The Minster’s Manipulation
Release Date August 29th
Drake had actually considered breaking into her phone communications, as well as emails, but so far he’d decided to merely keep an eye on her. The least intrusive route was the best, especially since he didn’t know how deep the Hareema’s interest might be in her. No need to set off any alarm bells unwittingly.
“I’ve been charged with following you around, making sure you don’t get into any trouble, as you said,” he told her, his tone as level and neutral as he could make it. “That’s the extent of it.”
Jamie’s eyes narrowed. It was obvious she didn’t know if she could believe him. He couldn’t blame her.
“Okay,” she said after a moment. “Well, now that I know about you, what’s the plan?”
“The plan?” He didn’t have any fucking plan, now that she’d caught him out.
“Yeah. Clearly you can’t think to keep stalking me, now that I know who you are.”
That was true. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure what else he could do. She was the only door into NASA that hadn’t been shut in his face.
He needed a way to use her to gain entry without her giving him away to the enemy. And, Drake realized suddenly, that would mean they’d need to work together.
Slowly a plan unfurled itself, and he set it into motion.
“Well, I suppose now you tell your fiancé that you caught me red-handed. He tells his bosses, and they fire me. Then some new guy replaces me and it starts all over again.”
“New guy?” Jamie’s face scrunched up in a most adorable fashion.
Drake steeled his features to ensure they gave no window into his emotions. “Yes, another tail. You’re too important for them to leave you to your own devices.”
“But then I’m back to square one,” she said in a huff.
Her eyes captured his own and he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath. Noruma help me, but I can’t escape the effect she has on me.
All of a sudden, Jamie put her hands on his shoulders and gripped them tightly. “And say I don’t tell Lance? Say we go on as we were, me oblivious to your existence, and you just creeping around town after me?”
Although a moment ago that was all he wanted, he’d realized that he had to make his move now. He’d spent too long on this planet already, with nothing to show for it. His people were depending on him, as were the poor duped people of Earth. It was time to try a new tactic.
Drake shook his head. “I’m sorry, but that won’t fly. Sure, it might save my job, but I have a duty to my superiors to report what’s happened today. The mission has been compromised, and I have to follow protocol.”
“Fuck protocol,” she replied, and Drake couldn’t help the smile that broke across his features. “At least you won’t get fired.”
“True, but when my superiors find out, which they could at any moment, surveillance being what it is in this town, I won’t only be out of this job but any chance of a future one in Washington. It’s too risky.”
“And if I storm into NASA’s office, pitching a fit because they had the audacity to have me followed, what then? You think they’ll just put another man on it and keep stringing me along like always? I don’t have time for that!”
Jamie crossed her arms in a way that lifted her chest in a most appealing fashion. Drake had to force his mind away from the delights of her body and concentrate on manipulating her into working together.
“I’m sorry,” he said, patting her lightly on the shoulder. “Really I am. It’s a shame what’s going on, the way they’re keeping you in the dark about everything.”
“In the dark about what?” Jamie’s eyes had gone wide, her features turning pale.
Drake felt like a knife was twisting in his guts. He hated having to maneuver her like this. But there was no other way.
He stared hard at her, as if he was debating on what to say. “I really can’t reveal anything. It’s classified.”
“Please,” she said, grabbing his arms with both hands and squeezing tightly. “I have to know what’s happened to Sylvie.”
Her eyes filled with unshed tears, and he watched her blink them back, marveling at her well of inner strength. A woman like this is a treasure, he thought. Beautiful, alluring, but also strong and tenacious. Sheer perfection.
“Okay, look,” he said, his voice lowering as he bent in closer. “I know things. Things that pertain to Dr. Cohen’s current whereabouts.” He made a show of looking around them, as if assessing their threat level. “But we can’t talk about it here. We could have already been spotted.”
Jamie peeked over his shoulder, her head swiveling, looking for the threat he implied.
“Meet me in an hour, at the coffee shop on the corner of L and 21st.”
“Okay,” she said, giving him a brisk nod.
Drake carefully removed the hands that were still holding his arms and turned away, headed back to the Metro. When he looked over his shoulders, he saw Jamie striding off down the Mall.
Well, Drake, you’ve just bought yourself an hour to come up with a plan to convince the lovely Jamie that you can be trusted, and to figure out how to use her to get into NASA’s inner circle.
Although an hour seemed too short a time, compared with the weeks they’d spent planning his mission back on Zanthar, he had the odd feeling that it would feel like forever.
One hour until I can see her again. I’m already counting the minutes.