Cindy Gerard is the critically acclaimed New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the wildly popular Black Ops series; the Bodyguards series; and more than thirty contemporary romance novels. Her latest books include the One-Eyed Jacks novels Killing Time, Running Blind, and The Way Home. Her work has won the prestigious RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense. She and her husband live in the Midwest. Visit her online at CindyGerard.com.
Leave No Trace (Black Ops, Inc. Series)by Cindy Gerard
A sexy, romantic suspense novella that links to New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard’s Black Ops, Inc. series, featuring Carrie Granger from Risk No Secrets and Cavanaugh, a CIA agent from Whisper No Lies—originally published in the anthology Deadly Promises, now available as a standalone eNovella!On a/b>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>… See more details below
A sexy, romantic suspense novella that links to New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard’s Black Ops, Inc. series, featuring Carrie Granger from Risk No Secrets and Cavanaugh, a CIA agent from Whisper No Lies—originally published in the anthology Deadly Promises, now available as a standalone eNovella!On a humanitarian aid mission in Myanmar, Carrie is arrested and detained for a crime she didn’t commit. The only one who can save her is Cavanaugh, in an off-the-books rescue that leads them through both tropical and urban jungles to escape.
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Leave No Trace
It had become too much about the scotch, Cav admitted with brutal honesty. Too much about relying on it to make it through the nights. Too much about craving it to help him deal with a life where the shots called him, instead of him calling the shots.
With a heavy breath, he leaned back in the mahogany and leather desk chair in the Jakarta mansion that had been his base of operations for the past six years. He slowly swiveled until he faced his office window, then rocked back and held the heavy-bottomed glass aloft, watching the sunlight play over the amber oblivion before indulging in another sip.
Yeah. Way too much about the scotch.
That was all about to change.
Everything was about to change.
Tomorrow morning he was going to give notice via his handler. After a decade and a half of being a good little spook, David Cavanaugh and the CIA were finally going to part ways.
It was past time.
He watched the ebb and flow of traffic shooting by the window and wondered why he didn’t feel relief. Instead, ever since he’d made his decision, he’d been overrun with recurrent flashes of guilt. And, yeah, panic. What now? What next? Where did he go from here? What did he have left to give?
The sound of light footsteps on the polished teak floor brought his head around. He’d dismissed the two bodyguards that were a part of his cover earlier, but Dira, his aman, stood in the towering office doorway, the wide strap of her woven straw purse slung over her shoulder. The twelve-foot ceilings dwarfed the quiet Indonesian woman’s five-foot stature.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Windle?”
Frank Windle had been Cav’s CIA cover for the past six years. Windle’s expat, unprincipled venture capitalist persona came with this fully staffed luxury mansion, the personal bodyguards, a force of jangas—armed guards with dogs who patrolled the high cement wall surrounding the compound—and an expense account that would make the Prince of Wales weep with envy.
He’d come a long way since his initial CIA assignment in Ouagadougou, Africa, working undercover as a lowly U.S. embassy staffer and sharing a three-room tenement flat with fellow rookies Wyatt Savage and Joe Green. He lived in luxury in Jakarta now, and he regularly rubbed elbows with the scum of the earth.
“I’m good, Dira, thanks.” He dismissed his longtime housekeeper with a soft smile. “Enjoy your evening.”
He planned to enjoy his. Alone. With a farewell toast to both the Company and his love affair with Glenlivet.
With grim determination, he looked around the polished opulence of the wood-paneled room. He wouldn’t miss the subterfuge, but he’d sure as hell miss this place. The spacious office was one of twenty luxurious rooms in a mansion that personified the historical Dutch East Indies architecture with its steeply pitched gables, large airy rooms, and soaring finials. The house was a jewel. Cool, airy, and regal . . . and living here had choked the life out of him.
He downed the last of the fine single malt and wondered how the Company would explain it when Windle, who’d made a name for himself as an unscrupulous player in not only the Indonesian but the international black market by being open to any number of illicit business transactions, made a sudden departure from Jakarta and cut off its intel pipeline.
The Company’s problem, not mine.
Right. So why did a knot of anxiety tighten inside his chest like a fist? And, Jesus, why the guilt? He’d been a good Company man. He’d had plenty of incentives to flip and go over to the dark side. Lucrative incentives. And while he wasn’t as naive about the international spy game as he had been when he’d first signed on to play, he was still a patriot. He didn’t need to feel guilty about anything—not about his work, not about leaving. And yet . . .
“Screw it,” he muttered. Screw the guilt. It was someone else’s turn to run the gauntlet. He’d be thirty-five next month, and some days he felt as old as fucking Methuselah. It was the weight of those dead bodies and repeat adrenaline burns. He’d carried both as long as both his body and his soul could bear.
He rubbed at a scar on his right thigh, a memento from an AK-47 round in Beirut in ’99. And whenever it rained his collarbone ached like hell from when he’d broken it escaping an op gone wrong in Mogadishu in ’05.
His cell phone rang, Private Number showing on the readout. He’d personally fitted the security screens on his cell—this phone, even the CIA didn’t know about—but just in case he answered with his cover. “Windle.”
“Cav, it’s Wyatt.”
