WAITING FOR YOU
Sean: I’ll wait forever for her…
I called her Duchess before I realized that she was everything I could ever want in my duchess. She is like a little sister to me; however, my feelings for her are anything but brotherly. I have watched her grow into this incredible woman. She is brilliant, strong, and breathtakingly beautiful. She has a curvy figure that leaves even a jaded freak like me tongue-tied. Whenever I need a shoulder, she’s always there. I’ve been waiting for her to realize that we are meant to be together. And then the inexplicable happened: she died in a car accident before I could make her truly mine. On a mission a few months later, I encountered a sassy MI6 agent who seemed incredibly familiar. Am I losing my mind?
Malika: I’ve been waiting all of my life for his love…
Sean is my best friend, my honorary brother. Don’t tell him, but I don’t want or need another brother. I’ve watched Sean with other women for years. I despaired that I would never have my chance with him. He came to me when he was at one of his low points, needing me to console him. I offered a shoulder to cry on. I had no idea that he would need more than a shoulder. He was a dominant and skillful lover, leaving me aching for much more. After such an amazing night, why doesn’t he remember our loving? Now time has run out for us, or should I say that a life-ending car accident has determined matters?
The room buzzed with the sound of fingertips striking the keyboards and the low hum of voices speaking in urgent tones. There were close to twenty people in the large room. Analysts from British and American intelligence were hard at work. According to some underground intelligence, they had been warned that the British Academy Film Awards ceremony had a more than high probability for a terrorist attack tonight. Everyone was on amber alert.
Analysts had been working around the clock to uncover as much information as they could to subvert the potential terrorist attack. Now that tonight was the night of the event, and no viable suspect or plot had been uncovered, the agency had called in their most skilled and elusive agent. Malika Hendricks was the best, and if she couldn’t find the information, it wasn’t there to be found.
Malika kept her gaze trained on the four monitors in front of her, weaving in and out of social media sites in rapid succession to scan conversations, posts, and other internet traffic or searches. Any detail or word could mean the difference between life and death for the people and
other agents she watched over. At the moment, they had the BAFTA Awards ceremony under surveillance, which had A-list actors and actresses who would normally also attend the Oscar Awards later in the month. The live feed was streaming on dozens of monitors throughout the room, which were currently being viewed by various analysts, trying to note anything that seemed unusual or out of place. The ceremony was about to begin, and Malika felt even more pressure to connect the dots as soon as possible.
While she knew the attack was imminent, she had no clue in which form the attack would come. She had already identified the cell was operating in London and two of the leaders. However, Malika wasn’t about to only look for those men because they had lower level minions to carry out any planned attack. She had something, but she had to check another source to be certain of her find.
“Jeremy, anything?” Malika whispered into her microphone.
Jeremy was her counterpart in the CIA and was also currently sweeping the internet, desperately working against the clock to intercept any intelligence that would identify their target. “Nothing yet, Duchess. These bastards have been silent all month. That’s why we know they are up to something big.”
“I feel ya,” Malika mumbled as she shifted from the internet to the telephone text messages. Her fingers flew over her keyboard, and her eyes scanned the messages with lightning speed. With an exceptionally high IQ, she could read over fifteen thousand words a minute. “I think I have something, Jeremy.” Her cautious tone caused the other analysts around her to stop what they were doing and look at her.
“What is it?’ Jeremy’s voice was just as hesitant and worried.
Malika was one of the best intelligence analysts in the world, and everyone in the room respected that. When she spoke, everyone in MI6 listened. She projected her screen to the seventy-two-inch plasma mounted on the wall, showing everyone the text message she had intercepted from one of the waiters, Fareed, to another waiter, Ravi:
Our services are required, my friend. ITNOA
“What?” Jeremy asked in confusion and a fair amount of impatience.
Malika left the message on the monitor but accessed her other systems, letting her fingers fly over the keyboards. With her gaze steady on the monitor and her concentration absolute on the task at hand, she answered Jeremy slowly and precisely, “That means, in the name of
Allah.”Usually she worked alone and found that having to explain every detail was very tedious. It always ticked her off that the other analysts were so slow. Even after telling them, they still remained silent, staring at her with confusion. She ignored them and instead sent the waiters’ photos to all of the agents in the room and triangulated the phones of Fareed and Ravi to ensure there were no other sleepers in on this attack. There were, and she frantically tried to get the agents enough intel to intercept them.
