Excerpt from Act of Passion (PSI-Ops) by Mandy M. Roth
Egypt, Five Years Ago…
Malik Nasser stood in the center of a giant warehouse that he and his teammates had taken control of nearly an hour back. The lighting was low, the number of rats in the facility was high, and the smell of urine was present, as if the bad guys who owned it really wanted to commit to the evil villain aspect of it all. To top it all off, the warehouse lacked anything beyond large cooling fans, which were currently off, so it was a lot like standing in an oven. He was hotter than hell, tired of the smell, and annoyed with the entire mission thus far.
It didn’t help that he’d foolishly agreed to undergo voluntary testing at PSI (Paranormal Security and Intelligence) headquarters Division B back in the States before he’d deployed. The test was simple: try out a new drug that was supposed to help supernaturals with control issues better manage their condition. It was given to a set number with control issues and an equal number without. Since Malik never before had issues with his lion side, he figured it was a no-brainer to possibly help others who suffered.
The suppression drugs would be in his system another month or so and then he could report the effects and feel as if he’d done his part to help out.
But something felt off.
The warehouse belonged to an arms dealer who was rumored to be in possession of new weapons that could cause serious damage to supernaturals. The paranormal underground had been abuzz about it all for some time, and PSI had been chasing down leads for months. Somehow, the bad guys always managed to be at least two steps ahead.
Crates full of weapons were packed into the warehouse. Huge, floor-to-ceiling metal shelving units filled one end, each stuffed full of crates, while the other end of the warehouse looked more like a hangar, with vehicles and freestanding crates. While everything housed in the warehouse could be deadly in the wrong hands and needed to be removed from the streets, there was nothing specific to supernaturals that had been discovered.
From all the information they’d gotten before the mission, there should have been a buttload of supernatural-threatening weapons.
So far, none had been uncovered.
They’d also encountered little in the way of security at the facility, which was extremely odd considering the number of weapons they’d found. All of which would fetch a pretty penny on the black market. It was rare that a big player in the arms game left a cache of weapons this large to be guarded by a small number of relatively inexperienced men.
Captain Garth Ingersson (head of Team Eight) came around the corner with his teammate Rurik Romanov. Garth, a six-and-half-foot-tall shifter male who hailed from the Viking Age of Scandinavia, was armed to the teeth. It looked as if the man had acquired additional guns and explosives since their arrival. Knowing the Viking as well as he did, Malik assumed Garth had probably lifted whatever he wanted from the reserve of weapons upstairs. The longer they stayed in the warehouse, the more likely Garth was to start loading their vehicles with whatever he could fit to take it home with him.
The man loved guns and weapons of any kind. He’d once spent the greater part of a day showing Malik his sword collection that dated back centuries. There was a high likelihood that the Viking liked weapons more than people.
Malik seriously worried about the man’s state of mental health.
Garth was lethal unto himself. The weapons added another layer to it all. He motioned to the upper level that he and his teammate had just finished going through. “Nothing up there that should raise an eyebrow for us. Just your average, everyday asshole arms dealer bullshit.”
It didn’t matter that Garth had lived in the United States for centuries; he still had a Scandinavian accent that only increased when he was worked up or angered. Often, Malik found he couldn’t understand the man. Garth’s twin brother, Grid, had been far worse. It would have taken less time to learn the man’s native language than to try to understand his English. Malik hadn’t seen Grid since the brothers had a falling-out over a century ago.
Malik nodded to Garth’s new toys. “But cool enough to keep a few.”
“Hell yes,” said Garth proudly, his grin saying he knew something everyone else didn’t. “One doesn’t walk away from neat toys. Find anything down here?”
Malik glanced around. “Nothing above the norm. This whole thing smells fishy to me.”
“Smells like dead rats and piss to me,” said Rurik, his Russian accent thick. He moved closer to Garth.
The pair began double-checking the open crates as if Malik and the other members of Team Five were incapable of telling the difference between a normal weapon and one made to harm a supernatural in a big way.
Garth pulled out an AK-47. “Oh, look. Favored by black markets everywhere.”
Rurik scowled. “Do not make fun of it. It is a work of art that my country is proud of. And what I prefer to take on most missions. Reliable. Trustworthy. All you need.”
“If he breaks out in song in honor of Mikhail Kalashnikov I’m going to think he’s as nutty as you are,” said Malik to Garth.
“Mikhail Kalashnikov was ahead of his time,” supplied Rurik, standing tall as he stroked an AK-47 lovingly. “The AKM, the AK-74.” A dreamy look came over him.
Malik snorted. “You need us to turn around a moment to give you some alone time with that?”
Garth moved to another crate and pulled out an MTAR. As he withdrew the 9mm suppressor made for it, he looked to Malik. “So many weapons, but so few guards.”
“Agree,” added Malik, surveying the endless rows of crates
“Trap?” asked Garth.
“Probably,” returned Malik. “I really hate it when they try to lure us to our deaths. You’d think it would get old for them after a while.”
“I’ve found the enemy often lacks originality,” said Garth, still looking the MTAR over.
Rurik paused in his admiration of the crate of AK-47s. “Should we go?”
Malik shook his head. “And leave all this here to possibly end up on the streets and in the hands of drug dealers and criminals? Or to be used to help launch a war? No. We need to stay until a clean-up crew arrives.”
“And if it is a trap?” asked Garth.
Malik grunted. “Then we do what we always do—survive and kick the shit out of them.”
While Garth technically outranked Malik, they’d been friends far longer than they’d been with PSI. There was an unshakable level of trust between them. And Garth was nearly as old as Malik, which was saying something, considering Malik was old as dirt. The men had worked together too many times to count over the years and trusted one another fully.
The same could not be said for Garth’s former second-in-command, Gram Campbell. Gram was a stubborn Scotsman with a huge chip on his shoulder who fancied himself a cut above the rest of the shifters in PSI because he was part wolf-shifter and part Fae.
He was also one hundred percent asshole.
Rurik wasn’t winning any personality competitions, but the man was far better to deal with than Gram had been. Malik was happy Gram had gone over to the Shadow Agents side of PSI nearly twenty years ago. It made being around Garth and his unit so much easier. Before Gram’s transfer, things always ended in a fight between Malik and the outspoken male. And it wasn’t as if Malik lacked patience with Scotsmen. He’d worked with Striker, who was as Scottish as they came, for over a century now and hadn’t wanted to actually kill him—yet.
Rurik pried open the crate nearest him with nothing more than his hand. He lifted a rocket launcher. “They aren’t playing around,” said the Russian bear-shifter, sounding like he was fresh out of the Kremlin. “I hate arms dealers. They always go for the easy money. They are probably American.”
Malik hid his laugh under a cough.
Rurik had a lot in common with Malik’s teammate Duke Marlow. The two pretty much hated everything and everyone. Though, Duke was an all-American man. Born and bred in the States, the man bled red, white, and blue. Rurik still missed the Cold War and the “glory days” of the U.S.S.R, reminiscing about it often. Each still viewed the other as a possible threat, and neither would admit they were just alike.
Duke came up behind Malik holding a large rocket launcher of his own. A passing glance was all he gave Rurik. “Mine is bigger.”