Authors: Debra Webb
|CA 46.5 Operation Second Honeymoon|
|Colby Agency [46.50]|
A gun battle
wasn't on the itinerary.…
Lucas Camp and Victoria Colby-Camp had
planned a quiet second honeymoon in Mexico—open-air cafés, unique little shops,
breakfast in bed and visiting an abandoned town that one of their old
investigators was bringing back to life—with all the concerns of the Colby
Agency left behind.
Until the ambush. Suddenly under a storm of gunfire, Victoria and Lucas
found themselves outmanned and outgunned—and they had no idea who their
attacker was. Had they made a new enemy…or was the strike planned by someone
much closer to home?
OPERATION: SECOND HONEYMOON
A gun battle wasn't on the itinerary.... Lucas Camp and Victoria Colby-Camp had planned a quiet second honeymoon in Mexico—open-air cafes, unique little shops, breakfast in bed and visiting an abandoned town that one of their old investigators was bringing back to life—with all the concerns of the Colby Agency left behind.
Until the ambush. Suddenly under a storm of gunfire, Victoria and Lucas found themselves outmanned and outgunned—and they had no idea who their attacker was. Had they made a new enemy.or was the strike planned by someone much closer to home?
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, August 20, 1:00 p.m.
Lucas Camp gazed across the table at his lovely wife, Victoria. It was the most beautiful day and yet not nearly as beautiful as she was. Their seventh anniversary was coming up soon. The truth was he could no longer remember his life before she was a part of it, first as his best friend's wife, then as his closest confidante, and finally as the woman with whom he would spend the rest of his days. She was the only woman he had ever loved, had ever wanted to share his life with.
"A penny for your thoughts.” She smiled and he melted a little more inside.
He, Lucas Camp, the master spy who had gathered intelligence in the most dangerous of places, against the deadliest of enemies, got all squishy just looking at her. "I'm simply enjoying the view."
"Lucas," she scolded gently, though he heard the delight in her voice his words had aroused, "we've been in Mexico only a few days. There is far too much to savor to be distracted by a sight you see at home every day." She gestured to the mystic city around them that blended the past and present with the skill of an artist layering bold contemporary strokes of color against the historic sun-bleached whites. The small open-air cafe they'd chosen for lunch was nestled comfortably between a sleek art gallery and an old crumbling church. All accompanied by quiet conversations and the soft roar of the sea just a few steps away.
"Let's walk.” Victoria rose from her chair, the pastel blue cotton dress she wore providing a stunning contrast to her innate elegance.
Lucas left payment for their meal and took his wife's hand. As they strolled to the
he rubbed the gold band that encircled her ring finger. He would never forget the day he had placed it on her finger or the day she had removed the other band she'd worn for more than two decades. She'd knelt at the grave of James Colby, her first husband and Lucas's best friend, and explained that she was finally ready to move on with her life. She'd carefully buried that golden band at the base of James's headstone.
So much had happened since that day. Her son, Jim, had found his way home after nearly twenty years. As a child he had been abducted by an evil man who had sworn vengeance against the Colby family. Since Jim's return, grandchildren had filled Lucas and Victoria's lives.
Unfortunately there had also been the typical trials related to their work. Lucas had made many enemies in the world of intelligence gathering and adversary interception, as had the Colbys in their endeavors to right the wrongs done to those who sought help at the Colby Agency.
More recently, a newcomer, Slade Keaton, had created a disturbing series of ripples. He'd taken over the Equalizers, Jim's private investigations firm that didn't always play by the rules, and proceeded to insinuate himself into every level of Lucas and Victoria's lives. There was something about Keaton and the way he watched their every move that nagged at Lucas. But Keaton was a forbidden topic on this vacation. Today, Lucas was focused on his wife. They were many, many miles from work. No one here knew their true identities. They were nothing more than a pair of tourists enjoying a late summer day in paradise. No work. No worries. Well, except for the small, carefully hidden weapon he carried beneath his jacket. Even Victoria understood that a man like Lucas would never be caught unarmed.
"I'm concerned that we haven't heard from Sloan."
Lucas chuckled. "Now who's distracted?" Trevor Sloan lived near Chihuahua with his wife and two children. He had once worked with Victoria at the Colby Agency. He and his wife were, at this very moment, in the process of welcoming baby number three.
Victoria squeezed Lucas's hand. "You're right. Sloan will call when there's news."
"He will.” It was a flat-out miracle the agency hadn't called. But then Mildred, Victoria's assistant, had sworn that nothing outside an absolute emergency would interrupt their long-awaited second honeymoon.
"I'm looking forward to the visit to Pozos. The rebuilding Sloan described sounds marvelous."
Mineral de Pozos was a small village in the central highlands of Mexico. Once a booming silver mining town, it had been nothing more than a ghost town until a few years ago. But a resurgence, prompted by artists from the U.S. and elsewhere, was underway. Sloan had helped to rebuild a small school there. His enthusiasm had inspired Victoria to suggest she and Lucas take a detour from their itinerary to visit the town. If Lucas knew his wife, and he did, she would be filling those new classrooms with computers and books and most anything else needed.
"Me, too. I think we should leave for Pozos early in the morning," Lucas suggested. "Take our time. Stop along the way if we stumble upon something interesting."
Victoria paused and turned to him. "Not too early, I hope." She tiptoed and placed a kiss on his jaw. "Sleeping in again would be interesting, too."
