A nuclear arms summit, hosted by a politically connected American billionaire industrialist, provides the perfect opportunity for a rogue operative to assassinate the newly-elected Russian president on US soil. Acme operative Donna Stone's mission” seek and exterminate the shooter, before all hell–and World Word III–break loose.
Every woman wants to be the perfect hostess and frets over her inadequacies when it comes to the gracious art of entertaining. Pshaw! A little forethought and a few hours of planning make it as easy as cherry pie!
There is, however, one ironclad rule every hostess must follow:
Make all your guests wish they never had to leave.
Especially in a coffin. With a bullet lodged in their heads.
* * *
“You’re quite a saucy minx!” Prince Harry’s ale-slurred come-on can barely be heard over the techno-vibe emanating from a starship-worthy console of the Ivy Lounge rooftop’s head-bobbing deejay. “What say you give me a peek as to where your tattoo ends?”
His head is cocked downward, as if it might give him the x-ray vision he’ll need in order to see the rattle on the faux-tatt’ed snake drawn from my belly to nether regions that lay under my thong bikini.
“You’re a cheeky sod. I do have a face, you know.” I snap my fingers in front of his nose, in order to draw his eyes northward.
I’ve succeeded, sort of. But come on, already. The diplomacy born and bred into Prince Henry of Wales (a.k.a. Henry Charles Albert David, but better known as Prince Harry) can’t beat two millennia of innate urges and four pints of Guinness.
His eyes linger below my neck, albeit above my abdomen.
When, finally, our eyes meet, I lean in and whisper, “You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”
I’m lying, even if he doesn’t know it—yet.
His outright laugh is accompanied with a shake of his head, and a tug at the waistline of his briefs. “No tats under these trollies, I’m afraid. Sorry to disappoint.”
I finger his briefs longingly and then sigh. “I’m sure you’ll make it up to me somehow.”
His smile is his vow not to disappoint.
God save the queen…
It’s no secret the prince has been stateside. Besides holding fundraisers for a charity that raises money for the rehabilitation of military veterans, he’s hanging with his former Royal Air Force unit as they learn the latest tricks and treats of the AH-64D Apache helicopter. The soldiers completed their training today. Tomorrow they head home, as does the prince. To celebrate, they are here, in San Diego, which is just a couple of hours west of their training base, the Naval Air Facility at El Centro.
Seems some chatter, intercepted by MI6, has led British intelligence to deduce the prince is the latest target of “Leprechaun,” a notorious assassin affiliated with the Irish terrorist cell known as 32CSM. If Leprechaun succeeds in picking off the spare to the throne, then once again the always-thin strand of peace between Ireland and Great Britain will be ripped to shreds.
If it happens on our side of the pond, the U.S. will have mud on its face, not to mention the bluest of blood on its hands.
So yep, I have to stop Leprechaun before he gets lucky.
My employer, the freelance black ops agency known in the field as Acme Corporation, paid big bucks to the club owners so I could be up close and personal with the prince. My goal is not to shag, let alone snag, Harry the Hottie. It’s to save his adorable hide from a possible assassination attempt.
The prince leans in, close enough to ask in a seductive albeit ale-sodden growl, “Want me to sign your bikini?”
I look down between my breasts. “Oops, forgot my pen. But you seem to be carrying one, in your pants pocket. Or maybe you’re just happy to see me.”
He’s laughing so hard his last gulp of Guinness goes down the wrong way.
“Prince Charming has a one-track mind.” Jack Craig’s snarl comes in loud and clear through the tiny microphone in my ear. As the team leader for this Acme mission, he’s close by, but far enough away no potential assassin can spot him.
Trust me, there is a hitter lurking nearby.
Jack is also my main squeeze, which is why he’s growling about my having to play the coquette while under deep cover (in this bikini, I’m talking figuratively if not literally) as one of the nightclub’s VIP bottle girls. More specifically, this is one mission he’d wished I hadn’t accomplished—become Harry the Hottie’s pick-up du jour.
Needless to say, the club’s real bottle girls are pea green with envy. They can’t figure out how this newbie became Cinderella of this Century.
