Read an Excerpt
The Blood Code
A Super Agent Novel
By Misty Evans, Heather Howland, Sue Winegardner
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Misty Fanderclai
All rights reserved.
Forty kilometers outside of Moscow, Russia
Ace. King. Queen. Jack. Ten.
Ryan Smith spread the cards in his hand just enough to see the five-card sequence was the same suit. Hearts. Maybe, just maybe, the rotten luck he'd had for a while was about to change.
Stuck in a run-down cabin in a desolate part of the former Soviet Union, Ryan had cursed Conrad Flynn a hundred times in the past two days. This was Conrad's job, training a group of American spies in SERE — Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape — not his. Even the special ops team, there to teach the new recruits advanced survival techniques that could only be learned in the harshest surroundings, could have handled this op on their own.
He was the CIA's Director of European Operations, and given the choice, he would've rather faced a firing squad than train rookie spies in the middle of a frozen wasteland. Too many years of fieldwork had made him hard, given him an edge, and matching nightmares to go with it. Even though he was in charge of the American spies stationed throughout Europe and Asia, he didn't have patience for those who hadn't already earned their keep.
But Conrad was laid up at Georgetown University Hospital with food poisoning and had asked Ryan to stand in for him. Since Ryan was heading to the trilateral nuclear arms reduction summit in Moscow tomorrow, it only made sense for him to take Conrad's place. Point was moot. There was nothing Ryan wouldn't do for his best friend and CIA colleague.
Across the cracked green Formica table — standard equipment for a secret CIA outpost — Ryan's friend and UK SIS counterpart, Truman Gunn, wiggled the toothpick in the corner of his mouth. Barely a millimeter of movement, it was enough to tell Ryan what he wanted to know.
His luck was definitely improving.
If only luck were enough. Facts, details, careful analysis — those were Ryan's tools to obtain the complete story in any situation. After spending the past twenty-four hours watching Gunn train new recruits and play endless rounds of poker, Ryan had picked up on the British spy's unremarkable, but all-too-obvious tell.
Damn time something went right for me. Even if it's only a hand of poker.
He slid his winning cards together, then laid them facedown on the table while Gunn continued to stare at his. The other players consisted of Lawson Vaughn, leader of Pegasus, officially a search and rescue team, but more of a special ops team of former military guys used by the CIA, FBI, and NSA, and Conrad's latest recruit for his spy army, weapons expert, Josh Devons. The rest of the group had holed up in the bunker under Ryan's feet with Call of Duty and a bottle of cheap Russian vodka.
Both Lawson and Josh had folded and were studying Gunn. While Josh seemed content to play poker in the inhospitable surroundings, Lawson tapped the table with a restless thumb. His wife was in America, heavily pregnant with their first child and ignoring doctor's orders to take things easy. He wanted to call the op quits and head back to America. Ryan couldn't blame him.
Icy wind whistled through the windows, rattling the panes. Lawson's cell phone rang and he snatched it off his belt. Reception in this area outside Moscow was iffy at best and they used a SAT phone to talk to Langley or Vauxhall Cross if needed, but every once in a while, cell phones worked. When they did, all the men felt less isolated. Less like they were in the Arctic Twilight Zone.
Lawson rose from the table to seek out privacy, eyes lighting up as he saw the name on his caller ID. That meant only one thing: the person on the other end was Zara. Pegasus's commander left the room, and Ryan wondered what it would be like to have someone back home who loved him. Who waited for him. Who called to hear his voice, no matter the time or place.
Gunn wiggled his toothpick again and Ryan held in an impatient sigh. The edge that kept him in the spy game wasn't conducive to relationships or training, but it did give him an advantage at cards. "Today, Gunn. Or Lawson will be having grandchildren before we finish this."
Gunn's eyes never left the cards in his hand. "Keep your underkecks on, mate."
Another minute passed before Lawson returned, looking morose and going for the fridge.
Ryan caught his eye. "Zara okay? That baby giving her grief?"
Grabbing a sports drink, Lawson nodded. He opened the top and flipped the cap into the sinkful of dishes. "She's fine. Baby's fine. Seven months pregnant and she's pissed Flynn wouldn't let her come on this training op. Can you imagine a pregnant woman out here in Siberia?"
"Forty klicks from Moscow is not exactly Siberia, even though it feels like it. And Zara is Flynn's top operative. She could give birth and take out a terrorist cell at the same time."
Lawson sighed in disgruntled agreement. "She kept going on about onion-topped castles and me finding some krasavitsa to replace her. Whatever a krasavitsa is."
"Pretty woman," Ryan translated.
Lawson rolled his eyes. "Zara won't admit it, but she worries about me, and right now, she's worried about the baby. Her stress level is in the stratosphere. When I get back, I'm putting in for vacation. I gotta do something to keep her calm or our baby will be here next week."
