Someone is chasing Amy Watson in the small western Florida community. After running into an adorable man named Mark Dallas at the beach, she realizes he's not all he seems to be, becoming almost like a superhero to her. He has bodyguards from his business—a gaming software company named Madcap—and seems to know all the big shots in town. But when she confronts him, he just says he's an ordinary programmer. When a dead body is found in Amy's apartment, it's time that Mark sets the record straight, leading them on a scavenger hunt around the nation to find out why Amy's being targeted. Could it be because she's collaborated with the NSA to tell them how to do their job, or maybe her ties to the Department of Homeland Security to explain how to find terrorists without racial profiling? Or maybe it's a simple game of cat and mouse, hunting for something long lost. Regardless, Amy and Mark are on the run, to save her life while she gains the infamous glass slipper in Mark Dallas' world.
Excerpt from Chapter 5:
"I guess I'm not going to church today," I whined as we stepped inside the beautiful private jet. It was decorated in silver, red, and black, with overstuffed chairs rather than airplane seats. There were tables near some of the seats and Mark moved me toward one of the biggest tables. Sitting across from him, I felt like I was in the principal's office.
"No, you're not going to church," he said. "Because you'd be a sitting duck there. If they'd kill the man in your apartment, it could be you next. Sorry, but no church."
"I knew you'd get out of it," I muttered, looking around at the leather chairs.
"I need to talk to you anyway." He walked to the back of the plane and grabbed a folder, a laptop, some paper, and a book. "Buckle your seatbelt. The pilot's ready to take off."
"Sure." Doing as I was told, I realized I was riding backward. I hoped I didn't get sick.
Mark sat down, buckled his seatbelt and opened the file in front of him. "This is what the NSA told us they needed." He stared at me with those blue eyes and I wanted to die. "This is completely confidential. Got it?"
"Sure. I'm good with confidential. You should know that by now."
He read over his papers. "Not when you're drunk."
"What was that comment?"
He looked up at me and leaned over the table while whispering. "If the enemy ever finds out that you can't hold your liquor, we're all in big trouble. I'm supposed to desensitize you to that."
"Yes. I had a meeting this morning with some very high up and classified members of the government."
I leaned closer so I could hear him whisper. "You did? When?"
"While you were sleeping. It doesn't matter." He sat back and looked at his papers again. "You need to explain some of your thesis to me."
"Considering I don't even have a copy of it and finished it a semester ago—"
He handed me a book. It was plain and had a brown cover, with the title 'Jolly Old Cryptology' on it."
"Who thought up this title?"
"Some joker. It's your thesis."
"It is?" I opened the first page of the thick book and read over it. It sounded like my thesis, but my name was nowhere to be found. "So it is. What do you want to know?"
"Explain the part in chapter twenty-one. The NSA guys are having problems programming it."
"I see. Have you read to chapter twenty-one?" I leafed through to about page one-fifty.
"Not yet, but if you can explain it to me so it makes sense, it'll make sense to the NSA guys when you tell them."
I lowered my voice and closed the book, handing it back to him. "Oh, no. I'm not dealing with government agents. They'll probably kill me if I even sneeze."
Mark started to laugh, handing the book back to me. "They're not going to do that. I promise. Remember, this is all under the radar and no one in the government knows the NSA is coming to us at all."
I sighed, hating being in this position, then turned to chapter twenty-one again. "What do you want to know?"
"I want to know how you do it. Explain your thesis to me."
"Oh, that's easy, but I need a laptop."
He opened the laptop in front of him and plugged it into a hidden outlet in the floor, then turned it on. I watched as he clicked on a few things, then he moved it to face me and showed me some code. "This is as far as they got. Explain it to me."
I studied the code with my mouth hanging. They'd programmed some of my thesis, for real?
The plane taxied to the runway and in the meantime, I went back a few chapters and explained what the current mindset was, then showed him on paper. The plane took off and as soon as it leveled, I explained some problems they had with their programming. I showed him a diagram of how things could be bent to change what they were currently using into something better, then told him in vague terms what would need to be done to the program to make it work, but never gave him exactly what he needed, on purpose. I still didn't trust anyone. However, he had enough to keep the NSA guys going for a while.
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