Special Agents at the Altar
Excerpt from book:
Special Agent Ashton Stryker's heart pounded fast and hard with anticipation and a rush of adrenaline. He was about to meet the greatest threat to national security in his career with the FBI's antiterrorism division. Ash's responsibility was to neutralize that threat.
A bell chimed, announcing his time up with the woman across the table from him. She may have said hi. He wasn't certain; he hadn't been paying any attention to her. His target was farther down the long table, smiling at the man whose hand she shook before he moved on to the woman to her left.
Had she passed anything to him in that handshake? Ash wasn't close enough to see, but there were other eyes on her. Other agents had her under surveillance, too.
Ash stood up and took the next chair down the table. He was getting closer to her. The bell chimed again, announcing the beginning of the next five minutes.
"How can you look like that and be so socially awkward?" the woman across from him asked.
His focus on his target, he only spared the woman a glance. She was probably old enough to be his mothermaybe his grandmotherwith iron-gray hair and small reading glasses hanging from a chunky gold chain around the neck of the sweatshirt embroidered with cats. "Excuse me?"
"You haven't said anything to the women before me," she said. "Of course when you look like thatthe epitome of tall, dark and handsomeyou probably don't have to say anything. You could grunt and women would go home with you."
He felt like grunting with frustration and impatience, but then she might take that as an invitation. "I'm sorry," he said. "This is the first time I've come to one of these things"
"It's called speed dating," she said. "You only have five minutes, so you have to talk fast."
"I would rather listen," he said. It was what he did. Listening was how he had found the threat. He'd picked up chatter on wiretaps and other surveillance and then he'd found the post himself.
"Oh" the older woman fanned herself with one of the drink menus "you look like that and you'd rather listen. No wonder you've never come to one of these things before. You haven't had to. Why are you here tonight?"
Obviously he couldn't answer honestly. Ash was no rookie when it came to going undercover; he'd had some dangerous assignments over the years, going deep undercover in terrorist camps and militia groups as well as a motorcycle gang.
But he had never gone speed dating before. A couple of chairs earlier, someone had run a stiletto heel up his pant leg. Another woman had tried to give him her room key. There was danger here, too. So Ash had to be careful to not blow his cover.
"Why?" the woman asked again, her voice sharp with impatience that he hadn't answered yet.
She definitely reminded him of his grandmother, at least as much as he could remember of the austere woman from whom his father had run away as a teenager. After he'd gotten married and had Ash, he'd come back to visit, but Grandma hadn't approved of Ash's mother any more than she had her own son.
Because the woman was kind of intimidating and because it was easier to sell a cover if you told as much of the truth as possible, Ash replied honestly, "I want to meet someone."
The woman emitted a wistful sigh. "You will," she assured him. "You will."
He glanced down the table again to where the threat chatted easily with the man across from her. He was bald with no neck and an ill-fitting suit. Was he a buyer?
"Ooooh," the woman across from AShe's wanted by unknown assailants, the government
and the man sworn to protect her
A man like FBI special agent Ash Stryker would never be caught dead at a speed-dating event. But that's where he tracks down Claire Molenski, a computer programmer suspected of selling government information. When he rescues her from a botched kidnapping, he realizes not only that she's innocent, but also that the only way to protect her is to pose as her boyfriend.
Claire knows that their relationship is a ruse. Once the case is closed, she'll never see Ash again, and that scares her almost as much as the abduction attempts. But the way he acts toward her makes her wonder just how much of an act their relationship really is. And if she'll be able to survive long enough to find out.