Authors: Kimberley Troutte
Amber knocked on the cabin door.
When it opened, Jenna, the petite blonde Amber had always idolized, gave her a big smile. “Amber! Thank God you’re here.” Strong arms pulled her into a fierce hug. “I was so worried. Did they hurt you?”
“I’m cold, wet, and freaked out, but I’m okay.” She held onto Jenna for several long seconds before releasing. “How’d you know where to find me?”
Jenna blinked and a tear streamed down her cheek. “Mr. Lee told us.”
Sadness twisted in her chest. Poor old man. She never meant for him to get hurt. “Is he okay? I was so worried. The triad beat him up pretty badly.”
“He went to the hospital for observation, but he seemed like he was going to be fine.”
“Thank God. He tried to hide me, but I couldn’t let the triad hurt him. He didn’t deserve any of that. Did Mr. Lee say…anything else?”
What happened to the memory card? She had to get back to the store before anyone else found it.
Jenna frowned. “He provided a good description of the yacht and told us about the men who took you. Is that what you’re asking?”
Amber studied Jenna’s face. She seemed sincere. If Mr. Lee had given her the card, she would have said so. Relaxing a bit, she nodded.
“I’m so happy the team got there in time,” Jenna said. “I was scared for you.”
“About that. Who are these guys? How does Dad know them?”
“They’re the SEAL E
treme Team. Named after the travel agency. Mack and I organized them last month to save some of your dad’s clients. My clients. But I didn’t expect what happened. How could I know…?” A sharp pain of darkness rolled across Jenna’s face. She gripped the back of a chair as if she’d suddenly lost her balance.
“Jenna? Are you all right?”
She sat in the chair and dropped her head between her knees. “Dizzy. Must not have my sea legs yet.”
Amber frowned. The water wasn’t choppy. She rubbed Jenna’s back. “Can I get you a glass of water?”
Jenna glanced up from under her curtain of long hair. “Just need to…breathe.” She inhaled deeply, blew out slowly. She smiled weakly. “Better.”
She didn’t look better. Her cheeks were far too pale. A prickle of uneasiness crept up Amber’s spine. Something was wrong with her. Was she sick?
“Are you sure?” She brushed a strand of hair out of Jenna’s eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not now. Go take a hot shower and warm up. We’ll talk later.”
The woman was obviously worried. Who wouldn’t be? A travel agent had no business being caught in the middle of this mess. What was Dad thinking sending Jenna? Crap, had she put another woman’s life in danger? They all needed to get out of here.
She gripped Jenna’s shoulder. “The Triad 14K is looking for me. None of us are safe. Seriously. We’ve got to leave China as quickly as we can.”
“Don’t worry.” She patted Amber’s hand. “The guys are the best. You’re safe now, I promise. Get your shower and I’ll fill you in on the plan.”
“The plan had better be to get out of here.
Jenna sat up straight. She looked like the woman Amber remembered—strong, confidant, in control.
“Not yet. Mack is going to hide us in plain sight and buy us time before we move. We’ll be fine.”
Stay here and hide? That was suicidal. “You don’t understand! Those guys won’t stop. My friend was shot, Jenna. Right before my eyes. Bullet to the heart, brain. Blood everywhere, his blood soaking into my carpet…” She slammed her eyes tight, forcing the memories away, but she couldn’t stop them. Her world tipped, her body shook.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Jenna wrapped her arms around her. “Shh. It’s going to be okay.”
How? Nothing would ever be okay. She’d screwed up bad and people were dying because of her. Again. And if the triad got a hold of the memory card, more innocent people would be hurt.
“They want…something from me. Something they can’t have. They’ll kill me to get it.” She lifted her head from Jenna’s shoulder. “They’ll kill you, too.”
Charlie maneuvered the lifeboat next to an old
. A fisherman onboard eyed them. “This one looks good.”
“Old as hell. Perfect cover.” Willy agreed. “The
is big enough for all of us. Why do you think we also need a
Charlie shrugged, but he suspected that Mack was making him pay for kissing Amber. As if putting him on another boat would keep him away from her. Amber wasn’t like the C.O.’s daughter. She was different. Hell, she was…Hot Girl.
He still couldn’t believe it. In all the weird twists of fate, this one took the gold trophy. While he was worried about her, wondering why she hadn’t been gaming, she was in Hong Kong gearing up to pull off the hack of the Century. It made perfect sense to him that a woman who could break into the D.O.D would be the same one who clobbered his ass online. What didn’t make sense was
What in hell made her do it? The Hot Girl he knew, thought he knew, would never be a traitor to her country. Either he didn’t understand her at all, or she did it for a good reason. A flippin’ phenomenal reason, like she had a brain tumor, been abducted by aliens, or forced at gunpoint. The last one was iffy. He wouldn’t do what she did, even if a gun was pointed at his heart.
