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By Doranna Durgin
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShaken and Stirred by Doranna Durgin
Somehow it's always a warehouse. Bethany Riggs ran through the mental checklist of the weapons at her disposal, checked again that her Sig-Sauer P226 was an easy reach in the square cargo pocket of her deceptively casual squall parka, and eased out into the predawn gloom surrounding the entire dock area. Not always a warehouse in Cape Town, South Africa ... but a warehouse nonetheless.
Tonight ... she'd bring a spy in from the cold.
Making a mild face at the drama of the thought, Beth hunched her shoulders into her mediumweight parka, chilled by hours of lurking in the fifty-degree night. She'd arrived early to scope out the site after Lyeta Denisov made contact late the evening before, leaving Beth no opportunity to examine the southern arm of the Table Bay docks in the daylight. A long jetty filled with warehouses, cargo docks and the mixed atmosphere of diesel fuel and sea foam, it was the perfect location for a late-night meet.
If only she'd had the chance to vet it more thoroughly.
Then again, neither had anyone else, which was no doubt Lyeta's intent. There were plenty of people who wanted Lyeta Denisov ... wanted her back, wanted her stopped ... wanted her dead.
But Beth was the one who would get her - albeit on Lyeta's terms. The Russian woman, betrayed by her lover and hunting both safety and revenge, offered information on the man's internationally notorious, terrorist-friendly spy organization in return for protection. Beth's handler from Stony Man Farm was only too glad to give it to her. Stony Man, MI6, the CIA ... they all wanted spymaster Kapoch Egorov. But after a botched rendezvous with the CIA, Lyeta had turned to Stony Man. As black as black ops got.
Yeah, I'd be careful, too. Beth crouched briefly at the end of the long series of warehouses and cargo cranes, comfortable in the black leg warmers she'd pulled up over low-riding jeans. Her flexible high-top dance sneaks weren't the warmest footwear, but left her confident she could move exactly when and how she wanted. Soon enough Lyeta Denisov would arrive, just before the docks began the slow warm-up steps that led to the daily rhythms of activity. For now, only one ship floated beside the long, straight dock; the cargo containers were neatly stacked inside the warehouses, leaving the dock itself empty and desolate. The heavy scent of the nighttime sea lay over the area, and the constant rhythm of the waves lapped against Beth's ears.
One might even call it peaceful.
Beth didn't. The underlying tension of the night kept her alert and ultra-aware of the open nature of this area, and of its vulnerability. Too many exit scenarios called for diving into the cold, cold water of Table Bay; too many possibilities led to entrapment at the end of the jetty.
The looming skeletons of the stationary cargo cranes offered so much visual clutter in their foreshortened lineup that she found it nearly impossible to decipher the structure of one from another. Still, she pulled a Phantom night vision scope from one of the parka's roomy pockets, sweeping its monocular view across the docks, across the ship deck, up and down the line of cranes. The man she'd previously spotted on the ship hadn't moved. He remained slumped over the far rail, the thick glowing dot of his cigar marking his position. There was no one else in evidence.
Which didn't mean they weren't here. Lurking, as she was. Hidden.
She glanced down at her sturdy field watch. Not much longer. Then she'd have to come out from hiding and so would Lyeta Denisov. They'd meet, assess each other ... and then Lyeta would come with Beth.
Or she wouldn't.
Well, she wouldn't actually have a choice, not once things progressed that far. Barbara Price of Stony Man Farm had made it quite clear that Stony Man wanted this woman. Wanted. And without a safe haven, Lyeta Denisov's days were numbered.
Beth swept the area again, glanced at her watch, and tucked the Phantom scope away. She stood, shook out her legs, and bounced up and down in place a few times. No dancer went out onto the stage without warming up, and this performance would be pure improv. Maybe a casual stroll, maybe some nice modern aerobic work ...
She started off with the casual stroll, breaking cover from the warehouse to walk the long dock without apparent concern. Her hands, tucked into her pockets for warmth, curled around the Sig's custom Nill-Grips on her left and a collapsible baton on her right.
Since 1652 this port had earned its nickname for the warm welcome and supplies it offered weary travelers. Tavern of the Seas. Time to see just how warm a welcome Lyeta Denisov would receive.
Or if she'd show up at all.
Beth walked the length of the dock, hesitated at the far end to check the area with her nightscope - cigar man had finished his smoke and gone below, but she saw evidence of no one else. Except ... except there was a rounded shadow by the warehouse, and it caught Beth's eye. Closer examination revealed nothing specific, but she'd learned long ago to heed her eye. The skin up the back of her legs tightened, all the way up the back of her thighs and higher.
Here we go.
She walked back out on the dock, dawdling conveniently near the shadow she'd seen.
The shadow did not disappoint her. Hard soles scuffed the pavement, just enough of a clue so Beth whirled to face the shadow spot, abandoning subtleties.
"Not a good place for a walk," said the man who emerged from those shadows, a burly fellow with all the bulky muscle of a dock laborer readily evident under his thin jacket. He spoke with the thickest of South African accents, words clipped and difficult - although Beth had no difficulty following his meaning, no difficulty at all.
"I was getting cold, till I saw you."
"Go away," she said shortly. "I'm busy."
"American," he said, not sounding surprised so much as pleased. "I've never had an American."
"Yeah, yeah." She made a shooing motion. "Busy, I said. Go away."
"Americans are nice," he said, moving closer. He had a billed cap pulled down over lank hair, enough stubble to count up a week or so, and the definite odor of old beer. "But so ignorant of other places, other cultures. They make stupid mistakes all the time."
Annoyed, Beth said, "Possibly I'm stupid, but I'm not nice." A glance at her watch inspired an inward curse at the oaf's timing. She walked away, brisker now, wanting to put distance between them before things escalated into an exchange that might distract her.
He made no attempt at stealth; two long strides and he was upon her, his hand - the one she'd been waiting for - landing heavily on her shoulder and clenching the fabric of her parka. He spun her back around, but the anticipation on his face turned to surprise as she offered no resistance, moving easily under his hand - adding her own spin to his pull so she came around quicker than he'd ever considered. She saw that, too, on his face - just before she gave the baton an expert flick to extend it, whipping it across the big muscle of his thigh.
Excerpted from Femme Fatale by Doranna Durgin Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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