‘Okay, that’s okay. Can I meet you?’ asked Erika. ‘It can be anywhere you like.’
Well? he said as he put his briefcase in the jump seat. Do I get to pick the way you pay your bill?Even through his sunglasses, she could feel his eyes on her. He wanted her, he always wanted her, and at times, he hated her for that: He was not a man who appreciated constraints, even of his own making.
Samuel T. shook his head. Do not tell me the cat has that luscious tongue of yours. It would be such a pity to lose that particular piece of your anatomy—The instant he heard the tone in her voice, he frowned and took his sunglasses off. What’s wrong?Did anyone mistreat you in that jail? Because I will go down there personally and—
He froze, everything stopping—his expression, his breathing, maybe even his heart. Then he punched out a laugh. Right, right, right. Sure you do—The car door opened silently, a testament to the meticulous care that was paid to the vehicle. The day you settle down with any man is the eve of the Second Coming.
He shot her a sardonic look. Oh, please—
Jail really bothered you, didn’t it. He lowered himself into the bucket seat and stared out over the hood of the car for a moment. Look, Gin, don’t feel bad about having gone in there, okay? I’ve managed to scrub everything down at HQ so that it won’t even get on the blotter. No one’s going to know.The family she’d worked for had been okay. The kids had been sweet, but the mother had had a cold attitude towards Erika, as if somehow Eastern Europeans were worth a bit less as human beings. Erika had found the suburban street where they lived to be sinister, and the atmosphere in the house was always tense between husband and wife. They’d refused to let her return home early that first Christmas, when Erika’s mother had fallen ill with cirrhosis of the liver, and eighteen months later, when they had decided they no longer needed an au pair, they had given Erika three days’ notice to leave. They hadn’t asked if she had anywhere to go.
Erika realised she was lucky, though, and blessed in comparison. Had Tatiana, Mirka, and Karolina said goodbye to family just like she had? Erika remembered the crumbling bus terminal in Bratislava: rows and rows of bus platforms. Each platform had rusting metal poles holding up an enormous long shelter, and it had been so damp. She had wondered if it was damp from the tears of all those teenagers who had to say goodbye, to leave a beautiful country where the only way to succeed is to get out.Did the parents of the three dead girls cry? They had not known that their girls would never return. And what had happened when the girls arrived in London? How had they ended up working as prostitutes?
Tears rolled down Erika’s face, and when the waiter came to take her coffee cup, she turned her head away and angrily dried her eyes.She had cried enough tears to last a lifetime. Now it was time for action.