Authors: Kate Allenton
Sinclair met her at the door of the house and e
xtended his hand. “Ms. Restil, it’s so nice to see you again.”
His deep brown eyes bore into her and sent a shiver down her spine.
He was a good looking man, maybe a decade younger than her father. His brown hair was styled and combed into place; stubble graced his chin giving him an even more mysterious appeal. At six foot two he towered over her five foot four frame. “Let me first show you your office, and then we’ll take a tour.”
He placed his hand on the small of her back
, and it took all of her energy not to tense under the feel. “Thanks, I’d appreciate that.”
He walked her through the house and made some introductions along the way as she peeked into each room with
a door standing open. “We do things a little differently here than Floyd did,” he said as he escorted her into an office, set up just like her old one. “We run a smooth, very legit organization.”
Gracie placed a fake smile on her face and nodded
, knowing that the man was feeding her a pack of lies.
“Everyone in my operation is here for one reason and one reason only.”
Gracie set her purse on the desk she assumed was hers. “And what’s that, Mr. Sinclair?”
“Research, my dear.
We at Global Med strive to excel in medical research to bring new and inventive ways to help the entire population. We do everything from cancer research to experimental research in the hopes that one of our breakthroughs will mean a better way of life.”
He held out his arms. “This is your office.” He pointed to the door beyond, “And I’m in there. We’ll be working closely with one another on various projects
, so it only made sense that you should be nearby.”
The grin he gave her made her heart speed up and not in a good way. Every fiber
of her being yelled at her to get out while the getting was still good, but she shoved the thought away. He placed his palm on her back and steered her out of the office. “Mr. Floyd worked on some shady projects that we at Global were all very skeptical of. He’d strived to outperform anyone and everyone that stood in his way, and we are just the opposite. We work together and brainstorm for ideas for better ways to combat illnesses and design new enhancements.”
Sinclair led her through a lunchroom that reminded her of the one the Phantoms used and out a door on the other side of a building. He steered her to a
larger three-story building nearby. “Most of research is done in here, and unless you are a scientist and know what you’re doing, it’s a highly dangerous place.” He glanced down at her. “So please be careful.”
Gracie glanced around the property noticing some of the similarit
ies between Floyd’s compound and Sinclair’s, including the extra security on the ground. He swiped a key card and pushed a steel door open. The security they used just to gain entrance into the various buildings gave her pause as she contemplated how she was going to get around to snoop. He pushed the door open to a lab and walked inside and over to a scientist with his head down, looking into a microscope. “Gracie, I believe you already know Adam Lowell. He mentioned that you two briefly went to college together.”
’s head shot up, and he spun in the chair. His mouth parted. “Gracie?”
Gracie held out her hand
and prayed that Adam hadn’t mentioned her real last name. “It’s nice to see you again, Adam. It’s been a long time.”
He shook her hand and
gave Sinclair a questioning gaze. “Welcome to Global Med.” His response was more a question than a statement.
Sinclair placed his palm on her lower back and held Adam’s gaze. “Yes, we’re lucky to have her. She’s my newest employee and will be working hand
-in-hand with me in my office.”
ibly swallowed. “Is that right?”
steeled her nerves and smiled. “That’s right. I start today.”
“I’m looking forward to catching back up with you. If you need
while you’re here, just let me know.”
Sinclair cleared his throat. “I’ll make sure Gracie gets everything she needs
, Adam. I want you to concentrate on your research.”
Gracie clasped her hands in front of her. “Oh…what research are you working on?”
Adam’s gaze shot to Sinclair’s, and his eyes widened.
Sinclair nodded. “You can tell her.”
“Stem-cell enhancement. I’m working to see if I can create a newly enhanced gene that gives a new foundation for a molecular structure. If I can crack this code, it could potentially be the breakthrough of the century.”
Gracie lifted her chin. “Isn’t that dangerous, playing with a human’s genetic makeup
“We aren’t testing i
t on humans, Gracie.” Adam confirmed.
Couldn’t that be possibly fatal to any recipient if their body rejected it potentially deciding to shut down if the recipient’s blood cells attacked the newly established foundation as if it were simply a mere virus?”
