Undercover Avenger. Rita Herron

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Undercover Avenger - Rita Herron

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planting herself in the corner as they passed. She held her breath while they crossed the opening, perspiration dotting her palms. Finally, when the footsteps faded into the distance, she veered to the right, bypassed a room marked X-rays, then spotted the file room. Wiping her damp hands on her slacks, she reached for the doorknob.

      “Excuse me, what are you doing here?”

      Melissa froze, possible excuses racing through her head. Taking a calming breath, she turned and forced a smile. “I’m new to the center and need to review some patient files.”

      “Your name?”

      A security guard faced her, clad in a gray uniform, a name tag attached to the stiff pocket of his shirt. His posture indicated he meant business, his tone implied she was in trouble.

      “Melissa Fagan. I’m a physical therapist working with the rehabilitation program.”

      He copied down her name, then checked it against a master list from his clipboard. His finger thumped onto the line where she must have been listed, because his gaze rose to meet hers. Still skeptical. “Do you have clearance to be in this area?”

      Melissa played dumb. “Clearance?”

      His puffy lips twitched in irritation. “Yes, this is a restricted area.”

      Melissa glanced around, pretending innocence. “Actually, it’s only my first day here. I must have missed the sign and didn’t realize.”

      “Any files you need for patients are housed in the computer system in the rehab area. Older ones are also kept in the basement of that area.”

      “Oh, I see.” She offered him a watery smile. “I guess I got confused. But thanks for straightening that out. I’ve always been directionally impaired.”

      His eyes narrowed as if he thought she was lying or virtually incompetent. “I’ll have to report you were in the area.”

      She turned to escape, but his gruff voice added, “CIRP is very careful of its restricted areas, so don’t let it happen again, Miss Fagan. Snooping into confidential files and restricted areas could be dangerous.”

      A chill skittered up her spine. Had he meant the comment as a warning or a threat?

      ERIC HAD WHEELED HIS CHAIR to a corner and was studying the doors where Melissa had disappeared, wondering how difficult it would be to break CIRP’s security codes. He wished like hell he could walk so he could delve into the case rather than speculate.

      The doors suddenly opened and Melissa reappeared. Her green eyes flickered with panic as she stepped into the light, and her hands were trembling. Although earlier he’d sensed steely determination in the woman when she’d pushed him through his therapy, vulnerability shadowed her pale face now.

      What was she up to?

      Determined not to be caught watching her, he spun the chair around and wheeled to the nearest exit. Barreling down the handicap ramp, he cursed again when the chair caught in a piece of loose gravel and jolted forward. It took him a second to dislodge the stone before he could continue. He followed the concrete path to the bungalows, grateful CIRP had designed the facility to give patients as much mobility as possible. Being robbed of his independence hacked at his self-esteem, but it would be intolerable if he had to rely on his brother to drive him back and forth to a rehab facility, or if he was confined to a hospital room like the other facilities Cain had mentioned.

      Another reason CIRP had appealed to him.

      That and finding Hughes and getting revenge for the death of the witness his people had killed. This afternoon he’d review the list of employees, including every scientist at CIRP and the CEO who’d replaced Hughes and start trying to pinpoint which man might be Hughes in disguise.

      Fishing the key from his pocket, he unlocked the door to the cabin, tossed his duffel bag inside, then rolled across the slick wood floor, his mind ticking back to Melissa Fagan. Why had she been snooping around in the restricted area? What was she looking for?

      Could she possibly be an undercover detective posing as a physical therapist? If not, what other explanation could there be?

      But if she was an undercover cop or agent, why hadn’t he been informed?

      A testament to his lack of faith and truth—one minute he’d been attracted to her, the next he suspected her of subterfuge.

      Only one way to find out. The shower beckoned, but first he grabbed his cell phone and called his contact at the FBI, Luke Devlin a forty-something workaholic with a badass attitude. Eric normally despised the slick-suited agents, but he had connected with Devlin immediately. Something dark and edgy tainted the man’s gray eyes, a haunted look Eric knew was mirrored in his own.

      “Devlin here. What’s up?”

      “It’s Eric. Is there another agent working at CIRP undercover?”

      Devlin hesitated. “Why do you ask?”

      Eric frowned. Devlin had a habit of answering a question with a question. “Would you tell me if someone else was working with you? If you guys are undermining me or working another angle, I need to know.”

      “Don’t get so defensive. I simply wanted to know if you’d seen something suspicious. I assume you did or you wouldn’t be asking.”

      Eric bottled his temper, and explained about Melissa Fagan’s odd behavior.

      “No, she’s not one of ours. That doesn’t mean she’s not working for someone else though.”

      “The locals maybe?”

      “Actually, we’re coordinating with them, so no,” Devlin said, “but I’ll check her out and call you back.”

      “Thanks. I’ll keep an eye on her. If she’s not a cop or agent, maybe she’s connected to Hughes’s return,” Eric suggested. “Or who knows, she might be here to steal research of some kind.”

      “Right, keep an eye on her.” Devlin sighed. “Anything else to report?”

      “Nothing yet. I…just had my first session today.”

      “It’s going to take time to heal,” Devlin said. “Be patient.”

      Eric ignored the comment. “I’ll review the data you sent and see if I can narrow down the list of suspects fitting Hughes’s profile.” Eric agreed to report in a few days, then hung up, looked down at his battered body and tried to lift his leg. It weighed a ton and refused to move as he wanted. Damn it.

      Be patient.

      Easy for a mobile man to say, not so easy when you couldn’t take a baby step. Instead of the shower, he dragged himself up on the bed and collapsed, unable to fight the lingering fatigue from his accident.

      But even in his sleep, he couldn’t rest.

      He dreamed about the explosion. The witness he’d been protecting clawed at the inside of the car, screaming for help. His eyes were glassy with pain and horror. Blood gushed down his face.

      Eric lay helpless on the ground, blazing metal trapping him. His body was on fire, burning, burning, burning.

      MELISSA WAS STILL A WRECK when she returned to the rehab center for her next patient session. How would she ever bypass security and locate those files when CIRP had the entire place under lock and key?

      She definitely hadn’t started out well by getting caught and receiving a warning on her first day of the job.

      Shaking off the anxiety that she might never find the answers she wanted, she pasted on a smile and focused on her patients. The first, a teenager who’d been in an alcohol-related accident and barely survived. Thankfully, he had been humbled by the experience. The second, a war veteran who’d lost a leg from diabetes. He’d been fitted with a prosthesis but had not handled the adjustment very well. The last was a salt-and-pepper-haired doctor in his early fifties who’d been injured in the terrorist

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