Hey gang! I totally missed last Friday thanks to the holiday weekend but I’m baaaack with the next chapter in The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver, the kickoff story to my new action/adventure series about an unexpected group brought together by a mysterious technology billionaire to find technologically advanced artifacts of the ancient world that were lost to time. The first four chapters have already been posted: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4. Catch-up if you haven’t read them yet! The full story and the first full novel in the series are BOTH coming out next month!
Have a great Friday everyone!
When Antonia stepped off the jet in Atlanta she was greeted by a smiling mountain of a man. He was probably a good two inches shorter than Donovan (which still made him enormous) but he was built like a linebacker. His presence was intimidating even from a distance. His muscles made Donovan and Scott look like weaklings, and his voice when he spoke, was like a deep purr. “Jonathan Sparks, nice to meet you.”
“Antonia Warren,” she replied taking his hand. To her surprise, he didn’t crush it. Instead he shook it firmly, but gently. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too. I’ve been doing a lot of reading while I waited for you three. It seems we share a few friends.”
“I’m sure we do,” she replied.
Jonathan looked over her shoulder. “Donovan, I’d say it’s good to see you again but…”
He and Cole shook hands. Ever since he told her his first name Antonia had been rolling it around in her head, which she really needed to stop doing because, more than likely, she was going to say it.
“…But it’s not. I know.” Donovan replied. “I’m sorry to call you in like this, but we really could use your help.”
“And so here I am.”
Jonathan smiled back at Antonia, a split second before he caught sight of Sophie. “And who do we have here?”
She walked right up to Jonathan with her hand out. “Sophie Reynolds.”
His voice dropped another octave, which didn’t seem possible. “It’s very nice to meet you Miss Sophie.”
She wrenched her hand out of his grasp which only made him laugh—a deep belly laugh that bounced off of every surface in the hangar.
“It’s Sophie or Miss Reynolds. Keep it straight, asshole.” Then she stalked off toward the waiting Suburban.
Jonathan leaned in and spoke quietly. “I just did that because I knew it would bug her.”
“Do you two know each other?” Antonia was under the impression she and Sophie were both completely new to the Seleron Technology experience.
“Naw,” Jonathan waved in Sophie’s direction like he was batting away a fly. “I just know her type. I like riling them up for fun.”
“Cool it, Sparks. I don’t need any help pissing people off.” Donovan’s irritated voice matched the expression on his face.
Jonathan nodded in the direction of the Suburban. “Where we headed, boss?”
It was interesting how they’d all fallen into calling Donovan “Boss” so easily.
“We just got a tip I want to check out.”
“Shotgun,” Sparks said as he moved toward the waiting truck.
But when they got there, the passenger seat was already occupied by Patterson. He had taken over the entire seat with two laptops and two tablets. Ear buds dangled from his ears with music loud enough to be heard even from a distance. Sophie was sitting opposite him in the seat behind with the strangest look on her face.
It had been interesting working with her. Sophie was blunt, clearly miserable, but smart as a tack. She didn’t seem to be the kind to work well with others. And since Patterson had joined them in New York, she’d looked like she’d seen a ghost.
Patterson pulled out his ear buds when he realized he had company. “Hey, nice for you all to finally join the party. It isn’t exactly a long walk from the jet to the tuck.”
“You seem to have made yourself comfortable,” Donovan drawled as he started the engine.
Patterson was a little younger with longer hair that flopped around his ears and eyes. “Was I supposed to sit around twiddling my thumbs instead while you morons wandered around?”
Antonia moved into the far back of the Suburban, giving the other middle seat to Sparks. She couldn’t imagine a world where he could squeeze his frame all the way into the back of anything. Even as he sat in the bucket seat, he turned so that his long legs were in the aisle. Besides, the back was the perfect location to sit and observe—one of her favorite things to do. She liked to blend into the background, giving the others the opportunity to forget she was there. That was when people relaxed, said things they might have otherwise kept to themselves.
Donovan talked as he drove. “Let’s get the introductions out of the way. This is Gerard Patterson. He’s an asshole, but he’s a brilliant asshole. Outside of the men and women employed at Seleron Technology, he’s the only person to ever write software and code that perfectly mimics ours. I was in charge of the team that tracked him down.”
