DEA agent Aliyana Montijo must stop a drug lord's killing orders and find a government mole. With a contract on her head, she trusts no one. While heading back to Florida with evidence, lightning strikes her plane. As it careens into the ocean, she thinks she sees a pirate ship. What she finds is a dashing and most unlikely ally.
Four centuries ago, Wolfaert Dircksen Van Ness captained a vessel for the Dutch West Indies Company. Then an unearthly storm in the Bermuda Triangle blew him into a parallel dimension. After rescuing Aliyana from a similar tempest, he finds himself drawn to the courageous beauty and wants to aid her mission.
In the midst of danger, the two find themselves falling in love. Then a misunderstanding tears them apart, perhaps forever…
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.78(d)|
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Aliyana Montijo slipped out of bed fully dressed in head-to-toe black clothing. She inched toward the bedroom door and crept down the hallway, one cautious footstep at a time.
If they found her outside her room, Emil Mercado wouldn't wait for the final test before he executed her as he so callously planned. Her one advantage? The man had no idea she knew what he had in store for her. The moment she had finished the installation of his new security system, her name topped his list for termination. That didn't mean an amiable exit after the conclusion of her job, either. This Colombian drug lord would accept nothing less than her death.
The sanctity of life meant very little to Mercado. For those who knew his secrets, it meant nothing at all. Of course, if she had encouraged his romantic advances she might've bought herself another month or two. Yeah, not likely. I'd just as soon take my chances at escaping this place right now, thank you very much. The very thought of that man touching her made her skin crawl. Besides, she was just about to get everything else she needed to finish up her part in this mission.
Aliyana paused just outside the doorway to his private office, clutching her cloned RFID card a little tighter. As she peeked over her shoulder, she swiped it through the scanner. The low blip granted access. Once again, she gazed down the hallway, searching for the smallest movement or shadow. All remained quiet.
She turned toward the door and touched the numbers on the keypad. Over the course of the past few weeks, she'd collected that four-digit code, one number at a time. Would those numbers still work? In answer to the question, a single click disturbed the silence. She let herself inside. So far, the race against the hands of the clock continued without a hitch.
Under the low security lights, she walked to the desk and turned on the computer. All the while, her heart hammered inside her chest. Each of her fingers took turns pressing against her thumb, as she waited for the boot up process. The simple procedure shouldn't take this long, should it?
Aliyana slipped her small flash drive into the hub and using her own embedded codes, bypassed Emil's ever-changing password. She selected all the files she needed. A few more keyboard strokes and the critical information began the transfer from his machine and into her flash drive. She'd need about five minutes.
Halfway through the download Aliyana took a closer look at the bulletin board Emil must've recently hung. An oversized map of the United States centered the panel. The map contained a series of tiny colorful dots inside the boundaries of Maryland and Virginia. She didn't understand the meaning of those dots, nor could she decipher their significance now. Nothing else on the cluttered board warranted her interest.
Aliyana shivered in apprehension. She rubbed her arms against the chill as she returned to the desk and checked the progress of the transfer. Another twenty-eight seconds and she'd be home free. As her gloved hand hovered above the flash drive, she caught sight of a small stack of papers off to the right. A bright red circle on the top left-hand side of the page grabbed her attention. In bold lettering, the name of the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration headed the page. His home address as well as the identity of his wife and children followed.
Each subsequent color-coded document in that stack contained the same data for other officials of the DEA. The final page recorded a specific time, a single date, and the names of Emil's most trusted lieutenants. Each of those troglodytes had a different colored circle beside his name. Her gaze traveled to the map. She gazed at the papers she held in her hand, and then looked back at the map. The colored dots matched those on the pages.
Emil had spoken of retaliation against the United States so many times in her presence that she'd grown weary of it. He wanted the U.S. government to pay with their blood for shipments lost. Mercado wanted them to fear the power of his cartel so much they would cease interfering in his lucrative business altogether.
Aliyana understood then. She had some elite company on Emil's hit list. Some of the lieutenants' targets were children and that information made her sick. Intense heat filled every vein in her body. Her hands shook as she fumbled inside her backpack and retrieved a high-tech digital camera. She took a series of photographs which detailed the planned attack, despite the lack of time.
She ejected her flash drive and stuffed it inside her pack. Without making a sound, she turned off the computer and left the room. The hallway remained dark and empty, but not for long. Any moment now, someone would awaken.
With darkness still on her side, she stepped outside and headed toward the fleet of parked cars. Aliyana stopped short. She had arrived too late. Emil's lackeys had already taken her motorcycle. They probably had already stripped it bare and destroyed any evidentiary remains. She couldn't steal something else; there were too many guards. What to do now? The pace of her heart doubled as she clenched her fists. Somehow she needed to get out of here before dawn lit the sky.
