Questionable Job Security, by Andie Alexander, is #6 in the Extreme Travel series.
Kes and two teams travel to Turkey for a two-fold mission—save a kidnapped child and investigate a murder of one of their own agents. Thanks to her antics, Kes proves to be a force to be reckoned with, especially since she thinks her job's at risk. It's time to up the ante and actually save the world.
Red and blue police lights lit up my rearview mirror, making me think it was going to be a rough Monday morning.
I was driving through the suburbs of Denver to get to work at our travel agency, and had even completely stopped at the stop sign just before I'd turned left. I wasn't speeding, but I was drinking a humungous delicious cup of coffee I'd just purchased at a coffee shop. I didn't think drinking coffee while driving was a reason to pull someone over, but I didn't keep up with any new laws or ordinances.
While watching the police car behind me, I pulled over to the side of the road. The radio was playing my favorite song, too, and I'd been singing along at the top of my lungs.
I turned off the car and flipped on my cell phone, laying it beside me on the passenger's seat just in case I needed to call for help.
As I watched the officer in the rear view mirror, I dug the license and registration out of my wallet. The man got out of the car, adjusted his pants, and put his billy club in his hand. I swallowed hard while trying to see the cop's face. His hat was low on his head, so I couldn't see his eyes. He yanked his handcuffs out of his pocket and approached my car. I was in trouble. Routine traffic stops didn't include handcuffs or a club. It made me wonder what I'd done wrong.
Even though it was a very warm mid-September morning, I wound my window up to about an inch from the top and locked all the doors. I thought my late-model four-door dark blue coupe sedan would be invisible to cops, since it was so generic.
"Good morning, officer," I said with a smile. "Nice day out."
The officer held his pad of paper high while he wrote, juggling his night stick and handcuffs in the hand holding the paper. "Do you know what you did wrong?" His tone was low and surly.
Wait. I knew that voice but couldn't place it right away. "No, sir," I said.
He lowered the paper and laughed at me as he lifted his hat a bit. "Gotcha."
My heart skipped a beat as my hand flew to my chest. "Doug? What are you doing, pulling me over? You almost made me wet myself. Very funny…not."
Doug was a CIA agent in the Denver office where I worked. He and his partner, Dave, were a very good team of agents, and some of the best in the nation. They were also gamblers and practical jokers, so I figured he was up to no good.
Doug glanced up and down the street before he spoke, as if he worried someone might be watching. "I had to stop you, Kes. I needed to warn you about something."
I lifted my humungo cup of coffee to my lips and took a drink before swallowing. "What?" I wasn't about to lower my window any more, in case I was to be the subject of yet another practical joke. I wouldn't put it past him to pull me out of my car, handcuff me, and make it look like he was going to use his nightstick, just to embarrass me. That was Doug's sick sense of humor.
I put my cup back into the holder and glanced up at his dark hair and dark brown eyes. "What did you want to warn me about?"
He was writing and had to concentrate. Men were so linear when they thought and really couldn't multitask.
"I had to write it down." He leaned closer. "You never know who's listening," he said in a low tone.
I sighed. Like my car would be bugged.
"Whisper it to me," I murmured.
He finished writing and pushed the paper through the crack in the window. I grabbed it just before it hit the floor. It said, 'Ian's looking for you for a physical. We're on a mission together.'
"I see." I nodded. "Thank you so much for the ticket."
"There's more," he said with a grin. "Look again."
I read the note again. He'd written something under the 'offense' section.
"Huh?" I asked. "Going too slow a stop sign? How is that even possible?"
"Twenty-five dollars, at the courthouse."
He laughed at his own joke and I shook my head. "You're not serious."
"Sure, Kes. Or, you can pay me now, if you want." He winked. "Red hair and green eyes are just my thing today."
"I'll pay you all right." I pointed to the note. "Who will be joining me?"
He pointed to himself and nodded. I was sure he knew I was talking about the mission.
"Lucky me." I sighed. "First time together, huh? Would you like a flying lesson when I'm with you…without a parachute?" I grinned and winked, because he knew I'd throw him out of the airplane on the mission if I had to. He might have the parachute, depending on my mood.
He swallowed hard. "Not really. I'll take that paper back if you want." He held out his hand for the ticket.
Instead of giving it to him, I laid it on the passenger's side of the car. "No, I think Wilson needs to see this one, and maybe I should show it to the Denver P.D." I laughed at his fearful face at just the mention of our big Washington D.C. boss and local cops. "Don't worry. I'll protect you."
"Thanks. Just think…together at last."
"What about James?" I was asking if my handsome husband would be joining us. James had medium-brown hair, light blue eyes, and spoke with a sexy slightly British accent. He also had a Ph.D. in Psychology.
"Of course." Doug moaned. "Someday, you know…" He winked in an exaggerated manner. I had to laugh at him, because many of the agents had a thing for me. It was almost a competition, even though they all knew I was devoted to James.
I shook my head. "It'll never happen. Hey, thanks for the ticket. I'm going to run some 'errands.'" I used my 'quotey' fingers so I could give him the male visual indicator. With men, I had to make things visual or they just didn't get it.
"Have fun on your trip." He walked away from me, got back into the police car, and pulled into traffic, almost cutting someone off. After flipping on his lights and siren, he took off down the street going about twice the speed limit. I chuckled at his actions while I chugged the rest of my coffee.
As I pulled out into traffic, my cell phone rang. I glanced at the caller id and groaned. Good old Ian, just doing his job. There was no way I'd let that guy get his ice-cold hands on me today. No way. He'd have to knock me out for it.
