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Chick lit meets spy thriller!
Charlotte Dodd is having a bad day.
After taking an experimental drug to erase her memories of saving the world (or at least the country – several times) Charlotte is given a new life – a quiet, unassuming job, a second chance at love with Luke, and no one trying to kill her.
Two years later and with no recollection of saving the world, she steps in to help a random stranger and is amazed at the ease in which she dispatches her opponents using a rolled-up magazine. But how is that possible? She has Buffy-like fight moves, fires a gun with deadly accuracy and can use the air from car tires to keep breathing underwater.
When she meets Ham – why is he so familiar? The flashes, the déjà vu, the dreams – they’re not really dreams? Blowing up a building in Mexico, being buried alive – those things really happened to her? And what is her brother doing flying a plane? Turns out those two years of quiet with Luke was really an undercover mission to help bring down a secret organization targeting her family.
Charlotte needs to remember her secret life if she wants to save the world again and the only man she’s ever loved
“Not all girls are like you.”
-Jon Snow, Games of Thrones
If I had known how this night would end, I think I would have left my car.
My cell rings almost as soon as I step outside the movie theatre, with the ringtone that sounds like a distorted robot.
Sorry I deserted you this weekend but it’s for a good cause. Hope you liked the movie. Have fun and be careful.
Luke, my boyfriend of almost two years now. He pretends to worry about me, but I think that has to do with the fact he’s my brother’s best friend and has known me since I was twelve. Luke has no anxiety issues, other than wondering what my brothers might do to him if he let me get hurt. It was tricky making the jump from almostsortof sister to passionate kissing but I think Luke and I have done okay. This time. The first time we were together, I was young, he was stupid and it ended in a big mess. But I’m over that.
I text him back. You worry too much.
Can’t help it, babe. Bad stuff happens to you.
Do you want a list?
Nothing really terrible has ever happened to me, but I’ve had some near misses. Like the gas leak in my apartment that time. The fire department said it could have easily blown the place sky high if I hadn’t noticed the smell. And the car that ran the red light that other time; if I hadn’t swerved at the last minute it would have totaled my car. Oh, and the time I was pushed on the subway platform – that was a little too close to think about.
And not worth thinking about tonight. My mind full of Tom Cruise’s antics in Mission; Impossible, I stick my phone in my bag without responding and head for my car.
It’s a nice evening; it’s the middle of April so the air still has a bite to it, but there’s enough green stuff popping up to make you realize spring is, indeed, in the air. I had parked my car on a side street, close enough to be a quick walk to the movie theatre, but far enough so I didn’t have to have to fight for a spot. There’s a new condo building being built on the corner of Duplex and Maxwell and mud has been tracked along the side-street by the trucks, making it look more like a dirt road in the country than a city street. Most people don’t like to get their cars dirty so there was plenty of parking when I showed up a few hours ago. Being a recent car owner, you’d think I’d have a similar mindset, but growing up on a farm and loving the outdoors, I came to the realization at a young age that everything comes clean one way or another with a little hot water and soap.
The flop flop flop of my Birkenstock sandals as I walk along is comforting. When I’m not at work, I’m strictly a jeans and T-shirt girl and I practically live in my battered old pair of Birks. It’s a temp job and I don’t love it, but at least it’s something until I can figure out what I really want to do. I look at it as a way to pay my share of the rent. Luke is the definition of a trust fund baby and keeps telling me he has no problems taking care of me, but I need to retain some sort of independence.
As I turn onto the side street where I left my car, I have a flash of insight that it might have been a good idea to have parked closer to the movie theatre. At least to have parked on a street that isn’t quite this empty.
The street isn’t entirely empty. In the dimming bit of daylight left, I see three men standing behind my car. They look they’re having some kind of discussion involving raised voices and hand gestures, which I guess probably makes it an argument, not a discussion. There’s a dark- coloured sedan parked a little too close for my liking. I’ve only had the car for a couple of weeks. It’s the first car I’ve ever bought myself, a cute little red Mini Cooper with a white roof. I love it. If their big, dirty car backed into mine…
But a little niggle at the back of my neck tells me it’s more than that. I take in the situation; one little guy (not really little but compared to the other two goons, a professional wrestler might well be called miniscule) and the two really big, really threatening-looking guys standing there looking mean.
