Read Nobody's Fool Online

Authors: Sarah Hegger

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BOOK: Nobody's Fool
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Chapter Four
The humidity oozed around her as Holly left the air-conditioning of the bar. The quiet brought instant relief, but the air was so thick she could almost taste it. Sweat popped up over her skin and slithered down her sides and spine. She wanted to take off her sweatshirt, but all she wore underneath was a threadbare white tank.
Another decision she hadn't taken the time to think through when she left this morning. It wasn't like her to be impulsive. See, you don't prepare for all contingencies and this was what happened.
Her father was a projects man, ex-British Army, and how many times had he trotted out his little mantra:
Proper planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance
. That was about it for fatherly advice on Francis's part, so it ought to have stuck. If this had been either Emma or Portia, she would have kicked their butts for rushing off like this.
She was going to kick their butts anyway, not the least of which for forcing her to renew her acquaintance with
Emma popped up on her phone.
“Yup?” Holly was past pleasantries.
“Did you find her?”
“Nope, but I found Josh Hunter.” And didn't that go splendidly?
Holly blew the tendrils of hair off her face. They floated up briefly and nestled back against the clammy skin on her face and neck as she hurried toward her parked car. Inside was a bottle of water and more air-conditioning. She could be in Willow Park in thirty minutes to start the search in earnest.
Thanks to Sanjay, the bastard, Portia was now out of funds as well. The worry fastened around her throat. Her mouth went dry and she swallowed past the rush of what ifs flooding her brain.
“And?” Emma's voice dragged her attention back to the phone.
“And he doesn't know where she is.” And he could still get under her skin with the speed and ferocity of a tropical parasite.
“Now what?” Emma wailed down the line.
“Now, I start looking.” Finding a hotel sounded tempting, but Portia was out there somewhere and she wouldn't get any sleep anyway. “Do you know if Portia has any money with her, other than the emergency Visa?”
“She has a bit.” Emma sounded hesitant. The knot in Holly's stomach tightened. “But she should be okay with the card, right?”
“Um, about the card . . .” Holly trudged through the sticky night toward her car. “We've hit a bit of a snag.”
Emma went silent on the other end.
Holly recounted her conversation as quickly as she could. She'd screwed things up there. It was too easy to lay all the blame on Josh Hunter, but she'd lost her temper and she should have known better. She did know better.
“No.” Emma sucked in a breath. “What will she do for money? Do you know what happens to people in Chicago? You have to find her, Holly.”
Tell me something I don't know.
A black SUV sat wedged in the slot in which she expected to find her Toyota. She must have parked farther from the bar. “Did you call the police?”
“Yes,” Emma said. “There isn't much they can do because she's in the US. I contacted the Chicago police.”
“You did?” Holly was momentarily distracted. It wasn't like Emma to take the initiative. “What did they say?”
“Not much.” Emma's voice flattened again. “I e-mailed them a photo of Portia and explained the problem. They said they have a small unit that takes care of at-risk people and they would keep an eye out for her.”
Holly ground her teeth together in frustration. God, this was impossible. “Okay.” She tried to sound positive for Emma's sake. “I'm going to drive back to Willow Park and start showing her picture around.”
“Do you think it will help?”
“I don't know, Emma. It's all I've got right now. Unless you have a better idea.” Holly's temper rose to the surface. Silence greeted her, and she hauled back on it quickly. “Listen, I'll call you later. Keep on the police.”
She hung up and retraced her steps.
She couldn't blame this whole screwup on Emma. True, she should've stopped Portia from going. At the very least, she should've said something earlier, instead of running interference for her twin. Holly hadn't even noticed Portia was gone until Emma let the cat out of the bag.
Holly was angry with herself as well. She should have realized Portia was missing, for God's sake. The twins lived in the same house, and Emma was a crappy liar. She'd been trying to give the twins space. Trying to wean them off their dependence on her. They'd turned twenty-four on their last birthday. It was time for everyone to get on with their lives. Steven had been nagging about it for months.
Hadn't that worked out wonderfully? Holly wanted to kick something, hard. She should have seen something like this coming. She, more than anyone, knew the signs of a bipolar cycle.
She'd just been so relieved to see Portia stable and getting on with her own life, she hadn't wanted to see what was staring her in the face. Stupid. How could she not have recognized the signs of Portia off her medication: the irritability, the insomnia, the chattering incessantly, the inability to concentrate?
Looking back over the past two months, it was all right there. Portia had done everything short of written her a note. Bloody, bloody hell. She'd grown up watching Melissa rocket up and down through most of her childhood.
And Holly was more and more convinced this was all about their mother.
Melissa had died here in Illinois. Portia was much younger then and didn't remember most of the details. Holly had done her best not to fill in the blanks. It would only be natural for Portia to feel some sort of special bond with Melissa. Portia was so like their mother sometimes.
The familiar anxiety tightened around her chest. Bugger it, she didn't want to think about Melissa.
The wind carried more hot air and pushed it against her clammy skin. Being back in Illinois brought up the memories. Memories best left in the past.
Holly stopped walking. She definitely hadn't parked this far away.
Her car was probably on the other side of the road. She walked toward the foyer of the upmarket condos that housed Josh Hunter.
The doorman was still at his post behind a marble desk. He'd been reluctant to tell her where Josh could be found, but he was even more nervous she would take up residence in his hallowed foyer.
There were cars everywhere, but none of them her familiar metallic blue roof. Confined pools of light spilled over the walkway from the bars and restaurants but provided scant illumination.
The buildings on either side of the street were full of activity. The city would be awake for hours yet. Summer in Chicago meant heat and humidity and an exuberant celebration of the absence of winter.
Holly was back to staring at the pink
sign as it went through its familiar motion. It must be here. She'd parked it right near the condo.
