Home > No Time to Lie (Masters & Mercenaries Reloaded #4)

No Time to Lie (Masters & Mercenaries Reloaded #4)
Author: Lexi Blake

 


Chapter One

 

 

Snow beat against the windshield of the sedan, the stark white nearly blinding him.

Drake Radcliffe felt the burning pain in his side and prayed he could make it to the safe house. When he’d taken the hit, it hadn’t felt too bad. He’d had far worse, but now it ached like a mother, and he was pretty sure he’d reopened the damn wound when he’d swerved on the highway. Was that blood he felt? There was a lot of it. He had to force his hands to stay steady on the wheel, his eyes on the…was it a road?

The events of the day slammed into him once again, and he could see his operative lying on the cobblestone street, blood just starting to stain the stones. Whoever had been behind that bullet had used a suppressor because Drake had barely heard the sound before he saw the hole in his operative’s chest open up and then felt the pain in his own side.

Where the hell was the cabin? It was a cabin, right? He was on the side of a fucking mountain, so he was pretty sure there was a cabin and not an apartment building.

Guilt swamped him. He should have known something was wrong, that they’d been found out. His operative…what was his name…he didn’t like to use names because it was easier to move around chess pieces than people. That was what he did. He played chess with people’s lives, and he’d lost a pawn and he couldn’t even remember the pawn’s name because he was a piece of shit.

Come with me, brother. Think about what we could do with that kind of power. We could take over the group and then we would rule the world. Just like we always knew we would.

That had been a joke between him and his sister. They were smart. They were kind of assholes who joked about being smarter than everyone else around them and so the world should simply do what they said.

Except one of them had been serious…

Where was the cabin? He was so fucking tired. He’d driven for hours and hours. Almost eight hours with a hole in his side he’d basically stuck a bandage on. He needed stitches and antibiotics, but there was no way he was going to a hospital at this point. The safe house couldn’t be too far away. He thought he might remember some of the markers but everything was fucking trees, and the road that was barely more than a trail was covered in snow.

How much blood had he lost? His head felt fuzzy, and now he was worried he’d made the wrong choice and should have tried to find a hospital.

But the nature of his business was…delicate, to say the least. If anyone found out he was in a hospital and vulnerable…

He had the drive his operative had delivered, and if it fell into the wrong hands then all his work would have been for nothing. His death would mean nothing. He had to get to the safe house and call in. There was a safe there.

A safe in the safe house. Safety. Safe. Safe. Safe. Safe.

Such a funny word when he thought about it. Was anyone safe? He said it out loud. It sounded weird to him.

Safe.

His dad had stepped down from his dangerous job, and he was supposed to be safe. Safe from lies. But Julia built her whole world on lies. Julia didn’t believe in safety, and it had cost their family everything.

The world was starting to blur and his brain was as soft as the snow and he wasn’t home. Snow didn’t look like this in Virginia. Snow was a soft thing there, something they complained about and watched through windows and encouraged on Christmas. He would sit and watch the snow with his mom and his…

The very thought of his sister forced his mind back to his task.

Julia was dead and he’d had a hand in it, and if his mother ever found out he wouldn’t have a mother anymore, and the snow kept falling. The wipers couldn’t keep up. The hits just kept coming.

Julia was dead, and Kyle had left and he wasn’t coming back. He was with his uncle now, and the whole found family thing was bullshit. Kyle had been his friend, one of the only friends he’d ever truly gotten close to, but Kyle had to kill Julia because she’d…

His cell phone rang through the connection on the sedan, the sound waking him up again. He glanced at the screen. Safety. Command.

The car he was driving was Agency approved. It had all kinds of security gadgets on it a person couldn’t buy at a big box store. But he still had to be careful.

“This is Gray.” He went by Gray for now. He’d gone by all the names. Black. White. Green. Brown.

Not Magenta. That had been Taggart, and he was an asshole. It was funny that all these years later he still remembered that meeting with Taggart in Paris when his daughters had watched through the railing of the banister and he’d wondered what it would be like to be Taggart—a man who’d gotten out and had a life and family and kids.

He’d thought he was moving toward that. Not in a traditional way. But he’d been building his little spy family with his sister and Kyle Hawthorne and he was going to be the weird uncle, and then Julia had turned out to be everything he hated. Everything he’d ever feared he could be himself.

He could still remember everything she’d said to him that terrible day.

This is who you are, little brother. Don’t look at me like I’m a monster. You’re nothing but a reflection of me. You’re fooling yourself if you think anything else.

His dad pretended like he’d never worked for the Agency at all. Since he’d retired, he wouldn’t even talk about work with Drake. How was his sister dead and now it was him and a father who barely acknowledged him and his mom and he could lose her, too, if she ever found out? He would be alone.

Of course the way he felt right now he might be dead soon, so maybe he should worry about that.

Was his family cursed?

“Gray? Gray, are you there?”

Did the guy on the other end of the line even know his real name? Or was he this guy’s pawn? That was how the Agency worked. Lives were interchangeable. There was always some new idiot willing to risk his or her life for their country. For America.

That was a funny word, too.

“Gray?”

Reality was starting to become fuzzy, and he had to hold on. His operative was dead, and the mission was his now. The mission was all that mattered. The mission was everything. “I’m here. Is this line secure?”

“As secure as a pig in mud.”

For a moment his brain didn’t connect the odd reply. Codes. Little things that let an agent know it was okay to talk. He’d asked if the line was secure. It was Thursday. Pigs were Thursday this week.

Such a low-tech protocol for a high-tech job.

He had the intel in his pocket. All that information on a tiny drive. He would call in and someone would show up, and if he didn’t die in the meantime, the op would be successful.

That was all that mattered. The op.

How much blood had he lost? “I have the data. I’m on my way to 124.”

“124?” the voice over the line asked. “Why are you in Romania? Drake, there was a safe house in Kraków. Why wouldn’t you go there?”

The sound of his name woke him up a bit. He slowed down, the twin beams of the headlights illuminating the powder white snow in front of him. He was fairly certain he didn’t want to look off to the right because it was dark and likely a long way down.

“They knew about it.” It was one of the last things that fucker who’d shot him had said right before Drake had taken him out. He’d rolled to the side of the alley behind a trash bin and the Russian agent had told Drake there was nowhere to run. There wasn’t a hospital they wouldn’t be looking for him at, and they knew about the townhouse in Ludwinów.

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