I closed my eyes and took in a deep, contented breath, relishing at the sudden joy flowing through me.
A large smile was on my face even though I’d just woken up, and I couldn’t help but let out a small giggle when Chris rolled over on top of me, pressing me into the bed and half smothering me. My new husband was still asleep, worn out from our wedding and then immediately traveling to our destination honeymoon in Iceland.
Plus, all the vigorous fucking we’d done at every chance, including when we got to our Air B&B early this morning. The ache in my body was evidence of that, but I regret nothing.
I’d married my best friend, my partner, the man I’d known for seven years and loved for nearly every single one.
They tell you not to date co-workers, but from the moment he first smiled at me I was done for. I knew he was going to be mine, even though he’d been in a relationship at the time. I kept my boundaries, as I was not the kind of person to ruin a relationship, but I’d kept an eye out for opportunity.
And opportunity didn’t just knock on my door- it broke my door down with a battering ram, enforcements in tow. I started to try and roll over with Chris on top of me, a grin still on my face as I recalled the day he came to the office, a weird smile on his tired face.
“Hey Chris, are you alright?”
“Me? Uh, yeah, why do you ask?” He avoided my gaze, making me incredibly suspicious.
“Well, you’ve got this weird smile on your face, and you’re not looking at me. So that’s two reasons.”
He chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his neck with his left hand, a sign I’d come to realize over the last three years was a habit he hadn’t been able to completely drop when confronted with something that made him uncomfortable. Lucky for him, there wasn’t a lot that made him uncomfortable. Working in an intelligence agency required a sense of familiarity with a number of potentially dangerous and awkward situations; something that we’d both become accustomed to. But every now and then his nervous tick would pop up, like now.
“Okay, that’s it. Come with me.” I grabbed his arm and walked out of the communal office, people laughing at me dragging him away. Not because I hadn’t done it before, but because I was a 5’3” woman dragging a man a foot taller than her like she was on a mission. I knew my height made people underestimate me all the time, which was fine with me. I always enjoyed surprising people.
I tugged Chris down an empty hallway and into a deserted storage room. I shut the door and locked it, turning and facing him with my arms folded across my chest.
“Madeline…” Chris started and then stopped, rubbing his neck again as he let out a frustrated sound.
“Chris, just tell me what’s going on. I don’t like seeing you like this. I want to help.” I stepped towards him and placed my hand on his arm softly. He turned to me suddenly and I jerked back at the unexpected move. My breath caught in my throat at the look in his eyes.
“You want to help me Madeline? Then stop being so damn funny and smart and beautiful and… And tempting!”
Shock caused my jaw to drop at his words. “W-what?”
A growl escaped him a split second before he moved forward and took my face in his hands, holding me there while he kissed me for the first time. I barely hesitated before all the desire I’d been holding back burst through the dam in my heart at the feel of his lips on mine. We both moaned loudly at the same time, surprising each other and jerking back to stare.
“What the fuck, Chris?” The words were a throaty whisper, the most I could get out at the moment.
“Madeline, I’ve been falling for you since the day you walked in here and became my partner. I ignored it, not wanting to ruin our work relationship, and thinking I was happy with Stacy. I’ve been in denial for years, but I can’t do it anymore.”
My heart was beating so hard I thought I was going to faint. “You… What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I broke up with Stacy this week. And that I need you. I want you. Madeline,” he said in his deep voice that captivated me, “I think I love you.”
It wasn’t an easy road after that conversation. Although I admitted my love for him as well, I didn’t want to be the woman that he fell for just because he couldn’t have me. So we started off slow, dating casually and basically driving each other crazy with the restrictions we put on ourselves. After a year though, we both knew it was real.
And now here we were, married blissfully. Even though Chris was crushing me into the mattress, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
With the last of my strength, I pushed my body up to get in a kneeling position, finally rolling him off me.
“Big oaf, smothering me in his sleep,” I muttered as I started stretching. I felt the bed shake slightly, and I quickly looked over at Chris. I just barely caught the movement of his shoulders shaking before they stopped, and I realized what was going on.
