Cruel Paradise

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Chapter 37

Aberland watched as Howell seemed to have an internal debate with himself, then chose at last to leave the premises. While he had an uneasy feeling about it, it appeared that the Lieutenant had taken the bait. For the time being.

Downstairs the maid timidly hurried down the left hall to return to her housework, deciding to steer clear of the upstairs for a while since his governorship was apparently very busy. Aberland waited until she had been out of sight for a few moments, then told Larkin in a low whisper, “Wait for my cue.” She nodded, and he handed her Tholen’s Glock with the silencer still attached. He stealthily moved down the staircase, staying close to the wall. His footfalls didn’t make a sound as he stepped in to the foyer, and he efficiently checked the main hallways branching off in both directions and found them clear. Larkin timidly looked around the corner and saw him gesture to follow him, and she descended the stairs quickly as well, hoping that she didn’t trip over her own feet on the way.

Aberland checked the halls again, then turned to whisper to Larkin, “All the way at the end of this hall to the right is a door leading outside, where the detached garage is.” She nodded, and he paused to glance around the other side of the stairs. The rooms were still empty.

“The maid is down that hall, and I don’t think anyone else is here. So we need to move fast, in case she or anyone else comes back in to the hallways again.”

“Okay.”

With that they hurried down the stately corridor as quietly as possible. They reached the door, and Aberland ushered Larkin outside first while he turned back to affirm that they hadn’t been seen or followed. He was about to follow Larkin when he saw the maid leave the library on the opposite side of the house from him. The two saw each other, and Martha froze when they made eye contact, terrified at her awful luck in being noticed twice now. Cognizant that he was still dressed as an orderly guard, Aberland gave her a curt nod, then promptly exited the villa as though he were off to patrol the grounds.

Larkin was waiting out of sight just outside the door and saw Blane’s official act, and looked at him wide-eyed as he walked toward her.

“We’re alright,” he said reassuringly. “Let’s just get going. I feel like a vacation, don’t you?” He added with a wink, leaving Larkin inwardly flabbergasted. It was almost as though the more stress and risk a situation brought, the more relaxed he got. And his odd ability to have a sense of humor during these moments didn’t exactly ease her tension as designed, but distracted her from her own stress instead because she was left perpetually wondering how anyone could function that way.

A cursory glance was all it that took for them to ascertain that the south side of the grounds was completely deserted, but they still kept a low profile anyway as they crossed the short distance to the carport. Blane hustled Larkin in to the garage in front of him as he surveyed the estate grounds one last time. All clear. Once inside, they found Tholen’s imported BMW sedan and Mercedes convertible, both in that glittery obsidian finish designed to dazzle everyone. Blane remembered and was grateful that the overly confident Tholen always kept the keys hanging on hooks near the door.

“Let’s take the Mercedes. The tinted windows will be very useful if anyone sees us. With me driving in my guard’s uniform, it will look like I’m chauffeuring His Excellency around. You’ll still need to hide in the backseat though, just in case.”

“No jokes for this part of the plan? I’m disappointed,” returned Larkin sarcastically.

He rolled his eyes at her as he pulled his Spyder knife off of his belt and walked around the BMW, quickly slashing deep gouges in the tires. Larkin slid on to the gorgeous buttery leather in the backseat, stashing the laptop and her bag in the floorboard at her feet, and watched him deftly select the Mercedes keys, then jump in to the car and toss his duffel in to the passenger seat without missing a step.

“What about the BMW keys?” she pointed to them still hanging on the wall.

Blane shrugged. “No one’s going anywhere in that car. Taking care of the tires was really just a precaution.”

He turned the key in the ignition and the engine gave a satisfying roar as it came to life. As they backed out and drove down the estate’s main drive, Blane happily noted that there were still no personnel in sight. After all the trials that they’d gone through to survive the past few days, maybe fate was going to ease up a little for the last few hours of their adventures together on Tortola. Or maybe not.

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