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       Cross your heart and hope to die (Emma Frost #4), p.1

           Willow Rose
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Cross your heart and hope to die (Emma Frost #4)


  CROSS MY HEART AND

  HOPE TO DIE

  Emma Frost #3

  Willow Rose

  Copyright Willow Rose 2014

  Published by Jan Sigetty Boeje

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  Cover design by Jan Sigetty Boeje

  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sigettys Cover Design

  Special thanks to my editor Janell Parque

  http://janellparque.blogspot.com/

  African Mask Photo: Thomas Ernst

  Connect with Willow Rose:

  http://www.willow-rose.blogspot.com/

  http://www.facebook.com/willowredrose

  https://twitter.com/madamwillowrose

  Cross my heart and hope to die

  stick a needle in my eye

  wait a moment, I spoke a lie

  I never really wanted to die.

  But if I may and if I might

  my heart is open for tonight

  though my lips are sealed

  and a promise is true

  I won't break my word

  my word to you.

  Cross my heart hope to die

  stick a needle in my eye.

  A secret's a secret my word is forever

  I will tell no one about your cruel endeavor.

  You claim no pain but I see right through

  your words in everything you do.

  Teary eyes broken heart

  life has torn you apart

  Cross my heart hope to die

  stick a needle in my eye

  I loved you then I love you now

  I'll still love you though I'll break my vow.

  I can't hold this secret any longer

  it's hurting you not making you stronger.

  You're my friend so I'll risk your respect

  by hurting you I can protect

  I'll save yourself since you will not

  you might hate me but I'll give it a shot.

  I'm willing to risk our bond that we own

  so long as you're safe you won't be alone.

  Cross my heart hope to die

  stick a needle in my eye

  break my promise

  tell a lie

  save my friend

  though, maybe it's "bye."

  Religious oath in the early 1900s

  PROLOGUE

  July 2005

  HE WAS KEEPING A SECRET of the kind that could eat you up from the inside like a fire eats its way through a forest. But still, no one at the office could tell by looking at him. Definitely not today when he was smiling from ear to ear and his secretary had planted a glass of champagne in his hand that he now lifted into the air.

  "To Nycom.com," he said with cheer.

  "To Nycom.com," his employees answered.

  They toasted and drank. Erik Gundtofte looked at his people with satisfaction while they mingled and chitchatted with laughter and happy faces. Yes, it was indeed a good day. The best day of Erik's young life. At the age of only twenty-five, his Internet company had just been sold for fifty million dollars to an American company. When investors were paid and bonuses were given, he would leave with around thirty million to himself. Enough for him to retire and enjoy his life with his beloved wife Maria and their two young children.

  It was going to be a good life. They had already made their plans. They would start out by traveling around the globe for a year. They had discussed it for months, ever since Nycom.com contacted Erik and told him they had an offer he couldn't resist. They had put pins on a map and discussed it for weeks in a row. They talked about buying a boat and sailing around the world. They discussed trekking, and going by old trains. But they ended up deciding to do it the first class way … to travel by air and live in nice hotels. Maria was the one who mostly wanted that, while Erik thought it could be great to backpack and stay in hostels.

  "We have children, Erik," Maria had ended up saying. "We can't live with students in a greasy hostel. It would have worked when we were nineteen, but we’re not anymore. We have little ones to consider."

  So they agreed on doing it the expensive way. Lord knew they could afford it. It was a new way of living that Erik had to get used to. To never want for anything again. To never worry about how to pay the bills again. It was almost overwhelming.

  Both he and Maria knew which countries they were dying to visit and now it was all finally about to become a reality.

  Erik couldn't stop smiling. He had all his stuff packed in a box on his desk and once he left the office this very afternoon, he was never coming back.

  "So what are you planning on doing with the rest of your life?" his friend Jacob, who had worked for him ever since the beginning in 1999, asked.

  Erik shrugged. "Travel. Enjoy my family. Maybe write a book or do some conferences where I tell people how I made my fortune. Lay low, seize the day, move to the Caribbean, who knows?" Erik said laughing.

  "The world really is your oyster, huh?" said Jacob.

  Erik nodded while drinking. "Yup. There is nothing I can't do. I'm free to go wherever I want to go, free to do and buy whatever I want to, whatever I dream of. As long as I don't go berserk, the money should last for the rest of my life."

  "It certainly is enough. You should be very proud of yourself," Jacob said.

  "Well the deal is good for all of us," Erik said. "You're leaving with some seven million dollars yourself as far as I recall."

  Jacob smiled and nodded. "I most certainly am. I can't deny that."

  Erik studied the face of his old friend and companion. They had known each other for so many years and shared so many ups and downs together. It had been a rollercoaster and Erik was glad it was over.

  Jacob was scrutinizing Erik's face. Erik noticed and smiled awkwardly. He sipped from his glass. He never did like champagne too much. Not the real expensive kind. It was too sour. His wife always said he was never going to make a good member of high class society. Erik didn't mind that.

