For weeks… he had followed her. Watching. Learning.
He had intimate knowledge of every facet of her life: from what brand toothpaste she purchased, to her favorite pizza topping, to the way she licked her lips when she became nervous.
For weeks… he had followed her.
He now knew her better than she knew herself.
It was time.
A bead of sweat slid down her slender neck to trickle over the curve of her breast before being absorbed into the fabric of her sports bra. Today she was wearing a small pair of black shorts and a dark pink tank top with a scooped neck that showed a tantalizing peek of her baby pink bra underneath.
He liked when she wore pink.
The soft color emphasized her femininity.
He watched as a bumbling gym attendant moved close and placed his hands on her waist. Mumbling about having to check the fastening of her safety belt, he was too busy eyeing her breasts to see her raise her knee. Tilting her foot upward, she slammed the heel down on his toes. The pathetic man yelped as he fell backwards.
He smiled as she innocently asked if the gym attendant was okay, all the while not even trying to hide the knowing smirk that curved her lips upward.
That’s my girl, he thought.
After giving her harness a reassuring tug, she stepped up to the two-story rock wall and began to climb. He watched the play of sleek muscle stretched under golden skin. How each limb gracefully extended from one secure notch to another. The quiet power of her movements coupled with her innate confidence made her intoxicating to observe.
Her long chestnut brown ponytail swished back and forth each time she swung her body from one handhold to another. The bright afternoon sun streaming in from the overhead skylights gave her locks a lustrous glow.
He loved her hair. Loved watching her brush the long wavy length after a shower or how she would toss it up into a messy, lopsided bun when she needed to concentrate on a task. He could still picture how it looked fanned out on her pillow, falling in soft curls about her face as he stood over her bed.
Yes, he loved her hair. Too bad they would have to cut it all off. Long hair would not do for what he had planned for her.
After she reached the top of the interior rock wall, she began her slow descent. A younger, less experienced climber stepped on her hand, causing her to lose focus… and her balance. She fell backwards. Her slim frame was jarred by the sudden pull of the harness around her waist, bowing her body.
He took a determined step forward before ruthlessly checking himself. He could not risk being caught on the gym surveillance cameras interacting with her. It would put all his carefully laid plans at risk. With clenched fists, he was forced to watch as the same asshole gym attendant began to slowly lower her to the ground. A little too slowly for his satisfaction. Only the thought of breaking the gym attendant’s neck in the parking lot later tonight appeased the tightening pressure of displeasure in his chest.
He watched as she was suspended above the ground, secured only by the harness around her waist. Visions of what he could do to her prone body as she hung helpless flashed before his eyes.
His cock swelled.
Soon enough he would have her under his complete control.
Pivoting the moment her feet were safely back on the floor, he left the gym.
His careful observation—as usual—went unnoticed by his prey.
* * *
“The CIA has their warrants, so we need to move tonight. A ground route will not work; the traffic patterns are too unpredictable. Have a helicopter waiting at twenty-three hundred hours. I want the cover of darkness but not so late someone remarks on hearing a helicopter. Understood?”
After giving his orders, Reid Harrington disconnected the call. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a second cell phone. Looking at the screen, he watched as a pizza app was opened.
Large pizza with mushrooms and black olives. Diet Coke.
Right on time.
He had cloned her phone weeks ago as a means of tracking her movements and interactions. Every Friday she left work to go directly to the gym, then returned home, ordered a pizza, and stayed in for the rest of the night. She rarely interacted with anyone until the following Monday morning at work.
She would not be missed for days.
Strolling over to the sideboard, he tossed a few ice cubes into a crystal glass and poured himself a generous three fingers of bourbon. He was anxious to return to the compound. Reid despised these business trips that forced him away for months at a time. His clients paid a premium for fast and efficient results. He was already behind schedule after the last girl failed to live up to her potential.
Reid flipped open the file resting on the polished wood surface and stared at the glossy photo paper-clipped to the top as he took a sip of his drink, soothed by the cold burn as it slipped down his throat.
Long brown hair framed a small, gamine face with bright, expressive blue eyes. Her pink lips were open on an easy smile.
Caressing the outline of her jaw with his fingertip, he skimmed the stack of papers contained in the file. The death certificates of both her parents. A list of foster homes. Her high school and college transcripts. Pay stubs. Cell phone records. More surveillance photos.
To the untrained eye, Devon Chase led a boring, unremarkable life as a computer programmer for a software company that designed video games. She had no family. No close ties to former classmates. Very few friends. The majority of her interactions were in chat rooms of the various video games she played. As far as Reid could tell, almost everyone who interacted with Devon, from her coworkers to the guy behind the counter of her favorite café, thought her a pretty, yet shy and timid girl.
They were wrong.
There was an anxious, almost desperate, energy about her. He could see it in how she attacked that rock wall, how she bested every video game she encountered with practiced ease… and in the haunted look that crossed her face in those quiet moments late at night when she thought she was alone.
It was probably why she had turned to hacking computers.
She was one of the most talented hackers he had come across. Up until this point, she had stayed under law enforcement radar because her hacking lacked purpose. There was no political or monetary reason… just boredom as far as Reid could tell. An agile, intelligent mind that is not challenged tends to manifest itself in destructive ways.
But all that changed a few months ago; she hacked the wrong company. She caught law enforcement’s—and his—eye.
It would be a shame to waste that talent behind bars.
Devon Chase was a woman who desperately needed a challenge, something more exciting than this staid boxed-in life she had created for herself.
Yes, they were wrong.
He knew raw talent when he saw it. Devon had true potential, not like the others.
Looking down, Reid swirled the melting ice cubes, watching as the remnants of amber liquid coated the sides of his glass. Tilting his head back, he swallowed the last bit of bourbon. Pulling an ice cube into his mouth, he crushed it with the sharp edges of his teeth.
Time to go claim his unwilling recruit.