Others may think Jamie Jakowski is a hero, but she knows differently. Haunted by her past, she seeks redemption by helping others in spite of the danger to herself. However, after almost orphaning her daughter, Jamie opts to retire.
When a friend needs her, Jamie agrees to one last undercover operation. She is determined to reunite a heartbroken mother with her kidnapped son.
Used to working alone, Jamie’s not happy when she’s assigned a partner. And after a failed operation and their failed romance, Enrique Rodriguez is the last person she wants to work with—ever.
To succeed, Jamie must confront her past as well as the people who want her dead.
“You’re retired from the spy business. Remember?” Patti stood with hands on her hips, demanding an answer.
“I was never a spy and…” Jamie paused. Nothing she said would satisfy Patti. “I don’t want to discuss it.”
“Not a spy? Really, you want me to believe that? Do you want to get yourself killed?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not.”
Jamie’s twin sister worried too much. True, in the past she may have had good reason, but not any longer. Jamie was done with danger. She’d barely survived her last assignment, and that was only by the grace of God. The last thing she wanted was to orphan her daughter. She understood Patti’s worry.
The two of them were identical—at least physically. Wavy brown hair. Five feet five inches. Both slim, but Jamie was more muscular than Patti, thanks to her vigorous training schedule. Their temperaments, on the other hand, were polar opposites. She was the risk-taker, and Patti was the rule-follower.
“Well, whatever you were, you said you were retired. Remember that?”
“I do remember, dear, sweet sister of mine. But I didn’t retire from life.”
Jamie faced Patti. Through the window she could see her sister’s guests enjoying the Florida sunshine. Little did they know the entertainment was inside
She and Patti were supposedly getting the food ready, but Patti didn’t appear to be interested in that task. Her twin’s goal seemed to be to have an argument with her.
Jamie didn’t want to leave after an argument with Patti. The last time that happened, they hadn’t seen each other for years—many painful years. She wouldn’t do that again.
Patti’s forehead wrinkled as she glared. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I can’t sit back and do nothing if I think I can help someone. And Zink needs my help.”
“I know that, but...” Patti rolled her eyes. “That is not the point.”
Jamie picked up a knife, and stabbed through the clear cellophane of raw burgers. “I think it is the point, Sis.”
“I don’t understand this need for putting yourself in danger.” Patti’s lip trembled. “Why isn’t being Sabrina’s mother enough for you? Why do you insist on doing this?”
Those were good questions—fair questions.
But how was she supposed to tell her sister about the regretful things done in the name of patriotism? Her motives may have been right, but shame burned inside for her choices—no, not choices. “Mistakes” was a much better word.
Even after renewing her commitment to God, Jamie had done things she was ashamed of. If she could just help people, then maybe she could find some peace for her own soul. “This has nothing to do with Sabrina. Besides, I have no plans to put myself at risk.”
“Yeah, just like last time?”
“That’s not true. I knew that was dangerous. I did it because I had no choice.” Jamie looked over at her sister. “Patti, let’s not fight. You and I both know I’m getting on that plane tomorrow and flying to Ohio. And just for the record, I don’t believe I’m putting myself in jeopardy.”
“I know you don’t think so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a dangerous situation. The woman’s ex-husband is a wanted criminal who kidnapped her son and disappeared almost two years ago. You have no idea what that man is capable of.”
Jamie arched a brow at her sister. “Really, Patti? You don’t think I know?”
“OK, maybe you do know. I’m not saying you’re naïve about that. All the more reason to let the professionals handle it. I don’t want you anywhere near that man.”
“Sooooo…you believe I can find him, too?”
Patti’s face registered surprise, and then her expression went to the stern look she used when she wanted to win an argument. “I didn’t say that. Do not twist my words.”
“But you must believe it or you wouldn’t be worried about what kind of a man he is. If I can’t find him, it wouldn’t matter. Soooo…that means you think I can find him. How could I not go help Zink find her son? What kind of a person would that make me?”
“Stop putting words in my mouth, Jamie.” Patti grabbed the burgers and transferred them to a plate with a spatula, much harder than necessary.
Patti’s husband walked in and smiled at Jamie with a little shrug. “Stop putting words in your mouth and put some food in our bellies instead. We’ve got hungry people out there waiting. And it could turn ugly at any time.” Carter hugged his wife. “You two can argue later.”
“We are not going to argue, dear brother-in-law.”
Carter was a man who could be trusted, a man her twin could count on. A godly man. But a godly man wouldn’t want someone like her—not after the things she’d done.
“I’m trying to talk some sense into her.” Patti jabbed a finger at Jamie. “You tell her. There is no reason for her to fly to Ohio and get involved in this mess with Suzanne Zinkleman. The FBI is looking for Zink’s son. Jamie doesn’t have to put herself in danger, yet again.”
“And they haven’t managed to find him in more than two years.” Jamie picked up the platter of burgers. She pointed a finger at Carter. “You tell your wife to stop worrying about me. I can take care of myself.”
Carter put his hands up as he backed out the door. “Well, I can guarantee that’s not going to happen, Jamie. Your sister has made it her life mission to keep you safe whether you like it or not.”
“That’s a slight exaggeration, Carter, but I see no reason for Jamie to go looking for trouble.”
“I’m not looking for trouble. I’m looking for Zink’s son. Big difference. And I can’t believe you’re not OK with that, Patti. That poor woman has been without her child for almost two years. Can you even imagine what that must feel like?”
Her sister’s eyes misted. “No, I can’t imagine, but—”
“Then you know why I have to do this. Sabrina will be fine. She has two weeks of camp. Hopefully, I’ll be home by then. If not, I know you and Carter and Anna will take good care of her until I come home.” Tired of arguing, she picked up the burger plate and walked outside.
“Promise me, you won’t do anything that will put you in danger. If you find something out, you call the authorities.” Patti trailed behind with the buns.
“Easy to promise. Once I find out where the creep is, you can be sure I’ll be calling the authorities.” Jamie handed the burgers to Marcus Hanks, her former boss at the FBI. “In fact, I’ll call this authority as soon as I know anything. And he can take over from there.”
“Not my job. I’m not in the kidnapping department.” Marcus grabbed the plate and slapped the burgers on the grill. Each one sizzled as they hit the black iron of the grate. Marcus was an intimidating figure, an African-American who looked more like a linebacker, but he had a marshmallow heart. His gold earring and bald head gave the impression of danger.
He’d rescued her from a lifetime of mistakes and helped get her life back on track. Without him, she’d probably be dead or in prison. He’d even reintroduced her to God, for which she was more thankful than words could express. She smiled at him. “I know that, but I also know you’ll be there when I need you. You always are.”
Patti glared at Marcus. “Aren’t you at least going to try to talk her out of this?”
“Not me.” He shook his head. “I’ve known your sister for way too many years to try. If I couldn’t talk her out of infiltrating a terrorist ring, you think I’ll be able to talk her out of this? Reuniting Suzanne Zinkleman with her son is a mission from God, as far as she’s concerned, and that means there’s no stopping her.”
“I take it the two of you have talked about this.”
“And is this going to be an FBI operation?”
“Funny you should ask that.”
Jamie walked over to the picnic table and grabbed a handful of chips from a bowl. “There’s nothing funny about it. I’m going alone as a private citizen. The FBI and I have cut all associations. Just like I promised you, dear sister. I am retired.” She popped a chip in her mouth.
Marcus flipped a burger and then looked at her. “Not exactly true, Jamie. I’m with Patti on this. There’s no reason for you to tackle this case alone. Besides, it is an active Bureau case, so technically—”
“I don’t care about technicalities.” Jamie swallowed the chip. “I work alone, Marcus. You know that.”
“Not this time you don’t. Your days of being a lone wolf are over. No more going undercover by yourself.” Marcus gave her one of his famous stares. “Just like I promised myself.”
Carter came up and slung an arm around Patti’s shoulder. “See, now you don’t have anything to worry about. Marcus will take good care of her.”
Jamie glared at her part-time boss and full-time friend. “I’m not going undercover for the FBI, so it’s not really any concern of yours or theirs, Marcus.”
Using the spatula, Marcus picked up a burger and plopped it on the plate he held. “I’m making it my concern.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
A man walked around the side of the house whistling.
Jamie’s jaw fell open but she immediately shut it—tight. This wasn’t happening. She didn’t care what Marcus wanted. Some might call Enrique Rodriquez tall, dark, and handsome, but the only words she would use to describe him were vain, conceited, and a pain in the neck. And not a man she would work with again—ever.
“Hi, Jamie. You must be Jamie, right?” Enrique gave her a knowing smile and pointed at Patti, who was leaning against Carter. “Unless Patti’s husband is confused. I can’t believe how much the two of you look alike. It’s amazing.”
“Enrique, what are you doing here?” Jamie didn’t bother to hide her frustration as her hands moved to her hips.
“Marcus invited me.” He actually had the nerve to wink at her.
“You’re a little early, Rodriquez.” Marcus grimaced.
“A little early for what?” Jamie stared at Enrique, and then at Marcus, knowing exactly what was going on, but refusing to acknowledge it.
“I haven’t told her yet, but I guess she’s figured it out by the look on her face.” Marcus set the plate of burgers down on the picnic table. He called to the group. “Burgers are ready. Caldwell, it’s your house, say the blessing, and let’s eat.”
Jamie fumed during the prayer. She didn’t play well with others, and she definitely had no use for Enrique Rodriquez—as an agent, or as a man. Ever.
He was under the mistaken illusion that he was God’s gift to women.
And maybe he was—but not to her. She preferred someone she could trust.
After the prayer, people crowded around the table, filling their plates.
Jamie marched up to Marcus and kept her voice low. No reason to ruin the day for everyone. “I’m not working with Enrique. You know what happened the last time.”
“That was years ago. He was a rookie then. He’s a very good agent now and one of the best.”
“I don’t care what he is. I work alone. There is no way I’m working with him.”
“I don’t care what happened between the two of you, but this is the way it has to be.” Marcus looked her in the eye.
She knew the look, and she knew what it meant.
“I’m sorry, Jamie. It’s the only way I could get approval for you to check into the situation. You don’t work for us anymore, remember? This is an open case, and Agent Rodriquez has been assigned to it. He’ll be keeping you company.” Marcus was using his no-nonsense, no-arguing tone. “This was not my decision, but I agree with it. This discussion is over.”
Enrique walked up. He ran a hand through his shiny black curls. His sparkling brown eyes and perfect white teeth irritated her for some reason. “Jamie, I know you aren’t happy about this. But trust me. There won’t be a repeat of the fiasco from last time. That was my first field assignment. I’ve learned a few things since then.”
His pronunciation of the J in her name brought back memories. She pushed them away and glared. “Rookie or not, there was no excuse for your incompetence.” The man had almost gotten her killed. “I don’t mean to be rude, Ricky—”
“The name is Enrique. Not Ricky.”
“—But it’s not happening. Period. So you wasted a trip coming to see me, Ricky. You are not working with me on this case.”
His brown eyes twinkled, not looking a bit offended. “I’m pretty sure I will be.” He grinned.