Authors: Dana Marton
PRAISE FOR DANA MARTON
, Dana Marton introduces an irresistible couple who take the reader on a fast-paced, unforgettable military adventure.”
RT Book Review
ALSO BY DANA MARTON
Broslin Creek Series
Broslin Bride: Gone and Done It
Agents Under Fire Trilogy
Tall, Dark, and Lethal
Most Eligible Spy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2014 Dana Marton
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
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Cover design by Marc J. Cohen
Library of Congress Control Number:
I’d like to dedicate this book to my wonderful readers, who are with me book after book and are a constant source of friendship and support on Facebook: Ramona Kersch Kekstadt, Jenn Nixon, Sue Chatterjee, Dotty Graves, Deb Posey Chudzinksi, Ellen Viars, Janet Vautard, Deb Burchfield, Mary Gooding, Stacy Brown, Amanda Scott, Mandy Pederick, Margaret Sholders, and all my other wonderful reader friends.
ONE OF THESE
days, they were going to kill the stupid monkey. Glenn Danning squinted against the Venezuelan sun, watching through the gap-toothed windowpanes as the half-dozen soldiers in the compound’s courtyard took turns throwing their knives.
The monkey darted toward the cement block wall that separated the courtyard from the jungle, scrambling toward the top where the yellow, blue, and red Venezuelan flag danced in the breeze, but a rope mercilessly yanked the animal back toward his cage.
Army barracks surrounded the space on three sides, a gated opening and guard shack closing off the fourth. Five beat-up military trucks and a Jeep were parked inside, the rest of the dusty courtyard empty, used for morning and evening formation for the soldiers and as a hangout place when they were on break.
The monkey darted around, but once a knife was in motion, he froze and covered his eyes, as if he was in some kind of circus act. That seemed to amuse the men to no end. They laughed, taunting the animal for his cowardice.
Their attacks were halfhearted at best. If they killed their sole source of entertainment, they’d have nothing to look forward to in their day other than mind-numbing guard duty.
Tied hand and foot to the wooden chair in the middle of the interrogation room, Glenn suspected the reason he still lived was pretty much the same.
He drew his gaze from the window to check the clock over the metal door just as the door opened.
The small garrison’s commanding officer was late.
“Trouble with room service this morning?” Glenn joked, and went on despite the decidedly unamused look on the man’s face. “Me too. To tell you the truth, I’ve been in better hotels.”
He tried to read the man’s eyes. The commander had never been late before.
Did someone from the US embassy show up finally? Glenn had been memorizing schedules and making friends with one of the guards, planning to escape on his own. But if help was here . . .
“If you have a scheduling conflict”—he smiled at the commander—
“we can just postpone. I’m pretty flexible time wise, actually.”
The commander’s eyes remained cold, humor clearly wasted on the bastard. Since Glenn didn’t crack jokes to entertain his captor, he wasn’t too heartbroken. He joked around to keep his own spirits up. He needed whatever mental boost he could get in this place.
was the word, everything hard cement and equally hard metal.
Even with several of the small windowpanes broken out and air moving through, the stench of sweat, blood, and urine filled the room—the least of his discomforts, for sure. He filled his lungs, bracing himself for the coming festivities.
The commander, around five foot seven in his army boots, his green uniform still crisp this early in the day, leaned his riding crop against the wall by the door and paused to pick his teeth with his fingernail. Then he dropped his hand to his side and sucked air through his yellow teeth before he said, “You talk, filthy American spy, or I kill you right now.”
After four full weeks of bloody torture, neither of them took the words too seriously. Once Glenn had survived the first, unbearable, days, the two of them had settled into a routine. The bastard huffed and puffed, tossing threats, while Glenn protested his innocence, then passed out when the pain turned too ugly.
Unfortunately, the commander had learned his prisoner’s limits fast. At the beginning, they were done in half an hour, then Glenn would come to in his cell, every inch of his body hurting. But by now the commander knew exactly what and how much his prisoner could handle. Their torture sessions could easily last half a day.
“We could skip today,” Glenn suggested cheerfully. “What’s the point of being boss if you can’t play hooky now and then? You go have some fun. Hell, you look like you could use it. I won’t tell anybody.”
The man didn’t react as he pushed over the wooden cart that held his instruments. With a cold look, he skipped over the pliers and the metal spikes and grabbed a handful of electrodes. He pressed them onto Glenn’s forehead and neck, then turned on the nasty little device that delivered the electric shocks. He skipped the lower settings altogether and went straight to ten.
Glenn braced himself in the wooden chair.
The air crackled a second before unbearable pain sliced through him, as if he’d been cut in two by a giant ax. The stomach-turning smell of burned flesh filled his nose. His muscles turned painfully rigid, his joints popped, audible over the buzz of the machine.
He’d dislocated his shoulder the last time they’d gone to level nine, the highest setting they’d flirted with until now. At this stage, his best hope was not to break his own bones when he convulsed, or bite off his tongue and choke on the blood.
His peripheral vision narrowed, the room dimming.
Hello, darkness, my old friend.
But before he could pass out, the commander flipped off the switch, and Glenn slumped forward in the chair, only his restraints holding him in place.
The pain, unfortunately, did not leave with the electric current. He could barely breathe as the man strode to the door and picked up his riding crop, shouting in heavily-accented English as he approached again.
“You are American spy! You are enemy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Why did you come here? Who sent you? You tell me names!” With each sentence, he smacked the riding crop against the side of his boot for emphasis.
“Inocente.” Glenn pushed the single word through clenched teeth, his jaw muscles still contracted.
If he thought responding in the man’s native language would help him, he had another thing coming. The riding crop lashed across his face the next second, missing his right eye by a fraction of an inch, sending blood squirting as it broke his skin.
The air stuck in his lungs. He clenched his jaw even harder, doing his best to block out the pain, forcing his brain to think.
Something did happen this morning
The new level of violence went beyond the routine interrogation he’d become used to, had trained himself to bear day after day.
Maybe the US embassy
tracked him down and demanded him back. Maybe today was the commander’s last chance to get anything out of him. Glenn braced himself, hope giving him strength. If he had to survive only this one last day, he could handle anything.
, he thought two hours later—a bloody, broken mess—sitting only because he was tied in that position. His tormentor tossed the bloody pliers he’d used to yank out a toenail, then strode out of the room with a curse.
The commander took breaks as regular as a union worker, for which Glenn was profoundly grateful. The brief reprieves gave him a chance to recuperate.
His bladder was full, pressing painfully against his bruised kidneys. His captors didn’t allow him use of the facilities while in interrogation, the humiliation part of the effort to break him. So he did what he’d been forced to do daily in here—released his muscles. Warm urine trickled down his leg to the cement floor, adding to the stench around him.
Don’t think about it. Don’t feel. Don’t break.
He closed his eyes and went away in his mind, the only thing he had control over.
Slowly, a picture formed. He stood on his favorite golf course at Myrtle Beach: sunshine, birds, endless green, the ocean. He soaked that in for a minute, before pain blasted through the stained-glass window images of his imagination.
He drew a deep breath, kept his eyes closed, and went to his engineering lab. Working on a problem might occupy his mind more thoroughly. But even that didn’t work today. So he went back to her.
, the first girl who’d ever let him see her naked. That kind of thing left an impression on a guy. Scientific fact: a situation in which a naked woman wouldn’t lift a man’s spirits did not exist.
They’d both gone to MIT at seventeen to study engineering. He’d been a total nerd. He didn’t notice things if they didn’t have pulleys and levers and cranks. But he’d noticed
. She’d bested him in their very first class, on the very first project.
On the next project they’d been partners. They’d spent a lot of time together, designing the engineering of an energy-neutral palm house for the Boston Public Garden. He’d developed a serious fondness for her mind, for her long, dark hair, for her breasts. He might have become obsessed with the breasts, in particular. He’d asked her if he could touch them.
She’d looked like she was going to deck him. “For experimental reasons,” he’d said. “I’ve never done this. I want to know how it works.” Her eyes narrowed. And then she’d unbuttoned her shirt and said, “Sure.”
They began an eighteen-month enthusiastic study of life sciences, human sexuality, in specific. She’d been his best friend. His first lover. She’d made him feel like a man.
