Category Archives: Archaeology
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I dreamt up a book about an archaeologist who solves mysteries and saves artifacts with the help of a ragtag group of brilliant bad asses, and her husband, the most bad ass of them all.
That dream was also followed by a series of children’s books about the archaeologist and her husband’s kids.
We’re not quite there yet, but the first book? IT’S OUT! It’s called D909: The Unspoken Game and it’s published under Alexis Sykes. Keep reading for the details, then go buy my book! (Please!)
D909 is a top secret task force organized to stop the flow of antiquities from terrorists to the black market. Looted artifacts are being used as currency to fund the most insidious criminals and until now, no one has been able to stop them.
Comprised of two independent but linked teams, D909 has a unique combination of brains and brawn that allows them to get in and out of active war zones quickly. Dr. Antonia Warren leads a select group of archaeologists with a vast knowledge of high-value antiquities. They’re supported by a tactical operations unit led by Cole Donovan, a former paramilitary officer with extensive covert operations experience working in areas where the US government can’t legally go. Together they give D909 a lethal effectiveness necessary to stop the flow of cash into the wrong hands.
A long-forgotten ancient city has been found deep in the Amazon Rainforest— directly in the path of a new and unrelenting faction of terrorists that has quietly grown in strength while the world was focused on problems across the globe. Lies, deception, and secrets from within the team will test their abilities as they race against the clock to save history from bankrolling a new war.
One of my favorite things about this story was the characters. The D909 team is full of uniquely drawn individuals, each with their own personality quirks, which leads to unconventional friendships and amazing teamwork in the face of danger. Think of it as GOONIES, all grown-up. —Mary Chris Escobar, Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner
Welcome to another edition of Flash of Fiction Friday! Guess what?? This is FINAL chapter of The Unspoken Game: Mummy Maneuver! That’s right, the entire short story has now been posted, totally free, here on my website. The first novel in the series, Art of Deception, is currently in final rewrites and I’ll start posting those chapters next. In the meantime, my new erotic serial, Tease, is out and The Storm Inside is FREE on iBooks and Amazon for a very short time! It’s a great time to try out my books. Happy reading!
The security guards checked everyone in the truck and it made Antonia nervous. She had nothing to hide, but the situation was so odd, and there was something about guards with guns… it definitely upped the nerves.
Once they were cleared to enter the property it was a long winding drive through woods and up a hill to the house. The mansion was breathtaking—stone and gothic with beautiful architecture. The research building was less graciously designed. It was more functional, but an effort had been made to make the building blend in with the mansion. Several other much smaller buildings were visible in the distance.
It was interesting and striking and Antonia felt a little thrill inside. It was the same one she got when her mother was hired at The Smithsonian and it was the same sensation when she first walked down the streets of Oxford. There was a vibe that surrounded places filled with people sharing a single focus—and this place had it too. Antonia could feel it in the air.
Donovan pulled the Suburban into a covered breezeway and parked.
The breeze blew Antonia’s hair out of her face just as the door opened revealing the inside of the mansion. A massive dark wood staircase covered in a deep blue rug dominated the middle of the house. Once she walked inside, Antonia realized the rest of the house was just as impressive. Antiques and art covered every shelf and wall. It was dark but beautiful.
“This way,” Donovan said. He led them down the right hallway and into a room that might as well have been a library. Two walls were covered in built-in bookcases and every shelf appeared to have a sequential set of books or encyclopedias. The far wall was a massive bank of windows overlooking the gardens outside and the right wall contained a massive fireplace.
Standing in front of the fireplace was none other than Theodore Seleron. He turned the moment they walked in the doorway, dressed exactly as Antonia had seen him on television. Today the three-piece suit was a very dark grey, almost black, with a faint pinstripe. His shirt was light blue and his handkerchief matched the shirt. His tie was the same shade of grey as his suit and the trademark pocket watch hung from the vest inside, peeking out as he moved. He was very well-dressed man, but the hard look in his eyes told Antonia that he was as brilliant and involved as he was described.
“Thank you all for your assistance with my little problem,” he said as he nodded and Donovan closed the door.
It was a little like being shut in a cage. The room was cold despite the fireplace, and she really didn’t know or trust anyone standing beside her. Maybe she’d made a terrible mistake agreeing to leave the bar with Donovan.
None of them took a seat. Sophie crossed her arms and thrust out her chin. “This was a pretty open and shut case. Did you really need to hire us? Because you seem to have plenty of help around here…”
The Old Man smiled and mirrored Sophie’s crossed arms, widening his stance and settling in as he looked around the group. “My money and connections only get me so far. Each of you have ties I will never have. That being said, you are also right, Miss Reynolds. I probably didn’t need to go to such extravagant lengths.”
“So why did you?” Sparks asked. The depth of his voice still surprised Antonia.
“Because,” Seleron replied, turning to face Jonathan. “I needed to get you all here. I’ve been watching each of you with great interest for some time now. This incident was the perfect occasion to ask you all here at the same time.” He walked across the room to the sitting area. Two long sofas faced each other over a massive oriental rug. Matching armchairs stood at each end.
“Please,” he said turning. “Join me.”
Antonia glanced at Sophie who shrugged. Everyone then watched as Donovan walked across the room and sat down opposite The Old Man. “We’re not going to bite. If we wanted to hurt you, we would have done it by now. We just want to talk.”
Self-control was one of Antonia’s largest assets, but her biggest weakness was curiosity. It served her well in her occupation, but in the real world it was more often a burden. And right then, Antonia couldn’t resist the urge to sit down and find out why Theodore Seleron had gone to so much trouble just to talk.
As soon as her butt hit the chair the others joined her and Seleron took a deep breath.
“Thank you. Do you know what the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge of England have in common?” Seleron cocked an eyebrow and intentionally avoided Antonia’s gaze. It was obvious he didn’t want her professional assessment; he wanted the group’s uneducated opinion.
She sat back and let them all stare at each other. Finally Jonathan shrugged his shoulders and gave the reply that made every archaeologist cringe. “Proof that aliens have been on Earth for thousands of years?”
Antonia tried not to give a reaction, but she must have done something—maybe she made a face or flinched—she didn’t know, but Sophie’s eyes shot over to Antonia’s at the same moment Seleron smiled and turned in her direction.
“Didn’t like that answer, did you Dr. Warren?” he was grinning like a fool.
She hated Jonathan’s answer. It was a ridiculous cop-out. One she’d had to suffer through a hundred times. “Nope.”
“Neither do I,” he replied. “Care to explain to the group why that answer is so offensive?”
She glanced around the room wondering more about each of their backgrounds for the first time. Who exactly were Sophie Reynolds, Gerard Patterson, and Jonathan Sparks? What made them tick? What did they care about? Was anything she was about to say going to matter to any of them at all?
She shrugged her shoulders and gave her standard answer. “The human brain is one of the most creative and ingenious things ever to exist. We are more than capable of creating awe-inspiring pieces of monumental architecture, complex language, and mathematics. And yet, when we look at the past it is easier for most people to believe aliens created all of that than believe it was our own ancestors. We doubt our own capabilities. You know why?” Antonia took a breath from her tirade for a moment and looked right at Donovan. He was still wearing those damn sunglasses, but Antonia could read his expression just as easily as if she could see his eyes. He was hanging on every word she was saying.
