Authors: L. J Charles
Her scream pierced the air. And then she fought him, her knee barely missing his balls. Bloody broad had a lesson to learn. Strength exploded in him—like a steroid high. This was one helluva drug.
He slit her top with the knife, then ran the tip along her belly. Pure. Smooth and creamy white. Jayme’s woman. The pressure in his groin startled him.
She bucked under him.
Felt good, so damn good.
The intensity of his hard-on pulsed through his body. So damn
. He let go of her arm.
She came up swinging and caught him on the temple.
Rage exploded in his gut, and he smashed his fist into her jaw. He grinned. That had quieted her down.
He sliced through her pants and underwear. The sight of a bare female body brought him to the edge, and he loosened his clothes, caressing his manhood. Yeah. There it was. Hard. Pulsing. It had been so
Her moan floated through his mind, unheeded.
Frantic for release, he lifted her hips, thrust.
She twisted, screamed, lurched, knocking him off her, shoving him to the floor.
His head cracked against her metal footlocker.
And a black void swallowed him whole.
THE SHAKING STARTED IN KAIMI’S
knees and worked its way up. A trail of semen covered her upper thigh. Close, too close. Besides attacking her, he could have made her pregnant. Damn those little swimmers anyway. She cradled her broken wrist for a moment and wondered why it didn’t hurt. Had to be shock. She used her good hand to grab a thermos of water off the nightstand and poured the tepid liquid over her thighs, rinsing away her attacker’s semen. No way was she taking a chance on that bastard’s seed entering her body and taking root. One-handed, she stripped off the remnants of her ruined, soggy camouflage clothes, then kicked them aside, and tried to tie a sheet around her body, but her injured hand was numb, and her wrist… Pain shot through it, sharp enough to kick her rational mind into gear. The adrenaline rush was wearing off, and her teeth began to chatter.
Had the blow to his head killed Eamon? Kaimi shuddered at the thought of touching him, but if there was a pulse… She rested her fingertips against his neck. Slippery. Sweaty. She glanced at the spilled and broken vials. How was she going to explain this? Had her formula killed him? Tipped his already unstable mind into psychosis? And then she noticed the blood seeping from a cut on his head.
The bedroom door crashed open, and Fion stood in stark relief, outlined by the dim hall light. “What the bloody hell is going on? And what is that sickly smell?”
Kaimi stood, and wrapping her arms tightly around herself met Fion’s stare. “He’s alive.”
“He jumped you. With consent?” She didn’t wait for Kaimi to answer, just grabbed Eamon’s wrist and checked his pulse. “Alive. Pulse strong. He won’t be out long, so you better get to telling me what happened.”
There was no way to hide this from Fion, not with the evidence of Eamon’s limp manhood displayed so blatantly. “He thought I’d discovered a miracle drug, I guess.” She pressed her healed palm against her abdomen. At least Eamon had broken the other wrist, so maybe Fion wouldn’t notice that the gash from her foraging expedition had healed. “But I was working on an antidote for the toxin. I thought, hoped, the plants I found today would be the magic ingredient. I couldn’t wait, started working on the formula as soon as I got to my room. He broke in and forced me to swallow some.” She pointed to the mess. “Then he downed two vials himself. It did something to him, caused muscle spasms, sexual arousal, and maybe temporary psychosis.”
Fion eyed Kaimi. “What did it do to you?”
“Nothing.” Kaimi shook her head. “He attacked me then, and… I’m going to shower.” So many lies, and they’d rolled right off her tongue.
“Eamon’s bitter and short-tempered, and I’ve gotten used to that, but this was inexcusable.” Uncertainty edged Fion’s words.
Doubt spread through Kaimi. “You believe me, don’t you?”
“All you’ve talked about since you’ve been here is how much you miss Jayme, whoever he is. You’re not the sort to go after the likes of Eamon Grady. But honestly, I don’t know what to think. Want me to wrap your wrist before you shower? While you’re cleaning up I’ll drag Eamon into his own room so I can see to him properly, and then clean up this mess.”
