Spy Girl Sneak Peek!
What happens when you get pulled out of spy academy before graduation because you look good in a bikini?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
Protect the heir to the throne of Montrovia, while uncovering the person or persons behind the plot to assassinate him in order to take over control of this geographically important sovereign nation, and eliminate the threat.
Get close to the hottest prince on the planet and work for Black X, the double-black covert group so secret even the President of the United States is on a need-to-know basis?
A man is being hung by his feet from the top of a sixteen-story building.
He tried to evade his pursuer but could not. The pursuer was like a ghost who would magically appear no matter where the man tried to hide.
And it is in moments like these that men experience clarity in their life.
The dangling man knows he will die soon. And, still, he refuses to admit to the ghost that he had anything to do with the crime. After all, he was ordered to do so by a man no one dares to cross, for fear you will end up in a situation like the one he is now.
Fearing for his life.
He did not cross his employer, though. He simply made a mistake. Last night when he was three sheets to the wind, he may have been bragging about a job he did recently in Britain.
It was an easy job, kill a man who was hunting and make it look like a suicide. No one in the pub was surprised. The types that gathered at this establishment were all criminals of one form or another, but he’d gotten a big payday and it made him feel a few notches above the rest.
“Tell me who hired you,” the ghost yells at him, threatening to let go.
The man shakes his head. If he tells, he will die—either by this man’s hand or his employer’s, and he’d much rather get dropped off this building than face what his employer would do to him. He should know. He’s fulfilled numerous contracts with explicit instructions for a slow, painful death. Or worse, making them watch their families die first.
“If you tell me, I’ll keep you safe,” the ghost offers.
“Nowhere is safe from him!”
“Just give me his name. Atone for what you’ve done.”
The man considers this. Would telling the ghost allow him to end up better in eternity?
He shakes his head again. “It’s already been set in motion. No one can stop it now.”
The man feels himself fall as the ghost lets go of one of his legs. Although he quickly discovers he only dropped slightly, it felt like many feet. He has a wife at home and an elderly mother. Even in death, his employer would punish him—by killing his family—if he thought he had been betrayed. But the ghost is good. He’s clearly a highly trained spy, who may be the only one able to stop his employer.
“We can protect you! Tell me!”
He feels the man’s grip slip and in a flash of panic yells out, “Please, don’t let go! I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!”
The ghost pulls him to the safety of the roof then levels a gun at his chest. “Who hired you?”
“A man who is not in charge, but I overheard some things.”
“It starts with Montrovia,” he tells the ghost. It’s not all he knows, but hopefully it will be enough.
A relative peace overcomes him, and he now knows what he must do to protect his family.
It’s the only way.
He leans backward and pitches himself over the ledge.
“Shit,” the ghost mutters, putting his gun away and reaching for his phone.
“We were right. It’s starting,” he says to the man who answers.
“Do you have him in custody?”
“Sort of,” he replies, looking down at the body lying broken in the street.
“Is he alive?”
“Uh, not so much.”
“Did you find out who hired him?” The voice sounds angry.
“As we suspected, it was a man who is not in charge. But he confessed to overhearing something.”
“Dammit, you should have kept him alive. We need more information.”
“He said enough. It starts with Montrovia.”
The man on the other end goes silent. “I was hoping to give her more time.”
“We can’t wait any longer.”
“I’ll make the call,” he says reluctantly.
My mother is on her knees in our living room.
She’s pleading at me with her eyes. Although the man standing in front of her thinks she’s begging not to be shot with the suppressed handgun he’s pointing at her, I know she’s really begging for me not to do what I’m about to do—shoot the man myself.
She closes her eyes as I pull the trigger.
But I’m too late.
A tiny hole forms in the center of her forehead as blood sprays onto the couch behind her.
I watch in stunned horror, a scream rising in my throat even though I know I should keep quiet.
The man turns to face me. He’s clutching his shoulder, which I must have hit.
His eyes bore into mine. Eyes I will never forget.
Then he turns his gun on me.
“X, wake up,” my study hall professor says, pushing on my shoulder. Even on Sundays, we have mandatory study periods.
“I’m sorry. I was up late studying for our upcoming finals,” I say smoothly.
“The Dean would like you to report to his office immediately.”
I stand up and smooth out my uniform—which, not surprisingly, is all black—grab my backpack, and head down the hall, my dream still at the forefront of my mind.
X has been my name since I came to Blackwood eight years ago after my parents were killed. I slide my hand down the thick chair rail and take in the polished beauty that is Blackwood Academy, the stately mansion that has been my home since then. Although to the outside world it appears to be an elite college for only the wealthiest of students, it’s not really. If Hogwarts was for young wizards who show talent with magic, Blackwood is for students who show exceptional skills in espionage. Disciplines like martial arts, languages, computer hacking, and rule breaking. Talents that our government can harness and train.
As I descend the grand iron staircase, I start to worry.
Last night, I may not have actually been studying. I may have been hooking up with S, who told me his real name is Josh Bentley after we first slept together. He wasn’t my first, by any means. At Blackwood, dating isn’t allowed, but we aren’t expected to deny our sexual desires. As long as we are not in violation of other rules like curfew, sex is fine, even considered a great way to release tension—which means the standard pickup line here is, Wanna blow off some steam? And that works for me.