Sometimes Ryan wished someone — besides his mother — would worry about him. "I'll talk to her next time she calls, okay? Put her fears to rest."
"Um, Smitty?" a disembodied voice called from behind Ryan's chair, a definite strain in the three syllables.
Ryan glanced at the opening in the floor. The hatch led down to a surveillance room under the house. Del, the CIA's top-shelf computer tech, had made himself at home there with an impressive array of computers, printers, and assorted gadgets.
The cabin and bunker had been used as a KGB debriefing location during the Cold War by the Soviet Union. For years after, it sat empty in the inhospitable terrain and only recently had been "acquired" by the CIA as a secret outpost. A satellite dish on the roof fed information in and out of the bunker, but once the trap door was closed and a rug and crappy kitchen table were placed over it, an unexpected guest or casual observer would never realize an entire communications hub was right below their feet.
"What is it, Del?"
The tapping of computer keys filtered up from the space. Del cleared his throat. "We've got company."
As if controlled by the same puppet master, Ryan, Gunn, and Lawson stood in unison. Josh stayed seated. In the back of his brain, Ryan made a note to talk to Conrad about Josh's lack of fight-or-flight instincts.
"Who is it?" Ryan demanded. No one should have known they were there except a select few bigwigs at Vauxhall Cross and Langley, and the place was too isolated to attract attention from the main road.
Del's chair squeaked. "Not sure. Red Lada Riva, circa 1993 maybe? Turned off the main highway thirty seconds ago and is headed in this direction. Fast."
Ryan and Truman exchanged a look. Unexpected Russian visitors could be a problem. A big problem.
Josh scratched his buzzed head. "What the heck is a 'lot of Riva'?"
Apparently weapons expert didn't translate to foreign car expert. Ryan kept his exasperation in check and called up his composed director of operations persona. A mixture of body language and voice tone suggesting Ryan was omnipotent. "Not a 'lot of' Riva'. Lada Riva. Russian auto. Didn't they teach you anything at the Farm?"
"Uh, Smitty?" Again Del's voice rapped against Ryan's nerves. "The Lada's being followed by another car, approximately one kilometer behind it."
Shit. So much for his luck changing. Next time I see Conrad, I'm kicking his ass into China.
Lawson drew his handgun from a shoulder holster while Ryan mentally checked off the number and types of weapons they had total. International incidents were to be avoided at all costs, but the men's security was his biggest concern.
"Give me more to go on, Del." He knew the answer to his next question before he asked it, but asked anyway. He hadn't made it to director without being one-hundred-and-ten-percent thorough with every Fucking. Thing. "Friend or foe?"
Not waiting for the answer, Lawson ran for the front room. Truman motioned Josh to get into the bunker with Del. Josh ignored him, but he yelled at his teammates below and the Call of Duty noise ceased.
Del swore under his breath before he cleared his throat and called up to Ryan. "Cops."
Before he could respond, the distinct report of guns echoed over the whistling wind. While they sounded like insignificant fireworks in the distance, there was no ignoring the fact they were both significant and dangerous.
Ryan considered and discarded the idea of all of them hiding. If the cops snooped around, they'd find the Range Rovers in the barn and know someone was there. They'd take the place apart and discover the hidden door and bunker. Explaining why a group of American and British spies were hiding in the abandoned, former Soviet bunker was harder than meeting the cops head-on and diverting suspicions with a fictional story.
Fluent in Russian and fictional stories, Ryan figured he could send the cops on their merry way in five minutes. Tops.
Over the next thirty seconds, he worked at securing the place. By the time he looked out the curtained window in the front living room, Lawson and Josh stood positioned in covert spots in the living and dining areas. Ryan's winning poker hand was still on the kitchen table, which now hid the trap door.
The Lada was coming in fast and hard down the long, narrow, snow-filled lane. It fishtailed, kicking up ice and snow before stopping abruptly in front of the house. Sirens sounded in the distance. When the driver's door flew open, Ryan saw a brief flash of white-blond hair and panicked eyes before the female driver slipped and fell to the ground in a heap of red material.
His body moved before his brain kicked in. He threw the door open in time to see the woman rising to her feet on four-inch stilettos that matched her red dress.
Her very short red dress. Under which was the most incredible set of legs he'd ever seen.
Runway models would kill for those legs.
His brain skittered to a stop, and Ryan shook his head.Forget her legs, idiot.
The woman staggered, reaching a hand toward him, eyes pleading for help, and once more his body moved of its own accord. He took two half-running strides to get to her, ignoring Lawson's yell of "What the hell are you doing?"
A strong wind buffeted Ryan's hair and clothes and stung his eyes. He grabbed her hand. It was small inside his larger one and cold as ice. Bringing her in close, he steadied her against his body, keeping her upright when her heels — who the hell wore stilettos in the Russian outback? — sunk into the snow.
