Sex, Lies & Black Tie

By: Kris Calvert
Sex and Lies Book Six

A Moonlight and Magnolias Novel



Acknowledgements




Thank you to Meg and Molly for being wonderful even when the manuscripts aren’t, and for turning me in the right direction when needed. You are the two best editors and grammar girls around.

Thank you to the ladies who lunch for always making me smile and for being my friend.

Thank you to my anonymous hacking friend for telling me more than I ever wanted to know about the online world, and for not telling me some of the things I wanted to know.

Finally, thank you to my adoring husband, Rob and the two greatest accomplishments of my life, Luke and Haley. I love you all, with all my heart.







For John



Who talked me into working in the IT world years ago.





BY KRIS CALVERT





November 2010




I wiped the perspiration from my brow and watched my hand quiver. This was everything I’d been waiting for. Graduation was two weeks away but my instructor, Special Agent Harlan Jackman, liked me enough to include me in the briefing sessions at the apex of a year-long quest to break up a credit card hacking ring. I’d noticed anomalies in the code we were studying and now here I was, ready for a takedown as part of a special taskforce of the FBI.

Jackman, like me, was a southerner, complete with a Georgia accent and the shit-kicking attitude of a man raised on whiskey and sweet tea. With two tours in Iraq and Iran, he was a tri-lingual American hero who spoke Farsi and Arabic. When I’d asked him once why he signed on for a second tour, he simply replied, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, you should join ’em. And I’m not ready to join ’em.’

He’d taken a shine to me, once saying he saw himself in my resolute demeanor. I’d shown what I was made of not only in my Cyber Crime classes, but in all areas. Here I was a month later, not even off the Farm yet and on my first raid. I walked a little taller around my classmates after Jackman asked me to join his team. It was hard not to be excited, but now my body pulsed with surges of adrenaline. I’d trained for all kinds of scenarios but none of it felt this real. Now that I was in the moment, all I could think was, what if I have to pull the trigger?

It wasn’t that I was afraid. In fact, I’d been one of the best shots in my class. It was the thought of using force on a live human and not a simulated target. Shooting a paint gun at an agent trained to be a criminal or using simulation software was a far cry from taking a human life.

I hid my anxiety, purposely holding my chest tight when drawing a breath. Leaning into the crumbling brick wall of an old warehouse, I knew from the briefing they were forging credit cards inside—cards so accurate fraud prevention departments of the biggest worldwide banks couldn’t identify them as fakes.

A strong hand gripped my left shoulder forcing the other into the wall, knocking sandy mortar from the deteriorating building on my sleeve. “Shit, Callahan. Breathe.” His voice was like gravel—low and full of Georgia grit.

“Yes sir,”

“Hell, son. Every agent’s a little tense before he pops his cherry. Stick with me. You’ll do fine.”

The full-fledged agent in front of me turned to give me a bro-nod as if to say, it’s cool. Or maybe he was silently mocking me. I nodded, but didn’t look back. I was anxious. Anxious to take down a criminal, anxious to get in on my first case, anxious not to only think about being an Agent for the FBI, but act like one.

“You ready?” he asked.

“Ready to kick some ass, sir.”

Jackman chuckled, tossing his half-smoked Lucky onto the broken pavement before rubbing it out with the toe of his boot. He, like me and the other members accompanying the SWAT team, was dressed in full tactical gear. Even though I’d worn it while training, I wasn’t as comfortable in the ninja suit as the regulars—especially Jackman. He was the kind of guy who lived for taking criminals down. It was a controlled rage you couldn’t see in his face, but behind his eyes I knew he was twitchy, eager—ready for anything and everything. The man was a damn animal when it came to sniffing out Cyber Crime and loved flexing his physical muscle during the takedown as much as he relished in showing off his intellectual acumen. It was a mental state I’d need to master if this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

A bead of sweat rolled down my nose, hanging on the tip as I stared at the spray painted door—the target for our breach. I was hiding under a faux cloak of confidence, but honestly had no idea what we’d find on the other side. Whatever it was, I felt better about it just being with the men and women surrounding me.

We’d received our orders while riding in the bogus ice cream truck we used to roll into the neighborhood of Queens Chapel outside of D.C., and I followed Jackman and the team along the side of the building, exactly as I’d been instructed.

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