Betrayal in ParisBetrayal in Paris
Doris Elaine Fell
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From the streets of Paris to the American Embassy, 28-year-old Adrienne Winters is caught in a web of intrigue with ties to the Kuwaiti resistance in the Gulf War, a Parisian terrorist cell, and a government cover-up---a story of double betrayals, a shattered family, and sibling rivalry. With backdrops taken from today's headlines---this engrossing read will have you hooked from the first chapter! 360 pages, softcover from Howard.
     

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Prologue

Nightmare!

Month after month, the same nightmare jerking him from a troubled sleep. Blinding flashbacks. In his dream he is running. Plumes of choking dust and smoke fill his nostrils. The earth is coated with ash. The stench of death closes in on him. He stumbles through the debris, shrieking her name.

"Kristina! Kristina, where are you?

He wakes, sweating. Sits bolt upright on the edge of his bed in a dark room. The moist spring air wafts through the open window. Sheer curtains sway, ghostlike. He reaches instinctively for the other side of the bed. It is empty. The pillow fluffed, untouched. His wife no longer there. Gone forever.

His personal loss spun in garish Technicolor in his mind—an intrusive reflection, as though it were happening now. The present moment crumbled to dust like the E-Ring of the Pentagon on that September morning.

On that black Tuesday he rose from his desk at the Pentagon at exactly 8:20. He straightened his uniform jacket, checked his watch. The watch, a gift from his wife, was as familiar to him as the Washington skyline across the Potomac. He ran his thumb over the flat sapphire crystal and took note again of the four time zones displayed there. His life was regimented, on schedule. No matter where he traveled, he always knew the hour back home. She had told him that timing was everything to him, that it defined him.

But time with his wife was on hold.

His secretary frowned as he shoved several classified documents into his briefcase. "Colonel, you're not forgetting your meeting with Mr. Rumsfeld at ten?"

"I won't be long."

With rapid strides, he made his way down the long polished corridors to his wife's office on the E-Ring. He hesitated in the door, the lump in his throat doubling as he gazed at her. She was as beautiful as ever, with her flawless complexion and classic features. Shiny hair cascaded around her face; her mauve lips were full, desirable.

In his mind, the Tuesday morning reel moved forward. As his shadow fell across Kristina's desk, she glanced up, her cornflower blue eyes wide, startled. "Oh, it's you."

"Yes, me." He leaned forward, his palms flat on her desktop, his voice competing with the overhead TV monitor airing the morning news. It could have been a mindless cartoon for all the attention it was getting from the civilian employees in the room. "I called your hotel last night. They said you had checked out."

"We moved home with Mother." Her announcement had a final ring to it. "Mother likes having her only grandchild with her."

"Kristina, you're my wife. I want you back home where you belong. Six weeks is long enough to be apart."

Her mouth tightened, but the tremor of her lip gave her away. Tears balanced on her dark lashes. "Don't you understand? It's over."

"You can't take my son and just run out on me. I love you. I love you both."

"It's over," she repeated. "You're just not the same man I married."

"Then who am I?"

"I wish I knew."

"Kris, that's crazy. We've been married ten years."

Fiery flames burned in her eyes as she glared at him. "And you keep shutting me out. You're so secretive these days. Withdrawn. You're up pacing half the night."

"It's my job. Extended hours. The unending demands. Military briefings, classified documents—strategy planning. It never ends."

"Stop it. It's always the same excuses. It's you. Not your job. Not your duty. You've changed."

Before he could defend himself, the familiar face of a newscaster filled the television screen. "We interrupt this broadcast with late-breaking news: At 8:46 this morning a hijacked American jetliner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City."

Kristina gasped. "Oh no! No."

He darted around the desk, his arm circling her shoulders. He rocked her with a gentle touch. Her gaze remained riveted on the screen where billows of smoke rose from the North Tower. The injured fled through the front entry. Bleeding. Terrified. Colliding. Their clothes covered with ash and blood. Their eyes blinded with soot.

His arm tightened around his wife. Their own private war seemed small indeed.

"It can't be! I have friends working there."

So did he. Friends in an investment firm and Secret Service agents he'd known in the past. His cell phone rang. His secretary's efficient voice came through a pitch above normal. "Have you heard, Colonel?"

"We're watching it right now."

"They've upped your conference to three minutes ago."

"I'm on my way." His chest tensed as he watched a second jet rip through the South Tower, tearing through it as though it were papier-mâché. Another fireball erupted.

"Terrorists. It has to be terrorists, Kris."

