She pushed the photos to the side, not caring about them. She knew what the man looked like. Scanning the few pages of notes, she nodded as she read key phrases. Harrison had the pertinent details of what had happened. As he disconnected his call, she looked up. “You’ve got all the basics. Perdue ran a sex ring for over a decade and we brought him down.” Just like she’d told him.
“There’s nothing about you in there, though. No mention of Cait Chilcott.” Harrison’s eyes were guarded this morning, making her wonder if last night hadn’t meant as much to him as it had to her.
Instead of showing her disappointment that he was all business right now, she nodded. “There wouldn’t be. I’m sure when the CIA shares files with MI6 they don’t give actual agents’ names. Just details and facts.”
His mouth pulled into a thin line as he flicked a glance at the file, then looked back at her. “So what’s not in there that I’m missing?”
“Perdue hates me specifically and that’s why he’s in Miami. This is very personal for him. My contact with MI6 thinks there’s a leak and he’s right. There’s no way Perdue should have been able to track me down, but he’s already killed four other people involved with the case—not agents, former colleagues of his who turned evidence against him—and I’m pretty sure I’m the last person he’s coming after. The fact that he was able to get out of prison is impressive in itself, but not unheard of. But the fact that he has my information means he has a contact and my guess is whoever his contact is will be waiting for a big payoff. When we brought Perdue down we were convinced he had more bank accounts, but he never talked. Why would he?” She snorted softly. He’d been caught and given no chance of a reduced sentence. He’d had no reason to cooperate with them.
“Why is this personal for him?” There was no visible chink in Harrison’s armor. He might as well have been carved from stone the way he stood there, completely unreadable.
Mara sighed and pulled out one of the chairs at the island. She collapsed in it as she shut the file. “I befriended the woman he was…involved with.”
She nodded. “The woman was—is—exceptionally beautiful. He found her when she was just seventeen and kept her for himself instead of adding her to his ‘stable’ of women, as he liked to call them.” Mara shuddered as she remembered having to fake being polite to Neville. Before she’d taken him and his organization down. “Danika didn’t have any friends, but we met at the gym he allowed her to go to. Our meeting obviously wasn’t an accident. I targeted her and since our friendship made her happy and he thought I was a stupid socialite, he let Danika keep me in her life. Which meant I was invited to a lot of social events, including ones at his house. The man was such a freak. He loved entertaining all the time, as if he just needed to show off all his wealth. Money he made on the abuse of so many women. Girls, really.” Some of the females they’d saved from one of his underground sex-rings in London had been in their teens. Mara still couldn’t get some of the images out of her head. “When we took down his operation it was in conjunction with Interpol. I wasn’t part of the raids in other countries, but I’ve seen the pictures of the women we helped free. Their faces…” She couldn’t go on. There had been so many damn faces. Until meeting Harrison, her dreams had been haunted.
Her husband’s face softened a fraction. “Is that why you retired?”
Swallowing hard, she nodded. “My boss told me that this was the toughest case he’d ever seen and I’d never have to deal with anything like it again, but the world is a messed up place. I knew he was wrong. There’s way worse out there and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’d lost my love of the job long before we wrapped up the case and knew if I stayed in, I’d die inside.” Leaving had been one of the hardest things she’d ever done because it had been all she’d known for so long. But she hadn’t wanted to end up like so many of her colleagues, divorced, jaded and many had drinking and other substance abuse problems. The job would have slowly suffocated her.
The shift of topic was subtle. He wasn’t asking about the case anymore, but her. “Because it’s as different from London as you can get. The weather, the people, everything. I needed something completely different. A clean break. I thought about going back to Boston for a while, but…” She shrugged.
“I met you and Miami started to feel like home so I decided to stay.”
His jaw clenched, but he didn’t respond. He slid the file closer to him then flipped it open again even though she knew Harrison would have already memorized the entire thing. He was gathering his thoughts right now, though about what, she could only guess. Finally he looked up, his dark eyes penetrating. “Tell me about your bullet wounds.”
