excerpts
Jeremy Slade learns of his assignment, pages 30-32
Leaning forward in his seat, Granton raised his eyes to meet Jeremy’s, and in a solemn voice, said, “Jeremy, Jake was killed yesterday.” He did not proceed further with his conversation, allowing time for Jeremy to comprehend fully what he’d just said.

There was no reply. Jeremy simply dropped his head into his hands and took several deep breaths. “How?” Was the only word Jeremy could finally force his shocked body to speak.

“Jake was running an operation in France. He was right on top of a significant breakthrough when he was shot.” Granton kept the explanation brief.

The room went very still. Jeremy raised his head from his hands, but his thoughts were elsewhere. Granton sipped at his drink, and let him work through the initial grief that hearing of the death of his old friend and mentor had initiated.

“I need your help, Jeremy.” Granton pushed on. Further mourning would have to wait.

“I can’t help you, Granton.” Jeremy's voice was almost a whisper. “I'm finished with anything that has to do with Europe.”

“It's... more complicated than that, Jeremy.” Granton eased his way into dangerous territory.

“No. It’s very simple.” Jeremy’s voice had found its normal tone. “Find someone else, Granton. My going to Europe won’t bring Jake back and, Lord knows, every time I set foot there, all hell breaks loose.” “Before he died,” Granton stepped ever further into the quagmire, “Jake had time to get a message to me. Frankly, I was quite surprised by it, because Jake asked for the one thing I know he was most reluctant to request.”

“He wouldn’t have asked for me. He knew how I felt,” Jeremy said, suddenly sensing what was about to be said.

“He didn’t, Jeremy,” Granton said, shaking his head.

Both men paused, and the tension in the room was palpable.

“He wouldn’t bring her back, Granton, not on a bet! He would never ask her to do that!” Jeremy voiced the words he did not want to hear or say.

Granton reached in his pocket, removed the cable and handed it to him.

“Why? Why in God’s name would he do this?” Jeremy said, incredulously, at its contents. Crushing the offending message, he sent it sailing into the wall.

“Because, unfortunately, Jeremy, he knew she’s our only legitimate way in,” Granton replied, letting the gesture slide. “He knew there wouldn’t be time to build a legend for another intelligence officer. The requirements to penetrate this group are so specific that there isn’t anyone else who can come close to fitting them. Her profession is the perfect cover, and she has the knowledge and training to make this operation succeed.”

Alanna rationalizes her relationship with Francois. Page 55
Francois was a tall man, somewhat stout, but because of his height he carried his weight well. He was a smart dresser and had a certain suave, sexy way about him that, in addition to his being a wealthy, eligible bachelor, made him very appealing to women.

Now, he stood at her front entrance, a large bouquet of yellow roses in his arm, looking more like a teenager on his first date, than the head of the French Mafia. This was a bit of intelligence Jake had provided when he’d learned that she was associating with him through the horse business. Something he’d also let slip in way of warning was that Francois was widening his criminal associations to include terrorist groups.

Instead of this knowledge causing her to distance herself from Francois, it had prompted her to cultivate their business relationship in order to provide Jake with inside information on the man, if he ever indicated to her that he needed it. Now, that Jake was dead, Francois’ terrorist connections seemed a moot point.

Alanna knew that Francois’ Mafia connections were not common knowledge in the horse business. As far as anyone, including Jake could prove, all of his equine clients were legitimate. His dealings with her had always been gentlemanly and honorable, and since he had access to the capital to buy her yearlings, she had decided it could do no harm to maintain the relationship awhile longer. If some might question her motives, so be it. Anyway, dangerous men and dangerous games had always intrigued her. At least in this game, she would make the rules and reap the rewards.
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