Kate Donovan

Exit Strategy

© 2005

Dear Reader,

Every once in a while when I’m writing a story, I fall in love with the wrong guy-a guy the heroine would never choose because he’s so flawed. She rides off into the sunset with her chosen love, and I’m left with two choices- rehabilitate my guy so that he’s hero material, or just keep him for myself.

At least, that’s the way it used to be.

Enter Silhouette Bombshell, which gives me a third choice: find a heroine who loves my flawed guy, warts and all. Because in Bombshell, he really doesn’t have to be a “hero” in the sense that he saves the day-the heroine takes care of that! He just has to be the right guy for her. And he has to be sexy.

Which brings us to fiery, tortured Ray Ortega. If you read Identity Crisis, you know how badly he screwed up. If you didn’t read it, even better! This story tells you all you need to know about Ortega’s shortcomings-and his impressive strengths.

But most of all, you’ll be impressed by Miranda Cutler. She really does save the day-in ways you could never expect. I hope you agree they’re an incendiary pair!

Best wishes,


To Paul-writing this story was a breeze

because I had you to inspire it.

Love, Kate.

Chapter 1

“This is such an honor, Ms. Smith. Working with you and your team. You guys are legendary at Langley. Especially you.” Twenty-six-year-old Miranda Cutler took a deep breath to stop herself from gushing. Then she adopted a more businesslike tone. “May I ask why I was chosen for this assignment?”

“You have all the necessary qualifications,” Jane Smith explained, reaching across the kitchen table to finger a lock of Miranda’s hair. “You live in a building with security cameras, and you have red hair. Or at least, almost red. If there was more time I’d make you lighten it, but this will have to do.”

Miranda stared for a moment, certain that the older agent was joking. Then without pulling away she murmured, “I don’t understand.”

“Don’t be misled. It’s a compliment that we’re trusting a rookie with something as sensitive as this. Of course, we had no choice. But still, you’re lucky. I would have killed for this kind of opportunity when I was starting out.”

The bitchiness underlying Smith’s attitude stung Miranda, but the younger CIA operative reminded herself that this woman was the best of the best. The mere whisper of her name in the espionage world evoked stories of daring exploits and black ops phenomena. And for reasons that were about to be revealed, this superspy was seated at Miranda’s kitchen table.

With that reminder in place, she used a respectful tone as she asked her guest, “What kind of opportunity is it, exactly? I mean, red hair and security cameras? There must be more to it than that.”

Smith nodded. “Less than five hours ago, a high-ranking government official was framed for murder. If the story reaches the public, that man’s reputation will be ruined for life, as will the reputation of the president. We’re going to prevent that from happening.”

Miranda leaned forward, impressed with the plan, and finally understanding the interest in the security cameras. “We’re going to provide him with an alibi? Make it look like he was here with me when the murder occurred?”

Smith glanced over her shoulder at the pair of male operatives who had been quietly pacing Miranda’s living room floor. “She’s quick, just like I predicted.”

“And built,” the blonder of the two men added. “Ortega’s gonna love her.”

“Ortega?” Miranda shook her head, certain that she had misunderstood. “You don’t mean Ray Ortega, do you? I mean, I know you and he used to work together-”

“And now he’s the director of the Strategic Profiling and Identification Network,” Smith confirmed. “More importantly, he’s the president’s choice for the next director of the FBI-a position with much more influence. Ortega’s going to kick ass in that job, and there are those who want to keep that from ever taking place.”

“So they framed him for murder? My God.” Miranda sat back in her chair, trying to absorb the information while marveling at her good luck in landing this high-level assignment. First, Jane Smith ringing her doorbell in the middle of the night. Now Ray Ortega-another legend. This one, an out-and-out hero. And if half of what she’d heard about him was true, a genius at reading people. Not to mention at killing them.

“Earlier this evening, Ortega arrived at a Southern California beach house for a meeting with one of the president’s advisors. He found the advisor dead on the floor under circumstances that were clearly arranged to incriminate Ortega himself. His first impulse was to call the police, but he knew it would create a scandal. He could clear his name eventually, of course. But it would ruin his chances of becoming the Bureau’s director. He wants that job-not for the glory, but because he wants to clean up this country. The scum that framed him fear him for that very reason. So…” Smith took a deep breath, then explained, “Ortega did the smart thing. The right thing. He called me.”

“For an alibi.”

“A temporary one. Until he can prove he was framed. Luckily I was in L.A. with most of my team, so we immediately started cleaning up the crime scene. Restaging it so that it looks like a simple break-in gone wrong. Once it was under control, I headed back here.

“Meanwhile, Ortega was smuggled out of town to a private landing strip where we had a plane waiting for him. He flew to Dallas and changed planes, using a fake identity to take a commercial flight home. It took precious extra time, but was necessary. Flight records will have to be doctored, of course. There are a million details,” Smith added, as though speaking to herself rather than Miranda.

Then she patted the younger agent’s hand. “When Ortega’s plane touches down, you’ll be there. You’ll ride back here with him and enter the building, pretending to be returning home from three dates. The cameras will record every move, then my team will splice the footage into existing tapes.”

“Three dates?”

Smith grinned. “One would seem too convenient. So you and Ortega are going to reenact a series of them. It’s all in the script we’ll provide for you. You’ll study it on your way to the airport. Be convincing. A great man’s reputation is riding on it.”

Ray Ortega. He was a great man. And a noble one, if half the stories were true. The thought of someone ruining him, negating all the sacrifices he had made for his country, not to mention all the great deeds he was still destined to accomplish, angered Miranda, and she insisted quietly, “I won’t let you down.”

Smith surprised her with an actual smile. “Your file is impressive for a rookie. I’ll use you again soon if I’m satisfied with your performance.”

Вы читаете Exit Strategy
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату