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white lie coverGreyling isn’t happy about this mission. She’s particularly unhappy to be setting up an old friend and her confidential aid, but she has no choice. The people behind this mission are as secretive as they are powerful. She can’t stand up to them or disobey them unless she wants to face their wrath. All she can do is provide backup and support, and hope that all goes well.

“They can’t be trusted,” her contact said. “At any time they could turn on us, and then where would we be?”

“Wil VanLipsig is the most loyal, honorable man I know. He’d never turn on us.”

“They’re unstable, their conditioning has made them super human. What’s to stop them from beginning their own race, wiping the rest of us out?”

“Trust, Ambassador. Faith, honor and trust.” The Ambassador snorted unpleasantly, telling her how much faith he had in trust and honor.

“Take care of it, Greyling. Remember, a scythe swings both ways.”

That was his none too subtle attempt to threaten her, as if she could really be frightened. Long ago she had come to grips with mortality. Death didn’t scare her, torture was merely one avenue to the inevitable. She had no family left, no real friends, so the Council’s threat went only so far. So why did she go along with them?

Her career, she knew, would be neatly curtailed if she didn’t acquiesce. Could she live with the disgrace? Perhaps, but that wasn’t the reason. The fact remained that the royal family had to be rescued. That much of the mission couldn’t be changed, but she could safeguard her end as much as possible. Maybe, with Wil’s amazing luck, he could pull off another miracle.

The list Greyling had given him was indeed short—eighteen names in all. Some were familiar, others not. Wil went through it carefully. The eighth name on the list jumped at him, Marc Slatterly, GMC retired. God, how long had it been? His fingers fluttered up to his left eye, taking off the patch. A deep scar ran from his eye to the corner of his mouth, marring his breathtaking good looks. Most women thought it added a hint of danger. Wil felt it made him too distinctive. In a business where one wished to blend in, be forgettable, the scar called attention to him, but he kept it as a reminder not to let anyone get too close.

“We’ll need a muscle man since Ray’s out, how about him?” Ben pointed to Slatterly’s name drawing Wil’s attention to it once more.

“No,” he spoke with detached finality.

“You know nothing about him, Wil. How can you justify your response?”

“I do know him. We grew up together, joined up at the same time. I won’t work with him, too risky.”

“It’s risky for all of us, Wil.”

“He’s too cavalier, jumps in and starts something.” He shook his head adamantly. “Can’t take direction, that should be the first thing it says about him on that list.”

How could Wil tell them that Marc had been his closest boyhood friend, his most trusted partner in the Marines? Until Wil had been forced to execute Marc’s wife for espionage. It hadn’t been a pretty death.

Afterward, he’d gone to confront Marc, explain his side, tried to make him see reason… He experienced it as he always did when he dwelt on it. The sound of explosion, the blinding light, the pain beyond any he had ever experienced—both physical and emotional, all falling into blackness and death.

The bastard doctors had brought him back, patched him up, given him an artificial eye, glued the pieces of his head back together and shoved him out into an unsuspecting society. Marc thought he was dead, Wil preferred it that way.

Ben was speaking again. Wil swiveled his artificial eye to meet Ben’s intense, onyx eyes, so much like his own it was spooky.

“I have to call you on this one, Wil. I think you are being unreasonable.”

Wil used his most imperious demeanor, riveting Ben with the artificial eye with the blood red sclera. It was usually enough to quell even the most brazen of men. It had no affect on Ben, who ignored the gimlet stare, belaboring his point with Wil.

Wil’s voice dropped to a near whisper, a sure sign he was furious. “When you’re in charge of this operation, I’ll ask you goddam opinion, Ben.”

“Thanks for the tip. Guess that puts me in my place, Colonel.” Ben snapped his lips shut, an angry flush burning his swarthy cheeks.

“I guess so, Lieutenant Commander.” He refused to look at Ben, ashamed of his reaction. Emotional outbursts were as unacceptable as they were unbecoming. He thought of apologizing, but one apology a day was his limit, and he’d burned it on Penny. If he apologized for all his mistakes, he thought ruefully, he’d never say anything else!

“There’s Freedrick,” Ben said sullenly. “I know him pretty well. He was from our batch,” he meant himself and Ray.

Wil nodded. “Good man?”

“Next to Ray, the best I’ve worked with. If you trust my opinion…” The reprimand hung in the air between them like a knife.

“Sign him up.”

Ben saluted sharply. “Yes, sir!”

©2015 Dellani Oakes

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