Monk sighed. "If all kids were born only at the right time, the world would be a much emptier place."
"Monk, you're not being fair. It's not your career."
"Like hell it's not. You don't think a kid isn't going to alter my life, my choices from here? It changes everything."
"Exactly. That's what scares me the most." She leaned into his palm. He wrapped her in his arms.
"We'll get through this together," he whispered. "I promise."
"I'd still rather keep quiet…at least for a few more days. I haven't even been to a doctor yet. Maybe the pregnancy test is wrong."
"How many tests did you take?"
She leaned against him.
"Five," she whispered.
"Five?" He failed to keep the amusement from his voice.
She half punched him in the ribs. It hurt. "Don't make fun of me." He heard the smile in her voice.
He wrapped his arms tighter around her. "Fine. It'll be our secret for now."
She turned in his arms and kissed him, not deeply, not passionately, just in thanks. They separated, but their fingers remained entwined as they continued across the mall.
Ahead, brightly lit, was their destination: the Smithsonian Castle. Its red sandstone battlements, towers, and spires shone in the dark, an anachronistic landmark to the orderly city surrounding it. While the main building housed the Smithsonian Institution's information center, the old abandoned bomb shelter below had been converted into Sigma's central command, burying DARPA's covert force of military scientists in the heart of the Smithsonian's score of museums and research sites.
Kat's fingers slipped from his as they neared the castle grounds.
Monk studied her, a worry nagging him still.
Despite their agreement, he sensed the core of insecurity persisted behind her manner. Was it more than just the baby?
Until I know for sure.
Sure of what?
The worry nagged Monk all the way down to the subterranean offices of Sigma command. But once below, the debriefing with Logan Gregory, Sigma's interim director, added a whole new batch of worries.
"Storm cover is still blanketing the region, with electrical storms surging across the entire Bay of Bengal," Logan explained, seated behind an orderly desk. A bank of LCD computer screens lined one wall. Data scrolled across two of them. One showed a live feed from a weather satellite over Asia.
Monk passed Kat a photo of one of the satellite passes.
"Hopefully we'll hear some further word before sunrise," Logan continued. "Ang Gelu left at dawn in Nepal to helicopter some medical staff up to the monastery. They were attempting the flight during the break between storms. It's still early. Only noon there now. So hopefully we'll have some further Intel soon."
Monk shared a glance with Kat. They had been briefed on the director's investigation. Painter Crowe had been out of communication for three days. From the haggard look of Logan Gregory, the man had been awake the entire time. He wore his usual blue suit, but it was slightly rumpled at elbow and knee, practically disheveled for the second in command of Sigma. His straw blond hair and tanned physique always gave him a youthful air, but this night, signs of his forty-plus years wore through: puffy eyes, a wan pallor, and a pair of wrinkles between his eyes as deep as the Grand Canyon.
"What about Gray?" Kat asked.
Logan straightened a file with a firm tap on the desk, as if this settled the prior matter. Ever efficient, he shifted a second folder to the forefront and opened it. "There was an attempt on Commander Pierce's life an hour ago."
"What?" Monk leaned forward, a bit suddenly. "Then what's with all the weather reports?"
"Calm down. He's secure and awaiting backup." Logan gave the bullet points of events in Copenhagen, including Gray's survival. "Monk, I've arranged for you to join Commander Pierce. There's a jet waiting in Dulles, scheduled for wheels up in ninety-two minutes."
Monk had to give the man credit. He didn't even check his watch.
"Captain Bryant," Logan continued, turning to Kat. "In the interim, I'd like to keep you here while we monitor situations in Nepal. I have calls into our embassy in Kathmandu. I can use your experience with intelligences, domestic and foreign."
Monk was suddenly glad Kat had risen through the ranks in the intelligence branch. She would be Logan's right-hand man during this crisis. He'd rather have her here, bunkered safely below the Smithsonian Castle, than out in the field. It would be one less thing to worry about.
He found Kat staring at him. There was an angry set to her eyes, as if she could read his mind. He kept his face fixed and immobile.
Logan stood up. "Then I'll let you both get situated." He held open the door to his office, effectively dismissing them.
No sooner had the door closed behind them than Kat grabbed his arm, above the elbow, hard. "You're heading over to Denmark?"
"What about…?" She tugged him into the women's lavatory. It was empty at this late hour. "What about the baby?"
"I don't understand. What does—?"
"What if something happens to you?"
He blinked at her. "Nothing will happen."
She lifted his other arm, exposing his prosthetic hand. "You're not indestructible."
He lowered his arm, half hiding his hand behind him. His face heated up. "It's a babysitting operation. I'll support Gray as he finishes his work there. I mean, even Rachel's coming to town. Most likely I'll be their bloody chaperone. Then we'll be on the first flight back here."
"If it's so damn unimportant, let someone else go. I can tell Logan that I need your help here."
"Like he'll believe that."
"I'm going, Kat. You're the one who wants to keep quiet about the pregnancy. I want to shout it out to the world. Either way, we have our duties. You have yours. I have mine. And trust me, I won't be reckless." He placed a hand on her belly. "I'll be protecting my ass for all three of us."
She covered his hand with her own and sighed. "Well, it is a pretty nice ass."
He smiled at her. She grinned back, but he also saw the exhaustion and worry in her eyes. He only had one answer for that.
He leaned in, lips touching, and whispered between them. "I promise."
"Promise what?" she asked, pulling back slightly.
"Everything," he answered and kissed her deeply.
He meant it.