A charismatic covert operative known for his love of danger…
Simon Winters has a reputation for undertaking adrenalin filled assignments. But even thrill seekers need some down time. After an arduous desert mission he asks for a more enjoyable assignment. Preferably involving a beautiful woman in peril and a fast car.
Dr. Elizabeth Barrett’s life is quiet and orderly until someone tries to burn down her research laboratory with her inside. Now she has to contend with a handsome flirtatious agent living in her home. With his designer clothing and cheeky attitude, he has an annoying habit of putting her in more perilous situations than he keeps her out of.
Simon is captivated and intrigued by his beautiful scientist with her red hair and hidden fiery temper. But the danger escalates and what begins as a straightforward mission turns deadly when it seems someone wants Beth and her research dead.
“Simon, this is insane,” Beth whispered to him, her breath visible in the chilly night air.
“No, it isn’t. It’s perfectly logical.”
“But it’s a crime scene. Let’s just think about those words, shall we? A crime scene.”
“It’s your laboratory, Red. You’re allowed to enter it.”
She looked dubious. “I don’t have my pass key to open the security gates, Simon. I left it behind during the fire.”
Simon exited the car and climbed up and over the high metal fence as though it were a ladder, landing sure-footed on the other side. He walked into the gate booth and flicked a switch to open the gates. Then he walked through the opening and got back in the car, gesturing for her to do the same.
Beth gaped at him in disbelief. “You are impossible.”
“Thanks, I get that a lot.”
They parked in the shadows. Simon grasped Beth’s hand and switched on the flashlight, entering the smoke-damaged building. “What exactly are we looking for?” she asked in a whisper, even though the place seemed deserted.
“Why are you whispering?”
“Because it’s a crime scene.”
“Honey, you watch too many TV shows.” He examined their surroundings. “What if the fire was designed to destroy all research as well as dispose of you?”
Beth scowled. “You have a cavalier attitude to my near-death experience.”
He squeezed her fingers. “I promise you, I do not. We should look for evidence of information that’s been removed, specific things taken. You know what to look for, Beth. Go and find it.” He handed her a smaller flashlight from his pocket and gave her a subtle push at the base of her spine.
“I’m able to walk without you doing that, you know.”
“I like doing that.” He winked at her. “Go find us some evidence, madam scientist.”
She directed them upstairs to the second level. “We should head for the main filing cabinets. This is interesting. I assumed the fire or the water ruined everything. But it doesn’t look like the fire penetrated this far into the building.”
Simon glanced around. “Everything looks pretty soaked to me.”
“The hoses soaked everything, but the main sprinkler system didn’t activate. There may be a chance.” She hurried off down the hallway.
Simon frowned and pointed the flashlight to the ceiling, finding the small metal disc that represented the internal fire sprinkler system. “Why didn’t the main sprinklers activate, Red?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice came from along the corridor. “Simon, this would be easier if you would bring the big light over here.”
“Give me two seconds.” Simon tracked the sprinkler system with his beam, back to a main box on a wall. Opening the door revealed a newish looking mechanism inside. He shone the light on it. The mechanism had been added to the sprinkler system, designed to override the activation sequence.
“Simon,” Beth called out, “these cabinets have been opened. I think papers have been removed.”
Simons fingers clenched on the light. Someone had installed an override system stopping the sprinklers from working, guaranteeing papers could be removed from the filing cabinets without a deluge of water coming down and also guaranteeing Beth a fiery death inside if the firemen couldn’t get to her in time. He felt a burning surge of anger. This was no common burglary.
Reaching into his pocket, he removed a small tool kit. Perhaps he could get a clue from the mechanism telling him who installed it and where it came from. He caught his mistake too late.
Beth’s cry of outrage echoed around the building as the deluge of water gushed from the now activated sprinkler system.
Simon swore a sequence of words that would have made a hardened criminal blush and ran to her. It was then they heard the shout from outside.
Great, now security arrives.
“Red, sweetie,” he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her along the corridor as she tried to push her wet hair out of her face, “you know you said this was a crime scene and we shouldn’t be here?”
“You were right.”
“What?” She skidded to a halt, dragging him with her. “You mean I’m going to get arrested for breaking into my own laboratory?”
He grinned through the torrent of water. “Not if I can help it. However, I suggest running as a viable option.”
They raced down the corridor heading for the stairs. He saw the guard’s flashlight heading up it.
“Okay, different plan.” He pulled her in the other direction.
Shoving wet hair out of his eyes, he glanced left and right. “If I remember from the floor plans, there should be a…yes, a disused fire escape. Quick, this way.”
“Simon,” Beth pulled on his hand, “that thing hasn’t been used in years. I don’t think it’s even safe.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. They built these things to last.” He tried the door. Locked. He drew another small kit out of his back pocket and bent to the lock.
“Simon,” Beth hissed urgently, “I can hear voices.”
“Patience, sweetheart.” He turned his attention to the lock. “Come on, baby, release for me. Come on, sweetheart.”
Beth’s startled laugh had a hysterical edge. “Simon, it sounds alarmingly like you are trying to seduce a woman instead of unlocking a door.”
“Distinct similarities, in my opinion. There you go, my darling.” The lock gave way under his prompting, and he pulled Beth through the door onto the rickety fire escape.
“Stay here. I’ll go first and test it for stability.”
“Test it for stability? What happens if it isn’t stable?”
“We’re about to find out.”
He ran down the old rusty ladder leading to the lower levels, hoping he wouldn’t come across another security guard at the bottom. He didn’t. Holding up his arms, he called to Beth, “Come on, it’s safe.”
“Simon,” she whispered down to him. “Maybe if we just explain, maybe they will understand.”
“Trust me, Red,” he said, catching her hands to help her down the stairs. “I’ve been in this situation before. They never understand.”