True Deceptions (True Lies)(7)

By: Veronica Forand



Her nightshirt lifted up as she reached for the coffee, exposing pastel pink knickers. Four steps and he’d be next to her. He shook his head. He had an assignment to complete and a retirement to plan. Mindless sex with this gorgeous blonde would solve not one of his problems. It would only create a myriad of new ones.

An hour later, he returned with proper provisions. Cassie sat in the kitchen, dressed in a long turquoise skirt and white T-shirt. Her hair was twisted into a bun, and not a spot of makeup marred her perfect complexion. The poster child for the all-American girl.

She leaned on the table, reading a book while picking at a steaming plate of sweet potatoes and a mix of green vegetables. He’d had girlfriends who ate like rabbits, but he’d never had to rely on them to save his ass on a mission. She’d better keep up.

“Coffee?” he asked with an attempted smile.

“All done.” She tried to maintain eye contact. It would have been impressive if he hadn’t noticed her hand shaking. Despite her bravado, she wouldn’t last a week. Men with inverted moral codes would break her in one night, but it wasn’t Simon’s job to second-guess why she’d placed herself in the middle of a battlefield.

“Can I pour it for you, boss?” A sliver of her smile emerged.

He sighed and then laughed at his own hesitation to give her a break. “Only if your ethics allow you to add cream.”

“I’ll make an exception this time.”

He pulled out two pans and prepared himself an omelet with cheddar cheese, ham, sweet peppers, and mushrooms. Cooking was no hardship. It provided him a chance to relax and focus on one thing. When not in the kitchen, his thoughts needed to process transportation logistics, appraisals of non-cash collateral, technical information, and international arms treaties.

She handed him some coffee. The old black mug felt funny in his hand. It belonged in Nicola’s. He preferred the large white one from the Hard Rock Cafe, which was situated next to Cassie. The temptation to take it back from her almost overtook him, but he suppressed it.

Sitting at the table again, she glanced toward him. “You don’t seem the type to cook.”

“I hate stereotypes, don’t you?” He took in her earthy outfit. Her hippie persona was definitely not going to work when they went to meet his contacts. Which brought him to his next question. “What’s your specialty?”

“Robotics.” She shrugged, as though every bombshell of a blonde majored in robotics.

“Any languages?”

“I know about forty computer languages.”

“Good. You can speak to all the computers we encounter. What about foreign languages?”

“Spanish and French.”

“Fluent?”

“Mexican Spanish fluent, not so much in French. Since I don’t know my role, I’m unsure what skills I’ll need.”

They must have chosen her for a purpose. She’d be the technical expertise, while he handled the practical logistics. “You’re supposed to be my lover. Are you comfortable with that?”

He watched her reaction. She nodded, swallowed hard, and then dropped her eyes to her potatoes. He’d take that as a no.

Forty-eight hours later, Cassie still hadn’t received any information on what her role would be. Simon treated her as though she didn’t exist. He cooked for himself and spoke to random people on his phone. In response to her questions, he gave one-word answers. A few times he’d asked her to get out of the way because his body took up so much more of the hallway than hers did. He also refused to let her near the computers. Searching some of the case files would tell her something, and any bit of information would calm her nerves better than the nothing she knew presently.

She’d looked Simon up on her work computer, one day before her office had been stripped of her things. That attempt to find out about him, however, had left her confused. Simon Dunn didn’t work for MI6. He didn’t seem to work anywhere. His record in the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency held a minimal amount of data: his name, Simon C. Dunn; age, thirty-four years old; date of birth, the twenty ninth of May, four years before she was born. His address listed a location in some other part of London. Yet she couldn’t track down where he was born or any record of his education.

She headed to the office and stationed herself behind him. He stared at the computer screen, sitting in the same position he’d been in all day. He’d only left his chair to eat, sleep, and exercise. Maps and papers covered the desk. He’d written most of his notes in a shorthand she didn’t recognize.

The previous evening, he’d found his way to the living room to watch a soccer game. Stretched across the couch, also known as “her bed,” he yelled at the television until well past midnight. She’d fallen asleep on the recliner with a pillow over her head. When she woke, her back ached, but Simon’s blanket from his bed covered her body. Perhaps he only acknowledged her existence while she was sleeping.

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