He sat on the dirty floor and tried to think. Sometimes, in the relentless swirl of agony and terror, he lost himself. Rowan Milani. My name is Rowan Milani. He licked dry lips and tried to swallow, while a hard lump in his throat caught him off-guard. Hot tears filled his eyes and overflowed, coursing through the dirt on his cheeks. I used to be a man. His thoughts drew him down a familiar path. Over and over, his mind played the well-worn litany.
How had it come to this? And why? His fragile grip on reality demanded he give an account. An honest answer, Rowan. No more of your lies. He was too clever; hell, he was invincible, right? Or had he just wanted revenge? Those other reasons, revealing why, kept clamoring for attention, accusing him. And why should he? What difference did it make? He tottered to his feet and limped to the cement slab. None of it mattered anymore. Her eyes begged him to stay. Her voice, so desperate, whispered through his mind. Rowan, all I want is to be with you.
He cringed, remembering. And now, he wanted and needed to tell her how much he loved her and how damn sorry he was. He curled on his side facing the wall and closed his eyes. Danielle Stratton sat on the front steps of the residence she finally felt comfortable calling home. Small-Batch-Love Coffee imported sustainably produced organic coffee beans from around the world. Located on a busy side street, within walking distance of her new home, the bistro occupied her mind from 6 a. Exhaustion and red wine finished the task each night and dulled the permanent ache in her heart.
Give yourself time to get past it, her well-meaning parents told her. The only man she would ever love had been killed in the most gruesome manner imaginable, and she would never get past the simple, brutal truth. She missed him in ways she could never explain. Remembering his touch, the secret smile in his lips when they kissed, and the undisguised desire in his eyes still had the power to leave her breathless.
And then the inevitable grief set in as the memories sent her to the finality of their last goodbye. A whine, followed by the swipe of a coarse tongue on her cheek ended her sad introspection. Her constant companion woofed, and warm breath exploded against her face. Thanks, Leo. I needed that. The sun warmed her and the tree-lined street beckoned. Are you getting antsy?
Me too. The Rottweiler loved chasing Frisbees. He walked her to work every morning and spent the day napping in her office, mingling with customers or lying on the settee in the bay window at the front of the bistro. The distinctive rumble of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle had Leo on his feet, tail stub doing double-time. Tom Hanford roared up the street on his Wide Glide, parked the cherry red and chrome motorcycle in the driveway, and pulled off his helmet. Six feet tall, Tom looked buff in a brown leather bomber jacket over a white t-shirt with Boeing Project stenciled in blue.
His faded jeans molded his body in a way her employees called sexy. He had a nice face, too. Handsome, for sure, with sandy brown hair and intelligent hazel eyes. Not that she cared. Tom spoke in his low, calm voice. Hello Dani. He pointed at another helmet, strapped to the luggage rack behind the passenger backrest. We could hit those coffee shops you mentioned last week. I know this great place down on the wharf. Her stomach and cheeks hurt from laughing. Danielle finished her coffee and smiled at Tom still sipping his.
Not a fan? Tom replied. I always wished for a sister. You know, someone to share my secrets with. Thanks for this afternoon, by the way. Tell me more. Gosh, let me see. You know I grew up here. Eventually, I worked my way into management. She shrugged. My background is kinda boring. She plunked the empty cup down on the tiny square table between them. Shall we go? Tom sat in bed, still wired from the extra cups of coffee, perusing the Internet with his iPad.
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But that was all right. She felt special, and he was a patient man. On a whim, he googled her name. Surprised when the page filled, he clicked on the top line, the one that read: FBI releases Danielle Stratton after Rowan Milani surrenders. What the hell, he muttered and started reading. When he finished the article, he stared at the screen. Holy shit. The article told how Milani had been arrested and injured in a violent encounter with federal agents in South Dakota.
Danielle was thought to be with him, first on the island of Kauai, and later in San Francisco. What in the world had Danielle seen in a man like Milani? How would he bring it up? Hey Dani, I creeped you online. She needed to know she could trust him. One thing for sure, her involvement with Milani had hurt her.
Guys like that, who used women, especially a woman like Danielle, ticked him off big-time. The pervasive aroma of old grease hit him head-on. A lanky waitress in a Pink Floyd t-shirt and jeans stared, coffee sloshing in the glass pot she gripped in one hand. He angled his head toward four booths across the back wall, and she nodded.
He kept walking, the soles of his shoes sticking ever-so-slightly on the ancient linoleum. He settled into the corner booth and looked at his Rolex: a. He checked his watch again, wondering what could be urgent and covert enough for the two agents to request a meeting off the beaten DC path. Watching the two agents haul his detainee from the cell had been the beginning of his understanding of the truth about his old friend. His ties to Milani went deep. When his parents died in a car crash, Sa-id became his guardian.
His uncle had remained a close friend of the Milani family until his murder a year and a half earlier. And also because of his one-time relationship with Patricia, proving even he could be a fool. An irritated glance at his watch showed Hancock and Talbot five minutes late. Despite the overload of incriminating evidence, ugly circumstances, and the pile of dead bodies, he now knew Milani had not been a traitor.
But it no longer mattered. Milani was dead. The tinkling bell above the door interrupted his thoughts, and he looked up. Two big men wearing dark blue polo shirts and jeans stepped inside. He raised a hand. Stocky, black-haired Hancock gave him a barely discernible nod and headed his way.
The two men slid into the booth across from him, their shoulders touching. The waitress appeared, and both men answered her offer of coffee with a terse yes and waved away the plastic menus. She filled their cups and refilled his before he could place his hand over the cup. I was surprised at your request to meet. Hancock cast a quick glance around them before answering. Milani is still alive. The Egyptian army moved him to Al-Aqrab a couple months ago.
Stunned, he sat silent for a moment, then took a couple deep breaths. A couple months ago? Why have you been sitting on this? That facility is reserved for the worst of the worst. Hancock responded. They contacted the prison warden and the Interior Minister. Believe it or not, the Egyptians agreed to release him. We think they said yes mostly to screw over Shemal and the Brotherhood. Between the four of them, they worked up an agreement of release both Presidents can sign off on.
Harandi tapped his fingers on the table. We should have acted as soon as you found out he was alive. Al-Aqrab is notorious for harsh torture. I have to ask one more time: Why would you wait on this? Hancock hooked a thick forefinger in the coffee cup and raised it. Our Station Chief informed us this morning that Givens and the Interior Minister finished their paperwork and would each forward their agreement to both Presidents today. He nodded. How soon can you be ready to leave? Talbot replied while Hancock swallowed coffee and made a face.
Director Abramson approved a jet. An idea came to Harandi while he looked at the big blond. We may need additional backup. I think I can arrange it. Harandi continued. I know a couple guys. Bad-ass operators. Nerves of steel and accustomed to black ops. Hancock glanced at Talbot, then fixed him with a wary gaze. We figured out Milani is innocent. But never mind. Why are you telling me this now? Talbot retorted. We love this country. Taking Milani out meant doing our part to protect it. But watching Shemal taunt him and go after him with that dagger of his, and Milani talking back, calling Shemal a coward, never admitting a damn thing, got us to wondering.
We looked at each other and said, what the fuck? Talbot continued. First, we damn near killed a guy who is on our side, and then we handed him to the real enemy. How did you know about the payment? Harandi took a last, reluctant swallow of coffee, tasted grounds, and set the cup on the scarred table. How I know about the money is part of my job. You could always give it to charity, by the way. Have you talked to your boss about this?
Hancock replied. The two men wearied him. We need to move on this. Harandi slid out of the booth and stood up.
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He started to pull his wallet from his pants pocket and changed his mind. Thanks for the coffee. Whitman loved buying into all manner of political bullshit. He flagged a cab and jumped in. The two of them had purchased the house and accompanying two acres in a secluded area between Potomac and Rockville, Maryland years earlier. He turned away from the windows, dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead with a handkerchief, and removed his black suit jacket.
He placed it carefully over the back of his leather executive chair before seating himself behind his desk. But not today. He contemplated the array of files, notes, and papers strewn across the desk top. They comprised the numerous tasks demanding his attention. Visiting the land of his dreams became the desire of his heart.
A Different Man
He studied for two years at the American University in Cairo and became fluent in Arabic. He immersed himself in the study of Islam. He met Muusa Shemal, a young Islamic scholar. His new friend nurtured his changing perspective and helped strengthen and solidify his commitment to the principles of his burgeoning faith. His disdain for the hypocrisy inherent in western culture grew strong as he observed firsthand in Egypt the results of the heavy-handed meddling of politicians from Britain, Europe, and the US.
