Rooftop Angels is the third in a series I wrote about the group called Enigma. In An Unlikely Hero we meet Tessa Scott who unwittingly gets involved with a secretly funded group of agents who work through the universities of the United States. In Winds of Deception Tessa finds herself involved once again because of threats a family member made against Israel and the President of the United States. Now in Rooftop Angels Tessa works for the State Department and travels to Central Asia where plans turn to chaos as she finds herself in Northern Afghanistan protecting orphan girls from the Taliban. A Kyrgyz tribesman from the Wahkan Valley fights at her side to save them. But his cooperation comes with a steep price. Everything she believed in comes into question as one man from her past searches desperately to find her before the tribesman takes her away forever.
Her husband must have forgotten to activate the security system again when he’d taken the kids to their evening activities. Tessa noticed the lack of blinking lights on the master panel when she’d entered the house through the garage. The well-lit laundry room showed no signs of disturbance, not that you could tell with the mounds of dirty towels, soiled football jerseys and lopsided white shirts that needed a once over with a steam iron.
The door swung open into the kitchen filled with a darkness that felt like mud, heavy and annoying on the bottom of your best shoes. Even the nightlight next to the stove offered no help. With an awkward search for the light switch, she fumbled with her bag of groceries then dropped her briefcase to the floor. When Tessa found the wall switch and flipped it on, she stood with a familiar paralyzing fear she might not be alone. Just like always, she stood still for a few seconds surveying the surroundings.
Robert called her a spook; afraid of her own shadow, of everything and everyone. A week didn’t go by without him telling her she needed to lighten up. No matter what, he promised to protect her. But her husband didn’t know the secrets she carried.
With the groceries placed on the island, Tessa’s eyes went to the night light laying precariously on the edge of the counter, the globe smashed. She pulled open a drawer and slipped a butcher knife out then dropped her hand to her side. The open style kitchen spilled light into the dining room and family area. Timers on table lamps missed their appointed time that should have flooded the room with light.
Knowing she needed to stop and return to the garage to wait for Robert and the kids shoved common sense aside. Tessa didn’t want to think about her family coming home to danger. She swallowed hard as her feet took baby steps. That’s when she noticed the time flashing on the microwave. Could there have been a power surge? Tessa smiled, relieved that now a logical explanation for the timers and maybe even the security system failure. That didn’t explain the smashed night light, however.
The heavy exhale filled the dining room as she entered with more confidence and bent down to retrieve the timer from the wall socket to reset it. Tessa’s body tensed as she touched the timer lying upside down on the wood floors. She’d laid the knife down on the dining room table only a second ago. Now her fingers fumbled nervously in search of it.
Pulling back her shoulders, her eyes once more searched the depths of darkness in her home. Then she saw him. He was near the double windows. An attempt to close the shutters still left a ribbon of light to slip through revealing his large form not more than ten feet from her.
His silence spoke danger before he vaulted toward her. A scream shattered the darkness as she tried to back away only to fall against a chair that hadn’t been pushed completely under the table. She grabbed then jerked it out in time to block the intruder’s advance as she swung the butcher knife at his head. He blocked it with an arm that felt like solid steel. Even though he managed to knock it from her grasp, Tessa felt the fabric rip. The split second she needed to escape forced her toward the stairs.
Inside her night stand rested a loaded revolver. If she could make it there, she’d kill him. Tessa had no qualms about protecting herself or her family. She knew the staircase even in darkness. The knowledge gave her an edge on the danger that stalked her up the staircase. The unnerving sound of a guttural chuckle reached her ears.
The beat of her terrified heart pounded in her ears. His hand grabbed her foot, bringing her down hard onto her knees. The intruder was taken aback when Tessa rotated on her hip and kicked him so hard in the jaw that he fell back against the railing. With a grunt, she scrambled up to the landing and raced to her bedroom.
As she entered, she nervously pushed in the lock button on the door knob. Without waiting to see if her efforts to slam it shut were successful, she rushed to her night stand. She yanked out the drawer as the intruder kicked open the door. Her hands searched for the holster she’d Velcro to the upper inside of the drawer.