She continued. “Because we are every bit as self-destructive as we are creative. Throughout human history we have made massive breakthroughs and built amazing civilizations, only to be our own worst enemy and destroy it all. We look back and wonder how people so long ago could have possibly created so much without divine intervention or extraterrestrial help, but we did. The explanation is simple and the evidence is always there, but we have trouble accepting we’ve done such horrible things to ourselves.”
The room was incredibly quiet for several minutes before Jonathan broke the silence. “So… not aliens then?”
Seleron smiled. “No, not aliens.” He stood up and started to pace with his hands clasped behind his back. “The pyramids, the stone monuments, and everything else have something in common: they were ahead of their time. Each one, and many others around the world, are examples of achievements we have rarely, or never, been able to duplicate in the same way. They hold secrets to technology and methodology we have lost. I want to bring them back.”
He let that final sentence hang for a moment before he stopped beside Donovan and tapped him on the shoulder. Donovan looked like he had been deep in thought and was surprised to find Seleron so close. “Sorry,” he apologized and cleared his throat. “Dr. Warren possesses a unique set of skills and background knowledge that Mr. Seleron would like to utilize in order to move forward with several special projects he has slated. The three of you possess connections and skills that will help her succeed.”
That wave of curiosity Antonia found hard to ignore was crashing down around her. If Seleron and Donovan were saying what she thought they were saying, she was going to have a hard time saying no. “What kind of special projects are we talking about?” she asked calmly.
“I’m glad you asked,” Seleron replied. “The kind that I have teams working around the clock to figure out. We’re talking cutting-edge technology. These are things my teams will eventually decode but…”
Antonia really liked where this was going. “But,” she finished for him, “Why reinvent the wheel when the wheel was already invented once?”
“Exactly,” he replied. “The answers already exist; we just have to find them again. That is what I want you to do for me. I’ve set up a lab on the second floor and created a division for the five of you. Donovan will serve as my liaison.”
“What do we get out of this deal?” Antonia had nearly forgotten Patterson was there. He was slumped into the back of the couch with a scowl on his face.
“You get what I promised you. In your case, Mr. Patterson, that means the chance to find and integrate each of these pieces of technology and information. You will be the greatest inventor of our time. Which I know from personal dealings with you, is what you want more than anything else.”
They traded a long look. There was so much history between Patterson, Seleron, and Donovan. As soon as they were done Antonia was going to do her homework on each and every one of them, starting with Patterson.
“You’ll get me Redemski?” The look on Sophie’s face was nothing short of focused hate.
“I will,” Seleron promised.
She nodded. “Then I’m in.”
Patterson stared at Sophie but didn’t say anything. In fact, he didn’t look away for several minutes. Sparks, however, was shaking his head. “You’ve got nothing for me, Seleron. What makes you so sure I’ll stay?”
Seleron glanced back at Antonia and it made the hair on her arm stand on end. “Donovan does one helluva a job, but you and I both know he needs help for what I’m asking Dr. Warren to do. You are the best and you want to stay on the straight and narrow—I’m giving the chance to utilize all those talents you have for something positive, while keeping people who might be looking for you off your back.”
Sparks lowered his eyes and nodded as he thought, finally looking up at Antonia. “If she says yes, then I’ll give it a go. But one hiccup and I’m out of here. Sorry, Doc.”
Antonia held up her hands, “Don’t apologize to me, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.”
Seleron was hiding something, Antonia could feel it. She had no idea what it was or why he was keeping it a secret when he was being so open about everything else, but she had absolutely no doubts that there was more to his story. She wanted to take The Old Man’s offer. Tracking down the mysteries of the past was exactly why she’d chosen to follow in her parent’s footsteps. Seleron was giving her the keys to the car and telling her to drive, all she had to do was take them.
He was hiding something, but she really didn’t need to know what it was. All she really needed was to decide if she could trust him. Everyone had their secrets, she certainly had plenty, and a secret wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Antonia looked into his keen blue eyes and saw a lot of things: blind ambition, brilliance, shrewdness—but she didn’t see evil.
He walked toward her. “Whatever it is you’re looking for, I will help you find it. My resources are your resources.”
“How do you know I’m looking for something?” she asked. No one knew what she was looking for.
The corners of his lips turned up in a faint smile. “It takes one to know one, Dr. Warren. I’ve spent many years looking for things I wasn’t meant to find. I know what someone looks like when they’re on the hunt.”
He studied her just as carefully as she studied him. Trust and mutual need. That was what their relationship was going to boil down to. She could help him find what he needed and he would help her in return.
“I’m in,” Antonia said quietly before glancing at Donovan. His jaw was set and his face was like stone. Maybe earlier was a fluke because right then Donovan was unreadable behind his dark lenses.
Sparks nodded his agreement and Seleron rubbed his hands together. “Excellent! I was hoping you’d all say yes. I have something that could use your attention right now, actually.” He grinned and started for the door. He looked like an excited child, not a stoic technology billionaire. “Anyone in the mood to visit Rome? I hear the aqueducts are beautiful this time of year!”
“Aqueducts?” Sophie asked.
“C’mon,” Donovan said with a reluctant sigh. “He’s headed up to show you guys the lab.”
Antonia let the other three filter out the door first so she could get closer to Donovan. He was out the door last. “You don’t look too happy with my decision,” she said quietly.
He stopped and looked down at her. “I’m not.”
That was a surprise. “You’re the one that came after me, remember? I was happily doing shots of tequila before you walked in.”
He touched her elbow and pulled her to a stop at an alcove out of sight of the rest of the group. “I was just doing my job.”
“Are you telling me to get out now, before I sign anymore contracts?” She really wished he’d take off his stupid glasses and let her see his eyes.
As if he could hear her thoughts, Donovan spun his glasses around to the back of his head and looked her dead in the eye. It was just as overwhelming as it was the first time.
“I’m not telling you anything, Antonia.”
“I think you and both know that’s a lie,” she whispered.
He swallowed and leaned in closer so that their noses were nearly touching. His entire frame took up the alcove and Antonia could feel him everywhere. Cole Donovan was an imposing man.
“Donovan was following his orders and bringing you in. Donovan thinks you will be the perfect asset for this team… But Cole,” he paused and took a breath. “Cole kind of wishes you’d run for your life while you still you can.”
He turned and stormed off for the massive staircase before she could reply. At the landing he glanced back at Antonia just long enough for her to catch his eyes one last time before the dark lenses covered them once again.
Did she stay or run?
She barely knew The Old Man and she sure as hell didn’t know if she could trust Cole Donovan.
But then again, Rome was very nice at this time of year…
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Hey gang! Sorry for taking a couple of weeks off from Flash Fiction Friday! Things got…busy. But I’m back with Chapter Six from The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver! Just to update you on the progress of The Unspoken Game series, Mummy Maneuver is DONE aside from final proofreading and formatting. The cover is mocked up, but not finalized. The Art of Deception, the first full-length novel in the series, is in another round of revisions, but the story is complete (I think!). The cover is also mocked up, but not finalized. I don’t have a solid release date, but it will be in June (for all your summer reading fun!) Now, here is Chapter Six!
