Authors: Lisa Harris
Tags: #Christian, #General, #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Religious
“It's my father. I found at least two dozen letters from collection agencies in his desk.”
“Does your father have debt?”
“My father's a miser when it comes to money. I don't think he's ever had debt.” She knew she shouldn't be dragging Kyle into this, but she didn't know who else to turn to. “I'm sorry to dump all this on you. I'm sure you didn't have this conversation in mind when you called.”
“I was thinking of something more along the lines of asking you to dinner, actually.”
Lindsey smiled. “Dinner would be nice. Iâ“
She was interrupted by the violent sound of shattering glass. She jumped up from the table and spun around. The metal handle on the back door shook. Someone was breaking in.
Currently, Lisa and her husband, along with their three children, are working in Mozambique as church planters. She speaks French and is fervently working to improve her Portuguese. Life is busy between ministry and homeschooling, but she loves her time to escape into another world and write, and sees this work as an extension of her ministry.
Besides writing, Lisa loves to travel. She and her husband have visited more than twenty countries throughout Europe, Africa, South America and the Far East, and have lived in Togo, France, South Africa, Brazil and currently Mozambique. One of her favorite pastimes is learning to cook different exotic dishes from around the world. Be sure to check out her Web site at www.lisaharriswrites.com or her blog at myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com for a peek into her life in the heart of Africa.
Published by Steeple Hill Books
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.
This book is dedicated to Mema. I miss you.
The past year has been a roller coaster of adventure, from the tropical paradise of northern South Africa to the busy rush of a Brazilian city, and now the white beaches of Mozambique. Thankfully, none of my adventures have been quite as perilous as they were for my hero and heroine. Through all these changes, I never could have kept on writing if it weren't for my wonderful and supportive husband and kids, my awesome critique group and members of my extended family, who are always there with an encouraging word when times get crazy. And believe me, it's been crazy!
Thanks also to my agent, Joyce, for always cheering me on, my editor, Krista, for believing in this story, and for Louise, who did a great jobâand fairly painlessly, I might addâin helping me edit this story.
hoever said that love of money was the root of all evil had never experienced the financial benefits of working a long con.
Leaning against the light post outside his London flat, Abraham Omah nodded at the familiar face of a woman as she jogged past, iPod on her arm, Windbreaker zipped up to block the April chill. She smiled at him as he took a drag off his cigarette, and then flicked the ashes onto the sidewalk. She was definitely worth pursuing, but she'd have to be a prize for another day. He had more pressing things to consider at the moment.
His lips curled into a grin at the thought of George Taylor. Contact with Mr. Taylor had grown into daily online chats, e-mails and even an occasional phone call charged to the American's bill. It continued to amaze him how trusting people could be. Throw out the tempting lure of easy money and watch the gullible jump headfirst into the game.
He couldn't help but chuckle. Anyone that naive deserved what they got.
A taxi driver blared his horn as he sped down the narrow roadway congested with other cars, buses and bikers. Abraham tossed his cigarette onto the sidewalk and then sprinted up the flight of stairs to the two-bedroom flat. He loved the noise of the city, the heavy scent of exhaust from the morning rush hour that mingled with a hint of curry from the Indian restaurant across the street, and even the unpredictable spring weather. He'd come a long way from the slums of north London where he'd grown up.
He slammed the front door shut, then settled in at his computer with a cup of hot coffee and a slice of leftover pizza. The way things were progressing with Mr. Taylor, he'd soon be able to invite Miss iPod to dinner at the Crowne Plaza to celebrate. He clicked open his e-mail, anxious to read Mr. Taylor's response to his latest request, this one for seven thousand dollars to be wired to Abraham's account to cover the remaining transfer fees the bank had imposed. A final payment, he promised.
He scanned his in-box.
Abraham frowned. Normally George Taylor was prompt in his replies. If he'd decided to pull outâ¦
Abraham gripped the edges of the keyboard and fought to stop a wave of panic. No. He would stay calm and waitâyears of training had taught him that. It took months to gain people's trust so that they were willing to mortgage their homes, take cash advances off their credit cards, sell their cars and even steal. He just needed to be patient.
Abraham blew out a long, slow breath. He had to reassure Mr. Taylor that everything was still on track, and that his help was essential to the success of the deal.
The retired Dallas engineer had already wired him thousands of dollars to cover various bogus transaction fees. Abraham had assured him that paying these fees would release assets worth millions once belonging to a dead government official from West Africa. The deal would go through, Abraham told himselfâMr. Taylor had invested too much to simply back out now.
He began drafting another e-mail. The con was far from over. Mr. Taylor deserved the chance to see the money himself. Soon, it would be waiting in a hotel room in London in a silver suitcase, with hired guards on each side. Abraham's smile returned. Thirty-one million dollars in cash wasn't all that would be waiting for George Taylor.
indsey Taylor wondered exactly how many faux pas she'd be committing by taking off her three-inch sling backs, sneaking across the terrace and stealing into the library for a short reprieve from her best friend Sarah's wedding reception. At the moment, both feet felt as if she'd just attempted to run a marathon. And after an extended ceremony, dozens of photos and an hour and a half of socializing, it was no wonder.
Still, barring the problematic issues of her attire, Sarah and Brad's wedding had been a success. The decision to hold the ceremony in the enclosed garden behind Sarah's parents' luxurious North Dallas home hadn't gone over well at first. But, with a bit of help from a wedding coordinator, the landscaped area had been transformed into an elegant wedding and reception venue. Even Sarah's mother had agreed that the settingâwhile far from traditional in her mindâwas perfect for a summer ceremony.
Lindsey winced as a stab of pain shot from the ball of her foot to her calf. The sight of the four-tiered chocolate wedding cake on the other side of the terrace clinched the decision. No one would miss the maid of honor for thirty minutes or so. And after enjoying some solitude with a thick slice of cake and the book she was reading, she'd be ready to join society again.
She made her way through the throng of guests toward the house, but crossing the tiled decking around the pool gracefully turned out to be an exercise in futility. Her ankle twisted, and she barely caught herself before sprawling into the pool. She teetered for a moment on the narrow heels, then righted herself, glancing up to see if anyone had caught her near mishap.
Best man Kyle Walker waved at her from the other side of the pool.
Great. She felt her cheeks redden as she forced a smile and waved back. Kyle was just as handsome as he'd been in college. Even more so, in fact. Clean shaven, short dark hair and that one familiar dimple on his left cheek, not to mention the classy tuxedoâ¦
Memories of tutoring sessions, final exams and football games came flooding back. Lindsey and Sarah had met Kyle and Brad as freshmen at University of Texas. The four of them had become fast friends but Lindsey had lost track of Kyle after she left school. Apparently Sarah's recent reconnection with him, followed by her engagement to Brad after a decade apart, had sparked an interest in matchmaking. Sarah had even gone as far as to suggest how romantic it would be if Lindsey and Kyle were to discover love after all these years.
Except she and Kyle had never been anything more than friends. And any matchmaking attempts had fallen between the cracks of last-minute wedding preparations and Kyle's delayed flight into Dallas last night. There simply hadn't been time for the two of them to chat.
But while Lindsey had no intention of romanticizing their long-overdue reunion, perhaps her escape to the library could wait.
Margie Adams, mother of the bride, waylaid Lindsey halfway across the terrace, balancing two plates of cake and a cup of punch in her hands. “You were right, Lindsey.”
“I was?” Lindsey squeezed her sequined purse under her arm, taking the cake Mrs. Adams offered.
“I thought a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting would be completely inappropriate for the wedding, but it's absolutely fantastic,” Mrs. Adams said, taking a bite. “Don't tell a soul, but I'm on my second piece. You've simply got to try it.”
Lindsey took a bite. “This is delicious.”
Mrs. Adams wiped the edge of her mouth with a cream-colored napkin embossed with Sarah's and Brad's names. “And another thing, Lindsey. I wanted to tell you that you look absolutely stunning tonight. That old adage of âalways a bridesmaid, never a bride' certainly isn't true. Soon we'll be planning your ceremony.”
Lindsey frowned. Suddenly the cake didn't seem quite so appetizing. Why was it that everyone believed that being single was a matter of fate and not choice? She'd been a bridesmaid in three different wedding parties in the past two years and someone had made a similar comment to her at every wedding.
Lindsey pressed her lips together. “You know, Mrs. Adams, while I do plan to marry one day, I'm really not in any hurryâ”
Mrs. Adam's held up her free hand. “I know, my dear, I know. Even Sarah waited until her thirties to marry. But one can't wait forever, especially if you want a familyâ¦.”
Lindsey took another bite of cake, while Mrs. Adams continued her monologue on the importance of finding the right mate. Sarah's mom tended to rambleâand eatâwhen she was nervous, and apparently the wedding of her only daughter had catapulted her into that precarious frame of mind.
Lindsey glanced across the terrace for a glimpse of Kyle, but he'd disappeared. Not that it mattered, of course. She took another bite of cake, trying to ignore the pain in her feet, and turned back to Mrs. Adams. Apparently it was going to be a very long night.
Kyle leaned down to kiss Sarah on the cheek. “Congratulations, you two. This evening turned out perfectly.”
Brad thumped him on the upper arm. “Now it's your turn, buddy.”
“For marriage?” Kyle coughed. “One of these days, but I've got too much on my plate right now.”
Unfortunately, a relationship took time, which was something he had far too little of right now. Between running his own company and opening up a new office in Dallas, finding time for a serious relationship had fallen off his to-do list.
“Trust me, Kyle. When the right woman comes along, you'll find the time.” Brad wrapped his arm around his bride's waist. “Besides, do you see me worrying about work? There's more to life, you know. And a few extra perks like marriage can't hurt.”
Sarah pulled away from Brad's embrace, her hands on her hips. “So you see me as a perk, Mr. O'Conner?”
“The only perk I'll ever need, Mrs. O'Conner.” Brad wrapped his arms around Sarah, who melted into his embrace as they kissed.
Kyle cleared his throat. “I think I'll leave the two of you to your blissful state of matrimony.”
“Wait a minute, Kyle,” Sarah said, stopping him from escaping. “You've had a chance to talk to Lindsey, haven't you?”
Kyle shook his head. “Nothing more than a quick âhi, it's good to see you again.' Every time I head her direction, she's deep in conversation with someone.”
“That's no excuse.”
Kyle laughed. It hadn't been an excuse. Not really, anyway. It was just that thirteen years changed a person, and picking up from the last day he'd seen her wasn't exactly easy.
“I always thought the two of you were perfect for each other,” Sarah continued.
“We were friends. Nothing more.”
Sarah nodded across the terrace. “At least go rescue her from my mother. You remember how much my mother talks. She'll keep her half the night, and Lindsey's too polite to say anything.”
Kyle glanced at Lindsey, smiling to himself as he remembered the first time they met. He'd been pulling a load of pink clothes from a Laundromat washing machine, after accidentally tossing a pair of new red jogging shorts into the mix. Then Lindsey had walked in. A trip to the supermarket and two hours later, she'd somehow managed to turn his socks and T-shirts white again.
A decade or so later, she still looked beautiful even if the pink bridesmaid dress she wore might be a tad frilly for his tastes. Slender frame, honey-colored hair pulled up in a classic twist, big brown eyesâ¦He'd often wondered what would have happened if their friendship had turned into something more all those years ago.
His cell phone vibrated in his jacket, stopping his reminiscing. He glanced at the text message and frowned. “Emergency in Amsterdam. Call D.C.”
Great. Matt's timing couldn't be worse, but Kyle knew he couldn't ignore the message. Security breaches were a serious cause for concern, and he was afraid there was either a mole in their Amsterdam office or a bug in their computer software. Both posed a threat to the integrity of the company that couldn't wait.
“Please don't tell me you're working,” Sarah said.
Kyle flashed her an apologetic smile. “It will only take a few minutes. You don't mind if I step inside the house and make a call, do you?”
Sarah shrugged in defeat. “Try the library. It should be quiet in there.”
He heard Lindsey's soft laugh as he headed inside. He would definitely make an effort to talk to her before the night was out.
By the time Lindsey heard the ominous crack, it was too late.
Her first mistake had been to agree to wear the pink taffeta bridesmaid's dress with the layers of ruffles down the back. The second mistake had been the shoesâone of the silver heels had just snapped off like a dry twig. Her left hip jutted forward and punch splashed over the edge of her glass, dribbling down the front of her dress. Teetering on one foot, she struggled to keep her balance and avoid spilling the rest of the drink onto the beige suede couch in front of her. The book under her arm slapped against the floor of the small library, followed by her purse. A groan escaped her lips as she grabbed for the couch. Fortunately, she was still holding the generous slice of cake with an inch of chocolate frosting.
“Need some help?”
Lindsey's arm jerked at the sound of a voice inside the darkened room. The cake flipped off the plate, into the air, and landed smack-dab in the middle of Kyle's white tuxedo shirt. It was clearly too late for help. She looked at him, horrified, and wondered if it was physically possible to dissolve into the expensive Oriental rug on the library floor.
“I am so sorry,” she said, setting the drink and now-empty plate on the coffee table. “I didn't know anyone was in here.”
Lindsey bit her lower lip, wondering how in the world she had managed to make a complete fool out of herself in less than five seconds. Kyle's familiar smileâthough lovely to look atâdid nothing to erase her humiliation.
A wave of heat flooded her cheeks as he reached for the empty plate and used it to scrape some of the brown frosting from his white shirt.
“I really am sorry,” she said again.
“Don't worry about it. This was heading to the cleaners tomorrow anyway. And better my shirt than Mr. Adams's suede couch.” He flashed her another wide grin. “Besides, I was hoping we'd get a chance to chat before I have to fly back home to D.C.”
“Me, too.” She couldn't help but match his smile as she sat down. “It's been a long time.”
“Thirteen years to be exact.”
He was right, though she could barely believe it. Another decade, an extra pound or two, a handful of gray hairs she ensured were professionally colored every six weeksâ¦
“Did you really have to bring up the fact that it's been that long?”
He settled into the couch across from her. “Would it help if I told you that you look even better thirteen years later?”
“Only if it were true,” she countered.
“Oh, it definitely is.”
He always had known how to say the right thing, possessing enough charm to rival Prince Charming himself.
“Did I mention how good it is to see you again?” She reached down to examine what remained of her seventy-five-dollar heels and moaned at the ruined shoe. He picked up her book and purse, handing them to her. “Thanks. I didn't know that the best man's job description included taking care of the maid of honor.”
“Not a bad description in my opinion. Trying to escape the wedding reception?”
Lindsey squeezed the paperback into her purse. “My feet are killing me, and I didn't think anyone would notice if I slipped out for thirty minutes. Of course, I didn't expect you to beat me to my favorite hideout.”
“Your favorite hideout?”
She looked at the wall-to-wall bookshelves filled with everything from Grisham to Hemingway to Peretti. “I'm still a bit of a bookaholic, and Sarah's father has always given me unlimited access to this room.”
“Now that you mention it, I don't think I can ever remember seeing you without a book.” He stole a glance at his computer. “If we're confessing, I suppose I have to admit to becoming a bit of a workaholic the past few years.”
“I'd say so.” The blue light of a laptop glowed on the coffee table. Lindsey's brow furrowed. “Working during your best friend's wedding reception?”
“An emergency in Amsterdam.” His smile faded. “Looks bad, doesn't it?”
She dismissed his concern with a wave of her hand, ignoring her gut reaction. Just because her father had taken up permanent residency inside the World Wide Web didn't mean Kyle was also stuck there. This situation was completely different. Kyle had to make a living.
Lindsey slid forward to the edge of the couch to unbuckle the strap of her broken shoe, mentally reviewing what Sarah had told her about Kyle.
First of all, he was still single. She could practically hear Sarah's voice in her head, announcing the fact.
Secondly, Kyle lived in D.C., splitting his time between Washington and London with an occasional trip to Hong Kong or Eastern Europe. The fact that he lived halfway across the country removed any pressure. After tonight, they'd probably never see each other again. Considering she'd just dumped a half pound of chocolate frosting on his shirt, he was probably glad.