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Authors: Linda Castillo

The phoenix encounter

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One agent is already missing, and now the U.S. government's most confidential secret is in danger of falling into a power-hungry dictator's hands.

The top-secret agents of ARIES are the world's only hope.

Agent Robert Davidson:He's never let anything distract him from a mission, but finding Lily Scott—the woman he loved and thought he had lost—still alive has shaken him to the core. He wants the truth—and her—and is determined to have both.

Lily Scott:She'd never thought she would see Robert again or feel that familiar surge of desire. But now he's here, asking questions about her life and her son that she isn't prepared to answer.

Samuel Hatch:Though pleased to be getting closer to finding his missing operative, the astute ARIES director is troubled by the ominous undertakings of the Rebelian government. If only he could reach Morrow and learn the meaning of the doctor's last message…

General Bruno DeBruzkya:The power-hungry dictator isn't only interested in possessing rare jewels. He wants Lily Scott and her son in his clutches—dead or alive.


Dear Reader,

“In like a lion, out like a lamb.” That's what they say about March, right? Well, there are no meek and mild lambs among this month's Intimate Moments heroines, that's for sure! InSaving Dr. Ryan, Karen Templeton begins a new miniseries, THE MEN OF MAYES COUNTY, while telling the story of a roadside delivery—yes, the baby kind—that leads to an improbable romance. Maddie Kincaid starts out looking like the one who needs saving, but it's really Dr. Ryan Logan who's in need of rescue.

We continue our trio of FAMILY SECRETS prequels withThe Phoenix Encounterby Linda Castillo. Follow the secret-agent hero deep under cover—and watch as he rediscovers a love he'd thought was dead. But where do they go from there? Nina Bruhns tells a story of repentance, forgiveness and passion inSins of the Father, while Eileen Wilks offers up tangled family ties and a seemingly insoluble dilemma inMidnight Choices. For Wendy Rosnau's heroine, there's onlyOne Way Outas she chooses between being her lover's mistress—or his wife. Finally, Jenna Mills' heroine becomesThe Perfect Target. She meets the seemingly perfect man, then has to decide whether he represents safety—or danger.

The excitement never flags—and there will be more next month, too. So don't miss a single Silhouette Intimate Moments title, because this is the line where you'll find the best and most exciting romance reading around.


Leslie J. Wainger

Executive Senior Editor

The Phoenix EncounterLINDA CASTILLO

This book is dedicated to my husband, Ernest, for his never-ending love and support. To my agent, Jennifer Jackson—you're the best in the business. To my editor, Kim Nadelson—for thinking of me and always having the best ideas. To the team of talented editors at Silhouette who worked so tirelessly on this immense project—you guys are a true class act. And to my sisters in crime—Cathy, Jenna and Vickie—thanks for always being there.

Books by Linda Castillo

Silhouette Intimate Moments

Remember the Night#1008

Cops and…Lovers?#1085

*A Hero To Hold#1102

*Just a Little Bit Dangerous#1145

*A Cry in the Night#1186

The Phoenix Encounter#1208


grew up in a small farming community in western Ohio. She knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a writer—and penned her first novel at the age of thirteen during one of those long Ohio winters. Her dream of becoming a published author came true the day Silhouette called and told her they wanted to buy one of her books.

Romance is at the heart of all her stories. She loves the idea of two fallible people falling in love amid danger and against their better judgment—or so they think. She enjoys watching them struggle through their problems, realize their weaknesses and strengths along the way and, ultimately, fall head over heels in love.

She is the winner of numerous writing awards, including the prestigious Maggie Award for Excellence. In 1999, she was a triple Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and took first place in the romantic suspense division. In 2001, she was an RWA RITA®Award finalist with her first Silhouette release,Remember the Night.

Linda spins her tales of love and intrigue from her home in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband and three lovable dogs. Check out her Web site at Or you can contact her at P.O. Box 670501, Dallas, Texas 75367-0501.



