Authors: Roxy Harte
Tags: #Romance, #Adult
“Lovely, Mademoiselle. Tuscany Per Donna, oui?”
“Oui,” she answers, tugging back her hand. Gripping her fingers a bit tighter, I establish my presence, forcing her gaze to mine with just that easy pressure. Without her even knowing it, I have begun culling out her deepest desires. Without her even knowing it, I am topping her.
Indicating the blinking overhead— Fasten seat belts—she commands in French. My brain translates without effort. “Please return your seat to the upright position. The captain makes our final approach. Yes?”
“Oui.” Feigning awaking, I release her hand and stretch lazily before wiping feigned sleep from my eyes.
Just that easily, I make her relax. Her smile is a wonderful thing. In mere seconds, chemistry develops.
Disarming. My expertise on body language makes me a formidable foe, and an even stronger ally. I have a knack for it, making people feel comfortable, gaining their trust without question. A knack that made me the best at what I did, for a while anyway.
Depending on the country I worked for, I was the highest-paid assassin, guardian, or investigator. Who better skilled than the one who could move from inner circle to inner circle like a chameleon?
Knowing that all women enjoy the tousled look of men upon awakening, I court this small advantage.
“Pardonnez moi, your perfume reminded me of a special woman.”
“Ah, a past love, your first? Yes?” She laughed and stroked my arm, flirting. “A Frenchman always remembers his first love best.”
“Oui.” I smile and, that easily, her curiosity is sated. She walks away, leaving me to bask in the subtle remnants of her perfume, wondering how I was ever fool enough to believe that I could keep from seeking out Eva.
December 24, 2002 10:52:38 p.m.
Special Operations Department, WODC
I watch her from within the shadows of an air duct. Don’t ask how I came to be here.
It wasn’t an easy task and one sorely irresponsible. Here I am, back in France, dangerous even without the assignment because, at one time, I was the most wanted man in France.
My being here at all is due to the fact that I am a protected man. Powers greater than my enemies willing to keep me hidden. But the key to that protection has been me not returning to France—those who wanted me dead, believe me dead, and to show up now, quite alive, will ruin everything. I risk so much for one peek at a woman who believes me dead…
She is beautiful still, older but beautiful. She must be twenty-eight or twenty-nine by now and the years have been good to her. There is something new to her countenance, something that wasn’t there the first time I spied her so long ago. Confidence?
She is still as dangerous as she ever was. I can feel her fearless energy even at this great distance and her coifed elegance does little to soften her feral intensity. Her long blonde hair pulled up into a loose knot and secured with chopsticks is a trademark look for her—sophisticated, commanding, aloof. She definitely had the look, even then. I long to see her hair loose and rumpled around her shoulders as when she first awakens in the morning with her eyelids still heavy, her mouth soft. Waking was one of the rare moments I ever saw her appear vulnerable, because even in her submission, vulnerable wasn’t a word I would have used to describe the woman I once knew.
Like an addict, I crave her perilous intensity. In my absence, she has become well aware of the power she wields, wearing it as an essence that rafts around her like a rare, exotic perfume, lulling those around her into a sense of security.
It is a potent aphrodisiac.
A man with short-cropped copper hair joins her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder, whispering in her ear. She smiles, they both laugh, and I see red. I had thought it was just a saying until my vision filled, a red misty veil obscuring the scene before me.
I am not jealous, I’m not that kind of man; however I admit that my clenching and unclenching fists make a strong argument. It becomes even harder to deny as I watch the scene unfolding below me. My fists I can control. Breathe in, breathe out. I focus on my intent to be calm, fighting my baser impulse to kick through the air duct and strangle the man a bit harder.
I’ve gone insane.
He’s merely a co-worker, one of many milling around the large office loft who only stopped to congratulate her. Still, I’m elated when he walks away.
Her smile lingers on her soft lips. What did he say to make her smile so brightly?
God, she is gorgeous.
