The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
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He peeked at me over the door. “Yeah.” He laughed. “When people try to steal my stuff and…” He cleared his throat.

He closed the door and handed me a beer. “What about you,
Lina
? What gets you riled? Other than someone calling you an amateur.”

“I’m not an amateur.”

              He held up his hands in surrender. “Yeah, got that. Won’t make the mistake again—so what
do
you do?”

I reached across the empty distance between us and clinked our bottles together. “I kill people.”

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

The muscle in his jaw bulged and I watched him try to work that out in his head. “I get the feeling that’s not a metaphor, like ‘I killed it today at work.’”

“Um, no. I’m an assassin.”

He nodded slowly. “That would explain your affinity for doing me bodily harm.”

“I’ve taken it easy on you.”

He winked. “I’ll remember that. Now let’s figure out how we’re going to get into the museum.” He leaned over to pick up the computer and when he sat back up, his jaw dropped as something made him look past me.

“I know it’s a huge reveal, Clay. Just it you, huh? Took a second. I get it. If it makes you feel any better, I only kill bad guys.”

Clay pointed at something behind me.

“For the good love of Christ,” Metatron said and I spun around. “How long is this going to take you?” He brought his silver wings to his sides and shook his head at me.

“I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I’m an archangel. Stealth is an expertise. What’s the update?”

“We hit a snag,” I replied. Clay’s jaw was still dropped and he’d had yet to say a word. He looked from me to Metatron, whose angel wings fluttered at his sides from the breeze weaving in from an open window. Marvin trotted back in the room, tail wagging but with a more subdued greeting, lying down directly at Metatron’s feet.

“Yes, I’m well aware you failed to get the piece while it was at Dr. Felt’s.”

“You know, for a guy who’s the all-knowing voice of God, you sure don’t use it. Don’t you think that would have been useful information? That the piece had been moved to The Smithsonian?”

“Your journey, Evangelina. I gave you everything I thought you’d need, and you missed your chance.”

“Everything I’d need?” I pointed at Clay. “Forget to mention something? Where does he come in? I wouldn’t be in this situation if he hadn’t shown up.”

Metatron made a huge production out of walking around Clay and looking him up and down. Clay followed him with his eyes. “Yes, I think he’ll do fine,” Metatron said.

“For what?” Clay found his words. “I’ll do fine for what? Did you drop a roofie in my beer?” He looked at me. “I think I’m hallucinating.”

“Everyone needs a sidekick,” Metatron said.

I snorted. I doubted either one of us was going to be okay with that moniker. What I needed now was answers. “Did you come to share your supernatural secrets?”

“Did you say I was a sidekick? Is this that Megatron dude? Really? I’m no sidekick.” Clay shook his head vehemently. “Not even close. You didn’t have to roofie me. I so would’ve been easy to get into bed.”

“I didn’t roofie you!” I yelled. “And yes, this is Metatron. You are not hallucinating. This shit is real!” I faced the archangel. “We need some of those supernatural secrets you have in your brain or soul, or wherever archangels store their secrets. That’s the only way we’re getting past security at the Smithsonian.”

He
tsked
and shook his head. “Evangelina, Evangelina… For an assassin well-versed in recon, you certainly do miss the big clues.”

I narrowed my eyes and tried to think of what I’d overlooked.

“You never went back to see Ralph. Dr. Stephano.”

“Oh.” He was right. I’d totally forgotten that Dr. Stephano had contacts at the Smithsonian. He might not be able to get us a code to override security, but maybe he could put us in touch with someone we could manipulate or use.

Metatron pretended to check his watch. “I really don’t have time for these visits. Get your game face on, will you?”

His wings outstretched and Marvin looked up at him, eyes wide and trusting. Metatron encircled the wings completely around himself and then vanished from the room. The dog barked and turned in a big circle where Metatron had been. Clay frowned at him, then glanced over at me with a questioning look.

“You okay?”

“Sure,” he said, sitting down hard on the couch. “Super. I’m not drunk. You didn’t roofie me, but God I wished that was the case. I just came face to face with a goddamn archangel. I’m super. Your story checks out. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. And, I’m
your
sidekick? Really?” He tossed up his arms, stood and headed to the fridge. He returned with two more beers. “What now, boss?”

