The mid-January air was cold enough that I saw my breath, but I was too focused on my task to feel chilled. My uniform was a Lycra cat suit. A black hood covered my blonde hair. A coat would have created an extra obstacle I couldn’t afford. Minutes ticked down, faster and faster. No time for anything that didn’t contribute to the job at hand.
The narrow cable lay coiled beside the rooftop A/C unit. A quarter moon hung bravely in the night sky, casting little light for me to see—or be seen from my perch so high above the ground. I felt more invisible than I truly was. Excessive self-confidence was always the greatest danger in this kind of game. Still, I took advantage and leaned over the five-hundred-year-old golden-stone balustrade, stealing a second to re-gauge the distance between me and the darkened edge of the forest several hundred feet away. In the semi-darkness, I couldn’t distinguish individual trees. I pulled the night-vision goggles down to hide my blue eyes and double checked on the due diligence I’d accomplished with subterfuge the week before. All to make my mental map see the targeted objective. I only had one shot. No time for mistakes.
My right hand freed the collapsed crossbow from the holster on my thigh. My left dragged the arrow from a long pocket I’d fashioned into the Lycra on the corresponding leg. Connecting the cable to the arrow was easy. The hard part came in trusting that every other piece of this last phase would go as planned.
I pulled at the sides of the crossbow, opening it to full size. Although I’d oiled the mechanism to keep it quiet, a rogue snick
sounded when the parts snapped into sequence. A pause to see if the unexpected sound caught the attention of security personnel. Nothing. I closed my eyes for a moment, realized I’d been holding my breath, and forced the air slowly from my lungs.
One more risk. I removed a glove to run sensitive fingertips along the cool top of the balustrade, at the point where I’d carefully worked indentations into the stone. I located the first indentation, then the second barely there scrape. Easily confused with earlier battles the fortifications withstood since its medieval architects pulled artistic ideals together with security specifications. At least I hoped so. Too late to worry.
In a heartbeat, I’d lined up the crossbow, placing the mechanism atop the stone and triple-checking my marks with the base of the device. I squinted at the tree line, then spent another minute unfurling the cord from its coil so it fell haphazardly across the paved roof. Working almost on instinct at this point, one end went into a metal loop cemented into the wall that I’d discovered earlier. The loop had been the final detail to seal my decision on where to run this phase of the operation.
The moon broke fleetingly through the gathered clouds, but it was dim and small and basically useless for any needed illumination. Exactly as I needed.
I risked the seconds to put my right glove back on—before I closed my eyes to pray, to wish, or to will everything and everyone to perform correctly in the next few minutes. Then I pulled the trigger and let the arrow fly.
A distant gratifying thunk told me my calculations for weight and distance remained spot on. I gave the cord a tug, satisfied the arrow point was wedged deeply enough into the tree’s trunk. Both ends now secure, I attached a silver carabiner to the loop of the black cylinder and then the metal clip to the cord. I let the “package” sail down the line and kept hold near the loop to feel the vibration en route.
Now came the waiting. My focus stayed intent on the objective. Suddenly, the vibration in the line stopped. I felt the cord move again, up and down this time. A sharp tug on the line told me Nico had it at the other end. I felt the line jerk hard and go slack. My turn again. I grasped the line with both gloves. Hand over hand, I pulled back the once-used cord. It still had yards to go and escapes to make before it slept.
My black leather gloves never lost their grip on the steel line. Less than a minute and I heard the arrow slap against the side of the stone far below, as it began its ascent back to the roof. I didn’t slow down. The sharp fiberglass arrow rode easily up this windowless side of the chateau. It was all a matter of timing at this stage. Things were going almost too perfectly. Unless I heard a shout of alarm, I was past the first round of danger. The next security patrol wasn’t due for another three minutes. I rubbed at the top of the stone to smudge any fingerprints I may have left behind.
