Read What's in a Name? Online

Authors: Terry Odell

Tags: #fiction, #romance, #romantic suspense, #mystery, #romance adventure

What's in a Name? (10 page)

BOOK: What's in a Name?
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Kelli peeked around the bathroom
doorway. She’d wrapped a towel around her head, turban style,
something women seemed born knowing how to do. “Feeling
better?”


Much. I think I was
hungry.”


Rest for an hour.
Then we hit the road.”


I think we need to
talk.”


And I think you need
to rest.” She disappeared into the bathroom like the bird in a
cuckoo clock.

He needed exercise, to get moving
again, not rest. He got out of bed, wrapped the sheet around him
and took three laps around the small room before the dizziness
ruled. He glared at the bathroom door. Now he’d rest. He made it to
the bed and collapsed.

Aware of noises, someone moving in and
out, doors opening and closing, yet unwilling to let them register,
he slowly rose from sleep at the touch of a hand on his
forehead.


Fever’s down. We need
to go.” Kelli’s voice floated from above the bed.

He opened his eyes and blinked at the
redhead staring down at him. He worked his tongue around his mouth
until he could speak. “Where are the green eyes?”

She flashed a quick grin. “I’m working
on that one. Meanwhile, I’m going to finish loading the truck. “If
you want to clean up, be quick.”


Do I have to cut my
hair, too?”


No, I thought we’d
make you a blond.” She gave him what he’d come to think of as The
Shake. He was beginning to like it—the look of exasperation, the
way her hair bounced, her eyes rolled heavenward and her eyebrows
furrowed as she shook her head.

She headed for the door. “Try to
remember you were never here. Watch the little things, like leaving
the seat up.” She was gone before he could retort.

He sat up and looked around. She’d made
her bed. Replaced the phone. On the chair were a pair of his jeans,
a clean blue chambray work shirt, underwear and socks and the knit
cap. He gathered them up and took them into the bathroom. The
spotless bathroom. One damp towel and one dry one. Whatever towels
she’d used for him and her hair were nowhere to be seen. Nothing
pointed to her transformation.

She’d left his Dopp Kit by the sink. No
sign of blond hair dye. Good. For a second, he’d thought she was
serious. He rubbed his fingers over his jaw. If Kelli was into
disguises, maybe a beard would be a good idea. Besides, he couldn’t
leave whiskers in the sink now, could he?

With a tremendous sense of
accomplishment, he washed, got dressed and made it outside under
his own power. Kelli stood by the hood of the truck, ready to help.
He gave her a thumbs-up and climbed in, tossing his kit on the seat
between them next to two bottles of water and her backpack. His
head was clear, his pain was tolerable. “Go for it.”

Once they’d put the motel and whatever
town it was in behind them, he ended the silence. “Time to talk.
Who the hell are you and why is Dwight Hollingsworth looking for
you?”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Taken by surprise, Kelli shot a look at
Windsor. “Who the hell is Dwight Hollingsworth? I’ve never heard of
him.”

Windsor twisted in his seat, then
grimaced and tugged the seat belt away from his midsection. “Okay,
then let’s start with the easy one. Who are you?”

She kept her foot steady on the
accelerator. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought Windsor
could see it through her shirt. She’d prepared herself for his
questions, hoped her face didn’t give her away. She fixed her eyes
on the road. “I’m Kelli Carpenter. ID’s in my wallet.” She nodded
to the pack between them. “Help yourself.”


I’m sure your ID is
impeccable. Who are you?”


Jesus H. Christ, Mr.
Blake Windsor, phony handyman. You’re the one who shows up
pretending to be something you’re not. Why don’t you tell me who
you
are. Or if that’s too much trouble, who’s this Dwight
Hollingsworth guy?”

Pain lines etched Windsor’s face again,
but she didn’t give a shit. She hit the accelerator, changing
lanes, passing cars, not caring that the constant side-to-side
motion had to be hurting Windsor’s injured torso. She glanced over,
thought he was turning a little green. Good. They had at least an
hour of mountain roads left.

He shifted in his seat and cracked the
window. She saw him swallow, the sweat beading on his upper
lip.

Screw him. She turned up the heater.
“I’m waiting. Who is Dwight Hollingsworth?”


You’ve never heard of
him?” The words came out slow and deliberate, as if he had to
concentrate to form each one.


Has the fever
affected your hearing? How many times do I have to tell you? No.
Never heard of him. What part don’t you understand?”


I work for him. He’s
a very rich man in Chicago. Aspirations to become the next governor
of Illinois.”


Chicago? I’ve never
lived in Chicago. And if you don’t want to ride in the back of the
truck, you’d better tell me what he wants with me—or what you think
he wants with me.”


I don’t know. I hoped
you would. He thinks you’re Casey Wallace. He hired me to see if it
was true.”

She ignored the ringing in her ears,
the pounding in her chest when Windsor uttered the name. “Who’s
Casey Wallace? It’s not me. I told you who I am.”


So, if you’re not
Casey Wallace, any ideas why Hollingsworth thinks you
are?”


We’re still talking
about you, Windsor. What is it you do when you’re not pretending to
be a handyman?”

There was a prolonged silence. She
waited. When she turned to look at Windsor, he was slouched in the
seat. “I help Hollingsworth make money.” His voice was flat.


I take it you’re not
exactly a financial advisor, or a stockbroker, or something like
that?”

He expelled a puff of air. “No. More
like a … negotiator. I help him acquire companies. He pays me to
convince executives they’d be a lot happier as subsidiaries of
Hollingsworth Industries.”


Convince how?
Threaten them? Their families? You go in with a gun?” She watched
his face and the flash of indignation she saw was real.


No. Sorry to
disappoint you, but I work with numbers. Bottom lines. And I like
to think I’m helping them out in the long run. I’m good at it, and
I like the lifestyle it provides.”

A glimmer of something—regret?—replaced
the indignation. Maybe he did a little more than crunch numbers.
“How in the world did a … negotiator … end up playing handyman on a
Good Samaritan project?”


Hollingsworth knows
my dad was a contractor, that I grew up working with him. But I
preferred using my brain. Went to school, got my MBA.”


You’re a corporate
bully. How does Hollingsworth hook up with EnviroCon and Jack
Stockbridge? I’m getting a headache here.”


No clue.
Hollingsworth hooks up with just about everyone. Consummate
politician. He sent me to check you out, and he set up the handyman
cover. And speaking of headaches—” He unzipped his kit and pulled
out the ibuprofen. Swallowed some, took a long pull from the water
bottle. “Kelli? Look, this was a last-minute deal and I didn’t take
the time to ask a lot of questions.”


Shut up, Windsor. I
need to think for a while.”

Okay, for some reason this
Hollingsworth had connected her to Casey. Was he connected to
Robert? After all these years, had someone found something?

Crap. She was comfortable being Kelli.
She’d changed identities before, she could do it again. But not
without a damn good reason. Jack might know more. No way would he
sell her out. He couldn’t. He didn’t know her past, but she trusted
him with her life.

Thornton? He’d recommended Windsor. He
was rich. It made sense he’d be connected to Hollingsworth. Money
stuck with money.

Did she dare risk a call to Jack? She
glanced at Windsor. Eyes closed, he leaned against the door. Not
asleep, from the way he grimaced against the motion of the truck.
Shit on a stick. He’d kept that creep from raping her.
“Windsor?”


What?” He didn’t open
his eyes.


How well do you know
Thornton? Phillip, I think. Stockbridge always called him Thornton.
His offices are based in Denver.”


Don’t, other than
he’s behind Camp Getaway. Never heard of him until this
job.”


There has to be a
connection. Stockbridge tells me Thornton gave him the name of your
temp agency, specifically mentioned you. But you don’t work for the
temp agency. You work for Hollingsworth. Ergo, Thornton and
Hollingsworth have to connect.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “I
don’t know. And I can’t think straight.”

She saw the pain he was trying to hide
and sighed. “For now, I think the best thing we can do is stay off
everyone’s radar until we get a few more answers.”


You have a
destination in mind, or are we just driving?”

She shrugged. “I’m working on it. If
someone wanted to get in touch with you, where would they
look?”

This time he opened his eyes. Wide.
“Me? They’d call my cell. I have a place in Chicago, but I’m away a
lot. I stay in hotels.”


Check your cell for
missed calls, but don’t use it.”


How? You took the
damn thing—along with everything else.”

Right. Everything was in her bag behind
the seat. With the thirty-eight. “I’ll get it for you next time we
stop.”


I don’t suppose that
can be at a gas station. Soon? Please?” He gave her a puppy-dog
grin. “You said fluids. I’ve been a good boy, but I’ve reached my
limit.”

 

* * * * *

 

Bladder straining, Blake had his seat
belt off and the door open as soon as Kelli slowed the truck by the
restrooms behind the gas station.

She gave him an impatient eyebrow
raise. “Go. I’ll drive around to the pumps, fill up and come back
for you.”

Standing at the urinal, tears of relief
stung his eyes. It seemed like Kelli had hit every pothole in the
road and kept to the speed limit once he’d made his needs known. He
swore she’d done it all to torment him. And that tractor she’d
followed at twenty-five miles an hour for the last ten minutes! Too
bad the driver hadn’t heard Kelli’s little lecture about not
hugging the center line when someone was behind you.

He washed his hands and stepped out
into the overcast daylight. For the time being, he didn’t care who
the hell she was. The way she had her act together spoke of
experience. She’d been cool when he threw Casey’s name in her face,
though. No reaction. But the fact she hadn’t stopped to call the
cops at the first opportunity meant she didn’t want to get
involved. Not that he minded, since Dwight sure as hell wouldn’t be
pleased to have one of his associates implicated in something as
messy as an attempted rape.

His headache had toned down to a dull
throb, and he was hungry. By tomorrow, he figured he’d be able to
put two thoughts together. Meanwhile, this was Kelli’s show and he
was stuck with it.

Kelli parked the truck near the
restrooms and got out. Ignoring him, she opened the door to the
ladies’. Blake wandered over to the F-250 and found the doors
locked. So that’s how much she trusted him. Not that he blamed her.
He wondered if she expected him to stay hidden in the john until
she was ready to drive away. There was a tree at the edge of the
parking area and he leaned against it, legs shaking, afraid if he
lowered himself all the way to the ground he might not be able to
get up. He pressed against the bandages under his shirt. Sore, but
not on fire anymore. He’d put his money on the concussion, not the
knife wound, causing most of his misery, and it seemed to be
wearing off. At least Kelli’s clone had stopped showing up.

When Kelli emerged, he studied her
while she strode to the truck. Her short hair framed her face in
auburn waves, giving her a more confident look. No longer the timid
recluse. Even her walk had changed to a nonchalant swagger. She
unlocked the driver’s door, slid in and backed the truck to where
he stood. He pulled himself in and she wheeled away almost before
he closed the door. He didn’t have his watch, but he’d bet the
entire stop hadn’t lasted more than five minutes.


Are you going to tell
me where we’re going?” he asked.


No.” She picked up a
cup from the holder and held it to her mouth. He smelled coffee.
His mouth watered.


We going to stop for
lunch? Or dinner?” The glare coming through the windshield obscured
the clock. “What time is it, anyway?”


Doesn’t matter.
Food’s in the back. You can make a sandwich.”

He twisted around and found an
assortment of plastic bags. She’d shopped for more than breakfast
and hair dye earlier. One bag held clothes. In another, he found
Power Bars, a loaf of bread, some apples and a jar of something
called Nutella. Thank God it wasn’t more peanut butter. He read the
label. Chocolate and hazelnuts. He twisted open the lid and
sniffed. His stomach begged. He dug a little more and found
napkins, plastic utensils and paper plates.

Blake slathered a slice of bread with
the dark, rich spread and took a taste. Heaven. He devoured it,
then made a true sandwich. “Can I fix you one?”


Yes, please.
Thanks.”

He took a swig of water. A small one.
“I wish you’d trust me. I’m on your side.”

BOOK: What's in a Name?
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle
Eternally Yours by Brenda Jackson
A Fine Passage by France Daigle
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Faye's Spirit by Saskia Walker
Amish Undercover by Samantha Price
IntheMood by Lynne Connolly
What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb