Snippet from inside Chapter 2:
While the mysterious visitor trundled the numeric wheels of the combination, Gillian studied his face. What was a captivating specimen like this doing here on her boat instead of gracing the cover of GQ? Her pulse gave a little pitter patter. He had a strong, clean shaven jaw, the sexy five o'clock shadow eminent. His eyes were a startling steel-blue, fringed by long dark lashes. Sensual, tempting lips were just the right amount of full. Straight nose, so nicely proportioned. Cheek bones and forehead were high, and thick black hair, regulation cut, beckoned a touch. To call him tall, dark and handsome just wouldn't do him justice.
She gave a mental sigh. Jesus girl, get a grip, you're a taken woman!
The tumblers released and Commander Reeves retrieved the file. He passed it across the small table. Gillian tilted forward to accept the thin manila folder labeled: ‘Project Mer.'
“Mer?” Her brows furrowed, guilty prurience forgotten as she flipped opened the file. A small gasp escaped her lips, and her hand slightly trembled, as she lifted the 8x10 photograph from the contents. “Is this some kind of a joke?” Gillian’s nostrils flared as her head jerked up, “Did Martin put you up to this?” Clapping the file shut, she thrust it towards him. “I am very busy Commander Reeves, and I don’t find this even a little amusing.”
Martin, her boyfriend of the last few years, was a commercial airline pilot, but still had friends in the military; it would be easy enough for him to coerce one of them into playing a practical joke on her. Gillian stared resentfully at the man seated across the table, cheeks flushing with anger, the file hanging in the air between them. She was fed up with Martin poking fun at her “mermaid mania,” as he liked to call it.
“I can assure you, Ms. Keller—this is not a prank, and I don’t know anyone named Martin,” he said, ignoring her outstretched hand.
Unconvinced, yet unable to resist, Gillian returned the file to her lap, thoughtfully opening it again. She glowered at the shocking image, until the photo began to blur, her tired eyes stinging. She squeezed her eyelids closed for a few seconds; hoping to clear her vision and her mind.
I must still be dreaming.
When she opened them, the picture remained, but she couldn’t accept it as fact. It's ridiculous! Shaking her head in silent denial, she finally muttered, “That's impossible.”
Reeves was unconcerned: her reaction had been anticipated. “The enclosed report contains the details I am currently authorized to divulge.”
While she read the information, the commander took a moment to survey the cozy little cabin. A diorama of mermaids, in one form or another, were scattered about; these representing a minute portion of her total collection according to her dossier. The woman's obsession with the creatures had not been exaggerated, he mused, eyeing the buxom mermaid embracing the cup Gillian drank from, its tail forming the handle. He wondered briefly how the intelligence recruiter had hit upon Ms. Keller. Clearly, the man had her pegged.
Reeves had never seen so many mermaids in one place; obsession was putting it mildly. Her dossier had also mentioned a siren tattoo, if it was true, the nymph was hidden beneath her clothes. Her boat was even named The Ceasg, which apparently meant Maid of the Wave. Unquestionably, ONI had chosen the right woman for the job.
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