Small-Town Secrets. Debra Webb
trained with the best: Lucas Camp. Victoria’s husband was a man who never took no for an answer. Lucas and Dave had been friends since childhood. Lucas’s unwavering determination had long ago rubbed off on the other man.
“You don’t have another appointment until three-thirty,” her loyal assistant added. “Take your time. Enjoy catching up.”
“Thank you, Mildred.”
As the door closed, Victoria found herself sighing. She’d suffered so much loss and pain in the past. Taking for granted a moment of her wonderful life now was out of the question. She had the most amazing husband whom she loved more deeply every day. She had her son and he was well and happy. And she had a beautiful granddaughter. Not to mention the agency continued to thrive.
Basically, Victoria had it all.
She deserved this happiness. She intended to enjoy it to the fullest.
AT ONE WHEN VICTORIA entered Tony’s Pub, Dave Glenn waited at the bar. As she approached, Victoria took a moment to consider the man. The same age as Lucas, his hair had long ago paled from blond to a lustrous white. Age had not diminished his intimidating stature or his proud military bearing. He was still a force with which to be reckoned.
As if he’d sensed her presence, he turned on the bar stool to face her. Sharp blue eyes lit with the smile that broadened his lips in welcome.
“Victoria, I’m glad you could come.” He set his glass aside, slid off the stool and reached for a hug. “It’s been too long.”
Victoria relished the embrace of a dear friend. It really had been too long. Drawing back, she assessed the rugged face that spoke of decades of too many secrets and too little R&R. He needed to slow down and enjoy life. Lucas had told him so many times. She wished Lucas were here now.
“Dave, it’s so good to see you.”
He reclaimed his glass and ushered her toward the dining room. “Our table is waiting.”
When Victoria had settled into a chair and Dave had done the same, she sent a pointed look at his drink of choice. “It’s a little early for scotch, isn’t it?” She’d never known Dave to indulge in the middle of the day. “Are we celebrating something?”
Dave peered into his glass a moment before meeting her gaze. This time there was a bleakness about his expression. “I’m old, Victoria.” He gave his head a little shake. “The job is finally beginning to get to me.”
A frown tugged at her brow. Though both she and Lucas had seen this coming, the statement was uncharacteristic of the man who never failed to present himself a pillar of strength and determination.
“Our chosen fields can become burdensome at times.” She knew this all too well. But to her knowledge Dave had not suffered the personal loss Victoria had experienced. Perhaps this was nothing more than the long overdue realization that his work could not continue to have priority over his personal life. “Is Catherine doing well?”
Dave managed another smile, but this time it didn’t reach his eyes. “She’s tired of spending so much time alone.” A halfhearted shrug lifted his shoulders. “She’s found other ways to occupy her time.”
Victoria ached for the man. A breakup was never easy, but he and Catherine had been married for twenty-five years. Clearly he was devastated. “I’m sorry to hear that.” What else was there to say? Sorry, however, seemed a pathetic offering.
Dave pointed to his glass as the waiter paused at their table. “And a white wine for the lady.” When he’d returned his full attention to Victoria, he said, “It happens. I suppose I should have been paying better attention.”
A gentleman to the end. It would have been so easy to blame everything on his wife’s inability to appreciate his commitment to his country. “Perhaps you’ll find a way to work things out.”
“Perhaps.” He finished the last of his drink. “How’s Lucas?”
Victoria’s lips slid into an automatic smile at the mention of her husband’s name. “He’s well. He’s away on business for a few days. Thankfully he’s home more often than not, but he continues to work in an advisory capacity when he’s needed.”
Dave gave her one of those looks that said he knew exactly what she meant despite her understanding words. “You remind him that retired means precisely that. I knew he wouldn’t take himself completely out of the game.”
“Now that’s the pot calling the kettle black,” she teased, opting to lighten the moment.
He laughed, but the sound was dry. The waiter arrived with their drinks, and they placed their meal orders.
“And Jim?” Dave asked. “He’s still doing well with his shop?”
“Yes.” Victoria’s chest tightened with pride. “The Equalizers are doing exceptionally well. Jim is happy helping those who don’t seem to fit in anywhere else. He has a knack for resolving the unsolvable.”
“Like father, like son,” Dave offered, his gaze distant as if he were remembering his days with Lucas and Jim’s father, James Colby.
Victoria sipped her white wine, mainly to restrain herself from asking the question pressing against her sternum. This small talk was nice, but it failed to camouflage a glaring ulterior motive for today’s impromptu invitation. Victoria’s instincts were on point. Something was very wrong. Something more than her old friend’s personal problems. Dave was not himself by any means.
He lifted his glass, apparently thought better of it and lowered it back to the table. He exhaled a heavy breath. “There’s something I need to tell you, Victoria, and I’m not sure how to go about it.”
“Don’t mince words with me, Dave. We’ve known each other far too long for that. Say what’s on your mind.” Lucas was deep in negotiations related to national security. Jim and Tasha were on safari in Africa. She’d heard from them only two days ago, just before they left for an extended excursion into a remote jungle location. Whatever Dave’s news, it couldn’t be related to her family.
Dave propped his forearms on the table and rested his gaze heavily on hers. “You know how the world of intelligence operates. I don’t have to spell it out for you. We trawl for information. Sometimes in the worst possible places, dredging intel from the worst possible characters. That’s how the job gets done.”
Victoria nodded. Like Lucas, Dave worked in intelligence. Lucas worked directly for the government as an advisor while Dave was employed by a government contractor. And he was right; the job could take them into gritty places.
Uneasiness stiffened Victoria’s spine. “You’ve heard something of a personal nature that concerns you.” It wasn’t a question. She knew perfectly well where this was going.
He nodded. “You know if it was insignificant, I wouldn’t bother passing it along.”
She did. “Does this information involve the Colby Agency?” No matter that the Colby Agency maintained a prestigious reputation, enemies were made. It was part of the business.
“No. Not directly.”
“Me, then.” She would much prefer he simply get to the point.
He nodded. “Yes. I attempted to trace the information beyond my source, but I was unsuccessful. So, be advised that I have no tangible evidence to back up what I’m about to tell you. All I have is a rumor. A rumbling of discord so to speak.” Those assessing blue eyes bored into hers. “But this source is solid. Precautions need to be taken.”
“Have you spoken to Lucas?” It suddenly struck Victoria as quite odd that he didn’t go to Lucas first. But then, she didn’t know the nature of the information he was about to pass along.
“I couldn’t reach Lucas this morning. And I feel this shouldn’t wait.”
She inclined her head in question.