The following is an unedited preview of my upcoming novel Rachel’s Peril, the first novel in the Rachel’s Peril Trilogy. For more information about the book and more chapters, please check out the Rachel’s Peril page!
Chapter 1, Part 3. Andrea.
As always, Baltimore-Washington International airport was a chaotic mess of people. Andrea moved through the crowds, grateful that she finally shook Hairy Chest at Customs. Her U.S. Passport took her into a separate line, and that was all it took. Now, as she walked to the ground transportation area to catch her ride, she also kept an eye out for his return. Her backback was slung over her shoulder and she wheeled a larger suitcase behind her.
The terminal smelled like machine oil and body odor, and every few minutes overhead speakers burst out in mechanical sounding voices making announcements in half a dozen languages. Finally she found her way to the baggage carousel. Her last two flights into Washington, DC had taken her through Dulles airport, and her unfamiliarity with this one made everything just a little bit more difficult.
On top of that, her mobile wouldn’t boot back up. The black screen mocked her repeated attempts to turn it on. She supposed the battery was dead, but now, once she found her luggage, she was going to have to find a pay phone. If such a thing even still existed.
Finally. Ahead, near the taxi entrance, a man stood holding an iPad with the name “Andrea Thompson” showing in glowing white letters.
“Hello!” she called, waving to the man. He was tall, in his mid-thirties, with a blonde crewcut and blue eyes. He didn’t look like a limo driver… he looked like a bodyguard.
Of course, if Julia had sent him, he might well be a bodyguard.
“I’m Andrea,” she said.
He flashed a mouthful of glowing white teeth at her. “Nice to meet ya, Miss Thompson. I’m Dan. This way to the car… you got any luggage? Just that?”
He reached out a hand and took her suitcase. She turned to follow him, then said, “Wait…” and walked, slowly toward the newspaper stand next to the exit.
The Washington Post was displayed prominently, and caught her eye, because her father’s photograph was splashed across the cover. The headline was a shock. Ambassador Thompson tapped for Defense Secretary.
She didn’t realize her father was planning to come out of retirement. And Secretary of Defense?
The driver—Dan—paused, failing to hide his irritation. Andrea shrugged. That didn’t matter to her. And what was the idea of sending a driver to pick her up anyway? She wasn’t close to her family, but it felt awfully impersonal to send a hired driver.
Then again, her mother was probably there.
Andrea pulled the top paper off the stack and handed over her debit card, hoping it would work in the United States. She held her breath for a moment. It did. Then she turned and followed Dan to a black Lincoln Town Car. He opened the back door and she slid inside. The back seat was wide, leather. Cool and comfortable. A moment later the car shuddered as he tossed her bag into the trunk and closed it.
As he slid into his seat, she said, “Do you have a USB phone charger? Mine’s dead.”
Dan grunted, then leaned over and dug in the glove box. “I’ve got one, but the only plug is up here.”
“Do you mind plugging this in?” she asked, then passed her phone forward.
A horn honked somewhere behind them. Dan glanced in the rear view mirror. For a second she thought she saw a flash of worry in his eyes, but it was gone as quick as it came. Then he looked away, and put the car in gear.
Where the car sat now, it was dim, one or more layers of road and parking deck above them. Taxicabs and shuttle busses surrounded them, the sound of horns and engines overriding everything except the occasional jet engine, the smell of diesel fumes heavy in the air. She was glad the window was up as she leaned back in her seat and said, “How long will it take to get to Bethesda from here?”
The driver shrugged. “Depends on traffic.”
She tensed up. At the very end of the ground transportation area stood Hairy Chest. His eyes were scanning the traffic, looking for his ride. He didn’t have any bags, just a small backpack. Odd for an international flight. At least she was done with him. She leaned forward in her seat a little to look at her phone, laying on the dashboard. It hadn’t taken enough of a charge to start yet.
Dan muttered, “Can you sit back please.” Then she jerked in her seat as he suddenly swing the car over to the curb, directly in front of Hairy Chest.
Before she could speak or say anything, Hairy Chest opened the door and jumped into the front passenger seat. “What the hell?” she cried, reaching for the door handle.
It pulled, but the door didn’t open. She yanked at it again, as Hairy Chest said, “Go!”
Dan, the driver, hit the gas, the car accelerating rapidly away from the airport.