Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

“Do you have any idea who she could be, Jeff?” Tracy asked him desperately. “Any idea how she knows me? What she wants with me?”

“No,” Jeff said. “I don’t. But I’d lay good money that Hunter Drexel does. And when we find him that’ll be the first question we ask. OK?”

Tracy nodded, grateful. “OK.”

“He’s already left Paris,” Jeff said.

“How do you know?”

Tracy suspected as much, but she was surprised to hear Jeff confirm it.

For the last five days Tracy had been unable to get any answer from Sally Faiers. Sally’s phone was off and she’d stopped opening her emails, which was very unusual. Sally had mentioned to Tracy a month ago that she was working on something—a story—but she’d been very cagey about what it was. Could her silence be connected with that?

Tracy suspected not. That Hunter Drexel had made a move, and that Sally Faiers might be swept up in it, keeping his secrets once again. But she had no hard evidence.

Did Jeff?


Scrolling through pictures on his iPhone, Jeff showed Tracy a string of grainy images. They showed a slim, blond man at a gas station, getting into a beat-up Renault Clio with a pretty young girl. A young girl who was definitely not Sally Faiers.

“That’s him?” Tracy squinted at the man in the picture. The resolution was terrible.

“We think so.”

“And the girl?”

“The car’s registered to an Hélène Faubourg. Twenty-three years old, art student from Paris. No known links to Group 99. None of her friends have seen her since the Montmartre shooting. Car was dumped a few miles from the Belgian border. No leads since.”

“OK,” said Tracy, waving to the waiter for the bill and smiling at Jeff for the first time. “So I guess we’re going to Belgium.”

“Not we. You.”

“But I thought you said . . .”

“We can’t make it too obvious we’re collaborating,” Jeff said. “Not unless we want the spooks getting suspicious. Say what you like about Frank Dorrien, but he’s not stupid.”

No, Tracy thought, he’s not.

“I’ll join you in a week. Or as soon as either of us finds something.”

THEY SAID THEIR GOODBYES and agreed to meet the next day at noon. In the intervening hours, Tracy would come up with a suitable cover story to tell her bosses at the CIA, and Jeff would do the same with his British paymasters.

Jeff waited until Tracy was completely out of sight before jumping into a cab and heading to a different, equally nondescript bistro in another quarter of the city.

Frank Dorrien greeted him warmly.

“Well done. You did it.”

“Yeah,” Jeff said without enthusiasm. Reaching under his shirt he ripped off the tiny recording device stuck to his chest and handed it back to the general. “I did it.”

“You strayed from the script once or twice,” Frank said, still smiling. “I’m not sure there was any need for all that ‘Julia Cabot doesn’t trust the president’ business.”

“It’s the truth,” said Jeff.

“I daresay. But Tracy Whitney didn’t need to know it. However, I’m not complaining. You got the job done. She trusts you.”

Yes, Jeff thought. She trusts me. And I just betrayed her.

Reading his thoughts, Frank said firmly, “You’re doing this for her, Jeff. Don’t forget that. You’re saving her from a very dangerous situation. She thinks she can handle this but she can’t. We’ll protect her. ”

“Will you?”

“Of course.” Frank sounded almost impatient. “You have my word.”

Your word.

The two men looked at each other. Tracy’s words echoed in Jeff’s head: Dorrien’s using you, Jeff. He’s in this up to his neck.

“I have to go.” Jeff pushed back his chair. He was feeling more like Judas Iscariot by the minute.

“Why did you tell Tracy to go to Belgium alone?” Frank asked suddenly. “You said you’d follow her later.”

“That’s right. I need a break.”

“A break?” Frank’s face darkened.

“Yes. I need some time off. Alone. A week should do it.”

Frank looked at him incredulous. “A week? Have you gone mad? This is no time to take a holiday, Stevens. We are this close to getting Drexel. We need to stay on Whitney now more than ever.”

“Stay on her, then.” Now it was Jeff’s turn to get angry. “That’s your job, isn’t it?”

