Ken Norton glanced up at the swirling dark clouds obscuring the stars and casting an ominous charcoal veil across the moon. He noted the shadow of the trees, closer to the hulking building, checking them constantly for any alteration, any sign of someone slipping through the darkness out of sight of the cameras, but his gaze kept straying back to the large hunting cabin and two carcasses swaying from meat hooks on the porch. The smell of blood and death assailed his nostrils and he wanted to gag, a stupid reaction to the two skinned deer hanging from hooks on the porch when he was a sniper and had done more than his share of killing.
His skin color changed to better blend with his surroundings and his specially designed clothes reflected the colors around him allowing him the effect of disappearing completely into the surrounding foliage, hidden from prying eyes. For the thousandth time he looked away from the swaying carcasses still dripping blood.
“So who the hell orders a hit on a Senator of the United States?” he asked, his steel gray eyes turning to turbulent mercury. “And not just any Senator, a Senator being considered as a vice presidential candidate. I don’t like this. I haven’t liked it from the moment they told us who the target was.”
“Hell, Ken. This is no innocent man,” his twin, Jack replied, easing forward to get into a better position to cover the cabin. “You know that better than anyone else. I don’t know why the hell we’re protecting the son of a bitch. I want to kill him myself. This is the bastard who was the bait to lure you into the Congo. He got out and you were left there to be cut into little pieces and skinned alive.” The words were bitter, but Jack’s voice was utterly calm. “Don’t tell me you don’t think he was in on it. Any number of people might have ordered it. The senator set you up, Ken, handed you over to the rebel leader and Ekabela nearly killed you. I could whack him a hundred times and never lose sleep over it—or stand by and let him get whacked.”
“Exactly.” Ken rolled over, using care to keep the bushes surrounding him still. He hoped the darkness hid his slight wince when his twin brought up the past. He didn’t think about the torture much—being cut into tiny pieces—his back skinned or how the knife felt slicing through his skin—but he had nightmares every time he closed his eyes. He remembered it all then. Every cut. Every slice. The agony that never stopped. He woke choking, covered in sweat, his own screams echoing deep inside where no one could ever hear. The deer hanging from meat hooks brought it all back in sharp, vivid detail. He couldn’t help but wonder if that was all part of a much larger plan.
He held out his hand, checking for tremors. The scars were rigid and tight, but his hand was rock steady. “Why do you think we were chosen to protect him? We have a grudge against this man. We know he’s more than everyone thinks, so who better to take him out without questions. Who better to blame it on? Something’s not right.”
“What’s not right is protecting this bastard. Let them kill him.”
Ken glanced at his twin. “Do you hear yourself? We aren’t the only ones who know Senator Freeman isn’t squeaky clean like the public has been led to believe. We all were debriefed when we came back from the Congo, both teams, and both teams came to the same conclusion—that the Senator was dirty, yet he was never questioned, never reprimanded or exposed. And now we’ve been ordered to protect him from an assassination threat.”
Jack was silent for a moment. “And you think we’re being set up to take the fall if they get to him.”
“Hell yes I think that. Did the order come down directly from the Admiral? Did the Admiral actually tell Logan himself? Because, if they have dirt on this guy, why didn’t they arrest him? And we just turned down a job to get rid of General Ekabela, another old enemy of ours—one connected to the Senator here. It’s looking a bit like a pattern to me.”
“Ekabela was taken out anyway. They just brought in another shooter and I didn’t get the pleasure of putting the guy in the ground.”
Ken frowned at his twin. “You’re making it personal.”
“The Senator made it personal when he delivered you to Ekabela so that sadist could torture you. I’m not going to pretend. I want the Senator dead, Ken. I don’t mind looking the other way if someone wants to slit his throat. If he lives and continues the way he is, he’s bound to become president, or at least vice-president and then where are we going to be? He knows we know he’s dirty. The first thing he’ll do is send us on a suicide mission.”
