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Tentatively, I lay my head on his shoulder with my face in the crook of his neck. I take a deep breath, breathing in his clean, masculine smell. His natural scent smells amazing. He always smells fresh from the shower. No. It’s more than that, like the first rain of the season after it cleans the air, and everything smells pure. I can’t get enough of smelling his skin, but of course, that’s exactly when he pulls away from me. Michael walks up the three short steps, taking him to my bedroom. Does he expect me to follow? I enjoyed our moment, but the betrayal is still too fresh for that kind of connection. I hear him rummaging through the bathroom. What’s he looking for? I walk gingerly to the sofa and take a seat, waiting for Michael to return. He walks out carrying the first-aid kit. He comes to kneel in front of me. He intends to care for my wounds. My stomach is a butterfly farm in spring. It’s too much. I turn my head, looking off in the distance while he wipes my face with a warm washcloth. He’s gentle, tender even. I let my mind drift back to the Michael who left me defenseless in a bar of strangers and hostiles to die. The anger comes back, like a flash flame ignited by gasoline. He calls my name and I look at him, but I don’t see him, not really. He informs me what he’s doing may hurt, as if I didn’t know that already. My tone reflects my mood; volcanic. Michael’s look doesn’t linger, he moves onto aiding my knee. He wasn’t lying about the pain, it’s excruciating. I keep my face neutral, but my body isn’t as easily controlled. My hands dig into the cushions of the sofa with unrelenting force. I feel my fingers will break with the pressure. Suddenly, his hands are gentle again as they rest briefly on my thigh. It’s over. Thank God. Michael gets to his feet and heads to the counter where he laid his jacket. All I can do is watch as he puts his jacket on, and walks to the door. It’s only when he opens it do I find my voice.

“Michael, what am I supposed to do now?”

I haven’t been on my own for eighteen months, and now he’s dumping me in this place with no instruction of what’s to happen next. He turns, looking at me with those beautiful aqua eyes.

“Go out. Go shopping, or to a movie. Live your life until we call.” he says, stepping over the threshold.

“Oh, and Shy,” he says turning away. “Don’t try and run because I will find you, and I will kill you.”

The door shuts firmly behind him. Still sitting in the same spot, I’m stuck as the euphoria of his touch wears off. Vaguely, I hear his threat as the real pain sets in. I hurt in so many places. I look down at my torn dress and bloody legs, and cringe. I can’t imagine what I must look like. I’m kind of in awe at the fact that he even wanted to touch me. All I want in this moment is a hot bath, warm sweats, and my bed.

The bath was exactly what I needed as it soothed my aching body parts. Keeping my knee with the newly glued laceration free of the water was a little tricky. I stand in front of the mirror, drying off. Dropping the towel, I stare at myself. The cut on my head is minor, which surprises me. The way it bled, I was sure it needed stitches. The cut is in my hair line, and if you aren’t looking for it you won’t even know it’s there. I have bruises everywhere as well as small cuts up and down both arms. My knee is definitely the worst. I carefully put my sweats on and crawl into bed, curling up into a fetal position. Within seconds, I’m asleep.


It’s so cold outside, I’m able to see my breath as I exhale. Dressed in all black with a black beanie, I crouch beside Michael. His face is stone as he stares at the building ahead of us, wearing the same attire. We wait in between two industrial buildings for Vivian to give the order. Michael gives me hand signals to watch the top of the buildings for snipers, and to take them out if I see any. He’s going in alone. I’m to stay outside, and watch the perimeter.

Vivian gives the signal, and Michael stands. He takes off running toward the building before I can tell him I’m not ready yet. I stand, shaking, with my heart in my throat as I watch him run into the building. I hear automatic gunfire, and know it isn’t Michael because he only has his Glock 18 and XDM9. I take off running before I know what I’m doing. With my gun ready in my hand, I slowly open the door to sneak in. Hiding behind two barrels, I have a perfect view of Michael and the three gunmen that have him surrounded. One of the men is holding a gun to his head as he asks, “Who do you worked for?”

Michael holds fast, refusing to answer the man. He hits Michael, hard in the head with the butt of his gun, dropping him to his knees. Michael slowly gets to his feet as blood trails down his face. He keeps the gunman’s gaze, never wavering. His beautiful aqua eyes are so cold, yet calm, mixed with the perfect amount of steel. This time the man asks him who he is, and once again, Michael stays silent, giving him nothing.

“Fine, have it your way,” the gunman says as he cocks the gun for emphasis.

The man waits a minute or two longer before saying, “I’m in a good mood, so I’ll give you one more chance to answer me. Who do you work for?”

He asks slow and precise, but Michael remains the perfect statue. I’m holding my breath, waiting for Michael to answer, but I know he never will. He will die first. I have the perfect vantage point. They’re in my sights, but I’m frozen. The man nods once before pulling the trigger. The bullet enters Michael’s temple and exits through the back of his head at an angle, making his head snapped back from the impact of the bullet. Through and through. It’s a clean shot.

Michael falls in what seems like slow motion. His lifeless body hits the ground with unrelenting force, and the blood blooms out around his head like a grotesque flower. I see the light leave his eyes, and lose it. Standing, I scream while opening fire on the men, taking out two of them. The one who killed Michael is still standing, so I square my shoulders and fire, but before the bullet hits home he gets a shot off of his own. The bullet flies toward me, and right before it strikes me in my heart . . .


Shooting up in bed, I clutch my chest where that bullet would’ve hit. I’m sweating profusely. My chest still burns when I breathe deep from the explosion. I try taking slow, deep breaths when I hear a noise. Sliding my hand under my pillow, I grip my Bersa .380, and get on my knees in the ready position before I even know what I’m doing. With the adrenaline, I don’t feel the pain of being on my knee. Reflexes are everything in this business. Slow will get you killed.

I scan the room slowly and precisely until I’m satisfied nothing is in my apartment. I lower my weapon, and relax. The heater kicks on, and so does my adrenaline, right back up to ten and holding. I’m up on my knees again, except this time I fire in the direction of the sound. Shit. Get a grip, Shy. It’s just the damn heater for crying out loud.

“There goes the security deposit. I hope the Collective didn’t pay too much for this place,” I say, feeling ridiculous.

I pop a few more ibuprofen and lie back down. Hours pass, and try as I might I can’t fall asleep. Lying in bed for the rest of the night, waiting for the sun to come up is my penance for overreacting.

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