But, he’d get to the bottom of it, bottom of her—he grinned to himself—no matter how long it took. Not that he was complaining. He’d wanted to kiss Hot Girl since the first time he’d played against her online. Damn, the real thing blew the fantasies out of the water. He’d put his lips on her again. Soon. Mack might want him to maintain a safe distance, but he’d stay close and solve the sexy puzzle known as Amber Fitz.
In broken Cantonese, Willy asked the fisherman if they could rent the fishing boat for a week.
The fisherman leaned over the bow and quoted an astronomical price. Probably more money than the man would bring in for the year.
Willy grinned. “Mack’s paying for it, right?”
“We’ll take it.”
Amber stared out of the porthole in the bathroom while she showered. A few boats leisurely floated by—a sailboat, a fisherman’s skiff. No expensive speed boats. No men with high-powered rifles. Had she lost the triad? She shook her head at the thought. Not lost, temporarily misplaced. They’d find her. Traid 14K was powerful and had their ugly tentacles in every form of Chinese business and transportation. How could she get out of China without them finding her?
would not go far. Not far enough.
There had to be a way.
After drying herself, she put on the black shirt and pants Jenna had laid out for her.
She stretched her neck and back. Her muscles ached in places she didn’t know she had muscles. Her head pounded from stress overload and where the triad jerk’s fists had landed.
Jenna knocked on the door. “Can I come in?”
“Sure. Thanks for the clothes.” It felt good to be out of her mini-skirt and blouse.
“I’ve washed your clothes and will throw them in the dryer.”
“Don’t bother, other than my bra and undies, you can burn the rest for all I care.” Too much had happened in those clothes. “Well, maybe I’ll keep the boots.” She had a feeling Charlie liked them. But she wasn’t wearing three-inch heels now. She needed to be able to run fast if she ever got off this
. Thank God, Jenna had black running shoes in her size.
Jenna’s gave her a head-to-toe once-over. “Good camouflage for tonight. But your hair…”
Her hand instinctively to her ends. “The pink?”
“Has got to go.” Jenna held up a bag of supplies. “So who do you want to be? A blonde, brunette, or red head?”
She faced the mirror, taking one last look at the Amber she used to be. She didn’t want to be that scared girl anymore. “Red. And can you do something about this bruise on my cheek? Might as well cover the dark circles too. Crap, I look like hell.”
“You’re beautiful. Especially after what you’ve been through. The idea is to make you look different, though. Really different.” Jenna held up a pair of scissors. “Do you trust me?”
Amber nodded. “Do it.”
It was dark before the engine rumbled and slowed down. Amber jerked. She’d been in a chair dozing, waiting for something to happen. Praying that nothing would. “We’re stopping?”
Jenna put down a book she’d been reading. “Soon. Mack waited until he was sure the triad is no longer searching the waters for you. We’re going to Aberdeen Harbour.
Bei Fung Tong Typhoon Shelter
, to be exact. We should be able to stay there tonight.”
“The Floating Village?”
With thousands of fishing boats all jammed together. It will be nearly impossible to find one
from the others.”
“Hiding in plain sight.”
Jenna smiled. “You got it. Charlie is monitoring communications. When he’s sure the triad has moved on, we’ll go to the next stage in the plan.”
“I’ll let Mack fill you in.”
Pain pounded in her head. “Bossy Mack again. He seems pretty full of himself.”
Jenna laughed. “He is. You can count on him, Amber. He’ll get us out of here safely. ”
She couldn’t help but notice the happy little smile and the twinkle in Jenna’s brown eyes. So that’s the way it was. The workaholic travel agent was in love.
“What about Charlie?”
She wanted to believe Charlie and the rest of the team, but she was still cautious. Did these guys know what they’d gotten themselves into? Or had Dad sent them to rescue her without telling them truth. Would they still be kind to her if they knew what she’d done?
“All of the guys on the team are great at what they do. Mack says Charlie is of the best Communication Experts in the SEALs.” Jenna leaned closer and whispered, “Did he tell you about what happened to me in the jungle? Charlie saved my life.”
Amber couldn’t believe her ears. “You went with a SEAL team into the jungle? Why?”
“I shouldn’t have. I was stubborn and stupid. I thought I knew what I was doing and…and people got hurt.” Jenna swallowed hard. “I can’t…that’s hard to talk about...”
Amber remembered her as a responsible, organized office lady. Not this woman who was tearing up and emotional for no good reason. Stubborn, yes. Stupid? That didn’t sound like the Jenna she knew. Had the world gone insane?
She shook her head. “Charlie saved your life?”
“Truly, they all did. They are my guys, my team. I care for each of them. But Mack.” The corners of her lips turned up even as one tear escaped and ran down her cheek. “That hunk is mine.”
The engines sputtered and stopped.