PERIL: Fast Track Thriller Bk. 1

The moment Lady Anne stepped out of the Mashkoori embassy, the ball of tension in her stomach that had been growing tighter all morning burst and became a dozen writhing, twisting snakes. They crept up her throat and threatened to strangle her. Only minutes from now she would enter the White House, where Husam-Jabbar threatened an attempt on King Ahmad, her companion for the day.

She followed the King into the second stretch of the two waiting Hummers and made herself comfortable at the back of the long vehicle. Two of the King’s personal bodyguards climbed in and stationed themselves near the driver’s compartment. The moment they settled themselves, the driver pulled out of the circular driveway. Where they on their way to danger, or would the highly-touted Secret Service live up to their reputation and stop the planned assassination attempt?

She reached inside her tiny purse and felt for the wallet-shaped wireless receiver that transmitted to the minuscule earbud she wore. Once they were at the White House she would be able to hear the chatter between the Secret Service agents and know if they spotted any danger.

She glanced at the King. Did He know the terrorist group had announced their intentions on the Arab television network Al Jazeera earlier this morning?

"Are you ready, My Lady?" Something about the determination in the King’s sea-green eyes said he knew about the planned attack. Yet no lines of worry marred the older man’s face. 

Perhaps he had become used to the constant threat. After all, every Muslim terrorist group in existence had pledged to kill the first Arabic king to convert to Christianity.

"Of course I am ready, Your Majesty. This is not the first time I have served as a bodyguard."

The King opened a cabinet that hid a wet bar and refrigerator, pulled out a long-stemmed glass, then poured himself some water. He waved a hand towards the cabinet. "Please help yourself."

Grateful for something to focus on, Lady Anne followed the King’s lead, then took a sip. The coolness washed clarity into her thinking, as though it were a dose of fresh confidence. If this had been a normal assignment, her veins would have pulsed with restrained energy at the thought of a reason to unleash her enhanced strength.

But nothing about this mission was normal. And if she used her abilities today, it would be under the watchful eyes of the media. The thought of the power the media held to expose her secrets sent a shiver up her spine.

A rap on the glass between the driver’s and passengers’ compartments brought her thoughts back to her surroundings.

The thin, beardless guard nodded to his bearded partner. Both pulled out their pistols. In sync, they aimed twin Ruger .40 S&W’s towards King Ahmad.

Lady Anne’s hand shook, spilling water onto the wooden floor. She reigned in her nerves and tapped the King’s arm to warn him. Were the intelligence reports wrong about the attack? Had Husam-Jabbar intentionally mislead them?

Thin Guard slid down the long leather seat lining the driver’s side and came to a stop directly across from King Ahmad. He straightened his back, raised his chin, then addressed the King in Arabic. Although Lady Anne couldn’t understand the words, the gleam in his eyes radiated pride and determination, not hatred.

King Ahmad looked down his long nose at the guard. "You are rude, Kalil, speaking Arabic in front of my guest. Will you condemn her to death without even the benefit of knowing why?"

Kalil glanced at Lady Anne and wrinkled his nose as though she were a piece of distasteful garbage, then nodded. "I will grant the wish of a dying man." He pulled his shoulders back and once against took on the role of a judge. "King Ahmad, you have defiled both yourself and Mashkoor by taking up the blasphemous practices of Christianity. According to hadith 9:57, it is my duty to kill you."

"Kalil, my trusted guardian." King Ahmad spread his arms in front of him. "Since when have you taken the requirements of the Koran to heart?" Only a glance at the weapon in Kalil’s hand betrayed any hint of anxiety. "Why, only last week you told me you looked forward to this trip so you could restock your liquor supply."

Kalil lowered his eyes, "It is to my shame that I have not lived according to the Koran—a Muslim in name only."

Lady Anne leaned forward. Her muscles twitched, anxious to attack while the man’s guard was lowered. But Bearded Guard remained alert by the far door, with his Ruger still pointed towards the King. The time was not yet right. She ran a finger around the lip of the glass and sifted through possible scenarios.

Determination returned to Kalil’s eyes. "When you turned your back on Islam, Your Majesty, I realized how much our Muslim heritage had shaped and formed the nation and people of Mashkoor. I called out to Allah and begged his forgiveness."

"So you joined Husam-Jabbar and pledged to kill your king?" asked King Ahmad. "How noble of you."

Kalil lifted his chin a notch higher. "I did not need them. There are plenty of people who were willing to help me gain the supplies I needed. No, I do this because Allah impressed upon me that he would use me to restore Islam to the kingship." He pounded his free hand on his chest. "He offered me, who ignored him all these years, a way not only to shift the balance of the scales to weigh in my favor, but guaranteed my entrance into martyr’s paradise." He bowed from the waist. "I must thank you for—"

Lady Anne’s brain screamed, "Now!"

Suzanne Hartmann - 2009

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