Read an Excerpt
By Kate Donovan
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Well, Ms. Daniels, that about wraps it up for now." Ray Ortega, director of the Strategic Profiling and Identification Network, leveled his stare directly into a pair of sparkling green eyes. "You've probably figured out from our questions that a position here at SPIN involves more than traditional profiling. We also design false identities for undercover operatives. Do you think you'd enjoy that sort of thing? Creating a three-dimensional person with a history, identification and personality, then inserting that person into an existing community without detection?"
"Actually, sir, I think that's the part of the job I'd really excel at."
"I like your confidence," Ray assured her. "And your credentials are impressive. But -" he began gathering up the papers in front of him "- we have several other applicants, so I'm afraid we won't be able to give you our decision until early next week."
"Wait!" Colonel Ulysses S. Payton, a heretofore-silent member of the interview team, motioned for Ray to stay seated at their elongated table across from the interviewee.
"I have a question for Miss Daniels."
The young woman smiled. "Yes, Colonel?"
"You're not only pretty and well educated, you're an Olympic-grade athlete! Why this job?What's the point of earning a black belt in karate, or becoming a sharpshooter, if you're hiding away all day working at a computer?"
The candidate gave a slight nod, as though acknowledging the aptness of the question. Then she explained, "I'll be using my skills as a resource, so that I can create believable identities and workable strategies for government agents. My imagination is my universe, Colonel. It's all I need. And there's no place on earth I'd rather be than at SPIN headquarters, assisting agents in the field."
"It's a danged waste if you ask me," the soldier muttered.
"With all due respect, sir, you're focusing on the wrong part of my résumé." The emerald eyes shone with pride.
"I graduated summa cum laude from Yale with a double major in psychology and criminology, then went on to get my Ph.D. from Stanford. Professor James Clark, one of the world's most highly respected profilers, has dubbed me his most gifted student. I'm published in the field, most recently with an upcoming article for the New England Journal of Psychology." She turned her attention toward Ray.
"Did you have a chance to look at the article I sent you?"
He nodded, remembering the insightful, well-written work. "It was excellent. And as I said, your qualifications are impressive."
"Everything about her is impressive," insisted Colonel Payton.
"Looks like we're all in agreement." Ray was on his feet before anyone could protest. "Ms. Daniels, it's been a pleasure. Here's my card. If you think of anything else, don't hesitate to call."
"I look forward to hearing from you." She stood and shook the hand of each interviewer in turn, then headed for the door and disappeared without a backward glance.
"Amazing girl," Payton observed. "Built, too. Is there really any doubt in your mind, Ortega? Where are you gonna find someone better? A leggy redhead with a brain and a black belt - if I were twenty years younger, I'd hire her myself!"
Despite his annoyance at the remark, Ray knew better than to object. After all, Colonel Payton was the president's best friend and adviser. Wasn't that how the guy had gotten himself on the SPIN interview panel in the first place? It was all politics. But the choice of a new "spinner" was ultimately Ray's alone, so why sweat it?
He even sent a perfunctory smile in the colonel's direction. "I agree, sir, she's an impressive prospect. But something about her bothers me. I just can't put my finger on it."
"Let me guess," interrupted the third interviewer, Ray's fellow profiler, David Wong. "She's too sexy? Too smart? Speaks too many languages?"
"Okay, okay." Ray was laughing in spite of himself. "I'll admit, she's perfect. Too perfect. That's what bothers me. If I had set out to design the ideal candidate for this job -"
A dull but insistent warning bell sounded in his brain, and he pulled out his cell phone, then punched in his secretary's number. "Beth? Did the original transcripts for Melissa Daniels ever arrive from Yale?"
"We got them a few minutes ago, boss. Want me to bring them over?"
Confused, Ray murmured, "No. Thanks anyway," and ended the call.
"What is it, Ray?" Wong demanded. "Didn't she check out? I followed up on her references myself, and everyone - including the dean - sang her praises."
Ray stopped him with a wave of his hand. "Don't worry, she's legit."
He was about to go further, to admit that they were right, and Daniels was the hands-down best candidate, when a buzz from his cell phone preempted his attention.
Murmuring "Give me a second, will you?" he flipped open the phone and gave his habitual salutation. "This is Ortega. What's up?"
"Hi, Mr. Ortega. You said to call if I thought of anything else."
"Ms. Daniels?" Ray arched an eyebrow in the direction of Wong and the colonel. "Sure, go ahead. The others are still here."
"Good, because there's one tiny matter I'd really like to bring to your attention."
"There's more?" He had to laugh, wondering what further credentials she could possibly have. "Shoot."
"Well, sir ..." The candidate gulped audibly. "Everything on my résumé is a fabrication."
"I made it all up. Every bit of it."
Stunned, Ray tried to think of something to say, finally settling for, "Where are you, Ms. Daniels?"
"Right outside the door. But my name isn't Daniels. It's Hennessy. Kristie Hennessy."
"And I should probably warn you, I'm going to look very different the next time you see me."
He shook his head, not trusting himself to respond to that.
"Shall I come back in, sir?"
"Yes. Absolutely," he assured her, turning his full attention to the doorway.
"So? What's going on?" Wong demanded. "What new information did she give you?"
"Huh?" Ray had almost forgotten his colleagues were in the room, so intent was his focus on Daniels - or rather Hennessy - and the door that would readmit her.
But facts were facts, and the other interviewers had a right to know, so without taking his gaze off the doorway, he announced with a self-mocking smile, "Congratulations, gentlemen. It appears we've got ourselves a new spinner."
Excerpted from Identity Crisis by Kate Donovan Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.