If she could make it to Emil's Twin Otter before daybreak, she could fly out of here. Then instead of mere minutes ahead of Emil and his men, she'd be hours. She knew the agents in her squad would wonder and worry over her disappearance. Right now, she couldn't help that. She'd get in touch with them as soon as she could.
Aliyana kept her eyes on the guards as she crept to the back of the compound. The bushes provided just enough cover. She slithered over the fence and slipped inside the dense foliage. For a moment she stood perfectly still. Not a footstep or an uttered word diminished the sing-song sounds of nocturnal insects and birds. Though difficult to find her way in the darkness, she turned toward the river and followed its course.
More than once, she suppressed the instinctive need to hurry as she made her way through the hot, humid jungle. Beads of sweat trickled down her face without even the smallest breeze present to help cool her down. At last she arrived at the river dock where Emil kept his floatplane. The first hint of dawn now colored the eastern sky. The faint light revealed the silhouette of a solitary armed guard standing watch over the aircraft. Yet, as a general rule, Emil employed two. With a foot half-cocked, the guard slumped over the butt of his gun. Slack-jawed and with heavy lidded eyes, he had his gaze fixed off somewhere in the distance. The smallest noise would bring him to full alert.
Aliyana circled around until she faced his back. She rushed up behind him and kicked his left knee forward. As he flailed his arms to catch his balance, she yanked him down to her height. She slipped her arm around his neck to cut off his air supply while placing her left hand palm-to-palm with her right. Then she took a single step backward. The guard fell back onto her well-centered body. She pinned him in that position until he lost consciousness. After dropping him to the ground, she grabbed hold of his weapons, and rushed toward the plane.
She tossed her backpack, the knife, and rifle onto the passenger seat and climbed aboard. The fuel gauge showed all tanks full. Aliyana powered up Emil's plane and taxied a short distance down the river.
As she lifted the nose of the craft upward out of the water, a rapid succession of shots rang out and pelted the plane. She glanced down from the cockpit window as she climbed ever higher into the sky. The second guard she expected to see and didn't, stumbled along the bank, holding onto both his rifle and his pants. Any other time, the sight would've made her laugh. The sound of gunfire faded as she turned the craft northeast and toward the ocean.
"All right," she whispered as she activated the autopilot and removed her gloves. "Time to take a deep breath, calm down a bit and plot a course for U.S. soil."
She found the flight charts and whiz wheel. She'd need to refuel at least once along the way. NASJax in Jacksonville, Florida suited her needs best. Aliyana calculated and charted a course. Radio silence was a must for as long as she dared. Emil had ears everywhere. For the same reason, she should avoid Cuban airspace altogether.
As the first tedious hours of the flight passed, her mind wandered in a host of directions. Did the second guard catch sight of her face? Would the glare from the window prevent a positive identification? Mercado had no idea she could pilot a plane or render a guard unconscious. Even if the guard didn't see her, how long would it take him to blame her once he awoke and found her missing? Probably not as long as she might wish. Out of vindictiveness he'd flood her photo and video images from his surveillance cameras all throughout the underworld.
The man wouldn't rest until he received proof 'Victoria Mendoza Torres' was dead. A burst of air turbulence and a massive bolt of lightning jolted the plane. The sudden appearance of thick black clouds swallowed the craft. Aliyana fought the controls. The wrath of the raging storm battered the Twin Otter with relentless fury. She sought higher altitude and the promise of clearer skies. Yet no matter how high she climbed, she remained enveloped inside the unearthly, yellowish gray fog deep inside the black mist. Strange swirling lights surrounded her with no heed to wind direction or velocity. The beams emitted ominous sounds from within each time they bounced off in an impossible direction. Her mind sought for some sort of rationale and found none.
She'd already passed over Puerto Rico. Surely, one of the Bahaman Islands would come into view very soon. If she headed west, she could make an emergency landing at one of the airports —
She dropped her gaze to her instrument panel and found all the gauges spinning wildly, both clock and counterclockwise. At that moment, she had no idea the direction in which she flew. She grabbed the radio, only to find the device no longer functioned. The words 'hopelessly lost' echoed inside her mind.
She dipped the nose of the plane downward and aimed below the tempest. In that same moment she caught a glimpse of churning clouds. The tumultuous winds formed a long billowing portal. That small opening at the end of the tunnel exposed a portion of clear sky on the other side. She charged straight toward it. Before she made it all the way through the portal, the opening slammed shut. Another blinding bolt of lightning struck the plane. Try as she might, she couldn't restart any of the engines.
Aliyana peered through the fog. The raging ocean below loomed ever closer. Large white waves rolled wildly across the surface. Through the haze she stared at the unexpected sight of a stone lighthouse on a small island. She blinked several times just to make sure she saw it. The lighthouse stayed in view. She needed the shelter that lighthouse promised because she couldn't stop the loss of altitude or the rapid descent of her plane.
