Authors: Heather Huffman
Tags: #Romance, #free ebook, #Marriage, #Espionage, #International, #Spy, #wedding, #Human trafficking, #heather huffman
She knew he was watching her through
half-closed eyelids, probably trying to assess her mood. She
scowled at him just to clarify her position on the subject then
stood to stretch out the kinks in her back. These were not the kind
of sleepless nights she’d envisioned.
The newlyweds were silent as they quickly
readied themselves to go meet the Jamison’s at their yacht.
Veronica hesitated only briefly before shoving the handgun in her
bag. It was a short drive to the marina in Sprat Bay, but she
managed to plaster a smile on her face by the time they
If Rick was as nervous as she, he was doing a
great job hiding it. Veronica watched him chat with Matt Jamison as
the two men poured their wives drinks and wondered what she should
feel. Terrified? Furious? Aroused?
The man she saw now was the one she married.
Handsome, easy-going… normal. Not at all like the creature who
needed only two bullets to shoot two people in total darkness.
Based on his behavior from the moment he’d heard the helicopter,
she’d lay money on him being a retired operative of some sort. He’d
alluded to as much on their wedding night. The only question in her
mind was—retired from what?
“I’m so sorry to hear about your mother,”
Alicia Jamison interrupted Veronica’s thoughts.
“Thank you,” Ronnie replied cautiously,
wishing Rick had let her in on whatever story he’d given their
ride—if for no other reason than to keep it straight.
“It must be really difficult caring for your
“It can be.”
“Especially when their mind is gone like
“It’s not so bad,” Veronica looked at Rick.
His lips twitched ever-so-slightly and she inwardly seethed.
“Don’t be so stoic. I can’t imagine what I’d
do if my mother had a psychotic break like that. And to think of
you two leaving your honeymoon early... Rick is a good man to
insist you go check on her after that phone call last night.”
“Well, Rick is no stranger to mental
instability,” Veronica patted the leather seat next to her, and
batted her eyelashes sweetly. “Isn’t that right, honey?”
“Whatever you say, my lovely wife,” he handed
her an orange juice and kissed her lightly on the lips. The look in
his eyes said he had read hers well enough and found the threat
they contained no more than amusing.
She resolved to unleash the full measure of
her wrath upon him just as soon as they were alone. Well, possibly
after they were alone and safely on American soil because she had
no idea how they planned to get home at the moment.
The Jamisons were a nice couple, if not the
most riveting conversationalists. By the time Veronica could see
the port at Tortola, she’d decided to fling herself into the ocean
at the very next mention of a ladies’ tea or yacht gas mileage.
She was eternally grateful when they arrived
in Road Harbour. Tortola was vibrant and beautiful; Veronica would
have liked to spend some time browsing through the brightly colored
tents that made up the waterfront marketplace. As it was, she bid
the Jamisons farewell and followed her husband to procure a way to
the next island.
So it went for the rest of the day and the
one after as they hopped from tiny island to tiny island. She’d
lost count of the means of transportation used by the time they
boarded the small plane that would take them to Miami. All she
really knew was that she was exhausted.
As their home country drew ever closer, she
began to worry about the handgun she still carried in the bottom of
her bag. She’d refused to give it up initially, feeling slightly
less helpless with it in her possession. Now the reality of customs
Sweat broke her brow as they stood in line,
waiting to gain entrance to the United States. Having guessed the
source of her anxiety, his lip seemed to twitch with amusement.
With an irritated scowl, she fished her passport out of her
handbag. Relief warred with panic when she realized the weapon was
She wondered how she could possibly have
missed the fact that her purse was lighter, but didn’t have time to
give that too much thought, because a customs official was reaching
for it. She handed the bag over, silently fuming.
“You look like you want to kill me, not thank
me,” his stupid lip was still twitching.
“Yeah, you know… for keeping you out of
“Sure. Okay. Thanks, Dick.”
