Conceal, Protect - By Carol Ericson
CAST OF CHARACTERS
J.D.—Mysterious Prospero Team Three agent who’s been assigned the task of keeping close to a woman who might know too much, but as the threats against her escalate, J.D. finds he can’t get close enough.
Noelle Dupree—A widow, who witnessed her husband’s murder, she’s been keeping a tight rein on everything in her life, including her emotions, but when a sexy spy lands on her doorstep, her loss of control might cost her more than she bargained for.
Ted Dupree—Noelle’s flaky half brother stumbles onto a plot with international consequences, and this time not even his famous charm may be enough to save him.
Bruce Pierpont III—Noelle’s wealthy admirer follows her to Colorado and she knows his intentions aren’t completely innocent, but are they sinister?
Abby Warren—Noelle’s roommate disappeared suddenly, but she left a web of danger and intrigue behind that seems to be leading Noelle to the same fate as her roommate.
Ally Nettles—Noelle’s childhood friend bears a striking resemblance to Noelle…and it just might get her killed.
Nico Zendaris—An international arms dealer who was burned by Prospero Team Three; now he wants revenge and nothing’s going to get in his way this time.
The red plastic tray clattered to the floor, and Noelle Dupree jumped as if she’d heard a gunshot. Just like the one that had killed her husband.
She crouched and snatched up the tray with a shaky hand. She was regressing. Loud noises hadn’t startled her for at least a year.
She smacked the tray back onto the pile at the beginning of the assembly line, ignoring that she hadn’t lined it up with the others, and pursed her lips. She’d done too much work to go back to that quivering mass of nerves she’d become after Alex’s murder.
And yet—she looked over her shoulder—she couldn’t shake this feeling she’d had over the past few weeks that someone was following her. Watching. Measuring.
Could it be the cops? She’d been the one to call the police when her roommate, Abby, hadn’t returned from a business trip. The police had come out to the apartment, questioned her, looked through a few of Abby’s things, confiscated Abby’s computers and then disappeared.
When she’d called to follow up, the sergeant with the D.C. Metro Police had told her Abby’s disappearance was out of their hands. What did that mean?
Her roommate had been private and solitary, and that had suited Noelle perfectly. Now she didn’t even have the name of a relative she could contact about Abby. But if the police weren’t worried, why should she be worried?
Because someone is following you now.
“What kind of soup would you like, Noelle? We have lentil or chicken noodle today.”
She stretched her lips into a smile and peered through the glass, which had fogged up with the steam from the two soups as the server tilted up the lids. “I’ll have the chicken noodle tonight, Gary, to go.”
She shoved along the food line at the aptly named Spy City Café in the Spy Museum, across from the American Art Museum where she worked. Maybe she should tour the Spy Museum and see if she could pick up a few clues—proof that someone was spying on her and the means to put an end to it.
Tapping on the glass, she said, “Half a turkey sandwich, please.”
At the register, the cashier bagged her soup and sandwich and rang up her food. “We’re open another hour, Noelle. Sure you don’t want to eat in?” The cashier tilted the foam cup back and forth. “Free refills on your drink.”
“Not today.” Noelle shook back her sleeve and aimed a worried glance at her watch. “It’s past five, and I still need to walk a few blocks to catch the Metro.”
“Then I’ll double bag your soup.”
The brisk air needled her cheeks as she hitched her purse crossways over her body while clutching her dinner. She’d changed into tennis shoes in her office at the museum before leaving for the day, and now her rubber soles squished on the damp sidewalk as she strode up Seventh Street toward the Metro station.
A homeless man lounged in the doorway of a building and stuck out his hand as she passed him. She cut a wide berth around the extended hand with its filthy fingernails. The man snapped his fingers at her. She tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.
He cackled behind her, and she took a quick peek to make sure he hadn’t come