FBI Special Agent Marissa Panuska faces the most explosive case of her career when she impersonates a female terrorist to infiltrate an al-Qaeda cell. Her dark hair, olive complexion, and Arabic fluency make her the perfect imposter, but each passing hour raises the risk of discovery. Can she stop the dirty-bomb plot—alone—when the Feds don’t even know the target? And should she trust the mysterious man who bursts into her life when her cover is blown?
Former Navy SEAL Ameen Ali has a very personal reason for hating the terrorists and vowing to stop them. But when a beautiful woman joins the sleeper cell spreading death-to-America propaganda at his mosque, he doesn’t want to believe she shares their evil goals. Can he convince her to join forces before it’s too late?
Night had fallen when Samir parked the truck in front of the dilapidated house in the drug-infested Tijuana slum. Once he killed the headlights, the moon provided the only illumination along the crumbling asphalt road. Wedged between Samir and Omar on the seat, Marissa Panuska scanned the neighborhood of decaying buildings, hoping to catch a reassuring glimpse of the two agents who were out there—somewhere—following her, watching her back.
On five previous occasions, the terrorists had brought her to their hideout in Mexico, just across the border from San Diego. Marauding drug gangs ruled the area where crackling gunfire was as common as barking dogs. The constant smell of weed permeated the air and stung her nostrils. The residents were rarely visible, preferring relative safety behind walls.
Marissa’s gaze swept over the run-down house, checking for any signs of change or trouble. Boards protected the windows from prying eyes, and a padlock secured the door against thieves. The electrical connection dangling from the sagging overhead lines was one of the few in the slum, and the satellite phone antenna on the roof was definitely unique.
After an anxious look around, Omar jumped out to unlock the door before all three darted inside. Samir switched on the lamp that sat on the floor by the door. Ignoring the stench from the barely functioning bathroom, they hurried past it and the bedroom on the left. A narrow archway separated the front room from the larger back room, which included a rudimentary kitchen along one wall. The furnishings consisted of six metal folding chairs, a wooden table, and three tall lamps. Several boxes of electronic parts, including a new one, were lined up near the rear door. The place was filthy, but no one cared.
The stifling heat in the closed-up house stole Marissa’s breath. Sweat dampened her skin beneath the long, black abaya and niqab, the Muslim robe and veil she wore over her other clothes. While the men turned on the lights, she sank onto one of the flimsy chairs, morbidly wondering if she was more likely to die from heat stroke than at the hands of the terrorists.
Holding the niqab away from her face, she drew slow, deep breaths and grimaced at the pain in her lungs and stomach. The stress of impersonating Baheera Abbas, of pretending to be the female terrorist previously unknown to the US intelligence community, gnawed at Marissa’s nerves. If only she could determine Baheera’s role in the planned attack, she might be able to finish the covert operation, might be able to survive. Every passing minute held the threat of discovery and diminished that possibility.
Marissa is a wife, writer, chocoholic, and animal lover, not necessarily in that order. As a little girl, she cut pictures of people out of magazines and turned them into characters in her stories. Now she writes edgy romantic thrillers and steamy contemporary romance. She lives in SoCal with her husband, but enjoys traveling from Athens to Anchorage and many locations in between.