A spy presumed dead only wants his life back… the undercover bride is a surprise.
CIA officer Andrew Garner died in an ambush he plotted, taking three soldiers down with him. Or so
everyone believed. After years of living under the radar without a country or a friend, he’s tracked
the real culprit back to Charleston, South Carolina.
Army Counter-Intelligence officer, Laura Talbot signed off on the reports of Garner’s death as well as
his responsibility for the tragic ambush years ago. Hearing he might be alive, she travels to
Charleston to confirm the rumor with her own eyes.
But it’s more than a simple case of mistaken identity as Laura and Andrew must improvise and
outmaneuver a team bent on killing them both.
Available July 31, 2014 on Amazon
Prologue – RC Investigations Office Haleswood, SC
“This looks serious,” Ross Carpenter said, joining his partners Rick Dryer and Eva Battaglia in the Haleswood office of their investigations firm.
Rick’s new wife Nicole stood near the window, her gaze on the street below. They rarely had reason to either exclude or involve their respective spouses, so naturally Ross wondered if this meeting involved any of the skeletons rattling around in Nicole’s past.
“It is,” Eva replied, waving him over to her side of the desk. “Nicole caught these during Rick’s last case.”
“The bank bag thief in Charleston? We closed that and turned it over yesterday,” Ross said. “Did we miss something?”
“Nothing related to the case we were hired for,” Rick answered. His head tilted toward his wife. “But she found a connection to us that I’d overlooked.”
Ross couldn’t remember a time when Rick had overlooked anything. Not during their military service and definitely not back in the civilian side of life. “Why call me up here just to dance around it? You’re all acting as if you’re afraid to tell me something.”
Rick’s somber face twisted into something resembling sympathy. “Nicole caught Andrew Garner in the background.”
“That’s impossible. Garner…” Had turned traitor on the other side of the world and been ripped apart with shrapnel courtesy of an IED. He couldn’t have survived. Ross had seen the remains. The scorched clothing, the blood. “Garner is dead,” he said, his voice hard under the onslaught of the grim memories.
“Take a look, boss,” Eva said.
He bristled at the calm tone she used with irate or panicked clients. He was neither. Garner was dead. She’d enlarged a portion of the picture, zeroing in on a man seated near the garden wall of a sidewalk café in Charleston, South Carolina.
“A doppelganger,” Ross said, ignoring Rick’s sarcastic laugh. “One of Garner’s strengths was his common, forgettable face.”
“Have you forgotten his face?” Eva hit a key and the entire series of Nicole’s surveillance photos filled the screen.
He bit back the retort. Not her fault he was suddenly filled with rage. They’d nearly lost the entire team out there thanks to Garner’s greed. Over Eva’s monitor, he met Rick’s gaze. “What do you want from me?”
“Permission to pursue and verify,” Rick began. “Nicole and I can -”
Eva sucked in a breath. Ross felt Rick’s glare biting into the top of his head as he bent for a closer look at the pictures. No, this wasn’t how he typically conducted RCI business, but Garner was a special case. The man was a unique and special danger if he was somehow strolling around on this side of the grave. “Let me call in a favor,” he managed, trying to smooth ruffled feathers.
“Who?” Rick demanded. “I know you’ve got connections all over, but who would you trust besides us to verify someone like Garner?”
“It’s not Garner,” Ross insisted. It couldn’t be. The man was dust. But barring some miracle or perfectly executed plan, Ross would not expose anyone on his team again. Once had been more than enough. “How is it Nicole thinks she recognized him?”
Nicole swiveled, her expression a mask of endless patience. “I saw that man a few times when I was with the pharmaceutical company. I’m sure Allie would remember him. She might even know his name.”
“A few times.” Ross clenched his teeth. Having spent so much of her life looking over her shoulder for enemies, Nicole had a gift for remembering faces. He couldn’t ignore her opinion. “And he sticks in your memory because?”
“Because he felt dangerous.” She confirmed his suspicions. “When I mentioned seeing him there to Rick, I thought he’d pass out.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Rick muttered.
“So says your pride.” Nicole turned to Eva. “He went white.”
Eva nodded, understanding. “I was glad to be sitting down when you pointed that bastard out to me. And I only heard the stories after the fact.”
“Rick told me I didn’t want to know what happened.”
“You don’t,” Eva agreed.
“She’s right.” Ross pushed a hand through his hair. “Was he ever in contact with anyone involved with the case we just closed in Charleston?”
“No,” Rick replied.
“This was the only time he showed up,” Nicole added. “I’ve been through all of the photos. Best I can tell it was just a fluke encounter.”
Ross wished he believed in those. “This is crazy,” Ross insisted, trying to believe it. “I was there. I saw him die.”
Rick stepped forward. “Then why can’t I look into it?”
On an oath, Ross rubbed at the tension gripping the back of his neck. He came around and sank into one of the empty chairs in front of Eva’s desk. Looking up at Rick and Nicole, his stomach clutched with worry about what could happen. In each other they’d found an unexpected happiness. He refused to put that in jeopardy. “I believe the bastard is dead. Everything we saw, every after-action report, agrees with that conclusion. But if anyone could find a way to cheat the Grim Reaper and cause problems, it’d be Garner. I won’t take that chance with any of you. It was too close the first time.”
Rick bobbed his head. “If he recognizes any one of us, you think he’d shoot first and ask questions later.”
“That’s exactly what Garner would do.” Ross rapped the knuckles of his clenched fists on the arms of the chair. “He wouldn’t have a choice. You and I pose a major security risk to a surviving Garner. How old are those photos?”
“Forty-eight hours,” Nicole replied.
“He might be long gone,” Rick said.
“The man who looks like him might be long gone,” Ross corrected. “I’ll make a call and let you know what I hear. Odds are this is one strange misunderstanding.” God help them if it wasn’t. If Garner had survived it wouldn’t have been due to the divine intervention of a benevolent god.
“Promise me you’ll stay away from this.” Ross looked first at Rick, then Eva, and finally Nicole. He didn’t want anyone using her as a loophole to poke around in this situation. “I mean it.” The vice grip squeezing the air from his chest loosened as each of them reluctantly gave their word.
Ross pushed himself up and out of the chair feeling a hundred years older than he had when he’d walked into the room minutes ago.
“One thing, boss,” Rick stopped him when he reached the door.
“Promise us you’ll do the same. That you’ll stay away from this too.”
“I promise,” Ross said. “You know I have better things to do than search for a ghost who wants company in the grave.”