Paperback coming soon
Dominic opened the driver's door, ignored her, settled in behind the wheel, and started the truck. Slowly, he eased away from the curb.
"We're going to the train station. We're going to be seen by as many people as possible. We'll buy tickets to anywhere, first train out, but we won't get on it," he said softly.
She straightened, but kept her grip on the bag.
"Why we?" she asked.
"I'm obviously a target, too." He shrugged, but she could see the muscle in his jaw working overtime.
"I'm sorry about your hotel." She caught her lower lip between her teeth. "You should never have kissed me in front of those reporters, should have kept walking—"
"I don't regret any of that." He shot her a glance that told her he was as stressed as she was. He met her gaze briefly before refocusing on the road. "John is dead, I can only assume what happened to the other two."
She stared at his profile and clutched her bag. There had never been casualties until now—they were upping the stakes of the game.
"Here's what we're going to do," he said. "We'll walk in together, buy our tickets and make sure we're seen. I want every camera in that place seeing us getting on a train."
"And as soon as we get on, we sneak out?" The idea sounded risky to her, but she understood the plan. Diversion. Make everyone think they were headed somewhere else — together.
"I know a place where we can go — it's a small house I bought earlier a few years ago when we were renovating Casa Magnifica." He shook his head. "It sits vacant now...although I'm not sure why...I ended up staying at the hotel or the Casa Varga's back room. None of that matters, I'm rambling." He ran a restless hand through his hair. "Anyway, we can stay there."
"No." She shook her head. "Whoever these people are will find it. They might believe the train story for a day, but that's it. Then they'll start looking at your assets, on places like this that you own. I'll go alone."
"No, I mean at the train station." She gulped back the panic. "You go back to the hotel and act like the owner that you are, make an appearance of being alone, of losing me in the chaos at the restaurant. I'll buy the ticket, get on the train, sneak off, and wait for you."
"No, it's the only way." Every instinct she had told her that she'd been pushed to the train station, that there would be someone there waiting for her, but she also knew that their only chance was to appear as if they'd been separated. "Better yet, give a statement about my disappearance to the press...play the part of terrified lover."
"I am the terrified lover." He reached out and covered her hand with his. Squeezed.
"If they think we aren't together, at least not initially, it will buy us time. You can come back and pick me up, but I think we need to leave Spain. We can easily get to France. I have friends I can call who make me look tame, who would leap at the chance at hiding me away. None of them can be bought, I have no doubt about it. If we can just get out of Barcelona—"
"One thing at a time," he muttered. "We'll do it your way at the train station. Makes sense, but it's risky."
"How is Clarence?" she asked, her voice hitching on the last word.
"Critical condition, I don't know much. He took a bullet at close range—"
"Someone got close enough to do that?"
Nic nodded slowly. "You're thinking about Simon and Don, aren't you?"
"Or Cleo," she admitted with a whisper.
He parked in front of the train station before twisting to look at her. "Take off your hat and jacket, be recognizable, buy a ticket to the first train to anywhere, stay in public, though, don't go off into any shadowy corners. On the train, put this get-up back on, careful to hide your hair like you're doing, and then go hang out on some bench or something. I'll find you."
They stared at each other for a heartbeat too long, neither in a rush to say goodbye.
He reached into his pocket for his wallet. "You probably need—"
"I have sixty thousand dollars in my bag," she admitted with a crooked grin. "I planned ahead."
His eyes widened before glancing down at her death grip on the Gucci bag. "And here I thought you just really loved your designer bling." He smiled in the dim light and reached out to cup the back of her head. "I don't regret one second of knowing you so don't start beating yourself up, do you hear me?"
Tears rushed to her eyes at his simple words, but she blinked them back. She'd cry later, when she was alone and far from here.
"And don't even think about ditching me again, do you promise?"
"The hotel needs—"
"Promise me, Vanessa."
"Fine. I promise."
He pulled off the hat before reaching behind her head to remove the hairpins. When her hair cascaded down, he unzipped her jacket and pushed it from her shoulders. Holding them both, he nodded toward the bag. His voice shook with emotion when he whispered, "Hide these until you need them."
She pulled off her jeans before yanking down her skirt. She wore boots now instead of high heels, but best to look the part of the Vanessa Warren that would be instantly recognizable...at least for this first part of the plan.
"They were going to blow up that part of the hotel with or without me being in the picture." He held her face between his palms and looked into her eyes. "I would have gotten a call and rushed in — without the benefit of spending the past twenty-four hours with you. The hotel going up in flames has nothing to do with you and me being together. Do you understand that?"
He crushed his mouth against hers in a fast and hard kiss that broke the tears free from where she'd been holding them at bay. He stroked them away with his thumbs before lifting his head.
"Please stay safe," he said.
"Make a good show about being torn up about my disappearance." She forced a smile. "I want the world to know that a man like you...cared."
"Cares. Present tense."
Ignoring that, she stepped from the truck, adjusted the bag, and walked into the train station with her head held high.
She'd never been so terrified.
The train station looked like heaven, all light and activity. A group of backpackers waited at the gate. Languages of every kind repeated over the loudspeaker announcing that the train to Paris would board soon.
“One ticket to Paris.” She slapped money underneath the ticket counter and tried to calm her breathing.
Ticket in hand, she elbowed her way through the throng boarding the train, thankful that she didn't have to wait long. Unfortunately, there weren't many empty seats and none that afforded her any privacy to change into her disguise.
Pulse thumping out of control in her neck, she glanced over her shoulder, but everyone around her looked suspicious in her current paranoid state. Finally finding a bathroom, she entered and locked the door. As fast as possible, she pulled on her other clothes, shoved her hair back under the hat, zipped her coat, and jumped into the hallway just as they announced that they were ready to depart. Holding her bag in front of her, she ducked out the back and leapt from the train as the doors closed.
Chest heaving from the constant fight-or-flight mode, she backed away from the train, eyes wide as she waited for an assailant to pounce. No one followed.
She found a quiet wall where some backpackers slept on benches, sank against the floor, looped her legs over the bag as if preparing to rest with the others, and pulled her hat to just above her eyes.
The interior of the train station darkened with the departure of the train bound for Rome. Footsteps echoed in the vastness.
She exhaled a long breath, gaze darting between the entrances. Watching. Waiting.
From the back cover...
One little lie leads to a whole lot of trouble.
Reclusive international resort developer, Dominic Piazza, needs a date to ward off his matchmaking parents. When he persuades the notorious Vanessa Warren to play his girlfriend for the night, he has no idea he's stepped into the crosshairs of kidnappers who will do anything—destroy everything—to get to her.
Power...it's a heady drug.
Vanessa Warren is America's favorite rebel. Daughter and granddaughter of US Presidents and sister to a future one, her family connections and notoriety are seen as leverage for manipulating the White House—if she's captured.
One true thing...
Trapped in a rapidly escalating international terror plot, Dominic and Vanessa's lie becomes the only real thing in the midst of betrayals, conspiracies, and murder. As their world falls apart, they suddenly only have each other to rely on against ruthless people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Who can they trust? Who is behind the plot—her own family, a political rival of her family's, or a terrorist organization? How far will the kidnappers go—what will they be willing to sacrifice—to control the power of the White House? Is there anywhere in the world where they can find safety?
Paperback coming soon