Authors: Carole Mortimer
“What’s wrong with him?”
Gabriel’s head snapped round, and he glared at Angel. “There’s nothing wrong with him,” he bit out defensively.
“Don’t go there,” he warned, hands clenched at his sides. “We have more important things to discuss than my brother’s shock at learning he’s an uncle for the second time,” he reminded her.
Angel straightened slowly, still feeling a little light-headed. She had no idea why she had laughed so much at Caleb Knight’s comment before bursting into tears, except for the strain she had been under these past few days. Weeks, actually, but much more so the past two days.
Had it really only been two days? It seemed so much longer. A lifetime of heartache and pain. She just wanted Daniel back—
“Where is my son?”
She swallowed as she slowly raised her head to look at Gabriel. “Clive has him.”
“As part of his visiting rights in the separation— No?” His eyes narrowed as Angel shook her head.
She moistened dry lips. “I have something… I daren’t leave Clive without… I needed insurance so that he didn’t… To stop him from… I was frightened he would hurt me.” Her gaze could no longer meet Gabriel’s. “I copied some information onto a memory stick, made three copies, and then locked them away in a safe deposit box at my bank.” She looked up at Gabriel in appeal. “I was frightened if I didn’t have insurance, Clive would try to stop me from leaving him and taking Daniel with me. Clive doesn’t… He never fails at anything. Even marriage. He divorced his first two wives, not the other way round,” she added bitterly.
“Where does Daniel come into this?”
“Clive wants that information back, so he…he took something I love beyond life itself.” The tears were once again falling hotly down her cheeks as she began to sob in earnest. “He took Daniel and his nanny, Gabriel. He won’t tell me where Lena is, and he says I can’t have Daniel back until I give him every copy of the information I have on him.”
“What sort of information?”
“On his illegal business dealings.”
“Is it drugs or illegal arms he’s into?” he prompted shrewdly.
“Both, I think. And…and he sells women too,” she choked out. “To the highest bidder. He holds these parties, calls these girls ‘the product,’ but really they’re human beings. Young women, abducted off the streets.”
She shuddered. “Not as far as I know, but maybe, yes. I know they’re…they’re beaten until they submit, and once they’re docile enough, he cleans them up, holds these bidding parties, and sells them. I think…I believe he may have that in mind for Lena.”
“How do you know all this?”
“One of the girls escaped. She didn’t know where to go, so she…she came to me, begged me to help her. I didn’t know what to do, what to think. I gave her money to get away, but…”
“Her death was reported in the newspapers a few days later.”
“So why haven’t you returned the memory stick and copies to him?”
“Because if I do that, I know he’ll kill me anyway and keep Daniel, and Lena will never be seen or heard from again. The only thing that’s stopping him from acting right now is the threat I’ve left instruction for that information to be sent to half a dozen prominent MPs and the police if anything should happen to me.”
“And you married this bastard?” Gabriel knew of other scumbags like Sinclair. On the surface so squeaky clean, but underneath as riddled with maggots as a piece of rotten meat. But so powerful, financially and politically, no one could touch them. He agreed with Angel, the information she had was her
bargaining chip. From what she had said, once she gave that up, she might even find herself being auctioned as one of Sinclair’s ‘products,’ right alongside the nanny, Lena.
“I didn’t know!” She buried her face in her hands as she continued to cry. “Oh God, I didn’t know…”
What Angel had or hadn’t known about the man she married was unimportant right now. What
important was the bastard had Gabriel’s son. And no one, absolutely no one, ever touched or harmed any of his family. Daniel might not know him yet, but from this moment on, the boy was Gabriel’s priority.
My only priority?
What about Angel?
He would also ensure that no harm came to Angel, but anything else would have to wait. He couldn’t deal right now with how he did or didn’t feel toward Angel. In the past few minutes, he had suffered one shock on top of another. Seeing Angel again. Learning that she was married, with a son.
son. Daniel. The fact that Clive Sinclair had now taken the boy.
That was the only thing that mattered to Gabriel right now.
He went down on his haunches beside Angel’s chair, able to see the dark shadows beneath her eyes now, the hollows of her cheeks. He had a feeling that her extreme slenderness was something new too. “Do you know where Sinclair took Daniel and Lena?” Just saying his son’s name made him more real to him.
She shook her head. “He has so many homes all over the world. Private yachts moored in the Bahamas and at the villa in Majorca too.”
“How did he contact you after he’d taken them?”
“Telephone. He told me he had Daniel and what he wanted in exchange, and then he rang off before I could ask him any questions. I tried to ring him back, but the number came up as out of use.”
“He used either a burner phone or scrambled the line so competently it was untraceable.” Gabriel’s brain was racing. “How does he want to make the exchange?”
“I’m to send the memory sticks in a package to his London office before the end of the week with the precise words ‘For the private attention of Clive Sinclair’ written on the front. Once his private secretary has confirmed that such a package had arrived, he would arrange to return Daniel to me and tell me where Lena is.”
“Can I ask why you decided to come to me rather than the police?”
Angel brushed past him as she stood agitatedly. “The police would take too much time to set up their investigation. It could take weeks, months for them to take action. If we don’t act soon, now, Clive is rich enough, powerful enough to ensure I’ll never see Daniel or Lena again.”
“It didn’t occur to you he might take Daniel after you had threatened him?”
She rounded on him fiercely. “Of course it didn’t occur to me. I would never have allowed Daniel to go to school if I had thought that.”
“As far as everyone else is concerned, Sinclair is Daniel’s father?”
