Read Diamonds Can Be Deadly Online

Authors: Merline Lovelace

Diamonds Can Be Deadly

If diamonds were a girl's best friend…then emeralds came in a close second. So when ex-model-turned-agent Jordan Colby—Code Name: Diamond—was sent to Kauai to find a missing green gem, she jumped at the chance. There was just one hitch: the presence of her ex-fiancé, T. J. Scott, a former New York City cop who'd turned his back on everything that had meant anything to him. Starting with her…

Or had he? T.J.'s sizzling stares were starting to convince her that his feelings for her had never cooled, and his protectiveness convinced her that he was one of the good guys after all. But if there was one thing she was beginning to learn, it was that dazzling surfaces were no reflection of what lay beneath….

Previously published.

Dear Reader,

I've visited Hawaii many times but was struck all over again by its beauty when my husband and I cruised the islands a few months ago. Jagged mountains, lush vegetation, steep ravines—nothing like all that wild splendor to fire a writer's imagination and get her thinking about perfect spots for clandestine operations and/or buried bodies!

Then there's the romance of the islands. How could anyone
not
fall in love on a spun-sugar beach kissed by tropical breezes and soft, shimmering waves? Sigh… So naturally I had to set Book #1 in the continuation of my CODE NAME: DANGER series in beautiful Hawaii. Hope you enjoy the adventures of T. J. Scott and Jordan Colby, aka Diamond, as much as I did.

And be sure to watch for Book #2, coming from Silhouette Desire in May 2006. Set along the coast of Baja, Mexico,
Devlin and the Deep Blue Sea
involves a tough, sexy undercover agent, a chopper pilot working the offshore oil rigs and a particularly smarmy shark.

All my best,

Merline Lovelace

DIAMONDS CAN BE DEADLY
MERLINE LOVELACE

Books by Merline Lovelacee

Harlequin Special Edition

Three Coins in the Fountain

“I Do”...Take Two!

Harlequin Romantic Suspense

Course of Action (with Lindsey McKenna)

Course of Action

Crossfire

The Rescue

Harlequin Desire

The Paternity Proposition

The Paternity Promise

Duchess Diaries

Her Unforgettable Royal Lover

The Texan's Royal M.D.

The Diplomat's Pregnant Bride

A Business Engagement

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

MERLINE LOVELACE

spent twenty-three years in the U.S. Air Force, pulling tours in Vietnam, at the Pentagon and at bases all over the world. When she hung up her uniform, she decided to try her hand at writing. She's since had more than fifty novels published, with over seven million copies of her work in print. Watch for
Devlin and the Deep Blue Sea,
the next book in the CODE NAME: DANGER series, coming in May from Silhouette Desire.

For my sweetie and that never-to-be-forgotten
evening on the balcony of the Sheraton Hawaii!

PROLOGUE

I
t was the kind of party only Georg Vostok could throw, a fifty-thousand-dollar-a-head gala to benefit victims of the devastating earthquake that had all but destroyed his native Chekistan. Vostok had skimmed the very top layers of Palm Beach's vacationing elite. Movie stars rubbed elbows with Armani-clad mafia. Politicians and poet laureates poured booze down their throats with equal enthusiasm. A sleek, wellknown madame smiled seductively as she sized up potential clients. There was even a smattering of royalty.

The arrival of an elderly French duke barely stirred a ripple of interest, but the American-born wife of the sultan of D'han stopped all conversation
dead when her bodyguards escorted her into the soaring glass foyer of the Institute of Modern Art. Blond and bronzed, the sultana had traded her burqa for a strapless white evening gown that showed off her slender curves and formed a perfect backdrop for the Star of the East. The 900-carat oval emerald was set in a plain gold bezel suspended from a gold chain. Shooting sparks of green fire, it drew every eye at the gala.

A smile rearranged the lines of Georg's dour, craggy face. Thrusting his Baccarat champagne flute at a waiter, he hurried forward to greet her. “Barbara. You have come!”

The sultana brushed past her bodyguards, took Vostok's outstretched hands and stooped for a kiss. “For you, my darling Georg, anytime.”

“No, no! For my beloved Chekistan.” His smile faded. “You cannot imagine the horror. I tell you, Barbara, I have seen nothing like it. It haunts my dreams, my every waking moment.”

