Read For Her Eyes Only Online

Authors: Shannon Curtis

For Her Eyes Only (7 page)

BOOK: For Her Eyes Only
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“Ah, you made it. Everyone, this is Kurt and Paula,” Neil said, and repeated his introductions.

Ryan couldn’t stop staring at the attractive couple. Kurt nodded to the table at large while Paula busied herself with her napkin. He couldn’t help but notice it covered more of her lap than her form-hugging sequined dress did. She caught him looking at her legs, and gave him a saucy wink. Ryan’s lips quirked, and he turned back to his plate.

A throat cleared, and he darted a glance at Vicky. She was staring at him, one eyebrow cocked, before she finally smiled at Margie.

“So, what do you do, Margie?”

The dark haired woman returned her smile. “I spearhead a number of charitable organizations,” she answered smoothly. “And you?”

Ryan kept his expression calm, waiting for Vicky’s response. He wished she’d had more training, more practice at maintaining a cover.

“Oh, I’m an event organizer,” Vicky responded.

Margie’s eyebrows rose. “Really? Where do you work?”

Waiters approached the table with steaming bowls of soup, and Ryan felt Vicky startle when she recognized Drew—whose expression remained polite and distant as he placed the bowl in front of her.

“Oh, uh, anywhere I need to be,” Vicky finally answered. “New York, L.A., Paris—wherever my clients need me.”

“Sounds like a great job,” Deborah commented as she lifted her spoon.

Vicky shrugged. “Mostly it’s fun, with lots of variety. Sometimes you can get stuck with a demanding client who doesn’t seem to appreciate everything you do, but overall it is a great job.”

He ignored the look Vicky flashed him.

“Who have you worked for?” Deborah asked, and Margie paused as she waited for Vicky’s response.
Uh-oh
. They wanted details. Ryan slowly, calmly, raised his glass for a sip and waited to see how she’d react.

“Oh, I recently organized a birthday party for Mikaela Blunt,” Vicky lied confidently, and Ryan choked on his water. Drew set the last bowl down in front of Neil with an abrupt clang.
Damn
. The wife of a congressman? She’d picked a high-profile woman to hold an imaginary event for? That detail was too big, too easily researched.
Damn
. He had to give it to her, though. When she lied, she went big scale.

“Oh, really?” Margie queried, a slight frown marring her brow. “I attended that birthday party, and I don’t recall seeing you there.”

Chapter Eight

Vicky was reaching for her spoon, but her hand halted briefly before she finally grasped it. “Well, party might not be the right word. It was an intimate soiree with her closest friends.” She tilted her head to the side. “Come to think of it, I don’t remember your name on the guest list.”

Margie’s jaw dropped, then closed with a snap.

Ouch
. Ryan set his glass down. And just like that, she’d put Margie in her place and cemented her cover. Nice. He turned to Hank.

“And what do you do?”

* * *

Two hours later, Vicky walked with a silent Ryan down a deserted hall toward reception where an oversnow vehicle waited to return them to their cabin.

“Wait a sec,” she told him, and grabbed his arm for balance while she pulled off first one shoe, then the other. She could feel the muscles on his forearm bunch under her hand, and fought the temptation to slide her hand up his arm to his shoulder, to turn him to her, and...

No
.

This was Ryan. Yes, he was gorgeous, he made her heart flutter, but he saw her as a friend at the best of times, and a nuisance at the worst of times. They were undercover, and they had a job to do. That was all. And at the moment, that job hurt.

She glared at the spikes for heels. They were cleverly designed instruments of torture. She sighed as she wriggled her toes in the carpeted hallway. Jessica wore these sorts of shoes with disgusting ease. How did she do it? She’d noticed that Paula also wore nosebleed heels. She’d noticed that Ryan had noticed, too. Okay, so the woman was attractive, but could she coordinate a HALO drop into the Afghan mountains under the cover of darkness? Unlikely.

“Okay, let’s go.”

They started to walk down the hall, and it was a couple of steps before Vicky realized her hand was still on Ryan’s arm.

And there was nobody around to see their act.

She dropped her hand abruptly.

“Uh, so, how do you think that went?” She asked in an effort to distract him from her lapse. Her shoulders ached. She felt just a little keyed up.
Probably has something to do with dining with two hidden killers.

Ryan glanced up and down the hallway, then pulled her over to the side. “I’m going to ask Drew to see what he can find out about our other guests.” He said quietly, then paused, and Vicky tilted her head back to look up at him. “You did good in drawing information out of them,” he admitted, if a little begrudgingly.

She smiled. “Thanks. I was so nervous, especially when Margie called me on that party.” Her hand pressed against the waistline of her gown. Even now, the memory was enough to send those butterflies wrestling in her stomach all over again. She hadn’t eaten much of the meal. She’d been too tense. She’d spent most of her energy monitoring her own expressions and interactions. She didn’t want to screw up her cover.

