I am desperate for freedom, for peace, and for justice.
As I leave captivity and step into the bright sun-filled day, a wave of relief washes over me. I am not free yet, though. Walking between barbed wire topped walls toward the exit gate, I breathe in fresh air, preparing for the next challenge. An enemy posing as a lover waits for me.
I will evade him, though.
Robert Maxim meets me at the prison gate, his smile predatory and victorious. I blank my mind. If I think about my plan, Robert will see it on my face. He expects me to do something—it's part of the fun for him.
Is this fun for me, too?
His hand cups my upper arm as he bends to brush a kiss against my cheek. Robert’s scent engulfs me: low notes of sandalwood and fine leather balanced by a sharp tang of cold metal.
"You look lovely," Robert says.
I'm wearing lightweight black cargo pants, unbuttoned to make room for my growing pregnancy, and tucked into my boots which are laced tight at my ankles—they keep spiders out when in the jungle. Under the parka that Special Agent Consuela Sanchez gave me when we flew back to the States all I have on is a thin tank top. It's cold here in DC, not so much in Costa Rica.
Robert is wearing a camel hair overcoat a few shades yellower than the copper in his beard. The collar is pulled up and his cheeks are tinged pink from the cold. A soft wind plays with his dark hair gone silver at the temples.
Behind Robert, a black SUV with tinted windows idles. Brock, his head of personal security opens the back door. Brock is big and broad with weathered skin the color of brushed brass. His dark coat captures the sunlight, seeming to hide it somewhere it will never be found.
"Good to have you back, Ms. Rye," Brock says as I get into the back seat.
"Thanks, Brock. It's good to be back." Robert joins me. "Where are we going?" I ask. "To my apartment?"
Robert smiles. "Yes."
When Robert faked his own death he really went the extra mile by leaving me most of his worldly possessions, including his apartment in Washington DC. Now that he is forcing me to marry him to avoid prosecution—a husband can choose not to testify against his wife—he'll be getting his wealth back.
"I may need you to sign a prenup," I say. "You realize I'm a very wealthy woman."
Robert laughs as we merge onto the highway. "Your wish is my command."
"Yeah, right," I grumble, looking out the window. The industrial area we're leaving slides by in a smear of speed.
Robert captures my hand, pulling it into his lap. "Sydney," his voice is serious and I turn to look at him. "I recognize this isn't what you wanted."
I huff a laugh. "You're so observant Robert, was it the threat of giving birth in prison, or just the regular old forcing me to marry you?" I hold my chin with my free hand, pretending to be really thinking. "I wonder if I'm being triggered by the fact that you're treating me like an object rather than a person."
"Sydney," his voice is lower now, a warning. I have to look away to keep the thoughts bubbling up in my mind hidden from him.
You will learn that I am not an object. Only a thinking, feeling, sentient being can ruin you the way I plan to.
P.S. The dog does not die.
**Beware: If you can’t handle a few f-bombs, you can’t handle this series.**