Today, the lovely and talented K.S. “Kat” Brooks shares a sneak peek at her book, The Kiss of Night. This title is up for an award for book cover of the year. You can vote to support Kat by going here, and clicking on The Kiss of Night, (which is listed as #5 in the right sidebar) and voting. The site is a monster to load, so do be patient.
The world’s top anti-terrorist agent has a new mission: dealing with being forced into early retirement by a debilitating injury. Former Special Agent Kathrin Night fights the demons of her past, present and future while dealing with her new mysterious Russian bodyguard, Agent Aleksey Khovechkin. Sent compliments of the Russian Minister of Defense, refusing his services is not an option. But is Aleksey’s true mission to protect her, or does he have another agenda?
Kathrin sat out on the deck overlooking the mountains, in a sweatshirt and athletic pants, coddling a steaming cup of coffee. Her left leg was elevated on another chair; her bandaged ankle rested on a pillow. She smiled at the nip in the air that June morning, loving how the cool night gave way to such a warm and powerful sun.
The Northwestern edge of the Rockies was now her home. The sodium light of the rising sun caught the red highlights of her brunette hair, and refracted the gold flecks in her brown irises. Despite her injury, she was still using weights and physical therapy to keep the rest of her body in peak condition. Nearing forty years of age, she was afraid of letting herself slip at all; it would make recovery nearly impossible.
A breeze from the East carried the scent of cedar to her nose. Kathrin turned her head to greet it. Her smile dissipated when the two cell phones on the table to her left caught her eye. The sleek one to the right had been her world-famous antiterrorist hotline in New York City. Fame didn’t normally follow covert agents; but since she had most recently worked for the United Nations, she hadn’t been protected by the normal cloak of governmental top secret protocol. The media had a field day with her antics. Hence her reason for the second phone; it was attached to her new identity: Kate Black. Neither phone had rung in weeks.
The silence held a bit of a sting for Kathrin. After dedicating over half of her life to the fight against injustice, it seemed that her injury had dropped her off the radar screen in half a second. All the life-risking missions, insanely dangerous stunts and life-altering rescues didn’t really add up in the end to anything more than the satisfaction of knowing she had made a difference. The phones just laid there. “Guess I’m going to have to get used to that. No one needs me anymore.”
Kathrin’s contacts had made it ridiculously simple to obtain a new identity as Kate Black. A new passport, birth certificate, and social security number were all fabricated in less time than most people spend in line to renew a legitimate driver’s license. It was the second time in her life she had to become someone new – over twenty years earlier, she had left the teenage civilian world of Katie Broderick to become Junior Officer Kathrin Night at MI6. No one had ever made that connection. She knew differently this time; eventually, someone would recognize her as former Special Agent Kathrin Night of the antiterrorist consulting branch of the United Nations. She hadn’t felt motivated enough to really change her appearance. In this sparsely populated area, frequented mostly by loggers and ranchers, it should take a good while for her to be noticed. Hopefully, that would be long enough for her to heal.
Just then, the Agent Night phone rang. Kathrin looked at it as if she thought it was mocking her. She checked the caller ID: Restricted. Interesting..
She flipped it open. “Hello?”
“Kathrin, you are a hard woman to find.” It was a thick, male Russian voice.
A smile accompanied her response. “Well, Yuri, that’s the whole point.”
“Where in the world are you now? The Yukon? I dial New York and I get an igloo somewhere?”
“Very funny. How are you?”
“How am I? I am annoyed.” His tone was friendly yet terse.
“Ohh-kay? And am I supposed to ask Why you are annoyed?”
“Dah. It is your fault.”
Kathrin shook her head. “I…don’t…think…so. Yuri, it’s no secret that I’ve been out of commission for months now, I haven’t been able to do anything.”
“Dah, that is the problem. The Minister of Defense…he doesn’t like that you are ‘unprotected’ shall we say.”
“I’m fine, Yuri, please thank the Minister for his concern. I’ve taken the necessary precautions to prevent my demise.”
“I explained that to Minister. He does not agree. He feels it is his duty to provide you with protection because you save his life.”
Kathrin covered her face with her free hand. “Yuri, listen, I’m fine, I don’t need a babysitter.”
“I told him that too: it is not acceptable. He wants you to have protection now.”