My objective—what flew down the line in the large black tube—was the Caravaggio masterwork the facility’s director had not meant for us to see. When Jack and I visited days ago, a panel that should have been closed wasn’t. The director was waylaid by an assistant and let us enter his office on our own. A glimpse of the visible drapery in the painting, though I could only see an inch width, lured me like a siren’s call. Jack was busy looking at the bookshelf and neighboring awards, but he turned when I gasped and pushed the panel open farther. The sharp light and dark contrasting technique was Caravaggio’s bold statement and trademark, known by the Italian term “chiaroscuro.” And the incomparable realism of key images like that drapery told me this was a find. Five men in the work, and the expected illuminated cameo of the artist. A knife covered in blood shone like Chinese lacquer. Typical Caravaggio genius.
Then the director came in and uttered a soft oath. He’d quickly moved around the desk to close the panel. “Only a copy,” he’d said, his French accent heavy in his anxiety. “Made from a new secret digital technology using oils.” Even without reading his body language I knew he was lying.
This painting had been on the Beacham Foundation’s
“lookout” list for years. I needed no research to tell me who was the true owner of the painting. In that instant, I made plans to reclaim it.
Startling news about how the painting would be picked up in a few hours had moved things up. I stepped up my plans and recruited Nico for assistance.
Then, as the reclamation was in play, while I scouted the painting’s security parameters in the darkened director’s office, looking for the best way to safely remove the masterpiece, I noticed a figurine in a locked case. Another stolen work on our list. It was small and I operated on impulse, letting it ride piggyback in the cylinder with the painting.
A chorus of barks from the direction of the kennels reminded me how everything must work perfectly from this point outward. If the guard made his last solo round too late or too soon, I’d be discovered. However, if anyone noticed the empty frame in the director’s study or the lonely case without the tiny figurine, it wouldn’t much matter that I no longer had the items on me. Laurel Beacham in the inky black cat suit would get hauled off by the local gendarmes.
I had one chance to get down and get away. One chance after the guard made his rounds and before the dogs were turned out to roam the estate as residents and staff slept. One chance.
We’d taken every possible precaution. Some pre-work was already completed, so we weren’t flying blind: we had preliminary blueprints and schedules. Nothing giving us complete details, but enough to provide a framework.
Charcoal darkened my face, and I’d pulled up my collar and bottom part of the hood to cover my mouth and most of my nose. I hid by the stone wall and risked a peek around and down, watching for the guard’s approach. The wind picked up, and I shivered. A strand of blonde hair was teased free from cover. I poked it back in, then shifted the elasticized black hood for better coverage. I pushed my left sleeve away from my glove to sneak a glance at my watch and swallowed hard. As I waited, I disconnected the cord from the loop and ran the loose end through the ring instead, so the line was doubled with the metal loop as its apex. I slapped the arrow back into the ready position on the crossbow, then slipped the strap over my head and one arm to lay in cross-body fashion. Everything was now hands free, but the weapon stayed open on my back and ready to shoot if needed. I didn’t want to have to use the device in defensive mode, but I was ready all the same.
In the next instant, I saw a flash of light cut the darkness and round the corner of the chateau near ground level. Just in time.
The guard swept his beam in a relaxed manner. Most of his shift was over, and his gait told me he was probably a shade self-satisfied by this point. I was counting on that complacency.
I switched sides as he passed below, and I braced against the other side of the stone impediment to barely keep him in sight. The task required me to lean out slightly to see him disappear around the next corner. As he vanished, I leapt into the next task.
Grabbing the doubled lines together in my right gloved grip, I used my other hand to drop the bulk of the line over the side. The loop got another preparatory tug to check it still held fast in the ancient mortar, and I prayed its load limit met the average weight of a healthy five-foot-nine female without popping free of the mortar.
“Final curtain, folks,” I muttered, jumping up to lever myself on the stone block that offered an opening at the crenelated end of the balustrade.
With my first leap, I began my descent, rappelling down the side of the building. I’d dropped about a story when I heard two hoots of an owl. It was our warning signal. I looked toward the direction the guard had disappeared and saw the beam of light bobbing back, quicker than when he’d passed. He was returning for some reason. Why?
I grasped the cord above and below me to hang in midair, then used the doubled line and the wall to maintain height as I walked sideways, meeting the oversized chimney several feet away. My black Lycra could bleed into shadows, but no way could I hide openly against golden-brown stone. Cowering in the crook next to the four-story stack was my only option, and I pressed in close to the architectural crevasse. I pulled the cord along with me, running most of it down the shadowed corner. I tried to make myself as small as possible while dangling next to a medieval stone chimney several stories above the ground. If he looked up and shined the light he couldn’t help but see me. At least the steel line no longer ran down the middle of the blank wall.
For the second time in almost as many minutes, I held my breath, trying not to panic. When he passed the chimney, I didn’t risk exhaling and making any noise, but his steps slowed. Time was getting close for the dogs to take up patrol. I chewed my lip, worrying over the fleeting minutes.
A gunshot sounded back the other way, and the guard reversed direction. He vanished again around the other side of the facility’s mansion house.
I resumed rappelling down the wall. As my feet hit the grass I heard running. Nico slid to a stop beside me and jerked one line from my hand. Working as my team’s digital wizard was his forte, but his skills extended equally well into the field. His black stocking cap couldn’t completely tame his dark curls, but otherwise he was dressed for the business at hand. As he pulled the line to get it running free from the loop, I stood behind him and used my left arm and shoulder to coil it again.
“What was that?” I whispered. “A gunshot?”
The line end dropped wiggling from the heavens and Nico caught it as he answered, “Insurance I prearranged. Just sound on a remote timer. Come on.”
I dragged the cord as we raced across the open lawn. We dove into the tree line. Nico grabbed the coiled line from me and heaved it into the underbrush. “No fingerprints,” he said. “No worries.”
But I scooped up the heavy line and reset it onto my shoulder. “DNA. Always worry.”
He shrugged, holding the black tube under his left arm and bracing one end with his hand.
The crossbow slapped my back as I kept a steady pace behind him. We’d come to the chateau from separate directions. If they found my earlier scent and followed, it would just lead to the train station. I’d walked in shadows the entire two miles. Nico came with an escape vehicle and that was where we headed.
“Be careful.” I pulled the two-way comm from my ear, since I didn’t need to hear him in stereo. The devices helped inside, when I needed details from him or to relay when I had the pieces ready to go. Now comms were superfluous and added a risk of being tracked by their radio frequency.
Nico nodded and removed a twin tiny device from his ear. He raised his chin, motioning toward the end of the tube. “This is bigger than I’d thought. Is the figurine here too?”
“Yes. I wrapped it in packing and placed it at the top. I fitted a piece of cardboard so neither touches the other in the cylinder.”
Nico held up a hand to signal a stop. “Rest a minute. You need to put these on.” He pulled a pair of folded rubber boots out of the backpack he carried. “We’re going into water.”
I plopped down onto a fallen tree. “How far are we wading?” The black footwear came almost to my knees.
“About a mile.” He put the tube into the space the boots had taken in the backpack.
“It’s cold though,” he said. “The water, I mean.”
“End of January in France—what are the odds?” I grinned.
I stood and shifted the crossbow into a more comfortable position. It would have been easier to refold the weapon and reattach the bulky thing to my thigh in a streamlined state, but the risk/reward ratio favored this version.
We set off again, a bit faster, but side by side so we could talk. Nico asked, “Any snags?”
I thought back to the director’s office. The false wall I’d accidentally noticed in my routine visit last week. The serendipitous way I’d been led to these two finds. “I almost tripped the alarm on the figurine case. Missed a second wireless setup at first. The painting was a cinch once I cut it away from the frame. Would have preferred not to. Always better to keep a work whole and on the stretcher, but like so many nowadays they’d safeguarded this one with sensitivity alarms set into the frame. If I’d removed it from the wall to take away the canvas intact, all of security would have been on me in an instant.”