I know I’m going to have to end things with Josh because last night when he held me in his arms, he dared to whisper those three little words—sweet words most girls long to hear but are the death of a relationship at Blackwood. Here, we’re taught to thrive on our own. To not crave emotional entanglements.
But last night, I failed in that respect. I liked hearing it.
But I’m chalking up my emotion to the events that preceded his words. All the students had been woken up yesterday at 0500 for a mission enactment. Twelve hours later—muddy, hungry, and exhausted—I used a sniper rifle to kill the target and retrieve the stolen data. Josh and I had worked together all day using our tracking abilities while being hunted. Just staying alive—as in not getting hit with a rubber bullet—is a feat. Completing the mission is a rare thing. Our enemies were Special Forces instructors who had never been beat.
After we’d scarfed down food in the mess hall, Josh and I celebrated by sneaking out with a 1974 bottle of Bordeaux I nicked from the school’s wine cellar.
And I have a feeling someone is missing that bottle.
I’m only a few weeks from graduation, and although it’s not that unusual for me to get sent to the Dean’s office for various misdemeanors, I’ve been particularly careful lately because after graduation I want to be a field operative for a covert agency. Because it’s my best chance of finding the man from my dream—and killing him.
When I get to the bottom of the stairs, I turn right then lift the brass knocker which contains a retinal scanner. My eye gets scanned and then the door responds with a click, letting me know I can open it.
“Hello, Xanthamum,” the Dean’s perpetually cheerful assistant says to me. She dresses like a grandmother and makes up a new name every time she sees you, but we all know it’s just a ruse. The woman retired from the CIA over ten years ago and is still a crack shot. “Go on in. He’s waiting for you.”
I give her a smile, hoping she will say more. She likes to gossip about the goings on at school. But in this case, she gives me a wave toward the door.
“Hello, sir,” I say to the Dean, by way of announcing my arrival.
He looks up from his book. “Have a seat.”
I sit down in a well-worn leather chair across from his desk. If I’m being honest, I love the Dean’s office. It’s a former library and is loaded with shelf after shelf of books. And the Dean has been a sort of father figure to me these last eight years, like if your dad was the type of guy to push you to do better at holding your breath under water, hitting a target the size of a peanut from one hundred feet, hacking into the Pentagon, and kicking the shit out of your jiu jitsu instructor.
“It’s my understanding that you are a good dancer,” he says.
Shit, he definitely knows I was dancing with Josh in his room after curfew. And by dancing, I mean having sex. But spies are trained not to follow the rules. To complete the mission whatever it takes. We are trained liars. So I reply coolly, “Of course, all of Blackwood’s students take finishing class.”
“I’m referring to the fact that you can actually dance well, like at a club.”
Crap. He knows my friend M and I sneak out to hear DJ Magic whenever he’s in town, which would be a worse offense than the wine.
I’m so dead.
“Uh, sure. I can dance.”
“You’ve been called out.”
Called out? Who ratted me out? Probably M’s roommate. She hates that M and I sneak out. It’s not our fault we don’t require much sleep and like to have some fun once in a while.
“And you’re popular with the young men of Blackwood,” he continues.
So I’ve maybe had short-term relationships with a few of them.
“Uh . . .”
“What I’m saying is that you’re pretty, you look good in a bikini, and know how to dance—so you’re being called out.”
“I’m in trouble for that?”
“No. You are being called to duty for those reasons.”
I sit up straighter. Wait?! He has an assignment for me? “But what about graduation?” I ask. Graduation consists of a senior skip day where we track real criminals, and I’ve been really looking forward to it.
“This is more important.” He hands me a black envelope. The back has a monogrammed seal with a red letter X on it.
“Is this from where I think it’s from?”
“Yes, they’ve been watching your progress.”
Oh. My. Gosh. My first assignment. I wonder what I’m going to be tasked to do. Sneak in the Kremlin, assassinate a terrorist, find a nuclear device, save the world?
He nods expectantly at me. I stop wondering about my mission and look at the envelope again.
I know the drill. Open my orders, commit them to memory, destroy them.
X X X
Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
Protect the heir to the throne of Montrovia, uncover the person or persons behind the plot to assassinate him in order to take control of this geographically important sovereign nation, and eliminate the threat.
Get close to the hottest Prince on the planet and work for Black X, the double-black covert group so secret even the President of the United States is on a need-to-know basis?
I think about what he said about me looking good in a bikini. Do they want me to hookup with this Prince in order to protect him? Are you kidding me? I’m valedictorian. I have the school’s highest scores in everything from parkour to the number of ways I can kill a man.
I frown as I’m burning my orders in the fireplace. “Sir, may I speak freely about my assignment?”
“I’m afraid I’m not privy to your orders. My job was to help choose the student best fitted for the task based on the parameters given to me.”
“And one of those parameters was that I look good in a bathing suit?”
He chuckles. “In this situation, my dear, they need an operative who is not only the best and brightest but one who can also demand male attention. Your handler is waiting for you outside. You leave immediately.”
“But I need to go pack. Tell people goodbye.”
“I’m afraid there’s no time.” He stands up and, in an uncustomary show of emotion, hugs me briefly. “Godspeed, X.”
X X X
After she leaves his office, he opens a drawer, takes out a bottle of bourbon, and sets it on his desk.
He’s never questioned his orders but, in this case, he can’t help it. He’s been dreading this day for the last eight years when he was called out of retirement to become the Dean of Blackwood Academy.
His hands shake as he pours the amber-colored liquid into a glass.
