I smooth the black silk dress down over my thighs as I prepare to clamber out of the van gracefully.
The train ride to London was uneventful, as was the flight to Frankfort, but for one thing.
I’ve been plagued with thoughts of why Connor was so cold when I left.
The look on his face as I walked out the door nearly broke me in half, nearly convinced me to turn around and walk back inside, Hans Fuelling and this whole mission be damned.
But duty comes before emotion. I’ve known that since the day I walked through Leukos’ front door.
But it doesn’t make it any easier.
The van comes to a halt, and with a nod from Shane, I crawl out and take the engraved invitation from his hand before whirling towards the front door of the stately hotel. On my arm is Bill White, a fellow agent whose good looks and natural charm can often gain us entry when nothing else can.
Not to mention, he’s going to be watching my back this evening, which could turn deadly if we play it wrong.
We’re going in, undercover of course, as guests at the exclusive event this evening at the Hotel Frankfort – a fundraiser benefiting orphans, or puppies, or something in need of $1,000 a plate benefits.
I never pay attention any more.
Hans Fuelling is also a guest this evening, and my sole objective is to get close to him, intercept is PDA, and help shut down his operation.
Piece of cake, right?
Gaining entry to the event is no problem as we hand over the invitation, then immediately grab glasses of champagne and begin circulating, introducing ourselves and making small talk with the other attendees.
Both of us have taken notice of our surroundings, the revelers and the exit points, even as we smile and drink and mingle.
We continue to circulate near the dance floor, noticing Fuelling’s position on the other side of the room, seated at a large round table, surrounded by women, guards, and a few friends.
Not exactly easy to get to, but not impossible.
“I think we’re going to need to grab his attention, don’t you?” Bill whispers in my ear, and I smile up at him, nodding.
One other thing I forgot to mention – Bill is a helluva dancer.
Taking my hand in his, he guides me to the dance floor, guiding me easily into a waltz, and we whirl nearer and nearer Fuelling’s table, hoping to catch his notice.
The most important piece of information Shane imparted before I left the van was that Fuelling had a fondness for petite brunettes.
And I fit that bill.
We continue to gracefully move across the dance floor, but despite a few glances, Fuelling has made no overtures about moving or joining the dancing himself, though intel suggests he enjoys dancing with a capable partner.
Bill looks at me, then away. “You ready for show time?” he asks quietly, and I nod once.
“Operation Asshole is a go,” I whisper, and we whirl around again, Bill stumbling this time, closer to the round table with each pass. Moments later, we break apart and I storm over to the wall just behind Fuelling’s table.
“You promised me!” I wail in perfect German. “You promised me you’d be sober tonight! Instead I have to trundle around the dance floor, breathing in your alcoholic fumes! This is the last straw. I promised you one more chance, and you blew it! I want you to leave!”
I even manage the squeeze out a few tears as Bill tries to grab my arm, though I wrench away from his advances.
“Give me another chance!” He pleads in equally perfect German, and I cross my arms in front of my chest angrily. “I’ll do anything for you. Please, Anika, please…”
“Except give up your first love. The bottle. We’re through. Leave me alone…”
Bill now moves closer and closer, invading my personal space and looking at me menacingly. “If I can’t have you, no one else…”
At this, Fuelling stands and intercedes.
The other piece of intel we found? Fuelling loves a damsel in distress. It makes him feel powerful.
“I think you should leave the lady alone,” he says, towering over Bill’s slight frame. “Now.”
I look up at Fuelling as though he’s my savior, but Bill pushes closer to me, possessively. “We didn’t ask you to interfere.”
“Well, I’m interfering,” Fuelling shoots back, taking Bill’s jacket and tugging him away from me. “Leave the lady alone.”
After a series of puffed out chests and argumentative looks, Bill backs down and slinks away from the scene.
He’ll be taking up surveillance until the mission is over. I know he’s close, and he’s packing.
Which is good, because a gun really doesn’t go with this outfit.
“Thank you,” I whisper gratefully. “I just couldn’t take him anymore, but he won’t leave me alone. It… it makes me afraid when he drinks so much. He’s… he’s been violent before. I just didn’t want a scene tonight.”
