The tears rolled down her cheeks as they fell from her eyes. She didn’t wail like some women did, but instead she cried silently. She’d always been a silent crier. Why was this happening to her? What had she done to deserve this? She was a good person; she never hurt anyone, so why was she being punished? The tears fell in silence, dropping onto her lap to dampen her tan slacks.
What were they going to do to her? Oh God, they could do all manner of things to her. Did anyone even notice her missing? What would her parents do when they found out? What if she didn’t make it out of this alive? Oh God, she didn’t want to die. She remembered Betty Rubble’s response to her question and the sickness rolled in her belly. His hands had been on her breasts, squeezing them as he carried her from the van. If he intended to kill her, it wouldn’t be before he had some fun with her. She needed to think; she needed to get out of here and fast. Shaking off the tears, stiffening her chin, Liz took a moment to look around. They’d put her in a bedroom—why would they tie you up in a bedroom if they didn’t intend on having their way with you? Their intentions clear, Liz scrambled to think. She needed to get free from the ropes that held her body in place, so she began to wiggle, trying to loosen them. They stung her hands, and she bit back the pain, knowing she would experience worse if she simply sat here doing nothing.
She was on the upper floor; she continued to think as she shifted trying to break free. And from the sounds of the silence, they weren’t in the city any longer. Where had they taken her? It didn’t matter, she told herself, shifting her shoulders, feeling the ropes slide over her arm. The instant she could manage to free herself of the ropes she would make a run for it.
Where were they? They’d left her alone in the room, but she doubted very much they had left altogether. That meant they were in the house somewhere. But where? It didn’t matter; she could climb from the window. She’d done it before, sneaking from her room at night to go out and party, or that time she’d been pursued by the paparazzi while dining with a friend. They’d hounded her all through the meal, insisting she give them an exclusive of the married man she’d been seeing. Excusing herself from the table, she’d gone to the washroom. The windows had been small, but she managed to slide herself through and make a break for it, leaving the paparazzi waiting for her. She’d had plenty of run-ins with the tabloids and the leeches they sent out to capture any unsavory thing she might be involved with. And when they couldn’t find anything, they’d made it up. She’d lived a lifetime of being in the spot light, thanks to her famous father, Jonathan Cromwell. Though lately there hadn’t been as many roles as he would have liked. In his day, he’d been renowned for his stage performances and his big screen adaptations of villains and criminals.
And now, his only daughter had been abducted. She needed to get her butt in gear, stop whining and feeling sorry for herself, and get a grip on the situation. She struggled once more with the ropes, frustrated that they weren’t coming undone fast enough. When she heard the footsteps clomping on the stairs, her heart began to race and her mind panicked.
She heard the jingle of what sounded like keys, then the doorknob turned and the door began to open. Oh God, oh God, oh God.
As he stepped through the door, she looked up into the face of Bart. Her earlier assessment of him was grossly understated. He wasn’t just big, he was tall and muscular. The other guy had been the brutal one, but this guy looked scary.
“How you doing there?”
“Why are you doing this to me?” Her voice sounded far too weak and she berated herself for it. Hold your chin up, Liz, be strong.
He slipped a cigarette package from his shirt pocket and pulled one out. “Why do you think?”
She watched him put the cigarette between his lips and thought how ridiculous he looked smoking with that child’s mask on. “Money? You want money, fine, I have lots of money, just name your price.” She would easily give up everything she possessed if he let her go.
“It’s already in the works, princess; don’t worry that pretty head of yours.”
“Princess? I’m not a princess? You have me mistaken with someone else.” They’d abducted the wrong person; they’d mistaken her for royalty. Thank God, now that he knew his mistake, he could let her go.
“Elizabeth Cromwell, twenty eight, only daughter of Jonathan and Liza Cromwell. I know who you are, and the woman I see before me definitely looks like a princess.”
Damn it, there hadn’t been a mistake. Now what? “Fine, you know who I am, then you know I can get you all the money you need, but you have to let me go first.”
He stared at her while he smoked for a few minutes, then shook his head. The deep rumble of his laughter startled her. “Sweetheart, you don’t have money, your daddy does, and you might as well make yourself comfortable because you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.” His hand made quick tapping motions as he put the cigarette out in the ashtray on the dresser.
“Fine, my father has money, then call him, demand whatever you like and he’ll pay you.” Her father wouldn’t hesitate to pay them to release her.
“Like I said, princess, it’s already in the works. Now, you be a good girl and behave while I’m gone.”
She watched as he turned to leave, tripping over an untied bootlace. Stumbling forward, he managed to right himself quickly enough. He stiffened his back, yanking the door open then shutting it behind him with a solid click. The giggle escaped from her lips and startled her. For a brief moment she saw a glimmer of sunshine in her very cloudy situation.
Bending down, Mac tied the loose lace, making sure to tie it tight this time. Some abductor you are, he thought to himself, tripping over your bootlaces. Lifting back up, he pulled the mask from his face, messing up his curly black hair. He took the stairs down directly to the kitchen. Setting his mask on the counter, he helped himself to a cup of coffee. It was, after all, his home. “What are you doing?” he asked Terry, who was sitting at the table, writing in some sort of book.
“Writing down my experiences. I think this will look good on my resumé.”
“Are you insane? You can’t put that you took part in an abduction. What the hell is wrong with you, man?”
“I’m not making it factual. I’m referencing it to a movie role. They don’t have to know it’s not true. This is good experience for me and might come in handy.”
Shaking his head, Mac added a spoon of sugar to his coffee. “I should have insisted I do this alone.”
“You couldn’t manage it alone, Mac, and we both know it. Besides, at least you’ll have company until the week is over.”
Some company he wouldn’t mind, but not this guy. He knew Terry Orsini as an acquaintance, but they certainly weren’t friends, and not everything he knew about Terry pleased him. The guy was a pretty boy who used his looks to get what he wanted, and what he wanted most was a lucrative movie roll that would skyrocket him to the top. The other things Terry wanted were women, and he had plenty of them. But he was right in saying that Mac needed him. Two heads were better than one. “Fine, but just remember, I deal with her, not you. Got it?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever.” His coffee in hand, he left Terry to his work and walked into the living room, the photos on the wall catching his attention. The picture of his father with his grandchildren surrounding him on the sofa made him smile. There hadn’t even been an inkling of how badly he was ailing. He’d done a good job of keeping his illness a secret, and his impending bankruptcy as well. Now it was up to him to make sure that never happened.
For one week he could manage to keep a woman locked in his room. It would be worth it in the end when the farm he loved so dearly would be his, free and clear, and the horse ranch that he dreamt of would come to fruition. Relaxing on the sofa, he clicked the TV on and tried to keep his mind from thinking about what he’d done. He was, after all, responsible for kidnapping an innocent woman.