Sinclair laughed as he winked at Adam. “I told you she was smart.”
Sinclair guided Gracie to the door. “That’s why it hasn’t been tested, yet. We plan to follow all of the sanctioned protocols, and until Adam has finished his research, it still remains just a fantasy.”
The butterflies in her stomach danced as she let him escort her ou
t of the lab and away from Adam, one of the many men in her life who owed her some damn answers. Sinclair led her through the rest of the facility, introducing her to others and explaining what various lab techs and scientists were working on. Little did he know that he’d led her right to not only the person she was looking for, but also the potential serum she was seeking. Could she really have been that lucky?
Freddie silently enjoyed watching Gracie’s and Adam’s reaction to each other. Freddie had some background knowledge about the pair, as much as Black would tell him and although her last name had never come up in conversation, he’d figured it out when she’d called General Lister daddy. Her last name and ID’s were both fake just like the tour he’d taken her on; a ruse to keep her busy while he figured out what to do about the Phantoms. Getting her to believe she worked for an upstanding business would keep her from sticking her nose in where it didn’t belong.
Freddie walked with purpose as he pushed through the doors of the lab and found Adam standing on the opposite side of a long table. “How could you bring her here?”
Freddie felt his lips tilt up. “How could I not?”
A swift shadow of anger crossed Adam’s face
. “You know what she means to me. How could you put her in danger that way?”
Freddie walked over to the counter and raised a brow. “She isn’t in danger unless you don’t produce.” Freddie started pacing in front of the counter with his hands clasped behind his back. “You and I are the only ones
who decide Gracie’s fate. You give me what I want, and I’ll give you what you want.”
Freddie turned and headed back to the door
then glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t you have some work to get back to, Adam? Gracie’s life is in your hands.”
Sinclair had left Gracie alone in the office all morning. She hadn’t seen him again since the tour. Hours later she strolled across the yard and toward the cafeteria. She’d needed the alone time to let her brain absorb the uncertainty of everything she’d been told. Clenching her hands together to still her instinct to call Ridge, she shook her head and quickened her step. She could get through her first day without acting like a baby. The apparent lack of danger confused her, as did the mystery surrounding Adam.
She slid her new security card through
the scanner and pushed the doors open into the cafeteria. She glanced around the room as the door automatically closed behind. Talk about a fish out of water. Nothing but men sat around the tables chatting while they ate, not a woman in sight. She lifted a brow weighing her concerns, deciding to use it to her advantage or it could end up impeding her stealthy snooping for information. There would be no way to blend in being the only female in an unauthorized area. Her stomach growled, reminding her of why she’d come. She squared her shoulders, heading to the food. Waiting patiently behind a metal counter, she contemplated what to eat. Pointing to the grilled chicken salad, she slid down the line. The man behind the counter handed her the salad with a plate of chocolate cake. “All new employees get cake, love. We hope it encourages them to come back tomorrow.”
Gracie chuckled as she took the cake and placed it on her tray.
Adam slid his tray next to hers, and a quick flash of something filled his eyes as he held her gaze. Dismissing the shared look, he turned back to the server. “You never gave me cake when I started.”
, tattooed muscular man stood behind the counter. The intensity of his eyes assessed her before he boasted. “She’s prettier than you are. What can I say?”
winked at her and gave the man a knowing smirk, Adam replied, “You got that right.” Adam slid his tray down the metal counter, following behind her as she paid and moved to a table by the windows. He plopped down next to her; popped the top on his soda and leaned in close to her ear, and whispered, “Gracie, you’ve got to go. It’s not safe for you here.”
Her heart lurched
. Her lips parted in protest, but then she shook her head. Instead, she filled her mouth with the cake rather than saying the words that promised to ease the pain of his betrayal. She swallowed around the chocolate fluffy goodness. “And why is that, Adam?”
slid his chair closer to hers. His voice deepened, even though it was hardly more than a whisper, his gaze searching hers as his brows dipped. “Sinclair is ruthless and dangerous. You’ve got to get out while you still can.”
the untouched salad on her plate, she swiped the chocolate icing from the top of the cake and lifted it to her lips. The sugary goodness didn’t give her the comfort she thought it would, only settling like a lump of coal in her stomach. She replied with a steadiness she didn’t feel. “As dangerous as the guy with the black eyes from college?”
