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By Debra Webb
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What's so important that it couldn't wait until I reported in day after tomorrow?" John Logan dropped into one of the upholstered chairs flanking the director's desk. He and his partner hadn't taken any real time off in over eight months. They were due some serious R&R - past due. This little trip back to D.C. hadn't been on Logan's agenda for the day.
He forced himself to relax. The jet lag was definitely catching up to him. Or, he thought wryly, maybe it was last night's margaritas. A smile hitched his lips when he considered the private party he'd had with that sweet little senorita. Too bad this morning's pre-dawn wake-up call had dragged him from the rumpled bed before they'd had the opportunity to share an encore.
"We have a problem." Lucas Camp, Deputy Director of Mission Recovery's Special Operations, leaned against the edge of Director Casey's desk, his solemn gaze resting on Logan.
The undercurrent in Lucas's tone tugged Logan's wayward thoughts back to the here and now. Uneasiness tightened in his chest. He knew that tone, that look. Lucas was searching for the best way to say what needed to be said. Whatever it was, it wasn't good.
Logan straightened in his chair, instantly running down a list of possible scenarios. "What kind ofproblem?"
Director Thomas Casey stepped into the dim pool of light provided by the brass lamp on his desk. The man always lingered in the shadows. As new to the organization as he was, Casey had already garnered himself a reputation for the cloak-and-dagger routine.
Logan, his senses rushing toward full-scale alert, shifted his attention to Casey. Something big was about to go down.
"We may have to abort the South American mission." Casey's gaze pierced Logan's with the intensity of twin blue laser beams. "Taylor is dead."
Logan was on his feet with no memory of how he'd gotten there. Jess Taylor was his partner. They had parted company just forty-eight hours ago to take some quick downtime before their mission began. How could she be dead? Logan shook his head in denial. There had to be a mistake.
"We just - she was ..." Logan's voice faltered beneath the steady gazes fixed on him. There was no way either of these two men, his superiors, would lie to him. "How?" He barely recognized the harsh sound as his own voice.
"Sanchez hit her outside the airport in L.A.," Lucas said quietly. "We know it was him because there were three eyewitnesses. Based on the description, there's no question."
Fury roared inside Logan. Sanchez, the weasel son of a bitch. Logan should have killed him when he had the chance. But Sanchez had begged for mercy and sworn that he would spill his guts about the drug runners trafficking for the Mexican kingpin Mission Recovery had worked to bring down for nearly a year. Jess had fallen, hook, line and sinker, for Sanchez's act. Logan hadn't trusted him, but he had deferred to Jess's judgment. Now he was sorry. But not half as sorry as Sanchez would be.
"Where is he?"
Lucas raised an eyebrow at the savage sound of Logan's demand. "We're taking care of Sanchez."
"I'll take care of Sanchez," Logan countered. His muscles tightened with rage. He wanted to tear something apart. He wanted to watch Sanchez die slowly, very, very slowly.
"You already have your assignment," Casey pointed out in that calm, even manner of his that represented nothing more than another of his illusions.
Thomas Casey was one hundred percent lethal and completely heartless. The mission was always his top priority. That was the way of things in Mission Recovery, the most highly covert organization belonging to the United States government. Created to serve the needs of all other government agencies, CIA, FBI, ATF, DEA, whenever the usual channels failed, Mission Recovery was called in to "recover" the situation. The elite group of specialists were highly trained in all areas of anti-terrorism and aggressive infiltration. When all else failed, a specialist was sent in to salvage things. This was one of those times. But Jess's death had changed everything.
Logan aimed his fury in Casey's direction then. "Jess is dead. It's going to be pretty damned hard to complete that mission now. No partner, no pass into Esteban's tight little group. It was a package deal, remember? Couples only."
"We may have an alternative." Lucas opened the folder lying next to him on Casey's desk. "Erin Bailey." He tapped an eight-by-ten picture that made Logan do a double take.
The mane of thick hair was too long and blond instead of black, the lips a little fuller maybe, but otherwise the woman in the photograph could have been Jess in disguise.
"Who the hell is she?" Logan's focus never left the photograph. The curve of her cheek, the delicate line of her nose, and the extraordinary violet eyes were exactly the same. It was unnerving ... eerie.
"It gets better," Lucas added knowingly, anticipation lifting his tone. "She's a hacker, U.S. Grade A. Not in the usual sense, however, she specializes in computer security. Learned her hacking skills to better serve her needs as a security analyst."
Computers? That had been Jess's specialty. That particular skill was necessary to the success of the South American mission. "How'd you find her?"
"Completely by accident," Lucas explained. "Forward Research found her."
Logan knew all about Forward Research. The group was composed of a dozen men and women who did nothing but recon for people who showed unparalleled skill in a given field. It was Forward Research who had discovered Logan three years ago. Now he was a specialist who met the most stringent mental and physical requirements of any national or international security force.
Putting his fury on hold momentarily to assuage his morbid curiosity, he asked, "Have you recruited her?"
"No." Casey answered the question. "First, we wanted to see if you would have a problem with this approach."
Yeah, right. Casey didn't give one damn if Logan had a problem with it or not. If the woman could be gotten, the mission would go on.
"We know you don't want to let all the months of hard work you and Jess put into this mission go down the proverbial drain," Lucas said, placating him.
"Erin Bailey is our only hope for salvaging this mission."
Logan wanted to say to hell with the mission, Jess was dead. But an instinct too strongly entrenched wouldn't allow him to do that. This mission was top priority. If their circumstances were reversed, Jess would feel the same.
"Where is she?" Logan asked roughly.
"In an Atlanta federal penitentiary."
Excerpted from Undercover Wife by Debra Webb Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.