“How are you going to get the items back to the original owners?”
“Let Max do the honors,” I said. Recovering stolen objects was hard enough in my “reclamation projects,” but returning them myself without making people wonder made it doubly difficult to stay under the radar. This wasn’t a sanctioned Beacham Foundation job, but the painting was known as stolen, which made the idea viable. My boss would dearly love being in the spotlight for restoring lost treasures to grateful owners. “I’ll tell him the items were turned over to me anonymously, asking the foundation to make sure the rightful parties received them. Max’ll eat it up like clotted cream.”
“Some people in the chateau are going to be frustrato,” Nico said, brushing leaves from his pant legs. “They can’t claim a loss and can’t claim the items again when Max brings them back into the public realm.”
“If he actually does. I’m going to suggest the handovers be quiet affairs, to better safeguard the artworks’ return.” I stood and reset the goggles on my face. I thought I heard something the way we’d come. “How far is the creek?”
“Not far.” We kept walking.
In the distance, a dog barked. Then another.
We shifted to a jog, then a run.
A few hours later, now dry and warm from the somewhat decent heater in the Peugeot, we cruised into Paris. While Nico drove, I’d added a beige winter-weight tunic to my ensemble to give me less of a cat-burglar-on-the-run look and to hide the hood. Wet wipes removed the charcoal from my face. We found a short-term parking spot across from the Gare du Nord train station.
Nico tapped the screen on his phone and got out of the car as he said, “Just sent your ticket and itinerary to you. I’ll escort you to the Eurostar train platform. We have to hurry, but it will be safer with no waiting.”
“You don’t need to see me off,” I said. We walked fast since I had no bags, plus the still-dark morning was chilly and neither of us was bundled up warmly. Nico wore a black leather jacket, and I had my hip-length navy wool pea coat. The treasure, the crossbow, and the rest of my heist paraphernalia—like the lovely electronic devices from my wizard in Zürich that opened all manner of digitized doorways—stayed hidden in the locked trunk of the car. Those would arrive in London later with Nico.
“Seeing you to the train is obbligatorio,” he said, his heavier than normal Italian accent signaling his fatigue. His words, however, told me he was stressed. “If I didn’t, I couldn’t finish what I need to do because I’d be too busy worrying if you boarded safely.”
“Just be careful. Don’t drive until you get some sleep.” I received a grunt in reply.
We were both on edge, but I’d already calculated the odds as staying in my favor to return to London without picking up an enemy. Getting out of town last night had been the riskiest part. Still, I knew better than to argue with Nico when he landed in one of his darker moods. I switched topics. “So you’ll surface in London or New York in the next few days, and you’ll let me know if you need anything in the meantime?”
“Yes, and I’ll be monitoring you on GPS the whole time. Tell Jack not to worry.”
Jack Hawkes was the newest member of the team and started out as a thorn in my side. He’d finagled his way into my boss’s good graces to get me assigned to work with him when I thought he was either MI-6 or a conman—I was semi-wrong on both counts because he used the skills of both occupations. He continued trying to run every play his way, especially when my safety was in question.
“Hawkes is going to do whatever he wants to do, and likely whatever will irritate me the most. But I’m going to continue fighting him on the bodyguard idea.”
Nico gave a long sigh. We stopped for a break in traffic. When he didn’t talk, I said, “You know I’m right. I can’t do all the things I have to do with a body-building babysitter on my heels. I may not be able to explain it to Jack, but you shouldn’t need an explanation too.”
In response, he put a hand at the small of my back and ushered me across the street. Seconds later we were inside the station.
