Monday, November 24, 2008

Chapter Thirty-Two

“This was such a great idea,” Connor says from the passenger seat, his voice contented as we zip along the A Road towards Dover, bound for a ferry to France. “I can’t believe we both have the weekend off. And here I thought I was scheduled to be on all weekend – what a nice surprise to be off and going away with my girl.”

I bite my lip, feeling a little bit guilty. Connor has the weekend off because I called the human resources department at the hospital and explained that I was his sister and that he had a family emergency that necessitated him leaving work for the weekend, and possibly longer. Sorry for the inconvenience…

But then again, Connor doesn’t know that part.

“It’s going to be a great weekend,” I agree, deftly pulling into the docks of Dover, looking for our ferry. The back of the car is loaded with luggage and groceries, and all I’ve told Connor is that we are going to go visit the farmhouse of an art contact I have in Normandy. It’s quiet, secluded – perfect for a weekend away.

And for, you know, eluding enemy assassins.

The ferry ride across the Channel is smooth, and we make the drive across France to Normandy in a leisurely fashion – stopping for a long and tasty lunch in a café, taking in the scenery, and Connor even snaps some photos on a tiny digital camera he bought right before the trip.

We look so happy and relaxed in those photos – I hope we can stay that way. I’m definitely going to be framing a few when we get home…

We find the farmhouse after getting turned around only once, and unpack all the food and luggage from the car. I set the kitchen to rights while Connor lights a fire in the enormous stone fireplace, in typical he-man fashion. It’s like a fairytale cabin away from the world, and now that we’re here, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I know we’ll be safe here, and I can stop looking over my shoulder every few seconds, like I did from the time we left the flat until we pulled into the farmhouse drive.

Okay, sure, my boyfriend doesn’t know that I lied to get him out of work, or that he’s the victim of basically a kidnapping, and that he’s going to be held hostage for the next few days while I work to keep his very life intact. Lying, kidnapping, hostage – surely my lovely boyfriend will overlook all of that, right?

Too bad he’s one of the most honorable, upstanding people I know.

I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like knowing what I’ve done.

But luckily, he’s one of the most trusting people I know too.

The next two days are perfect, lazy ones – sleeping late in the enormous, and enormously comfortable, master bed, fireside picnics, long talks into the night, walks in the woods surrounding the farmhouse, and a lot of laughter.

It’s the perfect romantic holiday, and I couldn’t be happier.

Except that I’m checking my Blackberry surreptitiously every few minutes to see if I have received any word from Shane. He texts me that he has been released from the hospital after only an overnights stay, and then I get another text that he is working on an off profile mission plan, and that he thinks he’s gotten close to finding a way in to Stepanek’s fortress for us.

And so, I wait for word that I’m going to have to find a nonsuspicious way to ditch Connor in the farmhouse for a day so we can fly to Prague, take care of Stepanek, and then get back to the farmhouse as fast as I can. And to make sure Connor stays indoors and protected at all times.

Sure, easy. No problem.

Connor doesn’t notice anything amiss with me until the second day, when he catches me biting my lip worriedly and texting Shane quickly, my fingers flying over the keys of my Blackberrry.

“Em?” Connor asks, flopping down on the couch beside me, his body warm against mine. “Can’t you let work go just for a few days? I thought maybe we could go into town, have lunch at that restaurant we saw on the way in, and that you could even leave your Blackberry behind for a few hours,” he says, pointedly looking at the object. “I know cutting the cord is tough, but…”

“No!” I say, a bit too quickly. “I mean, I don’t really feel like going out. It’s so nice and cozy here, and we have all that food, and everything. Let’s just stay here, and…”

“And?” Connor asks with a wry smile.

“And, you know, not eat.”

Connor can’t hold back his grin or the twinkle in his eye, and I answer with one of my own. “You really are a hussy, aren’t you?”

I laugh out loud at his affectionate tone, and then slide over until I’m sitting in his lap, my Blackberry forgotten, as it slides between the sofa cushions. “Gotta keep my sugar daddy occupied, now, don’t I? Give him some sugar…”

And I do, for the next several hours as the world turns dark and the firelight is the only thing illuminating the farmhouse and our bodies on the floor beside it.

Which explains why I don’t hear my Blackberry buzzing with new, urgent text messages from Shane. That and the fact that my Blackberry is completely wedged in between the sofa cushions, and despite a frantic search of the farmhouse at two o’clock in the morning while Connor was asleep, I didn’t find it.

And that’s why I missed the one that said he was on his way to France – to the farmhouse.

And that I had to find a way to get Connor away from the farmhouse long enough for Shane and I to pack up, distribute weapons and get to Prague. Without arousing suspicion, of course.


I missed those completely.


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