We need a better plan than trying to best the security. We need to go see the guy Metatron was just talking about … Dr. Stephano. He helped me recently. We’ve got to take a little trip.”

He stiffened. “No. We’re not bringing anyone else in. I’m already heavy one cosmonaut, and now an archangel.”

“What?”

He shook his head. “Movie reference.”

“Whatever. I’d rather work alone too, but we’re in over our heads on this.”

He scowled and crossed his arms. “I’d say.” He grumbled and I watched him work his way through the process of what had just happened, then he folded the laptop against his side. “Let’s go, but I’m driving.”

I tugged my earlobe and decided to skip telling him about the private jet I would have waiting for us at the airport.

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

“A Gulfstream. Nice.” He fingered the leather on the headrests as he moved toward the table and chairs at the back. I shrugged. This was normal travel for me. TSA wasn’t too keen on letting me take my work “equipment” on commercial flights. The NSA didn’t care as long as I wasn’t traveling with the president.

“Kind of a shocker, though.”

“Does it change anything? And, how could you be so surprised? I’m giving you two mil if you get the ring, and I’m a trained assassin, so what’s the big deal if I have access to a private jet? Not to mention that I work for an Archangel these days. You met him, so why are you so shocked?”

He frowned and picked up a crystal ice pick, then set it back down. “Just a lot of excess.”

“You’re a thief, for Christ’s sake. You bathe in excess every time you fence something.” I shook my head in disbelief and dialed Dr. Stephano’s number, hoping Anna would answer.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Anna. This is Judy Parker. I was there a few days ago and talked to Dr. Stephano. I apologize for the incredibly short notice, but would the doctor be okay with a pop-in?”

“Of course.” I could hear the smile in her voice. “I’ll prep him and let him know you’re coming. He’ll be so excited.” She lowered her voice. “He hasn’t stopped talking about your visit. You really did make his day. He doesn’t get near enough visitors now that most of his friends are in the nursing facilities.”

“I don’t want to be a pain, but we could really use his help.”

“No problem at all. He’s had a string of good days.”

“Great.” I told her when we expected to be there and I really hoped today would prove to be another good day. Maybe after this was done, I’d touch base with Anna again and see if I could get him enrolled in a couple of testing groups that were having mild success with their drugs. Dr. Stephano had already proven highly valuable and I had a feeling that Metatron’s little
tests
weren’t going to get any easier. Plus, I liked the doc.

I looked up and Clay was still wandering around the plane, poking the cushions and touching the inlaid grain of the wood, his forehead set in a deep frown. “You all right?”

He sneered. “You could have housed an entire neighborhood for what this thing cost.”

I tipped my head to the side. What an odd comment, and the first serious one he’d had since I’d met him. I was going to have to pursue that further, but right now I wanted to finish our planning that Metatron had interrupted.

“Don’t take it out on me, I just use it. Now come sit down and figure out how to get us into the Smithsonian.”

He grumbled the entire way to his seat but once we started planning he calmed down. Breaking and entering was some sort of security blanket for him and his rough edges smoothed out and I could tolerate him. He pointed out random facts along the way, things I’d need to be wary of as we entered. “See this corner? It’s a blind one. That’s a good place to get ambushed by a guy just randomly going to the bathroom.”

I made a mental note and tried to see this through his eyes and experience. “I think this is our best door.” He pointed to a small service door off the loading dock on the main floor. “It’s close to the storage for the janitor and probably has a lot of traffic throughout the night, but at least it’s not on top of security like some of these other doors.”

I hoped that Dr. Stephano would be able to offer some additional help. The main building at the Smithsonian was massive and we’d had zero luck figuring out what part held Felt’s display, since it was a temporary one. We’d have to figure that out once we got inside and that made my stomach churn.

The plan wasn’t solid, but it was the best we could do. I had to trust that Clay’s instincts would get us what we needed, and my own training would keep me from screwing things up again like they had at Felt’s.

Clay went to the bathroom, unable to keep his hands off the leather as he went and I stared out over the wing, thinking about how fast my life had changed. Today was my anniversary—no longer Griffin’s. So I couldn’t say
our
anniversary. We’d dated for three years today and my heart ached with missing him.

