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Authors: MJ Eason

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BOOK: Free Fall
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We ate in silence for a long time before I finally forced myself to ask him the question I needed to know.

“Roc, why didn’t you come back to D.C.? Was it because of me or the job?”

It was a while before he answered. “No, Rainie, it wasn’t because of you. I couldn’t come back. I was in the hospital for weeks. It wasn’t possible. And as far as the job goes, well, Ed knew where to find me.”

“Then why didn’t you get word to me? Why shut me out completely?”

“I thought I was doing what you wanted. I thought you’d be better off without me complicating your new life.”

“Oh, Roc, I needed you with me…” I didn’t finish. I didn’t want to go there again. Roc and I were already on very shaky ground. I didn’t know if we could ever get beyond the obstacles standing in our way, and I feared Roc would never accept our baby as his.

It was hard being so close to him and yet so far from him emotionally. I couldn’t help but remember everything we’d once meant to each other. All the seemingly insignificant moments we’d shared together when I was too stubborn and self-absorbed to realize what I had.

We spent hours going over all the details of the original document I’d translated, searching for any clue as to what the coalition terrorist cells were planning. It was useless. Something was missing. A key piece of the puzzle. I left Roc still searching and went up to bed.

But sleep proved hard to come by. I found myself waking from troubled dreams, frightened as painful images went round in my head. Pictures of Roc and how close to death he’d come. Part of me still believed Roc’s life was in jeopardy.

When I couldn’t fall back to sleep again, I slipped downstairs. The light was still on in the great room but Roc was nowhere in sight. His laptop was open. He’d been making notes on what we’d discussed earlier. The last note was to himself.

Call Mark about Silvers’ find
.

I didn’t understand what that meant but after another thorough search of Roc’s e-mails, nothing significant turned up. Whatever Roc was talking about wasn’t going to be found on his computer.

I dug out the brochures I’d hidden away in my purse and found the one on adoption. It was time to think about what was best for my child. Roc was right. I would never be free of the ties that bound me to The Agency. No one got out of this thing unscarred. I couldn’t bring a child into so much uncertainty, constantly looking over my shoulder. But I wasn’t sure I had the strength to give up my one last connection to Roc.

I was still standing in front of the great room fireplace when Roc found me a little while later.

For the longest time, I wasn’t aware of him standing in the doorway until he moved close to me.

“What’s wrong, Rainie?” he asked and I tried to hide the evidence of my tears.

“Nothing. I just couldn’t sleep. Why are you up?”

With a frustrated sigh, he pulled me back against his body.

“What’s wrong?” he repeated, turning me to face him when I didn’t answer.

In my hand, I still held the adoption brochure. Roc took it from me.

He read through the first few lines. “What’s this?”

“Nothing. It’s nothing.”

He searched my face. “You’re thinking about giving the baby up?”

I could only nod. I couldn’t find the words to tell him the truth.

“Why? I thought you wanted this child. I thought, well, I thought you were excited about the baby.”

I pulled away from him and he let me go. Until tonight, I’d still held out hope that Roc would return and realize I was having his child and everything would be all right. Now I realized that was just a fantasy. I could never do this on my own. I had to do what was best for my baby.

“I can’t do it, Roc. I just can’t do this alone. I was so sure.” I shook my head. “I wanted to be the best mother ever but what do I have to offer a child? What kind of life would he have? Maybe this is for the best, after all. I can’t do it.”

“Rainie…” I could see Roc believed this was some ploy on my part to get him back. I could hear his frustration edged with another emotion I wanted to believe was still love. “Don’t. Look, we’ll figure this out together.”

“No.” I moved away from him with as much dignity as I could manage and started up the stairs. “No, Roc, you were right.”

“Rainie…”

“It’s late and I’m tired. I’m going back to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”

I ran up the stairs and closed the door to my room before sinking to the floor. Deep in my heart, I guess I’d known the truth all along, but having the distance between Roc and myself made me want to believe it could turn out differently. There were no fairy tales in our life and certainly no happy endings. I’d only been kidding myself. Roc at least had tried to be truthful. There was nothing left for me to do now except what was best for my child.

