Just Another Empty Threat -Bk 3

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Chapter 7

He walked into the dining room expecting to eat. Instead, what he found turned his stomach and had his heart in free fall. It had been almost six months since she came back into his life and yet the fear of losing her was still a raw and painful wound and seemed destined to never heal.

Jose was leaning his head close to hers and the words he uttered when he didn’t know Felix was standing there might be innocent enough. You have to tell him. Five little words. In any other setting, coming from any other man, you might dismiss it and simply say ‘What?’. But since they came from her ex-lover, a man he simply couldn’t bring himself to trust, those words sounded like a nail being hammered into a coffin.

Jose must have felt the pulse of hatred coming from him, because without looking up, he straightened and took a step away from her. He didn’t look at Felix. He probably didn’t need to look to know that he was a hairs width away from killing him.

“Felix,” Emma signed, “Jose was just scolding me for not telling you about my latest shopping spree.”

“Don’t lie,” he snarled, “Are you sleeping with him?”

“What?” she choked on her wine, “Why would you go there? Of all the conclusions you could jump to, why is it always that one?”

“You’re not answering the question,” he fired back.

“It wasn’t worth answering,” she countered, “And it wasn’t a question, it was an accusation.”

“Are you having sex with Jose?” he snarled, “Is that enough of a question for you?”

“Seriously?” she yelled, “Aren’t you getting a little bored with this?”

“Maybe I would be,” he shouted back, “If it wasn’t so obvious that he still wants you.”

“Enough!” Jose yelled at volume, “Stop behaving like bickering children!”

They both turned to him. Jose had witnessed many of their arguments but at no time had he ever acknowledged them or said a word. It was normal for him to take a step backward and focus on something else in the room. That was possibly why they now openly yelled at each other In his presence. They had become oblivious to his presence and certainly never expect him to chastise them.

“I can’t do this anymore,” he mumbled, “You two are either fighting or fucking. You both need to sit the hell down and sort your shit out.”

“What?” she stuttered.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” he growled.

“I seem to be the only one who has their eyes open,” Jose answered, “You two are too busy quarreling about meaningless stuff.”

“Meaningless stuff?” Felix snarled back, “Like you having sex with her?”

“That should be the least of your worries,” Jose laughed, “If we were having sex, behind your back, don’t you think I would have killed you by now?”

Felix glared at him but said nothing.

“Trust me, I would have,” Jose nodded solemnly, “And when would she have the time? You two are at it like dogs on heat. If you’re not grinding genitals, then you’re both trying hard to pretend everything is perfect. I swear it’s exhausting to watch.”

“Pretend?” Felix questioned, “Who’s pretending?”

“Tell him,” Jose said to her, “If you don’t then I will.”

“It’s got nothing to do with you,” she muttered in a low voice.

“What?” Felix looked between the two, “Tell me what?”

“I disagree,” he said to her before he turned to Felix, “She needs to talk to you about her participation in the raids and the like.”

Emma sat glaring at Jose, “No, I don’t.”

“We’ve been through this,” Felix said to Jose, “I know how she feels about being there. She knows I hate it. It drives me insane, but it is her choice, and I have done my best to respect her wishes. What more can I do? She’s been there every step of the way, as promised.”

“Jose,” Emma said in a low voice, “Don’t do this.”

“Someone has to,” he turned to Felix, “And I have been standing next to her throughout. I have seen your determination to keep her safe but, in your haste to ensure no one is alive long enough to take a shot at her, you missed something critical.”

“What?” Felix looked at Emma, “What did I miss?”

“He’s wrong,” Emma said, “I have to be there. I have to contribute to getting our son back.”

“What,” Felix repeated looking at her, “Did I miss?”

“My aim has been off,” she said quickly, “I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.”

“Your aim?” Felix questioned and then he looked at Jose, “Explain?”

“In the firing range or anywhere else, she’s a good shot,” Jose said, “She scores well, hits the target, and her groupings are consistent. But out there, she fails to hit anything.”

“Nothing?” Felix finally sat down, “She’s never hit anything?”

“Not even a scratch,” Jose whispered.

“Why are you being like this?” she growled, “It’s not a crime. So, I haven’t killed anyone, what’s the big deal. With you both making every bullet count, it’s not like you leave much for me to shoot at. They all end up dead.”

“How many rounds?” Felix asked without acknowledging her response.

“The other night she fired two,” Jose didn’t look at either one of them, “And her hands shook.”

“Shit,” Felix rubbed his face with his hand, “How did I not know this? I should have seen this.”

“Felix?” she looked between the two men, “What’s going on? Why are you being like this? Why are you so concerned by the fact that I haven’t killed anyone? I would have thought you’d be happy.”

“Why didn’t someone tell me?” Felix asked, “Why didn’t you tell me, Emma?”

“It shouldn’t be important,” she tried to say confidently but her voice shook, “I need to be there.”

“You might feel that way,” Felix lifted his head and looked at her, “But based on what Jose’s just said, I don’t think you 'want' to be there.”

“Not true,” she shook her head, “I can’t sit at home on my hands while you’re out there. It will kill me. Why does it matter if I’m bad at it? No one has complained. I will get better at it.”

“No,” he frowned, “There are two types of people in this world, those who can take a life and those who can’t. It isn’t something you can change just because you will it to be different.”

“The first one is the hardest, right?” she said quickly, “I just need to do it once and I’ll be fine.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Felix shook his head, “If you had managed to hit someone, accidentally or otherwise, you would know what I’m talking about. The weight of it would grind you into the earth and you would never be the same.”

“But I can do it,” she tried again.

“Don’t force yourself to be something that you are not,” he interrupted, “I love you and that won’t change.”

“You’re relieved,” she snapped back, “You never wanted me out there in the first place and now you have an excuse to exclude me. I won’t let you use this to keep me at home.”

“You can’t be out there,” he said softly, “I should have seen it that first night and taken immediate action, but I was too focused on protecting you physically. I was blind to what it was doing to your mental health.”

“You’re calling me mentally unstable?” she took a step back from him, “You think I’m insane because I can’t kill anyone?”

“No,” he laughed, “I know through experience that for someone who can’t, this is the worse sort of hell. That being in the middle of a blood bath with a gun in your hand and with your enemy surrounding you, knowing that you might be forced to kill a man, has the potential to break the mind. It is too much stress. I won’t expose you to it.”

“I’ve been doing it for months,” she countered, “And I’m fine.”

“You’re not sleeping properly,” he whispered, “And you’ve lost weight.”

“I’m worried about Eli.”

“Be honest with me,” he continued, “You are having nightmares?”

“Yes,” she answered, “But my child.”

“The nightmares aren’t about Eli, though. Are they?”

“The stress of not knowing where he is or when I’ll see him next.”

His eyebrows lifted which was enough to imply that he didn’t believe her.

“Alright, so I have nightmares,” she grumped, “And I’ve lost a little weight, so what?”

“Emma,” his tone was gentle, “Why put yourself through all that? You know that I love you.”

“I need to be worthy,” she answered, “I was the one who lost him. I must be the one to get him back. And last time, when I was stuck in this house, I lost you too. If I’m not part of your world and not part of the solution, then what good am I?”

“Emma,” he smiled, “I want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say. I love you. I can’t live without you. The only reason I can draw breath is because of you being in my life.”

“But,” she whined.

“No buts,” he interrupted, “It’s the truth. You have been putting off marrying me, is this why?”

“Maybe,” she looked away from him, “And you said that you’d take me on dates.”

“And I haven’t done that,” he exhaled, “I’ve been so preoccupied with my fears that I’ve been blind.”

“You’re not going to let me leave the house now,” she grimaced, “Are you?”

“It would be difficult to take you on a date,” he laughed, “If you couldn’t leave the house. But you won’t be needing your combat clothing.”

“I will hate it,” she said with defiance, “Watching you going, knowing where you’re going and what you’re doing, and not knowing if I’ll ever see you again.”

“But you know what I do and what I can do,” he responded, “You have seen what I am capable of with a gun in my hand. There are no guarantees in this world, and I won’t make any false promises, but at least you have no disillusions.”

“Why can’t I be there?” she asked, “I won’t get in the way.”

“Now the truth is out,” he smiled, “Can you, in all honesty, tell me that you want to be there. I think you’ll find it harder than ever because you won’t be able to hide the fear from me. I can’t predict what you will do, only that it would be a very bad mistake for all concerned.”

“What am I supposed to do then?” she asked, “I can’t stay here. I can’t go there. Where does that leave me?”

“I might have a suggestion,” Jose stepped forward.

“Of course, you would,” Felix growled, “Almost six whole months of you saying nothing, and now you won’t shut up.”

“Martin,” Jose said after raising an eyebrow in response to Felix’s gripe.

“Martin?” Emma looked at him confused but he’d already stepped backward, and his eyes were clouded over as he focused on some spot on the wall.

“Martin,” Felix said thoughtfully, “that could work.”

“Martin?” she asked the question this time to Felix.

“Martin is finding it difficult to manage his demands,” Felix said as if this was all the explanation necessary.

“I’m no Martin,” she laughed, “I can’t do what he does on a computer.”

“That’s not the problem,” Felix smiled, “He’s a genius on the computer but his communication skills are somewhat lacking. The information that he passes to us can be a little sketchy.”

“Like when he said that there was a big bus thing coming our way,” she asked, “And it turned out to be an armored vehicle with a machine gun mounted to the roof?”

“Yes, very much like that time,” he sighed, “His concentration is on the keyboard and the coding he is manipulating, he doesn’t have time to translate the various CCTV camera footage in a way that would help us. He has access to everything, he just needs someone to analyze it, prioritize the information, and deliver it to us in a way that will help make decisions.”

“And you think I could do that?”

“Don’t you?” Felix smiled, “You would be there without being there. You’d be with me every step of the way.”

“Would you trust me to be that person?”

“Emma,” he laughed, “You already hold my life in your hands. I trust you with my heart and my soul. And if you can’t do this or if you don’t like it, then I’ll find something else for you to do. I won’t rest until you are happy. That’s all I want.”

“And our son back,” she added, “That’s the other thing you want.”

“And our family together,” he corrected, “Which reminds me, we’ve had our fight. Can we move on to the fucking? Because he’s been right about everything else today, I’d hate to prove Jose wrong.”

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