“We'll help, Georg. My husband has earmarked fifty million for immediate aid, and we'll—”

She broke off, her delicate nose wrinkling. She was too well mannered to mention the odd smell, but her host had already picked up on it. Frowning, Vostok sniffed the air.

“What is this stink? Excuse me, Barbara. I must—”

That's all he got out before he gave a small, in
articulate grunt. His eyes rolling back in his head, he slumped to the floor.

“Sultana!”

The bodyguards shoved forward, but before they could reach their charge, her legs seemed to give out and she crumpled where she stood. The larger of the two men went down almost on top of her. The other dropped like a felled ox a few feet away.

An aged dowager in a collar of priceless pearls let out a shrill scream. Her thirty-something escort cursed. A tuxedo-clad waiter dropped a tray of champagne flutes and stumbled to his knees.

Five seconds later, the entire glittering throng lay sprawled across the black-and-white tiled floor.

CHAPTER 1

A
pril was in full bloom in Washington, D.C. A gentle breeze rustled through branches budding with tender green. Forsythia flowered in great, showy bursts of yellow. Daffodils, tulips and crocuses sprang from pots and planters on almost every stoop, while tourists from around the world strolled the Tidal Basin under canopies of blooming cherry blossoms.

The graceful, Federal-style town house just off Massachusetts Avenue stood ready to greet the spring. Windows scrubbed clean of winter grime sparkled in the afternoon sunshine. The front door gleamed with a fresh coat of cinnabar paint. The discreet brass
plaque set beside the door had been polished to a loving shine.

The plaque identified the town house as home to the offices of the president's Special Envoy. Most Washington insiders knew that the Special Envoy was one of those meaningless positions created several administrations ago to give a wealthy campaign contributor an important-sounding title and an office in the nation's capital.

Only a select few were aware that the Special Envoy's offices occupied just the first floor of the town house. Fewer still knew that the other floors served as the headquarters and home base of a covert government agency. An agency whose initials comprised the last letter of the Greek alphabet. An agency whose operatives were sent into the field only as a last resort, when all other government remedies had failed.

One of OMEGA's agents was preparing to go into the field now. The director had yanked her out of New York and was personally conducting her mission pre-brief.

A former operative himself, Nick Jensen was the owner of a string of outrageously high-priced watering holes for the rich and famous. His international contacts—and hefty contributions to several presidents' campaign chests—made the tall, tanned sophisticate a natural choice for Special Envoy. His years as a field operative gave him the experience and edge to take over as director of OMEGA.

Initially, Nick had chafed at being tied to a desk.
His subsequent marriage to Mackenzie Blair, OMEGA's chief technical adviser, had reconciled him—somewhat—to his current duties. He felt the weight of those responsibilities now as he clicked a remote and brought up a slide on the floor-to-ceiling screen dominating OMEGA's high-tech Control Center.

“This is the Star of the East.”

Jordan Colby, code name Diamond, slid her half glasses to the tip of her aristocratic nose. A one-time model turned eyewear designer, she studied the oval-cut emerald with a coolly assessing eye.

“Quite a rock. I've read about it. Nine hundred-plus carats, isn't it?”

“Nine hundred and seven,” Nick confirmed. “It was mined in Zambia in 1963 and purchased by the then sultan of D'han for a cool five million. The current sultan presented it to his bride as a wedding gift.”

The next slide was a digitized security-camera shot of the sultana entering the Palm Beach soiree.

“I've read about her, too,” Diamond commented. “She's come a long way since graduating from Yale.”

“Where she happened to share a dorm room with the president's sister-in-law,” Nick added dryly.

With a slither of silk crepe, Diamond uncrossed her legs and tipped her boss a droll look over the rim of her glasses. “Is that why OMEGA got handed this op? Silly me, I thought it had something to do with
the millions of barrels of oil we import from D'han each year.”

“Let's just say the president is extremely displeased that the wife of a friend and ally sucked in a lungful of benzilate gas at a charity event held on American soil and woke up twenty minutes later minus her wedding present.”

“And that's the only item that was taken? The Star of the East?”

“The only item.”

Shifting in his seat, Nick studied the operative he'd assigned this mission. Jordan still looked and carried herself like the model she'd once been. Long-legged, slender, she surveyed the world through gold-flecked amber eyes framed by a mane of shoulder-length auburn hair.