Roc opened the door and stood watching me.

“Roc, please just go away.”

He came to me and lifted me to my feet. “Shh,” he told me before picking me up in his arms and carrying me to the bed. “It isn’t over between us, Rainie, no matter how much I tried to believe it was. It’s not. It will never be over between us.”

That night, Roc made love to me in ways that only he could, reaching parts of my being that craved his touch. And when I lay in his arms, I found I was still crying, because whatever closeness we shared would only be temporary.

“I’ve thought of nothing else but being with you again since I left Washington. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to walk away from you? Do you?” Roc leaned over me, searching my face as he said those words.

“I don’t believe you. You never looked back—not once. You started over and you never even thought about me. You never tried to contact me. You never tried to see how I was doing, and even now, when I need you to believe in me, you can’t.”

“I don’t want to talk about the baby, Rainie. I can’t do it just yet. It’s hard enough knowing that you’ve been with another man. It makes me want to kill him knowing that he’s touched you the way he had no right to touch you.”

“He didn’t touch me. It wasn’t like that!”

“I don’t want to talk about it. But I can’t walk away from you either. We’ll figure the rest of it out, I promise. We’ll work it out. I don’t want you to give up your baby.”

“Our baby! It’s our baby, Roc! Why can’t you believe me?” I turned away in the darkness, then heard his heavy sigh before he pulled me back into the warmth of his arms, comforting me as only Roc could do.

I drifted off to sleep with the sound of his voice reassuring me that we would work things out together. But he never mentioned the baby, and I could no longer accept anything Roc said as real.

Chapter 10

From somewhere downstairs, I heard the sound of my husband’s distinctively masculine voice. Roc was talking to someone on the phone, but he was still with me. That had to mean something.

I took my time getting dressed that morning, mostly because it felt awkward facing him again.

My image in the mirror reflected the toll the past few months had taken on me. My brown eyes looked sunken, my skin ashen. I decided it didn’t matter what I chose to wear. I would still look terrible.

It was in that frame of mind, feeling more depressed than ever and pretty much discouraged about my future, that I made my way downstairs to find Roc standing in the kitchen making breakfast.

“Hi.”

Roc turned as I walked into the room and looked at me with that solemn expression of his that never gave anything away.

It felt as if we were right back to where we started from the night before. I turned and walked out of the room without another word.

“Rainie.” His voice filled with frustration as he came after me. “Rainie, don’t. I told you I wouldn’t walk away from you again. Don’t you believe me?”

I couldn’t tell him the truth. I didn’t believe him. I believed that once my child was born, Roc would leave me again. This time for good. I could only shake my head.

“Rainie, you have to trust me. If we’re going to make this work between us, you have to trust me. I promise I’m not leaving you.”

I tried to find that strong, self-assured woman he’d married all those years ago. Over the past few months, since becoming pregnant, I barely recognized myself anymore. I cried at the drop of a hat. My emotions were all over the board. I felt vulnerable and frightened most of the time. The old Rainie would have had a field day with this new girl.

“Look, baby, we’ll work this all out,” he said, gesturing toward the baby that I carried. I knew exactly what he meant. He’d try to accept my child.

“I don’t want to work things out! I want you to feel the way you did about me when you married me. You ask me to trust you. Well, I want you to trust me when I tell you this is your child. I want…oh, what does it matter anymore? It’s not the same, is it? And you’ll never be able to do any of those things. Maybe you were right in leaving me as you did, Roc. I know I treated you badly, but I do love you and I don’t want to lose you. But I am pregnant and I can’t make you believe this child is yours.”

I faced him again. “Look, I know how things appear to you, but I also know the truth. There was never anything between Doren and me. I don’t care what you think he feels for me. Doren isn’t you, Roc, and he could never be you. And I can’t accept you would believe those things about me. So just go, do whatever you have to do. I won’t keep you here any longer. I can take care of myself.”

When I would have walked away from him and from everything I desperately wanted to hold onto, Roc wouldn’t let me.

