Inside - Chapter Two

Introduction

Here's Chapter Two of Inside, the new serial novel I started last week! If you need to catch up, you can use the link to Chapter One below.

This chapter moves pretty fast, but the action plot in this story is secondary to the characters/romance. So things should slow down quite a bit after this chapter.

And just a reminder that I'm only reading each chapter over once before I post it, so just try to overlook any editing/proofreading errors.

Last week, about half the people who tried to reply to me by email couldn't get through, and I'm still not sure why. I'm trying to figure it out still, but I haven't come up with any answers. So if you try to send a response to this email and it doesn't go through, you can email me directly at noelle.s.adams@gmail.com. Or you can always join my reader group on Facebook and leave a comment there. I do appreciate hearing from you on the chapters as I send them out!

Need to catch up?

You can catch up on the first chapter through the link below.

Chapter One

Inside - Chapter Two

I waited a full minute for Will to respond to my demand for information. I know it was at least a minute because I counted off the seconds.

Will glanced over at me, but his cool, gray eyes didn’t linger. He was laser-focused on maneuvering through traffic, his gaze shifting often to the rearview mirror. I waited it out because I could see he was tense and distracted, but I was deeply nervous now and I needed some answers.

I’d gone from a flirtatious conversation on campus with a cute, geeky guy to a heart-stopping drive with a man I thought was gone from my life for good in less than five minutes, and I needed to know why.

“If you don’t tell me what the hell is going on,” I gritted out at last, “then I’m going to get out of this car right now.”

We were currently stopped at a red light, so my threat wasn’t entirely baseless (although I’d have to be harder pressed than this to actually go through with it).

Because I was watching, I saw Will let out a small breath. “Did your dad ever talk to you about a job in Quebec?”

I blinked. “No.”

“Did he ever talk about Chevaliers? Allard? Does any of that ring a bell?”

“No, of course not. He never talked to us about his work. Never. You know he didn’t.”

Will’s lips tightened.

I fidgeted with the leather strap of the big bag I used to carry around my laptop and books for class. “Will, talk to me. I know you like to act like a stone wall most of the time, but you can’t do that to me right now. What’s going on?”

“Your dad never told you where he had anything hidden?”

“Hidden? What are you talking about? He never talked to us at all about anything related to his work. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I shifted in my seat, trying not to sound as anxious as I was feeling. “What is this about?”

Will was looking in the rearview mirror again, so intently that I turned to study the cars behind us through the back windshield. I couldn’t see anything unusual in the normal city traffic, though. Certainly not a dangerous-looking vehicle tailing us, which was what I half expected.

“Will!” My voice was sharp.

The man was clearly just as infuriating as he’d ever been, never conversing like a normal person or showing even the slightest hint of emotion.

He shot a quick look over at me and evidently decided I meant business. “Your dad did a job in Quebec three years ago. Twenty million in diamonds.”

I almost choked at this. “That’s crazy! He never took home anywhere close to that amount.”

All my life, we’d always had plenty of money, but I’d never considered us rich. My father worked high end jobs, so I assumed when a job was successful, he earned a hefty amount of profit. But those lucrative jobs didn’t come up all that often, and he had to first cover expenses and then split the profit with his crew. He was always working on something, but a significant percentage of his plans never panned out. He made enough for us to live comfortably, but he certainly didn’t leave Chance and I a fortune when he’d died.

Twenty million. The idea was absurd.

“The job was his. That diamonds are somewhere. He must have hidden them somewhere.”

“The house?” I breathed.

I still lived the old row house where we’d lived since I was a child.

“It’s already been searched. They’re not there.”

For some reason, this was the detail that made the whole thing real to me. My home. Invaded. Searched. Someone’s hands touching all of my stuff.

Will continued, “He put them somewhere else, either saving them for a rainy day or because they were too hot to fence. I don’t think he’d have hidden them for so long without giving you and Chance the ability to access them. He would have given you hints. Something.”

I stared at Will’s face, a flickering muscle in his jaw just above his dark beard, and realized he was telling me the truth, at least as he understood it. “Well, if he did, he never said a word about it to me. I certainly would have remembered him mentioning twenty million in diamonds. And what does this have to do with me being in danger?”

“Someone thinks you know where they are.”

“That’s crazy! If I knew where it was, why wouldn’t I be living like a millionaire?”

He lifted one shoulder slightly. “I’m not the one who think you know.”

“So you’re saying some bad guy is after me because they want my dad’s diamonds and they think I know how to find it.”

