Computer tech--and expert hacker--Sherra Alexander doesn't give up easily. Yet her dig into military records has placed her under federal scrutiny. In too deep, she knows anything can happen. What she doesn't anticipate is finding her presumed-dead ex-lover, army lieutenant Brody McAndrews, alive and in her apartment.
On a covert mission to uncover the truth behind a suspicious explosion that killed a comrade with a similar name, Brody must stop Sherra's research--and protect her. The only way to do that is to keep her extremely close, whether she likes it or not. As a battle of wills brings on the passion in full force, an unknown threat zeroes in, determined to silence them both--permanently.
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Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
July 01, 2012
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Adobe DRM EPUB
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Excerpt from Undercover Soldier by Linda O. Johnston
Would she figure it out tonight?
Unlikely. She'd tried before. But at least here, at home, Sherra Alexander had no distractions as she did at work. Which was a good thing, considering the nonstandard way she was conducting her research.
Unlocking the door to her condo, she hurried down the dimly lit hallway to her kitchen. She'd bought dinner on her way home to avoid taking time to prepare anything. For the moment, she placed the paper bag containing her food on the small table in the room's center.
Her thoughts remained on the information she'd unearthed that day. This wasn't the first time she had found anomalies, but they were getting odder. More interesting. More puzzling.
What did they really mean?
As she inhaled the aroma of the turkey burger in the bag, her stomach rumbled. She had worked straight through lunch. She was hungry. And exhausted.
She'd rest soon. But not yet. For now, she put her handbag onto the seat of a chair, hung her suit jacket on the back and stepped out of her uncomfortable spike-heeled shoes. She sighed as her bare feet rested solidly on the warm linoleum floor.
She prepared to grab a small glass of white wine and take it, along with her dinner, into her office so she could get back to her mission at her computer. But--
She inhaled rapidly and froze. What was that?
She had heard a sound. From somewhere in her apartment?
Holding her breath, she listened. But all she heard now were muted voices from downstairs--her neighbor's two kids, squabbling as usual.
She shook her head. She was just tired. Drained. That happened a lot, thanks to the intensity of her work as an information technology expert for CMHealthfoods, one of the most successful manufacturers of wholegrain breads and cereals. For more than eight hours a day, she searched global databases for information on products, inventory and sales that affected both her company and its competitors. She usually loved it, basked in her daily successes, made it clear to her bosses that she'd take on the most complex assignments.
But right now her personal online search absorbed her even more. Worse, it was triggering her imagination--wasn't it?
She noticed then how stuffy her apartment felt for late spring in Bethesda, Maryland. Crossing the room, she peered out the sliding glass door toward the balcony off the kitchen. Most apartments in the residential buildings beyond were well lit, since it was late. Sherra saw nothing unusual. Even so, she grew still again, listening.
There were no sounds now except for the neighbors and the traffic below. She nevertheless decided not to open the door to let air in through the screen. Sure, she felt spooked. What she'd been doing lately made her justifiably nervous.
She pulled a bottle of Chablis from the fridge and poured the glass she had promised herself. She took a sip of the cold, bracing liquid, savored the feeling of it going down her throat. Okay. Enough fooling around.
She grabbed flatware from a drawer, picked up the bag containing her dinner and pulled a thumb drive from her purse. Hands full, she headed down the tiny hall to the small bedroom she used as an office.
And stopped. The door was closed. Had she shut it today? She always left it open.
Well, she must have closed it this morning. No one but she could have been here. If the condo association had sent in someone to do maintenance they'd have given her notice.
Despite her unease, a minor change to her routine like this was no big deal. Usually, she'd have thought nothing of it.
But her recent research had put her on edge.
Maybe she should check things out, just in case. She put the fork she held into the bag, then set it and the glass of wine on the hallway floor near the wall. Still holding the knife, she turned the knob and pushed open the door.
And screamed. Or would have, if one hand hadn't been slapped immediately over her mouth as another grabbed the arm in which she held the knife and wrested it from her.
"Calm down," ordered the man who'd grabbed her. "It's okay." He stood off to her side.
Gasping in terror, she managed to yank herself free and dash back into the kitchen. He was faster. She saw his figure whip by her, blocking her from leaving the kitchen and getting to someplace safe.
A weapon! She needed something to protect herself.
She ran toward the drawer from which she'd gotten the first knife and grabbed a second one.
Only then did she pivot to face him, shoulders hunched, the knife poised in her hand as she prepared to lunge. Instead, she released a gasping moan as he snared her arm.
"Hello, Sherra," said Brody McAndrews.
"Brody." His name sounded like a furious oath emanating from her lovely, full lips. "How did you get into my apartment? You're supposed to be dead."
He expelled a brief ironic laugh. "Yeah. I am." She didn't know the half of it. But that was why he had come.
He continued to grip Sherra's right arm to keep her from stabbing him. The knife she held resembled the first one, which he'd slipped carefully into his back pocket.
"But I... Why are you here?" she demanded.
Good question. He had the answer but couldn't tell her. Not all of it, at least.
Brody had known this wouldn't go well. He had also known he had little choice. Contacting Sherra through usual ways could blow his cover. If it wasn't already blown, thanks to her.
Her damned interference could cost him. A lot. Not to mention the level of danger she could put herself in. And him. And others, too.
"We need to talk," he said. Watchful, he allowed her to keep hold of the knife, knowing it probably gave her a sense of security--a false one. He'd remove it from her soon. Otherwise, she'd undoubtedly use it against him.
"That's for sure," she responded.