She ran from the room and hurried up the stairs. By the time Shanna reached the fourth floor, she was seething. No way was she staying here. She didn't care how safe it was from the Russians. She never wanted to see Roman again. She could take care of herself.
What would she need? A few clothes, her purse? She recalled seeing her Marilyn Monroe purse in Roman's office. Roman, the bastard pig's office.
She ran up the last flight of stairs. A Highlander was guarding the fifth floor and moved toward her. "Did ye need something, lass?"
"Just my purse." She motioned toward the office door. "I left it inside."
"Verra well." The guard opened the door for her.
She slipped inside and spotted her purse on the floor next to the velvet chaise. She checked the contents. Her wallet, checkbook, and Beretta were still there. Thank God.
She remembered pointing the gun at Roman the night before. Why had she decided to trust him? The minute she had climbed into a car with him, she had trusted him with her life.
She looked sadly at the velvet chaise. Last night, while lying there, she had let him hypnotize her. She had trusted him again, that time with her career, her dreams, and her fears. And then, over by the door, they had shared their first kiss. One hell of a kiss. And she had trusted him with her heart.
A tear rolled down her cheek. Dammit, no! She wiped her eyes. No tears for that bastard. She was halfway to the door when she stopped.
She wanted him to know. She wanted him to know that she was rejecting him. No one treated her like that. She marched back to the desk, pulled off the crucifix, and dropped it on his desk. There. That was a message he would understand.
When she exited the office, she found the guard hovering by the door. Oh, jeez. How was she going to leave the house? There were guards everywhere. She walked down the stairs to the fourth floor, deep in thought. Earlier, when she had met Roman's women, there had been a Highlander at the front door, one she'd never met. Connor would be at the back door. No way could she get past him. She'd have to give the front door a try. She had no ID card, didn't know the code for the keypad. So she'd have to convince the guard to open the door for her.
Back in her room, she paced back and forth, making her plans. It irked her to accept anything from Roman, King of Pigs, but she was in the midst of a struggle to survive, and she would have to be practical. She grabbed the largest shopping bag and filled it with some clothing and essentials.
Radinka hadn't bought anything black. Darn. She needed black stuff for her plan to work. Aha! The pants she had on last night were black. She put her old clothes back on and packed the new ones into the shopping bag. Then she put on her old white Nikes. They were best for walking.
With her purse and one shopping bag, she headed for the stairs. The guard on the fourth floor nodded at her.
She smiled. "You know, I was going to try these clothes on with.. Darcy." She lifted the shopping bag to show the guard. "But she forgot to tell me which room is hers."
"Och, the pretty lass with the blond hair." The Highlander smiled. "All the harem sleeps on the second floor."
Shanna's smile froze. Harem? Is that what they called them? She gritted her teeth. "Thank you."
She stomped down the stairs. That damned Roman. Master and his harem. How sick! On the second floor, she picked a door and went inside. There were two double beds, both slightly rumpled. It looked like Roman's harem girls had to share rooms. What a pity.
She looked in the closet. Catsuits? She couldn't fit into one of those. There! A black fishnet tunic. She slipped it over her pink T-shirt. No doubt Vanda would wear nothing under it.
She spotted a black beret and stuffed her brown hair into it. Was she disguised enough? She scanned the room. No mirrors. That was hard to believe. How could those women survive without a mirror?
In the bathroom, she located some dark red lipstick. Using a compact mirror from her purse, she put it on. She applied red eye shadow. There, she looked as creepy as they did. She picked up her shopping bag and purse and headed down the stairs.
As she reached the ground floor, she noted the parlor doors were shut. Good. The harem was closed up inside. Not that they would try to stop her from leaving. Then she spotted Connor coming from the kitchen. He'd stop her for sure.
She ran behind the grand staircase, looking for a place to hide, then noticed a narrow flight of stairs going down. The basement. Maybe there was another way out of the building from there. She reached the bottom of the stairs. There was a furnace, a washer and dryer, and a door. She opened it.
It was a large room with a pool table in the middle. A stained glass lamp hung over the pool table, its dim light illuminating the room. Exercise equipment was scattered about. Banners decorated the walls, made of plaid material with embroidered mottoes. Between the banners, swords and axes were on display. Against another wall was a leather sofa, flanked by two armchairs upholstered in red and green plaid. This had to be where the Highlanders hung out when they weren't on duty.
Shanna heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Shoot. If she left the room, they would see her. The couch was pushed against the wall - no hiding behind it. She spotted another door.
The footsteps approached. More than one person. Shanna ran for the door and slipped inside. Total darkness enveloped her. Was this a closet? She set her bag and purse on the floor by her feet. She reached out her hands but felt nothing around her.
She leaned against the door. She heard voices in the guardroom, then laughter. Finally the voices faded away. She inched open the door. The guardroom was empty, but they had turned the lights on full blast.
She picked up her bags and tiptoed from her hiding place. She glanced back to close the door and gasped. Light from the guardroom had made her hiding place slightly visible.
It couldn't be. She dropped her bags on the floor, leaned into the other room, and fumbled along the wall for a light switch. Click.
She gasped again. Her skin prickled with gooseflesh. The narrow room resembled a ghoulish dormitory with two long rows. But the rows weren't made up of beds. Oh no. These were coffins. More than a dozen coffins. All open. All empty, except for the tartan pillows and blankets inside each one.
She turned the light off and pulled the door shut. My God! It was sick! She grabbed her bags and stumbled from the guardroom. Her stomach churned. This was too much. First Roman's betrayal with those psycho women; and now coffins'? Did the Highlanders actually sleep in them? A wave of nausea surged up her throat. She swallowed hard. No, no! She would not give in to fear. Or horror. Her paradise had suddenly turned into hell, but it would not defeat her.
She was outta here.
On the ground floor, she spotted the guard at the front door. Okay, show time. She took a deep breath to calm her shaky nerves. Don't think about the coffins now. Be tough.
She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. "Bonsoir." She marched toward the front door with her bags in hand. She poured on a thick French accent. "I must go out and buy ze hair color. Simone wants ze highlights for her hair."
The guard gave her a confused look.
"You know, ze blond highlights. It is all ze h-rage!"
He frowned. "Who are you?"
"I am Simone's personal hair styliste. I am Angelique of Paris. You have heard of me, n'est-ce pas?"
He shook his head.
"Merde!" Sometimes her knowledge of foreign curses was a positive boon. And three years of French at her boarding school was a great help, too. "If I do not return wiz ze hair color, Simone will be furieuse"
The Scotsman blanched. He must have witnessed Simone throwing a hissy fit before. "I suppose ye can go out for a while. Ye know the way back, lass?"
Shanna huffed. "Do I look like an idiote?"
The Highlander ran his ID card through the machine at the door. The green light came on. He opened the door and surveyed the surroundings. "It looks fine to me, lass. When ye come back, push the button on the intercom so I can let ye back in."
"Merci bien." Shanna stepped outside and waited for the Scotsman to close the door. Whew! She waited for her heart to stop racing. She'd done it! She looked right and left. The street was quiet. A few people were strolling down the sidewalk. She hurried down the steps and took a right toward Central Park.
Behind her, a car engine started. Her heart leaped in her chest, but she kept walking. Don't look back. It's nothing.
The street lit up when the car behind her turned on its headlights. Sweat popped out on her brow. Don't look back.