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16



Luminescent green cruise missiles streamed like bottle rockets across a violent night sky. Dual neon rainbows arced gracefully, their high-pitched whistles piercing the silence like a widow's keening. The distant explosions made the earth tremble, a frightened giant huddling against the impending pain.

Dr. Robert Davidson marveled at the eerie beauty as he ducked into a narrow alley between two crumbling buildings and took his usual shortcut toward the pub. He knew better than to travel in the open when the soldiers were in town. He might have come here as part of a government team to document humanitarian conditions, but that wouldn't stop some trigger-happy young fool from putting a bullet between his shoulder blades. General Bruno DeBruzkya's soldiers were equal opportunity killers.

Robert had had his fill of war. He'd seen too much of it in the ten months he'd been in the war-torn country of Rebelia. Horrors he wouldn't soon forget. Horrors that would revisit him in his sleep for a very long time to come.He'd done what he could to ease the pain and suffering of the innocents caught in the crossfire, but time had run out. After months of unrest, civil war had finally erupted. Just that morning DeBruzkya had ordered all Americans out of the country—or suffer the consequences.

Robert didn't have to be told twice.

But it wasn't the war raging all around that claimed his thoughts as he passed by the deserted marketplace and jay-walked toward the old church across the street. His harried pace had absolutely nothing to do with the dangers of traveling at night in an area teeming with hostile soldiers, small-weapons fire, and the occasional blast of a mortar round. Robert had to reach Lily. Had to convince her to leave with him. To get on that last plane out.

Before it was too late.

He knew her well enough to expect an argument. American journalist Lily Scott was not the kind of woman to duck and run when the going got tough. She thrived on hardship; she was at her best when the chips were down and the odds were stacked against her. Give her a cause, and she would fight to the end.

But while Robert admired her courage and tenacity, he wasn't going to let her overdeveloped sense of responsibility put her life in jeopardy. Lily might be fighting the good fight here in this tiny country, but Robert wasn't going to let her get herself killed. He wasn't going to lose her to a war nobody seemed to care about.

She was the best thing that had ever happened to him. The only good thing that had come out of this ten-month stint in hell. Lily had kept him going on days when he'd wanted to quit. Days when he'd seen enough and wanted nothing more than to take the next plane out and forget about the hungry children and grieving widows and a political system run amok with corruption. Lily was an oasis of goodness in an ocean of despair. He'd only known her for two months, but even surrounded by a devastated country and indiscriminate violence, they'd been the best two months of his life.

Robert was going to get her on board that jet. He was going to take her home whether she wanted to go or not. Then he was going to spend the next fifty years showing her how much he loved her. The thought made him grin. And he felt like an idiot tromping over the ruins of what had once been a café. No one smiled in Rebelia.

At the end of the street he entered the church through the front door. The roof had collapsed and burned the pews. Tendrils of smoke rose from the destruction like ghostly fingers as he made his way along the wall toward the rear exit. He looked up to see another missile streak across the sky, its eerie whistle making the hairs at his nape prickle uneasily. It was a breathtaking sight, frightening and awesome at once and powerful enough to unnerve even the most seasoned soldier.

Breaking into a run, he left through the rear door and crossed the small cemetery where the headstones glowed ethereally in the darkness. At the next street, he checked for soldiers then headed toward the edge of town where he could see the spire of the boardinghouse and pub where she rented a room on the second floor. The light in her room shone like a beacon from the single window above her writing desk, and he smiled again. Anticipation stirred at the thought of seeing her. He wondered if she was sitting at her desk, staring at her laptop screen, her brows knit in concentration as she tapped on the keys and poured her heart and soul onto paper.

The need to see her, to touch her, sent him into a dead run. He could hear the rumble of tanks in the distance, closer than he'd thought but not dangerously so. But he knew the soldiers would be here soon. And he knew all hell would break loose once they arrived.

All he had to do was convince her to leave with him. Not an easy task considering she'd taken it upon herself to save the country single-handedly. Damn stubborn woman.

He could do it, Robert told himself as he climbed the stone steps and crossed to the pub's entrance. Damn it, he loved her. And she loved him. She may not have said those words, but he could see it in her eyes. When she smiled at him. When she touched him. When they made love. Just because she'd refused to leave with him that morning didn't mean she would again now that she'd had time to think about it. Now that the bombs had started falling. Lily Scott might be on a crusade to save the people of Rebelia, but she wasn't a fool.

He shoved open the heavy wooden door. A German polka played merrily from the ancient jukebox. The impact of a mortar striking the earth nearby rattled the windows and the glasses hanging above the bar. Hans Pavlar, the old bartender, looked up from his miniature television when Robert walked in and grinned. “Hey, American, I thought you would be on your way home by now.”

Robert grinned back. “I've got one more thing to do, old man.”

Hans looked toward the stairs leading to the rented rooms above. “She's a stubborn one, our Miss Lily.”

“Yeah, well, so am I.”

“She will not go with you, my American friend.”

Aware that his heart was pounding hard against his ribs, Robert started for the stairs. “We'll see about that.”

He took the stairs two at a time to the second level. Yellow light slanted from beneath her door. He crossed to it and rapped hard with his fist. “Lily, it's Robert.”

He closed his eyes, refusing to acknowledge that he was shaken. That he was terrified because deep down inside he knew she was going to refuse.

The door swung open. The world shook a little beneath his feet at the sight of her. Iridescent hazel eyes. A complexion as fine as German porcelain. Wavy strawberry-blond hair pulled into an unruly ponytail.

She blinked once as if his presence surprised her, then aslow smile pulled at her full mouth. “I thought you would already be on the plane.”

He wanted to devour her in a single bite. “I can't leave without you.” He closed the distance between them, backed her into the room and slammed the door behind him. “I want you to come with me.”

He saw the answer in her eyes before she uttered a word and he heard the message as loud and clear as the bombs dropping outside.


Feeling desperate and scared and a little out of control, he leaned close to her, slid his hands through her hair and kissed her. He wasn't sure why he did it. Maybe because he felt so goddamn helpless. Maybe because he was scared. Maybe because his entire world revolved around this woman, and he couldn't bear the thought of walking away without her.

She kissed him back. Heat mingled with desperation and fused into something volatile and unstable. Fear and desire and a hundred other emotions pounded through him with every beat of his heart. He poured all of those emotions into the kiss. Mewling, she opened to him. Dizzy for the taste of her, he used his tongue, wanting her with an urgency that was insane at a time like this. They'd made love just that morning, but he was already hard and pulsing and wanting her all over again. He knew it was crazy, but that's the way things had become between them, and he was helpless to stop. He could never stop when it came to Lily.

He slipped his hands beneath her blouse and cupped her breasts, brushing his thumbs over the erect peaks of her nipples. Gasping, she arched into him, her hands going to the waistband of his jeans where his erection strained uncomfortably against denim. He groaned when her fingers closed around his shaft.

Realizing belatedly that the moment was going to get out of hand if he didn't stop now, he grasped her wrists, thenbroke the kiss. “Don't tell me no,” he growled. “Come with me.”

She pulled back slightly. Her pupils were dilated. Her nostrils flaring. He glanced at her mouth. Her lips were kiss-bruised and wet, and it took every ounce of discipline he could muster not to kiss her again.

“I can't,” she said. “I'm sorry.”

“I'm not going to take no for an answer.”

“You don't have a choice.”

“Damn it, Lily.” He glanced at the clock next to the bed. “The last plane is leaving for London in less than an hour. We've got to go. Now.”

“The soldiers won't hurt me.”

“The tanks are coming. They'll kill you without even seeing your face.”

“No. I talked to DeBruzkya less than an hour ago.”

Anger stormed through him. “I told you to stay away from that son of a bitch.”

“He promised to spare the orphanage,” she said quickly.

“Then you've done your work.”

“My work is just beginning. I'm sorry if that hurts you, Robert. But I can't leave. If I hadn't been here to contact him, the soldiers would have… All of those beautiful children—”

“Lily, you can't save this country all by yourself,” he said, surprised by the emotion in his voice. “You sure as hell won't be able to save it if you're dead.”

“I may not be able to save Rebelia, but I'm not going to run away.”

Suddenly furious, Robert turned and paced to the opposite side of the room. His heart raged against his ribs, a tormented beast prodded by a cruel owner. “I love you,” he said and closed his eyes against a hot burst of emotion. He'd never said those words to anyone before, knew in his heart he'd never say them again if she didn't change her mind and come with him.

“You can come back when things settle down,” she saidquickly. “In a couple of months.” Moving toward him, she put her hand on his shoulder. “When things settle down here, I can fly to Paris. We can meet there.”

“You're an American,” he snapped. “DeBruzkya has sworn to kill all Americans.”

“DeBruzkya and I…have an understanding—”

“He's a psychopath, damn it! He doesn't make deals.”

“Robert, please, don't make this any more difficult than it already is.”

He turned to look at her, felt the sight of her like punch to the stomach. God, he loved her so much. How could she expect him to walk away? How could she refuse to go with him if she loved him? For an insane instant, he considered forcing her out of the room and down the stairs to his hotel across town. He was a doctor; he could drug her if he needed to. He could carry her to the jeep where an armed escort waited to take them to the airport in Rajalla thirty miles to the south.

But Robert knew forcing her wasn't the answer. Lily wasn't the kind of woman to give up something she'd set her mind to doing. Evidently, she had her mind made up, and there wasn't a damn thing he could say or do to change it. The thought terrified him.

He stared hard at her, loving her with all of his heart, furious because he knew no matter what he said or did this stubborn, infuriating woman wasn't going to bend to his will. But dear God, he couldn't bear it if something happened to her.

Abruptly, he took her arm. Her eyes widened as he dragged her over to the door, yanked it open and shoved her into the hall. “I'm not going to let you get yourself killed,” he snarled.

Shock shone bright and hot in her eyes. “I'm not leaving with you.”

He muscled her down the stairs with her fighting him the entire way. Cursing and struggling, she fought to extricate herself from his grasp, but Robert was stronger. Atthe foot of the stairs he shoved her through the double doors and into the bar.

Hans Pavlar glanced up from his television, his rheumy eyes widening at the sight of them. “Dr. Davidson?” He looked from Robert to Lily.

Robert barely spared the old man a glance. “Now might be a good time to close up shop for the evening,” he said between clenched teeth. “Soldiers are on the way.”

The old man came around the bar and began closing the interior shutters.

As if that was going to help if someone decided to send a SCUD missile this way, Robert thought bitterly, and forced Lily toward the door.

“Damn you! Let go of me!” Halfway there, she jerked free of his grip. “You have no right!”

Robert released her. For several long seconds he stood in the center of the room, breathing hard, so shaken he didn't trust his voice. Guilt punched through him at the sight of the red marks he'd left on her arms. Christ, what was hedoing?He'd never manhandled a woman in his life. Never put a mark on another living soul.

“Come with me,” he said, realizing he was pleading, that his voice was shaking. “Please.”

“I'm sorry.” She backed away, raising her hand as if to fend him off. “Just…go.”

Robert felt the words like a dull knife being shoved between his ribs. The pain was so sharp he couldn't take a breath. He felt it, flowing like blood from a wound that would never heal.

He stared at her for an interminable minute, loving her and hating her—and more terrified than he'd ever been in his life. She stared back, eyes wide, breasts rising and falling with each labored breath. “I'll be okay,” she said. “I promise. I'll be fine.”

He crossed to her, pulled her to him and kissed her hard on the mouth. It was a kiss born of desperation and the very real fear that he may never see her again. Closing hiseyes against the barrage of emotions, he poured his heart into the kiss, trying to absorb her, all the while hoping desperately that she would change her mind and come with him.

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