I’m liking this book the more I get into it. Clarissa is somewhat of an enigma as a character in the Noble Intentions series. You get a sense of what she’s capable of, but not the whole picture. She’s obviously street smart. She was raised by a hard-nosed Marine Lieutenant Colonel. She lost her mother at a young age. And she was barely an adult when her father was gone. But other than that, we know little.
This book will remedy some of that. I’ll let you know upfront, there’s not a lot of info dumping or back story thrown into this book. By this point, you know that’s not how I write 🙂 This story picks up where Clarissa’s story left off at the end of Noble Intentions Season Three.
Now, for the excerpt (unedited!). Still working on the title and cover, but will reveal when they are ready.
General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport. Logan International for short. Adjacent to East Boston and the Boston Harbor. Six runways, and over one hundred gates divided among four terminals. All located on twenty four hundred acres.
Nearly thirty million people pass through those gates each year. Business, pleasure, returning home, going home, and some who fly for the hell of it because they can.
Clarissa Abbot, one of those thirty million passengers, had no choice in the matter. She departed the 777, proceeded through the hot and humid jetway, and walked out into the open gate adorned with blue and white striped seats, and manned by three disinterested airline employees, because Sinclair, her boss, told her to do so.
Or suffer consequences that would brought out words such as ‘fatal,’ ‘dismemberment,’ and ‘never to be found again.’
Sinclair hadn’t told her who would carry out the acts. She had no reason to ask. Clarissa knew. They had people in their employ who could do such things without batting an eye, and without leaving a shred of evidence behind. These were the kind of men who didn’t care who it was they were terminating. The lived for their jobs. They got antsy when they went two long without cleaning a scene, or ridding the world of a bad seed.
Had she become one?
In both her heart and her head, she didn’t think so. Clarissa had done everything she’d been asked. Relationships that meant the world to her at one time were now fading memories, like a paper boat placed on the water as the tide headed out. Whether those relationships drifted away or sunk into the abyss, she had no idea, and it did not matter.
Neither did her last assignment. Forget it now, Clarissa. Those had been Sinclair’s final words to her while she worked frantically to eliminate evidence in her room in London. Clarissa destroyed all her belongings, including her cell phone and laptop, in the compound’s incinerator. She left with the clothes on her back, a few thousand in cash, and a passport with a false identity. She boarded the plane and departed from Heathrow shortly after nine in the morning. Her flight flew back in time and arrived noon Eastern.
Her gate was located at the end of the terminal. Glancing back, a wide window offered a panoramic view of a runway. A plane, she couldn’t tell what style, lifted off. Dust and dirt and exhaust swirled in two sideways mini-tornadoes. She turned her attention forward. A sparse crowd walked away from her, down the hall that split the terminal in two. She joined the other travelers, attempting to blend in. Not an easy task for a woman like her. She was tall. Her dark red hair, pale skin, and looks drew the eyes and attention of most men and some women. Hatred, scorn, lust, curiosity. She saw it all.
She didn’t fear them, though. Her concern laid in the fact that Sinclair had provided no further instructions to her to follow after departing the plane. Unfamiliar faces turned into potential enemies. Throughout her time in Sinclair’s group, she had been exposed to few of the members. It had been in her best interest, he’d said. The fewer people that knew her, the better off she would be.
You never know, he had told her, who might turn on you.
Would Sinclair? Better yet, had he?
A pair of dark eyes fixed their gaze on her. Eyebrows flexed down. The man’s face was cut from steel, handsome, and covered with four day’s growth. His black hair was adorned with flecks of silver. He wore a dark suit and no tie. He left the top two buttons of his white pinstripe shirt unbuttoned.
She had no recollection of ever seeing or meeting the man. He stared at her like they’d been lovers the night before.
Clarissa kept her stride at an even pace. She didn’t deviate to the left or the right. She couldn’t. There was room to either side. She stayed true on a path that led her right past the man.
He glanced over her head. She resisted the urge to look back. His focus shifted from above, to the left, to the right, then back on her. She watched as his right hand slipped into his pocket. He couldn’t have traveled this far through the airport with a weapon. Even something as discreet as a ceramic knife would be spotted in the new imaging machines they had installed at the security checkpoint.
He pulled a black cylinder from his pocket. Maybe two or three inches in length. Before she could identify the object, he’d tucked it in his palm and passed it off to his other hand. His fingers wrapped around it.