Blackwood Academy sounded good on paper. They sold it to him well. He’d get to train young spies. Continue to serve his country.
The Russians have had programs like this for years, taking orphans, delinquents, or high IQ students and training them. Stripping them of their names and families. Teaching them to be killing machines. To have no conscience. To only do what they are told is best for their country.
Blackwood would be different. They’d be training a new elite spy. Young men and women ages eighteen to twenty-two. A spy college, so to speak. Spies who could move in social circles of the rich and powerful. Who could hack a computer with their eyes closed. Who understood technologies he’s too old to learn. He made sure that they were trained in the old school ways though, too. That they could function equally as well without GPS, fancy gadgets, and the Internet.
What he never expected was for them to send her.
At only fourteen.
Her beautiful mother had been shot, execution style, in front of her by the most deadly assassin in the world, a man known only as The Priest. And somehow, she managed to shoot and wound the assassin, fight him off, and then escape. A feat not even the most seasoned agent had ever accomplished.
Two days later, she defied death again, when a bomb blew up her father’s car.
She wasn’t allowed to attend their funerals. Spies don’t have funerals. They get a star on a wall in an office deep underground and a few moments of silence.
This he knows. He’s attended too many of those moments over the years.
He brings the glass to his lips and takes a small sip, enjoying the way the liquid burns, reminding him he’s still alive.
Even though most of the world believes him to be dead.
During her time at Blackwood, he’s grown to care deeply for X and feels more proud of her than he knew possible. He was hard on her, but she has amazed him with her abilities at every turn.
He wanted to tell her the truth today. The truth about her. The truth about him. The truth about her parents.
The phone on his desk rings, startling him.
He hears a series of clicks, knowing he’s being put through to a secure connection.
“Well?” the voice asks.
He takes another drink, greedily gulping it so he can bring himself to say the words he’s been dreading since that day. “Spy Girl is a go.”
“Do you think she’s ready?”
“With her genes and my training, what do you think?”
“You sound defiant, old man. I take it this mission is difficult for you.”
“She’s ready. I’ve done everything I can. She’s the best I’ve ever trained.”
“And the only one who matters. Do you think she will be able to attract the Prince’s attention and protect him?”
“That’s her mission. Of course, she will. Although, I think she was a little disappointed.”
“She would have preferred something more exciting. She wants to save the world.”
“And avenge her parents’ death.”
“Do you think he will be involved in this?”
“If those behind the plot to overthrow the monarchy are serious, The Priest is who they would hire. Are you afraid he will recognize her?”
“It’s been almost eight years since he tried to kill her. She’s changed. I’d be more worried about her recognizing him.”
“I’m not sure how she will react. And I thought we were going to send her on a few test missions to start.”
“Things have progressed, and we can’t wait any longer. If she fails, we’ll deal with the repercussions. You and I both know this is a whole lot bigger than one small country.”
When the line goes dead, he drains the rest of the glass.
And wonders what he’s done.
X X X
I walk out of the Dean’s office feeling elated. I’m going to meet my handler. My first ever, real handler. The person who will do whatever I need in the field.
I survey the area looking for him, but only see a guy about my age, who is way too good looking to be a handler. Usually handlers are decrepit retired spies.
But then I see a distinguished looking older gentleman who reaches his white-gloved hand out to me.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Ellis.” He hands me an envelope. “Here are your credentials, driver’s license, passport, college ID, credit cards, and bio. Let’s get going. We don’t have much time.”
Ellis opens the back door of a Bentley. The guy hops in before me. Obviously, finishing school was not part of his training.
“Um, who are you?” I ask. I’m sort of hoping he’s supposed to be my boyfriend. That would be an assignment I could put all my energy into.
“Read your bio,” he tells me, putting headphones on and virtually ignoring me.
As we’re sitting silently in the back of the chauffeured car, I think of the neatly typed words. The words I’ve been waiting years to read.
This is it. My first assignment. The first step in my plan. I’ll get a few successful missions under my belt then I’ll use my abilities to hunt down the man who murdered my mother and kill him.
I smile to myself at the thought then pull out the papers and start reading about Montrovia.
Geographically important is right. Trillions of dollars of goods are moved through the Strait of Montrovia. Specifically trillions of dollars of oil they allow every country to move across its waters.
So basically, I’m supposed to seduce the Prince and somehow keep him from getting killed. Honestly, I’d rather chase a terrorist. He’s a freaking Prince. He will be impossible to get near.
I flip the page and see a photo of my target as well as his statistics. HRH Lorenzo Giovanni Baptiste Vallenta. Twenty-four, six feet tall, dark haired, and very easy on the eyes. Numerous articles pertain to his exploits; with sailing, polo ponies, fast cars, and fast women among his favored hobbies. Apparently, it’s not yet been publicly announced, but the Prince’s father is ill and not expected to recover. So the fact that someone has already developed a plan to assassinate him to take control of the country means whoever is behind the plot is well connected. I study the order of succession. The King. The Prince. Then his cousin, The Duchess of Cordova, and her sister, The Countess of Cordova.
I take out my new credentials next and study them.
I am Huntley Penelope “Penny” Bond-Von Allister.
“Are you kidding me?” I say out loud. “Did they really name me after Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible and James Bond from 007?”
Ellis snickers in the front seat.
I elbow the guy sitting next to me. He glares at me then takes off his headphones. “What?”
