Chapter 2

Ben's alarm went off at 5:30am, and he quietly unwrapped himself from me. I dozed on and off as he went around the room, getting ready for work. He worked for an architectural firm downtown D.C. and loved his job despite the fact that his boss was a nightmare and the commute took forever. Smelling of toothpaste, he kissed my ear before leaving.

I slept until 10:00, the most sleep I had gotten in a while. I took another shower just to wash off the dried tear tracks that stained my face. I had cried more in the past forty-eight hours than I had in six months, and even then, the last time had been while watching a Nicholas Sparks movie marathon with Melanie. I had no real opposition to crying, but in such a male-dominated occupation, I often felt the need to keep my emotions in check. They taught us to compartmentalize, and normally I was good at it, but when it came to my first time seeing violence up close, I had a hard time keeping it boxed in.

I was on the road by 11:15, driving on the surprisingly empty roads while I checked my voicemails on my personal phone. There was one from Melanie, pleasantly bitching me out for missing Thanksgiving. She thought I was a translator for businesses that wanted to branch out overseas. It allowed me to come and go without her suspecting what I really did for a living. Luckily, she liked to talk more than listen, so I didn't have to work much at maintaining that façade. I would occasionally tell her entertaining stories about my clients and my coworkers, though, just in case.

The next voicemail was from my mother. "Hi honey, happy Thanksgiving," she said. "We're having everyone over for dinner at the house. I think your brother Mark is even coming in from Chicago…I don't know, we're not sure if his plane is going to take off because of the snowstorm over there. Anyways, your father and I just wanted, well, we just wanted to check in and see how you were doing, but I suppose you're working today. Oh, here is your father—" There was some shuffling and then my father's voice said, "Hope you get your hands on some cranberry sauce… wherever you are." My mother took back the phone. "Goodness, Steve. Gemma, hun, give us a call whenever you can. Love you, bye!"

Shaking my head and laughing, I told myself I would call them later tonight. I was sure Thanksgiving had been quite an affair, with our modest house in Woodsbury, Connecticut filling up with all of our extended family and friends and friends-of-friends and even members of my mother's church. I had missed Thanksgiving for the past four years and my parents had stopped inviting me, which hurt a bit. I suppose they thought I would show up if I could.

I had a couple of other voicemails about picking up dry cleaning and an overdue library book. I made mental notes and deleted them.

Approaching the gate to the CIA headquarters at Langley, I handed my badge to the security guard through the window. He glanced over my white Honda Civic and peered in the backseat before handing my badge back and waving at another guard to lift the barrier. Since it was almost noon, the parking lot was nearly full. It was huge, nearly the size of ten football fields, and I could only find a spot near the side entrance. Locking my car with a chirp-chirp, I jogged towards the entrance quite ungracefully in my black pumps. I went through security and darted towards the elevators. In the elevator, I checked my watch. It was 11:58. The meeting was at 12:00. I combed my fingers through my hair and straightened the scarf around my neck, hurrying off the elevator when it reached the fifth floor.

The meeting was taking place in a part of the building I had never been in before. There were two extra security checkpoints where I needed to scan my badge in order to get through the doors. The second door opened up into a large space that was filled with cubicles, computers, flatscreens on the walls, and people. Lots of people. It was a frenzied atmosphere with chattering and phones ringing and televisions going. I looked around for someone I recognized.

Danny, Boone, and a woman I didn't know were standing near an open door, talking. I made my way over to them, dodging an agent speaking angrily into a phone in Russian. Danny gave me a wave as he saw me coming.

"Hey, Agent Hart," he greeted.

"Hi, Danny," I said. "Boone." I gave him a nod and turned to the woman. I offered my hand. "Hi, I'm Gemma Hart."

She shook my hand. She looked a couple years older than me, her blonde hair cut in a stylish pixie cut. It complemented her heart-shaped face and high brows. She glanced at the cut on my eyebrow. "Nice to meet you. I'm Laura Gibson."

"You part of this operation?" I asked, voice polite.

She nodded. "I've been working on this for the past three months," she replied, giving me a smile that was far from genuine. "I'm with Clandestine Services." From the way she held herself, I was pretty sure she was a CS field operative, not an analyst.

"Ah, okay," I said, returning the smile. "I'm with the Directorate of Support."

"Yes, I know. Tom and Danny here were just telling me about your trip to Russia," she said. The way she said "Tom" made me look at her more closely. She looked at him more often than necessary. "Sounded eventful."

