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Rafe Sinclair's Revenge
By Gayle Wilson
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe man Griff Cabot had come to find was carefully turning a piece of wood on a spindle sander. Dark, long-fingered hands handled the object with a skill that was nearly graceful, despite the strength and masculinity that was apparent in their every movement.
The workshop where he was working had been attached to the back of a small log cabin, which sat in a clearing on the side of Sinclair Mountain. When no one had answered his repeated knocks on the front door, Cabot had been drawn around to the back by a sound he hadn't then been able to identify. Now he could.
When he lifted his gaze from the workman's hands, he realized with a sense of shock that the passage of six years had had as little effect on the face of the man he was watching as on those hands. The striking blue eyes were hidden, intent on whatever he was shaping, but the austere, almost forbidding features were exactly as he had remembered them.
"You should never sneak up on a man who's holding a gun," Rafe Sinclair said without glancing up. "I would think you, of all people, would know that."
"Out of practice, I guess," Griff acknowledged, his mouth relaxing into a smile. "Besides, I didn't realize that was a gun."
"This is only the butt. But when it's finished ..." With a tilt of his head, Sinclair indicated the rosewood box that lay open at the end of his workbench. He still hadn't made eye contact with his visitor.
Cabot understood that was deliberate. As deliberate as had been his unannounced arrival. If he had told Rafe Sinclair he was coming, he would have found the North Carolina mountainside deserted.
Griff stepped into the shop, crossing over to the rosewood case to which he'd been directed. The inside was lined with black velvet, still rich if faded with age. Nested against that darkness was a single dueling pistol, incredibly beautiful and yet also obviously, almost obscenely, deadly.
Despite the indention in the lining where a matching pistol should rest, there was only the one. Cabot raised his eyes, examining with renewed interest the object Sinclair was now holding up to the light.
"You're repairing the mate to this?" Griff asked.
"I'm recreating the mate."
Cabot looked down again on the weapon in the box. The curved wood of its handle was the same glowing rosewood as the case. Its sides were covered with intricately chased silver, the soft gleam of that precious metal outshining the baser metal of the long barrel.
"You can do that?" he asked. "Duplicate this one?"
"Of course," Sinclair said, looking directly at him for the first time.
The crystalline-blue eyes hadn't changed either, Griff realized. And for some strange reason he found that comforting.
"The only difference between them," Rafe went on, "is that this one will be accurate. If you'd ever fired the one you're looking at, you'd wonder why they bothered with duels. If you needed to be sure of killing your opponent, you'd have been better off beating him to death with it."
Griff laughed, his own knowledge of the notorious inaccuracy of early nineteenth-century firearms affirming the truth of what Sinclair had said. Just as his knowledge of the man who was in the process of reproducing a two-hundred-year-old pistol confirmed that he would do exactly what he had claimed.
Rafe Sinclair would build a weapon that would be perfect in every detail, identical to its mate, except for its increased accuracy. That demanding perfectionism, inherent in every task he undertook, had always been this man's gift. Ultimately, it had also been his curse.
"Where did you get them?" Griff asked, in no hurry to broach the subject that had brought him here.
"They belonged to an ancestor of mine. Sebastian Sinclair, who supposedly dropped the missing pistol of that pair into the Thames while he was rescuing his Spanish-born wife."
Griff wondered if that might be where his friend had acquired his Christian name. The source of that "Rafael," always spoken with a true Iberian accent, had always seemed as enigmatic as the man himself.
"Bloody careless of him, if you ask me," Sinclair said, his deep voice lightened with a sudden amusement, "but I don't suppose they were nearly as valuable then as they would be now."
"English," Griff guessed, bending closer to the remaining pistol to examine the workmanship.
"And very fine for the period."
"Just not ... fine enough for you?" A smile hovered at the corners of Cabot's mouth as he posed the question.
"It isn't enough to be merely beautiful." Beautiful and deadly. He had thought exactly that before, Griff realized, looking down on the lone dueling pistol.
And the word "deadly" would just as well describe the man before him. At one time Sinclair had been an extremely valuable weapon in the war Griff's division of the CIA had waged against international terrorism. Although the External Security Team had eventually been disbanded by the agency, Sinclair's own departure from the EST had occurred long before that decision had been made.
"What are you doing here, Griff? I thought we had an understanding."
The question brought Cabot's eyes up to focus on the man he had come to see. The inquiry was inevitable, of course, considering who and what they were.
"I'm not here about the Phoenix, although the offer to join us is still open."
The Phoenix Brotherhood was a private organization that had been formed by Cabot and a few of his ex-operatives. No longer under government direction, they set their own agenda, bringing the skills they once had used in the defense of their country to bear on all manner of private problems. As much as he'd like Sinclair to be a part of what they were doing, however, that hadn't been his purpose in seeking him out.
"You were never much inclined to social visits, so ..." Rafe walked over to the rosewood box to compare the curve of the handle he'd just created with the original.
"There's something I thought you should see." Cabot reached into the breast pocket of his blazer and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. He didn't bother to open it before he held it out to Sinclair.
There was a hesitation, long enough that Cabot had time to wonder what he would do if Rafe refused to read the information contained in the security alert. After all, Sinclair had been adamant about leaving the agency, so much so that eventually Griff had been forced to stop arguing against it or risk their friendship.
Finally the blue eyes lifted from the unopened paper. They studied Griff's face for a few seconds before Rafe's lips compressed. Then the same long, scarred fingers that had delicately shaped that piece of rosewood reached out to take the alert.
Sinclair unfolded it with a flick of his wrist, holding the document out between them. His eyes rose again-briefly-as soon as he saw the heading.
Griff could read the question in them, but he didn't bother to respond. There would soon be other questions that would have to be answered.
After a moment Rafe's gaze returned to the alert that had been clandestinely, and illegally, passed on from one of Griff's contacts within the CIA. Carl Steiner had thought this was something he ought to know. As soon as Griff read it, he had called to reserve a seat on the first flight out of Washington.
"Why are you showing this to me?" Rafe asked.
"You're the expert on Jorgensen. I thought if you could shed any light -"
"He's dead," Sinclair said flatly. There was no overt emotion in the phrase, but his hatred for the man the pronoun referred to permeated each syllable. The force of it held Griff silent for a moment.
"The signature of those last two bombings has been the same. It's distinctive enough that the agency's experts -"
"Screw the agency and their experts. I'm telling you Jorgensen is dead."
"There's always the possibility -"
"I watched the bastard die. Whoever this is, it isn't Jorgensen."
Excerpted from Rafe Sinclair's Revenge by Gayle Wilson Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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