Hero Under Cover Online - Suzanne Brockmann

CHAPTER ONE

“YOU’RE GOING TO DOwhat!”

“A strip search,” the FBI agent said, heading for the door. “Please follow me.”

Dr. Annie Morrow crossed her arms and planted herself firmly. She wasn’t going anywhere, that was for damn sure. “You’ve gone through my luggage with a fine-tooth comb, you’ve X-rayed the hell out of my purse, and now you want to do a strip search? This is harassment, plain and simple. You’ve held me here for nearly five hours without letting me contact an attorney. My civil rights are being violated, pal, and I’ve had damn near enough.”

On the other side of the one-way mirror, CIA operative Kendall “Pete” Peterson stood silently, watching Dr. Anne—nickname Annie—Morrow, renowned archaeologist and art historian, professional artifact authenticator. According to her file, she was thirty-two years old, and one of the world’s foremost experts on ancient metalworkings—coins, statues, works of art, jewelry. The daughter of two archaeologists, she’d been born on a dig in Egypt. She’d lived in thirteen different countries and participated in nineteen different excavations, and that was before she’d even attended college.

What the file didn’t tell him was that she was filled with a seemingly limitless supply of energy. During the course of the five hours he’d been watching her, she had sat still for only a very short time. Mostly she paced; sometimes she stood, she leaned, she tapped her foot, but generally she moved around the small interrogation room like a caged animal.

The file also didn’t describe the stubborn tilt to her chin, or the way her blue eyes blazed when she was angry. In fact, the photo included hadn’t managed to capture much of anything out of the ordinary, except maybe her long, shining brown hair, and her almost too-sensuous lips.

But in person, in motion, she was beautiful….

“So that’s our little Dr. Morrow,” came a voice at his shoulder.

Peterson turned to look at Whitley Scott, the man in charge of the FBI side of the investigation. Scott smiled at him, his eyes crinkling behind his thick glasses. “Sorry I’m late, Captain,” he said. “My flight was delayed.”

Peterson didn’t smile back. “We’ve been holding her for hours,” he said. “She’s pretty steamed.”

Through the speaker system, he could hear Dr. Morrow still arguing with FBI agent Richard Collins.

“I’ve told you nine million times, or is it ten million now? I was in England to pick up an artifact—a gold-cast death mask from the nineteenth century—for a client. I wasn’t out of the U.S. long enough to do whatever illicit crimes you’re trying to accuse me of. The shipping papers for the death mask are all in order—you’ve admitted that much,” she said. “What I’d like to know is when you intend to let me leave.”

“After the strip search,” Collins said. He was a good man for this job, Peterson thought. Collins could outargue anyone. He was solid, steady and extremely patient. And he was absolutely never fazed.

“She’s just your type, Pete,” Whitley said, with a sideways glance at the taller man. “Something tells me you’re going to enjoy this job.”

Peterson didn’t smile, but his dark brown eyes flashed in Scott’s direction for a microsecond. “She’s too skinny,” he said.

In the interrogation room, Annie Morrow had had enough. She slammed her hand down on the table, pulling herself up and out of the chair she’d recently thrown herself into. “You want to strip-search me?” she said. “Fine. Strip-search me and let me get the hell out of here.”

She shrugged out of her baggy linen jacket, tossing it onto a chair as she kicked her sneakers off. A quick yank pulled her loose red shirt over her head, and she quickly unbuttoned her pants.

“Umm…” Collins said, rattled. “Not here…”

“Why not?” Annie asked much too sweetly, her eyes bright with anger as she stood in the middle of the room in her underwear. “Oh, relax. I have bathing suits that are more revealing than this.”

A slow grin spread across Peterson’s face. Man, she’d managed to faze Collins. She knew darn well he had wanted her to follow him to a private room where she’d be searched by a female agent. Yet she’d undressed in front of him, simply to upset him. He felt a flash of something, and realized that he liked her—he liked her spirit, her energy, her nerve. He frowned. She was a suspect, under investigation. He wasn’t supposed to like her. Respect, admire even, but not like. But, man, standing there, looking at her, he found an awful lot to like.

Annie turned and gestured