I let out a small shriek before jumping on top of him, wrestling with him still tangled up in the sheets. “I can’t believe you! You did that on purpose!”
His loud laugh rang out as we struggled together, and I couldn’t help but laugh with him. I started to grind my pointer finger knuckle into his ribs, and that’s when he surrendered.
“Ouch! Damn girl, you never fail to take advantage of my weak spot, do you?” He lay on his back in bed, his blonde hair messed up and his gray eyes full of happiness as he looked up at me straddling his lap. We were both naked, and beneath me I could feel him begin to harden.
“Never. You seem to like it though,” I said saucily and moved my hips in a circle on top of him, teasing him.
His hands tightened on my hips. “Mmm baby, you know I do.”
I paused in my teasing, studying his face as my heart swelled from the love it held for this man. “I love you, Christopher.”
His answering smile was bright, matching mine. “I love you too, Madeline.”
We’d spent the last week sight-seeing, trying new foods, and having sex until we could barely move. It was, to say the least, nothing short of perfect. We didn’t have to worry about work or any other obligations, and a part of me never wanted to go back home. Although I loved my job, it could be extremely stressful at times. In the last year Chris and I had moved places in the agency, so we were no longer working together.
I actually liked it better that way, because although I loved Chris with all my heart, I didn’t particularly want to spend every single moment with him. It had done our relationship a lot of good to separate at work, so I wasn’t complaining.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our descent. Please place your seats and trays into the upright position, and make sure your belongings are stowed safely. Thank you for flying Southwest, and we hope to see you again soon.” The announcement ended and I poked Chris to wake him up. He always fell asleep when we flew, so I wasn’t surprised he was still out. He came awake slowly and smiled at me with hazy eyes. I shook my head in amusement as he got ready for the flight to land.
In no time at all, we were waiting at baggage claim for our things, and going through our emails. I frowned as took in the subject of one of the more recent ones. It was labeled as “Extremely Urgent”, and I clicked on it to see what it was all about.
I know you’re coming back today from your honeymoon, but I need you to come to the office asap. It has to do with the Salazar case. Let me know when you’re on your way in and I’ll meet you there.
My body went cold as I read the words. The Salazar case was one I closed a few weeks before Chris and I got married, and it had been a difficult one. Theo Salazar was intelligent but psychotic, two things that turned deadly in someone like him. He was a tech geek and used it to his advantage. He’d been able to escape being caught for years, but I’d been there to see that to an end when he’d slipped up. Something about the case had pricked at my senses, but I’d let it go when I’d seen to it that Theo was put behind bars.
And yet, now I was getting an urgent email from my boss about it, the same day I returned from my honeymoon. I had a terrible feeling about the situation, but I kept a calm face as I turned to Chris.
“So it looks like I have to take a stop into the office.” Chris looked up from his phone, an eyebrow raised in question. “Just something to do with an old case. I’d rather get it cleared up now than stew about it all weekend.”
“I guess I understand that. You want me to come with?”
“No, that’s okay. If you drop me off at the office I’ll borrow one of the cars and drive that home.”
The bags started coming around on the belt, and we moved forward so we could grab ours when they came along. “Alright. Just don’t be too long,” he said, his hand moving down to my ass and squeezing, “I’ve got plans for you later.”
My face heated in a blush, but I looked up at him and winked. “You got it, babe.”
I waved to Chris as he pulled away, then turned to open the office door. It was open and the lights were on, so I figured that Peter was already here waiting after getting the text I’d sent him from the airport. I walked over to his office and stepped inside, confused to not see him there.
Maybe he’s in the bathroom or something, I thought to myself. I sighed and walked into my own office, groaning inwardly at the stack of mail waiting in my inbox. I was going to ignore it all until Monday, but one on the very top caught my eye. There was no return address, and just my name was scribbled across the front of the envelope in masculine handwriting.
I stared at it for a few seconds, my instincts screaming at me, before picking it up slowly. It was light, so I figured there was only paper inside. I set my purse down on a near-by chair and moved around my desk to grab my letter opener. I slid it through the top of the envelope, the slight tearing sound seeming too loud for my ears. My hands were shaking slightly as I pulled the single piece of paper out and unfolded it, beginning to read.