I hadn’t asked his plan to get the items in the cylinder out of the country. It was better if I didn’t know, and he probably wouldn’t have told me anyway. For that matter, neither of us said much as we hurried through the huge open area and found my queue. Too much on both our minds.
The last thing my art-liberator-partner-in-crime said to me before we split up was, “Keep alert, but don’t concern yourself with me.”
There was no reason to doubt him, but always reason for concern.
“Be careful,” I warned. Nico nodded. Both of us knew everything got more serious once we parted company at Paris. We could only count on ourselves. He disappeared to accomplish his sleight-of-hand maneuver necessary to get the treasure out of France. I boarded the train and kept an eye out for anyone who paid me too much attention—or tried to look like they weren’t watching.
In truth, I saw the next phase of this endeavor as far riskier to Nico than to me. There were so many ways to drive a car off the side of a road. Whereas, trying anything in a Chunnel train with a relatively full car of passengers heading for a business trip or holiday in England was less likely to result in something I couldn’t escape. So many additional would-be witnesses. And we’d been careful. We didn’t even purchase our seats in advance. Nico bought last evening’s tickets online as we stood waiting in St. Pancras station. For this solo return for me, his phone processed the purchase right after he’d parked the car. It was pure luck and stubbornness I’d made this train in time. We’d cut it almost too close.
Once in my seat and the doors shushed closed, I swept my gaze and came back satisfied everyone was as innocent as they appeared. That didn’t mean there weren’t safeguards I should employ. I didn’t carry a purse this trip, but I had a couple of lock picks secreted into the soles of my shoes. When I found my seat, I fiddled with my footwear, hiding a pick in the closed fingers of each hand. They weren’t big, but they were mighty—and sharp. I also had a “screamer alarm” in my pocket. Normally, I used the little electronic devices to warn if someone entered a door behind me. When the two pieces separated, they offered a high-pitched alert capable of waking the dead. If anyone grabbed me, I intended to pull those babies apart and let them do all my screaming for me.
The sharp picks, the overachiever alarms, and the matron settling into the next seat helped me relax for the first time in nearly twelve hours. The rocking of the train did the rest, and I couldn’t keep myself from napping most of the way back to England.
The sun peeked over the horizon a couple of hours later as our Eurostar cruised into St. Pancras International Station. This was my favorite time to disembark from a train at this station, when the early morning light streamed through the skylights. With the brass trim all around, I could imagine myself in a lovely and luxurious birdcage.
As I exited with the rest of the passengers, the public address system voices were British, rather than the French-accented ones I’d been listening to on the train. I took a moment to step away from the crowd, to give myself a chance to look for signs of danger using a full-body stretch to mask my true intention. Well, I really did need to stretch, to loosen the muscles I’d kept on high alert for too long, so the action served a dual purpose.
Though I’d only been living full-time in London a few months, the accented voices around me suddenly made me feel like I was home. Truly home. I realized this was the only place since college I’d allowed myself to settle down in any significant way. Sure, I still lived in a hotel, but I knew most of the personnel on a first-name basis. Things felt…comfortable. Surprising me as I made the acknowledgement. That homey feeling was one I couldn’t say I’d experienced often in the previous decade.
Despite the fact we were still trying to learn if my father would again try to kill me. Yeah, that’s right, kill me. I realized most fathers didn’t attempt to murder their offspring, but when mine did, it was directly after I learned he was the master criminal I’d been tracking for months. Priorities. Oh, and I’d believed he was dead for the past decade as well. It ruined his plans when I learned otherwise.
Regardless, things felt like they were looking up. In the past few months I’d pulled together a marvelous working team. It was no longer Nico and me against the world, like things had mostly seemed before. Adding Cassie Dean as my assistant was a recent move. Cassie was American, like me. She helped run the office and was a genius at art restoration and forgery spotting. And then…Jack.