"To say the least," I replied as lightly as I could. I looked up at Boone, who was more than a half-foot taller than me. He was watching me with some undecipherable expression on his face.

Someone called Gibson's name and she excused herself. "I'll see you in the meeting," she said, more to Boone than to Danny and I.

I raised my eyebrows at Boone and held back a smile. "Might want to watch out," I said. "That beard is going to do more than make you look Russian."

Boone gave me a look, his eyes more blue today. In his black suit, he somehow seemed more serious. I habitually made fun of his bachelor status since he was a self-professed commitment-phobe. I had never seen him date a girl longer than two weeks before he broke it off, usually by ceasing all contact.

Danny laughed and adjusted his glasses. "She's right, man," he said. "Agent Gibson was definitely digging it."

I laughed, too, and said, "See?" to Boone. He narrowed his eyes.

A voice called us from the room. We entered, took our places at the large oval table, and glanced around. There was a projector at the head of the table that shone onto a screen on the wall. Eight more people filed in, all of them strangers except for my boss, John Michaels, and Gibson. Michaels, a grey-haired man in his 60s with a significant beer belly, sat near an older black man and leaned in to talk to him. The man nodded and gestured to a young Asian man across the table. The man handed Danny, Boone, and I each a single piece of paper and told us to sign it.

I recognized it immediately. It was a nondisclosure agreement. I signed my name and handed to back to him. Danny and Boone did the same, and the three of us exchanged a questioning look.

"Mr. Woo," the man sitting next to Michaels said to the young man. "You can go ahead."

Mr. David Woo explained that he was an analyst for Operation 67. Clicking through the slides, he told us that Operation 67 was the name of the task force formed to capture or kill the CIA's most wanted, and its priority was currently Vasili Volkov. Until today, it had only consisted of Intelligence and Analysis and CS. Now it included the DS, too, he informed us with a nod to Michaels.

He went over Volkov's profile, listing each one of the crimes he was suspected of being guilty of. The majority seemed to be centered around the illegal arms trade, racketeering, drug trafficking, and possible sex trafficking. The underlying concern, however, was Volkov's ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There were several wire transfers and meets between high-ranking members of al-Qaeda and Volkov and his associates. Woo showed us at least twenty charts and graphs showing the connection between the two.

Woo turned to us. "There's something else," he said. "The reason you needed to sign the nondisclosure agreement."

Michaels shifted in his seat and the man next to him set his jaw. What was this all about?

Woo continued, "It's because we have received credible intel that al-Qaeda is planning an attack on the US."

Of course they was planning an attack on the US. They always were. This was nothing new. In fact, I would be surprised if they weren't. Confused, I crossed my legs under the table and waited for more.

He clicked onto the next slide. There was a scanned copy of a piece of paper, the text written in Arabic. I wasn't field-certified in Arabic, but Boone was. I looked at him, and I saw his jaw tighten as he read it.

"This here is a correspondence between Volkov and Abu Atef, one of AQAP's senior members," Woo explained. He turned to look at us. "It asks Volkov to fulfill his earlier promise to supply them with a neutron bomb."

I felt Danny stiffen next to me, and I closed my eyes.

"As you may know, a neutron bomb is thermonuclear weapon designed to cause most of its casualties through radiation. It's not about the initial explosion itself; it's about the lasting consequences," he said. I opened my eyes to a picture of a dissected neutron bomb. "We believe that it might be a salted bomb, where the core is surrounded by gold or cobalt, both of which turn into a highly radioactive isotope through neutron bombardment. It would leave the blast radius uninhabitable for centuries."

The room was silent and visibly on edge.

Woo continued. "We know that the set timeframe for the attack is December 25th. We're working on acquiring a target. We believe it's going to be a US city, somewhere with a large number of people gathered for Christmas celebrations. We've got agents in Saudi Arabia and Yemen right now trying to get more information, and we're leaning heavily on all of our assets connected to al-Qaeda and Volkov's organization. Director Nixon?"

He sat down, his face serious. Director Nixon, the man sitting next to Michaels, stood up and took his place at the center of the room. He had an incredibly commanding presence. "For those of you who don't know me, I'm Director Frederick Nixon." He moved on quickly. "Now, obviously, this is one of the Agency's biggest priorities at the moment. We have agents all over this from the al-Qaeda side of things." He gestured to Danny, Boone, and I. "What we need is additional help on the Volkov front."