The sound of his heavy breathing revealed he’d stopped at the door. She wobbled as she pivoted to turn and level the revolver at his chest.
“So help me I’ll use this.” The moonlight spilled through the open windows across her weapon.
The man was easily seen now. He appeared to be over six foot, a detail she could remember unlike the dark ski mask that hid any features to report later. His body looked muscular covered in black clothing. She could hear his heavy breathing as if he were winded. With a disturbing calmness the man appeared to be considering her threat as he looked around the room then back at the weapon. The moonlight touched his demonic smile that showed itself in the opening of the ski mask. One cautious step forward drew an immediate reaction.
Tessa pulled the trigger, not once but six times. Only clicks. She looked down with horror at her weapon then to the intruder who reached in his pants pocket and took out bullets. He extended his hand to her as if offering a gift before letting them fall through his fingers to the floor. Something resembling amusement escaped his throat.
Without hesitation, Tessa hurled the gun at his head making contact. He stumbled sideways enough for her to charge toward the door in hopes of escape. With an angry howl, the man grabbed her around the waist and dragged her toward the center of the room. He stopped several times when Tessa nearly broke free. Each time his grip grew stronger until he shoved her against a bedpost.
A swift kick to his shin only managed to be rewarded with another shake as he pushed his face in hers. “Stop!” he demanded.
Something snapped inside her brain from autopilot to Defcon 4. This would not end well if she didn’t fight for her life. His size told of brute strength. How would she ever escape? With her fingers, Tessa tried to reach for his eye holes only to feel her hands captured by the man as he pinned her between his body and the edge of the bed. Feeling his rock hard body, the realization her strength was no match for his, washed over her. He jerked her into his arms.
The intruder took one hand and touched her long hair before sliding it down her face. She cringed as his fingers, smelling of tobacco and beer, rubbed across her trembling lips. Opening her mouth slightly as if to speak, the man’s eyes focused on her tongue. Cocking his head, as if preparing to hear begging or protest, he slipped a finger inside. The unexpected crunch of her teeth sunk deep into his skin. He growled and released her in one step. Once again, the thought of escape surged through quivering limbs as he picked her up with a labored grunt. The bed groaned as her back smacked against the mattress. Tears of panic threatened to blind any hope of escape when she rolled to her knees and scrambled away.
“Stop!” he demanded again.
Vice grip holds with rough hands locked around her ankles before jerking her legs flat against the covers. The bed creaked as she felt him climb onto the bed then swing a leg over her prone body. Before he could apply his weight, Tessa flipped over to her back causing him to almost pause in midair. A sinister smile appeared in the mouth opening of his ski mask. His clothes were intact but there was no mistake of his body wanting her or where this was headed. With fierceness, he grabbed her face and forced her to look at him. When she closed her eyes he shook her head.
“Look at me,” he growled like a dog.
Tessa did as she was told. His eyes were black as the night which she thought matched his soul. Would she need to remember that? He smelled of perspiration now. Maybe if she could get him to touch something besides her, the sweat might have traces of DNA. What she did know was that his breath reeked. The black clothes appeared mismatched and void of any significant details. Even the smile revealed crooked teeth, a sign he’d not been given the best of dental care. He sat up and reached down to unbutton her blouse.
“Easy,” is all he said. When the last button came loose, he spread the cotton fabric open and eyed her. Just as he extended his hand to touch her neck and begin its descent down her chest, she doubled her fist and landed a blow on his ear.
Stunned, he shook his head and grabbed the side of his head. The growl started again deep in his throat. He pulled back his fist to return the favor when she swallowed her pride and held up her hands in surrender.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she quivered. “Please. Don’t hurt me. I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t hurt me.”
The man stopped as Tessa lifted her hands up over her head to rest on the pillows, inviting him to her apparent surrender. In slow motion he pushed himself down against her again before taking a deep breath. Tessa had the impression he might be savoring the moment as his eyes searched her face.
