By Debby Giusti
Lovey had to do something. She couldn’t let Mr. Creamer harm Cupid. “Stop,” she shouted. “I know what you’re after, and I’ll take you there.”
Rouen raised his brow and stared down at her with questioning eyes. “Lovey, you said you didn’t have knowledge of the Luxor Project.”
“But I can read maps, and the one in the desk shows an area not far from here.”
“Take me there at once,” Mr. Creamer demanded, dropping Cupid who landed with a mew on the soft cushion of the Victorian sofa. Pointing his gun at Lovey, Creamer nodded toward the door. “Get going and don’t pull any funny business.”
Glancing first at Rouen and then at Athena, who had palmed the cell phone and was trying to inconspicuously slip it into her pocket, Lovey gathered her courage and, buoyed by Rouen’s closeness, walked with determined steps through the door and onto the street.
“Follow me, everyone,” she said with more gusto than she felt. Surely, someone would see them and come to their aid, but when she glanced around, she realized the other shops were closed and the street deserted.
Rouen grabbed her hand and squeezed, sending a signal of support and encouragement with his touch. For an instant, Lovey forgot about the gun Creamer had concealed in his coat pocket, which was still aimed at her, and thought only of the handsome man at her side. Silently, she prayed her plan would work.
“What are you doing?” Rouen whispered so only she could hear.
“Praying we get out of this alive.”
“Amen to that,” he answered.
His eyes were warm, and a hint of a smile played over his full lips. If they survived this ordeal, Lovey wanted to tempt him with her dark chocolate clustered almonds and a cup of love-at-first-sight hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and a sprinkle of mocha. She envisioned sharing Valentine’s Day with Rouen, and her pulse purred like her tabby cat.
The caw of a gull quickly brought her back to reality. As dismal as the day seemed, at least, Rouen was at her side.
Dark clouds signaled an approaching storm as they made their way along a desolate back alley to the rock seawall, a sturdy barrier that kept the ocean water at bay during high tide. Lovey glanced at the white caps on the incoming surf and then at the filigree watch Ryan had given her. They had to move quickly before the waves covered the tiny sandy beach that edged the wall.
Descending the stone steps from the street level to the beach below, she stepped onto the sand and headed toward the bend in the sea wall. Rounding the corner, she pointed to a narrow tunnel-like opening cut deep into the rock. “You’ll find what you’re looking for in there, Mr. Creamer.”
He stepped close and peered into the darkness, but before Lovey or Rouen could make a move to overpower him, Creamer straightened and, after freeing his gun from his pocket, aimed it, once again, at Lovey.
“Ladies first,” he said with a snarl that sent her heart crashing against her chest as forcefully as the waves that now swirled around her legs.
She hesitated, hoping to hear the sound of sirens and the approaching police who would come to their rescue after receiving Athena’s call for help. That is if Athena had been able to make the call.
Glancing back at her friend, Lovey’s heart sank as she watched the cell phone—as if in slow motion—slip through Athena’s nervous fingers and drop into the water.
“Oh, Lovey, I’m so sorry,” Athena said, her eyes filling with tears as the phone was carried out to sea.
“Get going,” Creamer demanded, pointing toward the tunnel. “All of you.”
Swallowing down the fear that lodged in her throat, Lovey pulled in a fortifying breath and looked into the eyes of the man at her side.
Rouen’s jaw tightened and his free hand fisted, but his other hand held hers with a firm, yet gentle touch that steeled her resolution. He gazed down at her, and she knew they would get out of this alive.
But she changed her mind when she stepped into the darkened tunnel. What she saw frightened her more than Mr. Creamer or his gun.