A picture of a man flashed up on the screen. "We believe that this is the man you shot, Agent Hart," Nixon said. He looked to me for confirmation.

I inhaled sharply, burning under the gazes of everyone in the room. It was him all right. There was no mistaking those cold eyes and that thick, greying beard. I gave Nixon a curt nod. "Yes, sir, that's him."

"This is Igor Bagrov, Volkov's stepson," he said. "After yesterday's events, we tracked the movements of Volkov's associates at the dealership on Zubovsky Boulevard to Istanbul." He changed the slide to a satellite map of Turkey. "It seems they transported Bagrov's body to a warehouse. Our local contacts in Istanbul haven't seen Volkov around but reported seeing this man –" The slide changed again to a picture of a hard-faced man. "—Mikhail Belinsky, Volkov's second-in-command. We think Volkov has a base of operations in Istanbul. He might even be there." He gave the three of us a hard look. "We need you to go in, find out if there is a base of operations, and if so, do recon. And I'm talking recon in the fullest sense: tap the phones, take photos of everyone even remotely associated with Volkov, and get in as close as possible."

My eyes widened, not believing what I was hearing. I could tell Danny and Boone were just as surprised as I was.

Nixon noticed our expression. "I realize that you are logistics, and two of you are relatively new at this, but you're all field-rated. But we're short on operatives that can speak both Russian and Arabic. The objective is simply recon, and if it's possible, to find out whether the bomb has been delivered to al-Qaeda and what its target is."

I looked to Michaels to see if this was all true. He gave me an imperceptible nod. From beside him, Agent Gibson met my eyes, her hands clasped on the table.

Nixon slid three folders down the length of the table. "Just for the sake of covering our asses, you're going under cover. Everything's laid out in those files."

Woo spoke up. "Agent Rowe, you'll be going in as a graduate student from Duke, studying abroad at the Istanbul Technical University." Danny nodded, looking a little dazed. "Agent Boone, you're going in as a freelance photographer." Boone nodded, as well. "And Agent Hart, you're going in as his fiancée."

It wasn't the first time we had gone under with these covers. This cover of Boone's, as photographer Adam Reynolds, was one of his go-tos. I opened my file and wasn't surprised to find that I was to be Abbey White, Adam's fiancée.

"You will be briefed further by Analysis and Tech later this afternoon on the particulars," Nixon told us. "Memorize those folders. Any questions?"

There were hundreds of questions crowding my brain, but I hesitated.

Boone spoke first. He leaned back in his chair and spun casually to face Nixon. "How long is this mission planned to be?" he asked. "Are we going under deep cover?"

Deep cover meant that we had to live and breathe our aliases, stop all contact with anyone but the CIA, and even then, limit our contact. I hadn't been under cover that deep before. I was sure Ben was going to handle it very well.

Nixon sat down in his chair, and replied, "Yes. We don't know how long it's going to take. The planned date of the attack is Christmas Day, but first, we have to identify whether there's even a base of operations in Istanbul. We're sending you under deep cover just in case."

Boone gave a nod, swinging his chair back around. His face was unreadable. He had always wanted to try out Clandestine Services, so I was betting he was quite thrilled at the outcome of this meeting. Deep cover didn't bother him; he didn't have any ties in D.C. He lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment that was barely furnished. He was always happiest when we were out in the field.

Danny asked in that soft, nervous voice of his, "Will the equipment be supplied on the ground or should we…uh…bring it with us?"

"We've secured you an apartment near the university and we'll have it stocked by the time you land," Nixon answered. He jutted his chin towards us. "Agents Boone and Hart will be in a house nearby with gear, too."

I cleared my throat and Nixon's sharp brown eyes jerked to me. "Sir, I'm not clear on something," I started. "It's just…well, in all honesty, there must be someone more qualified than me for this mission. I mean, I've only been in the field for eight months, and even then, I've only done logistics ops that have lasted two weeks at most. Don't get me wrong, sir, I'm—I'm flattered to be given this opportunity, but –"

"Stop, Agent Hart," Nixon interrupted, putting one hand up. "You're right. You were not our first choice for this op." I nodded in understanding. He turned to his left slightly. "Agent Gibson was."

Gibson bowed her head slightly, casting her eyes down.

"But Agent Gibson was compromised three weeks ago in Novgorod," Nixon said. "Mikhail Belinsky caught her tapping his phone line and even though she managed to get away, we can't risk sending her in."

