Dungeon Royale(7)

By: Lexi Blake

He pulled out the documentation he’d had made up for them. “Here are your passports and itinerary. I think you’ll find the hotel adequate.”

Taggart took the files but didn’t look at them. Instead his eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong with this op?”

“Besides the fact that the previous operation leader and his partner were in an accident?”

“Yes, besides that. Now that we’re alone, I want you to level with me.” Taggart always could read between the lines. It was what had made him a brilliant Agency asset.

There was so much wrong about it, but Damon knew where to start. “I don’t know, but it seems odd that Nature’s Core suddenly decided to get violent.”

Charlotte put a hand on her husband’s thigh, the motion so subtle it was obviously not even conscious. “Didn’t a couple of kids get hurt in a demonstration in Frankfurt a few months ago?”

Taggart ran his hand around the back of her seat. “It’s not the same, baby. That was a protest that got out of hand. This is different. This is far more sophisticated. They’ve always been against biological testing, but now they want to unleash a bioweapon in London? It makes one wonder exactly who’s in charge.”

This was the other reason he wanted Tag with him—because he was a paranoid bastard. “We suspect one of the women on the cruise is working with the terrorist cell. I asked Adam to check into the registry and find anyone with strong corporate or intelligence ties.”

“Fuck me. You think it’s Baz.”

“No. I worry it may be The Collective.” Baz didn’t matter. The Collective was all that mattered. If Baz got caught in the net, it would be outstanding. But he wasn’t going to allow his anger to rule him. Emotion was not his friend. He needed to remain cold, calculating.

Taggart turned thoughtful. “And MI6 doesn’t believe The Collective exists. What the fuck is Ten thinking? I read that report he submitted. It’s a load of BS. He’s playing some angle.”

“Have you thought about the fact that Ten might be working with them?” It was his greatest fear. Tennessee Smith ran a great deal of the CIA’s field operations. If he was corrupt, they were all screwed.

“I can’t believe it.” Taggart shook his head. “He’s playing some angle, but he’s not with them. I know that fucker. He’s perfectly capable of sleeping with anything with female parts—and I do mean anything. I’m pretty sure I caught him with a goat once.”

“Ian!” Charlotte said.

Taggart shrugged. “That woman needed a shave. It’s all I’m saying. The point is, Ten is loyal. So something else is going on. He’s also not an idiot. If he thought he might have a leak, he would want that person to feel safe and he can’t do that if he runs around proclaiming he’s found out the truth. Could that be what’s happening with MI6?”

“No. They really are idiots.” He sighed. Taggart deserved to know the whole truth about what he was getting into. “They’re trying to get me to retire.”

“Excellent.” Taggart clapped his hands together. “I’m thinking about opening a New York office. When can you start?”

Everyone wanted him behind a bloody desk. “I’m not retiring and I’m not managing an office for you.”

“Come on, Knight. I promise to send someone to assassinate you at least once a month. It’ll keep your adrenaline up. It’s not so bad, man. Hell, I’m lying. It’s horrible. You get to sit around and listen to everyone whine constantly. ‘I need time off. My wife is giving birth. I can’t sleep with that target in order to get information because I’m a faithful husband.’ God, they constantly whine at me.”

“You were wrong to ask Li to sleep with that woman.” Charlotte shook her head.

“Well, I really needed her computer and she liked Irish guys. Is it my fault everyone’s getting married? I’m relying on Simon and Jesse as my man meat. And when I need a pretty girl, I have to hire Karina. Do you know what she charged me last time? Two hundred dollars an hour. She charged me two hundred fucking dollars an hour to sit in the bar and flirt while Adam retrieved the stolen corporate data. I could have hired a prostitute for less and she would have blown the dude. The point is, I need Knight because he won’t ever get married, and therefore I can throw him out there when I need someone to charm the ladies.”

Charlotte stared at her husband for a moment and then a brilliant smile crossed her face. “You should be so glad I love you.”

“I am, baby. You’re the only one who gets my charm.” He winked his wife’s way and then gestured to Damon. “But Knight here is a different story. If we can convince him to work for us, we won’t have to worry about beefcake any more. Simon gets touchy about being seen as a sexual object. Jesse is fine if the lady in question wants a fairly attractive insane idiot, but you’re a gold mine, man.”

“I think you’re overestimating my charms, mate. That brings me to my second problem. And just to make things clear, I would never work for you. I would murder you first. You’re an obnoxious nutter, so you can take your whole job offer and piss off.”

Taggart shrugged as though he’d expected nothing less. “All right, then. What’s problem number two?”

He hated to admit to it but Taggart might be his solution. He’d managed to get Chelsea clearance to work the technical side of the op despite her sister’s problems with several major intelligence agencies. Damon had actually tried to hire Charlotte the year before, but she’d chosen to stay with her husband. “I need a sub.”

“You have a club. Pick one.”

“It’s not that easy. The submissives at the club won’t pass with SIS. I need a trained female, or one who at least brings something to the operation other than looking good when I spank her.” Penelope likely would have looked lovely. Her bum was a thing of beauty no matter how hard she tried to hide it. That was a big, gorgeous arse on the woman.

“And there’s no one at MI6?” Taggart used the American version of the Secret Intelligence Service. It had once been called Military Intelligence. The sixth section was the foreign section. Hence MI6. James Bond and a rash of like films and movies kept the old moniker alive.

“Yes. I found one, but she doesn’t want the job.” He’d been turned down by an uptight translator. Some Lothario he was.

“How can she turn it down if she’s an operative?” Charlotte asked.

“She isn’t. She’s a translator. She’s never been in the field before, but she’s got all the proper requirements and I believe she’s actually quite submissive. She’s single, so I don’t have to worry about a husband. Her name is Penelope, and she speaks most of the languages we need.”

“And you don’t mind fucking her?”

“Ian.” It seemed like Taggart’s wife said his name a lot.

“Well, that’s what we’re talking about,” Taggart shot back. “We can’t go on a massive floating dungeon and not get physical.”

“No. I wouldn’t mind fucking her,” Damon replied. He’d actually sort of looked forward to it. “But it’s obvious she doesn’t want the job, so I need to ask you about Chelsea.”

Both Taggarts stopped, staring at him for a minute.

“My sister?” Charlotte asked.

“The bitch from hell?” Ian offered and immediately moved out of his wife’s reach. “She doesn’t like me, baby. She calls me Satan. It hurts my feelings.”

She growled a little. “You don’t have feelings. And no. She is not going to play your sub, especially when there might be sex involved. No way.”

“It should be up to her,” Ian said quietly, turning serious. “You can’t protect her forever. The only reason she’s working this operation is Serena convinced her to take Adam’s place so he could stay home and help take care of Tristan. Jake should be shot for letting them pick that name. That boy is going to get his as**s kicked starting in preschool. If Serena hadn’t convinced her, she would still be sitting at home brooding about whatever the fuck it is she broods about. She needs a job, and she won’t take one with me.”

“It’s not like she’s going to go to the supermarket and get a job sacking groceries, Ian. But she’s not an operative,” Charlotte complained.

“She’s not trained,” Taggart replied. “But I wouldn’t hesitate to send her into the field. From a strictly business standpoint, she’s made of the right stuff to be a successful field operative.”

Which meant she was cold, calculating. Like they were. Unlike Penelope Cash, who he would have to watch over. He would very likely not need to protect Chelsea Dennis. She could handle herself. It would be better that way. It really would. “So we can talk to her about it?”

Ian leaned forward, his business face on. “You’ll get pushback from Simon. There’s something odd going on with them. She’ll need to go to the shooting range and prove she can handle a gun. And I would watch her closely. Not because I’m worried about her. I don’t know where her loyalties really lie.”