Fiercely independent, and determined not to have another man shatter her comfortable life, Fay finds herself working with the arrogant Adam Ford. Her job is to write reviews for excursions on the idyllic Greek island of Crete but sinister events ensue.
Adam stood at the edge of immense darkness, took a deep breath and ducked before edging himself into the lowest part of the cave leading to the exit. He had to disagree with his guide Fay at that point for it was just as difficult getting back out of the cave as it was entering it, perhaps even worse considering that she had rushed on ahead and left him without a steadying hand. He hoped to god that she had managed on her own without further incident. It must have been the earlier blow to her head that had prompted her to disappear without him as no one in their right mind would want to face this eerie darkness on their own! The ground under his feet was extremely uneven and as he moved forward his feet were constantly slipping and twisting on the grooves in the weathered rock.
What was that? Bats?
He could make out nothing. Had Fay reached the exit yet? How much further? He pressed on, his eyes straining to find light. It was only moments later when the sudden sound of a scream shattered the silence. Adam froze. It wasn’t just a scream; it was the sound of utter terror. Panic prompted him to move then and in his urgency to reach light he gave up trying to inch forward and got down on his hands and knees, ignoring the way that the rocks bruised his legs as he scrambled out of the cave.
“Fay!” he bellowed, struggling to focus his eyes as the brilliant sunlight hit them. With his vision returned he frantically scanned the area for evidence of her.
“Fay!” he called again. “Where are you?” Still there was silence. He ran a little further down the mountain path but she was nowhere to be seen.
Oh hell! What’s happened?
A whole number of theories as to what might have happened to her raced through his head. He wasn’t willing to accept any of them but faced with her ambiguous absence he had no choice but to assume the worst. Anxiously holding his breath, he went to the wooden barrier at the edge of the mountain and looked over. She hadn’t fallen. He let out a sigh of relief and with it another anguished shout.
For heaven sake just answer me damn it!
His anxiety soon turned into angry frustration and he bolted down the path then, determined to find her. He stopped when the road came back into sight, turning his head towards the cave again with uncertainty.
Damn it, if she didn’t come this way then I should go back. But she’s not there either. It makes no sense!
He stood there on the side of the mountain, willing her to reappear and running his hands through his hair, unable to think of what to do next.
THE PREVIOUS DAY
What on earth is she doing?
Fay watched as her friend emerged from the Arrivals door of Heraklion airport, trying to juggle a huge suitcase, backpack, sports bag and a rug! Sally’s long, auburn hair fell over face and the small frame of her body began to buckle with the weight of her load. Fay cringed as the rug began to slip from under Sal’s arm, after which she attempted to catch it on her knee but failed miserably. It skidded down her leg, landed on the floor with a thud and rolled towards Fay, who caught it under her foot.
“Welcome to Crete!” Fay said with a grin as Sal gave up and let all of her luggage drop to the floor in a twist of straps, zips and buckles. She jumped over the luggage enthusiastically and ran to Fay, throwing her arms around her friend and jumping up and down like an excited puppy.
“I made it, I’m here!” she cheered.
“Yes, I can see that,” Fay laughed, peeling Sal’s arms from around her neck. “Don’t you think you should move some of that luggage out of the way though so that people can get past?” Sal looked behind her to see a family of people trying to steer an airport trolley around her luggage which was strewn across the floor.
“Ah yes, good idea,” she said, returning to her bags and giving the family an apologetic smile.
Between them they managed to haul the luggage, and the rug, out of the Arrivals building and across the car park to Fay’s car where they squeezed it into the boot. The airport, which was situated in the island’s capital city, was located roughly in the middle of the long, thin island and their journey would take them along the north east coast some sixty-five kilometres to Fay’s hometown of Agios Nikolaos.
As Fay drove she laughed at the catalogue of events that had characterised Sal’s four-hour flight from London. She loved Sal dearly but wherever Sal went disaster invariably ensued, and she wasn’t sure how long she wanted to house ‘disaster’ in her perfectly organised apartment. Although Sal had asked Fay to help her find an apartment to move into, Fay knew how hard it often was to find somewhere to live in the town and it was likely to be some time before Sal found anywhere suitable.