“Do I look like a Penny?”
“Not really, but that’s what I’ll be calling you. It’s in my notes.”
“You will not be calling me that. I’ll go by Huntley. What is your name?”
“Keep reading.” He leaves his headset off this time and stares out the window, continuing to ignore me.
“Who makes this shit up?” I mutter.
Actually, I know the answer to that question. The team does. Behind every good spy is an equally strong support team. Researchers, weapon specialists, logistics, finance, etc. They call them Housekeeping. They have prepared my backstory, my travel documents, packed my bags for the trip, will have a residence acquired at our destination, and have vetted my credentials.
I keep reading.
I’m taking a break from school to see the world with my brother, Aristotle “Ari” Bradford-Von Allister. We are going to Montrovia to spend time together after our billionaire father, the reclusive Ares Von Allister, passed away.
I study the guy sitting next to me. He’s about six feet tall, solidly built but still lean. If I had to guess, he’s got nice muscles under the heavy flannel shirt he’s wearing. His hair is about the same color as mine, a dirty blonde—heavy on the dirty. His eyes are a similar hazel with a strong Roman nose and long face. His hair is cut short on the sides and long on the top in the trend newly favored by hipsters across the world. Whoever cast us as brother and sister did a good job. We actually look a lot alike.
“Are you Ari?”
“You’re going to have to loosen up if you want anyone to believe you’re a billionaire playboy.”
“Finish reading,” he says, his eyes looking equal parts lethal and sexy.
“Well, this is interesting. We just met at the reading of our father’s will. The father neither of us had ever met. In order to inherit his billions, we have to spend the next six months getting to know each other.”
He nods. “It’s a good cover. And Ares did just pass. So the timing is perfect.”
I take a moment to study my new brother. His stiff posture suggests some kind of military training, but he also has the air of someone raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. This contradiction intrigues me, and I want to know where and how he trained. He’s twenty-two and I’m twenty-one. Since that is my real age, I’m assuming it’s his too.
We’ve leased a villa overlooking the Mediterranean in the glitzy Montrovian city, Cap de Playa Antilles. Better known as Cap. It’s a playground for the ultra-rich, boasting a harbor large enough to handle the priciest of yachts, an elegant casino complex, luxurious hotels, world-class restaurants, exclusive designer shops, an ornate opera house, and streets littered with exotic cars. The town is a magnet for glitzy and glittering events, home to an elite polo team, tennis championships, and a Formula One race, which happens to be taking place next weekend.
Our chauffeur and butler, Ellis, will be traveling with us. He’s about sixty, and when I look at him in the rear view mirror, he gives me a discreet wink.
Then he speaks. “Are you through reading your dossier? Have you committed the details to memory?”
The details he’s referring to are things like my name, birthdate, and social security number. Of more importance, the phone number that will connect me directly to Black X and a series of authentication code words. Child’s play.
“Yes,” I say, confidently.
“Good, because we have some shopping to do.”
Ari groans, so I smack him.
But instead of shopping at a store, it seems the store has come to us. Upon arrival at our three-bedroom suite in a posh D.C. hotel, we are greeted by racks of clothing and two women both named Kate.
Kate Number One says, “You can call me Dr. Kate.”
“What are you a doctor of?” I ask politely.
“I have my undergrad in luxury marketing from NYU and a doctorate in Anthropology. It’s my job to make sure you look the part. I’m on your Housekeeping team along with my colleague, Kate.”
Kate Number Two says, “If you call the private concierge number that is in your phone, you’ll be speaking directly with me. I’ll arrange anything you need on site. As you were told, we’ve leased a beautiful villa that comes with a full staff. We’ve shipped over all sorts of goodies for you. Once you step foot in Montrovia, you will be Penny and Ari.”
She studies me. “You’re right. I can’t picture you as a Penny. Anyway, other than Ellis, you are on your own. Any information you come across will be relayed to us through him. Although, you each have emergency protocol.”
“Let’s get you into the wardrobes we’ve selected to make sure everything fits. We have a tailor on standby and then you both have appointments at the spa downstairs. Hairstylists and makeup will be brought in to prep you for the event tonight.”
“There was no mention of an event in my packet,” Ari states.
“Rule follower,” I say under my breath.
Kate One says, “You’re going to the Smithsonian gala. We’ve got you seated with Peter Prescott and his model of the week. Peter is—”
“The son of Malcolm Prescott,” Ari says. “Prescott Industries’ self-made billionaire. His conglomerates rebuild after a war, and he’s a big contributor to President Hillford’s campaign.”
Kate Two does a little clap. “Correct, Ari, you’ve been studying.”
I wonder why I haven’t been allowed to study.
“Also at the table will be Peter’s college buddy, Daniel Spear.”
“Son of Vice President Spear,” I add. At least I know something. Although it’s really not that spectacular. Every woman in America—and most other countries—would recognize the gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer with his blinding white teeth, piercing blue eyes, crooked grin, and a body made of steel—based on his latest men’s fitness magazine cover, which may have been tossed around my dorm room and drooled over. Kate One smiles at me, so I continue. “They are our entry into Montrovian society, I take it?”
“Yes, your mission for tonight is to make friends with Peter and invite him to join you for a week of partying. Daniel is an acquaintance of the Prince. Although, he isn’t likely to go to Montrovia, knowing him can’t hurt. It all depends on the two of you. Are you charming and believable enough to pull this off?”
