Eyes of a Stranger -- Available Now
Undercover Intrigue Series --
FBI Agent Catherine Sikes witnessed the wrong murder and has been in hiding for two years. Out of options, she calls a former agent for help. He secretly sets her up in his son’s penthouse until she figures out her next move.
Photojournalist Parker Snow-Hansen is still distraught over his wife’s death. When he arrives home early from a gig, he’s surprised, frustrated, and a bit intrigued by Cat. He hesitantly agrees to let her stay.
Cat pulls Parker from his grief and teaches him to appreciate life again, while he helps her dream of a life away from the dangerous one she’s been living. Neither is looking for love, yet they’re undeniably drawn to each other. But when the reason Cat’s at his apartment is exposed, the truth threatens to shatter them both.
BUY E-book: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Agent Catherine Sikes rose from the white marble floor, blood soaking her trembling hands. Two dead bodies lay at her feet.
She stuffed her pockets with the items she’d just been given.
Someone banged on the door.
Heart pounding, her gaze darted to the window set high in the office wall. It was her only way out. She climbed on top of the file cabinet beneath it and scurried out the window.
Night had fallen on Baghdad.
She hopped down to the grass and dew soaked her clothing as she flattened on her stomach to scan the area.
No one in sight.
She hastily rose to her feet and started south—her safest direction since no security or street lights illuminated this field behind the American embassy.
Not chancing a look back, Cat sprinted as fast as she could. With no trees to obscure this stretch of land, enough light lit the sky for her to see where she was going, so she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other in the wet grass.
“There!” a man shouted.
A gunshot boomed behind her.
With a calmness borne from years undercover, she continued without missing a step.
She approached a busy thoroughfare. After dodging traffic and darting across the street, she stopped and checked the path she’d just taken. Three men jogged forward, pointing at her.
She yanked her phone from her back pocket and tossed it to the pavement an instant before a truck crushed it. She continued a block and a half down the street, then turned right and raced up another road. Panic gripped her. The men following her would identify her immediately on this deserted street. She checked behind her.
At the next block, she hung a left and realized the roads changed from city to rural. Heart thrashing, she ran beside a ditch filled with water.
Shouts reached her.
She couldn’t outrun them, not when she had no idea where to go.
Up ahead, she spotted a crossroads. She splashed into the ditch, scrambled into the concrete culvert, and crawled away from the opening. Once inside, she stretched out flat and stayed perfectly still, focusing on calming her breaths.
Body submersed in muck, she listened.
The voices and shouts grew louder.
“Where the hell is she?” a man breathing hard asked.
The corner streetlights caused shadows of the men chasing her to fall over the ditch opening.
“People don’t vanish into thin air,” another said.
Light, probably from a flashlight, bounced around the ditch opening. Cat ducked her head under the water. She sent up a thanks for the rain earlier today.
She grabbed a couple of large stones at the bottom to keep herself from surfacing. Something slithered over her hand. Instinct screamed for her to jump up and run. Self-preservation kept her submerged and motionless.
Cat waited until she had no more breath before lifting her head from the water. The light was gone.
“Only people who know how to disappear can do so that expertly,” one of the men pointed out.
She breathed through her mouth without making a sound.
“We need to check the bullets she used to kill Alvarez. Spies use very specific type guns.”
“Her name is Federal Agent Catherine Sikes,” a familiar voice said.
Cat gave a grateful sigh. Salvatore Breen to the rescue. She crawled toward the opening.
“We’ve worked on cases together. Should be easy enough to catch a beautiful blonde bombshell in Baghdad.”
She froze, luckily still deep in her hiding spot. Why would Breen want to catch her?
“What if she contacts her superiors?” someone asked.
“Then she’s doing us a favor. I’ll know if she talks to the FBI, and I’ll be able to get to her before anyone else.” Breen’s cocky attitude and words confirmed he was definitely not on her side.
Betrayal, sharp as daggers, slashed through her unlike anything she’d ever felt. In all her time with the Bureau, she always had the security of backup—many men and women assigned to the cases she worked to keep her alive and safe.
The men’s shadows retreated and their voices trailed off.
Cat prayed nothing lingering in the water with her got angry about her intrusion. Cars zoomed close and in the distance.
She remained there for hours until traffic quieted.
Careful and watchful, she crept to the edge of her haven to survey the area. No cars. No people. No animals.
Her muscles, tight from being wet and immobile for so long, protested as she stood and darted toward a copse of trees.
Getting rid of her phone had been both a blessing and a curse. No one would find her with GPS, but she possessed no way of phoning for help. With Breen’s words echoing in her ears, she couldn’t chance calling the FBI anyway, at least not yet. First, she had to piece together what happened today.