You thought I was done? You thought that I would have been caught if I didn’t want to be? I’ve been eluding better agents than you for years. Granted, you’re quite excellent at what you do, which is one reason I had to let you get so close.
Closer than you realize.
This isn’t over between us, my pretty little Madeline. You took my freedom away despite my many warnings. And payback is a motherfucker of a bitch.
The letter fluttered to the ground, every cell in my body vibrating with fear and tension.
“Peter? PETER!” I yelled his name loudly, hurrying out of my office and into his again. Not seeing him, I sped out of his office and nearly ran into someone from the cleaning crew that was coming around the corner.
“Oh! I’m sorry miss, are you alright?” The young guy grabbed my arms to steady me, concern filling his face at my panicked state.
“Have you seen anyone else here?” My words came out shaky and a little desperate, but now was not the time to worry about that. I needed to figure out what was going on.
“No, everyone left hours ago and I’ve been the only one in the building since. I didn’t even know you were here, since I didn’t hear the front door unlock or anything.”
“What do you mean? The door was unlocked when I got here.”
“That’s not possible, I always make sure to lock the doors when I’m in a building alone.” He seemed confused, and nothing about his body language or voice made me think he was lying.
I stared at him, my fear growing with every moment. “Okay, uh, thanks I guess. I’m leaving, so just make sure to lock up behind me.”
“Sure,” he said.
I turned away and back into my office, grabbing my purse and my phone before heading to the cabinet we kept the spare car keys in. Grabbing a random one off the hook, I dialed Peter’s phone. It rang a few times, then went straight to voicemail. I tried a couple more times but got the same result, and by the time I was sitting in the car and buckled in, I decided to try his home phone. He was one of the only people I knew that still had a landline, but at the moment I was grateful for it.
“Come on, pick up Peter,” I whispered to myself as it rang and rang. Just as I was about to give up, Peter’s disgruntled voice came through.
“Madeline, you better have a damn good reas-”
“Peter! Oh thank God, where have you been?”
“What are you talking about? I’m at home, like you should be.” I fell silent at his words, everything swirling in my brain and starting to click into place when he spoke again. “Madeline, what’s going on?”
“When Chris and I landed, I was checking my email when I saw one from you saying to meet you at the office for something regarding the Salazar case.”
“I didn’t send anything like that.”
I paused, knowing I needed to ask the next question but not wanting to know the answer. “And what about the text I sent you saying I was on my way to meet you? Did you get that?”
“No… I lost my phone yesterday and haven’t gotten around to replacing it yet.”
“Fuck!” I hit the steering wheel with my free hand in frustration. “Peter, something is going on and it has to do with Theo Salazar. I don’t know how, but it does.”
“Shit.” Peter’s voice was filled with anger, and I knew that he was going to do anything to help. “Let me make some calls, I’ll see what I can figure out. That fucker isn’t going to get away with anything Madeline.”
“Thanks Peter.” I hung up and started the car, not wanting to voice my fear that he already had. I sped out of the parking garage, my need to get home and see Chris taking over. I didn’t see anything on my way home, the twenty-minute drive feeling like a lifetime. I sped into the driveway and parked haphazardly, barely taking the time to grab my stuff before rushing into the house.
“Chris!” I yelled his name before I even opened the door, freezing as I took in the state of my front room. “No. No, no, no!” Furniture was overturned, stuff broken, blood splattered across the floor and walls, and papers thrown everywhere. There had obviously been a struggle, and judging by the amount of blood I saw, someone was very badly hurt. Tears welled in my eyes while I did my best not to completely break down.
“No, please Chris, be okay,” I cried as I ran through the house, checking every room for a sign of him anywhere and yelling his name with no returning answer. I went to our bedroom last, scared of what I might find in there.
The door was shut, and I stood in front of it while trying to blink through my tears. Choking back a sob, I turned the handle and pushed the door open.
