Calculated Deception by my guest author K.T. Lee
I am delighted to have a visit from K.T.Lee today. Here she shares her new book Calculated Deception. It is so exciting to have an excerpt from this fine novel here. Thank you K.T. Lee.
Dr. Ree Ryland is a mechanical engineering professor who loves her job and plays by the rules. In fact, she is so focused on her research at Indiana Polytechnic that she doesn’t realize a criminal on campus is using her squeaky-clean reputation to hide his illegal activities. When the FBI traces shipments of military-grade hardware masquerading as custom test equipment to the university, all evidence points to Ree.
Agent Parker Landon and his FBI team begin surveilling Ree and Parker poses as her student to figure out what the professor might be hiding. When the FBI intercepts a shipment that puts Ree in the clear, they sabotage the contents before delivering them to their intended destination. And inadvertently put Ree in the crosshairs of the actual perpetrator.
Parker intends to keep Ree in the dark while keeping her safe. However, a surprise visitor outside of Ree’s office forces Parker to reveal his true identity and Ree is must come to terms with the fact that an enemy is hiding in plain sight at the university. When Parker offers Ree a protective detail and advises her to lay low, Ree informs him that she isn’t really suited to the role of damsel in distress. Instead, she insists on using her inside knowledge to help find the criminal hiding among her friends and colleagues.
While Parker is initially wary of bringing a civilian on to the team, he’s surprised at how much fun he has keeping Ree on her toes. In addition to her quick wit, his new ally has a few surprising skills. Not least of which includes good aim and a black belt in Karate. When Ree is transferred to a new lab for funding reasons, she moves closer to the criminal and the investigation takes a dangerous turn.
Excerpt from Calculated Deception
Ree locked the door to her office, slipped into the large storage closet in her lab and locked that door for good measure, quickly changing into a modest but fashionable black gown. She hated galas, but the big donors expected the professors to come hobnob and talk about the research their donations were funding. Since helping the university acquire funding was part of the job, she kept a formal dress and a pair of shoes in the lab closet behind boxes of equipment. That way, when she inevitably forgot about an event until she was at work, she never had to rush home for an appropriate outfit. A longtime fan of superhero movies, Ree tried to convince herself that she was like a superhero changing in a phone booth, although she couldn’t recall a time when Superman had to wear a long dress and shake an endless stream of donor’s hands in impractical, sparkly high heels. It was a good thing she wasn’t planning on fighting crime tonight.
At least Joanna and Ivan would be there to ease the awkwardness. Skeezy Steve often showed up to represent his law firm, and she had to continue to be polite to him. Perhaps she could step on his toes, accidentally of course, if he asked her to dance. She let out a sigh. It was too bad she couldn’t even be “accidentally” rude without feeling horrible about it later. She exited the closet and wobbled a bit on one heel while trying to clasp her necklace and walk at the same time. She unlocked her outside door and gasped when she saw Parker Landon lifting his hand to knock.
“We have to stop meeting like this,” Parker said, his eyes twinkling as she tried to make sense of why he was standing outside of her office in a suit.
“Oh! My purse!” Ree turned on her heel and crossed the office to her desk. Parker had missed her class just an hour and a half earlier, which raised a prickle on the back of her neck. She grabbed her purse, and when she looked up, he had taken a few steps into her office. Ree was trapped behind her desk with Parker blocking her exit. It didn’t make sense that he would be in her office so late when he missed her class and the building was nearly empty. Something was definitely off.
Ree widened her stance for balance and slipped her hand into her purse. She had practiced unlocking her weapon quickly in case she was ever threatened, even though it seemed crazy at the time. But here she was, preparing herself in case she needed to use it. She pursed her lips for effect as if searching for lipstick and asked Parker, as casually as possible, “What are you all dressed up for?”
Parker looked at the floor before meeting her eyes. “Well, in addition to being a student,” he said, “my company made a large donation to IP and asked me to attend a gala tonight. I was stopping through the labs to turn in my homework before it starts. I apologize, I missed your class because the same company who asked me to attend the gala didn’t check to see if I had a suit. I had to do some last-minute shopping.”
Ree’s hand relaxed a fraction. The trigger was still unlocked but she released her gun. There was some scuffling in the hallway outside, which grew louder as the source of the noise came closer to her office. It was probably some college kids horsing around, but Parker whipped his head toward the door. He closed the remaining distance between them with three large steps, a fierce expression on his face. “Get down. Now,” he said. Ree didn’t move, and Parker raised his hand to gesture for Ree to crouch behind the desk.
Ree stood a little taller, her tone confident even as her hands shook. “Parker, you are making me extremely uncomfortable, and I am not afraid to scream for help or keep you from walking for the foreseeable future. So, I am going to ask you once to back the hell away from me and get out of my office. In exchange, I’ll pretend this little encounter never happened.”
Ree reached back into her purse and grabbed her weapon without extracting it. While she was hoping that this would all be a misunderstanding, her dad had always told her that the best way to scare off a bear was to make yourself as large and scary as possible. The theory also held true with bullies and criminals. Probably.
Parker didn’t miss the fear in Ree’s tone but compartmentalized it to address the more imminent threat outside. Parker kept himself between Dr. Ryland and the door for the second time that day as he tried to determine the source of the noise. He kept himself from fully facing the hallway, since he wasn’t willing to turn his back on a terrified woman with a loaded weapon. No one should be around this late, particularly since Ree’s office was off the main thoroughfare. It was time to make a snap decision.
As he turned to face Ree, the depth of her fear became clear. He forced himself to relax his features and put his hand on top of hers to calm her. Barely above a whisper, Parker said as quickly and calmly as possible, “Dr. Ryland. Look at me. I’m FBI, and I’m here to help. We may have a situation outside. I’m going to slowly turn around and figure out what is going on, and I would very much like it if you don’t shoot me in the back while I try to protect you. I know your weapon is unlocked and probably loaded. Reach inside my jacket in the inner pocket, and you’ll find my ID. This noise could be nothing, but I’m wearing a bulletproof vest, and I’m willing to bet that you aren’t.” Dr. Ryland’s eyes widened. She kept one hand in her purse while another reached inside Parker’s jacket. “Some trust, please. I would like your hand off your weapon, now, or I will be forced to treat you as a threat.”
About the Author
K.T. Lee is a writer, mom and engineer who grew up on a steady diet of books from a wide variety of genres. When K.T. began to write the kind of books she wanted to read, she mixed clever women and the sciences with elements from thrillers (and a dash of romance) to create The Calculated Series.