She nodded. “Clive…he can’t have children of his own. After his second marriage ended, he had tests done and discovered he’s sterile. It’s the reason he wanted to marry me, so that he had a legitimate heir. Once I give him my only leverage, he doesn’t even have to kill me. He can do that by ensuring I never see Daniel again.”
Except Gabriel never lost.
Well…just the once, and look how that had turned out.
Angel might have left him eight years ago, but he wasn’t about to lose again where his son was concerned.
“That’s not going to happen,” he bit out harshly.
She gave a choked laugh. “You’re still so arrogantly self-confident.”
“Isn’t that why you came to me?”
It was. Of course it was. But Gabriel didn’t know Clive like she did. He had no idea what the other man was capable of. Angel hadn’t known either, not fully, until the young girl came to the house that day, beaten and starved, begging for help. Help that Angel had thought she had given her until the girl’s body was found in a London alley, a needle in her arm. Angel had telephoned the police anonymously and tried to tell them the death hadn’t been an accidental overdose, but they hadn’t wanted to listen, had seemed more interested in knowing who she was. Angel had ended the call. The girl’s death had been written off as just another junkie overdosing.
Angel had been on her guard after that, crying off accompanying Clive on his next business trip to New York in order to search through his private papers and the safe he never let her open. Anything that would give her the leverage she needed to be able to leave him. The safe had been secured by a password, of course, but it hadn’t been difficult to guess that password was “Daniel.” Inside, she had found a laptop she hadn’t known Clive owned.
She had spent hours poring over the contents of the files on that laptop. Not all of it made sense to her, because Clive used words like “product” and “cargo” and “shipment” to disguise what he was really buying and selling, but from the amounts he was being paid for those products and their destinations, Angel had known exactly what they were.
At which point she had become terrified.
Her first instinct had been to gather Daniel up from his bed and flee into what was left of the night.
Her second, once she calmed down enough to
coherently, had been more considered. If she ran, Clive would catch her, and when he did… She didn’t fool herself into thinking Clive would drag her back and hold her a virtual prisoner because he was in love with her. She was his much younger trophy wife, and Daniel was his heir. Clive would never willingly allow her to leave him, and Angel simply hadn’t been able to stay with him any longer.
Which meant she had needed some leverage of her own.
It had been easy to copy all the information on that hidden laptop onto a memory stick before returning it to the safe. Equally easy to make copies and then lock them all away in a safe deposit box at her bank.
It hadn’t even been that difficult, when Clive returned from his business trip, to tell him she was leaving him and wanted a divorce.
The problem occurred, as she had known it would, when he refused to let her take Daniel with her. Which was when she had confronted him with what she now knew about him. Clive hadn’t been concerned by her accusations. Which was when she told him she had
proof she would hand over to the authorities if he didn’t allow her and Daniel to leave. The coldness of his anger then had been…terrifying.
That had been two weeks ago. Two weeks when Angel had lived in fear in a rented apartment, despite her insurance locked away in the safe deposit box. Clive had been too surprised by her subterfuge, after years of her being the obedient wife, to react initially, but Angel had never doubted he would take action once he recovered.
That action had been to abduct Daniel two days ago, when he was being driven back from school by his nanny. Allowing Daniel to attend school was the only time Angel let her son out of her sight, and Clive had known that, damn him.
Clive had laughed when Angel asked the whereabouts of the young girl, suggesting Angel use her imagination, in view of what she now knew about him. She had, and it hadn’t been pleasant thinking that Lena could now be another one of Clive’s products, to be sold to the highest bidder.
“It isn’t going to happen, Angel,” Gabriel repeated firmly, knowing by her expression, and the pallor of her cheeks that he had lost her in the past few seconds. “I’ll get Daniel back.”
“What about Daniel’s nanny? Lena. Magdalena. She’s Spanish,” she added brokenly.
“We’ll get her back. We’ll get them both back,” he assured her grimly. He didn’t care how rich and powerful Sinclair was. The other man had Gabriel’s son, and Gabriel wanted him back. He had also taken the innocent girl who had been protecting his son. Gabriel wanted her back too. It was as simple as that. “Do you have a photo of him?”
Angel blinked back to an awareness of her surroundings. Of Gabriel. “Daniel?”
“Well, I certainly didn’t mean Sinclair.” He already knew what the other man looked like: tall and handsome, smooth and urbane, blond hair going silver at the temples, and cool blue eyes that obviously hid a multitude of secrets he had no intention of having made public.
Angel’s hands shook slightly as she opened her bag, immediately finding and bringing out the requested photograph. As if she kept it close and had looked at it often, since the flesh-and-blood child was denied her.
Gabriel’s own hand was less than steady as he took the color photograph, drawing his breath in sharply as he gazed at his son for the first time. Daniel looked a little gangly, with dark hair, his green eyes glowing, as if he was laughing at something or someone as he looked into the camera.
Even if Angel hadn’t already told him it was so, Gabriel would have known Daniel was his son. The little boy was him at the same age. Dark haired, green eyed, totally secure in the stability of his young life.
Except he wasn’t.
Daniel’s stepfather was everything that was wrong with this world. A user and an abuser who had made his fortune by taking or stealing the lives of other people.
As he had now stolen Daniel and Lena, two more innocents to be sacrificed to the man’s greed. Gabriel couldn’t allow that. Wouldn’t allow that.
“He’s beautiful.” Gabriel wanted to maintain possession of the photograph, to hold some part of Daniel and keep it for himself, but instead he handed the photograph back to Angel. He had a feeling she needed it more than he did right now. Whatever their own differences were, he couldn’t doubt the love she felt for Daniel. That love was there in every word she spoke about him.
“He looks exactly like you.” She blinked back fresh tears as she lovingly caressed the surface of the photograph.