There was silence, and then a younger voice took the mic. “You will report to medical tomorrow at nine. Congratulations, Agent Reed. It’s yours.”
Her breath caught, the quick intake lighting a fire all the way to her groin, and then she steadied herself. “Friday,” she countered, ignoring the men behind her, groaning as their slick-suits returned to a black neutrality. “I want to say good-bye to my mother.”
Again the silence, and Peri’s good mood tarnished as she caught a whispered “might not remember her when she gets back.”
“Friday,” the young voice finally said, and Peri’s jaw clenched at the pity in it. Her mother didn’t deserve anyone’s pity, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to say good-bye.
The lock shifted green, a solid thump echoing as the door opened onto an empty, white hallway. Her thoughts already on a shower and what was in her closet that her mother might actually approve of, Peri paced forward into the light.
FIVE YEARS LATER
Peri Reed reclined in the plush leather chair across from the CEO’s desk, her feet up on the coffee table, enjoying the adrenaline pooling as she waited in the dark for Jack to find what they had come for. His mood was bad, but that wasn’t her fault. Bored, she helped herself to a foil-wrapped, imported chocolate from a nearby dish.
“Really, Peri?” Jack said at her mmm of appreciation.
“So hurry up.” Licking her lips, she deftly folded the foil into a tiny hat, which she set jauntily on the statue of the naked woman holding the dish. “This guy knows his chocolate.”
“I prepped for glass. Wave technology isn’t even on the shelves yet,” Jack complained, his tan face pale and distorted through the holographic monitor. The touch-screen projection hazed Jack’s athletic shape and black Gucci suit, and Peri wondered whose ass the CEO of Global Genetics was kissing to get the new holographic touch-screen technology.
“My good heels are in the car. Waiting. Like me,” she prompted, and he hunched, his jabbing fingers opening and closing files faster than a texting fourteen-year-old.
Impatient, Peri stood and ran a quick hand through her short black hair. Her mother would hate its length, insisting that a woman of quality kept long hair until she was forty, and only then allowed it to be cut shorter. Moving to the window, Peri smiled at her manicure in perverse satisfaction. Her mother would hate the color as well—which might be why Peri loved the vibrant maroon.
Shaking her hem down to cover her low-heeled boots, she exhaled her tension and focused on the hazy night. The black Diane von Furstenberg silk jumpsuit wasn’t her favorite, even if it had been tailored to fit her precisely and was lined with silk to feel like ice against her skin when she moved. But add the pearls currently in the car with her heels, and it would get second and third glances at the upscale pool hall she’d picked out as a spot where she and Jack could decompress.
If we ever get out of here, she thought, sighing dramatically to make Jack’s ears redden.
The projected monitor was the only spot of light in the office suite with its heavy furniture and pictures of past CEOs. Surrounding buildings were lit by security lights dimmed to save power. Low clouds threw back the midnight haze of Charlotte, North Carolina. This high up, the stink of money had washed away the stink of the streets. The corruption, Peri thought, stretching to run a finger over the lintel to intentionally leave a fingerprint, is harder to hide.
“One of these days, that’s going to bite you on the ass,” Jack said as she dropped back to her heels. Her print would come up as classified, but it would also tell Opti that they’d been successful—or at least that they’d come and gone. Success was beginning to look questionable. Five minutes in, and Jack was still searching for the encrypted master file of Global Genetics’ latest engineered virus, the hidden one that made it race-specific.
The faint clunk and hum of the elevator iced through her. Her head tilted to the cracked door, and she shocked herself with the sweet candy still on her lips. She never would’ve heard it had the floor been busy, but in the silence of a quasi-legal, government-sanctioned break-in … “Don’t leave my sight,” Jack demanded as he hooked the rolling chair with his foot and pulled the leather throne toward him to sit. His fingers hesitated, jabbed the holomonitor, then waved the entire field to the trash. His brow was furrowed, and the glow of the projection made his face appear gaunt and his blue eyes almost black. Feeling sassy, Peri sashayed to the door, liking being paid to do what anyone else would be jailed for. Jack looked too sexy to be good at the computer stuff, but in all fairness, he was as proficient as she in evasion and offense. Which is why we’ve survived this long, she thought as she slipped the flexible, palm-size wafer of glass out of her pocket and powered it up. Her Opti-augmented phone was glass technology, and up until seeing the CEO’s wave, she’d thought it was the best out there. Hitting the app that tied into the building’s security, she brought up the motion sensors.
The screen lit with a harsh glow. Dimming it, she crouched to peer into the secretary’s office. One wall of the outer office was open to allow for a view of the common office area beyond. Intel said the night guard was cursory, but intel had been wrong a lot lately.
The app finished its scan and vibrated for her attention. No movement, she thought as she looked at the blank screen, not trusting it. “I can’t do my job from here,” she whispered, tensing when the elevator hummed to a halt and a beam of light lit the ceiling. Keys jingled. The translucent screen in her palm lit up with a bright dot. Shit.