“And,” Patterson replied, “I’m very grateful you let me live.”
Donovan tightened his grip on the steering wheel and the muscle in his jaw flexed. Antonia was getting the impression Donovan didn’t like Patterson too much.
“Behind me is Sophie Reynolds.” All three pairs of eyes swung to her. “She has many talents, but the ones we are most interested in today are her connections to the art world. Sophie has been studying and tracking down several high level dealers over the last three years. Since antiquities and art tend to go hand in hand, we’re hoping she can help.”
Sophie gave a little wave.
“Next we have Jonathan Sparks. Former military turned gun-for-hire turned philanthropist. He’s got knowledge of how these operations work, plus the added bonus of keeping you all safe. I call him the Giant Teddy Bear.”
“I’m trying really hard to stay on the straight and narrow, boss. So you three need to find this mummy fast and don’t make me kill anyone for you, ok?”
Antonia wasn’t sure if he was being serious or joking. It was impossible to tell with the way he spoke. At first he sounded so genuine, but then he laughed at the end.
“And in the back we have Dr. Antonia Warren. She’s friends with the scientist who was taken, Dr. Simon Green. She is also an expert in both archaeology and the dealers and collectors who would be interested in a prize like our mummy. What did you call it?”
“The Little One,” she replied and a chill ran over her skin.
“Right. It’s now…” Donovan checked the time. “Six twenty-three on Saturday. If we don’t have Dr. Green and the mummy back in our possession in the next thirty-six hours, we’re screwed.”
“I guess we won’t be sleeping until we find it, huh?” Patterson asked.
Donovan glared at him. His knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel. There was no doubt about it, Patterson was driving Donovan nuts.
Jonathan was leaning back in his seat, his arms folded over his enormous chest, eyes closed. He was already sleeping. “I think Sparks here is getting his sleep in now,” Antonia joked.
Donovan smiled at her in the rearview mirror. “That’s a thing with Sparks. He’s a napper—like a shark. He closes his eyes and dozes off for a few minutes at a time here and there. Don’t worry, he doesn’t sleep deep, he’s ready.”
“I’m not worried,” Antonia replied. Jonathan Sparks had a way about him that exuded competence. She had no doubts what that man could do if he was provoked.
“I should learn to do that…” Patterson looked back at Jonathan with pure jealousy in his eyes.
“You should learn to follow orders,” Donovan quipped.
Patterson made a face at him and went back to his work.
“So where are we headed, Donovan?” Antonia asked.
“Thanks to your tip we were able to locate the residence of an art collector named Randall McQueen. My team is already there searching.”
So Randall McQueen the art collector. Things were starting to get interesting. “What do we know about Mr. McQueen?”
“Very little,” Donovan replied. He was completely focused on the heavy traffic. Atlanta, as usual, was a nightmare. “We can’t seem to find anything on him which for us, is pretty hard to do.”
Very interesting. Antonia tried to keep her mind clear of thoughts. She wanted to approach Randall McQueen’s apartment with a fresh set of eyes and no preconceived notions. She would let the others handle that.
They pulled up outside the apartment building and quietly filed inside. There was that uncomfortable silence of people who really didn’t know each other hanging in the air. Sparks immediately started walking the perimeter of the room, checking every window, door, and vent. Patterson made himself at home beside the guy sitting at the counter with a laptop, and Sophie began studying the art on the walls.
Every man and woman in the room was dressed identically in head to toe black. They looked ready for war. They all wore gloves and glasses, though many were different from the pair Donovan wore. They all had guns strapped to their hips or backs or chests, and various other tools along their belts. Seleron didn’t mess around.
Sophie began yelling at one of the technicians who was pulling a piece of art off the wall.
“Careful with that moron! Do you even know what you’re holding in your puny little hands?” Sophie was red in the face and her forehead was scrunched up so tight it gave Antonia a headache from across the room. Sophie somehow managed to always move at full speed. She was passionate, intense, and occasionally terrifying. Her personality matched her red hair perfectly.
The technician rolled his eyes and set the gold framed artwork on the carpet. “It’s a copy, don’t worry.”
Sophie’s voice shot up three octaves. “A copy? A copy?” She took the frame in her hands and looked at the painting the way a mother looks at her child. “This is a perfect copy by Emily Song. Her copies are so perfect they are worth nearly as much as the original. It is a work of art in its own right.”
