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Authors: Beverly Barton

Check Mate

BOOK: Check Mate
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Five extraordinary siblings. One dangerous past. Unlimited potential

Jack Ingram—To save his brother's life, he sacrificed himself to the Coalition. But one woman could end this deadly game for good and set his aching heart free.

Mariah Daley—The undercover FBI agent was assigned to protect Jake from the Coalition, but could she convince him to trust her with his life... and his love?

Agnes Payne and Oliver Grimble— Their evildoing divided a family of superchildren, only to bring the genius siblings together years later as a stronger, united front that now threatens to destroy the Coalition once and for all.

General Bruno DeBruzkya— Seeing the Coalition about to crumble, the power-hungry dictator is out to find a new path to conquer the world.

About the Author

BEVERLY BARTON is the award-winning, bestselling author of over fifty books. She's been in love with romance since her grandfather gave her an illustrated copy of
Beauty and the Beast.
An avid reader since childhood, she wrote her first book at the age of nine. After over thirty-five years of marriage to the love of her life, Beverly is a true romantic and considers writing romance novels a real labor of love.

When asked to participate in the FAMILY SECRETS continuity series, Beverly couldn't resist when told her hero, Jake Ingram, was a man who possessed superpowers. Intrigued by the innovative idea of Jake and his siblings being the products of genetic engineering, she looked forward to conquering the most difficult part of writing a continuity series— finding a way to make the characters truly belong to the author. Readers were introduced to Jake early on in the series, so Beverly understood that reader expectation would be very high by the time they read Jake's book. She envisioned him as "the man," the to-die-for hero. So with a hero this strong and ultramacho, it was only natural to give him a heroine who was his equal in every way, which Mariah is— and then some.



Family Secrets Series, #12

To my good friend, Linda Winstead Jones, who helped me maintain some semblance of sanity on a day-to-day
basis while I was writing this book


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"'There was a crooked man, who walked a crooked mile...'" As the phrase played over and over in Gideon Faulkner's mind, shattering the final block on his memory of childhood, Jake Ingram took advantage of the situation.

I love you, Bro, Jake thought as he socked Gideon, landing a perfect hit and sending his brother careening to the ground. Immediately Jake headed down the path toward the secret entrance to the underground compound high in the Oregon mountains. He would do what Gideon had planned to do—retrieve the computer disk containing evidence against the Coalition and destroy all the work Gideon had started on the next Coalition crime. Equally important was gaining access to another disk that would simultaneously cut off the Coalition accounts.

Jake knew one thing for certain—he had to get inside the compound before his brother regained consciousness and came after him. Jake had weighed the odds, then done what was necessary. He'd known the risks involved. But what else could he have done? No way in hell was he going to allow his brother to put his life on the line, not after all Gideon had been through since childhood as the pawn of manipulative, self-serving monsters. Especially not now that Gideon had found someone to love, Brooke Carter. Gideon deserved a real life, with a woman who loved him, a woman willing to accept him for who and what he was.

Becoming the big brother to five adult siblings had come as a surprise to Jake, and to those sisters and brothers he'd been brainwashed to forget ever existed. But his newfound family meant everything to him and he intended to do whatever was necessary to protect them. And the one way to keep all those he loved safe was to bring down the Coalition and to make sure the new Code Proteus experiments were confiscated. Jake and his siblings knew better than anyone the devastating results of the original experiments. Their own biological father, a brilliant scientist, had spearheaded the original Code Proteus project of genetic engineering. Henry Bloomfield had imagined designing babies with the physical abilities of superheroes, the intellect of geniuses, the creative and leadership abilities of the world's greatest philosophers and political leaders.

Six children had been born—Henry's own biological offspring—in two different births, three children each. Jake had been the firstborn of the first set of triplets, but at age twelve, all memory of his parents and his birthright had been wiped from his mind. Then less than a year ago, he had learned the truth about his past when his biological mother, Violet, had finally found him and made contact. After that, Jake had begun an extensive search for his siblings and located them, one by one. But before they had the chance to get to know their mother again, she'd been murdered by the people who had used Gideon for their evil purposes.

Although Jake had been raised with a brother— the son of the wonderful family that had adopted him when he was twelve—he felt a deep, inexplicable connection to his biological siblings, who shared with him not only the same parents, but were, as he was, the products of genetically engineered human embryos being implanted into a surrogate female. He was one of the genetically enhanced superkids, one of the Extraordinary Five.

Following the directions Gideon had shared with him about where the secret entrance to the underground compound was located, Jake made his way through the dense forest. The January wind seeped through his heavy winter coat and fleece-lined leather gloves, as his boots crunched over snow-covered, rotting vegetation. He kept the flashlight beam pointing downward, illuminating the path before him without giving away his location. Towering age-old trees, with barren limbs creaking in the frigid wind, surrounded him, like dark giants watching his every move.

With dawn fast approaching, he didn't have long to make it to the destination and get inside the compound without alerting the guards to his presence.

