Fuck or get fucked.
That’s how I lived my life in the CIA. That’s how I live it outside the CIA.
Right now, though, with a gorgeous redhead straddling me, her body squeezing the hell out of my cock, fuck and get fucked works pretty damn fine for me. I shudder into release while she collapses against me, our breathing the only sounds in the room, and that’s how I like it. No conversation. Fortunately, Tabitha is a barracuda of an attorney who’s all about her career, and love doesn’t work for her any more than it does me. We fuck. I leave. Which is exactly why this is over.
I roll her off of me and onto the mattress, standing up to ditch the condom in the trashcan by the bed before reaching for my pants. “You know you could stay,” she says. “We could hit repeat.”
My pants and shoes are on before she finishes uttering those lethal words that change everything. “I don’t stay,” I say, pulling my white T-shirt over my head. “That’s never going to change.” I grab my dress shirt and shrug into it, then my jacket, with my tie landing in my pocket. “You know this,” I add.
Her legs shut. “I do know, but you were in Denver for months with that boss of yours. We have a lot of fucking to make up for now that you’re back in New York.”
I don’t miss the breathless quality of her voice that tells me she’s nervous, and looking for more from me than I’ve given her. I don’t do more. I head for the door and just before I exit, I hear, “You aren’t coming back again, are you?”
“No,” I say without turning. “I’m not.” I start walking, crossing the living room, and I’m at the exit to her apartment when I hear her voice.
“You know what, Seth Cage? I see you. Beneath that blond buzzed hair and all of your expensive, perfect suits, you don’t fool me. You’re afraid of anything real and that makes me feel sorry for you.”
I don’t reply. I’ve been honest with her. I’ve promised her nothing. I exit to the hallway and keep walking, amused as I always am at someone who wants to talk about real life with me when they don’t even know the definition of real. I know real. I know betrayal. I know death. And I know blood. I don’t fuck to feel the emotions Tabitha just tried to get from me. I fuck to feel something physical that gets the real shit out of my head. And sixty seconds after she’s made it clear that she doesn’t understand this, I’m at the elevator, and getting into a car.
Minutes later, my shirt is buttoned, tucked, my tie back in place, and I’m inside my pick of the day, a white Lexus LFA, a two-hundred-thousand-dollar gift from a high-ranking foreign official after he’d called me for help on a matter involving his daughter, a ransom, and a gang of rebels.
Thirty minutes later, I arrive at the high-rise I call home, owned by my employer, Shane Brandon, of the Brandon Enterprises empire, who is now on an extended honeymoon, a big payday in his pocket, and in mine, from a recent business transaction. One that required my kind of talents, which are not for the faint of heart, or for those who believe two wrongs don’t make a right. Two wrongs can fucking make a right. My kind of right. And Shane Brandon needs my kind of right, even when he feels like it’s wrong.
I exit the car and hand the valet my keys, and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end, a warning that someone is watching me. I tip the kid parking my car, wave at Joe, the doorman, and enter the lobby, the high ceilings towering twenty feet above, but it’s not above me that has my attention. That sensation of being watched remains, and it’s in all the places around me where one of the many enemies I’ve made over the years could be lurking. I don’t play cat and mouse games unless I’m the cat. I cut right and into the nearly empty coffee shop, pass the register and turn left into the L-shaped seating area, continuing on until I’m sitting in the back corner, watching the entrance.
That’s when a familiar face appears. Jack “Bear” Woodrow, who like myself, I know to be thirty-five and recruited into the agency while in college. The difference is he’s still on the roster full time. I am not. He’s also big, as in six-foot-five. Broad, as in linebacker. Gruff, as in attitude, but somehow still refined, in a black suit, and sporting a neatly trimmed goatee. He’s also known to have battled a real-life bear—thus the nickname—and won, despite the Russian spy trying to get the damn thing to eat him. He walks toward me, sits down, and drops a folder in front of me.
“You know why I’m here.”
He’s here because at the level of CIA I was, and he is, there is no escape. You’re a life-timer, even when you exit the agency. Even three years later, as is my case. “Why can’t you do whatever the job is in that folder?” I ask.
“Dr. Franklin Ross resurfaced.”
Dr. Franklin Ross being an insane, ex-CIA agent turned spy against his country, who hates America, and has a history of violence against its people. “Where? When? With what end game?”
“Chatter indicates Texas as his location and that he’s planning an attack on American water facilities with a nerve agent. Since we’ve now found the scientist working on the project for him dead, we have to assume the worst, which would be that the process of stabilization in water is complete.”
“Or the man turned against Franklin,” I say, bypassing the next ten questions I have in order to focus on the why of the matter. “Why me on this one?”
“You studied him. You hunted him. You know him.”
“And there are another dozen active agents that fit that profile,” I say. “Some of whom had direct contact with him, which I did not.”
“He’s not the reason you’re involved. There are only four scientists intimately familiar with this nerve agent. Three are dead. Two were murdered in one of our labs. One was murdered while working for Ross, presumably by Ross. The other is a rogue agent. One of our own.”
“Two of the dead scientists are her parents. When they died, she disappeared, until a week ago. We located her in San Francisco.”
“Then pick her up. You don’t need me.”
“We need her to create an antidote for that agent. That means finding it first.”
“Again. Why me?”
“We need to know that she lives to help us and dies before she helps him.”