Ari glances in my direction, sizing me up.
“Have you scheduled some time for Huntley and I to get to know each other before the event?” Ari asks the Kates.
“We’re on a tight schedule, but you’ll be alone from five until you leave for the event at promptly seven p.m. You can use that time as you see fit.” Kate Two smirks, and I know she’s thinking of exactly how she’d choose to use that time if she were me.
I stifle a smile. Good. Ari’s hotness is good for our mission.
But he’s totally not my type. I can already tell he’s way too uptight.
The Vice President’s son, on the other hand, has dated everyone from pop stars to the local stripper. He’s much more my type. Fast, carefree, and easy. Ari looks like he requires care and feeding. High maintenance with a capital H. The kind of guy who would annoy the crap out of me.
Which I’m told brothers usually do.
X X X
Ari and I don’t have time to chat as planned. Between spa appointments and tailoring, we’re barely ready in time. Fortunately, while I was getting my toes, nails, and hair done, I was able to read more about Montrovia on my phone. I studied the country’s history, maps of the capital, blueprints of the castle, and the folklore. I’ve memorized the shops, read up on the Formula One drivers, and even found a cool article on all the secret passageways in the castle as well as learned the ghost of a former king is said to haunt the stables.
We arrive at the event by chauffeured limousine. The museum is bathed in a soft pink light. A red carpet creeps up the stairs. Hollywood stars, music industry moguls, models, billionaires, politicians, socialites, professional athletes, and artists all come together to support one of the country’s greatest institutions. A place I could spend days in with all its history. But most of the people are here to be seen. It’s a splashy and glitzy event that kicks off the summer season.
The fact that on my first covert mission I will be photographed seems odd to me. Spies are taught to remain nameless and faceless. One of our most important classes at Blackwood was how to avoid being photographed on all the surveillance cameras around the world—your head down, a scarf, a hood, the tilt of your head.
“Maybe we should avoid the red carpet hoopla and sneak in through the kitchen, Ari.”
He holds out his elbow. “We’re going in the front and establishing our cover.”
“Aren’t you worried about how this will affect future missions?”
“I think this is our future mission.”
“You think we will die?”
“No. I think if we succeed, there will be many more missions together. It’s brilliant, really. Being undercover in plain sight. So smile for the cameras.”
I wrap my hand around his elbow and allow him to escort me up the stairs. We smile and pose for the cameras when told to, and as we enter the reception, there are already numerous people. A waiter presents us with a tray of champagne, and we each take a glass.
“To us,” Ari says raising his flute. “And to our great country.”
We are allowed to roam the museum and mingle before the event. Somehow, people already know who Ari and I are and offer us condolences on our father’s passing.
Mostly, these seem to be the politicians.
“Ari, don’t you find it a little odd that people know us and know who our father was when you and I met less than nine hours ago?”
“When were you told about our mission?” he asks me.
“Nine hours ago, when were you?”
“Three weeks ago. The day after he passed.”
“What do you know about him?”
“Not much, but I know his company worked with the government on numerous projects. He was a brilliant inventor, but a recluse for the past few years. We inherited his estate, as well. You should see the place. He has a research facility that is second to none.”
“Ari, we didn’t really inherit it. It’s just our cover.”
He shakes his head. “No, it’s our new life.”
I ponder that as we’re being herded into the rotunda where we will dine. We’ve yet to meet our dining partners for the evening, but I have been given numerous business cards so I can invest some of my new money and was told I should consider a career in politics. I met a famous actor and had my ass grabbed by a lecherous old senator, whose wife informed me that he meant no harm.
The man’s lucky he still has an arm.
When Ari and I arrive at our table, Peter Prescott and his date, a model named Allie Peterson, are already seated. Ari and I introduce ourselves as the Von Allisters.
“Sorry to hear about your father,” Peter says. “He and my dad worked together back in the day.”
Really? Why the hell wasn’t this in my packet? But I just found out he was my father. I shouldn’t know anything about him. Other than his net worth.
“I’d love to hear about that. We never knew him.”
“You never knew your father?” the model asks.
“Haven’t you seen the papers?” Peter asks, squinting his eyes at her like she’s an idiot. I’d wipe that smug look off his face if I were dating him. Of course, I probably wouldn’t date an arrogant asshole.
She kisses him on the cheek. “You know I don’t read them. All bad news. It’s depressing.”
I decide to fill her in. “Ari and I just met at the reading of our father’s will. We didn’t know he was our father until we were notified by his attorney.”
“You’re looking at our country’s two newest billionaires,” Peter proclaims.
Her eyes brighten. “Oh. Well, congratulations.”
I wince. So do Ari and Peter. But secretly I love this clueless, beautiful girl.
Peter whispers something to her. She frowns then looks at Ari and gives him a dazzling smile. “I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right. I’m sorry for your loss.”
We are joined by Senator Bill Callan and his wife, Sissy. He chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and is known as a good friend of the director of the CIA, Mike Burnes. He shakes my hand, also offers his condolences, and introduces us to the actor Rob Howden and his wife, Angie. Bill’s secretary apparently doesn’t warrant an introduction. She sits silently at the table on her phone with the air of someone doing something very important, but she blushes when I catch her scrolling through her Instagram feed.
We are all seated at the table making small talk about the new exhibit we toured.
The chair to my left is still empty when I get my first glimpse of Daniel.
