A/N: Hi all, I'm back! This is probably going to be a longer story... It's a little different that what I usually write: darker, more dramatic, a bit racier... But I hope you like it!
And special thanks to supernaturalsam, who continues to provide me with encouragement and plot support for this little endeavor!
Disclaimer: Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys do not belong to me, and I am making no profit from the writing of this story.
The sound of the shower running filtered dimly through to Nancy's consciousness, and she began to stir. The sun forced its way under her eyelids from a pool of light on her pillow, streaming through a gap in the gauzy white curtains that obscured the balcony door. Her eyes fluttered open, and she smiled as she remembered where she was: a hotel suite in Cairo, Egypt.
She was on her honeymoon.
She stretched out her body on the bed and sighed contentedly. The sheets were expensive, soft linen; the Network had spared no expense in accommodations for this little vacation/courier mission. She realized that she was sore in some places—blushing as she recalled last night's activities—but it was a good ache. Lying back, she contemplated the ornate moldings on the ceiling. She'd only been married for four days, and it was both like and unlike how she'd expected it to be.
Since the wedding, Frank had been... wonderful. He was always wonderful. But he was just a little cooler, a little more brusque than usual. And for the past few days, he'd taken to waking up at the crack of dawn. If something was bothering him, if he was worried about the Network mission, she wished he would talk to her about it. This was supposed to be the happiest time of their lives, and she couldn't shake the feeling that something, somewhere, was wrong.
She berated herself silently for the thought. She was worried about nothing. Frank loved her, would trust her with anything, just as she did him. That was something she would never doubt. And if he was worried about something, it would be her mission to make him forget.
The shower stopped, and a minute later her husband appeared in the bathroom doorway, a towel wrapped around his waist, one hand carding through his damp hair. He didn't look over at the bed, instead heading for the dresser. Nancy bit her lip, enjoying the view. "Hey, handsome."
Frank turned, boxers in hand, and walked back to her, a warm smile on his face. "Morning, beautiful." he returned smoothly, sitting on the bed next to her feet.
She sat up, clutching the sheets to her naked body, and leaned into him, their lips meeting in a lingering kiss. "Good morning." she murmured, smiling, when the kiss broke. "You're up early again... Since when have you been such an early bird?"
He shrugged. "Maybe the time difference screwed me up. Sorry."
She shook her head, her strawberry-blonde hair swinging around her shoulders and glinting in the red light of the sunrise. "I'm not upset that you're up, except inasmuch as that it means you're not in bed with me."
He dropped a kiss on her bare shoulder. "That can be rectified."
His words sent a little shiver up her spine. She'd known Frank Hardy for years, since they were kids, but he'd always had the power to make her blush, even now. Even after they'd been an official couple for over two years, even after there were no secrets between them. Nothing at all between them, in fact, but a thin bedsheet. "So rectify it, Hardy."
His hands encircled her waist as he lowered her back down to the bed.
"So..." Nancy said, some time later, as they were tangled together in the sheets. "What's wrong?" It briefly occurred to her that there might be a more appropriate time to ask the question, but why wait for it when she could ask him now and set them both at ease?
"Wrong?" Frank repeated with a laugh, still slightly out of breath. "You think there's something wrong?"
"Not with that." Nancy clarified with a grin of her own. "With you."
He grew still. "What do you mean, Nan?"
"Give me a little credit, Frank. I can tell when there's something bothering you. What is it? The Network mission? Being married not as much fun as you thought? Worried that your brother's poking into some kind of sinister puka shell smuggling ring in Aruba without you?" Nancy said. Her words were teasing, but her eyes were serious.
"Nah, Joe's got Vanessa to keep him in line." Frank said with a little smile, probably thinking of Joe and his new wife, Vanessa, on their honeymoon in the Caribbean. "And being married... well, that's not too bad either."
"Then it's the Network thing." Nancy inferred.
"Maybe a little..." Frank admitted.
"It sounds like a pretty simple mission: meet up with the contact, tell him the code, get the package, and bring it home." Nancy summarized. "You think something is going to go wrong?"
"No," Frank sat up and swung his legs off the bed so that he was facing away from her. "No, you're probably right. Guess I'm just a little anxious, is all. I won't really feel like myself until we get ahold of that thing—whatever it is—and put it into the right hands."
"I know what you mean." Nancy nodded. "I mean, if the Network was willing to put us up in a place like this just for doing them a simple favor, that package must be worth a lot to someone. Hopefully we'll be able to keep the package drop a secret, and we won't end up dealing with thieves."
"Hopefully." Frank echoed.
A half hour later they were both showered and dressed, heading through the hotel lobby. Their destination for the day was the Saladin Citadel, a huge fortress in central Cairo that was over 800 years old. The ancient structure was now full of mosques and museums, and, since it was built on a hill right in central Cairo, it was said to have a spectacular view of the city.
One of the bellboys approached Frank, saying there was a message for him at the front desk. Nancy went with him to retrieve it, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Frank grinned at her. "A message that's not for me... I don't know whether to be suspicious or not."
"I'm not sure." Nancy laughed. "I've never made it this far into a vacation without stumbling on some kind of trouble before..."
The Citadel was just as awe-inspiring as the guidebooks had said. Nancy was glad she'd remembered to wear clothing that covered her legs and shoulders, as there was a strict dress code for religious reasons. The mosques in the Citadel were still in use, and worshipers were scattered among the tourists.
She was following Frank through a narrow corridor when she was bowled into by a woman coming the other way. The woman, who was wearing a scarf over her dark hair, mumbled a quick apology and left before Nancy could get a good look at her. Quickly, she reached for her purse, worried that the woman might have been a pickpocket, but her wallet, keys, and travelers' checks were still intact.
"Did she get anything?" Frank asked. Clearly he was thinking the same thing she had.
"Nothing... I guess she just tripped." She shook her head. "Okay, now we really are just looking for trouble."
"And when we do that, we usually find it." Frank reminded her.
"So let's not." Nancy suggested with a grin.
They spent the rest of the day exploring the ancient fortress, as well as touring other historic sites around the city. Then they returned to their hotel room to shower and dress in preparation for a dinner cruise on the Nile. Nancy had finished showering and was in the process of putting her hair up when she heard the buzzing coming from her bag.
She grabbed the purse from where it was sitting on the back of the toilet and opened it curiously. She knew for a fact that her cell phone was not in her purse—the roaming charges were enough to deter her from bringing it to Egypt at all. Her father and the Hardys had the number of their hotel suite in case of emergencies, and she'd planned on using a calling card to check in with them later in the week. So what was ringing in her purse?
She traced the source of the buzzing to a rarely-used side pocket and withdrew a flat silver cell phone that she had never seen before in her life. The number in the display gave her no clues as to where the phone had come from, or who might be calling it. Frowning, she flipped the phone open and brought it to her ear. "Hello?"
"Nancy Drew. You are in grave danger." said the voice on the other end. "It is imperative that you listen to me carefully. Are you alone right now?"
Nancy felt goosebumps rise on her skin at the unknown caller's warning. How did he know her name? "Who is this?" she said in a low voice.
"My name is Arthur Gray. I'm an operative of-"
"The Network." Nancy finished with him, her eyebrows knitted together with concern. She'd never met the Gray Man personally, but she'd heard Frank and Joe's stories about their elusive Network contact. The first few pieces fell into place as she realized who she was dealing with. The woman who had bumped her at the Citadel today hadn't been trying to pick her pocket; instead, she'd left her the phone. Now that Nancy thought about it, sending an agent in disguise to plant a cell phone on her seemed like a very Network way to reach her. "What's going on? Is this about the courier mission?"
"First things first." Gray said. There was a note of anxiety in his voice that made Nancy very uneasy. "Are you alone?"
"Yes, but Frank's just in the other room." Nancy answered. "Let me just-"
"No!" Gray practically shouted. Then he calmed his voice. "Do not call him. This is for you alone, Miss Drew."
Nancy frowned. Was the Gray Man trying to ask her to keep secrets from Frank? "We're married, Mr. Gray." she said stiffly. "It's Hardy now."
"I know you believe that to be the case..." the Gray Man sighed. "It's difficult to tell you this, Miss Drew. But the man you married is not the real Frank Hardy."