Spies and Lovers
Chilly Winthrop is a Free Federation soldier, but now the higher-ups order her to infiltrate the enemy Coplon camp posing as a prostitute. Her mission – rescue a captured comrade before the Coplon's torture vital Free Federation information out of him. Her contact – Federation spy Foster Mallory. She knew him before her life turn upside down, before her marriage failed and everyone learned of her flaw. But now, with their lives on the line, she falls for Foster hard and fast. Will he still want her when he finds out she's damaged goods?
To Foster Mallory there's nothing wrong with Chilly Winthrop. He'll take her any way he can have her. When she shows up in the Coplon’s camp, his desire borders on insanity. Especially now that her marriage is over. But first, they have to make it through this mission alive, and the odds of that are stacked against them as their plan begins to unravel.
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With a great plot, in-depth characters, and twists and turns that keep the reader on their toes, this is one recommended read that I thoroughly enjoyed immensely.
Linda L. Fallen Angels
Chilly Winthrop studied the ripped seam on her boots which were propped on the table before her. It was the topper to an awful day which had gotten worse with every passing moment. The sun had only just broken the horizon, but she'd reported to duty a few hours before midnight. One thing after another had gone wrong, culminating with a trip to the Council Room for a debriefing.
"We could not have had a worse person captured," one of the M-5s said. "Mitch Right knows about Operation Reel."
Chilly didn't bother to look up to see who spoke as she ran her finger along the frayed seam. She was only half paying attention to them anyway. They'd told her to sit at the end of the table, putting her after-action report on hold while they discussed the latest news. As far as she could figure, her sector hadn't been the only one hit by the Coplons' raid last night.
"He'll need to be rescued or terminated before they make him talk."
All five of the M-5s, the top rank in the Free Federation Army, were males, but that didn't surprise her. After all, women were for making babies so her people could add to the population living in the rats' nest of underground warrens they called home. It was a mean, harsh existence but children grew up to be soldiers, and soldiers fought the Coplons.
She plucked at the dried blood on her pants. What was her problem? She usually picked herself up when she got down, but lately she'd been constantly blue. Make the best of a bad situation. It was her motto, what kept her going day after day. But recently, it hadn't been doing the job.
"This is our number one priority. Don't we have a plan in place for this scenario?"
Chilly saw the hole in her shirt next, hidden by the blood that had dried to a dark, almost black crust. To peer at it, she had to blink away bits of sand and grit in her eyes from the blaster round that had hit the ground right in front of her face. She felt beaten and seriously pissed off.
"We have the assets in place to send in an operative as one of their whores. They have a celebration tonight that would be perfect cover for the insertion."
Wow, that job would suck even worse than mine, she thought, poking her finger through the hole. She closed her eyes in a moment of silence for the end of this shirt's reign as the best one she'd owned.
"The problem is we don't have anyone trained for that."
She brushed against a jagged wound on her stomach and hissed in a breath. She'd forgotten about it in all the insanity. "Crap daddy," she whispered, resisting the urge to pull up her shirt and examine the cut.
Her skin prickled and crawled. She realized the people in the room had gone silent, and raised her head.
Five men stared at her with a question on their faces. She sat perfectly still, trying to rewind their discussion in her mind.
M-5 Walters, who held the highest rank as the Council Leader, grunted before he enlightened her. "Captain, we think you would be the perfect choice to infiltrate the Coplons' camp and take care of this problem for us."
She tried to remember their conversation. "As a prostitute?" The question escaped before she could stop it. She hastily added, "Sir."
"That's correct." This from the youngest of the men in the room. M-5 Tan Leeman was only five years older than she was.
"But... but..." she struggled for words, trying to use her muddled brain. Exhaustion tugged at her. "Those women are legendary for their beauty. I would stick out like a tigerwhite in the middle of the warrens."
The room erupted in laughter.
She stared at them, trying to figure out what they found amusing.
M-5 Leeman sobered and shook his head. "You would be perfect. You're an exotic any man would kill to have in his bed."
Chilly slammed her boots to the floor, the smash actually making M-5 Walters jump, and stood. "Excuse me, sir?" Her words were deadly daggers. One thing that could not be taken lightly was sexual slurs on her person. It would kill her career in a red-hot second. She had to take care of it, even if it meant confronting the top brass.
