Sep 5 2013 12:00pm
An excerpt of The Spy Who Left Me, the first book in the goofy, sexy Agent Ex romantic suspense series by Gina Robinson, where the Spy Who Loved You is now your ex.
Read this excerpt from Book 1, and leave a registered comment to be entered for your chance to win all 4 books in the series, including the latest, License to Love.
If there’s one thing that can ruin a vacation, it’s running into your ex. Just ask Treflee Miller. If she’d only known that her husband Ty would be here in Hawaii—muscular, sun-bronzed, and infuriatingly gorgeous—she would have brought the divorce papers for him to sign. But life is full of surprises when you’re married to a world-class spy…
Ty Miller can understand why his wife is tired of playing Mrs. James Bond. He’s never home, he’s always on a mission, and he’s usually surrounded by exotic informants. He has to admit that the perfect spy makes a pretty lousy husband. But for the sake of Ty’s security and Treflee’s safety, they can’t blow his cover. Not here. Not now. Not when his longing is so strong, her lips so tempting—and his enemies so close…
There are two things a girl would really rather not experience on her Hawaiian vacation—the monthly curse and a run-in with her soon-to-be ex. For the first time since puberty, Treflee Miller had managed to dodge the first. She was staring at all six-foot-two, well-muscled, lying, spying, ran-out-on-her inches of the second as he hefted her cousin Carrie’s bags up the steps of the Big Auau Sugar Plantation’s lanai.
He’d bleached his brown hair to a sun-streaked blond and grown a goatee, but it was him. The corner of his mouth curled into that sexy half grin of his and his eyes danced with flirtation as he stared at Carrie, not seeing Treflee.
Treflee flushed, feeling an unexpected jolt of jealousy. Whether she wanted him or not, he was still her man. Her mouth fell open into what was surely an unflattering gape. What was he doing here on her vacation? Shouldn’t he be playing spy boy, not bellhop, on something other than U.S. soil?
Damn! She didn’t have the divorce papers on her. Technically, he wasn’t legally her ex-husband. Yet. He’d run off on another top-secret mission without signing the final paperwork. If only she had them with her, she’d make short work of her still-married status.
She snapped her mouth shut and gave him her hard-core “I’m so angry I could kill you” glare. He should have known it well by now. She’d aimed it at him with regularity this past year. When he was around, that is. But he clearly hadn’t noticed her yet as he flirted with Carrie.
In the distance, past the stately trees of the plantation and waving fields of sugarcane, the Pacific Ocean sparkled behind him. The scent of plumeria and ginger wafted toward Treflee, tinged with a hint of his all too familiar, and totally hot, cologne. The man knew how to scent himself, that’s for sure. It was commitment and the thought of family life he had trouble with.
As his gaze lifted from Carrie to Treflee, his eyes went from dancing to clinically cold.
He cut her off. “Aloha! Ty Smith. General-purpose vacation instructor and island guide.” He sounded deceptively friendly and charming.
Yeah, he could really put it on. But as he extended his hand and leaned toward her, he flashed her a hard-edged “you blow my cover and there will be hell to pay, nearly ex-wife or not” look. His threatening look was much more convincing than hers.
She backed off, but not before she mouthed the word “bastard” for his eyes only.
“Treflee Miller,” she said, voice dripping with artificial sweetness. “Vacationer.” And hacked-off wife, she could have added, but it wasn’t totally necessary. She thought he pretty much knew how she felt.
“E komo mai! Welcome to Hawaii. And your week of fun and adventure.” Ty’s voice gave away nothing of his displeasure and discomfort at seeing her. His ability to hide his emotions made him a fantastic spy. And a miserable husband.
Treflee didn’t want an adventure. She loathed adventure. She longed for peace and quiet, sunbathing and solitary beach walks at sunrise and sunset. Maybe the occasional tropical drink featuring a heavy dose of pineapple juice and rum.
It had been Carrie’s sadistic idea to drag her beleaguered bridal party to Maui after she dumped her fiancé, Kane, a week before the wedding for cheating on her. Carrie had planned a Hawaiian wedding and honeymoon and she was going to get them. Well, a Hawaiian vacation anyway, with her bridesmaids in tow. Why would the girls complain? They’d already paid for their nonrefundable airfare. She was simply making sure Treflee and company got to benefit from it.
Carrie was not your typical weepy, depressed ex-bride. A lady cop, she had a take-no-prisoners personality. If she wanted to go to Hawaii with her nearest and dearest, they were going with her. End of story.
So she had salvaged what she could of her wedding budget, sweet-talked the hotel she’d reserved for her wedding into letting her bridal party stay sans wedding, and booked a vacation package for all of them. And here they were, dancing supportive attendance to her as if she were still the happy bride and they were still the dutiful bridesmaids.
Beside Treflee, Carrie’s curvy, amply endowed best friend, Laci, whispered in her ear, “He’s hot. This is going to be fun.”