“That pretty much sums it up.”

“Who’s after me?”

“Is a name going to help?”

“No, but I’d at least like to get a sense of how serious to take this.”

“It’s serious,” he said gruffly. “You need to take it seriously.”

“So that’s why you’re whisking me away to…” I looked around at the city streets, trying to orient myself to where we were. “Where exactly are we going anyway?”

“We’re going somewhere safe.”

I rolled my eyes at this non-answer, but I didn’t try to press the subject. I wasn’t going to get anything more than these curt, brief answers while Will was so tense and so focused on our surroundings.

He was checking the rearview mirror again, and it was starting to worry me.

“Are we being followed?” I asked, turning to look behind us again.

I was expecting an immediate denial. That would have relieved me considerably.

Instead, Will said, “I… don’t know.”

I swallowed hard and stopped talking.

Some people talk when they’re scared. They babble, they spill out whatever’s on their mind, they try to share their nerves with someone else. I’m not one of those people. If I’m truly terrified, I don’t say a word. I close in on myself. I try to shut out the world.

My heart was starting to pound painfully, and my hands and feet had gone cold. I kept looking back at the cars behind us but couldn’t tell which car was prompting Will’s suspicion.

He was obviously worried about one of them though.

He picked up his speed, passing a couple of cars on the right and then darting in front of a taxi just before a city bus pulled out in front of him from the curb. The maneuver wasn’t really all that unusual for city traffic, but it made my breath hitch.

When I looked behind me this time, I saw a gray sedan cutting off a delivery truck two cars behind us. My eyes flew over to Will’s face.

He gave a slight nod.

Shit.

We were being followed.

This wasn’t happening. This wasn’t my life.

This wasn’t even my father’s life. He’d never been involved in car chases or life-threatening scenarios. As strange as it sounds for a thief, the reality of his work had been almost prosaic—a lot of planning, working out endless details, organizing moving pieces. He’d been a quiet, thoughtful man with a soft belly and a bad heart.

He hadn’t been all that different from me—not really.

What the hell was I even doing here?

Will was just as silent as I was, all his attention on driving and on eyeing that car behind us. I assumed he was planning to do something to lose them, but he hadn’t done it yet.

I hoped he would soon. I didn’t like being followed.

I might not like or fully trust Will, but I never doubted for a moment he was competent in everything he did. He was capable of getting rid of a tail if he needed to.

I crossed my arms in my lap, my hands tightening around both my seatbelt and the strap to my bag in a grip that channeled all my nerves.

I had more questions. A lot of them. But I couldn’t think clearly enough to ask them now, even if I’d believed it to be a good time for a long conversation. Instead, I sat in silence and waited for four more minutes until Will finally made a move.

The light at an approaching intersection turned yellow, and the cars in front of us sped up to make it through. Will put on his brakes, as if coming to a natural stop. But before he stopped completely, he suddenly accelerated instead, flying across the intersection on the newly red light, just before the cross traffic started up.

The sedan two cars behind us obviously couldn’t get through.

For about five minutes, Will drove like a maniac. There’s no other way to describe it. He made turn after turn, cutting off cars and going so fast I occasionally had to hide my eyes. I understood why he was doing it, so I didn’t complain, but I wasn’t used to this kind of driving and I was trembling by the time Will finally seemed to relax. It felt like the blood had drained out my face.

“Okay,” he murmured, giving his rearview mirror one last glance. “We lost ‘em.”

I let out a ragged breath. “That was… some driving.”

Will slanted me a look that was almost leisurely for the first time since he’d approached me on campus. “Was that actually a compliment?”

“No, it wasn’t compliment!” I’m not sure why I objected quite so vehemently, but I did.

“Okay,” he murmured, a glint in his eyes I hadn’t seen there for years.

Not since I’d been a stupid teenager and fatuously believed he was giving me special, secret smiles.

I was embarrassed by my response just now and also by the memory of how foolish I’d been back then, and the embarrassment almost overwhelmed my earlier anxiety. My cheeks burned and I knew they had reddened, even though they must have been white from fear just a minute ago.

Then I remembered something.

“Chance!” I gasped.

Will blinked. “What?”

“Chance! If I’m really in danger, then she must be too. Whoever thinks I know something about those mythical diamonds must think she knows something too.” My heart was racing again, and I was already pulling out my phone.

“Chance is being taken care of,” Will replied.

“By who?”

“Dax.”

“Oh.” Golden, charming Dax, who’d been just as frequent a visitor in our house as Will himself had been. I’d always liked Dax.

