Her Perfect Mate(7)

By: Paige Tyler


Landon did a quick assessment of the man who entered. Average height, salt-and-pepper hair, expensive suit, wire-rimmed glasses. He looked like he should be teaching at an Ivy-League school somewhere.

He held out his hand. “Captain Donovan, I’m John Loughlin. Have a seat.”

Landon did, then immediately went on the attack. “You in charge here?”

If Loughlin was taken aback by the direct approach, he didn’t let it show. “I’m the director, yes.”

Director. Well, that just screamed CIA, didn’t it?

“What the hell is this place?”

Loughlin leaned back in his chair. “First, let me tell what it isn’t. It’s not the army or any other branch of the military. Nor is it the NSA, the FBI, or the CIA Special Activities Division. It’s called the Department of Covert Operations. DCO for short.”

“Never heard of it.”

Landon’s frustration made him speak harsher than he normally would, but he didn’t care. Loughlin didn’t seem to mind.

“Very few people have heard of it, and we like to keep it that way. We were created after 9/11. Technically, we’re a special organization within Homeland Security.”

“That’s great,” Landon said. “But what if I don’t want to work for the DCO?”

The man smiled. “We can discuss that later.”

Which was code for saying it wasn’t the kind of assignment he could turn down. Landon swore silently. This sucked. It was hard enough to get a good-looking evaluation report in the Special Forces since almost everything he did was classified and redacted. He couldn’t imagine what they’d look like now. If he even got an evaluation report. It would be damn hard to get the Army Promotion Board to recognize a performance review when he wasn’t assigned to a branch of the Department of Defense.

When he mentioned it to Loughlin, the man waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about that. Your records will indicate you’ve been transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. All performance areas on your evaluations will still be redacted, of course, but your service will be properly recognized.”

Yeah, he was screwed big time.

“How long is the assignment?” Landon asked.

“There’s no formal length of duty with the DCO. It really depends on your performance. Let’s just call it indefinite right now.”

Bend over, here it comes again, Landon thought. So much for ever making major. Anybody reviewing his records for promotion would figure he’d screwed up and been transferred into some rear echelon job to keep him out of the field.

“So, how did I get selected for this assignment? If I may ask.” Then, because this guy was his new boss, he added, “Sir.”

“We’re not as formal here as they are in the army, Landon. Call me John. And to answer your question, the DCO keeps an eye out for people with your unique skill set. You were handpicked from a long list of candidates to serve in one of the toughest and most important assignments in the world. The DCO takes only the best and brightest.”

He was really in trouble if the guy had to lay it on that thick.

“Unlike standard agents with the Department of Homeland Security, you’ll have worldwide responsibilities,” John continued. “You’ll be paired with another agent who is just as highly trained as you are, only with a different set of talents.”

Landon frowned. “I’ll be on a two-person team? Doesn’t that drastically limit the types of missions we can perform?”

“Not at all. We’ve learned from experience that a two-person team can perform more efficiently when it comes to the type of work you’ll be doing.”

“Exactly what kind of work is that? You still haven’t said.”

“We’ll get into more detail later,” John said. “But your primary job will be to cover your partner’s back while they apply their special talents.”

That was vague. What kind of special talents did this partner of his have? “That’s it? You yanked me out of a warzone to pull babysitting duty?”

“That’s not all you’ll be doing, no. You’ll be involved in direct action as well, but many times oversight will be a large part of your job, yes.”

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