As Nick knew all too well, however, external appearances could be and often were deceiving. His gaze settled briefly on the logo embedded in one lens of the half glasses perched on the tip of her nose. That tiny diamond butterfly was more than a trademark. It represented the brutal cocoon the woman known to the world as Jordan Colby had emerged from.

The details were sketchy. Diamond never talked about her past. Only a few trusted insiders with access to her highly confidential background dossier knew she'd once laid into her stepfather with a tire iron and escaped into the icy night, a bruised and frightened fifteen-year-old.

The dossier included only vague references to where or how she'd lived until she burst into the limelight as a sultry-eyed runway model for a top New York designer some years later. After several seasons under the lights, she'd opted out of modeling to design high-end eyewear. Her jeweled sunshades and reading glasses now sold for more than three grand a pop.

Nick had recruited her to work for OMEGA. He'd trained her himself, knew her lethal skills. He also knew the stakes for this particular mission.

“We're talking more than oil and emeralds here, Diamond. We're talking a possible link to a man suspected of laundering billions in drug money.”

Another click brought up a glossy PR photo of an internationally renowned psychotherapist and self-styled guru of Greene Tranquility, a multimillion-dollar industry that promoted the healing power of emeralds.

“Ahhh,” Jordan murmured, studying the boyish face that smiled back at them from behind a lectern. “I should have guessed Bartholomew Greene would be involved in this. He has a thing for pretty stones the same color as his name.”

“More than a thing. Greene tried to buy the Star on two separate occasions. He also tried to purchase the 600-carat Patricia Emerald, currently residing in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.”

Nick zoomed in for a head-and-shoulders shot.

“According to what we've dug up so far, Greene was born Bartholomew Crynyk. He reportedly suffered from epileptic seizures as a boy. During one of the seizures, his grandmother draped a rough-cut Russian emerald around his neck. The fit subsided. Miraculously, he claims. He believes the gem's soothing qualities cured him and he became an instant convert. Eventually he even changed his name to reflect his absolute belief. He now preaches a combination of transpersonal meditation and stone therapy as a remedy for every illness.”

Diamond's lip curled into the closest thing to a sneer her perfect features could achieve. She didn't comment, but Nick guessed what she was thinking. There were some sicknesses only a tire iron could cure.

“We theorize Greene's fixation with emeralds was what got him into the money-laundering business,” he said. “Colombian mines produce the finest-quality emeralds in the world. Greene requires a steady supply of stones to sell to his millions of followers. The deals he's negotiated with sources in Colombia look legit on the surface, but…”

“But we both know nothing's legitimate in that corner of the world.”

Frowning, Diamond hooked her reading glasses atop her head. The graphite frames caught her hair back in a tumble of red-gold.

“I take it you want me to infiltrate Greene's inner circle, sniff out his system for helping his pals in
Colombia convert their drug dollars to pesos and, oh by the way, retrieve the Star of the East.”

“That about sums it up.” Nick's tanned, handsome face creased into a frown. “You won't be the first undercover operative to attempt a penetration. DEA tried to insert an agent last year. According to our friends in the Department of Justice, he's dropped off the radar screen.”

Diamond took the news with a nod. This wasn't her first op. She understood the risks.

“I see why you pulled me in for this mission. I have the perfect cover. I can approach Greene about a line of glasses for his thousands of disciples.”

“With a butterfly logo.”

One delicate brow arched. “Of course. But done in emeralds instead of diamonds.”

“We've pulled together a detailed briefing on Greene's Tranquility Institute in Hawaii. Floor plans, security system, employees, a complete dossier on the master himself. I've got Claire Cantwell standing by to brief you on Greene's modus operandi. She'll act as your control for this op. Also, the wizards in the field dress and technology units have devised an interesting suite of accessories to outfit you for this mission.”

“Oh, Lord!” Diamond couldn't quite suppress a groan. “The last time I went into the field, I carried enough electronics to launch the space shuttle. I hope your wife doesn't load me down like that on this op.”

Nick merely smiled. Once chief of communications for OMEGA, Mackenzie now served as technical adviser to a loose conglomerate of governmental agencies that included OMEGA. To Mac's delight, her electronic toy box had expanded exponentially with her increased responsibilities. When it came to high-tech gadgetry, Nick's dark-haired, vivacious wife believed more was better and too much was best.