’s hand stilled with a fork halfway to his mouth. His eyes widened as he set the uneaten food back down on the plate. “You remember? How is that even possible?”
tanding, she placed both palms on the table and leaned forward, her voice cracking as she spoke. “You knew? How could you?”
He faltered in the silence that engulfed them producing
another rip in her soul.
, congratulations.” She lowered her voice. “You’re no better than Sinclair.”
As if he’d heard his name, Sinclair appeared in the doorway, clapping his hands together as he approached.
“I see you’re catching up on old times.”
Her skin flushed with anger and embarrassment as she fought against
the instinct to knock both men on their asses. Losing her cool wasn’t an option; so instead, she plastered a smile on her face. “We sure did. I’m not late coming back from lunch, am I?”
He placed a hand on her shoulder
, glanced down at her food, and grinned. “Don’t be absurd, although it doesn’t look like you’ve finished eating.”
returned her gaze to Adam, narrowing her eyes. “I’ve lost my appetite.”
His hand slid slowly down her shoulder to her lower back
, and she held back the shiver that threatened to expose her feelings. “I’ve got to go run errands in town. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? I’ll see you back here bright and early tomorrow morning.”
Taking a deep stead
ying breath, she steeled her resolve and pushed aside all the emotions that threatened to take over. “I think that’s a fabulous idea.”
e motioned toward the door. “After you, Gracie. I’ll walk you back to your car.”
The drive home went a lot quicker than finding Sinclair’s office. She’d made excellent time back to the other side of town.
Gracie kicked off her shoes by the front door and dropped her keys on the table in the foyer. Rubbing her neck, she plopped down on the couch. Sinclair and Adam both had her body wound tight with tension. Making the necessary calls, she asked Ridge and Ethan to meet at her house. She wanted to explain only once what happened in her day rather than repeating it three times for her friends, Ethan, and Ridge.
Ridge managed to get there fifteen minutes after she’d called, and Gracie had insisted on waiting for Ethan before she’d talk about her day. He’d been close by, not that she needed to know that. The tracker that Brody had put on her car during his watch the night of the banquet had been pure genius. They now knew exactly where Sinclair was, and the rest of the team was chomping at the bit to raid the place. It was hard getting them to hold back until he knew what she’d uncovered, if anything at all. He’d also known the moment she left thanks to the tracker. Relief had washed over his body and eased the tension that had built as he waited. Ridge tapped his foot against the linoleum with nervous energy as he sat in the kitchen drinking his coffee waiting for Ethan to show up.
, Ethan waved the file in his hands then tossed it on the table. Everyone in the room became silent, including Cathy and Tara. “I did some digging on your boy.” He walked to her fridge and pulled out a beer. “Do you mind?”
She shook her head
, and he popped the top. “Who?”
Ridge watched as
Ethan’s gaze landed on Cathy, and his eyes softened before he answered Gracie’s question. “Adam Lowell.”
Reaching for the file, she flipped it open
. “What did you find out?”
“He’s a ghost. There are no records before he went to your college or after he left.” He plopped down in an empty chair at the table. “I pulled a few favors and asked the college to pull his file.”
Ridge nodded and relaxed a bit more since he had the unexpected help.
“I was looking for a birth certificate or high school transcripts.
I hoped it would give me a starting point.”
Gracie lifted some of the papers out of the
thick folder, and Ridge reached over and took some too. “Then what is all this?”
“A record of every Adam
who was registered for the semester you said he was there.”
Ethan leaned his elbows on the table
, holding the beer to his lips. “There are a ton of them. I’m not sure how we’re going to narrow it down. Maybe we can start with whatever class you two shared.”
Gracie’s brow furrowed as she looked down at the paper. “We didn’t have any classes together.”
Ridge let his hand settle over top of hers as a silent reminder they were in this together. “Gracie, are you sure he was even enrolled there?”
She placed the papers back down in the file and shook her head. “I’m not sure about anything anymore.” She glanced up. “I mean, every time I saw him, he was carrying books or in the library studying.