A sip of coffee helped her gather her thoughts. “So send some lackey for a few weeks, I’ll say I’m better, and they can go home.”
“Nyet,” Yuri said, his insistence clear. “The Minister is sending our best man.”
Instinctively she began to speculate. Maybe Yuri was putting on a good act. Maybe this ‘protection’ was only coming over to keep tabs on the spy-perfect safe-house she was building. “Again, Yuri, not necessary.”
“No matter. Aleksey Khovechkin is coming your way.”
Her expression changed. A strange combination of tightness and chill covered her. “Khovechkin?”
No wonder Yuri was pissed. Khovechkin’s reputation as a loyal Russian and phenomenally efficient agent preceded him. “What do you want me to say, Yuri? Please extend my gratitude to the Minister. His gesture is very kind and very generous.”
The next day Kathrin sat at Spokane International Airport’s luggage carousel, her walking stick by her side. She’d never before had anyone glued to her for this purpose . Her injury had exacerbated her lone wolf attitude. Kathrin hadn’t had the opportunity to work with Khovechkin, but she was very aware that he was a highly decorated and deadly agent. He deserved her respect. He had earned it.
The monitors displayed that Aleksey’s plane had arrived. Kathrin was pleased; being in one spot too long really bothered her leg. The passengers began filtering down the ramp. Aleksey immediately stood out; he was the largest, towering far above all the others. Holy crap, Kathrin thought, as his size suggested a thug…or a hockey player, not a highly trained martial arts expert. His black hair and teal eyes commanded you to look at him, and held an intensity that was nearly startling and disarming, edging on anger. She propped herself up from the bench with her cane, hobbled up to him, and extended her hand in greeting. “Welcome to the Inland Empire,” Kathrin smiled.
Aleksey shot her a narrow-eyed glance that would have made a weaker person wet themselves. He marched past her attempt at a handshake. Whoa, she thought, I guess he is angry. He yanked his bags off the carousel then marched towards the exit at Red Army speed.
“What the f**k?” Kathrin muttered. There was no way she could keep up with him.
The Russian was waiting outside. “Where is car?” he sneered.
“You keep that up and you’ll walk,” she snapped back at him flawlessly in Russian. That seemed to get his attention. She continued in his native tongue. “What the f**k is your problem?”
“I have better things to do with my time than to entertain an American cripple,” he retorted in perfect English, but with a heavy Russian accent.
“Whoa…wait just a minute there Aleksey Vladimirovich Khovechkin,” she replied with a bobbling head, “I understand that this is not the best use of your talents. I told Yuri I didn’t need you or anyone else to babysit me.”
By the cold stare he was sending, it was obvious to her that did not make him feel any better. Kathrin held her ground. “Go home,” she said in Russian as she limped away from him. Once across the street, she stopped to check the reflection in her cane’s mirrored handle. Aleksey was on the phone. Kathrin chuckled. Wearing a wire can be to your disadvantage Aleksey. Home office can hear you…make nice nice with Agent Night now. Kathrin blinked at her statement. She looked down at the cane. I’m not Agent Night anymore, I guess. She grimaced in pain and started forward.
The two hour ride back to Kathrin’s hidden lair was in silence other than Aleksey’s occasional huff. She didn’t bother trying to make conversation while he had the wire on. They traversed layer upon layer of blue mountains; the evening mist accentuated their dimensionality. Deer pranced in the fields along the highway. Their white tails glowed in the cerulean blue dusk. Kathrin turned the Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi onto a dirt road, then sped up the side of the mountain, to an obscure driveway. The car stopped in front of a cabin nestled amongst a grove of aspen, overlooking the valley below. It was a perfect vantage point to spot anyone coming into the neighborhood.
Kathrin unlocked the door of her rental home and struggled her way through the threshold. Her foot was throbbing from the long drive. She immediately went to the couch and elevated her leg. “Ahhh,” she let slip when she got her shoe off. Aleksey stood in the doorway. Kathrin had no intention of showing him his room or any amenity. She was going to make him speak to her. Minutes went by, perhaps even thirty of them. Kathrin’s head started to nod forward. The pain exhausted her. She didn’t want to sleep right now; not since there was a huge angry Russian in her foyer.