She was insane. No worse than that. Somehow during her last twenty-two years she must have suffered from severe head trauma. It was the only way to explain the mental retardation she'd been inflicted with. What in the hell was she thinking? She was smarter than this. Her upbringing alone instilled enough common sense to see through his act.

Which chapped her hide severely. One because had been made a fool of. But mostly it proved her father right. Two things Reggie hated most in life. Something Nikolas Mazzetelli had been able to accomplish in less than a year.

Now she was stuck. She had walked right into the bowels of hell. With a smile on her face and a song in her heart. She'd been sooo in love. Bullshit. She'd been so freakin blind. Making stupid decisions, ones that could cost her big time. In the death kind of way.

Keeping her ear to the door, Reggie listened for any sign of movement in the house. A duffle bag was carelessly packed at her feet. If asked she couldn't really say what she'd shoved in. For all she knew she could have grabbed ten pair of tube socks and a few formal gowns. In the end it really didn't matter. Reggie's only goal was to get out of the house. Down the hill and flag down the first random car.

If the phones weren't tapped she would've called her father two nights ago. Even if it meant she had to admit he was right and like he loved to remind her, she was once again wrong. Nik was a demented asshole. Not the Prince Charming she had so adamantly defended. But she couldn't. Not with Nik's men watching her every move. Analyzing each of her words.

The familiar sound of boots echoed through the hall. Like clockwork, every Friday morning, Nik would gather his men and go off to God knows where. Reggie could care less if they went to Timbuktu. Just as long as they stayed out of the house for the next two hours.

The front door slammed and it was soon followed by the sound of car doors. Twenty minutes to freedom. Pacing the master bedroom. Wiping the sweat from her palms onto her jeans, Reggie sucked in deep breaths until the butterflies in her stomach stopped their wild fluttering.

Checking the clock sitting next to the bed, ten minutes. Grabbing her jacket and matching leather gloves. She struggled with her clothing as she drudged up every lesson her father and his pals had taught her. Rolling her neck from side to side, working out the crinks.

What had her father always repeated? Quick, clean, no risks. She never really agreed with him on the last part. It was the risk takers who were always a step ahead of those who always followed the rules religiously. Were capable of thinking on their own, able to make split second decisions without needing someone to hold their hand.

But this time she was going to stick to her fathers words. Improvise only if need be. There was no room for error. Or instead of getting a call for assistance, her father would get a nice little visit from the State Police to notify him his only daughter would be coming home in a box.

Dropping to her knees by the bed, she reached blindly for the rope she'd stashed there just days ago. A small tug of guilt pulled at her gut. What could she do? Getting out by herself was going to be a miracle. Smuggling a three year old would take an act of God. The only thing that made her feel okay about this was knowing her father would come in and help get Sophie out of this mess. Which meant she needed to keep her head.

Sliding up to the window, Reggie looked down on the lawn below. Marcus walked past, automatic in hand, as his eyes skimmed the hill that kept the place safe. Two minutes and he'd stroll around the side of the house. It was the same day after day. You'd like Nik would change the routine. But when a guy believed he was God, why change?

Rolling her eyes, she watched as the guard below strutted to corner, with one final look over his shoulder. It was now or never. Opening the window, she grinned slightly as the alarms remained silent. High tech her ass. A blow-dyer and a pair of tweezers was all it took. Child's play.

Tying the rope to the post of the ridiculously expensive bedpost. Nik had boasted that it had come from Francis. Had once belonged to some important person. Reggie stuck her tongue out at one of the over polished cherubs staring down at her. The piece of furniture always made her feel uneasy. As though some how the tiny little angels looking down at her were running back to God. Telling him of all the bad things she knew.

Clicking the other end to the harness around her, Reggie peered out the window. "Well it's now or never."


"Gibbons I don't know where I went wrong." Staring down at the coffee in front of him, General Morgan wiped a hand over his tired face. "Do you know what it's like, knowing one of your children is in danger. Hearing their voice over the phone. Scared and unsure. Only to have the line go dead before you can find out where they are."

"Thomas we're gonna find her. The men are busting at the seems. Ready for some action. Reggie was like a sister to most of them." Glancing over at the phone, Gibbons leaned back in his chair and took a long look at his old friend. They'd been through a lot together. Hell they'd faced death on more than on one occasion.

It was him that had been with Thomas and Reggie on her first jump. Standing right behind her on the plane. Keeping a close eye on her color. Making sure she was up to the challenge. Wasn't he the one that was her champion when she'd begged her father to learn to repel with the rest of the men when she was only fifteen. Did he know what it's like to have a child in danger? Maybe not one of his own flesh, but yeah he knew what it felt like.

"Tell me again what she said." Gibbons no nonsense attitude was like a balm on Thomas's nerves.

"She finally saw Mazzetelli for the asshole he is. The prick actually took her on a job. She sat in a car as he shot and killed three teens he had running drugs for him. He then had the audacity to threaten her. I swear when I get my hands on him he will be begging for me to kill him." His face beet-red, he took a deep drink of his luke warm coffee. "Reggie waited until she knew Mazzetelli was gonna be gone a few hours. Repelled out the window, slid half way down a mountain and got a ride from some family traveling from Wisconsin. She didn't have a chance to tell me a pick up spot before the line went dead."

"So she called you as soon as she had a chance?"

"I think so."

"So she was still in Colorado?" Gibbons pushed.

"The last I knew. Gibbons, you know me. I'm not the most sensitive man in the world. But I love her. She's the most important thing to me." For the first time in his life, Gibbons watched in sadness as tears formed in his oldest pals face.

"You and I both know that Mazetelli doesn't mean shit to the agency. He's small time." Scratching the side of his head, he looked down for a moment. "The agency won't allow me to send in a team for this. A few of the men though are willing to take an extra vacation."

"Gibbons if we rush Mazzetelli and he has her. She's as good as dead. I know the men want to help her..." Shaking his head, Thomas collected himself. "I know the boys. They're a good lot. But we can't have a group of hotheaded soldiers going in like demons."

"I agree." Sighing, Gibbons let out a soft chuckle. "I knew you'd be smart. I have a man in mind."



"Are you kidding? That psychopath you sent to Prague last year?" Thomas looked in between the need to laugh and the need to cry.

"That psychopath happens to be one of my best." Gibbons defended. "Thomas, you know how I feel about Reggie. I love her like one of my own. I wouldn't suggest Xander if I didn't believe he could get her."

Not sure if he was doing the right thing, Thomas buried his head in his hands and gave a halfhearted nod. "Do it."


Looking up at the seatbelt sign, Xander let out an exasperated sigh and looked out the window. The Rockies loomed down below, making his insides itch to do a half a million stupid things. The mountains held so much promise. Snowboarding, hang-gliding, white water rafting. And he was stuck on some small time mission to save some Army brat from her own stupid mistakes.

It wouldn't be so bad if Yelena hadn't left him four months ago. Saying that she wanted a normal life that didn't involve constant calls in the middle of the night from Gibbons. That she needed to settle down and forget about the past.

He couldn't give her that. Gibbons had awoken some freaky sense of purpose in him. Not that anyone would find him spouting praise to the fucked up way the American system worked. But the jobs he'd been given so far filled a hole inside him he hadn't even known was empty.

Pulling out the folder Gibbons had sent along with him, Xander scanned over the pages again. Okay so the girl had a police record. Maybe she wasn't the little princess he'd assumed she was. But a few speeding tickets and disorderly conduct didn't make her any less of a pain. Flipping to the back of the file she stopped at the only picture he'd been given. An impish redhead smiled back at him. Her eyes full of laughter and a smile that promised trouble, Xander snorted and shook his head. He didn't care if she'd been questioned for a murder charge. The girl was as all American as you cold get. Which meant they should get along as well as oil and water.

Shutting the file, he shoved it back into carry on bag and leaned his head back. Trying not to think that looking for her was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack.