When Eduardo Montenegro lost his wife to murder, he took his revenge on the family business, leaving nothing but a broken empire and a crooked lawsuit as his daughter’s legacy. Now, it’s up to Carol to figure out how to fix it–and how much she’s willing to sacrifice doing it.
Set between a stunning seaside resort in southern England and Rio de Janeiro, this is a tension gripping thriller filled with sweet, heartwarming romance
Lurking under the shadow of a tree and the mouth of a nearby alleyway, they watched. Another jogged nearby, but the blonde with the short bob never noticed her stalkers. She hadn’t paid them any attention for the five weeks they’d been following her.
Within two of those five weeks, they’d gathered all the information there was to have about her wretched existence. She lived alone in a small house at the foot of a hill, at the very edge of a favela. Every morning, just before dawn, she turned on the lights, even on weekends. She went out for a run fifteen minutes after that and came back forty minutes later. Set her coffee to brew while she showered, and had her breakfast watching the morning news.
At exactly seven-thirty every morning, she left for work, came back around five, give or take a few minutes. Every Friday evening, she went grocery shopping, and never left the house on weekends, preferring to clean and bake as she listened to crappy music. She wasn’t friends with her neighbors, wasn’t seeing anyone, had no family who lived nearby. Aside from her boring routines, her stalkers knew everything else about her—her forgettable name, Maria da Silva, her date of birth, her identity card number, her last three addresses, even the meager savings she had in her account. She was less than ordinary, had nothing worth to write home about. Not that she had anyone to write to. Her parents were both deceased and her only sibling, an estranged brother, lived far south at the border with Uruguay.
They knew that if Maria was to disappear, only her employer would notice, and that only because she’d fail to arrive in the morning.
On Mondays and Thursdays, she’d come to the park and, per her employer’s instructions, stay for an hour and a half. She took her job as a nanny seriously enough not to befriend any of the regulars, so she wouldn’t be distracted from her charges. She’d arrive at ten o’clock in the morning, depending on traffic, and pack up and leave at eleven-thirty.
Today was Monday, three minutes past ten, and there she was, like clockwork. The jogger adjusted his course to cross by the bench where she usually sat. He’d been here doing laps every day for over a month, no delay, no excuses. The regulars had seen him enough times that they stopped seeing him. The guy at the mouth of the alley left his post for the first time since he began his surveillance.
Today was the day. Her stalkers were nervous and giddy with excitement; everything was going according to plan.
They’ve been riling her for two nights in a row. Yesterday, they broke her front window by throwing rocks. Tonight, they threw a bunch of firecrackers in her garbage bin—the racket had been so loud, even the neighbors woke up. The police questioned everyone, determined that kids had caused the prank, but they’d accomplished their goal. The dark shadows under her eyes and the inward curve of her shoulders confirmed she hadn’t gotten much sleep. After the police left, her stalkers tampered some more.
Her electricity was off, so she had to forgo her shower and coffee. Her front tire had been low, so she took the bus to work, and for the first time in three years, arrived late.
Fifteen minutes after she arrived at the park, she sat on the cement bench—another of her routines—where she watched the three-year-old children alternate between the glider and a swing. The guy from the alleyway approached, thrust an ancient-looking map at her and asked for directions to a non-existent business near the city center, startling her. Unfamiliar with the lines of a map, she pulled out her phone, surprised to find she had no internet connection. The jogger, cute little poodle in tow, began his fifth journey by the park. As expected, the little boy jumped off the swing and dashed to pet the dog, the same as he’d been doing for weeks. His nanny half stood, caught sight of the familiar short, generic jogger patiently jogging in place as the boy showered the dog with attention, and sat back again.
She searched for the little girl, found her playing with two other familiar boys, and returned her full attention to the map and the squiggly lines, clearly trying to make sense of it. The moment she looked away, the jogger put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, stinging him, signaling the all-clear for the woman standing in the shadow of the tree. When the nanny next checked on the boy, there was no one there. Had she looked behind her, she’d have seen the woman, dressed in similar attire as her black slacks and a crisp white button-down, and a blonde wig the same color and length as her hair, pushing a stroller away from the park, perhaps even recognized the boy’s red shoe peeking out.
Instead, the nanny glanced to the left, found the jogger sprinting away, dog in tow, no child. She glanced next at the playground, found the redhead girl still playing with the two boys, searched the swings, the gliders, the seesaws. But the boy with the dark mane of hair was nowhere to be seen. Rudely dismissing the man still asking for a better route to his destination, the nanny got up to search for the little boy, now being placed on the backseat of an unremarkable vehicle, just across the street from the park.
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