DETONATIONS OF RED.
Flashes of white.
Explosions—visible to only me—momentarily hindered my vision. Blinking, I tried to make sense of Deloris's text message.
“ALEX GOT INTO A CAR WITH ALTON FITZGERALD. WE ARE FOLLOWING.”
Though the plane ascended higher and higher, my heart fell to an abyss, the place where my stomach used to be.
I read it again.
The words refused to change.
Emotions boiled within me, creating a turbulent concoction capable of destruction. I looked toward the small window, expecting to see swirling clouds, but saw only the deceiving blueness of a complacent sky. Despite the misleading calm, disbelief, hurt, and rage swirled through my body, rushing through my blood, tightening my chest, and weakening my knees. Unconsciously, my fingers balled, creating fists that needed to connect with something—with anything—as I increased the pressure on the phone. Surely it would crack and shatter.
I read the words again and again.
They didn't make sense.
Charli wouldn't do that. She wouldn't willingly get into her stepfather's car.
Something terrible had happened.
I'd witnessed her apprehension and disgust when it came to Alton Fitzgerald. She'd shared her fears and some of her stories. He was the other devil, the one she spoke of. No matter what he'd done to her or not done to her in the past, being with him was dangerous. She knew that and so did I.
Charli wouldn't willingly go with him, not after she'd promised me she'd stay safe.
I clenched my teeth, hearing her words in my mind, her promises...her lies.
When she refused to wait for me for this trip to Savannah, Charli had promised she'd stay with Deloris.
According to this text message, she hadn't.
That's what the words on my screen were telling me. Deloris's message confirmed that Charli had done the one thing I forbade her from doing. She'd put the one person whom I'd entrusted to her care in danger.
She'd willingly sacrificed herself.
I needed to understand why.
I needed to speak to her, but I couldn't.
Since the plane had just left the ground, I couldn't make a call until we were high enough for the Wi-Fi to be activated; however, that didn’t stop my rant. Pounding the tabletop before me with the butt of my fist, a tirade of words spewed forth. The outburst, infused with obscenities, echoed uselessly through the cabin.
Wisely, Isaac remained quiet, rightfully assuming I'd share more when I was ready. The flight attendant, though, was new. She didn't know me.
“Mr. Demetri, is everything all right?” she asked, her eyes bigger than dinner plates as she hurried around a wall and moved toward me. With each step she teetered one way and then the next, her body thrown off balance as the plane continued its ascent.
“No! Nothing is all right. Go sit down before you fall. There’s nothing you can do.”
“Sir,” she said, looking down at the phone still in my hand. “If we’re not yet out of the range of cell towers, we will be soon, but once we have Wi-Fi you'll be able to Face Time.”
I reined in what little self-control still remained. This wasn't my first flight. “I’m aware.”
“However, if you don't want to wait, the plane has a satellite phone. Would you like to use that?”
What? Why didn’t I think of that?
Because I’m too stunned to process.
“Yes. Get it right away.”
Her knees buckled as she maneuvered toward the cockpit, her hands supporting her one way and then the other.
“I’M CALLING ON THE SATELLITE PHONE. I WANT DETAILS!”
I sent the text to Deloris, not caring if it would send or if she would get it. Just pushing the letters gave me something to do.
As soon as the flight attendant placed the satellite phone in my hand, I began dialing the longer-than-normal string of numbers. With each second that I waited for the connection, my blood pressure rose another notch. The rush coursing through my veins filled my ears with an internal roar, muting the engine’s drone.
"You have reached—"
Though the plane continued its climb, at the sound of her voice, my stomach took another nosedive. Hitting the disconnect button, I called Mrs. Witt. She probably should have been my first call, but I needed to try to reach Charli. I wanted to know that I could.
Now, I knew that I couldn't.
As the satellite phone again waited to connect, I reached for my own phone and pushed the app on Charli's tracker.
My mind reasoned that it wasn't because she was unreachable. She may have gotten into a car, but she wouldn't take off the necklace. There was nothing on the app, because we didn't yet have Wi-Fi access and the cellular service was unavailable.
As soon as the satellite phone began to ring, Deloris answered, “Lennox we're following her...”
“What the hell happened? Where is she? Where is that bastard taking her? Why the fuck did she get in his car? Why didn’t you stop her? Did he threaten her?”
“She’s a few hundred yards ahead of us on the street. We’re making our way out of the city. According to her tracker, her heart rate is elevated, but otherwise, we believe she's safe. According to the GPS it seems as though we’re headed toward her home.”
“Her home?” I asked incredulously. “No, Deloris, her home is in New York.”
DO NOT MISS THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES!
Aleatha Romig is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives in Indiana. She grew up in Mishawaka, graduated from Indiana University, and is currently living south of Indianapolis. Aleatha has raised three children with her high school sweetheart and husband of nearly thirty years. Before she became a full-time author, she worked days as a dental hygienist and spent her nights writing. Now, when she's not imagining mind-blowing twists and turns, she likes to spend her time a with her family and friends. Her other pastimes include reading and creating heroes/anti-heroes who haunt your dreams!
Aleatha released her first novel, CONSEQUENCES, in August of 2011. CONSEQUENCES became a bestselling series with five novels and two companions released from 2011 through 2015. The compelling and epic story of Anthony and Claire Rawlings has graced more than half a million e-readers. Aleatha released the first of her series TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE, INSIDIOUS, in the fall of 2014. These stand alone thrillers continue Aleatha's twisted style with an increase in heat.
In the fall of 2015, Aleatha moved head first into the world of dark romantic suspense with the release of BETRAYAL, the first of her five novel INFIDELITY series that has taken the reading world by storm. She also began her traditional publishing career with Thomas and Mercer. Her books INTO THE LIGHT and AWAY FROM THE DARK were published through this mystery/thriller publisher in 2016.
Aleatha is a "Published Author's Network" member of the Romance Writers of America and represented by Danielle Egan-Miller of Browne & Miller Literary Associates.