The Drafter Page 130

Her psyche had been tampered with so badly that what should have been an easily handled draft had pushed her over the edge. She’d been in the first stages of catastrophic memory-eclipsed paranoia, totally losing it, and Silas had not only stopped it dead in its tracks, but returned her memory. He was good. Really good. And she couldn’t stop thinking about him and those few moments they’d shared at the ballpark.

Eyes opening, Peri scanned the dimly lit, luxurious wine-tasting den past her iron-barred door. She hadn’t seen Jack since Silas’s defrag. Maybe she didn’t need him anymore. She’d never felt so much at peace, even if her life was falling apart. Again.

The distant sound of the elevator pulled her straight. Dampening the flash of adrenaline, she steadied herself. It would’ve been helpful to have known that Silas was currently on the outs with the alliance, but even so, she doubted his accommodations were as severe as hers. As it stood, her next move hinged on whether he had told the alliance that she had a radioactive tag, shining like a lighthouse to draw Opti in. That she could hear the muted sounds of people gathering above her made her tend to believe he hadn’t.

She had no doubt that Opti was going to track her down through her new radioactive beacon, and she was still trying to decide if she was going to warn the alliance about it or not. Much depended on whether they trusted her. She wanted out, but if they weren’t going to give her asylum, she’d be better off with Opti, where she’d have a chance to run.

Another metallic thump, and Peri twitched, cracking an eye as she sat in a lotus position. But her eyes opened wide when she recognized the feminine voice raised in demand as Taf’s, the young woman who had been with Silas at Eastown. The daughter of the head of the alliance.

“You’ve checked me twice. Will you back off. It’s not like you can bake a file into a batch of muffins. I didn’t even make them. Gawd!”

The clatter of heels on flagstone vanished as Taf and two security suits strode into the carpeted wine-tasting den. Taf had a bundle of clothes in one hand, a covered basket in the other. “Lights up!” she demanded, and the dim lighting brightened against the rich décor, silent black flat screen, and informal seating around a central gas fireplace. “Make yourselves at home, gentlemen,” she said, pointing at the white couches. “Munchies are at the bar.”

“Ma’am,” the one with glasses protested, and Taf jerked to a stop.

“Look, Brian,” she intoned, glaring at them both until they fidgeted in their black suits. “I don’t care if you sit or stand, but you will back off. I have ten minutes, and I don’t want you hanging like vultures.”

Peri could smell muffins, and her stomach growled.

“Yes, ma’am. Five minutes.”

“Ten minutes,” the blond womanprotested even as she came forward. “She can’t eat in five minutes. You tell my mom they can wait. These things never start on time anyway. Someone always forgets about the time zones and they have to be tracked down.”

Still sitting behind the barred door, Peri watched the woman drop the clothes on a nearby table so she could push one of the chairs around to face her. Only now did Taf’s bluster falter as she stood before her with the basket of muffins, and Peri cringed inside at her look of hopeful expectation, hope that Peri might remember something they’d once shared, something that was important but that she’d forgotten. “Ah, hi. Are you hungry?” the woman asked hesitantly.

Peri got up, her muscles chilled from the cold floor. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember you. It’s Taf, right?”

“Don’t worry about it. Most of my friends don’t remember our nights out, either.” Pinky in the air, she pantomimed sipping wine from a nonexistent glass. “Here. Fresh this morning.”

Taf paused at the bars, then tilted the basket so it would fit between. Peri took it, the warmth through the wicker and linen liner pleasant on her fingers. “Thanks. If it helps, I know that I like you, even if I don’t know why.” Her lips quirked at the muffins. “And it has nothing to do with you bringing me breakfast. Emotions linger when events don’t.” Chuckling, she took a bite, adding, “Why am I feeling as if it has something to do with my mom?”

Beaming now, Taf sat forward on the plush white chair, the picture of wealth and privilege as her perfectly styled hair bumped about her shoulders. “I can answer that. Both our moms are control freaks. We met at a horse event. You were asking for help to rescue Silas from Opti so he could defrag some information, and my mother tried to exchange you for him instead. Howard and I rammed the van you were in to get you free. I thought that was going to be the end of it, but when you went off to rescue Silas, we came along to help.”

The cranberries were almost burning hot, and Peri swallowed fast, enjoying their tangy sweetness. “Silas said there was a gun involved?”

Taf nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes. I got to shoot someone in the foot and drive the getaway car. I, ah, brought you a change of clothes,” she said as she glanced at the guards. “They should fit.”

Peri set the basket down, wiping her fingers on her pants before reaching for the bundle. “Thank you!”

“There’s an athletic body wipe in there, too,” Taf said, looking eager to help. “I’ve used them before in a pinch. They’re almost as good as a shower.” She turned to the guards playing with the fireplace, turning it off and on with their voice commands. “Big strong men afraid to let you shower!”

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