“You are very welcome,” Fuelling smiles down at me, his hand warm on my arm. “He won’t be bothering you anymore tonight. I’ll see to it personally.” I have to fight the urge to shudder that this paid assassin is touching me.
But I’m a professional.
“I’m so grateful. I’m Anika,” I say, extending my hand, which he takes and then kisses gallantly.
“I’m Hans. Pleasure to meet you, Anika.”
“I was so looking forward to a night of dancing and socializing, and now he’s ruined it,” I pouted, looking at Fuelling through my eyelashes.
He gives me a half bow. “I may be able to solve a part of that dilemma. Would you care to dance?”
My face lights up in a smile. “Really? You would do that for me?”
“Of course,” Fuelling says, shooing away his guards, who are now hovering protectively around him. “We’re going to dance the tango,” he says to them dismissively. “Keep the table stocked in champagne for when we return. I’m sure we’ll be thirsty.”
I give him a charming smile, then taking his offered hand, letting him lead me out to the dance floor. The tango begins, courtesy of the band in the corner, and we begin to expertly dance the steps, and I see Bill over Fuelling’s shoulder, giving me a go signal.
Everything is clear.
I only have one shot.
In Hans’ jacket pocket is his PDA, which we believe holds all his contacts, his confirmations, and his assignments to kill people from Tokyo to Tobago.
If we can take away his information and distribute it widely, we can stop this assassin in his tracks.
I just have to get it away from him without being shot in the head by one of his many guards.
Piece of cake, right?
We continue to whirl around the dance floor, and I move closer to Fuelling, my body pressing against his more closely. I can feel, and hear, his sigh of contentment, and I run my hand up and down his arm, as though I’m impressed with his biceps. “You make me feel so safe,” I coo, and briefly rest my head against his shoulder. In one quick move, I reach a hand into his inside pocket, lifting the small, next generation PDA from his pocket, deftly slipping it into my cleavage before anyone is the wiser of the move, my back to the guards.
“Anything else I can make you feel?” Fuelling murmurs in my ear, which makes me want to squirm in discomfort, but I look at him adoringly.
“Let me think about it,” I tease, as the song comes to an end and we slow to a stop, clapping appreciatively for the band.
“Champagne?” He gestures to the table, and I smile again.
“Perfect. Just let me powder my nose first after all that dancing,” I say, squeezing his hand. “I’ll be back in two minutes.”
“I’ll be waiting,” he says, pressing another kiss to my hand.
You’ll be waiting a while, pal. Once we run this PDA and extract all the data, you’re going to be arrested and be waiting in a jail cell for a LONG time…
I move casually towards the ladies room, and then slip around a corner, into a deserted hallway. Bill is by my side moments later, and we quickly move down the hall, around another corner, and then bolt out a sliding door in another activity hall.
I take a deep breath of the cool night air as we walk quickly but silently back to the front of the hotel, almost home free, until we hear a voice behind us.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
We both whirl around to see one of Fuelling’s guards right behind us, his weapon raised to point at Bill’s chest.
“I needed some air,” I explain, giving him a winsome smile and patting my chest as though I’m winded. “All that dancing.”
“Mr. Fuelling wants you back inside. Now. He doesn’t like it when people wander off.”
“I don’t belong to Mr. Fuelling,” I shoot back, looking defiant now. “I can make my own decisions.”
“Not anymore, you can’t. You are part of the Fuelling party now.”
“No,” I say, turning on my heel in a bid to just walk away. I wheel back around when I hear the “umph” from Bill, and see that the guard has knocked him across the temple with the butt of his gun.
Without thinking, I lift my shirt and roundhouse kick the guard in the gut, knocking him off balance. He recovers quickly, and tries to punch me in the face, missing by several inches. I knock his knee back, dropping him to the ground, but as I reach for his weapon, he knees me in the stomach, re-injuring my damaged rib from a few days ago.
I groan in pain, but by this point, Bill has recovered. He deftly slams the man’s head into the ground, knocking him out, and takes his weapon.
Quietly and casually, we cross the lawn, climb into the van, and disappear into the night.
Piece of cake.