Rebel Heart - Ellie Lynn - ebook
Opis

Melissa Simmons—Lissa to her friends—is a young woman with many talents. A former field engineer with the Canadian Armed Forces, demolitions is just one of her military skills. When her childhood friend Fernando asks for Lissa's help, she doesn’t think twice, but hops a plane to his tiny island country.Alexander Demitrius is the reigning prince of a once influential Mediterranean island paradise. Warring rebels, headed by Fernando, have torn the prince's world apart. Alex is strong-willed, a powerful and charismatic leader with no intentions of allowing rebels to usurp his rule. He dreams of a unified island and being taken seriously by the world. When he meets what appears to be a guileless female tourist—the intrepid Melissa—his thoughts of warring are interrupted by dreams of her seduction. Alex is no stranger to the game of love, but meets his match in this evasive young woman.When a serious illness almost takes her life, Prince Alexander must decide which is more important: love or war.

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Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Writing As Jennifer Lynn

Dedication

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Epilogue

About Ellie

 

 

 

 

 

Rebel Heart

 

 

By

 

 

Ellie Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLIMAX, SK

CANADA

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

 

Copyright 2002 by Ellie Lynn

December 2016

Second Edition

Previously Published as Rebel Road

Cover Art by Ellie Smith

Produced in Canada

 

 

 

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold 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, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to a retailer of your choice and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Writing As Jennifer Lynn

 

Harper’s Treasure

Signed, Sealed & Delivered

Getting Over It

Melting Miss McCool

New Prints In Old Calico

 

 

Dedication

 

To Karen, who kept the faith, even when I couldn’t.

And to Penelope, whose enthusiasm and support kept prodding me forward.

 

 

One

 

“Do you have any idea the kind of trouble you can get into over there? It isn’t safe Lissa.”

“Mom, Nando is my best friend.” The brunette scooped some under things from a bureau drawer and dropped them into her well-traveled suitcase. “He’s looked out for me since we were kids. It’s my turn to return the favor.”

Anne wrung her thin fingers and followed Lissa around the bedroom. “If he was your friend, he wouldn’t ask you to do something that could get you killed.”

“He didn’t ask, Mom. I offered.”

“Well he certainly didn’t have to take you up on it,” she snapped. “For heaven’s sake, Melissa, you’re a girl!”

Lissa paused and tucked a curl behind her ear. She pursed her lips and gave one of her ‘I can’t believe you said that’ looks. “I was a girl when I was in army cadets Mom. I was a girl when I joined the Army Reserve, and I was a girl when I went to Bosnia to clear mines. Being a girl has nothing to do with it. I’m good mom, real good.”

She continued packing her suitcase. “And besides, with Ferdinand out of commission right now, they need all the help they can get.”

“It isn’t right Lissa. You shouldn’t traipse off to join some guerrilla movement on the other side of the world! You might as well fly to the moon for as far away as you’re going.”

“Geez, Mom. You make it sound like I’m running away to join the IRA, or some al-Qaida group or something.” She shut her travel case and hurried through the house toward the waiting taxi. “It’s a government-sanctioned military unit. And it’s not like it’s another planet, just a little outside of Spain.”

Lissa stopped and gave her mother a hug. “I have to help Mom. If nobody gets involved, that poor little country is going to be overrun by that big Goliath bastard. I can’t turn a blind eye when I can do something. And I can do something, Mom.”

She spoke with such conviction that Anne Simmons knew there was no sense arguing. Melissa was too much her father’s daughter—willful, stubborn and totally committed to her cause. She pitied the Kefilos army. They had no idea of the force that was about to be unleashed on their island.

She put a hand to her throat and waved goodbye to her only child.

~ * ~

Four hours! What the hell was she going to do at an airport for four hours? And not just any airport, but Paris’ international airport. Her French was pretty crappy, but maybe… just maybe she’d find someone who spoke enough English at De-Gaulle to help her order a damn drink while she waited for her connecting flight.

She dragged her carry-on bag through the small lounge and found an unoccupied corner. Her back to the wall, she sat with a huff and quickly surveyed the other patrons.

Except for a couple of martini-sipping businessmen at the bar, the only other customer was a casually dressed man in the opposite corner, totally engrossed in reading whatever it was he was reading. It looked like she might be on her own for that drink.

Lissa glanced at her watch. Apparently she’d effectively killed nearly an hour. Only three more to go. She fished around inside her bag for her latest novel, a Stephanie Plum romp guaranteed to tickle her ribs a time or two.

“Quel voudrez `a boisson? Mademoiselle?”

She looked up and felt like a deer caught in glaring headlights. A flush crept into her cheeks as her eyes grew rounder. “Umm… Oh. Yeah…”

The bartender waited expectantly.

Lissa puffed out her cheeks and slowly blew the air out. “Umm… I’m supposing you just asked me what I’d like?”

He gave her a look of bored incomprehension and glanced around at the other patrons for assistance. “What I would really like is a glass of white wine. Please tell me you parlez English?”

~ * ~

Alex shook his head and toyed with his drink. His brow wrinkled with contemptuous thoughts of tourists who didn’t bother to learn the local language. What was the point of visiting if you couldn’t experience the whole package?

She was pretty though. He watched her push her hand through her thick brown hair, letting it fall to her shoulders in soft shiny waves. He debated offering his assistance; that whole damsel in distress thing, but quickly changed his mind. She should have taken the time to learn the language.

His gaze left the attractive brunette and returned to the classified file in front of him. He thumbed through the sheets with a discerning eye, looking at the reports from various missions. They were making progress, taking more ground every day. In no time at all, his country would control Camino Del Rey.

In the meantime, the trick was to keep the Reyans from killing themselves. Their lack of military knowledge was astounding to a man who grew up with army in his veins and practically bled khaki green. If they’d instituted some sort of formal armed forces training like his father, and his father’s father had, instead of running around like a rag-tag bunch of farmers with pitchforks, they might have a chance.

He grinned at the absurdity of the notion. Not much of one, but a chance nonetheless. At the very least, they’d know how to take the safety off their weapons and actually shoot something besides their own feet.

“No, no, no! That’s not what I want.”

His attention was drawn to the tourist, who was still trying to get a glass of wine and not the glass of water placed in front of her. His lips twitched with humor as he caught the bartender’s eye. He gave him a wink, knowing full well that the bartender was amusing himself at his customer’s expense; Ramone spoke flawless English.

Alex motioned to the bartender, and ordered a glass of white wine for the sulking tourist and another bourbon for himself. He picked up his empty tumbler and twirled the melting ice. His eyes went to the brunette.

Yes, she was pretty. Her blue eyes shone bright against the paleness of her skin. He followed the line of shapely leg to where it disappeared under her lilac-colored mini-skirt. Very petite and feminine; just the way he liked his women.

Ramone approached Lissa’s table with a glass of wine. She looked up from her novel in surprise. He pointed to Alex, and she turned with a dazzling smile, inclining her head in a small gesture of thanks.

An easy smile played at the corners of his mouth. With several hours to kill before his connecting flight, he considered an intimate encounter to pass the time. She was certainly attractive enough, and it had been some time since he’d been able to enjoy a woman’s company. He stood up and shuffled his papers into a brown leather portfolio, smiling with satisfaction over the light blush that spread across the young lady’s features.

~ * ~

“May I join you, damoiselle?” His voice was suave, sexy and totally captured Lissa’s attention.

Alex’s steady gaze bore into her in silent expectation. She blinked and found her voice. “Umm. Certainly, and if you speak English, even better.”

“I speak several languages; some verbal, some non-verbal.” He smiled and the double meaning of his gaze was very obvious.

Lissa’s blue eyes twinkled, and humor edged into her face. “This is a public place, so perhaps we’d better stick to verbal communication.”

“As you wish, damoiselle. I am but your humble servant.” He bowed his head in mock sincerity, eliciting a giggle from his new companion.

She laughed. “Sit down and behave yourself!”

He swung the chair out, turning it backwards and straddled it. He leaned close. “But that’s not any fun.”

Lissa’s womanly senses were completely captivated by the attractive man at her table. The scent of soap and sweet musk tantalized her nose and her ears perked at the low, husky tone in his voice. Her eyes traveled over the smooth, sun-tanned olive skin stretched over high cheekbones, and paused on the lips that were firm and sensual. She wondered what they tasted like.

He interrupted her thoughts. “So tell me why you are in Paris and can’t speak French.”

