Becca searched for a potential exit. Guards were stationed in groups of two at doorways and stairwells, each guy more terrifying than the next, with hard faces that probably wouldn’t blink if she was shot dead where she stood. The further into the mansion she trod, the more Becca felt like she was heading to her own funeral. Bile threatened in the back of her throat. She hated that a part of her was impressed by the interior of the home because of the artwork on display. The paintings and sculptures were museum quality. If she wasn’t mistaken, they passed an original Renoir.
The heels of Becca’s black leather boots clicked against the hardwood flooring. Her heart thumped in time with those clicks, like a ticking clock winding down to zero. Konrad and company ushered her up a grand staircase that made the one in Gone with the Wind look cheap and insignificant. At the top, they steered her to the right, down a wide hall with glossy hardwood floors and high ceilings.
When they reached the end of the hall, the two henchmen who had joined them opened a pair of double doors that must have belonged to a Buddhist temple at one time. Becca’s clasped hands shook as she entered what amounted to a sitting room parlor with an enormous ivory marble hearth. The fire inside intended to ward off the chilly night couldn’t make the cold terror in her bones dissipate. Every piece of furniture and décor in the parlor spoke of wealth. There was a Louis XIV desk in one corner. But the room held all the warmth of a mausoleum.
“Have a seat. The boss will be with you shortly,” Konrad indicated in a bullish tone and pointed toward the chocolate Chesterfield sofas while his buddies shut the doors with a resounding thud and sealed them all inside. Sealed Becca inside. She assessed the room. Floor-to-ceiling inlaid shelves held first editions behind panes of glass. There was a vase on a pedestal that looked to be from the Ming Dynasty, or was at least an excellent reproduction. She studied her surroundings for a potential avenue of escape. The only way out would be to jump from the large crenelated windows. Two stories up, she could break something—like her neck. Only three guards were present in the room, odds that weren’t great, but left her a fighting chance.
Konrad shifted his hand to the butt of his gun until she finally complied with his order. Even if she escaped past Konrad and his two buddies, jumped out the window and didn’t break anything when she landed, the boatload of guards stationed over the grounds were far too numerous to outrun. The odds were not in her favor in making it to the gate and beyond for help.
Becca said a silent prayer at the echoing clomp of multiple footsteps approaching. Her anxiety ratcheted up to cataclysmic levels.
The double doors swung inward. Becca wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it wasn’t a relatively trim man with salt and pepper hair, dressed in gray tweed slacks and a button up navy cardigan sweater over his ivory dress shirt. He looked much more like a history professor than a criminal mastermind—at least, until you looked into his eyes. They were cold, devoid of any humanity or warmth, and calculating. Rudnikov assessed her from head to toe as she rose. That stare made her feel underdressed in her jeans and Kelly-green chenille sweater. A sense of helplessness invaded her soul. The uncertainty infused by doubt that she would live through the next hour.
Rudnikov didn’t travel alone. He had four of his paid thugs guarding him. Becca skimmed her gaze over them. They were all similar in manner and form to Konrad, as if they had come off an assembly line. But it was the last man her gaze landed on who brought her up short. She kept her jaw from dropping to the floor, but just barely.
Quinten Blackthorne was a member of Anton Rudnikov’s mob team? What the hell?