Thanks to my beta Kristen! This was inspired by a trip to Paris last summer and a long day wandering around the Louvre. The plot bunnies were relentless.
Dedication: To Aly, for prodding me when the going got tough.
This Is Not Happening
Chapter 1: Prologue
The oppressive darkness invaded every part of the room, shielding the redhead from any prying eyes. The building was completely silent; she was even breathing as shallowly as she could so that she did not give away her position. She was only expecting one person, but she knew from experience that it was better to be safe than sorry.
She liked the dark. It hid some of her activities. She had not even bothered to bring a flashlight with her as she knew her location like the back of her hand.
A huge national museum in Paris, France. It was filled to the brim with antiquities, but it was not those she had come to see. She had seen them, a long time ago in her youth, and more recently. When she had some time to kill and she was in the area, she tended to visit for a few hours. It was her designated place to meet with others if she became separated for any reason while on an operation in Europe.
She might have been on an operation tonight, but she had not lost contact. She was here to see an old friend, someone who had passed her information for years. He had the keys to this place and knew her tastes.
Tonight, she was standing in Cour Marly, a small square with a few statues and the odd tree. A series of stone steps were behind her, reminding her that she had somewhere to run if anything went wrong.
Not that she expected it to. Still, the call from her contact had sounded a little odd. She wasn't entirely sure he had been telling her the truth when he said that he had information she urgently needed to hear. He had never lied to her before, but there was always a first time…
Footsteps. And a flashlight being waved around.
She kept her position. The museum was supposedly locked for the night, although she had disarmed all the alarms before entering. She did not want to be locked up for breaking and entering; it would be hard to explain why she had left the safety of the hotel she was staying at for the duration of her conference.
The flashlight swept the room. Instinctively, she ducked behind a statue.
Her movement gave her location away.
She winced. Why did everyone want to shoot her? Her brain had immediately worked out that there were three intruders and they definitely didn't seem to be fond of her. Her feet decided it would be a good idea to get out of the area so she darted for the steps. Going up was better than going down at this point.
Bullets continued to fly past her. Unsurprisingly, her initial thought was that someone was going to be asking a lot of questions in the morning. Her feet took her past a series of busts on pedestals. She skidded as she took a corner too fast and knocked a statue to the floor. Shrugging her shoulders, she picked up the bigger pieces and dumped them back on the pedestal.
A bullet uncomfortably close to her ear made her start running again. If she ever got out of this alive, she was going to put in a complaint to someone. Her attackers had flashlights, but she was running blind through the corridors. She was amazed she hadn't crashed into a wall yet.
Her mind was whirring, attempting to recall exactly where each exhibit was so that nothing would slow her down. The flashlights were now a little way behind her. Jumping down a flight of stairs, her knees protested, reminding her once again that she wasn't as young as she used to be. She needed to end this soon, before she did some serious damage to herself.
Time seemed to slow down as she thought. The obvious option was to go out a window, but she was on a high floor and the drop would probably kill her. Anyway, if she tried a window, the alarm would go off. Which meant she had to stay within the building. And if she couldn't run, she was going to have to hide…
Suddenly, she remembered where she was. The Egyptian wing. The place where she stood was normally very dark and it had several stone sarcophagi. If she could get inside one, she would be very difficult to find.
It took her less than thirty seconds; she thanked the adrenaline that was flowing through her system. It was cold and somehow even darker than it had been before. It was also very confined, but she did not care. If it kept her alive, she could put up with almost anything.
The clatter of feet told her that her pursuers had arrived. She tried to work out as much about them as she could from the noises they made. Two seemed to be cannon fodder, while the third hung back slightly. She found herself more worried about the third than the other two.
She fervently wished that she had thought to arm herself before she came here. Stupidly, she had assumed that her trusted contact would not betray her. If he was not already dead, she would kill him herself when she got out of here.
As someone passed close to her hiding place, she forced herself to stop breathing. Her heart pounded in her chest as her attackers tried to work out where she had gone. She had hoped that they would continue to run for a little while, thinking she was just out of sight up ahead, giving her a chance to emerge and run in the opposite direction. But her idea had failed; they knew she was somewhere close.
She heard a curse, and flinched. She knew that voice…
At first, she was convinced the shot was aimed at her, that she had been discovered. The clatter of feet leaving her location told her that something was not right. She forced herself to count to one hundred before she made a move to escape.
The alarm sounded at ninety nine.
She allowed her head to bang against the stone in front of her. Great. She knew exactly what had happened; she would have done it if the roles were reversed. She stepped out, her hand automatically reaching for the discarded flashlight on the floor.
A body was sprawled on the floor, blood staining the stone she stood on. Her attackers had shot one of their own before leaving. It meant that she was going to have to come up with an extremely good explanation for the authorities when they rescued her.
And rescue would be needed. The alarm had triggered the entire security system. Metals grilles had come down, trapping any intruder in the building, along with anything they had tried to remove.
She had a dead body, no weapon, and no way of escape.
Lily Shepard swore violently.