PROLOGUE

The landing gear crumpled as the small plane crashed along the dusty, rocky path where Ilsa had been forced to land. She swore under her breath, concerned not for her own safety, but for her eleven-year-old brother in the back seat. He masked the heart-pounding terror with a brave face, and kept absolutely silent, praying to live.

A fallen log! The plane flipped tail over nose and landed upside down, jarring her against the restraint, stealing the breath from her lungs. This time, Quincy screamed in pain. How close were the people that shot her down? She had to move fast.

Carefully, she freed herself from the restraint and fell hard on her shoulder. Her jaw clacked and she tasted blood on her tongue. Once the plane caught fire, they would be easy targets. No time to dawdle!

"Hold on, Quincy," she said, shimmying around the crumpled cockpit, trying to get to him. The boy was still hanging upside down in his harness, eyes scrunched shut, hands quivering in mid air like he was shaking a piggy bank. She helped free him, trying to make sure he didn't fall on the warped metal jutting into the cabin, wrapped an arm under his shoulder, and crawled out from under the up-turned plane.

"Avance," she ordered in French – their first language. Walk. Yanking him by the elbow, she forced him to run on his own power away from the wreckage. There were rocks and shrub-like trees, but nothing good for hiding in. Down the hill a little ways there was a small development and she planned to steal a car.

Quincy cradled his right arm against his chest, stumbling every few steps, but keeping pace enough that when he fell, he fell against her. Their father had been murdered two days ago, and they'd done nothing but run ever since. There was no time to regroup, no time to figure out who was after her, and no way to call for help. And no time to sleep.

"Stay conscious," she urged to her brother, putting an arm around him to hold him up more than anything else. She was proud of him for handling the trauma so well, and racked with guilt for putting in the situation in the first place. Whatever was going on, it was connected to her spy life. Quincy was the ruse to pull her out of hiding – Quincy and their father. Now their father was dead, and given the way Quincy fought off sleep and refused to eat, she was pretty sure his captors had forced him to watch.

They ran away from the plane, panting from exertion, choking on blood and dust, bodies screaming in protest. After half a mile, they reached the first house on the hillside. No car. The second house had a locked garage. If her gun had any bullets left, she would've shot the lock. As it was, she only had a few blades tucked in at her thigh, calf, and the small of her back.

She'd landed in California, but had she made it anywhere near L.A.? She needed to break into a car with a GPS. With any luck, her old lover would still be in town on that mission that she'd never quite figured out. Thank God she'd spent the night with John Casey.

"Quincy?" Hearing a thud behind her, she turned sharply, and swore. He was unconscious.

*~*