Home > Chasing Fortune (Stealth Ops #8)

Chasing Fortune (Stealth Ops #8)
Author: Brittney Sahin

Chapter One

 

 

Cassis, France


Darkness hadn’t stolen daylight yet, but twilight was slowly creeping in, diffusing the sky with a soft pinkish hue—the perfect time to make her move.

A thrill darted up Rory’s spine, adrenaline fueling her addiction to this life.

Excitement unfurled inside her with each movement up, her headlamp guiding her way.

Rory grabbed a tri-cam from one of the gear loops on her harness and wedged it into the narrow slice of a pocket crack in the jagged cliff. She clipped her rope to the carabiner, which was attached to her harness, and continued to ascend the limestone, her body nearly flush with the rock wall. Trad climbing was more than a physical challenge. It was a mental game akin to chess, requiring the skill and patience to determine where to secure an array of removable protection in cracks and fissures without the aid of preplaced bolts. One wrong move, one miscalculation, and she’d plummet down the rock face. The turquoise sea wouldn’t pillow her fall, not with the rocky terrain there.

“I’m closing in on the top,” she announced as her ultra-sticky rubber outsoles gripped the rock.

She inched higher and higher, then reached for the next hold and clung to the wall.

“Roger,” her partner answered over comms, who had her on belay. “Be careful.”

“Always.” Of course, this was one of her most challenging jobs yet, but she’d never failed before, and she refused to fail tonight.

Her heartbeat wasn’t steady, but it was never steady in a moment like this. The rush accelerated her up.

The muscles in her calves trembled as Rory balanced the toes of her shoes on a narrow ledge, her chest flattened to the rough rock wall while she prepared herself to make the last push.

From her viewpoint earlier on her boat during recon, the estate appeared well-fortified. The exterior mimicked the look of Château de Cassis, an ancient property in France that housed guests who could afford the top-price luxury experience. But instead of happy couples enjoying a summer vacation in August, the walls of the property above housed a dangerous criminal.

She was risking her life as she dared climb to his fortress, which sat a mile away from the Provençal charm of Cassis. The Mediterranean fishing village, where pastel-colored buildings lined the walkways, was also home to beautiful inlets that cut into the shore and boats snuggled inside the ports.

Tonight, cloaked in all black, Rory’s hood covered the brown wig she wore pulled back into a ponytail to hide her light blonde, Alabama sun-kissed locks. A black hockey mask would disguise her face once she was up top. Dark brown contact lenses also shielded the true color of her hazel eyes.

She breathed a sigh of relief, one mingled with triumph, when pulling herself up the last ledge to the top. “I’m here. At the mark,” she announced to her partner, who was still unaware of Rory’s real name even after years of working together.

Her target was a lonely umbrella pine in front of the eight-foot-tall concrete wall that ran along the cliff ledge as far as her eyes could see. She anchored a piece of gear and detached the thick, ocean-blue rope from her harness. Rory secured the rope and wrapped it around the pine.

“Off belay.”

“Belay off,” her partner answered. “Drone is up. You’re all clear to climb over,” he added a moment later after the small drone, barely visible in the night sky, had buzzed over her shoulder.

“Roger.” She removed the rest of her gear and set it at the base of the tree, then secured the grappling hook from her backpack. This wasn’t her first rodeo. She’d done these types of jobs plenty of times, but for some reason, a bolt of nerves shot through, sending a tiny shiver down her spine.

Pull it together. Rory leaned back, tossed the grappling hook over the wall, and waited for it to catch, then gave the rope a few yanks to ensure it would hold. With a quick prayer and a deep breath, she hoisted herself up and planted her feet against the wall. Instinct kicked in as she coordinated quick hand-over-hand movements on the rope with steady steps up the wall.

She clutched the top, using her forearms to pull her weight up. One leg over, she straddled the wall and scoped out the property.

A massive swimming pool surrounded by lush gardens lay at the center of the backyard. There were also two towers flanking the sides of the property. The main house was off in the distance.

“No guards,” her partner said, confirming what she already knew, as she reached for the hockey mask clipped to her side and positioned it to conceal her face.

“They’re here,” she said under her breath. “Somewhere.” She swung her other leg over the wall, then eased herself down before letting go.

Landing in a crouched position, she told him, “I’m in.”

“You’ve got this,” his deep voice cut into her ear.

He’d insisted on doing the job himself, but of the two of them, she was the better climber, and also faster in case she had to—

“Shit,” she hissed, suddenly basked in artificial light. Rory lifted her foot and spotted a small black circular object on the ground. She’d tripped a sensor.

That was a first. She was never usually so clumsy. Was she losing her edge?

She wasn’t a covert operative, but she had skills. Of course, she didn’t usually go up against former spec ops guys like the man who owned the property. Not that she expected to come face-to-face with anyone tonight. Normally she got in and out without anyone knowing she’d been there.

A frenzy of French words sailed in the air before, “Stop! Don’t move!” was yelled in English.

She wouldn’t be able to retreat the same way she’d arrived, leaving only one choice. Run.

There was a gated entrance a hundred feet beyond the pool. It’d be easy enough to scale, and it’d been her backup exit plan in case shit went sideways.

She pumped her arms, her blood pounding in her ears. The energy from the chase, the hunt, guided her. It helped her navigate the property as she ran from God knew how many people behind her. She didn’t have time to turn back and count.

No gunshots. Good sign.

Run faster, damn it. A few branches from a row of olive trees smacked her in the face, slowing her for a second as she neared the pool. Minutes ago, the water had glittered beneath the moonlight. Now, spotlights flooded everything in sight around the Olympic-sized pool.

“Get out of here,” Rory panted out the warning to her partner, who no doubt could hear the shouts and her labored breathing. “If I’m going down, I don’t want you going down with me.” She’d just finished uttering the words when something stung her skin and jolted her like a shockwave.

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