Authors: Kate Allenton
Copyright © 2012 Kate Allenton
All rights reserved.
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Dedicated to the real
Who has proved that she can overcome any obstacle put in her path.
Your unwavering strength and determination inspires me to be a better person.
A special thank you to
all of my online friends who keep me laughing and forging ahead when I need a good swift kick in the butt.
I will always be grateful for of your
Special Thanks to Megan- may you always be proof that there are still good people left in the world.
Special Thanks go to Ilse for being my last line of defense.
Freddie Sinclair thrashed
through the trees, his arms pushing and breaking through limbs and brush as he raced through the thick forest in his attempt at a quick escape. He’d watched as a silent witness when the Phantoms killed Floyd. A grin spread on his lips, knowing that his biggest territory rival had failed in his quest for power. He’d killed himself with his own arrogance, thinking that he wielded more power than his opponents. Freddie’s fingers had twitched, and his heartbeat had quickened overhearing the Phantoms’ conversation about a vial containing unlimited possibilities. His lungs burned the harder his feet pounded the earth below. He needed to get out before they noticed him and killed him as well.
His boot caught on a
tree stump, forcing him to the ground with a thud, pushing the air from his lungs. He pushed up with pure determination and a will to survive, sprinting faster to make up for lost time. The red of his Maserati peeked from beneath the limbs he’d used to camouflage its hiding place and called to him like a beacon, taunting him that his freedom was in sight. Unable to stop, he slammed into the side of his car, yanked the door open, and shoved the key in the ignition. Time was his only enemy now. He grabbed his phone and speed dialed the one man who could get him what he needed.
ressing the phone between his ear and shoulder, he threw the car into gear, flicking rocks and dust as he hurried to capture his fate. “Look for a vial and get out,” he growled into the phone. “It’s probably in Floyd’s office, possibly in his safe. I don’t care if you have to take the whole damn thing. Get it and get out.” He drew in a deep breath as he pushed harder on the gas pedal, glancing in the rearview mirror to make sure he didn’t have a tail. “The Phantoms killed Floyd, and they’ll be there soon looking for answers.”
Adrenaline rolled through his veins
as a plan formed in his head. The idea of recreating Floyd’s unique gifts and those of the Phantoms had him gripping the wheel tighter. If he could find a way to duplicate it, nothing could stop him from taking over the world, starting with Mr. Black. Speeding under the darkened sky he growled into the phone. “Grab the vial and meet me at the compound.”
Gracie Lister eased her car into park and stared up at the house that doubled as Floyd’s office building that she’d called her office for the last two months. The rest of the compound buildings were heralded strictly off limits or at least she’d been told. Today the grounds lacked the normal guards roaming to protect the area. Stepping out of her car, Gracie noticed the eerie silence that surrounded her. Her heartbeat thundered in her chest, getting louder with each step she took toward the front door. If she didn’t do this now, there might not be a better opportunity. She steeled her nerves as she glanced over her shoulder once more, knowing that if she was caught she’d be held and questioned, her cover would be blown. She quickened her pace; only a few more steps before she would be safely inside the building and away from prying eyes. She reached for the door. Thoughts of leaving the mission up to the Phantoms weighed heavily on her mind as she paused with her hand on the knob. She pushed the thoughts away and forged forward with new resolve. She’d come this far; there was no turning back. The opportunity in front of her was too great to leave to chance. She’d infiltrated Floyd’s trust; she could, and would, see it through.
Gracie turned the knob and
paused. The fact that the door wasn’t locked sent a shiver down her spine. She pushed the door open and stepped over the threshold, closing the door behind her. She pressed her back to the door and let out a breath.
she hollered through the silent house. “Mr. Floyd?”
The silence was defining
. The usually busy building lacked a sole in sight. Her gaze darted around the foyer and the hall beyond. Nothing was out of place, nothing to indicate anyone was even home. Gracie reached behind her and patted her trusty gun she’d stashed beneath her jacket. She wasn’t naïve enough to think that if Floyd was home he’d approve of her being at the office on her day off. She wasn’t going to be stupid by walking into a possibly deadly confrontation, and she had called the base and left a message for Jamie so someone knew where she was.
“I forgot my purse. I’m just going to grab it out of my office
,” she yelled through the silent house, hoping if anyone was there, the ruse of her employment would remain intact. She placed her palm on her stomach to squelch her nerves and had started to turn the corner toward her office when the back door slammed, startling her where she stood.
Her heels clicked on the tile as she ran toward the rear entrance in an attempt to catch a glimpse of who’d just left. She drew her gun from her waistband and pushed the door open
with a jolt. Her gaze settled on a silver sports car speeding from the house. “Crap.”
She pulled the door closed and locked it before turning and hurrying toward
her and Floyd’s offices. Her heart raced with fear of what she might find. Lifting her gun, she rounded the corner, not knowing what to expect. Someone had already been in the house. Letting her guard down now wasn’t a risk she was willing to take. She wasn’t a cop, but she was a damn good shot if the need arose.
The office door hung from one hinge. Papers were strewn around the room and on the floor. Her desk drawers
had been dumped and lay broken at her feet. Filing cabinet drawers hung open, and the cabinets had been pushed over on their sides. Someone had been here, and they weren’t trying to be discreet. She stepped farther into the room and tightened her grip on the gun. What would have happened had she not called out when she got there? What kind of mess would she have walked into? Her hands shook as shock seeped into her core. She turned in place, gauging the damage before she moved to Floyd’s office door standing wide open. She lowered her gun as she stepped over the threshold. His office looked just like hers, only worse. The pictures that normally hung on the wall lay ripped, their frames broken and the protective glass shattered into little shards.
Her feet moved as if drawn to the
steel safe sitting open in the wall. She ran her finger over the warm black shards that singed the hinges. The smell of gun powder smoldered thick in the air. The picture that concealed the safe’s location hung, skewed and dangling, held by one bolt. The metal box sat empty, mocking her. She’d been beat at her own game. There was no doubt that what she’d been looking for had been secured in the blasted open box. It’s where she’d have stashed the serum and important documents had she been trying to keep the items safe. She let out a breath of resignation as she righted the knife-slashed, overturned leather chair and plopped down in the seat, the protruding leather poking at her jeans. How had this day gone from bad to worse in such a short amount of time. She had no clue.
Gracie let her gaze travel around the room
, and it landed on an overturned drawer. The wood around the edges was broken and splintered off. Something white caught her gaze. She slid down to her knees, careful of the mess, and used all of her strength to pry the rest of the wood apart. A white sheet of paper landed in her lap. A grin formed on her lips as her gaze flew over names she recognized from the fundraiser list. The numbers off to the side of the names were foreign to her, but at least she wouldn’t be walking away empty-handed. She folded the paper and stuffed it in her pocket. Glass crunched beneath her shoes as she stepped over the littered debris and toward the front door.
Several days later, after she’d heard about the attempt on the Phantoms and Floyd’s death, it started to make sense. His drive to steal more powers from the blood of the elite Phantoms had cost him his life. Her father, the general leading the Phantoms, wouldn’t have had a choice but to kill the bastard.
Gracie did the one thing she knew would eat at her gut until she’d attempted to make things right. She’d called her dad and set up a meeting.
Gracie leaned back into the vinyl seat at the diner and wrapped her fingers around the warm mug. Truckers wearing baseball caps lined the counter near the cash registers, and she watched as customers came and went. The scent of a fresh pot of strong coffee brewing nearby drifted to her nose. She’d picked a neutral place, somewhere she knew her father wouldn’t create a scene. She closed her eyes and pressed the phone to her ear. “I’ll be fine, Tara. Cathy and you don’t need to worry about me.”