“Well, admittedly I was surprised when you used Mikaela Blunt as a referral,” Ryan said, his breath escaping in a low laugh. “But it worked for you.” He held up a cautionary finger. “But next time, you might want to scale down your story. It could have backfired.” Vicky closed her eyes briefly as her stomach heaved at the thought. Oh, God, she didn’t want that to happen. She didn’t want to blow this case. She wanted to find Karl Kruger’s killers, but she also wanted to prove herself to her team, to Ryan. She nodded, meeting his gaze.

“Thanks, I’ll bear that in mind.”

“Think of working a cover like a miniskirt. Less is more.”

“A miniskirt? That’s your pearl of wisdom? A miniskirt.”

“Well, off the cuff, yeah. A miniskirt. The less you have to work with, the better it looks.”

“Yoda, you are not.”

“Well, you’re no Luke Skywalker.” He looked her up and down. “Nope, definitely not Luke.”

Vicky fought the blush that rushed to warm her cheeks. The appreciative look in his eyes was definitely more than “friendly.” Her mouth went dry. Uh, okay, maybe he looked
very
friendly.

“Those people thought exactly what we wanted them to. You were a very engaging event organizer. Did I hear you talking to Deborah about a karaoke night?”

Oh
,
yeah.
“Uh, well, she mentioned there was some bar in town that does karaoke.”

“You do realize that we are supposed to stay here at the resort? That’s part of the program. No external intrusions. No cell phones, no TV, no internet. No bar-hopping.”

“I was just trying to draw her out a little, get some information about her.”

Ryan nodded. “Well, you did well there. You even got the name of which airline she works for.”

Oh
,
be still my heart.
He’d just praised her for the second time in one night. Pride warmed her, soothing her jangled nerves. She wouldn’t tell him she’d felt so nervous she thought she was going to puke all over the cauliflower soup.

She smiled. “I think we got enough detail to help Drew with his search.”

It turned out that Hank owned a trucking company, and Deborah was an flight attendant Margie’s husband, Jeffrey, was a lawyer from Memphis, and Kurt was an amateur wrestler considering an acting career. And Paula? Well, she was a swimsuit model.
Of course.

“I can’t believe we just had dinner with the owner of Elka,” she whispered. It was frustrating to have to talk in darkened hallways, but they wouldn’t be able to discuss any of this once they were back in their room, not with an anonymous listener hanging on their every word. And for once, Ryan was actually talking with her about a case, treating her like an equal. She didn’t want to rush the experience.

Ryan shook his head. “No, we had dinner with someone who claimed to be the owner of the Elka brand,” he told her in a low voice. “They thought they were having dinner with Cassandra Winthrop, an event organizer. Just because we say it, doesn’t make it so. We know that someone in that group is lying. We have to assume everyone is, until we figure out who are Simon and Jade Maxwell.”

He shrugged. “Simon could be masquerading as Elliot for all we know. Remember, two people at this resort are responsible for killing a surgeon and attacking your friend. One of them was killed in his surgery, the other was brutally attacked in her home. Both situations suggest that your friends, at some point, trusted their killers, and allowed them in. These two are renowned for being able to get past people’s natural defenses.”

Vicky ducked her head. He was right. Completely, totally right. And there it was. She was back to being the unskilled operative with a lot to learn. Those butterflies roiled in her stomach again.

“Sorry, I—” she began.

Ryan’s head whipped to his left. “Someone’s coming,” he whispered.

She nodded. “Show time.” She took a deep breath.

“Well, of all the—” she began, raising her hand.

Ryan’s eyes widened as he read her intention. “Oh, no, not again.”

His arm slid around her waist and he pulled her body up against his. His head dipped, and just like that, he was kissing her.

Thoroughly.

His tongue danced with hers, coaxing, teasing. He pulled her in tight, and her feet left the floor. His chest was flush with hers, his muscles bunched as he held her close. She shuddered against him.

Hot, wet, drugging kisses.

A throat cleared somewhere to her left.

“I hope this isn’t for my benefit.”

Her eyes whipped open and she tore her lips from Ryan.

Oh
,
God.
Drew
.

Her shocked gaze met Ryan’s hot one, and she trembled in his arms. His lips lifted at one corner. Damn the big sexy jerk. He knew exactly what effect he had on her.

“Put me down,” she rasped.

He slowly lowered her to the floor, her body sliding intimately against his. She withdrew, grateful for his steadying hand as she looked down at her toes.
Toes?
Where were her shoes?

“What do you want, Drew?” Ryan’s voice was calm. Controlled.

Where the hell were her shoes? A gleam at Drew’s feet caught her eye.
Oh.
There
. She bent down and scooped up her heels, then rose to face her colleague. Who’d just caught her kissing another colleague. Damn, it was hot. Was anybody else hot?

“Uh, we thought you were...that, um, maybe...” she began. Could her cheeks get any hotter? She needed to cool down.

Drew held up his hands. “Oh, hey, no need to explain, Vic. I completely understand.” His white teeth flashed. “I just thought we could take this opportunity to do, you know, work-related stuff.”

“Drew,” the warning tone brought Vicky’s gaze back to the tall man beside her. Ryan wore a dark frown as he glared at their friend.

