“To hell with the bastard. He doesn’t own your right to come here. Look at the sights you are missing.” Sophie pointed to two handsome men working on laptops. “They’re serious eye candy.”
“You’re right, Soph. Maybe it is time.”
Sophie turned serious. “Cass, you have to say something. You can’t let Wilds get away with this.”
“Look, I stopped him before he got too far. If I report it, it’s ‘he said, she said.’ And, Soph, believe me, I am not the first female agent Wilds has done this to.”
Sophie scowled. “You can live with that?”
“This time, I have no choice. I am not the one to fight this battle. Wednesday night is the event, and when the job is complete, I’ll be free of him. I can come back to our division. Besides, the reality is, even without my personal history, if I say anything, I’m a pariah.”
The athletically thin, raven-haired woman with golden-hazel eyes tapped her fiery red fingernails against the tabletop. “Cassie, please. If this were happening to me, you’d be rattling sabers, screaming sexual harassment.”
“Wilds has a lot of power. You know the FBI is part of the good ole boys club. I had to jump through extra hoops to get where I am. It’s a temporary assignment.” Her voice was low. “No one will help without it backfiring on them. I can’t ask anyone to risk his or her career.” She placed the catalog of Nouveau Artin front of them, effectively changing the topic. “What do you say, after Memorial Day, a weekend in New York?”
Suddenly, Cassie’s skin prickled. A repellant smell swarmed her senses: an oriental cologne with amber notes mixed with sweat and clove cigarettes. An overpowering feeling of nausea washed over her, and goosebumps erupted down her arms. The visceral reaction was so strong, she wrapped her fingers around her cup to ward off the icy feeling enveloping her.
She scanned the area. No one appeared threatening or familiar. The aroma dissipated into a cloud of steam from a fresh latté. She concentrated hard to maintain her flagging self-control. Breathe in. One, two, three. Out. Cassie focused on her watch. “I’m sorry. Gotta go.” She ran out the door.
The hot black coffee scalded his tongue. He ran his thin fingers through his messy white-blond hair while his other hand reached for another sugar packet. His heart sped up after spotting Cassie in the corner with her friend. A display of the newest bestsellers provided him with a way to get closer.
Mmm, Cassiopeia Ellis. Look at you all put together. You look a lot better than the last time I saw you, my girl who got away. I think you are worth a repeat performance. He felt the tingles of arousal. I wonder if you will come willingly this time—or if you will require some assistance.
Another thought crossed his drug-addled mind: Maybe I can make a little cash on the deal too? Cassiopeia Ellis, I missed you.
Inside a cheerful family den, Ian Chase sat relaxed on the buttery yellow, red, and colonial blue-striped overstuffed couch across from FBI Deputy Assistant Director Luke Paulsen. He removed a file from his briefcase.
“Everyone all right?” Luke asked, taking a sip from a glass of ice water.
“A few scrapes and a sprained knee. Nothing steri-strips and some ice packs can’t cure.” Ian flashed a carefree smile, being less than candid about his team’s injuries.
Luke scanned the file’s contents. “How’s Kieran enjoying married life? It’s been almost a year now?” he inquired about Ian’s younger brother with a laugh. “Bet Lil and Declan can’t wait for a grandchild.”
“You know it. Now they are in a Find Ian a Wife phase. Mom’s better at executing a covert mission than JSOC. I have to tell you, enemy insurgents are easier to handle than her. Thank God Esther screens my appointments well. If one more woman stops by the office with a charitable cause to discuss or is in the neighborhood with cookies...”
Luke shook his head, amused. “I should hook her up with Rachel. None of the boys have a regular girl. Each promised to give her one week’s notice so she can get a dress in time for the wedding.”
Both men laughed. Their discussion was interrupted by the loud barks of the Paulsens’ Labrador.