The first thing I noticed was that Chris’s body was not in there. A small wave of relief swept through me; that meant that he was more than likely still alive. The second thing that I noticed were the photos and papers scattered and posted on every surface. I knew enough not to touch or disturb anything, so I didn’t move into the room. I could see from here though that they were pictures of me, ranging from the time I started working at my current office up to my honeymoon in Greenland with Chris.
My phone started ringing, and I jumped about a foot in the air out of surprise. Glancing at the screen, I saw that it was Peter’s home number.
“Madeline.” His pause was heavy, voice filled with something I couldn’t name. “I just got off the phone with Theo Salazar’s attorney. He uh…”
He trailed off and I could feel myself break just a little more. “Just tell me Peter!”
“Theo… He went missing from prison at about 2 a.m.”
“What?” The word caught in my throat, strangling me as surely as a noose around my neck would. “How is that even possible?”
“No one knows. It must have been some kind of inside job. He was under one of the highest levels of security, and somehow he managed to get out.”
“We need to get people on this.” I gulped and found myself trying to hold back tears again. “He took Chris, Peter.”
“SHIT. Madeline, stay where you are. You have protection with you right?”
“Of course. But I don’t think I’m in any danger at the moment, at least physically. He has what he wants.”
“For now. You got unlucky enough to piss off the wrong person, and he’s not going to stop here. I’ll send people over there, so you just stay safe.”
I couldn’t answer, so I just hung up. I leaned against the wall in the hallway and slid down, burying my face in my arms and letting free the sobs I’d held back.
I crossed off another day on my wall calendar, the ache in my heart almost unbearable. I shoved the pain aside like I had every day since my husband disappeared, but every month anniversary of the day it was a little bit harder. I had no more tears to cry by this point. Everyone at work avoided me now, which I was fine with. Yeah, I’d become obsessed, but I refused to quit until I found Chris- alive or dead.
Either way, I was going to kill Theo.
I’d been training non-stop since Chris disappeared, and by now my 5’3” frame was filled with fury, powered by the knowledge of hand and knife combat. It was amazing what you could do in just a few months when you’ve got nothing but revenge to work towards.
In the last week, I’d begun to close in on Theo’s trail. By now I knew all his tricks and had started to hack the hacker. I’d always been good at computers and other technology stuff, which is why they’d put me on his case from the beginning. I didn’t know to prepare myself beforehand, but I knew now.
I got ready to go into the office, repeating my plan over and over in my mind.
Find Chris. Find Theo. Kill Theo. Find Chris. Find Theo. Kill Theo.
I couldn’t care less what happened after that. I didn’t want to believe it, but the feeling in my gut told me that I was already too late to save Chris. I hadn’t heard anything from Theo since the note I found in my office, so I assumed that he’d taken Chris and killed him.
I just wished I knew for sure.
I parked at the office and walked in, not talking to anyone or even really seeing them. They were all used to this by now and tried not to bother me unless necessary. If I had a different boss, I knew that I would’ve been fired already. But Peter understood my need to find the truth.
He had no idea how far I planned to go, of course. He wouldn’t condone me killing Theo, no matter what he' done. But I was a realist; if I caught Theo again there would be no way anyone in my life, including myself, would be safe unless he was dead.
I sat at the computer screens in my office, starting it up so I could start going through everything and find more to the recent trail. Absentmindedly, I looked over the data, knowing it by heart but still needing to read it. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the trail that I perked up. There was something new here.
Typing furiously to get in there before Theo closed the gap, I managed to get behind the scenes and find something that absolutely shocked me. My fingers froze, and I stared at the information with unblinking eyes.
For the first time in months, I felt my eyes begin to prick. I wasn’t going to cry, but the feeling was there. My heart jumped around in my chest erratically as my shaking fingers hurried to download the info before it disappeared.
“I found him,” I whispered to myself as I worked quickly. “I fucking FOUND him.”
I moved all the data to my encrypted cell phone, one I changed out every few days so that Theo couldn’t use it to track me. I jumped up from my seat, grabbing all my stuff and rushing out of the office. Everyone looked surprised to see me leave just a couple hours after being there, but I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what they thought.
“Madeline!” Peter’s voice rang out through the office, sending a shockwave of silence through it as I whipped around.