He’s rushing toward us, buttoning his jacket, his cheeks flush. I half expect him to be zipping his pants. He looks like he’s been involved in a coat room quickie. His hair is mussed. His blue eyes sparkling.
“Sorry, I’m late,” he says to the table. “My parents decided last minute to attend the event and made me ride with them. Traveling with the Secret Service is a bitch.”
He shakes his buddy Peter’s hand and gives him a slap on the back, air kisses Allie, and then works his way around the table shaking everyone’s hands.
When he gets to me, he says, “I’m Daniel Spear.”
“I’m Huntley Von Allister, and this is my brother Ari.”
A speaker on the stage addresses the group, so we all quickly take our seats.
Daniel’s piercing blue eyes continue to hold mine, occasionally flitting across the curves of my red gown. His eyes are mesmerizing, a warm lush shade of lapis with lighter flecks of cerulean. His eyes speak of oceans and tropics, and it’s not surprising he’s talented in the water. I imagine that Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea, would have had eyes just like his.
We toast to the event and let the senator and his wife carry most of the table’s dinner conversation.
After dessert, the talk turns to travel spots of the rich and famous. Sissy and the senator are vacationing at their six thousand square foot “cottage” in the balmy Cayman Islands in a few weeks, and Allie is headed to Puerto Rico tomorrow for a popular sports magazine’s bikini shoot.
The senator and his wife excuse themselves, along with the actor and his spouse.
“We’re going to Montrovia,” Ari says.
“Montrovia?” Daniels replies. “I just happen to be pals with the Prince of Montrovia. Haven’t seen him in a couple years. I’ll tell you what, though. He knows how to party. I never thought I’d recover from our night out.”
“A prince, huh?” I tease.
“Don’t start dreaming of a royal wedding just yet,” Daniel teases back. “You’d have a lot of competition. Me, I’m easy.”
“So I’ve read in the tabloids.”
“Who is accompanying you on this trip?” Allie asks.
“It’s just me and Ari. We’re going to have some brother-sister bonding time.”
Daniel’s blue eyes smolder as he whispers to me, “Maybe it’s time to go visit my old friend. Although, if I go, you know we’re going to sleep together.”
“I do love a good slumber party. Maybe I can braid your hair,” I tease, tousling his dark, shaggy locks.
“When do we leave?” he asks.
“Mode of transportation?”
“Well, if you’re coming with, why don’t we make a splash in Air Force Two?”
“You know I could make that happen.”
“You talk a big game.”
“And I deliver the goods.” He smirks and raises an eyebrow at me. Gosh, this guy is a flirt. I love it.
“My prediction is that the Prince, who you claim to be friends with, won’t remember you.”
An amused smile plays on his lips. “I’m hard to forget.”
“So you go both ways, huh?”
I grin. “I’m just screwing with you.”
“Not yet, Huntley, but soon you will be.”
He grabs my phone, enters his number as AirForce2 and says, “I’ll be in touch.” Then he excuses himself from the table.
Ari and Peter are talking exotic cars.
“That’s why we’re going, really. To hit the car show and the Formula One race. One of the things on Ari’s bucket list.”
“I’d love to go to Montrovia,” Allie gushes. “We should go too, Peter.”
“It’s race weekend. No way we’d find a hotel room.”
“You’re welcome to stay at our villa,” I suggest.
“That would be amazing!” she says, then turns to Peter. “Peter, you could come to my photo shoot, and we could leave from there.” She gives him a little pout. “Please, baby.”
Peter’s face softens, and he gives her a sweet smile. “I hate to say no to you, but I have other plans.”
Allie huffs at him then switches to Daniel’s vacated spot next to me and gives me a girly rundown of Montrovia. She seems to know all about the place even though she’s never been there. She goes on about what kind of clothes I should take, all the amazing yachts there, and how her publicist could get us into some A-List parties. I suppose when you have a body like hers, getting invites is probably easy.
“Have you and Peter dated long?”
“About three weeks. I’m not sure he’s all that serious about me, though,” she admits. “He likes models.”
“I’ve heard he’s a bit of a playboy.”
“Yes, me too. He’s so sweet though, and the lifestyle of a billionaire’s son is crazy. I grew up on a farm in Illinois.”
“I know what you mean. I just inherited that kind of money. I’m still in shock.”
“Well, better to have it than to date it, if you know what I mean. Your brother is pretty cute.”
“Uh, thank you.”
“You look alike. I see the family resemblance. Let’s go to the bar and get a drink. Meet some more people.”
I’m not sure, but by people, I think she’s possibly shopping for men. Peter may be using her for her beauty, but she’s using him as well. I guess I shouldn’t judge. My job is to use people to get what I want. She seems really nice, though. If I wasn’t who I am, I think we could be friends. Ari’s words earlier about this being our life play back in my head. I wonder if he’s right. Could there be more to this mission than I have been told?
Allie grabs my elbow and leads me to the restroom, where we touch up our lipstick and then head to the bar.
“That Daniel is quite a looker. He seemed very interested in you. Like, he didn’t even look at me. Which is something I’m not used to.”
“Do you believe his story about showing up with his parents? Looked to me like he just rolled out of bed.”
“I hope he wasn’t alone. That would be a shame. Don’t you think he’s cute?”
“He’s like sex on a stick.”
“I do like a big stick,” she giggles, downing a glass of champagne.
“Care to dance?” a velvety voice says into my ear.
I don’t have to turn around to know it’s him.