Veronica was pleased to note that his temple
had taken on a slight twitch, a small but definite sign of his
“Next time I’ll leave you to your own
“Oh, you mean next time we get ambushed on
our honeymoon? Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Are you tired?” he switched topics, sensing
there was no way to win the current one. “Because I’m beat. We
could probably check in to a hotel.”
“I’m exhausted. But right now I just want to
“Fine. Let me see what I can find.”
As he had for the past two days, he came
through on transportation. This time he held out for first class
tickets on a real airplane. It might not be the same as a bed, but
there was at least enough room to lie back and catch a nap.
She should have been asleep the second the
lights dimmed, but Veronica couldn’t seem to quiet her racing mind.
As she watched Rick get some much needed rest, it occurred to her
that this had taken its toll on him. She’d been so wrapped up in
being angry, she’d missed how stressed and tired he was.
She reached out to gently stroke his cheek,
wishing she could wipe away the lines of worry that creased his
face. Even in his sleep, he leaned into her touch. She knew then,
in that moment, that she didn’t have the power to end their
marriage when the plane touched down. The reality was they were
bound together. Long before any wedding ceremony she’d known his
life would be forever linked to hers. That wasn’t going to change
now, even if his life was suddenly scary and confusing.
She leaned back in her seat, situating
herself so she could study him while waiting for sleep to claim
“What I wouldn’t give to be able to peek
inside that murky brain of yours,” she murmured. With a sigh, she
succumbed to the exhaustion.
They looked remarkably like a normal couple
just returning from vacation when they finally crossed their
threshold. The dogs greeted them enthusiastically, which made the
past few days seem like a bad dream.
“Hey guys,” Courtney called from the kitchen.
“I was just leaving you a note.”
“Were they good?” Rick asked as Ronnie
greeted Courtney with a hug.
“Angels,” she answered. “Now your brother is
another matter entirely.”
“You have my full permission to beat him,”
Veronica reminded her.
“Nah, he’s harmless. Just irritating.”
“Please let me tell him she said that,” Rick
looked to Veronica, who merely rolled her eyes.
“How was the trip?”
“Fascinating,” Veronica answered as
truthfully as she knew how.
“Not what I was expecting, but okay,”
Courtney considered the description. “I have a date with a couple
of dachshunds. Maybe we can catch up over a cup of coffee
Veronica agreed, watching Courtney leave
before going to help Rick unload the car. With that done, she
didn’t really know what to do next. She should call her brother,
check in at work or at least do a load of laundry. All she really
wanted to do was get a hot shower and sleep for about 100
She settled for a hot shower and a cat nap.
When she woke up, the 9 mm Makarov pistol was on her bedside stand
with a note that read, “try not to lose it again.” Veronica made a
face at the note and got dressed.
There was a longer note in the front room.
That one told her he’d be gone for a week and left her a list of
safety instructions. By the time she made it halfway through, she
was so angry little red dots danced in front of her eyes.
After she’d decided to stand by him, to face
this mess together, he’d taken off to solve it on his own and left
her a note that insinuated she had the brain power of a gnat. With
a curse, she realized she’d done it again. She’d been led by
sentiment. Her libido quite possibly had a say as well, but her
brain certainly hadn’t checked into the conversation.
She called to see if anything urgent was
happening at work. Once she was sure there wasn’t anything going on
that couldn’t wait another day, she headed to Jeff’s office. Maybe
she could buy him lunch and either get the scoop on Adrianna or
lecture him about hitting on Courtney.
“Look at you all tanned and gorgeous,” he
wrapped her in a bear hug and gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek
as soon as she entered his office.
“I told you to leave Courtney alone,” she
shoved him away. “Don’t try to charm your way out of it.”
“Would I do that?”
“Do you breathe?”
“I really do wish you’d be nicer. Especially
in light of everything I found out for you.”
“You found something?” Veronica’s interest
was piqued. “What is it?”
