The plane’s engines roared as they fought to negate the velocity that the aircraft had had in the air, pushing Jacquelyn Shivers into her rear-facing seat with the force of at least twice her weight. The sharp pulse of the wheel brakes only added to the discomfort, but Jac’s mind was at least momentarily distracted from the problem at hand. However, as the weight eased and the plane swung off the runway, the saleswoman’s mind returned to the cryptic message left on her voice mail the night before.
“Your packages are ready for delivery. Meet me, flight 208. Julia.”
Only trouble was: flight 208 was outbound, not inbound. And headed for El Paso, a city some 300 miles away from Santa Fe, where Julia Tammaz was supposed to be. Also, it was the tone that had gotten to Jac; it had been tense, worried. Julia was never tense. Even when she was tracking the most dangerous prey, humanity, through the ethers of cyberspace, she never got tense. But the message had obviously been urgent. And for what reason, Jac could not guess.
The deplaning at El Paso did not reassure the woman. Security restrictions meant that the waiting area was deserted, except for the two-dozen-plus people waiting to board the aircraft for its next destination of Phoenix. A walk down a quiet hallway, past a number of TSA officials and into the main concourse did nothing to quiet her nerves, nor did the familiar sight of her friend. Something must have gone wrong. Very, very wrong. Julia looked as though she were about to snap with the strain.
“Jacquelyn,” her friend greeted her, but the cool calmness that had characterized her ever since Jac had first met Julia was missing. Dark circles under her lovely gray eyes testified to at least one sleepless night. The taking of Jac’s arm to hustle her out to the curb was also unusual; Julia rarely touched anyone if she could avoid it. A cabbie was given the name of a hotel, and he decanted them into uptown El Paso without saying much of anything.
Once inside the room, Julia opened her coat and removed a folded dossier from her inside pocket. Handing it to Jac, she sat down on the bed, waiting for Jac’s reaction.
The dossier was of Todd Alverson, Jac’s lover.
“What’s with Todd?” asked Jac.
“He’s one half of the breach,” replied Julia, fatigue slurring her words. “I think he may be an unknowing pawn, but we’ll soon find out. If he is, he’ll be calling you. If not, he’ll be on a plane, to who knows where.”
“Why would he do that?”
The story came out, narrated by Julia’s husky voice that always caused little shivers to dance along Jac’s spine. A remote penetration had been unsuccessful, so Julia had arrived in Albuquerque and had driven the 60 or so miles to the Santa Fe research lab. There she had met with the IT security chief, and had reviewed the system logs with an eye toward the unusual. And she had found it: a logon into the secured mainframe by Todd Alverson.
Further research on Alverson’s background turned up a bank account in his name with several very large cash deposits made in recent weeks. The payments coincided with several possible leaks and at least one confirmed breach. And Alverson, who was a senior sales manager and not a R&D insider, had an account in the secured mainframe with a top-level clearance. Julia had altered two of the product codes with which he was most closely associated to read “you’re busted.” Now she could only wait for the response.
However, the other half of the breach was a senior IT security official. Not the chief. But not too far off. And Julia had found herself in a situation that she had not liked at all. After the second anonymous call threatening her with serious reprisals, she had cut and run. A police report from her hotel suggested that her room had been vandalized not long after she had cut out of Santa Fe. El Paso, with its proximity to the international border and its airport had seemed like a golden location to run to.
“So,” finished Julia, now sprawled on her back on the bed, “we see whether or not Todd knew the score. If he did, he’s going to split, and it’ll take a major court battle to get anything out of him. If not, he’s going to be calling you to find out what the hell is going on.”
As if on cue, Jac’s cell phone rang. Jac set the receiver to speaker phone and answered. Todd’s unmistakable voice blasted out of the receiver from a thousand miles away.
“Is this some sort of joke?”
“What are you talking about, Todd?” This from Jac.
“I’m talking about the changes to Icon and Strafer, that’s what! Whaddya mean, ‘I’m busted’?”
Julia broke into the conversation, all tension having left her body at the man’s furious, and obviously unfaked response. She explained the matter in as succinct a manner as possible. Todd paused for only a few seconds when Julia finished.
“Where are you?”
“El Paso Fairfield Inn West Side. Room 217.”
“I am on my way to you. DO NOT make a move until I get there.” The phone banged down on the far end, and Jac’s phone beeped a lost connection.
Todd’s arrival an hour and a half later did much to reassure the women. He swept them both into a huge hug, assuring them that they were forgiven and that all was fine. Then the three agile minds bent toward the real challenge: finding the guilty party before someone, namely Julia, got hurt. And through some process, Julia was never able to find out how it worked, she found herself headed northward again on I-25 en route to Santa Fe the next evening, rested and refreshed by an eight-hour nap…and the memory of something wonderful that was captured in her mind.
Todd had taken the precaution of renting room 219, which shared a connecting door with Julia’s. As the scarred systems analyst had by that time logged 39 hours without sleep, Todd all but bullied her into bed, stripping her to her underthings with a calm detachment that robbed her of outrage. He then made up the sofa bed for Jacquelyn and disappeared through the connecting door after ensuring that the external doors were bolted and chained.
Julia slept for about two hours, before being aroused by that sixth sense of the preternatural hunter. After a moment, she registered two things as being wrong: first, there was no sound of breathing in the sofa bed and a quick glimpse revealed that it was empty. Second, a medley of soft sounds from next door caught her ear. Arising silently from her bed, and not bothering to reclaim her clothing that was crumpled on the floor, she crept to the open connecting door amid the semi-gloom of the two rooms.
The sight that caught her eyes was, to her mind, a scene from a dream. Jacquelyn’s dark hair cascaded across her naked breasts, allowing only the hardened nipples to peek through the shining strands, as an equally naked Todd knelt before her, lapping and suckling at the taut tip. The scent of Jac’s arousal drifted to the silent watcher, as Jac began to moan softly.
The dew of longing was gathering inside Julia’s panties as well, and her nipples hardened at the sight of her best friend being lovingly assaulted. The silken fabric of her intimate apparel pressed a teasing counterpoint to the titillated flesh it covered. Unconsciously, Julia’s left hand crept up to toy with her breast as she watched Todd lap Jac’s peak. Her right hand pressed gently to her warming mound, feeling the growing dampness.
Todd scooped Jac up into his arms and laid her on the bed, revealing her body to the hungry eyes of the silent voyeur. Then his hands spread Jac’s legs, and his mouth descended upon Jac’s secret button, causing her to arch her back and moan again with the pleasure. Julia’s fingers now slid underneath the silken drawers to find her own nubbin and a treasure trove of liquid wealth.
As Todd’s mouth drove her friend into the heights of orgasm, Julia’s fingers did the same, pulling and tugging lightly on her clitoris as she alternated with a circular rubbing. And as Jac’s body arched with her climax,
so did Julia’s, causing the masturbator to sag against the doorframe
for support as wave after wave of pleasure wracked her plump body.
Her eyesight cleared and her strength returned just in time to see Todd mount Jac, plunging his iron-hard rod deep into the same box he had just pleasured with his lips and tongue. And Julia, emulating the thrust as best she could with her hand into her welcoming hole, nearly swooned with the sensation. She lasted far less time than did Todd, bringing herself to orgasm after orgasm as she watched the tender assault of her best friend’s lover upon the more than willing body of her best friend.
And as the pounding rhythm quickened to a fever pitch and Jac threw her head back in glorious anticipation of Todd’s explosion in her body, Julia caught that moment in time and locked it away in her memory, as a dragonfly might be preserved in amber. The incredible, touching, tender and yet flagrant assault of love and sex and her best friend all wrapped up in a single snapshot.
Another six hours of sleep did nothing to erase that image, nor would a thousand years efface the glow that Julia had seen for just a moment: the briefest instant when the hotel room had melted into the fields of gold and she knew that her friend now shared that wonderful place…