Antonia turned and found Donovan was talking with a tall woman in the corner of the room who looked like she was in charge. She stood very straight and her eyes were on her team, not Donovan, as they spoke. Not knowing what else to do, Antonia clasped her hands behind her back and started examining the room.
It was a large, open apartment with wide, curtainless windows, houseplants, and modern furniture. It looked sparse and staged at first, but the more Antonia looked around, the more she saw signs of life. The collection of books on the bookshelves weren’t random. There was an old set of encyclopedias, Dickens, Camus, Heller, Sagan… McQueen was someone who tended toward darker reading. On the end tables were recent editions of Popular Science, Forbes, and People magazine.
It was such an odd combination of reading material.
In the sink was a spoon and in the trash she noted a banana peel. Antonia was so focused on studying the apartment she didn’t notice Donovan come up behind her. Not until his musky scent hit her nostrils a split second before she felt the shift in warmth from his body.
“Would you like a pair of gloves?” he asked. His eyebrow was cocked as he nodded toward her hands behind her back.
She smiled. “I would, thank you.”
He dangled a pair for her to take. “Do you always walk around with your hands behind your back?”
The latex glided across her skin easily. “I know it is less conventional. Most of my colleagues clasp their hands in front, but most of them were trained by medical doctors in college.”
“Not you?” he asked. His eyebrow was quirked up again.
“No,” she replied, pulling open the kitchen cabinets. “I was trained by my parents, who are, admittedly, a bit old school. Hands behind the back,” she winked and clasped her hands behind her back again as she bent over and began examining a sculpture in the corner of the room. “If your hands are in front it is easier to accidentally bump things. When you are looking at artifacts or examining sites you are in a lot of weird positions, not just in front of an examination table. It is better practice to have your hands behind your back, not in front.”
“You sound like you’ve been doing this for years…” he drawled.
“I have,” Antonia replied. “Both my parents were anthropologists. I spent half my childhood on digs, and the other half in labs and museums. Thank god my parents didn’t have more kids… I think they would have had a nervous breakdown.”
“No playing on the playground then?”
She shrugged and stood back up. “I was an adult by the time I was five, I’m sure of it.” Donovan laughed and she smiled. “I had my fun. I was the only daughter of two incredibly uptight, by-the-book anthropologists…”
Donovan smiled, “So you rebelled?”
“A lot,” she replied. Antonia couldn’t count the number of times she was in trouble growing up. It definitely helped form her personality. “Rules were made to learned, understood, and properly broken.”
She had moved on to another bookshelf when she realized Donovan hadn’t moved. He was standing right where he was, his arms crossed over his chest, and a huge grin on his face. “I like the way you think, Warren. I think we’re going to work well together.”
It was Antonia’s turn to stop. Something about his statement surprised her. Maybe it was the way he was smiling, or maybe it was the tone of his voice. It didn’t really matter. The shocking part was the way it made her feel. Antonia was incredibly pleased. She liked the way Donovan smiled and appreciated her rebellious nature. It made her feel something… something she couldn’t come to terms with. The man was a stranger, and yet, Antonia was pretty sure she was attracted to the smug, suit-wearing asshole.
She silently groaned inside already hating herself. Donovan was not someone she wanted or needed to be attracted to.
His brows suddenly dipped and his head cocked to the side. “They need us in the bedroom.” He must have heard something in his earpiece. He stalked right past her, brushing her shoulder as he passed.
A current of electricity shot up her arm and her heart rate spiked.
Now she really, really hated herself. But she followed him anyway. The bedroom had high windows near the ceiling that lit up the whole room with natural light. A king-sized bed dominated the room, there was a chair in the corner, and to the left, the closet was open. On the bed was a pile of clothes, a wallet, and an ID badge.
Even from where she stood in the doorway she could read the badge: Simon Green.
“Simon was here?” she asked.
A man emerged from the closet. “We found these in the laundry.”
Donovan was holding up the clothes in the light which made Antonia realize the way the room was arranged so that the light from the windows hit the bed and chair and it all became very clear.
“Antonia?” Donovan asked when he saw her face.
But Antonia was speechless. They’d all been wrong.
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