Authors: Maddie Taylor
Decadence Nights Book Two
©2016 by Blushing Books® and Maddie Taylor
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French Kiss (Decadence Nights-Book Two)
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EBook ISBN: 978-1-68259-687-6
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Table of Contents:
85 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall Cross, London
A brilliant flash of light filled the seventy-inch high definition screen and was immediately followed by the boom of an explosion through the speakers, loud enough to rattle the windows and send a tremor through the conference room. A wall of flames shot into the air along with a cloud of billowing smoke as the one woman, eight-man team leaned forward, waiting with bated breath for the gray haze to dissipate and the scene to unfold. Long excruciating moments later, an image of smoldering, mangled metal became visible, which was all that was left of the obliterated vehicle except for the charred, flaming debris that crashed to the ground all around it. In the distance, a woman’s mournful wail rose in the thick, smoky air.
Arturo Durand, a seasoned MI6 agent, had seen plenty of horrific deaths in the course of his twenty years of service. He’d watched enemy combatants killed, his own bullets at times doing the deed. He’d seen suffering among the innocent bystanders who ended up as collateral damage simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In war, he had watched helplessly as his countrymen fell, fellow soldiers in arms who’d known the risks and accepted them as part of the job. And he’d witnessed car bombings like the one he’d just seen, a few in person and much too close for comfort, but never had he seen a colleague, a man he called his friend, incinerated before his eyes.
Any loss of life was tragic, but this had become personal and heart-wrenchingly tragic because he knew William Cleese left a wife and two young sons behind. Retired three years past, this man had paid his dues and earned his reward for the dangerous life he’d led while serving his country heroically as an intelligence specialist for almost his entire career. For this to happen after he left the SIS was appalling. Worse, this was the third targeted killing of former agents in the past year.
As Arturo’s thoughts lingered on Will’s wife—correction, his widow, made so in the blink of an eye and a flash fire of destruction—and the two now fatherless children this act of terrorism would leave behind, his heart ached for them and he wondered, not for the first time, how much more of this endless, senseless violence, day in and day out, he could endure.
Bottom line, he was getting too old and too damn tired for this shit.
He scanned the screen, taking in not only the charred shell of the car, but everything around it on what had certainly been a quiet Athens street only moments before. As he studied the image, he realized the damage was more extensive than was typical. The blast had been strong enough to knock the five-thousand-pound vehicle askew, powerful enough to create an extraordinarily large crater in the concrete street, and set the cars in front and behind it ablaze. The surrounding buildings were also heavily damaged, more so than the few blown out windows he would have expected.
This was not the work of an ordinary car bomb.
The screen went blank and a hush fell over the room as the agents tried to assimilate what they had just witnessed.
“Damn, that was hard to watch.” Danvers, one of the newest operatives, thirty-years-old at the most, muttered brokenly while rubbing his face, his usually suntanned complexion having gone pale.
“Has anyone claimed responsibility?” Raymond Ashworth asked with deceptive calm. At fifty-two, the senior agent was known as much for his icy demeanor in a crisis, as he was for his explosive temper at other times. The dreadful event he’d just witnessed had clearly settled heavily on his mind and presaged that if he had a say in it, a painful retribution for the culprits was forthcoming.
“No credible group has taken credit,” Director Bancroft replied, disgust curling her upper lip. “The usual whack jobs are crowing, of course, but we have ruled all of them out based on the surveillance video recorded before the strike.”
“Strike?” Ashworth barked. “We know for a fact this was no ordinary bomb?”
“Yes, this is the work of a BSE M180 CADA with LO technology.”
“CADA?” Danvers asked.
“Covert aerial disposable aircraft,” she clarified, adding, “LO is low observability or stealth technology.”
“An urban stealth drone?” Arturo stated with incredulity. “Who has the capability of delivering a payload that could do such damage?”
“We do,” the director answered succinctly. “The drone was one of ours. This model was called the Kamikaze.”
“A remote controlled suicide bomber, holy fuck,” he muttered.
“Was this a miscalculation or a malfunction?” Ray demanded coolly. “For Christ’s sake, don’t tell me that bloody friendly fire took out one of our own men.”
“No. We had no tests scheduled.” Bancroft queued up another picture on screen. “This is the Kamikaze. It’s the size of a remote controlled toy plane.” With a laser light, she circled the tail. “Notice the twin vertical and horizontal stabilizers? This prototype was scrapped eighteen months ago when tests found that a single vertical stabilizer and rudder had greater stability and was far easier to maneuver.”
“This means we have a security breach on our hands,” Arturo put forward.
“Exactly, and if I was a betting woman, I’d wager my entire pension that the technology sold for a seven figure price tag.”
“Are there any leads?” Ray inquired in the same chilling tone.
“The only facility working on this stealth line is the Houston, Texas BSE location.” The director’s shrewd gaze homed in on its target. “You have friends in security in Texas, don’t you, Durand?”
He nodded. “As do you, ma’am. I worked a campaign several years back with Tony Rossi. He is a retired Special Forces captain and from what I’ve heard, has an impressive security operation located in San Antonio. One of his partners is retired Major General Davis, an associate of yours, I believe.”
“Ah, yes, Pete Davis,” Bancroft said, smiling softly. “We worked together on a few coalition operations in the past. As for retired, I doubt if the general will ever really slow down and hang up his bars, not while there is breath in his military-to-the-toes body. You’ll be in good hands.”
“Durand will go in solo?” one of the junior agents asked.
“In this case, yes. We’ll have additional resources on standby, but I prefer to keep this quiet. Our directive is to seal the leak by whatever means possible before it goes public that top-secret new weaponry was stolen and turned on our own people. While Durand shuts down the security breach abroad, we’ll be busy trying to weed out the sons of bitches that are targeting former MI6 agents.”
“Bloody bastards,” Ray muttered.
The director ignored Ashworth’s cursing, so commonplace she didn’t appear to notice as she continued handing out assignments. “Durand, you’ll be going in quietly as a consultant for BSE. Only a few corporate heads know the details. We’ll have your dossier and credentials ready within the hour.”
He looked at his watch, doing a quick calculation from London to US Central Standard Time. “It’s 8 AM in the States. I’ll make contact with Cap right away.”