For a moment Jon was quiet. Then he hit the button on the elevator control panel and got the car moving again. "Okay, this is what we’ll do. You go to your car and drive home. I’ll wait a few minutes and then meet you there. Unlock a back window."
"But what if the person is watching?"
Jon’s smile was grim. "Don’t worry. No one will even know I’m around."
Uncertainty arced through her as the doors to the elevator slid open. She’d never felt so out of control and vulnerable.
Jon put his hand on her shoulder and gave a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "I’ll be there soon. I promise."
Knowing that to Jon a promise was unbreakable, she nodded and gave him a smile full of gratitude for sharing her burden. "Thank you."
He walked her to the exit. "I’ll make sure you reach your car safely before I go back upstairs."
Glad to have him watching her back, she hurried out of the building and across the parking lot to where she’d left her coupe. The cold winter air had a bite to it that sent chills rattling over her. As she slid into the driver’s seat of her car and started the engine, she silently sent up a prayer that she wasn’t making a mistake by not going directly to the police.
And that trusting Jon didn’t get them all killed. Or fatally wound her heart.
Jon parked his sedan around the corner from Tabby’s small Cape Cod–style house in Newton and walked around the block before approaching. This late at night the deserted street was peaceful and pretty with a new dusting of fresh winter snow.
And there weren’t any out of place vehicles with occupants keeping watch over Tabby’s place.
Tugging his navy wool overcoat tighter, Jon kept to the shadows as he moved along the hedges to the back of Tabby’s house. He found a bedroom window unlocked, easily gained access and entered. Silently, he made his way down the dark hall, grateful his leather–soled shoes didn’t make noise on the runner beneath his feet. The soothing fragrance of vanilla and sweet flowers hung in the air. Scents he associated with his assistant. Her office held the same fragrances.
He entered the living room where he found Tabby sitting ramrod straight on the couch in her evening gown, her cell phone in hand and notepad and pen at the ready. So typical of his lovely assistant. Always prepared.
She must have sensed she wasn’t alone. She jerked around, her eyes widening as she opened her mouth to scream, which came out a soft yelp when recognition bloomed on her face. Her hand went over her heart. "You startled me. Boy, you’re quiet."
Good to know his military training wasn’t rusty. He removed his overcoat and laid it on the back of a nearby chair.
"They haven’t called yet," she said as she returned to her vigilant posture.
His heart twisting at her obvious upset, he sat beside her and took her hand. "We’ll get through this."
Her big blue eyes teared up. "I feel so bad for her. She was always troubled when we were kids."
"Tell me about her," Jon prompted, hoping to keep her mind off waiting.
"She and our father fought constantly. If he said the sky was blue, she’d insist it was red. And there was no reasoning with her. I remember one time, about a year before she ran away, my parents took her to see a doctor. When they came home, she was so subdued and compliant. It was weird." She shuddered. "Years later I found out the doctor had put her on lithium for manic depression."
"She’s bipolar." He knew little of the disorder other than it was manageable with medication.
"That was the diagnosis." Sadness entered her eyes. "Unfortunately, her forced peacefulness only last a few days. She refused to continue with the drug, which at the time was the only option. She flew into a rage. Destroyed the house. My parents found me hiding in the closet. And I never saw her again."
Sympathy squeezed tight in his chest. "I’m sorry. That must have been very scary."
"It was. But what was worse was after Beth left, my parents—" She shook her head. "I don’t know. They sort of imploded. We lost the house. Their marriage fell apart. Though they’ve remained married, they aren’t a couple. If that makes sense."
"Like they were going through the motions, but not really feeling it?" Oh, how well he understood. "My parents were like that. They stayed together until my little sister graduated from high school and then called it quits."
She squeezed his hand. "That’s hard."
"Yes." He still felt the sense of loss, like something precious had died when his parents divorced.
They fell silent, each lost in their own thoughts when the cell phone in Tabby’s hand trilled. She jerked as if the instrument had bitten her.
"Steady now," Jon said. "Take a deep breath and let it out."
She did as instructed.
"Good. Now when you answer it, push the speaker button."
She did. "Hello?"
A disembodied voice, clearly disguised to prevent determination of gender, said, "If you want your sister alive, bring a hundred thousand dollars in cash to the T subway stop at Fenway Park."
Tabby’s eyes widened. "I don’t have that kind of money."
"Get it from your boss," the voice said.
With a quick glance at Jon, Tabby said, "I can’t ask him for that much cash."
"Sure you can, considering he’s sitting right next to you."
Jon’s gut clenched as he met Tabby’s shocked gaze. How did they know he was there?
Unnerved, Jon looked around, searching for some way the caller could be watching. Though nothing looked out of place or odd, somehow the caller must have planted a video feed.
Jon nodded to Tabby and motioned for her to answer affirmatively. She shook her head and mouthed, "No."
"Come on, make a decision," the voice demanded.
"Why do you think my boss is here?" Tabby asked.
"I told you. I’m watching you. I have eyes everywhere."
Jon spoke up. "You’ll get your cash. How do we know you really have Beth?"
They heard movement on the other end. A moment later, a weak female’s voice filled the air. "Tabby? I’m so tired. What’s happening?"
Tabby gasped. "Beth, are you okay? Have they hurt you?"
More movement and then the muffled caller returned. "She’s unhurt and alive for now. Bring the cash to the stop by tomorrow morning and don’t forget your phone."
"I don’t have that kind of cash on hand," Jon said, his mind racing. They’d have to call the police and get a stakeout on the T stop. "The earliest would be noon on Monday. I’m sure it will take the bank a few hours to release that amount of money."
"Noon on Monday or she dies. And no cops!" The line disconnected.
Tabby’s pale complexion made Jon suspect she was in a bit of shock. He took the phone from her hand, turned it off and laid on the coffee table. He drew her to his chest and slipped his arms around her. She began to shake. Protective instincts surged and a wellspring of tender emotions rose in his chest, nearly choking him.
Oh, no, he was going to a place he’d sworn he’d never go with any woman. He’d do what he could to get her sister back. And in the process he would protect Tabby only because it was the right thing to do. Or so he tried to convince himself.