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Authors: Alysia S. Knight

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BOOK: Whistleblower
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“I never wanted either of them like I want you, and I’m not talking sexually. Though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find you desirable. Believe me, I do. But it’s something more. It calls to me. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my instincts, and they’re screaming at me that you’re mine. Does that scare you?” His gaze bore down on her.

“Yes.” The word slipped truthfully out her mouth, followed slowly by another answer. “And no.”

***

Zan felt heat flare in him, and he started to cross the floor. Sunlight came through the window, framing Marley, but the radiance from within her outshone it. She was his, though it wasn’t time to make her so. There was so much they had to do first, but he vowed they’d have a future together.

“Just so you know. I’m going to kiss you again now, and then I’m going to release you because we have to keep our heads clear.” He growled, clamping his hands on her shoulders.

She bit her lip then smiled at his declaration. “Just so you know. I haven’t had a lot of experience kissing. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been kissed more in the last couple days than I have in my entire life.”

A wicked pleasure flashed through him. “It’s okay, Doc. This is something I know I can tutor you in.” He pulled her up then shifted his hands to frame her face.

Her amber eyes caught and held, drawing him in.

Still concerned that he was hurrying her, he watched for fear and resistance as he lowered his head. None came. Marley rested her hands on his chest but not to push him away. Her arms slid deliciously slow around him. Her eyes darted from his, down to his lips, then back up to his eyes.

At the first touch of her lips, he felt warm silk. As it deepened, he tasted honey. Her eyes drifted closed, and she gave herself over to him to drink more fully.

He fought the need to ravish and sate his hunger. He slowed and sipped, teaching her lips to move with his. She thoroughly responded. Even after his kisses of the last two days, her inexperience was obvious, though how such a beautiful woman could have no experience was beyond him.

With each touch she seemed to come alive and gain confidence. He was losing his head to her. Reluctantly, he drew back before things could get out of hand. He pressed her to his chest, feeling her heart pound against him.

“Oh, sweetheart.” He brushed his lips to her forehead. “If you keep learning like that, you’ll have your doctorate in kissing in no time.” Her face pressed into him and he felt the shake of her laughter.

“I told you, I always got the best schools and the best teachers. I think I was just waiting for the best instructor in this. The only other kisses I’ve had seemed dull and boring. I figured there must be something wrong with me. That I was too analytical.” The words were hushed with self-doubt.

“You don’t think my kisses are boring?” he pressed.

“Oh, no.” She shook her head, rubbing her cheek against the wall of his chest. She tilted her face up to look at him. Her eyes blazed like molten honey. The corners of her lips tilted up.

“I find the subject of kissing you most titillating,” she said brazenly. A blush snuck up to add color to her cheeks. “I think.” She stumbled slightly over the word. “I’m going to need more in-depth learning.”

“It’s a good thing I plan to offer upper level courses then, but I’ll warn you, the lab work is exacting. It may take a great amount of time and be exhausting.”

“Is it worth it?” The words, this time, were whispered with excitement.

“Oh yes,” he growled out. “I guarantee it.” He pulled her up to meet his lips again, only to rip them back away, tucking her under his chin. “It’s okay, sweetheart. We need to slow down. I didn’t expect it to be so explosive.” He felt her jerk at his choice of words.

She pulled back. “Zan, being around me is dangerous.”

“I think I just figured that out.” He grinned trying to make light of it.

“No, I’m serious.”

“I know, but the only thing that it changes is, that for now, unfortunately, school’s out. Why don’t you get dressed? I’ll order us some breakfast, then we’ll see if we can’t get a hold of the General.”

To her credit, Marley nodded and stepped from his arms. At the bathroom door, she stopped and looked back at him. There was worry but such unmistakable love in her eyes, his heart soared.

As the door closed behind her, it hit him again that after all the ugliness he’d experienced in his life, how someone so good could want him. He wished he could shelter her from the evil but couldn’t. Still, there was one thing good in all this. Marley was his.

