At Cross Ends by Christy Poff by Christy Poff - Read Online

About

Summary

Rating: Erotica - Controversial Fallen Angel Reviews Recommended Read Mark Kincaid owes Graham Cross for two years captivity in the hands of Central American terrorists and the loss of his team. He accepts a presidential assignment unaware of his enemy's involvement. Riley Devane becomes an unwilling pawn in a madman's game of revenge against first her father then his enemy. She falls in love with the man sent to rescue her but there happiness is short-lived. How long with they be at cross ends before someone finally stops an international criminal?
Published: Torrid Books on
ISBN: 9781593747121
List price: $3.99
Availability for At Cross Ends
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.

Reviews

Book Preview

At Cross Ends - Christy Poff

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1

Chere.

Prologue

A solitary figure dressed in black darted among the rows of cars parked at an exclusive restaurant outside Washington, DC. When he spied the one he sought, he sped to it. Quickly, he unlocked the driver’s side door using a key stolen and copied weeks before, then he slid behind the wheel.

He heard voices and ducked out of sight. After they were gone, he sat up and took a cloth from a plastic sandwich bag he had in a small case, then wiped the steering wheel with it. Once he finished, he put the small piece of fabric back in the bag and sealed it. He got out of the car, locking the door behind him.

The man took off the latex gloves he’d been wearing and put them in another bag, putting both together. He slid in underneath the four-wheel drive vehicle to carefully place a small setup of explosives which could be detonated from a remote starting device he would use later. Another set of voices nearby made him freeze.

Relaxing after another car drove away, he quickly left the SUV and headed to another one waiting down the street.

Everything done? his partner asked.

As easy as taking candy from a sweet baby, he said with an air of confidence in his voice.

Good.

They sat in the limo and watched the parking lot, waiting for the owner of the 1999 black Range Rover to return to her car. They did not have long to wait. After all, time was on their side.

* * * *

Riley Devane sat through dinner, a tedious one with a client. They had spent the meal—a delicious one, she had to admit—discussing the plan for an office center on land his company owned north of the capital. Prime acreage, it had grown perfect in every sense of the plan she had laid out. The scenic location, accessibility to the Beltway and Interstate 95, the plan itself had all gelled together in one of Riley’s easier jobs. Now, if she could survive the night with Mister Boring.

They had just been served their coffee, when he answered an incoming call on his cell phone. Why can’t the infernal things be left off during a meal or meetings or...

Miss Devane, I’m very pleased. I’ll have my attorneys look over the contracts and have them to you tomorrow afternoon or the morning after.

Thank you, Mister Lockwood.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some pressing business to attend to.

She nodded as he took her hand and warmly squeezed it.

It will be a pleasure working with you.

Thank you again. I’m looking forward to it.

Please enjoy the ambiance of the evening. I’ve taken care of everything.

Riley smiled as he said good-bye and left. She had the waiter refill her coffee cup and then left. She’d eaten a little more than she had thought and felt slightly uncomfortable but the fresh air of the spring evening made her stomach ease. Taking another deep breath and spying her Range Rover, she walked across the parking lot.

Unlocking the door, she opened it, then slid behind the wheel. She put her briefcase on the seat next to her before she turned the key in the ignition. As the engine hummed, she buckled the seat belt and locked her door, then drove out of the lot. Riley turned the radio on, listening to the latest from Shakira, an energetic songstress she loved. If only I could move like her—at least I have my dreams.

As she headed toward the road which would take her to the huge estate she lived on, she began to feel drowsy. She thought it was because of her sated enjoyment from dinner but this seemed strange. Riley wanted to pull over and fall asleep for a few minutes, even though she had a little farther to go—this so unlike her, because she usually made it home first.

After reading reports and seeing documentaries on drunk driving, she always made sure she only had one glass of wine or one drink, never anymore, plus she would drink it while eating. She did not want to cause an accident or hurt someone or become one of those horrible statistics. She’d had one glass of Zinfandel with her lobster tail dinner. What the hell is going on?

The lightheadedness and sleepiness became worse. A cold, maybe? Her eyes saw double and she began to overcorrect her driving. She swerved from one side of the road to the other while she panicked over her situation.

Come on, Riley, get a grip.

A bright light appeared ahead of her and grew as it came nearer. She turned hard to avoid hitting it, driving off the road and into a tree. The impact caused the air bag to deploy and knocked her back against the seat from the force of the safety feature she feared would suffocate her.

She tried to get her cell phone to call for help. Feeling it in her pocket where she always carried it, she pulled it out and attempted to dial 9-1-1. She barely heard the dispatcher’s voice.

Do you have an emergency?

Accident... I’ve been...in...

Ma’am, are you all right? Ma’am?

