Illusion (Swept Away Book 1) (4 page)

BOOK: Illusion (Swept Away Book 1)
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“I’ll tell you later,” she said hurriedly, and then hung up.

I
checked my watch for the tenth time. It was now six forty-five, and I was starting to get impatient. I looked at the menu again, and my stomach rumbled as I read the different entrée descriptions. I was so hungry, and I could already feel the glass of wine I was sipping going to my head.

I texted Rosie a photo of the cute bartender and then rubbed my temple softly. Hopefully the surreptitious photo I’d taken would make her hurry up.

“Hey.” Rosie walked into the bar as if she owned it, oblivious to the stares of the men in the bar as she sauntered toward me. Her blond hair was perfectly coiffed and her Escada suit clung to her body perfectly.

“Hey!” I jumped up and gave her a quick hug and continental kiss—left cheek, right cheek, left cheek. “I just texted you, by the way!” I looked at her expensive suit enviously. “You’re lucky I work from home, or I’d be borrowing your clothes.” I laughed as we sat down. I instinctively grabbed to the right of me to make sure the plastic bag was still at my side. I was going to give Rosie a copy of my father’s papers to hold for safekeeping. I’d taken the originals and put them in my safety deposit box at the bank, but I wanted to make sure that I had multiple copies out there just in case.

“How goes the writing? Seen any good movies lately?” She smiled at me briefly before turning to call the waiter over.

“Depends on what you mean by
goo
d
.” I shrugged. “I’ve been watching box office movies mainly, those are the reviews
that get the hits. Not the art pieces we used to watch in college.”

“Good old action movies, huh?”

“Action and cheesy romance.” I smiled and picked up my glass of wine. “They all start to seem the same, but they pay well. I had an article on Channing Tatum get ten thousand views last week.”

“Well, I’d pay to see him swinging those hips.” Rosie frowned as she waited for someone to come over and take her order. “The service here sucks. I should have remembered from last time.”

“Oh, you’ve been here before?” I asked her curiously. I was pretty sure she had said this was her first time.

“Yeah, once.” She ran her hands through her hair and then leaned toward me and grinned. “I’ve missed you, Bianca. I feel like we haven’t seen each other in ages.”

“That’s because we haven’t.”

“I bought you something the other day.” She studied my face and grinned. “A book on Richard the Third and the lost princes or whatever.”

“Oh awesome.” I leaned back in my chair. “You know that some men at the Tower of London recently found . . .”

She interrupted me and said, “So you have to tell me all about that guy online.” Then she paused and turned around. “Waiter!” she called out loudly. “Can you come over here when you have a chance? I’d like a drink sometime this year.” She turned back to me with a glint in her eyes and a small smile. “Let’s see how long he takes now.”

“He’s most probably busy, Rosie.” I shook my head at her impatience. “You’ve only been here for a few minutes.”

“Exactly, I’ve been here for a few minutes, and I’m still sober.” She shuddered. “Something is wrong with this picture.”

“You can have some of my wine if you want.” I pointed to the bottle on the table, and she shook her head.

“No, I think I’m going to get a cocktail,” she said quickly. “I need liquor tonight.”

“So how’s work?” I changed the subject and inquired about her job. I really wanted to talk about myself, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“Challenging.” She shrugged. “We’re attempting to get the account of one of the top financial companies in the States. I can’t tell you the name for legal reasons, but let’s just say if we get it, we will be one of the top advisement companies in the world.”

“Do you think you’ll get it?”

“If I have anything to say about it, yes.” She pursed her lips. “Of course, I’m not working on that deal. I’m helping James with the Bradley Inc. deal. If we get that, I think I’ll get promoted. That’s why I’ve been so busy.”

“Oh.” I looked down into my glass of wine; my heart was racing at her words. I hadn’t known she was trying to do business with the Bradley Corporation. “That’s David’s dad’s company,” I said casually, pretending that that fact was unimportant.

“Oh yeah, that’s where I saw him a couple of weeks ago. In the offices.” She made a face, and I knew that she was
worried that I was still upset that we had broken up. Rosie didn’t know that I had never really had legitimate feelings for David, so his cheating hadn’t really hurt me.

“I need to tell you something.” I took a deep breath and lowered my voice. “It’s about David and, well, the Bradley Company.”

“Oh?” Her eyes narrowed, and she looked at me in interest. “What about them?”

“I think that the Bradley Company had something to do with what happened to my mother.”

“What are you talking about?” She looked confused. “What happened to your mom? She died in a car crash, didn’t she?”

“That’s the thing.” I took a deep breath, hoping Rosie wasn’t going to think I was crazy. “I don’t think she did.”

“What?”

“Remember how my dad used to work as an inventor?” I rushed out. “Well, he used to work for the Bradley Company. In fact when the company was started it was called Bradley, London, and Maxwell. I think—”

“Hold on a second.” She jumped up quickly. “I just need to go to the restroom, okay?”

I noticed someone in the corner of the bar staring at me. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place him. I nodded at Rosie slowly as my head started to feel heavy. I was being watched. I was certain of it. I took a deep breath and looked around me. Was I being listened to as well? Part of me was glad that Rosie had jumped up when she had. Then it hit
me; it was the man who’d been staring at me from behind the newspaper at the coffee shop.

“That’s fine.” I mumbled back, the words tripping out of mouth in an existential fashion. I wanted to jump up and run, but I knew that wouldn’t help. I’d ask Rosie for her advice when she came back from the restroom. I’d tell her everything that was going on and then hope she wasn’t angry at me for keeping it all from her for so long.

“Watch my bag for me.” She handed me her large black Balenciaga bag and walked away quickly. I put her bag in my lap and quickly unzipped it and placed the plastic bag with the copies of my father’s papers in it and did it back up again.

