Darkly gifted and dangerously skilled, they were once the nation’s most powerful asset. Betrayed by unknown enemies, unable to trust anyone—not even one another—the Phoenix hold the key to unlocking a conspiracy steeped in blood and fire. To survive, they’ll have to solve… The Phoenix Code
HIDE by Lara Adrian
John “Ranger” Duarte was one of the Phoenix program’s deadliest operatives, a man with a dark past and a ruthless sense of justice. Since the fall of the program, Ranger’s gone deep off-grid in the mountains, preparing for war against his enemies. No one has found him in three years, until a woman in desperate need of help arrives on his doorstep—a woman he once vowed to keep safe. Ranger’s honor demands he uphold his promise, but with premonitions of a looming apocalypse haunting his dreams and killers edging closer by the hour, protecting Lisa Becker is a distraction he can ill afford. And when the passion that sparks between them becomes a flame neither of them can put out, Ranger will be forced to decide between the mission his own life depends on, and the woman he cannot live without.
SEEK by Tina Folsom
Nicholas “Fox” Young, brilliant computer programmer and ex-Phoenix operative, is on a high-tech quest for intel that could bring him one step closer to finding his fellow Phoenix and shed light on the recurring nightmarish premonition that plagues his dreams. But the online cat-and-mouse game he’s been playing with ex-hacker, now CIA-contractor, Michelle Andrews, is elevated to a risky new level when danger thrusts them into a tenuous alliance. Fiery, quick-witted Michelle is a puzzle the cool computer genius cannot resist solving, nor can Nick deny his need for the sensual woman who tempts him like no other. With passion igniting between them and lethal enemies lurking in the shadows, Nick and Michelle must balance their shared determination to expose a deadly secret with the desire that could jeopardize their mission and their lives.
© 2015 Tina Folsom
Nick Young pumped his fist in the air and let out a triumphant growl while continuing to stare into the computer screen. A red dot was blinking on a map of Washington, D.C. Next to it, an IP address flashed.
“You bastard! Did you really think you could outwit me? Looks like I’m smarter than you after all.”
Because the guy had made a tiny mistake, whether out of stupidity or laziness, Nick didn’t know, nor did he care. What counted was that now Nick knew where to find him.
He felt a genuine smile curve his lips, the first in a long time. For over a month now, he’d been playing cat-and-mouse with an online adversary who was trying to keep him out of the servers that held crucial data Nick had been looking for ever since the secret CIA program he’d been part of had been compromised three years earlier.
Nick memorized the address the dot was pointing to and logged off. He flipped the lid of his laptop shut and stashed it in his backpack. Then he pulled an old keyboard out of the drawer, hooked it up to the dinosaur PC that he kept as a decoy and connected a mouse to it.
Should anybody find him and try to trace what he’d been doing, the files he’d planted on the hard drive of the old desktop he’d bought second-hand would lead any pursuer on a wild goose chase. With a little luck, nobody would be looking for a second computer, and he’d be long gone before they were on his tail and could kill him like they’d killed Henry Sheppard, his mentor and the leader of the Phoenix program.
The same fate was waiting for him and his fellow operatives—CIA agents selected not for their physical abilities but their unique mental skills. Each of the Phoenix, including Henry Sheppard, possessed the gift of premonition. Three years ago, somebody had decided that the Phoenix presented a danger and killed the leader of the program.
When Nick had received Sheppard’s mental call, his world had collapsed.
He could still hear the alert echo in his mind. He’d left everything behind and gone into hiding. But the need to know what had happened to Sheppard and the other agents had driven him back to Washington D.C. Back into the lion’s den.
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Nick murmured to himself now. It had become his mantra since Sheppard’s death.
It had been easy to create a new identity. His skills as a hacker had proven to be invaluable. His new identity was ordinary. No family, no special skills, a low profile all around. He kept himself afloat by creating websites for small businesses around the world.
He lived in an apartment in a run-down house the absentee landlord was renting to him for cash so he wouldn’t have to tax the proceeds. Every month, Nick deposited the money in a mailbox. Fine with him. He wasn’t exactly keen on the government right now.
He’d served his country as a CIA agent for many years, and they’d failed to protect him and his colleagues. He was on his own now, responsible for his own life, and out for revenge. One day, he’d make sure the men who’d killed Sheppard would pay for what they’d done.
And the person at the other end of the IP address he’d traced would help him find the responsible party. Whether he wanted to or not.
Nick knew of many ways to persuade another person to do whatever he wanted him to do. His favorite toy to elicit such cooperation was his Glock. The cold metal never failed to convince the other party that loyalty was overrated and life was a fleeting thing.
At first sight, people always assumed that Nick was merely a computer geek and not to be feared. Maybe his boy-next-door looks and his quiet demeanor were responsible for that misperception. But those people who cared to give him a more thorough look would discover what he really was: a man who knew how to handle himself and the weapons at his disposal. Sheppard had made sure of that. All the men he’d selected for his Phoenix program had to undergo rigorous training at The Farm, just like all other CIA agents, though it wasn’t necessary for their ultimate work. But maybe Sheppard had known all along that one day his protégés would have to rely on those very skills to survive.
Nick inspected his gun, pulled the magazine from it, and made sure it was fully loaded, before inserting it back into its chamber. Then he stashed it in the secret, padded compartment in his backpack. Lifting his foot onto the chair, he pulled up one pant leg and slid a knife into the hidden pocket in his boot. Sometimes a little knife was all he needed to come to an agreement with an adversary. It was less conspicuous than a gun, and much less noisy should he need to use it.
There wasn’t much else to do. Nick let his gaze wander around the room. The shredder bin was empty. The little mail he received was solicitations addressed to current resident. Any mail related to his website business went to a P.O. box, anything related to any bank accounts he received in electronic form. Only the utility bills came to the house, and those he paid promptly and then shredded. For all intents and purposes, Nick Young didn’t exist. But Fox was still alive. It had been his codename while in the Phoenix program. And the few other Phoenix members he’d met—since Sheppard had always insisted on keeping them apart as much as possible—only knew him by that name.
He’d been proud when his mentor had given him the name. It showed that Sheppard understood him. Because Nick was like a fox, cunning and clever. And he would need these skills now to ferret out the computer genius who’d been fighting him online. Now Fox would bring the fight to his doorstep and up the stakes.