“Your dad is going to kill you. How can we not worry?” Her
best friend and college roommate let out a breath. “Why don’t you just come and stay with us for a while? We can be there in two days to pick you up.”
es shot open, her stomach knotted, and she stiffened, gripping the mug tighter. Lowering her voice, she turned away from the patrons and spoke. “You can’t. If he finds out about you two, he’ll try to recruit you. You guys have got to stay away.”
A flicker of apprehension coursed through her at the thought
. She could never risk her friends’ safety. She spoke with quiet, but desperate, firmness. “It’s too risky, and with all of these new threats, the danger level is off the charts.”
“If it’s dangerous, then you don’t need to be there either.
We’re coming to get you, and that’s final.” Tara’s determination was clear. “I’ll call you when we’re close.”
Gracie glanced at the phone in her h
and; the screen was black. “Crap,” she whispered.
She heard the
chime of the bell over the door before she met his steel gaze. Her father, the General, approached her table, walking with an air of authority. The fine lines on his face deepened in discontent. “I see you’ve been practicing your tactical maneuvers, Gracie.”
nervous chuckle escaped her lips. She didn’t know how much the General had figured out, if he’d figured out anything at all. “Why, General, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
General Lister slid into the seat across from her and set his
black trench coat beside him. He swept away salt remnants with his hand as he placed his order for black coffee and watched as the waitress walked away. “Cut the crap, Gracie Lou. I know you didn’t call me here because you missed me.” The General glanced around the room; his eyes were sharp and assessing. “You did it so you could have witnesses.”
, he was good. She’d never been able to lie to him when growing up. He could normally read it on her face, so she didn’t even bother. The less he knew, the better. “I learned from the best.”
His left brow rose a fraction
, and she would have been missed it if she hadn’t had years of experience looking for the telltale sign of annoyance. “Not well enough from what I hear.”
The waitress returned and s
et his coffee down in front of him. The General and the older waitress held each other’s gaze for what seemed like minutes before the waitress blushed a pretty pink and retreated back into the kitchen.
Gracie felt her lips tilt up at the corners. “She’s very pretty, Daddy.”
The General narrowed his grayish
-green eyes. “Daddy? You haven’t called me that since you were ten. This must be bad.”
Gracie nodded across the room. “You like her
, don’t you?”
The General crossed his arms on the table
and sighed. “Tell me you didn’t call me here because you’re worried about my love life.”
“What love life? You never leave the compound
.” Gracie held back the grin threatening her lips as she tried to steer their conversation in the new direction.
Her father sipped his coffee
. “It’s none of your business, Gracie. Besides, with everything going on, I don’t have time for a girlfriend.”
Gracie reached over and squeezed her father’s hand. “You should make time.
Mom’s been gone for over fifteen years, and you know… you’re not getting any younger.”
e.” The General’s voice deepened in annoyance. “Let it go, and let’s get back to the real reason I’m here.”
she’d be used to upsetting her father by now. She’d done it all of her life. She’d grown up carefree, not thinking about anyone but herself, but somewhere through the years, she’d changed. She didn’t know when it happened, only that it had. She’d mentally prepared herself for disappointing him again. “You’re right. I did have an objective to bringing you out into the open.”
The General’s jaw tightened in a note of impatience.
“I knew you did.”
Gracie glanced down i
nto her black coffee and braced herself for the General’s wrath. She looked up. “I infiltrated Floyd’s camp.”
The General leaned back in his chair. His
knowing gaze held hers. “You don’t say.”
The worst part was over
. She’d gotten it out and he hadn’t yelled…yet. “You can’t blame me, General. He wasn’t just a threat to you and your team anymore.” She leaned across the table and whispered, “Now that my sister has married someone with gifts, he threatens her new family too.” Gracie leaned back. “And my soon-to-be niece or nephew. You know I couldn’t just take a back seat and watch and wait for Floyd to destroy everything I love!”