“Do you mind?” I ask Allie.
“Oh, no,” she says, latching on to Ari who is with Daniel. “Your brother can keep me company.”
“I’d love to,” I say to Daniel, taking his hand.
We dance close, his hard body pressed against mine and his lips nuzzling my neck. I suppose in some ways being a covert operative and going undercover is much like an actress playing a role. And although I know my role is to become friendly with Daniel, friendly takes on a whole new meaning when he lowers his lips to my neck and nips at it.
He turns me on. Plain and simple. While my mind is calculating different scenarios in which Daniel can further help my mission, my body is highly recommending that I sleep with him.
It’s like I’m one of those cars, that all you have to do is push to start. And Daniel revs my motor further when he whispers in my ear, “I’m hungry. Would you want to go back to my place and order a real dinner?”
I know I’d like to feast on him.
I nod yes, tell Ari not to wait up, and before I know it, I’m in a limo staring at Daniel’s hella good hair, his perfect profile, and his jawline of delicious scruff.
I was taught to exploit an opponent’s weaknesses, and it’s quite clear I’m going to need a much closer inspection to find anything weak on Daniel. From his strong, chiseled jaw down to a thick neck and broad shoulders. All of him is hard and muscular.
Which is probably what makes his brilliant blue eyes look so sweet and his lips look so soft and lush.
X X X
Daniel’s town house is incredible, an old brownstone on a prestigious street lined with embassies.
“Is this your parents’ house?”
“No, it was my grandparents’. I inherited it last year. Isn’t it great?”
I nod. The home is old with thick crown moldings, wood floors, finials, wood and stone fireplaces, lots of wainscoting and marble. But all the furnishings are a healthy mix of modern and antiques.
“I like what you’ve done to the place. You’ve kept all the original details but brought in modern furniture.”
I’m rewarded with a smile and a peek of a dimple on his right side.
“I think it’s my new goal in life to see your other dimple,” I tell him.
He has a cocky smirk and a body built for all kinds of naughtiness, but his eyes are warm and tender.
At Blackwood, my professors couldn’t find my weakness, but I’m looking at it right now—a pair of intense blue eyes.
“I only have one dimple.” He holds a plethora of takeout menus in front of my face. “Pick one.”
“And here I thought that was just a ploy to get me back to your place. I’m a little disappointed. Allie was regaling me with what she’s read in the tabloids about you. All your tricks, Air Force Two.”
He sets the menus down and studies my face, his blue eyes boring into mine. “I don’t need tricks to get a girl to sleep with me.”
And I don’t doubt it.
He lowers his eyes to the menus and pulls a few out. “Let’s get rid of the healthy options. I’m in the mood to be bad.”
Oh god, me too, Daniel, me too. I’m going to drag him back to the bedroom even if it means I’ll have to overcome and restrain him to do it. Those thoughts alone set my panties ablaze. And he’s yet to kiss me.
He finally settles on a pizza menu.
“Best thick crust in the city. Anything you don’t like on a pizza?”
“No anchovies. No onions. Other than that, I’m game for anything.”
My answer is rewarded with the single dimple punctuating a small smile. A line like that at Blackwood would have earned me a lot more than a smile. It would have either gotten me four hours of wilderness survival training or thrown on a guy’s dorm bed and wonderfully attacked.
I have a moment of self-doubt.
Maybe he really just wanted a dinner companion?
“So, Montrovia, huh?”
“Yeah. It’s first up on the list.”
“There’s a list?”
“Yes, of all the places and things we’d like to see and do.” I don’t mention that he has rocketed straight to the top of the all the things I want to do.
Like, right now.
I consider stripping off my clothes just to see what would happen, but when his stomach growls I realize he really is hungry. And if—no, when—I end up in bed with him, the last thing I want is for him not to have enough fuel for that amazing body. With all those muscles, he must burn like a thousand calories a minute just staring into space. I remember reading an article that said he eats like ten thousand calories a day when he’s training.
“They said it will be about thirty minutes,” he tells me after placing our order. “Want to play some Xbox?”
The night is going downhill quickly. He wants to play video games with me?
I tap my perfectly manicured nails on the island in response. I look down at my evening gown, the red color a contrast to my blonde hair, the straps reining in my ample cleavage and the fabric floating over my curves.
If Daniel wants to be my friend, so be it. I’m going to be the sexiest best friend he’s ever had.
I remind myself I’m on a mission but, in my mind, sleeping with Daniel has just become an integral part of that mission.
And I must not fail.
He plops down on the couch and pats the seat next to him as he readies the gaming controls.
I stop by his fridge, grab a couple beers, and hand him one when I sit down in the exact spot he patted, allowing the silk covering my thigh to brush against him. He hands me a controller and points to a list of games on the screen.
I scroll through the list while he’s busy staring at my cleavage.
Fortunately, I find what I’m looking for. It’s a very popular game that allows you to go on missions either by yourself, with a partner, or as a team. Only a few people know that this game started out as a teaching and training program for students at Blackwood Academy.
And I’m the best.
When I click on it, Daniel’s eyes light up.
“This is a really complex game,” he says, probably expecting me to choose something like Mario Kart.
I shrug noncommittally. I’m pretty sure this game is some kind of a litmus test. Daniel’s way of screening girls. Which is odd. Never once in all the accounts I’ve read of his hookups have I read about there being pizza and Battleground involved.
