“That’s a good girl.” With one hand, Harold gripped Eleanor’s wrists while he pivoted enough to set the gun on the table. After wrapping her wrists in rope, he knelt in front of her and did the same with her ankles.
She held her breath as his hands manipulated her legs and feet, but he seemed intent solely on subduing her and getting back to the robbery.
“What you don’t know about is the part of the business Cline conducts on his own.” Harold stood next to the table surveying their tight surroundings.
The vault was the size of a roomy walk-in closet. The table could double for a freestanding butcher block in a kitchen. The L-shaped bench she sat on shared the walls with the door and the other wall to her right along with two ancient, wooden, filing cabinets. Cardboard boxes that looked as if they dated back as far as the filing cabinets and a three-foot-by-three-foot portrait of a man who looked like Mr. Cline occupied the wall to the left of the door. The fourth wall was shelving with various sizes of the type of metal boxes found in bank vaults.
Harold moved to the shelves. “The asshole is going to feel a pinch come Monday.” His remark seemed to be made to himself. He started pulling boxes, peeking inside, and either returning them or setting them on the wooden table. Three large and one smaller one met his approval.
Eleanor leaned against the wall with her shoulders, wiggled her fingers for circulation, and attempted to even her breathing. As Harold opened the first box and transferred banded currency to the canvas bag, she swore she heard a quiet swooshing noise. Straining her ears for any sounds outside the safe, she held her breath. Someone to rescue her? Foolish. A fantasy.
When her captor opened the second bank box and transferred more banded bills to his bag, she sat up straighter. The quiet gasp that escaped caught his attention.
“Oh, yes. I told you your boss has a lot more going than you or anyone else knows about.” He shoved the second container aside and emptied the third. “I left the fourth one full. And the one with the checks, of course. After all, he’ll need to make his deposit on Monday.” He laughed. “But the best is yet to come.” Lifting the small box in a movement to dump the contents into the canvas, he paused. “You should see this.” He removed what looked like several plastic sandwich bags and stepped in front of her. With his fingers spread, palms up, the bags made a jumbled display of sparkling glass pieces.
“Are those…?” She swallowed, mesmerized by the colors and sizes.
“Precious, aren’t they? Diamonds, rubies, emeralds.” He clutched them all together and whipped around, leaving her with her mouth gaping open. “Just a little side business to compliment the legal, respectable jewelry company left to him by dear old Dad.” He nodded at the portrait on the wall. “The beauty of this theft is it’ll go unreported. The money and checks I’ve left behind are considerable, certainly enough for the biggest month of the year. And this.” He thumped the side of the bag. “This is unrecorded, mostly illegal, and would expose Cline and possibly his more discreet customers.” He shrugged his shoulders, and grinned his once charming, but now smarmy, smile. “Looks like it might be tough to make the yacht payment this month.”
Eleanor’s mind reeled. Mr. Cline certainly wasn’t what he seemed.
Harold zipped the bag.
Panic rose in her throat.
He lifted the canvas bag with both hands. “A just severance and holiday bonus. Merry Christmas, Harold King.”
As she opened her mouth to beg him not to leave her in this tomb, something sounded outside the vault. She froze. Nothing. Maybe it was the pulse of fear pounding in her head. Harold didn’t seem to notice. There. Again. Not really a sound, but…intuition? Someone else’s presence.
“Drop the bag.” Jack Roman’s command sent her heart to her throat.
But Harold was quick. He let go the money and snatched the gun in a fluid movement, whirling to face Jack standing in the doorway. “Well, well, if it isn’t the brawn of the company, coming to save the day.” His face hardened. “Back off, Roman.”
The air left Eleanor’s lungs. She thought she might faint. Jack would win in an even confrontation, but not against a gun. Oh god, would Harold shoot him?
Jack flicked what looked like a wink. Really, Eleanor! Now is not the time for wishful thinking.
“I can’t let you walk away, can I, King?”
“You don’t have a choice, unless you’d like to see how handy I am with my equalizer.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed as he seemed to consider his options. “Let Eleanor go, and we’ll address the situation.”
“You always did have a good sense of humor, Roman.” He reached behind him and with effort hefted the canvas from the table, the gun not wavering from his co-worker’s chest. “Have a seat. You can cozy up to little miss sweet ass.” His knuckles whitened with the grip on the gun. “It’s not a request.” He dipped his aim to Jack’s crotch. “I don’t have any qualms about maiming you, if you don’t do as I say.”
Jack’s full lips quirked upward, as he lowered onto the bench beside her, coming into contact from shoulder to knee. “Are you okay?” His gaze followed the gun, but his quiet question floated over her.
“Yes.” She could’ve scooted away, given him room, but she relaxed with the weight of his warmth and strength against her.
“Hey, you two look good together. Too bad there isn’t any mistletoe overhead.” Harold snickered as he paused in the doorway. “Goodbye. And I do mean goodbye. Oh, and Merry Christmas.” He backed out, the gun disappearing last.
Eleanor tensed, waiting for Jack to make his lunge. Surely he’d stop Harold from locking them in the vault. There must be something he could do. Do something, Roman, Jack Roman!
The heavy whoosh of the door and then click of the lock caused every muscle in her body to collapse with defeat, and she slumped against the wall. “Oh, no,” she whimpered.
Jack’s arm slipped behind her. “Here. Sit forward a little. Let me get you untied.”
“What are we going to do?”
He pulled the rope from her hands.
“How can we possibly spend the whole weekend in here?” She massaged her wrists then wrung her fingers as she glanced around their prison. When he didn’t answer, she tipped her head to look into his face. The slight smile that usually undid her curved his mouth. First he makes no effort to overtake Harold, now all he can do is smile? Some brawn.
He pushed the hair from her face, his fingers gliding over her cheek. “It’ll be okay.”
A shaky breath and the tentacles of fear closing around her chest neutralized the electric sensation of what seemed like a caress. “Okay?” But she’d had enough for one day of so-called high powered executives fooling her. She flicked the hair from the other side of her face before he could repeat the action. Even in the presence of the most gorgeous man in the company, the tight space and an obvious lack of air tightened her throat with panic. And all he could do was coo and smile. Anger simmered.
Please join me tomorrow for the final episode.