Her black leather jacket, positioned neatly over her shoulders and stopping short at her waist, hides at least three weapons. The black turtleneck beneath, lending a graceful elegance to her long neck and hugging around her generous curves with scant decency, is skintight body armor. Even her black slacks, cut to reveal long, slim legs and emphasize the glorious curve of her hips are both cover for more weapons and weapon themselves in their disarming effect on the male mind.
She turns, seeming to look straight at me. Reaction is automatic—my body stilling to the point that merely breathing is not noticeable. Eyes not blinking but lids softening to lessen the chance that the whites of my eyes will not be seen, thoughts silenced so that even the energy ripple caused by my consciousness will be indistinguishable. She can’t see me, but her instincts are still on full alert from being on assignment. I have no doubt that, for a second, she felt someone watching her—a requisite sixth sense that kept her alive when she was out in the field. Her internal antenna still on red alert is evidenced by her hand, moving nervously to adjust and readjust the black plastic sunglasses propped on her head. She scans the crowd, seeking out who watches. Finding no one, she abruptly removes the glasses, folds them, and tucks them into her jacket pocket. She is on edge. It is a feeling I understand well, having lived with constantly looking over my shoulder for almost two decades.
I was wrong not to recommend her. Watching, it is obvious. Eva Lindquist is a woman in charge.
I denied her the opportunity of her dream job for the sake of my lust, but oh, how karma comes back. Within days I was running, hiding, planning to never look back.
Now, face to face with my demons once more, is not the time to reflect backward.
The office Christmas party, usually a boring affair, is suddenly a raucous celebratory event with her arrival, but not just hers, the entire taskforce with her, having returned from an assignment.
How long she has been away this time?
I don’t consider the danger, it is the backdrop of her career, her skill keeps her alive.
By the celebratory mood, she has been away a while, the odds high that the team would not return at all. There is surprise that the team is here for the holiday, meaning they hurried it along a bit. Translated—they killed quickly.
How many bad guys did you take down this morning, Eva, in order to make time for the party this evening?
Eva, Eva, Eva.
The bright office lights dim, setting a mood for the evening’s affair, and I watch her search the deepening shadows nervously. Her bright smile gone, replaced by an anxious scowl.
Please smile, Eva, if only for the photograph in my mind.
The man with copper hair returns, proffering a flute of champagne. For him, she smiles.
The music cranks louder and my heart joins the wild bass beat. Desks and chairs swept toward the walls create an impromptu dance floor. She laughs, tilting the flute to her lips. With her other hand, she beckons her co-worker to join her as she backs onto the dance floor. Already her hips sway, the feeling of unease all but tucked out of her mind for the moment. He pulls off his tie and tosses it to a laughing brunette, who catches it.
Clapping, she shouts, “Go, Eva! Go, Eva! Go! Go! Go!”
As he approaches Eva, he swivels his hips provocatively and smiles lewdly. I focus on the other woman to keep from bursting through the duct cover. She twirls the man’s tie high above her head, cheering, “Yeah, baby! Get down, Liam, get down!”
Liam. A name to go with the fire in my mind. I want him dead, thinking how easy it would be to remove him from her life. My rational brain demands that he is just a co-worker. That tonight they have every right to their party. I realize just how greatly they deserve to dance, knowing that tonight they celebrate surviving another day. Tomorrow some will live but some will die, because evil doesn’t take off for the holidays.
Before doing something reckless, I back away, leave the duct, cursing myself the entire time.
It should be harder, I think to myself as I slip free of the ductwork and silently enter the stairwell for a safe, easy exit. The stairwell ascends back into the public realm, and I leave the secret corridors and mystery agents to their party. Stepping into the night air, I am assailed by street noise—honking horns, cursing drivers, crying, tired infants wanting freedom from their car seats. It is a different noise than inside; the loud music was white noise, easily pushed into the background. Not so easy to push away is the noise of humanity. I lift my face into the mist-filled night air, fading into the anonymity offered by the passing street crowd, everyone rushing to get in out of the cold. The night turned bitterly cold while I was inside, and the passersby duck deeper into their coat collars. I wish no such escape, embracing the bitterness as I head east toward the river.
What on earth was I thinking to seek her out?
