The window was propped open with a suitcase and let in the sounds and smells of late afternoon in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. A hot breeze wafted across Alec Pierce's hairless chest. It carried with it the creak of an axle, the backfire of a bus, the distant toot of a tugboat on the Danube.
Cigarette smoke drifted from a Styrofoam cup. A half-eaten sandwich lay on a newspaper. A phony mustache lay flattened between the pages of a Balkan history.
A young woman straddled Alec on the bed. She locked her sleek legs around his torso with the firmness of a wrestler.
She whispered a throaty command. "Take me for a ride."
Her Slavic expletives, clipped word endings and bedroom vocabulary drew Alec further into her mystique.
"Take me all the way."
He picked out the gist of her heavily accented muttering and lent a gringo response. It might not have been standard pillow talk, but her body squirmed with delight.
Water gushed up pipes running inside the walls of his rented flat.
Dragana broke into laughter. Her large eyes drew into an oriental shape and regained their youth.
The two bodies twisted in bed. His angular frame glistened with perspiration, and her muscular limbs became tangled in the sheets. They laughed deliriously, and Alec tried to ignore the thump and scrape of their bed against the wall.
After a quiet interval, she propped up on an elbow. "Sasha, I have news for you."
"Tell me." He looked over at her.
"Your brother is back in town."
He returned his gaze to the ceiling. His mind ran through a catalogue of people like a drawer of index cards each with another face he remembered from Langley. He recalled CIA specialists for all sorts of purposes: bugging, stealing, seducing, photographing, bombing and impersonating. But there was only one reason for Mick to come back. To prevent him from accomplishing his unauthorized goal.
"You know what you have to do," she said firmly.
He nodded. It would have been nice to see his brother, but not after the way Mick had abandoned him in Srebrenica. Not after Alec had spent two years on the run in Bosnia, ingratiated himself with the militias, killed peacekeepers and worked his way up the mafia hierarchy, all with a singular purpose: to infiltrate the Presidential Palace and bring justice to the Butcher of the Balkans.
He would eliminate whoever tried to stop him, except his brother.
She pulled the sheet off. "I'm late."
She looked at him with fondness and wisdom uncommon in one so young. "I have rehearsals in half an hour."
"It's only five o'clock."
There was no time to shower.
She straightened her bushy black hair and wriggled into a pair of blue jeans. She reached for a leather bag and started to unlatch the door.
"A kiss?" he said. He still lay naked in bed.
She leaned over him. He captured her with a red silk scarf. Inside their improvised tent, he found her moist lips and sucked tenderly on them. Her hand slid under the sheet.
"I'll keep it warm," he offered.
"I know you will. Now stay here and stay out of sight. Good-bye."
"I don't use that word."
She smiled sweetly, tossed the scarf over her shoulders and whirled out of the apartment.
When the door slammed shut, he felt the smile evaporate from his lips. Where could he go now that his brother was in town? For the first time in his bloody ascent through the Balkans, someone had brought him to a screeching halt.
He looked beyond the yellowed window shade that flapped in the breeze. Mick was destined to turn his apartment into a prison. . . .
Whether he's in Europe, Asia or Africa, America's playboy spy Alec Pierce is zeroing in on his target. Never mind that conquering exotic, yet intriguingly dangerous women is his M.O. He'll just have to dodge each one's bullets, unravel her mystery and conquer her heart. Enjoy these thrilling short stories and travel the planet incognito as Alec sacrifices himself for the sake of his countryÉand international relations.
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