Jameson Force Security hides in plain sight. Housed within a dilapidated old brick warehouse in the decaying Hill District of Pittsburgh, no one in a million years would guess hundreds of thousands of dollars of advanced computer equipment and servers were inside.
Or an indoor, soundproofed gun range.
Or some of the most highly trained military and law enforcement specialists in the world.
Or a research and development division that produces some of the most high-speed tech gadgets that would make James Bond’s Q die from jealousy. That particular area is housed in a sub-basement level of the building I didn’t even know about until a week ago. The owner, Kynan McGrath, loves his surprises.
I have to say… I love everything about my move to Pittsburgh so far. I’ve been here for almost six weeks, and I’ve had no problems settling into this place as my new home.
I actually live at the headquarters on the fourth floor where Kynan built five small but luxurious apartments along with other communal-living areas like a gym, media and entertainment room, and a commercial-sized kitchen.
A few minutes late for a mandatory meeting Kynan had scheduled, I quickly leave my apartment. I don’t bother locking my door as no one here would dare enter without my permission. It goes without saying I have implicit trust in everyone Kynan employs at Jameson because I have implicit trust in him.
I don’t bother with the slow-as-molasses freight elevator at the north end of the hall. It’s always faster to take the stairs. Plus, I think they’re an architectural wonder in and of themselves. I have no clue what type of money Kynan spent renovating this dump, but the floating staircase spiraling upward from the first to fourth floors is a myriad of reclaimed wood and steel support cables that make the damn thing appear to float in thin air.
I take the steps two at a time down to the second floor where the offices and conference rooms are located along the perimeter. The interior walls are glass and a quick head count into the largest conference room shows I’m the last to arrive.
The huge table that takes up the middle is a work of art. It seats twenty, and the base is made of twisted, rusted beams of steel with a thick cement slab on top. Almost every plush leather chair around the table is filled.
Kynan cuts his eyes to me as I enter, then mutters, “Glad you could take the time from your busy schedule to join us.”
“Sorry,” I reply with a smirk as I take an empty chair next to Bebe. “Was answering an email to the president.”
Everyone whips their heads my way, but I’ve only got eyes for Kynan, who cocks an eyebrow. Not in skepticism, because I do indeed know the president of the United States, but more in annoyance I would just casually drop that name to excuse my tardiness.
So I appease him a bit. “He says he needs to talk to me about something important.”
Kynan’s expression smooths, and he sits a little straighter. “Perhaps this meeting isn’t as important as talking to the president,” he suggests.
Laughing, I shake my head. “He wants me to come to D.C. Asked you to come along as well. Tomorrow if we can.”
I’ll give Kynan credit. He’s the coolest of cucumbers, and doesn’t so much as flinch or blink in surprise. Instead, he just gives a curt nod. “We’ll talk after this meeting.”
I nod back, giving some thought as to what could be so important that Jonathan Alexander, president of the United States, wants to see Kynan and me tomorrow in D.C. But that’s going to have to wait a bit since Kynan stands from his chair to begin the meeting.
He sweeps his arm around the room. “As you can see, our conference table is getting full and we’ve got some fresh faces here today. I’ll start off by introducing the new folks.”
I look around the room, briefly glancing at each person. Since I was the first hire Kynan had made, I actually know everyone, especially since he’s had me sit in on all subsequent interviews with the exception of the man sitting across the table from me, Saint Bellinger. He was hired just days after I was, but I was on an assignment watching over Kynan’s fiancée the day Saint had been interviewed.
Of course, it’s amazing to think I still have a job after that day, seeing as I’d managed to let Joslyn get kidnapped by a psycho stalker while she was on my watch.
On the flip side, and in fairness to me, Kynan understands Joslyn gave me the slip and doesn’t fault me for losing her.
“I’m just going to go around the table to make quick introductions. I expect members who have been here longer to step up and offer guidance to the newbies.”
To Kynan’s immediate right sits a young black man with a bald head and freakish bluish-gray eyes. He’s sporting diamond studs in his ears, and he’s impeccably dressed in a tailored suit, which is expertly cut and stitched around an impressive array of muscles. I’d peg him as a professional athlete or something, but I know that’s not the case as it’s not the nature of our business.
Jameson Force Security is a private agency that contracts military and security specialists for any host of reasons from recovering kidnap victims to coordinating black-op strikes against foreign enemies.
“This is Dozer,” Kynan says as he points at the man. “I haven’t come up with a title for him yet, but he’s officially the smartest man employed by Jameson. He has an IQ of one hundred and seventy, and he turned down a very lucrative job at NASA to come join us as our head of strategy and planning as well as working with Bebe in tech. Dozer has been known to see things no one else can, which can be an invaluable resource in our line of work.”
All heads now whip toward Dozer, who has suddenly become the most interesting man in the world.
He merely grins, bright white teeth flashing against his black skin, and says, “Plus… Kynan promised me I’d get to learn how to blow shit up.”
This dude has it going on. Dresses like a damn movie star, has the good looks to go along with it, brains that make Stephen Hawking look stupid, and he wants to blow shit up. I cannot wait to have a beer with him.
My gaze moves from Dozer over to Saint, who is smirking at me. He’s thinking the same thing as I am… that we’re going to pull Dozer into the bromance we’ve had going since we started working here. We came on at the same time, and we weren’t part of the original Jameson crew that moved here from Vegas. While those guys are all amazing and I’d trust with them with my life, Saint and I bonded since we were the newbies at the time.
Kynan then points to the stunning brunette sitting on the other side of Bebe. “All of you know Dr. Corinne Ellery as she did each of your psych evaluations before you were offered employment here. I’m pleased to announce she’s going to be coming on board permanently with Jameson starting next month. For now, she’s winding up her psychiatric practice in D.C.”
“And what will the beautiful Dr. Ellery be doing, exactly?” Cage Murdock asks with a charming smile thrown her way, which she ignores. He’s one of the Vegas transplants.
“She’s going to be making sure all of you stay in top mental health, especially given some of the traumatic shit we’re going to be getting ourselves into.”
At the solid reminder we do dangerous missions, the mischievous grin slides off Cage’s face.
“Corinne will have regular visitation hours and an office on this floor. Utilize her services freely, and don’t make me send you.”
Nervous laughter sounds around the table.
“The guy on the end with the ‘high and tight’ is going to be joining us in a few weeks,” Kynan continues as he points to a man who’s clearly active duty. “That’s Malik Fournier, and he just got out of the Marine Corps—2nd Recon. He’s going to spend a few weeks with family before starting here at Jameson.”
I study the man. Late twenties, I’d guess, with dark hair and hazel eyes. He’s special forces, and I can tell by the look in his eyes he’s seen some pretty sketchy shit. He catches my gaze and gives me a slight nod, which I return.
Welcome aboard, dude. We’ll do beers, too.
“Some of you might know Malik’s famous hockey brothers,” Kynan continues in his crisp, British accent.
“Fournier?” Cage drawls in hesitant but hopeful surprise. “As in Max and Lucas Fournier?”
Malik grins as he nods at Cage.
“Holy fucking shit,” Cage explodes, giving a Southern holler of glee as he bangs his fist on the table. Corinne Ellery about jumps out of her seat. “The Carolina Cold Fury is my hockey team. Mine! Two-time Stanley Cup Champions, baby.”
Kynan shrugs. “I wouldn’t know about that shit. We don’t have bloody hockey where I’m from.”
Everyone laughs because Kynan’s been in the States long enough to know what ice hockey is, and he sure as hell should have heard about the Cold Fury. They’re looking good for a three-peat championship this year, but they might just get upset by the new franchise team in the league, the Arizona Vengeance.
In fact, that seems to be what everyone’s chattering about now. Kynan only lets it go on for about three seconds before he’s banging his hand on the table to get quiet again.
“You can talk hockey with Malik later,” he grumbles, then gives his attention to the dark-haired woman sitting next to me. “But for now, we’ve got some new tech to discuss, so I’ll turn it over to Bebe.”
All eyes go to our favorite hacker.
Well, our only hacker, but if there were others, none would be as beloved as Bebe. She’s actually a convicted felon, but Kynan sprung her from a thirty-five-year prison sentence early. She’d been rightfully convicted of stealing sensitive military codes to launch nuclear weapons, but her reasons for doing it were understandable. Her son’s life was at stake, and there wasn’t anything Bebe wouldn’t do for Aaron. But she loved her country, too, so she fucked over the group forcing her to steal the codes and made sure she was caught so the codes remained safe.
Our country was safe, her son was safe, and Bebe went to prison.
Until Kynan brought her aboard Jameson.
Bebe is officially one of the coolest people I know, and she launches into some new security feature she just installed that requires retinal scans to get into the building.
I tune her out. Apparently, I’m going to have to get my eyeballs scanned over in her lab soon, so she can fill me in then.
Instead, I fish my phone out of my pocket, then pull up the email I’d received a little bit ago.
It’s not the official presidential email from the White House. No, this is a private email sent through an encrypted server.
The email address alone told me it was from President Alexander.
“Cavalier” was Jonathan Alexander’s Secret Service code name when he’d been vice president and I was assigned to his protection detail.
The email was precise, but I recognized it as coming from him. I’d worked closely with him too long not to.
I know I’m the one who owes you the favor, but I really need your help. This is off the books.
You saved my life once. This time, I need you to save someone whom I love deeply.
I’ll send Marine One for you and Kynan McGrath in the morning.
It wasn’t signed, but I knew it was from Jonathan Alexander, former vice president and current president of the United States. This wasn’t a request but a command.
He’d said he was sending one of the presidential helicopters tomorrow for Kynan and me. He’s equating his need to when I saved his life last year, so I know it’s beyond important to him.
Of course, I never even thought about declining. One simply didn’t do that when the president demanded their presence.
So I merely emailed back, Yes, sir. See you tomorrow.
And it looks like Jameson is going to have its first big, off-the-books contract straight from the most powerful man in the world.