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The Path to Freedom

Book 1 in the Task Force 125 Series

In the war on terror…sometimes the best weapon is a woman…

Sarah Stevens is a washed-up military cop whose life is a shambles until she is offered a position as an agent with the CIA.
The thirty-year-old, overweight, down-on-her-luck Stevens goes to a secret training camp where she is transformed into a sexy and deadly agent whose mission is to stop, by any means possible, the financiers of terrorism against the United States and its allies.
Sarah soon discovers that this is an exciting new life loaded with adventure, danger and undeniable temptations…

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Chapter 1

It was one hundred and four degrees in the shade, and the Algerian sun was taking no prisoners. Vince was soaked in his own sweat and anxious to get out of this place and into a nice dark bar somewhere. Something about this extraction made him itch.

His gut told him something was off.

Vince couldn‟t understand why he hadn‟t heard from Chris yet. Chris was a communications expert. The only time he was ever quiet was when there was bad news. Vince adjusted his radio earpiece and checked his ammunition one more time. Crouching behind a gardener‟s shed wasn‟t the most comfortable position he‟d ever been in, but he‟d set up ambushes in worse places.
“Chris, I know you‟re four miles away, sitting in front of a radio console, in an air conditioned room but we could use some communications out here. Do you have radio contact with Dana? She knows we‟re here, right?”

“Jesus, boss. You‟re not gonna believe this. She‟s telling him.”

Despite the heat, Vince‟s blood turned to ice. If Dana blew her cover, the whole mission would be scrapped and they‟d never get her out without a firefight. “Say again?”

“Her radio works fine.” Chris let out a deep sigh that came through loud and clear on the radio. “She‟s ignoring my communications. She told him. She fucking told Carlos!”

Vince heard the confusion in Chris‟ voice. Years in Force Recon taught him to keep a cool head when everything went sideways. “Okay, boys, change in plans. Drug dealers aren‟t known for their compassion. We gotta get her the hell out of there before they kill her…or worse.”

“They‟re moving,” Jason‟s voice came over the radio as a whisper.

Vince knew Jason would have a clear shot at the chopper on the helipad from his position on the beach, just out of the sightline from the glass front of Carlos‟ mansion. He took a mental inventory of Jason‟s gear. The M-60 machine gun would do some serious damage and the Stinger missile launcher was a last resort.

Vince watched as Dana and Carlos left the mansion, arm in arm, and walked toward the helipad. “Damnit, she‟s right next to Carlos. I can‟t get the shot. Can anybody take out Carlos? Jason?”

Jason‟s cool, confident voice came through on Vince‟s earpiece. “I can take Carlos out easy, but a 7.62 is gonna go through Dana, too. That‟s the smallest round I‟m packin‟ today, Major.”

Vince knew Brian was positioned behind a well, ten yards to his right, between the gardener‟s shed and the house. “We need to try to get her out of there alive. You got a clear shot, Brian?”

Brian‟s voice came back over the radio. “Negative, Vince. I‟ve got bodyguards in the way.”

Shit! What the hell was Dana thinking? Did she honestly believe a drug dealer would fall in love with a CIA agent? Did Dana really think Carlos would let her live after being told she had shared his secrets with the CIA for the past three months?

Vince checked the magazine in his machine gun and then the handgun on his left hip. “Okay, Chris. If she‟s still listening, tell her to stay out of the way. Carlos needs to be taken out with or without her help. If we don‟t get the shot now, they‟re going to take her up in that chopper and we all know she‟ll be dumped before they land.”

Vince watched Dana carefully for the slightest opening to shoot Carlos.

Vince‟s team had been tracking Carlos for months before they managed to plant Dana undercover as his lover. Dana had been in deep cover with Carlos for three months now. The team finally had the information they needed about how Al Qaeda had raised their most recent infusion of cash. Vince and the rest of the team were here to pull Dana out and clean up the bad guys.
Now the stupid bitch had gone too far and fallen in love with the guy.
What does she think, they’ll fly off into the sunset together?

His gut had told him she‟d never complete the mission, but she had all the training with high scores so the Agency green-lighted her.

Chris had briefed Dana on where the team would be set up so she could get away from Carlos safely.

Vince expected her to duck and cover but she stopped on her way to the chopper with Carlos and turned directly toward Vince‟s position. She yelled to be heard over the noisy coastline. “Don‟t do it, Vince! I‟m going with him. I don‟t want to go back.”

Too many years as a U.S. Marine gave a man certain instincts. The hairs on the back of Vince‟s neck stood up. He knew this operation was going to end ugly.

Carlos smirked and held Dana as close to him as possible.

It ain’t love, honey. You’re a hostage now and everybody knows it but you.
Jesus! How could the agency hire such a fool?
I should have followed my gut when I met her. She was wrong for the mission.
No time for regrets now.

Carlos‟ bodyguards opened fire on the gardener‟s shack that Vince was crouched behind. The dry wooden walls offered no cover. Splinters flew at Vince but he felt nothing but the adrenaline powering through his body. His senses heightened. He could smell the gunpowder in the air and heard the buzz of each bullet that flew past him. His eyes focused only on the enemy. His body responded the way it had been trained to in combat. Steady hands returned fire with his Mac-10 as he instinctively rolled away from the shack and just below the ridgeline where he had more cover but could still see Dana and Carlos. The air was thick with dust and bullets as Vince‟s team, set up in a semi-circle around Carlos‟ complex, rained hell on Carlos‟ bodyguards, who returned as much fire as they could.

Vince slapped his left hand over his combination earpiece and microphone to block out the noise from bullets overhead and ricocheting rocks. “She‟s getting on the chopper! Somebody kill that son of a bitch now!”

An audible pop rang out and one of Carlos‟ bodyguards dropped like a wet rag. A second crumpled to the ground as Carlos dashed into the chopper, pulling Dana with him.

Another bodyguard dropped. Brian was taking out whoever he could.

“Take the rotor, Jason! Take it out before it climbs.” They couldn‟t let Carlos escape.

The familiar dug-dug-dug of Jason‟s M-60 was all the response Vince needed. He‟d seen Jason hit running rabbits with that gun, but somehow the chopper lifted off the ground in spite of the hundreds of bullets assaulting its most vulnerable parts.

The decision had been made. Vince couldn‟t change the course of history now. “Carlos will torture her for whatever he can get and then finish her. We can‟t get her back, boys.” Vince passed his hand over his clean-shaven head. “Jason, finish it.”

The sand in the center of the compound swirled as the chopper rose into the clear azure sky.
What’s going on in there?

Vince’s gut dropped into his boots as Dana‟s familiar form fell from the chopper. While she flailed in mid-air, a stinger missile hissed toward the helicopter.

Dana landed fifty feet from the beach and hit the water like a stone. Hitting the sea from that height would be the same as hitting concrete, and every bone in her body would be crushed.
Oh, Jesus Christ.

The Stinger missile sliced the chopper in two. Both pieces fell in flames on top of Dana‟s broken body.

Vince closed his eyes and let out a disappointed sigh. The sweet smell of burnt fuel from the chopper, gunpowder and salt mixed to seal yet another combat memory in Vince‟s mind. Yes, they found the information they needed on Al Qaeda and Carlos was out of the picture, but they‟d lost an agent. Vince would need months to find a woman with enough training to replace her, and after this one’s serious lack of good judgment, Vince wasn‟t too keen on going through the process again.
The next female they chose had to be tough as nails and cold as ice. They‟d never find the right “swallow” for another Honey Pot mission.

Brian broke the radio‟s silence. “Hey, boss?”

“Yeah?” Vince dusted his cargo pants off. He noticed with surprise several wooden splinters had flown like tiny darts into his shoulder. He plucked the bloody bits of wood out of his right shoulder as one might remove lint from a sweater. He pulled his canteen from his belt to wash the tiny wounds, thought better of it and drank the water instead.

“Wasn‟t that chopper our extraction plan?”

“Yeah.” Vince shook his head and stretched his legs for the walk into town.

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