Banished to a remote part of northern Scotland by her famous father to stay with his gloomy and introvert younger brother, Peta feels miserable and completely rejected. But is there a secret to the many deserted rooms of Ottawa castle? And what does the mysterious boy down on the beach know? More than he's telling, certainly...but soon Peta will find herself out of her depth...
Chapter One: Kidnap
Nothing could go wrong, I thought, squeezing water out of my hair and watching the suds-studded drops swirl away down the plug. As I wrapped myself in a towel and peered into the misted up mirror I hummed happily. Dad was taking me out for a meal tonight, and then he had arranged a surprise. Last time it had been a box in the theatre but the time before that…here I frowned at my reflection, for I was not about to let such memories tarnish the prospect of this outing. On this outing nothing could go wrong.
Still firmly set on optimism, I wrapped another towel around my hair and opened the bathroom door, to find myself staring down the barrel of a gun. The man holding the gun was dressed in the uniform that all the hotel staff wore—deep midnight blue and gold—but the casual way in which he pointed the weapon at me told me he knew his business. Swallowing nervously, I wondered if I could perhaps slip back into the bathroom and lock myself in but I wasn’t convinced as to whether a couple of inches of wood would be able to stop a bullet. As if having read my thoughts the man’s eyes flicked across to the doorway behind me and then back to my face.
“Don’t even think about it.” He warned. He looked fairly young, in his mid to late twenties I guessed, with stubbly, sandy hair and a smooth-shaven face. Still holding his gun aloft, he approached me, and seized my arm. Clutching my towel around me I flinched back but he only gripped harder and repeated, “Don’t even think about it.” As he propelled me towards the door he hissed in my ear, “I’m going to put my gun out of sight for a moment but I’m warning you now—any attempts to misbehave and it’ll be the worse for you. Your daddy wouldn’t want you getting hurt now would he?” and then we were out in the corridor; I shivering in my towel while he had my arm in its iron grip and his other hand inside his jacket, clutching his gun. Though I did not doubt that he would be able to whip it out within a second, I made up my mind to scream out at the first person we came across, but we encountered no one as we reached the stairs and reached the lobby unobserved. My heart was pounding a terrified tattoo inside my chest and somewhere distantly I could hear a little voice that sounded vaguely like my own, calling my name helplessly. There was a lady sitting behind the reception desk though her attention was firmly fixed on her computer.
“Help!” I called in a strangled voice but a sudden vicious jab at my kidney region left me winded. The woman glanced up but he gave her an apologetic smile and gestured at me.
“Hysterical,” he explained, in a voice that told me he was accustomed to lying. “She was having a complete fit when I found her. I’m taking her to her dad just outside.” The woman merely nodded and turned back to her work. Perhaps she was in on this plot too, or maybe she was just used to turning a blind eye to crazy clients; the ridiculousness of the rich no doubt. No help from there then. The man kept his grip on me as we passed through the revolving doors but neither did the other hand leave his concealed weapon. We were in the car park and heading towards a dirty white van parked close to the entrance. It was now or never. Twisting round as violently as I could I jerked away from him. “You little—” he gasped, his hold loosening but not quite enough. I tried to tug away but it clamped round again. Ahead of us another man was clambering out of the van, much bigger than the first, and I knew that if he reached us I’d have no chance at all. Swinging my foot I hit out as hard as I could and felt my heel collide satisfyingly with his shin. He gasped again and I seized at the momentary freedom. I fled. My towel flapping around me, I made a dash for the hotel, while behind me I could hear the two men in pursuit though I didn’t dare look back. My heart was fluttering madly like a trapped bird and my bare feet stung on the concrete steps until I got tangled with the entrance doors. As I spun wildly round I caught a glimpse of my pursuers closing in, their faces set with identical scowls of determination and this flew me into a more frantic sense of panic—was there really anywhere to run? Was I headed for a dead end? And then the revolving doors spat me out and I ran headlong into a tall, dark suited figure, standing near the desk and glancing down at an expensive Rolex watch.
“Peta?” Came a familiar voice, bewildered. “What on earth’s going on?”