I am a fool. I cannot have her, can never again hold her, and if I could, then what?
Would she leave the WODC, become traitor? Would she hide with me, seeking amnesty from whichever country needs our services more? If she refuses to come with me, could I be the one to kill her, before she killed me? Because she would be the deadly force they send to retrieve me—that is once she informs them I live still. That leaves the question, would she tell them? Could she kill me? Is it worth the risk to find out the answers?
The weight in my chest returns. Reaching the bridge, I lean over the rail, heaving, trying to breathe, trying to forget the image of her in the arms of the red-haired man.
Clinging to the icy rail, I tip my head back to clear my head and notice, for the first time since returning to Paris, the sky. Paris has a lovely night sky, not the ebony black of the United States, or even the blue-black of my homeland, but a deep purple-black that is distinctly Parisian. Just the sight of it calms me. I think that if I do seek Eva out, it will be under a night sky such as this. Beneath such a magical sky, I imagine that miracles can happen. And if I should die as a result of my recklessness, the darkness of it would be a fine sight as I lie dying.
You are my heart, my life, my one and only thought.
~ Sir Author Conan Doyle
Special Ops Christmas Party
December 24, 2002 10:52:38 p.m.
Idiots! If I could kill them all, I would. I swear I would.
“Hey Eva, glad you’re back! Awesome save today!”
“Good job, Eva!”
I dance, I drink, I drink and dance more, trying to forget the events of this day, this week, this year or last, for god’s sake! Just a second from the nightmare my life has become would be enough … just one second! But no, they don’t want me to forget. Not even a second’s reprieve from all the congratulations.
I smile the fake smile I learned my very first day of training, the smile that keeps us alive. The smile that promises I am a team player. I do as I’m told. I don’t question authority. Yes, you can trust me. Really.
I smile to live another day. Maybe, tomorrow, I’ll just stop smiling.
If only I could be that brave…
“Way to go, Ee-vaaah!”
My head is going to explode. Turn down the fucking music. Stop fucking congratulating me. My God! Congratulations for killing a man. Congratulations for killing three men, or a dozen or a hundred. It’s insane.
What does it matter? He died. Who cares, right? He deserved to die, that’s why they sent me … he deserved to die. My mistake, I shouldn’t have looked into his eyes, shouldn’t have witnessed the pleading there. Yes, I know, he would have killed me first if he’d had the opportunity, if I’d moved slower. But the truth is, I was faster and he died instead of me. Should it have been me?
He was evil, guilty of heinous atrocities in his mother country.
He went home. They always do. They want to spend the holidays with the ones they love. It makes them easy prey. Am I just as evil for taking advantage of the situation?
She watched his beloved, the one he would die for if it meant sharing one last Christmas Eve dinner with, one last Midnight Mass together.
God, she was so young, so beautiful, holding her small daughter on her hip, the outline of another baby in her womb obvious even through the window I caught her watching us through. I stopped them from killing her and her babies. Do I get karma points for that?
She will forever see the bullet that pierced her husband’s heart, as will her daughter, a shared nightmare that will either bring them closer together or destroy them as time goes on. I will forever see their faces, twisted by horror and anguish, in my nightmares.
Should it have been me? If the rules of democracy changed tomorrow, would I be the one running from my crimes?
“Eva! Great job out there today! More champagne? There’s plenty!”
Don’t congratulate me. I back away, her voice becoming a drone. Should I be worried that I see her mouth moving but don’t understand the words? Liam offers me another flute of champagne, but I put up both hands in refusal. I think I excused myself, muttering about having to piss, but he gives me a queer look, and his moving lips tell me he’s saying something but I don’t hear the words.
Ladies’ room in sight, I duck in, not quite believing that the woman who just congratulated me follows me, holds the door. She is one of the new operatives … young, too young. She probably doesn’t know the unspoken rules yet. We are definitely class divided here and in the eyes of those who do know the rules, I am the queen bee. Only my inner circle speaks to me, or has contact with me, unless I am leading a mission, and then the rules of war dictate. Certainly, to her, I appear obnoxiously rude, a truth reflected in her frown.