Excerpt: 'Frozen Fire' by Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson

She looked down and made her lips twitch as though they were concealing laughter, then looked him in the eyes as she let loose a smile that left him a bit dazzled, as intended.

"But you will allow it, Captain, despite its unorthodoxy, won't you?" she said softly. "This is a high-priority mission and one that will be over quickly. I've tried to make it clear that we have to place this equipment this morning."

He let a silent moment slide by, then folded his arms across his broad, uniformed chest, all the while maintaining eye contact. "I'm not certain you understand the risks, Ms. Crenshaw. They're substantial."

"Oh, I understand them, captain. I also understand, to a degree that you can't, that the risk faced by not executing this mission is one that will be felt by everyone connected with Taino. I thought I'd made it clear that the placement and purpose of this equipment is top secret, and that's why I have to do the dive alone and without you tracking my movements." She let her voice fumble, stopping short of overdoing the emotion. "The accountability for undertaking this mission is mine and mine alone, captain, and I willingly accept that."

"Ms. Crenshaw--"

"Captain Broadhurst--Simon--please don't make me get all official on you," she said, interrupting him with a near-whisper. "Darlin', this little dive of mine is a national security issue and your failure to assist me with it would be a grave violation of the oath you took when you became an officer of the Taino Security Force. As a senior official, I wouldn't be able to overlook something like that." She paused and gave him a sad smile. "You really only have two options, Simon. You can help me execute this mission, or you can refuse to help."

Her quiet words hung in the air, as did the words she didn't have to say. Under Taino's laws, if he didn't help her, she could relieve him of his command and have him secured to his quarters. Then she'd carry out the mission anyway.

Clearly displeased at having his options so neatly delineated, however softly Micki might have done it, the captain gave clipped orders to his crew, his now-cool gaze never leaving Micki's face. She acknowledged his surrender with a nod that held a convincing hint of feminine contrition, but inside triumph reigned. Then she turned her attention to the approaching crew member who would help her into the one-atmosphere diving tube. She was going down. That's all that mattered now.

In one easy movement, she pulled off the wind pants she wore over her swimming suit, then slid the matching anorak over her head. She reveled for a moment in the cool breeze that brushed her bare flesh. Pretending not to notice the surreptitious looks Simon and the small, all-male crew were giving her almost-naked body, Micki began to tug on the black and yellow wet suit she'd brought along.

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