Defensive Action(9)

By: Jenna Kernan

She hesitated at that, her mouth pursing. The woman was not only his savior, she was beautiful, and smart enough not to automatically believe him. Haley had light brown hair and intelligent blue eyes that were trying to work this out. Her brows arched as he debated if it was her full, tempting lips, the heart-shaped face or the widely spaced eyes that made her such a knockout. The sum of her parts, he decided, and the fact that she had literally picked him up off the road and taken out a spy with years of military training with a thermos. The man made a classic blunder, underestimating his opponent or perhaps not even recognizing that she was an opponent. Ryan knew that she was deciding her next move and she still had Needle’s handgun.

If she pulled that gun on him, he’d have to kill her.

It was doubtful she still believed his detective bullshit and a second lie would be harder to believe. He’d put her in danger, but really, could she be in more trouble than she was now? If he left her, she was dead. And it would be a terrible, messy and painful death. If he took her, she might reduce his chances of reaching Lake George Village.

She deserved better but he had a mission to complete. Ryan had a bigger problem. The pain was no longer focusing him. It was blurring his vision.

Chapter Four

Ryan swiped at his eyes, but they failed to snap back into focus. In fact, the dark central tunnel in his field of vision was expanding,

“Where’s that camp?”

“A...a ways. It’s a hotel, lodge really.”

A lie, he thought. The hesitation was a tell. He’d have to speak to her about that. Also she wouldn’t meet his gaze, preferring to look at her now empty hands. The thermos lay in her lap, the bottom rim stained red. The handgun was likely in her pocket or purse. It seemed the thermos was her weapon of choice.

There were no hotels on this lake. He knew the terrain and his exact location. This Schroon Lake was connected to a larger one which bordered several small communities, but her GPS had said she was a few miles from her destination. The adventure camp was here, close by. But they couldn’t stay there and he needed to ditch this car, fast.

What could he tell her that would keep them both alive?

He was mulling over if he should tell her another lie or the truth. And if he told her the truth, how much did he need to reveal? She was going to live or die with him regardless of what he told her.

The important thing was that he do the best he could for her because she’d stopped for him. She’d saved him. And that made it hard to follow the directive to recover at all costs the flash drive containing the stolen intelligence on Siming’s Army. His supervisors would tell him to leave her behind. She was a liability and her death meant nothing compared to the deaths of thousands.

But it meant something to him. He knew what Hornet and Needle would do to her. They’d never believe she wasn’t involved. So they’d torture her and learn nothing. Collateral damage. The part of his heart that did not follow orders decided to bring her along. At least until he knew about Takashi. If Takashi had not succeeded in making the drop, Ryan needed to find him before their pursuers did.

“Hey!” she yelled.

He jerked his head up. Had he dozed off or passed out? Didn’t matter. His vision was blurry and shaking his head did no good.

“Hold the wheel,” he said.

The tension vibrated in her voice. “Why?”

“Because I’m going to pass out.”

* * *

HALEY’S ABDUCTOR PROCEEDED to do just that, slumping backward and against the open window.

She lunged for the wheel but his foot remained on the gas, the dead weight of his leg propelling them along too fast for this winding road.

Now what?

She didn’t know but the upcoming turn in the road told her that she needed his foot off the gas or they were going off the road.


Haley imagined the federal agents following on foot and finding them wrapped around a tree. She used her opposite hand to shove for all she was worth, pushing until his foot slid from the gas pedal.

They glided easily around the turn, which required two hands on the wheel. Then they coasted to a stop on the dark road.

The heater blew and the engine rumbled. Through the vacant place where the rear window had been and broken windshield came the sound of the wind in the pine trees.

Top Books