Chapter One: The Quiet Life
Nathaniel “Nate” Carter stood on the weathered wooden dock, the planks worn smooth by years of ocean spray and the shuffle of fishing boots. His gaze swept over the tranquil expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the rising sun drenching the waters in hues of gold and amber. Cedar Bay, a serene coastal town tucked away in Oregon, was slowly waking up, the early morning air punctuated by the distant call of seagulls and the rhythmic whisper of waves lapping against the shore.
Nate’s life was a stark contrast to the high-stakes world of international espionage he had left behind, replaced now by the tranquility of his seaside retreat. The restless energy, the constant vigilance, the cloak-and-dagger intrigue — all were echoes of a past he had thought he’d left behind.
As he ran a calloused hand over the rough exterior of his boat, the ‘Quiet Lady,’ a sense of calm washed over him. He had spent countless hours restoring this sturdy fishing charter. She wasn’t much to look at, but to Nate, she was a symbol of his new life. A life of simplicity and peace, devoid of subterfuge and danger.
The distant sound of shuffling footsteps pulled him from his thoughts. Turning, he spotted Hank, the old bait shop owner. The man was a fixture in Cedar Bay, as reliable as the changing tides, shuffling down the dock with two steaming cups of coffee.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Nate admitted, accepting the offered cup with a nod of thanks. Hank merely grunted in response, squinting out at the horizon as he took a slow sip from his own cup.
“Storm’s coming,” the old man murmured, his gaze fixated on the distant, dark clouds gathering at the edge of the horizon. Nate followed his gaze, the metaphor not lost on him. His phone buzzed in his pocket, shattering the peace of the morning. He frowned at the unknown number, a knot of unease forming in his stomach, then answered.
“Nate. It’s Marlene.” The voice on the other end was familiar, a ghost from his past. Marlene Cooper, his former handler. He hadn’t heard from her in years, and her voice sent a chill coursing down his spine.
“There’s trouble. Big trouble.” Her words were simple, and Nate felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.