Yeah, it’s going to be fun all right. If Treflee could keep from murdering Ty. She shrugged noncommittally.
“You don’t like?” Laci asked, nodding toward him, obviously incredulous.
“Not my type.” Treflee could lie pretty well, too, when she wanted to.
There were six in their party, with enough baggage for a dozen. And Treflee wasn’t thinking strictly of luggage. If Ty was planning on carrying it all in for them, they were in for a wait.
Treflee grabbed her bag, not out of any charity toward him, but because she was wilting in the afternoon sun.
The plantation door opened and a heavy, middle-aged Hawaiian woman dressed in a muumuu stepped out, followed by a broad-shouldered blond guy. The woman spread her arms in an all-encompassing gesture of welcome. “Aloha auina la!” She nodded toward the blond guy and he started grabbing bags.
“Meet Greg, my fellow instructor, and Tita,” Ty said. “She’s the big wahine around here.”
Tita’s rich laugh shook her body and brought a smile to Treflee’s face. “Who you calling big, skinny boy?”
“I meant that in the most honorable way, as in you’re the boss lady.” He gave her a deferential nod of his head, but his grin said he was half teasing.
“You mean kahuna, haole. I’m the big kahuna and don’t you forget it.”
With a smile and a flip of her hand, she dismissed his lack of respect. “Come, let’s get you all settled in and refreshed before your night on the town.”
Ty handed Carrie’s bag to the blond guy and grabbed Treflee’s. “We need to talk,” he whispered in her ear.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” she said. “I’ll have my lawyer e-mail or fax you the papers here. We’ll never have to talk again.”
He gave her the look again. “No e-mailing. No faxing. We’ll talk.” He turned to Tita, and nodded toward Treflee. “Which room?”
“Excellent.” He hauled Treflee’s bag into the building, up the beautiful, coiling wooden stairs, and down a hallway with her trailing after him, trying to take in the sights so she didn’t explode with anger. She only maintained control out of a sense of patriotism. What if blowing Ty’s cover meant vital U.S. secrets got out, security was breached, and we had another Pearl Harbor on our hands? It sounded melodramatic. But you never knew with Ty. You never knew anything.
He walked so fast, they lost the rest of the girls.
Finally, he came to an abrupt stop in front of a red door in the middle of the mellow, sea-foam-green hall. He pulled a universal key from his pocket, let them into the room, and pulled the door closed behind them.
Being led into a bedroom by Ty used to be a totally exhilarating experience. She’d be lying if she didn’t admit to feeling a thrill of the old excitement. She brushed it off, relegating it to a somatic response.
The bedroom was truly spectacular. Just what she would have picked for herself. Large comfy bed covered with tasseled pillows and a linen comforter. Bamboo floors with deep cream throw rugs. A ceiling fan floated lazily above it all. At the far end, a door stood open onto a balcony that faced the ocean. The white curtains surrounding it fluttered in the ocean breeze. Paradise.
Ty broke the spell by speaking. “What are you doing here?”
Ty was his real first name. He hadn’t been terribly creative in his choice of cover. Maybe he was tired of answering to so many different names.
“Why the surprise?” She snorted. “Any spy worth their salt would have looked at the guest log and seen my name.”
“Tita keeps the guest list. I barely glanced at it.” He paused, frowning, looking as if he couldn’t have missed something as obvious as her name, even at a glance. Suddenly, he cursed beneath his breath. “Wait a minute—you’re Betty Miller?”
“What? Betty! Are you crazy?” She hated that nickname and he knew it. Her given name was Elizabeth. Everyone called her Treflee, a childhood mutation of trying to call herself Bethy and being unable to make the “th” sound. Beffly had somehow morphed into Treflee and stuck. Her mother had wanted to call her Betty. No way.
“You’re Betty according to the list.” Ty shook his head, looking at her suspiciously. As if she’d tried to pull one over on him.
“That Carrie and her warped sense of humor. I’m going to strangle her.” Only the family and Ty ever called her Betty, and only when they wanted to pull her chain.
Treflee had another beef with him. “Speaking of my cousin Carrie, you were flirting with her!”
“Flirting with the ladies is part of my cover—” He stopped short as if registering what she’d just said. “Your cousin?”
“Yeah, duh. You’d know that if you were ever around long enough to attend a family function or two.” Spite was not an easy thing to keep out of her voice.
He cocked a brow. “She wasn’t at our wedding.”
The man had a photographic memory. “She was serving in Iraq.”
“You never showed her a wedding picture? She didn’t seem to recognize me.”
Treflee shrugged. “I’m sure she saw one a long time ago. I haven’t been in the mood to flash one around lately.” Did she sound put out? She didn’t think she sounded sweet. “You’re obviously incognito now. I doubt she’ll make the connection. The bleached-blond look is good on you.”
He ignored her jibe. “I don’t recognize the others.”
“I just met the others. They’re all Carrie’s friends, fellow cops and former military. Except for Carla. She’s a nurse. You’d better watch yourself.” Treflee couldn’t help smiling. “Cops have a habit of sniffing out the truth.”
Carrie and Treflee lived states apart. They weren’t actually that close. Mostly it was blood and the devoted relationship between their mothers that bound them. Carrie had been under duress to make her part of the bridal party. When the whole thing fell through, she couldn’t very well exclude her from the vacation, even though Treflee had tried to wiggle out of it.
She put her hands on her hips as they stared each other down. “I checked the weather every day for the past six months.”
When he was away on a mission, they communicated by posting seemingly innocuous comments on their hometown’s local weather blog. Their comments were actually coded messages to each other.
“You always check the weather,” he said.
He was probably being deliberately obtuse just to frustrate her. “You know what I mean.”
“What would I have said, Tref? Graupel?”
Graupel? That one wasn’t in their lexicon. Graupel was hail snow. Hail snow? Then it hit her—hell no!
“Very funny, Ty. Hail hath no fury.”
She crossed her arms. “You could have been dead for all I knew.”
“And lying in a ditch,” he added. “If I was dead, Emmett would have shown up at your door with a folded American flag and your widow’s benefits.”
Okay, he has me there. As chief spy, Emmett Nelson was the Agency’s harbinger of death.
Ty ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “How can I get you to go home?”
“Sign the divorce papers.”
“You don’t have them on you.”
“I can get them. If you insist on the no e-mailing, no faxing rule, I’ll call my lawyer and have him overnight them.”
He snorted in disbelief. “E-mailing, faxing, overnighting, texting, posting them to a Web site, skywriting, or carrier pigeoning, I can’t take the chance. I’m on an important mission. I can’t have anything around anywhere with my real identity, anything that will blow my cover.”
She lifted her chin. “You have me.”
He shook his head and crossed his arms. “Do you have a picture of me in your wallet?”
“Egocentric bastard,” she said. “I shredded every last picture I had of you months ago.”
“On your cell phone?” He grabbed her purse from the bed where she’d dropped it. Before she could stop him, he had the phone and her camera out. He dropped them in his pocket.
Shoot! There might be a picture or two of him still on the phone. Call her a sentimental fool.
“I’ll return these when I’ve checked them out.” He pulled her wallet out and leafed through as she stood watching him, fury making her almost speechless. Only a few sputters managed to escape her lips.
Finally, he dropped the wallet back into the purse and the purse back on the bed. “Clear. Now, go home before anyone gets hurt.” His eyes twinkled wickedly. He was deadly serious.
“I can’t. Ex-bridezilla out there will hunt me down and kill me.” She explained about Carrie. Besides, she wasn’t leaving without her divorce. When she finished her story, she shrugged. “So, sorry, but I’m staying. Want to fill me in on the mission?”
“If I told you that—”
She waved her hand at him. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’d have to kill me. That’s what all the spies say. You really should come up with something more original. You know it’s all this secrecy that killed our relationship?”
He smiled. Her heart thawed just a tiny bit. She’d always loved his smile and the way he got her sense of humor.
“You won’t tell me?”
“What do you think?”
What she really thought was that it was a crying shame they hadn’t worked out. She always liked sparring with him. Instead, she said, “As long as I’m here, I may as well enjoy myself. I’ve never seen you at work before. This could be fun. Take-your-nearly-ex-wife-to-work day. I like it.”
He gave her a warning look. “Don’t say a word. Nothing slips, got it?”
She held up her hands to show him she was no threat, no threat at all. “Hey, silence is my middle name.”
He arched a brow and patted his pocket. “I’ll return these later.” He turned and walked to the door, pausing before he left to speak over his shoulder. “I’ll be watching you.”
“Just like old times,” she said and winked, trying to get his goat.
He shook his head and left.
Treflee plunked down on the bed and put her head in her hands, taking a deep breath. She’d never imagined seeing Ty in his element would shake her up so much or that witnessing him flirt with other women could still make her jealous. But he’d definitely thrown her equilibrium off. Hadn’t he always? Hadn’t that been part of the excitement and the problem?
When she finally calmed down, she got up, opened her suitcase, and pulled her travel jewelry pouch out. She reached into it and pulled out the dangly charm bracelet Ty had given her when they were dating. He brought her back a charm from every mission. When he originally gave the bracelet to her, it had a single charm on it—a tiny silver heart locket. Now it was loaded with charms.
As she opened the locket and stared at the miniscule picture of Ty, her eyes watered and she couldn’t help sniffing. What type of a charm would Ty have brought her back from this Hawaiian mission? A silver palm tree? A gold Maui sandal? A hibiscus flower? Or a white pearl?
Deep down Ty was a romantic and had a wicked sense of humor. The pearl was her birthstone, and a white one represents honesty and faith. Yeah, he would have gotten a big kick out of the dual meaning. As if he were ever honest.
