Home > The Thing About Love (FBI/US Attorney #7)

The Thing About Love (FBI/US Attorney #7)
Author: Julie James

acknowledgments


   As always, I’m grateful to my friends and family who graciously shared their professional and personal experiences during the writing of this book. From the heartfelt conversations about divorce, to the amusing discussions with my male friends about “guy code” and whether they could ever forgive a friend who knew about cheating, to the answers to my many technical questions about everything from firearms to private equity, I’m so appreciative for all you do to enrich my books. Please never stop opening those random late-night e-mails from me with subject lines like “Just curious,” “I was wondering . . .” and “HELP,” because I would be lost without you.

   I could not have written this book the way I wanted to without the insight of one such friend, Brent Dempsey. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being so generous with your time and for helping me get it right. I solemnly swear to never again use the words stakeout or perp.

   I’m also grateful for the support of my former editor, Wendy McCurdy, who worked with me on eight books and also helped me brainstorm ideas for this one. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my stories and for making me a better writer. Your voice saying, “These people like each other too much!” will continue to motivate me to push myself every time I sit down at a keyboard.

   Special thanks to Elyssa Patrick, Kati Brown, Brent Dempsey, and Brian Kavanaugh for reading early drafts of this book and sharing your thoughts with me. Thanks as well to my agent, Robin Rue, and to Mollie Smith for her advice and know-how in all things digital marketing related.

   Thank you to everyone at Berkley for your support of this book. First and foremost, to Kate Seaver, my editor, and also to Ivan Held, Christine Ball, Claire Zion (Go, Cubs!), Jeanne-Marie Hudson, Craig Burke, and Erin Galloway: I deeply appreciate all the discussions, strategy talks, and warm conversations we’ve had this last year. I’m thrilled, and humbled, to be working with such a wonderful team of people.

   Finally, thank you to my husband, Brian, who doesn’t bat an eye when I call him at work with questions like, “So, if you were going to bribe a politician, would you divide the cash into two payments or just give him the whole fifty thousand up front?” You’re my first sounding board in all things, always. And thank you to my kids, just for being my favorite people to hang out with. Love you guys.

 

 

1


   Three minutes after the plane took off from the runway, FBI Special Agent John Shepherd knew he was doomed if he didn’t act immediately.

   Next to John, the guy in the middle seat was in his early forties and dressed in a suit and lime-green shirt. “Man, it’s a packed flight tonight.” He held out his hand in introduction. “Steve Fox. Corporate motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and occasional author. When I can motivate myself to write, that is.” He laughed at his own joke. “So . . . you heading to the Windy City for business or pleasure?”

   Yep. Steve in the lime-green shirt was going to be a Talker.

   Not that sitting next to a chatty passenger was uncommon for John. He accepted the fact that in his line of work, it was an occupational hazard. Occasionally, someone would notice the FBI badge clipped to his pants—specifically placed there in case someone also happened to notice the Glock 22 on his right hip, under his suit jacket—and that inevitably led to a few questions.

   FBI? Cool! Are you watching someone on this plane? Is it the guy in 10C? It’s totally the guy in 10C, isn’t it? He got snippy when the flight attendant tried to help him with his carry-on. You saw that, right? Ooh, do you think he has drugs in there? Or something worse? Oh my God, it’s not a bomb, is it? Whew. So, an FBI agent . . . what’s that like?

   But tonight, having just completed a rough eight-month undercover investigation, John was hoping to have a few quiet minutes to unwind before the plane landed in Chicago.

   And also to start thinking about how he was going to get things back on track with his girlfriend, Alicia.

   “I live in Chicago,” he answered Steve. He took earbuds out of his briefcase and plugged them into the armrest, then smiled apologetically. “I’m a bit of a nervous flier. It helps if I listen to air traffic control.” The lie rolled easily off his tongue—as an undercover agent, he was well practiced in the art of bullshit.

   “You know what else helps for that?” Steve grinned. “Vodka. Lots of it.” Moving on to another target, he turned his head and eyed the woman seated on the other side of him. She had her e-reader in hand and gave him an unmistakable Don’t even think about it, buddy look.

   Steve sighed resignedly and pulled out his laptop.

   The Talker now successfully contained, John turned toward the window and watched as the bright lights of Detroit faded in the distance. With any luck, it would be the last time he would see this city for a long time—hopefully not until he had to testify in court about his investigation. Not that he had anything against Detroit. In fact, for three years he’d called it home, having been assigned to work in the Detroit field office after graduating from the FBI Academy at Quantico.

   Joining the Bureau hadn’t been part of John’s original career plan. Actually, for a while, he hadn’t had much of a career plan. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he’d joined the Army—both to help pay off his student loans and to buy some time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

   As it turned out, that had been the best decision he could’ve made.

   Army life had suited him. He’d always been an athletic guy, and he’d done well with the physical challenges of being an enlisted soldier. But being in the Army also required mental toughness, determination, and discipline. So he’d pushed himself, more than he ever had, and after Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, he’d gone on to Airborne School and then had volunteered for the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

   Eight weeks later, he’d proudly joined the elite ranks of the 75th Ranger Regiment. And it was at Fort Benning, where his battalion had been stationed, that he’d first been approached by Sean Piser, an operator and recruiter for the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.

   “We’re federal law enforcement’s only full-time counterterrorism unit,” Piser had told him when they’d met at a pub on base. “HRT has the ability to respond within four hours’ notice to hostage situations, major criminal threats, and terrorist incidents anywhere in the U.S. Our motto, servare vitas, means ‘to save lives’—and that’s exactly what we do. We’re badasses that way.”

   As John sat dressed in his ACUs across a bar table from the recruiter, his answer, admittedly, had been cocky. “With all due respect, sir, I’m a Ranger. If I wanted to put ‘badass’ on my résumé, I think I’m set.”

   Piser had cocked his head at that. “I hear you’re considering a career in law enforcement after you finish your tour this summer.” Now it was his turn to sound cocky. “We’re the FBI, Shepherd. You want to catch bad guys for a living? We’re pretty much the cream of the fucking crop. So you might want to listen to what I have to say.”

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