Yes, THREE chapters this week. NO, I’m not trying to rush through the book, but I do want to make sure that I deliver value to you. It would be a bit of a cheat if I gave you two three-page chapters, wouldn’t it?
Oh, yes. I think that this is the first R-rated chapter, so if you don’t appreciate Mike getting a little bit busy you’ll want to skip the end of Chapter 16 and the beginning of Chapter 17.
Hey, I know, we’re all adults here, and you’re here from John’s fan page, but can’t be too careful! It is a public site, after all.
A note on the dates: we’re currently running parallel to the story; separated by years, perhaps, but the days/months are aligned.
Before I let you get to what you came here for, I’m going to mention a couple things. First, these posts are converted to a podcast, usually within a day of being posted, sometimes the same day. Once I do that, there will be a button at the top to bring you to Spotify. You can also go the the Welcome! page of the website and click the Podcast button to go to Anchor.fm.
Second, right below this is an audiobook sample from my first novel, The Cassidy Chronicles Volume One. It’s about 19 minutes long; it’s the first four chapters. But if you want to get a better feel for the audiobook version, instead of the paltry five minutes Audible gives you, this is it! And if you like it, you can click the link below the video to get the Audiobook. Or just follow the link right here: https://amzn.to/39EzQh2
Third, and most important. Thank you. You coming to visit the website and the enjoyment you get is what makes things worthwhile. Don’t ever think I don’t appreciate the time you’re giving.
Now. Back to the Valley!
The Valley; Tbilisi; Airborne over Europe
Stasia climbed into the Hind first, then Katrina, and finally Mike. As Stasia helped Katrina with the restraints, something Katrina was suspiciously adept at, he noticed, Mike slipped on the headset and Naida shut the door.
“Ready when you are, Valkyrie.”
“Roger, Kildar,” came Tammy’s voice in his headset. “Any requests for the ride?”
He could hear the smile in her voice.
“Nice and gentle, Valkyrie. Show her the sights. Out.”
He removed his headset and sat next to Katrina. She’d been seated by Stasia, next to the window and facing forward. Stasia sat facing aft, opposite them. Katrina took his hand as soon as he was buckled in.
“In just a moment, Captain Wilson will start the engines. You’ll need to have a headset on so we can talk, like Stasia has. See?” Stasia pointed to her own head, already fitted with her mike and phones.
Shortly the twin turbines started with a whine and the massive rotor started to turn. In moments, they were at full power. Katrina squeaked when the ground suddenly dropped away.
“This is normal,” said Stasia before Mike could react. “Don’t be afraid; you’ll enjoy it!”
True to her word, the flight to Tbilisi was an air tourist’s dream. Tammy kept up a running commentary, soon interrupted by Katrina’s eager, “What is that?” and “What is this?” over the intercom. Mike just sat back and enjoyed watching her.
Far too soon, the grey outskirts of the city replaced the forest and rivers.
“Is that Tbilisi?” she asked. “It’s so big!”
“Almost a million and a half people live here,” answered Mike.
“So many!” He had to admit it was a sizable city, even by American standards. The architectural variety amazed him, as usual. An ancient city, oft-conquered, Tbilisi was an eclectic mix of styles, from old Georgian to neo-classical European, with a heavy dose of Russian, Soviet, and Middle Eastern, and no clear defining lines between them.
The city had reined in the unchecked growth of the post-Soviet era, and, from the air, Mike could sense a plan beginning to emerge. He pointed out the oddly shaped Roads Department Building, a Soviet holdover. It was built into a cliffside yet looked like nothing so much as a set of blocks stacked at right angles. Tammy, with her better view in the cockpit, told them when they were passing Sameba cathedral, the main Georgian Orthodox church. After a few minutes, the chopper started to descend toward the airport.
“Already?” Katrina pouted.
“Fraid so. See?” Mike pointed. “That’s our plane.”
The twin-engined G550 was parked at the private terminal Chatham Aviation frequently used. As the Hind flared into its landing, the pilot of the Gulfstream could be seen stepping down the boarding stairs. The turbines gradually cycled down, the rotors slowed, slowed, and finally stopped.
“Everyone out!” said Mike, unlatching the crew door before Naida could reach it.
“Mr. Jenkins, a pleasure, as always.”
“Captain Hardesty. Anything exciting going on?”
“Not unless you’re not telling me something,” the pilot said with a small smile.
“Not this time.”
“Miss Rakovich. As lovely as ever.”
Stasia managed a blush.
“I don’t believe I know the other young lady?”
“Ah, yes. Captain Hardesty, Miss Katrina Devlich. Katrina, Captain John Hardesty.”
“A pleasure, Miss Devlich.”
Captain Hardesty took her hand and gave a brief bow over it.
“The pleasure is mine, Captain,” returned Katrina, after a quick glance at Stasia. She’d obviously been given some etiquette lessons.
“Miss Devlich is the Kildar’s fiancée,” added Stasia.
“My congratulations, Mr. Jenkins!” said Hardesty. “And my sympathy, Miss Devlich,” he added, with a broad wink.
This threw Katrina for a loop until Mike clarified.
“I’ve had some interesting flights with Captain Hardesty. I promise, nothing like that this time! Why won’t anyone believe me?”
“Just my bags, for now,” Mike said, ominously. “Stasia is going to take Katrina shopping.”
“Oh. Glad I’ve cleared out plenty of room in the boot.”
“Very funny, Captain,” replied Stasia. Katrina still looked confused, so she elaborated, “I have flown with Captain Hardesty before, and one trip -”
“Which was for a single day, I might add!” interjected the captain.
“For a single day, yes, I purchased quite a selection for the Kildar. He feels that he can tease me a bit.”
“In any case,” said Mike, attempting to steer the conversation back. “It’s time to board the plane. Captain, Miss Rakovich has agreed to permit you one of your more typical takeoffs, just once, so Miss Devlich can get the full experience. This is her first flight.”
“Are you sure, Mr. Jenkins? This plane has an even better performance than others -”
Mike smiled. John Hardesty had been a fighter pilot in the RAF before retiring and still preferred to squeeze every drop of adrenaline out of his takeoffs. The G550, with a maximum speed over five hundred miles per hour, and engines generating more than 15000 pounds of thrust, came closer than most to matching what Hardesty used to fly. And given the, ah, ‘aggressive’ nature of his usual takeoffs, it promised to be quite an experience. Mike was eagerly anticipating what Hardesty could do with the plane, while Stasia was at least willing to play along, once.
“Do your best.”
That got a wide grin from Hardesty. “Yes, sir!”
A few minutes later the three were settled into a couch in the cabin. Mike would have preferred individual seats, if only to be facing forward, not sideways, but he didn’t want to leave Katrina on her own, and Stasia, a nervous flyer at best, insisted on holding his hand.
“Everyone secure?” he asked, checking their belts.
“Yes, Mike,” answered Katrina.
Stasia just gripped harder.
“You might like this more, Stasia,” he said. “We’ll be up and cruising even faster than usual.”
“I hope so,” she replied.
“Rolling to taxi,” came Captain Hardesty over the intercom. The jet gently began to move away from the terminal. In just a couple moments, they were at the end of their runway, waiting for clearance.
Katrina quickly grew impatient.
“Mike, I thought you said this would be exciting?” she demanded. Just then, the engines rose in pitch and volume and the aircraft fairly leapt forward. In seconds, they were hurtling down the runway, then they were airborne and climbing at what felt to the ladies a nearly vertical angle.
“John’s really pushing the envelope!” called Mike over the roar of the engines as the ground dropped away. Katrina, forward on the couch, was pressed hard against his side, while Stasia was leaning against the bulkhead to the aft. Mike turned to Stasia; she was wide-eyed, obviously frightened, but he could see her pleasure under her fear. He looked back to Katrina; she was simply ecstatic, as wide a smile as he could ever remember etched on her face, enjoying every second of the climb.
