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AWOL with the Operative (Harlequin Romantic Suspense Series #1694)

AWOL with the Operative (Harlequin Romantic Suspense Series #1694)

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by Jean Thomas

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Eve Warren made a sworn promise—she'd never tell the FBI her real connection to mob informant Charlie Fowler. When he's found dead, we-have-ways-to-make-you-talk agent Sam McDonough wants to know everything. But as the gruff, gorgeous G-man escorts Eve from the Yukon for questioning, their chopper is shot down, crashing in the


Eve Warren made a sworn promise—she'd never tell the FBI her real connection to mob informant Charlie Fowler. When he's found dead, we-have-ways-to-make-you-talk agent Sam McDonough wants to know everything. But as the gruff, gorgeous G-man escorts Eve from the Yukon for questioning, their chopper is shot down, crashing in the frozen Canadian wilderness. Suddenly, Sam's memory is gone—and he's not the same man.

Sam doesn't remember much, but he trusts this "angel" by his side. As he and Eve battle the elements—and dangerous thugs determined to kill them both—he knows their survival depends on the most tentative trust…and huddling very close together for warmth.

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Harlequin Romantic Suspense Series , #1694
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The first thing Sam noticed about her was the fear in her eyes.

Okay, maybe not the first. If he was going to be honest with himself, the first had to be how tantalizing those eyes were. That is, if a pair of eyes could be described as tantalizing. Hers could, he decided. Definitely. They were wide, framed by dark lashes and a pure, luminous green.

But, yeah, at the moment registering her fear. Understandable, he supposed, considering how her boyfriend had died. And now she was at risk herself. Or so Sam's squad supervisor believed. Sam, himself, had yet to be convinced of that.

"Anything new on the case?" he asked the ruddy-faced RCMP officer, to whom he had just presented his American passport and his FBI credentials.

The young Mountie, standing protectively at Eve Warren's side, shook his head. "We're still investigating. That particular stretch of road can be real bad, especially in winter conditions. Either the accident was just that, an accident, or—"

The Mountie glanced at Eve, plainly not wanting her to hear the rest. But Sam could guess what he must have intended to say.

Or Charlie Fowler's rental car was forced off the road and down that mountainside where he fell to his death.

"It was snowing, you see," the Mountie explained, "and the tire tracks were no longer visible for us to read. But a witness on the lower road thought there was another car up there behind Fowler's. If so, it disappeared from the scene."

Sam gazed at Eve. If she was upset listening to what she must have heard already, it wasn't visible on her face. Except for the fear that was still in her eyes. Other than that, she was silent. Just as she had been since Sam had introduced himself a moment ago when he had arrived in the lobby of the main lodge. They had been waiting for him.

Could be she was in a state of shock. Damn. He was in no mood to deal with anything like that. This situation was bad enough as it was.

The Mountie returned Sam's wallet folder containing his picture ID and badge, which he tucked back into his coat pocket, along with his passport. "Unless there's anything else, Special Agent McDonough, I'll turn Miss Warren over to you."

Sam nodded and addressed himself to Eve with a brusque, "You ready?"


Her voice was low and husky. And every bit as sexy as her green eyes, Sam thought. One more thing he was in no mood to deal with.

They both started to reach for her suitcase at the same time. Their fingers made contact. Sam swore he felt a jolt of current that was decidedly not static electricity shoot clear up his arm—something he was determined to ignore. She must have felt it, too. She quickly withdrew her hand, letting him take possession of her suitcase.

Eve thanked the Mountie for guarding her and accompanied Sam out the front door and down the steps to his waiting rental car. He stowed her bag in the trunk and saw her settled in the passenger seat. Then, before climbing behind the wheel, he did a fast check of the area to be sure it was secure. They were alone.

God, what a place for a high-class skiing village, he thought as he started the car and headed away from the lodge. April, and still as cold and white as mid-January. He supposed that was the point, to be located somewhere that would extend the season as long as possible. Yeah, but did it have to be in the Yukon wilderness, remote and isolated? Perfect for Charlie Fowler, though. A safe spot for his little tryst with Eve Warren. Or so Charlie must have believed.

The driveway out to the main road took them winding through the village's colony of chalets. The chalets were presumably occupied by guests who preferred the small, Swiss-style structures over accommodations in the lodge.

"You and Fowler stay in one of those or in the lodge?" Sam asked the woman beside him.

"In a chalet," Eve informed him. She didn't point out which one.

Figures it would be a chalet, Sam thought. More privacy that way. And Charlie Fowler would have wanted as much privacy with her as possible. The FBI special agent would bet they never wasted a moment out on the ski slopes.

Sam didn't blame Fowler. If he'd been holed up with a woman like Eve Warren, he'd want her all to himself, too. Or he would have before his life went all to hell. Now it was just a question of getting through each day without losing his sanity.

They had reached the main road. Sam turned right. When Eve realized which direction they were headed in, she challenged him with a startled "This isn't the way to Dawson!"

"We're not going to the commercial airport in Dawson."

"Stop the car and turn around!"

Sam stopped the car. "Yeah, we can do that," he said, not bothering to soften the sarcasm in his tone. "We can turn around and head for Dawson. That what you really want? To climb up over that pass where Charlie died?"

She didn't respond, but when he turned his head to look at her, he saw her shudder with something like grief or dread. Maybe both.

"I didn't think so," he said without offering any sympathy as he drove on.

"Then where are you taking us?"

"To a small airfield used by private planes. I've arranged for us to be flown out of here by one of the bush pilots there. Any more questions?"

He shouldn't have given her the opportunity. Should have known she'd have one. The woman was turning out to be a real pain in the ass.

"But why?"

