She gasped as he pulled her tight against him.
“What are you–” she pressed her palms against his chest, pushing against him, but his arms were like steel bands around her body.
“Hush,” he murmured against her ear, “They’re coming, and they’re looking for a single girl. I’m your way out of this mess.”
A thrill rushed through her at his words. It might be a ruse. But she didn’t have any other options. She’d already had too many too-close encounters. Harry was hard on her tail, and wouldn’t be giving up easily. The only reason she’d managed so far was that Harry had underestimated her determination. She wasn’t skilled, or strong, but she was small and fast.
Her sudden hero swivelled her around, pressing her against the wall, and covering her body with his own. Twining a hand in her hair, the other arm fencing her in, they made a picture-perfect couple. Her hands gripped his tanned arms, half in terror, half in shock.
He leaned his face close to her neck, appearing to kiss her whilst he spoke.
“You can call me Liam. Once the tram is past, we’ll head back down into the market. We need to get you into something less conspicuous.”
She heard the click of the tram rolling slowly up the hill, and saw a familiar head of dark hair in the window. Adrenaline surged through her body, as she recognised Jacob’s profile. Jacob was Harry’s right-hand man, and was nursing a serious grudge since their last encounter.
“Quick, kiss me,” she whispered fiercely, grabbing his hair and pulling his lips against hers. Without a protest, her mysterious saviour pressed his soft lips to hers.
Genevieve tried to keep one eye on the too-slow tram, praying she would not be seen. When Liam’s tongue brushed against her lips, the danger was momentarily forgotten as she opened her mouth to him. He tugged a small fistful of her hair, pulling her closer against him, his tongue exploring her mouth. His breath was warm and sweet in her mouth, and Genevieve’s hands clasped at his back, pressing her body more fully against him. Then suddenly he was gone.
Genevieve blinked in confusion, lost for breath. The tram was disappearing over the hill now. Heat infused her cheeks as she realised what had happened, and furious with herself, rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand. Smoothing down her dress, she started stalking back down the hill.
“Don’t make a scene,” Liam caught up and grabbed at her hand. He intertwined their fingers.
“What are you doing?” she hissed at him, trying to extricate herself from his seemingly gentle grip.
“You’re with me, remember? Now be a good girl, and follow my lead.” He lengthened his strides, and led her straight into the heart of the city. Genevieve hated the crowds bustling around her; loud tourists stopping in the street to inspect their maps, local children laughing and skipping around underfoot, vendors calling out to passers-by and the heavy blanket of fog and noise from the cars and mopeds zipping through the narrow streets. Despite her own misgivings, she held tighter to Liam’s hand as he unerringly made his way through the stalls.
He stopped without warning at the stall of a small wrinkled woman, and bent down to inspect the goods, apparently fascinated by the rows of home-made jams and preserves. He tugged Genevieve down with him. The vendor gestured at them, chittering and offering them a jar of sugary plums. Genevieve began to shake her head no, but Liam suddenly engaged in haggling with her. He exclaimed loudly at each retort from the canny woman, causing Genevieve to wince and glance around the crowd nervously.
They eventually reached an agreement, and Liam smacked down a few coins on her stall. The woman chuckled to herself, the coins disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. She bagged their plums, and threw in a little trinket. Genevieve began to tug at Liam’s hand, eager to be off again, but he seemed in no rush.
Taking up the bag of goods, Liam gestured grandly and loudly as he bid farewell to the old woman. She cackled silently and waved him off, already looking for her next customer. Genevieve glared at him, and without warning, Liam was off again, ducking between stalls and alleys, seeming to know his way through the maze.
Genevieve was losing breath by the time they stopped, Liam pulling her into a clammy side-alley. She clutched her side, and panted heavily, her breath rising in a small fog. She shivered, partly from cold, partly from fear.
“Nice of you to finally get back to work,” she muttered, rubbing her arms against the wake of goosebumps on her skin. Liam didn’t speak, but she thought she spied a roll of his eyes. He squatted down, and began sorting through his dark messenger-bag. He placed the plums carefully inside, and pulled out a long coat.
He pulled the bag again over his head, and held out the coat to Genevieve.
“Here, wear this.” he was busily scanning the crowds beyond the alley.
“I don’t need your chivalry,” Genevieve objected, eyeing the tatty old thing, and repressing another shiver. Had the weather changed so quickly? She could have sworn it was summer this morning.
Liam rolled his eyes again.
“Don’t flatter yourself, sweetie. It’s to cover up that god-awful dress you’ve got on.” He gave her a pointed look, his eyes flicking down her body.
Genevieve growled and snatched the coat, slipping it on. It was warm, and most definitely did not smell like the delicious man standing next to her. She resisted pressing her nose against the warm material to inhale that, definitely not-delicious smell. Placing a warm hand on her arm, Liam nodded down the alley and gave her a gentle tug.
“Come on, we’re clear to go.” He flashed a cheeky grin, white teeth against a tanned face, and Genevieve could have kicked herself for allowing herself to be sucked in. Finding herself with no other choice, however, she resigned herself to what would come next. He opened a small wooden door at the end of the alley, and led her inside.