“See?” he said, “I told you, you just had to experience it!”
All too soon, the engines’ scream died away as they began to level out. Brilliant sunlight shone in the large, oval windows, and the clouds were left far below.
“We’ll be leveling off at forty-five thousand feet,” Captain Hardesty announced. “Should be a nice smooth flight all the way to DC. Estimated flight time is twelve hours. Feel free to move about.”
“Forty-five…thousand?” gasped Katrina. “That’s over eight miles!”
“Yep,” agreed Mike. “Smoother up here, fewer planes, less turbulence. Look.” He pointed forward to what looked like a window.
“See that screen? The map on it is generated by a GPS unit, so you can tell where we are, what we’re passing over. Right now,” he looked, “We’re still over Georgia, heading to the Black Sea. We’ll be near Sochi, actually – maybe we should spend time on the ‘Sudden Stop‘?” he added wickedly. His yacht was moored in Sochi, the closest, or at least most convenient, major port to the valley.
“I don’t know if we’ll actually overfly the Sea – I can ask Captain Hardesty?”
“This is wonderful!” said Katrina, simply. She was enraptured, looking from the map, to a nearby window, and back, over and over. He moved over to Stasia. Her skin was flushed, her breath shallow and rapid.
“How are you doing?” he asked, gently.
“That was wonderful!” she breathed. “Oh, Mike, why didn’t you tell me it could be like that?”
He looked at her, stunned.
“You enjoyed that?” he asked.
“Enjoyed?” she replied, taking his hand and guiding him between her legs. She was sopping wet. “That was almost as good as you!”
She reached an arm around his neck and pulled him close for a kiss.
“How long do you think Katrina will be distracted?”
Airborne over Europe and Atlantic
A little while later, Mike returned forward.
“Where are we?” he asked Katrina, who was still avidly tracking their progress.
“We are near Kaliningrad, in Russia. Why is Russia here, too? It’s all by itself.” By a geopolitical oddity, Kaliningrad and its environs had remained a part of Russia after the Soviet break-up, separated by Lithuania and Belarus. It was a little island of Russia, in effect.
He sat back down next to her.
“Couple reasons, honey. The port never freezes in winter, so it’s the Russians’ only ice-free port on the Baltic Sea. Also, unlike all the other little countries around here, Kaliningrad has never been independent. It had always been part of ‘something bigger’, so when everyone was declaring their independence, they didn’t have any kind of tradition or history of it. They just stayed Russian.”
She leaned into him.
“I like flying,” she said. “Why doesn’t Stasia?”
“She likes flying, it’s just the takeoffs she’s not too thrilled with.”
Until now, he thought. Usually the submissive partner, Stasia had nearly thrown Mike onto the couch as soon as the cabin door shut. She stripped off his pants and taken him into her mouth until he was hard and ready, then slid down onto him. She came the first time in seconds, and again, and again, before he finally came as well. Only then, relaxing atop his chest, did she revert to her usual role. The subsequent punishment session had been good for them both. She was left her exhausted and spent, and him stress-free.
“She’ll be up and about it a few hours.”
As the plane crossed over the North Sea, Mike and Katrina talked. Truly talked. She asked him about his past, about his life as a SEAL, his ex-wife, his relationships, and he answered. They talked about what Katrina’s life would have been like without Mike’s arrival (“I would have gone to town, for sure.”), and what Katrina wanted for the future. To their mutual surprise, they found that they were more alike than not. Despite their wildly divergent upbringing, both had grown into the one person perfectly suited for the other. He could see that she would steady him, provide an anchor to keep what he thought of as his “dark side” bay; he would give her, in turn, the understanding she would need to face her own demons, the strength to fight against them, and the knowledge that they could be defeated.
By the time they crossed the Faroes into the Atlantic, he was convinced.
