Robert McClellan was forced to serve as a soldier in a war he didn't understand. Liberated by McKay-Taggart, he struggles every day to reclaim the life he lost and do right by the men he calls his brothers, the Lost Boys. Only one thing is more important-Ariel Adisa. The gorgeous psychologist has plagued his dreams since the day they met. Even as their mission pushes him to his limits, he can't stop thinking about taking his shot at finding a life beyond all this with her.
Ariel Adisa is a force to be reckoned with. Her performance in Toronto proved she's more than just a brilliant mind, but Robert still acts as if she is a wilting flower who needs his protection. Joining him on the mission to Munich should be the perfect opportunity to test their skills and cement their relationship. She and Robert are an excellent match. But when a stunning secret from Robert's past is revealed, their world is turned upside down and nothing will ever be the same again.
While they chase dark secrets across Europe, Robert and Ariel realize that the only thing worse than not knowing who you are could be discovering who you used to be ...
Release date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment, LLC
Print pages: 324
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Lost in You
Robert stared at the monitor and listened to the big boss drone on about what was a simple op. He’d thought they would have time while they were in the air to relax a bit before they got to Munich. He’d planned on sitting next to Ariel and having some time to talk to her, but no. The private jet they were on came fully equipped with a conference room and Internet, so he got to listen to Big Tag instead of sharing a glass of wine with Ariel and talking about where they would have dinner this evening.
He had it all planned out. He’d found a nice Italian restaurant since he wasn’t sure how Ariel felt about sausages made from all kinds of weird meat. They were staying in a lovely hotel in downtown Munich—two rooms, of course, because even if the night ended up going the way he hoped, he wouldn’t sleep beside her. He would go back to his own room to sleep.
They would talk about that, too. Even though she’d been his therapist for a while, there were things he’d never told her.
He was more in control now. He could handle a relationship.
“Do you think there’s something wrong with the signal?” A deep voice cut through his thoughts. “He’s been still for a long time. If it was Tucker, I would say he’s fucking with me. But Robert’s always been solid.”
He held himself still a moment more. Maybe if Big Tag thought the system was down, he could get out of this. The flight from London to Munich wasn’t a long one, then a car would pick them up and they would spend the afternoon prepping. If Big Tag took up all his time on the plane, it would be hours before he got to be alone with Ariel.
“He’s been blinking,” the man beside Big Tag said. “How are you in charge of everything? I think old age is hitting you hard.”
Adam Miles. He and Big Tag were sitting next to each other and bickering like an old married couple.
“So he’s not listening to me?” Big Tag put a hand on his chest. He wore a dress shirt and tie that let Robert know he was probably meeting with clients at some point in time today. There would be a suitcoat hanging off the back of his chair. “I’m deeply offended. What do you think has his attention if it’s not our very important mission?”
Miles’s lips quirked up. “I think I can guess.”
The only thing worse than Miles and Big Tag arguing was when they teamed up. There was only one thing to do now. He was the “reliable” one, after all.
“I’m to facilitate Rebecca and Ariel’s meetings with several employees of Kronberg Pharmaceuticals, the company that formerly funded Dr. Hope McDonald’s research. You’re sending me files on each of them. Rebecca knew them each personally and our cover is that she’s in town and wanted to get back in touch. We’re trying to discover if Kronberg has any data left from Dr. McDonald’s research that might help us decode the files we found in Toronto. Additionally, we’re to try to find a woman named Veronica Croft and attempt to interview her.”
Veronica Croft might be the most important part of the mission since they had real intelligence placing her in the right place and the right time to have worked on McDonald’s experiments.
“We have reason to think she’s still in Europe.” Adam seemed to get serious, opening a folder in front of him. “But she doesn’t want to be found. She didn’t finish out her internship. From what I’ve been able to find out, she didn’t even pick up her last paycheck. The last time we can trace her, she was coming back into Germany from France. Might have been a vacation. I don’t know because I can’t find records of her in any hotel or use of any of her credit cards with the exception of her buying a train ticket from Paris to Munich. From there I’ve got her at the train station and then she disappears for the next two years. Her passport has expired. She has no status with any European country. I have to think she’s hiding.”
“Wouldn’t you, after the rest of the team you worked with died mysteriously? All of them with the singular exception of Rebecca Walsh.” Soon to be Shaw. Rebecca was a doctor specializing in neurological diseases. At one point she’d worked at the very building they were going to check out. She’d worked with Hope McDonald, though she’d had zero idea what the doctor had actually been experimenting with.
Him. She’d been experimenting with him. And Tucker and Jax. Dante and Sasha. Theo. Victor. He’d hated Victor, but not even that psychopath had deserved what she’d done to him.
“Are we sure she’s not dead?” Big Tag asked. “With the exception of our Dr. Walsh, everyone else seems to be dead or out of his mind.”
“Tucker is not crazy.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.” If Big Tag had heard the warning in his tone, he didn’t show it. “You should know that I have reservations about taking Tucker on this op. I believe he needs to be carefully watched.”
“Because of what happened in Toronto, or do you have other reasons?”
What had happened in Toronto was Tucker had discovered who he’d been before McDonald had erased his memories. He’d been positively identified by Rebecca as Dr. Steven Reasor, McDonald’s right-hand man.
Tucker had not taken the news well.
“He’s the only one of us who worked in that building, and you know he often remembers things he shouldn’t.” The door behind him opened and his whole world brightened. She was also his partner for this mission. “Dr. Adisa, thank you for joining us.”
Ariel smiled his way and took the seat next to him. “Sorry I’m late. I had some trouble with my laptop but it’s working now. Hello, Ian. Adam. What did I miss?”
He could feel Ian’s disbelief from a thousand miles away. “Seriously? Dr. Adisa?”
Adam elbowed him. “Don’t. I want to see how far they’ll take it.”
Ariel chuckled and proved she was far better natured than he was. “I worked hard for that title, Adam. It doesn’t hurt to remind you how smart I am.”
“Is he going to call you doc when you’re cuddling?” Ian asked.
“Hey,” Robert began, his shoulders tensing. Maybe he wasn’t as settled as he thought he was.
Ariel put a hand on his arm. “It was Canada, Ian. Our cuddle on the couch was strictly to share body heat. It’s good to know the gossip flows steadily between the teams. How is your brother? The last time I saw him he was trying to track some mysterious intelligence. Care to share since he obviously did?”
Theo and his wife, Erin, had shown up during the recent mission to Toronto that resulted in Dr. Walsh joining the team. Theo was the youngest of the Taggart brothers, but he was apparently as gossipy as the rest.
“Nothing I can talk about yet.” Tag sat back and his expression seemed to shutter. “This is something I won’t let out until we’re absolutely certain it’s true.”
Robert felt his gut tighten, and it took all his willpower to not reach for Ariel’s hand.
He was not going to use her like a freaking teddy bear. He was going to be strong and in control. “So it’s about the traitor.”
“We don’t know there’s a traitor,” Ariel replied quickly.
“I’ve got the bullet wound that proves otherwise.” They’d been careful when they’d fled Toronto. They’d gone to a safe house, and no one beyond the team had known where they were, and yet Levi Green had been waiting for them. Green had flushed them all out and nearly cost he and Ariel their lives. Owen and Rebecca as well, but Robert had been the only one that asshole had shot. “According to Owen, Green told him he has a plant in our group.”
“Levi Green has been known to lie,” she pointed out.
Tag sighed, a weary sound. “Yeah, well, the devil knows when the truth is far more harmful than a lie. I can’t talk about that now, but if this lead pans out, you’ll be getting someone else to interview.”
Somehow that felt more like a threat than a promise.
“Dr. Adisa, did you get the files I sent on the employees I think we should target?” Adam’s tone had lost its playfulness.
Because this was serious, and someone in their group had sold them all out to Levi Green and his faction of the Agency.
She was perfectly professional again, too, and he missed her hand on his arm. “I did. I’ve gone over them. I think the secretary might be an excellent source if we can convince her to talk openly. Rebecca is almost certain she will. Apparently she loves to gossip, and when the booze is flowing, she’s a little loose lipped.”
Tag nodded, his lips turned down. “Do what you can. If there’s a fount of information in some safe or backed up on a computer at Kronberg, I want to know. According to the reports, Green claims to have a cure. I don’t suppose he’s going to use that in the manner we would like that to be used.”
“He told us exactly how he intends to use it. He’s going to reverse engineer it and between that and the notes, he’ll figure out how she did what she did to us,” Robert explained. Another generation of brainwashed soldiers would be born, this time in service to the CIA. “I think he’s also interested in the time dilation portion of her meds.”
There had been two parts to Dr. McDonald’s torture techniques. The drugs she used wiped clean personal memories but left the patient with full muscle memory and language skills. He’d woken up in a lab with no idea how he’d gotten there or who he was, but he’d known how to fight. He couldn’t remember what pizza tasted like, but he knew what it was called.
He’d been a soldier of some kind. He’d figured that much out. He knew far too much about US military-grade weapons to have been anything else.
The second part of her protocols used a drug that tricked the brain into thinking more time had passed than had in reality. She could use that time to punish her men for insubordination. His body hadn’t aged during those long periods of pain, but he wasn’t sure he could say the same about his soul.
“We have to stop that at all costs,” Adam said gravely. “And we have to figure out exactly how Steven Reasor ended up with Dr. McDonald and how they managed to then erase him from existence.”
He checked behind him to make sure the door was closed before turning back to the monitor. “I would like to know that, too. There’s no record at all of Steven Reasor ever coming into Germany?”
A frustrated sigh came from Adam. “No. And that means someone is working this from two angles. There should be a passport from the US, and it should show Reasor entering Germany. He would have needed a work visa. The German government doesn’t have a record of him applying. I can find Rebecca’s. I can find Veronica Croft’s. Hell, Dr. McDonald has a record, but nothing on this guy. He’s a ghost.”
“I think there are bigger factions at play, and that worries me.” Tag ran a hand over his head before staring grimly into the camera. “We don’t understand the past and how Reasor fit in. I’m struggling to imagine Tucker could have been that evil in his former life. I don’t know that evil like that can be erased. It’s not like all of you came out sunny and happy. Dante came out of it a heaping pile of human garbage, and Sasha’s not much better.”
“Ian,” Ariel admonished.
Big Tag shrugged. “I call it like I see it, Doc, and yes, that’s my professional opinion. I’ve been wrong on occasion. All I’m saying is keep an eye on things. And by things I mean Tucker.”
They’d gone over this before they’d left London. “I understand Ariel has veto power when it comes to Tucker and his mental health.”
But she would listen to him. She knew Tucker. She knew he couldn’t possibly be the bad guy in all this even with everything they knew about him. Tag and Adam were right. Something was off and they needed to figure it out.
He didn’t know why, but he’d trusted Tucker from the moment he’d met the guy. He was comfortable with him. His every instinct told him that Tucker was a solid guy who would watch his back.
“Dr. Adisa has veto power over everything about this op,” Tag corrected. “Everything. If she feels like you’re in danger, she can call it off. Hell, if she gets a hankering for Yorkshire pudding, you will all get back on the plane and head to London. Am I understood?”
It was right there, the instinctive need to salute and say “Sir, yes, sir.” He forced it down because no matter what he’d been before, he wasn’t a soldier now. “Of course. We’ll be landing in forty minutes. I’ll keep you and Damon updated.”
Tag nodded. “And Adam will be in touch if he finds anything further. Tell Peter hello from me. He’s a good guy. He’ll be your driver and translator, if needed. He’s also muscle. He’s former German intelligence but now he tours castles or some shit. Hopefully he still knows how to shoot. Not that I want any shooting. This should be a shooting-free zone. The last time we shot up Germany, my ass had to fill out paperwork for hours because Damon was a delicate flower and couldn’t hold a pen. Germans are serious about paperwork. They’re also serious about not shooting people.”
“Damon took most of those bullets,” Ariel pointed out.
“Yeah, he still wasn’t willing to do that paperwork,” Tag shot back. “So don’t shoot anyone you don’t have to. And if you do have to, hide that body. One of you has to be good at that. Send daily reports and dear god, use condoms. The London team is breeding like rabbits.”
He reached over and tapped the button that switched off the monitor because he’d heard this lecture before. “There’s a reason I work for Damon.”
Ariel turned in her chair. “I thought that was because it was safer in London than Dallas.”
“It’s safer in so many ways.” He glanced down at where she’d been taking notes. “You know Tucker is a good man.”
“Of course I do, but I also know he’s in a dangerous place. I think our best bet is to keep him as close as possible.”
“I think he’ll remember the building.” It was precisely why Tucker might be invaluable. “Sometimes we don’t remember places until we get inside them and muscle memory takes over.”
“Let’s see how the first forty-eight hours goes.” She closed her laptop. “I want to be back in London before the end of the week. We get in, get the intel and get back out, and then we don’t have to worry about Tucker. Once we get back to London, we can spend some more time exploring what happened. I would like to talk more to Rebecca about her experiences with Steven Reasor. I’m being forced to almost treat them like two separate entities.”
“Can you talk to Big Tag? Can you tell him there’s no way Tucker betrayed us?”
She studied him for a moment. “Why are you so certain?”
“Because I know him.”
“You know the Tucker who exists now. You can’t know who he used to be. Ian is wrong about a couple of things. He thinks a person is born good or bad. He’s got a black and white concept of the world. Oh, he knows a good person can do bad things. He’s not naïve. But I don’t agree with his world view. I don’t think we’re born with a particular bent for good or evil. I believe in nurture over nature, though sometimes even that goes wrong. A human being is always complex. Some of you handled what happened better than others. The experiences were both similar and incredibly unique.”
“You think one of us betrayed the group.” He didn’t want to believe it.
“I think Levi Green managed to find us very quickly in Canada. I don’t know how he does that without inside help.”
“There was someone new on the team. Have we looked into Nina?” Nina Blunt was a new operative.
“Absolutely we have,” she replied. “I will look at everyone but you have to know Nina couldn’t have tipped him off in Colorado.”
He’d considered that, too. “According to Jax they were set up with security there. He could have been tapped in. It would have been simple enough to guess we would go for the secret facility. He already knew where it was. It was all a matter of whether or not we could get in under his radar, and we couldn’t. It’s not Tucker.”
“Who do you suspect? Besides Nina, who is easy to suspect because you don’t know her.”
He didn’t want to argue. That was the last thing he wanted to do. “I think Green got lucky. If he truly had someone on the inside, he would have taken us all down by now.”
“I hope you’re right.” She was quiet for a moment. “Why did you change your mind when I got to Canada? I know Big Tag was teasing us but you were different when I got there. We didn’t get to talk about this before.”
He let all the professional stuff fly straight out the window. If they were going to work together and give a relationship a real shot, they would have to separate the two. “I never changed my mind about you. It was always about me. I knew how crazy I was about you two seconds after we met.”
“You were interested in a lot of women.”
He chuckled because she was right…and wrong. He pulled her hand into his and brought it to his lips. “I was looking for anything to hold on to. I was especially looking for a woman I couldn’t hurt. I had a type right after Tag rescued me. I was all about the tough chick because I thought a woman who was physically strong and well trained might be the only one who could handle what I need.”
“What do you need, Rob?”
It was time to be honest with her. “I need to be put on my ass from time to time. I need to break things, though not as much as I used to. I didn’t want one of those things I broke to be you.”
“And what changed? Was it what happened in Canada?”
He didn’t put down her hand. He liked touching her too much. “I’m better. I’m stronger than I was before. You were right. I needed another therapist. Not because you’re not good.”
“You couldn’t talk to me the way you should have been able to because you were emotionally involved with me.”
Well, no one ever said she wasn’t a smarty pants. “Exactly. Kai’s helped me a lot, and one of the things he’s helped me see is that it’s time for me to start living. There’s no grand past out there for me.”
“We don’t know that.”
He’d thought about this a lot. “I’ve been missing for years. If I had a family, they would have looked for me. That was a fear of mine. What if we fell in love and suddenly I found out I had a wife and three kids?”
“I’ve thought about that, too, but you’re a different person. I don’t know that your memories ever come back unless Levi is telling us the truth and there really is a cure. Or Rebecca can find one. We need to consider that. A person is formed by his or her experiences. Getting your memories back…”
“Won’t change how I feel about you.” Of that he was certain. He couldn’t imagine a time when he wouldn’t be crazy about her.
“You can’t know that, but you also can’t live in limbo,” Ariel said. “You can’t spend the rest of your life trying to get back to your old life.”
“I’m more than happy to move on. I really hope you’re willing to take the chance with me.” He kissed her hand again.
