A Covert Affair

A Covert Affair

by Susan Mann

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Overview

Shelve under: Travel, Romance, Art Theft, Hostages.
 
Librarian and CIA agent-in-training Quinn Ellington and her handsome spy boyfriend James “Bond” Anderson find themselves in the middle of an international incident when the Indian ambassador is kidnapped from a Library of Congress event. The key to saving the ambassador is tangled up with a long-lost sacred library, a desecrated temple, and some very modern machinations. At least their cover as blissful newlyweds isn’t too hard to pull off . . .

“Do not miss out on this fun-filled ride.”
—RT Book Reviews on The Librarian and the Spy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420143317
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 08/29/2017
Series: Librarian/Spy Escapade Series , #2
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 843,245
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Susan Mann has a BA in history from UCLA and received her MA in library science from San Jose State University. Over the years, she has worked in public, special, and academic libraries. She and her husband have one college-aged daughter and live in Colorado. This is her second novel

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Don't move," a voice said from directly behind her.

The library book nearly jumped from Quinn Ellington's hand. Standing alone in the stacks, she'd been so absorbed in its pages she hadn't perceived her stalker's movements. While she chided herself for being caught unawares, she was pacified by the knowledge that had she not immediately recognized the voice, its owner would be doubled over and gasping for air after receiving an elbow to the gut.

Two arms slid around her waist and held her tight. She smiled and said, "Now, why would I do a stupid thing like that?"

Chills raced through her when James Anderson kissed her neck and then straightened. "Ready to go?"

"Almost." She spun around, gripped his tie, and tugged him into a lingering kiss. She went nearly cross-eyed when she pulled back and looked at him nose to nose. "Now I'm ready."

He pinned her against the metal shelf with his body and gave her a kiss that had her knees buckling. He lifted his head and gave her a lopsided smile. "Me too."

Once assured her legs wouldn't give out from under her, she pushed away from the shelves and led him through the stacks to her desk. She set the book down and slipped on the jacket of her pantsuit. She couldn't wear jeans to work anymore, something she greatly lamented. It was one of the trade-offs when she accepted her grandfather's offer to work for the CIA.

James peered down at the book. "Women of the OSS. What are you working on?"

"I'd tell you —"

"But then you'd have to kill me. I know," James finished. "I'm pretty sure you can tell me without getting in trouble."

"Yes, yes, you're right, Mr. I Have a Security Clearance and You Don't," she teased. "For the record, I'm working on something pretty cool. One of the recruiters who visits college campuses is preparing a presentation that highlights some of the women who worked in intelligence in the past. She asked me to find some interesting stories."

"It won't be long before you're one of those women with interesting stories."

"We'll see. It'll be a while, since I haven't ..." She was going to say, "Since I haven't trained at the Farm yet," but stopped. Other than the head librarian, none of her library coworkers knew the plan for her to become a covert operative. Only a handful of people within the agency did.

James nodded. "No matter what happens in the future, you already have one good story under your belt."

"That's true."

On their way out, Quinn stopped by her boss's office and knocked lightly on the door. At the muffled "Come in," she pushed it open and poked her head through the gap.

Linda Sullivan looked up from her computer. "Hello, Quinn. What can I do for you?" Six weeks before, Linda had told Quinn the information they collected, maintained, and provided to agency directorates was vital to national security and the safety of Americans around the world. By the time she left Linda's office that first day, Quinn was ready to do anything asked of her.

"I wanted to remind you I'll be away from the library for an hour or so," Quinn said.

"Thanks for checking in. You have an escort?"

"James Anderson." Without her clearance, she wasn't free to walk unaccompanied around CIA headquarters.

"Excellent. I'll see you when you get back."

"Yes, ma'am." Quinn pulled her head back and gently shut the door.

Quinn and James left the library and, after a short elevator ride, walked down a long corridor to their destination. They stepped into a front office and were met by a young man behind a desk. "Ms. Ellington, Mr. Anderson. Go on in. He's expecting you."

"Thank you," Quinn said.

Supervising Officer Aldous Meyers, her and James's Clandestine Services boss, glanced up from scribbling notes in a file. "Thank you, James."

"Yes, sir." He gave Quinn an encouraging smile before he stepped out and closed the door.

Meyers indicated a chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat."

Quinn sat as directed and waited. The acid roiling in her stomach was about to burn a hole in its lining.

He dropped his pen, folded his hands in front of him, and looked at Quinn with a penetrating gaze. "I hear from your instructors you're doing well in your unclassified training."

She resisted the urge to slump in relief. "That's good to know. Thank you."

"So well, in fact, I want to see you in action. I have a minor op for you this afternoon."