"Because I'm a cautious agent, Eve Warren. If Fowler was murdered, then whoever killed him could be watching either that road or the airport in Dawson, just waiting for you to turn up. Okay?"

She must have been satisfied with his explanation because she offered no more objections. Not that he would tolerate them if she did. All that mattered to him was that she obey his instructions. The sooner he got her to Chicago and turned her over to his boss, the sooner he could walk away and get back to his life. What remained of it, that is.

He could see she was nervous, though. Her body went rigid every time they encountered an icy patch on the road, with the car starting to slide sideways before he corrected it.

Although he periodically checked the rearview mirror to make certain they weren't being followed, there was no other vehicle either in front or behind them. They were on their own out here.

When he wasn't concentrating on the road, Sam found himself sneaking glances at the woman beside him. Not wise. Not wise at all, but he couldn't seem to help himself.

She was an eyeful all right. A mass of russet-colored hair, creamy complexion, a beguiling little cleft in her chin and a full mouth that…well, a mouth that could only be described as lush.

He couldn't see her body under that bulky parka, but he was willing to imagine it was every bit as alluring as the rest of her. And that made him even more puzzled about her than he'd been back in Chicago.

"What was this Eve Warren doing up there with Fowler?" Sam had asked his squad supervisor. "According to the record you have on him, he was never married, so she couldn't have been his wife. There wasn't a mention of any ongoing affair, either. So just who is she?"

Frank Kowsloski, hands folded across his paunch as he rocked back in his desk chair, had just shrugged. "We don't know. We didn't even know she existed until the RCMP called us with the news of Fowler's death. And since then…well, there's been no time for any proper investigation. All we could learn were the basics online. Her address, that she's single, parents deceased, works for a magazine in St. Louis. That kind of thing."

"Seems to me Fowler could have told you he was meeting someone up there." Sam hadn't been able to keep the sour note out of his voice as he'd faced Frank across his littered desktop. He'd resented being called in like this. Still did.

"Look, I was lucky to even persuade him in the end to tell us where he was going. I could have lost him if I'd pushed too hard."

And that, Sam had thought, would have meant losing the FBI's prime opportunity to send one of the nation's most notorious crime bosses to prison. Because Charlie Fowler had been Victor DeMarco's longtime accountant. He'd had the evidence to convict DeMarco, records that would prove years of tax cheating. And Charlie had been willing to turn those records over to the FBI. Why? Terminal cancer. Apparently, Charlie had also suffered from an attack of conscience and a need to make things right before he died.

But now it was too late. For all his careful handling of the case, Frank had lost Charlie Fowler anyway on that road to Dawson.

"Why didn't you send an agent up there with him?" Sam had pressed his boss.

Frank had shaken his head. "He anticipated that. Said if one of my agents turned up there, the whole deal was off. Guess he wanted this last fling of his, if that's what it was, to be strictly private. Anyway, the Canadians don't appreciate our agents operating up there, not without permission and a lot of red tape. I had to settle for the Mounties promising to keep an eye on him."

Which hadn't worked, Sam thought, although he knew the RCMP was a reliable law enforcement agency.

"Why me, Frank? Why do I get to be your delivery boy? Hell, you know I'm not ready to come off leave. I'm still a head case."

"Can't be helped, Sam. All our agents are either out in the field or off somewhere with their kids on their spring vacations. Disney World, for all I know."

Yeah, Sam had thought, warm places. Not the freeze-your-ass-off Yukon Territory. Why had Charlie Fowler chosen such a spot? Probably because he'd figured it was absolutely safe. It hadn't been, not if he was murdered because DeMarco had suspected his accountant was about to turn on him. If that was true, it meant DeMarco's boys had somehow managed to find him.

"You know, Frank, it would have been a helluva lot easier if Fowler had just turned those records over to you before he took off for the Yukon."

"But he wouldn't, not until his return. Probably his way of making sure I'd stick to my end of the bargain. I had no choice but to play by his rules." The squad supervisor had hunched forward in his chair with an earnest "Look, it's a simple enough assignment. All you have to do is fly up there and bring Eve Warren out. I need her, Sam. My gut tells me if DeMarco's goons haven't managed to get their hands on those records, then the woman either has them or knows where they are."

Sam had doubted that then in Frank's office, and he doubted it now even more after meeting Eve Warren. There was nothing about her to indicate that Fowler would have trusted her with such important information. No, given her spectacular looks and the considerable age difference between Fowler and her, Sam would wager she had to be nothing more than a playmate hired by Charlie to share his last holiday.

But, yeah, Sam could understand all right why Fowler had wanted her. Temptation that she was, he desired her himself. Not that he would try to initiate anything. She was his assignment, and that was all. Period.

Still, Charlie Fowler must have cared for her on some level other than a purely carnal one. The report Sam had read on his flight up here indicated Charlie and Eve had flown separately to Dawson and that Fowler had intended them to return in the same manner, which was why Eve wasn't in that rental car with him. Why had Charlie insisted on that? Because he had wanted to safeguard her in the event of trouble? Sam wondered…

Meet the Author

Jean Thomas was a teacher before she left the classroom to write full-time. She is the author of twenty-four contemporary and historical romances, most of them as Jean Barrett. A longtime member of Romance Writers of America, she won the national Booksellers' Best Award and twice won the national Write Touch Readers' Award. Her novels have appeared on such best seller lists as Waldenbooks, B. Dalton and BookScan. Jean and her husband live on Wisconsin's scenic Door Peninsula.

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AWOL with the Operative 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This romantic suspense delivers on both—a hot romance to melt away the winter chills and plenty of suspense to keep you turning the pages. I really enjoyed this chase through the Canadian wilderness and look forward to more books from this author.