I look up at him with hurt eyes. ‘That’s not funny, Barrington.’
‘I know, my darling heart. It’s only funny in the f**ked up world I exist in. The real truth is, I want us to be like those ancient couples who have never been apart a day in their lives and when one partner dies the other follows in hours.’
‘Me too. I even hate saying goodnight to you. It means I’ll lose you again for a few more hours.’
He puts a finger against my temple. ‘Sometimes I wake up and watch you sleeping.’
‘Do you know you sometimes smile in your sleep?’
‘You always look so defenseless and angelic, like one of those fairy princesses from my childhood days.’
‘A fairy princess?’ I love the idea.
‘Yes, often I wish I could lock you away in an enchanted tower. Nobody could get to you except me.’
‘You don’t have to look me away in a tower. I’m always here for you.’
‘The princess is not locked up because she is bad. The princess is locked up because she is precious beyond words, and everyone wants a piece of her.’ His voice changes, becomes serious. ‘I have to put you somewhere you can’t be hurt.’
‘I am at that somewhere. Right here, beside you.’
He frowns. ‘But when I am not around—’
‘Brian and his pack take over.’
‘I’d still prefer to lock you up in an enchanted tower.’
‘That doesn’t sound quite fair. I get locked up while you go into the world and do all the things that you love to do.’
‘I don’t love what I do, Lana. I do it because I have to.’
‘Why can’t you walk away? You have more than we can ever spend.’
‘Sometimes we are given the illusion of choice. Give a man dying of thirst in a desert a glass of water and tell him it’s his choice. Drink or leave it. Is that really a choice, Lana?’
I say nothing. I remember when my mother was so ill that choice became an illusion.
‘I am like that man,’ he continues. ‘If I drink it will mean danger to you and Sorab. I know too much for them to allow me to walk away. I have responsibilities that I must see through.’
‘Responsibilities to carry on destroying the world?’
He smiles sadly and puts his finger on my lips. ‘No more. That will happen with or without me.’
‘Then why do you have to do it?’
‘What happens to the whistleblower, Lana?’
‘They get put in prison or they or their loved ones meet with “accidents” or they commit “suicide” and the agenda goes on uninterrupted.’
I frown and move my mouth away from his finger. ‘Why—?’
His fingers stop my lips, stop any further conversation. His eyes look so sad I wish I had never started this conversation. I move towards him and hug him hard. He is in pain. Terrible pain, but he cannot tell me. He is the man in the desert with a glass full of cool, life-giving water. I am asking him to drink, but he is resisting because of me and Sorab. I realize then that he has reason for the secrecy he maintains. He believes it is for the greater good. He believes harm will befall me and Sorab. I have to accept it. I decide then to stop pestering him. I will do my own research.
‘I’m going to church tomorrow.’
‘OK, what time would you like us to go?’
I stare at him, astonished. ‘You mean you’ll come to church with me?’
He shrugs. ‘Sure why not?’
‘But what about the brotherhood?’
‘The cloak of respectability the brotherhood wears is organized religion.’
And I remember that his father’s funeral had been held in a church. ‘But if you come with me, wouldn’t that be a sham?’
He looks me in the eye. ‘No, it wouldn’t.’
‘I’m going to love you like I’ll never be hurt.’
He lays his head on the pillow beside me and looks deep into my eyes. ‘Often I look at you and I can’t believe my luck,’ he whispers.
Two days later I am pushing Sorab on High Street Kensington when time suddenly suspends. The blood stills in my veins. For a moment it is as if I am in a movie frame that suddenly freezes.
Victoria is standing only a few yards away. We stare at each other. Her eyes are translucent with a strange mixture of bewilderment and hatred. She reminds me of a wild animal that is caught in a mangle. It is dangerous because it is so desperate. I know I am safe—Brian is only a shout away—but I still feel the icy claw of fear squeeze at my heart.
She takes a step towards me and my internal organs lurch as if I am in a fast-moving lift that suddenly stops. My mind instantly starts making plans to protect Sorab. A voice in my brain says, ‘She wouldn’t dare,’ but I stand ready.
She begins to walk towards me, her head held straight, but her eyes unblinking and deadly are trained on me, the eyeballs moving to the sides of her eyes as she passes by me. So close to me, almost her shoulder brushing mine. The malice and madness I see in her eyes chill me to the bone. And yet, she has done nothing. I turn around and watch her walk away without once turning back.
I clamp my hand over my mouth, as if to cover the horror of the knowledge that she has fooled Blake. She will be trouble. But how will I convince him otherwise? She has done nothing to me.
That night Blake’s lips crash against mine, and afterwards he tells me we are going to Dubai—a romantic weekend. I lose myself in the moment and forget the maniacal hatred in Victoria’s eyes…momentarily.
When we arrive at the airport I am surprised to note that we are not getting into Blake’s Gulfstream jet, but a Boeing 767. We walk through the doors and I gawp in awed silence. It looks like no plane I’ve ever been in. Brand new and customized to look like the interior of an apartment it is luxurious and stunningly elegant.
I turn to Blake. ‘Do you own this?’
‘It’s registered to the Bank of Utah.’
‘But really it’s yours?’
He shrugs. ‘Own nothing, control everything.’
Smiling staff come forth with smiles and hot towels.
After take-off I turn to Blake. ‘Can I explore?’
‘Want me to show you?’
‘Nope. Want to take it all in on my own.’
He smiles and reaches for his briefcase. ‘Knock yourself out.’
I touch my lips to his. ‘I will.’