Taken by Midnight (Chapter Eighteen)
Jenna didn't know what he'd said to Lucan to persuade him, but later that morning, instead of Renata driving the Order's black Range Rover through four hours of unfamiliar highway from Boston to Manhattan, it had been Jenna behind the wheel, with GPS on the dashboard and Brock trying to help navigate from the far back of the vehicle. His solar-sensitive Breed skin cells and daytime UV concerns had kept him from even thinking he could sit beside her up front for such a long trip, let alone do the driving.
Although it was probably beyond immature for her to be amused, Jenna had to admit she took a certain satisfaction in his mandatory banishment to the seat behind her. She hadn't forgotten his accusation about her always needing to be the one in charge, but judging from the impatient driving advice and muttered commentary about the apparent lead in her foot, it was obvious that she wasn't the only one who had a problem surrendering control.
And now, as they sat inside the dark cavern of an underground parking garage across the street from the FBI field office in New York City, Brock was still giving her orders from the backseat.
"Text me as soon as you're past security." At her nod, he went on.
"Once you're in your meeting with the agent, text me again. I want periodic text check-ins, no less than fifteen minutes apart or I'm coming in after you."
Jenna huffed out an impatient sigh and shot him a look around the driver's seat. "This isn't a middle school dance. It's a professional office meeting in a very public building. Unless something goes totally off the rails in there, I'll text you when I get into the meeting and when it's over."
She could tell he was scowling behind his wraparound UV-blocking sunglasses. "If you won't take this seriously, then I am going in with you."
"I'm taking it very seriously," she argued. "And as far as you walking into that government building? Please. You're dripping with weapons and covered in head-to-toe black kevlar. You wouldn't make it past the front door security–assuming the daylight didn't fry you first."
"Security wouldn't be an issue. I would be nothing more than a cold breeze at the back of their necks as I passed through."
Jenna barked out a laugh. "Okay, then what? You're going to skulk in the hallway while I meet with Special Agent Cho?"
"I'll do what it takes," he answered, utterly serious. "This information-gathering exercise ultimately belongs to the Order. It's our intel you're going after. And I still don't like the idea of you going in there alone."
She pivoted away from him, stung somehow that he didn't seem to see her as part of the Order, as well. She stared out the window at a flickering yellow light in the cavernous garage. "If you were so concerned I couldn't handle this meeting by myself, maybe you should have let Renata come with me instead."
He leaned forward, stripping off his shades and coming between the seats to take hold of her shoulders. His strong fingers grasped her firmly, his eyes blazing in a mix of deepest brown and fiery amber. But when he spoke, his voice was nothing but velvet. "I am concerned, Jenna. But not as much about the damned meeting as I am about you. Fuck the meeting. There's nothing we can get out of there that's even half as important to me as making sure you're okay. Renata's not here because if anyone's gonna watch your back, it's gonna be me."
She grunted softly, smiling despite her aggravation with him. "You'd better be careful. You're starting to sound an awful lot like a partner to me."
She meant patrol partner, but the remark she'd intended as wry humor now hung between them full of dangerous innuendo. A heavy, unspoken tension filled the cramped space of the vehicle as Brock held her gaze.
Finally, he heaved a dark curse and released his hold on her. His cheek pulsed as he stared in lengthening silence.
He sat back, withdrawing from the front of the Rover and settling once more into the shadows behind her.
"Just keep me informed, Jenna. Can you give me that much?"
She let out the breath she'd been holding and reached for the handle on the driver's-side door of the vehicle. "I'll text you from inside."
Without waiting to hear his growled reply, she climbed out of the SUV and headed for the FBI field office across the street.
Special Agent Phillip Cho didn't keep her waiting so much as five minutes in the eighteenth-floor reception area. Jenna had just fired off her text message to Brock when the clean-cut agent in a black suit and conservative tie emerged from his office to greet her. After declining a cup of stale afternoon coffee, she was led past a sea of cubicles to a conference room just off the main office area.
Agent Cho gestured her toward a swivel chair at the oblong table in the center of the room. He closed the door behind him, then took the seat directly across from her. He set a black leather notepad down in front of him and offered her a polite smile. "So, how long have you been retired from law enforcement, Ms. Darrow?"
The question surprised her. Not only for its directness, but for the fact that her FBI friend in Anchorage had offered to keep her civilian status under his hat. Of course, it shouldn't surprise her that Cho would do some homework on her in preparation of their meeting.
Jenna cleared her throat. "Four years ago, I resigned from the AST.
Due to reasons of a personal nature."
He nodded sympathetically, and she realized that he'd already known the answer and her reasons for leaving the Staties.
"I must admit, I was surprised to discover that your inquiry into TerraGlobal wasn't an official investigation," he said. "If I had known, I probably would not have agreed to this meeting. I'm sure you understand that using state or federal resources for personal interests is illegal and can carry severe consequences."
She lifted her shoulder in a faint shrug, not about to let him cow her with threats about procedure and protocol. She'd played that card too many times herself back when she wore a badge and uniform. "Call me inquisitive.
We had a mining company in the interior go up in smoke–literally–and no one from the parent corporation has bothered to offer even so much as an apology to the town. There's going to be a hell of a bill attached to the cleanup, and I'm sure the town of Harmony would appreciate knowing where to send it."
Under the stark light of the fluorescent lamps overhead, Cho's unblinking stare put an odd buzz in her veins. "So, your interest in the matter is primarily that of a concerned citizen. Do I understand you correctly, Ms.
"That's right. And the cop in me can't help wondering what kind of management a shadowy outfit like TerraGlobal Partners employs. Nothing but ghosts and phantoms, from what little I've been able to find."
Cho grunted, still holding her in that unsettling stare across the table.
"What exactly have you found, Ms. Darrow? I would be very interested to hear more."
Jenna tilted her chin down and gave him a narrowed look. "You expect me to share my intel when you're sitting there giving me nothing in return? Not gonna happen. You first, Special Agent Cho. What's your interest in TerraGlobal?"
He sat back from the table and steepled his fingers in front of his thin smile. "I'm afraid that's classified information."
His air of dismissal was unmistakable, but she'd be damned if she'd come all this way for the meeting only to be stonewalled by a smug suit who seemed to be enjoying the fact that he was jerking her around. And the more she looked at him, the more his flat expression seemed to make her skin crawl.
Forcing herself to ignore her unease, she attempted a more conciliatory tack. "Listen, I understand. You're obligated to give me the official response. I just hoped that two professionals could help each other out a little bit here."
"Ms. Darrow, I only see one professional at this table. And even if you were still affiliated with law enforcement, I couldn't give you any information about TerraGlobal."
"Come on," she replied, her frustration mounting. "Give me a name. Just one name, an address. Anything."
"When exactly did you leave Alaska, Ms. Darrow?" he asked casually, ignoring her question and cocking his head at an odd angle as he studied her.
"Do you have friends out here? Family, perhaps?"
She scoffed and shook her head. "You're not going to give me a damned thing, are you? You only agreed to meet with me because you thought you could wring something useful out of me to further your own interests."
That he didn't reply was telling enough. He opened his leather notebook and began scribbling some notes on the canary paper. Jenna sat there for a moment, staring at him, feeling certain in her bones that the tight-lipped, peculiar federal agent had all of the answers that she and the Order so desperately needed to put them on Dragos's tail.
"All right," she said, figuring it was time to play the only card she had in her hand. "Since you won't give me any names, I'll give you one instead.
Cho's hand stopped moving halfway through what he was writing. It was the only indication that the name meant anything to him at all. When he looked up, his expression was bland, those odd, dullish eyes revealing nothing. "Excuse me?"
"Gordon Fasso," she said, repeating the alias she'd been told Dragos used when he moved in human society. She watched Cho's face, trying to read his reaction in the unblinking, sharklike gaze and coming up empty.
"Have you heard the name before?"
"No." He set down his pen and neatly replaced the cap. "Should I have?"
Jenna stared at him, gauging the carefully spoken words and nonchalant way he settled back against his chair. "I would think that if you've done any amount of digging into TerraGlobal, you might have run across that name once or twice."
Cho's mouth flattened into a hard line. "I'm sorry. I don't recall it."
"Are you sure?" She waited through his prolonged silence, keeping her eyes fixed on his dark gaze if only to let him know that she could cling just as stubbornly to their apparent impasse.
The tactic seemed to work. Cho released a slow sigh, then rose up from his seat. "There is another agent in this office who's working the investigation with me. Will you excuse me for a moment while I confer with him about this?"
"Sure I will," Jenna said, relaxing a bit. Maybe now she might actually get somewhere.
After Cho stepped out of the room, she took the opportunity to fire off a quick text to Brock back in the SUV across the street. Got something. Be down soon.
No sooner had she sent it, Cho reappeared in the doorway. "Ms.
Darrow, will you come with me, please?"
