The assignment was risky from the start, including a shocking complication: Tory's unexpected pregnancy. With her stubborn, covert-agent lover begging her to go home and her questions stirring up a hornet's nest, Tory suddenly faced reporting a story that could make her career but cost her everything she loved.
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Ben Forsythe was having a crappy day.
He'd been in meetings virtually all day and now, when he finally had a free moment to dial Tory Patton's number, he got her voice mail. He rubbed the back of his neck and almost hung up without leaving a message. He couldn't tell her where he was, didn't know when he could call again. But he needed to hear her voice. Needed for just a second to remember who was waiting for him at home.
"Babe," he said, just to needle her, "it's me. Don't know when I'll be able to call again. Be good."
He hung up. He had e-mail available but seldom used it because his team was always on the move and he didn't want to leave an electronic trail of where they'd been.
It was dry and blazing hot in late June in the desert of Berzhaan and he was sick to death of sand. He shaded his eyes and wished for a minute that he was a different man. The kind who could walk away and never look back. The kind who could blithely go about his everyday life and never know that there were men and women who were risking their lives to enable that.
But he wasn't.
Ben's father had been an undercover CIA agent, a man whose government's only acknowledgment of his death overseas while on an assignment was a star and a date on a wall. Ben was starting to think that he wanted more than that at the end of his days.
He entered the makeshift command center and awaited his orders. He worked for a covert military group called LASER, the Lost Airman's Service. Their mandate was simple and focused — they rescued servicemen who were being held prisoner in hostile places. They used whatever means were necessary to bring them home.
With the help of AA.gov, a Web site and organization whose main function was to keep alumni of the Athena Academy for the Advancement of Women in touch with one another, but whose covert side included certain spy missions, he'd embedded one of his men with a television news crew. The lead reporter, Andrea Jancey, was Tory's protégé at UBC. She and Tory had both attended the prestigious Athena Academy. Andrea had the same skills that Tory did, which meant she could handle herself in almost any situation. Ben had a lot of respect for the Athena grads he knew, including his own sister, Alex.
For this mission, Ben was using Andrea and her news crew to get close to the insurgents fighting in the desert of Berzhaan. His intel had identified a group under Kemeni rebel leader Al Ahib as having captured two Marine pilots. The Kemeni were down in strength at the moment, but highly uncooperative with the U.S. Ben's team was in country to get the pilots out. He had a small team of seven men. They'd worked together for a long time and knew each other well.
"Any word from Manning?" he asked Lewis Salvo, their communications guru. Salvo managed the satellite, navigation/GPS and emergency radios. Ben had seen him coax a waterlogged radio back into action. If anyone could raise a signal on Manning, it was Salvo.
Salvo didn't glance up from the frequencies he was monitoring on their personal radios. "Nothing yet, he missed the last check-in."
Ben leaned over the shoulder of Robert O'Neill, their computer expert. O'Neill was using satellite images to search the location where Manning should have been, as well as running a GPS trace. Everyone on the LASER team had a GPS homing beacon in their cell phone. Manning's cell was still in country, but not where it should be.
The itch at the back of Ben's neck said that his crappy day was about to get worse. And there was nothing he could do but wait for Manning to check in.
What the hell was going on? "Sir, I think you should see this." Ben turned to O'Neill, who was monitoring the cable news networks as well as watching all the satellite monitors. Ben leaned over his shoulder. Shannon Conner appeared on the screen, her blond hair wind-blown and her brown eyes more worried than usual.
Ben knew Shannon through Alex and Tory. They'd both gone to school with Shannon at Athena Academy. Shannon had the distinction of being the only student ever to be expelled from Athena. He knew that she and Tory didn't get along. Though Tory wouldn't say why, Ben had always suspected it went deeper than mere competitiveness.
"ABS News sources have learned that UBC reporter Andrea Jancey, a UBC translator and a cameraman have been taken hostage in the small Middle Eastern country of Berzhaan. Here is the exclusive video that we've obtained."
Shannon's image faded to be replaced by a video feed that showed Andrea, Paul Manning — Ben's man — and Cobie McIntire.
The three said nothing, only held a copy of that day's newspaper underneath their faces to show the date. Andrea was a tall, curvy blonde. Normally she was perfectly put together but in the video her tailored suit was ripped and she had a bruise along the side of her face. Paul's nose was bleeding, and his cropped black hair looked matted on one side with blood or sweat. Cobie, a tall, lanky guy with shaggy brown hair, just looked shocked. The video went black and Shannon was once again back on the screen.