If I told them my aim and my first-degree black belt status had something to do with it, would they believe me? Probably not. All they see is that I’m just this side of Cougarville, which means Harry is less discriminating than they had hoped.
For once, I’m glad Jack isn’t here, in the cordoned-off VIP section. One involuntary muscle flex and the prince’s all-too-obvious brawny goon squad—three of his Royal Air Force mates—would be on top of Jack, like suds on ale.
At MI6’s behest, we’ve kept the fact he’s a target from Harry, for now, anyway. This, I’m sure, is why he feels so cocksure. This mission wouldn’t have been so hard if the prince weren’t so insistent about partying “like an ordinary surfer bloke,” is how he so preciously puts it.
Until now, the natives have been awed as much by his regular dude personality as his title. But just as the deejay ratchets up the hip-hop club mix, six drunken sorority sisters stroll our way. One of the girls, a Princess Catherine lookalike, pierces me with a jealous glare.
I stare back and smile, as if to say, Take the hint. Get lost.
Her eyes shift from me to one of Harry’s RAF buds. She waves coyly at him, and he’s smitten. Smirking back, he nods her over. She squeals and grabs the hand of one of her girlfriends.
In no time at all, she and her besties have jumped the red velvet rope. They toss themselves onto the prince’s entourage, who don’t seem to be fighting them off too hard.
In fact, they’re snapping their fingers at me with drink orders for their new arm charms.
“Not good.” Jack’s warning in my ear is just loud enough for me to hear.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” I mutter back.
“How about this?” Jack is now shouting into my earpiece. “You’ve lost Prince Harry.”
The prince seems captivated by a petite, busty blond beauty. Even in heels, she barely reaches his chest. She had pulled him out onto the dance floor for a throbbing sex-drenched hip grinder, Andree Belle’s “Go Go Gadget Heart.”
The strobe lights and smoke machine make it hard to follow them in the crowd. Then I see them, against one wall. The buxom little tart drapes her arms around his shoulders and hugs him close, as if she’ll never let him go.
Apparently, too close. I shove my way through the crowd until I’m close enough to hear Harry’s woozy cry. “Blimey, you’re no bird! You’ve got a wanker!”
Before I can pull him away, the prince is pricked on the neck with something his partner has pulled from her cleavage. Harry’s groan is loud. I smell smoke, and then the lights go out. But not before the last strobe catches the triumphant look on his partner’s face.
“Oh my God, Jack! The woman with Harry—she’s—not a she! She’s—”
“I know! I saw it, too! The Leprechaun!”
Proof it pays to hit the M.A.C. counter before a night on the town.
And to hang out where the lights are always low.
Everyone is screaming and shoving their way to the exits, leaving me room to follow Leprechaun, who is dragging Harry in the opposite direction up against a wall.
“It’s too dark to see where they went,” I shout to Jack. “Does anything show up on the club’s security cams?”
“I’m looking now. In the meantime, check the wall for a hidden pocket door. The schematic of this club shows a few of them on every level. I’m sure Leprechaun had his exit scoped out in advance.”
While Jack scans the feeds from the security cameras, I skim the walls with my hands. Finally, I find it: a tiny catch, waist high.
I pull it open it just in time to see Leprechaun hauling Harry down a long corridor.
He may not be used to running in heels, but I am. If only I wasn’t running in a bikini, too.
“Too many wobbly bits,” I mutter under my breath.
It’s inappropriate for Jack to be laughing now, but he can’t help it. “Just two. And they’re a sight to behold. Prince Charming will be upset he slept through it.”
The thought of Harry in the French-manicured hands of an assassin who can start the United Kingdom and Ireland down another bloody path of un-neighborly relations has me picking up my pace. Unlike Leprechaun, I’m smart enough to ditch my high heels. But I’m still not fast enough to reach them before Leprechaun rolls him into the backseat of a dark BMW and screeches off.
I can hear Jack slapping the wall with his fist. “Aw, damn! We lost them!”
“Nope, I slipped a GPS tracker in the prince’s trollies.”
“You did what … in his—what?”
“Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t peek. I’ll meet you around the corner.”
What’s a little white lie between fake husband and wife?
Before he can say another word, I snap off my earpiece and run down the block.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the publisher, Signal Press. (email@example.com)