“Sorry Peter, I have to-”
“I know, Madeline.” His words made me pause and actually look at his face. A tired kind of sorrow was painted on it, and it was then I realized he knew what I’d been planning all along. And where I was going now. “Just take care of yourself.”
My throat tightened, making it hard to speak. I nodded. “Thank you, Peter. For everything,” I croaked out before turning away and running to my car. It was the last time I would see any of them, but that wasn’t nearly as scary as finally ending this.
I checked the address I’d found one more time, and plugging it into my GPS, I peeled out into the street with abandon. Half an hour later, I had been able to calm myself on the outside, driving like any other normal person instead of some actor on the set of Fast and the Furious. I made the last turn directed on the GPS, driving down a normal-looking suburban street. I checked my phone and saw that I had another 2.3 miles to go, so I did breathing exercises, trying to keep calm. As I drove, the houses got farther and farther apart, until on the last half mile I was driving in completely open space. It made me nervous, seeing as how anyone could see me coming, but I was determined to see this out.
Finally, a house came in sight and I glanced at my GPS to make sure this was the one. It was. I took a deep breath, and then drove like normal right past the house. I kept going until it was out of sight, and then drove some more. I would go back when it was dark, so that it’d be harder to see me coming.
I spent the next several hours in my car, parked a couple miles away from the house behind a deserted building that looked like it hadn’t been used in decades. As the sky began to turn black, I got out and grabbed the duffel bag I’d had stowed away in a secret compartment in my trunk. It held just what I needed for today; a personally modified black Catwoman-esque one piece that would make it easier to get around, and a bunch of knives that I could carry and/or hide in my outfit.
I couldn’t help the twisted grin that crossed my face as I stripped in the middle of nowhere and got ready. I was prepared to do whatever it took to accomplish my goals.
Find Chris. Find Theo. Kill Theo.
I was so close I could taste it.
It was weird; I hadn’t felt this kind of giddiness in the months since I lost my husband. I never could have guessed that the prospect of taking a life would bring me happiness. I’d undoubtedly changed in the last few months, but I wasn’t sorry about it. I’d always been a survivor, and this was just something I’d adapted to.
I dumped the empty bag and my old clothes in the trunk and slammed it shut, getting back behind the wheel and starting it up. I drove down the eerily silent road, my radio off and my hands white-knuckling the wheel. As soon as I saw lights in the distance, I turned off the lights on my car. I drove slowly, the engine a quiet purr, until I found the small ditch I’d noticed on my earlier drive. I drove down into it, parking and turning the car off.
I flipped my visor down and looked into my cold, dead blue eyes. My dark hair was braided back out of my face, and although the pulse in my neck jumped in anticipation, my face showed no emotion.
“This is it Madeline,” I began in a soft voice. “This is going to end here, today. No matter what happens, you make sure that Theo dies. After that, we’ll figure things out.” I paused, a small snort escaping me as I closed the visor and stepped out of the car. “That is, if you’re not dead too.”
It was weird, the places evil people chose to hide out. You’d think Theo would pick some dank, remote place and keep to himself. But this was actually a fairly nice house, two levels and filled with light that seemed to welcome me in. I was crouched on the edge of the property, easily hidden by the thick darkness, watching the few shadows in the house move around. I’d counted five separate ones, and there was no telling how many others I’d missed. Thank God I’d trained in combat ruthlessly recently, or I would be shit out of luck. Movement in the window of one of the rooms caught my eye, and I looked up to the corner of the second floor to see that two of the other shadows had joined the one already in there. I searched for the remaining two, seeing one turn off the light from the room there were in and a few minutes later stepping out the front door.
“Now or never, Madeline,” I whispered to myself. I gathered every iota of courage and fury in me and shot up, running on my toes to stay quiet and take the man outside of guard. I already had a knife in each hand as I got close enough to smell him. He turned just as I leaped in the air at him, surprise and shock all over his face. He dropped the cigarette he’d be smoking and opened his mouth to yell out, but he was too slow.
