Blurb:Journalist Gwen Jacobs thrived on dangerous assignments. That is until her ambition led to the massacre of an entire African village. Now, a year later, she’s been offered a chance at redemption and the opportunity to expose the men behind the slaughter. Unaware of the secrets she carries, or the danger they could bring if exposed, philanthropist Jack Peterson and his small group of humanitarians welcome Gwen on their journey of hope with the understanding she will tell the world of the atrocities taking place amidst a civil war. But when Gwen’s deception is uncovered and a rebel commander learns who she is, not only is Gwen’s life on the line, she may lose the only man she’s ever really loved.
As usual, the Market was bustling with activity and Gwen seized the opportunity to get some shots of the children playing in the streets. She heard Jack chuckle and glanced over.
“You only wanted to come along so you could get some more pictures.”
“You sound disappointed,” she teased, hoping the interest he’d been showing in her the past couple of days wasn’t just her imagination.
“Maybe a little.” He smiled as he searched through a mound of papaya, gently squeezing each one he chose. “So is there a special man in your life back in London?”
Gwen couldn’t help the grin that sprang to her lips. She attempted to take his picture, but he refused to look at her. “You should know. You had me checked out, remember?”
“Only Michael was mentioned, and I can’t seem to picture the two of you together.” He moved on to the mangos, glancing back only briefly.
“We’re not... At least, not anymore.”
“That’s good to know.”
So he is interested on a more personal level. Her stomach tingled at the thought.
“Is Michael the reason you moved to London?”
She nodded, lowering the camera to her side. “I thought I was in love. It took me three years to figure out he was a jerk.”
“May I ask what brought you to that conclusion?” he asked with barely a glance.
“When you spend 24/7 with a person you really get to know them. Sometimes better than you want.”
“Among other places. He was a cameraman with great instincts. He went for the shots that no one else would.”
“He must have been good at it, if he owns his own paper now.”
“That was always his dream.”
“Was it your dream as well…I mean, to be a part of it?”
“It was until I realized what he was willing to do for it.”
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, Gwen.”
She met his gaze. He had the warmest eyes she’d ever seen. “I’m not. He taught me a lot about myself; about the person I was, and the person I want to be.”
“And who is that?” He tilted his head slightly.
She shrugged her shoulder and said, “This, what I’m doing now, here in Dewana. I don’t want to just report the news. I want to make a difference.”
With a grin, Jack turned back to the vendor.
Stealing a glance, she watched him pay for the fruit. Just as he turned, she scooted over to the next booth and pretended to be busy looking over the merchandise.
“For your meeting with the general?” Jack asked over her shoulder.
She turned, coming within inches of him. Her pulse quickened as her eyes settled on his perfect, full lips. A brief image of him kissing her flashed through her mind. “Excuse me?” She stepped back, her eyes meeting his.
He nodded toward the table. “The scarves.
Gwen tore her gaze away from him and glanced down at the table where an assortment of brightly colored head scarves was displayed. “Oh...umm...yeah.” She picked one up and held it to her face, peering over the edge at him. “What do you think?”
“I like this one better.” He sat his bags on the ground, plucked a green and black scarf from the table, and stepped toward her.
She swallowed hard. Oh for heaven’s sake. He’s just a man. But unlike any she’d ever met.
His hands trembled as he draped the scarf over her head and wrapped the ends around her neck. “Much better. It accents your...” He leaned forward, squinting....“golden-brown eyes.”
She pushed him back, laughing.
He reached for his wallet. She tried to stop him, but he shoved her hand back. “It was my choice, so I pay.”
“Fine. Since Michael didn’t allow me much for personal expenses, I’ll let you.” She shoved her camera strap further up her shoulder. “Going free-lance wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had, but it beats the alternative.”
“What caused the break-up?”
Before she could answer a man bumped into her, nearly knocking her off her feet.
“Pardon, ma’am. Have you seen Sako?”
“I...um...No. I’m afraid I haven’t.”
“Sorry to have bothered you.” His gaze shifted quickly to her pocket before dashing away.
Gwen looked down and saw a piece of paper sticking from her pocket. Glancing back at Jack, she found he was no longer smiling. She drew in a deep breath and released it. “Guess I’ll see you later.”
“Please let me come with you.”
Though tempted, she shook her head. “I’ll be fine. I’ll take a cab back.”
Jack returned to the fruit vendor, offered him a hundred bucks to deliver the groceries to the orphanage, then darted after Gwen. Two blocks later he saw her meet with a man dressed similar to Mr. Rajah. After a brief exchange, they both turned in Jack’s direction. He blended into the crowd to avoid detection and continued to follow them through the busy streets.
Several scenarios played out in his mind. The worst one being that this was all a set-up and both he and Gwen would end up dead. What in the world was he thinking? He should have never agreed to her meeting with the enemy. He didn’t care how many war zones she had been in. She was still his responsibility.
Who am I kidding? I like the woman. She’s beautiful. She’s exciting. And whether she wants to admit it or not, she’s way in over her head on this assignment.
Jack followed them another three blocks before losing them in the crowd. He searched the buildings, trying to figure out the best one to hold a clandestine meeting with a known rebel. Across the street two police officers walked side by side, peering into the various shops and cafes. They, too, seemed to be looking for someone. Recalling Mr. Rajah’s warning, he prayed it wasn’t Gwen.
A disturbance outside one of the shops caught their attention. Jack backtracked to get a better look. Two men in casual clothing were shoving one another and yelling at the top of their lungs. As the policemen drew near, the men spotted them and took off running. The officers gave chase.
Relieved, Jack continued to look for Gwen. It didn’t seem likely they’d meet in a public place. Or would they? He thought of the ruckus a few minutes ago. It could have been a diversion. The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. What better insult to the local police than to play in their own backyard. He just had to figure out where.
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