We opt to go into battle together rather than against each other. And although the competitor in me wanted to go head-to-head and kill him in the game, my lady parts remind me that might be bad for his ego, which may have an adverse effect on his performance in bed.
I’m kicking butt in the game and, although we are partners against the bad guys, I’m amassing points at about a three-to-one ratio to his.
He pauses the game and slides out of his jacket. “I can’t move in this monkey suit,” he says. “Undo my tie, will you?”
I oblige, as I’m sure any girl would when asked to remove an article of his clothing—although, I was hoping for his pants.
He undoes his top two buttons and rolls up his shirtsleeves, getting comfortable. And serious.
Which makes me smile.
His forearms flex as he takes the controller and continues the game. This round our score is more even, mostly because I’m obsessing over his muscles and not giving the game my all.
He’s cursing, banging on the controller, and pulling up his weapons cache trying desperately to even the score.
My dress becomes increasingly uncomfortable and, in theory, could be hindering my performance.
I pause the game.
“What are you doing?”
“Give me your shirt,” I instruct.
He just squints his eyes at me, so I lean over, unbutton it, and strip it off him.
And I’m trying hard not to drool.
Fine. A photo much like this one, where he’s lounging on a couch shirtless may, in fact, be hanging in M’s dorm room.
I stand and turn my back to him. The back of my dress is cut low and held in place by a short zipper that dives from my waist down to my ass.
“Unzip me, please.”
He curses under his breath but complies.
I slide out of the dress, my back still to him. I’m wearing a minute red satin G-string and nothing else. I was going to put my hand across my chest but decide not to. I mean, we’re friends, and they’re just boobs. No big deal.
Besides I can do a few litmus tests of my own. If it weren’t for the testosterone that oozes off him in waves, I’d think maybe he was gay.
I give him an eyeful of boobage as I lift his shirt off the couch and put it on. It covers my undies nicely and looks hot with my heels. I plop back down, even going so far as to unfurl my legs across his coffee table and cross them in a way that shows off my sky-high black pumps, whose red soles match my dress and lipstick.
Daniel is studying me closely. A quick glance at the semi he’s sporting under his pants reaffirms my intel on his testosterone levels. I’m contemplating commanding him to remove his pants, so I can put them on, too, when the doorbell rings announcing our pizza delivery.
Make that pizzas. He ordered two.
Upon seeing my quizzical expression, he shrugs and throws one in the fridge. “One for now. One for breakfast.”
“Shouldn’t you be eating egg whites with spinach or something?”
He chuckles and sets the box in front of us then holds a gooey piece up to my mouth. I take a bite, savoring the combination of cheese, spicy sausage, roasted red peppers, and sweet pineapple.
“Mmm. This is my new favorite pizza,” I groan.
He hands me the piece and takes his own, ripping into it.
His ferocity is hot.
I savor another bite then pull my legs up onto the couch crisscross style, being careful not to stab myself with my heels. I mentally kick myself realizing this is probably not nearly as sexy a position as having my long, tan legs sprawled across his table, but when he glances down and the dimple forms, I stay put. My underwear are skimpy and don’t cover all the parts. I’m pretty sure he just got flashed.
I demolish piece number one and reach for the box. I might be amassing points faster, but he’s winning the eating game, having mowed through three pieces already.
His appetite for food seemingly quelled, he holds a piece to my mouth again. His cerulean eyes remind me of the deep blue of a starry night sky. He is staring at my lips, wrapped around the crust.
“I’m glad you like the pizza,” he states, his gaze returning to my crotch. “You’re good at Battleground. You should know I don’t like to lose. We may not be leaving this couch tonight.”
“Fine with me,” I say, my desire growing as I care less about this stupid game.
I unzip his pants to find his hard-on peeking out above his boxer briefs and proceed to straddle him.
Our lips collide, and he annihilates my mouth with his tongue. He’s treating my mouth much like he did the video game—full on siege.
He bites his way down my neck, and I can practically feel the steam rising from my crotch. As he unbuttons his shirt to expose my breasts and assaults them, I move my hips against his.
He holds me up in the air with one hand while sliding his clothes off with the other. Then his fingers move inside me. Slowly at first, which is a contrast to the harsh, hot kisses moving across my chest and the sucking and biting of my nipples. I throw my head back, not able to silence myself. I let out a string of curses mixed with moans muffled by his neck. I weave my fingers into his hair, and I force his mouth to meet mine. As he’s making love to my lips, he pats the couch for his pants, finds his wallet, rolls on a condom, and then plunges inside of me.
His hands tightly grip my hips, surely leaving bruises, as he guides me up and down.
I orgasm quickly, shocking myself and sounding like a sex phone operator. The number of naughty words coming out of my mouth are no act.
They surprise me, but seem to please him. I can feel him smile into my neck when I practically collapse into a heap on top of him.
My tiredness is quickly abated when he picks me up, flips me over, wraps my legs around his waist, and cups my ass. I shove my heels into the sides of his legs to hold myself in place as he slams into me—until we both are spent and panting.
Which as you would expect from a well-conditioned athlete takes quite some time.
After a few precious moments of his face snuggled into my hair, he picks me up and carries me into his bedroom.
When he is finished with me and passes out, the sun is peeking over the horizon.
I throw on his shirt, belt it with his tie, slip on my shoes, and then steal the pizza from his fridge on my way to catch a cab.
Release Date: April 12, 2016
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