Lissa blushed and hoped he couldn’t read minds. Hers was definitely wandering along an unexpected but not entirely unwelcome path. It had been a long time since she thought about doing the nasty, and she certainly didn’t think about doing it with strangers.

She sighed inwardly. But there was nothing strange about him. His black hair gleamed in the shimmering lounge lights and manly wisps of dark hair curled against the V of his stark white shirt. She could feel the sexual magnetism that made him so self-confident. He was fine.

He snapped his fingers in front of her face, and her dreamy expression vanished. She reddened again and the blush spread down her neck. “Umm… sorry. What did you say?”

“First of all I asked why you don’t speak French, and then I asked your name. Perhaps I should also ask what you were thinking? It looks like it may be infinitely more interesting than the mundane questions I posed.”

Lissa swallowed back the last dregs of her wine and mentally pulled herself together. She tipped her head to one side met his ebony eyes.

“Okay. I’m only in Paris for a couple of hours, while I’m waiting for a connecting flight. What little French I learned in school is far different from what is spoken here. My name is Melissa. And I was thinking that your lips look like they taste yummy. And your name is?”

“Alex.” His gaze dropped from her eyes, to her shoulders, to her breasts and up again. He stared boldly and lazily appraised her.

Lissa felt like she had been stripped naked. Her thin cotton blouse seemed to offer nothing in the way of hindrance to his searching eyes. She felt her nipples contract under the heat of his steady scrutiny.

He reached out and took hold of her hand while his eyes smoldered into hers. A thumb stroked the inside of her wrist, sending a torrent of delicious sensations cascading through her body. Her skin felt warm, her heart fluttered wildly in her chest and a tingling worked its way through her stomach and down her thighs. She swallowed hard and realized that he knew exactly what he was doing.

“You’re wondering what my kiss tastes like, I’m wondering what you taste like. Why don’t we explore those thoughts together? There’s a hotel I know not too far from here. I’ll make sure you’re back in time to catch your flight.”

“Alex,” she pulled her hand away and answered wryly. “Have you forgotten that we just met and we aren’t exactly alone?”

“We’re attracted to each other. Does it matter that we’ve just met?”

“It matters to me,” she said. “I can’t lie, Alex. I am attracted to you. But I can’t. I’m sorry.”

His fingers slid sensuously over her bare arm. “Are you sure?”

“I’m—I’m sure,” Lissa’s voice faltered.

“Don’t be shy,” he whispered, his breath hot against her ear.

“I—I’m not shy.” She turned her head so that their lips almost touched. Her eyes had taken on a smoky hue and lingered on his mouth a bit too long to claim disinterest. “But I’d rather not start something I can’t finish.”

His lips closed the meager distance between them and seductively rubbed across hers. “That won’t be a problem. I intend to finish.”

“Alex, I…” She was cut off as his mouth closed over hers, sending the pit of her stomach into a wild swirl. This was utter, delicious madness. She should put a stop to it right away. Really she should, but it felt so good. Heaven knew when she’d get the chance to be treated like a desirable woman again. Combat had a way of stripping away femininity with decided efficiency. There was nothing sexy about combat boots and rucksacks.

Jolted back to awareness with the first dip of his tongue into the warm recesses of her mouth, Lissa pulled away and looked into his passion-filled eyes. “I really should get going. It’s a long walk to my gate, and I would hate to be late.” She leaned over to collect her carry-on.

Getting away from Alex was something she needed to do and fast. Her body was about to betray everything she believed in and she was pretty certain she didn’t have enough strength to fight his strong sexual pull.

He rose to his feet, a stunned look on his face. He hadn’t expected to be denied when it was obvious that she wanted him.

“What’s the matter?” He queried softly. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“You didn’t frighten me,” Lissa said. She took two steps past Alex, and then turned with a wavering smile. “I think it’s better that I leave. I don’t make it a habit to sleep with someone I’ve just met, and if I stay…”

A raised eyebrow let her unfinished words speak for themselves. She stepped close and quickly brushed her lips across his cheek before turning away. “It really was nice meeting you.”

 

 

Two

 

A khaki clad figure knelt behind the supply hut and pushed the claymore into the ground. Tucking a stray brown curl underneath her beret, Melissa deftly screwed the blasting cap into the cap well and connected the firing pin. She sprinted back to the tree line, unraveling the wire behind her and smiled wickedly as she touched the detonator.

“Take that, Demitrius!”

