The Terrorist’s Game
“I just felt like I had to create a life for myself where I was more independent.”
Talia stared at Cameron. “Look, I’m sorry. You don’t want to get involved in this. It’s complicated, and I don’t have time to explain it.”
“Fine, it’s complicated. I know I’m a geek, but I’ve never had a date run out on me in the middle of dinner. Whatever I did, I’m sorry. I won’t ever do it again,” he explained.
Talia felt a twinge of guilt that which was the same guilt she felt every time she pushed someone away. It was worse than normal this time, however. She had things that she had to do, they were important and time sensitive. She didn’t have time to explain herself or her life to a man who would probably sell the story to a tabloid site. She overwhelmingly did not trust him. Why was he getting to her like a mother; her mother? She had met thousands of men over the years, and she had no problem pushing them aside, putting them in their place and going on her way. Why did this lab rat seem radically different?
“You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry, but in my life things come up that are time sensitive and highly classified, and I have to go immediately, without notice. It’s beyond my control, because of the delicate nature of a lot of the material I work with. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. I work with governments, diplomats, royalty, and dignitaries. They don’t wait, I wouldn’t expect them to, and for that I’m sorry. Don’t concern yourself with it. I can handle the things that happen in my work. I apologize, but I have to go now and take care of something that’s highly classified and time sensitive.”
Cameron was baffled. He knew that it had something to do with the Russian election, but he couldn’t figure out precisely what about it had set her off and made her run.
“You act like the election in Russia has something to do with you, personally. Is that what it is or do you react to all world events this way? If you take every election or attack personally, you’re going to die of a bleeding ulcer. I know that you live with the world at your disposal and people rely on you for advice on delicate matters all the time, but do you drop everything and run off every time an international incident happens?”
“You know that I’m involved with many people in Russian politics, right?” she asked. “I don’t talk about it ever, but I’m close to Eduard Sokolovsky. I’ve known him for many years. I was surprised when he ran for President, and I’m even more surprised that he’s now the President elect. I need to go and speak with him. It’s imperative to me, I’m sorry. I don’t have a detailed explanation for you. It’s private.”
“This is personal?” he asked. “It has nothing to do with your work?”
“Yes. It is personal. I have to leave. I didn’t mean to leave you sitting there at Casa Bella. I apologize for that. I lost my head a little bit. We’ll talk when I get back if you would like, I promise.”
He sat down on her gray sofa next to a fur pink pillow and looked at her, standing in front of him with her Pepto Bismol pink luggage. He didn’t like the idea of leaving her, because he knew she would never sit down and talk with him again. She was like a rare pink tropical bird, living in the wild, and he was the bird watcher. He had gotten close enough to get a glimpse of her, but she was trying to fly away. He never saw a bird like her before, and he knew that if he let her go, he would never see her again. He felt compelled to do something to remain at her side. This was fast becoming a crossroads. He was fascinated by her, and he needed time to understand her better. He wanted to know what made her tick. He wanted to get in her head and figure out what was inside. He knew he had to make some kind of overture to maintain the dialogue so that she didn’t slip away.
“I’ll ride with you to the airport,” he offered. “I want a little more time with you. You’ve barely given me a chance to get to know you, and you haven’t learned anything about me. I need to prove that I’m worth your time. I would really like that chance. That was initially the point of the entire evening.”
“I said I would call you when I get back.”
“I know, but you and I both know that ain’t happening. I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m naïve, but I’m nowhere near that dumb. I know that I’m a minor inconvenience to you; a loose end from an embassy party, but I think you should reconsider your opinion. I’m a handy guy to have around. You would be surprised what I can do. I am a tech genius, and I clean up really nice. Take a chance for once in your life, and let me in. You might like the results.”
Talia hated him, but she liked him. He challenged her, and she both liked and hated that. Most men would do anything, including let her walk all over them, to get her attention. She found blatant pandering exhausting and it left her with no respect for them. It was like shaking small yapping dogs off of her legs. Cameron was different in a geeky, yet capable way. He was the most confident geek she ever met, and that disturbed her, because it threw her perceptions of the civilized universe entirely out of balance. He wasn’t about to let her call the shots, which was a position that she didn’t want to be in, but was intrigued by. She had almost forgotten what it was like to treat a man as an equal. Sometimes she even forgot to treat men as human beings. She intended to call him when she got home, but he wouldn’t believe her. She couldn’t blame him for that. She needed time to decide how she could manage him, but she didn’t want to make that time immediately.
“I’m not trying to dodge you. I promise, I’ll call you. I really have to go. I swear, it’s not that I want to run out on you.” She meant what she said.
He took her suitcase from her. “Good, then I’ll ride with you to the airport. On the way, I can give you all of my contact information, so you can reach me anywhere, anytime. In case you need me for anything. Maybe I can get a number for you that you will answer. Should I call us an Uber?”
“To be honest, Tyrell is my pilot. He’s also my driver, so he will drive me. Michael is my copilot, so I have everything I need. The jet should be ready for takeoff when we arrive at the hangar. With that taken care of, we’ll be in the air in a few minutes. There won’t be much time for us to talk. You can call Michael and leave him the contact information. You have his number. I have no idea how long I will be away, but I will call or text you as soon as I can. I swear.”
She had an answer for everything, and she had a jet? He needed to keep her with him. He was sure that she would never contact him again, no matter how much she insisted that she would. He couldn’t let that happen. He knew he was acting insecure, but the woman had a reputation, and that made him feel that his insecurities were justified.
“I think you need me to come along as an escort,” he said. “I may be of use. You could use a personal tech. I’m the best there is. That’s a fact. You can check it out.”
“I’m sure you are, but I don’t need a tech. I need to go alone,” she insisted. “I can’t have you tagging along like a puppy. This is not the first time I have traveled in this way. I can handle it, and I can do it without your help. Not to be difficult, but I’m a perfectly capable woman, and unfortunately, this is a world that I’m all too familiar with.”
“Why do you have to go alone?” he asked. Tyrell had told him not to push her, but he didn’t feel that he had a choice. “I’m not asking you to pay my way. I want to help with whatever this is. I want to show you that I can be there for you. Remember, I’m really a nice guy.”
“I know you mean well, but it’s personal,” she snapped. “I can’t tell you more than that. That’s why it’s called personal. I’m sorry.”
“Personal, how? What are you hiding? Why won’t you trust me with the least little thing? I don’t know a damn thing about you! You are unbelievably frustrating! You won’t let anyone in the world know anything about you. You must be the loneliest woman on Earth, with the possible exception of your mother. I give up. Don’t call me. I don’t have the time or the patience for you. All I wanted was to spend some time with you, because you are amazing in so many ways, but you are the most infuriating woman I’ve ever met. I don’t need this. Good-bye.” He turned to walk to the door.
Something happened in that moment. For the first time since Talia had been married to Dmitri, she was suddenly afraid that a man would leave. For some reason, she couldn’t bear that. It made her gut twinge in a bad way. When he compared her to her mother, he struck a nerve. Her mother was a hermit with no life and she was scared of everything it seemed to Talia. She didn’t want to become her mother. She had to make a decision that could affect the rest of her life. Once he knew about her, there was no turning back. At that point, he would be able to expose her and her past to the whole world, and there would be nothing she could do about it. Could she trust him?
“Cameron, wait,” she said.
He turned and glared at her.
“Don’t leave this way.” A tear ran down her cheek. “Are you sure you’re ready to find out about me? You may not be able to handle it. I mean it. Most people don’t believe me when I explain it. I don’t do it often for a reason.”
“I’m sure I can deal with whatever it is,” he said. “I’m tougher than I look. You can count on me.”
“Do you have a passport?” she asked.
“Yes. It’s at the hotel. Why?”
She opened the door without answering Cameron and spoke to Tyrell. “We need to stop by the Radisson and pick up his things on our way to the plane.”
Despite her firing him, Tyrell had never left the penthouse.
She turned to Cameron. “I’ll explain on the way. Do you have warm clothes with you? A nice winter coat or something?”
“No, why? Is it that cold in September in Moscow?” he asked, presuming that was their destination.
“I doubt it,” she said. “We aren’t going to Russia. There are reasons, which I will explain, I promise, that we can’t visit with Eduard in Russia. We meet in other locations. It’s for security and safety.”
Cameron gaped at her. He was suddenly feeling as though he was way in over his head. “Where are we going?”
“The Reykjavik in Iceland?” he asked.
“I’ll stop by the duty free shop on the way,” he answered her.
“Okay,” she replied with no explanation. “I’m sorry Cameron. Give me some time to organize my thoughts and I will explain everything. My personal baggage is unbearable. I hope you’re as resilient as you think you are. If I’m right, you’re going to wish you’d never met me.”
He followed her out the door and shut it behind them. “What could be so bad?” he wondered. “What the hell did I get myself into?”