Authors: Roxy Harte
Tags: #Romance, #Adult
So many regrets…
My wife remains in Africa. It seems strange to think that I lost my wife to another country, however, that is exactly what happened. Admittedly our last child, a daughter we named Sophia, was not mine. I was not so sure, Latisha was most certain, and the child’s birth left little doubt that her father was Asian, a man I met only once at Lewd Larry’s.
She promised their affair only lasted a few months and ended immediately when she realized she was pregnant. She’d considered an abortion, but couldn’t. She’d considered telling the man she was pregnant, but didn’t. I’m glad she didn’t; I don’t think I would share well.
She’d tried so hard to have her child in the land of her birth, Sudan, wanting to lie beneath a small, brightly colored tent, nothing but sand beneath her as she gave birth, just as her mother did, and her mother before her, but Sudan is not safe and thankfully her father stopped her, making her stay in Cairo.
That is where I found her, at her father’s house in Cairo, cussing in four languages.
She’d kept her word, calling me the moment she knew she was in labor and I was there to rescue her, not from her father, but from circumstance. Forced to stay in a plush bed, surrounded by servants, her labor was difficult because she refused to give birth anywhere other than where she wanted to. If anything, Lattie is stubborn. Her father is even more stubborn. I, more stubborn than either of the two, picked up my wife and carried her down the stairs and outside to the walled gardens behind the house. She didn’t get to give birth in the desert sands, but she did get to give birth outside, beneath a blazing sun.
I fell in love with Lattie all over again in that moment. She was so focused, so fierce in child-birth, and although another man formed this baby, I don’t fault Lattie, or him, it is only our lifestyle that caused the circumstance and, because Lattie is my wife, the child we named Sophia is mine, and although I bonded with her for only a little while before Latisha’s father forced me again from Egypt, I will always love this youngest child of mine.
My brain wraps around the loss of Latisha and the children, not to another man, but to another country, and I long for a jealous tirade to build in my chest. I long for grief, but none is forthcoming. I cannot fault her for wanting to change the world. Staying with her father in Cairo, she is safer than she would be in California. Both she and the children have armed personal attendants at all times, and there, she is closer to her homeland.
From there, she feels she can do the greatest good, and her objective is to bring light to the genocide happening in Darfur and Chad.
When she left for Africa, I knew she’d been unhappy with life in the United States, but I never dreamt she would keep our children from seeing me. I honestly don’t believe that it is a conscious act or that she is trying to be mean, it is just circumstance, her need to do something, and I understand the need to change the world, the need to stop evil.
That’s not to say I don’t miss them … all of them. The happily-ever-after life we supposedly lived in the suburbs was a nice fringe benefit, a time of relative serenity in a life not serene. I am intelligent enough to accept it for what it was … the moment … and feel gratitude for the time our lives mingled, but I cannot blame the lump in my throat on missing Lattie, or even the children.
Thank God Kitten was there for me when I returned from Africa, though I tried to stay away from her, after all, she was not mine, borrowed for a time, but never mine, and I had no right to seek her out. But not seeking her out was impossible. I love her … but I cannot even blame the emotion flooding my chest on her. Though I left her at the penthouse pissed as hell. Tonight was supposed to be our night together, alone time …
playtime with just me and her. Because only alone can we play as roughly as we like. We take risks, controlled risks yes, but we definitely push the limit. She likes to call it waltzing the edge. I smiled when Garrett asked her, “Waltzing the edge of what?”
She replied, “You know, silly. Why do you tease me so?”
But he didn’t know or he would have been terrified. Death. We waltz the edge of death. She trusts me with her life every single time we play in private, and Garrett, as much as I love and respect him, just can’t stomach the danger. He doesn’t have a clue as to how far we go, because although we played, and I played rough with him, we didn’t play for keeps. It’s a thrill ride with Kitten because she does trust me so and I don’t know what I’d do without her, now that I’ve found her.
I disappointed her tonight by canceling a weekend together that she’d really been looking forward to, as had I, because Glorianna called me, and my responsibility is to my country first and foremost. Though I am not a citizen, or even a documented agent, the United States has my loyalty, and in return, they grant me safe haven. I could not deny Glorianna. Kitten will get over it.