“See. I’ll be good. I promise. Just don’t hurt me,” she begged in small helpless sniffs.
The man leaned forward and captured each of Tessa’s hands that remained over her head as his chest pressed harder against her body.
Tessa ran her tongue on the outside of her lips then pretended to bite them. Desire sprang to his eyes. Although forced, her voice became a husky whisper. “Slow. Please.” Tessa nodded as he leaned closed to enjoy a first taste. “Yes. Like that.”
His grip loosened as he began to feel the firmness of Tessa’s mouth against his. Caught up in the moment he didn’t feel Tessa raise her knees throwing him off balance or notice that her hands jerked down, throwing him into the headboard. Tessa flipped him off her so easily he fell off the bed into the corner of the nightstand, clipping his head on the way to the floor.
Tessa reached for the flashlight on the opposite nightstand and jumped off the bed. She circled around to where the man moaned and struggled to get to his feet. Turning on the light she stuck the beam in his face, blinding him. He raised an arm up to block the light as he staggered to a stand. Tessa swung the foot long flashlight at his head, but his reflexes were still better than most. He knocked it across the floor.
“Honey, we’re home!” Her husband Robert and the kids had arrived back from evening activities.
Both Tessa and the intruder froze before looking at the door then at each other.
Pointing at the open window she shoved gently at his chest. “You better go.” Her voice turned matter-of-fact. The intruder paused a little too long. “Go. Now. Before it’s too late.” She walked to the window and held back the sheer curtain and nodded toward the opening.
He turned and bolted toward her. Pushing out the screen with utmost care, he took a moment to look back at her one last time and smiled before patting her on the cheek with gentle affection.
Tessa rushed to flip the light on. The bullets were scattered near the door. She took her foot and pushed them under the dresser as she lifted the gun from the floor. With a nervous jerk, she opened her underwear drawer of the dresser and shoved the gun in the back. The jewelry box, her father had made her on the sixteenth birthday sat perfectly on top. Pulling the drawers out, Tessa dumped the contents across the floor.
Tessa heard Robert at the top of the stairs. A final look at the staging before she licked her fingers then rubbed them under her eyes to make a trail of eyeliner. Another drop of spit placed on her cheek and she was set to go. When she flung open the door and ran to her husband with a breathless cry of helplessness, Tessa wondered if God might be frowning at her. “Oh, Robert!”
He pushed her at arm’s length noticing the muddled appearance. “What is it?” His tone now revealed concern.
“A burglar!” Tessa tried to catch her breath as she felt Robert pull her back in his arms.
“Are you hurt?” He pushed her back again looking at her blouse.
Tessa shook her head. “No. I was changing in the bathroom when I heard him. I locked myself inside. When I heard you come in I rushed out to warn you. I guess it scared him off. He went out the window. Oh, Robert.” Tessa fell against his chest once more to touch up her face with a quick lick on two fingers, and then streaked them under her eyes.
“What about the alarm? Didn’t it go off?” He watched his two boys and little daughter scamper up the stairs to stop suddenly at seeing their shaken mother.
“It was off when I got home. I guess you forgot again,” Tessa lied. If God wasn’t frowning he would be now, she reasoned.
Robert looked visibly afraid. “I could have sworn I activated that when we left. I’m so sorry, Tessa. This is my fault.” He pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911.
The children hugged their mother, patting her like she did them when they were hurt.
“The police are on their way, Tessa.” He kissed her before walking toward the bedroom to take a look around.
The man easily hopped over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. He crouched for a minute to make sure no one saw him, dressed in black, it was doubtful, but he was a cautious man. With the fake teeth removed and shoved inside his jacket, the man proceeded to move to the backdoor of the modern style house, so unlike the one he’d just invaded. He already knew where the spare key was hidden. The old couple who lived here were predictable; under the doormat, like so many other people in the neighborhood. The woman next door had been different. It had taken him thirty minutes to find it. The security system needed to be updated so he merely pulled the outside wires to disconnect it. Rather than pay a few dollars more a month to get a wireless system they were left vulnerable to someone like him.
