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Her Protector


by


Annabel Joseph




Copyright 2017 Annabel Joseph/Scarlet Rose Press

Smashwords Edition




License Notes


This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


All characters depicted in this work of fiction are 18 years of age or older.


* * * * *



Contents


Chapter One: 7pm


Chapter Two: 10pm


Chapter Three: 12am


Chapter Four: 11am


Chapter Five: 8pm


Chapter Six: 3pm


Chapter Seven: Four Days Later


Melt for protective types?


About the Author





Chapter One: 7pm


Rowan Park tossed her black hair, then looked at her black-polished fingertips in disdain. The hacker in black was such a stereotype, and she was a white hat, a good guy. She couldn’t do much with her hair since she’d been born with it—aside from adding a few indigo stripes to her long, feathered bangs. But she’d choose a brighter nail color the next time she went to her salon. That, or she’d ask for some rhinestones or moons to break up the black.

At least her clothes weren’t black. She’d dressed up today, since she was having drinks with friends later. She definitely hadn’t dressed to impress because of the hot custodian who chatted with her every day when he came to empty her trash can.

Okay. Yes, she had.

She waited for his visits, which weren’t really visits, just forays into her office space to do his job. Some days he stayed to vacuum, a real thrill because of his ridiculous arms. She was into hands and arms, and strength. And, well, being spanked, which went with all of it. She wondered if he’d ever spanked any of his girlfriends. He wasn’t married—she’d checked on the first day for a ring.

She shook her head and looked back at her computer screen. She needed to stop fantasizing and focus. National security was at stake, and if she’d worn this particularly flirty pale blue dress and matching cropped sweater to impress Chad, as well as her friends, well, who cared? If she’d been thinking about his opinion when she pulled on her best leather boots, it didn’t matter, because she was having drinks after work with Blake and Serena, not Chad.

Chad. What a perfect fucking name for a hunky custodian.

She looked back at her computer screen, scanning the latest hack attempt via a server in Indonesia. Each hacker had a recognizable style, a signature that gave them away. When hackers breached systems with criminal intent, they were called “crackers.” When the target was government secrets, well, that was where she stepped in.

“Why, hello there, Team Cicada,” she murmured, picking up a stylus to isolate and enlarge the lines of code in the breach alert. “Are you alone? Having your way with the Pentagon networks? Not anymore.”

She recognized her adversaries by now, knew their style of attack and their most-used strategies. Team Cicada worked for North Korea, and while they were great at hacking into systems, they were awful at covering their tracks, even more awful than the Russians, who were notoriously terrible.

She leaned forward, tapping the stylus on her desk, then on her keyboard’s left-arrow key, so the cursor blinked across the low-glare screen. She scanned through lines of Korean computer language—backwards, so she wouldn’t miss anything—and returned to a troubling line of code. “What are you looking for?” She tsked. “Nope. You can’t have that information, my friends.”

She added a few neutral characters, scrolled down, and added a few more for good measure. That would keep him and his team busy for a while, and when they found the errors, she hoped they would understand the message she’d left. You suck.

Rowan sighed with satisfaction, leaned back, and cast a glance around her “Technical Assistance C” workspace, a non-descript hangar at a small airport on the outskirts of Portland. The people who worked for this division had long since shortened the name to “Tech-C.” The “C” stood for Classified, but that was classified, so no one here understood the nature of each other’s jobs, or what they might be monitoring from month to month.

Secrecy and security were paramount. It wasn’t unusual to come in to work and learn that the office was moving across the country for some classified reason. Since she’d been hired, she’d worked at a high-rise office in Florida, then a strip-mall sublet in upstate New York.

This empty hangar echoed, even after the addition of sound-dampening walls and cubicles. The ceiling rose far above their offices, shielded by radar-defeating lead panels and fluffy insulation. Within these hallowed halls, the nation’s best hackers were paid ungodly amounts of money to protect the government’s most vulnerable secrets, from agent identities to economic and military servers to active nuclear codes.

Of course, not everyone here was a techno geek. A quiver passed through her as she heard Chad move into her office.


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