The ensuing loud explosion sent soldiers scrambling in all directions. A thick cloud of dust rose from the rubble and sticks that once held food and munitions. Possessed by coughing fits, they pointed machine guns at the trees and sprayed rounds blindly into the woods, hoping to catch the saboteur.

Melissa used the cloud cover to elude the soldiers sent after her, and was already out of rifle range before the first shot rang out. Joining the other two guerillas in a hidden bunker not far from the enemy encampment, they waited until the troops passed before returning to their own base camp.

~ * ~

“You should have seen her, Fernando! She had that thing wired so fast, nobody saw her until it was too late. I’m telling you, she’s a natural.”

The pretty brunette leaned back in her chair with arms crossed across her chest. Raising an eyebrow, she smiled at her accomplice. “Now Miguel, it wouldn’t have something to do with my time in the army, would it? I’ve been involved in one type of military unit or other since I was sixteen, so I would hope to have learned a thing or two.”

“I’m just glad you’re on our side.” The older man smiled and nodded. “You have wreaked so much damage already, and you have only been with the rebels a few short weeks.

“So am I. She’s taught us all a lot since she’s been here. We’ll get that road back yet, won’t we Lissa?”

Melissa rolled her eyes and shook her head in an effort to stem Fernando’s enthusiasm. “Oh Nando, don’t pin all your hopes on me. This is going to be a long, hard battle, ‘cause you’re both stubborn as hell.”

Nando’s eyes shot up in feigned indignation. “I’d take offence to that except it’s true. I’ve been compared to a mule from time to time, and Demetrius… well, there isn’t a word to describe him.”

Melissa pointedly ignored Fernando, and directed her comments to Miguel. “Remember, they’ve got more equipment than we do, and they outnumber us by at least ten to one. Lightning-quick strikes. Hit them where it hurts—ammo dumps, supply huts, water supplies. That’s our only chance.”

“Listen to you, Lissa. You sound like a real warrior. Whatever happened to the little girl with the pigtails? You used to be so sweet and innocent.”

Melissa looked at Fernando with a half smile. “Used to be? I’m still sweet and innocent. Well, sweet anyway. You’ve known me far too long, Nando.”

“Fifteen years and I’ve adored every minute of them.” He reached across the table and gave her arm an affectionate squeeze.

“Really?” She glanced up in surprise. “I could have sworn there were a couple of times when you wished you’d never met me.”

He pursed his lips. “Name one.”

“My grade ten spring formal.”

Fernando flinched in recollection. “Ah yes. How could I forget?”

“You didn’t speak to me for two weeks after that night.”

“It wasn’t my idea of a good time, Lissa,” he said wryly. “You nearly got me killed protecting your virtue.”

Amusement flickered in the eyes that met his. “Oh come on, you’re exaggerating just a wee bit. You only got a few bruises, and they healed in no time at all.”

“Hmph.” Nando rolled his eyes and glanced at Miguel, who smiled, appearing to be thoroughly enjoying the exchange between the two old friends. “I wouldn’t have had any bruises if Lissa hadn’t gotten herself tangled up with that football jock.”

The brunette smiled impishly. “But he was cute.”

His brows drew together in a frown. “The gang bang he and the rest of his team had planned for you wasn’t cute, Lissa.”

“Yeah, that was a bummer,” she said. “I really liked him right up until the point where they started dragging me out onto the back field.” She put her hands on her hips and stated matter-of-factly, “They ruined my party dress.”

“Yeah, well they ruined my face. Not to mention what they did to my tux. But at least you were safe.”

A glint of humor returned to Lissa’s face. “You won’t let me forget that, will you?”

Nando shrugged. “You’re the one who brought it up.”

“That I did,” she agreed. “Next subject?”

He nodded and pointed to the maps spread out on the table. “Okay, we need to decide on our next course of action. Miguel, I need you to look at these maps and figure out where our next strike will be. Lissa, where are you going?”

Melissa was halfway out the door, dragging on her khaki camouflage jacket. “I’m going to do some recon. The taverna should be filled with drunken Kefis by now.”

“You know I don’t like it when you go into Kefilos, Lissa. It’s dangerous.”

“I know Nando. But you have to admit, I always hear something that we can use. I’ll see you later.” She left, ignoring Fernando’s look of concern and returned to her tent to change while he and Miguel poured over the maps.