That explained the fleeting look of frustration that had come over her face. "I'll be in Istanbul as back-up, though," she said. Those dark eyes flickered to Boone's face.

"So, we're sending you in, Agent Hart," Nixon continued. "Not only because you are field-rated and fluent in Russian, but because we think you illustrated your competence as an agent yesterday morning in Moscow." His eyes bored into mine. "Now, that is the only pep-talk I'm offering. If you're not up for this, you need to let us know now."

"No, sir, I'm up for it," I replied quickly.

"Good," he said. "Moving on."

The meeting lasted another twenty minutes. Woo went over the most likely places Volkov's base of operations would be situated, informed us of the types of gear that we would have at our disposal, and briefly went over Volkov's known contacts in the Istanbul area. Once we were dismissed, Danny, Boone, and I headed to our office, but not before Gibson snagged Boone to inform him that she would be arriving in Istanbul the day after us and would be available if needed.

Plopping down in my chair at my small desk, I swiveled to look at Danny, who was in the desk next to mine. Boone's desk was across from mine. We were all silent a moment before I said, "So, interesting meeting, huh?"

Danny's leg was jiggling and he looked paler than usual. "Yeah, I can't believe they're sending us in on a CS op. I mean, I think we can do it just fine, but…" he said, trailing off.

"I know," I said. "It's so different from our normal ops."

"Yeah," he said. "I mean, I know you two will be doing the actual planting of the bugs and stuff, but I'm still a little –"

"It's going to be fine," Boone interrupted, the picture of ease leaning back in his chair. "We're going to be fine."

"Well, you've done stuff like this before when you were in the military, right?" Danny asked, leaning forward.

Boone scratched his beard. "Sort of," he replied.

"But you've never been deep cover?" Danny said.

"No, I haven't," Boone answered. "But this is going to be simple. Find where Volkov is working out of, set up our surveillance equipment, and sit back and watch."

"Easy as that," I said, half-sarcastic, half-worried.

"Oh, come on," Boone said, sitting up straight and rolling his chair closer to his desk. A slow smile spread across his face. "This coming from the girl who kneed Vasili Volkov's stepson in the balls."

"What—" I started.

He gave a deep-throated laugh. "I saw the security tape from the garage," he explained. "Nixon did, too. I'm pretty sure that's what convinced him you were ready for this mission."

"Great," I said, tucking my hair behind my ear.

He laughed again at the look on my face. "Sorry," he said, not sounding like he really meant it. "But Nixon was right. I think you're ready for this."

I stared into his eyes that were still sparkling with the remnants of his laugh. He gave me a nod and the corner of his mouth lifted. I wasn't sure if he knew how much his words always seemed to reassure me. The fear of failing this mission lifted enough to make the nausea subside.

Danny opened his file. "I'm leaving tomorrow at 10:30 in the morning," he said, looking up. "What time do you guys leave?" he asked.

I glanced down at my folder, too. "Looks like Boone and I are on an 8:45 flight tomorrow morning." I quickly glanced up at Boone and we both said, "I call the window," at the same time.

"I definitely won that one," Boone said.

"What?" I said, incredulous.

"Yeah," he said. "I did."

"No," I said. "Besides, you had the window both to and from Moscow."

Amused, Boone turned to Danny. "Verdict?"

Danny rolled his eyes as he always did whenever we asked him to referee. "Sorry, Agent Hart," he said, "but Boone won that one."

I shook my head. "Fine, but I get your pillow," I told Boone. Turning my head to look at Danny, I said, "And, Danny, seriously, call me Gemma. We've known each other over two months now."

Danny smiled, and said, "Okay, okay."

Danny was even newer than me. He had come out of training five months ago and was assigned to our small team after the old tech guy, Bobby, had transferred to the Defense Intelligence Agency. For some reason, he always called me "Agent Hart" despite my protests. I was waiting for the day it finally stuck.

Looking back down at my folder with a smile, I noticed a sheet of paper underneath it. I pulled it out, the smile dropping off my face. It was my statement from the Moscow debriefing that I needed to sign. I didn't want to read it, so I grabbed a pen, scribbled my name, and stood up. "I've got to run this to Agent Allen on the second floor. I'll see you guys at the meeting," I said.

