BY: ALICE WOOTSON

When graduate student and genius engineer, Takeem El, is picked up by government agents because his name matches that of a terrorist on their watch list, members of an extremist group kill the agents and take Takeem, hoping to use him for their cause. Agents Kelli Malone and Jake Landis are assigned to rescue him and capture the extremists. However, Jake and Kelli have a history, and neither one is sure the other can be trusted. They were an item six years ago, before Kelli suddenly broke it off with no explanation. Now Jake is determined to win her back. But Kelli had her reasons for ending their relationship, and she doesn’t think Jake has changed much since then. As their passion ignites, so does the mission, putting their lives, and Takeem’s, on the line. Now these two stubborn, independent agents must set aside their differences and work together to rescue an innocent man, before the mistakes of their past cost them not only their love, but their lives.

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: in What’s in a Name? by Alice Wootson, Kelli Malone is a government agent who has just earned her badge. Given her first assignment, Kelli is appalled to discover her new partner is an old boyfriend, Jake Landis. Oops. To top it off, the two have to pose as a married couple in order to rescue someone held by an extremist militia group. But first they have to deal with their own personal issues, and Kelli doesn’t know if she can do that. She walked out on Jake without an explanation, convinced she can’t trust him. It pained her to even think about their past relationship, but now she has no choice.

The plot is strong with a number of intriguing subplots, and the characters well developed and charming. It’s a fun read and the romance gives it an added appeal.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: What’s in a Name? by Alice Woostson is the complex story of a young man who was abducted by government agents because his name matched that of a person on a government watch list. When the agents are killed and the young man abducted again by domestic extremists, agents Jake Landis and Kelli Malone have to clean up the mess. But Kelli and Jake have a history and that doesn’t bode well for the mission. Jake wants her back but Kelli doesn’t think she can trust him after his betrayal six years before. Still, now that their lives, and that of an innocent man,are on the line, Kelli and Jake must set their differences aside and focus on the mission. Uh huh. Sure. Piece of cake.

The action in What’s in a Name? is fast paced and the tension high, as the two agent juggle personal and mission-related issues. All in all a fun and clever read for both action and romance lovers.

Chapter 1

It was a typical Friday night in the Howe University’s library. The building was quiet as only a nearly empty library would be, but it could have been as noisy as a schoolyard at recess, and still the young man huddled over a book on the table wouldn’t have noticed.

Hours had passed and he looked as if he could spend many more hours in the same position. He never heard the sound of footsteps coming his way. A voice finally caught his attention.

“Okay, Takeem. Time to stop for the night.”

Startled, he looked at the librarian standing beside the table then glanced at the empty tables around him and smiled sheepishly. As usual, he was the last student in the building.

“Okay, Mrs. Taylor.” He closed the large reference book and moved it to the center of the table with three others. “Are you going to leave these here for me for tomorrow?” He grinned at her.

“I should.” She smiled back. “It would save me from having to shelve them again. You’ve been with these same books for two days, now. Something giving you trouble?” She watched him stand and stretch.

“No, I just want my project to be perfect.”

“Don’t you always?” She shook her head. “You know there is no such thing as perfection.”

“No, but it is something we should all strive for,” he answered as he gathered his things.

They both laughed at the exchange they’d made many times. Neither noticed a man pause outside the large front window, stare in, and then continue down the street.

“I’m not trying to put myself out of a job, but you do know you can find a lot of information using the computer,” Mrs. Taylor said as they walked to the front.

“I know, but many important details are only in reference books and some of those are obscure.”

“You’ve discovered the librarians’ secret, my young friend. That’s how we make sure libraries don’t become obsolete.” She laughed. “I don’t know why I mentioned computers to you. You’re the last one I need to tell about them. I’ve heard that what you can do with technology is close to the perfection you’re seeking in your project.”

“That’s not true. There is no such thing as finished when it comes to finding out what computers can do. By the time a new one is on the assembly line, something new is already in the developmental stage.”

“I’ll have to take your word for that. All I know about computers and modern technology is what I need to know so I can function successfully in here. I’m more comfortable trusting things I can see and touch. Like books.” She stopped at the door. “See you tomorrow.”

She locked the door behind him and smiled as she thought of her young friend who was destined for success.

***

Takeem smiled to himself as he walked toward his apartment, four blocks away. He had accomplished a lot today. He was right on schedule to earning another A.

Still smiling, he came to The Dugout, the university’s late night eating spot. He hesitated outside the large window. A lot of his classmates were probably inside.

He glanced at the people inside and shrugged. He recognized a few but, although they were friendly, none of them were really his friends. Any who got close to him, only did so because of curiosity.

He didn’t resent their attitude. He understood completely. How many nineteen year-olds did they know who were working on a doctorate? He guessed the answer was “one.” Him.

Takeem stared a minute longer then glanced at his watch. He had an early class in the morning, anyway.

He turned the corner to take the short cut back to his apartment building. The stores on this street were closed for the night and the metal gates were locked in place. Takeem felt uneasy as he usually did at this point, but the shortcut saved him fifteen minutes.

Halfway down the block, he slowed as two men came toward him. He took a deep breath and crossed the street. Splinters of concern pricked him when the men crossed, too. They didn’t look as young as the ones he usually saw along here.

He glanced around. Except for the two men coming toward him, nobody else was in sight. He released a slow breath and prepared himself to lose the few dollars he had in his wallet.

This is why you don’t carry more money or anything important, he reminded himself. You don’t have anything on you that you can’t afford to give up.

He swallowed hard as the men came closer. He debated whether to cross the street again and head back to the restaurant.

As if they had read his thoughts, the men moved apart so they left no room on either side, taking away Takeem’s option of passing them.

A vehicle came from around the corner behind Takeem. He turned back and looked at the van. He lost some of his tension. It stopped a few feet in front of him just as the men reached him. Maybe the driver would help him. He turned back to face the men.

“What do you want?” He took out his wallet and threw it a few feet into the street, across from him, as was suggested during student orientation. “That’s all the money I have.” He backed away from the men and toward the van.

Without saying a word, they grabbed him.

“Help–”

A hand over Takeem’s mouth cut off his words as he tried to call for help. He struggled as they dragged him to the back of the van, but his struggles didn’t help. The back door opened.

The hand covering his mouth was replaced by duct tape, a blindfold was placed over his eyes, and his hands were taped behind his back. It seemed as if no time had passed since Takeem first saw them.

He felt a sharp prick in his arm before they shoved him into the back of the van. He heard the door slam shut and a few seconds later he felt the van move.

He bounced against the cold, hard side and managed to roll toward the center. The van turned a corner and again Takeem struggled to move away from the cold metal.

A few minutes later, he was thrown against the side again. This time he wasn’t aware of it.

***

Sometime later, they dragged an unconscious Takeem from the van, took him into an isolated house, and shoved him into a room.

When he opened his eyes, he quickly closed them to try to stop the world around him from spinning. He took a few deep breaths. Old, cold air, like that in the basement of his father’s stores, filled his lungs, but he tried again. Maybe it would bring him calm.

His blindfold was off, the gag was gone, and his hands were free, but that didn’t comfort him. It probably meant that no one would hear if he yelled, except those who took him. He rubbed his upper arm where they stuck him and exhaled hard. What did they want?

Darkness pressed in on him like a vise. And cold. His clothes were gone. Why? Why take his clothes unless they planned to do something to him? Unless they–No. Don’t think about that. Don’t think of what they might do to you. Don’t try to make sense of this. It had to be a mistake. They thought he was somebody else. That had to be it. Maybe even now they were trying to think of a way to let him go without him identifying them. Didn’t they know that he would be so glad to get away from them that he wouldn’t tell anybody ever, even if he saw their faces?

He wrapped his arms around himself, but his shivering continued and it wasn’t just from cold. He felt as if, any second now, he would shatter into pieces. He wasn’t sure that would be a bad thing.

A door swung open and a sliver of light slanted into the room and across the floor to the side.

“So. You’re finally awake,” a voice at the door said. It was colder than the room.

Takeem’s shivering increased. He looked toward the voice, but the man was still in darkness. Takeem took a shaky breath.

“Please, this is a mistake. I am only a student on scholarship at the university. My family is not rich. They can’t pay a ransom.”

The man entered the room and Takeem leaned back, trying to pass through to the other side of the wall and to safety. The wall remained firm and rough at his bare back as the man grabbed him, blindfolded him again, and dragged him out.

They asked him questions he didn’t understand. Different men questioned him at different times, but all the questions were about things of which he knew nothing.

No matter how he said it, nobody believed him when he told them that he was only a graduate student. They acted as if they thought if they tried hard enough, they could find a way to make him tell them what they wanted to know.

He couldn’t tell what he didn’t know. If he had any idea of what to say, he would have lied just to make them stop what they were doing to him and let him go home, but the questions were so specific that he couldn’t make up believable answers. He knew because he tried and only got punishment for his efforts. He was glad when they took him back to his cold room.

© 2015 by Alice Wootson