A few of us here at Avalon Authors decided it would be fun to write a novel together. We each wrote one chapter, with no plan in mind, then passed the torch on to the next author. If you missed earlier chapters and want to catch up on the story or, if you want to refresh your memory, click on Avaloner Online Novel in the list to the right. If you just want to get on with the story ... buckle up. So far, the ride has been a roller coaster.
Phoenix. Lovely, dry, warm Phoenix. I was home. Apparently, while I had been knocked out, Stan and Anna had somehow spirited me away to the place I love best.
As I peered through the Venetian blinds, my heart hammered when I realized why I recognized the city so quickly. Mel’s travel agency with its bright blue and yellow sign was directly across the street. I was in the nondescript building that I stared at five days a week. What kind of office space was this with padded doors and bright white rooms?
I whirled to face Stan. “What is this place?”
His eyes seemed compassionate as he stepped toward me.
Hold it right there, Mister!” I held up my hand at arm’s length. “You’re not getting an inch closer until you explain some things to me.”
“I understand your impatience, Sonya. Truly, I do.” Those green eyes trailed to the white tile floor. “All I can tell you is that this was the safest place to bring you. They would never think that you or Mel would turn up here so soon.”
“Who are they?” I was extremely frustrated. I might have to bang my head on that padded door. The pain surely wouldn’t be any more annoying than my blasted headache.
Suddenly, his demeanor was all official. “I can’t tell you that information. That’s for Mel to divulge if she thinks it is appropriate.”
I let out steam through my clenched teeth. This was exasperating—like herding cats—only this was apparently dangerous. I was tired of speculating. I wanted answers. Now. “Were you really drugged?” I asked.
“No. That was a diversion.”
I was a tad surprised he complied so willingly. Putting my hands on my hips, I gave him my best no-nonsense stare. “Why?”
“All I can say is the people who want your aunt were following you so they could get to her.”
Mel had a ton of explaining to do. When she returned from California, she was in for it. Since it seemed that line of questioning hit a brick wall, I switched focus. “What about your alleged mother and other odd bits of family?”
Stan’s shoulders slumped under the weight of that one. He ran his hands through his hair before looking squarely at me. “That, I’m afraid, is all my fault. Since I inherited the restaurant, my mother has been hounding me for it. Now that I’ve made it into the million dollar success it is today, the stakes have become too high. They thought they could get me to sell if they had you.”
“So, you really are a restaurateur?” Somehow that made him seem more stable. And likeable.
Funny sparks flit across his smile. “In my spare time.”
Inwardly, I groaned. “Do you mind telling me what your day job is?” I asked warily.
“Sorry. I can’t say.” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “But, I can honestly tell you that I’m ready to quit this line of work.” He began moving ever so slowly forward as if not to startle a frightened rabbit. “The deceptions never bothered me…until now.”
Stan seemed completely serious. Oh, how I wanted to believe him. But, still, I barely knew him. What I needed was to be free from his mesmerizing presence for five minutes to regain my composure and possible sanity.
I spotted my handbag on a chair by the door. I knew which way to go now to get out of here. Pasting on a smile, I held open my arms as if I would embrace him. As he let his guard down, I dodged past him, grabbed my bag and bolted out the door.
“Sonya! Wait!” he implored.
Closing my ears to his pleas, I turned right, opened another door that led into a drab foyer and pushed open the glass door to freedom. Bright light blinded me, and I blinked furiously.
Not stopping, I rummaged in my purse for the key to the travel agency. As I maneuvered through traffic, I found the key. I held it at the ready, for I was sure Stan was right on my heels. As I crashed into the door, it unexpectedly opened.
Stumbling inside, I immediately saw that the lights were on. When I righted myself, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was Mel. As she looked up from her desk, I could have sworn I saw flash of annoyance on her face before she brightened. Why did her perfectly white smile suddenly seem fake?
“Oh, hello, darling. You’re back,” Mel said with what seemed like forced pleasantness. Her manicured nails drummed impatiently on the desktop.
Stan burst in behind me, not nearly as breathless as I was.
“Stan.” Mel’s manner while speaking to him was all business—which was extremely out of character for her. “I’ve been trying to reach you. They have been apprehended. All is taken care of.”
Not being able to stand the secrecy one second longer, I strode to Mel’s desk, planted both palms onto the cool wood and glared—nose to nose—at my aunt. “What are you talking about?!”
To be continued - Chapter 13 will be published July 16.