***

Marley sagged back against the bathroom door not sure what was happening to her. Everything was topsy-turvy. She was in love and kissing a man who was a virtual stranger to her. It didn’t seem to matter that people were trying to kill her because she had information that could destroy her company and ruin many people’s lives. All she could think of, for the moment, was she loved Zan and he loved her.

No one had ever loved her before. Oh, her parents did and her grandparents. She knew that, but it seemed she spent so much time off and away from them growing up that the connection was different.

She always wondered if her brain made her different − made it that she could never have romantic love. That maybe she was just too logical for love. No. She looked at herself in the mirror. She’d always believed in love, just had given up on it happening to her.

***

Breakfast was a delight which they shared at the table in their room with the warm ocean air wafting in through the windows. It would have been perfect but Zan was stiff again. Marley paused, her last bite of crepes filled with strawberries and whipped cream an inch from her mouth, and set her fork down.

“Zan?”

This time he didn’t try to ignore the question in his name. “I’m sorry.”

“What is it?”

He reached out, taking her hand, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. “Probably nothing, but the more I think about it, the more I can’t let it go.”

“What?”

“While you were changing, I tried to call General Gallup again. I was told that he wasn’t there, that he’d gone to the base not far from here. It’s where we’re headed.”

“Then that’s good.”

“No. I don’t think so. I was taking us there because it’s the closest Army facility. The more I think about it, it’s too convenient that the exact person you want to see will be there. It doesn’t make sense. Why would he be there?”

“What do you mean? Why wouldn’t he?” She tilted her head to the side, clearly confused.

“It’s an Army base. He’s Air Force. Even if he was in a joint meeting, I can’t see it being there.”

Marley got what he was saying. “You think someone told you wrong to mislead you?” Marley could see his mind reworking over the question.

He nodded slowly. “I do. It’s reasonable that I would find an Army base more comfortable, so I would likely head there,” he continued as his mind connected unseen dots in a pattern. “But the area around it is more deserted or maybe I should say out of the way. It would be easier to track us and set up an ambush.” He stood abruptly. “We need to go.”

“Zan?”

“I think my call may have been traced.”

“Can they trace a disposable?”

“They can trace any phone. I was just hoping to buy us some time not having one in my name since they would have had that info by investigating who owned my house.”

Marley was already up, following his lead, grabbing her stuff to throw into his backpack.

“Where we going?” she asked over her shoulder.

“South, then we’ll have a couple of options to make a run for. Hopefully, we can throw whoever’s after us off. We need to get you to a base and talk to the commander there and get you some more protection as soon as possible.”

Marley stepped into the bathroom to retrieve her brush and came out with the first aid kit. “I should check your shoulder first.”

“I already took care of it when I showered.”

“I hope you didn’t get it wet.”

“Don’t worry, Marley, I know what to do and I was careful.” He caught her by the arm, turning her to face him. “I plan on a long life teaching you all sorts of new things.”

“That’s right.” She forced out a brave smile. “And don’t you forget any. And, I want a dance.”

“It is one of the first activities on my agenda.” He twirled her into him, kissed her then spun her back out.

“That doesn’t count,” she countered, grabbing up the leather jacket.

“It was just a promise. Ready?”

“Yes.” She snatched up the last bite of crepe from her plate and popped it in her mouth on her way out the door, with one last look at the charming room. “It was so nice,” she commented forlornly as she met his stride.

“We can come back sometime if you’d like.” Zan caught her elbow, halting her. He glanced down the hall before turning the corner. Tension radiated off him. He was back on full alert.

Marley felt her senses heighten.

Since Zan had paid the night before, it only took him a minute to pay for their room service and hand in the key. They pulled on their helmets before exiting a side door. Keeping close to the building, they hurried to where they’d left the motorcycle tucked in at the end between a truck and the bushes. There was no hesitation in Marley now as she climbed on behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

They headed out along the coast highway. Marley usually admired how beautiful it was along this section of the coast but today it had an ominous taint to it. Because of the ocean to the west and the rugged mountain range on the east which only allowed limited access with a handful of roads, they were relatively trapped.

She knew Zan worried about it because it meant whoever was after her only had to keep watch on a couple roads. Now she understood why Zan was so cautious at setting up a disguise for them on the motorcycle. She also knew it wouldn’t take long for those after them to recognize them. They had bought one night of peace, but from here on out, they were in for a difficult race, as if the last couple days had been easy.

She glanced at the ocean, seeing the water roll in, hit the rocks, and spray up. Around the next point, sand stretched out in a secluded, inviting beach, protected by a ridge of rocks and brush. Marley wished they could pull over and hide out there until the danger passed, but she wondered when that would be. How long would they hunt for her and Zan?

Sadly she knew they would never let up in the search for her, and there wasn’t time to wait, they had to get the information out. The longer they waited the more lives could be risked on experimentation of the drug. Panic began to rise within her. Marley wanted to press her face into Zan’s back, but the helmet was in the way. Still, she took comfort with him there in front of her.

Chapter Ten

 

 

Zan felt the tension ebb and flow from Marley’s body and wished he could pull over, take her in his arms, and reassure her all was going to be all right. The only thing was, it wasn’t something he could be certain of. His self-arrogance declared he wouldn’t let anything happen to her, he couldn’t. She was everything he’d been looking for and hadn’t even known he was searching. Still, he knew what they were facing and knew it would take all his skills to keep them alive.

Zan eased up on the gas, giving them a second to take in the peace and beauty of the morning and the fresh air with a tang of salt off the ocean. Marley hugged him tight. Some of the tension seemed to ease in her body.

He removed his left hand from the handlebars long enough to lay it over hers and give it a squeeze. She returned the action with a light pressure on his ribs. He savored the moment before placing his hand back on the handlebars.

Six more miles ahead they came around a bend and Zan caught a glimpse of a black SUV with dark tinted windows parked in a roadside turnout. A spike of concern surged in him but faded when he didn’t see the SUV pull out in the rearview mirror. Still, he had to fight the urge to put on more speed.

The road straightened out before them. Zan shifted his attention again to the mirror, glancing back to the road, back to the mirror. He looked up again just in time to see another identical black SUV, come around the curve a half mile in front of them. A quick glance in the mirror revealed the first vehicle as it came around the corner behind them, gaining fast.

“Hold on,” he yelled over his shoulder, not sure if Marley caught the words before the wind whipped them away. But, when he leaned forward over the handlebars, she followed the action, tightening her hold.

He eased up slightly on the gas, and the SUV behind them began to gain as the one ahead grew closer. There was only one other vehicle in sight. A little red Volkswagen Beetle with its top down and three young women in it, just in front of the SUV coming toward them.

Zan slowed as he approached the Beetle. When he was only about thirty feet from it, he goosed the gas and swerved in front of the little red car. He caught the screams of the girls as he and Marley whipped by on the edge of the road. Then they were beside the SUV.

The windows were down, illuminating the interior. Zan made out the images of two men as they shot past. He caught the outline of a gun in the passenger’s hand, but the driver swerved to avoid hitting the red car that had slammed on its brakes, giving him no chance to fire.

Pulling back on the road, they barely missed the back end of the SUV as it fishtailed slightly. Clear, Zan put on more speed, drifting back to the center of the road. The SUV from behind sped past the other two vehicles. Zan squeezed the gas down all the way.

They pulled away for a brief second then the black monster with its huge engine began to close the gap. They came to a curve, and Zan eased a little on the gas, still, he took it faster than he preferred with Marley on back. Fortunately, she had molded herself along his back, following his movement as if in an intricate dance. The big vehicle had to slow down more on the curve, but the time they gained was short lived as the space once again narrowed.

They had made it around another curve when Zan caught the black dot of the other SUV rejoining the chase, then his attention locked on the one moving up on him. The bike was going full out, but it was obvious there was no way they were going to outrun them on the straight away.

Zan looked for other options. A small town sat as a beacon just ahead, but there was no way they were going to make it there before they were overtaken. He barely noticed the sign indicating a beach turn out just ahead. The SUV was nearly beside them when Zan let up on the gas and carefully squeezed down on the brake while turning into the parking lot.

Behind him, Marley locked tight to his body to keep from being swung off as the bike skidded slightly, but she stayed with him. The SUV shot past the turnoff as Zan accelerated into the parking lot. Brakes squealed on the road, and a hand with a gun extended out the window.

Zan ignored the shot that ricocheted off the blacktop in front of the bike. Another sounded behind them. Keeping the gas steady, he shot past the sign declaring no motorized vehicles on the beach, easing only slightly to veer through the access dip in the curb.

Sand rooster-tailed up behind, but Zan kept the power steady, taking them out over the beach, angling to the water’s edge where the sand was better packed. A glance to the side revealed the other vehicle had joined the first. One shot ahead while the other paralleled them. Fortunately, the distance was enough and there were too many shrubs for them to get a shot off. Zan had no delusion to the fact that he was marked for death so they could get a hold of Marley, and they needed her alive only long enough to get the information she had.

The temptation for more speed ate at him, but he knew they were better off on the sand where they were. They just needed to reach town and find some place to hide before the other SUV could cut them off. Ahead, the town reached out welcoming. People started to dot the sand. Several yelled for them to get off the beach as they passed, but unfortunately, none were police, though Zan wasn’t sure if they’d be much help from the people after Marley.

Zan reach the beach parking lot on the edge of town just as the familiar black SUV sped into it. Zan swung wide back down by the water just as a wave came in, sending up a light spray. He slowed to angle around a rock outcropping which would have cut them off if it was high tide, but now gave them shelter from the view of the men in the parking lot.

Another three hundred yards along the beach, Zan spied an opening between two beach houses. He changed direction, driving up over a small patio and down a driveway onto the street. He gave the bike a little more gas, weaving through the streets. Marley tapped his arm and pointed to a house with a for sale sign in front. He whipped into the driveway, stopping the bike behind a huge Oleander bush in the corner of the yard.

He balanced the motorcycle between his feet and cut the motor. Not making any movement to dismount, he waited for several minutes before raising his windscreen and looking back over his shoulder.

“Are you all right?”

Marley followed his motion in raising her shield. “Yes.” She swung her leg over the back and stood none too steadily. “They found us.” Fear rang in her words.

“Unfortunately, we seemed to hit a day of light traffic.”

“What do we do now?”

“We’ll wait here for a while then try to make our way around them to the road.”

“You don’t think that will work?” she asked, as if reading his thoughts.

“They have us cut off this way, and they know it. They just have to wait on the road on the other side of town and they’ll see us.” He was quiet a minute before he spoke again. “Either they have both directions covered, which is likely, or they figured I’d make a run south because there is more traffic and roads down there to get lost in. I also would have had more base options to make a run to, plus a number more the farther south.”

“So again, what do we do?”

He took a second to pull off his helmet and get off the bike to stand in front of her. He waited as she took off her helmet and set it down. “We’ll make an attempt to get past them, and if we can’t, we’ll head the other way.”

“You think they’ll be waiting.”

“Yes.”

“I’m so sorry, Zan.” A tear slipped from the corner of her eye.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him. “It’s all right. We’ll make it.” When she didn’t say anything, he eased back, cupping her cheek in his palm, lifting her face to meet his kiss. He let it continue until he drew out a shiver that had nothing to do with fear and danger. He broke the kiss and leaned his head down to rest on hers. “We’ll make it,” he repeated.

“This still seems so unreal, people dying, you getting shot, and those men after us. I don’t know what to do.” She wrapped her arms around him, snuggling in.

He kissed her temple, bringing her tighter. Funny, to him it felt natural. He’d spent most of his life with people trying to kill him, though the reward was much more personal to him now. “Just have faith in me.”

“That’s the only thing I do have.” She raised her head meeting his gaze, love and trust shown in her eyes for him to see. “Why couldn’t we have met in some nice normal way, like running our carts into each other at the grocery store?”

“Maybe, because we weren’t looking, so fate had to hit us over the head.” He gave her a lop-sided grin.

“You believe in fate?”

“I believe certain things are meant to be. And I believe I was meant to find you.”

“I can’t believe after all I’ve brought upon you, you can mean that.” Her eyes searched his face for reassurance.

He smiled. “I mean it. And I plan on taking a lot of reward from you for years to come.”

“Oh, you do.”

“Yes.” He kissed her, backing up the word with a hint of what he was meaning.

“Excuse me.” There was a clearing of the throat along with the words.

Marley’s cheeks turned pink in embarrassment. All Zan felt was annoyance at the interruption, though he had to admit it was for the better.

“I don’t think anyone’s around to show you the house today.” An older woman with a shaggy little dog on a leash looked them up and down. Her nose wrinkled disapprovingly.

Zan almost laughed at the woman, thinking the dog, with a bright pink bow on the top of its head, wouldn’t be much of a deterrent if they were up to no good. Though, he had to give it to the woman for being brave enough to approach them. He figured most people would’ve called the police if they did anything. Then again, she might have called before approaching them.

“Yes, we figured that out. My wife and I saw the sign and just had to stop and check it out. We’re looking for something in this area.” He lied smoothly, though it took considerable effort to keep a straight face at the woman’s obvious horror at the thought. “We have the number,” he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and held it up, “so we can call on it later.”

The woman eyed the phone then them. “Yes, well good-bye. Come on, Precious.” She pulled the dog around and marched off.

Zan watched the woman disappear on the other side of the bushes. A small giggle from behind had him turning. Marley had a hand over her mouth. Her eyes twinkled with mirth above her fingers.

He arched an eyebrow at her. “I don’t think she’s excited to have us as neighbors.”

Laughter escaped Marley.

Zan felt like going after the woman and thanking her for lightening Marley’s mood but figured they’d better get out of there just in case she had called the police. “Come on.” He picked up her helmet, putting it over her head then snuck in through the shield opening to give her one last swift kiss before setting his own helmet on his head.

They rode out of the subdivision, each keeping an eye out for the SUVs. They made their way along side streets to the east side of the town, then worked their way to where the last street came out to join up to the highway. Luckily, the road sat on a slight rise giving them a view of the highway and ocean. Zan stopped the motorcycle and studied the stretch of highway extending along the beach. A half mile down, he caught the glint of sunlight off of chrome.

“Do you think we can make it past them on the beach like we did getting here?” Marley asked.

“No, they have a direct view of the beach and the road. They’d be right on us, and they have a lot more horsepower than the bike does.” He thought for a minute more and pulled the cell phone out of his pocket, turning it back on. “I want to try calling the General again.”

“I thought you were afraid of it being traced?”

“They already know we’re here, and we’ll move as soon as I hang up. I just want to see if I can get through and if we get any reaction from our friends down there.”

He dialed a number then asked for a transfer. After a second he said, “This is Lieutenant Colonel Zan Masters. I’d like to speak to General Gallup.” When he was put on hold, Zan started to count. He was just about to hang up when another voice came over the line.

“Masters. This is Major Snyder. I’m an aide to General Gallup. The General is tied up in meetings. How can I help you?”

The hair on Zan’s nape stood up. He watched two seconds tick down on his watch. “It is top priority that I speak directly with General Gallup.”

“That is impossible right now. If you’d like to leave a message.”

Zan knew the man was stalling. “I’ll call back.” He cut the connection, turned off the phone and removed the battery.

“Zan?”

“No go. Come on. Let’s head back down by the beach.”

“You gave them your name?”

“I figure from here on out there isn’t any point not to. They already have that information.”

***

“Maybe you should just take me to the police station.” Marley hated the idea because she knew she’d be separated from Zan, but the thought of him in danger hurt her more.

He was already shaking his head before she finished the sentence. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Those after you have connections. You could end up disappearing from the police station without anyone being the wiser. We stick with the plan and get you to a base.”

BOOK: Whistleblower
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