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Wolf At The Door - Chapter 1

With the driver’s eyes continually looking at the rearview mirror, the red, sixty-seven convertible Mustang’s wiper blades were working overtime as heavy rain beat against metal and the canvas top. Her hands, gripped tightly to the steering wheel, were beginning to cramp—she had been driving since six that morning and the heavy rain slowed her down considerably. She had followed route 81 through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia before turning west toward Knoxville, Tennessee. Around seven o’clock she turned into a Days Inn located in Bristol, Tennessee, glad for the respite. For half an hour she sat watching to see if the DOCO operative that had been dogging her for days would show up. 

The Department of Covert Operations, DOCO, was an ultrasecret intelligence operation that dealt with those areas that government officials disavowed. Parker, known to be a first-class tactician and sharpshooter, joined the organization years earlier when they promised to tell her the location of her lover, Olivia Santos. The woman, arrested for killing the district attorney responsible for her brother’s death, disappeared after her arrest—Parker never gave up searching for her. Once she obtained the knowledge of Olivia’s whereabouts, she set on a course that ultimately led to her being shot and the designation of a rogue agent. Now, she had a chance to get back to where she once stood.

The headaches that had plagued her since a bullet connected with her head a year earlier demanded that she stop at the Days Inn even though Parker knew the chip that DOCO had inserted behind her ear would allow the agent tracking her to find her easily. She opened the car door and let her long legs, clad in black jeans, slip out before she stood to her full five-foot nine-inch height. Walking quickly she entered the lobby, going immediately to the tall gangly young man standing behind the counter. “Anita Brown.  I have a reservation,” she said in a low voice. 

The man quickly clicked the mouse before he looked up and smiled at the ominous-looking woman who slid cash across the counter. The man frowned. “Yes, Ms. Brown, I see you secured the room with your credit card but now you wish to pay with cash?” When he saw her nod, he busied himself with programming the key card before turning to her and grinning. “Lucky thing you called ahead and secured the room. I’ve turned away at least a dozen people.” He handed the dark, brooding woman the room key. “Is it still raining hard out there?”

Dark eyes in an expressionless face, fixed on the man. “I’m leaving my car under the awning until I get my bags,” she said before turning away and heading for the door.

“You’re welcome,” the man muttered, “another satisfied customer.” 

Parker deposited a soft-sided suitcase, a duffel bag, and her laptop on one of the beds in the room before going back outside to park the Mustang. Minutes later, she reentered the room, drenched from head to toe. She stripped and then held her hand to the left side of her head and bent over as pain shot through it. “Fuck,” she moaned as she pounded her fist on the nearby bed. Collapsing on the bed, she held her hand over the scar where a bullet had entered her brain. She recalled the woman who shot her. “I’ll see that you pay, Amelia.”

She stretched out on the bed, held a cool pillow against her face, and willed the pain to go away. When she heard the room’s telephone ring, she frowned. “Who the hell is that?” She attempted to ignore the shrill sound but it only made the pain intensify. Yanking the receiver off its cradle, she barked, “What.” 

“Nice greeting, Davis,” a velvety voice said. “This is Dupree.”

Parker closed her eyes. Fuck. She knew the answer but asked anyway—it never hurt to let the opposition think she wasn’t at the top of her game. “How the hell did you get this number?”

Ava Dupree let out a low chuckle. “Was your brain injury so severe that you’ve forgotten that we always know where you are?”

But they didn’t know the name…did they? “What do you want?” Parker queried. 

Again Ava laughed. “You know what I want and why I’m here. What’s your room number?”

“Go to hell.”

“Make this easy on yourself, Davis. You know it will take no time to find your room number and gaining entrance won’t be a problem.”

“Three-twenty-four,” Parker calmly said before she disconnected. Sitting up, she opened her duffel bag and pulled out a prototype sniper rifle. The rifle’s range of almost two miles would make her current job for DOCO easier. Her fingers caressed the cold metal when she heard the knock on the door. She smiled, slid the rifle back into the duffel bag, got out of bed, and walked to the door.

Ava Dupree, a six foot dark beauty with indigo eyes, raked her eyes over Parker’s body when she opened the door. “I see you dressed for the occasion,” she quipped as she brushed past the naked woman. “I’m not impressed.”

Parker felt her body react when Ava’s arm skimmed her breast and that made her mouth curve slightly—it would be to her advantage not to cover her body—Dupree wanted her. “Just tell me what you want and then get out,” she demanded.

After depositing the bag she was carrying on the floor, Ava fixed her eyes on Parker’s engorged nipples. “You really aren’t in any position to demand anything, Davis,” Ava said. Although the naked body aroused her, she pushed those feelings down—it wasn’t the time for pleasure. “Just taking off without me makes me think you didn’t want me along.” 

“I don’t need a nursemaid,” Parker bit out angrily.

Ava had read the dossier on the woman and her proclivity for frequent sexual encounters. Perhaps I can capitalize on that. She certainly has an enticing body. She stepped closer to Parker and could feel raw and dangerous power radiating from her. Tracing a finger from the hollow in Parker’s neck, through the valley between her breasts, and stopping at her navel, her breath caught. Looking into the dark eyes, she let out a long slow sigh. “You know we can make this mutually beneficial on so many levels.”

Parker grabbed the woman’s wrist and twisted hard. When she saw the grimace on Ava’s face, she said, “That’s never going to happen.” Her upper lip curled. “What do you want?”

Ava sneered as she wrenched her wrist free. “It’s my job to see that you get to the meeting on time. That means no side trips,” she said in a low ominous voice. Her eyes fixed on the duffel bag. “Carrying that kind of”—she shrugged—“luggage requires special care. Driving to Texas wouldn’t be my first choice but it is the safest one.” When Parker’s eyes showed minimal interest, she nodded. 

Snickering at Ava, Parker said, “I don’t need or want your help. I can get to the meeting without you.”

“Wolf isn’t going to let that happen and you know it, Davis. The only way DOCO will take you back is if you cooperate. You don’t have a choice in this.  You can either cooperate or find yourself on the outside and probably marked for elimination.” Ava set her jaw and glared at Parker. “If that’s what you want, Wolf won’t have a problem arranging for a substitute shooter.” She grabbed the bag holding the rifle. “This won’t be yours either.” Pulling the rifle out, she held the cold metal. “As you’ve probably noticed there’s a part missing.” She laughed. “Did you really think they’d trust you with a complete weapon?” When she saw Parker react, she grinned. “Play nice and you’ll get the firing pin and another little goody that will blow your socks off.”

A low growl emanated from deep in Parker’s throat. She had no use for Ava and if she could think of a way she’d get rid of her permanently. But, the throbbing in her head was so intense that she was having a difficult time not letting her debilitating pain show. Finally, unable to hide or control the intense throbbing, she clamped her hands against her skull and bent over. 

Detached, Ava watched as Parker writhed in pain before falling to the carpeted floor. I can’t believe I got stuck with watching this loser. Maybe she was once a top agent but she clearly isn’t anymore. Ava came prepared and pulled a small black pouch out of her bag, unzipped it, and took out a syringe along with a vial of liquid. Sucking the liquid out of the vial with the syringe, she stopped when it reached one hundred milligrams and then bent down and stabbed it in Parker’s backside. “That should ease the pain,” she said coldly. After a few minutes, the woman’s apparent agony began to recede. How did they think she could handle this mission? She bent down, pulled Parker to her feet, and led her to the bed. “Lie down and let the medicine work.” As she covered the naked body, she licked her lips. Damn is she delectable.

While Parker slept soundly, Ava searched the pockets of her wet clothes lying on the floor until she found the car keys. “If it was me I’d have a backup somewhere.” She picked up the clothes again and examined every seam. She found the key tucked inside the waistband of the jeans. “No way am I letting her bolt on me,” she said. She fished handcuffs out of her bag and attached one to Parker’s wrist and the other one to the bed frame.

She went through the duffel and found a full size semiautomatic Beretta and a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum along with enough ammunition to kill an army. In the suitcase she found a stash of drugs tucked in a side pocket. “Man, I’d hate to have her on my bad side. Her rep as being a wacko must be spot-on.”

Ava punched in the number for the team leader and waited for an answer. When she heard Wolf’s voice she said, “Hey, it’s me. I’ve got her… In Bristol, Tennessee. I figure we’ll arrive in Austin by midafternoon the day after next… I gave her a shot of Demerol. Are you sure she’s going to be able to perform...I’ve got her handcuffed to the bed.” Ava heard Wolf sigh before the line went dead.

Two hours later, Parker opened her eyes and was relieved the pain had subsided. She looked around the room and saw Ava Dupree’s eyes fixed on her. Briefly closing her own eyes, she said, “Thanks, that was a bad one,” before she tried to move her hand. Her eyes flew wide open. “Why the hell did you handcuff me?”

“I told Wolf that your headaches make you a liability,” she lied. “What’s going to happen if we have everything set up and you have one?” She eyed Parker. “I’ll tell you…our people will die.”

Parker ran her tongue over her dry lips. “Then don’t work with me,” she said, rattling her cuffed hand. “Let me out of this.”

“Are you going to behave?” 

Parker glared.

Ava unlocked the handcuff before she picked up the clothes that she laid out to dry and handed them to Parker. “Get dressed. We’re going out to eat.”

“Who made you the boss?”

“Wolf.” Ava held up a file. “This says you are intelligent. Yet, for some reason, you don’t seem to get it. Perhaps that bullet to your head did more damage than they thought.” She looked pointedly at Parker. “You don’t have a choice in this. Now, get dressed.”

For a moment, Parker considered the comment. After the shooting she spent months in a psychiatric hospital with what everyone thought was complete amnesia. After the surgery to remove the bullet and repair the damage, she was in a coma for a month and did have a brief episode of amnesia. When she realized that she did remember everything, she decided to continue to allow everyone to think she had no memories. It was to her advantage since she was able to glean valuable information. The DOCO psychiatrist spoke freely with the DOCO directors about her condition and prognosis. Silently she laughed as she remembered the woman responsible for her condition, Dr. Amelia West, who paid her a visit when she was on the psychiatric floor. The look on her face when she recognized me was priceless. I will pay her back…that is a promise. All in good time, my dear Amelia, all in good time. Now, she had to deal with her present situation. I’ll play Wolf’s game for the time being. “Fine, tell me what you want,” she said, hoping her voice sounded defeated enough.

With a skeptical look, Ava regarded the woman—she’d agreed too easily. “Okay. From here on in, we will always be together. We can take turns driving until we get to Austin. Once we are there, Wolf will brief you and the others.”

Parker glared at the woman. “No one drives my car but me.”

“Fine, have it your way but if that pain comes back you’ll have to live with it—we have a deadline.” Ava nodded toward the empty bed. “I’ll take that one.” She held up Parker’s car keys. “I’ve got these so don’t get any smart ideas of bolting.”

Parker hooked her thumbs in the belt loops on her jeans and felt for the key she’d hidden there—it was gone. Bitch. Reluctantly, Parker said, “Okay,” without much conviction. She chewed on her bottom lip before they made a grim line. “Guess I have no choice—I’m stuck with you.” 

“Good, let’s go. I’m starving.”

Parker followed Ava as a feral grin formed on her lips. I’ll let you think you’re in control.

The drive across Tennessee seemed endless and Parker felt the beginnings of another severe headache. For the last eight hours her hands tightly gripped the steering wheel as her jaw locked. When they turned south and entered Arkansas, she pulled into the lot of a Courtyard Inn.

“No way are we stopping now,” said Ava when the Mustang came to a halt in front of the lobby door. When Parker turned and looked at her, Ava had the answer. The pain etched deep into Parker’s skin was evident. “We aren’t stopping yet—get out and let me drive.”

“You aren’t going to drive my car,” Parker said as the pain ratcheted up another notch.

Ava sneered at the woman. “Look, I told you that you’d have to work through the pain if you insisted on doing all the driving. Right now, you’re not in any shape to drive and here’s a news flash—we aren’t stopping yet.” Taking advantage of Parker’s condition making her reflexes slower, she grabbed the keys and pulled them out. “Now, get your butt out of this car and sit over here. I’m driving.” 

Parker closed her eyes as a bolt of searing pain went through her head. “You win. I need to get something out of my suitcase,” she said, wincing as she opened the car door.

“I’ll give you another shot,” Ava said when they met at the trunk.

Watching the key go in the trunk’s keyhole, Parker felt like the world was going in slow motion. She tried to get the keys back and was strangely surprised when the other woman easily thwarted her attempt. Grabbing her head with both hands she cried out as the pain escalated beyond anything she’d ever felt. Her legs became rubber and she knew that at any moment she was going to pass out. “Help me,” she whispered as she felt strong arms surround her waist.

A man from inside the hotel quickly pushed the door open. “Do you need help?” he asked with concern.

With a quick look at the tall, well-dressed man, Ava said, “No, she just needs her pain meds.”

Unconvinced, the man scrutinized Parker. “She doesn’t look so good maybe I should call nine-one-one.”

“No,” Ava blurted out. “I told you once she gets her meds she will be fine.”

“Is that right, ma’am?” the man pointedly asked Parker.

Through gritted teeth Parker said, “Yeah, I had brain surgery a while back and every so often the pain gets really bad.”

The man nodded toward the door and said, “If you need help, I’m right inside,” before he turned and left.

“Get in and I’ll give you your shot,” Ava said as she closed the trunk. “Good comeback, Parker. I’m impressed how you handled that guy.”

When Parker opened her eyes, she closed them immediately trying to figure out where she was. Okay, I can tell I’m in some sort of vehicle…it’s my car. Her forehead creased and her eyes flew open before she stared at Ava Dupree. She closed her eyes again as she recalled the woman giving her a shot.

“How are you feeling?” filled the silence in the car. Ava took a quick look at her passenger. She looked unaffected by her latest pain episode. 

“Where are we?”

“Just coming up on Mount Pleasant, Texas. I’ve booked us a suite at the La Quinta Inn. We should be there in about three minutes.”

“Two rooms,” Parker’s drugged voice said. “I like my privacy.”

Ava shook her head in disgust. “We are going to share a suite with two bedrooms.” When Parker began to speak, she held up her hand. “Not up for discussion, Davis.” 

“Fine, all I want to do is sleep.”

Ava nodded as she turned into the parking lot of the La Quinta Inn. “There’s no way I’m letting you get away.  I’ll handcuff you to the bed again if I have to.”

“That’s a bit extreme don’t you think. You’ve got my keys.  Where do you think I’ll go?”

With a small laugh that held no humor, Ava said, “DOCO one-o-one—never underestimate your opponent.” She removed the keys from the ignition, pushed open the car door and disappeared inside the main lobby of the hotel.

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