The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver
“Antonia? What is it?” he asked a second time. She was frozen with her mouth hanging open and one hand in the air.
Her eyes flicked over to his but she still didn’t say anything. It was like she was processing a flood of information. He took a step toward her hoping it would make it easier for her to talk. Her eyes followed him and he saw her muscles soften.
“We’ve got this all backwards,” she whispered.
But she was frozen again, thinking and not talking. He took another step toward her and placed a hand on her arm. “Antonia, you’ve got to talk to me, I’m not a mind reader.”
She rolled her eyes and finally put her hand down. “Take off those stupid glasses so I can actually see you when you talk.”
He had half a mind to leave them on just to piss her off, but he really needed her to talk, so he took them off and spun them around to sit on the back of his head. “Better?”
She smiled smugly. “Yes.”
“Then talk,” he was already tired of the banter. Antonia was exhausting.
“Simon wasn’t kidnapped. This is Simon’s apartment.”
Donovan felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. “Come again?”
“Simon was living here. I’d bet money on it. This room is feng shuied. How many people feng shui their bedrooms?”
“I do,” Patterson quipped from behind her. “I came to see what all the fuss was about,” he added when Donovan glared at him.
“Ok,” Antonia replied. “Besides you, how many people go to the trouble of arranging their bedroom like that?”
Patterson and Antonia were like opposing magnets, one minute it looked like they were on the same page and then the next, the energy between them was moving in the opposite direction. Right then, Patterson was intentionally annoying Antonia, who looked like she wanted to punch the kid in the face.
Donovan was strangely annoyed and attracted to her all at the same time.
“Shut up Patterson,” he replied, then he turned to Antonia. “Not many, but you’ve got give me more than the way the bedroom in arranged.”
She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. He knew right then and there that she was right. She knew this was Simon’s apartment for a lot more reasons than bedroom furniture.
“The banana in the garbage can—Simon eats a banana every morning. The books on the bookshelf are all books I know he loves and the People magazine in the living room? He always had a thing for celebrity gossip. Simon lived here.” She was adamant about that fact. “You said you couldn’t find anything on McQueen, right?”
He shook his head. They were still coming up with dead ends. The driver’s license used to rent the apartment belonged to an eighty year old man who lived in a nursing home in Texas.
“Simon stole this mummy,” she said firmly.
“But why?” It made no sense and perfect sense all at the same time. Why would he stage his own abduction?
Antonia shook her head and twirled the end of her ponytail as she thought. “You said he and Seleron went way back. Way back where?”
“Prep school. They were childhood friends.” As far as he knew. That was what The Old Man told him.
“But not friends as adults?”
Donovan shook his head. He didn’t like where any of this was going.
“Do you have the paperwork Simon submitted for the grant?”
Donovan took a deep breath and waved for a tablet computer. It only took a moment to pull up the paperwork. He handed the tablet to Antonia and held his breath as she read through it. He saw it the moment she stopped. Her eyes widened just a little, her hands tightened around the black tablet, and she stopped breathing as her eyes went back and forth over the same thing over and over again.
She finally licked her lips and whispered, “You didn’t say he originally requested a sample as well.” She sat slowly on the bed. She looked pale, very pale actually. Like all the blood had just drained out of her head.
“I’m not sure I even know what that means. Is that different from the scan?”
She looked up at him with her dark brown eyes. “Very different. It also explains why the Egyptians were being so difficult. Simon didn’t just want to scan the mummy, he wanted to take a sample. The Egyptian government denied his request—numerous times—but ultimately allowed the scan provided the mummy was immediately returned afterward.”
“I’m not following any of this…” he replied. Why was a sample such a big deal?
Her shoulders slumped. “Simon is part of a genetic research collective that is cataloguing every sample of DNA they can get their hands on. In cases where they can’t get a sample, or when there is a low probability of getting a viable sample, they are scanning skeletons and mummies instead. They are attempting to create a genetic map of human history through time and across the world. They’ll be able to see how diseases were born and spread, where genetic mutations originated, and how populations interbred.”
“And so you think when he was denied a sample he just took it? Why?”
She turned off the tablet and set it beside her on the bed. “The Little One is special. She is a full-grown woman, but the size of a ten year old girl. Scans done in the nineties confirmed all this, but scanning technology wasn’t what it is today and genetic research has gone into a whole new stratosphere. The Little One is a genetic anomaly. She’s very special.”
“Special enough to steal and leave your entire career behind?”
“If I’m right, then yes,” she replied. “Several of the scientists involved in the research have been quietly hired on by a company in Switzerland that is creating its own genetic database.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” A very bad thing.
“Their goals do not seem to be research oriented. My feeling is that they are looking into much more lucrative things to do with information like that.”
She held up her hand and ticked items off on her fingers. “Genetically modified diseases, population specific attacks, diet manipulation—”
Donovan held up his hand to stop her. “I get it. Let’s assume you’re right. What do we do now? Where is Simon?”
“He’ll have had enough time to scan the mummy and remove a sample. He’ll be looking to get out of the country by now.”
Which also meant they were probably about to lose him.
Donovan went right into action putting out feelers for Simon at all the major airports, but he had a gut instinct Simon would be heading to the closest one, the one they had all just left.
So it was with a lot of frustration, leering, and scowling, that he the rest of the team threw themselves back in the Suburban and rushed back across town.
Donovan was feeling caged after an hour in the truck and he could feel time slipping between his fingers. He hated playing catch-up.
Sophie and Patterson moved directly to the International Terminal after purchasing tickets that would allow them through security. Sparks, on the other hand, was doing what he did best: working his connections. He was inside the security center in less than five minutes. The man knew everyone, or knew someone who knew someone.
Donovan stayed with Antonia as she scanned the crowds and made phone call after phone call. Her expression darkened with every minute.
He checked in with Sophie. “Anything?”
“Nope. A big fat negative here. There’s too many people. Patterson is running some sort of program telling me which flights are boarding in which order and I’m hopping around the terminal trying to catch everyone before they board. We could really use some help back here.”
He leaned closer to Antonia, her long ponytail catching his bare arm as she turned to face him. They were nose to nose. He lifted his glasses. “We’re not doing any good up here. Sophie needs our help, are you alright with that?”
She studied him for a moment, the lack of barrier between them made him feel unusually exposed. He hadn’t realized how much he relied on his glasses. “I think it’s our best shot. Yeah, let’s do it.”
She handed over her passport at the counter while he checked in with Sparks.
“We’ve got eyes on all the terminals. We’re watching for him, boss.”
They passed through security with a few funny looks, but Sparks made sure to call ahead and warn the officers they were coming through. International travelers without bags tended to get noticed.
“Talk to me Patterson.”
The kid’s familiar voice came through Donovan’s earpiece loud and clear. “I’ll rotate you, Antonia, and Sophie so we can hit as many departures as possible. Send Antonia to F7 and you can take F5.”
Donovan didn’t like how far apart those gates were, but they really didn’t have much of a choice. “Take F7. Use your comm if you need help.” He pointed his finger at her just to make a statement.
She rolled her eyes and jogged off toward the gate.
