“The guy was loitering outside the shop but he saw Travis and literally ran. I guess Travis must have looked pretty intent or something. I didn’t want him to scare the guy off, but…” Lizzy shrugged.
“So he didn’t touch you? You weren’t actually hurt?” Mara needed to hear the words.
“I’m fine, I swear. What about you? I heard about your accident.” Lizzy picked up the mug for Mara and placed it in her hands.
Mara didn’t want to talk about the accident, not when all she could picture was that monster Perdue’s face and what he could have done to Lizzy. But she wrapped her fingers around the mug, savoring the warmth. She ignored the soreness in her shoulders and ribs as she said, “Nothing’s broken.”
Lizzy’s eyes narrowed in concern but she didn’t say anything as she picked up her own mug and sat back.
“So who the hell was tailing my fiancé?” Porter ground out.
Flinching at his tone, Mara turned toward him and Harrison.
“Damn it, Porter,” Lizzy muttered.
Keeping her gaze on Harrison, Mara decided to lay herself bare. At this point, she had no other choice. “I don’t know what Harrison told you guys, but I used to be MI6. For eight years.”
Lizzy sucked in a surprised breath and Porter sat up straighter as he let out a low curse. Okay, maybe her husband hadn’t said anything.
“I didn’t tell anyone,” Harrison said into the silence. “I just gave them vague details…since that’s all I have anyway.” There was an underlying note of bitterness in his voice.
Well deserved, but…ouch. “I grew up in Boston with my father who was American, hence the reason I don’t have an accent. He died when I was ten so I went to live with my mother.” She’d already told Harrison some of this so when she saw the relief in his gaze she realized it was because he’d probably been wondering if everything she’d told him was a lie. “Life with my mother was…hard.” And she didn’t plan to go into any of that. Harrison knew the details about her past and her mother’s abusive boyfriends, but that wasn’t what she needed or wanted to talk about now. Rehashing that would be pointless and just serve to depress her.
“I grew up in London and as soon as I could, I moved out. I attended Cambridge on scholarship.” She couldn’t keep the pride out of her voice. It was the best school in the country and she’d managed to not only get in, but excel. “I was approached by an officer in the Secret Intelligence Service. At first I thought it was a joke, but, well, all the history isn’t important. They wanted to recruit me and I accepted. I have an aptitude for languages and had no living family that I cared about.” She’d been a perfect agent. No life. No family. All she’d cared about was her job and she’d been very good at it.
Harrison watched her quietly, but she couldn’t get a read on his expression. He was almost preternaturally still.
Her mouth dried up so she took a sip of her tea and inwardly cursed her shaking hands. There were so many things she needed to tell Harrison but doing it in front of his family wasn’t how she wanted it to go. Right now she was trying to stick to the basics. The important stuff related to the man hunting her. She forced herself to continue. “My last case involved a man named Neville Perdue.”
Harrison’s brows drew together at the name and Porter’s head tilted slightly to the side. “I recognize that name. He ran those sex slave rings all over Europe.”
Mara nodded. He’d had them in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, and he even had a small ring in the United Kingdom. But they didn’t need all the details. She would save that for Harrison. He deserved to know everything. “Very long story short, I was a key player in bringing him down. I convinced the woman he loved—” She snorted at the word. “Well, his fucked up version of love, to not only turn over evidence against him, but to testify. She helped put him away for life, but he escaped from Dartmoor a month ago. Since then he’s killed almost everyone involved in the case.” Dartmoor was only a Category C prison but somehow he’d ended up there. It made her grit her teeth just thinking about it.
“Almost?” Harrison spoke for the first time since they’d arrived.
She nodded. “Everyone except me. Which means there’s a mole within the agency and even though that part isn’t my problem, I have it on good authority that Perdue’s coming for me. He had some new aliases made after his escape and one of them is in Miami. They didn’t know about the aliases until after they found his dead forger and by then, it was too late because he’s now here.”
“Has anyone contacted the CIA or local authorities?” Harrison asked, his body tense, reminding her of a caged wild animal.
She snorted. For all their talk of open policies and working with other agencies, it was all bullshit. From what she surmised, MI6 was just as bad as the CIA when it came to communicating. “I didn’t ask, but my guess is no.”
“So even if you are a target, why the hell were you leaving town?” There was a serious bite to Harrison’s words, as if he was barely leashing his anger. His dark eyes flashed with hints of rage.
The answer sounded stupid now but it was all she had. “I wanted to protect you. I thought if I could get him to follow me, it would draw him away from you.” Her voice broke on the last word but she managed to hold his gaze. “I thought if I could take him out, then I could come back to you.” If he would even have her, which she doubted at this point.
Harrison exhaled and ran a hand through his hair, breaking eye contact with her.
She could tell he had more questions and she didn’t blame him, but she knew he’d never ask them in front of his family. Right now she wished it was just the two of them.
Clearing her throat, she turned to Lizzy. “I don’t know if it was him, but I can get a picture of Perdue for you to see if he’s the man you saw on the street. If it was him, I’m so sorry for bringing all this to your doorstep.” She looked back at her husband and couldn’t fight her tears anymore. “I swear I just wanted to protect you, Harrison. I’m sorry I handled things badly.” She didn’t know how to be in a relationship, that much was clear.
He stared at her for a long time before he stood and silently stalked from the room. No curses or angry looks, just a silent retreat that worried her a lot more than if he’d made a big scene. She had to wonder that if in protecting him, she’d lost him anyway.
Neville slid into the waiting taxi at the curb of the Viceroy. The cabbie had already loaded his bag in the trunk and now he was headed to a different hotel. He hated to change his conditions, but after what had happened earlier, it was necessary.
He’d wanted to follow Cait—no, Mara—after she’d left the accident scene, but he didn’t have a car. That would change soon enough but first he needed to purchase a used vehicle. Even if Americans drove on the opposite side of the road, he could adjust quickly. Having his own transportation was paramount at the moment for operational latitude. He refused to be in the situation he’d been in earlier that day.
At least he’d seen the name of the tow truck company that had taken her car. After that, all it had taken was a couple phone calls and he’d found out where the vehicle had been taken. Child’s play, really.
Unfortunately he’d almost made a mistake when he’d seen Elizabeth Martinez/soon-to-be Caldwell leaving the Red Stone building. He’d been surveying the place and she’d taken him by surprise. The private investigator he’d hired before leaving London had finally sent him some information of worth, including the names and pictures of Mara Caldwell’s new family members. Seeing her brother-in-law’s fiancé had been perfect, but the Cuban woman had noticed him. Neville hadn’t been completely sure, but he was fairly certain she’d called the tattooed thug who had set his sights on him. It was why he’d run. Neville was lean, with a runner’s body and prison had only helped him hone that. Still, he wasn’t sure if his ID had been burned or if the tattooed man had managed to follow him to the Viceroy.
Either way he had to leave immediately.
“We should be there in ten minutes,” the Hispanic cab driver said after a few minutes of driving.
“Good.” Neville glanced out the window, watching the palm trees, shops and business fly by. He’d asked the driver to take him to a restaurant that was near a Best Western. He shuddered at the thought of staying somewhere that probably didn’t change the bedding after each patron, but a place like this would be more under the radar. And it was close to a string of restaurants. Which was perfect for what he had planned.
Stalk out someone entering a restaurant, steal their car keys, then leave. It would give him at least an hour’s head start until the owner would realize their vehicle was missing and call the police. It wasn’t as if he planned to keep the vehicle long term. Just long enough to get him where he needed to go tonight and the vehicle he took couldn’t be traced back to one of his aliases. Then he’d purchase something for his duration in Miami.
At this point he had no idea how long that would be. Mara had to know he was out of prison by now and in Miami. From the file he’d just received on her, her husband had all sorts of resources. Taking her from her home would be impossible, but the woman had to have a weak spot. Everyone did and he would exploit hers to the fullest. It was a shame he hadn’t been able to follow her brother-in-law’s fiancé. Overpowering a female was usually simple and that woman would have been the perfect bargaining chip to draw Mara out into the open.
Soon enough he’d figure out how to get to Mara. He was a patient man and had nowhere else to be until she was destroyed.
* * * * *
Neville put his stolen minivan in park across the street from the auto repair shop he’d finally located. Miami roads were confusing and the drivers in Florida were insane. The one-story building’s neon sign in the window displayed CLOSED brightly. Perfect.