Holly backtracked, slowly and deliberately.
Cars were jammed in, bumper to bumper, on either side of the road, constricting traffic to a crawl. Not one of those cars was hers. The condo building loomed up in front of her. Mentally, she ticked off the cars parked between here and Scants. Not an older-model metallic-blue Prius among them.
It couldn't be possible. Her clothes were in her car, the few she'd thrown in a bag, and her extra cash. And fuck, shit, dammit straight to hell—her passport. This was not good. Not good at all.
Holly ripped off her sweatshirt. Perhaps she'd parked in another street. No, she'd parked it here, on this street, and nearly right outside the condo. Because she'd thought, at the time, what a good omen it was to find such convenient parking.
Do not panic.
This was not the time to panic.
A strong gust of wind chased along the street and engulfed her in its hot, oily breath. Her dry mouth mocked the bravado that made her down the glass of wine. The buttons of her phone blinked up at her, daring her to dial and make it real. Holly pressed the numbers: 9-1-1.
The dispatcher was as sympathetic as Nurse Ratched, but she did promise to send a patrol car at some indeterminate point in the future.
Holly disconnected the call. The buildings on either side loomed over her. All around people filled the buildings with laughter and chatter. Alone and friendless, in the middle of Chicago. Shit.
The wind got enthusiastic and tugged at her jeans and jerked the wet tendrils of hair off the back of her neck. She had exactly fourteen dollars in her pocket and her phone. Nothing more. She was stuck in Chicago, murder capital of the United States, trying to track down Portia, who was out there with no money, caught in the vortex of a bipolar high. She dialed Emma to give her the good news. When her brain worked again, she would find a way out of this.
The phone rang to voice mail. Holly gave a short bark of laughter. Now, Emma wasn't answering her phone. Holly left a terse message. Surprised her voice sounded calm and clinical when panic boiled up her esophagus and clogged her throat. What a pity she couldn't add not being around when her car got stolen to the ass-kicking tally.
The first drop landed with a wet squelch on the side of her nose. Its friends and family followed in short order, like somebody had kicked over a bucket in the sky. Holly threw back her head and roared.
She was a split second ahead of nature as it roared back down at her. The heavens wrenched wide open, and a deluge of sultry, sticky rain thundered down and all around, bouncing off the concrete and the cars in a thick, creeping stream. Death, taxes, and the truth that it never, ever rained, it always sodding poured.
Holly stood there, staring at the place her car had been, the downpour pelting against her skin, and panicked.
Josh ducked out of the rain beneath the overhang outside the bar.
Holly made a pathetic sight. She'd lost her pencils in the downpour and her hair clung like rattails to her face and back. She stood with her head bent and her shoulders slumped, water pooling in the bottom of her jeans and splashing over her Converse sneakers. The rain had plastered her clothes to her body.
Time to get very wet. He snagged a complimentary Scants umbrella and prepared to best his dragon. Despise him now, did she?
“Hi again.” Josh almost took a self-preserving step backward as the blast from her eyes broadsided him. He held the umbrella over both their heads.
“Ah, perfect.” She threw her hands up. “This is all I need right now. Why did I think it couldn't get any worse?”
Josh inched the umbrella over her head. Rain streamed down his neck and under the collar of his shirt. In seconds he was as wet as she was. “Is something wrong?”
“What do you think?”
Her body thrummed with tension, her hands clenched by her sides. He got the feeling this was about more than the rain.
“I wouldn't bother.” She snarled at the hot pink canopy above her soaking head. “Keep it for yourself. That pretty shirt of yours must have cost more than my car is worth.”
She was probably right, but this wasn't the time to say so. “Where's your car?”
“Not here.”
“Okay.” She was right about the umbrella. The rain bounced off the canopy and streamed over the edge and down his head. “Should we—?”
“My car is not here because it's missing.” Her face grew flushed as the volume rose. Anger emanated off her in waves.
“Is it—?”
“Because some miserable, fuckwit, son of a bitch, asswipe, bastard, pissant, dickhead, wanker, prat, git stole it. They stole my car.”
And thar she blows!
Not good. Her car had been stolen. It explained the standing in the rain.
She went quite red in the face. “They stole my car.” The level of rage reminded him of his mother trying to get her three six-foot-plus sons to do her bidding.
Josh was impressed and a bit scared for his life. Holly got mad good and proper, and her swearing was near legendary. He wasn't sure what a wanker, a prat, or a git were, but they couldn't be good.
Ah, dammit!
Her nipples pressed against the nearly transparent fabric of her shirt. Her voluminous diatribe floated over his head.
He needed to focus on the problem.
“Are you looking at my breasts?”
“Um . . .” There wasn't much he could say as he had—totally against his will, of course—been ogling the cinnamon-tinted peaks of her nipples. “Are you sure?”
“You are such a dog.” Her eyes disappeared into narrow lines of death.
“Are you sure your car was stolen?”
“I'm standing here without clothes, money, a passport, and a bloody car and you're getting your ya-ya's out. Weren't those girls in there enough for you?”
The Bambi/Barbie/Bubbles thing swung back to haunt him. “About that—”
“I don't care.” She stormed to beat the crap out of the weather. “They stole my car and everything in it.”
“I'm sorry,” he said. Words failed him. The situation sucked, no two ways about it. “Did you call the police?”
“Of course I called the bloody police.” She waved her hands around as punctuation.
Josh kept a sharp eye on her hand punching through the air. “What—?”
“Did you think I was standing out here waiting for the car to magically reappear? Or perhaps you thought I was waiting for a big strong man to come and tell me what to do?”
Actually, she'd hit perilously close to the truth. He'd been about to offer his manly arm for her rescue. “You're getting wet.”
BOOK: Nobody's Fool
5.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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