Donovan had studied Dr. Green’s photograph, paying special attention to his jaw line and lips. People could cover their eyes and ears, even disguise their noses, but jaw lines and lips were harder. He carefully scanned every person lounging in the chairs and along the columns. He took note of the cell phones and tablets plugged into the charging station. No one looked like Simon.
“I’ve got nothing again,” Sophie sighed.
Patterson replied, “Help Antonia at 7 and then cut down to 12, that gate will be boarding in fifteen minutes. I’m headed there now.”
The flight attendant came over the loudspeaker and started boarding the flight. Donovan casually checked each passenger. Tired families, happy couples, men and women on business, but no Simon. The next round of passengers was called to the gate and Donovan’s blood pressure continued to climb. He hated the waiting game.
He glanced at his watch as the flight attendant called for the last group of passengers. This could all be useless. Simon could have already come and gone, there was no telling.
“I’m heading to twelve,” Sophie said. “They just started boarding this gate, Antonia’s got it.”
Final boarding was called and the doors closed. Donovan headed toward Antonia and Gate seven. “I’m headed your way, Antonia.”
But he didn’t get a reply. She had two Ph.D.’s; surely she knew how to use the communicator. “Antonia?”
He quickened his steps back across the terminal, a sense of dread quickly building. Gate seven was boarding, but he didn’t see Antonia anywhere. His heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketed. “Sophie, where was Antonia?”
“By the column. Shit. I’m headed back your way now.”
Donovan circled the column, but Antonia wasn’t there. He didn’t see her anywhere. His eyes shot to the corners of the room. There, in a dark corner, he saw two people arguing. “Back corner, Sophie.”
“I see them,” she replied.
They silently flanked the two archaeologists. As he got closer, Donovan could hear Antonia’s angry voice. “It can’t be worth it, Simon. It can’t.”
“Look what they did to you,” he shot back. There was an obvious edge to his voice. “You can’t tell me the last six months have been easy for you.”
She shook her head and put her hands on her hips. “It’s been hell, but I’m not selling my soul—you are.”
Simon shook his head. “That is where you’re wrong, Antonia. This is a chance to actually make progress for a change. All we’ve done for the last ten years is watch our budgets shrink. We aren’t going to have careers soon. This is my chance to do the work I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
“In hiding, after stealing the work you need?”
Simon smiled. “Everything we do is stealing, Antonia.”
She took a step back which was when Donovan managed to catch her eye. “Well, good luck with that, Simon. These two want to have a word with you, I’m afraid.”
To Donovan’s surprise Simon bolted for the gate and thrust his boarding pass at the flight attendant. Was he actually trying to board the plane?
The woman looked at them all with surprise. “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t let you board until this matter is resolved.”
“I suggest you take a seat,” Donovan waved his hand at the recently vacated bank of chairs.
Simon’s shoulders sagged and he shook his head. “I didn’t hurt the Little One. I only took one sample. I left her somewhere safe and I was going to send instructions on where to find her after I landed.” He was looking right at Antonia as he spoke, but then turned to Donovan. “You have what you need. Please, just let me go. I’m sure Teddy will understand.”
Donovan tried not to laugh. No one called The Old Man “Teddy”. “I think a few things have changed since the two of you were kids. Seleron is pretty mad about the position you’ve put him in.” It was the truth, sort of.
In reality, The Old Man was sure Simon was up to something and that they’d be able to track it all down. What Seleron really wanted was a good excuse to bring the team together. None of them would have agreed to a meeting with Seleron on their own.
So while The Old Man had other motives, he was also pretty pissed off at Simon.
A minute later Sparks arrived with a team from security. They took care of the messy task of dealing with Simon, while Donovan took on the equally difficult job of bringing the team to Seleron Headquarters.
“Can’t you just drop me back at the airport?” Patterson asked. He’d given the front seat to Sparks, preferring to sprawl out in the backseat like a teenager with gadgets and cords spewing out of him like some half-robotic mutant.
“No, Seleron asked to see you all and thank you in person.” Donovan replied.
“I’ll take a direct deposit,” Patterson muttered, sinking deeper into his seat.
“You know, I just realized I know Seleron from television, but I don’t know anything about him,” Antonia was in the far back again. Donovan had kept his eye on her, and not just because he enjoyed what he was seeing. Dr. Warren was an interesting combination—she intrigued him. He knew before he walked into the bar that the archaeologist was a contradiction.
On paper she was the poster child for over achievers. Graduating college at twenty with degrees in biology and anthropology, she moved to England where she quickly became the hottest up and coming archaeologist on early civilizations. She was considered to have more promise than her own mother, who was the pre-eminent expert in the world. Antonia did her internships at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and it wasn’t long after she became a full member of their staff that things veered from the expected. There were blank spots that could only be filled in by government documents. It took digging, but he’d eventually found reports detailing her dealings in the black markets of antiquities.
Antonia’s mother publicly denounced her for working with dealers, but Donovan didn’t feel like the information in his files quite followed the story in the papers. To him, it looked a helluva a lot more like Antonia was hunting something down. Her activity had all the hallmarks of someone looking for something in particular. And he was willing to bet she was still looking for it.
For the last six months she’d been working odd jobs, most recently as a field monitor for a pipeline company. It was hard, honest work, but it was a far cry from the type of research she’d been doing in Europe. Antonia was keeping her nose clean, staying off the radar, and avoiding her tainted name at all costs, but based on the attitude he’d seen since he met her, Antonia was hardly the quiet, mild-mannered archaeologist. She was a brilliant woman on a mission, more than willing to get her hands dirty when necessary.
That was when Donovan realized no one had answered her question about Seleron. Everyone seemed to be looking blankly out the windows of the Suburban. “He’s exactly how he seems on television, Antonia. Driven, passionate, firm. Headquarters is based out of his mansion. All research and development is done in the compound that surrounds his house.”
“So we’re headed to his house?” she asked with surprise.
Sparks turned around to face her before Donovan could respond. “He works constantly. He walks into any lab or office at any time. He works in every division himself and knows almost every employee by name. He never sleeps. He’s a machine.”
“Ok…” Antonia drawled. “The Old Man is a super human control freak. Got it.”
“This should be interesting,” Sophie replied.
And hopefully painless.
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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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Welcome to the next addition of Flash Fiction Friday! This week I’m continuing with The Unspoken Game and next week I have some special stuff planned! Not only am I participating in the First Kiss Flash Fiction Blog Hop on Tuesday, April 8th, but (if all goes as planned) I will also have something different to offer next Friday!
I’m super excited about the First Kiss Blog Hop! Not only are there more than twenty authors participating, but every piece of flash fiction is brand-new, original content! Every story will be different, but they are all based on the same premise: two strangers kissing for the first time on camera. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! Make sure you stop by here on Tuesday, April 8th to see my piece! (Click on the link above for all the details plus the schedule of every blog on the hop!)
I have a special giveaway for my email newsletter subscribers! This month I’m giving away a signed copy of Tracie Puckett’s new New Adult novel, Breaking Rules! Make sure you are signed up for my newsletter! A name will be chosen on April 15th!
The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver — Chapter Four
“Who are you?” the fiery red head looked Donovan up and down.