"Oh, okay." She paused. "Yes, sir."

"You sound hesitant," Meyers said. "Is there a problem?"

"No, sir. It's just that I thought we weren't allowed to run ops on US soil."

Meyers's lips twitched. "Yes, that's true. I've already cleared this with the appropriate domestic authorities."

"Of course." She could kick herself for questioning him.

He picked up a folder and handed it to her. "Your task is to follow this man."

She flipped it open. The man pictured appeared to be around sixty years of age. His hair was gray, as were his eyes and bushy beard. With his thick-rimmed, black glasses, he was rather monochromatic.

"His name is Karl Bondarenko, a Ukrainian weapons engineer. Our intel indicates he's developed an honest-to-God death ray and is in DC today to meet with a potential buyer. We need to know who that buyer is. All we need you to do is follow him and take pictures of whomever he meets with. Once we get photos of a face or two, other officers will take it from there."

"That doesn't sound too difficult. Follow him and take pictures." She studied the photo. "Will he have the weapon with him?"

"We believe the meet is only to discuss a deal, not deliver a product. If he does have a working prototype, he most likely has it stashed somewhere."

"What if he does have it with him and hands it off to the buyer? What do I do?" "Operatives in the field can't call in every time they're faced with a decision."

That wasn't a helpful answer. While she was excited to be given the opportunity to stretch her fledgling operative wings, she was also keenly aware how important it was to not screw up. If Bondarenko's weapon fell into the wrong hands, lives would certainly be at stake. The sudden weight of responsibility felt heavy on her shoulders.

"Any other questions?" he asked.

"Where is he now?"

"He's registered at the Elegance Hotel in Georgetown. You'll start there. Also, do not discuss your task with anyone. Good luck." He extended his hand.

She gave him the file and left.

James rose from his chair in the outer office and gave her a questioning look. "Everything okay?" "Yeah, it's fine. Can you escort me back to the library and then out of the building? I have an errand to run."

"Sure." He opened the door for her, and as they walked toward the elevators, James asked, "Is it something I can help you with?" "No, thanks. I got it."

"Are you sure? I don't have much going on today. I can go with you." He pressed the button to summon an elevator.

The doors slid open. "That's nice of you, but like I said, I got it." They stepped on and rode in silence.

Back at the library, James waited by the front desk while Quinn popped into Linda's office to tell her she had something she had to take care of and would be out for the rest of the day. Then she snagged her bag and was out the door again.

They arrived at the building's exit security checkpoint. James stopped her just before she was to go through. "Come on, Quinn. Tell me what's going on."

Why was he being so pushy? "I can't. Let it go, okay?"

"You know how I worry about you." His face hung like a scolded puppy's.

Her aggravation with him dropped away and her tone softened. "I know you do, but it's no big deal."

"Can you at least tell me if you can still go to dinner with me tonight?"

She rose up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "I'm not sure how long this will take. I'll call you later and let you know. I promise."

"Fine," he said, still sounding wounded.

She turned, went through security, and exited the building. As she strode to her truck, she turned James's odd behavior over in her mind. Her grumbled conclusion was "Men are weird."

CHAPTER 2

Nervous excitement swirled inside Quinn as she sat in the lobby of the Elegance Hotel with a Brick Cobalt spy novel open in her hands. Of course at that moment, she wasn't actually reading it. It worked as a great prop while she kept watch for Bondarenko. It paid to always carry a paperback in her purse.

Adrenaline surged through her when the fancy brass elevator doors glided open, revealing Bondarenko like a prize on a TV game show.

Her head stayed bent over her book while her eyes tracked her quarry. Bondarenko, briefcase in hand, exited the elevator and walked across the lobby and out the door.

As her training dictated, Quinn didn't immediately jump up and follow him. She stayed in her chair and watched him through the window. He turned right and started up the sidewalk.

Careful not to appear too obvious, Quinn deliberately placed her bookmark between the pages, closed the book, and returned it to her purse. Then she slipped on her sunglasses and ambled out onto the sidewalk.

Bondarenko was half a block ahead. At the next corner, he made a right.

A few seconds later, Quinn rounded the corner and exhaled a relieved breath when she spotted him. She remained a respectable distance behind him and hoped she blended in with her fellow pedestrians enjoying the warm, early May sunshine.

The Ukrainian crossed to the other side of the street and entered a pub.

Quinn did the same.

The tavern brimmed with historic charm. It was one of those cramped spaces with wood everywhere. Tiffany-style lamps hung from the ceiling and cast circles of light on the bar and tables. Natural light streaming in from the window that fronted the pub helped brighten the room.