I never went to his house or anything; we always just hung out at mine. Mostly watching television and venting about professors. Why else would he have been there if he wasn’t enrolled?”
Ethan took the file and patted it. “I’ll keep digging.”
Ridge gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “What did you find out at work today?”
he lifted a hand to her stomach. “Sinclair showed me around and even explained all of the projects they’re working on. Adam is working on some type of gene enhancement.” She glanced up at Ridge. “Everything was on the up and up. There weren’t any areas off limits, and they didn’t seem to be trying to hide anything. Hell, Sinclair even left me alone with access to his office for a couple of hours.”
cameras,” Ethan said.
. “He was testing to see if he could trust you. It’s a good thing you didn’t go snooping. Did you have a chance to talk to Adam?”
Sliding her f
ingers free from Ridge, she lifted the coffee to her lips, lost in thought.
Ridge’s frown deepened while she ran the events of the day through her mind. She nodded. “I saw him in the cafeteria. He told me I needed to leave, that it was too dangerous for me to be there.”
Ethan glanced at Ridge
, before meeting her gaze. “Did he tell you what happened back in college? How they made you forget?”
She shook her head. “No, although he implied he knew. We were interrupted by Sinclair.”
“Anything else happen today? Anything out of the ordinary?”
Gracie tried to smile
, trying to reassure everyone. “Apparently the new employees get free chocolate cake. That was good.”
Gracie rose from the table and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry
, guys. I don’t feel so well. I think I need to go lie down. My head is pounding.”
Everyone else stood. “Gracie, give me a few minutes to walk Ethan out, and I’ll join you.”
Ethan moved to the door without complaint.
Ridge could tell the man shared the same reservations about everything she’d said.
Ridge pulled the door closed behind him and
walked over to the sports car. Ethan spoke first. “I don’t like it.”
“I know. I’m not sure what game the
y’re trying to play.”
Ethan leaned up against the sports car
his face closed as if guarding a secret he didn’t want to discuss. “What are we going to do? She won’t listen if we tell her to quit. She’s too head-strong for that.”
Ridge ran his hands through his hair
and squeezed the knotted muscles in his neck. “And we can’t prove he’s done anything wrong, so I can’t send in the unit.”
“How do you even know where
the compound is? Did she tell you?”
Ridge met Ethan’s gaze. “My brother put a tracker on her car
, so we knew where she was going.”
Ethan’s lips tilte
d up. “You should have just given her a diamond watch, like Jake, Butch, and Briggs used on the Bennett girls.”
Ridge shrugged. “We used what we had available at the time.”
“What are we going to do about them?” Ethan nodded toward the house. Ridge glanced over his shoulder to find Tara and Cathy watching them from the window. The expressions on their face were exactly how Ridge felt. They all cared about Gracie.
Ridge turned back around. “They aren’t safe here
until we figure this out; hell, Gracie isn’t even safe to stay here by herself.”
“Agreed. I’ll work on a plan to get them out of the house, or I’ll stay with them during the day and you stay here at night.” Ethan pulled the car door open. “That is if you can keep your hands off her long enough to remember to shut and lock the damn doors.”
Ridge patted Ethan on the back
and started walking backward to the house. “Good luck with getting them to leave her. I bet they turn out to be a handful just like she is. Let me know if I need to send my brother to give you a hand while you’re investigating. I’m sure he’d love to pitch in.” Ridge chuckled at the thought.
grinned as he climbed into his car. “Will do.”
red the house and nodded to Tara and Cathy as he passed. “I’m going to lie down with her. Holler if you need anything.”
They both smiled. “I’m sure we’ll be fine. We’re jus
t going to hang out and cook dinner in a little bit. Will you be staying to eat?”
“I don’t plan on going anywhere for
a long time,” Ridge reassured them both. “Now, if she kicks me out, then that’s another story.”
A pink tint traveled to
each of their cheeks. “She wouldn’t dream of it, I’m sure,” Tara replied.
Pausing after he pushed Gracie’s door open, he let his eyes adjust to the
darkness before he closed the door behind him. She was lying under her covers. Kicking off his shoes, he stripped down to his boxers and slid into the bed next to her, wrapping her in his arms from behind and stroking her hair. “Feeling any better?”