“Like when they wanted to send us back to the Congo to kill Ekabela?” He had to stop looking at those carcasses. He was going to get sick, his stomach churning in protest. He could almost hear the steady drip of blood even though he was yards away. It ran like a small stream down through the boards and collected in a dark, shiny pool. He tried to shut the sound of his own screaming off in his head, but his skin was crawling and each scar throbbed as if every nerve remembered the steady slice of the relentless knife.
“Ekabela deserved to die,” Jack said. “He more than deserved it and you know it. He leveled villages, committed genocide, ran the drug industry and stole from the UN when they tried to get food and medicine to the area.”
“That’s right, but look who stepped into his shoes. General Armine, more feared and hated than Ekabela, and how strange the transition of power went so smoothly.”
“What the hell are you trying to say, Ken?”
Ken looked up at the clouds obscuring the sliver of moon, watching them spin slowly and lazily, a dark veil with nowhere to go. He remembered the pattern of the clouds in the jungle, the sway of the canopy and smell of his own sweat and blood. “I’m saying we never make things personal, but someone has been doing just that for us. I don’t like it and I like this job even less. I think we’re being set up again. I just don’t believe in coincidences, and this is a huge one.”
Jack swore under his breath and fit his eye to the scope, carefully surveying the mountain cabin several hundred yards away. “He’s in there with his wife. I could take him out and we could just walk away clean, no one the wiser.”
“Just our entire team.”
Jack flashed a small humorless grin at his brother. “They’d help me and you know it. They detest the man nearly as much as I do.”
“Someone wanted Armine in a position of power. Someone here, in the United States. I’ve thought a lot about this, Jack. Every assignment we’ve been sent on in the past year has created a void, a hole for some other low life to step into. From Columbian drug lords to General Ekabela in the Congo, we’re creating a vacancy in those positions of power and someone is manipulating that. I just don’t happen to think it’s the president of the United States.” He cast his brother a quick glance. “Do you?”
Jack swore again. “No. I think we’re screwed.”
“I can’t ask Logan if the Admiral gave him the order face to face, because Jesse Calhoun contacted him, said it was urgent and Logan went to see him. Jesse’s been conducting an investigation into the Ekabela-Senator tie. That’s why Kadan Montegue took his place on the team.”
“I thought Jesse was still in a wheel chair,” Jack said. “The last I heard he was inactive and doing physical therapy.”
“Well apparently he’s working again. He’s one of the more powerful psychics on our team and he’s got brains. The Admiral wasn’t about to give him up. It was a hell of a thing what they did to him. Between enhancement and the psychic experiments and Jesse’s legs, he got the short end of the stick.”
“We all did. When we volunteered for the psychic testing,” Jack said, “we had no idea we were pointing a gun at our heads. We’re screwed, Ken. We’re in so deep, hell, all the GhostWalkers are. What have we gotten ourselves into?”
At least they had volunteered for the experimentation. All special forces, all military trained. The women had been babies, orphans Whitney had adopted from foreign countries, children he bought and paid for, experimenting on them without thought to their lives.
Ken shook his head. “I don’t know, but we have to find out. Colonel Higgens tried to take out Ryland Miller’s team. He murdered a couple of them before they got away and exposed him. Maybe they didn’t get the head of the snake.”
“We know the head is Dr. Whitney. He’s the brains. He came up with the experiments, had the contacts, money and security clearance to get the green light and he faked his own murder. We find Whitney, we kill the snake.”
“Maybe.” There was doubt in Ken’s voice. “First we all believed Whitney was murdered. Then we believed he faked his own death to get out from under the illegal experiments he was conducting right along with his military experiments. Now…” He trailed off, once again staring at the clouds. The steady drip of blood seemed overly loud in the night. Never before had his past consumed him to the point of endangering a mission, but for the first time, he was beginning to doubt his ability to stay focused.
“You think someone was after Whitney to kill him for real and he had to fake his own death, not to hide from exposure and us, but to keep from being targeted?” Jack rubbed his temples. “How the hell did we ever get into this mess?”
