Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

She approached them cautiously, gun drawn, stealing herself for battle. She didn’t want to kill Hunter, but she must overpower him. Hopefully he would talk to her of his own accord. He was a journalist, after all, in another life. A story teller. Not to mention a vain egotist. Those sorts of people invariably liked to talk. But Tracy wasn’t about to take any chances.

With one last, deep breath, Tracy burst into the room.



At one end, a fire crackled gently in a vast Baronial fireplace. In front of it lay what looked like a recently discarded newspaper—today’s La Repubblica—and a half drunk glass of scotch.

The music was coming from farther inside. Tracy followed it, keeping her back to the wall and her weapon drawn, inching her way along a long, parquet-floored corridor. Grand double doors at the end opened onto what looked to be a dining room. Tracy could see a long, rustic refectory table with a centerpiece of brilliant blue hydrangea flowers. Then suddenly, she froze.

There he was.

After all the reported sightings and grainy photographs, all the “what ifs” and near misses, Tracy was finally looking at Hunter Drexel. The blond hair was gone. He had reverted to his usual dark curls. And he looked stockier and healthier than he had in the pictures from Montmartre. Casually dressed in a sweater and jeans, with his back to Tracy, he was carrying a large bowl of salad over to the table like a man without a care in the world. He bore only the faintest traces of a limp and though he appeared to be alone, he was setting places for two.

Just as Tracy wondered Who’s he expecting? Hunter’s voice rang out loudly, bouncing off the ancient walls.

“Is that you, Miss Whitney?” He didn’t look up, but continued setting the table. “Please, don’t skulk around in the corridor. Come in.”

Tracy moved forward, cocking the safety catch on her pistol with an audible click.

“You won’t need that,” Hunter said blithely, turning around and looking at her for the first time. “I’m unarmed. As you can see.”

He held both arms out wide and smiled guilelessly. Tracy could see at once what had drawn Sally Faiers to him. That fatal, boyish charm. Poor Sally.

“I’ve been expecting you. I trust you’ll join me for dinner?” He gestured to the seat at the head of the table.

Tracy played along. Lowering her gun, she placed it carefully beside her plate and sat down.

“You’ve gone to a lot of trouble, Mr. Drexel.”

He gave a little bow. “I try.”

“Will Kate be joining us?”

Hunter’s eyebrow shot up momentarily.

He’s surprised I know her name.

“Not tonight.”

“Is she here? In Italy?”

Tracy threw out the question as if it were a casual inquiry about the weather. The whole situation was so surreal, she figured she might as well.

Hunter opened a bottle of Château Mouton-Rothschild with a satisfying pop.

“I don’t know. The truth is I don’t know where she is.”

“But if you did, you wouldn’t tell me, right?”

He filled Tracy’s glass with a sigh, then sat down beside her. “It’s not Kate you want, Miss Whitney. She’s not the enemy. I’d rather hoped you might have figured that out by now, especially considering how much the two of you have in common. And what a fan she is of yours.”

Tracy waited silently for him to continue.

“Kate worked for the CIA for many years, as a computer expert back at Langley. She was part of the team that tried to track you and Jeff Stevens, back in your heyday. You didn’t know?”

Tracy shook her head. She’d suspected that Althea might be an intelligence agency insider, but it hadn’t occurred to her that that might explain the link between the two of them. She felt like she knew me because she’d tracked me all those years. But I never knew her. It seemed so obvious now.

“Did Sally Faiers figure it out?” Tracy asked. “Is that why she was killed?”

A dangerous glint flashed in Hunter’s eyes.

“I feel terrible about Sally. I loved her.”

But even as he said the words, Tracy clocked him looking at her hooker dress appraisingly. She couldn’t figure the guy out.

Seeing her confusion, Hunter said, “There’s a lot you don’t know, Miss Whitney.”

“But you’re going to enlighten me. Right?”

The smile was back, like sun breaking from behind the clouds.

“Let’s eat.”


