Vaughn barely moved Isabelle out of the path of the bullet before it whizzed past her left shoulder. He fired off a couple of shots of his own but Sark had dived out of the path of danger. He swore as Isabelle stuck near him, not deterred one bit by flying bullets.
“Get out now, Isabelle!” Vaughn hissed as he leaned up against the wall facing the front door. “I don’t want you in the middle of this.”
“Like hell!” Isabelle burst out from beside him. “This is my house, dammit!” And just to prove her point, she growled as a bullet pinged off of a bronze pot of flowers. “Effing bastard. Has no respect…”
Vaughn sighed wearily. “And when was your first clue?” When Isabelle glared at him, he muttered under his breath, “Leave it to you, Isabelle. You don’t understand that he will not hesitate in killing you.”
“So if he’s hell bent on killing people then that means that you are in as much danger as I am,” Isabelle pointed out. “And so are Sydney, Nicole, and Sophie. In that case, I’ll stick and make sure he doesn’t get past us.”
“We can’t grapple like this forever,” Sark called to them. Isabelle and Vaughn shared a grim look. “Eventually one of us will break. As I have dueled with Agent Vaughn before, I know he is quite tenacious. But you, Ms. Flannery—I am not quite sure about you.” He paused, and Isabelle’s nose flared in anger. It seemed that fleshy barb had hit its mark. “Though, your brother seemed to be quite formidable against me. But that was a long, long time ago…”
Vaughn saw the blood drain from Isabelle’s face at the mention of her late older brother. Her eyes were over bright and he could see the tears building in them. Her lips trembled but she steeled them by pressing them together. When he spied the spots of color rising in her cheeks he grabbed her arm to keep her from going after Sark. He didn’t have a strong enough hold upon her; she leapt up against good judgment and grabbed his gun.
“Isabelle!” Vaughn cried as he scrambled after her. “Goddamn—!”
“What do you know about my brother?” Isabelle demanded as she pointed the gun in the direction from which Sark’s voice had last come. “Tell me right now.”
“It seems we are at an impasse, Ms. Flannery,” Sark pointed out smoothly, his voice echoing through his empty kitchen. “You have something that I want, and I have something that you want. So what will you do?”
Before Isabelle had a chance to answer, the side door in the kitchen banged open, and Sark’s footfalls indicated that he was using that exit to evade them. Blinded by her fury and sorrow, Isabelle ran after him. Vaughn called after her again, but she didn’t listen. He pushed himself to his feet as he felt the effects of the car accident earlier that night weighing upon him. He wasn’t about to let Isabelle get killed. Not now. Not ever. And especially not by Julian Sark.
In the car in the street, Nicole frowned. “They’ve been in there way too long.”
Sydney agreed, but she didn’t say it aloud. The bad feeling that had begun in the pit of the stomach had spread, and she tried to shut out all of the dire scenarios in her head, instead electing to figure out how to handle them. She lifted her pant leg and took the weapon from her ankle holster. She handed the gun to Nicole and asked, “Do you know how to use this thing?”
Nicole gave her a bland, unblinking stare with one eyebrow cocked.
Sydney blinked. “Oh-kay…I guess that was a dumb question.”
“Look,” Nicole said, “Go do what you’ve gotta do. I’ll watch Fee-Fee.” As the child looked at her with anxious eyes, Nicole covered her ears and added, “And if that Ken-doll-looking mother has even as much put a finger on her, you better bust a cap in his anatomically correct ass.”
If it had been a less serious situation, preferably one where they weren’t in a foreign country with an international fugitive in their midst, Sydney would have laughed at the Ken-doll-looking mother comment. Instead, she cocked her gun and unlocked her door. “I’ll be back,” she told Nicole.
As she crossed the yard, she heard Nicole yell, “All right, Terminator! Do what you do!”
Yes, funnier in a less serious situation indeed.
Sydney paused by the front door of Isabelle’s home and listened. She could hear the sound of Sophie’s television blaring in the back of the house, but nothing else. The fact that there were no sounds of human existence inside had a ball of dread hardening in her belly.
She sucked in a breath and kicked the door open.
The living room was empty. She swung into the living room with her gun prominent, eyes darting around to scope out danger.
Sydney heard a yell, and recognized Vaughn’s voice immediately. She followed the sound, her heart in her throat. She tried not to think about what sort of scene she would find. She just told herself that whatever it was, she’d handle it.
It was an emotionally-charged race, with legs pumping, hearts thudding. Sark had a bit of an advantage, but Isabelle was faster than Vaughn gave her credit for.
As they flew over the dusty earth, Sark tripped over a rock and stumbled. Like a crazed linebacker, Isabelle tackled him to the ground. In the tussle that ensued, both of them lost grip on their guns. Sark’s weapon skittered over the ground and behind a bush, while Vaughn’s firearm had flown a few feet away. Sark pinned Isabelle to the ground and straddled her as he pressed his hand to her windpipe. She struggled against him, and Vaughn fought the fatigue that had crashed upon him to fight Sark away from her.
Isabelle’s gasping breaths could be heard over the grunts Sark and Vaughn made as they fought. As she fought the pinpricks from her eyes, Isabelle launched herself upon Sark once again and threw him off of the injured agent. Vaughn groaned as he spied Isabelle going at Sark with her fists. He supposed drastic times called for abandonment of finesse. Finally Sark backhanded her hard on the cheek.
“Isabelle!” Vaughn cried, watching her hit the ground, hard, and roll onto the grass in the moonlight. While his attention was diverted, Sark sucker-punched him and he stumbled back a few steps. Vaughn attempted to right himself, but Sark advanced upon him again and punched him in the stomach. Vaughn doubled over in pain, and Sark, panting with exertion, hauled him up by the hair.
He had a fist balled, ready to plow it into Vaughn’s face when he heard the unmistakable clatter of a gun cocking.
Sark found himself faced with the fierce-eyed woman. He found himself momentarily thrown by Vaughn’s weapon in her hand, as none of the intel on her indicated that she knew how to wield a firearm. But how could he be surprised? She was Alejandro Garza’s daughter, and he had been a cunning bastard. Not to mention, that insurmountable grief that was alive in those emerald orbs was on its own a force to be reckoned with. So Sark flipped out a knife from his pocket and acted.
“You won’t shoot me, Isabelle dear,” Sark crooned as he forced Vaughn in front of him and placed the knifepoint to the pulse at his throat. “Put the gun down before you hurt yourself or I split him from neck to navel.”
“I don’t think you want to know what a bullet to the brain will feel like,” Isabelle told him coldly. “Let him go.”
“Jesus—listen to him and put the gun down, Isabelle,” Vaughn wheezed. “This is not the time to play gunslinger.”
Sark sneered at Isabelle. “See? Even Agent Vaughn doesn’t think you could make the shot. He has no faith in you. Do you really want to save his life, Isabelle? Do you?”
Isabelle didn’t move, didn’t blink. Then her eyes changed and that filled Vaughn with apprehension. “Michael, forgive me,” she said softly. “But I think he’s right. You don’t believe in me.”
“I do believe in you,” Vaughn burst out desperately. “But not with a government-issue firearm in your hand. Put it down. He will kill me, Isabelle.”
“No,” Isabelle said mysteriously. “He won’t.”
She narrowed her eyes and fired off two shots before Sark could begin the sentence on his lips. The first grazed his neck and produced a weeping wound. That startled him enough to loosen his grip on Vaughn and she shot him in the chest. The force of the last bullet had Sark stumbling backwards, and Vaughn slumped to the ground.
She was not a violent woman, but, quite frankly, she was tired of his bullshit. Not to mention, she was pissed.
When Sark didn’t move, Isabelle went to Vaughn. She knew that he wasn’t dead but he was incapacitated at the moment enough for them to finally escape. She pulled the injured CIA agent to his feet and stuffed the gun in the waistband of her jeans.
“You could have killed me, Isabelle!” Vaughn panted as they began their journey back toward the house.
“You know, I’m getting quite tired of you men underestimating me,” Isabelle fumed. “You point and shoot. There is not much more to it.” She placed her hand on his neck to staunch the wound Sark’s knife had made. “Do you want your gun back?”
Heavy, rapid footsteps echoed through the empty air, and several seconds later Sydney appeared with her own gun drawn. Whatever response Vaughn had was forgotten; the unmistakable sound of sirens wailing sliced through the quiet night and stole his train of thought.
Sydney took in the scene before her: Sark on the ground bleeding and Isabelle standing there with her hand on Vaughn’s neck. Vaughn’s firearm was sticking out of the waistband of Isabelle’s jeans, which made Sydney frown. Vaughn caught this and took his gun back. Isabelle met his disapproving gaze unflinchingly.
“I think one of your neighbors called the police,” Sydney said to Isabelle. She then looked to Vaughn. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Vaughn said. “Where is—?”
“I left Nicole to protect Sophie,” Sydney explained. Before Vaughn could open his mouth to protest, “I gave her my gun before I left. Apparently she knows how to use a gun.”
“Then Sophie’ll be safe with her,” Isabelle assured Vaughn. She stared at him wordlessly until she was sure that he understood she knew what she was talking about. It was a short battle, but Isabelle came out the victor. “Come on. I think you need stitches.”
Isabelle slipped her hand from Vaughn’s neck when he moved to replace it with his own. She strode forward in the moonlight as Sydney gazed at Vaughn. He shook his head wordlessly and said nothing.
Samara Lewis was hungry.
If she had told this to anyone, she would have found them deficient in understanding, for they would have suggested a stop at one of the numerous restaurants and fast food places. No, a hamburger and French fries would simply had not have satisfied her desire. And damn those who would have insinuated that perhaps she needed some sophomoric encounter with some smarmy member of the opposite sex. What Samara wanted came at a higher price than food or sex and was much, much more pleasing to her palate. What she wanted was blood—the blood of a certain person pooling at her feet as the life ebbed out of her.
Was that evil? No. It was just, right. It was meant to be.
As meant to be as it had been when the call had come, and she was dispatched to rescue an ally. After laying down a game plan with three other allies, she donned a disguise, stuffing her glorious chestnut hair into a curly honey blond wig and changing her ice-blue eyes to a muddy brown. For the venture, she dressed like a college girl who had found herself lost in Spain, wearing a fluffy gray sweater that hid the Glock she had against her back and dark jeans.
She knew the route the ambulance carrying the detained was taking; she stationed herself along a somewhat deserted stretch of road with a dented, smoking car while some of her associates hid nearby. She even mustered up tears and added smudges of dirt to her pale visage to add to the picture of distress. When she stood in the middle of the street and waved the ambulance down, she appeared hysterically helpless. The vehicle came to a screeching halt a mere two feet in front of her before the driver, hopped out yelling in rapid Spanish.
“I’m so sorry!” Samara gushed in a cloying Southern drawl. “You’ve gotta help me!” The driver yelled at her, gesticulating wildly. She understood what he was saying perfectly, as her mother had been fluent in the language, but she tilted her head quizzically as if she didn’t understand. “You have got to listen! I don’t speak Mexican. My car—” She stopped speaking abruptly as the sound of feet on the pavement signaled the entrance of the driver’s partner. She turned to second man with tears shimmering in her ice-blue eyes, and prepared to appeal to him.
“You don’t speak Spanish?” the second man asked with a thick accent.
“I only speak English,” Samara responded and clung to him tearfully like he was her lifeline in a storm-tossed sea. The driver spit out a spew of Spanish that inwardly enraged Samara. Come on, man. She’s just a stupid hysterical American female. We’ve got a job to do. “You have to help me. There’re some really bad men after me.” She let out a short shriek as a dark-clothed figure came toward them. “Ohmigod—there’s one of them!”
The two EMTs turned around…only to receive debilitating blows to the back of their heads. Samara huffed as the bodies fell to the ground and lifted steely eyes to the new person on the scene.
“About damn time,” Samara snapped out. She wiped the moisture from her eyes and started for the ambulance as a black van drove up. “Let’s get this done.”
She and her associates carefully and expediently extracted their injured comrade from the back of the ambulance and lifted him into their black van. They had to disappear before anyone caught on to their scheme and followed them. Samara pursed her lips together as one of her comrades, a man named Frank, searched the prone form before looking up at her. He shook her head wordlessly, and Samara cursed.
“Dammit. She didn’t have it after all,” Samara lamented.
“As far as we know,” Frank surmised. “But she may have it soon.” He glanced in the direction of the ambulance where one of their group was searching, then back at her. “We’ll have to wait and see how things play out. In the meantime, we have to take care of him like our superiors ordered us to do.”
Samara clenched her jaw but said nothing. When the last returned empty-handed, they agreed to leave the scene.
Because she was the youngest, and the only female, she got the task of watching over the prone body of the man she knew as Julian Sark. The only information she had about him came from a fact file that she’d only acquired earlier that night. With the plans of the Covenant going awry there in Valladolid, it seemed that introductions needed to be made in order to forge bonds between fellow members of the group and ensure the success of it as a whole. She believed in that because she knew that was the way they were going to reach their endgame. And in this case, it involved the one person in the world that she truly hated.
They had been on the road, going northeast toward their escape, when Sark stirred. Frank, the only one of the group with medical training, had extracted the bullet and had fixed Sark up enough to hold him until they reached their destination. Samara had been sitting with her knees to her chest but shifted to lean over Sark as he battled unconsciousness.
“Where…am I?” he managed, voice hoarse and eyes glassy from pain. Then his eyes latched onto hers with a bit of bemusement as he struggled to sit up and winced at the ache. “And who are you?”
“You are safe,” Samara told him as the van bounced over the rocky terrain. She pushed him down onto the padding they had made to make the voyage easier for him. “And as for my identity, you can call me Samara. That will do for now.”
“Eventually I will…want to know more about you,” he warned her. “But since…you saved me from being detained by the CIA…I have to thank you.”
A smile tugged at the edges of Samara’s bottom-heavy mouth but those eyes didn’t warm. “When the time comes, I will tell you all you need to know. Right now, you need to rest. We’ve a long road ahead of us.”
He said nothing then, and she supposed that he was taking her advice to heart. Samara sat beside him for a few moments longer without knowing why but didn’t fight the urge to remain where she was. As she stared into those eyes as cool blue as her own, she realized that she might have found the person to help satisfy her nagging need.