CHRONICLES OF MICHAEL: DENIABLE ASSET

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CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

*MICHAEL VARRO*

Having sex with Brianna is an act I’ve performed with several different women--and performed extremely well--more than a hundred times. It’s for the good of the mission. And I’m not going to lie, for the good of me as well. But never have I had to work so hard to stay engaged. Brianna is a gorgeous woman with an hourglass body and supple tits a man could get lost in. So why does my mind keep straying? Brianna lies comfortably with her head on my chest. Almost purring her pleasure. I play with her hair as her breath floats across my stomach. Her smell is all feminine, mixed with the musk of sex. It’s a fantastic smell. It means I did my job, and did it well. Softly, she traces my aureoles with her finger, but the silence between us is deafening.

“Are you okay, Michael?”

She’s smart. I’m sure she can sense my mind is somewhere else.

“Yes, I’m just taking in the moment. Are you okay?”

I continue to stroke her hair. It works because Brianna melts even further into my touch.

“If I wanted it, you could easily steal my heart, Michael,” she confesses.

It’s working. I’m breaking her down. With great pleasure, I will finish this. I inhale a deep purposeful breath. With Brianna’s head on my chest, I know she both feels my exasperation as well as hears it. Her head pops up immediately. Her rich brown eyes search mine.

“D-did I say something wrong?” she asks, hesitantly.

“I don’t get it,” I respond, sitting up a little straighter, forcing Brianna to do the same. “I don’t get the attraction women have towards me. I’m not a good guy, Brianna.”

I’m honest with her. The best tactic is to stick as close to the truth as possible. It’s always puzzled and intrigued me as to why I have so much power over women. Although, I never expected Brianna to be the one I’d ask. Now that Pandora’s Box is open, I decide to go all the way.

“Good is a relative term, Michael. You do what you do because you’re forced to, just like the rest of us who are imprisoned here.” She sits up all the way, leaning against the headboard. “We do what we must to survive,” she whispers.

There’s sadness in her voice. In doing what I do so well, I exploit it.

“Do you really feel imprisoned here?”

“Don’t you? What’s the definition of imprisonment? I’ll tell you,” she doesn’t hesitate. She starts speaking before I have a chance to answer. “It’s the act of confinement. Your ability to leave, to make your own choices . . . gone. It’s a lack of free will, Michael.”

It isn’t that I disagree with her. Not many of the operatives in the Collective would, but for me this isn’t just a job, but a way of life. My life. As Brianna rests her head against the headboard, I can see she is no longer enthralled by me. Grabbing her around the waist, I lean in, kissing her passionately, while bringing her back to the here and now. Bringing her back to me. After several moments, I break away. Still holding loosely onto her hair, I lean in, whispering, “Imprisonment is a state of mind, Bri. Tell me, what I can do to ease that beautiful mind?”

I pull away slightly, pressing my forehead to hers.

“Come get wet with me, Michael.”

She smiles, giving me one quick peck on the lips before pulling the covers back, and hopping out of bed. I lean back, watching as she disappears into the bathroom. My eyes close as I hear the running water. Just one more time and I’ll have her. One more time, and all her secrets will be mine.

“Michael.” I hear Brianna call over the running water.

Opening my eyes, I roll out of bed naked. I stroll toward the bathroom, running water, and the beginning of the end of the beautiful Brianna. Thirty minutes later she’s still enjoying the spray of warm water as I step out.

“I’m starving. You really made me work up an appetite. I’m ordering room service. You want anything?” I ask, drying off.

“Just a Cobb salad, please.”

After a workout like we just had, a salad would never do. She’s way too modest to survive in our world. How she made it this long, I will never know. I wrap my towel around my waist and head out. Brianna emerges from the bathroom. I’m dressed only from the waist down. I need her distracted. She isn’t an operative. She isn’t trained on how not to let your emotions cloud her judgment. I’m counting on that. I’m counting on her primitiveness to help me break through her walls. We lock eyes only for it to be interrupted by a knock at the door. Instinct kicks in as I immediately grab my gun from the nightstand. Brianna does the same, seizing hers from the bathroom counter before answering the door. I stand quietly against the wall, peering around the corner and watching Brianna as she checks the peephole. Her gun is poised and ready. She may not be an operative, but as I said, this was our way of life.

“Who is it?” She asks in a pleasant voice.

Any regular Joe would never think there’s a highly trained killer on the opposite side of the door, let alone two.

“Room service,” a voice calls from the hallway.

Brianna cracks the door, peeking out before opening it wider, allowing him to enter. Having me at her six gives her the extra confidence to not have to prove who the man is any further.

“Just set it there. Thank you, sir.”

Brianna points to the table next to the desk. She does so with the hand not firmly grasping her gun. That hand is hidden behind her back. The gentleman has no idea how close to death he is. One wrong move and his life will end, here, in this hotel room. Luckily for him, he does as instructed. Brianna hands him a tip as he’s leaving. I never move from around the corner. My gun is up, safety off, and ready if shit goes south. Brianna checks the peephole again, and only once the man is out of sight do we relax. Tucking my weapon safely at the small of my back, I take the seat facing the door. Brianna sets hers on the desk before taking the seat across from me. She seems comfortable with me facing the door. She knows I’m more qualified to make the kill if need be. We never speak about our reaction to the waiter. For us that’s normal. Always a part of our life. Everyone is the enemy trying to kill us until proven otherwise.

The food looks good, but smells even better and I’m starving. Already on my second bite, I notice Brianna pushing her salad around her plate with her fork. I lean back in my chair, studying her for a moment. She’s preoccupied. Her mind is somewhere else. She hasn’t noticed I’ve stopped eating, and am now observing her. I need this conversation to go one way. Mine. I have to be delicate in the delivery of my words.

“Bri,” I say her name softly, and with compassion to get her attention. “If you were to be free of this place, where would you go? Back to your family?”

She studies me a moment. I wonder if she feels she can trust me yet.

“My family already believes I’m dead. It’s easier to continue to let them believe that. Not to mention the Collective would have no problem killing them just to get to me,” she acknowledges, lowering her head. She’s trying to hide the fear and panic in her eyes, but it’s too late. I know she’s afraid. Fear. That’s my way in.

“They will do that anyway. To bring you out of hiding,” I assure her.

My voice drops an octave, becoming dangerous. A gentle reminder as to what it is we do here. Brianna’s eyes meet mine. I really see it then. Not just fear, but terror. Terror for the lives of her family.

“What’s your plan, Brianna? I know you have one. You wouldn’t be this scared if you didn’t. I can help you.” I say while softening my voice, sounding sincere again.

“Help me?” Brianna asks, confused. “You will kill me if I utter a single word. That’s your job, Michael. It’s who you are. Did you forget? I read your file, Michael. My clearance is higher than yours. I know you’re not the kind of person who looks the other way. Besides, I’ve said too much already.”

As a sign of good faith, I take my gun out and hold it up, showing her, I’m surrendering it before I place it on the table. The gun is of no consequence. I could snap her neck in two seconds if I need to.

“Not good enough,” she says, without hesitation.

I pick up my gun, popping the magazine out before cocking it to release the extra round from the chamber. I place them all on the table in front of us.

“Still not good enough,” she pronounces.

I look at her before shoving all of it towards her. “Take it,” I instruct.

“Michael,” she says my name sarcastically. “You don’t need your gun to kill me if you’re so inclined,” she chides, pushing my gun and magazine back towards me.

“What can I do to prove to you I’m not going to hurt you?” I ask her.

She gently sets her fork down on her plate, then looks up at me. I suppose she needs to see my face when she says whatever she needs to say. She gently pushes her plate aside, lacing her fingers together in front of her.

“Have you ever thought about getting out, Michael?” I can’t tell if she’s serious or not, but I know she’s seeking something in my answer.

“Of course. I think everyone has at one point or another,” I respond.

It’s close enough to the truth.

“I don’t just mean in passing. I mean really thought about getting out.” Brianna stands up from her chair and starts pacing in front of the table.

“Without a fail proof plan, it’s suicide, and truthfully, I’m not ready to die just yet.” I lean forward before asking, “Do you have a foolproof plan, Brianna?”

“What if I said, ‘yes’?”

Brianna sits down again, meeting my eyes. Naive, trusting soul. I hold her eye contact for a few seconds before speaking, “I would say: tell me now.”

I keep my eyes soft, hoping she will spill her guts. My anger is hard to keep in check. I feel it rise at the thought of the failed mission that put my team in danger.

“Anton made me a deal.”

Brianna studies my face before she continues. Well aware of the gun still resting between us, she has to be thinking: will I make a move, or won’t I? Yes, the gun is empty, but she also knows it would take me 2.5 seconds to grab it, load it, and put a round between her eyes. It would be wise of her to make sure I won’t react in a hostile manner before she continues. She must believe I’m calm enough because she takes her chances and continues. Tsk, tsk.

“The deal is: if I warn him about raids the Collective is planning against him, he’ll get me out.”

I say nothing; only listen, as she digs herself into a hole she will never get out of alive.

“He trusts me, Michael,” she professes. “I want you to come with me. If we have each other’s backs we have a real chance,” Brianna concludes.

We’re both silent for a few minutes. I need to be before I can allow myself to speak without displaying my rage.

“How do you know you can trust him? He did shoot up the house you were in,” I remind her.

“All you need to know is . . . I do. Do you trust me, Michael?” she asks, narrowing her eyes a bit.

“Just answer me this, first. Was it you? The failed mission. Was that you?”

Brianna calmly gets up, putting a little more distance between herself and me before speaking. Intelligence at its finest.

“I didn’t know you then, Michael. You have to understand. This is my one chance. I have to take it. I’m sorry about your team. I really mean that. I hope you can forgive me for putting their lives at risk, but it was mine or theirs, and I chose mine.” I can hear her voice starting to crack.

“Let’s not mention my team for now.”

I can taste the bitterness in my voice. All my mind focuses on in this moment is Shy dropping to the floor as the bullets narrowly miss her. Bullets so big, if one had hit its mark she would’ve been unrecognizable. Exhaling deeply, I force myself out of the chair. I walk over to her, and with much effort, gently wrap my arms around her waist. We’re now eye to eye. She holds steady, not pulling away. I lean in, softly speaking to her, “I forgive you. What do you need me to do?”

My night with Brianna is over and the only place I want to be is the Collective. Eager to get this over and done with, I have to chase away the smile as I hang up with Shy. The Collective has the information they need from Brianna, which means we’ll be heading out soon. When I left her at the hotel, I came straight to the cave to report to the General what I’d learned. The mission calls for Shy and I to go out alone. I’m already seated with Vivian, the General, and Sonja in Tactical when Shy arrives. She takes the seat next to me and the briefing begins.

“Michael has gathered intel on the whereabouts of Oscar Benet. After having sex with Brianna she confided in him the deal she made with Benet to trade our intel for her freedom,” the General announces.

What he said angers me. Yes, it’s the truth, but they did it only to rattle me and Shy. I notice as they stare at her, trying to gage her reaction. I’m proud of her for not letting her emotions get the better of her. For the General, it’s business as usual but it isn’t as easy for me. I understand it’s just sex, but will Shy see it that way? Somehow, I don’t think she will.

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