“My wrist? I…no, I still have one good hand. Shouldn’t be a problem to wrap it myself.” Kaimi didn’t dare let Fion close to her newly-mended gash. She’d spot the abnormal healing speed, and then, well, Kaimi simply wasn’t ready to deal with questions. And she needed to get out of camp before Fion noticed that Eamon was healing much, much too quickly. And before she blurted out what she’d heard about the family connection between Jayme and Eamon. Somehow she had to get back home and report in.
“Looks broken. And you’re going to be in a beastly bit of pain when the shock wears off,” Fion said.
It was an unarguable statement. “I saw some bandage wraps in the bathroom. That’ll get me through a shower and a trip down the river. It’s going to have to be treated or I could lose function.” No. She wouldn’t allow herself to be stuck with any physical scars from this encounter. Not now. Not ever. There’d be enough emotional scars to deal with.
“I’ll take you. But I need to stitch Eamon’s head first.” Fion bent to examine the cut. “No, it’s not as deep as I thought, but there’s so much blood.” She stared at Kaimi, her eyes dilated to solid black. “Bloody hell, he could have bled to death. Does that thin blood?” She pointed at the broken vials “Screw with coagulation times?”
Kaimi backed out of the room. “It’s a head wound. They bleed a lot, probably has nothing to do with the antidote. I’ll work on it when I get back from Manaus. It’s unstable, and after today, I’m afraid there likely is a psychotic element that destroys its use as a viable antidote.”
“Uh-huh.” Fion shifted, grabbing Eamon under the arms. “Let me get him settled, then I’ll motor you downriver, though I’m not sure about leaving him alone while he’s unconscious. Maybe I should call for air transport, get both of you to a hospital.”
“Not a good idea, Fion. All of our work on this project is eyes-only confidential. In a hospital there’d be tests—”
“They’ll be asking you questions as well.”
Kaimi shook her head. “No. I just have a broken bone, and any cover story will work. They’ll set it and release me. Look, I can motor down the river to a settlement with jitney service, catch one of the buses into Manaus, and be back in a few days. You should stay with Eamon, make sure there are no after-effects from his fall.”
“Okay, if you’re sure. But you better check in with your handler before you leave. They monitor us damn closely, and if they don’t spot three heat sources there’ll be hell to pay.”
And that was exactly the reason Kaimi hadn’t tried to escape sooner, even though she was desperate to get messages to her parents and Jayme. But this was the perfect excuse, and now the stakes were even higher. “I will.”
Fion had dragged Eamon to the door, so Kaimi scooted behind them and dashed to the bathroom. She could have offered to help since she still had one good hand, but truthfully, her stomach lurched at the idea of even touching the traitorous bastard who’d attacked her. Besides, he probably wasn’t going to need much help, and neither was she. Her wrist was healing. She could feel it, but she couldn’t be sure the bones were in the right position. If fate was on her side, the bones wouldn’t set wrong and have to be re-broken. Not that she’d had much faith in fate since the Pentagon meeting.
The camp cistern was full from yesterday’s deluge, so Kaimi took time to scrub her skin raw, not caring if she used up their entire water supply. She needed to get clean.
Dressed in fresh camouflage clothes, she tried to contact Fred via their encrypted satcom link. No go. It wasn’t Friday, so he didn’t expect her call, but still. Someone should have responded. Didn’t matter. She’d followed protocol to the letter. And why hadn’t anyone briefed her on the appropriate protocol should she happen to discover her teammates had turned traitor? She had plans to slap that one smack on Fred’s desk.
Fion strolled into the kitchen and filled a bowl with ice and cold water. “Hope the generator holds out. It’d be a bad time to run out of ice, what with that lump on Eamon’s head. He’s coming ’round, by the way. You may want to get going before he starts asking questions.”
Anger boiled in Kaimi’s gut. “It’s my place to be asking questions. He’s the one who attacked me.”
Fion nodded. “That may be, but he’s disoriented. And since I don’t know what happened in that room, I can avoid any pointed discussions. The good news is they’ll probably recall him before you get back from Manaus.”
“That would be a blessing. I couldn’t reach my handler, and won’t be back in time for our regular Friday check-in. If he calls, would you fill him in?”