She clung to him as he shuttled her into the safety of the house, the little voice in his head echoing Lawson's question and asking him if he'd lost his damn mind.
Without a word, Truman sprinted past and jumped into the car. The Lada disappeared into the dense woods on the east side of the house.
Ryan shut the door and released the woman's hand, telling himself his reluctance to do so was only because he was afraid she'd fall.
The voice in his head laughed.
"Do you speak English?"
She nodded, but the action made her sway. Was she drunk? High?
He grabbed her forearm and she locked her knees and gave him another pleading look. "I need ...help. Please."
Although strained, her voice was rich and strong. Her Russian accent was light as a feather, almost nonexistent. In fact, she sounded more American than Russian. Nothing clouded her eyes. They were crystal clear and bright with adrenaline.
Not drunk or high.
Didn't matter. What mattered was why she was running from the cops, and if he was seriously going to go through with hiding her from them.
Cuz, shit, he could work a miracle every now and then, but this ...this was shaping up to need more than your everyday miracle.
Problem was, he didn't have time to play twenty questions and find out who she was and what was going on. A blue and white police car had just found the entrance to the driveway.
Sirens blaring, the VW Passat slowed, crawling over the snow-encrusted, rutted terrain. The lights on the top flashed a red spotlight on everything they touched inside the cabin and out, a giant eyeball searching for its prey.
The woman saw the flashing red lights, too. She stepped toward Ryan and away from the spotlight, swaying again in the heels as she murmured something under her breath. Her words were so soft, he couldn't make out what she said. Without warning, her eyelids drooped as if she were going to pass out.
He grabbed both of her shoulders and held her still. When she didn't look at him, he shook her a little. "Who are you?" He thought he was entitled to at least know that before he put his life on the line for her.
"I'm an American," she whispered. "I was told the CIA could help me. You would help me."
She knew he was CIA? What the hell?
Ryan dropped his hands, and before he could ask another question, she tipped, falling face forward. Right smack into him.
He caught her before her knees hit the floor, but she was dead weight. Getting both arms under her body, he lifted her like she was a bride. Her short fur coat — as useless as her dress and shoes in the current winter conditions — fell open, and the action fired up his already pounding pulse.
In the space of a heartbeat, the analytical compartment of his mind logged her flawless skin, slender neck, and luscious curves the coat had hidden. Breathtakingly beautiful.
And then his gaze froze and his brain stuttered.
The shit just kept coming.
Above her left hip, a red stain, darker than the red of the dress, was spreading under the silk.
Her body was not only dead weight, it was hot. Regardless of her cold hands, she was burning with fever. She'd been injured. Shot by the cops? Infection didn't set up that fast. The injury had to be older. Either way, she was losing blood and must have been running on pure adrenaline.
She blinked once, twice, trying to focus, and half smiled up at him. Not saying a word, she slipped her fingers into the deep V-neck of her dress that showed off her cleavage to perfection.
Immediately, Josh stepped to Ryan's side, gun drawn, as if he expected her to pull a weapon. What she slowly inched out of her bra was a weapon of sorts, but not one Ryan ever expected to see.
The shiny metal object swayed under his nose as she showed it to him. "Proof," she mumbled, pressing it to his chest.
Even through his heavy knit sweater, the touch of the thing made his skin crawl. He frowned down into her eyes, searching their now cloudy depths. "Where the hell did you get that?"
In answer, her eyes, so pale blue they were ice-like, fluttered closed once more, and her body went completely limp, the key sliding back into her palm.
His shit meter went sonic.
Josh cleared his throat. "Jesus, is that what I think it is?"
Ryan nodded and took a deep breath, staring at the oversized key. It wasn't just any key. In the slim hand of the beauty in his arms lay a titanium launch key to an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. A weapon of mass destruction.
With no time to hide her in the bunker, his choices came down to two: risk an international incident over a woman he didn't know, or open the door and hand her over to the cops now exiting their vehicle with guns drawn. One of the men crouched behind his car door, aiming a gun at the cabin, while the driver walked toward it.
Conrad, I am so going to kill you.
Ryan caught Josh's eye, nodded once, and headed for the back bedroom, Miss Legs secured tightly in his arms.CHAPTER 2
Anya Romanov Radzoya had been raised on Russian fairy tales. Vasalisa the Beautiful had been her grandmother's favorite story, but Anya preferred stories about her ancestors, real Russian princes and princesses. They didn't have happy endings, but the men and women in her family had lived fully and loved every minute of the drama, beauty, and strife.
Excerpted from The Blood Code by Misty Evans, Heather Howland, Sue Winegardner. Copyright © 2013 Misty Fanderclai. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.