Excerpt not for reproduction:
Nissa Beck had done some crazy things in her life, but sailing into the teeth of a rapidly intensifying hurricane in a tiny dinghy—in the dark—with a trio of Navy SEALs was right up there on the stupid scale. They’d actually strapped her into the boat so she wouldn’t get tossed out as their craft went nearly vertical climbing the wave faces towering overhead and then plunged nearly vertically down the waves crashing into black troughs of icy seawater.
Throat paralyzing terror was the only reason she hadn’t screamed herself hoarse already. The horror of being out here, at the mercy of the wildly tossing ocean, was indescribable. As was the sheer size of the waves. They were small mountains. Literally. Except these ones periodically collapsed on top of them, burying them in frigid seawater for endless seconds until they popped back up to the surface and could breathe again. In short, it was a living nightmare.
She’d swallowed more seawater than she could fathom and thrown most of it back up, along with the last meal she’d consumed three hours ago. A lifetime away in a safe place. On land. Not in the path of Hurricane Jessamine.
But her target had fled the United States and was out here somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico making his getaway on a container ship call the Anna Belle. The ship wasn’t one of the super giants, just a relatively small cargo ship. The manifest said she sailed with a crew of twenty, was loaded with wheat below decks, and carried 120 containers stacked above decks.
What the manifest didn’t say was that she also carried a passenger. A man named Markus Petrov. One of the most elusive spies ever to operate on American soil. A colleague of hers, an American spy named Max Kuznetsov whose mother had been killed by Petrov, had spent nearly a decade tracking the guy, and had spent most of the past three years undercover in Petrov’s criminal organization learning his true identity.
It was a brilliant set-up, actually. Petrov ran a Russian crime gang and used its proceeds to finance his extracurricular espionage activities. In the meantime, he hid behind the Russian mafia, who had fiercely protected his identity.
Max and a team of Navy SEALs had destroyed most of Petrov’s criminal organization last week in a spectacular shootout deep in the bayous of south Louisiana. But Petrov had disappeared.
Unfortunately, Max also needed to go to ground, along with his fiancée, a psychic who had helped him identify Markus Petrov at long last. Until Petrov was apprehended, the two of them were in extreme danger and had been whisked into federal protective custody. Which left no subject matter experts on Petrov except her to help with the manhunt.
She’d been tracking Max’s progress in the Petrov case for years and was the CIA’s second most knowledgeable analyst when it came to the Russian spy. Which was why she was out here tonight doing her darnedest to drown. The SEALs needed someone who could make a positive I.D. on Petrov when they captured him on the Anna Belle.
The cargo ship had gone silent the moment it crossed into international waters, and the only reason they knew where it was now was compliments of a hurricane hunter aircraft who’d made a visual sighting of the ship on its last pass through Hurricane Jessamine this afternoon.
Were it not for that chance sighting, nobody would have any idea where Petrov and the ship he’d fled on had disappeared to.
The ship’s manifest said it was bound for the Dominican Republic with food and humanitarian supplies. Perhaps that part was true, at any rate.
One of the SEALs had a radio headset plastered to his ears. He shouted a course correction back to the muscular man wrestling the tiller, the team leader, Commander Cole Perriman.
He was easily six-foot-three, and built like a god. The high-tech wet suit currently clinging to his torso was an exercise in truth in advertising. Every beautiful, perfect muscle was clearly outlined for her viewing pleasure. Thank you, God.
At the moment his hood was pushed back, and his dark, short hair was plastered to his skull. Still, his face was handsome and rugged. She knew from earlier that his eyes were pale, icy blue and practically glowed against his darkly tanned skin.
The members of his team called him Frosty. Although the nickname initially made her think of cheerful snowmen, after two minutes in his presence, she understood the moniker. The guy’s nerves were made of pure ice.
Their pitifully small craft topped a massive swell, and she thought she caught sight of a black shape looming ahead. But then the rain squall around them intensified, and they slid down the back side of the swell into a black trough bordered by massive walls of water on all sides. Lord, the ocean was big. She felt tiny and insignificant in the face of these gigantic waves. She was not a particularly religious person, but a prayer entered her head now to whatever deity might hear her plea to please save them all from this insanity.