The effort to run to the trees zapped her energy. Her body cried out to stop and rest.
She couldn’t stop.
Not with one thought, one truth, running through her mind.
I’m on my own.
Agent Salvatore Breen hated to be the bearer of bad news. While he waited for his phone to connect to the US, he anxiously paced in an executive office at the embassy. The phone was answered on the first ring. “Make me happy.”
On a normal call, Salvatore would lighten the mood by telling the deputy to find a hooker if he wanted to be happy, but this was not a normal call. “Target eliminated.”
“You should have no more to say,” the man cut him off.
“Respectfully, I do, sir. Once Mick Alvarez shot the target, he was killed by Agent Catherine Sikes.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Sikes witnessed the murder and killed Alvarez. Then she disappeared.”
“People don’t disappear.”
Until today Salvatore might agree. “She did.”
“You promised this would be simple, Breen. Now it’s complicated as hell. How did it get so out of control?”
“From what I could gather, Sikes was on her way to the US and just happened to be at the embassy when Alvarez caught up with the target.”
“How much does she know?”
“I can’t venture to guess, sir.” Salvatore waited, wondering if he’d have new instructions or if he’d be fired on the spot. Or worse, find himself in the same dead state as Alvarez.
“Fix this. I want her alive. We must find out if she learned anything from the target. Use as many agents as you need. Find her quick. Senator Dunlap needs this to die. Now.”
Two years later
Cat rounded the corner and scanned the dark street praying she’d find no one, but knew if she did, the chase would continue. The stretch of road lined with skyscrapers and corner traffic stop lights was thankfully abandoned. She stayed close to the buildings, darting between them as a light rain spattered her. A pay phone lit the next block. She let out a pent-up breath. She’d been unsure she’d find one anywhere in downtown Houston.
Please let it work.
She detested her desperate situation and hated involving a friend. Nevertheless, she’d run out of options. She considered waiting until morning to ring Roy Hansen, but contacting him in the cloak of night seemed a better choice. With a little luck Roy worked tonight, and with the time nearing two in the morning, she might catch him closing the club he co-owned.
After dropping coins into the phone, she heard a dial tone.
Thank you, God.
She punched in Roy’s cell phone number she’d memorized after he rescued her ten years ago. He promised her the line was private, secure, and untraceable. Before she disappeared, she used to call him often. Because she’d always used a pay phone, her superiors had no knowledge she and Roy stayed in touch after he left the Bureau, and right now she was grateful for that.
“Hansen,” Roy groggily croaked.
Oh, shit, he’d been asleep. Even so, her heart buoyed at the sound of his voice. She kept her tone steady, direct, like an in-control undercover FBI agent should. “I need your help.”
“What can I do?” He sounded fully awake now.
“I’m on Congress, near Minute Maid Park.”
“Give me thirty minutes. I drive a black F150. Plates KLJ 368.”
“KLJ 368.” Cat disconnected.
She checked the street again before hurrying between two buildings, disappearing into the darkness. Back pressed against the brick building, she lifted her face to the heavens.
What have I done?
The raindrops did nothing to wash away the guilt plaguing her for calling Roy. She brushed her fingers over the necklace she wore under her clothes at all times. For two years she hadn’t involved friends in her life, frightened they’d be harmed.
But at this point, Roy was the only one who could help her.
Twenty-five minutes later, a black truck made a slow sweep of the street. Without license plate lights, she couldn’t read the plates from the front. She didn’t move from her hiding spot. After it passed, the back plates were lit and read KLJ 368. Three blocks down it U-turned. She cautiously emerged from the shadows.
The truck pulled over to the curb. The darkened passenger window inched its way down.
Almost to the vehicle, she looked into Roy’s shadowed eyes and tried to show the same gratitude she’d given him the last time he rescued her. Years ago she’d been blonde and blue-eyed, now she had dark hair and wore brown contacts.
At his nod of recognition, she opened the door and threw herself inside. “Go.”
Always cool under pressure, Roy eased his foot on the gas and drove down the deserted street while raising the passenger window. She knelt on the floor and rested her upper body on the seat so she couldn’t be seen. Relief engulfed her.
Safe. She was finally safe.
At least for the moment.
Her relief brought with it excruciating pain from her arm, throbbing in time with her heartbeat.
Minutes later, Roy said, “We’re not being followed.”
Still kneeling on the floorboard, Cat lifted her upper body and checked the seat where her arm had been. “I’m sorry.” She took off her jacket and wiped the dark liquid from the leather.
Roy continued driving like someone bleeding all over his seat was an everyday occurrence.