Her eyes widened and she shrugged. Not because getting shot wasn’t a big deal—it had hurt worse than anything she’d ever experienced—but because it had nothing to do with the Perdue case or Harrison. “I was almost killed during an assignment six years ago, but it has nothing to do with what’s going on now.” She’d been in Africa and the extraction had been hell, but she didn’t expand on it because telling him about the Perdue case was one thing. Telling him about all her cases was another entirely. She respected her former colleagues and former job too much to just spill all her secrets.
His nod was sharp, as if he understood why she wasn’t expanding. Harrison had scars all over his body, mostly knife wounds, and she’d never pressed him to tell her about them. She knew the story behind some, but not all, and she respected his privacy so she was glad he was respecting hers.
“Will you tell me about it one day?” he asked quietly.
She nodded because she couldn’t deny him anything. Today she wasn’t ready to completely reveal her past and it stunned her that he realized that. The man read her like no one ever had. It was a big part of the reason she’d fallen for him so hard and so fast.
He gave another sharp nod and snapped the file closed again. “Lizzy called while you were sleeping and the guy she saw on the street is definitely Perdue. I’ve got feelers out all over the city looking for him. Against my better judgment we’re not involving the locals. I’m solely using Red Stone as a resource to find him… And my former handler is aware that he’s in the States. He’s pissed MI6 didn’t give them a head’s up.”
Mara’s lips pulled into a thin line. Her former boss should have informed the CIA immediately so she didn’t blame anyone for being angry. “Where are you looking? He’ll know to use cash and I know he has aliases because he used one to enter the country.”
“Do you know how many he has?”
“Three, though I’m sure he ditched the one he used to travel with so two at this point…Unless he’s already hooked up with a forger in Miami.” She kind of doubted it considering he hadn’t been in the country that long, but anything was possible.
“And before you ask, I’ve already emailed my contact asking for the exact aliases. I haven’t heard back yet, but he’ll come through.” She’d sent him a message before she’d emailed Lizzy last night. With the time difference she should be hearing from him soon. He’d be breaking a lot of rules to give her the information and she guessed he was deciding whether he should tell her or not. Her contact had been candid in his information so far, but he’d always held back a little. She wasn’t in the fold anymore, but she knew that he also felt guilty even if he had no reason to. Mara was the one who’d left the agency and it had been of her own accord. That was no one’s fault. Still, she was grateful if guilt would sway her former colleague into feeding her information.
Harrison started to speak when her cell buzzed in her pants pocket. The room was quiet enough that they both heard it. She pulled it out and bit her bottom lip when she saw Pamela’s number. She’d called the other woman early yesterday morning when she’d thought she was leaving town. Pamela was probably just checking on her, but that could wait. As she started to slip it back into her pocket, Harrison’s phone rang.
“I need to grab this,” he said quietly so Mara pressed the talk button on her own phone as he turned away.
“Hey,” she said, watching the strong lines of Harrison’s back and shoulders, wishing she was running her fingers along his bare skin right now.
“Hello, Cait. Or should I call you Mara now?” Neville Perdue’s familiar voice grated against her senses. A low buzz started in her ears as an icy chill descended on her body.
Her hand curled around the phone. “What have you done with Pamela?” She couldn’t believe her voice didn’t shake.
Harrison turned around, his dark eyes locking on hers after her question. He didn’t say another word to the person on his line, just hung up as he watched her, concern etched in every line of his face. She didn’t have to say a word, or signal to him. Her husband knew who was on the other line. She could see the understanding in his gaze.
Neville made a tsking sound. “Your friend is fine. A little bruised up, but alive and unharmed. For now. And she’ll stay that way only if you follow my instructions precisely.”
Harrison hung up on his brother in mid-conversation when he heard the underlying panic in Mara’s voice. To anyone else, she probably appeared calm and unaffected, but he’d started to learn the subtle nuances of her body. Right now she was almost preternaturally still where she sat. Her hand had tightened around her phone so that her knuckles were white and her other hand was clenched into a tight ball in her lap.
“You’re insane if you think I’ll meet you,” Mara said calmly, only the flash of fear in her eyes giving herself away.
It was clear she was talking to Perdue or one of his contacts. It was the only thing that made sense for Mara to be so worried.