He was close. So close. Hurry. Walk faster. Run. A voice inside his head shouted instructions. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, six black-clad figures appeared, boxing him in, blocking his path. Damn! He couldn't run; there was no escape. And it was highly unlikely that he could overpower six men, all probably military trained. So, what are you going to do? Jake asked himself. He'd never been one to give up, no matter what the odds against him. The way he saw it, there was only one thing to do—put up the fight of his life. And thank God he was the one the Coalition had captured and not Gideon.


Eemerging from a groggy, drug-induced fog, Jake Ingram fought to clear his mind. Where was he? What had happened? What was going on? He tried to open his eyes, but found the effort too exhausting. Damn it, man, try again. What the hell's the matter with you?

Could be he was asleep and having a nightmare. Yeah, maybe that was it. Try to wake up, he told himself. He did his best to move, to shake his head, lift his arm—do anything that might bring him around—but to no avail.

"I think our guest is coming to," someone said, but Jake didn't recognize the voice.

"Yeah, well, it's about time," a deeper, grittier voice responded.

"Should I give him another shot?"

"Nah, we'll be there soon and it'll be easier for us to get him inside the cabin if he's able to walk. I don't want to have to carry him. He's a damn big man."

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"Yeah, you got that right. And strong as an ox. Brinker told me he fought like a tiger when they surrounded him.

The guy's got grit to take on six men."

"You'd better check his cuffs. He may be a bit fuzzy when he gets good and awake, but he could still try to give us some trouble."

Jake felt someone's hands on him—quick, rough hands that slid behind his back to grip his wrists, then reached down and grasped each ankle in turn. What was the guy doing? Checking your cuffs, Jake reminded himself of what he'd heard the two men discussing. Cuffs? Did they have him handcuffed?

"He's secure, but he'll have a hell of a time walking with those leg irons on."

"I'm not setting him loose until the doc takes a look at him and starts doing her hoodoo thing," the deep voice said.

"Our orders are to keep him confined for her. We can rough him up, but we aren't supposed to kill him. Unless, of course, he gives us a good reason to."

Loud, robust laughter echoed inside Jake's head. He wanted to tell the men to stop laughing, stop talking about him as if he weren't there, but he couldn't manage to get his mouth open wide enough to speak.

Who were these men? Where were they taking him? Why did they have his wrists and ankles cuffed? What's the last thing you remember? Jake asked himself.

He'd been with Gideon, trying to talk him out of entering the underground compound in Oregon to retrieve the computer disk where he'd stored information that could destroy the Coalition. But he hadn't been able to talk sense to his brother, so he'd... God, he'd coldcocked him! Then he'd hurried along the path toward the compound's secret entrance. He had been close—so close.

Jake raked his tongue around inside his mouth, then licked his lips. The metallic taste of blood— dried blood—

registered in his mind. He'd been hit in the face, punched in the mouth. A nagging ache in his ribs reminded him that he'd put up a good fight, but he'd lost. Now he remembered. Six black-clad goons had surrounded him. He'd been captured before entering the compound. Undoubtedly they'd drugged him for transport. But where was he?

As the feeling returned to his body and his mind registered the things his five senses picked up, he realized he was moving, that he was inside a vehicle of some sort. His eyelids quivered. That's it, he told himself. Open your eyes and take a good look. Whatever is happening, you'll have to find a logical way to deal with it. He knew his life depended on how well he handled the situation. His heavy eyelids opened lazily. It took a good minute or two for his eyesight to adjust to the shadowy interior of the SUV. Looking straight ahead, he saw the back of two heads—one with scraggy brown hair that touched the collar of his blue plaid coat and one with military-short blond hair. As best Jake could make out, the broad-shouldered blonde, who wore a tan suede jacket, was driving what appeared to be a fairly new four-wheel drive. Jake pegged him to be the gruff-spoken one of the two. The second guy, who had a smaller build and fidgeted nervously, was fumbling with the radio, scanning for a station.

"Might as well forget it," the driver said. "You're not getting anything but static."

Shaggy-hair grumbled. "This assignment is the pits. You know, Burgess, being holed up in a cabin in the frozen hills of Arizona guarding a genius freak isn't my idea of a good time. I'll go bonkers after a few days. You've heard of cabin fever, haven't you? Well, I got it and we aren't even at the cabin, yet."

"Quit bellyaching," Burgess said. "Les, you're as whiny as an old woman. We're doing what we've been told to do, what we're getting paid to do. Besides, it might not take the doc that long to get inside pretty boy's head."

Les chuckled. "He's not all that pretty with his busted lip and bruised face." When Les glanced into the back seat, Jake closed his eyes. "So this guy is one of those superhumans, huh? He looks pretty ordinary to me."

"Well, don't let his looks fool you. I was told the guy's a financial whiz, a real mathematical genius. Seems he's the big dog of the litter. And the Coalition wants him working on their side. That's why the doc is waiting on us. It's her job to reactivate him."

BOOK: Check Mate
5.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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