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The Highlands, June
Deep in a cave . . .
Elena Griffin adjusted her helmet while praying the LED light atop it didn’t go out. She wasn’t the adventurous, adrenaline junkie kind, but when her new boss told her they were going caving, there wasn’t much Elena could do but go along with it.
“This will be fun,” Sloan said with a wide grin.
Elena forced a smile and projected confidence she didn’t feel. “Of course.”
She’d done many things while growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, but caving wasn’t one of them. Something about the dark, musty place wasn’t somewhere she wanted to be.
Everything in her told her it was a bad idea. No matter Elena’s objections, Sloan had shown her the safety equipment, as well as how to use it, and assured her everything was going to be fine.
“I’ve been caving for years, Elena. I’ve been wanting to explore these caves for some time now, and it’s the perfect opportunity.”
“Did you get the go-ahead from the landowners?” Elena asked as she felt the thick rope and carabineers at her side. Mentally she went through how to use them, trying to become familiar in case something unexpected happened.
Despite Sloan showing her the Italian hitch knot at least three dozen times, Elena hadn’t been able to get the hang of it, and all she could pray for was that their lives didn’t depend on her tying a knot.
“What the Dreagans don’t know won’t hurt them,” Sloan said in her cheery British accent. She winked at Elena. “Get that American ass moving!”
Elena watched Sloan walk into the cave. This was Elena’s last chance to turn back, to tell Sloan to forget it. But this new job was everything she’d spent the last six years of her life working toward.
So what if she had to spend a day in a cave to cement her relationship with Sloan. It was worth it to finally be in London, to finally be climbing that ladder of success that had always seemed out of reach.
She took a deep, fortifying breath and followed Sloan.
The warm fleece hoodie she wore over her long-sleeve shirt didn’t stop the damp from settling into her bones almost instantly. It was going to take Elena a while before she got used to the cold, especially the damp cold of Scotland. In summer.
The only thing she could be happy about was knowing that she wouldn’t be staying in Scotland for long.
Since Elena knew nothing of caving, she’d done some research in the early hours of the morning when she should have been sleeping. She knew they should have at least four members to their party, but Sloan had assured her they’d be gone only a few hours and would be fine with just the two of them.
Elena didn’t exactly want to start off her new job by questioning everything Sloan said. Still, the fact of it was that it was just the two of them. And it worried the hell out of her.
That and they were on private property.
She ducked her head, thankful for the hard hat as she managed to hit a low-hanging rock with enough force that it made her take a step back.
Elena knew of Dreagan. The scotch distillery was famous all across Britain, as well as being one of the nation’s oldest distilleries.
Dreagan Industries was known to be highly private. Only the CEO, a man named Constantine, was known to the public. No last name, just Constantine. He was the face of Dreagan, though no actual face of Constantine had ever been photographed. Back through the years, it was only the person running Dreagan who was ever named.
Which was more than odd, Elena thought. Finding photos of past managers/CEOs had been impossible.
“Watch your knee,” Sloan called over her shoulder.
Elena looked up the same time she slammed her knee into a boulder. She grabbed the injured leg and bit back a string of curses. Her hatred of the cave was growing with every bump and bruise littering her body.
Sloan laughed. “You won’t offend me. Let loose with a fuck every now and again. I do,” she said and winked.
Elena found herself smiling despite the pain. She really was going to have to pay attention. Her mind needed to be on the cave and where she was putting her hiking-boot-clad feet or she might find herself dead.
“Take heed, Elena,” Sloan said, seriousness deepening her voice. “We need to stay focused. This is fun, but it can also be dangerous.”
“No kidding,” Elena said under her breath.
The light on her helmet was trained on Sloan. There was no way Elena was going to let her out of her sight. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in this hellish place alone.
“Tell me again why we’re on Dreagan land?”
Sloan chuckled, the sound bouncing off the cave walls. “Because it’s one of the best caves in Britain, and because they don’t want us here.”
Elena could imagine Scotland Yard waiting for them when they came out of the cave. “And you aren’t worried about what will happen if they find out?”
“They won’t find out. Trust me.”
Trust. Elena had no choice but to trust Sloan. “Shouldn’t we leave like a trail or something?”
Sloan’s laugh was loud and long. “Ah, you Americans. I didn’t realize you played it so safe, not after how you worked to get here. I thought this would be right up your alley.”
Elena rolled her eyes and sighed. “Nope, definitely not up my alley. Seriously, Sloan. How will we find our way back?”
“I’ve been looking back every now and again to make sure I know where we’re at. I’ve gotten lost in a cave before, so I make sure I can get out now.”
“Wonderful,” Elena murmured.
The farther she went into the dark cave, the more she knew the outing was a terrible idea. But she continued to follow Sloan. Crawling, sliding, climbing, and ducking her way deeper and deeper into the mountain.
And farther away from sunlight and fresh air.