Only a handful of patrons sat scattered throughout the place, so Quinn had no trouble spotting Bondarenko. He sat alone at one of the tables near the bar. She meandered through the maze of tables and chairs and took a seat on one of the wooden barstools. From her vantage point, she could keep an eye on Bondarenko's table in the mirror behind the bar.

She ordered a Coke from the bartender and took out her phone, ready to snap pictures when Bondarenko's contact arrived.

A few minutes later, a man slid onto the stool next to Quinn. She cringed when he turned to her and said, "So, do you come here often?"

She glanced at him and gave him a polite smile. Easily twenty years older than her, his mustache was as cheesy as his pickup line. The cocky, smarmy vibe he gave off made her skin crawl.

Hoping to discourage any attempt at conversation, she looked back down at her phone to convey disinterest. In a bored voice, she answered, "My first time."

"Oh, a virgin," he said, laughing at his own joke.

Ugh. What a colossal douche. Her teeth were clenched so tight her jaw began to ache.

Bondarenko stood and made his way toward the men's room. As he did, he brushed past her in the tight space between her and the chair behind. Quinn picked up her glass and sipped her Coke, not only to hide her face from the man she was following but to swallow down the venom she itched to spew at the ass next to her.

Smarmy Douche Canoe swiveled toward her and leaned in as she set her drink down. "You know, sweetheart, if you're new in town, I can show you around." The stale alcohol on his breath made her nose wrinkle as she tilted away from him. "I can show you a really good time."

The muscles in her face twitched while indignation flared hot in her chest. It was all she could do not to slap the smug bastard's mug with such force his knocked-out teeth would shoot across the room and embed in the wall.

She gulped down more Coke and glanced into the mirror. Bondarenko's table remained empty. "No, thanks. I have my boyfriend for that."

"I bet your boyfriend can't show you as good a time as I can."

So help me, if he touches me I'm gonna break his arm. Without looking at him, she said, "Not interested."

"Aw, don't be like that," he pouted.

She couldn't take it anymore. Unless she got away from Smarmy Douche Canoe, she was going to haul off and deck the guy. Not wanting to call attention to herself, she decided escape was her best option. She grabbed her purse and fled to the ladies' room.

In the end, it worked out well. She took up a position at the restroom door. Peering through the crack, she kept watch for Bondarenko's exit from the men's room.

Another few minutes passed and the Ukrainian still hadn't emerged. He was either suffering from some serious intestinal distress — maybe he'd downed some dubious oysters and was paying for it — or something had happened. Worry began to gnaw at her middle.

When a man exited the men's room, she popped out from behind the door. "My uncle has been in there a while. Is he okay? Black glasses? Bushy gray beard?"

"Sorry," he answered and hiked his thumb at the door behind him. "There was no one else in there."

Tingling alarm buzzed through her. "It's empty?"

"Yeah. Sorry." The man turned and walked away.

Quinn pushed open the door, leaned in, and scanned the bathroom. Unless Bondarenko was standing on the toilet in the stall so she couldn't see his feet, it was as the man said. Empty.

Her mind flooded with questions as panic rose. How did he get past her without her noticing? Had she been so distracted by Smarmy Douche Canoe she didn't see Bondarenko leave? Why did he leave before the meet? Maybe the meet had already happened and he simply came to the pub for a drink. The worst question imaginable hit her: What if he was on his way to the meet now and she'd lost him?

Silently berating herself as the worst spy ever, she slalomed through the tables and hurried out of the pub. Stopping just outside, she scanned the sidewalk to her left and right. There was no sign of him.

"Dammit," she spat and thrust her hands through her hair in frustration. She was screwed.

She stood rooted to the sidewalk, trying to decide what her next move was. Her stomach dropped. She didn't have one.

The incessant electronic burbling of a cell phone caused her irritation to spike. "Answer the damn phone," she growled and glanced at the people occupying the outdoor tables. Not one made any movement to answer a phone.

She pushed aside her annoyance and threw back her shoulders. She knew what she had to do. The op was bigger than her pride. She'd call Meyers, confess she'd lost Bondarenko, and fall on her sword. Wanting some privacy, she spun on her heel and marched off in the direction of her truck.

"What the hell?" she muttered when she still heard that damned ringing phone. Was someone following her? She stopped, pretended to look in a shop window, and peeked to the side to see who stopped, too. No one. Everyone filed past. And still the phone rang.

The answer dropped on her like a ton of bricks. She rifled through her purse and found a cheap prepaid cell phone tucked in the outside pocket. She took a deep, calming breath and flipped it open. "Yes?" A voice changer distorted the words. "The wire transfer has been received. Proceed to the southernmost bench in the playground area of Montrose Park. You will be given further instructions as to the location of the prototype."

The call ended. Quinn lowered the phone and stared at it in absolute bewilderment.

"Holy crap," she mumbled when the pieces fell into place. "The meet happened. With me." Bondarenko must have believed Quinn had been at the pub on behalf of the weapon's buyer and had slipped the phone in her purse on his way to the men's room. She'd lost Bondarenko but now was on the trail of the actual prototype instead.

No way would she call Meyers now. She still had a chance to turn her initial failure into a success if she secured the weapon. Keeping it from the bad guys was surely a top priority, even if the op hadn't gone exactly as planned.

She stuffed the burner in her bag and hurried to her truck.

At the park, she walked to the playground and sat on the appropriate bench. While she waited, she alternated between surveying the area and watching little ones climb on the play equipment.

No one approached. No one called. Nothing happened.

A thought struck. What if her "further instructions" were already there? Bending forward, she ran her fingers along the underside of the bench.

A quiet yelp of victory bubbled up when her fingertips touched what felt like an envelope. She peeled it from the seat and withdrew a piece of paper with a couple dozen Cyrillic characters written on it.

Using the Ukrainian keyboard on her phone, she painstakingly hunted and pecked for each character. She felt a real sense of achievement when all the words were in recognizable English. Her triumph was short-lived, however, when the words were, "Organic Dog Treats Bella Moose."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "A Covert Affair"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Susan Mann.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

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A Covert Affair 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A nice follow up to The Librarian and the Spy and it was fun to be back with Quinn and James. Punjab’s history might have been sad but I really enjoyed reading about it. I love when author’s take real life historical events and use them in their plots. Once again this book is only from Quinn’s POV. Not terrible, but I hoped we would learn more about James and his history. Quinn was as fun as the first time around and I found myself laughing at some of her comments and her constant confidence in herself. This woman is rocking it for librarians all over. James got a bit overprotective but he also never doubted Quinn’s strengths and her ability to take care of herself. Just a small thing: I did enjoy the romance, but there was pretty much no tension between James and Quinn. On one hand that’s not a bad thing, but on the other, it also made it feel more like a regular adventure/spy novel instead of a romance.
thereadingchick More than 1 year ago
The more I read of Quinn and James, the Librarian and the Spy, the more I like them. The two of them have such great chemistry, their dialog showing their brains as well as their bodies are involved in this relationship. Quinn, again amazed me with her knowledge of, well, everything. She is a woman that girls like as well as the guys, and therefore very easy to relate to. James, is dashing, cheeky, and deadly with a weapon. He was protective of Quinn, yet, let her spread her wings and fly. You’ve got to admire that in a man you date, and I really like reading about a man who is comfortable with the strength of his woman. The mystery, or escapade in this case, was fascinating. It takes place in India, and the historical aspects of this story were really interesting. The insight into Indian and Sikh culture was new for me and completely held my attention. The mix of history and spy romance felt unique and again I have to say that I think the cover for this novel does it a disservice. There is a lot of meat in this storyline, yet the cover makes it look like it’s a fluff novel. It is fun, but it’s not fluff. I enjoyed the first novel a lot and liked this one even more! I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley for my honest review, and it was honest.
ArizonaJo More than 1 year ago
A Covert Affair by Susan Mann is the second book in her Librarian and the Spy Escapade series and was another fun and intriguing mystery. Quinn is now at the CIA library but being trained as an agent, as well. She does love her work in the library but is over-the-moon about being trained as an operative. Her and James' relationship is growing and more of their characters is shown in this story. I also really enjoyed how much of the history of India and it's residents of all religions were described. I found this information to be vital to the overall plot as Quinn and James are assigned to hunt down a kidnapped ambassador and a lost treasure, the Sikh Reference Library. The facts regarding this part of Indian history was enlightening for me; and I appreciated the detail which Ms. Mann used to make this an integral part of the story. A smoothly paced plot with facts, red herrings, and twists to keep me turning the pages to find out who was behind the kidnapping made an very enjoyable afternoon read. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Zebra Shout via NetGalley. All of the above opinions are my own.
Linda__ More than 1 year ago
LOVED this book! The unlikely partnership of Quinn, the reference librarian, and James, the very real spy, is delightful! In this book, Quinn is in training to become a spy herself, when she is called into action to partner with James on an investigation that has them traveling to India. I love the interactions between Quinn and James and especially love how passionate Quinn is about books. Additionally, the author has woven so much about India and its' history that, in addition to being fascinating, that it almost felt like a character itself. Fans of the genre will love this book. While it is part of a series, this is a stand alone novel, however its so good that you really owe it to yourself to read them all.