Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

She was in the shower when the phone rang, trying to wash herself clean. It wasn’t working. The images from Neuilly would never leave her.

Turning off the water, she grabbed a towel then she picked up.


The towel slipped to the floor. She gripped the back of the couch for support. No one called her Kate. Not anymore.

She was Althea now. Kate was dead.

“Who is this?”

“Oh, I think you know who it is. We need to talk, Kate. Don’t you think?”

She stifled a sob. “Yes.”

It had been more than ten years since she’d heard it.

But Hunter Drexel’s voice hadn’t changed.



TRACY OPENED ONE EYE and saw a hummingbird hover just in front of her, plunging its long beak into a bright orange kou flower before flitting away. It was no bigger than a moth, and so delicate with its iridescent feathers and frantic, dance-like flight. Magical, like everything in Hawaii.

“Ah, you’re awake.”

Cameron Crewe wandered out onto the balcony. Tracy lay on a sun lounger, her athletic figure already turning brown. Cameron had taken Tracy to the Ritz Carlton in Maui for a romantic getaway, booking them into a palatial suite with ocean views and a private balcony so full of flowers it was more like a miniature jungle.

Group 99’s Neuilly massacre had gotten to both of them, but especially Tracy. Her own teenage son might have been murdered at the group’s hands, after all. When Cameron called her from Poland, he could hear the strain in her voice. She feels guilty, responsible somehow, because she hasn’t found Althea yet.

He needed Tracy to know that none of this was her fault.

More important, he needed to be with her. Flying straight home from Warsaw, he’d expected Tracy to put up a fight about coming away with him, with the CIA’s fight against Group 99 at such a crucial stage.

I’m needed here, he could hear her saying. We can focus on us later.

But she hadn’t. To his surprise and delight, Tracy craved intimacy now as much as he did.

“I wasn’t asleep,” she murmured groggily. All this sun was making her drunk. “Just relaxing.”

“Well, don’t let me stop you.”

Perching on the end of her sun lounger, Cameron began rubbing sun cream into her back. Tracy closed her eyes again. Everything smelled of coconuts. She could hear the waves crashing below her. How wonderful it would be to stay here forever and forget everything, to melt away.

Well, almost everything.

She would never forget Nick, of course. And she would never rest until she’d learned the truth about what had happened to him. But slowly, with every hour Tracy spent in Cameron’s company, the raw anguish of his absence was fading. It wasn’t her love for him that she was losing, but the pain of that love. Just a little. And it was a relief.

Other things were harder to let go. While Tracy was here, sipping Kahlúa cocktails with Cameron, Group 99 were still out there killing people. Killing kids.

I shouldn’t have come, Tracy thought now for the thousandth time. I should never have let Cameron talk me into it. But the truth was she was so exhausted she knew she was close to the breaking point. Physically, Tracy’s body greedily accepted the rest. Mentally, it was a different story.

The French security services had yet to catch the other gunmen from the Neuilly attack, and with each passing day it looked less and less likely that they were going to. Meanwhile, despite the fact that good intelligence pointed to Hunter Drexel having conveniently been in Paris at the time of the school shootings, Greg Walton and Milton Buck were doing everything they could to keep Tracy off Drexel’s scent.

“You’re here to find Althea,” Greg Walton reminded her, whenever Tracy raised Hunter’s name. “You’re the one with a connection to her, Tracy. Let us focus on finding Hunter. You mustn’t get distracted.”

And yet they hadn’t found Hunter Drexel. Once again he’d slipped through the net. Even Sally Faiers was claiming he’d gone to ground.

“I haven’t heard anything in weeks,” Sally told Tracy. “I’m worried about him.”

So am I, Tracy thought. The little voice inside her, telling her that Hunter was the key to everything that had happened, had become a deafening roar. She also couldn’t shake the disturbing feeling that if Walton and Buck did find Drexel, she might never learn the whole truth.

“The CIA think he was involved in the Camp Paris shootings, don’t they?” Sally asked Tracy bluntly. “They think he’s a terrorist.”

“I honestly don’t know,” Tracy replied. “If he was in Paris at the time, it certainly raises suspicions.”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Sally said fervently. “I know he ran from the Americans in Bratislava. And maybe he does have some sympathy with Group 99’s beliefs. He denies it, but I could see him going native to some degree. Being turned by them or whatever. But he would never, never be a part of something like what happened at Neuilly. I know him.”

Do you? wondered Tracy. Do any of us really know anyone else, deep down?

How many murderers and rapists are there in prisons around the world right now, whose girlfriends didn’t have a clue?

Still, she shared Sally Faiers’s concerns. The fact that Walton and Buck were being so secretive about their search for Hunter didn’t bode well. Did they really want to rescue him? Or to silence him, permanently? Tracy didn’t know the answer. But the question haunted her. Because whether he was a terrorist or not, Tracy needed to find Hunter Drexel alive. She couldn’t get answers from a dead man.

Tracy sat up suddenly. “I feel guilty,” she told Cameron.

“Why?” He kissed her neck lovingly.

“Because I shouldn’t be here. I should be in France right now. And we both know it.”

Cameron sighed. “Come on, Tracy. We’ve been over this.”

He traced a finger lazily along the top of Tracy’s thigh. In a tropical-print bikini, her long legs glistening with oil, and with her wet hair slicked back, she looked even sexier than usual.

No one was more surprised than Cameron by his feelings for Tracy—both how quickly they’d happened and how intense they were.

Then again, Cameron Crewe’s life had been one long string of surprises. Some wonderful. Some terrible. He’d become a master at expecting the unexpected, or at least of adapting to new realities.

“You’ve nothing to feel guilty about,” he told Tracy. “Paris isn’t going anywhere. You’ll be there in a few days. And in the meantime, it’s not as if you haven’t been working. This is the first time I’ve seen you without a laptop in your hands since we arrived.”

This was true. Though Tracy wasn’t sure what good it had done her. So far there was nothing at all to link Althea to the Neuilly attack. With the exception of Bob Daley’s execution—and perhaps Nick’s “accident”—Althea’s actions for Group 99 had all been sophisticated, slick and nonviolent. After each one she’d left a clue of some sort, a virtual calling card, not because she was careless, but because she was proud to take responsibility for her work.

Neuilly was different. Sending gunmen into a school to massacre teenagers, simply because their parents were rich? That wasn’t Althea’s style. Her deafening silence online and everywhere confirmed it.

It seemed to Tracy that Group 99 was becoming ever more like the mythical hydra: strike at one head, and two more grew before your eyes, each more lethal than the first.

And meanwhile, Hunter Drexel was still out there, holding on to his secrets until he could find somebody brave, or reckless, enough to publish them, to snatch away all the masks and mirrors and show all the players in this dreadful, violent drama as they truly were . . .

“Come here.”

Cameron pulled Tracy onto his lap and slipped his arms around her waist. “Please stay a little longer. I need you.”

FROM A VILLA ACROSS the bay Jeff Stevens watched the scene on Tracy’s balcony through a high-power telescope.

A range of emotions flowed through him, none of them good.

Jeff tried not to hate anyone. But he was finding it extremely hard to warm to Mr. Cameron Crewe.

What’s a billionaire fracking magnate doing sniffing around Tracy? Who just happens to be working for the CIA in their fight against Group 99? Who just happens to view billionaire fracking magnates about as positively as the rest of the population views pedophiles?

And how convenient that he’s whisked her away to Maui just as the shit’s hitting the fan in France.

Jamie MacIntosh had informed Jeff yesterday that Hunter Drexel was definitely in Paris and that MI6 were “very close” to apprehending him. The Americans, according to Jamie, were still stabbing around in the dark.

Jeff knew he should be cheered by this news. And by the fact that Tracy was safe on the other side of the world, at least for now, and out of imminent danger.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon