Undercover: Secrets & Lies, page 1
Secrets & Lies
BOOKS BY JENNIFER LOREN
UNDERCOVER: SECRETS & LIES
The Laws of Kings Series
THE LAWS OF KINGS
DETHRONING THE KING
The Devil’s Eyes Series
THE DEVIL’S EYES
THE DEVIL’S REVENGE
THE DEVIL’S SON
THE DEVIL’S MASQUERADE: THE POISON
THE DEVIL’S MASQUERADE: THE REMEDY
THE NEW DEVIL IN CHARGE
THE DEVIL FORGOTTEN
The Finding Ava Series
THE LONG ROAD
THE HAND THAT HOLDS MINE
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Loren
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
Any unauthorized distribution or use of this publication may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Copyright © Jennifer Loren 2017
Copyediting: Erinn Giblin, Yours Truly, The Editor
Cover Design: Lori Jackson, Lori Jackson Design
Destiny, a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power. Irresistible power. I have spent my life trying to come to terms with that power. Destiny hasn’t been my friend, though it maintains not to be my enemy either. That irresistible power that no one can refuse gives so much to some while seeming to take everything from others. I have tried to hide from it, but it finds me even in the darkest and most remote of places. I tried to accept it and be what it desired me to be, but the reality was too much to live with, so I rebelled. I have fought destiny every day since, searching for a way around it, through it, and even to spite it, nothing worked, it always still gets its way, and the best of me. No matter how many times it has torn me apart, broken me, I still rise up again determined, more than ever, to find a way to defeat it and take control of my own life.
There was a moment in time, when I had a plan, when it was all coming together, finally. Everything I had ever wanted was right in front of me, all I had to do was take it, and run. It was easy, until destiny stepped in once again and, he, came into my life. Suddenly life became complicated and my heart struggled to win against my moral judgement. I had to make a choice, I had to choose, because not making a choice would have meant sacrificing everything, everyone. What would you do? What would you choose? The life of an innocent? Revenge? Love? Or would you lie down and surrender your own life to destiny, for the sake of them all? I made the choice, right or wrong, I, made a choice. So cruel is destiny, that even when you are given choices, you realize, the choices are nothing but illusions, disappearing as you reach out to grasp them and leaving you with, but one path to take.
Destiny, my fate is in its hands, and now I have to hope that it leads me into the life I have long sought after. A life where my demons are finally put to rest and my heart can beat once again.
The crowd is bigger than usual, not that it bothers me. It just means I will make more money once I kick this guy’s ass. He’s tired and counting on me to be the Laila he remembers, impulsive and inattentive. Unfortunately for him, I'm not even close, not anymore. I am patient and watchful of his every move and most importantly, his every mistake. The longer this goes, the better the show and the potential for more bets to be made before I finish it. I check my hand wraps one last time, wipe the blood from my lip, and bounce to my right into a spin to my left, knocking my opponent in the jaw. I take another step forward and sweep his legs out from under him. His shock escalates to a breathless surrender once I have his throat tight between my legs. “Surrender!” I yell in triumph.
“I give,” Krager mutters with little breath left to make his failure clear.
The roar around me is a mix of cheers and jeers. I am not the most liked woman on the base, but I am the most feared. My cohort in this game runs up on me waving a fist full of money in the air. “Laila, I swear you are making my non-military career exceedingly profitable. Here’s your share, but I would be careful walking out of here. There are some who are not too happy about losing their weekend party money.”
“Mika, you worry too much,” I say confidently.
“You don’t worry enough, Death-wish. You get caught fighting again you’re going to get kicked out. You certainly can’t get demoted any more than you have. The cockroaches out rank you at this point.” I roll my eyes as I put my shoes back on and suit up like a good soldier. “It’s your life. I’d walk you out, but being seen with you is bad for my reputation.”
“Your reputation? You don’t even have a real job. Have you ever had a real job?”
Mika holds his boney little finger up at me and shakes it. “I don’t need a job. I am an entrepreneur. I invest my time in opportunities.”
“You’re a criminal. You steal from people for a living.”
“Only bad people. I’m like Robin Hood. I steal from the rich, bad people.”
“And you keep it for yourself. Pretty sure Robin Hood gave all of his bounty to the poor,” I remind him.
“His faults are not my problem.” He straightens his tacky suit jacket and pats his hair into place. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have a lady friend I need to see to.” He nods at me with a smile, and I wave him on. Mika is my closest friend here. Actually, now that I think about it, he’s probably my only friend. I met Mika by accident—his not mine.
He snuck onto the base and into the captain’s office when everyone was supposed to be gone. He was hacking into the computer system to do some shipping alterations. Little did he know I was assigned to scrub the office with a toothbrush for the weekend for disobeying an order. It wasn’t an important order. It was pretty much the same order I had received and disobeyed many times before. I assumed they were trying to get creative with their punishments since nothing they had implemented in the past seemed to work. For some reason, they thought elbow grease with the likes of a toothbrush would certainly drive home the point. However, they failed to specify which—or whose—toothbrush.
I was asleep on the sofa when Mika snuck in, finishing up day one of my punishment. He was a little surprised when I asked him to make sure he locked up before he left. If he had fled like any normal person, we might not have ever seen each other again, but his curiosity got the best of him. Mika stuck around to find out why I was there, my original fuck-up, which happened to be for fighting a guy. It wasn’t my fault, not entirely. I thought he was trying to attack me, I didn’t realize he wanted me awake for drills. It was three in the morning. Who does push-ups in the middle of the night? The army apparently. Mika found my story laughable until he recognized the potential of a new opportunity—a fighter who doesn’t look anything like a fighter.
“Too pretty,” he said, but I was more
Before leaving the old, abandoned school gym, I take a moment to look around and enjoy the quiet. I don’t get to experience it often in the army. One deep breath and I head back to the base where I have to sneak back into my bunk and sleep with my boots on. Morning comes fast around here, and I don’t like to waste precious sleep time putting my boots back on.
It’s only a few hours later when my dreams are interrupted with eyes on me. I jump to attention, pulling my knife to the throat of the man standing over me. I am immediately met with a frustrated sigh. “If you were as reliable a soldier as you are a fighter, maybe you would be less of a pain in my ass,” Major Jennings barks in my face.
I race to attention, pretending I didn’t understand a word he said. “Sir.”
“Don’t Sir me. I know damn well you have been fighting again. You just got in a few hours ago, way after curfew and certainly way after the curfew you were given to keep you out of trouble.” I remain quiet, something I learned along the way. Speaking only gets you into more trouble in these situations. It’s always best to wait until you understand the full extent of your problems. “Get your things.” I grab my hat and hope that’s good enough. “All of your things! Come with me.” Damn.
“Goodbye, Sunshine. Going home to your daddy, finally,” Silvia says. My bunk mate, the misguided lesbian who thinks all men want her, depriving her of the challenge she desires. This bitch has been a pain in my ass since I got here. She was one of my first fights, and she has never forgotten the ass beating I gave her.
“Tanner, shut it! I am in no mood for anybody’s shit today. Lowell, move it! I don’t have all damn day!”
“Sir, you said bring everything. Should I bring something specific or pack for warm weather, cool weather? Is this a short trip, a long trip?”
“Jesus! Why does everything have to be a struggle with you? Bring all of your fucking shit, Lowell. All of your fucking shit! I have no clue where you’re going, and I don’t care. All I know is you’re not coming back here!” the major yells, his face several new shades of red.
I quickly shove everything I own into one bag without any regard to arrangement. I have a feeling it’s not going to matter. A quick middle finger wave to Silvia and I am in line to a waiting helicopter. Hesitating for a second, I look towards the major who nods with reassurance.
“Good luck,” the major says.
“Thank you, Sir,” I say with appreciation.
“I was talking to them,” he says, nodding to the gentlemen who look me over with concern.
I throw my bag into the chopper and climb in. Barely a second passes before the metal door slides shut, locking into place. “So where are we going? Somewhere good I hope.” No one bothers to look my way. “You guys don’t look military.” Still no answer. “Okay, so I’ll guess.” I study them carefully and purposefully. “I’ve got it. The newest show in Vegas, ‘Uptight Suits Going Down Under’? I get a slight smirk from two of them but little else.
“We are here to escort you only. Our orders are not to communicate any more than necessary. No names, no information, no small talk. So please, sit back and enjoy the ride, silently,” one suit says with a warning glare at the two who smirked at my comments.
I watch the sun come up over D.C. before we land. They drag me out of the helicopter and down to an office where I am left alone with more silent guards. I don’t know what I did, but I am pretty sure I didn’t commit any federal crimes, so why they would ever bring me here is beyond me. Maybe they found out about the toothbrush? When the office door opens, a tall, brooding man walks in, and right behind him is an old friend, Henry Musk, my foster father. I have to stop myself from moving towards him out of concern for him and the situation. “What’s going on? Has something happened? Cole, is he okay?”
Henry smiles, holding out his hand to quickly grip mine. An unspoken tension lingers in the air. “Everything is fine. Just listen, and then we’ll talk. Laila, this is Senator Jack Palmer.”
The senator sits at his oversized, antique desk, folding his hands and letting out a deep sigh. “I am still not entirely convinced that she is the one that can help find my son. Her record is …” He shakes his head, looking over some papers. “Well, I don’t know how she hasn’t been arrested or kicked out of the military for her countless infractions.”
“Senator, I promise you. She’s your best chance. Her record is the very reason why she’s perfect for this mission,” Henry argues.
“Mission? You’re sending me on a mission? By myself? Where? Who? How many men do I get to boss around?” I ask, sitting up straight with excitement.
“None.” Palmer insists.
“None?” I huff, crashing back into the seat.
Palmer stands and walks toward me with his finger outstretched in my direction. “This is a single person mission, a search, find, and report back mission only. Nothing more.”
“So what am I finding?”
“My son.” Palmer passes a picture to me. “That’s my son, Noah. He’s a detective, and he went undercover a little over a year ago. One month ago, he went missing. No one has been able to make contact with him, and his body hasn’t shown up either. Your mission is to find him or find out what happened to him. You are to do nothing else.”
“And if I find him?”
“You let me know where he is and I will make sure he is recovered,” Henry chimes in with a reassuring smile.
“What if that takes too long? Do I have permission to recover him on my own?”
“I will not risk my son’s life with someone I can’t trust,” Palmer maintains.
“But you trust me to find him? If you can trust me to do one part, you should be able to trust me to handle every part. Otherwise, you need to find someone else. ”
“I am hoping you are able to infiltrate the organization that has him and locate him. Trusting that can happen is something else entirely.”
I suddenly have a feeling why Henry has gotten me involved in this. “By organization, do you mean Mercier? Titus Mercier?”
“Now you understand why we need you to get in and get out. The chances of your survival are slim, but you are the only one that has the criminal record, the neighborhood reputation, and the skills to actually pull this off.” Henry hands me a folder with information. “You’re perfect for this Laila.”
“My criminal record is sealed so …”
“Lucky for you, you stopped getting caught after you turned eighteen. If you hadn’t of made an enemy out of the governor, you may have never been sent into the military in the first place. Lucky for us, that just made your already superior skills even better and everyone knows it, including Mercier’s informants. That’s the only reason I found Henry’s suggestion of you handling this even remotely plausible.”
“I’ve never worked for Mercier, so I doubt I could be much help.”
“You didn’t work for him directly, but you did plenty for his organization.”
“No matter what I did or didn’t do, it was nothing that would gain me any inside information.”
“That’s why you’re going to ask to join his security team. There has been a recent loss on the team after a rival killed one of his men. At least that’s how it was presented to us, and we have no evidence to prove otherwise.” Henry smiles with a deep concern in his eyes. “Make his personal security team, work your way in so you can watch and learn what happened to Noah, and then get out.”
“Security team? Do you have an in to help me do that? You can’t exactly walk in and hand over a resume to Mercier.”
“You know the right people to get you an interview, and you need to work it just like any other would to get in. You can’t have a direct in, otherwise you will be found out. You have to earn it, and I know you know how.” Henry nods, reassuring me I have permission to use all skills necessary to get in.
“And what if I don’t want to do this? What if I want to stay uninvolve
“No matter what you decide, you can’t go back to your unit. You can either be dishonorably discharged and go about your life, or you can be reassigned to duty with the local police department when you complete the mission,” Palmer says with a tone as he helps himself to a drink.
“Police department?! Why not FBI?”
“With your record? You’re lucky the police department was willing to take you at all. And they are only doing it because your foster father here is head of the department. Henry will be your contact and your controller. He has agreed to take responsibility for anything and everything you do, so understand anything that goes wrong is his job, his career.”
“Henry! You can’t.”
“Laila, you can do this. This is a great opportunity for you. You can prove to everyone that you’re not just a street kid anymore. This is your way in—to be a detective and a leader.”
“Ms. Lowell, if you manage to pull this off, I will owe you a big favor, and I promise to honor that favor, whatever it may be. From what Henry tells me, you want to follow in your father’s footsteps and be a detective. This is your one and only chance to do so. You’re not going to be able to do it through the military, so if you want to be a leader and solve your parents’ murder, then this is the only way to do it.”
They are right. My skills have improved a lot since I was a kid, and I would have been fine if not for that last arrest. I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In my defense, I blamed the governor. If he hadn’t have been there, I would have never stolen his car. The judge was not amused, but he did offer me a chance to clear my record, which would allow me to join the police force like I had planned. The judge would even write me a recommendation, but to get it, I had to join the military and learn some discipline. I learned a lot while I was in, but the discipline part never quite took hold, no matter how much I wanted the end result. I think I have always known there was no way the force was going to let me in. Easier to give them a reason than to try and end up disappointed.
Other author's books:
- The Hand That Holds MineThe Devil's EyesThe Devil's RevengeThe Devil's SonThrough the Devil's Eyes - Notes for NickyThe Laws of KingsThe New Devil in ChargeUndercover - Secrets & Lies
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