Seeing what Malika was doing, Jeremy sprinted back to his computer and tried to follow her trail.
The other analysts also returned to their stations and alerted their touch points and tried gaining additional intelligence. The seconds flew by. They knew that they were working against the clock; every moment counted. They found five more possible sleepers, but one of them slipped through the agents’ net and entered the televised award ceremony before he could be intercepted. Once each of the other terrorists was secured, three agents discreetly entered the auditorium, intent on finding the remaining attacker. Malika had maintained sight of the terrorist and easily directed the agents, but she cautioned them to not approach.
“Damn, they can’t defuse this situation without causing an international incident, and if they don’t, this will be a deadly international incident,” Malika muttered, her fingers now moving frantically on the keyboard. She had to monitor the terrorist and find out if any of the bodyguards traveling with the movie stars could be of worthwhile assistance to them. Every A-list actor would be travelling with bodyguards, some of them ex-military. She just needed to find the right soldier to assist. Scrolling through the names and bios with the speed no other analyst could have employed, Malika quickly located the one man she thought she had successfully avoided. “What the hell is he doing there? Sean hates these nonsensical events.”
“What’s going on? Who are you talking about?” Jeremy asked.
Malika looked over at Jeremy, surprised that he had deserted his station again. He wasn’t supposed to hear her comment. She really had to let the Asian American down soon. Insisting that she was the twin sister of the actress, Zoe Saldana, he had been drooling over her ever since he’d met her more than a year ago. If he had approached her a few months ago, she might have gone out with him. However, after running into Sean again, she was right back to where she had been for the past six years—hopelessly in love with a man she could never have and pining away for him.
“We need to get help from within that room. The area is too large for us to get at our man without alerting him that we’re coming and having him prematurely set in motion whatever mayhem he planned.”
“There’s no way we can do that without breaking protocol,” Jeremy cautioned. He frowned at Sean’s picture.
Sean Anderson was a reclusive international media mogul and few people would recognize him. His father, who was the face of the company, was the well-known Anderson. Sean was obviously at the event to represent his family’s media houses, which had funded more than half of the movies that had come out of Hollywood last year. However, only a handful of people knew who he was and even fewer knew that he was also a former Navy SEAL.
Malika would have laughed at the jealous scowl on Jeremy’s face if the situation weren’t so serious. She couldn’t blame him though. Sean was a breathtakingly handsome man.
“Yeah, but you’ve never seen this guy in action. If there’s a chance we can end this quietly, he’s it.” She looked over her shoulder at Jeremy. “Can you back up, please?”
Jeremy gave her a hard stare before returning to his monitor.
Now that he could no longer see what she was doing, Malika pulled out her cell phone and linked it to her computer. Using a web of cell phone towers to avoid being traced, she sent a text message to Sean for the first time in eight months.
Malika: Britain needs you.
Malika waited for what seemed like forever, but was actually a few seconds, for Sean to look at his phone and then decide to respond.
Malika: Pay attention, Sean. There’s a terrorist about 50 meters behind you: a male server, about 180lbs, deep olive skin, black hair, dark eyes, and walking with a slight limp. We’re not sure if he’s strapped with explosives or carrying a gun. Take him down quietly.
Sean: Who are you?
Malika: A friend.
Sean: My friends have names.
Malika: You’re wasting time, SEAL.
Sean: All the more reason you need to answer me.
Malika hissed with annoyance.
“Perhaps he’s not as heroic as you think he is,” Jeremy mumbled from his seat, seeming to still be fuming over her dismissal of him.
Malika ignored Jeremy’s resentful ranting. Talking to Sean like this was sending her senses into a frenzy. She felt more alive than she had in months: no pun intended. As far as she was concerned, she had truly died eight months ago.
Malika: Move your ass, Sean. This is important.
Sean: Neo can’t trace this call. Are you MI6 or CIA?
Malika knew he was in constant contact with his teammate, Neo Zuberi, who was the team’s technical eyes and ears. Without any fear of contradiction, she knew that Neo could never breach her firewalls: she was the best in their tech world. She looked at her monitor; the terrorist was now only two rows away from Sean. They were running out of time and out of options. The other agents were closing in, but they risked being detected by the terrorist. Sean was their best option of success.
She thought it best that she answered his question. Seconds ticked by, and he didn’t respond to her message. She watched as he did nothing, not even attempting to type a message. God, is he still pissed? Doesn’t matter. He won’t take out his ire on innocent people.
She watched with bated breath as the terrorist approached Sean’s row. Sean grinned at the man, clearly engaging in a conversation with him. She remembered many people being fooled by that playful, mischievous grin. They foolishly believed that carefree persona and were unaware of the deadly skill that it masked. Faster than she could blink, Sean reached out and had the terrorist on the ground unconscious while the audience’s attention was focused on the award presenters. I know he’s good, but I had no idea he had gotten this lethal. If I had blinked, I would have missed it.
Sean easily maneuvered the man out of the auditorium, smiling and pretending that nothing was going on other than him helping out his fellow man. People turned in their seats, watching his progress, but soon lost interest when it seemed that the waiter had just fallen ill. Once Sean exited the auditorium, the other agents quickly came and collected the terrorist from him.
Sean: I want to see you tonight.
Sean looked directly into one of the surveillance cameras. Long gone was the easy grin. He was now a man filled with angry intent. Malika stared at his achingly beautiful face, devouring every line and curve. Her heart rate accelerated to an alarming pace, and her breathing became audibly fractured.
Sean: Make no mistake, I will find you.
Malika didn’t dare answer him. Feeling as though he could see her even now, she turned off her phone for good measure.
“Why do women always fall for the silent, angry guys? I swear the female population never learns,” Jeremy said bitterly.
She had been so engrossed on Sean’s image that Malika hadn’t seen Jeremy come up behind her again. She couldn’t answer him now if her life had depended on it. Her mouth was dry, and her throat was suddenly parched. She couldn’t lie to herself anymore. She had been looking for months for an excuse to contact him, especially after she’d seen him in Springhurst Close. Tonight was too sweet of a temptation to resist.
Hours later, when the awards ceremony had safely ended without incident, the mood in the room of analysts was one of pure euphoria. They had averted yet another attack the public would know nothing about. It was only their failures the media focused on. That was okay, though, if what they did—let people sleep in peace at night—it was all worth it.
Malika rose to her feet after hours of sitting in that chair for fear of moving and missing a clue. She lifted her arms over her head and stretched the ache out. Her need to visit the little girls’ room was making itself known with a vengeance now.
“A group of us are going out to dinner. Come with us,” Jeremy coaxed.
Malika shook her head. “Unfortunately, I need to get going. Being in this building is giving me the willies.” She shivered delicately to emphasize her point.
“But we rarely see you. Make an exception tonight. Come with us.”
“Sorry, Jeremy. I work from home because I prefer working alone.”
“You broke protocol tonight. You could lose your job over this.”
Malika laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Are you trying to blackmail me, Jeremy?”
“Well, I was just—”
“Because, if you are, I have to tell you that I would have to care enough to keep this job. As it is, I don’t give a shit.”
“Is he worth that much to you?” Jeremy asked scornfully.
Malika smiled at his attempt to get information from her and the fact that Jeremy obviously had no idea who Sean was. “He’s a man like no other,” she said flippantly. However, Jeremy had no way of knowing how true those words were. Sean was like a chameleon, able to hide in plain sight. He acted as though he was an ordinary man, but he was anything but.
Jeremy turned and walked away, muttering under his breath in disgust. Malika was sure she heard something that sounded a lot like “stupid females.”
She actually agreed with him there. It could only be pure stupidity that caused her to contact Sean after knowing she shouldn’t. She was setting herself up for disappointment all over again. Not only would Sean never find her, even if he did, she wouldn’t go back to him treating her like his sister and friend. That shit is too painful. Sean saw her only as a little sister he needed to protect while she wanted so much more. Besides, the reason for her pretend death still existed, and her twin brother’s freedom depended on her maintaining her end of the bargain.