Home > Alpha (The Alpha Elite #1)

Alpha (The Alpha Elite #1)
Author: Sybil Bartel



Two months ago


My attention already shot, the vibration against my leg was only an excuse. Discreetly reaching into my pants pocket, I slid out my cell and read the text.

Calling in ten seconds. Answer.

I glanced at my friend and employee, Zane “Zulu” Silas, and tipped my chin toward the door.

Speaking to three executives from a Fortune 100 company that was having supply issues with one of their manufacturing facilities because it was in a hot zone, Zulu didn’t falter in his assurance that we could eliminate their problem as he nodded at me.

“Gentlemen, if you’ll please excuse me, an urgent matter has come up.” I stood. “Mr. Silas will be able to answer any of your questions and give you a schedule of our fees. Thank you for reaching out to Alpha Elite Security. We look forward to your business.”

My cell already buzzing with an incoming call, I walked out of the conference room on the forty-seventh floor of AES’s Manhattan headquarters.

Striding into my corner office, I shut the glass door and answered the call. “What’s up?”

“I’m your best fucking friend is what’s up,” Vance Conlon, my first hire, boasted.

My best friend was dead. “Because?” I demanded.

“Because I’m having fun with your newly updated proprietary face-recognition software.”

Staring at a skyline I hated, I didn’t bite.

“You going to ask how much fun?” he taunted.

“No.” He’d tell me. Vance never called unless he had something to say. “And it’s not proprietary. We’re testing it for the military, and you’re not supposed to have access to it yet.”

“Okay, Alpha, you win, I give.” Vance chuckled. “I found her. Twenty-five minutes ago, she walked out of JFK and got in a cab. And for the record, I don’t give a shit whose software it is. If you didn’t want me using it, you shouldn’t have put it on the servers.”

The air kicked out of my chest, and I leaned against my desk for support. “What else?”

“Right, you knew I wouldn’t stop there.” I could practically hear him gloat before his tone turned all business. “Anyway, speaking of software, I hacked the cab company and tracked her. The driver has his GPS set for a small grocery mart near her co-op. If you leave the office now, you can get there before she’s done shopping for cheap white wine—Californian at least—dark chocolate, and mild salsa. Which if you ask me, the latter is sacrilegious and the first is just in poor taste.”

“Do I want to know how you know her shopping list?”

“Do you want to know how I know you’re leaning against your desk looking like you’ve just had your ass kicked?” he countered.

Goddamn it. Glancing up, I scanned the bookshelf in front of me. “I’m sweeping my office after we hang up.”

“Yes, do that,” he replied absently as he typed on his computer from wherever the hell he was today. “Check the lobby and the conference room while you’re at it. Let me know what you find.”

“I’m going to regret introducing you to November, aren’t I?” Nathan “November” Rhys was the best cybersecurity specialist I knew. The Air Force’s loss was my gain when he went civilian.

“No, but you’re going to regret not grabbing a car in the next three minutes if you want to stalk that market and see her.”

I didn’t comment. Vance knew the drill. I didn’t see her, ever.

I looked out for her, kept tabs on her travel, and occasionally checked her bank account balance to make sure she didn’t need anything—but I purposely never crossed paths with her.

Vance gave me an exaggerated sigh. “Right. No contact. And why is that exactly?” The question rhetorical, he didn’t wait for an answer. “Oh, that’s right, because you have no balls.”

I stared out at skyscrapers and miles of grayness. I didn’t want to admit my control was slipping. It’d been years. Her life was different. Mine was… fuck, really different.

Except it wasn’t.

I was still flying in jets, chasing down bad guys and collecting a paycheck for people shooting at me. I just wasn’t doing it for the Navy as a SEAL anymore. Regardless, Vance had a point. Time had passed, and seven years of hard-practiced resolve was wearing me down.

“Tell you what,” Vance continued, “I’m going to read into your silence, and….” He trailed off as he typed. “There. A service not affiliated with AES just had a drop-off at your location. The driver’s swinging around, and he’ll be downstairs in thirty seconds. Since this isn’t one of our own, no one will be the wiser. Go lurk in the shadows. You’re good at that. Or walk the fuck up to her. I don’t care, just lay eyes on her. For all we know, it’ll be three weeks again before I spot her, and maybe seeing her will change your attitude.”

I didn’t say no. I hesitated.

Then I was walking.

The phone still to my ear, my feet moving, I hit the call button for the elevator before I could tell myself everything I’d built wasn’t for her or the opportunity of this moment. “I don’t have an attitude.”

“Yes, you do.” Vance chuckled as the doors opened immediately. “You have an attitude that says you haven’t been laid this side of the decade. Also, you’re welcome for the waiting lift.”

Christ. “Did you hack the building’s security for this or call in a favor with the guys in the command room?”

“Unlike sailors, a Marine never tells.”

Ignoring his Navy versus Marines jab, I stepped into the elevator that I normally would’ve had to wait for. “This is a mistake.”

Vance’s usual casual tone turned somber. “We’ve all made mistakes. Walking into a grocery store in Manhattan doesn’t come close to making the list, but regret does. Go see this woman, Trefor. It’s time.” He hung up.

Adrenaline filled my veins like a fix. A fix I only got from two things in life. But it’d been years since my last HALO on the Teams, and even longer since I’d seen her. Two addictions, and neither one curable.

I’d left the Teams, but I’d never left her.

Impatient, I watched the last few floors tick down on the display, and a moment later the doors slid open to the busy lobby. Stalking across the polished floors and out the revolving doors, I made my way to a black Town Car double-parked in front of the building.

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