Catching Smoke: Ch. 2

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Emma Whittaker was bored. She was used to people throwing galas in her honor, falling down and kissing her pedicured toes, worshiping her every movement, and most of all, trying pathetically to become her best friend. She was too used to it. 

Which was why she had taken on the remarkable identity of Monique Francesca Delvaux without anyone so much as blinking with disbelief as she strutted around in French designer gowns, speaking fluent French when necessary and taking on a snobbish French accent when it wasn’t. However, she was coming to the almost painful realization that Monique Francesca Delvaux lived almost too boring and predictable of a life. She went to the galas thrown in her honor, she sipped champagne, she participated in idle, boring gossip, and she stayed clear of girls with backstabbing potential and men with heartbreaking capabilities which pretty much left her alone, wealthy, and worshipped, but still incredibly alone. Usually, the identities she took on had more flair, and were waist-deep in scandal which is really how she had been able to come into so much money. Bribes, blackmail, and even a pathetically generous “donation” could get her any amount of cash she desired.

Monique’s story was less intriguing: a hefty inheritance from her French-royalty and incredibly estranged father. It had seemed like fun at first, but now Emma was feeling stuck. How could she break the mold of Miss Prim and Proper and In-No-Need-For-Money to make things interesting again? While it was always fun living the life of someone else, Emma was ready to shed the mold of Monique and take on someone with a bit more spark. But how? When scandal wasn’t much of an option, how could Monique disappear without a trace?

“Thinking of fleeing already?” 

The mocking male voice took Emma by surprise, but she was able to collect herself before lifting her chin to meet the gaze of the man standing before her. From her poised position on the stiff chaise longue Emma immediately sized the man up. He stood at an incredible height that was almost terrifying with the kind of build that Emma could tell was drool-worthy despite the navy suit he was wearing, the sleeves of his suit jacket cutting off just above his wrists and his trousers barely covering his ankles. His sandy blonde hair was clipped close to his head, and his clean-shaven face brought attention to the strong, definition of his godlike facial features. He was such a poster boy for perfection, she wanted to slap herself for imagining those succulent lips of his meeting with hers when her electric-green eyes made contact with the ocean-blue color of his own. He had heartbreak written all over him.

“Excusez-moi?” Emma asked innocently, flashing the man a perfect Monique smile.

“You heard me.” The man said, grinning mockingly back at her. “I’m just curious. What identity do you plan to take on this time?”

“I don’t believe I have any idea what you are talking about Mr...?”

“Oh sure you do, Miss Whittaker. Or should I call you Ms. Delvaux? I’d really hate to blow your cover, although by that look on your face, and considering your past stolen identities, I would assume you won’t be masquerading as Ms. Monique Delvaux for much longer. A girl like you needs a little more excitement in her life, correct?”

Emma fought the gasp that rose in her throat as well as the millions of questions that popped into her head. Who was this man? How did he know her real name? How did he know about her? How much did he know about her? She wanted to demand answers right that second. Her very life was at stake! However, she had to keep the facade for now. She was the guest of honor at this gala, and her life would not be destroyed at this time.

“I believe you are strongly mistaken, Monseuir.” Emma said with a small chuckle and a dismissive wave of her hand. “I am curious, though, where ever did you come up with such preposterous claims?”

She wiped a non-existent tear from her eye, as if to prove that his words were just silly enough to draw tears. When she finally looked up, she realized he had taken that time to place both hands on the armrest, leaning his face intoxicatingly close to hers so he could stare into her eyes with a threatening intensity. His lips casually brushed against her jaw as he leaned even closer to whisper in her ear.

“I know who you are, Emmalee Whittaker. You can run, but you can never hide.” 

She opened her mouth to call for security, but he covered her lips with his as he slipped something into the front of her dress, his hand barely brushing against her chest. Then, in an instant, he was gone. She looked around the room. Nobody was even looking in her direction. They were all involved in their own boring lives and conversations. So much for guest of honor. She thought. 

She stood up harshly, a movement that finally called attention to the other guests. Whatever the strange man had slipped in her bra was poking her skin, but publicly digging into her cleavage was the equivalent of committing murder. It was time to leave.

“Are you feeling well, Madame Delvaux?” A man who held high power in Europe, asked.

“I am afraid not. I require some rest. I must return to my place of residence. I am terribly sorry.”

“Ah, ‘tis fine, Madame. Geoffry will see you a safe return.”


The butler escorted her out of the building and into the waiting car outside. She shivered as she pulled up to the grande hotel she’d called her home for the past few weeks. Was that man waiting for her inside? She wanted to disappear, but she pulled herself together. She was strong. Nobody could harm her. Nobody. 

Still, a tidal wave of relief washed over her when she returned to her empty suite. She locked all the doors and windows and closed all the blinds before slipping off her dress and picking up the crisp, white business card that fell to the floor. The card was completely blank except for a number that Emma found disturbingly unrevealing. She had the ability to tell, even with just a minuscule glance, where the phone number was located, and whether it was personal, business, or government as well as even what type of business or government possessed it. However, this number contained digits of all types and the area code was missing which usually meant the number was local yet could just mean the number was exactly what she feared: untraceable.

Immediately, she began contemplating her next move. Should she call the number and face whatever or whoever was waiting for her on the other end of the line? Or should she whip up a scheme to disappear and take on the next identity? Would any scheme work? Was she willing to risk the entire life she had built for herself? What if this man who apparently knew her secrets was actually on her side? Was that possible? Could he be trusted?

No. He couldn’t. Nobody could. Isn’t that what the journey of her life had taught her? Isn’t that why she had become the least trustworthy person on the planet? Everybody lied. It was inevitable. Human nature even. However, she didn’t have a choice. She would call the number.

But just in case a more cunning plan came to mind, an escape route in other words, Emma decided that she would get some sleep first.

The call, and her destiny, could wait until morning.

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