Chapter 1

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If my sister didn't shut up soon I swear to God I was going to kill her. Forget the public pardons and private exonerations I'd received from at least twelve countries. She was seriously pushing me over the edge.

I'd been afraid once I told her my plans my sister wouldn't speak to me again. Boy, was I ever wrong? Now she just wouldn't stop talking.

I watched the eyes of my driver and armed guard, Neville in the front mirror. Oh, he was laughing at my expense too. His eyes crinkled in the corners as Rachel continued her tongue lashing. I had to cut her off soon otherwise, we really would never speak again. Ever. My emotions were fragile at best right now. One minute I could be calm and the next...well, nobody wanted to be close to me then.

I reached my limit so I bravely butted in. "Rachel, please stop. This isn't about you. Or disrespecting Mom and Dad. I need to do this. For me. Please understand that!" My guilty palm patted my chest.

Her hands lifted from her lap again in an exasperated gesture. "I just can't believe you're going back to Hawaii again. After everything that's happened!" She turned away from the window and scrutinised me. "You know Mom and Dad are gonna freak out. You've put them through hell for the last couple of months, Katie." Ah, there it was. She was good, using the familiarity psycho-babble trick. No one except my family called me Katie any more. Rachel always preferred to use endearments towards me rather than my name. "When you go I'm the one who has to pick up the pieces. Again. Can't you see that? You just got back. Why do you have to run off straight away?"

Now it was my turn to look out the window. She was right. They were going to freak out. Or not. Maybe they wouldn't bother about me going away so soon after my release. Maybe Rachel was wrong.

But I'd decided. This was something that I needed. It wasn't over yet no matter how much I wished it to be. I still had commitments that none of my family would understand. I couldn't even begin to explain that to Rachel even though I wanted to.

Having just arrived back in England three days ago from a two-month stint in an Iranian prison I craved peace and quiet more than anything, I wanted to see the ocean even if it had been primarily against my will. But that was just semantics. The beach and the sea was what I needed now. Peace and tranquillity. A lunch at my parent's house wasn't going to be peaceful at all. Rachel orchestrated it hoping to bring our family together at my time of need. But I wasn't convinced this was what I needed and she knew it. This was a bad idea on the biggest scale and I knew exactly how this would go down. Mom would ignore me, or just make banal remarks about the weather or chatter about Rachel's children. Dad would sit back and scrutinise me wondering where he'd gone so wrong. Funny that I could tell him that in two sentences.

You never loved me enough. You never cared.

Rachel was still carrying on. "And you look like shit. Just thought I'd add that."

I took a deep breath. She was right. "I know. You've told me a thousand times already."

The bandages around my wrist and knee were suddenly itchy. Rachel spent a good half hour before we left applying arnica and steroid creams to my face and body. I'd felt her shudder repeatedly as she tenderly rubbed them into my wounds and bruises trying carefully not to hurt me any more than I was.

"I'm sorry, Sweetie, that was mean of me. I shouldn't have said that," she whispered. Tears welled in her eyes again. I knew her harsh words were coated with bubble wrap. We'd spent yesterday crying and holding each other as I told her my story of the last few months. One month on assignment and then two months that had felt like two years in an 8-foot cell. Just living through yesterday had been exhausting. Getting through another week was going to feel like a marathon run.

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