“More wine, ma’am?” I heard the voice in front of me and I felt a prick in my arm as I looked up. I didn’t see the face of the person as I looked up, because my vision became dotted. All of a sudden, I felt terribly drowsy, like I wanted to sleep. I closed my eyes for a second, and then the world went black.

The first time I regained consciousness, I could feel someone lifting me up. I tried to open my eyes to see what was going on, but my eyelids wouldn’t open, because they were too weak. The second time I regained consciousness, I could hear two men frantically whispering something. It sounded like “The plan’s changed. The plan’s changed.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I allowed the dark void to suck me back in as my brain realized that the inevitable had happened. I knew that I’d rather be unconscious than frozen in fear while being blind and speechless. The void was good for now. The void would allow me to
conserve my energy and stop the panic that was currently running through my body.

I drifted back into oblivion, and all I could think about were David’s words the last time we’d spoken:
You’re strong, Bianca. You can handle anything. I promise that you’ll get over this
. I only hoped that I was as strong as he thought I was.

two

M
y head was pounding when I finally regained full consciousness. My body felt stiff, and there was an ache in my neck. I tensed as I realized that I was in a dark, cramped space I couldn’t identify. The air around me was stuffy, and my brain still felt hazy.

I smelled him before I felt him. His scent was deep and musky, like an expensive cologne. It was then that I realized his arm was under my neck. I froze as my heart joined my pounding head, and he groaned as I rolled over and slowly crashed into his chest. My limbs felt numb, and my mind was fuzzy. I felt his fingers squeezing my neck, and I wondered if this was it. Was I going to die by strangulation? I reached my hands up to his fingers and sharply yanked them away, banging both of our hands into something hard above us.

“Careful,” he muttered, and I froze as my eyes tried to focus in the dark. He was awake, and he didn’t sound happy.

“Do I know you?” I whispered, trying to remember where I had been and what I’d been doing. My heart thudded as the faintest of memories came back to me. “Who are you?” My words sounded pained. What was going on?

“Who are
you
?” His voice was low, and he attempted to move away from me. “And where am I?”

“I don’t know.” I attempted to sit up but found it hard to move.

I could feel the panic welling up in me, and I tried not to scream. The last thing I could remember was drinking a glass of wine in a cute little bar on the Upper West Side while I waited for Rosie to get off work. I froze as I remembered two men frantically muttering something. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on the voices I’d heard. Was this man lying next to me one of the men who had kidnapped me? And if so, why was he trapped with me?

“You don’t know who you are?” His tone sounded bemused, and I could tell from his voice that he was an arrogant asshole. “Or you don’t want me to know?”

“No, I don’t know where
we
are,” I said slowly, trying not to show my fear and irritation. I knew that I couldn’t show him my weakness or anger right now. I didn’t know who he was. If he knew I was scared, that might encourage him to do something bad.

I lay there and tried to think what I had learned in my self-defense classes.
Don’t panic, scream loudly, and kick them in the junk
is all I could remember my instructor saying.

“Damnit, Bianca,” I whispered to myself. Now I wished
that I had paid more attention in the class instead of goofing around with Rosie.

“What did you say?” His voice was gruff, and I felt his hands gripping my waist as he shifted.

I remained silent and waited to see what he was going to do next. I could hear a loud throbbing sound, and the smell of fuel surrounded my nostrils. I rubbed my forehead, wishing that I could make sense of where I was. The man behind me shifted again, and I felt his hands higher on my waist this time.

“Get your hands off me.” I pushed him away and hit my head against something hard. “Ow!” I shouted, and he groaned.

“Please tell me that you’re not going to be like this all day and night.”

“I hope not to be here with you all day and night,” I retorted back, and then sighed. “Not that I even know where I am.”

“We’re in some sort of vehicle.” He spoke matter-of-factly, and once again, I felt irritated.

“How do you know?”

“Feel the vibrations? We’re moving, and whatever’s beneath us isn’t smooth.”

“Okay, Einstein.” I rolled my eyes, even though he couldn’t see me. I lay there for a moment and paid attention to everything around me. He was right. “So you think we’re in a car or something?”

“Who knows?” He sighed. “I’ve never been kidnapped before.”

“Kidnapped?” I screeched, and I felt his hand move to my mouth.

“Be quiet,” he whispered into my ear. “You’re being too loud. We don’t want them to realize that we’re awake.”

“Who is the ‘we’ you’re talking about?” I whispered back, fear suddenly setting in. I wasn’t sure what was going on here. Who was he? And why were we in the car together? Something had gone terribly wrong, and all I could think about was Rosie and if she was okay.

I was disoriented, tired, and extremely scared. I took a couple of quick breaths and then started panicking again. What if the oxygen ran out? Was I about to die? Who would kidnap me? I had no money. I wasn’t a spy. There was nothing to be gained from kidnapping me. Then I remembered the plan. I knew that I had to expect the unexpected. This was the unexpected. I took a deep breath and tried to calm my nerves. At least I wasn’t alone. I froze for a second. Why wasn’t I alone?

“I don’t know who.” He sighed. “I don’t know why anyone would want to kidnap me.” His voice sounded tired and sincere, like he really didn’t know why he was here. He also didn’t sound familiar.

My breath came a little easier then. I didn’t know who he was, but I was pretty certain that he wasn’t one of the men I’d heard earlier. I tried to remember what my father had told me when I was younger and feeling uncomfortable.

Talk out your worries, Bianca. No one can make you uncomfortable unless you give them the power.
That was just one of
many pieces of advice he’d given me. He’d been scatterbrained and focused only on his work most of the time, but he’d always had a wise word to lend me when I’d needed it. I missed him every day.

“I really want to scream right now.” I tried to move away from him, still uncomfortable.

BOOK: Illusion (Swept Away Book 1)
2.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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