I had to succeed at the Smithsonian. I couldn’t fail him again.

I closed my eyes and inhaled, remembering the feel of him and how much I loved the stupid small things we did together like grocery shopping and antiquing. He was such a sucker for tea tables. The affinity for them had come from his mother, but it had been fun to tease him.

I’d met him at the GreenFlea Market on Columbus. I was searching for something unique to give Malcolm for his upcoming birthday when Griffin caught my eye. He looked like he could’ve just walked off a movie set—in particular, an adventure or thriller. He had that dark wavy hair that I would soon love to run my fingers through. Chiseled cheekbones, and those damn green eyes of his. A fitted gray t-shirt revealed that he worked out, and his faded jeans fit as perfect as possible. He took my breath away. I tried to look away, reminding myself that dating was not an option for someone in my line of work.

He glanced over at me again and flashed a smile. Oh my God—melt-worthy. He walked over to me and nodded at the abstract ceramic tea set I’d been looking at. “You like Eva Zeisel?”

“Who?”

He laughed. “The artist. Eva Zeisel. She was a Hungarian-born American industrial designer big on ceramics. Her forms like the set there are often abstractions. Her work is included in important museum collections across the world. Zeisel declared herself a ‘maker of useful things.’ Good choice if you get it.”

“You know a lot about antiques?”

“Some. Tea sets mainly. My mom is a huge collector.”

I took note that he didn’t have a ring.

“Griffin Jacobs.” He reached his hand out.

I fumbled and replied, “Lina Heart. Nice to meet you. I’m actually trying to find something for my, uh, my dad.” I did think of Malcolm as such, and I certainly didn’t want to tell the hot stranger my long drawn-out sordid story.

“Maybe I can help you.”

“I’d like that.”

After the market, we’d had dinner. And within a week, we were dating.

God, I missed him.

              Clay came back and sat across the aisle from me, facing the other way. His fingers flexed and unflexed but I didn’t want to interrupt my own memories to find out what was bothering him. That was selfish, but we weren’t a solid team yet, and I had enough to worry about without taking on his issues.

We stayed silent for the rest of the flight, drifting in and out of sleep. A car was waiting for us as we came off the aircraft.

I leaned forward and gave the driver Dr. Stephano’s address. A lot of the new agents were fans of Skyping and Google chats, but I’d never trusted them. I didn’t like not knowing who else was in the room. And beyond the fact that the good doctor’s dementia wouldn’t be helped by staring into a screen, there were things you couldn’t feel via electronics.

We pulled up in front of his flat and Clay held the door for me. I hurried up the steps and Anna let us in. Seeing Ralph’s place before hadn’t done anything to ease that first sudden blast of claustrophobia as Anna closed the front door.

“Jesus,” Clay said roughly.

I wrapped my fingers around his forearm to ground him. He leaned close and hissed in my ear. “I’m serious about you telling me shit instead of letting me get ambushed.”

Anna eyed him warily and I gave her a smile. “He’s fine, just a little squirmy about tight spaces.”

“Oh. Well, then I’ll go get Ralph. Why don’t you to try and make do in his office.”

“Thanks.” I dragged Clay into the tiny open space in the center. Our bodies brushed boxes and stacks and each other as we tried to compensate for the lack of room. He shifted and pulled me to stand between his parted thighs. “Not a lot of room.”

I removed his hands from my hips and took half a step to the right. “How am I supposed to know what your triggers are? First, you’re a mess on the plane, so I thought you’d be more at home here.”

He shivered. “No one would be at home here. I feel buried alive.”

Considering I’d felt the same way not so long ago, I couldn’t blame him. But his jumpiness on the plane still bothered me. “What do you have against jets?”

He stopped looking around the room and stared at me. “Jets are cool. I just know they always come with strings. I don’t like strings.”

“Not everything comes with strings.”

He laughed. “You can’t even say that with a straight face.”

It was true and I smiled. “Okay, but some strings are worth the risk.”

He shook his head. “Not in my world.”

“Judy!”

“Dr. Stephano!”

He waved a hand at me. “We are old friends now! Do please call me Ralph.”