Their conversation had pretty well stopped by then. Her body, pressed tight against his, raised his awareness of just how lush she had become. His hands moved, almost involuntarily, along her sides, and she leaned back into a kiss. Her hands were busy too, caressing his arms, guiding his hands over her breasts. No bra, he noticed absently. None needed. Her breasts were firm and warm, the nipples hard between his fingers.
“I have dreamt of this,” she whispered to him. His hands slid under her blouse and back to cup her tits. She turned fully into him, biting his neck and ear. Quickly, Mike pulled her blouse up over her head, trapping her hands. He held her arms, feeling the goose bumps rise as he kissed the sensitive juncture of her neck and shoulder. Using his tongue, he teased his way down her chest, from one beautiful breast to the other, circling but never quite reaching her nipples. She moaned and writhed under him. When he finally took a nipple into his mouth, sucking and nipping it gently with his teeth, her body arched as she orgasmed. With an expert touch, he kept her quivering on the brink, pushing her over with a flick and then pulling her back. Finally, she gasped, “No more, no more,” and he relented. He slid her blouse back down over her chest and pulled her back into him.
“That was wonderful,” she sighed. “I had no idea it would feel so good!”
He smiled down at her. “That’s just a start. You wait.”
“And how am I to wait, now that I know what I have missed?” she insisted.
“We’ll manage,” he answered. “Remember, I gave my word -”
“ – and you deliver on your promises, yes, I know. But it will be hard to wait!”
“That’s the idea.”
An hour later, Stasia emerged from the rear cabin, looking as if nothing had ever been amiss.
“Ready for lunch?” asked Mike. “The steward prepared plenty; I was about to ask Katrina to wake you.”
“You wouldn’t wake me yourself?” she asked, eyes twinkling.
“Not on a bet,” he laughed. “Sit down and eat. We can talk about our plans between bites.”
“It’s different,” said Katrina.
“Yeah, it is. I didn’t specify a menu, so Chatham gave us a menu of British food, done well.” He pointed. “That’s beef Wellington, those are Yorkshire puddings, and that’s a Shepherd’s pie. Mixed vegetables, bread, and, Tony, didn’t you say something about dessert?”
The steward answered from his miniature kitchen. “Yes, sir, a banoffee pie.”
“Banoffee?” said Stasia around a mouthful, already diving in.
“A portmanteau -”
“A combined word,” clarified Mike.
“Of ‘banana’ and ‘toffee’,” finished Tony. “A specialty of Mrs. Chatham, sir, she made one specifically for you and your guests.”
“Very kind of her,” replied Stasia, as Mike was now busy shoveling. “Was it not, Michael?”
He swallowed hurriedly.
“Yes, most kind!” he managed. Tony retired back to the kitchen, and Mike continued.
“We’ll arrive in DC about two in the afternoon, local time. Katrina, I’d suggest you get some sleep, if you can. Jet lag is a bitch if you don’t know how to deal with it.” He saw her look. “We’re moving so quickly, our bodies get confused as to what time it is. We left at ten in the morning, we’re going to fly for twelve hours, so that would make it ten at night, right?”
“DC is so far away, their clocks are eight hours behind. About the time you’re going to want to go to bed will still be the middle of the day.”
“Ah, I think I understand.”
“Good. I don’t have anything laid on for today; Stasia, you?”
“Yes, Kildar,” she answered. “I made an appointment for late afternoon with Noemi Diakite. Amelia Weston recommended me to her. She will take Katrina’s measurements again, and we shall discuss the dress she will make.”
“How long do you expect to be? And where are you meeting?”
“I am to phone her when we arrive, and she will meet us at our hotel.”
“Very convenient. And how much will this convenience cost me?”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Okay, so you two can have the suite, and I’ll rack out in one of the bedrooms.”
“You aren’t going to help me choose?” asked Katrina plaintively.
“It’s considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her gown before the wedding,” Mike said, trying to placate her.
