The moment Lady Anne stepped out of the Maskoori Embassy, she put her game face on. The social time to get to know King Ahmad, her charge for the day, was over. Now she needed to focus. Only minutes from now, she would enter Husam-Jabbar threatened an attempt on the King’s life.

She followed the King and his two body guards into the second of two Hummer limousines and touched the wallet-shaped wireless receiver in her purse that transmitted to the miniscule earbud hidden by her long, curly hair. Once they were at the White House she would be able to hear the chatter between the Secret Service agents and know if they spotted any danger. Would the well-respected agency live up to its reputation and stop the planned assassination attempt or would she need to display her enhanced strength to protect her charge?

As the driver pulled away from the embassy, she glanced at King Ahmad. Did he know the terrorist group had announced their intentions on Al Jazeera this morning?

“Are you ready, my lady?” Something about the steely sea-green eyes said he knew, yet no lines of worry marred the olive complexion of the older man’s face. Perhaps he had become used to the constant threat. After all, every Muslim terrorist group in existence had pledged to kill the first Arabic king to convert to Christianity.

“Of course, Your Majesty. This is not the first time I have served as a bodyguard.”

The King opened a cabinet that hid a wet bar and refrigerator, pulled out a long-stemmed glass, then poured himself some water. He waved a hand towards the cabinet. “Please help yourself.”

Grateful for something to focus on, Lady Anne followed the King’s lead. A sip of the water’s coolness washed clarity into her thinking, as though it were a dose of fresh confidence. If this had been a normal assignment, her veins would have pulsed with restrained energy at the thought of a reason to unleash her enhanced strength.

But nothing about this mission was normal. And if she must use her abilities today, it would be under the watchful eyes of the media. The thought of the power the media held to expose her secrets sent a shiver up her spine. The ball of tension in her stomach that had been growing tighter all morning finally burst. One way or another they would know soon. It was far too late to back down now. Either way, she would fulfill her duty.

A rap on the glass between the driver’s and passengers’ compartments brought her thoughts back to her surroundings.

The thin, beardless guard nodded to his bearded partner. In sync, they pulled out twin Ruger .40 SWs and aimed them at King Ahmad.

Lady Anne’s hand shook, spilling water onto the floor. She tapped the King’s arm to warn him. Were the intelligence reports wrong about the attack? Perhaps Husam-Jabbar had intentionally misled them.

Thin Guard slid down the long leather seat lining the driver’s side and came to a stop directly across from King Ahmad. He straightened his back, raised his chin, then addressed the King in Arabic. Although Lady Anne couldn’t understand the words, the gleam in his eyes radiated pride and determination, not hatred.

King Ahmad looked down his long nose at the guard. “You are rude, Kalil, speaking Arabic in front of my guest. Will you condemn her to death without even the benefit of knowing why?”

Kalil glanced at Lady Anne and wrinkled his nose as though she were a piece of garbage, then nodded. “I will grant the wish of a dying man.” He pulled his shoulders back and once against took on the role of a judge. “King Ahmad, you have defiled both yourself and Mashkoor by taking up the blasphemous practices of Christianity. According to Hadith 9:57, it is my duty to kill you.”

“Kalil, my trusted guardian.” King Ahmad spread his arms in front of him. “Since when have you taken the requirements of the Koran to heart?” Only a glance at the weapon in Kalil’s hand betrayed any hint of anxiety. “Why, only last week you told me you looked forward to this trip so you could restock your liquor supply.”

Kalil lowered his eyes, “It is to my shame that I have not lived according to the Koran—a Muslim in name only.”

Lady Anne leaned forward. Her muscles twitched, anxious to attack while the man’s guard was lowered. But Bearded Guard remained alert by the far door with his Ruger still pointed towards the King. The time was not yet right. She ran a finger around the lip of her glass and sifted through possible scenarios.

Kalil lifted his eyes, now full of determination. “When you turned your back on Islam, Your Majesty, I realized how much our Muslim heritage had shaped and formed the nation and people of Mashkoor. I called out to Allah and begged his forgiveness.”

“So you joined Husam-Jabbar and pledged to kill your king?” asked King Ahmad. “How noble of you.”

Kalil lifted his chin a notch higher. “I did not need them. There were plenty of people willing to help me gain the supplies I needed. No, I do this because Allah impressed upon me that he would use me to restore Islam to the kingship.” He pounded his free hand on his chest. “He offered me, who ignored him all these years, a way not only to shift the balance of the scales to weigh in my favor, but guaranteed my entrance into martyr’s paradise.” He bowed from the waist. “I must thank you for—”

Lady Anne’s brain screamed, “Now!” She flung her glass down the length of the vehicle towards the bearded guard.