Ian had power. He was the highest-ranking agent in our office, so he was in charge. He was also good looking, with blond hair and brown eyes. Even though he had degrees in surgical medicine and computer science, I considered myself smarter than him, since I had street sense. Thus, his power meant nothing to me because I could out-think him when necessary.
The phone stopped ringing and I made a detour to the travel agency. One nice thing about being independently wealthy--whether married into it or not--is that I didn't really have to work. But if I wanted to get away, I certainly could duck into the office for a few hours and no one would know the difference.
James was the rich one. Because we were married, I got the same profits from all his investments, including the newspaper he owned, the travel agency we both owned, and all his stocks, bonds, and other investments I really didn't care to know about. I was only concerned with what I had to do, including writing an article for the Extreme Travel Division of his newspaper once a quarter every time we traveled with the CIA, and rewriting agency reports for the boss, Wilson.
I drove at least a half block from the travel agency and hid my car in a parking deck. Once I got out of the car, I headed down paths that weren't traveled much to get to the building. As I was ready to peek out at traffic from between two buildings, I noticed Ian's brand new little red sportscar driving very slowly down the street. I moved back a bit and just waited for him to pass. He was looking the other way toward the travel agency building, not realizing I was right beside his car but hidden out of his view.
As soon as he passed, I peeked out of my hiding spot and watched him turn the corner. Once he was definitely out of sight, I ran across the street and entered the travel agency from the back door. He wouldn't stop to find me here because my car wasn't in the usual parking spot.
I walked through the door and closed it behind me. The new girl running the place was seated at the front desk, working on the computer.
I checked the mail bin from the box, but it was empty. "Hello, Donna," I said. "No interruptions today, okay? I'm not even here." I had to take precautions, just in case.
"Sure, Kes." She didn't even look up from her work.
I used the bathroom first, after that huge cup of coffee, and then I entered my office. Once inside, I closed and locked the door and drew the shades so no one could see into the small room. I knew Ian would be looking for me, hoping he wouldn't find me in my office. However, if he called James, I was in big trouble. So, I hid. I knew it was childish, but I did what I had to do.
I opened the drawer to my desk and took out a great novel I'd been reading, turning to the marked page. After reading one sentence, I heard the front door open and close with a bang.
"Have you seen Kes?" It was Ian and he didn't sound happy. I'd know his mean voice anywhere. He shouldn't have stopped here and it frustrated me that he'd figured me out so fast. I made a mental note to find a new hiding place, like on a deserted island somewhere.
I closed my eyes and prayed Donna would listen to me. She was a temporary replacement for my real assistant, Maria, who was out sick. Maria was married to another CIA agent named Jerome, after meeting just two months earlier. She'd been really sick since Thursday, which was about four days of yuckiness. I just hoped I didn't get what she had or Ian would really be breathing down my neck, trying to cure me. I hated the thought.
Donna didn't answer Ian, so he said it again, but louder. "Have you seen Kes?"
"Who are you?" Her tone wasn't exactly pleasant. "Maybe you think you're Mrs. Hamilton's boss or something? I think not. I don't like your attitude either, buster, and you should know better than to come into my place of business and treat me like this."
I could mentally see Ian's mouth hanging open, making me stifle a chuckle. Donna was good. She was an ex-cop, but wanted an easier job with less stress. Ian had no idea what he was up against. He probably thought she was a pushover, because Donna was a beautiful woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was very neat and trim and always put together, but tough as nails. At first glance, someone might think she was just a dumb blonde, but she was all but dumb. Ian was about to find that out firsthand.
"What's your name?" he snapped. "And where's Maria?"
"If you have to know…" Donna's voice had gone up another decibel. "Maria's been sick for a few days, so I'm filling in for her. My name's Donna and I don't take any lip from people like you, got it?"
I was sure she was probably close to his face, and Ian's eyebrows were up as high as they got, with a blush covering every inch.
"Have you seen Kes?" he asked in a quiet tone, confirming my belief that he was blushing.
"Sit down," she ordered. "I'll call and see if I can find her."
I made sure my cell phone tone was off and waited.
The chair in the main room squeaked, knowing Ian had listened to Donna. Score one for the ex-cop, zero for the big-shot CIA agent. We were off to a great start. I crossed my arms and grinned. I really liked this game. I just wished I had popcorn for the entertainment.
"Nope, her cell isn't on." She then dialed my number in my office and I let it ring. "She's not in the office, either. You're out of luck."
"I'm sure she's in there," Ian said. "I have to talk to her. I don't have much time." As he spoke, I heard his voice get closer to the door and knew he was going to try to get in. I sat still.
"She's not there," Donna said.
The doorknob jiggled and heard Ian sigh. "Yes, she is. The door's locked from the inside."
How would he even know that, anyway? He was smarter than I gave him credit for, because no one would know that. Maybe he could peer through the walls or something.
He banged on the door. "Kes. I have to see you."
I looked at the back door in my office. I wanted to leave, but it was locked with an extra digital combination lock on it. James made sure I couldn't get out, because if he really needed to talk to me, he wanted me to stay put. He didn't seem to worry that I might be trapped in a fire. Oh no. His needs came way above my chance of burning to death.
"James, it's Ian. Your wife--"
Ian was now calling my husband. I had to escape. Now.
"Yes. Got it," Ian said.
I put my head on the desk. There was no way I'd get out of this situation any time soon. James had the key to the door, and even Donna had to obey him, because he and I were co-owners. So much for a day off.
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