I need help...

Where are you?

Riley could not answer, the phone falling from her grasp to the floor of the Range Rover. Her hand fell to her side as her mind became even more sluggish.

Ma’am, can you hear me? I’m trying to get you emergency assistance. Ma’am?

* * * *

Several patrol cars in the area of where the county dispatcher triangulated a cell phone’s signal searched for any sign of an accident. Unit Five-thirteen found the black, late-model SUV lodged in an elm tree, the female driver unconscious.

Dispatch, I’ve found it out on Saw Mill Road—one vehicle into a tree with one female victim, unconscious. I need rescue and medical out here STAT.

Affirmative, Five-thirteen.

Ma’am, can you hear me? I’m Officer Morris. Help is on the way. He felt her neck for a pulse, relieved to find one, though slower than he would have liked. He radioed in an update as he looked at her surroundings. Seeing the briefcase, his attention was caught by a quick but small light blinking. Looking down, he found a cell phone, his report beginning to form in his mind.

Hello?

This is County Dispatcher Eleven.

Good.

Thanks, Ted.

Anytime, he said before he turned off the phone. He found a blanket laying on the backseat and put it over her to keep her warm. He looked up when he heard the sound of another vehicle coming down the road. It stopped before a man got out and joined him.

I’m a doctor. Can I help?

She’s unconscious, though I’m not sure for how long. She’s got a pulse and I couldn’t find any other visible injuries.

It feels like she’s bleeding internally. We’ve got to get her to a hospital ASAP.

Fire/Rescue and medics are on their way.

Can’t wait. I’ll take her in my car. Help me get her out of the wreckage.

Together, the two men pulled the woman from her car, then put her into the doctor’s limo, stretching her across the backseat.

Will she be all right, Doctor?

I hope so. I’ll get her to the hospital, which should aid in her treatment and recovery.

Do you want an escort?

That would help. By the way, Officer Morris?

Yes? he answered as he turned back to the doctor. What...

Good-bye, the doctor said before he shot the police officer twice, making sure both shots were fatal. He made sure the man died, then got into the limo and slammed the door.

Go, he commanded the driver. As the car passed the accident scene and got far enough away, the doctor pulled out a small box from his pocket. He extended a small antenna before he pressed a button on it. Moments later, the Range Rover exploded into flames and lit up the darkness of the evening. The plan had gone as scheduled.

Chapter 1

Miles away at the moment of Riley’s accident, several fire departments in Virginia fought a multi-alarm fire at an auto parts/service center. The volunteers had finally gotten the upper hand over the blaze they figured started in the area of the heater before it got into the walls and went up to the loft and the roof. Unfortunately, the building had no sprinkler system, which made their job harder.

Kincaid, take a crew inside and check for extension, the assistant chief ordered.

What’s the status on the roof? Kincaid asked.

I have reports it should hold.

Okay, Chief. Mark Kincaid grabbed three guys and they went inside, dragging a charged hoseline, axes and other needed tools with them to get their assignment done.

Kincaid had two on the line, their orders to cool down any hot spots they found. He and the other firefighter began to check the walls for any more fire.

Cap, I think it’s in this wall, Dan Maguire told him. They took their tools and punched holes into the wall while the guys on the hoseline poured water into them. They worked at this for a short time until the alarm on one of his team’s airpacks went off signaling the bottle low in air. Kincaid ordered him and his partner out of the building while he and Joe Margolis remained inside.

We’ve got a little bit more to check, then we...

Cap, did you hear that?

Yeah, I did, Kincaid answered as he looked around them. The noise they heard repeated itself, the two men looking at each other. Kincaid checked the ceiling again. What he saw made him push Margolis out of the room to safety. As the firefighter flew to the side, the ceiling and roof above them fell into the room. It came down trapping Kincaid beneath it.

* * * *

Let’s get in there and get Kincaid out, the chief ordered.

Firefighters from four departments worked feverishly to dig out a brother trapped in the rubble of an interior collapse.

Two firefighters manned a hoseline in case they were needed. They periodically opened up the nozzle to a fog pattern in order to keep the dust levels down. Finding Kincaid and quickly digging him out of the fallen debris, they took him out to the medical team.

The paramedic examined him, then called for a helicopter.

How is he? Chief Stone asked.

Not good. He needs to be flown out of here.

Fly him into Bethesda. It’s his...

But what about...

He wrote an order that I have in his personnel file. If he’s injured and can’t speak for himself, I have his trust to carry out his wishes. He wants Bethesda.

That shoots protocol to hell.

So do it. He has his reasons.

I don’t like this, Chief.

Just do it.

The paramedic nodded. Two firefighters assisted with loading Captain Mark Kincaid into the MedEvac helicopter waiting to fly him out. The paramedic rejoined the fire chief and watched it lift off and fly away.