The chair creaked as Cav sank back. It had been months since he’d heard Wyatt Savage’s soft southern drawl, yet his old friend was one of the few constants in Cav’s history. He hoped that would be true in his future as well. In the spook world, where black and white too often bled into shades of gray, there had never been a question that Wyatt was also one of the good guys.
That didn’t mean he couldn’t give his old partner a hard time.
“Why is it that every time the phone rings and I hear your voice, I feel a knee-jerk reaction to say ‘wrong number’ and hang the hell up?”
“I need your help.”
“Ah. That would be the reason.” The last time Wyatt had enlisted Cav’s help it had involved infiltrating a human trafficking ring, the takedown of a rat-bastard Chinese crime boss, and several blown-up buildings near the Jakarta wharfs.
“Look, Cav. I don’t have a lot of time. So here’s the quick and dirty.”
“It’s always quick and dirty with you, Savage.” Just like Cav was always going to say yes to whatever Wyatt asked of him.
Over a decade and several dead bodies had stacked up since he, Wyatt, and Joe Green had guarded one another’s backs in service to Uncle. While Wyatt and Joe had said hasta luego to the CIA several years ago and teamed up with Nate Black’s private security and military contract firm, Black Ops, Inc., Cav had stuck with the Company. Until now.
“Cav . . . you still there?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m here,” he said when he realized he’d lapsed into silence. He glanced toward the liquor cabinet. “What’s going on?”
“Two days ago an American woman stepped off a plane in Mandalay, Myanmar, hired a taxi that let her off near her hotel downtown, and she hasn’t been heard from since.”
Cav reached absently for a pen, then flipped it back and forth between his fingers. “One of yours?” Black Ops, Inc. specialized in immobilizing bad guys on the international front.
“No. She’s not with BOI. Carrie’s a friend. And she’s as green as the damn grass.”
“What kind of friend?” Wyatt had gotten married last spring, yet he sounded damn rattled over this friend. Cav had missed the wedding. Like he’d missed many important events over the years, because he’d been embroiled in some covert op to gum up the works in a would-be tyrant’s attempted coup to overthrow a U.S.-sanctioned government, or an op to intercept an arms shipment bound for a terrorist training camp, or a score of other missions that had kept him on the razor’s edge of life or death. A lot of lives. A lot of deaths.
A lot of post-op scotch to blur the memories that hovered like ghosts around a crypt.
“Just a friend,” Wyatt said, snapping Cav back. “I grew up with her. Our families go way back. She’s a small-town hospital administrator. She wasn’t prepared for Myanmar. She’s never even been out of the States. Hell, for all I know, she’s never been out of Georgia.”
Cav could hear the desperation in Wyatt’s voice.
“Her family begged me to talk her out of going, and I tried. Believe me. I tried to scare her smart. But there was no stopping her.
“Look”—he paused, and Cav could visualize his friend rubbing his brow with his index finger—“she’s important to me, Cav. I’d be there in a heartbeat but Sophie . . . she’s pregnant and . . . Christ, Cav.” His voice broke and Cav sensed that what came next wouldn’t be good.
“There are complications. We . . . we might lose the baby.” His voice was thick with strain. “I can’t leave her right now. The doctors say it’s going to be touch and go for the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours.”
“I’m sorry, man.” Cav knew all about Sophie. One drunk midnight, shortly after the Company had paired them up as partners all those years ago, Wyatt had told him about the one who’d gotten away. Cav had been happy as hell when they’d finally found their way back to each other this past year. Now this tough break. One that was clearly tearing Wyatt apart.
Now he understood the reason for Wyatt’s call. He couldn’t go to Myanmar. Cav could. And he could get there a helluva lot faster from Jakarta than Wyatt could from Georgia.
“What’s the word from our embassy?” he asked.
“They’ve got nothing. It’s like she fell off the face of the earth. They’ve got calls in to both local and government officials, but so far it’s clam city.”
Cav listened intently while Wyatt gave him Carrie Granger’s physical description.
“Let me make some calls. See what I can find out. I’ll be back in touch.”
“Don’t insult me.” They’d been too much to each other to ever have to say those words.
“Right. Love you, too.”
A quick smile curved Cav’s lips as a glimpse of the Savage he knew finally surfaced. He disconnected, then started looking up old contacts who might have connections in Myanmar.
TWO HOURS AND several calls later, Cav still had nothing. In a city peopled with Asians, a slim, pretty, blue-eyed blonde, five foot seven or eight, should stick out like a square peg in a round hole. But he’d butted up against dozens of brick walls. No one had seen or heard anything about an American woman. This wasn’t good.
Myanmar was a country where human rights—especially women’s rights—were basically nonexistent, and this was starting to stink like a government cover-up. Which meant two things. One: Carrie Granger of Nowhere, Georgia, was in big, bad trouble. Two: Cav couldn’t hang up his spy shoes just yet.
It was a full forty-eight long hours later before he finally managed to rattle the right chains and come up with some answers. He flipped open his phone and called Wyatt’s number.
“I found her,” he said without preamble when Wyatt picked up. “As far as I know, she’s still alive.”
“And the bad news?” Wyatt asked, too savvy to feel relief.
Cav glanced toward the window.
“You don’t want hear the bad news.”
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