Yachts drifted back and forth across Lake Geneva like unsuspecting ducks in a shooting gallery.
Alec Pierce felt the sun soak into his bronzed shoulders and took in the Alps that cradled the lake. It was a perfect way to escape the cares of his job as a covert CIA operative. Perhaps he could let out a little more sail.
The first hint of danger came in the form of cold prickles against his back.
He turned around and a blast of rain caught him square in the face. Where had that come from?
He grabbed a brace. The lake's surface had turned an ominous gray. Boats scattered across the water as if being chased by a broom.
Then a bank of thunderheads rushed over the Alps.
"Catch all the wind you can," he shouted back to Omar Naftir, his colleague at the helm. "We'll race the storm back to Geneva."
Then the hail hit like a truckload of gravel.
Omar was already spinning the wheel. "The hail will shred our sails," he yelled across the open deck.
Who cared about the sails when the whole vessel was about to overturn? They would be lucky to make it back to port.
"We can't get stuck in this storm." Alec shielded his head from the hailstones. "Just let 'em out."
The wind accelerated as it squeezed between the mountains. The once glassy surface had become towering waves. Their heavy wooden sloop, the Celeste, wasn't going anywhere.
"Okay, I'll let out more sail," Omar grumbled.
Omar let go of the helm, reached for a stay and unfastened it. He yelped as the rope burned through his fingers.
Over the Celeste's turning bow, Alec saw boats flip over like ducks in a pond.
God help them. So much for a chance to unwind and chat with Omar.
The Celeste caught a strong gale off the starboard bow. Wind filled her sails and wrestled her onto her side.
Alec winced and leaned over the side for counterweight.
The blast whipped up a towering wave that scooped out a trough into which the Celeste plunged. When the hull hit bottom, Omar's frail body crashed against the cabin door.
He screamed the name several times, but heard no response. A wall of water broke over him.
Through the spray, the Celeste turned upright, and a blood-smeared face appeared from the cockpit.
Omar pressed a handkerchief over his nose. "Broke the cabin door."
The Celeste began to ride the crest of a newly formed wave. Drenched, Alec looked for warning beacons along the shore. Their sloop just might beat the storm.
Then he caught a speedboat racing their way.
Probably some sort of rescue boat.
A hooded figure leaned over the windscreen. A burst of smoke spat from his automatic rifle.
A bullet screamed over Alec's head.
Holy haircut. "Turn this bucket around."
"Why?" Omar yelled. "That's back into the storm."
"That's why." He pointed at their new assailant. Another bullet splintered the wooden mast.
He dropped to his hands and knees and scrambled back to Omar in the cockpit.
"That's him," Omar said, his voice suddenly flat. "That's Proteus."
In a moment, the speedboat would reach them.
Alec caught the helm and held it fast. "Take her back into the storm."
Omar chased after the slithering rope that he had just released.
The bow swung into the gale. The main sail flapped loosely. Water washed in through the broken door.
Omar hauled in the stay and fastened it tight.
"We need more speed," Alec shouted. "Crank the foresail."
The young man slipped and reeled on his heels, then commanded his spindly legs toward the prow. At last he reached the sail and began to crank it up. It fluttered at first, then snapped stoutly in the wind.
The speedboat gunned its inboard motor and bobbed hazardously close to the Celeste. The machine gun pivoted their way.
"Look out," Alec warned, and dropped to the cockpit floor.
From there he watched Omar slide off the deck. At the last moment, his friend grabbed a chrome support to the bow railing.
Bullets grazed the deck, chewed up the planks and shot splinters against Omar's knuckles as he dangled overboard.
The Celeste carved an efficient arc perpendicular to the oncoming waves. Alec listened to the rhythmic thud of Omar against the wooden hull. Above them, the mast groaned under the weight of wet canvas.
Three-meter swells beat back the speedboat, pitching it from one watery crater to the next.
Driven back by the storm, the gunman fired a final volley and spun away from the Celeste. Bullets drilled a line of holes in her sails.
The freshwater lake had begun to swallow the sloop. Cookware and cushions washed against Alec's legs.
He cupped his hands and yelled to Omar, "Get back up here and help me man the pumps."
Omar tried to drag his soaked body back on deck. Exhausted from his battle, he coughed up water.
"If you don't mind," he called, stretching out a hand for help.
Alec launched onto the slick foredeck. He landed with a splash by Omar, who still hung halfway off the ship.
"I'm not doing so well," the young Moroccan said.
"Join the club."
Alec pulled him the rest of the way on deck.
Omar's hoarse whisper barely carried above a thunderclap and the roaring waves. "Did you believe the story I told you before the storm?"
"Forget the story. We're sinking."
Omar persisted. "The jihad wants to scare you out of the accelerator laboratory."
"You explained that already."
"They've selected you as their main target," Omar said. "The Proteus Jihad's after you personally."
Alec gripped him more fiercely. "Okay, so who exactly is in this jihad? And how can I stop them?"
"That's the problem," Omar said, his voice barely rising above the storm. "He's only one person, but he's everywhere."
Then the young man's eyes widened as he stared beyond Alec. "Allahu Akbar!" God is great!
Alec looked up. Two immense walls of water converged on the boat.
The Celeste's mast complained, then popped like a twig under saturated sails.
The heavy timber and canvas crashed down on them in a veil of white.
Mick Pierce is kidnapped by industrial terrorists. Abducted on the Swiss Riviera, CIA officer Mick Pierce can only watch helplessly as an assassin zeros in on the President of the United States. A trail of murders across Europe leads investigators to a final showdown as the American President prepares to speak at Europe's high-energy laboratory, buried deep beneath the mountains. And then, his kidnappers show Mick a very special video...Mick's wife is in bed with the killer! Hold on tight as Mick Pierce springs into action from Swiss mountaintops to Moroccan markets to the charged atmosphere of laboratories around the world. He takes on his most mysterious, dangerous, and personal case yet, and tries to avoid getting caught in the Geneva Seduction.
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