A smile tugged at Glenn’s lips. She’d made him feel a lot of things.
And then she’d left him.
He opened his eyes.
part had not been happy.
He turned his head to the window, toward the slightest of breezes coming in. A new batch of soldiers were having a smoke, leaving the monkey alone for the time being. The animal winked at Glenn, his only other talent beyond covering his eyes. He never winked at anyone else, only the prisoner when they caught each other’s glance through the window now and then. Maybe Winky was smart enough to know that they were sharing the same fate.
Glenn looked from the monkey to the men.
Something strange there.
The men’s uniforms were cleaner than usual, their hair in order. And the courtyard had been swept at one point during the interrogation. Some kind of a tropical fruit tree grew outside the wall and dropped fruit inside the compound. The ones Winky could reach, he ate. The rest were left to rot where they fell. But someone had cleaned them away today.
Why the change?
Somebody was definitely coming. Someone the commander wanted to impress.
But the hope Glenn had been working up crashed and died the next second when a new thought pushed to the surface. The commander wouldn’t care about impressing visitors from the US embassy. He hated Americans, considered them all capitalist pigs.
The only reason to release Glenn would be to make nice with the US. In which case, the last minute bloody torture would be counterproductive. If Venezuela decided to return their prisoner, they would have let Glenn wash this morning, given him clean clothes, gotten him into as good a shape as possible so they could deny torture.
But if the Americans weren’t coming, then who?
A cold shiver ran down his spine despite the heat. Losing the last bit of hope hurt more than the electric shocks, more than the whip. He swore. It didn’t make him feel any better.
The visitor had to be someone who’d be pleased by the torture, by the prisoner’s busted face. The commander’s superior officer? That would explain the renewed vigor in questioning. The commander would be hard-pressed to show results.
Speaking of the devil . . . Even as Glenn watched, the man appeared in a doorway outside and began barking commands at his men in the courtyard. The soldiers jumped to attention and ran to do his bidding while the commander disappeared back into the building.
He strode into the interrogation room a minute later.
He cranked the machine. “Who are your connections? Tell me their names.”
And the pain began all over again.
“You are a spy. Why are you here?”
Glenn’s body twisted.
Make it up. Confess
, his brain screamed.
Maybe they’d trade him. But that hinged on the US having a Venezuelan spy in custody and being willing to make the trade. Glenn, an ordinary businessman, wasn’t exactly a valuable asset. Chances were, a confession would make his situation worse, not better. If he faked being a spy, the commander would push even harder to get classified government information out of him.
The machine hummed louder, then a second later, a fresh wave of agony hit. When darkness slowly moved in to claim Glenn, the commander turned off the switch and gave him a few minutes to breathe, to revive, to anticipate the next onslaught of pain. The bastard smiled as he waited. He did enjoy his nasty little game.
“This has to run up your electric bill.” Glenn used the last of his strength to speak. “What do you say we give energy conservation a nod and quit for today?”
The man narrowed his cold eyes, instant displeasure replacing his smile. He didn’t like being talked back to. “I broke many men. I broke them fast. Why don’t you break, American?”
“I guess I wasn’t made to break,” Glenn lied, even as he at last teetered on the ragged edge of his breaking point.
He turned his head toward the light of the window and the slight breeze. The soldiers were moving the trucks around. He hadn’t even heard the motors start up. They weren’t leaving, just pulling the vehicles to the other side of the courtyard.
They were clearing the area in front of the cement brick wall. Now that the trucks weren’t blocking his line of sight, Glenn could fully see the wall for the first time, the cement chinked all over the place.
The courtyard was too narrow for target shooting, but even as he thought that, his brain produced the answer.
He swallowed hard.
Dead men tell no tales.
Maybe the commander didn’t want whoever was coming to talk with the prisoner. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to interrogate Glenn as hard as he had. Maybe he didn’t want to admit that he’d been wrong and their captive wasn’t a spy.
With Glenn dead, the commander could spin the story any way he wanted. He could tell his superiors that the prisoner
been a spy, but had been shot while trying to escape—whatever he had to say to cover up his mistake of detaining and torturing a US citizen.