“We didn’t give a damn at the time,” Ken said. “Now you’ve got a wife and twins on the way and you’ve got something to live for. Let’s pull back, regroup with our team and ask a few hard questions. We can have Logan contact Ryland Miller’s team and between us, we ought to have enough brains to figure out what’s going on.”
Jack frowned, rolling back over and using elbows and toes, inched his way forward through heavy foliage. “We can’t leave the bastard an open target, can we? If someone else wants him dead, we should probably find out why and how it affects us.”
Ken wiggled his way along a rabbit path, belly down, gun cradled out of the dirt. He’d had a bad feeling for a while now. “Hold it, Jack,” Ken whispered, eye to the scope. Something is wrong. He reached out to telepathically communicate with his twin brother. It was a handy ability when they wanted to remain unseen. They’d been talking back and forth as long as Ken could remember, never needing to communicate verbally with each other when telepathy was so handy. Consequently they had a strong bond that had stood them in good stead over the years. The psychic experiment they’d agreed to after SEAL training had only added to that already powerful tool.
I feel it too. Kadan sent out the alert. They’re going to come in hard and fast. We’re going to have to protect the bastard. Whoever wants him dead is already here.
Ken kept his eye on the Senator through the window. The Senator’s young and beautiful trophy wife is aware they have company too. Look at her.
Jack peered through the scope. Through the window of the cabin a blond leaned down to give her husband’s cheek a peck. She said something, smiled, showing a lot of teeth and the Senator answered her, touching her chin. She turned away, toward the window, giving them a look at her face.
Oh yeah she knows. And she didn’t say a word to him about it, Jack said.
A lot of good men might go down this night. Ken could barely resist the urge to slide into the house and save them all the trouble by slitting the bastard’s throat. The Senator had betrayed his country for money, or power or a combination of both. Ken didn’t really give a damn what his motives were, he’d sold out. And he’d been the bait that had sent Ken into the Congo on a rescue mission—a mission that had sent him straight into hell—and his brother after him—and now, ironically, they were protecting the traitor.
“What the hell is his wife’s name?” Jack asked.
“You don’t suppose she’s one of us? A GhostWalker?”
They both studied the tall blond carefully. She had walked away from the Senator into the next room where she caught up several weapons, handling them as if she knew what she was doing.
Ken took a deep breath and let it out. The Senator’s wife? A GhostWalker? What was her name? Violet Smythe. Little had been in the report about her life before marrying the Senator. Violet. The name of a flower. When they’d been briefed on Whitney’s psycho experiments with children, the orphans he worked on had all been female and he’d given them the names of flowers. “Violet.” He said aloud.
Where did she fit in to all of this? How could a GhostWalker betray her fellow soldiers? She knew what they’d all been through. He peered through his scope again, taking a bead on Senator’s left eye. All he had to do was pull the trigger and it would be over. No one else would get killed. One shot and the man who had delivered him into the hands of a madman would be dead.
I know what you’re thinking. Jack said. God knows if anyone has the right to kill the son of bitch, it’s you. If you want it done, Ken, say the word and I’ll take him out now.
Jack would do it in a heartbeat. Ken touched his scarred jaw. There was little sensation on any part of his skin and little that remained of a once handsome face or body. A tremor went through his body, and for one moment, rage boiled over, hot and pure and not covered up by the glacier of ice he usually wore. He hesitated, knowing he could just nod his head and Jack would pull the trigger. Or better yet, he could do it himself and have the satisfaction of knowing he’d removed a traitor. He inhaled deeply and breathed away all emotion. That way lay insanity and he refused to follow the legacy he was born into.
He felt Jack’s relief and realized just how close a watch his brother had had on him lately. I’m fine. Of course Jack knew he was sweating bullets and hearing screams. Jack and Ken lived in each other’s minds. Jack knew. And the knowledge ate away at him that he hadn’t been able to get to Ken before Ekabela had tortured him. Never mind that in the end, Jack had pulled him out and had been taken prisoner. Jack believed he should have prevented it. I’m fine, he repeated.