“I’ll get on with it, hmm? So that you can get on with...?”

“Drew,” Ryan snapped.

Drew chuckled. “I’m kidding. Here are your phones. Don’t know how much use they’ll be, though. There’s no cell reception here.” He handed them over.

“No cell coverage? How can you have no cell coverage in this day and age?” Ryan muttered as he activated his phone. He sighed. “Damn, there are no bars.”

Vicky slipped her phone into her clutch purse. No cell reception could be a problem, but she’d worked with less. “Satellite phones.” They had a little less functionality, but at least they’d get a signal.

Ryan glanced at her. “You mean, get Mal to send us some?”

She nodded. Yes, that’s exactly what she meant, only she couldn’t seem to think rationally at the moment. She glanced away up the hall, surreptitiously fanning herself as she did so.
Yeah.
Mal.
Satellite phones.
Whatever.

Drew nodded. “Will do. You’ll need to pass the information to me, and I’ll have to see if I can get a line out, or else duck into town, for the time being. I figure I’ll have an easier time of getting away from the resort than you guys will.”

Vicky nodded. Information would be slow in coming, but at least they could still communicate with the outside world. Namely, Luke back at MSA head office.

“I managed to catch a little of the conversation, tonight, but that guest services manager was keeping a tight watch on everything from the kitchen, so I think I missed out on some critical information. I’m going to need more detail to confirm identities.” Drew looked at them expectantly.

Ryan relayed any relevant information they’d managed to gather on their fellow guests during dinner. Vicky straightened her gown as she listened. Ryan’s review was concise, clipped. Professional.

At least he could finish a sentence.

Drew nodded. “Okay, that gives me an idea of where to start looking. I wanted to lift fingerprints off the glasses, but like I said, that Meagan James runs a tight ship. Didn’t get a chance. I’ll keep trying, though.” He looked down the hall. “I’d better get back. They’re still cleaning up the dining room, and they want breakfast set up before we finish for the night.”

“One more thing,” Ryan said. “Our room is bugged. I don’t know who’s responsible, but there has to be a receiver somewhere.”

Drew’s eyebrows rose. “What kind of bug?”

“Looks wireless.”

“Damn. They can have an impressive range.”

“Exactly. The receiver could be anywhere.”

“I’ll do what I can, but there are five cabins, three sheds, the garage, not to mention the main building. It could be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

“You’ll have access to more areas than we will, but we’ll see what we can turn up.”

“Maybe we should search the guests’ rooms,” Vicky suggested.

Both men looked at her suddenly, as though they’d forgotten she was there. She pursed her lips. She was used to that.

“Well, that was part of the plan,” Ryan said slowly.

“Oh, was it? I didn’t know,” she muttered. He hadn’t shared that with her. “I just thought maybe if we searched everyone’s rooms, we could look for identity clues, as well as a receiver. Or maybe even more bugs.”

“You think the other rooms are bugged, too?” Drew asked, frowning.

She shrugged. “I have no idea.”

Ryan nodded. “Okay. Everyone’s retired for tonight, but I’ll see if I can get into some of the rooms tomorrow.”

“All guest cabins are located on the east side of the resort,” Drew supplied. “I’ve downloaded maps and schematics of the place to your phones. Each one is nestled in a bank of fir trees, for maximum privacy.”

“Good to know. So we’re still kind of close to each other, huh?”

“Yeah. I don’t think you’d know it though, looking at the maps.”

“I can help, too,” Vicky offered.

Drew and Ryan smiled. Damn, they looked condescending.

“You will, don’t worry,” soothed Ryan. “I might need you as a lookout, or a distraction.”

Her eyes narrowed.
Right.
Lookout.
Her brothers had used her as a lookout. In other words, they’d had all the fun, and she’d spent a long time looking at a door. Why had she thought he would ever see her as an equal?

“Okay, better get back before James figures I’m missing,” Drew said. “Oh, here.” He pulled something from within his jacket and handed it over to Ryan.

Vicky gaped at the object. “A gun?”

Ryan glanced at her. “Yes, a gun. I knew our bags would be searched, as well as our car, so I asked Drew to smuggle it in for me.” He pocketed the box of ammunition Drew gave him.

She turned to Drew. “What about me?”

Ryan sighed. “Vicky, you don’t need a gun.”

She rested her hands on her hips. “You want me unarmed? What if something happens?”

“We’ll be fine.”

Her eyes narrowed to slits. “Would you even be having this conversation if someone else was on the case with you, like Maggie?”

“I know Maggie’s gone through basic training. Luke made sure of that. You, on the other hand, haven’t.”

“Look, just because I haven’t done the MSA training doesn’t mean I don’t have skills, or I can’t look after myself. I can. And I told you before, Drew’s taken me shooting.”

Ryan frowned. “Yeah, when did that happen?” He glared at Drew.

“When you were away on any one of your cases,” she snapped. “I can handle a gun, Ryan. Stop treating me like a child.”

BOOK: For Her Eyes Only
10.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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