Agent Allen wasn't at her desk, but I left the signed statement where she would see it. Afterwards, I picked up a coffee at the cafeteria and then made my way back up to our office. The meeting took place in our small conference room. There were two analysts from Intelligence and Analysis and three from Tech Services. They reiterated what Woo had told us and went over the particulars of the mission: what equipment we would have, an in-depth psych profile on Volkov, the CIA safe houses in Istanbul, and our cover stories. By the time we were fully briefed, it was seven o'clock and time to go home.

Boone told me he would pick me up from my place at 6:30am so we could drive to the airport together. We said bye to Danny, telling him we would meet up in Istanbul once we were all there. I was a little worried about Danny being on his own. He had struggled with the undercover part of his training, but I couldn't help thinking that because he was so nondescript and unassuming, no one would believe he was CIA.

I was starving by the time I got home. Dropping my keys on the coffee table, I headed towards the kitchen where I heard Ben clanging around. The entire apartment smelled of onions. I took off my coat and draped it across the couch before entering the kitchen.

"Don't tell me you're cooking," I said, grinning, loosening my scarf.

Ben smiled as he tossed a pan full of vegetables. He set it back down on the burner. "So what if I am?" he said.

I laughed and came around the island counter to stand next to him. I peered into the pan. "Why does this look healthy?" I asked.

Ben leaned down and kissed me. He flashed a grin and replied, "Shut up." He poked at a chicken breast that was frying in another pan. "I just thought I'd cook dinner for you."

I frowned and smiled at the same time. "What's the occasion?" I asked.

He gave me a sideways glance. "There isn't one," he answered. "I just thought you'd be hungry."

Suddenly, I got the feeling that this was a pity dinner. It must have been because of last night. I shouldn't have broken down in front of him like that. It wasn't like I could explain what happened or why I kept seeing Igor Bagrov's face in my mind. I sighed and leaned against the counter. "I'm sorry about last night," I said. "I didn't mean to be so dramatic. I think I was just overtired, you know?"

Ben paused with the spatula in his hand. "Gemma, don't apologize," he said quietly.

"But I –"

"Seriously, don't," he cut me off and turned to me. "It's one of the only times I've heard you talk about work in a way that wasn't robotic." He stepped towards me and I almost wanted to back up into the counter. "Don't apologize for showing emotion around me."

"I'm not sorry about that—"

"You know, I don't think I've seen you…feel…anything since February," he said.

I swallowed. That couldn't be true, could it? Ever since I started my job as a logistics officer, I had tried to keep it completely separate from my personal life. I had even signed a dozen nondisclosure agreements to do just that. But for God's sake, I didn't think that made me seem like a robot.

I looked up into his face, with its flush from the heat of the stove and a dark five o'clock shadow. "I feel, Ben," I assured him.

"Do you?" he said lightly, but I sensed the teasing undercurrent of his words.

"I do," I said. I stood up on tiptoe and put my lips close to his, barely touching as I said, "Like right now, I'm really, really…hungry."

He let out a loud laugh and closing the distance, kissed me long and hard. I wrapped my arms around his neck and leaned into him. He felt good, familiar, real. His hands came down to touch a spot on my lower back that he knew sent shivers up my spine. He smiled against my lips and I pulled away, laughing. "I think the chicken's burning," I said.

"Oh, shit," he said, quickly pulling the pan off the burner.

We ate the charred chicken stir-fry at the small round table in the living room. He told me about his day and about the plan for a new skyscraper he was working on. I listened, but was half-thinking about tomorrow. I was trying to recall the background of my alias, Abbey White. It had been a good two months since I had thought about her.

"So, what about you?" Ben asked before taking another bite. "How was today?"

I looked down at my nearly empty plate and replied, "It was fine," I said.

"Can't tell me any more than that?" he asked good-humoredly. He flashed me a smile.

I put down my fork. Now was as good as ever to break the news to him. "Ben," I said, voice serious.

The smile immediately dropped off his face and he set his fork down, too, and pushed his plate away from him. "What?" he asked, sounding like he was dreading the worst.

"Well," I started. I took a deep breath. "I'm leaving tomorrow for a trip."

"Another one?"

"Yes," I said. "Another one."

His jaw clenched and he clasped both of his hands on the table. He stared at them as he asked, "How long?"

I bit my lip. "I'm not sure," I answered. "This one might be longer than the others."

Shaking his head, he looked up, brown eyes filled with irritation. "What, are you going to miss Christmas?"

"Maybe," I said.

"Jesus, Gemma. Thanksgiving and now Christmas?" he said angrily.

