MEET JOHN FIENNES, an anti-hero from SCOOP who’s due to make a reappearance, ala Racer X in a Cauley MacKinnon novel coming soon!
FROM SCOOP . . .
“Mia?” I said, tucking the towel tighter around me. “You’re early.”
I swung open the door and came face to face with what might have been the dark, mysterious man that Mia had predicted in her stars.
I couldn’t move. He was a little taller than me, not quite six feet, I guessed, and looked like he was on his way to a shoot for GQ. I swallowed hard. This guy had the kind of green eyes that could trigger a public orgasm.
He smiled. “Cauley MacKinnon?” I slammed the door. “John Fiennes, United States Customs Service,” he said through the stained glass. “I
have a few questions. Is this a bad time?” Customs? Peeking through an opaque piece in the stained glass panel, I noticed that
not only was he drop-dead gorgeous, he was wearing a suit and holding a badge. Well crap. I’d been months without a man and now they were popping out of the
woodwork. I took another peek. He wasn’t Pierce Brosnan, but I supposed he was as close as a tough guy was going to get.
“Just a minute!” I yelled through the door.
He wanted to know if this was a bad time. Ha. Lately, every time was a bad time, but a Customs Agent with questions? I had a few questions of my own.
I scooped last night’s damp clothes from the living room floor and raced to the bedroom, yanked on the shirt and shorts I’d laid out and hurried back, slipping and sliding on scraps of research. The house was a wreck, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it, and with all the trouble I was having getting information out of Agent Logan, I wasn’t going to let this Fed get away.
Breathless from months of inertia, I swung open the door. Fiennes stared at me, not quite hiding a grin. I felt a jolt of electricity and took a step backward. Men like him should have warning labels stamped on their foreheads.
“I can come back later,” he said, eyeing the mess in my living room. He had the barest hint of a European accent, and if dark velvet had a sound, it would have been this guy’s voice.
“Um, no, it’s okay, I thought you were someone else. Come in.”
His gaze flicked toward the television, where Rick and Ilsa were romping through Paris as Nazi cannons boomed in the background.
“Casablanca?” he said, and grinned. “Um, it helps me think,” I said, fumbling for the clicker. Fiennes raised a brow but didn’t comment. He followed me into the house, carefully
stepping over scattered printouts. “Ignore the mess,” I said. “I’m in the middle of a project.” He glanced at the papers with interest, and then looked at me, studying the roadmap of
bruises on my face. He hadn’t stepped any closer, but I could feel his presence like a physical thing.He wasn’t as tall as Logan, but he had a nice face, the kind that was handsome without being pretty, and he had tiny lines around his eyes, probably more from enthusiasm than age.
“I don’t mean to be politically incorrect,” I said, “but a U.S. Customs Agent with a European accent?”
“Clever girl.” Fiennes smiled. “My father was in the United States Air Force. I speak five languages, an advantage in my line of business.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling a bit like a xenophobe.
“I understand you had a rough night,” he said, his voice warm and low. He moved my hair out of my face for a better look at my bruises and frowned. “Have you seen a doctor?”
Heat rushed to my face and I touched my bruised cheek. “A couple of medics looked me over at the scene. How’d you know about last night?”
“Actually, that’s why I’m here.” “Hm,” I said, not knowing what else to say. “May I get you a glass of tea?” “Do you have coffee?” “I don’t drink coffee, so it’s nothing fancy.” “Fancy doesn’t suit me,” he said, and I almost thought he was flirting with me. I set about brewing a pot of the year-old store brand I keep in the freezer, a grim
reminder of my days with Mark Ramsey. “What kind of a name is Cauley?” he said as coffee plopped noisily into the old pot. “Actually, it’s my mother’s maiden name,” I said, feeling oddly flattered at his interest. When I handed him the cup, he took it in his hands, and something about those hands
sent a warm chill straight through me. They were large, his fingers long, their movements precise, like those of a physician. Or a musician. Or a sharpshooter.
The kind of hands that could drive a girl crazy.
Jeez, I thought. I’d been lusting after everything in pants. I’d better get a boyfriend. Fast.
“Do you have any idea who abducted you?” he said.
“What?” I said, tearing my gaze away from his hands. “Abducted?” I hadn’t thought of it like that. “Um. No.” I said, and at least I didn’t stutter.
“And you don’t know why you were abducted?” Fiennes took a big slug of my hideous coffee. To his credit, he didn’t flinch.
I fidgeted. Spilling your guts is sticky business for someone trying to make ranks as a reporter protecting your sources and all and at some point, I hoped to get off the obituary beat.
I watched as John Fiennes took another drink of coffee and my eyes narrowed. Why would a Customs Agent be interested in Van Gogh? Which brought me back around to Van Gogh’s interest in Scooter.
“Is this just about the German guy, or are you after Scott Barnes, too?”
“German,” Fiennes muttered, looking like he’d heard a private joke. He extracted a leather-bound notepad that didn’t look anything like Agent Logan’s. “What would make you think there is a connection between the two?”
“Well, let’s see . . . Scooter’s sudden rash of suicide attempts, a Customs Agent at my front door and an FBI agent lurking around a SWAT suicide standoff. And then there’s the little matter of how I got attacked by Van Gogh, who was grilling me about what
Scooter said while we were in the shed, something Scooter was hiding.” Fiennes’s jaw muscles tightened. “FBI?” “Yes,” I said, looking at his dark suit and crisply pressed dark shirt. His clothes were
tailored and he smelled of some sort of expensive cologne I didn’t recognize. “What, are you some sort of Customs Agency spy?”
He smiled. “What would make you think so?”
“I don’t know. I thought Customs Agents were those geeks at the airport who ask if you have anything to declare. You look sort of like James Bond.”
Fiennes chuckled at that. “We’re on the front line of Homeland Defense,” he said, and I could feel the warmth flooding into my cheeks.
“Do you know this Van Gogh?” he said, steering the conversation back to its source. “Oh. The earless guy. That’s not his name. That’s just what I call him.” Fiennes smiled. “What did you tell your, uh, Mr. Van Gogh?” “I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about, and then we drove into the lake.” “And your friend. This, Scooter. This would be Mr. Barnes?”
I nodded. “And he told you nothing?” I shook my head. “See? That’s what I can’t figure out. The only thing we talked about
was his wife. That, and his glory days back in high school.” “His wife?” Fiennes was scribbling in his notebook, and while I caught a peek, it was
some sort of shorthand I couldn’t read. “Well, yeah,” I said, “but he didn’t say anything. Just that she was leaving him.” Fiennes nodded, his eyes narrowed. “He said nothing odd or unusual?” “This whole thing is odd and unusual.” Fiennes looked at me for a long moment, and then his gaze drifted around my house. “You live here alone,” he said. It wasn’t a question. “Do you have a gun?” “I had a gun. It sort of got taken away from me.” He blew out a breath with the patience reserved for the very young or the very stupid.
“You need a security system. And you must think about bringing your dog inside.” “Dog?” I said, but Fiennes was already moving toward the door. “If you remember anything more you must call me on my cell phone,” he said. “And if
you get in over your head, tag it Urgent. These men are not playing, Miss MacKinnon.” “Cauley,” I said. Our gazes locked and his eyes were so green I went speechless. He handed me his card, his gaze still on mine. “In case of emergency.” Did flashes of pure lust count as an emergency?
He looked down at me intently. “And you must be more careful when opening your door.”
“I thought you were somebody else.”
“There are dangerous men about, Miss MacKinnon. Be careful,” he said, “And lock your door.”
And then he opened the door and was gone. I stood, staring at the closed door. Dangerous men indeed.