“In other words, Katrina, it’s our problem to solve,” explained Stasia. “That’s fine, Michael. You will be surprised on your wedding day. And night,” she added archly.
Katrina blushed slightly when Mike answered, “I hope so!”
“How long will Diakite need to make the dress? Will she need Katrina to stay in DC?”
Stasia said, “Not terribly long, and I don’t believe she will need her once she has the measurements and we’ve decided on a design. We do not have a schedule, do we?”
“No, we don’t have a schedule, but I’d rather not spend too much time in Sodom-on-Potomac. There’s lots of other things I want her to see.”
“Like what, Mike?” Katrina was eager to hear.
“Yes, Michael, what do you want Katrina to see?”
The insinuation was clear to Mike.
“And have I seen it, or is it to be something new?”
“Stasia, you’re being a very good girl right now,” Mike said, warningly. “And yes, it will be something new for you both. I’m not sure of the exact plan, but I’m thinking of Boston’s Freedom Trail, Cooperstown, the Alamo, the Gateway Arch, and a couple other stops. We’ll spend a few days each area, so we don’t have to rush, and we can always change our minds. Well, almost always change our minds.”
He reached behind and pulled up a briefcase. Opening it, he pulled out two small envelopes.
“These arrived two days ago, and they’re the only commitments I’ve made for the trip.”
“What are they?” asked Katrina, as Stasia said, “Where are they?”
“They’re tickets,” he said to Katrina, and to Stasia he said, “Cruxshadows, in St. Louis, and Opening Day at Fenway Park.”
He grinned. “Time I took you out to a ballgame.”
A car and driver was waiting for them at Dulles when they arrived, courtesy of OSOL.
“Mr. Jenkins?” asked the driver, an athletically built man with close cropped hair. To Mike, he screamed, “Marine!” but he was cautious, nonetheless.
“ID?” he asked in reply. Wordlessly, the maybe-Marine reached into a pocket and pulled out a Pentagon ID card.
“Major Hughes, then?” Mike was pleased to see that he was Corps.
“Yes, sir. May I see your passport?” Mike had anticipated the request and already had it in hand. A cursory glance satisfied the major. “Very good. Colonel Pierson sends his regrets, but he said you would understand. I am assigned to you for the duration of your stay here.”
“It’ll be nice to have a guide in DC,” Mike said.
“No, sir,” explained Hughes. “Your stay in the States.”
He elaborated, “It was felt that you should have a secure, personal conduit to OSOL during your visit. Besides,” he added, smiling, “I could use some time out of the rabbit warren.”
“I think we’ll get along. I’m Mike,” reaching out to shake hands.
“Jack,” came the reply, with a firm grip. “And the ladies are Miss Rakovich and Miss Devlich?”
“Anastasia and Katrina, yes,” Mike answered, gesturing.
He turned and called, “Captain Hardesty?”
“We should be here for at least a day, probably two. You and the crew all set?”
“Yes, sir, we have reservations at the Hilton. One crew will be on call at all times.”
“That shouldn’t be necessary -” Mike began.
“Sir.” The quiet note in Hardesty’s voice was clear, and Mike chuckled.
“ – But it’s appreciated,” he finished. “We’ll call before we’re ready to go.”
“We’ll have her ready for departure.” With that, Hardesty returned to the plane, and Mike back to Hughes.
“Well, Jack, we’re set here when you are.”
“Luggage?” Mike was carrying two medium-sized bags, while Katrina and Stasia only had shoulder bags.
“This is it for now.”
“Is the rest arriving later?” Hughes asked, confused.
“In a way,” Mike said. “They’re going shopping.”
He’d have sworn that the Marine’s eyes had shown a flash of compassionate pain.
“You should be the perfect escort.”
They were staying at the Hay-Adams Hotel, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Mike would have preferred a more anonymous location if traveling alone, but he was determined to make this trip as pleasant, and memorable, for his ladies as possible. Hence, the Hay-Adams.
Built on the site of the former homes of John Hay and Henry Adams, two well-known nineteenth-century Washington residents, the hotel bragged that it had the “second-best address in Washington.” A classic Italian Renaissance-style building, the building was nearly as iconic as the House across the street. Stasia appreciated the details as they passed through the lobby to their suite, pointing out Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns, and elaborate Tudor, Elizabethan and Italian ceiling motifs. Katrina, for her part, was simply speechless.
Their room overlooked Lafayette Square and the White House. Katrina rushed over to the windows, asking, “That is where the President lives, yes?”
“Yes, it is. And don’t get any ideas,” growled Mike. Katrina muttered something inaudible under her breath as he continued. “Haven’t met this one. Doubt I will; don’t think we exactly see eye-to-eye. But you never know.”
He looked around the well-appointed, no, positively sybaritic room. “I think this will do while we’re here,” he joked, “Though it is a little plain.”
Anastasia’s throw pillow lived up to its name.
Mike ducked the follow-up and dashed across the suite. “I’ve got to make some phone calls,” he called, standing in a bedroom door. “Let me know when you’re done.”
He shut the door quickly.
“Office of Strategic Operations Liaison, Colonel Pierson speaking, how may I help you sir or ma’am?”
“Bob, Mike Jenkins. Unsecure.”
“Met with Jack. Wondering if there’s anything I can shake loose tomorrow or the next day?”
“Probably next day, I think. Lots of commitments, lots of research to do.”
“Gotcha. We’ll run by in the afternoon?”
“Works. Any plans tomorrow?”
“O-kay. Later then.”
“Tomorrow, around town. Day after, back to the rabbit warren.”
“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Katrina’s weight rested comfortably on him, her smiling face inches away.
“Not actually. It is five in the afternoon.”
“You’re done with the dress, I’m guessing?”
If anything, her smile grew wider. “It will be so beautiful! I can’t wait for you to see it!”
“I can’t wait to see you in it.”
“But now it is time for supper,” she said, rolling off. “Come. You must shower.” She pulled his arm until he followed her, standing slowly as his joints had started to lock up again.
“Oh, your knees! And Kurosawa’s not here to give you your treatment! Stasia told me about them. Maybe he can teach me his tricks with the needles!” she said excitedly. “I’ll go ahead and start the water, get it good and hot for you. You put your clothes over there.”
Katrina walked off before he could protest. Sometimes you just have to roll with it, he thought, and shucked off his travel-worn clothing, tossing them to the side.
“Avert your eyes,” he said, opening the bathroom and releasing a cloud of steam.
Again, he felt her body against his, but for the first time it was only her.
“Katrina!” he snapped. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Taking care of you!” she retorted. “How am I to wash you in my clothes?” she added, with impeccable logic. “Now. Into the shower!”
Mike allowed her to wash him; in truth, he didn’t take much convincing. It was all he could do not to stare at the girl-woman who would soon be his bride. As she lathered the soap onto his body, he asked, “So why the fuss? I didn’t plan anything formal for dinner.”
“Stasia did,” was all she would answer. After he was towel dried, Katrina left to dress. He found his favorite Harrowgate suit laid out on the bed, so obviously, Stasia had something special in mind.
“Okay, Stasia, where are we -” He cut off mid-sentence when he caught sight of Katrina. “Where? When? How?”
The form-fitting green dress Katrina was wearing was never a product of the Valley. In fact, unless Mike was much mistaken, it wasn’t even a product of a store. This dress had to have been hand-made by an extremely skilled seamstress.
A single strap looped around her left shoulder, swooping down across her chest, dropping lower around her side and back, defining and highlighting every supple curve. Her hips were encased in the same shimmering green, a floor-length skirt dropping down, a slit rising along her right leg all the way up her thigh. Plainly, the work of an expert.
“Noemi provided the dress,” spoke Stasia. “I called her from home with Katrina’s figure. I hoped she would have it ready in time.”