Before long they began to pass through the tourist resorts of Hersonnissos, Stalis and Malia, which over the years had lost their authenticity and become playgrounds for the British youth market. Although these resorts had the advantage of being placed near to the sea, there was little charm about the rows of bars and nightclubs, flashing neon lights and garish buildings. After passing through Malia however the surroundings became considerably more rural with fields, orchards and olive groves stretching out to the right of the road and a pale, rocky coastline to the left. Such scenery was pleasing to the eye of travellers in the region however it was the magnificence of the rocky mountains ranging across most of the island’s centre which left the biggest impression. The road laboured around the mountains, or cut through them at times under the odd tunnel which had been built to reduce journey time to the more easterly towns and villages.
On nearing Agios Nikolaos Fay made her way through the one-way system of roads into the centre of the town, past the harbour and picturesque lake. She continued along the sea front where she eventually turned and drove up a road which cut in between the buildings and lead to the residential areas on the streets above.
Unfortunately however, when she neared her apartment she realized that her favourite parking spot had been commandeered and she was forced to park two roads away from the building. Fay and Sal tugged the luggage out of the boot and began the uphill walk to her home. To make matters worse it was that time of year, about a month before the tourists began arriving, when the local council decided to utterly demolish a number of roads throughout the town in an attempt at improvement. This road was no exception, making it extremely hard to walk over the bumps and rubble but even harder to pull a weighty suitcase. Eventually they rounded the corner of the road on which Fay lived but at this point Sal suddenly stumbled on a pothole and staggered out alarmingly into the road. Fay looked on in horror as a car turned the corner and hit the break, stopping inches from her friend.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? Do you have a death wish or something?” the driver shouted out of the window. Sal looked taken aback as the man parked the car at the side of the road, got out and strode towards her.
“Oh, sorry about that, it’s these roads…” she began.
He cut into her sentence, “Haven’t you ever heard of using the pavement?”
Towering over her, he crossed his arms and fixed her with a steely look. The bag on her shoulder began to slip and he rolled his eyes, catching it before it fell.
“Hey, wait just a minute,” Fay came to her friend’s defence, “she’s already apologised Mister and…”
The man turned his attention to Fay, running his eyes over her as she stormed towards them.
“God help us, there are two of them,” he interrupted her. His condescending remark incensed her further so she moved in between them, snatching the bag out of his hands and glaring up into his face.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she asked angrily. He looked startled for a moment, but then a smile tugged at his mouth as his eyes scanned her furious, flushed face. At closer range the man was surprised to see that despite the harshness of her words the woman had an element of softness about her face and figure. The tumble of soft, blonde curls and pale, turquoise eyes almost gave her an air of vulnerability regardless of the scowl on her face.
“Perhaps you should inform your friend about the dangers of walking out into the middle of the road,” he said with polite sarcasm. His voice was firm but had lost most of its edge now. Sal placed a hand on the man’s arm to get his attention and he broke eye contact with Fay to look sideways at her in surprise.
“I don’t suppose you could help us? We do have rather a lot of luggage and we just need to get to that apartment down there,” she said, pointing down the road. Fay turned to her with an incredulous look and then swung her head back to the man with a sarcastic smile.
“You know, we can manage just fine,” she assured him, glaring back at Sal. “My friend here seems to be suffering from a bad case of jet lag, it must have affected her judgement.” Suddenly Fay felt the bag in her hands move and she turned back to see the man prising it away from her. “Listen, if we’d have wanted your help…”
The man cut in again. “You’d have what? Asked for it? She already has,” he said, following Sal down the road and leaving Fay behind with an astounded look on her face.
“Okay, but we would have been just fine without your help Mister!” she shouted after him, reluctantly tagging behind.
Fay was irritated to see both Sal and the stranger finally disappear into her apartment block and she sped up suddenly, racing up the stairs and squeezing past them to unlock the front door.
“Thank you, we can manage now,” she said politely, turning to the man and blocking the entrance to her apartment at the same time. He grinned at her reluctant expression of gratitude.
“Hey, would you like a coffee now that you’re here?” Sal said, pushing past Fay and dragging her bags into the lounge. Fay’s eyes widened at her friend’s invitation and the man laughed out loud, seeming to enjoy Fay’s discomfort as he moved around her to enter the apartment.
“I think I could manage a coffee,” he chuckled.
The man strode around the room; taking in its contents and making Fay feel uncomfortable with his presence in her lounge. He had the kind of disturbingly inquisitive eyes which seemed to be constantly assessing everything and coming to, what she could only assume would be, the wrong conclusions.
Bloody hell! Does anyone actually live in this place?
He searched the room for any evidence of imperfections; a stray coffee cup left on a table, a misplaced cushion on the sofa, an ornament that wasn’t strategically placed, but he found none. The immaculate, cream cushions were lined up on the black leather sofa, the glass coasters were placed perfectly on the coffee table, the ornamental candles and glass vases were set down in lines on the shelving units and the white tiled floor showed no signs of ever being trodden on. He had this sudden urge to mess everything up just to see what her reaction would be, but instead he contented himself with discretely nudging one ornament out of place and turning to see if she had noticed. Fay’s attention was however fixed on Sal at that moment and she watched with annoyance as Sal flicked the switch on her kettle and took out three mugs from her cupboard. Feeling surplus to requirements in her own home Fay moved to turn the computer on in the corner of the room, muttering to herself,
“I just wanted a peaceful day and what do I get? A friend who picks up complete strangers off the street, and an arrogant, male chauvinist invading my apartment!” Sal and the stranger exchanged looks and tried not to laugh.
Fay checked her e-mails and attempted to ignore the fact that there was a strange man sitting on her sofa chatting with her best friend. Nevertheless, as she read her messages her eyes unconsciously moved from the screen from time to time as curiosity got the better of her. The man had fallen into easy conversation with Sal and he exuded charm as he listened politely to Sal’s lively chatter, laughing at the appropriate times and drawing her in with the warmth of his chocolate coloured eyes and seductive smile. She suddenly became irritated by the fact Sal was so obviously enjoying his company and had conveniently forgotten that the man had almost run her over less than an hour ago!
“Sal, I said that we would meet Pat in the bar at four o clock,” she hinted, glancing at her watch, turning off the computer and standing up.
“Okay,” Sal replied, returning to her conversation. Fay sighed and leant against a shelf with one elbow, staring at the man in an attempt to make him feel uncomfortable enough to leave. The man’s eyes flicked towards her and then to her right where the ornament had been repositioned. She followed the movement of his gaze and instinctively lifted her hand to straighten the object, but stopped abruptly and narrowed her eyes at him with suspicion. A slow smile spread across his face and she dropped her hand, growling with annoyance.
“Err, sorry to interrupt but I could do with getting a shower,” she said with barely concealed anger, giving the man a purposeful glare.
He laughed. “Go ahead; I wasn’t planning on getting in there with you.”
She looked taken aback and felt her face begin to redden.
Why am I blushing? I never blush. This is ridiculous!
“Not unless I’m invited to anyway,” he added with a grin. Sal giggled.
“Right, I’ve had enough!” Fay exclaimed, charging over to the sofa, taking the mug out of the man’s hand, placing it onto the coffee table and dragging him up from the sofa by the arm. “Thank you very much for your help, but goodbye.” She pushed him towards the door and he looked down at her hands on his chest with a raised eyebrow.
“Is she always this physical?” he said over her shoulder to Sal.
Sal laughed. “Not usually, thanks for the help,” she called out as the door was closed behind him.
As soon as the sound of his footsteps on the stairs faded Fay turned to Sal with a frown.
“Did you have to invite him in?” she asked, striding over to the coffee table, collecting up the coffee cups and straightening the coasters.
“Hey, I thought he was nice. Good looking too, don’t you think?” Sal replied.
Fay tutted. “He was arrogant in the extreme and very assuming!”
Oops, perhaps I shouldn’t have told him where the bar was.
“And very good looking,” Sal added, grinning at Fay.
“Well he’s gone now and we’re going to be late for Pat,” Fay replied.
“Look I’ll make do with a quick wash and a change of clothes, then you can get showered and meet us down there,” Sal suggested.
Fay sighed. “Okay, fine. Just don’t go picking up any more strange men along the way,” she said, ushering Sal into the bathroom.