When Navy Seal Team leader Charlie Stein is paired with Operations Analyst Aria Lockett, he is annoyed. Having the burden of an Analyst on a field mission is not a headache he wants to endure.
Operations Analyst Aria Lockett has been tracking The White Guard Terrorist cell for years. When they finally get a strong lead on an upcoming attack, she is ready to put an end to their terrorist reign once and for all.
With an imminent attack scheduled for Christmas Day in Rome, the pair must work together to thwart the threat. The unease between them quickly turns to trust and unexpected desire. When the terror cell is alerted to their plan, can they remain focused and save Christmas, or will their growing feelings cloud their judgment and destroy the path of hope?
Senior CIA Analyst Aria Lockett’s phone rang despite being on the do not disturb setting, which meant she had to answer.
As she shifted slightly in an unfamiliar bed, the previous evening came flooding back—the name of the half-naked man lying next to her did not. Whiskey had always been her downfall. Whiskey and shoulders. Strong and muscular shoulders attached to even more etched arms. Her nameless bed companion had both. The phone rang again. Thrusting herself out of bed, she grabbed the offending object, then quickly answered it before it woke her companion.
“Are you on your way?” Wes Giddings, a fellow member of her analyst team’s voice blared in her throbbing head.
“Kind of.” Aria collected her clothes off the floor and tugged them on as she listened. “What’s up? Is it TWG?”
“Something just came across the wire. Get here ASAP.”
“On my way.” Slipping into her shoes and grabbing her purse, Aria sprinted out of the apartment and into her car. She attempted to fix her unruly hair without getting in an accident. Downtown D.C. at seven am, it wasn’t too difficult. Traffic ran at a snail's pace.
TWG, aka The White Guard, was a terrorist organization she’d been tracking for over two years. Responsible for numerous attacks on places of worship around the world, they’d had no specific theological preference until recently. Now they’d focused their attacks on the Catholic Church.
Aria entered the federal field office still feeling disheveled. Wes met her five steps past the security checkpoint, looking her up and down. “Weren't you wearing that yesterday?”
Aria ignored the comment and continued to walk, scrolling through the email on her phone. “Good morning, Wesley.”
“Wow, using my full name this morning, must’ve been a quite a night.”
Aria inwardly chuckled at how well her co-worker knew her.
“God, yes. What have you got?” The pair turned into the break room, and she pocketed her phone, putting her computer bag on the table.
“Remember that German pharma lab that burnt down last week and killed that Scientist Geoff Vlakin?” Wes filled up a cup of coffee and handed it to her.
“Yeah.” Aria took the coffee, moving to the refrigerator and filling the cup with a large amount of cream before taking a sip. “Araena Pharmaceuticals, one of their labs, went up in flames like a Roman candle. Did something come back on it?”
“Kinda.” Wes handed her a photograph from a folder he was holding.“
“What am I looking at?”
“The remains of the room where the fire started. Double sealed titanium doors. Bio-recognition access only.”
“Sounds like a vault, not a lab. What were they working on?”
“A cure for Cancer, specifically Oligodendrogliomas.”
Aria studied the photos looking for anomalies. “That’s the nerve one, right?” For some reason Aria always got the numerous forms of Cancer confused. She knew some but not all.
“What are these canisters?” Aria pointed to the center of the photograph where five large white canisters lined against the wall. They appeared virtually untouched by the fire, only having a few smears of ash covering them.
“We asked the same thing. Araena wouldn’t give us an answer. The only thing they would tell us is that they were empty.” Wes filled himself a cup of coffee while she studied the photos.
“I don’t buy it.” Aria took another sip of her coffee, grabbed her laptop bag and moved out of the kitchen down the hall to her cubicle. Wes followed. “What else?” They reached her desk, and she put her coffee down.
Wes dropped several pictures of a man walking into a bar.
“Who is this?”
“Our dead scientist.” Aria picked up the photo of their alleged deceased scientist walking down a busy street.
“These were taken last night in front of The Ice House in Paris.” Wes leaned against the wall of her cubicle, a small hint of triumph edging the corners of his mouth in a smile.
“Five empty canisters for possibly storing a bioweapon of some kind, and now a presumed dead scientist shows up at the number two headquarters for The White Guard. Something is about to go down.”
“Yep.” Aria sat in her chair, her mind spinning all possible scenarios.
“We need to know what was in those canisters. Get me everything on Geoff Vlakin and Araena. Everyone who has been in and out of The Ice House for the past month. Full court. Call staff and let’s shut this down before it starts.”