Arriving in Cambodia to volunteer at an orphanage,
Abbie finds a warm welcome with the owner of her hotel, the handsome Craig
Nelson. Craig is everything her ex-husband wasn’t—warm, compassionate, and a
generous humanitarian dedicated to helping the local people. But after raising
a family and being devastated by the end of her bad marriage, the last thing
Abbie needs is complications. She’s on her own for the first time in many
years, and it’s time for her to spread her wings and fly free amid the people
and culture that have always fascinated her.
But while exploring the ancient temples of Angkor
Wat, Abbie overhears odd noises and sinister conversation that raise her
hackles. Turning to the only person she thinks may be able to help—Craig—she
realizes she’s witnessed tomb raiders—art thieves stealing frescoes to sell on
the black market. Unable to let the pillaging of the beloved temple continue,
Abbie goes back to investigate and finds evidence that proves her theory. And
in the meantime, she finds herself falling for Craig.
Yet change isn’t easy for either of them. Both
carry scars, and neither is ready to let go of the past. When Abbie is attacked
in the market place, it’s clear her presence in the temple wasn’t overlooked.
When Abbie agrees to help the police stage a sting operation to catch the
thieves, things go from bad to worse. And Craig might be powerless to help…
One Friday evening, as Abbie was hurrying to the
Old Market to buy some fresh chicken and vegetables for her dinner, she stopped
off at the ATM to take out some cash. She joined the long queue, and took out a
pen and piece of paper to write down her shopping list while she waited. Trying
hard to remember the ingredients for chemhay moan sleek crey—a gorgeous
chicken and lemongrass soup that was one of her favorites—she started writing. Galangal,
lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves… Suddenly, Abbie stiffened, drawing a sharp
breath. The pen slipped off the scrap of notepaper and drew a blue line across
the palm of her hand. A whining, Cockney London accent, coming from right
behind her, froze her to the spot.
“Hans, that just ain’t fair. They told me
fifty-fifty—and that’s what it’s gonna be, old mate.”
“You get what you deserve, imbeciel. You
have ze brains of a monkey.” Abbie heard him hawk and spit. “You deserve
“Just you watch it, you fat bastard. Without me,
you wouldn’t have ended up with a tenth of the stuff we got.”
Still frozen to the spot, Abbie didn’t notice that
the ATM was now free. She jumped as a sharp finger poked her shoulder.
“Hey, come on, love. ’Aven’t got all day, ya know.”
His mousy little face with vacant hazel eyes came into her focus, as it loomed
in front of her, inserting itself far too closely into her personal space. She
smelled his bad breath, saw the ginger whiskers glistening in the late
afternoon sun, and watched as his eyes narrowed, revealing recognition.
“Fuckin’ ’ell! It’s you!”
Abbie felt as though her feet sprouted wings, just
like Hermes, and she ran, shaking, away from the horrible men. A cacophony of
horns and shouts assaulted her as she raced across the street, narrowly
avoiding being hit by tuk-tuks, bicycles and motorbikes, and headed for the Old
Market. She entered the dark labyrinth, knocking over a stand displaying hats
and crashing into a table full of pirated DVDs.
She heard the abuse of the stallholder, but kept on running inside, into
the dark aisles, hoping to hide from the men who, she was certain, were hot on
her heels. From somewhere far off, she heard vendors yelling at her. The dark,
narrow passages were barely wide enough to walk through, and running was
impossible. Abbie banged into displays of T-shirts, pashminas, and brass Apsara
bells, causing the vendors to hurl torrents of angry words at her.
Breathlessly, Abbie emerged from the darkness of
the general merchandise area into the fresh produce aisles, which were wider
and quite well lit with natural light from the roof above, and from electric
bulbs strung along the rafters overhead. Oh my God, she thought. Where the hell
was she going to hide? She turned right, the smell of fresh fish catching in
her throat. Highly pitched Cambodian voices, all seemingly talking at once,
blotted out any other sound. The fish area seethed with late Friday afternoon
shoppers. The smell, even though she was getting used to it, was overwhelming.
Her heart beat rapidly as she desperately tried to force her way through the
crowd. She was afraid to turn around—afraid to see those cold hazel eyes set in
the vacant face. She caught her breath as she rounded a corner. Big glassy fish
eyes stared at her from shiny silver bodies, lying on beds of crushed ice. Cane
baskets of green prawns adorned the tables, their wiry tendrils draped over a
mass of black, closely set eyeballs. Her heart racing wildly, Abbie vaguely
noticed vendors weighing out fresh produce and serving customers in the hectic,
A ruckus erupted behind her. Raised Cambodian
voices, high-pitched and angry, pierced through the buzz of the traders and
customers. She heard an
argument breaking out from somewhere not too far away. Horrified, she
heard crass English swear words—an outburst of profanity—responding to
Cambodian voices, raised in affront. She felt her eyes sting when sweat rolled
down her forehead and crept into the corner of her eyes.
“Get outta the bleedin’ way!” His ugly, common
voice, shouted at the shoppers and vendors.
Pausing in her flight, Abbie quickly turned to look
over her shoulder. A mob of petite Cambodian women, yelling and screaming like
warriors, swarmed on the man. Armed with legs of pork, wooden rolling pins, and
big, meaty femurs, they raised the heavy lumps above their heads and brought
them down hard on the man. Abbie watched in amazement as he crumpled into
crouching position, his hands over his head, trying to deflect the blows. She
looked beyond him into the crowded market, and saw the fatter man, his pallid
face shiny with sweat, eyes bulging. Two young Cambodian men held him firmly by
the scruff of his hideous Hawaiian shirt, a huge, pointy meat hook hovering only
inches from his face. She saw his eyes cross as he stared at the vicious barb
so close to his ugly mug.
Abbie cried out as two strong hands grabbed her by
the shoulders and dragged her into the darkness of the narrow aisles. Hands
pushed her along in front of them, stopping only when they arrived at a wooden
door. Abbie couldn’t breathe.