“Wait,” I say. “Security will follow me.”
“That’s why you have two minutes, not one. Create a disruption. Use your brain. Go.” The line goes dead.
I stand there in shock. I’m not sure. Think. Think. Think. How would a bomb get inside the building? It could be the mail. Or in someone’s purse. Or what if he hired one of our employees? Or it’s on top of or beside the building? Oh, God. The options are too many. I can’t risk thousands of lives for mine. My mind races for a way to warn everyone.
Paper. Pen. I write a note.
Bomb in building. Evacuate now. They made me leave and said if I’m followed everyone will be killed. My mind races. I’m hiding my phone on me so I can be traced. I love you, Mark. Please tell my family how much I love them. And this is NOT your fault. It’s NOT.
I throw down the pencil and look for a place to hide the phone, and decide on my bra. Turning off the volume, I stuff it awkwardly inside.
I dart for the door and try to be calm as I enter the hallway, walking swiftly when I want to run. In the lobby, I make a mad dash for the reception desk. “Is everyone still with Mark?”
“Yes. They’re still in there.”
“Good. Tell Mark I’m headed to my meeting but I left an urgent message on my desk.”
Her brow furrows. “On your desk?”
“Do it now, Beverly,” I order harshly, and since I’m never snippy, she jerks into action and punches a button.
I draw a breath and do the only thing I can. I walk toward the exit and act like it’s perfectly reasonable for me to leave without a coat, giving a friendly nod to the two guards inside the doorway. Outside I don’t stop to greet the two guards to my right and left, and they don’t stop me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I make it to the end of the roped-off walkway, and my luck runs out. One of the two guards steps in front of me.
“Where’s Jacob?” I demand, aware my two minutes must be up. “I have a meeting and I’m freezing.” I hug myself. “My coat is inside the Escalade.”
“I haven’t heard anything about this, ma’am.”
I glance at my watch, acting irritated. Riptide pays these guards. They consider me a client, and they’re not ex-FBI or ex-ATF. They are foot soldiers, so to speak. “I have a meeting with a big client in fifteen minutes and I’m late. Please find out where the heck Jacob is, or get someone else to escort me. You know I can’t leave on my own.” I move outside the ropes and give the street my back, facing both guards, looking at them both expectantly, when I’m really preparing to dart away.
The second guard gives me a puzzled look. “Jacob is inside, in a meeting.”
He’s more informed than I thought, but I recover quickly. “He was supposed to leave the meeting to escort me. Please tell me he didn’t forget. This meeting is worth millions to Riptide. Mr. Compton will be furious with him, and me.”
“I’ll call Jacob,” the second guard says.
“I’ll get one of the other men to pull up the Escalade,” the first guard offers.
“Thank you,” I reply to both. “Hurry. It’s freezing.”
They both reach for their phones, and the instant I spot a good cluster of people, I dart into the midst of it, hearing their shouts. “Ms. Smith!”
My heart is racing and I can barely catch my breath, but I keep moving, never looking behind me as I enter the restaurant.
The instant I step into the doorway, a jacket is draped over my shoulders from behind, a hood pulled over my head.
A strong male hand closes on my arm, his face covered by the same kind of hoodie as the man on the street had worn. Jimenez. I know in my gut this is him, and I’m terrified, certain I’m not making it out of this alive.
“Walk forward,” he commands, and I do as ordered. I remind myself I still have my phone and I left a note. But suddenly I’m trembling, and I can’t stop. I want Jimenez to think it’s because I’m cold, but it’s fear, which I can’t afford. I have to get free. I want to scream for help—but the bomb is still a threat.
We pass the register and go to the back exit onto another street. The instant we’re on the sidewalk, he drags me into the crowd. “Why are you doing this?” I ask.
“I kill people who talk too much,” he murmurs. “And so you know, I’ve never set off a bomb. I want an excuse to do it.” He stares forward, his face still hidden. “Give me one.”
I shut my mouth, but I panic when we head toward the subway. My cell phone can’t be tracked there, and any hope that anyone will find me is about to be lost. We head down the stairs. I consider fighting and yelling for help, but I don’t do it. I’ll wait until we’re out of the subway. I’ll give Riptide time to evacuate and then I’ll scream for help. I’m going to make this work. I’m going to get out of this.
The next few minutes are a blur as we pass through the turnstiles to the trains and I’m pulled onto a car. Still my captor doesn’t look at me. He stares forward, holding on to me with one hand and a pole with the other. Three trains later, nothing has changed. He still holds me and the pole, and we’ve done a circle, looping back to a train station that puts us only a few blocks from Riptide.
It gives me hope. I’m close to help. I just need to get away. And it’s time now.
We clear the platform from the train and he seems to sense my shift in mood, yanking me around to face him, looking at me for the first time, his eyes black, cold, and brutal. The jagged scar down his face is somehow a promise of pain. “You scream,” he murmurs in a soft, lethal hiss, “you do anything I am not happy about, and I will slice Mark Compton’s throat if it’s the last thing I do in this world. Understand?”