Home > The Billionaire's Redemption(8)

The Billionaire's Redemption(8)
Author: Olivia Thorne

“That wouldn’t be a bad assumption.”

“Sooooo… you indulged in some of your ‘hobby’ in France?”

By ‘hobby,’ of course, I mean cat-burgling.

“A little,” he answers.

“That’s the reason you spent time in France?”

“Partly. Some of it was studying the architecture. I also bought some property,” he says, then adds hastily, anticipating my objection, “Which we’re not going to use.”

“You have property in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Moscow, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City,” I say, reciting what I found out from my research after he stole my cell phone that first night. “Did you live in any of those cities, too?”

“No longer than a couple months at a time. And I wouldn’t say I lived here. I just spent some time here.”

“Well, then, you can totally stop and ask for directions.”

“Nope.”

I roll my eyes. “Typical guy. Lost in a foreign country, and even though you’re fluent in the language – ”

“First rule of being an international fugitive, Eve: don’t stop at gas stations and ask for directions.”

“No. Just run out of gas on the side of the road instead.”

“Nope. Three-quarters full tank,” he says, pointing at the dashboard.

“What if you’re driving the wrong direction?” I ask him.

“I’m not.”

This is getting irritating.

“How do you know?” I insist.

He points to a sign, one of those highway mileage signs. It says Rouen – 85 km. “I’ve been to Rouen before.”

“Oh. How far is it to Paris?”

“Probably two or three hours from here, give or take.”

He’s close. As the early morning traffic begins to intensify, it about three-and-a-half hours to get to the heart of Paris. We go below the speed limit the entire time, so as not to draw any attention from the police.

We talk a lot over those three-and-a-half hours. Some of it is normal, road-trip chit-chat to pass the time. Some of it is life-and-death discussion about Epicurus and what we can do to escape his clutches. And some of the time is spent in silence as I watch the towns and scenery go past in the early morning light.

We talk about my past. My suburban upbringing in Oregon. My early obsession with computers. My decision to (more or less) walk the straight and narrow after my best friend in high school and fellow hacker Mailin got busted by the FBI and was forced to work for them in lieu of going to prison.

Then we talk about Grant’s past. His family: mother, father, two sisters, one brother. The private schools he attended as a child. The family vacations in Saint-Tropez and Bora Bora. The family company – an international construction conglomerate – he was expected to take over one day, but only participates in tangentially (to the irritation of his CEO father).

“How do you think they’re handling the whole ‘our son is a cat burglar’ thing?” I ask.

“Huh… honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. Been a little busy evading capture and death. What about your parents? What do they think about their daughter being linked to an international bad boy?”

My stomach drops. I haven’t been able to check any mode of communication – email, text, voicemail – since the news broke in the press.

“They’re probably worried sick,” I say, wracked with guilt. “They might even think I’m dead.”

“I bet they don’t think that,” Grant says, but we both know he’s just trying to soothe me. “Once we hook up with my connections, they can get a message to your family.”

I immediately think, But then Epicurus might find my family and use them against me. Torture them or kill them.

But then I realize that if Epicurus knows who I am, he damn sure knows where my family is, too, and there’s absolutely nothing stopping him from going after the people I love.

He might have done it already.

I want to cry, but I can’t. I can’t let myself go down the path of What if? So I simply say, “Okay.”

Grant seems to know what I’m thinking. “We’ll warn them. I’ll make sure my family gets them to safety, no matter what.”

I nod mutely.

He reaches over and puts his hand over mine. “Hey… it’s going to be okay. They’re going to be okay – we’re going to be okay. I promise.”

The gesture is so sweet, the words so heartfelt, that I actually do cry. Just a little. I smile at him gratefully, and the smile he gives me is like sunshine through the clouds.

In that moment, I am struck by several things.

I am in love with Grant Carlson. There is no question in my mind anymore, and it terrifies me.

But – assuming that we survive the next couple of weeks – no matter how much I want there to be a chance for it to work out between us, I’m convinced that it won’t.

Because we come from two entirely different worlds. Saint-Tropez and Bora Bora as a kid? I camped with my parents in a tent in Siuslaw National Forest. Billionaire CEO father? My dad is an accountant who has never made more than $70,000 a year in his life.

All of that is small potatoes, though, next to my real objection: even though I’m in love, I have no idea of Grant’s true feelings for me at all.

 

 

12

 

 

In all of our conversation, there is a technical question to be settled, too. Grant waits to broach it until we’re well into Paris.

I’m transfixed by the scenery – a mix of modern apartments right next to monuments, statues, and buildings straight out of Les Misérables – when he finally breaks the news.

“I need to make a phone call.”

“No,” I say, shaking my head.

“Why not?”

“If Epicurus knows we’re in France, which he probably does because of whoever that was at the airport, there’s a good chance he’s hacked into the phone systems. And if he’s done that, there’s an equal chance he’ll be running some sort of voice recognition software.”

“On millions of phone calls?” Grant asks dubiously.

“So far, he’s demonstrated almost unlimited resources. And if I had unlimited resources, that’s exactly what I would do.”

“Well, we’ll just have to risk it. There’s no way to get in touch with my contact otherwise.”

I stare at him. “What?”

“He has a number set up for just this sort of – ”

“You don’t know where he lives?!”

“Guys like JP don’t stay in one place too long.”

“JP?”

“Jean-Paul.”

Jean-Paul. So very… French.

I shake my head in disbelief. “You can’t, I don’t know, go to where he hangs out?”

“I have no idea where he hangs out. He could be in Montmartre, or the Latin Quarter, or – ”

“If you don’t know where he is, how do you know he’s even in Paris?”

Grant pauses, then shrugs.

“Oh my God,” I fume. “Tell me we didn’t just ditch a twenty million dollar plane in the ocean and risk our lives to find a guy who might have moved to Brooklyn.”

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