True Deceptions (True Lies)(3)

By: Veronica Forand

“What makes you so sure I won’t disappear again?” Simon asked.

“You’ve always hated collateral damage. It’s your biggest weakness. We don’t have time to insert anyone else into the game right now. Return to work or we’ll create a bloody trail behind you so deep you’ll drown in it.” Tucker rose from his seat and strode to the door. “I expect to see you back in your flat by tomorrow.” He left the room without looking back.

Chapter Two

One transatlantic flight later, Simon paused in the hallway outside of his flat. Nicola had lived there with him for five years as his pretend lover. He’d hoped she’d become his real lover. It never happened. She’d died first.

The muscles in his face tightened. He needed a strong drink to get through the night. Alcohol and women were his panacea. Female companionship, however, would only remind him of Anna Marie, and that was a memory best left alone for a while.

He flicked the lights on and made his way to the kitchen. The flat smelled like window cleaner and furniture polish—too clean after being vacant and locked up for months.

Fresh food and beer filled the refrigerator. Probably compliments of the lying rat bastards at MI6 who were blackmailing him to return to his former position. He grabbed a bottle and went to decompress in an old leather recliner. One refreshing sip cooled his throat. He shut his eyes to filter out the lingering memories of his former partner who gave everything for her country and received permanent anonymity in return.

The click of a gun and a tap against the back of his head woke him up. Usually, he’d be prepared to counterattack. This time, however, he didn’t care. Go ahead, asshole. Kill me.

“Don’t move.” A voice, soft and unsure, revealed all Simon needed to know. How wonderful, more estrogen.

“If you’re going to kill me, do it now. If not, get the hell out of my flat.”

She hesitated. The fool.

He reached behind him, grabbed her hair, and pulled her over the back of the recliner. She squeaked as she flipped forward into his lap. The gun flew out of her hand and skidded across the floor, landing under the coffee table. His fist kept a secure hold on her hair, and he tugged her face where he could see it—as wholesome and innocent as Anna Marie’s. Blonde hair, blue eyes, American accent. She looked exactly like the future collateral damage Tucker had warned him about. Beautiful until poisoned with cyanide and left to die.

Maybe this was a nightmare and the blonde would disappear after a few minutes.

“Simon?” she whispered.

“Have I ever shagged you?” He brushed his hand over her jeans to the top of her thigh. Her rock-solid muscles tensed.

She shook her head.

He would have remembered. Model pretty, but not as thin. Long denim covered legs ended in bare feet with blue nail polish decorated with daisies.

His hand slid over her shoulder and rubbed the back of her neck. Her shiver shot across his limbs and into places Simon didn’t want awakened. “Will I ever?”

She shook her head again and proved how useless she was to him at the moment. He pushed her off his lap, sending her to the floor.

“Then get the hell out of my flat.” If someone wanted him dead, they’d hired an imbecile to handle the job.

His aggressive actions sent her fleeing from the room. She had five minutes to leave before he picked her up and tossed her out the door. Distractions would delay him from finishing his assignment and disappearing again permanently. His hand rested on his holster in case she decided to try to kill him again. Part of him hoped she’d succeed.

A minute later she returned from the kitchen with a glass of wine. Why the hell would she stay if he’d threatened her? The liquid rippled in her shaky hand. She wore a brave face—chin tilted up, lips closed and frowning—but if he yelled “boo,” she’d hit the floor face first. He was certain of it.

“Why are you still here?”

“I’m Cassie Watson.” She sat on the couch, all six feet something of her, dressed in loose jeans and a pink T-shirt. “They told me you’d be a jerk, but I thought they were kidding. They weren’t.” She took a deep breath and a swig of wine. “Anyway, I’m your new partner.”

“I work alone.”

She took another sip. “I was told to report to your flat and wait. They said it would be weeks until you arrived.” She frowned, probably in response to his frown. “I understand if you don’t want me, but—”

“I don’t want you.”

She ignored him and drank more wine. “I have no place to live except here. I was told that, once embedded, I wouldn’t be coming out for a while. So if we’re not colleagues, perhaps we can be roommates?”

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