She told herself she only brought the bracelet with her so she could see how well the big, honking black pearl she planned to buy for herself would look on it. But in all honesty, sentimental fool that she was, she never left home without it.
You aren’t as smart as you think, spy boy, she thought. She had a bit of leverage after all.
* * *
Ty strolled back to his room, feeling almost schizophrenic as he forced himself to stay in character—calm, lazy, nonchalant, not a care in the world besides catching the next wave or downing a mai tai. On Hawaiian time. Inside, he seethed. He rarely felt this convoluted, even when facing the wrong side of a gun barrel unarmed. Which had happened a time or two.
Damn Treflee for showing up like this.
He hadn’t even checked the guest list properly before she’d arrived. He’d stupidly assumed NCS had cleared everyone on it.
Tref’s presence posed a bigger danger to his safety and mission than a long-range ballistic missile. If he’d been less distracted by his thoughts of Tref, he might have avoided having to fraternize with a drooling guest just then. Laci lay in wait for him outside his bedroom door. He walked headlong into her long, perfectly manicured tentacles almost before he registered her standing there.
How had Treflee thrown him off kilter and out of his game so easily? What if Laci had been an enemy agent rather than a sex-starved redhead? It was as if his wife were the enemy’s secret weapon, an agent annihilator who operated by turning his brain to mush. Women.
“Ty!” Laci’s face lit up with a predatory smile as she took his arm. “Going somewhere?”
He forced himself to smile lazily down at her. Ty, the tour guide, would play up to the female guests, hoping to earn a big tip, or a repeat customer. Ty, the real him, liked to be the pursuer, not the pursued, in both business and pleasure. And he was strictly a one-woman man. Though his wife frequently told him to tell that to Ripley’s Believe It or Not and see if they believed him. She sure as hell didn’t.
“Gotta hit the shower and pretty up before the big cruise tonight.” He forced himself to keep a low, slow, sexy tone.
“You look pretty damn good to me already.” Laci squeezed his arm as if testing to see if he were a piece of ripe fruit.
Well, he wasn’t. Not for her.
He shook his head. “Tita wouldn’t agree.”
Laci arched a brow. “Really?” Her tone teased.
“Tita has high standards for going out in public. And a dress code.” He gestured to indicate his outfit. “A T-shirt and cargo shorts don’t cut it. She’d tell you a well-dressed guide is good for business.” He winked at her.
In return, Laci smiled as if she wanted to eat him up. She ran her hands over his chest. “I could help you slip into something … fun.”
Which he took to mean her.
As a spy, he had all kinds of moves. None of which he was interested in using on her. He casually reached into his front pocket for his key. Treflee’s camera and phone slowed down his smooth escape. He had to rummage around in his pocket until he found what he was looking for.
“Maybe some other time. When we have more time.” Did he sound suggestive enough? As if he were a man who liked things slow and hard? “Right now, Tita will have my ass if I’m late.”
He pried Laci off him. With a quick, fluid move, he slid the key in the door and escaped into his room, flipping the dead bolt behind him. So this is how women feel when they elude the arms of an octopus.
He paused and listened until he heard Laci’s disappointed footsteps padding down the hall. Yeah, he knew how to read the sound of footfalls. Anger was easy. Disappointment and what-the-hell-just-happened-here confusion had a stop-and-start pattern. His self-satisfied grin was short-lived, as common spy sense overcame him.
Ty didn’t believe in coincidence. He had learned that lesson on the job. Of all the honeymoon spots in the world Treflee’s cousin could have chosen, she showed up at Big Auau with Treflee in tow? At his little corner of the tropical world? Nope, too much to swallow.
Treflee was many things, including an energetic, playful blond nymph in bed, but she wasn’t actress enough to fool him. Her surprise was genuine. Although he was sure she’d been trying, she hadn’t succeeded in intentionally tracking him down. All the evidence pointed to her being an innocent pawn.
If she’d found him on her own, she’d have the divorce papers on her and a pen ready to thrust into his hand the second she spotted him. Good to know the Agency hadn’t screwed up there and left a trail for just anyone to follow to him.
That left only one viable option—the Agency, and his boss, National Clandestine Service Chief Emmett Nelson. Listing Treflee as Betty on the guest list was exactly Emmett’s style.
Ty cursed beneath his breath. Emmett liked his spies to remain single. As often as possible, he recruited them when they were young and unattached. He expected them to remain that way. Emmett violated his own policy when he recruited Ty.
Ty was already engaged to Tref and refused to give her up. Emmett conceded. He needed a young man with Ty’s intelligence, lack of fear, and acting abilities.
Ty breached Agency policy when he told Tref he was being recruited and asked her advice on whether he should take the job or not. He figured if he was going to drag her into a life of secrecy and danger, she had the right to know what she was getting into. She took it well. In fact, she took it with a surprising amount of enthusiasm.
“Take the job? Why would you turn it down!” she said, reminding him they were young and ready for life to show them some fun. Life practically owed it to them. “Besides, think how sexy it will be to have a spy in my bed!”
