True Deceptions (True Lies)(10)By: Veronica Forand
Pauline shifted away from him to the cheap mirror above his dresser. She arranged her hair, touched up her makeup, and then sat in an armchair by the window. Her beauty and sophistication transformed the barren bedroom into the luxurious boudoir of an imperial palace. Today, however, Simon wasn’t in the mood to play with the exotic princess, and he sensed she’d be having his head for his rejection. Her fingers tapped on her leg, and her exhalation sounded like hissing.
Simon remained standing. He wanted a break from women but was being inundated with them. One very tall blonde tempted him to hell and back with her looks alone, and the other, a gorgeous brunette, would be willing to break the law, crush a few moral codes, and be excommunicated from a few religions all for an afternoon tryst.
Her face had fallen into a frown. Pursed lips never looked good on anyone, especially annoyed women. “I thought you’d be more willing, since Nicola’s gone.”
The comment ripped at his gut. He moved past the end of the bed, as far from Pauline as possible. “I’m already knee deep in shit with the service, and compromising one of their best handlers won’t endear me to headquarters.”
She stood. That spitfire confidence returned with his compliment. She followed him across the room. “Remember your first year in the field? I handled all your needs, and you had no complaints.”
“As much I enjoyed our close ties, I’m older and wiser. Go on with your task.”
Just one hand touched his arm, tempting and seductive. “You should take advantage of the personal service required since Anonymous attacked our network and headquarters wants the most secure data hand delivered. It makes the job much more interesting.”
“Pauline.” His tone came out as a warning. “Spill it.”
“Fine.” She backed away and sat on the bed, leaning across the pillows in a provocative pose. “Cassie, as you know, is absolutely green when it comes to anything outside her little cubicle on the seventh floor. She hasn’t had a boyfriend since moving to London. She’s one of those workaholic types. Anyway, she needs a bit of softening around the edges. Your job is to make sure she looks like your lover and not some skittish little mouse.”
His phone vibrated in his pocket. Looking at the video, he couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m not sure if little or skittish is the best way to describe her. Unpredictable, yes.”
Cassie had tensed while Pauline snogged him near the front door. Was his partner jealous of Pauline on a professional or a physical level? Interesting. Either could work in his favor. If she did feel some attraction toward him, perhaps he could manipulate her into breaking her non-violent stance in order to do their job. Otherwise, she’d be like an appendix about to burst. Useless and deadly.
Too bad he couldn’t switch out Pauline for Cassie. The woman could probably kill without guilt, plus lie, cheat, and steal as well as he could. She didn’t, however, have the skill set necessary for his purposes.
“Simon, you have your work cut out for you. She needs to be more sophisticated when it comes to all aspects of her assignment.”
“As of this minute, you haven’t told me what I’m supposed to do except seduce a surfer girl. Not an incredibly challenging assignment. What’s next?”
“You have to reestablish yourself. People think you’re dead or in hiding. It’s time to make an appearance. Tucker mentioned a deal brewing to arm rebels in Sierra Leone. Do you think you can get in on it?”
She crossed her legs, allowing the hem of her yellow dress to lift to the top of her thigh. Her Cheshire cat smile told him she was still on the prowl. Annoyance replaced attraction. Only Nicola had ever made Simon lose focus on his job. Pauline was wasting her time trying to break him down. He wouldn’t repeat his past mistakes.
“Already arranged. As for Cassie, tell Tucker I’ll obtain the results he wants using my own methods. Next.”
She leaned back on the bed, posed like a centerfold about to get naked. “Some businessmen in North Korea are looking to arm a few soldiers with suicide drones near the DMZ.”
Drones in the Korean Demilitarized Zone? Cassie’s role clicked into place. Plenty for a robotics expert to do there.
“How do I make contact?”
“They’ll be at SOFEX Jordan in two weeks.”
“I’d better get busy then.” He’d skipped the Special Operations Forces Exhibition & Conference the year before, but every major player in the world of legal and illegal arms deals would be there. He needed to return and get back in the game.
He glanced at his phone for a peek at his new partner. Between Pauline’s failed seduction and Cassie’s lack of composure, the wrong women surrounded him. At least he could send Pauline away. Cassie, on the other hand, he was stuck with until this was done. The woman exhibited zero patience—the most important quality to have in this job. The inadequate training new agents received made them overconfident and a risk to themselves and others. He’d seen eight colleagues perish in the first six months of their assignments due to rookie mistakes. And, unlike Cassie, they’d never hesitated to fire a gun.