THE MEAL WAS DELICIOUS, some sort of chicken and onion stew with olives and anchovies. To her surprise, Tracy realized she was hungry. She waited for Hunter to eat first before tasting her own food—after all the death and destruction he’d caused, poisoning would not be beyond him—and did the same with her wine. But before long they were both eating and drinking, and despite the gun still resting beneath Tracy’s fingers, the tension between them had eased.

“How did you know I would come here tonight?” Tracy asked eventually, being careful to drink water as well as her wine.

“Because I invited you. Well, as good as invited you. Once I was sure you’d shaken off the CIA and the British, I let you know where I’d be. Made sure I was seen by a few of the right people. I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

Tracy thought, So Cameron was right. He did want me to find him.

Aloud she said, “I could have shot you.”

Hunter looked perplexed. “Why would you want to do that?”

“Oh, I don’t now. Because of Neuilly? All those dead teenagers?”

“I had nothing to do with Neuilly,” Hunter protested.

“British intelligence placed you there. Ours too.”

“Then British intelligence is wrong!” He sounded genuinely horrified. “They’ve been trying to throw you off the scent, Miss Whitney, and it looks like they’ve succeeded.”

Tracy looked at him skeptically.

“You didn’t come here to kill me,” Hunter said. “You came because you want to know the truth. And I let you come because I want to tell it.”

“A confession?”

He grinned. “You still have me down as the bad guy, don’t you?”

Tracy looked away. The truth was, she didn’t know what she had him down as.

“I’m a journalist,” Hunter said. “Telling the truth is my job. My problem has been finding somebody I trust enough to tell it to.”

“And you think you can trust me?”

“What I think”—Hunter sipped his wine—“is that you’re incorruptible. That sets you apart from just about everybody else in this sorry mess.”

Tracy knew she was being flattered, but she let it pass. “I’m honored.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” Hunter said. “You think I’m a terrorist so I’d be surprised if my good opinion means much to you. But I’m going to talk to you anyway. I assume you’re already recording?” He nodded knowingly at Tracy’s knockoff Chanel purse.

Tracy dutifully pulled out the powder compact containing her tiny digital recording device and placed it on the table, next to her gun.

“Always one step ahead, aren’t you Mr. Drexel?”

“In my line of work, if you’re not one step ahead, you’re dead,” Hunter drawled. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

Tracy sat, frozen, while he spoke, inhaling every word.

“It all began with a story for the New York Times.” His deep, gravelly, smoker’s voice echoed off the villa’s vaulted ceilings. “That is, it was my story. I was writing it freelance. But my plan was to sell it to The Times. I’d been seeing a girl there.”

“Fiona Barron,” said Tracy. Two could play the one-step-ahead game.

Hunter looked impressed. “That’s right. Fi. Anyway, Fi and I had a falling-out. And the editor wasn’t my biggest fan either. To be fair to him, I guess I had been a bit of an ass. ”

Tracy didn’t probe. She could imagine.

“I wanted to build bridges at the paper. And the only way I knew how to do that was by writing something off-the-hook amazing. This was going to be the story that got me back in everyone’s good books.”

“So what was the story?”

“Back then, the story was fracking,” Hunter said. “Specifically, corruption in the fracking industry. But, appalling as it was, that soon turned out to be the tip of a giant iceberg of shit. A ‘shitberg’ as I liked to call it.”

He smiled but Tracy wasn’t laughing. “Go on.”

“Corporate corruption was being carried out on a massive scale, right across the globe. But it was the government involvement that really stank. Cash for contracts. Diplomatic bribes. Blind eyes turned to human rights abuses. There were CIA agents, sanctioned by Washington, showing up in China with suitcases literally stuffed with cash. Havers’s administration were in it up to their dirty, white-collared necks. The president’s obsessed with breaking the Saudis stranglehold on our economy. Jim Havers wants to go down in history as the man who broke America’s oil addiction and he’ll stop at nothing to do it. And I mean, nothing.”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon