13:30 (12:30 GMT)
The plane taxied up next to the old Mercedes. Blake’s stomach turned with butterflies. He felt as giddy as a school boy. He hadn’t felt this way in a long time and he wondered again if he was really falling for Adriana, or if it was just that he hadn’t had a relationship with a woman in such a long time.
Stop thinking about this and focus on what needs to be done.
The engines shut off and he waited ardently for the door to open and Adriana to finally come down the stairs. When she did, Blake stepped out of the car and went to greet her.
“Well, I hope you’re happy,” she said.
“What? I said I’d call for you and I did? What’s the matter?”
With narrowed eyes and a wry smile, she said, “You really have to ask?”
“Ok, first you tell me I’m coming with you and then you jump out of the plane and tell me you’re going to call me. And then I don’t hear a thing for over a day. I have no idea if you’re ok, or if you’re lying dead in a ditch somewhere. And then all of a sudden, one of your pilot friends says pack up; I’m taking you to Minsk. Do you really have to ask what’s wrong?”
Blake turned his head.
“What? Aren’t you going to say something?”
The left side of Blake’s mouth curled up as he failed to suppress a smile.” You were worried about me. You missed me.” He then raised his eyebrows at her.
Adriana scoffed. “Ah, you’re incorrigible.” She brushed past him, opened the door and plopped into the passenger seat.
Blake went around and got in the driver’s seat and closed the door. He studied her for a moment and pictured her in different clothes. “I bet you like shopping don’t you?”
She stared straight ahead.
“I bet you like pretty things. New shoes, a new dress—jewelry?”
She turned her head toward Blake, smiled and said, “If you’re trying to buy my acceptance of your apology, you should know by now I’m not materialistic.”
Blake let out a sigh and started the car. Shit. “Come on, we’ve got some shopping to do anyway and I’ll explain on the way.”
They drove to Independence Square. For a country in such dire economic straits, it still had its fair share of money. At street level, it was a beautiful urban setting, but underground was the Stolica shopping mall. It was a shopping area with upscale stores such as Versace, Gucci, Coach, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, to name a few.
“You and I have a date with the prime minister.”
She raised her eyebrows as she turned to Blake. “How did you arrange that, and what are we even doing here?”
“I found out that it was the prime minister that purchased the weapon from al Hamwi.”
“What does he want with it?”
“I’m not a hundred percent sure yet, but I think he is going to use it to stage a terrorist attack.”
“A terrorist attack? On his own people? What for?”
“I’m getting to that. I think he is going to use that to cover up his true intent. He is going to make sure that the president is killed during the attack. Basically, he’s planning on assassinating President Solonovich and is using the terrorist attack as a cover. He’s going to blame al Hamwi.”
“What happened to al Hamwi?”
“Dead. They shot and killed him and his men when they delivered the weapon.”
“You know that for sure?”
“Yes. I saw it happen.”
Her eyes were wide and her head shook.
“So, what do we do next?” she asked.
“Every year, he has a huge party on the eve of Independence Day. There are all kinds of dignitaries there; ergo, you and I.”
“But we’re not dignitaries.”
“Yes we are. Well, at least I am. I am the Canadian Minister for International Cooperation.”
“And what am I?”
Blake turned into the underground parking garage and said, “You—you are my smoking hot wife.” He watched her expression out of the corner of his eye.
Adriana smiled. She put her hand on Blake’s thigh. “I hate to break it to you, but I don’t really fit the profile of a Canadian. My Canadian accent is even worse than my southern accent.”
Blake pulled into a parking spot.
“We’ve already taken care of that and are building up a dossier on you and your past.”
“Yes. Your family escaped Cuba when you were sixteen. Your father wanted to go as far north as possible. You settled in Vancouver, where you and I eventually met. We fell in love and got married. I’ll be getting detailed files that we can go through later. Really, the details are for me and my background. That is the one that I am more than positive they are going to scrutinize. Your job is to look stunning and keep the security detail’s eyes on you, while I slip away and try to find some proof of my suspicions.”
Blake opened the car door. “You ready to do some shopping?”
Blake bought Adriana a tight, off the shoulder dress by Versace. It was bright red and hugged her curvaceous body perfectly. Next was a matching pair of Ferragamo heels, a Gucci clutch and a sable shawl. He then dressed her up with a single strand of pearls, ruby and diamond earrings, a diamond tennis bracelet and Cartier watch.
He didn’t know who was having more fun; her, the sales associates that were pawing all over her while they thought about their commission or him as he watched her light up with her new wardrobe.
Blake didn’t go quite as wild and just purchased an Armani tuxedo and a new pair of shoes. All total, the bill came to just under seventy thousand dollars. The Company paid, of course. After their shopping spree, they had a late lunch and strolled leisurely back to the hotel. A quick call to the concierge and he had arranged for a car to pick them up later that night for dinner.
Adriana placed her bags on the bed, turned around and stepped toward Blake. She slid her arms around his waist and kissed him on the cheek.
“What can we do for the rest of the day?” she asked.
Blake glanced at his watch. “I have to go and get our invitations. You can stay here and rest. I’ve arranged for a car to take us to dinner this evening. I know a nice little place that’s right on the river.”
“That sounds perfect. I think I’m going to take a bath while you are gone.” She kissed him once more, turned around and disappeared into the bathroom. Blake admired her curves as she closed the door and imagined her undressing before slipping into the bath. Wow. He shook the thought from his mind and left the room.
Blake found the meeting spot, a typical Belarusian sidewalk café with seating inside and out. He stepped inside and took in the smell of veal, sauerkraut, and other esters of the various meals being served. He slid past a few patrons at the bar on his way to the back of the restaurant. As he neared the end of the bar, he ordered a draft beer. Never wanting his back to the door, he found a booth in the rear and sat down to keep an eye out for his contact.
Ten minutes later, a gentleman came in that matched the description he was given. The man approached Blake and asked, “Hey, do you know where I could get a Bud-Light in this country?”
“Why would you want to drink that swill?”
“Perhaps you could recommend something?”
“Actually, the Alexandria is pretty good, that’s what I’m drinking.”
Satisfied with the verbal confirmation, the man handed Blake an envelope and left. Inside was an invitation for Mr. & Mrs. Dan Peart. He slid the invitation back inside the envelope and sipped his beer. For the first time, bringing Adriana into his covert world weighed heavy on him. She would have to play her part perfectly. One slip, one mistake could mean disaster, to not only her, but the mission entirely. Were his feelings for her getting in the way? Would he have the same thoughts if it were another woman taking her place; a trained asset or agent? One last gulp and his beer was empty.
The walk back to the hotel took longer than he anticipated. His thoughts drifted to this woman that had suddenly come back into his life. He’d felt the odd tingles and numbness months ago, but now that she was with him here, now, especially after he had admitted to killing her father. The mind and heart that Adriana possessed was one that Blake had never come across. The fact that she forgave him spoke volumes to her character. And, to top it off, she was gorgeous.
Back in the room, Adriana had dressed for dinner and wore some of her new clothes. She wore a low cut white blouse that accentuated her breasts. It revealed just enough cleavage to let his imagination run wild. The loose fitting, short black skirt cascaded over her perfectly formed rear. Her tan shapely legs extended down and completed what Blake imagined was the quintessential woman. Blake thought that she was more than likely, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. That funny feeling came over him again. This time there was no doubt. He was falling in love with her.
“You like it?” she asked as she spun around.
“You look fantastic,” he said enthusiastically.
“I recommend you get a sweater, though. It might get a little cool this evening. Give me ten minutes to change and we’ll go.”
They ate at an enchanting restaurant located on the river’s edge. They shared a meal since they were still somewhat satisfied from their late lunch and had a bottle of wine. After dinner they walked along the river and found a bench to sit.
A bit of apprehension swelled inside, but he needed to ask. “So, what are you feeling now that you’ve found out all these things about your father and what happened to your mother?”
Adriana put her head down. She brushed her hair back over her ear to reveal one of the earrings Blake purchased for her earlier that day.
“I appreciate you asking.” A smile creased her lips. “The way my mother raised me, before—before my father did what he did, was to forgive those that have done bad to you.” A tear welled up in her eye. “I have forgiven you, completely. There are people in this world that would just hate you for what you did, but… I know that you had to do what you had to do. I suppose I will eventually forgive my father, but that’s going to take a little more time.”
Blake put his hand on hers. “I’m sorry.”
“Thanks.” She cleared her throat and straightened up. Her eyes met his. “What about you? Are your parents still alive? Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“I’m an only child. My father was born in a small village just east of Loch Ness, in Scotland. He moved to the States when he was just three.”
“And your mother?”
She’s full blooded Lakota Sioux.”
“Oh, so that’s where you get your dark exotic look.”
His face warmed. Am I blushing?
“I suppose. She grew up poor on a reservation in North Dakota. My grandmother died giving birth to her and my grandfather was a loser drunk. He abused her, up until the time he died of liver and kidney problems.”
Adriana placed a gentle palm on Blake’s cheek. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. Her grandmother raised her until she went away to college where she met my father.”
They continued to have fulfilling conversations and learn more about each other. He found himself alternating from his smile lines deepening, to eagerly hanging on her words while she talked. Stories in his past flowed out of him without restraint. He’d never felt so at peace with a woman.
When they got back to the hotel, Blake ordered a bottle of champagne and Beluga caviar with crackers. They sat on the floor next to the fire, drank their champagne and ate the caviar. Blake leaned in and kissed Adriana on the neck and lips. Even though he had made love to her before, it felt like the first time. His heart raced and pounded inside his chest. They made love on the floor by the fire and eventually fell asleep in each other’s arms.