Authors: Avery James
When Callie got back to the bar, Gavin was waiting. "Come on," he said. "Let's get out of here and find someplace quieter."
"What did you have in mind?" Callie asked.
"My place is only a few blocks away. It's like a minute and a half cab ride."
Callie glanced down at her phone as she waited for Rich's text. "How about we walk? It's a beautiful night."
"If you insist,” Gavin said. Something told Callie he wasn’t interested in a leisurely stroll.
By the time they reached Gavin's building, Callie had tried almost everything she could think of to slow their pace, and she was on the verge of admitting defeat. Rich still hadn't texted, and Callie's blood pressure was rising by the second. She pulled out her phone one last time.
"Expecting a call?" Gavin asked. He stared down at the phone, trying to glean some information.
"Oh, I was just looking at the time. I was thinking maybe it would make more sense to go out to another place for a little bit. It's still relatively early."
"Nonsense, I have a bottle of cabernet you'll absolutely love. It was a gift from a former classmate."
Callie froze on the steps of the building as she tried to figure out what to do next. Her ears throbbed with heavy pulses of panicky blood as her mind raced. Somewhere in the whirling of her thoughts, a little mechanical ding broke through. Her eyes shot to the elevator. Rich stepped out. Callie grabbed Gavin’s hand and locked her eyes on his long enough for Rich to walk by unseen. “You know what," she said. "That sounds great."
Gavin's apartment was tastefully decorated. Masculine, yet welcoming. It was filled with the cool, musky scent of Gavin's cologne. Callie had to admit that it smelled good.
Why do you have to be so evil?
Callie wondered. Callie quickly looked around the room for any sign that Rich had been there, but the place looked impeccable.
Gavin slipped away into the kitchen and came back with two glasses of wine. Callie wondered what the percentage chance was that he had tried to slip a little something extra into her drink. There was no chance in hell that she’d even take a sip.
Callie placed her glass down on the coffee table and leaned back on the couch. She’d have to make small talk with Gavin while she figured out where the hell he had stashed the evidence. ”So, why don't you tell me a little more about yourself," Callie said.
You know, hobbies, interests, incriminating hard drives…
“What else is there to know?” He said. “How about we try something a little more interesting than show and tell?”
Gavin reached out and twirled a lock of Callie’s hair around his finger. He smiled at her the way an alligator smiles at its next meal. God, this guy had no idea he was being set up. Callie did her best to suppress her gag reflex and smiled back at him.
Is this really what passes for foreplay these days?
“Uhh…” Callie was at a loss for words.
“I can give you a tour of the apartment. Maybe you'll find something or someplace that stokes your interest.”
The creep had probably already set up a camera in the bedroom.
Too bad he wouldn't have a chance to use it
, Callie thought. Her best chance to get any alone time to search his place was to play along with his game. "How about you go start a bath and strip down. I want you to wait for me." She watched pupils dilate as he processed the suggestion. Callie raised her hand to her head and slowly pushed Gavin’s hand away. "Call me old fashioned, but would you mind if I went into another room to change? I don't want to ruin the surprise. Maybe I can change in your bedroom?"
Gavin looked at the door to his bedroom and then back at Callie. "Um, my office is at the end of the hall, that would probably work fine. But don't take too long or I'll have to start without you." Gavin began to unbutton his shirt as he headed into the bathroom. As soon as he turned on the water, Callie rushed to the office. She shut the door and flicked on the light. "Ok, where are you?" she said quietly. She walked over to the desk and opened one drawer after another, sifting through them as quietly as she could, looking for anything resembling a hard drive. There was nothing in the desk drawer but a box of tissues, some hairspray and a mirror. Callie spun around and took stock of the room: The Ivy League diploma on the wall, the pictures of Gavin with various political heroes. Time to check the bedroom. Callie opened the door and slipped back into the hall. "Gavin, are you ready?"
“I've been ready since the moment I saw you," he called back.
Callie shook her head.
Could this guy really think that line worked?
Callie slipped into his bedroom and ran over to his nightstand, opening the top drawer. She found nothing but a pair of fuzzy handcuffs and a few other toys that Gavin was probably hoping to try on her. She stepped back out into the hallway, fresh out of ideas about what to do. Then, she saw them: Gavin's pants in the middle of the living room.
She walked over and reached into the pockets. A set of keys, a flash drive, and a wallet.
"You coming?" Gavin called from the bathroom.
"One second," Callie said. She palmed the flash drive and turned for the door.
"Where are you heading?" Gavin asked.
Callie almost jumped. She hadn't heard him get out of the tub. He leaned against the doorframe, water dripping from his sculpted physique. He probably thought he was being sexy, when, in fact, he made her skin crawl.
Callie bit down hard on the inside of her cheek as she tried to keep herself from shouting in surprise. She tried to concentrate on the metallic twang of blood and said the first thing that popped into her mind. "I was looking for protection."
Hey, that one wasn't even a lie. Sure the protection was for her client, but Gavin probably wouldn't appreciate the irony.
"You're still dressed," he said. He walked over to Callie and placed his hands on her shoulders. He slid one hand over her back and grabbed the zipper to her dress. "Maybe I can help you with that."
She curled her hand tight around the flash drive. How long until he noticed what she was holding? How long until she had to figure out a way to get herself out of this room? As Gavin slid the dress off her shoulders, she tried to control her breathing. She wondered if she could get her phone out and call for help in time. She wondered if she should just hit him and run. No, there had to be a better way. Use his weaknesses against him.
Callie slid her free hand over Gavin's, and pulled the dress down off of her shoulders. This was one way of taking his mind off of everything else. As Gavin slid the dress down over her hips, Callie slipped the flash drive into her bra. Then, as the dress fell around her feet, she started to take off her heels.
"Maybe we can continue this in the other room."
"Why don't I take you right here on the floor?”
Callie panicked. Her mind was spinning out of control imagining all the ways this could go wrong. As Gavin crossed the room toward her,
"Go get a condom."
"Why not start without one?"
Callie looked over to her purse. Somewhere deep inside it, there was a small canister of pepper spray. "Go get it, and wait for me in there. I'll have a little surprise for you."
"I like surprises."
"Then you'll love this,” Callie called. “In fact, you’ll remember this for the rest of your life.” She tried to calm herself and stand still as she watched the wheels turn in Gavin’s head.
Come on, come on, come on, please go
As soon as Gavin stepped into his bedroom, Callie scooped her heels, purse and dress off the floor.
No time to get dressed
, she thought. This was going to be one hell of an escape. She looked back one last time as she opened the front door of the apartment and stepped into the hall.
She couldn't afford to wait for the elevator. Instead she ran to the stairs and sprinted down them as quickly as she could, almost stumbling as she raced downward. Then she reached the door to the lobby. She froze for a moment and looked for any sign of Gavin. She stepped out onto the cold marble floor of the lobby and looked straight ahead, walking right past the doorman without even blinking. As she stepped outside, she slipped herself back into the dress.
Even after she stepped out into the lobby and walked out into the warm night air, Callie couldn't relax. She just needed to get as far from Gavin as possible. Two blocks later, she stopped and held out her thumb for a cab. Instead, a black sedan pulled up to the curb.
"Get in," someone said from inside.
Callie looked up and down the street, but she saw no sign of Gavin or anyone else. She opened the car door and got inside. "Rich, I thought for sure he was going to find me."
"Do you have the drive?"
"Yup," Callie said. She belted herself into the passenger seat and leaned back as Rich sped off into the night.
"Why the hell aren't you wearing shoes?"
"Heels aren't exactly made for running."
"Well, the laptop is set up already. Load the file, and see what kind of decryption we're dealing with here."
"Sure thing," Callie said. As Rich wove through the streets of DC, making sure no one was following, Callie plugged the thumb drive into the computer. "Looks fairly standard," she said.
"Run the decryption program, and we'll know what we have before I get you home."
Two minutes later, the computer pinged. It was time to see what kind of dirt Gavin really had. There were a few other files, but she guessed that the one titled "Wyatt" would have what she was looking for. Callie clicked through the photos. The pictures were fairly standard hidden camera stuff, nothing she hadn't dealt with before. At least they now knew what they were dealing with.
"Let me check that out," Rich said. He pulled the car over and took the laptop from Callie. He shook his head as he went back through the photos. Then he went back through the files. Callie watched as Rich's eyes grew wide. "Holy shit," he said under his breath. Callie could hear his excitement. "You'll never guess who else this guy has photos of. God, there’s a video too. Your sister is going to flip."
The clack of Callie's high heels against the hardwood floor echoed through the room as she paced back and forth. She had to think of the perfect way of saying this. "Amy, I know that this isn't the best time to tell you this, but I can't really see any other way. I need to take some time for myself, a few days out of DC to clear my head and just get away from all of this."
"Bravo, sounds great, now can I go back to bed?" Charlotte replied. She was curled up on the couch, the rheum of sleep still in her eyes. She didn't look too thrilled to be playing the part of Callie's older sister.
Callie frowned and handed her roommate a warm mug of coffee. "No, not until I've practiced this. You've met my sister. Every time I try to ask her for something — a vacation, a promotion, anything — she finds some way to get me to back down. And now, she's pregnant and even harder to talk to. I need to practice."
"Is there a reason why you have to practice at 6 AM? What time did you even get home last night?"
"Late. I was walking around for a while trying to clear my head."
"Date night wasn't a success?"
"It wasn't a date. I was seducing a blackmailer."
"It's nothing really. I stalled him while someone went through his place looking for a hard drive."
"Do you know what I did last night?" Charlotte asked. "I read a book and drank half a bottle of red wine. So, was he handsome?"
"He was a blackmailer."
"That can be kind of hot."
"He was a creep."
"Hey, I'm living vicariously through you and Jane Austen, and only one of you dragged me out of bed at 6 AM on a Saturday to role-play a vacation request."
"I also made you coffee."
"And the coffee is good. If I play along, can I go back to bed?"
"Try one more time. Remember, just because you're related to her doesn't mean you can't ask for your basic rights as her employee. Just walk in and say, 'Amy, I need some time off. This last case got to me, and I could use a few days to clear my head.' Callie, you'll be fine."
"That's what I said before."
"Yes, it is. Now I'm going to crawl back into bed before it's far too late."
"Or I could make breakfast, and you can help me brainstorm vacation ideas."
"Do you have use of your brother-in-law's private jet?"
"Why not? That would be a vacation of its own. Let's quit our jobs, borrow the jet and fly to Paris. What do you say? Hell, I'd fly to Newark if it meant spending the day in a Gulfstream."