And he hadn’t dumped my father the way Will had.

I’d have been a lot more comfortable about this whole thing if Dax had come to find me instead of Will.

“So you got stuck with me, I guess,” I murmured dryly. “Did you flip a coin to decide which of us you’d get?

Will gave me the strangest look—half impatient and half curious. I had too much else on my mind to figure out exactly what it meant, though. I was dialing my sister on my phone.

I slumped in relief when I heard Chance’s voice on the other end of the line. “Greer? Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Are you?”

“I guess. Dax appeared out of nowhere and whisked me away from work like we were in some action movie. Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“No. Dad never told me anything.”

“Me either. Oh, hold on, Dax wants the phone.”

A few seconds later, Dax’s low, familiar voice was saying, “Hey, Greer, can you put Stone on?”

Like a gullible fool, I handed my phone to Will.

He took it and gave an affirmative grunt to whatever Dax said to him.

Then he rolled down the window and tossed the phone out onto the street.

I choked on an outraged exclamation.

“Sorry,” he said, not looking a bit sorry. “Phones can be tracked. We can’t risk it.”

I knew this was true, but surely there were other options than dropping the phone onto a street.

The phone was expensive.

And it was mine.

I glared at Will, remembering suddenly how much I despised him.

“I’m not kidding around here,” he murmured, obviously recognizing my expression. “There’s real danger to you, and I’m not going to take any chances.”

I blew out my breath, letting go of my annoyance.

Maybe it was irrational to trust Will Stone in this after our history together, after how he’d left my dad. But I did. Not in everything but in the reality of the danger. There was no way he would be here at all if the threat to me wasn’t real.

Plus, the thing was… I knew him. I still knew him.

No matter what his faults were—and there were plenty—he wouldn’t be making something up like this for his own purposes.

I felt like I should have said something, responded to him, maybe think up a good comeback to Will’s comment.

But I couldn’t think of anything to say.

Clever repartee was never my strong suit.

Instead, I sat like a lump as Will drove for about ten more minutes. He vigilantly checked behind us, but he was evidently satisfied that we weren’t being followed. He was still in crisis mode, but he wasn’t quite so urgent now.

It should have made me feel better, but it didn’t.

I felt sick and dazed and confused and anxious, and I had absolutely no idea what to do or to say. So I just sat there.

Without warning, Will pulled the SUV into a loading zone on a busy street.

I blinked at him.

“We’re here,” he said brusquely. “Get moving.”

Part of me wanted to object to the bossiness, but the rest of me just did what he said because my heart was racing again. He strode around the SUV to the sidewalk, put one big hand on my back, and propelled me forward.

We walked halfway down the block and then turned into a parking garage. I had no idea where we were going or what was happening, and Will was pushing me to walk so quickly I didn’t have the breath for a conversation anyway.

We hurried all the way through the parking garage until we reached an elevator. We took that up to a level that connected by walkway to another building. We walked past a lot of a little shops until we reached a stairwell. We took the stairs down to an underground parking deck that connected to yet another building.

This building appeared to be apartments, and Will had to use a keycard to unlock the entrance door. We walked up more stairs to the third floor, and then made our way down a hallway.

There was no one in sight.

I was breathless and flushed and shaking and sweating an embarrassing amount when Will used the same keycard to unlock a door that said 326.

Then we walked into a simply furnished studio apartment. Bed in one corner, kitchenette in another, and two chairs and a television on the other side.

“Where are we?” I asked, still panting from the long, fast walk to get here.

“Safe house.”

“Oh.” I stood where I was near the door, holding my bag, trying to catch my breath.

Will returned his hand to that place between my shoulder blades and moved me farther into the room, toward one of the chairs.

Since he was pushing me to sit, I sat. I wasn’t sure how long my legs were going to keep holding me up anyway.

“I need to move the car,” he said, looking down on me as if he were inspecting my condition. His gray eyes scanned over my flushed face, my huddled body, even my cute leather boots.

“Okay.” I wasn’t sure what else I was supposed to say.

“I can’t leave it parked so close to this place.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll be gone no more than a half-hour.” He was still peering at me with that intense scrutiny.

Did it look like I was about to fall apart or something?

It probably did.

I was about to fall apart.

I didn’t want Will to know that though, so I made myself smile. “Okay.”

He reached into the bag he carried and pulled out a small pistol.

My eyes widened.

“Do you remember how to use this?” he asked.

I nodded. My father had taught both Chance and I how to use guns very similar to the one Will was holding. I hadn’t touched one in years, but still remembered how.

Will handed me the gun.

“Don’t let anyone in but me,” he said hoarsely. “Not anyone.”

I just stared at him, incapable of making my voice work.

“Did you hear me?” he asked.

“Yes,” I managed to say. “No one but you.”

He left me holding the pistol, closing and locking the door behind him.

And I sat there.

I kept sitting there.

I did nothing but sit there.

It didn’t even seem like I was thinking. Just sitting.

Twenty-five minutes later, I heard the sound of the door unlocking. Then Will was walking back into the apartment. He shot me a quick look before he latched the door.

“I moved the car. We should be safe here.”

I was still incapable of doing anything but sitting so I didn’t answer.

Will walked over to me, looking bigger and darker and more dangerous than ever in the small, sparse room. His jeans molded his long, strong legs, and his short beard seemed oddly menacing—like he was the villain instead of the hero of whatever story was happening to me here.

There was trembling inside me that I’d been feeling since Will first showed up, and it had gotten so intense now I thought it would shake my insides apart.

He leaned down toward me and gently took the gun from my hands.

I stared at him blindly.

I thought he was going to say something, but he didn’t. He went over to the kitchenette and poured water into an electric kettle, plugging it in and waiting until it was hot.

Then he got a mug off one of the shelves, took a tea bag out of a box, and poured the hot water in. After dumping about five spoons of sugar into the tea, he carried it over to where I was sitting.

He crouched down, picking up one of my hands and wrapping it around the warm mug.

“Drink it,” he said.

I blinked, which I thought was progress because it was an actual reaction.

“Drink it,” he said again, more curt and bossy now.

I drank it.

After about four sips, I started to feel better. My hands warmed up, my mind cleared, and I mostly stopped that internal trembling.

I let out a long, shaky breath.

Something in Will’s shoulders relaxed, and it suddenly occurred to me he’d been worried about me.

“I wasn’t going to fall apart,” I said with more confidence than was entirely warranted.

His dark eyebrows lifted. “Did I say you were?”

“You were thinking it.”

His eyes gave that little glint again. “What makes you think you have any idea what I was thinking?”

“I know exactly what you were thinking. And I’m telling you I wasn’t falling apart. I’m just not used to this kind of drama.”

“Honestly, I’m not either.”

For some reason, the words and the slight dryness in his tone made me feel better, like I wasn’t the only one who was having trouble keeping up with all this. “So what exactly do we do now? Am I just going to stay here?”

We’re going to stay here, yes.”

I like to consider myself an independent person, but I couldn’t help but be relieved by his qualification. I certainly didn’t want to be left alone here. “For how long?”

“Until we can figure this out. Until you’re safe.”

“How long will that be?”

“I have no idea.”

My eyes widened, and I studied him, trying to figure out if he was serious.

It was clear from his blunt expression that he was.

He meant what he’d said. We were going to stay in this little studio apartment for however long it took to figure out what was up with the diamonds and to get me out of danger.

I wasn’t going to get to go to class or go to the library or go to have coffee with that cute, geeky guy I liked. I wasn’t going to get to live my life.

I was stuck here with Will Stone, who I couldn’t stand, for the foreseeable future.

“This is ridiculous,” I breathed.

“I know,” he said. “But this is where we are."

I was silent for a minute, finishing my overly sweet tea while Will walked around the room, checking out all the windows and then double checking the locks on the door.

When he looked at me again, I asked, “Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“This.” I made a vague gesture with my hand to encompass the whole situation.

Will held my eyes for a minute. He opened his mouth. Then closed it again. And when he spoke there was a slight thickness to his voice. “I owe it to your dad.”

If I’d still been a teenager, I would have been crushed by this response, by how little value it placed on me in his estimate.

But I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I wasn’t silly or stupid. I might still daydream a lot and make up stories about myself, but I knew how to control them and didn’t let them spill over into reality anymore.

Will wasn’t on some romantic crusade here to save the woman he loved.

Will wasn’t a noble hero or even a particularly kind-hearted man.

He felt guilty for treating my dad the way he had, and this was his way of feeling better about it.

Of atoning.

I understood it with crystal clarity. I understood him—even if I didn’t understand anything else about our situation here.

I knew what I was to him and what I would never be.

And it was fine.

Because I’d changed a lot more than he had in the last few years.

Will wasn’t important to me either.

Not anymore.

Noelle Adams

PO Box 35, Pearisburg VA 24134

noelle-adams.com

SHARE TWEET FORWARD
MailerLite