He stopped next to the window and watched me. “You’re not running away this time, Rainie. You’re good at giving up when things get tough too, you know. Shutting me out. But I won’t let you this time. Whatever happens to us, we won’t end because of me. I’m willing to stay and work through our problems together. The question is, are you?”

I searched for the words to tell him all the reasons why it wouldn’t work out between us, but Roc stopped me.

“Rainie, I’m sorry. I jumped to the wrong conclusion about you and Doren. I…just freaked for a bit. I guess because Doren is constantly making it clear he finds you attractive. I know that’s no excuse, but I am sorry. I should have trusted you more.” He sighed. “I love you, Rainie, and I want to work this out for our child’s sake.” Roc stopped and took a deep breath. “But you have to do your part, too. You have to accept the fact that there are going to be difficult times ahead for us. If you really love me the way that you say you do, then you’ll give it all you’ve got as well.”

His words tore at my heart. “I don’t know if I can,” I said. In all honesty it was hard to accept that we had to try so hard to save our marriage. Falling in love had come so easy. Why was it so hard to stay happy in love?

“Rainie, we owe it to each other and to our child to try, don’t we?”

The look of sincerity in his eyes made me want to try. “Yes.” I said quietly.

“I love you. And once this is finished for good, I want to try and work on having that normal life you talked about. I’m done with the spying, the death, the living in a shadow world. It’s over for me.”

As much as I wanted to believe him I had to ask. “Ed came to the apartment, Roc. He was the one who told me you were dead. He said you’d taken the extended assignment because of me. Ed made it sound like you’d taken the assignment so that I could get out. But Mark said you’d wanted out of our marriage for a long time. Is that true?”

Roc closed his eyes briefly, heartbreak written on his handsome face.

He came to me once more. “I never wanted out of our marriage. Not once. But I thought you did. You were so miserable. All you ever talked about was having a normal life, a family. I felt it was my fault you didn’t have any of those things. I thought I was the one making you miserable. If you hadn’t met me, you would never have joined The Agency. And you might have lived those dreams with another man.”

Tears filled my eyes. “Roc, don’t you know that I never wanted any of those things until I met you? Didn’t you know that? You were the one I wanted to share those things with.” I touched his face tenderly and asked, “Is it too late for us, Roc?”

“No, baby,” he said with so much heartbreaking emotion that at last I believed him. “No, it’s not too late. As long as we’re together, and we care about each other, then it can’t be too late. I know you love me and I love you. That much should be obvious, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here with you right now. This is our chance to have the normal life you’ve always wanted, isn’t it?”

As much as I desperately needed to believe those words, I still couldn’t. I kept remembering Roc’s reaction to learning I was pregnant. Something had died between us with those words. Was it possible to get it back?

“Come have breakfast with me. Let’s start with breakfast. We’ll just take each day and what it brings. We’ll work it out, Rainie. I promise.”

Throughout all my months of wishing the two of us could be just like any other normal married couple spending time together, I was finding the reality of that dream completely different from my fantasies.

I sat across from Roc, just as I’d dreamed about all those times, but this time I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to him.

Roc was still my husband, but I wasn’t sure what that meant anymore.

“Did you find anything useful last night?” I found myself asking, after the silence between us became too much to bear.

“No, but I think Mark may be on to something important. You remember the raid on Silvers’ suspected hideout in D.C.?” I nodded and he continued, “Well, Mark’s team found numerous shredded documents. They’ve been sifting through each piece for weeks now without any luck, until yesterday. One of the team found something. Mark’s scanning and sending it over this morning. It’s in code. He believes it’s the same language as the one you translated from the CD. Do you feel up to taking a look at it?”

“Oh, of course.”

When the e-mail finally arrived containing the document, I sat in front of Roc’s laptop and began translating it to paper while Roc roamed around the room impatiently.

The first few lines of the note followed the same rhetoric of the previous one. The rambling greeting went on for more than three paragraphs before the writer got around to the purpose of the note. What I found was a very detailed reference to least a half dozen prominent cities around the country. An attack of massive proportions was being planned. These cities were well-known tourist attractions.

BOOK: Free Fall
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