Read an Excerpt
By Carla Neggers
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedISBN: 0-7783-2104-5
Chapter OneMaggie Spencer stood paralyzed in front of the glass case in a small Dutch bakery not far from her apartment. Decisions, decisions. She'd arrived at the American embassy in The Hague three weeks ago, her first foreign assignment as a diplomatic security officer and already had fallen in love with Dutch bread.
"You'll kill for a Krispy Kreme in another two months."
She laughed as Thomas Kopac, a midlevel diplomat at the embassy, joined her. "Be careful. I'm talking myself out of chocolate sprinkles."
"Ah. Hagelslag. It's more like dessert than breakfast."
"So's Krispy Kreme." Maggie smiled at him.
"You said that so well. Hagelslag. My Dutch vocabulary is improving, but pronunciation? Forget it. Nobody understands what I'm saying."
But she'd had chocolate sprinkles on buttered bread two mornings in a row and decided, instead, on a whole-grain roll with smoked gouda.
Tom didn't order anything. "I just saw you in the window and figured I'd make you homesick."
"Do I look like the doughnut-eating type?"
"Uh-uh. I'm not going there."
They headed outside into the late August sun. A midnight rain had washed the humidity and pollution out of the air and perked up the summer roses and hydrangea blooming in dooryard gardens. The embassy was only a few blocks away. Maggie walked comfortably alongside Tom, a balding man in his midfifties who'd nevermarried, a career foreign service officer who'd never rise to the top ranks of his profession. He was the sort who would wear the same suit for days on end. His job was his life. Maggie was trying to have more balance for herself, but it wasn't easy. Still, she'd turned thirty in July and had already learned the hard way that life was too short.
There was, mercifully, nothing romantic in Tom's offer of friendship.
"You can eat your broodje in front of me," he said. "I would."
"Do I look hungry?"
He smiled. "Starving."
"I'll have to pound the pavement after work to burn off the extra calories."
Dutch breakfasts notwithstanding, she kept in shape. At five-five, she couldn't count on her size to get her out of a jam. Fitness, training, experience and mental toughness were the trick.
There was always the luck factor. But since luck wasn't her long suit, she didn't count on it, either.
"Look there," Tom said. "Your hair's the same color as those roses."
She noticed the cluster of orange-red roses in a dooryard. "It's not that red."
"Is the red hair from your mother or your father?"
He hesitated. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean -"
"It's okay. I don't mind talking about him." She smiled to prove she wasn't just being nice. "My wanderlust is also a Spencer trait."
The day she'd arrived in The Hague was the eighteen-month anniversary of her father's death. Philip Spencer, ordinary American businessman, had walked into the middle of a bank robbery in Prague.
Talk about no luck.
The bank robbers still hadn't been caught. Nobody seemed to be looking too hard for them.
Maggie gave up on resisting, took her roll out of the bag and bit into it, welcoming the smokiness of the cheese and the softness of the bread. Normalcy.
She had to establish her routines, focus on her job and continue to move forward with her life. She couldn't dwell on the past. And it wasn't her job to investigate her father's death.
She and Tom walked up Lange Voorhout, a tree-lined street of stately historic buildings that was said to be one of the prettiest in The Hague, or, as it was known formally in Dutch, 's-Gravenhage, which meant "the count's hedge." Even the Dutch shortened it to Den Haag. Although Amsterdam was the official capital, The Hague was the seat of the Dutch government and the residence of its royal family, as well as home to dozens of foreign embassies and the International Court of Justice.
The functional concrete American embassy was often called the ugliest building on LangeVoorhout, possibly in the entire city. The original embassy - presumably more graceful - had been accidentally destroyed by an Allied bomb during World War Two.
"Enjoy your bread and cheese," Tom said cheerfully when they arrived. "And don't work too hard."
"You're one to talk."
He laughed. "Not me. An eighteen-hour day's my limit."
Maggie made her way to her desk, pouring herself a mug of coffee before she sat down. As a special agent for the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, she had a wide range of duties and responsibilities. First and foremost was the safety and security of the embassy's personnel, property and information, whether in or out of the building, and of American citizens in the country. She'd completed six months of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, then worked in U.S. diplomatic security field offices for four years, investigating passport and visa fraud. She'd come to The Hague straight from the Chicago field office, on the heels of a major joint counterterrorism investigation that had culminated in the arrest of a sophisticated trio of Americans producing and selling fraudulent visas.
She ate the last bite of her roll and drank some of her coffee.
Excerpted from The Rapids by Carla Neggers Excerpted by permission.
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