“My name is Donovan and this is my associate Dr. Antonia Warren.”
“Should I be excited?” Sophie Reynolds looked tired, as he would expect after a night in a Vegas jail. She was wearing black pants, a white blouse, and day-old makeup.
“I have a job offer for you.”
She laughed and tried to walk around him, but Donovan blocked the way. “From Theodore Seleron.”
That got her attention, it always did. Everyone knew The Old Man and they were always surprised he was looking for them. It was a real selling point.
She stepped back, put her hand on her hip and looked Antonia up and down. Antonia returned the careful examination with equal fervor. “I’m not interested,” Sophie said without looking away from Antonia.
“At least let me tell you what the job is.”
“Not interested,” she repeated.
“We can help you find Bernard Redemski in exchange for your assistance.”
Sophie Reynolds glared at him with her jaw thrust out as she struggled. She’d been the hardest of the team to track down. The woman was angry, smart, and hell-bent on revenge for the death of her brother. She had other objectives in her life, but the exact skills Donovan needed. He was more than willing to exchange helping Miss Reynolds with her revenge for her help—if he could keep her out of jail long enough.
“Fine, what’s the job?” She finally looked back at him.
Donovan pulled out the tablet computer once again, “We need your help tracking down a mummy.”
Miss Reynolds snorted. “I haven’t heard that one before. Painting, sculpture, jewelry… not mummy.” She ticked the items off on her fingers.
“I have a private message from Mr. Seleron for you.” Since she was walking out of jail, Donovan assumed she’d need a set of headphones to listen to the message. He handed her both the tablet and the ear buds.
She frowned about half way through the message. When it was done, she scowled at Donovan before practically throwing the tablet back at him. “Fine, give me the contract.”
He quietly handed her a document nearly identical to the one he’d given Antonia. Miss Reynolds signed it with a great deal of enthusiasm, folded it back up, and slapped it against his chest.
“Thank you, Miss Reynolds,” he said, slipping the contract into his jacket pocket.
“Call me Sophie. Now, get me food.”
The three of them drove through a fast food restaurant that was open late at night (like everything else in Vegas) before heading back to the airport.
“I need a hamburger! No pickles. And a double order of fries… with cheese. A diet coke! Aaaaand… another hamburger!” Sophie was leaning across Donovan’s lap as she screamed at the intercom.
“Will that be all?”
He looked back at Antonia who simply shook her head.
“Yep, that’s it.”
“We’ll have your total at the window.”
Donovan drove around the side of the building and waited at the window. “You must be hungry,” he said to Sophie dryly.
“I haven’t eaten in twelve hours,” she replied. Then she turned back toward Antonia. “What’re you in for?”
“I know the man with the mummy.”
Donovan kept his eyes forward. The less he looked at Antonia the better—even in the rearview mirror. He’d already noticed his tendency to stare whether she was talking or not.
“Ah,” Sophie nodded. “And what is it you do? Wait, don’t tell me, let me guess. Jeans, t-shirt, ponytail… yeah I got nuthin’.”
“Oh!” Sophie cooed, clapping her hands. “That makes sense, actually! Except I would have expected a bandana or something.”
Antonia laughed, “I do have some. I’ll try and wear one for you.”
“Thanks!” Sophie exclaimed. “How about one of those funny vests or a pith helmet!”
“I’m afraid all I’ve got for you are my boots.” Antonia clunked her foot down on the console.
“Hey,” Donovan exclaimed. “Get your dirty feet off the rental car!” So far this car was in perfect working order. The last thing he needed was one of these women adding to his track record.
Both ladies gave him questioning looks.
Antonia shrugged and pulled her foot back down. “He has a thing about rental cars.”
“I can tell,” Sophie drawled.
They got their food and Donovan hurried toward the jet. When he pulled up at the private hanger Scott was already laughing. Donovan had no idea why Scott was laughing which made him feel very, very uneasy.
“Man, we can’t let you go anywhere, can we?”
“What do you mean?” Donovan sighed knowing full well when he turned around he was going to see something wrong with the car. Sure enough, there was a beautiful ding on the rear bumper. He swore a few times before shoving the keys at Scott and stomping aboard the plane. At least everyone was used to his luck.
Unfortunately Scott was right on his heels. “I’m sorry Donovan, but there’s more than bad luck with rentals.”
He spun around, coming nose to nose with Scott. “Don’t tell me Patterson said no.”
Scott shifted uncomfortably and cracked his neck.
Donovan swore. “Can’t anyone do their job?”
Scott shrugged. “Patterson sent you a message. He said ‘it would be a cold day in hell before he worked for you’.”
Donovan grunted. Apparently the little twerp was still bent out of shape about their last encounter. He’d hoped Patterson would take one look at the check and agree to let the past stay in the past. Apparently money wasn’t a good enough motivator.
“Looks like we’re stopping in New York, Scott.”
Scott nodded, “Thought you might say that, boss. We’re ready to go.”
After Antonia and Sophie boarded the plane and settled into their seats, Donovan jumped into bringing Sophie up to speed.
“Dr. Warren has been reviewing the data from the crime scene and our team in Atlanta is tracking down some leads she gave them. What I need from the two of you now is a list or an idea of who would be interested in taking a mummy like this.”
Sophie slammed her feet down on the table and made herself comfortable before closing her eyes and holding her hands in the air like she was meditating. “What are we working with here?”
Donovan looked at Antonia, “I believe you can handle bringing Sophie up to speed.”
Antonia took a deep breath and dove in. “The mummy was nicknamed The Little One by the team that excavated it in 1923 and is approximately four thousand years old. It was acquired by a small museum in Boston where it remained for several years before it was stolen in 1937. It was found in the private collection of a formerly wealthy aristocrat and was returned to the museum. In 1953 it was acquired by the University of Georgia. It was stolen again in 1977 and returned a year later.”
“Why do people keep stealing this mummy?” Sophie asked without opening her eyes.
“A couple of reasons. The Little One was excavated by Liam Pembrooke. Pembrooke was famous for taking items under the guise of research and never returning them. Add that to the fact he was a ladies man and did a brief stint in early Hollywood, the man had become a legend in his own right. Collecting Pembrooke items are a niche market for a certain crowd of unusual items.”
“And the other reason?” Sophie prompted.
“Egypt requested the mummy be returned years ago. It has been caught up in a legal battle ever since. Because of the mummy’s strange history, a series of claims were made on the item. Because of some other political things happening at the same time between the US and Egypt, it became a sore subject. The mummy was scheduled to be returned last month when Simon put in a plea for a final scan of the mummy. Apparently he was only granted the extension when Seleron stepped in.”
“So we’re looking for Pembrooke collectors, Egyptology fanatics, and political connections for anyone who has anything to gain by poking Egypt and the United States for funsies. You guys sure know how to pick your friends.”
Antonia looked right at Donovan and he suddenly felt very naked. “You have something to add, Antonia?”
“I still think we should look into the possibility they were after Simon, not the mummy.”
Donovan hesitated. He never liked divulging too much unless it was absolutely necessary. “I already have someone looking into it.” And by someone, he meant Sparks.
Donovan pulled out two phones and two computers. “Work whatever magic you can between here and New York.”
