Deadly Game

By: Christine Feehan

Chapter 1

Ken Norton glanced up at the swirling dark clouds obscuring the stars and casting an ominous charcoal veil across the moon. He noted the shadow of the trees, closer to the hulking building, checking them constantly for any alteration, any sign of someone slipping through the darkness out of sight of the cameras, but his gaze kept straying back to the large hunting cabin and two carcasses swaying from meat hooks on the porch. The smell of blood and death assailed his nostrils and he wanted to gag, a stupid reaction to the two skinned deer hanging from hooks on the porch when he was a sniper and had done more than his share of killing.

His skin color changed to better blend with his surroundings, and his specially designed clothes reflected the colors around him. allowing him the effect of disappearing completely into the surrounding foliage, hidden from prying eyes. For the thousandth time he looked away from the swaying carcasses still dripping blood.

"So who the hell orders a hit on a senator of the United States?" he asked, his steel gray eyes turning to turbulent mercury. "And not just any senator, a senator being considered as a vice presidential candidate. I don't like this. I haven't liked it from the moment they told us who the target was."

"Hell, Ken. This is no innocent man," his twin, Jack, replied, easing forward to get into a better position to cover the cabin. "You know that better than anyone else. I don't know why the hell we're protecting the son of a bitch. I want to kill him myself. This is the bastard who was the bait to lure you into the Congo. He got out and you were left there to be cut into little pieces and skinned alive." The words were bitter, but Jack's voice was utterly calm. "Don't tell me you don't think he was in on it. Any number of people might have ordered it. The senator set you up, Ken, handed you over to the rebel leader and Ekabela nearly killed you. I could whack him a hundred times and never lose sleep over it—or stand by and let him get whacked."

"Exactly." Ken rolled over, using care to keep the bushes surrounding him still. He hoped the darkness had hidden his slight wince when his twin brought up the past. He didn't think about the torture much—being cut into tiny pieces, his back skinned—or how the knife felt slicing through his skin. But he had nightmares every time he closed his eyes. He remembered it all then. Every cut. Every slice. The agony that never stopped. He woke choking, covered in sweat, his own screams echoing deep inside where no one could ever hear. The deer hanging from meat hooks brought it all back in sharp, vivid detail. He couldn't help but wonder if that was all part of a much larger plan.

He held out his hand, checking for tremors. The scars were rigid and tight, but his hand was rock steady. "Why do you think we were chosen to protect him? We have a grudge against this man. We know he's more than everyone thinks, so who better to take him out without questions? Who better to blame it on? Something's not right."

"What's not right is protecting this bastard. Let them kill him."

Ken glanced at his twin. "Do you hear yourself? We aren't the only ones who know Senator Freeman isn't squeaky clean like the public has been led to believe. We were all debriefed when we came back from the Congo, both teams, and both teams came to the same conclusion—that the senator was dirty—yet he was never questioned, never reprimanded or exposed. And now we've been ordered to protect him from an assassination threat."

Jack was silent for a moment. "And you think we're being set up to take the fall if they get to him."

"Hell yeah I think that. Did the order come down directly from the admiral? Did the admiral actually tell Logan himself? Because, if they have dirt on this guy, why didn't they arrest him? And we just turned down a job to get rid of General Ekabela, another old enemy of ours—one connected to the senator here. It's looking a bit like a pattern to me."