Pret Ops: Familiar
Emma Ray Garrett
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Copyright ©2007 Emma Ray Garrett
An Authorized Excerpt

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One look at the mark on the missive turned Lt. Col. Natalie Marshall into a puddle of sexually frustrated putty. And that just wouldn't do. Nat refused to act like a lovesick girl. Besides, no self-respecting Marshall woman would let herself fawn.

"Thank you, Leslie. That'll be all." Leslie, with "an s, not a z," Filmore was hands down the best Admin. Specialist the world ever spawned. She was tough as nails, organized beyond imagining, and human. The last made her exceptional. The older woman took all the Recondite Corps oddities in stride, never gasping, blinking, or shirking when faced with things that weren't supposed to exist.

Stop avoiding. Open the letter and see what he wants. Scooting her chair closer to the desk, she picked up the envelope, her fingers caressing the tiger's head pressed into the blue wax holding the flap closed. Nat slid her finger beneath the edge of the envelope, careful not to break the insignia. She pulled the plain white stationery from inside, unfolding it and taking in the strong bold strokes of Stanislov Rubenesso's handwriting.

Lt. Col. Marshall,

The Veil has taken two more geneticists. It is imperative we find the seven missing scientists and stop The Veil from following through with their plan. Sources have revealed a possible target with information. Please report to Slip Creek, Wyoming, forthwith.

Gen. Rubenesso

Nat sighed as she set the letter down. What did you expect? A proclamation of undying love? She pressed the intercom button on her phone and waited for Leslie to respond, all the while shaking her head at the silliness of feeling disappointment.

"Yes?" Leslie's warm voice came over the line.

"Cancel all my appointments and call Major O'Connor. I'm being ordered to Slip Creek."

"Yes, ma'am."

The line went dead as Natalie stood from the desk. She caught her reflection in the ornate mirror decorating the far wall of her office and took in the powerful woman in its silvery surface. Long golden hair secured in a tight French twist, nary a strand out of place. Her military issued uniform looked like BDUs, battle dress uniforms, for the Marine Corps, save for the gray color. The black infinity symbols on her collar denoted her rank and marked her as Recondite Corps. Full breasts, a trim waist, long legs, all of them made her an attractive package.

Natalie met her own clear green eyes in the mirror and pursed her lips.

She turned toward the large window behind her desk. The view looked out over the dense forests of the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, but she didn't see it. She didn't register the cars moving along the streets of Cutterville, filled with the People of the Recondere, her people, going about their lives as anyone else. To human onlookers, Cutterville and every other enclave of the People were nothing unique. Little did humanity know just how different these little towns were.

Leslie's voice snapped over the intercom. "Ma'am?"

Natalie turned away from the window. "Yes?"

"Major O'Connor is here."

"Send him in."

The door to her office opened and Nat smiled at her second in command and motioned him to enter. Brian O'Connor looked as Irish as his name sounded. He had bright orange hair, cut to military specifications, and bright blue eyes that sparkled with mischief even in the direst circumstances.

"Brian, you have command. General Rubenesso has ordered me to Slip Creek ASAP. Two more geneticists were abducted and it looks like I'm going in to recover. The whole thing is a cluster fuck."

"Affirmative. Is there anything I'll need to address while you're away?" Brian strode to her desk as Natalie opened her appointment book.

"The Orphic Class is running smooth, as it should. I have a meeting scheduled next Thursday with Lt. Col. Black to discuss Guardian Class and Orphic Class ops currently in action. There's a meeting on Friday with the Diplomacy Unit's head, Karia Logan. I still can't figure out why that girl didn't join the Incubic Class. She's a hell of a diplomat and negotiator, but I'd like to have her talents in the military side of the Corps."

"That and it'd be nice to be able to meet with the Incubic Commander. Jeremiah Dean is a hard one to nail down." Brian's eyes crinkled at the corners and Nat laughed. Dean was an unknown commodity and a seven-hundred-year-old vampire. His loyalty to the People and the Corps was unquestionable, though his ability to avoid meetings was a pain in the ass.

"If you need any information, ask Leslie. I don't think you will, but in case, I'll clear her to disseminate as you need."

"How long will you be gone?"

Natalie sighed. "I don't know. General Rubenesso's message didn't give any details. We know The Veil is behind the disappearances. It's what we don't know that has us worried."

"Agreed. Well, Nat, good luck."

Natalie gave Brian a small wave and left the office. Leslie grinned when she saw Nat. "Here's the file. The jet is waiting on the tarmac. Godspeed and stay out of trouble."

"I'm going to be within sight of General Rubenesso. I'm sure there'll be trouble."

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