Then he turned his attention to Gerard Patterson. How the hell was he going to get Patterson to come to Atlanta? The Old Man had made it very clear he needed all four of them or it wouldn’t work and this whole crazy extravagant plan would fall apart.
One thing was clear, Donovan was going to have to do something he’d tried really hard to avoid: apologizing to the kid. Technically he’d done nothing wrong. Patterson had perfectly duplicated an unduplicatable piece of Seleron technology. It was Donovan’s job to make threats like that disappear. He tracked down the kid to his apartment in New York with the plan to either hire the kid or scare him so badly he never dared come near Seleron Technology ever again.
The only problem was Patterson wasn’t really a kid and he was hardly your average computer geek. He was younger than Donovan by seven years, and thinking of Patterson as a punk teenager instead of a twenty-six year old man, helped Donovan hate him more—even if it wasn’t logical. Patterson was brilliant, savvy, and incredibly quick on his feet. The kid could take care of himself in a heartbeat and it caught Donovan completely off-guard. When Patterson laughed at the job offer from Seleron, Donovan took it upon himself to teach the kid a lesson in spectacular fashion. Not only would it keep Patterson from meddling in Seleron Technology affairs, but it felt damn good.
And all would have been fine if there hadn’t been one little hiccup: needing Patterson now.
The minute the jet was on the ground in New York, Donovan was out the door and on his way, leaving Antonia and Sophie behind to work their combined connections.
Since it was New York, he took a cab and saved himself the joy of a three-peat of rental car hell in a single trip. Patterson lived in the same apartment and walking up to the familiar door Donovan remembered the anticipation he felt a year ago. It was now replaced by dread.
He reached up and knocked anyway.
A minute later he heard the locks inside sliding and the deep laugh of Gerard Patterson. The door swung open, the kid’s longer hair dancing in the rush of wind from the opening door. “Well, well, well… to what do I owe this expected visit from my old friend?”
Donovan resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “You know why I’m here. Let’s make this simple. We need your help, what can I do to change your mind?”
Patterson grinned, a wide proud grin. His hazel eyes were dancing with absolute delight—he was loving every second of this. “Oh, my dear, dear Donovan. I think you and I both know I’m never going to work for Seleron and it has everything to do with you.”
Of course it was. If this whole thing weren’t so damn important to The Old Man, and if they had any more time to find someone else, Donovan wouldn’t even consider what he was about to do. But things were the way they were.
He swallowed down his pride and apologized. “Patterson, I’m sorry for the way I so aggressively shut down your operation. Your problem is with me, not Seleron.”
Patterson ruffled his hair and leaned against the doorjamb. He was barefoot and for some reason that irritated Donovan. “Yeah, but as your associate already explained to me, I’d be working under you, not Seleron.”
It took everything Donovan had not to simply grab Patterson by the scruff of his neck and force him to come along. They could argue and hash things out later.
“I promise I’m much nicer when you work for me, not against me.”
Patterson chuckled low in his throat. “Nicer maybe, but I’m not sure you’ll be much more fun. It was one of the best days I had all year. Sparring with you was a true test, not one I get very often.”
The kid had raw talent mixed with extensive training. Sparring with him had been fun for Donovan, too. “How about this? I promise to leave you alone to do your thing with no interference from me—”
“And no wise cracks.”
Donovan sighed, “I’m not going to say anything unless it relates to the job. I’ll leave you alone and spar with you when we’re done.” He cracked his knuckles and grinned for the first time. “I won’t hold back at all.”
Patterson perked up, pushing away from the door frame. “Promise?”
Oh, he had no idea. Donovan was going to thoroughly enjoy kicking the crap of Patterson. “I promise.”
The kid smiled and walked away. “Give me a minute to grab my bag.”
“And a pair of shoes,” Donovan called. Now all he had to do was get to Atlanta and find a missing mummy.
Thanks for reading! I’m really excited about getting this series out to you! Let me know what you think in the comments!
And don’t forget to stop by the First Kiss Blog Hop next week!
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday! This week I’m sharing Chapter 3 of The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver (out this May). I don’t think anyone has read this chapter yet (except the Sexy Editor). Not even my CP’s. So this week is pretty special.
And then Tuesday, April 8th I’ll be participating in the First Kiss Blog Hop with a piece of Flash Fiction inspired by the viral video of strangers kissing on camera! All I can say right now is my piece includes an adorable geeky-type guy (or is he?!) and a reluctant lady. And a kiss, of course!
But for now, here is this Friday’s Flash Fiction. Enjoy!
Antonia was relieved to see the familiar Seleron Technology logo on the side of the private jet. In the back of her mind there was still a little lingering doubt she’d just agreed to follow a complete stranger to her death.
The jet was top of the line. Leather seating that felt like butter beneath her fingertips, dark wood-grain accents, and soft lighting that was soothing to the eyes. She could get used to traveling in private jets.
“Can I get you a drink?” the flight attendant asked. He was incredibly short compared to Donovan and Scott, who turned out to be nearly as tall and fit as Donovan. Maybe there was a corporate policy at Seleron Technology that required all men to be huge?
Antonia wasn’t exactly short herself. Five-foot eight wasn’t tall, but it was above average. Maybe she’d fit right in. “Just a water for me, thanks.”
“Sure…” she drawled. She didn’t really care if came from a spring, carbonated, or distilled from the air. She just wanted a glass of water.
“And for you Mr. Donovan?”
Antonia’s eyebrows shot up. Mister?
“A water for me, as well. Thank you, Hank.”
Hank smiled and left to get their drinks.
“So…” Antonia began. “Donovan is your last name?”
His expression didn’t change in the slightest. “Yes, it is.”
The man could be surprisingly difficult when he wanted to be. “So what’s your first name? You introduced yourself as Donovan, I just assumed it was your first name.”
This time he smiled behind his black sunglasses. “You know what they say about assuming.”
Antonia sighed. “Fine, Donovan. I take back my offer. It’s back to Dr. Warren for you.”
This time it was Donovan’s eyebrows that shot up with surprise. He didn’t seem to like that turn of events very much, which was fascinating to Antonia.
“No one calls me by my first name,” he finally said. He sounded stunned, like he couldn’t believe he was telling her this.
And that made Antonia bizarrely thrilled. “Why is that? Is it something embarrassingly horrible?”
Donovan chuckled. “No, actually, it’s not.”
“You aren’t named Fitzpatrick or Himey or something?” she was playing with him now.
“Hey,” he scoffed. “What’s wrong with Fitzpatrick? That sounds distinguished to me.”
“Fitzpatrick Donovan? Talk about a mouthful…”
He grinned, showing all of his perfect white teeth. “You do have a point.”
Antonia wished she could see his eyes and gauge what he was thinking better. As it was, she was staring a set jaw and a pair of shiny black lenses. He was impossible to read like that.
“What’s with the glasses, Donovan? You wear them all the time. Can you see through those things?”
He nodded, and adjusted in his seat, sitting forward to reach across the little table separating them, taking off the glasses and handing them to her. “Take a peek.”
