Silent Truth (B.a.d. Agency)

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9781416597452: Silent Truth (B.a.d. Agency)
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In the sizzling new adventure from New York Times bestselling authors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love, a red-hot BAD boy teams up with a sexy television reporter on an explosive quest for revenge.

Tough-as-nails Bureau of American Defense agent Hunter Thornton-Payne is no stranger to uncomfortable top-secret missions, but tonight takes the cake. He just needs to stick out a stuffy charity fund-raiser long enough to find the ruthless assassin he’s hunted for four years. It’s a rogue operation, but Hunter’s got nothing to lose—until a beautiful brunette unexpectedly pulls him into her own dangerous agenda. Abbie Blanton will do anything to cure her mother’s mysterious illness. When a high-profile heiress is murdered as Abbie tries to blackmail her for clues, Abbie realizes she’s stumbled into an unforgiving conspiracy—and she’s the next target. Soon, she and Hunter discover an alarming connection and begin a treacherous battle against an evil enterprise that someone will go to terrifying lengths to keep hidden.

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About the Author:

SHERRILYN KENYON is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several series, including the Bureau of American Defense novels Born to be BAD, BAD Attitude, Phantom in the Night, Whispered Lies, and Silent Truth--all available from Pocket Books. There are more than twenty-five million copies of her books in print in over thirty countries. She lives with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.Visit her website at SherrilynKenyon.com.

DIANNA LOVE is the New York Times best selling co-author of the Belador urban fantasy series. BLOOD TRINITY, the first book in this new series, debuted on the NYT, USA Today, Publishers Weekly and Walmart best seller lists. ALTERANT, book two, will be released Sept 27, 2011. 
Visit AuthorDiannaLove.com for more on this author who rides motorcycles, loves to saltwater fish and enjoys meeting fans everywhere.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Four years ago off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii


Hunter Wesley Thornton-Payne III didn’t believe in premonitions of doom, but now might be an optimum time to reevaluate those beliefs. That last bone-jarring shudder of the thirty-year-old fishing trawler beneath him qualified as a preemptive warning.

Salt water sprayed across the deck from each side of the wheelhouse where he stood. Wearing a wetsuit didn’t mean he wanted to be blasted with water every thirty seconds. For the past forty-five minutes this floating hazard had plowed south through the Pacific Ocean toward tonight’s black-ops objective.

Failure would trigger hideous deaths for unsuspecting CIA agents over the next twenty-four hours.

A simple mission... on paper.

Scaling a sheer rock cliff rising two thousand feet out of windswept waves, and on a moonless night, might give him pause if not for his partner Eliot Sawyer. Having him on this mission should quiet any concerns.

But a dark shadow continued to hover over Hunter’s psyche, a sixth sense he trusted almost as much as he trusted Eliot.

A ferocious wave broke across the starboard side, the tip of its watery tail lashing his face with cool spray. The faded teakwood deck quaked beneath his feet.

“This piece of shit better hold together long enough to get us into position.” Hunter wiped water from his eyes again. “You can bet that sack-a-shit Retter is riding around out here in something that can do more than ten knots. I should be hauling hisass up that cliff since this was his idea.”

Eliot laughed. The bastard laughed more than any other human Hunter had ever known. Even in college, humor had balanced out his mammoth size. “Thought you agreed this was the only way to slip inside Brugmann’s compound.”

Hunter hitched a shoulder in a don’t-remind-me response. He’d come to the same conclusion as Retter—BAD’s top gun and the lead on this operation—that approaching from the north under the guise of a decrepit fishing boat offered the optimum insertion point. Ehrlich Brugmann’s private residence perched on a cliff above a vertical wall of volcanic rock overlooking the northern coast of Kauai.

Brugmann had traveled alone to Hawaii this trip. Had he thought the United States wouldn’t notice him selling out the CIA and national security if he didn’t do it in DC at his primary residence?

Hunter suffered another whiff of fishy stench permeating the wood. He stared out over the starboard side at the last shred of light as the sun sank closer to the ocean. Twilight silhouetted a pair of fifty-footers bucking waves a mile off.

Two more boats held together with hope and slime.

Retter’s doing as well.

Boats were okay in Hunter’s book—the sleek half-million-dollar ocean racers he’d once piloted to trophy finishes.

But he hated the kind that tended to sink without notice.

Aging joints creaked in complaint when the deck pitched again. Hunter’s grumble ended in a vicious curse.

“Good night for a swim, eh?” Even Eliot had to grab a handhold or bust his silly ass. Pale lights mounted to the wheelhouse cast a sallow glow over his wide body outfitted in an identical black wetsuit, and lit his crooked-tooth grin.

The same grin Hunter had run up against the night he bumped into Eliot while breaking into the dean’s office at Harvard. Eliot had already disarmed the alarms when Hunter appeared beside him. Surprisingly, he and Eliot had broken in for the same reason—to correct the grades of a female student who had spurned the advances of a tenured professor and stood to lose her scholarship. Eliot had laughed in the dark and told Hunter to cover their butts, which he did. And was still doing.

Nothing bothered Eliot.

Not even the time the yacht they’d been on had stopped floating in the middle of the night. An explosion in the engine room had been at fault, but the reason really didn’t matter when you had to tread water for the next nine hours.

“Not worried about tonight, are ya?” Eliot pushed and prodded until he got what he wanted, a part of his personality that could be annoying as hell at times.

“Worried? Be serious.” Hunter ran over the mission again in his mind. His brain assured him everything was a go. His gut argued but failed to produce concrete evidence of a problem. Didn’t matter either way. He and Eliot were going in. They thought as one mind and had faced missions more dangerous than this one. With an unmatched ability to breach any security and expert climbing skills, Eliot was the perfect partner.

But the deciding factor had come down to a matter of trust.

Hunter trusted no one, or at least he hadn’t until Eliot took him rock climbing back in college. By the end of that first day, Hunter’s life had been in Eliot’s hands more times than he’d wanted to count. After that, he knew without question that Eliot had his back in any situation.

And he had Eliot’s.

Of course, Eliot’s heart was his greatest weakness.

“What about the CIA?” Eliot was back on track with the mission. “If they find out you’ve been here or seen their list of agents—”

“They won’t. We’re in. We’re out. No one’ll know. He’s got two rent-a-guards. Stop worrying like an old woman. I got this,” Hunter added, using their “end of discussion” phrase. With no choice but to insert, he wanted Eliot thinking only about breaching that security system. He gripped the vertical aluminum rail bolted to the wheelhouse and changed the subject. “Speaking of women, you still seeing that professor?”

“I am.” Eliot’s grin curved up, widened. Beamed.

Ah, hell. That silly look can’t mean what I think.

“Was going to tell you this later, but...”

No, Eliot, we had a deal. What happened to the “no ties, no commitments, no baggage” rule they’d shaken hands on in college?

“I never could keep a secret from ya for long. Cynthia and I got married.” Eliot shrugged. “I would have included ya in the wedding, but we did a quick trip to Vegas.”

Married. Of all the stupid things to do. Hunter licked saltwater from his dry lips. Open mouth and say something, dammit. This is my best friend.

Only friend.

“Congratulations. I guess?” Hunter scratched his chin. One thing was for sure, he’d never complicate his life that way. Not for a woman. They all came with agendas. Like his mother, for one. “Wasn’t a shotgun two-step to the altar, right?”

“No way. I’m crazy about Cynthia.”

“What about what we do for BAD?” Hunter had joined the Bureau of American Defense after leaving the CIA. BAD operated as a covert agency that protected national security. They had no boundaries, no red tape, and no support if they got in trouble since their secret existence wouldn’t be acknowledged. “Cynthia’s another person an enemy could use against you if they found out about her.”

Eliot stopped smiling and swallowed so hard his Adam’s apple pulsed. “My family’s never met her, doesn’t know she exists. You’re the only one who knows about her and I trust you with my life, so she’s safe.”

What could he say to that? Hunter felt the weight of Eliot’s confidence press down on his shoulders, but Eliot was right. Hunter would protect his friend—and any other BAD agent—with his life. “Have you told her what you do?”

“I told her I do investigative work for INTERPOL and that she can’t say anything about my job without putting us both in danger. She’s solid as a rock.”

“And what about the risks we take?” With anyone else Hunter would have let it go and wished the poor sucker good luck. But he’d been friends with Eliot too long to give him the patent superficial garbage Hunter’s family considered the foundation of all relationships. Showing a sincere interest in someone’s personal life was paramount to asking how much a luxury car cost. Wasn’t done in his family.

Eliot swayed with the rocking boat, moved his feet for balance, and wiped water that dribbled from his buzz-cut head off his face. “She thinks I’m teamed up with a guy named Leroy, which would be you. I told her you handle all the dangerous work. I’m just the on-site geek.”

Like any good lie, that had a trace of truth. Eliot really had contracted to INTERPOL after a stint with the CIA, where he’d been trained along with Hunter. They were both proficient in electronic invasion, but in spite of looking like the bigger physical threat Eliot’s natural gift was cracking a safe or violating security systems, which left Hunter to neutralize opposition. Not a problem.

Hunter didn’t mind getting his hands dirty on an op.

But he had no patience for bullshit, which had gotten him in deep trouble with the CIA on one particular job.

If the director of BAD hadn’t intervened, Hunter would have disappeared like a puff of smoke in a strong wind.

The CIA had allowed him to walk away—alive—as long as he stayed clear of any agency operations. They’d never know he was at the Brugmann compound tonight... unless something went wrong.

The FBI thought their people were coordinating with a covert CIA team. No one knew BAD existed, except the U.S. executive branch, and no one there would admit such. Plus the CIA wouldn’t confess to having a team on U.S. soil, which made it easy to step in when an order came through secure channels.

He just had to insert, confirm the list of names, and exit.

“I didn’t forget our deal in college.” Eliot had spoken so softly Hunter almost didn’t catch it over the rumble of diesel engines beneath his feet. “But I can’t live my life without Cynthia and she deserves the respect of marriage.”

The time to offer unwanted advice had passed, but Hunter believed his friend would regret the move down the line. This business punished anyone foolish enough to let emotions play into decision-making. He’d just have to do what he’d always done and cover Eliot’s back by researching Cynthia more deeply than Hunter’s initial scan to ensure she wasn’t a threat.

But he couldn’t prevent her from breaking the fool’s heart.

“Say what’s on your mind,” Eliot said. “Go ahead. Get it off your chest so we can celebrate later and get drunk.”

Hunter wanted to be pissed off at Eliot, an easy feat with anyone else but this clown. “Just think it’s an unnecessary risk. I mean, what’re you going to do if she gets pregnant?”

The trawler engine’s sound changed abruptly, going from loud rumbling to silence when the captain cut back on power.

That was the sign for Hunter and Eliot to get humping.

They had two minutes before the props rotated again.

Hunter pulled his diving hood into place, checked his gear, then sat on the rail next to Eliot and rolled backward into cool water. He popped up in the inky liquid and paddled to the stern, where BAD’s latest propulsion water sled floated.

Everything they needed was strapped in a watertight bag between two control arms. Hunter grabbed one arm and Eliot grabbed the other, both paddling away from the trawler while Eliot flipped on the power switch.

A tiny vibration in the handles indicated the electric turbo spun quietly within a cage.

The trawler engines rumbled to life and the boat moved off.

Unable to see Eliot’s face, Hunter called, “Ready.”

Eliot took a second to answer. “Cynthia is pregnant. I want you to be the godfather.” He rolled on the accelerator before another word could be spoken.

Shit. Just like Hunter had suspected.

Another woman with an agenda.

He’d deal with this over beers later.

After thirty-eight minutes that passed with the speed of a stiletto slicing butter, Eliot anchored the water sled close to the access spot. Currents surged, yanking Hunter back and forth, trying to draw him down into the undertow first, then bash him against jagged outcroppings of rock carved from weather and sea. He’d reconned the face of the cliff yesterday with a high-powered scope during a whale-watching cruise chartered for him and six agents.

The only dicey part would come when the wall angled out at a forty-five-degree slant two-thirds of the way up.

Once they cleared that area, the rest of the climb would come down to memory of the mapped-out route, skill, and patience.

They’d executed these maneuvers many times in low-light conditions, and night-vision monoculars with infrared illuminators would pick up every detail.

He climbed at a steady pace to reach the access point in the allotted time but slowly enough to avoid mistakes.

At the top of the cliff, he reached up until he found a handhold on the steel structure supporting the massive observation deck that shot out four feet over the cliff’s edge. He silently thanked the architect of Brugmann’s home for including a deck and pool in the design. Climbing up into the framework, he unclipped from the rope connecting him to Eliot.

Spider-climbing sideways, Hunter reached the corner of the deck and huddled in a pocket of space to scan for threats while Eliot tied off the rope. He slipped on gloves that were like a second skin, then pressed a button to illuminate his watch face for a brief glance. Six minutes to eight. Better time than he’d thought. Enough to reach the house before one of the two guards on duty made his hourly perimeter walk.

But when he pushed away from the deck to recon the open ground they’d have to cover, something was not right.

A heavily armed guard in black fatigues stood between the rear wall of glass defining the two-story Mediterranean-style house and the patio. He paced back and forth.

Something had changed since last night’s intel.

A permanent guard on this side meant additional—unanticipated—security. Why so heavily armed?

Hunter turned back to Eliot and used hand signals to tell him the security had increased. Eliot would normally have signaled “What the hell?” right back, then grinned.

This time he hesitated, no doubt thinking of his new family.

No room for baggage in this business.

As if catching the direction of Hunter’s thoughts, Eliot gave the “Let’s go” signal.

Hunter moved out. They had four minutes to make the door on the pool cabana attached to the main structure before encountering the guard that should be circling the compound.

Plans always played out better on paper.

Hunter had just reached the corner of the cabana with Eliot tucked in close when heavy footsteps from the front of the house thudded toward them.

Damn guard was early.

The guy covering the rear of the house had reached the end of his pacing route at the opposite side and turned back in the direction of the cabana.

Either way Hunter went meant exposure to a threat.

He was supposed to insert and exit without alerting any security, a stealth op just to confirm documents were in the safe so the FBI could bust Brugmann, a CIA field coordinator, before he sold agency assets.

No noise, no sign of breach, and no blood.

Two out of three was better than dying.

Hunter put his hand up for Eliot to stay put.

When the approaching guard stepped within two feet of their narrow hiding spot Hunter cam...

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