But he wasn’t fine. He hadn’t been born fine, hadn’t been fine as a child, or in his early military career. He was worse after his capture and torture in the Congo, demons riding him hard day and night, and now, with the Senator needing protection—probably from the very man who had been paying him for years, Ken knew the dangerous shadow inside him had grown into an all too real threat to his sanity.
We have company. Kadan announced. Be alert. I’m hustling the Senator into a safety room.
Kadan. Watch the wife, Ken warned. We think she may be one of us. She’s armed to the teeth and she felt the presence of intruders the moment we did.
Kadan never expressed surprise. No one was ever really sure if he felt emotions at all. He seemed a machine, matter-of-fact, simply doing the job. And he was good at it. Copy that.
Ken settled into position. Kadan’s life would depend on him. Jack would keep the Senator alive. If Violet made a move against Kadan she was a dead woman. He kept his focus on his primary objective. Kadan moved through the shadows. It was nearly impossible to see him. A blurred edge sometimes, a perception of movement, only because Ken knew where he was going to be. They’d gone over his route several times. Ken kept it clear, sweeping the surrounding area with heightened awareness.
An assassination squad was moving into place and they would be trying to reduce any numbers against them. Neil Campbell and Trace Aikens were impossible to spot, but they were out there. Martin Howard had fallen back to help Kadan secure the Senator.
Kadan gained the porch, moving past the swaying carcasses to enter the cabin. He spoke briefly to Violet and both hurried into the room with the Senator, pushing him back toward the kitchen where the ‘safe room’ was. The fireproof room was beneath the main floor.
The macabrely swinging carcasses drew Ken’s attention again. Blood dripped. The odor carried on the night breeze. He swallowed bile, wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead and put his eye to the scope again. Something about the deer nagged at him—just wouldn’t let him go. A shadow seemed to grow out of the deer on the far side, emerging from the top near the meat hook.
Ken squeezed the trigger and shadow fell with a heavy thud, one arm stretched out as if in entreaty. Even as he took the shot, Jack’s gun went off, and a second body fell simultaneously, that one from the far side of the roof.
A third shot rang out as Jack scooted back into the bushes for cover, the bullet hitting where his head had been. Ken was already targeting the brief flash. Taking his time, he tightened his finger on the trigger just as his query shifted position. The bullet slammed home, driving the sniper backward, the rifle still in his hands. Ken followed with a second round, but his target was dropping through tree branches. He knew neither bullet had killed his target, a rare occurrence. Eye to the scope he followed the path of the sniper as he tumbled down the slope, crashing through trees and brush.
Instant awareness rippled through his mind, as if all members of the GhostWalkers, and the assassination squad, were connected in some way to the sniper.
Stand down, Ken! Kadan issued the command. They’re backing off to protect that man. Get to him first. Whoever he is—he’s more important than the primary target. Secure the prisoner immediately. We’ll hold his team here while you make a run for it.
I’ve got his back, Jack said unnecessarily. Every member of the GhostWalker team knew where Ken went, so did Jack or vice versa.
There was an instant of stillness and then an electrical current sizzled through the air, snapping and crackling, so real that the edges of the clouds lit up with answering current. Power surged. There was no mistaking the sudden anxiety in the air. It shimmered on the night breeze, a sudden alarm the other members in the sniper’s unit couldn’t control.
Ken shouldered his rifle and double-timed it. He knew the location of the body and judging by the way the sniper had free fallen, he’d been unconscious going down. That didn’t mean he’d stay unconscious. Just like the others, he was a super soldier, enhanced physically as well as psychically. And that meant containing him as quickly as possible.
Ken planned every move as he ran, trusting Jack to keep the enemy off of him. Two gunshots rang out almost simultaneously. A bullet zinged off to Ken’s right, shaving the bark from a tree close to where he veered. The shooter had anticipated him leaping over a fallen trunk and onto another one to gain the far hill. Jack had no doubt been more successful with his bullet because no one else shot at him despite the itch between his shoulder blades.
