It’s been three years since anyone has seen or heard from Holly Cambridge. But when she surfaces, she doesn't return home to the loving arms of her family. Instead, she heads straight to the FBI offering information that will destroy the Cambridge crime family.
Special Agent Alex Orton sees Holly Cambridge as nothing more than the next commendation standing between him and the ultimate promotion. What he doesn't bargain for is the shy, damaged, but feisty little woman that convinces his superiors to let her infiltrate a rival family, with Alex heading up the mission.
Holly and Alex clash at every turn, but Alex is intrigued by Holly’s sharp mind and boundless courage and must constantly fight his burgeoning feelings for his lovely informant. Alex is a strict disciplinarian of the rules and can’t reconcile the girl who can’t play by them.
As Holly carries out the sting and insinuates herself into the enemy’s camp, she develops a close and common bond with the middle Mayhue son, the exotically good looking and charismatic Victor. The very man who could end her life, if he were to discover her secret.
Hands tied, Alex must stand back, for the good of the team, and watch the tragedy play out.
I sat behind my desk reading over the file. Not that I needed to. I knew every detail. I could barely contain the rush of excitement at the thought of finally getting started. This case would earn me the final commendation I needed to get promoted. Holly Cambridge, the mob bosses' daughter, was my steppingstone to greatness.
"Right in here, Ms. Cambridge."
The sound of the soft polite reply immediately snagged my attention from the photographs scattered across the desktop. The Bureau surveillance photos on file were old, taken on another operation. She'd been blonde, then, a young looking sixteen, according to the dossier. In almost every photo the same man shadowed her, her bodyguard Randy Phillips, and later Luke Walker.
I observed the twenty-one year old brunette before me. Her hair was now shoulder length, except for the wispy bangs that gave one the impression that she used them to hide behind. Which, to my knowledge, was exactly what she'd been doing since she'd left her family and gone on the run three years prior, taking documentation of their illegal activities with her. It was with a letter that she'd first approached my superiors, Trey and Sid with, identifying her father as the suspect responsible for her mother's murder, and not the rival mob family that had long been the suspicion.
I stood as my betters, Trey Thompson and Sid Morgan, ushered her into my office. She appeared dwarfed between the two formidable men. I had the privilege of working with both of these dedicated, no-nonsense agents. I learned from them. I admired and looked up to them. I wanted to be them. To follow in their footsteps up the ladder of success.
"May I get you a beverage, Miss Cambridge?"
I squinted at Trey in surprise as he all but simpered at the young woman.
"No. Thank you. I'm fine. Please Agent, Thompson. It's Holly." She smiled slightly.
"Holly, then." He coughed nervously.
I couldn't help but grin at the older man. She was young enough to be his granddaughter, for Christ's sake. I'd never seen the pair of them fall all over anyone, but they practically came to blows escorting our informant to the chair positioned in front of my desk.
And here was the only hitch in this whole dream assignment. Having to work with her. I'd already assessed that attempting to convince Trey and Sid that she was going to be trouble, was futile.
I didn't have a problem with finding out what she knew or what info she had on her family. I didn't mind picking her brain or climbing right inside her head if need be, to collect Mob Intel. The hindrance was, they also wanted my team and me to facilitate an infiltrate of the rival family, the Mayhues.
Miss Cambridge had somehow persuaded them that only she could gain entry into the inner sanctum of her adversaries, and now I had to find some way to convince my bosses that she was in way over her head. She needed to step back and let the professionals take over. We could just as easily insert a female undercover. I mean, honestly, what were they thinking, serving up the mob princess right into the clutches of her enemies. It was insane and reckless. And I had no intention of jeopardizing my people, nor would I submit to her blackmail.
Sid and I'd had this same argument earlier this morning, before they brought her in. He pulled rank and directed me to do my job or I would be replaced as lead on this case. I was not about to let that happen. This case was too important to me. I would do my job. I was extraordinarily good at it. I would manipulate the situation and simply convince her there was no possible way she was capable of attaining the desired outcome. She would realize her shortcomings and come to her senses. She would gracefully back out with Sid and Trey and I would then be able to run my operation and my people to achieve our objective without having to babysit Miss Soprano.
Holly Cambridge was obviously one of those women who thought she could use her looks to get anything she wanted, accustomed to having her own way. She'd been protected, pampered, sheltered by her mob daddy. No doubt, she would be spoiled and impossible to work with.
I'd read the file. According to the information I'd received, she was allegedly intelligent. Her transcripts were beyond reproach. But I also knew how simple it would be to doctor such things. Just as easy as it would have been for her family to change her name at the outset, making it possible for her to attend university under an assumed name. It was essentially effortless to re-write one's history. So, I wasn't anticipating much. Nor did I expect to trust anything that came out of her mouth. As far as I was concerned, she was using the other evidence that she had obtained as means to blackmail Sid and Trey into agreeing to her terms. If they gave her the Mayhues, she'd give them the Cambridges in return.
