Sorry for my radio-silence: I’ve been deep in the writing cave! Here’s another excerpt from Covert Assignment. Next week, I’ll have some exciting news about Covert Interview, the sequel!
Elle never thought about what he did in the evenings. He didn’t live there, so he wasn’t going home. “This must be a dull place to be on assignment.”
Preston shrugged. “I keep myself entertained.”
She couldn’t help but smile. She bet he did. “Something tells me you’re good at keeping yourself entertained.”
He smiled back. “I’ve had a lot of practice, but if you want to assist me in that regard, you have an open invitation.”
Just like that, he had her blushing like a silly schoolgirl. “How do you do that to me?” she asked, laughing.
Preston’s innocent look was classic. “Do what?”
She focused on the menu to give her heart rate time to drop back into a normal range. After they placed their orders, Preston asked, “So have you made a decision about grad school?”
Elle sighed. She hadn’t spoken to her father again- nothing unusual about that- but the news of her acceptance forced her to realize she had some choices to make. “My father called in some favors with a contact there,” she said. “He’s an alum.”
Preston shrugged. “Happens all the time.”
Elle nodded. “It kind of limits my options,” she said.
He gave her a questioning look, so she tried to explain. “He’s called in favors. If I don’t go, it’ll make him look bad.”
“Did you ask your father to call in favors?” Preston asked.
“No! That’s what’s so frustrating. I have the grades and the test scores. I didn’t need any strings pulled.” Elle didn’t bother to mask her annoyance.
The server brought around a basket of bread and olive oil, which both of them reached for at the same time, causing their fingers to touch. Elle wondered if Preston really was magnetic: his touch certainly caused sparks.
“Options that are of no interest to you,” Preston said as he dipped his bread in some olive oil, “aren’t really options. They’re just distractions.”
Elle felt almost transfixed as she watched his gleaming teeth tear into the soaked bread slice. She needed to focus on the conversation at hand. “True,” she admitted, letting the olive oil soak into her bread before taking a bite. “But I might want the option to start a business.”
“You don’t need a law degree or MBA to start a business,” he pointed out. Did he have to raise his eyes to meet her gaze? Had he been focused on her mouth? She didn’t think she was seeing things…“You can learn what you need to know,” he finished.
Elle had thought about that. She’d heard of plenty of entrepreneurs who didn’t have advanced- or even college- degrees. Her Careers class made it abundantly clear that her skills were in high demand, whether she wanted to work for someone or open her own consulting firm. She genuinely enjoyed working on her thesis, while neither practicing law nor working in corporate America held any appeal. Could her father accept that?
“It’s just…” she finally sighed. “I’ve been committed to this plan for so long, and now my father’s gone and called in favors…”
Preston studied her for a moment as the server brought their dishes. “Remember how I told you I planned to join the Agency when I was a kid, watching my father?”
Elle nodded, cutting into her eggplant parmigiana.
“In high school, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do what my old man did. Maybe it was time to do my own thing, you know.” Preston sipped some of his drink. “So I enlisted in the Navy.”
Elle stared at him in shock.
Preston shrugged. “I’d always liked the water, but being on a ship got old pretty fast. Luckily you can take college courses on ships,” he laughed. “Then I decided to really challenge myself, so I went to BUD/S.”
All that earned was a quizzical look from Elle.
“Basic Underwater Demolition training,” Preston elaborated. “To become a Navy SEAL.”
Elle’s mouth literally dropped open. Could this guy get any hotter?
“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done, earning my trident,” Preston said, “but it was something my Dad had never done. Did a few tours and then joined the agency, like I planned. I had to do my own thing, my own way.”
Elle considered this. “But ultimately you stayed committed to your plan.”
“Because,” he said, holding her eyes with one of his intense gazes, “I realized it was what I wanted to do. Not because it was the plan.”
Elle focused on her breathing to avoid choking or doing something else to embarrass herself in front of him. When he got intense it could be hard to think. But she bet Preston always had a room at his parents’ house, no matter what happened. If she tried something and it didn’t work out, she had nothing to fall back on. Except her informatics skills, a tiny voice reminded her.
“I like doing informatics,” she told Preston. “And working for the- the agency would be pretty… different.”
“Actually, it would be a lot like what you’re doing now,” He said. “You’ll just be doing more of it on different projects.” They both ate in silence for a few minutes. “It’s all about finding a good match: with the understanding that nothing is perfect, of course.”
Elle had to remind herself he was talking about career options.