We’ve got them pinned down. Kadan’s voice was ultra calm. I’m keeping them from communicating, but I can’t hold them forever. Take the prisoner, get out of here and for God’s sake, keep him alive so we can extract information. The rest of us will take the Senator and his wife out of here. I’ve called for a second helicopter. We’ll take the secondary escape route. You rendezvous with Nico and get to a safe house.
Copy that. Jack sent back. They’d be on their own once they determined a location to hold the prisoner, at least until Kadan and the rest of the team made certain the Senator was safe.
Ken scrambled through loose dirt and leaves, uncaring of leaving a trail. Speed was of the essence. Jack fired twice more.
They’re taking chances, Ken. They don’t want you to get a hold of that man. I’m right behind you, so don’t shoot me. Jack reloaded as he ran, keeping to the heavier foliage as he swept the region for any sign of the enemy, protecting Ken as he zigzagged his way through the heavy timber and brush to reach the fallen enemy.
Ken slowed as he closed in on his prey. If the man was still alive as he believed him to be, he could very well be armed and ready for trouble. There was a buzzing in his head, the pressure that accompanied telepathic communication. Someone was trying to talk, but Kadan was a strong shield and he was successfully jamming all psychic interaction. Few enhanced soldiers could do what Kadan could, and it was probably a shock to the assassination team—but it also was clear the other team was enhanced not only physically, but psychically as well which meant they were GhostWalkers.
It had to be Whitney coming after the Senator. Did that mean they’d had a falling out? He moved with more stealth, careful to move with the wind, to avoid what he could of stepping on branches. The sniper would know he was coming, but he’d hesitate to shoot, afraid of hitting one of his own. He was calling for help though, the buzzing frantic and continuous in Ken’s head. There were no words, Kadan saw to that, but everyone open to extrasensory interaction would know the sniper was alive and seeking help. Ken had to close down all psychic contact immediately before the combined efforts of the other team overpowered him.
He pushed aside foliage and saw the sniper lying just below him, facing away. The first bullet had taken him in the chest and he was wearing at least one, possibly two vests, making his chest appear barrel-like beneath his reflective clothing. The body armor had saved his life but the second bullet had sliced through his leg. Blood splattered the leaves and grass, looking like huge black splotches. Sometimes Ken thought he would never see blood as red again. In the jungle his blood had appeared black, pooling around him like a river. He slung his rifle around his neck and drew his gun, careful now as he approached the sniper.
The man’s weapon should have been tangled in the bushes, but the sniper had held on, and that told Ken, the man wasn’t unconscious. He wasn’t moving and he didn’t have the gun in a firing position, although it was in his hand, finger on the trigger.
Ken came up on him out of the sniper’s line of vision, making certain the wounded man would have to turn at an awkward angle and it just wasn’t going to happen with that leg the way it was. The man was utterly silent, coiled like a rattler, waiting for friend or foe to explode into action.
Ken moved fast, snagging the rifle and flinging it a distance away before the sniper was aware he was on top of him. The sniper didn’t fight for the gun, instead, his free hand moved like lightning, a smooth draw of a hold-out pistol from the bloody boot, the hand sliding just as fast up, finger on the trigger, toward his own head.
Ken’s heart nearly stopped. Ken reacted without thought, kicking hard, driving the toe of his boot into the hand, sending the gun flying and hearing the satisfying crack of bones.
Still, the sniper made no sound, but his other hand went for a hidden knife. Just as smooth. Just as fast. The sniper was going to kill himself to avoid capture. What kind of fanatics were they dealing with? He used his broken hand, not even flinching as he drew the knife, but this time he screamed when Ken stomped on the hand, pinning the knife to the ground. The scream was high-pitched and sent chills down his spine.
Ken crouched beside the wounded man and stared into the large, heavily lashed eyes. Eyes he recognized. Eyes he’d seen staring back at him with laughter and affection. His belly muscles clenched and he swore softly under his breath as he jerked the cap off the man’s head. He wasn’t looking at a man and damn it all, he knew exactly who she was.