He was actually offering his sacred glasses. Antonia had a feeling it wasn’t something he did every day. She hesitated at first, taking a moment to look at his eyes one more time. He looked wary despite the smile on his face. “Alright.” She took the glasses and slid them on her face. “They’re a computer!”
“Basically. I can do just about anything with these babies.”
Running down the side of each lens was a stream of data. It took her a moment to adjust to what she was seeing, but only a moment. Down one side seemed to be coded updates, and down the other was data for Simon’s case. “How do you control it?”
“Eye movement, mostly. And this baby.” He held up the watch on his wrist. Upon closer inspection Antonia realized it was also a computer.
“It’s like I’m wearing glasses, not sunglasses.” Everything around her was as clear as day, not shaded like she expected.
“The lenses always look black on the outside, but inside adjusts based on the lighting of the room.”
“Amazing, can I get a pair?” she asked, reluctantly sliding the glasses back off.
“Negotiate it into your next contract.”
Next? Was there something she needed to know? But before she could ask, they were interrupted.
“Donovan,” Scott called as he climbed inside. “Here are the updates you asked for from HQ.” He handed Donovan a black laptop.
“How are things coming with the others?”
Scott smiled tightly, “Sparks has agreed to meet you in Atlanta and we’re still working on Patterson, but there’s a complication with Reynolds.”
“Complication?” Donovan asked as he opened the laptop. “What kind of complication?”
“She’s in jail.”
Donovan groaned. “Again? I told Jones to keep her out of trouble for forty-eight hours.”
Scott smiled and crossed his arms, easing himself into a wide stance. “In his defense, I don’t think it was Jones’s fault.”
“I’m sure,” Donovan agreed under his breath. “Change of plans, then. We’re headed to Vegas.”
“You got it, boss.” Scott headed directly for the cockpit.
“Vegas? Shouldn’t we getting to Atlanta as fast as possible?” She didn’t like this turn of events one little bit.
“It will be a quick detour, besides,” he said turning the laptop toward Antonia. “You have plenty of work to do.”
On the screen was a 3D scan of Simon’s lab.
“As you can see we’ve scanned everything. There’s also enhanced security footage and photographs of any evidence our team was able to find.”
Antonia studied the screen intently. She worked with 3D scanning all the time. It was common to scan archaeological sites and digs, even artifacts. She knew the software in front of her well, but it was like it was juiced up on crack. “Let me guess, this is the Super-Seleron version of 3D scanning software.”
“You better believe it,” Donovan replied. “It’s like you’re already in Atlanta. I think you’ll find this is just as useful as being in the lab yourself. Besides, my team is tracking down leads right now. Hopefully they’ll find Simon before we get there and all of this will turn out to be a fun plane ride for you.”
Somehow, Antonia doubted that very much.
“An old friend with as many—if not more—interesting connections to unscrupulous people as you.”
He was probably slimy and completely untrustworthy.
“And this Reynolds we’re going all the way to Vegas for?”
“She’s… complicated. But her skills will be useful to us. Trust me.”
Interesting choice of words coming from a man she’d known for a couple of hours and hid behind computerized glasses.
During the flight Antonia combed through the data from the lab. She was so focused on the images in front of her she felt like she was really there in the lab. It was hard to believe Simon felt scanning this mummy was important enough to risk so much. It was a mummy. A person dead and gone for thousands of years.
She was often in the minority when it came to her opinions on the past. She wasn’t a “put in a museum” kind of girl. The past was a tool for the present and a way to plan for the future. It was incredibly important, but it had a time and place in modern society.
Yeah, her mother hadn’t agreed with her on that point, either.
She moved away from the scans of the lab and started pouring through the security footage. It was hard to watch. Seeing Simon dragged off, limp and drugged, was painful. The question that kept bugging Antonia was why. If they were after the mummy, why did they take Simon? Or were they really after Simon and using the mummy as cover?
“We’re getting ready to land,” Donovan said quietly.
“Good,” Antonia replied. The sooner they got Miss Reynolds, the sooner they could move on.
“Finding anything useful?”
Antonia took a deep breath and sat back and away from the computer for the first time in well over an hour. She rubbed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m confused. Why do you think they took both Simon and the mummy? It seems like if they were after the mummy they wouldn’t need or want Simon around to complicate matters.”
“That’s an interesting point.”
“I mean, the whole history surrounding this particular mummy is complicated at best. It’s now been stolen three times and because of its bizarre history.” She sat up and ran the security footage again. “They took the everything with them, Donovan.”
“What’s your point?”
She had his attention now. “Why? What are they doing that requires Simon and his equipment? They aren’t just taking it to sell it. Something else is going on here.”
Donovan rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. “You don’t think they’ve moved it very far from the lab, do you?”
“I think it’s somewhere very close by.” The thieves had an objective–and it wasn’t fleeing the country.
While they prepared to land, Donovan sent off several emails to his team in Atlanta refocusing their search. Antonia set aside the data she’d been asked to look at and instead started to think like a thief.
She scanned maps of the surrounding neighborhoods hoping something would jump out at her. Then she looked at her contacts, hoping to see a connection. The minute they landed she had her phone out making calls. Even if they weren’t planning on selling the mummy, they had to prepared to take it. There had to be a clue somewhere.
“Leave your things here, we’ll be back in less than an hour.” Donovan grumbled.
“It’s going to take you more than an hour to spring this lady out of jail, Donovan.”
He smirked at her as he stood up. “Maybe for you, but not for me.”
“Does everybody always do whatever you say?” Antonia was starting to see a trend where Donovan was concerned.
“Pretty much. I have that special way about me that makes people bend to my will.” He was grinning the whole time he was talking.
“Be careful, those special qualities have a way of backfiring,” she warned.
He laughed out loud, but then suddenly stopped at the door and turned around, looking down at her. He was impossibly tall. “My name is Cole—but never call me that,” he warned, then turned and walked down the stairs.
Antonia was stunned. Cole was the perfect name to go along with those black eyes and dark demeanor.
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Every Friday I’m posting free fiction! Last week was Chapter 1 of my new series: The Unspoken Game. Today, you get Chapter 2. Both are unedited works in progress, so please forgive my imperfections. Enjoy and please let me know what you think! If you missed Chapter 1 last week, get it here: TUG: Chapter 1.
Donovan followed Dr. Antonia Warren to her motel room and stood quietly by the door while she threw her things into a brown leather bag. The room was a mess. Her clothes were…everywhere. Over the backs of chairs, across the table, on the bathroom counter, and a pile in the middle of the second bed. She didn’t seem to care about any of it. She just jammed item after item into the bag before suddenly stopping and looking down at herself.
“Wait, are we going to Atlanta?” Her brown eyes were wide and she was standing completely still in the middle of the room.
Donovan nodded slowly, “Yes, we felt it would be logical to start at the beginning.”
“Crap I need to change,” she groaned and started pulling clothes back out of the bag. “I just worked a full field day. You and everyone else on earth are going to thank me.”
“I’ll wait here,” he said dryly. It was kind of fun to watch her scrambling. Dr. Warren was fun to watch period. Her jeans were tight as was her t-shirt which he finally got a glimpse of when she took off her jacket. The long brown ponytail that hung down her back wasn’t too bad either.
He’d definitely had worse assignments.