I bumped a pile of books and Clay reached out to steady it while I said hi to Ralph and introduced the two men. They shook hands and sized each other up.

“Sit, sit,” Ralph said, plopping down in his office chair. I didn’t point out that there wasn’t another chair unoccupied, but Clay drew me back beside him and nodded toward one of Ralph’s plaques hanging crooked on the wall. “
Judy
says you’re a big fan of the Smithsonian.”

I didn’t miss the emphasis he’d put on my alias.

Ralph grinned. “Yes. Yes. I’ve done quite a bit of work with them over the years. They’ve always been good to me. Always quick to ask if I have pieces to show in one of their exhibits. Been quite fun.”

I perched on the edge of a table and ignored Clay’s fidgeting. “Sorry to come and bother you again, Ralph, but we need your help.”

He tapped his cane on the floor. “Of course, of course. Always happy to aid where I can.”

“We need to get into the Smithsonian.”

He blinked and rubbed the edge of his eyebrow. “Well, they still sell tickets, don’t they?”

Clay’s fidgeting increased.

I smiled tenderly at Ralph. “I’m sure they do. We, uh, we need to get in … after hours.”

“What she’s trying to say, Ralph”—Clay’s voice boomed through the room and he lowered it and unclenched his fists—“is that we’re hoping you have some contacts that might give us a …
private
tour.”

Ralph’s face fell and I was worried we’d offended him. He thought I was after the piece because of my mom, not because of the real reason.

“Oh dear. I’m not sure who I could direct you to. Back in the day there was a good group of men who were able to pull strings for private tours. Wealthy chaps, that sort. I used to smoke and drink with, but…” He chuckled, shook his head, and grinned at Clay. “Right fine selection of women a few nights, if you know what I mean.”

Clay smiled in spite of his anxiety. But then he looked at me and winked. “Yeah, I do know.” He swung his direct attention back to Ralph. “And now? Any of those guys still around that might want to help another pretty lady? Surely, there must be someone on the board still, out of those chaps.”

Ralph pursed his lips. We needed him to come through for us. This was the one spot we hadn’t been able to figure out. Entry into the museum was tightly guarded and there was no way to sneak past the exterior security. We would have to rely on someone on the inside and probably as part of the security team to let us in.

“A private tour, eh? You’ve come an awful long way to ask for something like that. And I don’t think they run private tours anymore.”

I leaned forward and set my hand on Ralph’s knee. “Ralph, we need to get inside when no one will see us. We have to get in after hours.”

“Oh!” Ralph’s head snapped up. “Is this about that piece? The ring that you went to see Felt about?”

“Yes it is. Apparently, he no longer has it in his home. I’ve read recently that it’s been moved to a gallery at The Smith,” I said. I didn’t want him to know that we’d both made separate attempts to rip off Dr. Felt.

Ralph rubbed his chin and looked from Clay to me then back to Clay. I needed him to figure this out without coming straight out and telling him what we were up to. Clay looked away and fidgeted, clearly uncomfortable with my methods.

Come on, Ralph.

Then, Ralph turned his chair and hung his cane on the lip of his desk, then swiveled back and faced me, hands braced on his knees. “
Judy
, I’d really like to help you, but you must trust me. What is the story with the ring?”

I swallowed. I’d already let Clay into my circle of one. Ralph wasn’t exactly a trustworthy ally. Sure, he wouldn’t ever purposefully hurt me, but those lips of his were a little too unguarded. I could just see him sitting around at next week’s card game telling the boys all about the “cutie who’d come to visit, and oh, did I tell you that she wanted me to sneak her into the most guarded museum in the whole world? I still got it, boys.”

But I needed him and if it meant letting him brag up his role, then I had to risk it. I’d dragged Clay halfway around the globe for this lead and Metatron had sent us, so I had to trust that he, at least, had my back.

I inhaled and let it seep from my nose. “My name is Evangeline Heart. People call me Evagelina, though I really don’t know how the ‘a’ got a slip in there, but it did. My friends call me Lina, which I prefer. My mother was in Jordan and she did have that relic, but it’s not for sentimental reasons that I want it. I know you believe in Enoch and his book and who he is now as Metatron, so I’m hoping that you’ll believe the rest of this.”

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
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