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The police car had been following her for at least ten minutes before the cherry lights came on, flashing brilliant red glares across the stretch of desert on either side of the two-lane highway.
"Damn," Lynnette White muttered as she slowed her car and came to a halt just off the shoulder of the road.
She watched in her rearview mirror as the police car pulled up behind her and stopped. She didn't think she'd been speeding. She'd made no illegal turns and hadn't been driving erratically. So, why was she being stopped?
A burly officer stepped out of the driver's side of the car and walked with purpose toward her window. Maybe she had been speeding, she thought. She'd been known to have a bit of a heavy foot.
She rolled down her window and gazed up at the unsmiling man. His sunglasses gave away nothing, the mirrored surfaces reflecting the deepening shadows of the barren, brown landscape that surrounded them.
"License and registration," he demanded.
"Good evening, Officer. What's the problem?" she asked pleasantly.
"Ma'am, I need to see your license and registration." His stern features and curt tone radiated a no-nonsense attitude.
Lynn was tired and eager to get home to her apartment on the outskirts of Phoenix. She'd stayed at Athena Academy, the private girl's school, longer than she intended and now just wanted to get home. The last thing she wanted was to instigate any kind of hassle with the policeman that might hold her up.
She pulled her driver's license from her purse, then grabbed her car registration from the glove box and handed both to the man who was keeping her from her dinner and whatlittle was left of the evening.
If she'd been speeding, she'd accept a ticket, pay the fee and that would be the end of it. Unfortunately it wouldn't be the first time she'd paid a speeding ticket.
She watched as he stared at her paperwork, then at her as if making certain the bad photo on her driver's license matched her face. She hadn't changed much since the photo had been taken. Her chestnut hair was a bit longer, but her eyes were still an unusual green-gold blend and her weight was the same, give or take a few pounds.
He looked back toward his patrol car and gave a nod, then opened her car door. "Ma'am, you want to step out of the car?"
Lynn frowned as her heartbeat increased. "No, I don't. Not until you tell me what's going on." She was aware of another policeman approaching them. "If I was speeding, just write me the ticket."
"This isn't about a speeding ticket, Ms. White," he replied.
What was happening? Her paperwork was all in order. "Then what is it about?" She was positive she'd done nothing wrong.
"Ms. White, we're under orders to take you into custody. Now, you can either make this difficult or you can make it easy, but one way or another, you're coming with us." As if to punctuate his sentence his right hand crept to the butt of the gun in the holster at his hip.
Lynn quickly considered her options and was smart enough to recognize she had none. She was still in the process of learning exactly what she was capable of, but she knew that despite her incredible genetic gifts, she couldn't outrun a bullet.
Unease whipped through her. "What about my car?" she asked as she stepped out into the hot, late-August air.
"Officer Birch will follow us with your vehicle," he replied and gestured to the second man who had joined them.
Lynn looked from one to the other, but their rigid countenances gave nothing away.
Heart pounding with anxiety, she grabbed her purse, handed Officer Birch her car keys, then headed toward the waiting patrol car.
Minutes later, as she was driven to an unknown destination, she wondered if it was possible that the sins of her past had finally caught up with her.
It had been over a year since she'd stopped breaking a hundred laws all in the name of love for her godfather, the man she'd called uncle, Jonas White. Of course, at the time she hadn't realized she was breaking laws and she'd been naïve enough to believe his lies.
For several years Lynn had been an expert cat burglar, breaking into museums and private residences to retrieve precious artifacts and jewels. Her Uncle Jonas had told her that they were working for the government, taking items that had been stolen so they could be returned to their rightful owners. But, in truth, she'd been stealing on Jonas's behalf for his personal gain.
When she'd agreed to work with the FBI to catch her godfather and put him behind bars they had promised that all pending charges against her would be dropped.
Had something gotten screwed up? Was there still something on her record that had alerted the Arizona cops to the crimes she had committed in Miami?
She worried a strand of her shoulder-length hair between two fingers. She hadn't felt this level of anxiety since discovering that the godfather who had raised her, the man she'd loved like a father, had been nothing more than a criminal using her skills for his own advantage.
A year ago the fates had taken away her support system, ripped apart her security, but in return she'd discovered that she had two sisters. Thoughts of Dawn and Faith and all the special women who had become her friends in the past year brought with them a surge of strength. Whatever was happening, Lynn would get through it.
Her stomach knotted as they pulled into a parking lot in front of a large warehouse. She sat up straighter. What was this? She'd expected a police station. This place was in the middle of nowhere. Something wasn't right here. Something definitely wasn't right at all.
There was also no way out of the backseat of the patrol car, which was apparently used frequently to transport criminals. There were no door handles on the inside.
She leaned forward to speak to the officer through the wire mesh that separated the backseat from the front. "Where are we?Why are you bringing me here?" Her anxiety toyed with becoming full-blown panic.
The officer's continued silence only increased the frantic flutter of her heart. He'd spoken only once during the ride, and that was to radio in to somebody that they were in transit.
A handful of cars were parked in the lot and as their vehicle came to a halt, the officer shut off the engine and turned in his seat to look at her. "Don't worry, Ms. White. You aren't in any danger."
"Easy for you to say, you're in the front seat with a gun," she replied with more than a touch of nervous irritation.
As he got out of the car and opened her door to allow her to exit, she once again assessed her options. There was no doubt in her mind that she could outrun him. Lynn had never met anyone she couldn't outrun. But, there was the little problem of his gun.
She had no idea if he'd use it if she took off, but she wasn't willing to take the gamble. Besides, even though she was anxious about the whole situation, she had to admit she was also more than a little bit curious.
Curiosity killed the cat, she reminded herself as she stared at the cavernous building.
As the officer led her toward the front door, she was aware of Officer Birch arriving with her car. He parked it next to the patrol car.
Dusk had disappeared, replaced by night and a darkness that made it difficult for her to discern exactly where they were. Heat radiated from the pavement as she was escorted between both officers across the parking lot. Her heart pounded.
A tall, silver-haired gentleman in a dark suit met them at the door. "Thank you, Officer Cook, that will be all." The officer who had initially stopped her turned on his heels and headed back toward his patrol car.
The dark suit said nothing more until Officer Birch handed him her car keys. Once that policeman had left them alone, the man looked at her. "Ms. White, thank you for your presence."
"I didn't exactly have a choice, did I?" He smiled, a smooth, practiced gesture she instantly didn't trust. "I'm Special Agent Samuel Cahill with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We'd like to talk to you." He gestured her through the door.
FBI. She should have known. Her heart hardened. They'd used her once before and there was no way she intended for them to ever use her again.
"I'm not interested in anything you'd like to talk about," she said and remained standing at the doorway.
A flash of annoyance crossed his features, there only a moment then gone beneath a pleasant facade. "Please, Ms. White. It's a matter of great importance. If you'll just give us a few minutes of your time you can get back on the road again."
I don't want to do this, Lynn thought even as she nodded her reluctant assent. There is no way they're going to suck me into doing anything for them.
She stepped through the doorway, surprised to see that the building appeared to be a temporary headquarters of sorts.
Bright lights illuminated desks where several men sat either talking on the phone or working on computers. Electrifying energy filled the air despite the evening hour of the day.
It was obvious something was amiss, but no matter what it might be she couldn't think what any of it would have to do with her.
"If you'll just follow me," Samuel said and led her past the desks and toward an inner office where blinds were pulled down and the door was closed.
A terrible dread filled her as she approached the office.
For the last year she'd rebuilt her life, a life that had been shattered beneath deception and lies. She'd moved from her godfather's luxurious mansion on the beach in Miami to a small apartment in Phoenix. She'd made a nice life for herself here and she wasn't about to let the FBI ruin things for her.
Whatever they were selling, she wasn't buying. Samuel opened the door and motioned for her to precede him. She stepped in to find a man seated behind a large desk.
He was an odd-looking man with an unusually wide forehead and a small nose. His buzz-cut hair looked unnaturally black and his eyes were that pale
Article 02: Untitled blue color that never managed to look warm. He stood, his gaze sweeping over her with intense assessment.