That small millisecond of recognition was enough for her. She slammed her elbow into his throat, going for a death blow, trying to drive through his trachea and crush his airway. She was definitely physically enhanced. She had the speed and the strength in spite of her injuries, but Ken slipped the blow and pulled out his med kit, leaning his weight into her, pinning her down and preparing the needle. Using his teeth he pulled off the cap and slammed it home, injecting her fast, praying she wasn’t allergic and he could do a fast medical on her and make a run for it.
Jack came up behind him, taking up a position facing away from them, making a sweep with his rifle to keep back any of the sniper’s squad that might slip through their team’s net.
“Hurry up,” Jack growled. “Knock him out and stop being so gentle about it.”
“It’s Mari, Jack,” Ken whispered, needing to say it aloud.
“What?” Jack jerked around, staring at the sniper as the eyes fluttered closed. “Are you certain?”
Ken pulled the woman’s belt loose and buckled it around her leg. “Either that or your wife is playing sniper for the other team. It has to be Mari. She looks exactly like Briony.”
Jack backed up until he had a good look at the woman’s face. There was dirt and scratches and blood, but the sight of her lying pale, platinum and gold hair spilling around her face, nearly stopped his heart. “Is she going to make it?”
“I’m trying. She’s lost some blood. We’ve got to get out of here, Jack. Kadan and the others aren’t going to be able to hold them for long. Who’s our medic?”
“Nico is the closest. He’s with the helicopter about an hour out.”
“Tell him to rendezvous at the point. We’ll hump it out of here and hope she doesn’t bleed out while we make a run for it.” Ken reached over the top of the woman to grab her arm. As he did so he inhaled. He’d been holding his breath without realizing it, afraid to take in her scent. Whitney had done a lot of experimenting, everything from genetic enhancement to pheromones. Ken wanted no part of that. He already had enough to contend with.
Mari was small and shapely beneath the vests, camouflage clothing and regulation boots. The moment he drew her scent into his lungs, he knew he was in trouble. It mattered little they were surrounded by the enemy, or that she smelled of sweat and blood, her natural scent acted like a powerful drug, an aphrodisiac and he found his body reacting in spite of the dangerous situation. He clenched his teeth and brought her up to his shoulders, moving quickly through the heavy brush toward the rendezvous point with the helicopter.
Jack retrieved her weapon, slinging it around his neck and falling in behind his brother, forcing his attention on keeping them alive and not worrying about what might happen to his wife’s sister.
Kadan and the rest of the team would get the Senator and his wife to safety, utilizing the vehicles. Kadan had already arranged for another helicopter pick-up at an opposite location. Ken and Jack were fairly certain the assassination team was going to be charging after them and their prisoner, or at least dividing. In any case, Kadan needed to question the Senator’s wife. At the very least they needed to take a much closer look at her.
Ken ran, feeling the weight of the knowledge that he was the one who had shot the woman with every step he took. If she died, he would never be able to face Briony, Jack’s wife. He loved Briony. She accepted him with his ugly face and body, never flinching away or averting her eyes. But more than her acceptance, she’d changed Jack’s life. She’d brought happiness and hope and to both of them when their world had been bleak and unforgiving.
Briony had been one of the orphans Whitney had experimented on, and he had separated the twins, keeping Marigold and giving Briony up for adoption. Briony was frantic to find Mari, and if Ken had killed her, he had no idea what that would do to their family. He sent up a silent prayer as he jogged, trying to ignore the smell of blood and the feel of it soaking into his shirt.
They had been looking for Marigold, unraveling the clues leading to her for weeks now. They’d started with the premise that Whitney still had her locked away in one of his many compounds. The locations were secret and difficult to find as he had a high security clearance and someone very high up was helping him cover his tracks. But they had the name and registration number of the private jet that had gone down in the Congo carrying the Senator. And there had been a private jet carrying the team of men who had chased Briony across the country.
The jets were owned by two different corporations. The company in Nevada had a secretary who simply stated the owner, an Earl Thomas Barlett, was not available. He signed all the documents and owned a home, yet there was no public document on him, not even a driver’s license. Strangely enough, the company in Wyoming mirrored the one in Nevada. Both Consulting companies were represented by the same attorney who had purchased the jets for each.
