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Escape from Cabriz
By Linda Lael Miller
Mira BooksCopyright © 1999 Linda Lael Miller
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe roar of the ocean followed Zachary Harmon across the weathered deck and inside his beach house. Shivering with cold, he pushed the sliding glass door closed and peeled off his sodden blue sweatshirt, tossing it into the oversize closet where the washer and drier were hidden. Then he hooked his thumbs under the waistband of his orange running shorts.
He was just about to remove them and send them flying after the sweatshirt when the flickering screen of the small color TV affixed to the underside of one of the kitchen cupboards drew his attention. As usual, he'd forgotten to turn it off before going out.
The pit of Zachary's stomach did a carnival-ride pitch-and-spin as he stood there in the middle of the kitchen floor, dripping rainwater and staring.
The voice of the TV anchorman seemed to weave in and out of his consciousness. "The political climate in the small Southeast Asian country of Cabriz is worsening by the hour as warring factions grapple for control of the government. A spokesman for the State Department says Americans in Cabriz may be in serious danger ... embassies being closed ..."
Zachary shut his eyes momentarily against an onslaught of memories and fears. The Cabrizian manon-the-street was a pretty laid-back guy, mostly concerned with harvesting a few acres of rice and keeping his ox from being repossessed, but some of the rebels were into imaginative atrocities.
And Kristin was in Cabriz.
The newscaster went on to another subject, after promising regular updates on the situation in Southeast Asia, and Zachary snapped off the TV set. He stood with his hands braced against the counter, mentally sifting through all the memorized data he had on Cabriz - which was considerable, since he'd spent so much time there while he'd been with the agency.
He went to the other counter and poured a cup of coffee. There were several rebel factions in Cabriz - all made up of wild-eyed fanatics bent on overthrowing the existing dictatorship. Just twenty-four hours before, the beleaguered government had broken off diplomatic relations with the United States, Great Britain and Canada because of their refusal to step in militarily.
Kristin, by an act of supreme idiocy, had aligned herself with the royal family. Zachary raised the mug of steaming coffee to his mouth and cursed when he burned his tongue. The fact that Kristin planned to marry Jascha, the crown prince of Cabriz, was still difficult to accept.
It wounded him that their time together had meant so little to her.
Zachary set the mug down with a thump. Kristin's position was precarious, to say the least; she would be roughly as popular in Cabriz as Marie Antoinette had been in Paris after the fall of the Bastille.
The fingers of Zachary's right hand knotted into a fist, and he pounded the counter once, to vent some of his frustration. Kristin couldn't really be in love with that guy; it wasn't possible.
Because he needed something to do, he reached for the telephone receiver and punched out a number he'd never forgotten.
"Perry King's office," a pleasant female voice chimed.
"This is Zachary Harmon," was the brusque reply. "Put me through."
The secretary hesitated for only a moment, then there was a blipping sound and Perry came on the line.
"Hello, Zachary," he said warmly.
Zachary stated his business, sparing the polite preamble. "What idiot let Kristin Meyers leave for Cabriz when the damn government is collapsing?"
Perry sighed heavily. "She went there to marry the crown prince. Besides, she's the daughter of an ambassador turned cabinet member, in case you've forgotten. It probably took one phone call."
"Any plans to go in after her?"
"God knows, the Secretary wants her out of there yesterday, but we can't forget that Miss Meyers is in the country of her own free will. After all, she's - er - well, like I said, she's supposed to be getting married any day now."
A shaft of pain speared Zachary's middle. "Dammit, P.K., that airhead socialite probably doesn't have the first idea of what she's messing with. Chances are, the prince is planning to use her as leverage to get the administration to step in with military aid. And you know their position on that!"
"Zach, are you volunteering to go in?"
Zachary thought of the quiet, peaceful life he'd built for himself. No demands, no pressures, no emergency missions in the middle of the night. He didn't even have a dog to feed.
He had things set up just the way he wanted them. He taught political science at Silver Shores Junior College, because it was easy and because it allowed him to live near the ocean, and he grew tomatoes in clay pots.
"Zachary?" his friend and former employer prompted.
"Yes, dammit," Zachary replied, thinking of defiant green eyes and long brown hair that caught the sunlight and turned it to fire. "I want to go in and get Kristin. And don't remind me that I resigned from the agency eighteen months ago. Nobody's better qualified, even now."
Perry sighed again. "That's true. But I can't just give you the go-ahead - I have to make a few calls before I can do that. So sit tight - you hear me?"
"I hear you," Zachary grumbled, then hung up with a crash. He was already planning to leave within the next twenty-four hours, whether the trip was sanctioned by Washington or not. He knew a thousand ways in and out of Cabriz.
Excerpted from Escape from Cabriz by Linda Lael Miller Copyright © 1999 by Linda Lael Miller. Excerpted by permission.
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