Well, Jack Hawkes didn’t really work for the foundation. He was considered a kind of adjunct member of our team—though becoming increasingly essential by the day. Evidence pointed to a mole, or moles, operating to hinder us in our current project— trying to stop an international art heist. Jack joining our group made sense. It allowed a tighter rein on information and less risk of leaking critical info to any traitor operating in his organization or the Beacham Foundation. Stopping art heists wasn’t in the mission statement for the nonprofit, but protecting art was—and I’d always treated my job description as a flexible work in progress.
Thankfully, Jack worked the same way.
To further complicate things, we’d acknowledged earlier in the month we were interested in seeing where our relationship might go—past the work level—and were still finding our way with that. All the while trying to convince each other we weren’t making a stupid mistake to even consider trying to be a couple. Or maybe that was just me.
I moved quickly through the station, carrying only my coat and mentally reviewing the cover story for last night about a quick visit with a friend in Paris if anyone discovered we’d gone. Nico was tasked with the real challenge and risks. I only had to keep cool and balanced.
Pushing through the early morning commuter crowd, my watch said I had enough time to go by my place to shower and change before heading to the office. I’d already texted Leif, my self-defense coach, and begged off from the morning’s workout, adding I’d be busy tomorrow morning too. I thought I might still get in some time at the gun range later, but while he’d set that up originally, I didn’t need him onsite for instruction. He’d immediately texted back a confirmation and warned me to run five miles in place of training. I clicked off my phone in response.
I’d been good. For weeks. This was the first class I’d missed since Jack set up the self-defense lessons after we returned from Germany around New Year’s, and I appreciated the way I felt so alive when leaving each time. Well, alive and bruised, but I was beginning to give as good as I got. Progress.
I stopped at the coffee kiosk, grabbed an apple for breakfast, and waited on my caramel macchiato order. I was less than thrilled when I turned away from the cash register to find a smiling journalist squarely blocking my exit.
“Hallo, Laurel Beacham.”
Smile, Beacham, smile, I reminded myself. Lincoln Ferguson stood medium height, lanky build, with light brown hair and dressed in a light-brown suit that carried a hipster flair. One might mistakenly think he was an unimaginative office drone, until noticing the sharp-eyed glance he kept on everything around him. There was absolutely nothing at all unimaginative about this man, and I doubted much got past him. No point in not being civil. “Fancy running into you, Lincoln.”
“Not at all. Had a tip you were coming back on the Eurostar this a.m.,” he said.
My body heat ratcheted up another ten degrees. No way he could know about the heist Nico and I pulled, but even so…
Lincoln Ferguson had become my latest pest. Unfortunately, and even more dangerous from my perspective, he was an excellent journalist and seemed to have an inside track into where I was much too often. I wanted to ask if he had a hacker or a psychic on his payroll, since my plans had been a secret even to me until late yesterday when I learned the painting would be transported within hours—by noon today, in fact—sent out of France and to auction before it again went underground. The ticking clock meant Nico and I had to move fast. Our specialty, though we didn’t usually operate under quite so tight a turnaround. But each reclamation had its own idiosyncrasies, and I tried never to lose a masterwork again without at least attempting a rescue.
My quip about a psychic or hacker on Lincoln’s payroll, however, would have likely raised the reporter’s antenna higher, and I couldn’t risk the scrutiny. Instead, I offered a fake grin and teased, “Who in the world could have tipped you off about my silly errands? I need to let the CIA know about you, Linc, or at least MI5. You must be clairvoyant. My friend called me last night for a little girl talk. It was a spur-of-the-moment trip.”
“A journalist I know in Paris saw you this morning while he was boarding a train to Brussels. He remembered my mentioning the interview with you that I am continually working to land and texted me. He also wanted to know if you’re single.”
I recognized the emphasis he put on the word “continually” but didn’t rise to the bait. I responded to the last line instead. “You know I’m single, and I’m not currently looking.” I was a pro with the smile and flip answer, but my conscious mind worked over the possibilities. How many people saw me during this quick trip— witnesses I couldn’t afford? Yes, Ferguson keeping tabs on me was annoying, but there were other people whose interest in me was of the…deadly variety.