"Agent Alex Orton, Miss Holly Cambridge." He said her name like a proud papa.
I extended my right hand in greeting. My first mistake. I'd read the file. I was aware of her injury. But I stupidly put myself at a deficit with her right from the beginning. It made me seem unprepared and uninformed, two things I never was.
She smiled slightly as she extended her left hand. She might as well have mocked me verbally in front of my betters. I retracted my greeting, realizing my error.
She looked down at the open file and photographs of herself and her family strewn across my desktop. "Haven't made it that far yet?" Her nose crinkled and her eyes sparkled. And if I wasn't mistaken, she gave me a quick wink of amusement.
I was not amused. The intimation that I hadn't done my homework pissed me off, especially in front of Sid and Trey. It just confirmed my first instincts. This woman and I would not work well together.
I noticed her right wrist was wrapped up tightly in a stiff looking brace.
I extended my opposite hand, out of politeness. I wasn't certain that I would have conveyed that much civility if not for the scrutiny of my superiors.
I shook her small hand firmly, then looked into her eyes, and I finally caught a glimpse of what the other two men might have been competing for.
The surveillance photos did not do her justice. She was striking. She had the most unique greens eyes I'd ever seen. It was my job to notice details and I could honestly say I'd never encountered their colour before.
She surveyed me steadily. She didn't seem intimidated by me at all.
"Miss Cambridge." I nodded stiffly in greeting.
"Agent Orton," she replied, slipping her palm from my grip, giving me the impression she didn't wish to be in contact with me any more than I did her.
"We'll leave you in Alex's capable hand, Miss Cambri.er, Holly," Trey uncharacteristically stumbled.
"As usual, if there is anything you need, feel free to contact either one of us at any time," Sid added.
"Thank you. Agent Thompson. Agent Morgan," she acknowledged them formally and sat down primly in the chair as they left.
I took my own seat. Staring at me expectantly, she waited. I flipped the folder closed and I began to gather the pictures.
"Those are old photographs," she said softly, leaning forward slightly.
"Clearly," I said coldly, barely sparing her a glance.
Her gaze skittered away. Perhaps she was more nervous in my presence than I had earlier assessed. Or now that she was alone with me, she'd realized I was a little tougher to charm than my predecessors.
"Do you realize what you are getting yourself into? I would like to strongly advise you to leave this to us. We are the specialists. We are trained to handle every situation."
"Would you like to go over the file, Agent Orton?" She cut me off. I couldn't believe her audacity. The spoiled little.
I continued speaking as if she hadn't. ".And the further risk you will be placing on my agents because of your inexperience is unacceptable. We welcome your input and the inside information that you can provide for us."
"The file, then." She determinedly interrupted again.
I clenched my jaw shut in irritation.
"I get it, Agent Orton. You don't like me. You don't like my kind. But you don't have to like me to work with me. You don't know me. You can read that file front to back and memorize every detail about my life, but you still will not know me. The only thing you need understand about me is that I am determined to end the activities of both families once and for all. Or I will die trying."
"And you intend to take as many of my agents with you, with this half-baked scheme of yours. I will not allow it!" I stormed.
"My concern for the safety of every person, on both sides, is paramount, Agent Orton."
That was another thing that disturbed me. Where did her loyalties lie? She included both sides in her statement, the mobsters and the Feds in equal value.
She continued. "That is another thing you will never determine from that folder. Everything I have done since I was sixteen, I did to protect the ones that are important to me. I left to protect."
"My agents are not vital to you, Miss Cambridge, they are just a means to an end for you."
"That's not true. They are important to me. I respect all the lives involved here, Agent. That is why I couldn't abide the life style I was forced to endure. I will not be foolish when it comes to the safety of your people.
And I promise you here and now that if anything happens during the operation to endanger your team I will step back and let them take over. But I can help. I know how things work. I know how they think. I know the inner workings and I will be able to adapt."
"Let's go over the file." I would humour her for the time being. "We'll start with the Cambridge file. And if there is time we will attempt to outline the Mayhue."
She sat back in the chair and folded her arms over her small frame. "Perhaps there is another agent." She all but dismissed me.
"Another agent?" I leapt from my chair in outrage.
"Your obvious hostility towards me seems to be clouding your judgeme."
"You, Miss Cambridge, know nothing of me! I am the best! If you wish to meet your objectives, you need me!"
She looked at me levelly, then spun the file on the desk towards her. "Well then, Agent Best," she challenged, raising an elegant brow. "Can we get started?"