She got up and followed him along a cubicle-lined corridor, past the heads of numerous agents who stared into computer screens or talked quietly into their telephones. Cho kept going, toward a row of back offices on the far end of the floor. He hung a right at the end of the walkway and bypassed the numerous doors with their government-issued nameplates and departmental designations.
Finally, he paused in front of a stairwell door and swiped his clip-on ID badge through the slot on an electronic reader. When the little light turned from red to green, the agent pushed open the steel door and held it for her. "This way, please. The task force is headquartered on another floor."
For an instant, something dark flickered in her subconscious–a silent alarm that seemed to come out of nowhere. She hesitated, her gaze locked onto Cho's unblinking eyes.
He cocked his head, frowning slightly. "Ms. Darrow?"
She looked around, reminding herself that she was in a public office building, among easily a hundred other people working busily in their cubes and offices. There was no reason to feel threatened, she assured herself, as one of those many employees came out of a nearby office. The man was dressed in a dark business suit and tie, clean-cut and professional, just like Cho and the rest of the people in the department.
The man nodded in greeting as he also approached the stairwell.
"Special Agent Cho," he said with a polite smile that drifted to Jenna a moment later.
"Good afternoon, Special Agent Green," Cho responded, permitting the other man to walk ahead of them through the open door. "Shall we, Ms.
Jenna shook off her queer niggle of unease and stepped past Cho. He followed immediately behind her. The stairwell door closed with a metallic thud that echoed in the empty enclosure.
And suddenly there was the other man–Green, turning back to hem her in between himself and Cho. His eyes looked eerie now, too. Up close, they were just as dull and emotionless as Cho's had seemed in the interview room.
Adrenaline spiked in Jenna's veins. She opened her mouth, ready to let loose with a scream.
She never got the chance.
Something cold and metallic came up below her ear. She knew it wasn't a gun, even before she heard the electronic crackle of the Taser's power snap to life.
Panic flooded her senses. She tried to jerk out of the debilitating current, but the power of the shock was too great. Fiery pain zapped into her, buzzing like a million bees in her ears. She convulsed under the assault …
then her limbs dropped out from beneath her.
"Get her legs," she heard Cho tell the other man as he hooked his hands under her armpits. "Bring her to the freight elevator. My car is parked across the street in the garage. We can take the tunnel over there from the basement."
Jenna had no strength to shake them off, no voice to call for help. She felt her body being lifted, carried roughly down a couple of flights of stairs.
Then she lost consciousness completely.
She was taking too damn long.
Brock checked his cell phone and read Jenna's text again. She'd said she'd be down soon, yet she'd sent the message more than fifteen minutes ago. No sign of her yet. No further texts telling him she was delayed.
"Shit," he gritted tightly from the back of the Rover.
He peered out the rear window, toward the open entrance of the underground garage and the blinding glare of the winter afternoon. Jenna was in the building just across the street. Maybe a hundred yards from where he sat, but with broad daylight separating them, she might as well have been a hundred miles away.
He sent her a brief text: Check in. Where u at? Then he resumed his impatient wait, all the while keeping his eyes trained on the stream of people entering and exiting the federal building, waiting to see her emerge.
"Come on, Jenna. Get the hell back here."
After another few minutes without a response from her or any sign of her across the street, he couldn't stand sitting idle any longer. He'd worn full-body UV-protective clothing when he left the compound that morning, a precaution that would buy him a little bit of time if he was insane enough to leave the Rover and head across the street like he was thinking. He also had lineage on his side. If he'd been Gen One, he probably would have only about ten minutes tops before the sun began to crisp him, with or without the protective gear.
Brock, being several generations removed from the purest of the Breed bloodlines, could count on roughly half an hour of nonfatal UV
exposure time, give or take a few minutes. It wasn't a risk that any of his kind took lightly. Nor did he now, as he opened the back door of the Rover and climbed out.
But something wasn't sitting right about Jenna and this meeting.
Although he had nothing but his own instincts to guide him–and the gut-deep dread that he had allowed an innocent woman to walk headlong into potential danger–there was no way in hell Brock could stay put for another second without making sure Jenna was all right.
Even if he had to walk through daylight and an army full of human federal agents to do it.
He pulled on a pair of gloves, then yanked his light-blocking head covering low over his brow. Wraparound UV-proof glasses shaded his already searing retinas as he strode around the sea of parked vehicles, toward the blast of winter sunlight coming from the open maw of the garage entrance.
Bracing himself for the shock of so much furious daylight all around him, he set his sights on the federal building across the street and stepped out of the shelter of the parking garage.