Pregnancy of Revenge(61)

By: Jacqueline Baird

Quietly she spoke to him, telling him to be brave, to stay calm and do exactly as she said, and prayed he understood.

Jake swore violently as he gunned the Ferrari through the wide-open security gates. What the hell was the point of paying for security if they left the damn gates wide open? Someone would pay for this, he thought savagely as he stopped the car with a spin of wheels outside the house. He didn't actually know what he was doing back in Italy when he had meetings lined up in Japan. But ever since yesterday, when Charlotte had quietly put the phone down on him, he had had an irrational need to see her again. Charlotte was feisty and sometimes furious, but never apathetic. Something was definitely wrong. He had ordered the jet and flown straight back to Italy, and now as he marched up the steps he was sure of it.

The great double doors were wide open. Dio! Please, no, Charlotte, he prayed as he stormed through the house calling her name. Run away, kidnapped or worse—he didn't know; he just knew he had to have her back.

Pain squeezed his chest. How could he have been so stupid? He, Jake d'Amato, head of an international company and renowned for his business acumen, his ability to make the right decisions, his rapier-like intelligence, hadn't been able to protect his wife of barely two weeks.

Entering the kitchen, he saw the open exit door, and walked back outside and around to the back of the house. He saw Marco and the security guard staring at the cliff through a red haze of rage and strode purposefully towards them.

'What the hell do you think you are doing?' he roared at Marco, and froze when they pointed to the cliff, with a gesture of silence.

As if in slow motion he glanced up and the sight that met his eyes made the blood freeze in his veins. Charlotte, his Charlotte, was suspended halfway up the cliff. He dashed to the base of the cliff, scrabbled for a handhold, anything. But strong hands hauled him back telling him it was useless—he was too big and too late, the signora was almost there, and he had to be quiet.

Wild-eyed he looked at them and back at Charlotte. He opened his mouth to yell he would kill her for being so stupid, and closed it again as it struck him like a knife in the gut that she was in grave danger of doing that for herself.

'No. Dio, no,' he groaned and watched, his heart in his throat, as her lithe body moved closer to the young boy. He saw her straddle him and her fingers grip the ledge. He saw her hesitate and then her toes sought a firmer hold and in that moment he guessed what she was going to do. He wanted to scream and yell at her not to be so foolish, and, God help him, he didn't care if Aldo made it; all he cared about was Charlotte.

He didn't hear the sirens; he was deaf and blind to everything in the world except Charlotte. For the first time in his adult life he was utterly powerless. Neither his strength nor his wealth could do anything about the tableau unfolding before his eyes. He saw her slender figure tauten and the breath stopped in his lungs as she let go with one hand and reached an arm around the young boy's waist. Ashen- faced, he watched. He felt the strain, the agony she must be feeling with every cell in his body, and he saw her with superhuman strength haul them both onto the ledge.

But it wasn't over yet. Suddenly he was aware of the police cars and the specialist fire appliance, the men all around him, and furiously he berated everyone in sight for their tardiness while scarcely taking his eyes off the ledge.

When it was decided the fire crane was the safest option, he demanded to be the one to go up in the cradle.

'No, sir,' the fire chief told him. 'Only an experienced operative is allowed—'

Jake didn't wait to hear the rest, and moved impetuously forward. A bunch of officers grabbed him. He lashed out wildly and managed to throw them off, but he was too late. The cradle with a fireman on board was winging skyward.

Cold terror gripped him, and he stood frozen to the spot as the rescue cradle was inched higher and higher.

Charlotte lay back on the hard rock fighting to breathe, her arm firmly around Aldo. She felt him squirm and cry. 'No, don't move,' she rasped, and tucked him gingerly into the curve of her shoulder, closed her eyes, and said a quiet prayer of thanks.

When she opened them she gave a sigh of relief. A metal cradle with a man on board was gingerly edging towards the ledge. Aldo moved and she tightened her hold on him.