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two can play
a gentle, flickering flame, burns in the marble hearth. it’s dim light scarcely illuminates the small, cozy room with its tasteful furnishings and quiet elegance. the dismal light plays soft shadows over the solitary figure that sits hunched over a long mahogany desk, pouring over papers and books. her rich, dark brown hair was pinned tightly at the nape of her neck, her deep green eyes scanning page after page intently. she absently pulled back a stray strand of hair that spilled out of her pin and sighed profusely in frustration as she scanned yet another article in the newspaper clippings. the black and white print blurred together as she rubbed restlessly at her tired eyes to clear her vision and stifled a yawn. she came across a particular passage that had her dark brows furrowing in deep concentration; her soft, full lips were set in a serious, firm line. "the randal murder just doesn’t make sense", she mumbled to herself. "why would a mugger kill james randal, a famous artist, and not take any money or jewelry?" she asked herself, and was certain that was exactly what the police department was chewing over right now. "there’s something very peculiar about this case", she stated, “something not quite right." those tired green eyes snapped to attention when she zeroed in on the last line of the police report she had managed to finesse from those surly cops. her reporter instincts flared kindling a blazing warrior light in her eyes as she read it out loud with growing excitement, "the victims priceless art will be transferred to the falkland islands museum in the falkland islands." "that’s it!" she cried, shooting straight into the air like a bullet and scurrying to her phone. the flames danced lively in eyes that had gone opaque, taking on a hard edge of indigenous passion. the glint didn’t dim as her fingers trembled slightly in excitement as she dialed the number for her travel agent. "hello, travel america agency, how may i help you?" droned a bored, monotonous voice into the receiver. "olivia, it’s me, tracy scott, i need to book a flight to the falkland islands immediately," she said, barely suppressing her delight. "tracy! how are you? of coarse, i’ll book it right away." answered olivia much more cheerfully and with a friendly chuckle. "thanks olly, keep my ticket at the airport and please would you mind seeing to the temporary residential permit? i need to pack," and with that, she hung up the phone on a fit of laughter. she couldn’t contain the racking giggles that bubbled close to hysteria, so she took a deep calming breath and then bolted to her closet to begin packing. thousands of miles away from her comfortable home in california, her conversation was being recorded. it seems as though he was right in keeping tabs on her, he thought. she had just confirmed her need to be terminated to the murderer of edward james randal. her death would ensure his secret would be safe, forever...

* * *

the plane soared through the sky, slicing the wispy, white clouds like a knife through butter. tracy sat in her first class seat, staring out her window at the endless expanse of crystal blue sky that sprawled out before her like a vast, infinite ocean. her mind was swimming with facts and speculations of the murder she had been analyzing for hours since she had finished packing for her trip. she’d been fighting off fatigue with tooth and nail for two days straight and could finally feel it creeping up on her when her initial adrenaline rush from discovery had subsided, leaving her drained. her usual rose and cream complexion was now deathly pale with exhaustion. she ultimately succumbed to it, her heavy eyelids drooped and her limbs felt like lead. she slid silkily and soundlessly into unconsciousness, into the deep dreamless sleep only the very tired ever experience. that’s how he first saw her, with a sly curve of lush lips, slumped in the cushiony seat sleeping like a log. she curved to fit her seat and a smile bloomed on the edges of her radiant face as she slept as contented as a cat. cade parris started at her as she slumbered peacefully, blissfully unaware of the mess she was in. he’d keep an eye on her all right, it was his job, but she was sure pleasant to look at. she stirred softly in her seat as the flight attendant wheeled her creaky cart down the narrow aisle; offering drinks to the passengers. "excuse me sir, would you care for some champaign?" she asked sweetly. "no, thank you miss," he responded absently, with his gaze never wavering from tracy. he is totally absorbed with that woman, she thought with more than a little jealousy as she pushed her cart further down. she wiped the beginnings of a pout and replaced it with a warm, friendly smile as she approached the next passenger. the captain buzzed on the intercom announcing that they were about to land shortly. tracy awoke abruptly, bleary eyed and rumpled from sleep. stretching her arms in the air, she yawned lavishly. still foggy from sleep, she gathered her belongings and disembarked the plane, totally oblivious of her shadow. parris followed her from a safe distance, keeping his pace brisk and easy. she had legs up to her ears, he thought, he could hardly keep up with her strides. she ate up the ground as she hurriedly headed for the blue rental car she spotted and rifled for the keys in her purse. it had taken almost all her talent and temper to persuade her superior into springing for the airfare and the car but the hotel and other expenses were on her tab. she enjoyed the panoramic view of the island as the she navigated her car down the narrow dirt road; there was barely any traffic. through the window she studied the steady blur of green and brown hills and she drank in the picturesque town and its quaint british people. cade maneuvered his own black sedan through the slow trickle of cars, making his way to the upland goose hotel where he knew she was staying. the scenery wasn’t at a miss, he absorbed every inch of it not only for its beauty but for the fact that he was going to have to know the small town inside out before his job was done. his contacts had swindled a room for him in the same hotel, one very close to tracy‘s. maybe a little too close for comfort, he thought uneasily remembering how she looked sleeping in her seat.

god it felt good to just sink into an incredibly warm, waiting bed. she felt tempted to just curl up into a ball and sleep like the dead, sorely tempted, but she had plenty of work to do. she bit back a sigh as she got up to start unpacking her clothes, meticulously arranging them neatly in the rosewood drawers and hanging them tidily in her tiny closet. she hummed the remaining strains of mozart that floated through the speakers as she worked, setting about her possessions and toiletries in order to make the diminutive room homier. she made a mental check list of things to do, visit the museum where james randal’s pieces were sent, visit the market for some groceries to stock her refrigerator with and of coarse, figure out why she was being followed by the suit. oh yes, she had noticed him all right, it was hard not to. tall, about 6’2, angular face with striking sharp features that seemed chiseled on stone with a gentle, supple mouth and an aristocratic nose as contrast. he had raven black hair that flowed just above his ears and piercing, inquisitive eyes that seem to look deep inside you. she shuddered at her own description, he was certainly getting to her and she didn’t like it one bit. but he struck her as the strong, intelligent type, one to certainly watch out for. she was going to have to find out just who he was and why he had a sudden interest in her. and if he was somehow connected to the murder, and if so, how
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