Feeling that she has no other choice, Jayne Clark trusts her instincts and takes the blackmail problem into her own hands. As she chases the criminal all over Europe, her business partner, Beatrice, becomes increasingly angry with her for not shouldering her share of the responsibility at the restaurant. Jayne feels tremendous pressure preparing the grand opening, searching for the blackmailer at the same time and trying to keep her fractured relationship with Robert intact. Is she really ‘losing it' under the all the stress, or—as unlikely as it seems—is she on the right track?
“Un momento,” the waiter said sympathetically. “I ask-a somebody for ‘elp who speak good English.”
He vanished into the cafe, and she heard raised voices talking in almost superhuman speed.
A moment later, the man returned with a short, heavyset man in a cowboy hat.
“You want go Nahunta?”
“No, I want to go to Cunheira.”
“No, you want go to Nahunta.”
“No, I want to go to Cunheira.”
The man in the cowboy hat gave a shrug. “Nahunta, Cunheira, same thing.”
Jayne frowned. “How can they be the same place?”
The man shrugged again and nodded to one of the pickup trucks. “I can take you most way there.”
She looked at the truck. “Cunheira…?”
He smiled. “Sí, Cunheira.”
Jayne felt a little uneasy. She looked him over—the man was clean and relatively well dressed, in jeans and a checkered shirt. He had a pen and sunglasses sticking out of his pocket. She could see a beaded wooden crucifix hanging from the rear view mirror. He seemed relatively harmless.
“How much?” Jayne said.
He waved his hand, “I no taxi, I take you there free, on way to my farm.”
Jayne hesitated, and he shrugged and went over to the truck and climbed in.
She quickly left enough money on the table to pay for her food, grabbed her carry on, and hoisted it into the back of the truck before the man could get back out and help her.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later the truck was winding through the lush green foothills outside of Astorga on a two-lane highway. The town’s Santa Maria Cathedral, which Jayne had read about online, was now occasionally visible in the distance on the right-hand side of the road—apparently it was the main tourist attraction here, a gigantic baroque structure with a number of spires and towers.
The man in the cowboy hat, whose name Jayne learned was Horacio, had switched on the truck’s radio. Spanish folk music was blaring over the speakers. He drove fast, as if he was late for something, and kept glancing at his watch.
“Why you want go to Nahunta?” he said.
“Cunheira,” she corrected.
“Sí.” Horacio glanced at her clothes and espadrilles. “You do not seem like type.”
Type? she thought. She supposed he meant he didn’t look like a hiker. She told him the same lie that she’d given the waiter about being an archaeology graduate student.
“Ah,” he said, nodding. “Ruins, I seen them up there.” He laughed. “We have such ruins everywhere in Spain! We pay them no attention.”
Suddenly he slowed and turned down a dirt road that began to climb much more steeply, avoiding potholes, the interior of the vehicle rattling, the crucifix swinging wildly. “Matías good man. He take you to Na—Cunheira.” Horacio motioned helplessly. “My truck cannot go there, not possible.”
“I see,” Jayne said. She supposed that Matías had an SUV or a jeep.
They continued around several craggy hills covered in scrub and finally came to a stop in front of a makeshift trailer, made of rusted aluminum. The area around it was scattered with junk—old washing machines, refrigerators, barrels, plastic water jugs, an old mattress…
The driver got out of the truck, grabbed Jayne’s carry-on from the back, and they walked through the dirt up to the entrance, the door hanging a little askew.
“Matías!” Horacio screamed at the top of his lungs. “Matías!”
They entered the shack, which was dimly lit inside. Jayne could hear what she thought were chickens clucking somewhere out back.
A rail thin man with a scraggly beard, about thirty, wandered inside from that direction, his dirty hand grasping a bottle of wine by the neck. Shirtless, he wore a pair of ragged trousers and was barefoot.
He squinted at them in the dim light, then let out a belch that Jayne could smell from where she stood.
“She want-a go Nahunta!” Horacio shouted. His voice was so loud that Jayne jumped.
“Sorry,” Horacio said to Jayne and pointed at his own ear. “Matías cannot hear so good.”
Matías squinted at her, glanced down at her clothes, and looked back at Horacio. He took a swig of the wine, then asked a question in Spanish.
Horacio motioned to her. “He wants to know if you brought your own donkey?”
Jayne laughed. “No, I left him at home.”
Neither man cracked a smile.
Matías reluctantly set the wine bottle down on a table and motioned for Jayne to follow him outside. They were soon standing out in the bright sunshine again, passing through a clucking flock of chickens, and went around the corner, where two gray donkeys were tied to a tree.
“Are you kidding me?” Jayne said, looking at Horacio.
He pointed his brown hand up the boulder-strewn slope of the mountain. “Only possible go up Nahunta by donkey, cannot drive. Matías take you there, no problem.”
(Book 6 will release on the 14th of November. You can pre-order it here.)