"Ten or so is certainly early enough." Lucas savored the warmth her slightest touch initiated. A delectable array of fruit and soft, sweet cream from room service would be in order for breakfast. Rich coffee and perhaps juice. He would need his strength tomorrow if this morning was any indication. Contentment settled deep in his bones. This trip was exactly what they had needed.
"This is the shop I told you about." She tugged him toward the open doors of a small, lovingly restored stone building filled with sixteenth-century-style pottery and stunningly colored masks.
Lucas indulged his wife though they'd explored dozens of shops exactly like this one already. She wandered the carefully orchestrated clutter, her expression filled with admiration as she touched the handmade treasures. Whatever her heart desired was exactly what his heart required.
Lucas stood at the large open window and watched the passersby on the street. Most were struck by the beauty of the sea that lapped languidly at the silky white beaches bordering the city. Or, like Victoria, were fascinated by the local artisans. But Lucas was more interested in the people. He was ever-conscious of his surroundings and those who roused his suspicions. No matter that he was far from work; old habits die hard.
A crowd of American tourists—they were as easy to spot as ketchup on a white shirt — strolled past the cafe where he and Victoria had dined. Hadn't they read the warnings about traveling in Mexico?
Don't dress and act like a tourist. Lay off the jewelry and designer wear.
Apparently they hadn't gotten that part.
As the tourists walked on, Lucas noticed a lone diner sitting at the same table where he and Victoria had been only minutes before. Lucas frowned. The woman studied the menu but something about her profile seemed familiar.
As if she felt his attention on her, she turned and looked toward the shop and toward the window where he stood.
Their gazes locked across the distance as if it were mere inches rather than several yards. The fragrant sea air evacuated his lungs. Tension exploded inside him.
"Impossible." The muttered word startled him despite its having crossed his lips.
Lucas hurried out the door, his prosthetic slowing his movements when only this morning he'd felt like a young, virile man half his age. He wove through the crowd that cut off his path in the street. His entire body shook by the time he reached the cafe.
The table was empty save for a stylishly stemmed glass of white wine.
Couldn't have been
he said, stopping a passing waiter. "Where is the lady who was at this table a moment ago?"
"She had an emergency, senor. I am afraid she left. Was she expecting you?"
Lucas shook his head and thanked the man. He struggled to compose himself before walking away.
No. It could not have been
He surveyed the street, the people walking leisurely past. His gaze landed on Victoria, standing in the door of the shop obviously looking for him.
Lucas drew in a deep, ragged breath. Victoria waved to him. He waved back, manufacturing a smile.
Surely he had only seen someone who merely looked like
It had been nearly thirty years.... Though the length of time mattered little, Lucas was certain that if he ever actually saw
again, he would know.
He smiled for his wife and banished thoughts of the past. Nothing and no one was going to ruin this special time.
Mineral de Pozos, August 21, 5:15 p.m.
Victoria Colby-Camp was amazed by the work Sloan and his friends had accomplished. The massive old church-turned-school was ready for attendance, opening in just one week. As she surveyed the playground she smiled. Bright, welcoming colors adorned the swings and slides and jungle gym. The children would love this escape from the instruction inside.
"We are truly blessed," confessed Salvadore Hernandez, their guide and one of Sloan's partners in the community work continuing in small villages throughout central Mexico. "Senor Sloan has devoted much time and many resources to helping the children of our country."
"Sloan is a man of honor," Victoria said proudly. There had been a time when tragedy and loss had left him a hollow shell, but his wife and children had categorically changed that sad fact. As Tasha, Victoria's daughter-in-law, had done for her son, Jim. Love overcame all and would not be conquered.
She reached for her husband's hand. He had been distracted today. She knew him too well to be mollified by his insistence that he was simply enthralled by their surroundings and the serenity of these past few days. Lucas felt anxious about something and he refused to share. She hoped the trouble wasn't related to Slade Keaton. Keaton was a fixture in Chicago now. Both she and Lucas needed to get used to the idea that as odd as the man was, so far he had done no harm—at least none that could be connected back to him. Time would reveal the truth. It always did. Until then there was little they could do other than follow an adage that had proven beneficial many times: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. A surprise attack was far less likely that way.
"The necessary teachers are in place, you say?" Lucas asked Salvadore.
"Absolutely." Salvadore nodded with the same enthusiasm as he did everything else. "Classes begin next week."
Lucas looked to Victoria, then to their guide. "A few more computers and perhaps a van that could be used as a school bus would be welcome donations, though. And I know just the donor...."
The delight that lit in Salvadore's eyes brought emotion to Victoria's. She longed to be more involved in work like this. Last night she and Lucas had discussed options for pitching in. It felt good knowing the difference their decision would make. The realization that there was so much more to do in so many places had her pondering another concept. The time to consider retirement was coming. Victoria felt confident that efforts like this would be every bit as fulfilling as her work at the Colby Agency.
"No question, Senor Camp." Salvadore gestured to the Jeep. "If you and Senora Victoria would like to see our next endeavor, I will gladly provide a tour."
Lucas looked to Victoria. "Sure, we have no other plans."
She nodded eagerly to their guide. "Perhaps after the tour you will join us for dinner." Salvadore's smile widened. "It would be my pleasure."
No plans. No agenda of any sort other than this enlightening and inspiring side trip. Victoria wondered as Lucas assisted her into the Jeep what it would be like to have the days and weeks stretch out before them with no particular schedule. Strangely, she felt as if she could get used to the idea very quickly. Of course, drifting through the days would grow boring equally quickly, but Victoria felt confident that she and Lucas would have no difficulty finding projects. She doubted boredom would ever be an issue.