Charlotte answered on the fourth ring. Caller I.D. showed “restricted.”
“They are called, Angelique tulips. You admired them in the hospital garden in Paris.”
Charlotte froze, holding her breath as she listened to the nightmare voice, remembering how his Eastern European accent rounded certain sounds and how he stressed the last syllables in his words. Called became cawl-d.
“Everything in time,” he said and hung up.
Charlotte dropped the phone on the table. She turned to Atakan.
The shock must’ve shown on her face. “What is wrong?”
“That was Tischenko,” she said, finding her voice. “The flowers are from him. He was watching me in Paris when I was at the hospital. He—”
Atakan didn’t wait for her to finish. He rushed into the living room, grabbed his gun from the bookshelf, and ran out of the apartment.
Charlotte followed as he flew down the four flights of stairs to the street.
“Stop.” Catching up to him on the sidewalk, she hooked his elbow with her hand. Fearful an armed Tischenko hid nearby, she positioned herself in front of Atakan, thinking to shield him. “We can’t stand here. He could be anywhere taking aim at you right now.”
“Go back inside.”
“Not without you.” She tugged on his shirt, pulling him toward their building. “Atakan please, let’s leave. Call the Director.”
Atakan shoved her behind him. Silent, his eyes searched the dark doorways of neighboring apartment buildings and parked cars.
She stepped in front of him again. “We stay here together or we leave together.”
An eternity of seconds passed. Neither moved or blinked.
They both jumped and turned at the bellow from the horn of a passing truck. Thankfully, the driver was waving to another coming the opposite direction. He never saw the man in the sling pointing a gun at him.
“Please,” she repeated.
Atakan nodded. He stopped at the building’s entry door and took a last look, surveying the street. “He moves us around like pawns in a private game.”
Atakan didn’t answer as he sped out of camp, spraying dirt and stones behind them.
“What’s going on? Why are you in such a hurry?”
He stared straight ahead, silent.
Tight-jawed, he continued down the side road that paralleled the beach, ramming the stick shift into place as he went through the gears and ignoring her questions. She’d never seen him this tense, not with her at least. A bad feeling crept over her. She had a sick sense his mood involved her plan to leave.
They’d gone a kilometer from the camp when he came to a stop. He hopped out, slammed the driver’s door shut and came to her side.
Opening her door, he said, “Get out.”
“Atakan,” Charlotte started to ask the same questions again, but he was already turned and walking toward the sea.
She followed. He finally stopped near the water’s edge with his back to the surf and faced her. She stopped a couple of yards away.
“When were you going to tell me?”
She knew exactly what he was asking about. Who told him? It wasn’t Nick. He’d honor the twenty-four hour rule.
“Who told you?”
“That’s not an answer.” He stood still as a statue, arms crossed, feet apart.
She hesitated, trying to choose her words so he’d understand and not be hurt. She gazed out at the incoming tide. The blue-green waves, effervescent with bubbles, rushed toward shore in rapid succession. White foam droplets filled the air as they crested, framing him like a new, angry version of Poseidon.
“You weren’t going to tell me until today, although you’ve been planning to leave me for awhile.”
“Long enough to send job inquiries to several museums.”
So that was how he knew. One of the museums contacted MIAR and they must’ve sent the questionnaire to Refik and he told Atakan. She hadn’t considered the possibility. She’d thought any contact from the museums would be handled by MIAR’s headquarters.
“I’m so sorry you had to find out this way. I intended to tell you if it looked like I’d definitely leave. If none of the museums showed interest, then you never had to know what I’d done.”
“And you believe that is acceptable?”
It killed her to see the look of disgust on his face with the question. “Yes...” she said low.
“Because I’m bad luck for you—everyone can see it, even your--, it’s obvious. There’s something about me, and God knows, I don’t know what, but I’m like a magnet for Tischenko.”
She never cried and she wouldn’t cry now, but she was close. “I can’t bear to see you hurt again, or worse. There are people that bad luck follows, even Iskender thinks so.”
Atakan inhaled deeply and let out a slow breath. Uncrossing his arms, he closed the short distance to where she stood.
“It’s not forever,” she offered, “I’ll return.”
He shook his head. “If you go, you cannot return. You’re either in my life or out of my life. There’s no in between.”
A sunken warship from the Byzantine Era carrying an unusual cargo of gold has been found off the coast of Northern Cyprus. News of the valuable cache has attracted the attention of a terrorist cell. They plan to attack the recovery team’s campsite and steal the artifacts. On the Black Market, the sale of the relics will buy them additional weapons.
Charlotte Dashiell, an American archaeologist, and her lover, Atakan Vadim, a Turkish government agent, are scheduled to be part of the recovery team that brings up the artifacts. While en route to Cyprus, they find themselves caught in the crosshairs of Maksym Tischenko, a Ukrainian contract killer bent on revenge. Charlotte, Atakan and Tischenko share a grim history. As a result, Tischenko is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal—seeing them both dead.
Score: 5.00 / 5 - Reviewer Top Pick
Once again, Ms. Karlsen delivers. Byzantine Gold is full of beautiful scenery, a tension-filled plot, and strong characters worth rooting for.