That can work. Nobody knows me here.
I follow the two cars following her.
One moves into the inner lane. They’re going to box her in. An intersection is coming up. They’ll wait for her to turn off. Whether they’re trying to snatch her or kill her, nobody wants a traffic jam by their attack. Too messy.
They speed up as she moves for a turnoff. I swing a wide arc at the car on the outside. Contact the nearside corner. Soft contact. Then I accelerate hard. Shove the one car into the path of the other.
As I’m pulling away, I look back, trying to see if they’re the same goons who were after her in the mall. But I can’t get a look. All I can see is two cars, tangling and mangling off the side of the carriageway, headed with their noses down into a grassy verge.
Not much damage. No injuries.
And when I look back, she’s very, very gone.
Not a trace.
Somebody has been watching me. Following me, even. Have I acquired an admirer, or a stalker?
No, it’s more likely that my daddy has hired some thug to track me down.
I tell Poppy, “I saw a guy in the store.”
“You mean Nick? He is hot, don’t you think?”
Poppy has a breathless, bouncy look and a high, soft voice. She’s blonde and bubbly and she looks like a bimbo. That’s so not what she is. There’s a rock-solid business brain in her head. She deals with brides to be and their mothers with all the charm of a senator’s wife.
I say, “You mean Nick the assistant?”
Her eyes glisten. “He’s the buyer. And he’s like a regional manager.”
I smile. “You like him.”
“Well, maybe a bit. He is pretty gorgeous, though. Don’t you think?”
“He’s nice. Not my type, though.”
“No? What’s your type, Mia?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her, truthfully, “Mainly, the type I never meet and I haven’t met yet.”
“Nobody in real life.” Certainly not the animal my daddy wants me to marry. I wouldn’t want to be too superficial or judgmental, but to say he has the manners of a pig would be unkind to pigs. Being as ugly as a gargoyle must be close to the oaf’s most attractive asset.
“No, there was a guy in the fabric store. I think he was watching me.” Recalling it makes the tips of my fingers prickle.
“You don’t think your daddy has sent somebody after you, do you?”
I nod. “I knew he would, sooner or later.” Poppy’s eyes widen. “Honestly. I’m not even kidding. Somebody is sure to be on my trail. I just wonder if this guy is him. Because if it is, I guess it means I’ve been blown.”
“Oh, that doesn’t mean you’re going to leave me, does it?”
“I don’t know. There will be people looking for me, and they’re bound to find me, eventually. And I like it here.” But I tell her, “You’ve been good to me. I wouldn’t want you put at risk or mixed up in anything.”
“Anything like what? They’re not going to come busting in here with guns blazing, are they?”
Poppy is a close friend of my sister’s, so I’m sure she knows the score. “It’s not unheard of. I’m worried now.”
“You know, Mia, you always surprise me with that stuff. I forget that you’re from one of the premier crime families in this town.” She slaps her hand to her mouth. “Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to blurt it out like that.”
I laugh. “Don’t worry about it. Actually, I prefer it said said straight out like that. Anybody else in the family would freak. They all insist on saying things like, ‘family,’ and, ‘Corporation.’ Daddy slapped me across the face once for saying ‘mafia.’ He was so upset about it afterwards. I think it was a stressful moment for him already when I blurted it out. Some stuff with the business. But, yeah. They like everybody to kind of dance around it.”
“But that all seems so, I don’t know, so not you.”
“It’s me, Poppy.” I’m serious now. “It’s not my favorite part of me, but I can’t pretend it’s not there. That’s not how I want to think of myself, but it’s my roots. My heritage. For better or worse.”
“For richer, for poorer?” Poppy picked up the line. I hadn’t even thought about it that way.
“Don’t. That’s why I had to run away.”
It’s ironic that I’m risking my neck and my reputation to avoid a wedding, and here I am helping Poppy in a bridal store. She was so nice to take me in. It bothers me how much trouble I could bring to her door.
“Don’t worry too much about me,” she lays a hand on mine. “I can look after myself. And I’m sure they’re not as bad as you think.” I get uncomfortable when she says that. “So, what did he look like?”