  "You got so serious all of a sudden," Jacob said. "You're not having second thoughts, are you?"

  Erik forced a smile again. "About the sale? No, no of course not. This is the best for everybody."

  "That's not what I meant and you know it," Jacob replied seriously.

  Erik avoided his friend's eyes. They both knew perfectly well what he was talking about. It had been on Erik's mind a lot lately. It tore at him and made it hard to really enjoy this day. He couldn't tell Jacob, but he had started to doubt if he was ever going to be able to be really happy, to enjoy this money and his freedom fully if he had to carry this secret around with him. It just didn't feel right. When he was working day and night to build the company, he had been able to not think about it, to displace it, but he wasn't certain he could do that anymore. Years had gone by since it happened and keeping it hidden inside was getting harder and harder for him. And he was afraid that Jacob could tell. That was the worst part. Erik knew he couldn't hide his growing doubts from his oldest friend.

  Jacob grabbed his arm and pulled him aside. "You know you can't tell."

  Erik sighed and sipped his champagne. He didn't say anything, but he was considering it. Now that everything was done with the sale, there really was no excuse not to anymore. He knew he wasn't going to be able to live with this secret eating at him from the inside. But he also knew
that telling might ruin everything for him. But which was worse? Living with this, having it eating at him for the rest of his life or spending a few years in jail and having told the truth? Should he maybe wait till the kids were older? No, he had to make things right. He had to tell.

  "You have sworn an oath, Erik," Jacob continued.

  "I know," Erik said, thinking of the consequences. "But it is eating me alive, you know?"

  "Swallow it up like the rest of us. It'll get easier with age. Think about the money and the life you're about to have. You can't say anything. Do you hear me? You just can't."

  "I don't know if I can live with myself like this," Erik said.

  Jacob stared at him with furor. He grabbed his collar and pulled Erik close till they were face to face. "Don't do it, Erik. I swear I'll …"

  Erik breathed heavily. "You'll what Jacob?"

  Jacob let go of Erik's collar. He shook his head. "Why now? Where is all this coming from all of a sudden? So many years have passed and it never seemed to bother you before. Why now?"

  Erik shrugged. "I don't know. I just can't stop thinking about it. It keeps me awake at night. It won't be long before Maria starts asking questions. She can sense these things, Jacob. She knows when something is going on with me. It's like an avalanche. Once it starts rolling, it never stops. I can't stop it."

  "Well, you have to. It's for your own sake too, you know. If this gets out, we're all going down. Including you. You'll lose everything. Do you hear me? Everything you've worked for the last several years."

  Erik exhaled. Jacob had hit the nail on the head.

  "I know. I know," Erik said.

  "So you're not going to say anything?" Jacob asked, scrutinizing Erik's face once again.

  Erik scoffed. "Of course not."

  "Cross your heart and hope to die?"

  "Cross my heart and hope to die."

  1

  December 2013

  I HAD RESERVED A WINDOW seat for the long train ride. I found it and sat down. Maya and Victor were standing outside on the platform with my dad and Morten. They had brought me to the train station in Esbjerg on the mainland. It was a long trip for them and I told them they didn't have to do it, but they decided to make a day of it. They were going to go Christmas shopping in the city for the rest of the day before heading back to the island.

  I smiled and waved at them feeling a pinch in my heart. I hated to leave all of them, even though it was only for the weekend. I loathed myself for getting all mushy; it often happened to me in December and around Christmas, but I felt like crying, looking at all my loved ones. The second the train started moving, I regretted my plans, but it was too late. I waved like crazy and pressed my nose against the window until I couldn't see them any longer. Then I sighed and leaned back in the soft chair of the first-class carriage. I wasn't alone. Three men in suits were looking business-like, talking on the phone, reading the papers and working on their laptops. I preferred staring out the window looking at the landscape passing by, which was covered in a thin layer of white snow. It was beautiful. I sighed and looked at the man sitting in front of me working on his computer looking like everything he did was very important.

  "I'm going to Skagen," I said.

  The man looked up from the screen and stared at me as if he was wondering if I was retarded or just plain annoying. In Denmark, people never spoke to strangers on public transportation or anywhere else, if they could avoid it. My theory was that it had something to do with the cold. The cold made people grumpy. I didn't care that he thought I was crazy. I was happy and looking forward to this weekend away. No grumpy old man was going to change that.

  "Going to stay at Brinkloev Badehotel," I continued.

  The man's face lit up. I knew it would. That was why I was so eager to tell him. It was one of the most expensive hotels in the country. It was located in Skagen, the northernmost town in Denmark, the top of Denmark, in the dunes with views directly over Vesterhavet. I had read all about it on the Internet while checking out my old class-mates’ Facebook profiles as well, so I would know how they had done for themselves.

  "That is a very nice place," the man said politely. "You'll have a great vacation up there." Then he looked back down at his screen again, probably hoping I would keep quiet for the rest of the way.

  "I know," I said. "Going there to my high school reunion. I am so excited to see how many of the old friends will show up. It will be fun to catch up and see what people have been up to. The things we don't already know from Facebook, that is," I chuckled.