“Talk to me, Thomas.” Glorianna whispers, her voice honestly tinged with concern.
I don’t answer, won’t answer … can’t answer because I have no answer. Instead, taking her face into my hands, I hug her face. This is what I do best, taking the attention off me and deflecting onto them. Kissing each eyelid closed, I reflect on just how easy people are to maneuver. Retrieving the blindfold I’d tossed to the nightstand hours earlier, I place it again over her eyes before caressing her supple shoulders, amazed again at their incredible softness. She is twice my age, or almost at any rate, but once the lights go out it is easy to whisper assurances against her mouth. She melts beneath my touch, accepting the lied promises as truth. It is her weakness that will lead to her heartbreak, not broken vows. At least, that is what I tell myself.
I should feel bad.
I don’t. Lies are my life.
Lying is my sacred duty, and some nights I feel that duty is the hardest bitch I ever have to sleep with.
“She is a ghost, mon amour, someone from long ago who is dead to me now. It was just a stupid, stupid dream.”
“Good,” she replies tersely, then with a sly smile adds, “Perhaps we should discuss the real reason I summoned you to my bed tonight. Although, I think that you in my bed should occur more often … but we can discuss that … later.”
I blink, shielding fast and hard, as she lifts the blindfold from her eyes. Making eye contact, she waits for a response, I remain silent, waiting for the shoe to drop, my brain pacing, wondering who I will be asked to kill this night and whether the scales are weighted to my side or hers as to whether I dare deny her anything.
“So quiet, Thomas. You must remember that I am well used to men trying to manipulate me with their kisses, but then, isn’t that why you are in my bed in the first place? Because I will not fall in love with you?”
She squints her eyes and purses her lips. I’m certain she considers how much she should say, how much she can safely reveal. No, I hadn’t really forgotten that her rise to power was due to her keen intelligence and shrewd cunning.
“You do realize that you are my favorite agent?”
My lips twitch but I don’t smile. “I didn’t realize that tonight I was here as an agent.
Your pleasure was my only agenda this night.”
She laughs a short hoot that would seem cold and cynical if not warmed by the smile sparkling in her eyes, “You do amuse me so, Thomas. I love that you lie so well. You make me feel safe, cherished … well used … and sometimes even loved, but there is always duty between us. You protect me, meet my darker needs that never need see the light of day … and I protect you.”
I watch her turn to open the top drawer of the nightstand, retrieving a sealed file. I assume the file contains the identity of who she will ask me to kill.
“There is a man in Europe, making sport of killing our operatives. Worse, he airs the killings over the Internet under the perversion of snuff films.” She pauses, only to hand the folder over to me. I don’t break the seal, waiting for her to say more, because I know she will.
“We have no idea who the man is, only that the man whose identity is contained in that folder is associated with him. Of course, first instinct was to have him brought in, to convince him to disclose to us the identity of the leader,” her lips tighten, “but then I saw the photos. Perhaps you can explain, Thomas.”
My heartbeat pauses mid-beat, her voice implying that I know something, perhaps as much as the man caught in the photos. I am on trial and whatever is contained in the envelope doesn’t bode well for me leaving this room safely if I don’t provide the answers she wants to hear. I crack the seal to the folder and spill out the contents, but before I even respond, she clasps my hand and begs, “Please tell me that man isn’t you, Thomas!”
The face looking back at me from the photo is my own, but it isn’t me. It is my twin, Nikkos. My fingers brush the photo lightly, touching his face, bringing fresh newness to a pain that I have kept buried in my heart. I whisper, “It isn’t me.”
“Good,” she replies, pulling a second photo out from under the first, revealing two young identical-looking boys, arms wrapped around each other’s faces, wide smiles reflecting a happy day, their school soccer uniforms covered with mud. “Then I can assume it is your brother?”
“Yes,” I answer, my heart racing, already wondering who I will have to trade favors with to keep him alive if Glorianna asks me to kill him now.