Her face went chalky. "Then it can happen here. I have to go home to my son and mother—"

"No. Duty demands that you stay at your post." He squeezed her shoulder. "You're safe here. Trust me. What's happening is happening in New York. So hold tight, sweetheart. The Pentagon was built to withstand anything. This whole area has just been renovated with blast-resistant windows. Nothing will happen to you."

The images on the television shouted otherwise. The towers on fire. Steel melting. Invincible structures imploding, crumbling.

He kissed her on the cheek. She didn't resist. "I have to go, Kris. I'll call your mother and tell her you're all right."

"Wait . . . There's something I haven't told you."

"There's no time now. Tonight—"

"I know you'll be displeased."

He barely recognized the frightened face looking at him. "What are you talking about?"

"We're going to have another baby."

A baby? he towered above her, making her appear even more vulnerable. For a split second he stood with his back rigid, holding his shock in check. He was good at that. "I love you. I'll call you this evening. We'll have dinner together. We'll talk about the baby—about us."

Without a backward glance, he strolled out of her office and broke into a run down the long corridor, bumping shoulders with admirals and generals and civilian employees. The world was in crisis, but so was he. Wasn't one child enough? A second child would disrupt his life.

His cell phone rang again. His commanding officer bellowed, "Where the blazes are you, Colonel? Terrorists have attacked New York City. We're on full alert. The secretary of defense has called an emergency briefing in the Command Center. Get here on the double."

"Yes, sir. Tell Rumsfeld I'm on my way."

Televisions blared live coverage updates as he ran past the open doors and headed for the stairs. Peter Jennings and John Miller sat side by side—their somber words relating rumors of a third hijacked airliner heading toward Washington.

He knuckled the handle of his briefcase, his palm clammy as he tried to process the news. His training kicked in. A hijacked airliner could be heading toward the White House or the Capitol. He glanced at a wall clock: 9:37. He knew the routine. The Pentagon's emergency evacuation drills would already be in effect. Disaster procedures followed with precision. The crisis action teams alerted. Military forces standing by. F-16s in the air. The Aerospace Defense Command combing the skies for the American passenger jet. And the president—God help him—forced to make a split second decision to blow an "enemy" aircraft out of the sky.

Another check of the time—the minutes were ticking away: 9:38, 9:39, 9:40. As he sprinted up the steps, a thunderous explosion rocked the west side of the building. A whooshing roar echoed through the halls. The building shook, the violent tremors buckling the walls behind him. The jolt tossed him into the air. He landed on his back at the foot of the steps, the jarring excruciating. In the choking dust he crawled on hands and knees, groping for his briefcase. It took him seconds before he pushed himself to his feet and raced back toward the flame-scorched corridor of the E-Ring. Into the rubble and debris, with its smell of acrid smoke and jet fuel.

Back to his wife and unborn child.

An admiral restrained him, and he fought to break free. "It's no use, Colonel. A skyjacked airliner hit us full power. No one could possibly make it through that."

"My wife—"

"No one had a chance. We have to evacuate, Colonel. That's an order."

* * * * *

Even in his darkened bedroom, the images of that day were painfully vivid. His rage at the admiral's command was as deep now as it had been seven months ago. Rage at his loss. Rage at the attack.

Rage that a dust-covered stranger had forced him to run out on his wife as he had run out on his friend a dozen years ago.

He buried his face in his hands but could not block out the picture of the marine helicopter carrying his dead wife to Dover Air Force Base for identification. His wife and his unborn child in a body bag. Bound together in death.

The vision of the chopper's rotating blades burned in his mind, whirling him back to the Iraqi helicopters zooming in low over Kuwait City at the start of the Gulf War. Back to that moment he could never forget . . . the moment he had betrayed a friend in the Kuwaiti invasion.

On orders from the top, he had reduced his friend's life to a star on the Memorial Wall, a name in the Book of Honor.

Now, as he sat alone in his bedroom, his temples throbbed, the wracking pain blinding him. His wife's smiling photograph at his bedside did not erase the memory of her burned face, her singed golden hair, her lifeless blue eyes. His numbing grief came in fresh waves, the cavernous crack in his heart tormenting him.

Kris had wanted to go home to their son. She'd died in that smoldering wreckage because he had demanded she remain at her post. Duty. Honor. Country. His façade. His pretense. His cloak of darkness.

The emptiness overwhelmed him, but he found some comfort in the fact that his beloved wife would never know about his past. She would never know that he was a traitor to his country. An impostor. Worse than a terrorist.

Worse than an infidel.


Excerpted from:
Betrayal in Paris by Doris Elaine Fell, copyright 2003.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.