Authors: Lucy Monroe
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
In memory of my mom, the woman who taught me that love has more power than hate and to believe in happy endings no matter how hard they are to come by, but most importantly that life offers unexpected second chances and we need to be open to happiness to take them. Thank you, Mom! I love you and miss you! You know you would have loved all the characters in this book and their second chances at happiness. Us girls are working on ours getting healthy and I think you’d be very proud.
Somewhere in the Atlas Mountains
t was coming again.
She’d counted out the intervals between the agonizing jolts of electricity, and they were always the same. One hundred and eighty seconds. Three short minutes.
Not enough time to completely stop the involuntary muscle spasms from the last one, but enough time to hope it wouldn’t come again.
It always did.
Still, a more experienced interrogator would vary the duration of both the torturous jolts and the time between them, but these were the underlings. Men who were obviously not used to interrogating women. Though they didn’t seem to mind hurting Rachel. Nor did they appear to get overt pleasure out of it, the way the man she’d been investigating would.
Abasi Chuma. Egyptian financier and trader with ties to the nomadic people who still carried goods (and, Rachel suspected, intel and illegal weapons) across the desert and country borders on the backs of camels.
Chuma was also a sick, sadistic asshole whose sexual proclivities ran to inflicting pain to get his rocks off. His young and still innocent fiancée clearly had no clue about that yet. The woman had been Rachel’s “friend” and unwitting informant for the past nine weeks. An information asset that Rachel could not betray.
So she continued to play the nosy-tourist-caught-snooping-where-she-shouldn’t-have-been role. And they kept asking the same darn questions over and over again. That in itself was as torturous as the pain racking her body.
Abasi Chuma would arrive tomorrow, and she had to hope he didn’t recognize Rachel as the woman who frequently had coffee with his fiancée at a café near Jamila’s home on weekday mornings. To Rachel’s knowledge, Chuma had never actually seen her with his fiancée, but she wouldn’t trust the other woman’s safety to that belief. If she was ever again in a position to do anything about Jamila’s welfare.
That would require getting out of here first. Wherever
was. And it had to be soon.
Her captors had let slip that two of the top dogs of their criminal enterprise would be arriving after morning prayers the next day to continue her interrogation. If things went on as predictably as they were now, she just might be alive to meet them.
She was certain one of the men would be Abasi Chuma, but three months of undercover work in Egypt had not yet revealed his partner. Rachel had her suspicions but, so far, no way to confirm them.
Well, she’d know tomorrow. For all the good it might do her, or her agency, The Goddard Project.
TGP had been started during WWII to protect technology assets because of what the Germans had learned spying on Samuel Goddard and his rocketry. It had evolved into a modern-day deep black ops agency technology watch dog, protecting the United States and its citizens from the misuse of home-grown research.
She’d have to escape to pass on the information.
And inexperience in torture techniques on the part of her captors did not necessarily equate to sloppiness in keeping her a prisoner.
An agony of stabbing needles shot through her, and against her will, Rachel bucked against the restraints holding her to the chair in the middle of the dank room. The minor pain of having skin already abraded by the straps rubbed raw added to the agony of the electric shock.
She screamed words that would make no sense to them but that gave her the only comfort she expected to get.
The acrid scent of her own urine mixed with the bile from a vomiting fit brought about by her last encounter with the car battery.
The smells and bitter taste of acid in her mouth registered only faintly as her mind took her to the one place in time when pain wasn’t a daily part of her life.
To the time before Linny’s death . . . before Kadin Marks decided he didn’t love Rachel any longer.
To the sweetness of summer when she was eighteen.
“Abort. Abort.” The one word Kadin had not expected to hear in the humidity of Morocco’s moonless night came over his earpiece.
“Hold that order,” he barked in a whisper. “Why?” he demanded of his second in command, Neil Kennedy, otherwise known as Spazz and a frickin’ whiz with computers and all things electronic.
“She’s screaming your name, Trigger. They have to know we’re here.”
If Kadin hadn’t been belly down on the ground, commando-crawling toward their target, his legs would have given out on him.
“Yes. The first time I thought she was just screaming something like your first name, but she just shouted, ‘Kadin Marks, don’t you leave me behind.’ She doesn’t sound good, boss, but we can’t risk going in if they’re expecting us.”
“She’s remembering the past, not begging us to rescue her in the present.” Rachel Gannon had no reason to believe that Kadin Marks would there for her these days.
He’d given up on being her hero a long time ago.
“Belay the order to abort. The mission is still on,” Kadin said through the communication earbuds.
His five-man team affirmed they’d heard the order, and Kadin began moving forward again. The urge to hurry burned inside him, but he couldn’t risk this mission going FUBAR.
Effed-up-beyond-all-recognition was not an option when it was Rachel’s life on the line.
He’d let her down enough already for any one lifetime. Kadin had walked away from her when they were old enough to be considered adults but had still been kids, really. At least
was still a kid. By the time he was twenty, he’d earned his nickname, Trigger, as a trained and highly effective assassin for MARSOC, the United States Marine Corps Special Operations Command.
A sniper with more kills than he ever wanted her to know about, he’d walked away so the violence of his life wouldn’t touch hers.
But, for reasons beyond his understanding, she’d then gone and taken her own path into service of their country, and she had lost more than anyone should have to while doing it.
Her only sister had committed suicide while Rachel was undercover for the DEA. He knew that must have had a devastating effect on her.
He supposed there should be no surprise in the fact that she had taken a dangerous assignment in Egypt following up on the intel his team had garnered in Zimbabwe six months before.
The only true shock was that Rachel had still cried Kadin’s name when she was in need. She had to have learned that he was no knight in shining armor ten years ago, and still she’d called for him.
This time he would not let her down.
Rachel’s interrogators conferred in a corner of the starkly lit room, apparently unaware that one of the four languages she spoke fluently was the Farsi they were using. She understood another five well enough to eavesdrop but not to converse.
Not that her special affinity for languages was going to do her any good here. Even though she could understand every word her captors spoke, she couldn’t do anything about the information she hoped to glean.
The tallest and coincidentally youngest of the three men was shocked she had not yet broken. After all, she was only a woman. He was convinced, therefore, that she was what she claimed to be: a simple tourist who had been foolish enough to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
An older man with clear military bearing, whom the other two deferred to, said she had to have training in anti-interrogation techniques. Which meant he did not believe her overly-curious-tourist story.
The third man evinced no opinion, simply glancing over at Rachel with unreadable eyes. He was the one who had attached her to the car battery and tightened her restraints by tiny increments every once in a while. They weren’t cutting off her circulation yet, but they were close.
And it hurt. A lot.
Not enough to make her tell them the truth, though. She
a highly trained operative, but her best preparation had come from life. She knew what kind of pain could break a person like her, but they didn’t have access to the means to cause it. After all, she’d already lost everyone who mattered.