The corporation in Wyoming owned a great deal of wilderness in the Cascades, inaccessible by anything but small planes landing on the very expensive airstrip or by a rapid and dangerous river. The Senator just happened to own a hunting cabin on the adjacent land and have landing privileges given by the Wyoming consulting company. The same attorney had been used to acquire those privileges. Jack and Ken had been on their way to do a little recon when the orders came down to protect the Senator.
Their team had taken a helicopter into the remote area and set up surveillance and an exit plan. The Senator had insisted he and his wife should continue their hunting trip in spite of the danger and she had concurred, turning down the team’s recommendation to move to a more secure area.
Ken tried not to think about the woman slung around his shoulders, or how her body felt against his. He didn’t want to touch her skin or feel for a pulse, or acknowledge the slide of silky hair along his jaw where her head bounced. She seemed to envelope him and the scent of her soaked into him through his pores, his lungs, deep into his tissues and bones where he knew he’d never eradicate her.
He wanted to stay numb for the rest of his life. He didn’t want to have to face another trial by fire. He wasn’t certain he was strong enough to overcome the rage living and breathing inside of him. He couldn’t afford to feel. He couldn’t afford to want or need. He lived for the job. He lived to keep Jack safe and now Briony and the twins she carried. Life for him had stopped almost before he was born and it was much safer for everyone that way.
This unknown woman, already the enemy, could destroy not only him, but his family. It was through no fault of her own, but he didn’t dare allow compassion to sway his course. He was not going to become more of a monster than he already was. Inch by slow inch, his life had been compromised until his outside skin, reflected the dark shadows inside him where no one could see.
The hounds have been unleashed. Kadan warned. Not one stayed to go after the Senator. They’re coming after you. I don’t dare leave the Senator just in case this is a set up, but watch yourself. I’m not certain who your sniper is, or why he’s so important, but get the hell out of there. You’re in enemy territory. And he’ll be able to communicate with them if you don’t get him out of range.
Copy that. Jack said. He’d dropped back even further to protect them as they raced toward safety. And our him is a her.
Ken didn’t bother to acknowledge. He splashed through three narrow streams, and up a steep embankment, grateful for the fact that he was genetically enhanced. He could run long distances without fighting for air and carrying the woman, as small as she was, was no problem. But soldiers coming up behind them were enhanced as well, and they carried guns. He tried to stay to the heavier foliage when at all possible, deep in the trees, careful not to expose his body as he ran toward the rendezvous point.
The sound of the helicopter reached him. It was flying in low and fast. Kadan had held the other team off to give them the break they needed.
They might double back on you out of sheer frustration. He warned.
Nico flew over that stretch of land the corporation you were talking about owns. It’s a military training facility, Kadan announced. Watch yourself, they may track you in the air.
Ken swore softly and moved into position just on the edge of the clearing where he could stay covered by the foliage. Jack came up behind him and but faced back toward the way they’d come.
“You need to get out of this, Jack,” Ken said.
“I’ll have Nico drop me at a safe house and you get home to Briony. This most likely isn’t going to end well.”
“I’m not running out and leaving you in a hornet’s nest.”
“And what if we have to kill her? What then? Just go home and you’re out of it. You never have to tell her we found her sister.”
“Lie to Briony? Live a lie with her? That’s what everyone else did to her all those years. I’m damned if I do. I promised her I’d always tell her the truth and no matter how messy this gets, she gets told everything just the way it happened.”
“You don’t have to be in it.”
“We don’t change things at this late date. Briony wouldn’t want that and neither do I. Whatever you’re thinking, Ken, forget about it. If there’s a chance to pull Briony’s sister out clean, we’ll do it. If we can’t recover her, then we have no choice here and we’ll accept that.”
“She’s stronger than you think she is. She doesn’t want Whitney to get his hands on our children any more than I do. I’m not leaving, so drop it.”
Ken kept his gaze on the helicopter as it dropped into the clearing. Nico was in the doorway, hands steady, eye to the scope to cover them as they ran.