The guy took a step forward. A couple walking along the outer edges of the corridor took two steps in. The man nodded, flashed a smile, and merged into the line. He was three paces in front of her. She glanced down at his shoes. They looked expensive. The soles were hard and thick. The uppers made from leather. A lot of the guys paid for custom shoes, she’d heard. They wanted comfort, the ability to kick ass, and to look good.
The man slowed his pace. He took a step and a half for every two Clarissa made. She saw the object in his left hand. They were almost side by side. He glanced over his shoulder, made eye contact, smiled. There became even with each other. She matched his pace. They stayed close to the outer edges of the walkway. His left hand permeated her peripheral vision. She reached for it with her right. They continued on as if they were a couple reunited after time spent away. Between their hands, the cylinder pressed against both their palms.
“Central Parking Garage,” he said. “Level three. Backed into a spot in the middle of the last row. Now close your hand.”
The man unthreaded his fingers from hers. She made a fist around the object, pulled her hand tight to her side, and slipped it into her jean’s pocket beside her cell phone. She left her hand on top of the object. Her index finger traced it. Six buttons, and a hole at the top. Something metal, pointed inside the hole.
“I’ll go back and get it for you, honey,” the guy said, stopping and stepping to out of the flow of traffic. He leaned in and kissed her cheek. The stubble around his mouth scratched at her. “I’ll catch up at baggage claim.”
Clarissa looked around, smiled, continued on. In the end, no one there would care. Unless they did. And if there were someone there who took anything from the interaction other than a husband or boyfriend going back to claim his significant other’s laptop or carry-on, then the rest of the act wouldn’t have fooled them either.
She pulled the object out. It was a car key. Everything was built into the device, the key, alarm, remote start, and lock and unlock button.
She continued on, navigating through the airport. At one point she reached into her purse and pulled out a pair of knock-off designer sunglasses. She wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be Gucci or Armani or Prada or some other brand. Clarissa didn’t care about such things anymore.
Baggage claim was packed with hundreds of people. The result of dozens of flights arriving at one time. Midday madness. She stopped and stood on the tips of her toes and looked for the man who handed her the key. Had he meant it when he said he’d catch up at baggage claim, or had he said that to make the act more believable. She wandered the snaking area full of travelers, conveyor belts and yet to be claimed bags. A tall man in an airport uniform pulled a red suitcase off a belt that had stopped moving. The bag looked overstuffed. He pulled the extendable handle all the way out and wheeled it to an office.
The land of abandoned luggage, she thought.
Ten minutes later the man from the terminal still had not arrived. She took one final glance around. Two-thirds of the faces had changed over. That was fine with her. The fewer people around to remember her standing there, the better.
It was the middle of June, not even officially summer yet. But when she stepped outside, it felt like North Carolina in August. The temperature was over ninety, as was the humidity. By the time she found the parking garage, to bottom half of her shirt was in danger of sticking to her back. It grew worse in the garage. Airflow was non-existent. The structure reeked of exhaust and gas fumes.
Some idiot honked his horn in tune with a song. Or perhaps he was just a jerk. The sound echoed off the floors and walls and ceiling. The car drove past her. The young man behind the wheel looked over at her and winked. Although her first instinct had been to extend a gesture toward him, Clarissa ignored the guy. There was no point in getting involved in something that could result in her being arrested, especially while using an identity that could have been compromised without her knowledge.
She found the stairs and walked down one flight. The air felt thicker on the third level. It smelled worse. The front of her head ached, and she felt nauseous.
“Keep it together,” she told herself. “A little further is all.”
The last row was visible from where she stood. Rather than following the road to the left or right, then back, she cut through the middle, sidestepping between cars whose owners who were incapable of parking in the middle of a spot.
She reached the last row, pulled the key from her pocket and pressed the alarm. A silver Infiniti G Coupe chirped and screamed and honked and flashed in response. She mashed the lock and unlock buttons with her thumb until the car went silent.
“Not bad, Sinclair,” she muttered, approaching the vehicle from the driver’s side.
She pressed the ignition button on the key. The engine roared to life. She hoped the air conditioning had been left on full blast. She turned to the side in front of the car and shuffled to the door. Voices and laughter and footsteps echoed throughout the concrete structure. She glanced around while pulling the door open and sliding into the driver’s seat. The leather seat and steering wheel felt cool. The vents piped ice cold air out. She felt the ends of her hair lift and blow in the artificial breeze. The radio had been left on a local classic rock station. She didn’t bother to change it. The navigation unit had a destination pre-programmed. She pressed buttons in an attempt to pan out or display a list of the directions.
She was interrupted before she could figure it out.