"ABS News will be following this story and will keep you up to date."
Ben tossed the headphones down and paced back to the command center. Well, now they knew why Manning hadn't checked in. "When was this video shot?"
Robert and Lewis both scrambled to get the information. Ben cursed under his breath. He had to contact his commanding officer and plan what to do next. Manning was part of Ben's team...more than that, he was a friend. Ben's gut said to go after him immediately.
But he couldn't make that type of decision without orders. He put a call in to his CO and set up an in-briefing with the field general in Berzhaan. Ben knew that their mission wouldn't change in essence — they still had to find those two Marine chopper pilots who'd gone down in the mountains. Now, they also had to retrieve Manning and the TV crew he'd been using as cover.
As soon as she realized that Andrea Jancey had been taken hostage, Tory Patton went into action. She phoned her boss and made an appointment to see him.
Tory had convinced Andrea to come to the United Broadcasting Company. She felt personally responsible for the young woman whom she'd been mentoring in the television news business. She'd steered Andrea away from risky assignments and trained the girl to keep a cool head. Now Andrea was in danger, and Tory needed details.
Andrea's field producer, Joan Simpson, was still in Suwan, the capital of Berzhaan. Tory spent ten minutes on the phone with her, ascertaining the situation and getting what information she could. She jotted notes on the paper in front of her, a quick list of facts plus the news that ABS had reported. That Shannon Conner had reported. Damn.
Next she put in a call to Jay Matthews, her favorite cameraman.
"What can I do for my favorite reporter?" Jay asked with an edge to his voice that hadn't been there before their time together in Puerto Isla nearly two years ago. Before he'd pushed her for a personal relationship and she'd had to turn him down. The assignment on which she'd met Ben.
He'd asked for a transfer overseas and had been covering the ongoing military action in the Middle East. She wanted him by her side, if she could convince Tyson to send her to Berzhaan. "Did you hear about Andrea and Cobie?"
"Yes, what have you heard?"
"Shannon was just on with a breaking story. I'm going to see Tyson in a few minutes."
"If you get him to send you, I'll work with you on this. I'll dig around and see what I can find for you until you get here. Even if they send someone else. Damn, I can't believe ABS broke the story on our own missing reporter."
"Pisses me off, too. Thanks, Jay."
"No problem, Patton."Article 02: Untitled
She disconnected the call, turning to her computer. She sent an e-mail to Cathy Jackson in UBC research.
Please pull together whatever you can on Andrea Jancey and Cobie McIntire and their last known coordinates. Find out any information on who their contacts were and what story they were following. Thanks, Tory
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was a good story line, but it didn't suck me in like a really wonderfully written & developed book. It just didn't feel that real to me.
LASER (Lost Airman's Service) Agent Ben Forsythe is in Berzhaan in the Middle East on a rescue mission involving a TV crew that includes one of his agents taken hostage by an anti American group when he learns that his beloved girlfriend reporter Tory Patton is also there. Tory has arrived seeking her friend and protégé, part of the TV crew, missing reporter Andrea Jancey.----------------- Ben wants Tory to go home and let him do what he is trained and experienced at performing. However, she refuses as the Athena Academy for the Advancement of Women graduate plans to go it alone if Ben refuses to help her. Knowing how stubborn she can be Ben reluctantly agrees to her insistence that they team up because he believes as long as she is in country Tory is safer at his side.-------------- EXCLUSIVE is an action-packed thriller that never slows down from start to finish as the lead pair work on the rescue mission and making love. The lead couple is a delightful pairing because of his concern for his beloved who leaves him no options think how he would have reacted if he knew she was pregnant. However, what makes the tale is the locals who are not stereotyped especially a Suwan police officer. Katherine Garbera provides a tense adrenaline pumping thriller that never decelerates until the post game hugs.----------- Harriet Klausner
Tory has the job she's been angling for, that of a studio reporter but it's starting to pall. Ben is still running around pretending to be a playboy while saving the world. When Tory's apprentice, and fellow Athena Academy graduate, Andrea Jancey is kidnapped Tory goes to find out what she can and to cover the story and finds Ben there too.Tory finds out just before she ships out that she's pregnant but how does she break the news in a war zone to Ben. And where do they go to from here.Amusing but sometimes strained. The two are quite powerful characters and I don't know that it's going to be plain sailing from here.