Book 2 in the SSU Series
He holds her life in his hands...
Accused of murder and of stealing a lethal government microchip, SSU agent Kai Paterson finally has a lead on the true location of the chip. If he finds it before the government and the criminal elements chasing him, he has a chance to clear his name. But the chip has been implanted in the body of an innocent woman.
Susana Dias is an internationally renowned archaeologist excavating the most significant dig of her career. When someone tries to kill her in order to get the microchip she's unaware is inside her, Susana accepts Kai's help in getting out of the jungle alive.
Kai knows he must retrieve the chip and get it into safe hands, but removing the chip could kill Susana. Now he's forced to make a choice--protect the woman he loves or retrieve the chip.
Upriver from Caracaraí, Brazil
Kai Paterson stood at the bow of the souped-up fishing boat, staring at the jungle flanking the river. Humidity pressed against his skin like a lover. Underneath the boat’s odor of fish and diesel fumes he caught the jungle’s signature stench of rotten vegetation and sweet flowers. But his mind wasn’t on the present.
“Why do you get to go after the girl,” Rafe Andros had groused over four months ago, “while I’m left trekking in the woods with a bunch of smelly, foul-mouthed men?” A characteristic smile had teased the corners of his mouth.
Kai had laughed and lightly punched his brother-in-law and fellow Surgical Strike Unit agent on the shoulder. “Because you’re the ex-Ranger, my friend. You’re the one trained in covert rescue and assault. I’m just a scientist turned spy.”
Kai shook his head. Just a scientist turned spy. Right. Try scientist turned spy turned grieving son and brother turned ruthless killer turned…what? Hell. He didn’t even know who he was anymore.
He could only say one thing for certain. He wasn’t a quitter.
Two years ago he’d gone undercover in Dr. Nevsky’s lab, investigating allegations that in his quest to create superhuman spies and soldiers the scientist tortured and killed his subjects. Today Dr. Nevsky was dead, but his assistant Dr. Kaufmann carried on Nevsky’s program, continuing to elude the SSU while wreaking havoc with its agents’ lives.
Out on the river, a fish broke the surface then quickly disappeared into the murky water. Yeah, wasn’t that a metaphor for his life these days? Barely able to take a clean breath before he waded back into the muck.
Rafe had gone missing in action two months ago during a mission to shut down Kaufmann’s lab. Despite wanting to join the search for his missing friend, Kai knew it was his job to put an end to Nevsky’s legacy of horror. To do that, he had to find Nevsky’s daughter, former supermodel turned archaeologist Susana Dias.
He had to admire the irony of cruel, amoral Dr. Nevsky fathering Susana Dias, the half-American, half-Brazilian beauty who’d graced the cover of every fashion and gossip magazine during Kai’s high school and college years. Unlike his friends, he’d never put her poster on his wall, but he still remembered how the hint of laughter in her large brown eyes made her seem approachable. As if she saw the world as a giant party and had been inviting him to join her.
According to Susana’s background file, she’d left modeling behind years ago to enter the world of archaeology. Since then she’d made a number of significant discoveries and published several articles in prestigious academic journals, proving she was intelligent and insightful as well as beautiful. An intriguing woman. He looked forward to meeting her.
Too bad he had to deliver the news that her father had used Susana as a human filing cabinet. Christ. Even knowing the lengths to which Nevsky went to keep his data secure, Kai still couldn’t believe the man had taken the microchip containing his project data and implanted it in Susana’s abdomen. No wonder they hadn’t been able to find the damn thing. There hadn’t been any record of Nevsky even having a daughter.
But he did. Susana Dias. The woman whose mere image roused Kai’s desire for the first time in over two years.
Unfortunately, Susana’s connection to Nevsky was a reminder of all Kai had lost because of the scientist and his microchip. His family brutally murdered. Kai falsely accused of killing not just his family, but Dr. Nevsky and of stealing Nevsky’s microchip.
Reuniting with his sister Jenna, his only surviving family member, after proving his innocence, then being forced to leave Jenna in order to chase after Susana. And now Rafe was missing…
“Dammit Rafe, you better be alive,” he muttered. Although knowing what Nevsky’s program entailed, Rafe would be better off dead than a victim of Kaufmann’s experiments.
Kai shivered. The horrors he’d seen while undercover at Nevsky’s lab still gave him nightmares. Men so insane, so focused on the kill order given by their handlers, that they attacked their teammates with teeth and nails and fists, fighting like animals to the death. And then biting and mauling their opponent’s corpse until the ground gleamed red.
Kai shook his head, but it was too late. The memories segued into coroner’s photos showing his mother lying in a pool of blood. Showing his fourteen-year-old sister, Isabel, with her throat gaping open from a knife wound, her hand reaching toward her twin.
Kai clenched his fists and jerked his mind away from those pictures. He would not think about their deaths. Not here in the jungle, where his control was so thin. Where the sights, sounds and scents threatened to throw him back to the moment in an Indonesian jungle where he’d taken the life of the fifth of the six assassins who’d killed his family.
Trying to block out the memories, Kai closed his eyes. But instead of the relief of darkness, he saw blood dripping off his hands onto the jungle floor while the body of the assassin twitched out its final seconds of life.
Even though he was standing on the deck of a boat months after the kill, Kai felt an echo of the hot, primitive satisfaction that had surged through him as he’d stared down at the body. He remembered throwing his head back and letting loose an inhuman cry of triumph that scared birds into flight and scattered a colony of monkeys.
His heart pounded in remembered exhilaration.
Shit, shit, shit.
Kai opened his eyes and shook his head. The act of vengeance had stripped him down to his very core. Revealed that underneath his civilized, intellectual veneer lay the primitive urge to protect and avenge his loved ones, even if it meant killing in a manner that horrified his cerebral, law-abiding side.
Yet if anyone hurt his loved ones again, Kai wouldn’t hesitate to kill.
Unbidden, another image of Susana Dias flashed into his mind, bringing a surge of sympathy for the woman whose life he was about to disrupt. For all he knew, she didn’t even know Nevsky was her father or that she carried the microchip.
He sighed. In the end, it didn’t matter. He’d do whatever necessary to get her to the SSU so the chip could be surgically removed. At that point, though, Kai’s mission became personal. He intended to destroy the chip, no matter what his boss Ryker might say about the data having potentially beneficial applications.
He stared at the sunlight shimmering on the water, imagining the heat of the sunlight burning all unwanted thoughts from his mind. For a peaceful moment he found the still, quiet place inside himself he’d once been able to access so easily. His muscles slowly relaxed.
Yeah, he could do this.
He inhaled deeply, but the putrid odor of decaying flesh from a dead animal on the riverbank sent him into a coughing fit.
Ah, hell. Just like that, chaos tumbled back into his mind.
No! He gritted his teeth. He wasn’t going to give in. He could do this.
Think only of the mission. Find Susana Dias. Destroy the microchip. Finally end the cycle of pain and death.
Piece of cake. Right?
Kai squeezed the wooden railing until his knuckles turned white. Of course right. He was strong. So what if the jungle roused the savage part of him he didn’t even want to acknowledge? He could control himself. Complete his mission. Become the man he used to be.
Here is a short playlist of songs that are connected to Betrayal:
- "Love Is Blindness" by U2. Something about the tone of this makes me think of Kai.
- "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling. Also makes me think of Kai.
- "Into the Night (feat. Chad Kroeger)" by Santana. This is what I imagine is going through Kai's head when he sees Susana in the club at the end of the book.
- "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera. Represents Susana's party side.
- The soundtrack to Raiders of the Lost Ark. I listened to this on repeat while writing the jungle scenes!