Tref herself was not adventure material. She was steady, calm, responsible, too cautious to be a daredevil, and solidly independent. She liked everything quiet but lovemaking—soft music, solitary strolls, and thoughtful time to herself. But she loved a good vicarious thrill; someone else’s scary story. The perfect balance to him. He could hardly sit still. He lived on action and adrenaline.
They decided he’d go out and bring back his thrill. His scary tale.
His spy life bought them the perfect marriage. No ordinary, dull routines to fall into. No drone of a day-to-day worker’s life to live. No “Hi, honey” followed by a peck on the cheek when he came home from work. More like grab him by the collar, drag him to the bedroom, and wrap herself around him.
Their sex life sizzled, fueled by absence that made their hearts grow fonder, or at least lustier, and the romance of their double lives. The mundane front they presented to the world amused them. The lies they told their friends, family, and neighbors entertained them. The secrets they kept from the world made them inseparable.
She wanted a career, not a family. Or so she told him. She wanted a loyal lover, not a ball-and-chain type of husband. She had her freedom and he had his.
He thought they’d had a rock-solid, happy marriage. He went off on adventures and came home to report them to her. Names, locations, and classified details removed or changed to protect his career and both their lives, of course.
Then something happened. He still hadn’t exactly figured out what. It was like a switch had flipped inside her. She started complaining. He had all the fun. She did all the work. She wanted to start a family. She wanted a baby. A baby needed a father. A father who was around.
He shook his head. A baby!
When he hesitated, they fought. Small arguments at first, but larger ones followed. Suddenly she wanted a divorce.
If there was one thing Emmett Nelson hated more than married spies, it was divorced agents. And not because of any sentimental morality on his part. Agents’ exes were a liability, a national security breach waiting to happen. Messy business.
He gave Ty orders to fix his marriage and fix it fast.
“Make the woman happy, damn it!” had been Emmett’s exact words to him.
Hell, Emmett hadn’t needed to order Ty to fix things. He loved Tref. He still loved Tref. He’d always love her. He had no intention of letting her go.
He would have fixed his marriage then and there. If he’d known how. Short of that, he did the only sensible thing—took evasive action and hid out, hoping to buy time. Hoping Tref would miss him, come to her senses, and realize they were meant to be together. Hoping he’d figure out how to win her back.
He’d checked the weather, too. There hadn’t been any messages from spylover23, Tref’s screen name. So trufflesguy, him, had remained stonily silent as well. Certainly neither one of them had any intention of mentioning sunny weather, their code for “I love you.”
Ty knew Emmett’s game. The threat of this “coincidence” was implicit—make up with your wife. Now. Or your entire career is on the line.
Fantastic. No problem. Nothing like asking the impossible.
All Ty had to do was avenge George Hsu, a fellow agent and friend who’d been murdered on assignment here in Hawaii. Follow Shen Lin, the little prick of a Fuk Ching Chinese crime gang member suspected of killing George on orders from the Revolutionary International Organization of Terrorists, or RIOT as they were commonly known in the espionage world. Hope Lin would provide him a way into Sugar Love Plantation, RIOT’s Hawaiian lair. Keep an eye on Hal Rogers, a Hawaiian-born CIA analyst and traitor who was planning to sell the top secret Pinpoint Project to RIOT. Complete George’s mission to stop RIOT from starting a war between China and the United States. And win back my angry wife’s love.
And the pièce de résistance? He had less than a week to do it.
Ty pulled Treflee’s camera and phone from his pocket, feeling an almost overwhelming urge to smash them, or his fist, against the wall.
Instead, he took a deep breath and turned the camera on.
Treflee had given Ty a bad time about not recognizing her name on the guest list, but she hadn’t recognized his real identity, either. Before embarking on this grand adventure, she had taken a peek at the vacation package brochure online, complete with tour guide bios, no photos. Of course, she had a good excuse for not recognizing her husband—different last name and a totally fabricated bio.
Their vacation week would begin with a shopping trip to Lahaina and a sunset cruise with three free drinks included in the package. And shopping? Hey, she could do that. Maybe she’d even look for that black pearl she wanted. If she had time after spying on Ty.
She wondered if he secretly loved being a “tour guide,” living the high life like movie spies do. Treflee figured no real spies lived this way—shopping, cruising, surfing, taking scenic waterfall drives. Not unless they were on vacation themselves. At least according to the stories Ty used to tell her.
Not that she could tell if Ty had lied to her. He openly admitted having to change certain details of his missions. If he’d been living this kind of cushy life, and lying about it, while she held down the fort at home and went into the office day after day to handle employee complaints, she was really going to kill him. Slowly. With lots of torture involved.
She hid out in her room until it was time to meet. She joined up with the bridal party—Carrie, Laci, Brandy, Carla, and Faye—in the parlor. There was no formal lobby. The old sugar plantation house was more of a bed-and-breakfast than a hotel. Carrie’s group had the entire place to themselves for the week.
Auau was an elegant, high-end, intimate, romantic setting with a fantastic ocean view. Most of the year, the owners rented it out for weddings, a cog in the Hawaiian wedding industry along with the neighboring plantation.
As Treflee joined the group, she gave Carrie a hug. “Very funny registering me for this little vacation as Betty.”
Carrie frowned at her. “What are you talking about? Why would I hack you off? You hate that name.”
It was Treflee’s turn to frown. “You didn’t?”
“You’re Elizabeth to the airlines and Big Auau.” Carrie shrugged. “I figured I couldn’t go wrong using your legal name.”
Treflee smiled, trying to cover her confusion. Who was lying and why? “Sorry. My mistake. How are you holding up?”
Carrie gave her a look that said she was crazy for asking. Carrie was a tough cookie, not a heartbroken whiner. “Fantastic. We’re going to have the time of our lives on the cruise tonight.”
The girls were dressed in strapless evening dresses of varying lengths and tightness, and spiky heels, all of them going for sexy and sultry. If Treflee had her guess, she’d say they were the outfits they’d been planning to wear to the now defunct bachelorette party.
Treflee had dressed in a simple empire-waist sundress with a subtle Hawaiian print and flat, strappy sandals. She carried a large woven tote edged with pink trim. Personally, she thought they were overdressed. This was Hawaii, after all.
Ty strolled in smiling, dressed in a white linen shirt, tan slacks, and canvas boat shoes. Conversation came to a screeching halt. Carrie’s bridesmaids ogled him as if he were the stripper they’d reluctantly canceled for Carrie’s party. Someone even whispered, “Take it all off.”
Treflee did a possessive mental growl, trying not to let anything show on her face. She knew the body beneath the clothes nearly as well as she knew her own. It was indeed droolworthy.
She made a fist, trying not to remember how it felt to run her hands over his broad shoulders and naked chest. Trying to forget how he used to make a muscle just for her to squeeze and admire. And how she used to trail kisses all the way from his bicep to his lips.
She wondered if he was enjoying playing stud muffin?
Greg came in behind Ty, looking like an explosion of color gone very wrong in his garish Hawaiian print shirt. Fortunately for him, and anyone who cared about style, standing next to Ty, he may as well have been invisible.
“Ladies!” Ty flashed his most charming smile. “Tonight we party. But first, the ladies shop till they drop in Lahaina.”
The girls jockeyed for the key position next to him. Treflee was used to his effect on women, and mostly immune to it now. It used to bug the heck out of her. Maybe it still did. A little. She really didn’t like being an eyewitness to it.
Sometimes she wondered why Ty didn’t just sign the divorce papers and get on with the lady killing. She could be as self-serving and vain as the next person, but realistically, she wasn’t even in the same league as some of the attractive and appealing babes who threw themselves at him. He could have had a good stash of eye candy to his credit. In her weaker moments, she wondered what he ever saw in her. In her strongest moments, she wondered what she saw in him.
Ty diplomatically offered one arm to the woman paying the bills, Carrie, and the other to her best friend, Laci. Tall, thin Faye, the amply hipped, dark-haired Brandy, and the nurse, Carla, crowded around them.
Treflee held back and filed in line next to Greg. A few hours alone in her room had given her time to think up a plan. She was going to find out what Ty was up to here in Maui. Two could play the game. And once she had enough on him, she’d blackmail him into signing the divorce papers.
The CIA has a motto engraved in stone just inside the door at Langley, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
Treflee was taking the Agency’s motto to heart. She couldn’t go on living with this ache, wondering where Ty was, who he was with, or whether he’d come home alive. She couldn’t keep hoping he’d suddenly decide to settle down and become the family man she wanted him to be. And she absolutely couldn’t hold on to the pain of her secret and keep blaming him. As agonizing as pulling away from Ty was, she had to put him behind her. If the truth of what he was up to in Maui brought her freedom and peace, then she had to find it.
Step one of the plan meant befriending Greg to see what he knew. Step two—follow Ty around Lahaina while she was supposed to be shopping. Step three—search Ty’s room as soon as she got the chance. She hadn’t gotten as far as deciding what step four should be yet. She prayed it wouldn’t be necessary.
She smiled at Greg and took the arm he offered her. He looked pleased that someone had noticed him. In front of the plantation house, they piled into a chauffeured party bus. Treflee had to clamp her mouth shut to keep her jaw from dropping as she stepped inside. The bus was more Austin Powers than Bond—magenta carpeting, tan leather couches, flat-screen TV, and fully stocked bar.
Ty took his place by the bar, cranked on the surround sound system, and flipped on the pulsating, multicolored lighting. Treflee was in a nightmare—a garish nightclub. She could feel a migraine in the making already. Strobe lights and pounding music brought them on, which was why she preferred softly lit piano bars and jazz.
Greg shot her a concerned look. She must have looked a little green. Or maybe it was just the strobe. She was definitely angry with Ty. He was showing off his pouring skills and biceps at the bar while Carrie and her friends paired up and did hip-bumping, cleavage-shaking dances for his entertainment.
Treflee turned to Greg. “How long is the ride to Lahaina?”
“Fifteen minutes,” he shouted over the bump-and-grind tunes playing. “If we were going straight there. But we’re taking the scenic route so we can take advantage of the party bus. Brace yourself for a long ride.”
Greg was evidently not a party animal, either. Or maybe he was just a nice guy. He took her elbow and guided her to a seat on the perimeter of the bus as far away from the action as was humanly possible. Which unfortunately wasn’t far.
“Can I get you something?” he asked, looking like he had to be polite, but didn’t relish breaking into the group of ladies crowding the bar and ogling Ty. He probably feared he’d come into contact with a bump from Brandy’s ample hips and end up in the hospital. She was really getting into the dancing.
Treflee leaned into him to speak directly into his ear, hoping he’d hear her. “No, thanks. I’m not cruel enough to send you into that.” She nodded toward her cousin’s group.
He gave her a thankful smile.
Treflee returned his smile, hoping to look sympathetic. “Have you worked with Ty long?” He’d been MIA for six months and she was dying to know what he’d been up to.
“Not long. A couple of months.”
Bastard, she thought, eyeing Ty at the bar. Had he been partying it up all this time? Watching him, she was beginning to wonder if spies really did live the good life and he’d simply been lying to her about that, too. “Have you been an island guide long?”
Ty turned the music up.
She nodded and leaned closer to Greg so he could hear her. “Must be hard working with a guy like Ty.”
Greg gave a little appreciative snort and shrugged. “He’s what the ladies expect when they come to the island, part of the fantasy and escape from reality,” he shouted in her ear. He paused. “You seem immune.”
“I’m going through a bad divorce.” She couldn’t help frowning at Ty. “Men aren’t high on my list right now, present company excluded.”
“I’m nonthreatening is what you mean.” He looked resigned.
“There’s nothing wrong with a safe man,” she retorted, wondering how to find out more about Ty without seeming obsessed by him. “So he’s just a pretty face?”
“No. He’s good at his job. Excellent, in fact.”
“The flawless man,” she said with more than a touch of irony. “Good at what he does as well as good-looking. He must have some irritating habits.”
He nodded toward the group of ladies, just as Ty wrenched the music up another notch and did something that made the colored lights spin faster. “Mostly that.”
Treflee felt herself flushing with anger and a surprising amount of jealousy. She had to know. She simply had to know. Besides, proof of infidelity might win her some sympathy points with a judge if Ty still refused to sign, and some more dollars from Ty in a renegotiated settlement. “That’s just part of his job. Is he that lucky with the ladies in real life? Is he seeing anyone?”
“What?” Greg cocked his ear to her. “I can’t hear you.”
“Is Ty seeing anyone?” she repeated at the top of her lungs just as the music shut off and the bus went quiet. Her question echoed off the bus walls, seemingly reverberating forever in the sudden silence.
Her eyes went wide.
Someone just throw a bucket of water on me so I can elegantly melt away and die like the Wicked Witch.
Ex-bridezilla and her ladies-in-waiting stared at Treflee. Ty gave her a deadpan stare that said he had her number.
She fumed in her seat. She couldn’t see his eyes in the dim light, but she’d bet her life they were dancing with malicious amusement. He’d shut the music off on purpose, the rat. As promised, he was keeping an eye on her.
Her question wasn’t what it sounded like, she wanted to shout. It really wasn’t. But there was no point. And shouting an explanation would have blown his cover. So she slumped in her seat and prayed they’d reach Lahaina before she died of embarrassment or killed someone, namely Ty.
* * *
Somehow Treflee survived the rest of the trip to Lahaina, but she’d never been so happy to get off a bus, even as a kid after a long day at school.
“I thought you said he wasn’t your type?” Laci teased, obviously amused that a girl like Treflee thought she could attract a guy like Ty.
If only she knew. Treflee’s tongue nearly bled from biting it so hard to keep quiet.
Ty got out first and offered the ladies a hand down from the bus. When it was Treflee’s turn, she blinked in the bright sunlight, thankful for fresh air as she snubbed the hand he offered. He grabbed her anyway and tugged with more force than was strictly necessary.
She tumbled into his rock-hard chest. The man still had it. And if the unsteady patter of her heart was any indication, she still had it for him.
But the tug was all a convenient ruse so he could whisper sweet threats in her ear. “No more stunts. I told you not to blow my cover. Shutting off the music in the bus was purely intentional. Caught you in the act, didn’t I? Stay out of my business, Tref. I’ll be watching you.”
“Stalking me now? Lovely,” she shot back.
“Watch yourself,” he said, and let her go, before turning to dazzle the other girls.
The bus dropped them off on Front Street facing the Lahaina Center. Greg made his escape immediately. Ty said his good-byes and hurried off to “run some errands” before joining everyone on the cruise later.
Treflee watched him walk down the street with panic making a mockery of her normally calm heartbeat. She couldn’t let him get away. She had to follow him.
“Are you coming?” Carrie said, snapping her out of her panicked stupor. “I thought you were immune to his charms. I thought you hated men?”
“I do. Except for Greg. He’s nice.”
“Uh-huh,” she said.
Treflee looked at Carrie’s bridesmaids. “They’re staring, too.”
“But they’re not pretending to be uninterested.” Carrie waved to the girls. “Let’s get a move on. We don’t have much time before the cruise.”
They moved as a herd toward the entrance. Treflee had to lose them while not losing Ty. He was already halfway down the street.
Carrie grabbed her arm and tugged her along with the gang. “There’s a good reason I didn’t pick you for maid of honor,” she muttered.
Fortunately, fate intervened. As the rest paused to coo over a display of designer handbags in a specialty shop window, Treflee spotted a corner art gallery across the way. She loved art galleries. Carrie hated them.
They followed her pointer finger and frowned in unison.
“A Salvador Dalí copy. Melting watches. I love that one. I’m going in,” Treflee said.
“Then you’re going alone,” Carrie retorted, with a frustrated look that clearly said her mother was going to owe her big-time for foisting Treflee off on her.
Treflee ignored her. “I can spend hours ogling art.” Which Carrie knew to be true from the time Treflee dragged her to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “You girls go on ahead. I’ll meet you at the cruise dock.”
Not surprisingly, no one argued. They dropped into the handbag store as Treflee meandered into the art gallery. The minute they were out of sight, she dashed back out of the gallery and down the street just in time to see Ty turn the corner.
You’d think flat sandals would be good for running. Better than heels on any account. But they had no arch support. Treflee had shin splints by the time she reached the corner and saw Ty duck into Woo Ming’s Chinese Emporium. The old “stop by for an afternoon egg roll” trick, she thought and smiled to herself at her snappy Max Smart humor.
Chinese restaurant? The U.S. and China weren’t necessarily the best of friends. Being married to a spy made her suspicious of the simplest things, like the sudden urge for a cup of green tea and a fortune cookie. But if he was having tea, Treflee was watching him drink it. And if he tried the old briefcase switch drop, she was going to catch him at it. Just not on her camera. He still had that.
Note to self—buy a new camera, she thought. Unfortunately, no time for that now.
She took a second to catch her breath as she wondered how to sneak in behind him without him seeing her. In the hierarchy of spies, Treflee was more on the level of Max Smart than James Bond. She considered hoping there’d be a bead curtain she could hide behind in there. Or maybe a potted palm. Short of that, she was probably out of luck.
Fortunately, there was a tacky tourist shop next door with a rack of Hawaiian shirts and a table of floppy straw hats displayed on the sidewalk. No cameras, though. She bought a hat and positioned herself, hat shading her face, on a bench across the street where she could watch the door.
A couple of tourists went in for the early bird special. A few tourists came out. Ty stayed in. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. She was bored out of her mind. If this was spying, Ty could have it.
Finally, she made up her mind. She was going in, baby, no matter the consequences. If Ty was sitting there calmly eating Peking Duck, so be it. She adjusted her hat and was off.
Inside the restaurant, it was cool and quiet. Someone had left the front desk unattended. A couple of people sat at red booths sipping ice water and eating fried rice, but no Ty.
Treflee frowned as she wondered if he’d given her the slip. Not willing to give up, she wandered down the hallway toward the ladies’ room. He shouldn’t be in there. Which left her with two options: the men’s room and a door marked office/employees only. She wasn’t going into the men’s room. Not as her first choice.
The office door was closed. She put an ear to it, but couldn’t hear anything. There was no reason to storm in like Iron Man. Maybe she’d just try to get a peek inside first.
Afraid of someone hearing the latch turn, she gave it the gentlest push imaginable on the off chance she’d get lucky. And she did. Someone hadn’t closed it all the way. It cracked open just enough for her to see inside, and she put an eye to the door. That’s when she realized how curiosity killed the cat. She nearly had a heart attack.
A young Chinese man lay splayed on the floor with his neck slit open, a pool of bright blood forming around him. His glassy eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling as a pair of vulturelike flies buzzed around him.
Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!
Ty stood over him with his shirt and hands covered in blood.
Copyright © 2011 by Gina Robinson.
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Gina Robinson has always been a storyteller—just ask her parents. An avid book lover, she grew up reading romance, mysteries, and suspense novels but, somehow, ended up majoring in Electrical Engineering. After marrying her college sweetheart, she began to write—software—for several large defense contractors. Eventually Gina gave up the glamorous engineering life for the equally glamorous life of a stay-at-home mom, somehow finding time to write manuscripts about villains with guns, handsome strangers, and mail-order brides.