The arrogant tactics of the West forever changed the lives of millions of innocent people. He understood their rage and hatred toward a cadre of indifferent western masters. His search for a meaningful way to mold and impact the policies of his ignorant country led him to join the agency bearing responsibility for many of the wrongs. In becoming a part of the CIA, he saw an opportunity to correct its cataclysmic intervention.
Patient determination and strategic preparation over the course of the last twenty-five years had paid off. After a frustrating eighteen months, he determined to focus his energy on achieving the pinnacle of power. Over the years, he and Muusa remained close. Their friendship grew to include collaboration on a goal held dear by all adherents to fundamental Islam.
The door chimes resonated throughout the home. He left his study and hurried to the front of the house. He opened the double doors and greeted his friend with a kiss on each cheek. As-salaam alaykum. Shemal returned the greeting and murmured his response. It is good to see you, my friend. He made a cursory check of the black-top drive leading to the gated and fenced residence. Nothing looked amiss, and he ushered his friend inside. In the privacy of his study, they would be protected by the finest technology available.
Their conversation would be shielded from penetration by any curious or malevolent cyber-snoopers. He led his friend to the study and gestured toward the comfortable grouping of sofas and overstuffed chairs at the end opposite his desk. Sit, please, and make yourself comfortable. We have much to discuss. The stocky Egyptian lounged on the sofa, one creased pant leg crossed over the other, above black patent-leather shoes.
A Different Man: The Rowan Milani Chronicles, #3
I was troubled by your call. Upon leaving Cairo, the warden assured me that Milani would not only remain in Tora, but be transferred to Al-Aqrab. He sat down on a chair adjacent to the sofa. The agents I assigned to handle Milani discovered he was still alive. Their misguided loyalty to this country and the CIA caused them to divert from their purpose. Shemal fussed with the crease in his pant leg. Your clumsy handlers are the root of our problem. They have proven their ineptitude more times than I care to contemplate. You are correct. But need I remind you that we could not afford to involve more agents after the fiasco in Sioux Falls?
Besides, the backgrounds and mindset of those two ensured they would be easily led. And so, they have been led again, in returning Milani to this country, alive and once more able to threaten our goals.
However, I concede the point is moot. May we move on to a more productive conversation? Our efforts must not be derailed by this man and his surrogates. Milani has a network of support we have yet to identify, besides Ralph Johnston and Chad Cantor. Shemal countered.
They cannot prevent his incarceration now, and surely they are not bold enough to attempt another escape. He saw an opportunity to drive home his point. Even now, they could be watching us. For all we know, they may have followed you here. Shemal scoffed. You have become too paranoid.
My driver takes care to ensure we are never followed. However, if you wish to take that tack, a larger concern is the Mafia kingpin Giacopino. It is thanks to my interrogation of Milani that we are aware of his responsibility for the bombing of the House of Allah in Houston and Al-Azhar mosque. Under duress, Milani may have lied to you. Shemal replied. My interrogation techniques are designed to extract facts. I heard it in his voice. May I remind you of one other thing? With Milani back in the country, we must leave nothing to chance.
I will meet this week with the new director of the FBI. I will encourage her to pursue immediate action against Milani. If she chooses to interrogate him, we have no control over what he may tell her or what she may believe. It is imperative that the CIA remains involved in the proceedings against Milani. That responsibility falls on your shoulders, my friend. Unfortunately the CIA has no prosecutorial authority. Shemal stood up. Allah will guide our path forward. Keep me informed as to your progress with the new director. I will keep you apprised of every development.
After seeing his friend out, Abramson returned to his study. Somehow, he must ensure the final destruction of Rowan Milani. He's sent to kill his soul mate Is love just something you find in books? Is he on the rebound or just escaping a crazy Bridezilla? Mary has been an avid writer all her life.
A Different Man by Mary Yungeberg | | Booktopia
After numerous freelance articles published in a variety of magazines, along with several careers, she chucked her ""real world"" job to pursue her dream of writing thrillers. Both books are available in print and digital formats. Mary is passionate about inspiring women to live with purpose and pursue their dreams.
She is a strong believer in empowering women to defend themselves. She loves the sport of shooting and capably handles her two Glock pistols. When she's not at the shooting range or working on the next installment of the Rowan Milani Chronicles, you may find her burning up the pavement in her black Mustang convertible. Mary lives in eastern South Dakota with her husband and Lucy, an intemperate Rat Terrier who runs their household. Log In to see more information about Mary Yungeberg Log in or register now!