She set the aircraft down into the water with a resounding thud and a series of harsh bounces. From out of the mist a large ship appeared right in front of her. She avoided colliding with the vessel with a sharp turn to the left. A wave rolled backward and to her horror, unveiled a massive jagged rock straight ahead. The thunderous crash of metal sounded in her ears a split second before blackness overtook her.
* * *
Captain Wolfaert Dircksen Van Ness cursed under his breath as he strode aft of his vessel and gazed at the twisted wreckage. "Lying ahull, Joris! Fix the helm and drop anchor!"
"Aye, aye, Kapitein." Joris roused the crew to the duty.
"Lower and man the boat," Wolf shouted just as he leaped onto the taffrail and dove into the ocean. He thrust his body against the waves and currents until he arrived at the shattered door.
A quick glance told him one life needed saving. So much the better.
Water poured into the tail of the tipped wreckage at a rapid pace. Soon the blasted thing would sink. He entered through the crumpled doorway and pulled an unconscious woman into his arms. Blood gushed down her forehead. She had a deep gash somewhere along the top of her scalp. A thick mane of long, sable hair prevented him from seeing the depth of the wound. He had no idea what other injuries she might've sustained during the impact, either.
Joris and Klaus paddled the boat alongside them. After he handed her off to Klaus, he climbed aboard the small vessel.
"To the lighthouse." Once the boat slid up and onto the sandy shore, Wolf stepped out of the boat and scooped the woman up in his arms. He gazed at Joris. "Take a couple of the men back to her craft and salvage as much as you can before the thing sinks into the sea. In the meantime, Klaus will see to her injuries."
"Aye, Kapitein." Joris saluted, shoved the boat back into the water, and climbed aboard.
Klaus followed close behind him as he strode up the walkway and entered the old, deserted lighthouse. The doctor moved ahead of him and raced up the stairs. No doubt he searched for the most comfortable room in which to put his patient. While Klaus's footsteps echoed above him, he took his first good look at the bewitching Spanish beauty in his arms. At least, with her flawless tawny colored skin and raven black hair, he believed her of Hispanic descent. He shook his head over the irony. How many Spanish ships had he sent to the bottom of the sea during his tenure as captain for the Dutch West India Company?
"Bring her up here, Wolf," Klaus called out.
He carried her up the stairs, turned right of the landing, and stepped inside the second bedroom down the hallway. After the doctor smoothed the last wrinkle from the sheet, Wolf laid her on the bed. The room held little else, save a rectangular bedside table where a dusty kerosene lamp sat. A small chest of drawers and a large wooden rocking chair completed the furnishings.
"Would you see if you can find me a cloth or something I can clean the wound with? Oh, and some warm water, if you please," Klaus asked as he focused on his patient.
Wolf headed for the kitchen. He opened several cabinets and found most of them empty. The drawers yielded nothing useful. Bits and pieces of silverware, a few knives, and a can opener lay inside them, but no cloth. He stooped down and peered inside the bottom cabinets. A single medium sized pot gathered dust and cobwebs. He shrugged. The banged up, dilapidated pan would have to do.
He carried it to the sink and turned the handle of the faucet. Rusty looking water coughed and sputtered before it finally ran clear enough to use. In the moment he exited the kitchen, Joris, Pieter, and Johannes burst through the door carrying a vast array of objects from inside the girl's aircraft. They dropped them onto the floor in haphazard fashion.
"See if you can find anything resembling a cloth in that mess," Wolf called out as he hurried up the stairs with his pot of water.
Minutes later, Joris entered the bedroom. He carried a large case with a red cross prominently displayed on the side and a small hand towel.
"This case appears to have all kinds of medical stuff inside it. Perhaps you can find something useful." Joris perched it on top of the table and opened it to the doctor's view. "Pieter found a tattered pillow and some blankets inside a chest down in the living room. He's on his way up."
"Excellent. Thanks, Joris," said Klaus. "Captain, would you fetch me that gauze, right there? Now press it against the wound while I see what I have to work with here."
The doctor made quick use of the hydrogen peroxide, alcohol swabs, and suture kit. With the greatest of care, he stitched the wound in the girl's head. Once he finished the task, he rummaged around inside the case and found a small vial. "How fortunate that someone thought to include antibiotics. Who would've guessed?"
He shrugged away the comment as he grabbed the pillow and blankets Pieter had brought into the room. "One can't stop progress, Klaus. You of all people should know that by now."
"Too bad that progression didn't include some kind of portable x-ray machine, as well," he replied.
"Why? Do you think something is wrong internally?" he asked.
Klaus scratched at the corner of his mouth as he lifted his brows. "I can't say for sure. She has some bruising around her ribcage. But given the impact, I expected no less. In all honesty, I'm more concerned over the damage her brain may have suffered than a few broken ribs. That deep cut means her head sustained a harsh blow. Unfortunately, we won't know anything conclusive until she wakes up and says something. So, my friend, I'm afraid we'll just have to watch and wait."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Heart of the Storm"
Copyright © 2019 Debbie Peterson.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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