“You’re not even going to buy me lunch
“Fine. Come on. Your choice.”
Veronica made small talk with the
receptionist while he wrapped up what he was working on. She bit
her lip to keep from avalanching him with information and questions
on the way to his black Chevy Camaro. Once she was seated and her
seatbelt securely fastened, she turned to him expectantly.
“It sure is nice weather we’re having this
week,” he mentioned mildly.
“Yep,” she tried not to take the bait.
“You know, they say it might rain on
“Did it rain much on your trip?”
“You brat—you’re killing me here. What did
you find out?”
Jeff smiled, relishing his little victory.
“Your mystery whore works for an antique dealer in New York.”
“The bad guys are antique dealers?”
“I know, priceless, isn’t it?” Jeff chuckled.
“That’s why he didn’t tell us.”
“Very funny,” she made a face at him. “You
know as well as I do that one of the major black market imports is
“Yeah, but they’re old bowls and crap. Please
promise you’ll tell me if you find out he was undercover with the
Antique Road Show.”
“Absolutely,” the corner of her lip twitched
just a little. It was an amusing picture.
“At the risk of finding out more than I want
to know… how was the honeymoon? Did anything interesting
“Someone named Marko sent two assassins to
kill us. Rick took them out and made it look easy. Then we hopped
islands home. Other than that, it was pretty typical.”
“So the antique dealers are really pissed at
him. Maybe he broke a Ming vase or something.”
“I bet that was it.”
“Did you say Marko?” Jeff grew serious as a
light bulb clicked on in his brain.
“Yeah. That name seems to keep coming up,
actually. Adrianna mentioned him at the wedding, too.”
“That would have been good to know,” he
scowled at her.
“Well I’m sorry. Rick had me all flustered
“A guy named Marko Kulenović popped up on our
most wanted list about two weeks ago. He just walked away from a
high-security facility buried in the Appalachians. Heads rolled
over that one.”
“I didn’t see that name with updates to
post,” she frowned. One of her jobs was to oversee text on the
FBI’s website—including the most wanted lists.
“This is our super-secret list. The one we
don’t want the average citizen finding out about; it could alter
their spending habits or something.”
He gave her a look that said she was naïve
“What was this Kulenović guy in for?”
“Human trafficking, among other things. He
was part of a ring brought down by Batman last year.”
“Batman?” Veronica arched an eyebrow.
“Not really. That’s just our nickname for the
guy. He’s a private contractor who helps in these situations. The
guy is unreal.” Jeff parked the car outside his favorite Chinese
food restaurant. Veronica mulled over this new information as they
followed the hostess to their table.
“Why was Rick so confident you couldn’t find
anything?” she asked after ordering some hot tea and egg drop
“I didn’t exactly show him my security
clearance when we met,” Jeff shrugged, making Veronica think his
job might be more than she’d always assumed. “I have friends.”
“So, if you were me, what would your next
“Boot Rick’s ass to the curb.”
“Fine. I’d learn all that I could about
Everdale Antiques. And I’d attend the antique auction they’re
hosting in New York on Sunday.”
“Care to be my date to an auction?”
“Where’s your husband?”
“Good question. Cowboy went off to fix things
all on his own.”
“Tell me again why you can’t let him do
“Assume you were in the same situation and it
was your wife leaving you behind to clean up a mess from the past
that she’d hidden from you. Would you be content to sit home and
knit while you waited for her to come back?”
“Your logic is totally flawed. I don’t knit,
and I’d never get married in the first place.”
“I don’t knit either,” she snapped at him.
“Focus, Jeff. Would you sit home and wait?”
“Okay. Fine. I’ll go with you,” he conceded
after a moment. “But we’re going to need costumes. Adrianna will
“Sounds fun. Do you need anything from
“A good word with your friend would mean a
“Not gonna happen.”
“You’re brutal. You know that, don’t you?” he
informed her as he helped himself to the plate of Mongolian Beef
sitting in front of her.