Authors: Jillian Dodd
Tags: #Thrillers: Espionage and Spies
Copyright 2016 by Jillian Dodd
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Jillian Dodd Inc.
N. Redington Beach, FL
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO ALL THE WRITERS WHO SPARKED MY IMAGINATION AS A CHILD AND MADE ME DREAM OF BEING A SPY SOMEDAY.
AND TO THE PEOPLE WHO HUMORED ME.
The Keatyn Chronicles
That Boy Series
The Spy Girl Series
The Love Series
A man is being hung by his feet from the top of a sixteen-story building.
He tried to evade his pursuer but could not. The pursuer was like a ghost who would magically appear no matter where the man tried to hide.
And it is in moments like these that men experience clarity in their life.
The dangling man knows he will die soon. And, still, he refuses to admit to the ghost that he had anything to do with the crime. After all, he was ordered to do so by a man no one dares to cross, for fear you will end up in a situation like the one he is now.
Fearing for his life.
He did not cross his employer, though. He simply made a mistake. Last night when he was three sheets to the wind, he may have been bragging about a job he did recently in Britain.
It was an easy job, kill a man who was hunting and make it look like a suicide. No one in the pub was surprised. The types that gathered at this establishment were all criminals of one form or another, but he’d gotten a big payday and it made him feel a few notches above the rest.
“Tell me who hired you,” the ghost yells at him, threatening to let go.
The man shakes his head. If he tells, he will die—either by this man’s hand or his employer’s, and he’d much rather get dropped off this building than face what his employer would do to him. He should know. He’s fulfilled numerous contracts with explicit instructions for a slow, painful death. Or worse, making them watch their families die first.
“If you tell me, I’ll keep you safe,” the ghost offers.
is safe from him!”
“Just give me his name. Atone for what you’ve done.”
The man considers this. Would telling the ghost allow him to end up better in eternity?
He shakes his head again. “It’s already been set in motion. No one can stop it now.”
The man feels himself fall as the ghost lets go of one of his legs. Although he quickly discovers he only dropped slightly, it felt like many feet. He has a wife at home and an elderly mother. Even in death, his employer would punish him—by killing his family—if he thought he had been betrayed. But the ghost is good. He’s clearly a highly trained spy, who may be the only one able to stop his employer.
“We can protect you! Tell me!”
He feels the man’s grip slip and in a flash of panic yells out, “Please, don’t let go! I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!”
The ghost pulls him to the safety of the roof then levels a gun at his chest. “Who hired you?”
“A man who is not in charge, but I overheard some things.”
It starts with Montrovia
,” he tells the ghost. It’s not all he knows, but hopefully it will be enough.
A relative peace overcomes him, and he now knows what he must do to protect his family.
It’s the only way.
He leans backward and pitches himself over the ledge.
“Shit,” the ghost mutters, putting his gun away and reaching for his phone.
“We were right. It’s starting,” he says to the man who answers.
“Do you have him in custody?”
“Sort of,” he replies, looking down at the body lying broken in the street.
“Is he alive?”
“Uh, not so much.”
“Did you find out who hired him?” The voice sounds angry.
“As we suspected, it was a man who is not in charge. But he confessed to overhearing something.”
“Dammit, you should have kept him alive. We need more information.”
“He said enough. It starts with Montrovia.”
The man on the other end goes silent. “I was hoping to give her more time.”
“We can’t wait any longer.”
“I’ll make the call,” he says reluctantly.
My mother is on her knees in our living room.
She’s pleading at me with her eyes. Although the man standing in front of her thinks she’s begging not to be shot with the suppressed handgun he’s pointing at her, I know she’s really begging for me not to do what I’m about to do—shoot the man myself.
She closes her eyes as I pull the trigger.
But I’m too late.
A tiny hole forms in the center of her forehead as blood sprays onto the couch behind her.
I watch in stunned horror, a scream rising in my throat even though I know I should keep quiet.
The man turns to face me. He’s clutching his shoulder, which I must have hit.
His eyes bore into mine. Eyes I will never forget.
Then he turns his gun on me.
“X, wake up,” my study hall professor says, pushing on my shoulder. Even on Sundays, we have mandatory study periods.
“I’m sorry. I was up late studying for our upcoming finals,” I say smoothly.
“The Dean would like you to report to his office immediately.”
I stand up and smooth out my uniform—which, not surprisingly, is all black—grab my backpack, and head down the hall, my dream still at the forefront of my mind.
X has been my name since I came to Blackwood eight years ago after my parents were killed. I slide my hand down the thick chair rail and take in the polished beauty that is Blackwood Academy, the stately mansion that has been my home since then. Although to the outside world it appears to be an elite college for only the wealthiest of students, it’s not really. If Hogwarts was for young wizards who show talent with magic, Blackwood is for students who show exceptional skills in espionage. Disciplines like martial arts, languages, computer hacking, and rule breaking. Talents that our government can harness and train.
As I descend the grand iron staircase, I start to worry.
Last night, I may not have actually been studying. I may have been hooking up with S, who told me his real name is Josh Bentley after we first slept together. He wasn’t my first, by any means. At Blackwood,
dating isn’t allowed, but we aren’t expected to deny our sexual desires. As long as we are not in violation of other rules like curfew, sex is fine, even considered a great way to release tension—which means the standard pickup line here is,
Wanna blow off some steam?
And that works for me.
I know I’m going to have to end things with Josh because last night when he held me in his arms, he dared to whisper those three little words—sweet words most girls long to hear but are the death of a relationship at Blackwood. Here, we’re taught to thrive on our own. To not crave emotional entanglements.
But last night, I failed in that respect. I liked hearing it.
But I’m chalking up my emotion to the events that preceded his words. All the students had been woken up yesterday at 0500 for a mission enactment. Twelve hours later—muddy, hungry, and exhausted—I used a sniper rifle to kill the target and retrieve the stolen data. Josh and I had worked together all day using our tracking abilities while being hunted. Just staying alive—as in not getting hit with a rubber bullet—is a feat. Completing the mission is a rare thing. Our enemies were Special Forces instructors who had never been beat.
After we’d scarfed down food in the mess hall, Josh and I celebrated by sneaking out with a 1974 bottle of Bordeaux I nicked from the school’s wine cellar.
And I have a feeling someone is missing that bottle.
I’m only a few weeks from graduation, and although it’s not that unusual for me to get sent to the Dean’s office for various misdemeanors, I’ve been particularly careful lately because after graduation I want to be a field operative for a covert agency. Because it’s my best chance of finding the man from my dream—and killing him.
When I get to the bottom of the stairs, I turn right then lift the brass knocker which contains a retinal scanner. My eye gets scanned and then the door responds with a click, letting me know I can open it.
“Hello, Xanthamum,” the Dean’s perpetually cheerful assistant says to me. She dresses like a grandmother and makes up a new name every time she sees you, but we all know it’s just a ruse. The woman retired from the CIA over ten years ago and is still a crack shot. “Go on in. He’s waiting for you.”
I give her a smile, hoping she will say more. She likes to gossip about the goings on at school. But in this case, she gives me a wave toward the door.
“Hello, sir,” I say to the Dean, by way of announcing my arrival.
He looks up from his book. “Have a seat.”
I sit down in a well-worn leather chair across from his desk. If I’m being honest, I love the Dean’s office. It’s a former library and is loaded with shelf after shelf of books. And the Dean has been a sort of father figure to me these last eight years, like if your dad was the type of guy to push you to do better at holding your breath under water, hitting a target the size of a peanut from one hundred feet, hacking into the Pentagon, and kicking the shit out of your jiu jitsu instructor.