Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

TWO HOURS LATER, TRACY was still wide awake, staring at the ceiling.

She thought about Blake Carter. Why did he have to be so good, all the time? So damn selfless and upstanding and righteous? Didn’t he realize how annoying it was?

She thought about Nicholas, and how like his father he was. Jeff would have laughed at the fart video. She tried to deny it to herself, but there were times when Tracy missed Jeff so badly it felt like a stone slab pressing on her heart.

Finally, despite her efforts to shut them out, she thought about her two visitors today. The short, charming CIA chief, Greg Walton, with his earnest entreaties; and the bullying, hateful Milton Buck with his not-so-veiled threats.

“I’m sorry.”

“You will be.”

Tracy hadn’t told Blake about that part. She hadn’t wanted to worry him. Blake didn’t know about the jewel heist Tracy had pulled off only a few years back in L.A., stealing the Brookstein emeralds from under the nose of her rival, Rebecca Mortimer. The FBI had made a deal after the Bible Killer case, promising Tracy immunity on that and a string of other crimes. Tracy had scratched their back, and they’d promised to scratch hers. But if Tracy knew one thing about Agent Milton Buck it was that the man had no scruples. He’d think nothing of reneging on their deal and sending her to jail if he thought it would advance his career.

I’m not going back to jail, Tracy told herself. Not ever.

Milton Buck wasn’t the only one with dangerous secrets up his sleeve. Blackmail, Tracy had learned long ago, was a two-player game, and Tracy had prepared her own next move long ago. If Buck tried to come after her over this Group 99 business, she’d be ready.

Eventually, sleep began to come to her. As she sank into its embrace, floating in and out of consciousness, Tracy thought about Althea, this mysterious, murderous, wealthy woman that had the President of the United States and all his many minions clutching at straws.

Who is she?

Where is she?

And how does she know my name?

How had she gotten involved with Group 99? And was she the one responsible for turning them from an organization of peaceful, subversive, idealists into brutal terrorists, as bloodthirsty and ruthless as all the rest?

Blake Carter’s words came back to her: It’s not about what I want, Tracy. Or what you want. These people need to be stopped.

Exhausted, Tracy Whitney finally slept.


SALLY FAIERS WAITED PATIENTLY for the four keys in front of her to merge into one so that she could unlock her front door. It would help if the door would stop swaying too. But after four large vodka and tonics, one couldn’t have everything.

Sally’s flat was on Beaufort Street in Chelsea, one of hundreds in a typical, redbrick Victorian mansion block. By journalist standards it was a nice place. Expensive part of London. Decent transport links. Not covered in mold. An award-winning columnist at The Times, Sally Faiers was at the top of her game but she would never earn a fortune. No one went into investigative journalism for the money. But Sally owned her own place, paid her own mortgage and even, when the situation demanded, bought her own vodka.

At last, the key went in, so suddenly that Sally lurched forward, bumping her head painfully against the door.

“Arse,” she grumbled under her breath.

The four flights of stairs were a killer. She really must go to a gym sometime this century. Staggering, breathless, into her flat, she locked the door behind her and kicked off her heels.

What a night! Sally had filed her latest story, an exposé of one of the top Catholic clerics in England colluding in a pedophile ring, at six o’clock and had gone straight to the nearest pub to celebrate. She was in between boyfriends at the moment, but had made do with snogging John Wheeler from the sports desk in the cab on her way home. She contemplated asking him in for a nightcap—word on the desk was John had the biggest dick in Wapping—but then she remembered what had happened the last time she had a one-night stand with someone at work. Will, the sexy intern on news. Poor Will had mooned over Sally for weeks afterwards, continually “dropping by” her desk for coffee when she was trying to write. In the end she’d had to have a word with the editor and get him transferred to obituaries. She still felt bad about it.

Padding into the bathroom, Sally peeled off her dress and tights and turned on the shower, glancing at her reflection in the mirror before she stepped inside. At thirty-two Sally Faiers still had a good figure, despite her gym phobia, borderline alcoholism and generally dissolute lifestyle. Her waist was small, her boobs big and remarkably perky, and her long legs just the right amount of toned. She had a small, snub nose that she hated but that men inexplicably found sexy, pale gray eyes like morning mist, and a very wide mouth, that had been known to produce an astonishing number of swear words, curses and profanities, especially when its owner was under a deadline. She wore her blond hair in a blunt bob, and almost always dirty due to a chronic lack of both time and being arsed.

The moment she opened the shower door, her phone rang.

Sally groaned. Two in the fucking morning! It wasn’t unusual for her to receive calls at odd hours. But once a story was filed, there was usually a lull until her research began again. On this last story, some of the calls had been harrowing. Broken men, sobbing down the line to her as they recalled childhood abuse. Detachment was the one part of the journalist’s job that Sally had never been able to master. That, and an ability to ignore a ringing phone.

Wrapping a towel around herself—Why? Nobody’s here?—she staggered back into the hallway and picked up.

“Sally Faiers.”

“Hello, gorgeous.”

Sally’s heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. It was a bad line, but she’d know that voice anywhere, the deep, masculine, American voice that was part drawl, part growl.

“Hunter.” Just saying his name was painful. “You’re alive, then.”

“No need to sound so happy about it.”

“I’m not happy about it. You’re a fucking arsehole.”

“Now, that’s not kind. You know the only way I got through the last year was by imagining you naked, with those perfect legs of yours wrapped around my waist. Remember Stockholm?”

“No,” said Sally. “The only way I got through the last year was by imagining you chained to a wall in some godforsaken Group 99 hideout with a pair of electrodes glued to your bollocks.”

Hunter laughed. “I missed you.”

“They let you go, then?”

“Actually I escaped.”

Now it was Sally’s turn to laugh. “Bullshit! You have about as many survival skills as a hedgehog trying to shuffle across the M40.”

“I’ve improved.” Hunter sounded wounded. “I did have a little help from my fellow countrymen. At the beginning.”

Through her drunken haze, Sally read through the lines. “You mean, you were there? In the Bratislava camp?”

“I was there,” Hunter confirmed.

“And they left you behind?” she asked, incredulous.

“Not exactly,” Hunter admitted. “I made a run for it.”

Sally slid down the wall and sat on the floor. “What? Why?”

“It’s a long story.”

A torrent of emotions rushed through her. The strongest was relief that Hunter was alive. He’d broken her heart into a million tiny pieces when he left her for that slut Fiona at the New York Times. But even Sally didn’t want to see pieces of his skull flying through the air like poor Bob Daley’s.

Hot on the heels of relief was excitement. The whole world was out there looking for Hunter Drexel and speculating about his fate. And she, Sally Faiers, was on the phone with him, listening to him tell her that he’d run from his American rescuers—that President Havers’s statement had been an out-and-out lie! Talk about a scoop!

Reaching up, she grabbed a pencil and pad from the hall table.

“Where are you?”

“Sorry,” said Hunter, sounding nothing of the sort. “Can’t tell you that.”

“Give me a clue at least.”

“And you can’t tell anyone about this phone call either.”

Sally laughed. “Fuck off. This is front-page news. The minute you hang up I’m calling the news desk.”

“Sally, I mean it, you can’t say anything.” Hunter’s voice was deadly serious all of a sudden. “If they find me they’ll kill me.”

“If who finds you?” Sally asked.

“Never mind that now,” Hunter cut her off. “I need you to do me a favor.”

It was astonishing how quickly relief could turn to anger. “In what alternate universe would I do you a favor?” Sally asked.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon