Seduced By His Target Online - Gail Barrett
It was the perfect day for a kidnapping.
Steel-gray clouds hovered over the mountains, obscuring their escape route. Thunder rumbled in the distance, promising to mask any cries for help. The local farmers, exhausted after a brutal day spent toiling in the Peruvian highlands, had taken shelter in their drab mud huts, oblivious to the terrorists preparing to pounce.
Gazing through his binoculars, Rasheed Davar lay flat on his belly in a tuft of chiliwua grass, studying the American medical team milling around their camp below. “Which one is the target?”
The terrorist beside him lowered his binoculars, his silver tooth gleaming in the dwindling light. “She’s not here yet.”
She? Rasheed shifted, a sliver of uneasiness stirring inside him, but he clamped down hard on the doubt. He couldn’t react, couldn’t show any hesitation or concern. Too many lives depended on this mission’s success—including his.
Schooling his expression into indifference, he thumbed the focus on his binoculars and continued to survey the camp. A young blond woman fed kindling into the campfire. A gray-haired man sat beside her, stirring something in a metal pot. Both wore scrubs, typical attire for the volunteer medical teams that traveled through the remote villages in the Andes Mountains doing humanitarian work. Another woman, a brunette in a bulky parka, knelt on a tarp laden with pharmaceutical supplies, sorting and packing them into various bags. On the periphery of the camp, beyond a cluster of dome-shaped tents, a brown-skinned man, his chullo hat and poncho marking him as a Peruvian native, tended the tethered mules.
“So what’s the plan?” Rasheed asked.
The terrorist looked at him again. Known only as Amir, he had cold, flat eyes as black as death, and promising as much. Rasheed had met hundreds of men like him during the years he’d lived in the mountains of Jaziirastan, working his way through the training camps. Ruthless. Callous. Inured to all human feelings except one—sheer, unbridled hate. Men who would kill in a heartbeat, whose goal was the annihilation of anyone who didn’t submit to their way of life. Zealots who destroyed innocents with utter disinterest, murdering women and children with no remorse.
Like Rasheed’s pregnant wife.
“We’ll wait for the woman to show up,” Amir told him in his native Jaziirastani. “As soon as we identify her tent, we’ll rejoin Manzoor. We’ll move in tonight when the rain hits. Manzoor and I’ll stand guard. You’ll grab the woman. Just make sure you get the right one.”
“I’ll get her,” he promised. He had no choice. He had to play his part.
But why did they want a prisoner? This crack terror cell, the Rising Light’s most elite contingent, had come to Peru for one reason only—to join up with the South American drug cartel that would ferry them into the United States. Or so Rasheed had thought. This surprise detour to capture an American doctor didn’t make sense.
But he didn’t dare question their plans. Neither Amir nor Manzoor, their small cell’s leader, trusted him completely, even though he’d been careful not to cause any doubt. He’d paid his dues. He’d spent years proving his loyalty as he rose through the Rising Light’s ranks. And thanks to his Jaziirastani parents—and the CIA’s most talented forgers—he had the linguistic skills and documents to pass as a native of that land. Whether the terrorists suspected him of being a traitor or were withholding information out of their usual paranoia, Rasheed didn’t know. But he needed to show them the blind obedience they expected to keep from tipping them off.
“We’ll exit that way,” Amir continued, pointing toward a slot between the hills. “We’ll need to move fast. God willing, we’ll have success.”
Rasheed gave the expected response. But his idea of success didn’t match Amir’s. He’d only celebrate when he’d thwarted the upcoming attack and brought down the terrorists’ kingpin, the financier who’d murdered his wife.
Thunder drummed across the steep terrain. The wind bore down, sweeping through the wheat-colored clumps of grass, bringing with it the threat of rain. Then a movement on the trail below them caught his attention, and he aimed his binoculars that way, careful to keep the lens from reflecting the waning light. Two people, a man and a woman, came into view, both carting backpacks, both wearing jackets over their surgical scrubs.
Rasheed’s pulse began to speed up.
The man led the way. He was tall, thin, probably in his mid-thirties, with a long, narrow face and a large hooked nose. He had a short, scraggly beard, and blisters on his nose and