Friday, 4:33 p.m.
“I am not climbing into that car with you.” As the three of them stood outside the Meissen shop’s front door, Samantha Jellicoe realized that she’d been wrong to think she’d find Richard Addison less attractive in daylight and with witnesses.
“It’s a limousine,” Addison corrected, “and I’m not trying to kidnap you.”
“I’d prefer to meet you back at your estate after dark.” That made more sense as far as she was concerned. She’d have her own way in and out, and a little control over how deeply she became involved in this. “I know the way in.”
“You’re not breaking in to my house again. And I can’t quite see you walking past the police posted at the front gate.”
“I’d like to see that,” Tom Donner countered.
She smirked at the attorney, not having to feign irritation as they continued to argue on Worth Avenue. Strong as the instinct to get out of the open pulled at her, she wasn’t about to compromise her standards. And considering that the male heat coming off of Addison was making her mouth dry, she definitely needed to keep a little distance – and perspective. Obviously she wasn’t the only hunter in the mix any longer. “All my worldly possessions are about a block from here. I’m not leaving them behind.”
Addison started to say something, then closed his mouth again. “All your possessions?” he repeated after a moment, and she sensed that she’d surprised him. Probably the idea of someone being able even to tally all their possessions, much less tote them about, stumped him.
“I’m afraid so.” It wasn’t quite true, since she had the storage unit rented outside of Miami, a safe house here and there, and a nice-sized bank account in Switzerland, but that wasn’t any of his business. Everything she needed to exist from day to day was in the trunk of the Honda.
“We’ll swing by and get it.”
Sam was definitely beginning to feel more like prey than predator, and she didn’t like it. This partnership had been her idea, not his. “Like hell we will,” she snapped. “I drive myself to the estate, or forget it. You don’t need to run my errands.”
“I want to run your errands,” Addison insisted, annoyance just clipping the edges of his warm voice.
“People don’t disagree with you very often, do they?” she asked.
“No, they don’t.”
“Get used to it,” she countered, having no intention of giving up the quarterback position. She could probably ease her way into command later, but with Addison she wanted some ground rules set.
“Why don’t you just cooperate and be grateful we don’t call the cops, Miss Smith?” the lawyer grunted, arms folded across his chest. Leaning back against the side of the limo Donner looked like a tawny-haired mafioso with a tan and cowboy boots.
“Don’t you have ambulances to chase?” she returned, glad she didn’t have to work any particular charms on the lawyer. “Or do you have to be available to wipe Addison’s ass?”
“I wipe my own bum, thank you very much,” Addison put in mildly. “Get in the car.”
”I’m not going to keep arguing. At this moment you’re free because I haven’t called the authorities. We’ll get your things, and then we’ll go back to my estate and get down to business. That’s as compromising as I’m going to get, love.”
For a moment she wanted to ask what kind of business he had in mind, but under the circumstances that didn’t seem wise. He was right about having the advantage here. Even if he didn’t call the cops, the longer they stood out on Worth Avenue in the open the more likely she was to end up in handcuffs. “All right.”
“Let’s get a move on, then,” the attorney said, his expression darkening as he looked past them. “Unless you want to use the six o’clock news to invite Dracula or Hannibal Lecter to dinner.”
Sam glanced over her shoulder, narrowing her eyes against the glare of the afternoon sun. The sight of a herd of news cameras loping in their direction made her yelp. Not bothering to wait for someone to open the limo door for her, she did it herself and leapt inside. No photos. Ever. A photo meant you were labeled and remembered and recalled at convenience. “Come on,” she ordered, sliding to the middle of the seat, away from the windows.
“And I thought I hated the press,” Addison commented, sitting beside her.
Donner took the seat opposite, and the limousine rumbled with reassuring speed into the light traffic. Sam didn’t let out her breath until they’d passed the last of the news vans.
“Will they follow?”
“Of course they will. I imagine we’ve got at least one news helicopter tailing us right now, too.”
She frowned. “Then forget my car. I’ll come back for it later.”
“I’ll send someone for it. Will that make you feel better?”
“I’ll feel better if I’m the only one who knows where it is.”
“You’re twitchy, aren’t you?” the attorney said, pulling a bottle of water from a built-in refrigerator beneath his seat. He didn’t offer her one.
“Are the police after you?” she retorted.
“Then shut up.”
Addison ignored the exchange, instead flipping a button on the door console. “Ben, take us home, please.”
Jaws clenched with a nauseating combination of nervousness and annoyance and adrenaline, Sam watched Donner tilt up the water bottle and take a long drink, condensation running down his thumb and dripping onto his tie. “Are those for everybody, or is he special?”
With what sounded like a suppressed chuckle, Addison leaned down to retrieve another ice-cold bottle and hand it to her. “He is special, but help yourself.”
“I’m glad you’re amused, Rick,” Donner muttered. “This isn’t what I pictured when you said you wanted her help. I was thinking more along the lines of a phone call or two – not inviting the fox back to the henhouse.”
“All of Addison’s chickens are safe,” Sam retorted. “Does he really need to be here?” She turned to Addison, who was watching her with that amused, sexy expression on his face.
“For now, he does.”
“Great.” She’d meant to sound more annoyed, but no man had any right to look that good three days after a bomb had nearly blown him to pieces. Her uncertainty about this whole deal grew, and she tried to drown the butterflies in her stomach with a swallow of water. Uncertainty, or lust, Sam? With the heated vibes ricocheting between them, she had a good idea which it was.
“What changed your mind about me?” she pursued.
“Curiosity.” He sat back, as at ease and relaxed in his expensive blue suit as he’d looked the night before in jeans and bare feet. “So, Samantha, do you have any idea who might have taken the stone tablet and planted that bomb?”
Sam froze with the bottle halfway to her lips. “The tablet’s gone?”
He nodded. “Disappointed?”
She deserved that, she supposed, and let the comment pass. “It makes a difference.” Scowling at the attorney’s cynical expression, she drank more water and silently cursed Etienne a few more times. And whoever’d hired him. That, she needed to find out. “A difference about the intent of the crime. Not a difference to me. Speaking of which, Addison, do you have any idea how you’re going to help me?”
“I have an idea or two. But I do expect your help in return. I won’t give you something for nothing. That’s not the way I do business.”
Actually, getting something for nothing was precisely how she preferred to do business. But this was anything but business as usual. Everything she’d learned in her life screamed that she couldn’t trust him, couldn’t trust anyone. Her freedom and her life were her responsibility. Yes, had a damned good idea who’d taken the tablet, and more than likely planted the bomb. Etienne wasn’t going to confess, and she wasn’t going to turn him in. Throwing Etienne’s boss to the wolves suited her just fine, but she needed time to find the bastard before the police found her. Hence she’d answered Addison’s televised invitation, and now she was riding in his limousine.
Addison nodded, sending a warning glance at the attorney. “We’ll all make an effort to cooperate here.”
“I’ll do my part, but I reserve the right for griping and future ‘I told you so’s’,” Donner said, settling back with his water.
“That’s helpful,” Sam noted.
“I wouldn’t have to be saying it if you hadn’t broken in, Miss Manners.”
“But you’d still have a theft and an explosion, Harvard. And no one to help you figure it out.”
“Yale. And you–“
”Enough, children,” Addison broke in. “Don’t make me stop the car.”
Smirking at the lawyer, Sam sat back. Her father must be spinning in his grave right now. His daughter was riding in a limousine with an attorney and one of the wealthiest men in the world. She knew exactly what Martin Jellicoe would do with the opportunity; steal Richard Addison blind, deaf, and dumb. That thinking, however, was why her father had spent the last five years of his life in prison. She’d learned the lessons of restraint and patience, even if he hadn’t. As she glanced again at Addison, she decided that the restraint lessons would come in especially handy.
She gazed out the window past the attorney to watch the palm trees and coastline fly past, and wondered what she’d gotten herself into. Every mile took her further from her gear and her car, further from the safety net of the city and its crowds. For God’s sake, she didn’t even have a change of clothes with her. But she could play this game; she would play it, because she didn’t have any other choice.
They approached the front gates, a uniformed cop standing in front of either post. Sam couldn’t help sinking lower in the seat as they slowed. No, she wouldn’t have liked doing this on her own, but then, she wouldn’t have driven up to the front door. The limo driver rolled down his window, held a brief exchange with one of the officers, and the gates opened.
“See, you’re safely inside, as I promised. No need to go over walls, dig tunnels, or anything.”
Samantha turned around to watch the gates close again. “You have lousy security.”
“We have two cops at the front gate,” Donner said.
Facing forward again, she scowled at the attorney. “And they didn’t even check the trunk or the passengers in the limo. If the idea is keeping Addison safe, you might want to suggest they log everybody’s identification and check that no one’s holding anyone hostage before they open the gates. I know you gave them a description of me, because I heard it on the news. And yet here I sit.”
Richard kept his gaze out the window. Samantha had a point. The deference with which the Palm Beach police treated him was expected, given his status in the close-knit, elite community, but he would be a fool to rely on it for anything more than keeping the press away from his front door. They certainly hadn’t kept his visitor out last night – or just now. “Worried about me?” he asked.
“You’re my way out of this,” she returned, the tease coming into her voice again.
“Then try to be honest with me.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Tom looked skeptical, but Richard suspected she was telling the truth. Even so, he intended to keep his perspective. She might give off more heat than the Florida sun, but she was playing a game, just as he was. The only difference was that she wanted to get away free, and he wanted . . . her. “I do occasionally conduct business on the estate,” he said. “I also entertain. Guests are to be expected. And you have to admit, you’re not precisely dressed like a thief at the moment.” He took the occasion to run his gaze down her long legs.
If she noticed the scrutiny, she didn’t say anything about it. “I could have been naked or draped with ammunition bandoleers, Addison, and they wouldn’t have blinked.”
“Point taken. And since all I have is your first name, you may as well call me Rick.”
“I’ll decide what I might as well do,” she returned, though her tone softened a little. “But thanks for the offer, Addison.”
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