We stared into each other’s eyes, each trying to read the other’s deepest thoughts and suspicions. Dominic’s gaze was guarded, but the hint of hurt flickered in their depths.
“Ella. . .”
“No. You have to hear me out on this,” I interrupted, holding up a hand. “This has been shady from the beginning. Look at it from my side. You appear out of nowhere, intent on winning me over. You obviously have money, but your ruse as a store manager doesn’t explain the amount of money you have at your disposal. Then my best friend disappears, only to be found dead, at my house, along with my husband and his nurse. Michael, who was confined to a wheel chair and couldn’t even take care of himself.” Tears rolled freely down my face at the thought of Michael. I fought to remain in control of my emotions. I couldn’t risk raising my voice in such a public place.
Taking a fortifying breath, I pressed on. “Now my ten year old daughter and I are on the run with you. You seem to be following some sort of set schedule, but I can’t figure out why. Then we have to ditch the car and steal another. I get losing the Mustang. Conspicuous and all. But my ten year old daughter is riding in a stolen vehicle.” I gestured behind me to where Allison surely sat watching our little exchange from the relative safety of said stolen vehicle.
Then something else clicked in my mind. I stood a bit straighter as the idea formed into a solid, reasonable thought. Crossing my arms over my chest, I continued my rant. “You had me leave you while you acquired another car. And you were almost twenty minutes late for our rendezvous. For all I know, your car could’ve been bugged or had a tracking device that you knew about. You’ve been acting strange ever since we were chased.
“Unless I get some answers, I have a mind to call Officer Brecky to come get me and Allison. We can wait for her here.”
Emotions warred with each other for placement on Dominic’s face and in his expressive eyes. He was definitely hiding something, but whether I had called him out on the right subject remained to be seen.
He glanced around. Indicating a picnic table off to my right, he asked, “Can we sit down?”
My hands fell to my sides as I studied him again. Then I shrugged and walked to the table, sitting so I could see Allison in the car. Dominic sat across from me.
He fiddled with his hands nervously, staring at them while he seemed to think through what he would tell me.
I waited as patiently as I could.
Finally, he looked up at me. “You’re right. I haven’t been completely honest with you.” He raised his hands in a defensive gesture. “That’s not to say that I’ve lied to you. I just haven’t told you everything. I can’t do it now. Not here,” he said looking around the moderately active rest stop. “You also have to understand that my hands are tied to a certain extent. This is the FBI’s case. I merely help them in return for compensation. There are things I’m not allowed to tell you because, technically, I’m not supposed to know either.”
“Let me clear something up for you, Dominic.” I leaned forward across the table, my eyes burning into his. “I don’t give a damn about what the FBI says I can and can’t know. My little girl is running from a notorious and very powerful drug lord who obviously deals in illegal firearms, as well. Now, maybe I’m not the perfect innocent virgin here, but I’m tending to blame you for the state of my family right now since we were doing just fine before you came waltzing in.”
A heavy sigh blew through his lips. “I deserve that. But you have to agree that this isn’t the best place to talk about this. Anyone could be listening. The safest place is in that car.” He jerked a thumb in the general direction. “Yes, my car was being tracked. I found the chip while you were ogling Teddy the cowboy at the bed and breakfast.”
“How do I know that car doesn’t have one? You had it for almost forty minutes before we met up. For all I know, you put one on it and met with someone to give them the new tracking information.” I buried my face in my hands. “Look, Dominic, I want to trust you. And deep down I do. But my first priority is Allison and keeping her safe.” I lifted my head. “You need to assure me that she is safe with you around before we go any farther.”
He took my hands in his. “How can I do that, Ella?”
“I don’t know, but you’ve gotta give me something.”
His eyes lifted to the tree tops as he thought. Blowing out a breath that feathered the hair draping his forehead he said, “I’m not supposed to tell you this. At all. But, the FBI actually used you as bait for Ritter.” At my questioning look he continued. “They knew Ritter wanted me, but I was giving them too much valuable information in other areas to use me to draw him out. So they found you. With your history--our history--they were confident that leaking your whereabouts would pull him to you. It worked,” he said with a shrug.
“They used me as bait. Without even so much as a courtesy call?”
He gave a you-know-how-it-is look. “They are the government. They pretty much do what they want.”
I leaned forward again. Still holding his hands, I gave a little squeeze. “My gut trusts you, but I know there’s more to this. We’ve been here too long, and I’m starting to get itchy, so we’ll go with you. For now. But know that I expect more answers at a better time.”
I stood, and he followed me back to the car. We had to find a town with a grocery store, then we were heading into the mountains, and hopefully to safety.