Why aren’t I getting the hell out of here?
“Is there a problem?” I call politely when I’m a couple of feet away from the disgruntled group. Instinctively I’ve rolled the magazine they give out at the theatres into a tight cylinder. I clutch it firmly, and settle my bag more comfortably across my chest.
As soon as the words leave my mouth, one of the men up and literally clocks the normal sized man with a hard punch right to the face. The poor guy goes down like a sack of potatoes thrown from a truck.
The man not involved in this little fight-club scene whips around to face me, stepping in front of the other two as if to block what’s going on. His hand is tucked ominously in his pocket. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, the sheer size of this guy – tall, yet stocky and wearing a black leather coat that isn’t at all slimming – is intimidating as well.
It only gets worse when he pulls his hand out of his pocket and I see he’s holding a gun; a gun that is now pointed right at me.
“What you want?” the man with the gun barks at me in a heavily accented voice.
Russian. I’m not sure how I know that, though.
I remember my grandfather Seamus telling me once that I needed to act more aggressive, more assertive when dealing with conflicts. This was because of my physical appearance rather than the fact that I’m a woman.
Most of the time I’m overlooked because of my size – five foot one inch, one hundred and nine pounds – or I’m given a patronizing smile because of the way I look. I’ve got the whole blonde, cute thing going on. I’m cute. I know I’m cute. People have actually compared me to Kate Hudson. Sweet, nice and cute are descriptives that have dogged me all my life.
But my grandfather, who, God rest his soul, was not at all cute, had no way of knowing how beneficial it can be sometimes to rely on your cuteness in times of trouble. While the aggressive approach may work well in the boxing ring or the work place, sometimes I’ve found it works to trade on the little girl persona when you’ve got the chance, especially with big men who have guns.
Why do they have guns? And why am I not on my way out of here – car or no car?
“Oh, my goodness!” I gasp, making my blue eyes widen, my arms thrust over my head in a gesture of surrender. “I’m so sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt, just want to get my car which is right there. I didn’t do anything, didn’t see anything and if you want my purse, take it, only I don’t have any money in it and my credit cards are maxed are out so it won’t do you any good but…”
“You go,” the one holding the gun barks at me. Like I said, he’s quite large with a body like a bull with huge shoulders and chest tapering down to almost skinny hips and legs. His head, with its close cropped sprinkling of dark hair, also seems to be sitting directly on his shoulders, forgoing any sort of neck-like appendage.
“Really? Sure, okay. Going – right now, going.” And being cute wins another round.
Bull is joined by the other man, the one who hit the guy in the face. This one is even bigger, but more stream-lined so that his hips are almost the same size as his shoulders and he has a wicked scar running the side of his face. I’d say both could easily be cast in any gangster goon movie. They are both seriously unattractive.
“Get lost,” Scar says to me. Of course he pulls out a gun as well. This night just gets better and better. Maybe I should have stayed home and watched T.V. instead of going to a movie.
Maybe Luke is right to be worried about me.
“Going. Just need to get to my car,” I say, and point to my beloved little red Mini Cooper. “Right there. Hoping to drive away in it –” I pantomime driving since it’s clear from the accent and the broken sentences that English isn’t the first language of these fellows, “–and forgetting I ever saw you. You? Never saw you. Heading home. Where I’m not going to say anything to anyone.”
“Go,” Bull barks in this guttural voice which sounds like a skinned knee rolling over gravel or something equally painful. It adds nothing to his appearance. If he really wants to improve himself, he should do something about the pockmarks dotting his face. I’m guessing this guy had some issues as a teenager if he had that much acne to deal with.
Bull moves to the side, sort of shadowing me as I, slowly with careful steps, move onto the street towards my car. For the first time I get good look at the guy on the ground. He really looks like Neil Patrick Harris, otherwise known as Doogie Howser. I binge watched episodes of Doogie on Netflix last weekend. Same short, spiky blonde hair, same cute face with the square jaw, only this guy isn’t wearing a suit. He’s wearing baggy jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt with a sports jacket tossed on top. And black Converse sneakers, which I’m guessing from the outfit I saw Neil Patrick Harris wearing at the Oscar awards, he wouldn’t be caught dead in.
He’s sitting up now, and rubbing his jaw. On second glance I know it’s not Doogie. Plus, why would Neil Patrick Harris be in the process beaten up by two thugs who barely speak passable English on a deserted side street in Toronto?
“Are you okay?” I whisper as I scurry by him on the ground.
He just looks at me with wide eyes and my heart tugs with concern. His face is battered and blood trickles from a cut on his forehead. Obviously there was more going on before I got there. Scar swings his gun back around to point it at him.
“Shut it. Or she joins you.”
Reaching my car, I fumble with my keys, the magazine still clutched in my hand. Scar watches me like a hawk from beside my car, but Bull’s attention is focused on Doogie, pointing his gun right at him. But there – Bull’s eyes flick around and settles on the shell of the condo building being built. Doogie is still looking at me, like he’s waiting for something.
When I unlock the door, I don’t slide in behind the wheel. I unlock the Le Club attached to the steering wheel first; my older brother Declan insisted on buying me the safety device when I got the car. I had laughed when he presented it to me, and called it an antique, but he insisted and there’s not a lot I can refuse Declan.
The bar falls into my hand like a club. I tighten my grip.
Get in the car and drive away, Charlotte!
Bull has pulled Doogie to his knees, towering over him with a gun trained on the back of his head.
I glance at my reflection on my car window. My white blonde hair is pulled into two braids. With no make-up and freckles dotting my nose, I look about fourteen. I blow my bangs off my forehead and curl my bare toes until they crack. Adrenaline pumps through me.
These guys aren’t going to know what hit them.
Without any warning, I take two steps away from the car and manage to smack Scar right in the head with the Le Club. I put all of my 109 pounds behind it and give a gratified “Ha!” as he stumbles into the car.
With a yell, Bull abandons Doogie and starts for me like I’m waving a red flag and he’s a – well, a bull. A bull with a gun, that is. Instead of standing there in terror and still holding both the Le Club and my rolled movie magazine, I take three steps towards him and punch him straight in the nose, just like my brother Seamus taught me so long ago, but this time with my fist folded over my handy sticks. I hear a satisfying crunch and blood spurts out of his nose, but unfortunately my attempt doesn’t stop Bull. Or stop him waving the gun in my direction. To get rid of the gun, I slam the Le Club against his wrist as hard as I can. He drops the gun and I kick it against the fence surrounding the construction area and turn around in time to dodge a fairly big fist to the face.
“Whoa,” I can’t help but gasp. “Ever hear of not hitting girls?”
Bull is growling at me and my only response is to hit him again, this time with my magazine. Think of Matt Damon’s fight scene in one of the Bourne movies – it’s really quite effective. Add me using the Le Club along with it, like a pair of nunchuks and Bull really doesn’t know what’s hitting him.
Until, of course, he lowers his head and charges me like, again, a bull. I end up on the ground on my bum, losing hold of both my trusty sticks. Bull then lifts me by the front of my shirt and slams a gigantic fist into my face.
“Get him in car,” Bull growls at Scar, who has a fistful of Doogie’s hoodie and his gun pointed at his head. Guess a metal bar to the head doesn’t really slow him down. “Leave her to me.” I feel a moment of panic as Bull advances at me with a menacing grin.
But I’m not finished. Doogie needs me. I grab hold of the Le Club again, and with a yell, jump up and start hitting Bull where ever I can reach – arms, legs, stomach. It’s not as effective as having both my sticks, but I’m doing fairly well. I throw in a couple of kicks as well, which Bull doesn’t see coming – his only concern is defending his head from the metal bar.
I’ll have to thank Declan for my new toy.
But Bull suddenly jumps to the offensive, getting a few punches in, one that connects solidly with my solar plexus. It feels like I’ve been hit by a truck. Then he lets his left hook fly and even though I jerk my head to the side at the last moment, it still sends bells ringing through my head as it connected with my cheek. I taste blood inside my mouth.
What am I doing?
I’ve never been able to walk away when someone needs help, even when it’s the smart… really, the only intelligent thing to do. And it would be the smart thing to run away but my gut tells me I need to be here, that this is the right thing to do.
They are going to kill him. I can’t let that happen.
I give my head a shake and hold my ground. I try a couple of kicks for good measure. One connects solidly with his kidneys and Bull visibly winces, but he’s ready for the next one and grabs my leg, giving it a jerk and knocking me off balance.
Before I can fall – which might get me out the way of his very big fists – he grabs a hold of one of my braids and backhands me with his sore hand. I stumble backwards or as backwards as I can with Bull still holding my hair.
“You shouldn’t pull hair,” I reproach him through a mouthful of blood. I run my tongue around my mouth – the teeth are still intact.
“Stupid girl,” he says. “Should have minded own business.”
“Yeah, that’s what they all say.” I swing my Le Club again but my aim is off and Bull grabs it out of my hand and tosses it aside.
“Not too fun without your pretty little stick, are you?”
Then the piece de resistance; by the big guy, not me – he picks me up by my shoulder and a handful of jeans at my hip–holding me suspended in the air for a second as I try to grab him. You know, when you’re about to be thrown into a swimming pool and you try to grab hold to take the person in with you? That’s me. But I don’t get a hold of him, and he throws me bodily into the side of my car. I land badly on the road with the wind knocked of out me. Saying this isn’t going too well for me is now an understatement.
But I’m not finished yet. I tuck my knees to my chest and thrust out with as much power as I can, catching Bull in his midsection, hitting him with a sharp foot to the groin, which can always damage a man, no matter how big he might be.
Teach him for trying to mess with a girl.
Bracing my hands beside my shoulders, I rock back and flip to my feet; a move perfected from watching all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I grab my magazine from the ground beside me and tighten the roll, ready to finish Bull off. I’m getting tired of this.
“I’ve got another stick,” I say as menacingly as possible in my girlish voice. But there’s nothing girlish about how I can wield my movie magazine. Bull can do little but protect his head.
“Stop!” Scar finally calls out, still holding a gun on Doogie. If I didn’t know better I’d say both of them are enjoying the show. “Grab her and let’s get out of here.” He begins dragging Doogie to the car behind mine.
I can’t let them take Doogie. I don’t know why – I don’t even know who he is. Or who the bad guys are. Doogie could deserve everything that’s coming to him.
But somehow I don’t think so.
I poke my magazine into Bull’s throat and grab his massive shoulders, slamming my knee into his midsection – once, twice – before stomping on his foot. Leaning over, I aim a kick at the side of Bull’s knee at the same time I grab my Le Club from the ground. When I stand up, Bull is falling over and the Le Club is flying through the air towards Scar. It’s a perfect aim and hits him on the wrist bone and he drops the gun.
I had no idea I could throw a metal stick like that.
Doogie grabs the gun and with a few kicks and punches, has Scar down in no time.
“Holy shit!” I gasp in disbelief, still wheezing a little from getting the wind knocked out of me. I can hear my breathing and if I listened really hard I think I might be able to hear the blood pounding through my veins. “Who are they?”
“Very bad dudes,” he says into the sudden silence, sliding across the hood of my car. “Look, we can chat later. Keys?”
“Ground,” I tell him, limping to the passenger side. “Should be right there.”
Doogie scoops the keys up. “Get in the car, Charlie!”
Still clutching my Le Club with one hand, I jump in my car. Doogie guns the engine and the car shoots away from the curb, whipping down the street as fast as my little car can go. The CD I was listening to comes on loud since I never remember to turn it down. It’s sort of fitting in a cheesy, low budget kind of way that the song is ‘Danger Zone’ from the Top Gun soundtrack.
“How do you know my name?” I ask with confusion.
Holly Kerr writes chick-lit with a twist. No broody men, no obsessions with shoes, just fun stories about strong women going after what they want.
Her books include Coming Home, Unexpecting and Absinthe Doesn’t Make the Heart Grow Fonder and her latest, The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd.