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By Amanda Stevens
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Secret City, 1943
Her cover was blown. She had no proof, of course, only a nagging suspicion that she was being watched.
Sliding her hand inside her purse, Camille Somersby let the cool, deadly feel of the Colt .45 bolster her courage as she hurried out to her car. Climbing inside, she slammed the door, started the engine and then struggled with the gears for a moment before easing the Studebaker from the muddy parking area onto the street.
As she made the first corner, she glanced in the rearview mirror. She didn't think she'd picked up a tail, but she couldn't be sure. In wartime, spies were everywhere. Especially here, in a place the locals called the Secret City.
Nestled in a picturesque East Tennessee valley surrounded by tree-lined ridges, the city - which did not exist on any map - was isolated from the outside world, despite its proximity to Knoxville.
Complete with stores, schools, a church, hospital, newspaper and both single and multifamily dwellings, the whole community had been built practically overnight by the Army Corps of Engineers to accommodate the thousands of scientists, engineers and plant personnel employed at three top secret facilities known only by their code names - X-10, Y-12 and K-25.
Security around the perimeter of the city was tight. The borders were patrolled around the clock, and no one was allowed to enter or leave without a pass. Phone calls were monitored and mail routinely censored. In such an environment, fear and suspicion were bound to run rampant.
And maybe that was all it was, Camille decided. This feeling of being watched. It could well be nothing more than her own paranoia at work. The burden of her own secrets wearing on her nerves.
Ostensibly, she was one of hundreds of young women who'd poured into the area seeking employment on the government reservation. But, in reality, Camille had been sent to observe a smaller and even more highly classified entity known as Project Rainbow. The unit was run by Dr. Nicholas Kessler, a world-renowned scientist whose research into electromagnetic fields had attracted the military's attention at the start of the war.
He didn't know it yet, but Dr. Kessler's future was irrevocably tied to Camille's. She had been sent to protect him, but if her cover had been compromised, the whole mission could be in jeopardy. It would be difficult to insure Dr. Kessler's safety if she ended up dead in an alley somewhere.
Grimacing at the image, she shot another glance over her shoulder as she approached the gate. Flashing her pass at the guard, she waited for him to lift the barricade, then smiled and waved as she drove through.
Outside the barbed-wire fence, she relaxed a bit as she headed north toward Ashton, a small community five miles away where she'd been fortunate enough to find a cottage for rent. The massive influx of workers to the area had quickly eaten up all the government housing so that newcomers were forced to seek accommodations outside the reservation. Those commuting back and forth not only had to contend with the resentment of the locals, but with gas rationing and long lines of traffic to and from the project.
Camille had been worried at first that living away from the city might hamper her ability to carry out her mission, but so far it had worked out rather well. Ashton was a small, close-knit community, and she knew that if anyone suspicious showed up in the vicinity asking the wrong questions, she was bound to hear about it.
She'd also quickly come to appreciate the tranquility of the cottage. The house was situated on a lake, and the breezes blowing in from the water at night reminded her of happier times. When Adam was still alive.
Even after all this time, the thought of her son still brought quick tears. He'd been gone for over a year, but the pain was still as sharp and deep as the day she'd lost him. The only thing that had changed was her anger. It seemed to grow stronger and more consuming with each passing day. Anger at herself for not being able to protect him. Anger at the person who was ultimately responsible for his death.
And anger at the one man who might have been able to prevent it.
An image of that man slipped through the walls Camille had built around her heart, and, for a moment, she remembered too much. Dark eyes and a deep voice. Strong hands and a knowing touch.
The way he'd held her in the darkness. The way he'd kissed her, caressed her, moved her in ways no man had ever moved her before.
He'd been the love of her life.
And now he no longer remembered her.
But there had to be something left of his feelings for her, Camille thought bitterly. Some buried remnant of emotion that she could use to her advantage when he showed up here.
And he would come. She knew it without a doubt. That was the reason she'd been sent here, after all. To find out what he was up to and then, if necessary, stop him at any cost.
At any cost.
Her hands gripped the wheel as she thought about what that might entail. Lies. Deception. Murder.
Camille began to tremble. Taking a life, even in wartime, wasn't something she contemplated lightly. Taking the life of a man she'd once loved so deeply would surely earn her a very special place in hell.
So be it. He was the enemy now.
God help her - God help them all - if she forgot that fact even for a second.
Excerpted from Secret Passage by Amanda Stevens Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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