Authors: Terry Spear
BOUND BY DANGER
Bound by Danger
Copyright © 2010 by Terry Spear
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
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To the women who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, my mother, my sister, my sisters in arms in RomVets—to all those who came before us, who served with us, and who will serve in the future.
First, the ominous phone hang-ups. Now what?
Deidre Roux pulled into the parking lot of the Temple mall in the heart of Texas. The telltale tightening in her forehead plagued her. She’d face trouble soon. She could see it coming in vague glimpses of the future—not where, when, or how exactly, but a vision of the person’s face and what would happen in brief snapshots. Frustrated she couldn’t distinguish any more than that, she ground her teeth.
A threatening, greasy-haired, blond male, six-foot in height, underfed, with yellowing eyes—perhaps a drug user—filled her vision. She drew in a deep breath to relax and parked her car.
Dressed like any other twenty-five year old in denim shorts and a spandex shirt, trying to keep cool in the one-hundred degree temps, she looked like part of the crowd as she entered her favorite department store. Her Army field uniform and combat boots would serve her better for the fight she’d soon face.
Pushing through the throngs of shoppers scrounging for summer sales, she headed toward the swimsuits. Merchants unpacked their fall merchandise while clearing the racks of summery garments. Boxes littered the aisles.
Deidre wrinkled her nose in disgust as she skirted the debris. How could anyone consider buying fall clothes in Texas in August, no less? September, the hottest month in the central part of the state, lurked around the corner.
She tugged a swimsuit off the rack. Envisioning a Caribbean cruise or trip to the Hawaiian Islands perked her up. Unfortunately, her apartment’s swimming pool provided the only water she could afford to swim in any time soon.
In the changing room, she slipped into the bathing suit and studied her image in the mirror. The cut was just right, not too high on the leg, and the perfect dip in the bodice revealed her curves adequately without showing
much skin. The brilliant blue one-piece enhanced her aqua eyes and contrasted nicely with her blond curls. Yep, this was the suit for her.
After dressing in her street clothes, she grabbed the bathing suit and walked out of the changing room. Seeing the women waiting in line at the checkout, she flinched. Then she relaxed. She wasn’t in any hurry anyway. Maybe she’d take a dip in the pool a little later this afternoon after the sun’s rays had lost some of their intensity.
One of the ladies paid for her purchases and left. Now nine others waited ahead of Deidre.
Once again, the man’s yellowed eyes filled her brain. She’d learned years ago not to fight the images. They wouldn’t go away. Attempts to combat them gave her a vicious headache.
By the time she reached the clerk, the line behind Deidre wound around a rack of clothes. An exuberant youngster ran into her, making her nearly drop her swimsuit. A younger version let out a blood-curdling scream nearby, sending a chill streaking up Deidre’s spine. The toddler’s mother yanked a baby bottle out of a bag and stuck the nipple into his wide open mouth. He reminded Deidre of a baby bird squawking to be fed…right this minute, or he’d die for certain.
The register clicked and whirred as the clerk rang up Deidre’s merchandise. The machine didn’t work fast enough before the customer behind her rolled a stroller into Deidre’s heel. Her temperature elevated as her skin throbbed where the offending weapon struck her. People wielding strollers could be a deadly menace. Thankfully, she quashed the swear word that came to mind before she spoke it out loud. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to handle strollers.
She handed the correct change to the clerk, anxious to leave the noise-filled store. Too many people overwhelmed her acute senses, like now. Her head throbbed with overload.
When she walked to the exit of the store with her package in hand, the electric power suddenly failed, plunging the store into darkness. Too many air conditioners in use all over the city. Small cries of surprise echoed across the store, then nervous laughter. A tug at her shoulder bag caused Deidre to whip around. The odor hit her before she could see what was happening. Weed. Unwashed male body. Sweaty.
The lights turned back on. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust from the pitch black to fluorescent lights, and the man before her. The man with the yellowed eyes. Greasy blond locks fell over his eyes. His T-shirt was filthy and torn in places, his jeans the same way. A pair of scuzzy sneakers, holey and grungy, finished the look.
He gripped her purse’s leather strap with a titan power. Not about to play tug-of-war with him—she knew she wouldn’t win—she stomped on his foot with the rubber sole of her sandal. Combat boots would have been so much better.
He released her bag with a small cry of distress. In the Kung Fu maneuver her brother had taught her, she kept her foot anchored on his. In the same instant, she shoved him back with all her might.
His mouth gaped open as he fell back, unable to catch his balance. Pain reflected in his eyes. She kept her foot cemented on his. Torn ligament in his leg possibly? Teach him to mess with her in the future, and maybe he’d think twice before snatching another lady’s bag.
Within a couple of minutes, the store’s security guard stood before her. Mr. White. Fatherly type. Dark crinkles under his eyes that showed off a jovial personality. Black hair cut short in military style—former service member, she assumed. Skin the color of brown sugar, eyes the same way, smiling at her now, though his mouth was trying to remain serious, officious.
“Miss Deidre Roux.” He jotted her name in his book. “Second time in a year, isn’t it?”
Deidre shrugged. “Lots of baddies out there.”
“Ever think of becoming a security officer? The store could use another one when I retire.”
She smiled. “Don’t think so.”
“Well, I’ve got your statement. Kung Fu, right? That’s what you used last time. Black belt?”
“My brother is a second-degree black belt in three different forms of martial arts. He taught me a trick or two.”
They looked at the man groaning on the floor as he held his leg and rocked back and forth in agony.
The security guard shook his head and snapped his book shut. “Good trick. Maybe you could show it to me sometime.”
She nodded. Then
could take down the bad guys.
Still, this was easy. Dealing with the menacing hang-ups on her phone—now that was a different story.
Dave Carter finished a call with his boss when he received a buzz from one of his FBI team members alerting him he had action on the premises.
“Deidre Roux just pulled into the parking lot,” Bill said, his long-time friend, who had joined the FBI the same time he did, “
headquarters gave us the correct description.”
“Thanks, Bill. I’ll take it from here.” Dave wondered why Bill sounded unsure concerning her vehicle.
Expecting to see a mousy-haired woman wearing baggy gray sweats, like in the photo they had of her, he sauntered over to his patio door.
He peered out through the glass. Spying the buxom blond wearing a spandex shirt and denim shorts cut high on her shapely tanned legs as she strode across the parking lot toward their shared apartment landing, he dropped his jaw. Hell, he could see why Bill thought they’d made a mistake in identifying her as Captain Deidre Roux, Army personnel officer stationed at Fort Hood. It wasn’t the car, but the woman that didn’t fit the bill.
Even Dave wouldn’t have recognized her from the photo headquarters had sent of her. He grinned and folded his arms. Here Bill hadn’t wanted the job and was just as eager for Dave to take on this part of the mission.
Discovering more concerning her brother’s associations looked like it could be a much more pleasurable situation if he could mix a little recreation during his undercover investigation.
He took a deep breath.
Professionalism always. Business first…he reminded himself. His notions concerning her weren’t in the least bit professional. A romp in the nearby lake, movies, dinner, and up-close dancing…that’s the kind of association he preferred with someone who looked as good as she did.
He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t have had a steady guy or a husband either. Or at least that’s what the file on her said. Maybe she had a volatile temper or hated men. He considered the idea as he rubbed his chin.
Dave raced for the front door to meet his new neighbor, then paused. How could he meet her without making it so obvious? He dashed into his kitchen, yanked his trashcan out from under the sink, and stared into it. Barely filled. It wouldn’t do.
Spying the unopened newspaper on the kitchen counter, he grabbed it up, crumpled up wads of the pages as fast as he could and jammed them into the trash bag. Jerking the bag out of the trashcan, he realized the paper’s ink had blackened his hands. He dropped the bag.
His heart thundered as he hurried to the sink. If he missed his first window of opportunity, he’d shoot himself.
He shoved the faucet on, squirted soap onto his hands and rubbed hard. After ripping a paper towel off its roll, he dried his hands and discarded it in the bag. He cinched it closed, then sprinted to the door. Calming his breath, he listened, peeking out the peephole as he watched for her.
Her sandals slapped the wrought iron steps as she climbed them. He waited. When she reached their landing, he jerked his door open, startling her. She gave a little gasp, her full glossy pink lips parted in surprise, blue eyes wide.
Nice move, Dave.
Man, up close she appeared even more scrumptious than from a distance. From her pearl painted toenails to her blond curls tousled in the breeze, she couldn’t have been any prettier. The girl next door kind of look. He had never had such an interesting assignment, and yet for the moment, she made him totally tongue-tied. Never had a woman done
to him before.
Realizing his mouth gaped wide open, he quickly clamped it shut and fought to take charge of the situation. “Hi. I’m Dave…Dave Carter, new to the neighborhood…just moved in yesterday.” He stuck his free hand out to her.
And feared he’d totally blown it.
Deidre took a deep breath as she considered her neighbor’s appearance. His dark chocolate brown hair and eyes appealed to her. His red plaid western shirt was tucked into faded blue jeans. Embossed with a longhorn steer, a brass buckle fastened his leather belt over his firm waistline. The denim cloth fit neatly over western boots. Tan, tall, and muscular, he looked like a bronco-busting cowboy.
Her gaze met his, and she cleared her throat as he gave her a small smile. Embarrassed, she felt her hands prickle with heat.
“Deidre Roux.” She shook his hand, then jammed her fingers into her purse in search of her apartment key.
She turned away from him with keys in hand to unlock her door and gasped. Her door was slightly ajar. She took a step forward, staring at the gap between the door and the doorframe, listening for any sign of anyone inside.
“Uh, well, my door is open, and I just arrived home—”
“I’ll get my gun.” His voice had taken on an ominous tone.
“Wait! Gun?” Her voice arched with her eyebrows. Her new neighbor had a
Texas, so it wasn’t all that surprising, but…
She didn’t have time to analyze his comment before he grasped her arm and pulled her into his apartment. She wasn’t sure what to think about her new neighbor, but she was just as unsure about her apartment door being left open.
“I have a license to carry a concealed weapon,” Dave quickly said. “You stay here while I check your place.” His voice was deep and authoritative—like he was a cop out of uniform protecting a citizen in the line of duty.
“Okay.” She tightened her grip on her package and purse as her new neighbor dashed out of his apartment. She peered through his doorway as he pushed her door open, using caution. Then he rushed into her apartment.