Wind chapped, with her hair in disarray, Libby slipped into the convenience store to return Lawson’s call. For privacy, she locked herself in the lady’s room.
He answered on the first ring. “Where are you?” he asked in the same deep voice she’d found so soothing, only this time it was tinged with urgency.
“I’m with Bruce,” she admitted. “I didn’t want to go with him, but I thought he’d be suspicious if I didn’t.”
“Go where?” Todd rapped.
“To the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.”
A heavy pause followed. “Are you there now?”
“No, we just left. We’re about to take the expressway off Interstate 64.” She stared wide-eyed at her wind-blown reflection. “Why? What did you find out?”
“Listen, I want you to distance yourself from him.”
His phone was breaking up. She wasn’t certain she had heard him right. “What did you say?”
“His real name is Mark Earnest. He attempted SEAL training in 2007 but he dropped upon request after—” His voice cut off suddenly.
“Are you still there?” she asked, reaching for the sink as the floor seemed to shift.
“He went back into the regular Navy, serving aboard the USS Monterey.” Todd’s voice came to her distinctly this time.
“Monterey? That’s my brother’s ship,” she realized with surprise.
“Yes. Earnest worked with your brother.”
“My brother knows Bruce—I mean, Earnest?” The name change was confusing.
“He’s been seeing you for the wrong reasons, Libby.”
The words echoed unpleasantly in her mind. “What do you mean? What reasons?”
“Just try to get—. Call me back when you—”
Frustrated that his voice was cutting in and out, Libby glanced at the bars on her phone. Maybe the problem was on her end. A sharp knock at the door startled her, and the phone clattered to the floor, its battery falling out. “Just a minute!” she called, scrambling to put it back together.
“Hurry up, Libs. We don’t have all day.”
It was Bruce—make that Mark. He sounded edgy.
“I’m coming,” she called, her voice strained. She felt as if she were standing on shifting sands. Everything she’d assumed to be true about him had proven a total fabrication.
With trembling fingers, she put her phone back together and dropped it in her purse. Exiting the bathroom, she stumbled headlong into Bruce—or, rather, Mark Earnest—a man who’d supposedly worked alongside her brother yet had never admitted to it.
“Something wrong?” he asked. With a lock of hair falling over one eye, he seemed so impossibly young and handsome. He was all veneer and no substance, she realized, a strange man with an even stranger agenda. Thank God she had learned all this before he turned her life any more upside down than he already had.
“I don’t know,” she said, thinking of Todd’s advice. “I’m not feeling too well. I think we should go back.”
“After we’ve come this far?” he said incredulously. “Not likely.” And with the same determination he’d demonstrated in her office, he seized her elbow and marched her back outside to his jeep.
Libby cast an uncomfortable glance around them, but no one seemed to notice her reticence as Mark trundled her into his jeep and took off.
She figured she may as well get this road trip over with. The sooner they saw the lighthouse, the sooner he would take her home, the sooner she’d be done with him.