Home > Shattered Lies (Web of Lies #3)(4)

Shattered Lies (Web of Lies #3)(4)
Author: Kathleen Brooks


“You’re stunning,” Birch told her as she did a little spin in the casual sundress. She looked relaxed even after the ups and downs of the past month.

“I feel great. I’m turning off my phone and going on a date with the man I love. Not only that, we don’t have to hide. The newest popular story running is our love story. The hate and vile filth that had been thrown at me before has now changed to the almost idyllic President and the Press Secretary story.” Tate laughed happily and Birch smiled at her pleasure.

“What’s funny?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her waist and looking at her.

“The irony. Our relationship has been anything but idyllic. But if I get a couple hours to forget about the darkness we are embroiled in, that’s worth smiling.” Tate leaned up and placed her lips on his. Birch closed his eyes, getting lost in a kiss that was turning hotter by the second.

“We better head out for our date now, or we may forget we had plans and end up in bed,” Birch said, pulling away. He wasn’t entirely convinced that would be a bad thing.

“I’m starving!” Tate laughed as she swatted him on the bottom and hurried down the hall. Birch smiled and caught up to her, slipping his hand into hers as they headed down the red-carpeted stairs.

Birch met Abrams and Brock at the bottom of the stairs before they headed to the limo. “As per your request, we have trimmed the detail. We have two cars with us with agents in both. We have two agents at the restaurant now, securing the location and a table for you,” Brock informed him quietly as he opened the door to limo for them.

“Thank you, Brock,” Tate said, placing her hand quickly on his arm and giving it a squeeze.

Birch slid into the back seat next to Tate. They talked of their day. They talked of their worst first dates, and they laughed. For a moment Birch was simply a man nervous about making sure his date went well.

 

* * *

 

Tate looked up at the gold letters on the red sign. The restaurant was small with a few bistro tables set outside. Couples laughed over large dishes of pasta. They stopped and stared as the limo and two SUVs came to a stop outside next to the already parked detail that had secured the restaurant for them.

“Ready?” Birch asked as the people pulled out their cell phones and a man in a marinara-covered apron came hurrying out, his pot belly swaying as he grinned broadly at them.

Abrams opened the door and Birch slid out, holding out his hand for Tate. The owner of Gimiagano’s greeted them as the people at the table asked for pictures.

“Is it okay?” Birch asked.

Tate nodded and Brock handled the diners coming up a few at a time for a picture with them.

“Thank you all, but it’s date night.” He winked to the delight of the patrons gathered outside.

The owner showed them to their romantic table in the back with plenty of privacy. Tate noticed a table of two men nearby and spotted the coms systems. Abrams and Brock took up positions near the front and back doors as the limo pulled up to the back door out of sight from the front street. Two SUVs parked out front as if they were regular diners, even though the engines were still running and agents were inside keeping active watch.

A complimentary bottle of wine was poured as patrons got their last photos in. After hearing the specials from the owner, who was also the head chef, they were finally alone. Birch raised his glass and Tate followed suit. “To many evenings together.”

Tate took a sip of wine and rolled her eyes. “This is so good.”

“I used to eat here all the time when I was a nobody in politics. Stephano imports all his wine from these small family wineries in Italy.”

“Did you always live in Virginia?” Tate asked even though she knew the answer. Hearing the answer firsthand made it sound new.

Birch told her of growing up at the military base, and Tate couldn’t stop smiling.

“Tell me about your brother,” Birch said as Stephano set down a plate of fried calamari and some fresh bread.

Tate grinned as she thought of Tucker. He was her little brother, and while she hated to admit it, he was a good one. “He always pestered me, growing up. He’d spy on my sleepovers.” Tate looked into Birch’s smiling face before a force sent her flying from her chair. Her body slammed against the brick wall as the restaurant filled with clouds of debris and dust.

Tate’s ears were ringing, and she coughed uncontrollably, trying to breathe. Her eyes stung as she groped her way toward the outline of a body. “Birch,” she croaked as she crawled on hands and knees over broken glass and shattered tables.

It seemed far off in the distance, but she began to hear pinging noises. Turning her head, she cringed in pain. The entire front of the small restaurant was gone. Bodies littered the floor where just moments before, diners sat enjoying their meals. There was so much dust in the air it was hard to see out of the windows. But the noise became clear—gunfire.

Tate felt a fear unlike anything else begin to choke her. If she had thought her car accident was bad, this fear completely shut off her ability to think. Escape was all she could think of. Tate pushed her body to crawl faster. The first body was that of Abrams. She shook him, screaming his name. His eyes were open and a shard of glass protruded from his neck.

Tate was about to leave Abrams when the gunfire came to a stop. Glancing to the hole in the front of the building, she saw figures moving toward them from across the street. There was no help coming, she realized dimly. Looking back, she saw Brock limping as he started flinging tables aside. Brock would help her. He would get her to safety out the back door, but he should be with Birch. If Brock was here, then . . . “Birch!” She had wrongly assumed the agents out back already dragged him into the limo.

Brock’s eyes shot up at her and then at the men coming toward them. Tate pushed open Abrams’s jacket and grabbed the gun. She tried to stand, but her leg failed her. Looking down, she saw why. Her leg was broken. She saw the bump of the wrecked bone. Tate bit down on the grip of the gun and crawled, dragging her broken leg toward Brock.

Stephano’s body lay writhing on the floor. “Stay still, help is on the way,” she said as she stopped. Then she saw him.

“Brock!” Tate pointed to the body partially hidden by Stephano’s body.

Brock didn’t look at her, but instead fired off a shot. A man fell to the floor and then Brock ran toward her.

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