Allison Gracelyn's worst nightmare has come true: She's on the run from authorities. She's being set up, and everything the Athenas--and her mother--have always stood for is in jeopardy. Yet clearing her name will mean battling an adversary wielding weapons unlike any she's ever seen. Only the help of her handsome NSA contact, who offers to put his neck--and career--on the line, will be enough to stop her enemy's deadly reign. But once she's up close and personal with her long-distance partner, full disclosure suddenly seems the greatest risk of all.
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Disclosure by Nancy Holder
En route to the National Security Administration Fort Meade, Maryland
A dark, sharp wind threw autumn leaves against Allison Gracelyn's windshield as she put through her call to Morgan Rush, who was already at NSA for the emergency meeting. After the open and cloudless big sky of the Arizona desert, the frosty Maryland night grounded her in reality--her world was a lowering, stormy place; her safety zone as narrow as a grave; the situation as out-of-control as a nightmare.
No. I'm in control. I have a plan, she told herself. I'm on my game. I can make this happen.
She unrolled the window of her sleek black Infiniti and held out her NSA badge toward the security guard, who stepped from his kiosk to take it. The chill bit into Allison's ungloved hand. Beyond the kiosk, hidden by the night, the Men in Black patrolled the perimeter of the vast complex of the National Security Administration. The MIB were the crack security forces of "Crypto City"--suited up in black riot gear, armed with submachine guns and God knew what else. Not one of them would hesitate to open fire if given the order.
She knew at least one person who would gladly give the word. Her volatile new boss, Bill McDonough, was furious with her for having taken the day off with no explanation beyond the vague and unenlightening "personal business." NSA was sitting on top of a time bomb--literally--and the terrorist threat level had shot from orange to bright red around the same time that Allison's return flight to Washington took off from the airport in Phoenix.
Coincidence? She didn't know yet. She didn't know what her enemy was capable of. Lucy Karmon, a fellow Athena alum who'd been helping Allison with her "personal business," had described Echo's maniacal rage when Lucy had completed her mission to steal a spider necklace that contained a flash drive with the kind of information that could destroy the world as they knew it. "Wacko beyond bonkers. Way beyond. I've never seen anything like it."
That same black-and-gold necklace had dangled from Allison's neck on her return flight to the East Coast, hidden from view beneath a black turtleneck sweater. Allison had complemented the sweater with black wool pleated trousers and low-heeled boots, which was good, because she hadn't had any time to change her clothes after she landed, and they would work well in an NSA meeting about preventing hundreds of thousands if not millions of deaths.
Allison had flown to Phoenix yesterday specifically to retrieve the necklace from Echo's half sister, Lilith, to whom it had been bequeathed when Athena Academy's greatest enemy, Arachne, committed suicide. Arachne had left behind three genetically enhanced daughters and three flash drives that held the keys to the empire of evil she'd created before her death. Lilith wanted no part of the evil that came with her inheritance, while Echo had murdered men, women and chil-dren--and would have murdered Lilith--to steal Lilith's share as well as her own.
Still, a nuclear attack just didn't seem like Echo's style.
"Rush," Morgan said, the deep timbre of his voice caressing Allison's earlobe, the low, male rumble as pleasurable as running her cold hand along the warmed leather seat of her car.
"Yeah, hi, Morgan," Allison replied, adjusting her earpiece, keeping her voice neutral. Even during a national security crisis, Morgan threw her off. She had a feeling McDonough had assigned Morgan to her task force--Project Ozone--to keep an eye on her. Surely McDonough had no idea what working in close quarters with Morgan did to her insides. Or maybe he did.
"Meeting's set up in Conference Room A," Morgan said. "I ordered you a latte with soy milk and two sugars."
He remembered her beverage of choice. Any other time, she might have smiled.
"Thanks. I'm on site." Which he might already know, if he was keeping tabs on her. "I'll be up in five minutes."
"Hold on," he said. "I'm getting a red e-mail."
"Okay." Her adrenaline spiked. Red meant extremely urgent.
As she waited, she glanced at the time on her dash.
It was 7:35 p.m. McDonough had called the meeting for eight. She'd been on the go for nearly twenty-four hours, but she could make another twelve or so before she started getting sloppy.
"We got some more," Morgan continued. He was obviously referring to the team's successful cracking of chunks of the heavily encrypted chatter between the unstable Middle Eastern nation of Berzhaan and the despotic nation of Kestonia. "Big stuff. You called it right." His voice betrayed his anxiety.
Damn it, she thought. She didn't want to be right about a probable nuclear attack somewhere on the Eastern seaboard in less than a month. "Brief me first, my office," she told him. She wanted to walk into that meeting fully informed.
"Will do. Something else is incoming," he announced.