Chief, unless you’ve got a damned good reason, I’m going to officially lodge a complaint.

He’s government, Armand, Stone advised him.

I should have known. I’m sorry, Chief.

No problem. I understand.

* * * *

Life-Flight to Bethesda—how do you read?

Clear—go ahead.

We have a firefighter, victim of a roof collapse. He’s approximately six foot tall, one hundred eighty pounds, late thirties. Vitals to follow.

Shortly after the transmission went through, the pilot touched down at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The hospital catered to Navy and Marines, politicians and government bigwigs. Sometimes, depending on prior military service, an occasional president went to this hospital for treatment. It seemed odd that a fire captain from Virginia would demand this facility but they’d encountered stranger.

The pilot set down on the helipad where a trauma team waited, ready to take their patient to treatment. The flight nurse gave the doctor on the team Kincaid’s vitals and an update on his sustained injuries.

Doc, he’s got trauma to the head, back and stomach. He had a leg trapped under heavy debris. He’s been unconscious since they pulled him from the collapse.

We’ll take it from here.

The team sped Kincaid into the hospital while the medic stopped at the desk to finish his paperwork and requisition some supplies. He still thought it strange that a Virginia fire captain injured in a building collapse had given explicit instructions to be flown or taken to Bethesda—definitely a first in his career.

* * * *

Mark Kincaid—firefighter and government operative—his occupation had been a secret to everyone but the President and, at most, three others. To anyone else, he dabbled successfully in world finance giving him a convenient reason for unexpected travel and disappearing for extended periods of time.

His chosen profession took him into covert situations to ensure the protection of the Chief Executive, the vice president and several others. He answered directly to his commander-in-chief and the head of the Justice Department, plus one under-secretary.

One of his benefits had been exclusive medical treatment at Bethesda, even though he’d graduated from West Point and had been a member of the Rangers and Delta Force. They had his entire history, including various knife wounds, gunshot wounds, broken bones and strange illnesses. His file had been deemed highly classified and only two doctors had full access to it.

Doctor, his BP is falling, a nurse stated as they entered the hospital.

Get him into trauma one and start an IV with the following... He gave her a short list, the nurse nodding as she wrote.

Yes, Doctor.

Doctor Harmon Spencer knew Mark Kincaid’s file, along with Mark’s social security number and other personal information. He, along with Lieutenant Commander Robert Baldwin, had been the only two doctors to treat Kincaid. This time, he knew his friend had come closer to meeting Death then he had in a long while.

Granting the facts that Kincaid had been shot, stabbed, starved and stung, plus several other maladies, a building collapsing on him definitely topped his list of injuries. Spencer called for a portable X-ray unit, then questioned the nurse on exactly how he’d been found.

On his back, sir.

"Was he wearing any breathing apparatus?’

Yes, sir.

I want a skull series, as well as spinal, chest and limbs done.

Yes, Doctor Spencer.

Has he stabilized yet?

Somewhat. His pressure is no longer dropping.

Good. Clean him up and treat what you can. I need an OR waiting as I suspect we’ll be doing a splenectomy. I don’t like the feel of his stomach. He’s bleeding internally, I’m sure. I want a neurologist, also.

Yes, Doctor.

He turned to his friend and looked at him.

Well, Kincaid, let’s see you heal from this one.

* * * *

Spencer walked into the recovery room some twenty hours after Mark Kincaid had been brought into the hospital. He checked his patient’s chart, snickering. Mark Kincaid could not do anything the easy way. While on the table, his heart stopped once and his lung collapsed. Now hooked up to several monitors, Kincaid rested while physically trying to recover.

He’s not an easy patient, Spencer commented as he read the chart.

He’s been stable since they brought him in here.

He won’t be when he comes out of it. He does not take to anesthesia well.

Should I do anything special?

Do not restrain him. Talk to him, soothe him... You know—use your charm.

Thanks, Harmon.

You’re welcome, Rusty.

Checking Kincaid himself, Spencer noticed his sandy blonde hair showed signs of graying—considering his job and his lifestyle, no wonder. He had known Kincaid for years, treating him exclusively with Lieutenant Commander Baldwin as ordered by the White House. Kincaid belonged to an extremely select and elite group of operatives who specialized in covert operations. He had seen this man through hell and back, their friendship described as closer than brothers.

Spencer nodded to the nurse who joined him.

Keep an eye on him. Once he’s around and calm, call me. As I told you before, comfort him and talk to him. Don’t make him fight you.

Yes, Doctor Spencer.

He left the recovery room and headed straight for his office. He locked the door behind him after he entered and went to his desk. He began the grueling ritual of calling Kincaid’s boss at State.

I thought I’d advise you that MK is here in critical condition. He was caught in a building collapse—his back was injured, his leg fractured, one rib splintered and we dealt with a collapsed lung. His spleen’s been removed, too. He’s going to be laid up for a while but, knowing him, I predict he’ll make his own recovery schedule, as usual. I will keep you informed on his progress.

Spencer hung up. The fun would now begin.

* * * *

Mark Kincaid and three firefighters entered a building to overhaul and check for extension. They had found hotspots in one wall, the others showing no signs of involvement. He had been careful to keep track of their surroundings needing to keep his team safe.

One of the hosemen’s pack alarms went off to warn them the air in their self-contained breathing apparatus had almost been used up. He ordered him and his partner out while he and the other firefighter continued working on the hotspots.

How long do you have? he’d asked.

Maybe fifteen minutes, Cap.

Let’s get what we can and pull out.

Okay, he said as he pulled more of the wall down so Kincaid could hit it with the water.

As they worked, Kincaid surveyed the wall and the ceiling above them. Water rained down from above, Mark keeping an eye on it. He felt a shudder through his boots and saw what he took to be a vibration.

Stop! The place is shaking! he yelled to his partner as he shut down the line. Time to get out. Now!

He followed the other man out and stopped when he heard another noise that shook him to the core. He shoved the other man out of the room right before he took the brunt of the collapse. He fell back, his spine slamming against the cylinder of the airpack.

His personal alarm began sounding when it sensed he’d made no move for a set period of time. He felt relief knowing the others would be able to find him. He found enough room for his hand to move to his radio. This gave him hope as he tried to key it, another safety feature—the locator would tell dispatch and they would notify Incident Command.

Firefighter down, he slowly said, taking the chance someone would hear him. I need help...

Mark Kincaid saw the entire incident over and over again. He kept going back over it but didn’t understand why. At this point, he couldn’t be sure if he was dead or alive or what.

He could feel a great deal of pain throughout his body—a feeling he’d become all too familiar with.

His eyes fought to open and see—finally successful. Closing them quickly and trying to adjust to the white light surrounding him seemed to take an eternity. He recognized the recovery room and knew where he was.

Sir, are you all right?

How long have I been here?

A while. You were in surgery for a long time.

Get Harmon Spencer.

I will. He’s in the building. Can you relax long enough for me to call him?

Yeah, I guess so. I’m not going anywhere, am I?

Not unless you can walk without crutches. One of your legs is splinted.

I guess I’m staying here. He closed his eyes and relaxed. He had survived another attempt to get him to meet his maker.

You’re a hard man to kill, Mark, aren’t you?

I guess I am, he replied as he opened his eyes to face his doctor and friend. What the hell happened?

How much do you remember?

Up to the ceiling coming down on me but after that, not much.

Near as I’ve been told, they found you on your back. The pack is what did the damage to your spine. We added some support in there to help strengthen it. Your leg was trapped under a beam; the fracture splinted.

Why does my gut feel like a war zone?

We had to repair your lung after it collapsed and we removed your spleen.

Why?

It ruptured and you were bleeding internally. Don’t worry, your scorecard’s been updated.

Great, Kincaid said, trying to hold back his amusement. His file had grown to be inches thick and this would add another one.

Now that you’re back with us, I’ll get you into a room.

Spence?

What?

Thanks.

Anytime, friend.

* * * *

Kincaid spent the better part of three weeks at the medical center. Spencer had found one or two things he wanted to keep an eye on while he had Mark in residence. He knew it would be the only way the man would take the time to heal. His friend would have been described by his father as being mule-headed.

When do I get out of here? he asked at the beginning of the third week.

In a day or two.

That’s great news.

Antsy?

You’ve got it. You know me.

Yeah, I do. I remember the one time you were so restless that we had to tie you down.

First and last time.

Which is why I told the nurse to soothe your tortured soul when you came around.

Good call, Mark said, grinning.

You never told me why you react that way.

I’d been in South America and got caught. I was put into shackles against a wall and left that way for several weeks while the Sandinistas tortured me for information. Those people take it to a whole new level. I’ve been claustrophobic ever since.

I can see why. I wish you had told me before.

Between you and me, I was ashamed.

Mark Kincaid had been in the business a long time. He’d finally found a place to settle down and live quietly in Northern Virginia. He’d joined the local volunteer fire department and found he could disappear into a normal life until the national interest called.

I see. There’s one thing you should know.

What?

You have nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve gone through more than the next dozen men I’ll ever meet. You’ve survived odds most would not have. One recurring fear I think can be considered acceptable.

I guess so. Hell, I don’t know.

"You’re too hard on yourself. I mean—hell,