“I’m serious. You can’t leave.”

“So am I,” said Jeff. He didn’t like that “can’t.” “I’m taking a week, Frank.”

“And just what, exactly, do you need this week for?”

“It’s personal.”

“That’s not good enough! This is a matter of national security. A matter of duty.”

Jeff shrugged, as if to say not my problem.

“There’s something I need to do, that’s all. I’ll be in touch.”

Frank Dorrien watched Jeff Stevens leave the café. Beneath the table, his fists were clenched so tightly that the muscles in his fingers began to spasm.

That’s not how it works, Stevens, he thought furiously. You and Whitney don’t get to call the shots.

Frank had warned Jamie MacIntosh that this would happen. That bringing in amateurs was the thin end of the wedge. But of course, no one had listened to him.

Frank paid the bill and slipped out into the night.

Regrettably, it was time to take matters into his own hands.

TRACY’S MIND WAS RACING too fast after dinner with Jeff for her to go back to her hotel and sleep. She decided to take a walk along the river.

Before she got a hundred yards from the bistro, her cellphone buzzed with a text.

It was from Cameron.

I miss you.

Tracy texted back. I miss you too. Then she felt guilty because it wasn’t true. Not in that exact moment anyway. Or perhaps the guilt was because she’d just seen Jeff—not only seen but agreed to work with him again—information she already knew she wasn’t going to share with Cameron.

Why not? she asked herself now. Is there something about Jeff Stevens that brings out the liar in me? The con artist?

When Jeff was around life always got more exciting. But it also got more complicated. More gray.

Or perhaps Tracy was blaming Jeff for her own uncertainty? Right now she had no idea how she felt about Cameron, or Jeff, or anything. I barely know who I am anymore. She still hoped that when she solved the mystery of Althea there would be some sort of closure on Nick’s death, and that she could move on. But move on to what?

Without Nick, who was she?

Who did she want to be?

Cameron Crewe loved her. He hadn’t said it in so many words yet. But since their trip to Hawaii, Tracy knew.

The question was, did she love him back?

Unfortunately, Tracy didn’t have an answer. She was happy when she was with him and sad when she left him behind. Was that love?

She felt calm around him. Was that love?

Her darling dad always used to tell her that if you had to ask whether you loved someone, you didn’t. Tracy had never had to ask with Jeff. Then again, loving Jeff had brought her more pain than anything else in her life—apart from losing Nicholas, obviously. Perhaps loving Cameron Crewe would be different? Calm and easy and painless.

Could love be like that?

Perhaps having dinner with Jeff tonight had been a mistake? It had stirred everything up again, filled Tracy with doubts and fears and emotions that, up till now, she’d convinced herself she had under control. The fact that Jeff was so obviously jealous of Cameron only made things worse.

On the other hand, the idea of working with Jeff again was exciting. If anyone could outsmart Hunter Drexel and help Tracy find Althea, it was Jeff. Together, Tracy and Jeff could do anything.

Except stay together, Tracy chuckled to herself. For some reason that’s always been the hard part.

Gazing across the still waters of the Seine, shimmering like molten silver beneath a full moon, Tracy realized she’d walked farther than she’d intended. Across the water she could make out the gardens of the Sorbonne. It was a good hour walk back to the Georges V from here, and the evening breeze had turned from cool to distinctly chilly.

Pulling her scarf more tightly around her shoulders, she turned to retrace her steps when she felt the first blow. Something hard and heavy, like a metal bar, slammed painfully into her back, sending her flying forwards in the darkness. Before Tracy could see where it had come from she heard a scream. Someone behind her must have seen Tracy’s attacker.

Then the second blow slammed into the side of her head. The last thing Tracy remembered was the sickening crunching sound of her own skull cracking.

Then nothing.


JEFF STEVENS PARKED HIS car outside the Mountain Mall in downtown Steamboat Springs and walked into Jumping Beans coffee shop.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon