500

By Zoë Spencer

When she isn’t riding her horses or working on a cruise liner, Zoë writes mostly YA. We persuaded her to try something a little more adult. We think she did rather well. Here’s the first chapter of her story 500 which will be appearing in the Pankhearst #FemNoir Sampler Cars And Girls a little later this year.

Two bulky men in expensive suits flanked Emily as she hurried out of the white stucco townhouse. They ushered her towards a waiting Mercedes Benz. Her dress rode up as she slipped into the backseat.

A black car. A black dress. A flash of elegant thigh clad in expensive black silk.

Neither man noticed her legs. They were too busy searching for threats.

Matthew Adams was waiting inside the car. Bigger than his colleagues and more exquisitely tailored, he had been her father’s chief of security. The smile on his fleshy face said he enjoyed the view. She grinned and slid across the seat towards him.

“I never did get the hang of getting into a car without giving the paps a little something-something.”

He laughed, then spoke across her to the driver. “Jonesy, whenever you’re ready.”

The engine started and the lights came on. Emily watched her bodyguards make a final sweep of the street. They had been with her for a week and she still knew nothing about them except they played defense with predators’ eyes. Victor Lowndes joined her in the backseat. Mark Chester walked around to ride shotgun. Both men rested their pistols on their legs.

Adams slipped his own gun out of his shoulder holster and gave Jonesy the word. The word was “Go.”

The driver eased the car away from the curb and guided them north through Belgravia. When they turned west onto Pont Street, Emily broke the silence.

“Well, this is cozy.”

Jonesey and Chester smiled. Adams laughed again. Lowndes showed no reaction, which was typical of him. Not one of them turned to look at her. They were focused on their job and the streets.

It was barely five in the morning – little traffic and few pedestrians. The big car was heavily armored and the glass bullet-proof, but after the murder of Emily’s father, Adams was entirely risk averse.

“Any sign of a tail?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Jonesy replied. “Far as I can see. I’ll circle around Cadogan to make sure.”

Halfway around the square, Adams told the driver to hit the brakes. They sat in the road, surrounded by tall redbrick buildings, while he counted slowly to twenty. Nothing moved except a cat and the wind through the trees.

“OK. Let’s be on our way.”

On the Westway, Jonesy opened up the massively powerful engine and the big Benz responded with enthusiasm. Emily and her protectors arrived at Farnborough Airport no more than an hour after leaving the house on Gerald Road. She wondered if she’d see her home again.

Jonesy drove straight onto the tarmac. This time, even Adams missed out on Emily’s legs. He and Chester stood guard while Lowndes bustled her up the steps. She was already settling into a white leather armchair when the two men appeared in the cabin. After a last glance outside, Chester worked the lever that pulled up the airstair, sealing the door.

“Buckle up, your ladyship,” Adams told Emily. “A quick word with the pilot and we’ll be off.”

The jet taxied towards the runway. Emily peered out into the dawn. The Mercedes was pulling away. There was no one else to be seen, but she knew they would be there. The rising sun cast long mysterious shadows and the fir trees lining the airfield became accusing fingers on the grass.

The jet sat stationary on the runway when Adams reappeared. “May I join you, your ladyship?”

That was twice. “I’m not a lady, Matt. You know better than that. And don’t be silly, of course you can join me.”

The big man sank into the chair opposite and sighed. “This is one of the best things money can buy.”

He was right, but Emily wasn’t in the mood to celebrate her wealth. “So tell me, what’s going on?”

“Our pilot filed a flight plan for Geneva. He’s submitting an amendment right now. We’re going to Bergamo instead. If Edbrooke knew you were flying out this morning, well … there’s no way he could move his men to Lombardy in time.”

Although she nodded in approval, Emily lacked Adams’ confidence. Edbrooke would find a way. He always did.

The engines roared and the jet leapt forward down the runway. She closed her eyes and gripped the arms of her chair. When they leveled out several minutes later, she opened them again and picked up their conversation as if she’d never put it down.

“And in Bergamo?”

“A Range Rover is waiting to take you to the villa. Vic and Mark will go along, of course, and I’ve arranged for some local heavies to come up from Milan to guard the walls and dock.”

“Can we trust them, these local heavies?”

“They come highly recommended, so maybe.” He shrugged. “Or maybe not. But no matter what, you can trust Vic and Mark with your life.”

“Which is lucky – in the circs.” Emily couldn’t stop her sudden yawn. How long had it been since she’d slept properly? “I think I’m going to try to get some rest. Wake me when it’s time?”

“Of course.”

They were high above the Alps when he woke her. Snow-covered peaks spread out beneath the jet like an ocean caught in time. “I thought you’d like to meet our co-pilot.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

The girl who came down the aisle could no more fly than Emily but she made her pilot’s uniform look good. Dark blue trousers. Flat black pumps. A crisp white shirt with golden epaulettes. She carried the matching jacket to her trousers.

“Ma’am.” The girl nodded respectfully. “I’m ready whenever you are.”

Emily studied her stand-in. A little younger, maybe twenty-five, but the same fine ash blonde hair and arctic blue-grey eyes. Even her cheekbones would pass. At a distance.

“How tall are you?”

“Five seven. Same as you.”

Adams grinned. The cat that got the cream. “She wears the same dress size too. You could be sisters.”

Emily peered into the other’s eyes. “Contacts?”

“My eyes? No, your ladyship, I came by them honestly.”

Ladyship? The girl had been talking to Adams. “I’m not a ladyship.”

“But your father was a lord?”

“A viscount. That makes me an Honourable, not a Lady.” She accentuated her pristine blue blood accent. “I’m the Honourable. Emily. Maltravers. If you really must. But everyone who knows me calls me Em.”

“I’m Sally.” The girl put her jacket down on an empty chair and began to unbutton her shirt.

“Em.”

They exchanged a smile, and Adams laughed again. Chester and Lowndes took pains to turn away as Sally disrobed. Adams watched with frank appreciation. Somehow his openness made his lechery almost endearing. Amusing, anyway. Emily shot him a knowing glance and stood, reaching for the zipper on her dress.

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