  The man smiled politely, then returned to his screen.

  Typical of the boring Danes, I thought to myself. Never want to talk, always busy. He’s probably just watching porn on that thing. The thought made me laugh. The man raised his eyebrows and looked at me again.

  "Sorry," I said. "Just thought about something funny."

  "I see," the man said.

  I tapped my fingers on the table and looked out the window while my stomach growled. I rose to my feet and looked down the aisle through the train. I spotted the lady with the food wagon further down. In first class, the breakfast was free. I watched her as she pushed the wagon closer and sat down as soon as she entered through the sliding doors. She was dressed like a flight attendant and smiled like one as she spoke.

  "Breakfast roll?"

  "Yes please, two please," I said. "And coffee please. And butter, and cheese and … uh … jam. And a chocolate bar please. Do you have hot chocolate?"

  The lady looked at me, puzzled, then smiled again. "Sure." She pulled out the food and placed it in front of me. Then she poured hot chocolate in a cup.

  "Do you have whipped cream?" I asked.

  "No. I'm sorry. I don't."

  "Okay," I said disappointed and looked at the food in front of me. I couldn't wait to get started.

  The man lifted his eyes from the screen just enough to make me feel bad about all the food. I shook my head while buttering the roll and putting cheese on top of it.

  "And for you, sir?" she asked the man behind the laptop.

  I bit down on my roll with butter, cheese and jam on top. Just the way I preferred it. It was still warm and the butter had melted. I sipped my hot chocolate with my eyes closed. It was perfect for a cold winter day.

  "Just a cup of coffee," the man said.

  "Sugar? Milk?" The attendant asked with her high-pitched, forced-polite voice.

  The man in the grey suit shook his head with his grey hair and a look to his eyes like it was the most despicable thing he had ever heard of.

  The woman pushed the wagon past our seats without saying anything more. I ate and drank greedily. I had been up early this morning to take the ferry to the mainland. I was hungry and no looks from an old grey man were going to make me feel bad about it.

  While I ate, I took out my iPad and looked at the e-mail I had received inviting me to this reunion. I was wondering who it was that had actually sent us the e-mail, since it wasn't signed by anyone, just by The party-committee of the class of '98. It was a little odd, I thought, that they wanted to keep it a secret who was behind the gathering, but maybe it was supposed to be a surprise of some sort. At least I was about to find out.

  I was just happy that someone had actually taken the time to arrange all this for us. It was the first time we would get together since we graduated nearly fifteen years ago. Fifteen years?

  Had it really been that long?

  I looked at the e-mail. It was strange that someone chose to have us reunited this year of all years. Why now?

  Maybe it wasn't important. The important part was that we got to see each other again and have some great food and spend the weekend in a beautiful, luxurious hotel.

  I, for one, couldn't wait.

  2

  December 2013

  HE HAD TAKEN IN AN acute patient even though it was Saturday morning and even though he was in a hurry. The poor patient was in serious pain and needed his assistance. Preben Krogh w
asn't the type of dentist who would say no to a patient in distress. Especially not when he was being paid double because it was the weekend.

  The patient was now in the chair, bent backwards and moaning in pain as Preben asked him to open his mouth. He looked inside it and found the problem immediately. A big brown round hole in one of the patient’s back teeth.

  Preben sighed and found his instruments. "We need to fix this right away," he said as he looked at his watch. It was only eight in the morning. He could still make it to Skagen before lunch if he took the car. He lived in Aarhus and it was only a couple of hours away. If only he could get this hole filled quickly. If only this patient would lie still in the chair.

  "Please, try not to move," he said when the patient squirmed.

  "I'm trying," the patient said, muffled.

  "It might hurt a little," Preben said and started scraping off some of the dirt that had gathered around the hole.

  The patient whimpered. He was breaking out in a sweat on his forehead and upper lip. He had once told Preben that he was absolutely terrified of going to the dentist. That was why he never went unless it was an emergency.

  Why … I have never … the imbecile didn't even care enough to brush his teeth before he got here this morning.

  It was the third time in the last three months that this same patient had called with an acute problem like this. It was kind of getting on Preben's nerves a little. It was about time someone taught him a lesson.

  "I told you to stay off the sweets," Preben said, annoyed.

  The patient spoke while Preben had his hands inside his mouth and Preben didn't understand a single word and didn't care to either. It was probably just more excuses. Stupid excuses for why he was still eating that stuff, why he didn't brush his teeth properly, and so on and so on. It sickened Preben to have to listen to all these stupid excuses. The fact was, the patient, and many other patients, was simply too freaking LAZY to take proper care of his teeth. What was it about dental hygiene that was so difficult? It was hardly rocket science, for crying out loud. It was so incredibly simple it almost hurt. Simply brush your teeth three times a day, or even just twice a day would do, and floss. Floss, floss, floss. That was it. There really wasn't any more to it than that. Why wouldn't people listen? Preben was so sick of it, so sick of people not listening to his advice.

 
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