“Someone out there chose the wrong person to start this fight with, and it will have been the last mistake they ever made.”
It has been two months since the mission to Dakiti that brought Ziva Payvan and her special operations team face-to-face with death. But like any other mission, she has put it behind her and keeps her focus directed toward whatever comes next. Life for HSP’s Alpha spec ops team has essentially returned to normal.
But then a Haphezian dignitary is found murdered in his private residence, and Ziva is shocked to find herself at the center of the investigation. The mark of a professional killer. The irrefutable evidence. Even the motive. All of it seems to point directly to her. There’s just one problem: she didn’t do it.
Hunted by a ruthless HSP captain, Ziva must go on the run from the very people who taught her everything she knows. The agency that once had her back is now her biggest threat; those she considered allies have turned against her or have their hands tied. As a skilled assassin who has been trained to be invisible, evading her pursuers seems like an easy task, but her own skills can only take her so far. Desperate to clear her name and find the real killer, Ziva turns to an old acquaintance, a man who saved her life once…and the last person she ever expected to ask for help.
The frame-up. Hundreds of questions. Two strangers who may hold the answers. One small town. What is the connection?
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An Excerpt from Nexus…
The craft ricocheted off of an enormous tree branch, throwing her into the back seat. They were descending head first at one moment, but the next collision with a tree flipped the aircar onto its side and propelled it off in a new direction. Before Ziva knew it, they were upside down – her head snapped back as she hit the car’s ceiling. Indicator lights sparkled throughout the vehicle and emergency alarms wailed as branches tore at the exterior and ripped through the windshield. Dizzy and disoriented, Ziva braced her arms and legs against the wall just as the craft finally met the ground.
Upon impact, her body bounced against the ceiling with a dull thump. She lay there for several long seconds with her head pounding, listening to the gentle creaking in the car’s frame and the alarms that had all morphed into a single multi-toned screech. She blinked several times as her vision began to right itself and wiped away a trickle of blood that was oozing toward her eye. Her neck ached as she twisted her head to look out the window, but she found that it was so cracked and plastered with mud that her view of anything outside was completely obscured.
Coughing, Ziva worked her body around to face the front of the battered craft. She could feel more blood seeping into her hair thanks to a cut somewhere on her scalp, and a pounding ache rendered her left shoulder and elbow numb. In the grand scheme of things, she remained relatively unscathed, and after testing the mobility of her legs, she was reasonably sure she could walk or even run. By the looks of it, however, the other two passengers hadn’t been so lucky. She wormed her way between the two front seats to get a better look.
The pilot was crumpled against the ground, his full body weight bearing down on a neck that was quite obviously broken. Ziva checked for a pulse anyway, and, finding none, turned her attention to Spence. The other agent was in a similar position, though further on his side. He stared out through the open space where the windshield had been, eyes frantic, taking in raspy breaths through the bloody saliva that filled his mouth. His chest was stained a dark crimson where a long shard of glass had embedded itself in his flesh.
She eased herself back into the back seat, this time facing the opposite direction, and began to deliver powerful kicks to one of the windows. Pain pulsed through her ankle as her foot broke through, separating the entire pane of reinforced glass from the frame of the car. Cool, clean air rushed in and Ziva gladly accepted it, allowing herself the luxury of a couple deep breaths before wriggling out into the leaves and mud.
It was no longer raining, but a damp mist rose from the drenched earth and underbrush. She couldn’t see anyone around, but she could hear the occasional vehicle pass by on the service road a short distance away. The crash had carried them far enough that they were safely out of sight of anyone traveling by, but she doubted it would take long for someone to come looking for them. A good chunk of their fifteen minutes had already been spent, and who knew what sort of distress signal could have been automatically sent out during the crash.
Ziva worked her way to her feet and staggered around to the front of the aircar, forcing her sore ankle to bear her body weight. She knelt down and examined the windshield. It was almost entirely broken out, and she could see Spence inside; he appeared to be watching her, but his eyes were out of focus.
“Hang in there,” she said, wondering if he was even coherent enough to hear her. She got down on her stomach and crawled under the nose of the craft that jutted out over the windshield frame, clearing as much of the broken glass out of the way as possible. Her head and shoulders entered the vehicle, and she pulled her arms along until they were in front of her.
She gritted her teeth against the pain in her shoulder as she reached in and slid her hands under Spence’s arms. Digging into the mud with her knees and feet, she began to tug him out centimeter by centimeter. He squeezed his eyes shut and assisted her by pushing against the seat with his legs.
Once the upper half of his body had cleared the window, Ziva slid out from under the nose and regained her footing, then pulled Spence the rest of the way out from a standing position. She dragged him across the ground and propped him up against a nearby tree where she took a moment to survey his wounds. The shard of glass had by far caused the most damage, but it appeared he would remain stable at least until someone found him.
He stared up at her, struggling to focus, and clutched at his chest with an unsteady hand. He closed his other one around her forearm. “Y-y-you…”
Ziva pried his hand off and placed it firmly in his lap. “Hold on, agent,” she said, rising. “Just hold on, and know that I didn’t do whatever they said I did.”
She paused for a moment and listened as a flood of garbled transmissions came through on the aircar’s damaged comm system. Someone somewhere had no doubt seen the craft go down and reported it, or worse yet, they’d been picked up on HSP’s scanners and a squad of agents was already closing in.
Taking one last look around, Ziva stooped down and gathered up Spence’s pistol and communicator. She tucked the gun into her pants at the small of her back and jogged over to the bushes on the edge of the service road, chucking the comm unit into the back of a shipping rig that rattled by. Hoping the mobile comm signal might distract the agency for at least a few minutes, she moved back into the trees took off as fast as she could back in the direction of Noro.