Nicola tried to peek at the screen. “Why do you keep looking at—”
“Hush a minute.”
John's thoughtful expression surely hid a cagey scheme. He had made Christa’s life hell recently over negotiating the divorce. But despite the cold fingers of doubt tightening around her, Nicola didn’t have a choice but to listen to him.
Feet shuffled in the kitchen.
“Damn. They must have house keys.” John’s nostrils flared as he breathed in heavily. "Coming in here was a bad idea. I’ve got a feeling they already know the entry code.”
“W-what?” Her thoughts whirled in panic.
“They know every inch of this place. We should move."
“We don’t have time!” Her vision blurred with tears. “They’re already in the house.” If John was also a bad guy, she’d jumped from one devil’s clutch to another. “Oh, god, they’re gonna find us and kill us.”
“Shut up. Let me think. Grab anything we can use as a weapon.” John grabbed Nicola’s hand and led her quickly and quietly around the edges of the room. “How do I phone or email out on this thing?” he muttered.
Nicola picked up an extension lead thinking she could swing the hard end at her attackers' heads. She stayed close behind John, relieved that the carpet softened their steps, but petrified the men would blast through the door any second.
“So long as the lights are off, we should be okay.” John slid along the right wall, computer tablet in hand as though using it as guidance. “Over there.” He pulled her to the full-length window seat on the far wall. He lifted the cushioned lid, emptied out some magazines from inside, then pointed down. “Get in.”
“In there?" she squeaked out. "This is your amazing plan?”
He cocked his head. “Got a better one?”
The front door was locked and bolted. Her keys were in the kitchen. No time to run upstairs. “Guess not.” Nicola climbed inside. She molded herself into what felt like a narrow curved coffin, on top of cables and books, silently cursing.
“Which way did they go?” a man’s voice rasped from the hall that she didn’t recognise.
“Check downstairs. I’ll search upstairs,” another replied, more muffled and Nicola strained to hear. “And you... Run... and check the feed. See if you can spot... This is a bloody mess and it needs sorting.”
Footsteps, centred in the hall, thumped away in three different directions.
"Scoot down." John climbed in after Nicola, tossed a magazine on top of the lid and pulled it closed. He lay squashed against Nicola, thighs in a spooning position.
“Where’s your phone? Call the cops,” Nicola whispered.
“I left it in my car in case...”
“Nice one,” she muttered, irritated.
The office door rattled and a light clicked.
“Shush,” John whispered.
Hell. John is right about them knowing the code.
A set of footsteps tapped, barely audible, into the room and began walking the perimeter.
Nicola tensed and held her breath. Whoever was hunting her down passed by the window seat because the curtain scraped on its pole above. Every muscle bunched. She lay beneath John in the soft glow of the tablet, shaking and twitching with every footstep. Her shoulder jutted up against the metal pins of a wall plug. John's chest heaved against the small of her back.
Nicola wished she had stayed in the car with Brian and Christa, rather than play cupid and be so foolishly vain.
Cupboards rattled in the office.
What were they looking for? Documents? Money? Computers?
Sweating and shaking in equal measures, laying in silence in the confined space, Nicola tried to get her brain in gear. Perhaps this was just a robbery gone wrong, a second attempt like Christa had feared. But what on earth was on the tablet computer that had freaked John out so much?