“It was to see a friend, you say?” He fell into step with me as I moved away from the coffee kiosk.
“Yes, just a few hours of hand holding.” I polished my apple against my jacket sleeve but never slowed my pace. “I always like traveling overnight when I can. Much more convenient. I can nap on the return and stay on schedule the rest of the day.”
He got the hint. “So you’re on your way to an appointment?”
“Yes, first thing. I’ll have my assistant call you when she sees I have an opening in my calendar. But I’m truly not interested in an interview, you know.” That was when my gaze rested on the figure in the dark Savile Row suit who leaned against the wall of the station. His posture might have appeared casual, but the way his laser look drilled into me was anything but laidback. I caught my lower lip between my teeth as he pushed away from the wall and sauntered our way.
Linc was still jabbering something about our getting together, but I remained focused on the intruder heading toward us. I was also trying to remember to breathe. My mind needed oxygen to form a plan.
“Good morning, Laurel.” Jack Hawkes’s teal eyes narrowed slightly as he added, “I thought that was you. Can I help you get a cab?”
“Sure, I…” I turned my head to break the connection short circuiting my brain. Time to switch gears. “Jack, this is Lincoln Ferguson. Linc, meet Jack Hawkes.” Then I squared my shoulders for a second and started walking again toward the exit. “You’re right, Jack. I do need a cab. We have an early meeting, after all.”
“Earlier than either of us expected,” he returned, slipping my right hand into the crook of his elbow and making sure to keep my fingers viced in the grip of his free hand. Louder he said, “Nice to meet you, Lincoln.”
I thought we’d gotten away, but in a blink the reporter was again by my side. “Do the two of you work together?”
“The idea of the two of us working together is a rather fanciful notion,” Jack said. “Laurel always feels she is at her best when she’s operating solo.”
Oh, boy. Thank you, Mr. Hawkes. Aloud, I said, “So much of my work is based on confidentiality. One of the reasons I’m not sure how interesting an interview I can offer to you.”
“I’d be willing to take that chance.”
“Knowing Laurel, it would be a total waste of time, mate. Trust me,” Jack added.
I used our proximity to elbow him in the side, and I smiled up at Linc. “As I said, I’ll have my assistant call you when I have an opening.”
We were finally outside in weak January sunshine. I saw Jack’s Audi, but he hurried me along the taxi line to the front cab.
Lincoln remained doggedly at my side.
“Aren’t we going in your car?” I asked, pointing.
Wonderful. As he played moving recon, he’d have the time and temper to plan a lecture I didn’t want to attend.
“I think you need to know a few things before you jump to conclusions,” I whispered, hoping Linc didn’t hear.
“Good. We’re finally thinking the same way,” Jack returned, his voice pitched equally low and frown firmly in place. “Informing others is always an excellent plan.”
We both looked back to gauge if the reporter picked up any of our conversation, but he was busy continuing a persuasion tactic. “Just give me a chance to change your mind, Laurel.”
The cabbie opened the back door and I slid onto the seat, hoping my pest wouldn’t follow me inside. I almost panicked when he leaned in, but it was only to hand me another of his cards. “All my contact numbers are on the back. Your assistant can’t miss me.” He raised his light brown brows and gave me a boyish grin.
Yeah, neither of us was fooling anyone. Jack was especially not pleased, but his words were somewhat gracious when he said, “Mind, I think the cabbie wants to be on his way.” And he slammed the door a split second after Lincoln cleared the opening.
The cab pulled away, and I watched Jack grab a card Linc extended. Then Hawkes hurried to the black Audi. Perfect parking karma. He whipped a quick turn and was behind us in an instant. The man had what it took.
I just wondered what kind of karma was headed my way the next time he caught me alone.