She cocked an eyebrow and rolled her eyes. “I’ll be three minutes.”
The moment he heard the shower turn on, Donovan started to snoop. Not because he was being rude, but because it was smart. He needed to know everything he could about the sexy lady in the bathroom—especially the things he couldn’t find on paper. He’d studied every piece of information on the good doctor on the way out, even the classified documents, but nothing was as informative as a peek through her belongings.
Five pairs of jeans, all the same brand. Seven t-shirts, all the same brand. Seven pairs of identical white socks. A belt, a jacket, three gray sports bras, two lacey racer-back bra’s, and a pile of delicate, lacey underwear. Odd that she had such standard clothes, but such beautiful underwear.
Donovan turned toward the bathroom counter. Dr. Warren’s boots were carefully tucked under the open counter and Donovan realized it was the only pair of shoes he’d seen. Her toiletries were all drug store travel sizes, face wash, toothbrush, the standard. No makeup and only a couple of hair ties and bobby pins. Talk about seriously low-maintenance.
Or someone with nothing tying her down.
The shower turned off and Donovan resumed his post at the door. A minute later she emerged fully clothed in a fresh pair of identical jeans and a black t-shirt. “Have fun snooping through my stuff?” she asked with a devilish grin.
“I did nothing of the sort,” he smiled back. They both knew full well he’d snooped.
Dr. Warren sat down on the corner of the bed and pulled on her boots. “Is there anything we know yet?”
“Dr. Green was abducted at seven fifty-two last night. It was a team of four, all wearing ski masks. They grabbed him and the mummy in less than three minutes, leaving in a white unmarked van—all very standard.”
“And how do you know all this?”
“Cameras,” he replied.
“Of course. How silly of me. You do realize most archaeology labs don’t have surveillance cameras, right?” She stood up and resumed shoving things in her bag.
“Labs with extremely valuable mummies funded by a technology billionaire do.”
“Touché,” she said with a smile, zipping up her bag and throwing it over her shoulder. At the table she shoved a laptop and cords into a red backpack and slung it over the other shoulder. “Ready when you are.”
“Aren’t you taking your toiletries?”
She cocked her head to the side and smiled, “Don’t they have drug stores in Atlanta?”
“Touché,” he replied, pulling the door open. She really was low maintenance.
Donovan’s rental car was a pretty standard blue Ford Focus. The sight of it, however, made him cringe for one very important reason.
He popped the trunk and waited while Dr. Warren put her bag inside, then slid behind the steering wheel, crossing his fingers the stupid thing started. It purred right to life.
“You ok over there, cowboy? You look like you’re afraid the car is gonna bite you…”
“Forget about it,” he grumbled and backed out of the parking space.
If everything went well, when they landed in Atlanta there would be three more members of their team ready and waiting. But that was only if things went well, which Donovan had a feeling wasn’t going to happen. The crew The Old Man had selected was ragtag at best. All of them were loose cannons and none of them were the type to follow orders. Donovan hated when his orders weren’t followed. Getting this foursome to work together was going to take finesse and a lot of patience on his part.
“There is a file,” he fumbled around with his bag behind the seat, finally feeling the right file slide between his fingers, “that should bring you up to speed on what we know. When we get to the plane we will get an update.”
He drove in silence for several minutes while Dr. Warren flipped through the file. “How well do you know Dr. Green?”
She sighed and slammed the folder shut, looking out the window. “Simon is like family. Well, more like an uncle you talk to a couple of times a year.”
“So you haven’t spoken in how long?”
She shrugged her shoulders, “Probably not in the last six months.”
“Since your fall-out with your mother?”
Donovan had seen a lot in his life and had the displeasure of relieving many people of their lives, but he had never felt fear like he did right then. The anger rolling off the doctor was palpable. “I don’t talk about my mother. But yes. Right around then.” She crossed her arms over her chest and slumped down in the seat. “What do you know about my mother anyway?”
“She is the lead archaeologist for the Smithsonian and considered to be one of the preeminent minds in theories about early man. And… she publicly called you a disgrace to the profession for agreeing to work with several black market dealers.”
There was a lot of silence after that. Antonia sat there with her arms crossed not moving a muscle. Donovan was actually afraid he might lose her before they even got to the airport, contract or no contract. “Dr. Warren, I didn’t mean to upset you. I was merely talking about facts, not feelings.”
She sniffed and adjusted. “You can call me Antonia. Dr. Warren gets to be a mouthful.”
“And you think Antonia is better?” Except that it was. It was so much better. Not only was it less formal, but it rolled off the tongue. Antonia was soft and sexy and Donovan had a very good feeling that under the hardened exterior of Dr. Warren lay another layer. The Antonia layer.
“Call me whatever you want, I don’t care.”
Oh, he was definitely calling her Antonia—there was no doubt about that. “What I meant before was that I was simply going over the details, I wasn’t judging you.”
She smiled a little. It was beautiful. “You don’t think it’s immoral for an archaeologist to deal with the very people stealing our artifacts? How very odd of you.”
He laughed. She had a funny way with words. “I think the black market isn’t going away, so if you feel there is merit there, then there must be something to it.”
“You trust someone you barely know?”
“I have good instincts,” he replied a split second before the engine sputtered and died.
He had good instincts for people… not so much for cars.
“You have got to be kidding me,” he swore under his breath.
“I am!” he spat back, wrenching the wheel and letting the car glide onto the grassy side of the road.
“Sheesh, you don’t have to get so bent out shape. Cars break down. They’re machines, you know?”
He simply shook his head, threw the car into park, and popped the hood. “You have no idea, Antonia. You have no idea.”
How was it possible to have that much bad luck? Every rental car he’d ever been given had broken down, been dinged, or ended up in a fiery ball of flames. Ok, so the last one only happened that one time, but the rest… it was a thing with him. He had the touch of death for rental cars.
She hopped out and sauntered around the hood with her hands on her hips, looking very serious as she stared at the engine. “What do you think is wrong?”
Donovan shook his head. “Never mind.”
“Can we fix it?”
“I have no idea. The thing looks fine to me.” They didn’t have time to play around with rental cars. Donovan took out his cell phone. “Scott? I need a pickup.”
“Seriously?” Scott replied. “Where are you?”
Donovan flicked on the GPS tracking device. “Follow the flashing light.”
“You have the worst luck, man.”
“Don’t start with me…” Donovan warned.
“I’ll be there in ten. Hold tight.”
He flicked off his phone and tucked it away inside his pocket. “Let’s get our things ready, our ride is on the way.”
“Whatever you say, boss.” Antonia skipped around to the trunk of the car like she didn’t have a care in the world.
He was about to change all of that and for the first time in a long time, Donovan wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that.
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Russian scientists have unearthed a female mammoth, complete with blood and muscle tissue. This is a very rare and excellently preserved find. You can read more about it here. We will be hearing about more and more rare finds of this type in the coming years as global warming continues to thaw the arctic. Mammoth’s in particular, but artifacts in general, are already being exposed at an ever increasing rate as the ice melts, making it easier than ever for scientists to uncover the remains frozen there over 10,000 years ago. But it isn’t just scientists taking advantage of the newly exposed mammoths… their tusks are make of ivory.