~ * ~

She chose a brightly colored skirt and a white embroidered peasant blouse, the standard attire for Kefi women. A red sash around her waist defined its smallness, flaring into slightly rounded hips. Blue eyes looked back at her from the small mirror above her barracks box. Her usual fair skin was tanned golden and a spatter of freckles crossed her nose. Melissa quickly brushed her brown locks and then added a slick of lip-gloss over her full lips.

She jumped in the jeep assigned to her and roared off toward the border. This was becoming quite a routine to Melissa. Almost every day she ventured into enemy territory to pick up whatever information she could find. No one suspected the petite and pretty young woman to be the saboteur they all wanted dead.

Melissa Simmons rarely wondered what she was doing so far from home, putting her life in jeopardy on a daily basis. It was simple. The small gravel road leading from the Mediterranean to Camino del Rey was a lifeline to the tiny country solely dependent on imported goods. All Fernando had to do was tell her of his country’s troubles, and she had been practically on the next plane. She hadn’t thought twice about helping her old friend in his time of need, despite her mother’s objections. Nando’s country would die without that road, and Alexander Demetrius knew it.

She parked the jeep near the mouth of the tunnel and quietly entered the darkness connecting the two countries. The tunnel passed under the armed troops guarding the border and into a heavily wooded area just outside the capital city. The old tunnel dated back several centuries, built by the ancient citizens of Camino del Rey, as a defense against the invading Greek army, before Kefilos was won its freedom from Greece to form to its own country. Melissa’s heart pounded in her ears, knowing she’d be as good as dead if the Kefi’s ever discovered the passageway.

Slipping stealthily through the trees, she made her way further into Kefilos, until she reached the path leading toward the town. She hesitated to call it a city, because it was so small.

Hermini reminded her of a fishing village. Lots of emerald green foliage, limestone and deep blue water. There weren’t many buildings over two or three stories, except for the royal palace, which had five floors. Even the hotel she had herself registered in had only two floors. But the pool in the center was divine. Like an oasis. It’s too bad that her registration was strictly for appearance sake.

The taverna was crowded as gray-clad soldiers and colorfully bedecked civilians alike mingled over their national drinks of ouzo and retsina. Melissa hesitated outside the doorway, adjusting her blouse until it left her shoulders bare and stepped inside the smoke filled room.

“Melissa, so good to see you again! Are you going to sing for us tonight?” The bartender waved her over and offered a glass of retsina.

“Maybe just a few songs. My throat’s a little sore.” She accepted the wine and grimaced slightly, much to the bartender’s amusement. “I think I overdid it the other night.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t gotten used to the drink by now, but it does take a while to get accustomed to the resin. It’s an acquired taste, I’m told. But what do I know?” He shrugged. “I grew up drinking the wine. Yiassas!”

“Cheers to you too.” She took another sip and turned towards the room, both elbows leaning on the bar.

With a soldier’s eye, she took note of the other patrons, paying close attention to the armed troops enjoying their drinks. That was one thing she couldn’t get used to because it would never be tolerated back home. Uniformed soldiers did not drink alcohol, and certainly not with loaded weapons nearby.

She continued to scan. Most of the faces were familiar to her, but one surprised her. She was certain it was her flirty man from the airport.

The black uniform alone attested to the fact that this was no lowly foot soldier, or field lieutenant. It bore the gold braid of a general, and he sat at a corner table with two other high-ranking officers. Even from where she stood she could see his dark eyes, gleaming like glassy volcanic rock, as he drove his fist into the palm of his hand. He spoke angrily and although Melissa didn’t know much Greek, she understood enough to know that he wanted to ‘kill the saboteur with his bare hands.’

“Stephano, who is that man over there? The general. I’ve never seen him around here before.”

The bartender leaned over the counter to see who had caught Melissa’s eye. “That’s his highness, Prince Alexander. He’s an angry man, best you stay away from him. He’s not used to taking ‘no’ for an answer from beautiful young women.”

She sucked in her breath. Her sexy Alex from the airport was Alexander Demetrius. “So that’s Demitrius.” Then a little louder, she turned to the bartender. “Oh Stephano, you worry too much. I’m not a raving beauty or anything. I doubt very much that the prince would want anything to do with me.” Her gentle laugh rippled through the air, attracting the attention of a nearby group of soldiers.

Melissa glanced at the amorous Kefis eyeing her from the table, ignoring them as they gestured to her to join them. Wrinkling her nose and shaking her head slightly, she moved toward the stage, contemplating this new turn of events.

Demitrius, right here! And she already had a ‘relationship’ with him, if he remembered her. There was so much she could learn from him, greatly helping Nando’s cause, but at what cost?

Melissa smiled at the piano player and turned to face the room, unable to resist another glance at this powerful man who held her friend’s country in the palm of his hand. Not only was he commanding, but his strong masculinity had held her thoughts captive for weeks. And here he was making her feel like a giddy schoolgirl, and he hadn’t even noticed her yet.

As she began to sing a favorite Kefi folk song, her eyes moved over him slowly, taking in the firm muscles under his tapered tunic, and the strong legs that tapped to an angry rhythm. With a wry smile she noted the thin film of dust that had settled over the polished black boots. Only officers could get away with dirty boots, and that was apparently the case in this country too.

She was still looking at those boots when Alexander suddenly picked up his right boot and rubbed its top against the back of his leg and then repeated the performance with the other boot. She raised her eyes to see his lips curled into a faint smile, as if he knew what she’d been thinking.

A light blush crept up Melissa’s throat and into her cheeks and she struggled to remember the words to the song with the realization that he had been appraising her just as thoroughly as she had been evaluating him. The warm gleam that entered his eyes and the way they settled on her mouth told her that he did indeed recognize her.

Unable to control her curiosity, she took another look in his direction, to see Alexander’s ebony eyes still locked on her. His firm features, the confident set of his shoulders and the shadow of a beard gave him an even manlier aura than Melissa cared to admit. His dark eyes never left her clear blue ones as he slid a nearby chair closer to his table. A quick glimpse to the seat of the chair made her aware that he fully expected her to join him.

She sang a few more songs and then curtsied to the hearty applause of the taverna patrons. Accepting a cool glass of water from the waitress, she made her way back to the bar and turned to observe Alexander.

She drained her glass, allowing the water to caress her parched throat as her eyes flickered down the length of his body. He got to his feet confidently, ready to assist her to the designated chair, and waited patiently for her to finish her survey.

His stance emphasized the force of his thighs and the slimness of his hips, and Melissa couldn’t help but admire the athletic physique. Her gaze returned to his face, pausing on the firm, sensual lips smiling with satisfaction. God how she wanted to taste those lips!

One corner of Melissa’s mouth curved up into a half smile, as she purposefully turned and strode out the door, leaving a startled Alexander staring after her.

~ * ~

“If we don’t get the cargo off the ship soon, it’ll be no good to us.”

“I know that Miguel. My cupboards are just as bare as yours. You tell me how we can get past all those mines on the road, and I’ll be happy to bring the supplies in!” Fernando threw up his hands into the air and leaned back in his chair.

“Are you two still arguing about the shipment?” Melissa pushed the tent flap aside and entered the command center. “I don’t understand why you are bent on making this harder than it has to be. Who says you have to use the road anyway? I wouldn’t.” She chewed on her lower lip and looked thoughtfully at the wall map.

“Where else can we drive a truck, Lissa? Those sentries are sharp, we’ve already lost more than enough people trying to get to the ship. The forest is heavily booby-trapped, and the meadow on the other side of the road is a virtual minefield. You tell me, where else can we drive a truck?”

“Oh don’t get your knickers in a knot. There’s always a way around that sort of thing. The forest is out of the question anyway. How can you maneuver through all those trees, booby-trapped or not? The meadow on the other hand…”

“Is a minefield. We’ll get killed just trying to get to the port, never mind trying to get back.” Miguel gestured at the map, pointing at the path to the sea, as if it were obvious.

“Miguel,” Melissa’s tone took on a schoolteacher’s tone. “Every minefield has a lane running through it, otherwise the opposite side wouldn’t be able to pass through it either. All we have to do is figure out where the lane is. It’s probably marked somehow, and as soon as we figure out what markings they’ve used, we’ll be able to pass through it as easily as they do. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.”

“And how do up suppose we’re going to do that? C’mon Lissa, they could be using anything for markers.”

“Nando, just what did you think I used to do in the army, anyway? I was a field engineer, breaching minefields was one of my specialties.”

Miguel rubbed his balding pate and peered hard at the map. “How long will it take, this breaching?”

“I’m not sure until I get a look at what I’m dealing with. It could take a few minutes to figure out the markers, it could take all morning. You’re going to have to make some sort of a distraction while I’m out poking around in the minefield though.”

“What kind of distraction, Melissa?”

“I don’t know. Blow something up. We’ve got lots of grenades and explosive packs, so take a couple of guys with you and have fun. Just remember, it needs to be a big enough distraction to keep their attention for a while. Can you handle that, Miguel?”

The older man nodded and slapped on his cap. He looked again at the map, then left the command center to organize the morning’s strike team.

Fernando’s brows set in a straight line as he continued studying the map. “You’re going to need some help out there. That field is too big for you to manage on your own.”

“Nando, I appreciate the offer, but you don’t know the first thing about disarming land mines. You’d only get in the way.”

“You didn’t say anything about disarming mines. You said you’d have to figure out where the lane is. I can help with that.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt. You don’t know what to look for,” she argued.

“Teach me, because like it or not, I’m coming with you.”

He stood and rolled up his sleeves while Melissa contemplated his stubborn nature. Fifteen years had taught her that there was little point in arguing with Fernando once his mind was set. He had changed a lot since they were kids. The man was a far cry from the happy-go-lucky college kid he’d been only a few months ago.

Sighing deeply, she removed some books and papers from the filing cabinet and spread them out on the conference table between them. She was tired and in need of a break from the rebellion, but knew he’d be a quick study and had faith in his ability to absorb the material quickly. Since his father’s illness, he’d had no other option but to take over the leadership of the rebellion, and thus far was doing a wonderful job. With plans in mind for later, she quickly decided that metal detectors and various marking systems would be enough for one evening.

~ * ~

Alexander examined the damage reports, an angry scowl crossing his handsome face. The last attack had caused more damage than the rebels probably realized, as a whole shipment of ammunition had been stored in the supply hut while it awaited transport to the various sentry posts. Either that or they knew exactly what was inside.

“Impossible!” Alexander threw the file across the desk, and then cursed when he had to stop and pick up the scattered papers. No one could have known about the shipment. The only people that knew were the camp officers and the guards assigned to the supply hut.

“Such a foul mood, Your Highness.” Colonel Otis stood in the doorway, smiling in amusement at the younger man. “I wasn’t aware of your penchant for cleaning. If I had known, I would have saved my quarters for your scouring pleasure. Of course, I didn’t know and I’ve tidied my room myself. My apologies, Your Highness.” His heels came together sharply and he bowed slightly, mocking the prince.

“Otis, one of these days I’m going to send you to the stockade. I swear I will.” Alexander shuffled the papers together and tossed the file onto the desk.

“That will be quite impossible, you see, we don’t have a stockade anymore.” Colonel Otis stated matter-of-factly, making no effort to keep the smile from his face.

Alex turned a thumb toward his chest and then pointed at his colonel. “I’ll build one. Just for you.”

“Certainly, Your Highness. With lots of soft pillows, feather fans and harem girls with grapes.”

“I think Mrs. Otis might have something to say about that.” Alex grew openly amused as he enjoyed the casual bantering with his senior officer.

Otis tilted his head to one side and appeared to consider his wife’s reaction to a harem-filled stockade. He poured two drinks from the side bar and handed an ouzo to Alexander, the smile leaving his face.

“We’ve got another problem. Sentry number six was bombed and destroyed an hour ago.”

Alexander came to full alert. “Any casualties?”

“The private manning the post was thrown clear of the wreckage. He’s a little banged up, but the medical aide says he is going to be all right.”

“There’s been too many casualties already. Sentry six. That’s on the west side. What else is over there, what don’t the rebels want us to see?” Alexander took a long sip of his drink, his lips pursing together thoughtfully. He continued his train of thought, thinking out loud. “The sentry is there to watch a small port. Perhaps they are going to sneak in supplies.”

“I was thinking much the same thing. I think I can arrange a surprise party for their troops, if you’d like to authorize such an action?”

“Yes, have a couple of platoons meet them. Let’s wipe them out once and for all. The sooner Camino del Rey becomes a province of Kefilos, the sooner we will allow supplies inland. Perhaps when they realize there is no other alternative, they will surrender and end this silly rebellion.”