The red rotating light of a police car pulled into the drive of the house where he’d just escaped. A smile spread across his face remembering the blue of the woman’s eyes, the firmness of her lips and the bite of her teeth. He stuck his wounded finger into his mouth to suck the oozing blood. His body still stirred at remembering how she felt beneath him. If only her husband had not come home…
He peeked through the door panel into a dark kitchen as he turned the key in the lock. Someone was home. Lights filled a distant living room and the sound of the television caught his ear as he moved with the skill of a cat burglar. They started talking with excitement as the two figures appeared and moved to the front door. He couldn’t understand what they were saying, but he imagined it had to do with the police car next door.
The doorbell rang just as he moved toward the refrigerator. He leaned against it, hoping whoever it was would not want to come in. Too many unexpected surprises in one night for his liking. Not only was he hungry but his body craved a very cold shower.
It was the police. They asked the usual questions; had they seen anyone, heard anything, did they lock their doors, etc. He imagined the officer handing them a card with his information and number in case they thought of something. The door clicked shut and the sound of a dead bolt being thrown made him wonder if the couple might be afraid.
The television became silent and he heard footsteps move toward the kitchen. They spoke in soft voices until they entered the kitchen, flipping on the lights.
They didn’t see him at first. But both saw him by the refrigerator at the same time. The man trembled just slightly and the woman gasped as her hand flew to her throat. All three stood looking at each other in silence.
The woman stepped toward him and reached for his ski mask. She was far from gentle as she snatched it off. After tossing it onto the table she shook a crooked finger. “What in goodness name have you done?” Hands dropped to a narrow waist.
He ran his hand across his face before opening the freezer door. He took out a package of frozen peas and laid it across his face where Tessa had managed to make contact.
“Did you hurt Tessa?” she demanded in an Irish accent that always seemed to thicken when irritated. “And what about those babies. Were they home?”
“Do you have any ice cream, Martha?” He looked back in the freezer with unconcern.
“Answer me, Chase Hunter or I’ll flog you here and now.”
The old man pulled out a chair and sat down. “You better give us a full account or she will make your life miserable, Chase.”
Pulling out the vanilla ice cream Chase frowned as his eyes scanned the label. “Is this all you got?” He tossed the peas back inside before shutting the door. Martha handed him a spoon before walking to the china cabinet to get him a bowl. Before she could complete the task he’d already opened the container and began eating from the box.
“I didn’t hurt her. The kids and What’s-His-Face were gone or at least until the end of the training session.” Chase leaned against the counter and scraped the last bite of ice cream from the bottom of the box. He licked the spoon and met Martha’s angry eyes with his. “She’s fine. This time she shot me.” A half-hearted chuckled slipped out as a drip of ice cream slid down his chin. “Samantha did a heck of a job breaking her in. I guessed we’re done with that part of the training.” He smiled with the spoon clenched between his teeth. “It was just getting interesting too.”
Martha grabbed a damp dish towel and snapped it against Chase’s leg making him yelp. “What the hell.”
“Watch your mouth in this house, young man or I’ll shoot you myself.”
Chase winked at her husband. “Yes, mam.”
The man, Francis, pointed a finger at the Enigma team leader. “I’ve seen how you look at Tessa. She’s a happily married woman, Chase. Don’t mess that up.”
Chase didn’t like being told what to do or how to live his life. “I’ve gotta go. It’s getting late.” He tossed the empty ice cream box in the trash can and laid the spoon in the sink. He leaned over and kissed the woman on the cheek. “Care if I shower and change before I hit the road. The police might be at the entrance to this happy little subdivision. I don’t want to fit any description Tessa gave.”
They both nodded and waved him away.
When Chase left the room Francis turned to his wife. “I don’t like where this is headed.
One More Thing:
This is just the beginning. Chase and Tessa have a history now as book three comes to life. Neither can figure out what they are going to do about their friendship. It continues to be complicated. Want to see how it all began?
Winds of Deception - http://amzn.to/1dxkHOo
An Unlikely Hero - http://amzn.to/1KbFRgY