Katrina was being surprisingly demure, looking to the floor, nothing like her usual brazen self.
“Do you like it?” she asked softly.
“You are more beautiful than usual,” he replied, stepping forward and holding her. He cupped her chin and raised her head to look into her eyes.
“And never look down; you have nothing, nothing to be ashamed of!” he insisted, kissing her.
“Now. Stasia, since you’ve organized this, what’s for dinner?”
“Michael, you often complain that nobody in Georgia can cook a steak properly. So, we have reservations at the Capital Grille.” She smiled. “I have heard they cook steak well.”
Dinner was simply amazing. Wagyu beef carpaccio, seasoned perfectly, the beef so thin it was nearly translucent; a creamy lobster bisque; Katrina and Stasia each had a petite filet mignon, while Mike dove into a porcini-rubbed Delmonico that was so tender he put aside his knife; fresh seasonal vegetables; and a chocolate espresso cake, which Mike and Katrina took turns feeding each other. All accompanied by an ever-changing variety of wines, complementing each course.
Amelia Weston had joined them briefly.
“Katrina! Congratulations! Stasia told me the wonderful news!”
“Thank you, Mrs. Weston.”
“Ah, I told you, call me Amelia.”
“I forgot, Amelia.”
“Is that one of Noemi’s creations?”
“Yes, it is, and thank you for referring us to her,” smoothly interjected Stasia.
“Isn’t she simply amazing? And yet so few people know about her!”
They chatted for a few moments, Mike able to eat in peace, until Amelia turned to him and said, “Have you had a chance to talk with our new President again?”
“No, not directly,” he answered. “Although I think that he’s been well-informed of my supposed abilities.”
“Dinner didn‘t scare him away. Good for him!” A few more words, and she announced she would go. “Mustn’t keep the General waiting too long!” She swept away.
As they were preparing to leave, the maitre’d came over.
“Mr. Jenkins, there is a phone call for you. If you’ll follow me?”
Instantly, Mike was alert. Nodding, he said in Keldaran Georgian, “Stasia, you have your phone?”
“Give me three minutes. If I’m not back, call Bob Pierson at OSOL, grab Katrina, and get the hell out of here.”
“I understand, Kildar.”
Katrina’s eyes had gone wide with concern, but now flashed anger. “Michael!”
“Don’t worry,” he replied, still in Georgian. “Trust Stasia.”
He followed the waiting maitre’d to the front desk, where he indicated a phone in a quiet alcove. Mike thanked him and picked up the handset.
“Sorry to bother you at dinner,” came Pierson’s familiar voice. “I tried the hotel first. Hughes said you were at the Grille. Good steak?”
“Great, Bob, what the fuck is going on? I’ve got two women who are about to bolt if I don’t get back pretty damned quick.”
Pierson had the decency to sound contrite. “Sorry. DIA, NSA, CIA, basically the big five, will all have reps at the meet. Four o’clock. Anyone else you want there?”
“SecDef and SecState should have reps, too.”
“Will do. See you.”
Mike hung up and walked back to the table.
“Trouble?” asked Katrina.
“Just business,” answered Mike, the mood broken. “It’s late. Let’s head back.”
Goodnights had been said, the women retiring to the other bedroom.
“It is the only way I can properly chaperone you,” explained Stasia with a laugh.
Mike was stretched out on his bed. The door to his bedroom quietly opened, and a figure crept in.
“Wrong answer, Michael,” laughed Katrina, abandoning her attempt at stealth. “I know it is wrong, but I wished to be with you tonight.”
“Katrina -” he said, warningly.
“Not that way,” she clarified. “Your damned promise! No, I only wish to stay with you,” climbing into the bed. She wasn’t wearing anything. “May I stay here tonight?”
She cuddled into his arm, laid her head on his shoulder, and draped her arm across his chest.
I can get used to this, he thought as he fell asleep faster than he thought possible.