"Ben, they're just holidays," I tried to persuade. "Besides, I might very well be back—"

"Just holidays?" he repeated, eyebrows raising. He was angry now. Suddenly, I was glad I wasn't allowed to disclose the fact that I was going under with Boone as my fiancé. That definitely wouldn't go over well.

"Yes," I said. "Just holidays. Anyways, I know for a fact that your mother wants you home for Christmas. She told me as much in September."

"I wanted to spend Christmas with you, Gemma," he said, unballing his fist and balling it again.

"I know," I said softly.

"So, you'll be working? On Christmas?" he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

"I'm not sure. Trust me, though, I'd rather spend it with you," I said. "But—"

"But what?"

I gave him a look. "But Ben, this isn't a nine-to-five job. The threats don't just stop because it's Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter or whatever."

"Why do you say 'nine-to-five job' like it's a bad thing?" he questioned critically.

Sighing, I replied, "I'm not saying it's a bad thing. God knows I'd kill for a normal schedule, but I signed up knowing that my job was kind of a 24/7 thing."

"Yeah, it is," he said. "Even when you're home, even when you're with me, you're thinking about something else."

I was quiet for a moment. I knew my job had bothered him, but I guess I had been ignoring just how much it bothered him. "I'm sorry," I said. "Really, I don't mean to, but—"


I put my hand over his and leaned forward to look into his eyes. "This job is important to me," I told him. "It's really important to me."

His face softened a bit, but his words came out blunt. "Yeah, I know, it's pretty obvious what your priorities are."

I closed my eyes but kept my hand over his. When I opened them again, I calmly said, "I'm not going to apologize for putting national security before my personal life."

He just looked at me, but something flickered in his eyes. I hoped it was some degree of understanding.

"But I am sorry that this impacts you so much," I said, squeezing his hand. "I never meant it to."

Ben took a deep breath and let it out. He covered my hand with his. "I miss you, you know?" he said. "But it's not just that. I—I worry about you, doing whatever it is you do out there."

I offered a small smile. "Well, don't," I said. "I'm good at what I do."

"I'm sure you are," he said, reluctantly returning the smile.

My smile grew wider. I reached up and brushed a thumb over his temple. "Thanks for dinner, by the way," I said, glancing down at the plates. "It was delicious."

"You're welcome," he said, pleased.

I dropped my hand and went to pick up the plates. "Since you made dinner, I'll do the dishes," I said.

After the dishes were done and the leftovers were put away, Ben settled down on the couch to watch some ESPN and I headed to our bathroom. I took a shower and combed through my hair. On a whim, I scrounged in the bathroom drawers for a pair of scissors.

The advantages of having a mother who was a hairdresser were countless, but the biggest one was that she taught me to cut my own hair. I held the wet front pieces of my hair between two fingers, and taking a breath, held the scissors up to my eyebrow and snipped. Trimming from left to right, I gave myself long bangs that swept to the side.

Whenever I went under an alias, I liked to feel a little different, a little not like myself. It made the pretending easier. Sometimes I temporarily dyed my hair or wore different clothes or changed my makeup. Anything that gave the alias an identity different than my own.

I ruffled my hair. Abbey White would be the girl with the bangs. Plus, they decently covered the cut on my eyebrow.

When I came out into the living room, Ben immediately straightened himself on the couch.

"How do you like it?" I asked him, smoothing my hair over my forehead.

"You look different," he answered, absently picking at a loose thread on the couch.

Shrugging, I came closer. "That's sort of the point," I told him with a smile.

"Oh," he said. He scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, that makes sense."

I laughed and plopped down next to him, tucking my feet underneath me. "So, what are we watching?"

He turned his head to the TV, which was playing some sort of recap of a basketball game. He leaned forward and grabbed the remote off the coffee table. He pressed the "off" button and the TV clicked off. I turned to him and met those brown, brown eyes. The room was silent as we looked at each other. His expression was unmistakable. "What time are you leaving in the morning?" he asked, voice low.

"Six-thirty," I replied.

He looked at his watch. "Well," he said. "What do you want to do for the next seven and a half hours?"

"Sleep?" I offered innocently, trying to keep my face straight.

He ran a hand down my bare arm. "That's not the right answer."

"It's not?"

"No," he replied.

"Okay." I grinned, and he grinned back before drawing me closer.

A/N: Sorry if this chapter was lacking in espionage per se, but I needed to set everything up. The mission will start in the next chapter :)

Thanks so much for reading. Let me know your thoughts!