To the world, Jean-Charles Laroque was a tyrannical ruler--a powerful mercenary driven by greed. But was he threatening enough to assassinate? Making that assessment was profiler Emily Carlin, a woman whose professionalism masked her phobia of being dominated by an alpha male. A male like Laroque. Working undercover to infiltrate his psyche, Emily discovered a noble man--and an undeniable attraction. Amid the hot nights, Emily found herself falling for the magnetic Laroque. And if he discovered her true identity, she might lose not only her chance at love, but also her life.
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October 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Seducing the Mercenary by Loreth Anne White
Nine hours earlier. 06:02 Zulu. Friday, November 8. Ubasi airport. West Coast of Africa
Perspiration dampened Dr. Emily Carlin's blouse as she neared one of two customs checkpoints.
There was no electricity in the cramped Ubasi arrivals room this morning. Fans hung motionless from the ceiling, the only light in the terminal coming from doors flung open to white-hot sunlight. Even at this early hour everyone was already dulled into slow motion by the rising temperatures and humidity.
The line of passengers shuffled slowly forward and Emily moved with it, people jostling her on all sides. She'd been informed Ubasi possessed no X-ray equipment and the additional lack of power made it even less likely they'd find the knife strapped to her ankle under her jeans.
It was small protection, but she didn't expect much trouble. Her mission was simply to get into the beleaguered war-torn country wedged between Nigeria and Cameroon and assess the sociological situation. Most importantly, she was to compile a psychological profile of notorious mercenary Jean-Charles Laroque, known on this continent as Le Diable, a fierce and deadly guerrilla war expert, master military strategist, and now, a dictator.
She had exactly one week to do her job. Laroque's life depended on her assessment.
Just over twelve months ago the Parisian-born Laroque had sailed into Ubasi on a Spanish boat with a scruffy black Alsatian at his side, a rough band of mercenaries under his command, and a cache of black market weapons in his hold. After putting up a weak fight, the beleaguered Ubasi army had surrendered to Laroque.
Xavier Souleyman--the despot who had overthrown Ubasi's King Douala eight years previously and ruled the country with a bloody hand ever since--had escaped Laroque's capture and fled the country with the aid of a small band of loyalists.
Laroque had wasted no time moving into the royal palace, installing himself as de facto leader, and after negotiating with the rebels who had seized control of the northern jungles of Ubasi during Souleyman's reign, Laroque had assumed personal ownership of massive tracts of land where his geologists had proceeded to strike oil--enough to potentially rival production in both Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea combined.
That fact alone had catapulted the once-forgotten country and renegade warlord instantly onto the world stage.
In less than a year Laroque had managed to broker unheard-of treaties with disparate rebel factions over the border in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea--radical militants who opposed their own corrupt governments'financial ties with Western corporate interests in the Gulf of Guinea.
This placed Laroque in an exceedingly powerful anti-status-quo position. He now had the power to spark a major civil war in the region that could cut off oil supply to the rest of the world for decades to come-- oil that had recently become critical to U.S. foreign policy, given the current tensions in the Gulf ofArabia.
On top of this, four deep cover CIA agents in Ubasi had just been slaughtered, their bodies displayed using the same gruesome signature technique once employed by Laroque's mercenary father as he'd cut an increasingly bloody swath across the continent before meeting his own violent end two years ago.
Laroque seemed to be sending a message to the U.S.: Get out. Stay out. Or else.
And here Emily was going in.
She mopped her brow with a damp and tattered tissue as the queue inched forward again and heat pressed down.
Emily was a Manhattan-based expert in tyrannical pathology with a military background of her own. The minds of dictators, organized crime bosses, renegade warlords and murderous despots were both her passion and her professional specialty. Alpha Dogs, she called them.
She'd been contracted by the Force du Sable, a private military company based off the West Coast of Angola, to profile this particular Alpha Dog. The FDS in turn had been retained by a CIA-Pentagon task force in a clandestine bid to control the Laroque "situation." His threat in the region was becoming too great for corporate and political comfort.
The U.S., however, could in no way be overtly involved in a bid to oust the new Ubasi tyrant. Nor could the CIA trust its own at the moment--the source of the intelligence leak that had resulted in the deaths of the four CIA agents represented a grave internal security breach, which was why the FDS had been brought in.