He left Diamond with instructions to check in with him when she'd completed her mission prep.

* * *

Jordan's mission preparation took the rest of the day. Her first session was with Claire Cantwell, code name Cyrene. A noted psychologist in her other life, the slender, delicate blonde had lost her husband in a bungled attempt to free the kidnapped oil executive years ago. She'd buried her grief behind a serene facade that disguised her absolute dedication to stamping out the kind of economic terrorism that had claimed her husband.

Drawing on her training and years of experience as a practicing psychologist, Claire gave a slide presentation attempting to explain Bartholomew Greene's healing methods.

“Transpersonal psychotherapy offers itself as an interface between traditional psychology and spiritual transcendence.”

“Riiiight.”

Cyrene accepted the underlying sarcasm in the
drawled comment with an unruffled smile. She and Jordan had worked together in the field. The two operatives respected each other's strengths. They also recognized their weaknesses. Claire's was a certain too-handsome Latin American by the name of Colonel Luis Esteban. Jordan's was her refusal to allow her past to intrude on her present. Sooner or later, Claire had suggested in her quiet way, Jordan would have to reconcile the two.

“The therapist supplements traditional techniques such as behavior modification or psychoanalysis with practices designed to elevate the patient to a higher level of awareness of self. The ultimate goal is a fusing of the physical and spiritual, thus providing a deeper, broader and more unified sense of identity.”

Jordan forced herself to pay close attention as Claire presented a crash course in meditation therapies, alternative medicine and theories concerning the healing properties of gemstones. When Claire finished, she had to admit to more than a degree of skepticism.

“So you're telling me I'm going to find a bunch of middle-aged flower children chanting and rubbing colored stones when I get to Hawaii.”

“Something like that.” Claire clicked off her last slide and regarded Jordan thoughtfully. “You understand it isn't going to be easy getting close to Greene. His Tranquility Institute is supposedly open to anyone willing to fork out the ten grand required
for a week-long session with the master, but we know his people screen every applicant closely.”

“I'm not going in as an applicant. I'm going in as a designer of very exclusive, very expensive eyewear that will allow the man to gouge his followers even more.”

“That's your entrée, of course. But don't underestimate Greene. He couldn't have gained such a large following without exercising considerable skill as a therapist. Or developing keen insights into people.”

Jordan stiffened. “What are you saying? That I should pass myself off as a candidate for therapy?”

“What I'm saying,” Claire replied quietly, “is that Greene isn't going to do business with anyone without without checking their background. He'll see the holes in yours and wonder about them.”

“Let him wonder.”

Jordan hated the ice that coated her voice. She'd trust Claire with her life. Yet she couldn't bring herself to talk about her past, even with this cool, composed friend. And she certainly wouldn't discuss them with a psychobabbler like Bartholomew Greene.

“Just be prepared,” Cyrene advised calmly.

The warning lingered in Jordan's mind as she met with Mackenzie Blair and her electronic wizards. As always, Mac had come armed with a full bag of tricks.

“This is the latest in sniffers. We've souped it up a little for you.”

Her eyes gleaming, the former naval officer palmed what looked like a compact, handheld CD player. It
was
a CD player, Jordan discovered when Mac grinned and depressed a button.

“You can listen to Travis Tritt while you search for listening devices, hidden cameras or electronic sensors. In receive mode, this little baby will pick up and interpret any and all electronic vibrations. In send mode, it could fuzz those signals temporarily or put them out of operation on a permanent basis.”

After a few bars of “Too Far To Turn Around,” Mac set aside the sniffer and briefed Jordan on an array of other equipment that included a thermal suit designed to contain body heat, thus defeating infrared sensors and night-vision goggles. She saved a pair of slender gold hoop earrings for last. One of the earrings was just what it looked like—a decorative piece of jewelry. The other was Jordan's primary means of communication while in the field.

“Just thumb the slight indentation at the back of the hoop,” Mackenzie instructed. “You'll be able to receive and send clear voice-stream signals off a secure satellite. We'll monitor for transmissions around the clock.”

Nodding, Jordan traded her diamond studs for the lightweight gold hoops. She was testing the astonishing clarity of the transmissions when word came that Lightning wanted to see her and Claire.

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