The door came open and the subject of their professional discussion was suddenly there. “Hey, did you know they have an Xbox?”
Sometimes Tucker was exactly what Big Tag called him—a puppy. Of course they were all a little like that, though they were puppies with teeth who sometimes went a bit rabid under the right circumstances. “Let’s play then. We’ve got some time. Any interest?”
He looked at her but she shook her head. “I’m going to stay here and work for a bit. After all, apparently I’m not working this evening.”
Because they had a date. Satisfaction settled deep inside him. “No work tonight. I’ll come get you before we land. You get immersed in work and Owen still lands like he’s setting down on an aircraft carrier.”
He winked her way and closed the door. He should spend some time with Tucker and then he would be free to spend all night with Ariel.
He followed his “brother,” forcing away thoughts of traitors.
Tonight his life would really begin.
* * * *
Ariel opened her laptop and stared at the screen.
How was she supposed to tell Robert what she was really doing? That she was reporting back to Damon, who was working with MI6? They had to keep the chief updated, feeding him some information so he didn’t get tempted by whatever deal the Agency could make. They were walking a delicate line and had been for years. Then there was the fact that she was watching more than just the Lost Boys. She was watching her old friend Kim to try to figure out where she fell in all of this. It was obvious the Agency had factions working against each other. It was her job to figure out who they could and couldn’t trust.
And she couldn’t mention any of it to Robert.
An alert came across her monitor, letting her know the Dallas office was calling. She knew the drill. If she wasn’t alone, she would refuse the call. She accepted it and Ian was there.
“Is it okay to talk?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t have answered if it wasn’t.”
It looked like Taggart had moved out of the main conference room in Dallas to his own private office. He settled back in his big chair, looking very much the king of his personal castle. “Well, you’ve been out of the game for a while now, Doc. Can’t be sure you haven’t gone soft.”
She’d never worked with Taggart until after she’d left MI6, and she’d always wondered what he’d been like in the field. Ruthless, she would bet, but with an underlying core of humanity not a lot of people would suspect. She felt comfortable working with this man. “I was always soft. That’s why I got out of the game. What did you not tell me?”
If he was calling back so soon it was because something important had been left out of the general briefing—something he didn’t want Robert to know about.
“Solo’s in play,” Ian said. “Adam has been monitoring our external players and she flew into Venice yesterday. We lost her from there.”
“Maybe she has work in Venice.” Having Solo around could make things much more difficult. Not simply because she cared about the woman, but she would have to brief Ezra or keep secrets from another man she respected mightily.
“It’s only a seven-hour train trip from Venice to Munich. Or she could have had a car waiting. If she flew, she would show up on cameras unless she’s flying private, and then why not fly straight to Munich like we are? I know she could be there for other reasons, but I suspect she’s going to show up.”
“What do you want me to do?”
Taggart was quiet for a moment as though trying to figure out how to explain something. “How much do you know about what’s been going on in the US lately? With President Hayes?”
Everyone knew what had been happening. No US president in the modern era had gotten married while in office. “He recently got married to his former press secretary. It was all over the tabloids. I believe he lost his father as well.”
Frank Hayes had been sick for a long time. It had come as no great shock, but there had been some gossip concerning how quickly the president had married after his father’s funeral. She didn’t judge the man at all. Sometimes grief could be made more bearable by taking positive steps toward the future.
“Yeah, the first father died of ‘natural’ causes.” Big Tag used air quotes around the word natural. “Frank Hayes was an ambassador to Russia for years before he got sick. There have always been questions about the president’s father’s work in Moscow, and I think that finally played out in a big way. I believe the truth about his death was covered up, and Solo’s fingerprints were all over that. I’ve heard some rumors that there was a big cleanup project at the White House the day Frank Hayes died, and they weren’t using Merry Maids, if you know what I mean.”
She’d stayed out of US politics, but she did remember hearing some rumblings about the president’s possible ties to the Russian mob. Or that they were looking for a way to put pressure on him. “You think Kim was involved in covering up something for the president? Did it have something to do with the assassination attempt?”
There had been a lone wolf shooter who’d tried to take out the president the same day his father had passed away. The press had speculated the stress of almost losing his son had done the old man in.
Copyright 2019 Lexi Blake
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