, she thanked her lucky stars and slipped into the dimness of his sanctum. 

A strong smell of lemon furniture polish and leather cleaner tickled her nose. So the cleaning crew had not long gone. Ellie crossed the room by the flickering lights of the city shining through the corner office’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

In front of an impressive set of bookshelves, a large desk of polished cherry wood gleamed in the reflected city lights. It was—as usual at the end of a working day—clear of everything except a computer and a phone. 

Although she knew Jake to be in London, evidence of his familiar ritual made her antsy.

“In exit position.” Hiram murmured. “All clear here.”

“Roger that.”

The fact that Jake wasn’t a target a year ago hadn’t stopped Ellie from checking out his systems and security. No wireless networks in the building. Lots of lovely cables. She clipped the tracer’s tone generator over the cable snaking into the back of his computer, and then returned to the stairwell.

“Bypassing fire security.” She ran a magnetic sensor over the top of the fire-exit’s doorframe until she found the security sensor. The strong magnet she slapped next to it would fool the system into allowing the door to be unlocked without tripping the alarm.

“Leaving primary target,” she murmured, taking a fireman’s master key from her pocket. “Start secondary clock.”

“Surveillance cameras looped in secondary stairwell, floor, and office for seven minutes,” Hiram responded. “Starting . . . now.”

Ellie went through the fire exit door and inserted a thin wedge in the gap. Then she jogged down another flight of stairs and let herself onto the twenty-third floor. 

The cleaning crew hadn’t yet arrived here. She was cutting it close, but Anonyme needed the information her spy box could access.

While there was no solid evidence proving Jake knew of Benjamin Lucas’s past, his ignorance was hard to believe. Did he really not know that his godfather had spent more than half a century betraying his country? Abusing his influence? Sending God knew how many people—including members of Ellie’s own family—to their deaths?

Ellie hoped Jake was truly as blind as he seemed. But for her own peace of mind, she had to be sure. 

A few moments later she stood on top of the desk in the office directly beneath his.  Carefully, she slid aside a ceiling panel to expose a bundle of cables. Then she slipped into a familiar rhythm, the task automatic: run tone receiver, find correct cable, slice and dice, wire up the network monitor transponder … Done.

She pressed the monitor’s test button. Its green light glowed. Connected. Now Jake’s secrets would be as exposed as the cables in the ceiling. 

Please don’t have any secrets.

She placed the unit away from the metalwork of the ceiling tiles. “Transponder check.” 

A brief pause. “Excellent signal,” Hiram said. “Returning to stealth mode.”

“Closing.” But she’d no sooner started to slide the ceiling panel closed when Hiram spoke again. 

“Random security sweep.” His voice was clipped and terse. “Two-man team entering elevator on the fourth floor. Destination, twenty-three.”

If the team stepped out of the elevator and the surveillance cameras didn’t pick them up—

“Level five,” Hiram said. “Six.” 

Ellie slid the ceiling panel back into place. Checked it was secure.

“Seven.” 

“I’m done.” Quickly, but without panic, she jumped off the desk  onto the carpet.

“Eight.” 

“Return secondary surveillance on my mark.” 

“Roger. Car stopped on nine.”

Ellie checked the desk for surface footprints. “Corridor clear?”

“Clear,” Hiram said. “Two more security people entering on nine. Still clear.”

“Roger.” She moved swiftly to the office door.

“Going up,” Hiram said. “Ten. Eleven. Still clear.”

Outside the office, she relocked the door. Then, no longer concerned about stealth, Ellie ran for the fire exit—

“Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen.”

—reached the stairwell. Shoved through the door—

“Fifteen.”

—caught the wedge as it fell—

“Sixteen.”

—ripped the security bypass magnet off the doorframe, and let the auto door-closer do its job.

“Seventeen. Eighteen.” 

She kept her breath for the stairs. 

“Nineteen.” 

As she reached the first landing, the exit behind her clicked shut.

“Twenty.”

Second landing.

“Twenty-one. Twenty-two!”

She wrenched the primary stairwell door open, snatched the second wedge as she passed through, and hauled the door closed behind her. 

“Twenty-three.”

It clicked shut. “Clear.” 

“Normal secondary surveillance resumed,” Hiram said. “Elevator doors opening.” He blew out a breath. “That was far too close.”

“Yes.” Pulse pounding in her throat, Ellie reached up and removed the door’s security bypass magnet. She shoved both magnets and wedges into her pockets and then keyed herself back into Jake’s office. At his desk she unclipped the tone sender from the computer cable, checked everything was as she’d found it, and left. “Heading up.”

“Security’s still on twenty-three,” Hiram said as she jogged up past the desert mural and out the roof exit.

She waited until the roof access door closed. “I’m out. Un-loop primary surveillance.”

“Primary surveillance returned to normal,” Hiram said. “Security’s splitting up—one team to the elevator, one to the stairs. Exit’s in place.”

“Thanks.” Ellie jogged across the patio tiles, between the little gardens, and around seating areas until she reached her gloves and harness. Beside the trellis, a grappling hook once again bit into the parapet where Hiram had shot the return zip line over.  She glanced over the edge of the parapet. Her exit route swung from Triphibian’s roof, across the gap between the two buildings, and disappeared into the construction site two floors down. 

She stepped into her harness. “Update.” 

“Security’s heading down,” Hiram said. “I’ve been instructed to tell you that the evening’s entertainment begins in one hour forty-five minutes, with or without you.”

“Tell her I’m done.” The job had been planned for the previous weekend, but when travel plans went pear-shaped everything got screwed. “I’ll arrive when I get there.”

There was a moment of silence. Then, “I’ll let you tell her the last part yourself.”

“Fine with me.” She attached the carabiner to the zip line, pulled on her gloves, and swung up to sit on the edge of the parapet. Leaning back far enough to reach the grappling hook’s automatic detach timer, she set it to thirty seconds. 

Now for the fun part. 

“Leaving”—she pressed the timer start, saw it flick over to twenty-nine—“now.” 

And she let herself fly.