Sidney Sheldon's Chasing Tomorrow(2)By: Sidney Sheldon&Tilly Bagshawe
“I have a good excuse. I was picking up your wedding present.”
“I see.” Jeff smiled back. “Well, I do like presents.”
“I know you do, darling.”
“Especially when they’re from you.”
The priest interrupted grumpily, looking at his watch. “Perhaps we could begin?”
Father Alfonso had a baptism to perform in an hour. He wished these tiresome Americans would get a move on. The explosive sexual chemistry between Jeff Stevens and Tracy Whitney made Father Alfonso deeply uncomfortable. As if he were committing a sin just by standing next to them. On the other hand, they had tipped him very handsomely for the use of the chapel at such short notice.
“So did you get it?” Jeff asked, not taking his gray eyes from Tracy’s.
“My present, of course.”
“Oh yes.” Tracy grinned. “I got it all right.”
Jeff Stevens kissed her passionately on the mouth.
Father Alfonso coughed loudly. “Please, Mr. Stevens. Restrain yourself! Estão na casa de Deus. This is a place of worship. You are not yet married.”
“Sorry.” Jeff grinned, looking anything but.
She did it. Tracy did it. She outwitted the great Maximilian Pierpont. After all these years.
Jeff Stevens gazed at his wife-to-be adoringly.
He had never loved her more.
TEN DAYS EARLIER . . .
SCHIPHOL AIRPORT, AMSTERDAM.
TRACY WHITNEY LEANED BACK in her first-class seat, number 4B, and sighed with contentment. In a few hours she would be reunited with Jeff. They would be married, in Brazil. No more capers, Tracy thought, but I won’t miss them. Life will be thrilling enough just being Mrs. Jeff Stevens.
Their last con, stealing the priceless Lucullan Diamond from the Netherlands diamond-cutting factory in Amsterdam, had been a fitting swan song. Together, Tracy and Jeff had outwitted both the Dutch police and Daniel Cooper, the dogged insurance agent who had tracked them all across Europe, in a daring and dramatic heist. We’ll never top that, thought Tracy. And we certainly don’t need any more money. It was the perfect time to retire.
A puffy, dissipated-looking middle-aged man was standing over her. He indicated the window seat. “That’s my seat, honey. Great day for a flight, huh?” There was a leer in his voice as he squeezed past her.
Tracy turned away. She had no interest in making conversation, especially with this creep.
Sitting down, her companion nudged her. “Since we’re going to be seatmates on this flight, little lady, why don’t you and I get acquainted? My name is Maximilian Pierpont.”
Tracy’s mental Rolodex whirred into action, but she displayed no visible sign of emotion.
Maximilian Pierpont. Legendary corporate raider. Buys up companies and strips them. Ruthless. Three times divorced. Owner of most valuable Fabergé egg collection outside the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
“Countess Valentina Di Sorrenti.” She offered him her hand.
“A countess, eh? Charmed.” Maximilian Pierpont pressed his lips to Tracy’s wrist. They were wet and slimy, like a toad. She forced herself to smile.
Tracy had first heard the name “Maximilian Pierpont” on board the QE2, many years before, when she and Jeff Stevens found themselves passengers on the same voyage bound for London. Jeff had been planning to rob the famously unscrupulous Pierpont, but had ended up pulling an ingenious betting scam with Tracy instead, tricking two chess grand masters into playing each other in a rigged game.
Later, Gunther Hartog had commissioned Tracy to rob Pierpont on the Orient Express train to Venice, but he never turned up.
Tracy’s beloved mother, Doris Whitney, had killed herself after a local mafioso in her native New Orleans, Joe Romano, tricked her out of her family business. Tracy’s father had spent his life building up the Whitney Automotive Parts Company. After his death, Romano raided the company, firing everybody and leaving Doris penniless.