The M-5 on her right snorted. "Don't tell me she doesn't know?"
"I guess not." Leeman put both elbows on the table and clasped his hands. "Captain." He emphasized her title. "Your looks are an asset to this mission. All that red hair, those green eyes, and the shape of your face and body combine into a woman men lust after." His words were clipped, as if he strained to make them impersonal.
His statement left Chilly's mind reeling until she realized this was just another male joke. She'd seen beautiful women and knew she didn't compare. Besides, no man wanted her once they found out she was flawed.
Chilly resisted the urge to comb her fingers through her hair in the face of their perusal. She usually wore it up in a severe twist at her neck, so her helmet would fit on her head, but it had come down during the firefight and all she'd had time to do was tie it in a knot to keep it out of her way. "I am a soldier," she began.
"And as such, you know your duty. I would rather not order you to do this."
Chilly forced herself to think past her anger. They had her in a serious corner. If she refused the assignment and they had to order her, she would gain a reputation of not cooperating to the fullest extent of her abilities. It wasn't a happy thing to have in her record and could hurt her chances of promotion. The army was the only thing she had left in her life. She couldn't afford to let that happen.
She took a deep breath and made up her mind to agree to what they asked without fighting them. Instead, she would do what every good leader did at times like these--bargain to get everything she could out of the bastards. "I'll go, but in return I want my whole squad cleared of any wrongdoing for what went down tonight, and this investigation terminated."
Leeman quirked his lips in a parody of a smile and waved a hand. "Done."
He'd given in too easily. Her right guard had left his post to play a joke on the left. Idiots! Their behavior should have resulted in severe punishments, above and beyond the fact they all could have been killed when the Coplons chose that moment to attack. But it was hard to stay angry with the team. They'd saved her skin more times than she could count, and blowing off steam by playing jokes on each other was a part of their existence. It was what made them able to face death every night.
Chilly knew this assignment could be a disaster--she wasn't a good actress, and she knew nothing about being a spy. "For the record, I want it clear that I think I am not the correct person for this. I know nothing about seducing men or that kind of..." She searched for the right word but settled on "stuff."
It didn't matter that she ran a squad of twenty males. That was different. She didn't have a sexual thought in her head when she dealt with her team. After she'd discovered her deficiency and her husband had left her, the sexual part of her had withered and died. It upset her if she thought about it, so she didn't. She didn't need physical fulfillment to do her job.
"We'll contact our spy on the inside and see if there is any way he can act as your guide without exposing himself. He'll be able to tell you where the Coplons are keeping Captain Right. You'll be there no more than a night if everything goes well." Leeman paused and gave her serious eye contact. "Women move more freely through the camp than men do. We really need you, Captain."
Yippee damn doodle, she thought, waving an imaginary Free Federation's flag in her mind. "I hope you have clothes for me to wear." She pointed to the mess covering hers. "This was my best set."
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, she stalked into her squad's warren room, each step causing extreme discomfort. All the blood from her hand-to-hand knife fight with three Coplon raiders had dried into a mass, making even simple movements hellish.
"Cap!" Arlie jumped up to greet her.
He'd been her worst nightmare when she'd first become Squad Five's Captain. She'd broken his nose one night from sheer frustration. After that, he was her biggest fan. Men were weird like that.
The whole room was filled with her squad members, minus the two people who had been wounded tonight. Last night, she corrected herself again. The days were starting to blur together.
"What's going to happen?" At Arlie's question, everyone seemed to hold their breath.
She strode through the room, her mind on what she'd volunteered to do. She had to clean up and pack. They had given her only minutes to change before she had to report. The M-5s wanted her in the Coplons' camp by sunset tonight. If she could, she would rescue Mitch Right. If she couldn't, she would terminate him. She couldn't imagine killing someone--no, assassinating someone--but she would perform her duties to the best of her abilities. The whole thing made her mood lower, if that was possible.
"You idiots don't deserve it, but you're clear. Everyone's clear."
"How did that happen?" Arlie yelled the loudest as the room erupted with questions.
She paused at the door to her private room. It was her only perk as the squad's leader. "I bought us a pardon with a pound of my flesh. Literally."