“I want you to bring him to me.”
Ordinarily, I do what I am told, no questions. Today, I cannot remain silent. “May I ask why?”
Her eyebrow lifts and I know that look, that how-dare-you-question-my-authority look, but then her lips twitch in amusement. “How much do you know about your brother’s activities in Paris?”
“I know he is working undercover. I know it will be extremely difficult to find him or extricate him from his current mission.”
“Yes, well, as long as you understand your personal risk. All you need to know is that by bringing him to me, you will save his life.” She lifts the blindfold to her eyes.
“Now, where were we?”
Transatlantic flight Air France 83
Caught in a brilliant ray of sunlight, winking silver draws my eyes outward to a brilliant blue sky as the plane I’m riding in joins the others, waiting for landing clearance as Paris becomes clearly visible below. The lump in my throat returns and I find myself floored by the raw emotion cutting through my heart. I should be surprised it’s been so long since I felt anything at all, but after crying into my pillow last night under the soft caresses of Glorianna, nothing surprises me.
I left Paris meaning to never return and yet I’ve dreamed of returning every day since. I left Nikkos here, not wanting to, begging him to come with me, even though at the time I had no idea where I was going. He refused.
Eva, too, I left in Paris. My greatest regret has been Eva.
I can’t keep my mind off her, although we shared only a few months together. I doubt she would even remember my name if I were to seek her out. She most certainly hasn’t dreamt of me as I’ve dreamt of her. She haunts me. I see her around every turn, just a glimmer, never her. I cannot close my eyes without thinking of her Nordic blue ones, eyes that dramatically change to the warm, blue-green of the ocean surrounding Greece, my native birthplace, in the heat of passion. Does she think of my dark brown ones with such obsession?
I waste my time with such thoughts when it is my twin brother I go to find.
I have known for a while that something was wrong, that Nikkos was in peril, A unique bond binds us and whether the pain is mental or physical we sense it in each other.
It has always been that way. Normally, because of his work as an undercover operative, I feel a vibration from him, it simmers beneath my skin, letting me know that he is on edge, but what I am feeling now is greater than that. If I didn’t know better, I would say it is fear, but as far as I know, nothing has ever scared him. However, until last night, I was stuck waiting for him to make contact. Contacting him was an impossibility.
Glorianna has made the impossible plausible … although I will not go so far as to even entertain the idea that I will be able to extricate him—that will take cooperation.
The voice is a gnat buzzing my ear and I fight to hold onto the feel of Eva, the taste of her … the scent of her, so all-consuming that it must be real. I smell her, but then, with a touch on my arm, she flees, her memory recoiling back into the shadowy safe house inside my mind, gone until the next chance dreaming. I growl at the concerned flight attendant, jerking my arm from beneath her innocent touch, my nose seeking the source of the scent responsible for the latest dream.
The sensual, floral scent of Tuscany Per Donna is all-consuming and I am swept again into the memory of our shared past life. Memory tied inexplicably to Eva’s signature scent…
It was during our last hours together.
I’d taken the bottle from her after watching her with it had driven me to distraction.
My mind’s eye forms the vision of her nude. Now, as then, so wrapped up in her ritual, dabbing scent behind her ears … along her jugular … inside the crease of her elbow and on her wrists … drawing a line of teasing scent beneath her breasts and down her stomach to her pubis. It was when her hand passed between her legs that I lost control and, in a growling, very uncharacteristic moment, stole the bottle away from her, replacing her hand with my tongue between her thighs.
I glance up in time to see the flight attendant’s tight frown. I assume she has addressed me more than once. Perhaps, several times…
I know I dreamt again. Between Sir and Monsieur, my reality shifted, and I was again with Eva.
Where? Not here. Here being 20,000 feet above sea level.
I’m losing it. The it in question being my grip on reality. Worse, I’ve lost my edge.
San Francisco made me soft, affected the way I think.
“Oui?” I blink innocently, taking the flight attendant’s hand and pressing my lips to her fingertips, inhaling deeply of her own scent mingled with the perfume. The irony of the moment doesn’t escape me.