Sizzle (2010)

By: Julie Garwood

ONE




THEY CALLED HIM A HERO FOR DOING HIS JOB. AND IF THAT weren’t bad enough, damn if they weren’t making him talk about it.

Special Agent Samuel Wellington Kincaid received a standing ovation when he finished his lecture. He gave a quick nod then tried to leave the podium and the auditorium, but he was pulled back by another FBI agent who insisted that, as soon as the cheering and clapping stopped, Sam answer questions.

Knowing he should cooperate, he nodded again and waited for the audience of cadets and future FBI agents to quiet down. Like most people, Sam hated giving speeches, especially those concerning his work in intelligence, but this was a training seminar and a goodwill mission, and he had been ordered by his superiors to talk about his role in the dramatic capture of the notorious Edward Chester, a radical white supremacist and one of the most elusive criminals in many years.

Despite his reluctance, Sam had been scheduled to conduct five of these seminars around the country. He’d already completed the first in D.C., and this one in Chicago was the second. Next week he would fly to Seattle for the third and then on to Los Angeles. His final stop would be at the naval base in San Diego where he would address Navy SEAL trainees. Inwardly, he groaned at the thought of three more appearances in front of inquisitive audiences who wanted only to hear sensational details of the capture.

This particular audience, however, also wanted to hear how Sam, while helping out on another case, saved the life of Alec Buchanan, a local Chicago FBI agent. The incident had happened six weeks ago, and since then, a few stories had been circulating. Agent Buchanan had been on medical leave, so they weren’t able to get any facts from him. Before Sam was introduced to the crowd, he had been warned about their curiosity and the questions he might face. Was it true Agent Kincaid had gone into a blazing house to get Buchanan? How many gunmen were in the house when he’d broken in? Had he carried Buchanan out seconds before the house exploded?

What happened was a matter of public record. Sam still didn’t want to go into it, but now that he stood at the podium, he was trapped by a group who wanted all the gory details.

Yet the first question Sam was asked had nothing to do with the Chester case or Alec Buchanan. It was the same one that was asked almost every time Sam was introduced. “Agent Kincaid, I couldn’t help but notice your accent. Is it … Scottish?” a female cadet asked.

“Yes it is.” Sam was accustomed to people’s curiosity about his background, and so his answer was polite but brief.

“How is that possible?”

He smiled. “I’m from Scotland, and that’s probably why I have a bit of an accent.”

The cadet blushed. Not wanting to embarrass her, Sam continued, “What you really want to know is how someone from Scotland could become an FBI agent, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I have dual citizenship,” he explained. “I was born in the United States, but I was raised in the Highlands of Scotland. I did my undergraduate work at Princeton, my postgraduate work at Oxford, then moved to D.C. to get my law degree. I started with the FBI just after I passed the bar.”

Sam evaded disclosing anything more about his personal life by calling on another eager cadet whose hand was raised, and for the next twenty minutes he was bombarded with questions.

Toward the end of Sam’s lecture, Agent Alec Buchanan and his FBI partner, Jack MacAlister, slipped into the room and took seats near the rear door. Alec, still recovering from the wound to his back, shifted forward to find a comfortable position. Neither federal agent had seen Sam for a few weeks, but during the time they had spent with him in D.C., he’d become a good friend.

Jack leaned toward Alec to whisper. “He really hates doing this, doesn’t he?”

Alec grinned. “Yeah, he does.”

“We ought to mess with him a little bit.”

“What have you got in mind?”

“I could raise my hand and ask him a couple of questions about his sex life.”

Alec laughed. A woman in front of him turned around to glare but changed her mind when she saw him. Instead, she smiled.

Jack lowered his voice again. “How long is Sam going to be in Chicago? I forgot to ask when I picked him up at the airport.”