“Sure thing.” Fion gave her an awkward hug. “Be careful and stay safe.”
“You’ll be okay while I’m gone? With Eamon and all?”
She sighed. “He won’t be up to fighting speed for a bit, so I’ll be fine. Go. Take care of yourself.”
By the time Kaimi trudged down the trail to the river her wrist was completely healed, except for the odd way her bones clicked—like they didn’t quite fit. The orthopedist would probably have to re-break the bone—or bones. She couldn’t tell exactly what had been injured. No matter. It was a small price to pay for the opportunity to contact Jayme and her parents. And the CIA. Since she couldn’t reach Fred, her former boss would have to do.
Navigating the river was disturbingly uneventful. The contrast between her altercation with Eamon and the unnatural stillness of her solo trip on the Rio Negro rubbed Kaimi’s nerves raw. Recognizing her desperate need for balance—mind, body, and spirit—she moored the boat, hiding it in a heavy fall of low-hanging tree limbs, and then focused on planting one foot in front of the other during her hike to the nearby settlement. Throughout her childhood, her parents had instilled the importance of communication with the earth, and though the Amazon basin held different energy than her Hawaiian heritage, the healing power of the earth was the same.
By the time she’d reached the settlement and found a jitney, her soul was back in sync with her body. Mostly. She paid her fare and boarded the familiar, over-crowded bus, relishing the ripe scent of sweaty bodies and the fascinating mix of domestic and farm animals that shared the jitney with casual acceptance. The last vestiges of raw anxiety that had been bubbling through her dissipated when she wedged herself between a man holding a chicken and a very pregnant woman with a toddler on her lap. This was the rural South America she knew and loved.
She closed her eyes, letting the normal sounds of bare, simple civilization wash over her, and soaked in the first bit of peace since the infamous Pentagon meeting. Basking in the comfort of normal life, Kaimi ran an internal video of everything that had happened over the past six months, and couldn’t find a single blip in Fion’s behavior that pointed to her treachery. She was damn good at hiding her intentions, and it would be best to remember that.
MANAUS WAS CROWDED, NOISY, AND
had an eclectic mix of big city skyscrapers and poverty-stricken areas. Voracious plant life poked through cracks in the sidewalk, giving it an eerie feeling, like a bad science fiction movie. It fit well with how surreal Kaimi’s life had become.
Unsure of the medical system, Kaimi opted to try Unimed. What the heck, it was advertised as the best private hospital in the city. There was no question she’d heal easily, no matter the quality of care, but she didn’t want to go through the inconvenience and pain of having her wrist broken a third time should the medical care turn out to be inadequate. She copied the address, then looked up potential stores that would carry her favorite blade—the Busse Boss Jack.
Kaimi’s Portuguese was passable, and got her through the knife-buying process with no problem, although pointing and smiling seemed to be key, and turned out to be slightly more successful than conversation. The encounter with Eamon had apparently sparked some latent blood lust, because she left the store with her favored Boss and an additional longer-bladed knife…just in case. Her other purchases included a hammock, a first aid kit, and some energy bars. She wanted to be prepared in case she decided it was more prudent to go AWOL than hang around the camp. Would she be considered AWOL? She was working for the military now, but wasn’t
the Army. Was she? Probably that would be an excellent question to ask Fred during her next scheduled check-in.
Geared-up, Kaimi caught a cab to the hospital, and was pleased to find that everyone from the receptionist to the orthopedist spoke English, and that they all were both professional and skilled. The only issue was the wait—she was at the bottom of a list of thirty. By the time the staff had reset the bones and wrapped her wrist in a cast, she’d made considerable progress with the rest of her plans: a room at the Hotel Adrianópolis (she’d used the hospital phone to make a reservation), and when she was finished at the hospital, she’d send a telegram to her parents (they didn’t believe in modern conveniences like telephones.). She desperately wished she could talk with them about the incredible and unexpected way her body was healing since she’d started working on her newest iteration of the formula. And now that she’d swallowed almost an entire vial of the half-tested mixture, it was anyone’s guess what it had done to her. For sure it didn’t reset broken bones.