No ExitBy: Lena Diaz
For that reason, he’d argued against this mission. He’d spent hundreds of hours working up alternatives, trying to figure out a better way to infiltrate the top levels of the company that wouldn’t take a ridiculous amount of time and had a chance of fooling Cyprian. But none of the other plans seemed viable. And the longer they waited, the more likely it was that innocent people were still being killed. So he’d finally caved.
The only stipulation he’d insisted on was that he would only “use” Melissa in her professional capacity as an officer of the company. He refused to try to develop a romantic relationship with her for the purpose of manipulating her. That was a personal line he would not cross, no matter how incredibly appealing she was.
He reluctantly let her hand go. “Miss Cardenas.”
“You saved my life. You’ve earned the right to call me Melissa.” She smiled again. “I’m the president of EXIT Incorporated. My father is the CEO. Dad, can you give him a business card? My purse is in my car.”
Her father took a card from his suit jacket pocket and handed it to Jace. “We’re both in your debt, Mr. Atwell. If there’s ever anything that I can do for you, name it.”
Jace studied the white card with elaborate gold letters and a green logo on top showing smiling tourists in a raft. “EXtreme International Tours, huh? I think I’ve heard of that. You take tourists white-water rafting up and down the Colorado River.”
Cyprian’s eyelids drooped as if he were insulted by Jace’s simplistic description. “Quite a bit more than that actually. Although we’re primarily headquartered here in Boulder, we have satellite locations all over the world, and a fairly new, secondary headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. The trips we offer are unlike anything you’d ever experience from a traditional tour company. I’d be happy to give you a premium vacation package, on the house.”
Jace shook his head. “Thanks, but I don’t have much leisure time these days. Since leaving Savannah, I’ve been living off my savings, which is getting pretty slim. If I don’t find a job soon, I’ll be living on the street. Which is why I’m on my way to an interview right now. Or, I was.” He checked his watch. “Not sure they’ll still give me a chance since there’s no way I can make it on time now. I assume you’re going to call the police to file a report. But I’d rather not wait around. Can I give you my cell-phone number and have you explain to the cops why I had to leave? I’ll head straight to the police station after my interview and answer any questions they have.”
Cyprian’s eyes narrowed. With suspicion? Or something else?
Melissa shot her father an odd look, then stepped forward, putting her soft, warm hand on Jace’s forearm. “Mr. Atwell, you don’t have to run off to an interview.”
He frowned, not at all pleased at his body’s overeager response to the simple act of her touching him through his shirtsleeve. Thankfully, she seemed oblivious to the way his pulse was crashing through his veins.
“I’m sure that in a corporation as large as ours, we have something that will fit your skills and experience,” she continued. “Several of our guides are former military. And if you prefer an office job, we could arrange something along those lines as well.”
Her offer genuinely surprised him. Somehow, in spite of the fiasco that Ramsey had made of this mission, Jace was still getting exactly what he’d set out to get—a way into EXIT Inc.
Operation Trojan Horse had begun.
AFTER PULLING THE white van to the shoulder and waiting several minutes to make sure Atwell didn’t follow him, he’d shoved his ski mask in his pocket and continued down the mountain. A few miles later, he took the first exit ramp. A few hundred yards beyond that, he slowed and turned onto a gravel road.
The van bumped along until it reached the dead end beneath a bower of snow-covered pine trees. He killed the engine, flipped the interior light on, then squeezed between the two captain’s chairs and headed into the cargo area.
A low groan emanated from the man lying in a fetal position on the metal floor with his eyes closed. Surprise, surprise, Ramsey was still alive. The interrogation had been brutal, out of necessity. The former enforcer had held out far longer than he probably could have. Admirable, really. And as much blood as Ramsey had lost, he should have been dead. But since he wasn’t, a decision had to be made. Let him live? Or finish it?
He inspected the zip ties around Ramsey’s wrists and ankles to make sure they were still secure. Before trying to rouse his unconscious guest, he put the ski mask back on that he’d taken off before driving down the mountain. Might as well protect his identity until he made up his mind about Ramsey’s fate. Before today, the two of them had never spoken to each other, so he wasn’t worried about voice recognition. But if Ramsey had been watching EXIT for a while, there was definitely a chance of being recognized. It was better to be careful.
He poked him in the chest with the muzzle of his pistol. “Look at me.”