I wrapped my legs around his waist, knocking him off balance as I landed and shoved both knives into his throat. I pulled them out just as quickly and shoved off him as he fell into the grass, blood spurting from the holes in his neck. His eyes were still wide, hands on his neck in an automatic reaction to try to stop the blood as I turned and walked away, slipping into the house. I stepped into the nearest room, thankful I hadn’t encountered anyone.
I heard multiple voices and the floor creaking above me, and I breathed a sigh of relief to know that the three shadows I’d seen before were still talking. I stepped out and moved stealthily towards the stairs, barely stepping onto the first one when I heard a small gasp to my right. I jerked my neck towards the source and saw a young man standing there frozen.
Something about him pricked at my memory, but I didn’t have the time to figure it out. He turned and started to run, and I threw a knife after him. I cringed at the shout he let out as the knife stuck deep into his leg, making him tumble. I ran towards him and yanked the knife out, turning him onto his back and holding the same knife to his throat.
I heard a door open and a voice yell out a moment later. “Tristan? You alright?”
I looked at the boy, the fear shining in his eyes as he trembled. “Answer that you closed your finger in a drawer. And be convincing, or I’ll kill you right now,” I said in a hard voice.
He gulped hard, and then called out. “Yeah, I’m good Uncle John. Just slammed a drawer on my finger.” His voice only trembled a little, and I was impressed.
“Alright, your dad just asked me to check when we heard you shout.”
“Th-thanks,” Tristan said again. I heard the footsteps move again, and the door shut behind “Uncle John”.
I stared at the boy on the floor, trying to figure out where I had seen him before. A memory tugged at me, but it just wouldn’t fall into place.
“M-Miss? What do you want form me?” His voice was wary, but something about the words broke the final barrier, and I drew in a sharp breath when I finally figured it out. I pressed the knife into his throat and nicked him, thoroughly enjoying the little whimper he let out as the fury built up inside me again.
“You!” The whisper was furious, and his face blanched when he realized I remembered him. He’d been the kid I ran into at the office the day my husband was taken, who I’d thought was on the cleaning crew. “Where is my husband? And where is Theo?” I asked the questions, my knees digging into his ribs and the knife at his throat keeping him still.
He blinked at me hard, then let out a small snort as a smile started to form on his lips. “You haven’t figured it out yet, have you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your husband, Chris? He’s gone.”
My blood turned to ice. My vision went hazy. My words came out in a strangled voice. “He’s dead? Theo killed him?”
A real, crazed laugh left Tristan’s mouth. “You don’t know anything, do you? You think you’re so smart. You’re nothing but a dumb who-”
His words stopped when my knife sliced into his throat, nearly beheading him in my need to silence him.
Chris was gone. I’d always figured it was true, but hearing it confirmed shattered what was left of my heart. The tears I thought had left me filled my eyes, and I cried over the loss of my husband for the last time kneeling on the chest of someone I’d killed. After some time, the tears stopped and I used the bottom of Tristan’s shirt to dry my face. I stood up and started towards the stairs, walking up them with a new determination. I’d checked two things off my list: Find Chris, and find Theo.
There was only one thing left to do, and I was going to cross that off right the fuck now.
I got to the top of the stairs and turned towards the sound of voices muffled behind a door. I saw the handle turn, and I darted into a dark corner of the hallway, shoving my small body there to watch. Two men I’d never seen started to walk out, one of them still talking.
“Got it, Theo. Oh, real quick, what should we do about Larry and his crew?” I recognized his voice as the man who’d called out to Tristan earlier, Uncle John. The second man had kept walking towards the stairs but paused to hear the answer to the question.
“Ah yes, Larry. Almost forgot about that shithead.” The man’s voice, Theo’s voice, carried through the hallway, hitting my ears but not registering. The following chuckle, one that my brain told me I knew, seemed to filter into my ears like a whisper meant just for me. My mouth suddenly tasted like ash, my knives falling out of my numb hands to the carpet with a dull thud that no one seemed to notice.
I was stuck in the shadows, not wanting to believe what I’d just heard. Not able to believe it.
Theo stepped out of the office and clapped John on the shoulder, continuing to talk. I heard nothing however, as I took in the solidly built man who stood at about 6’4”, the blonde hair, the gray eyes that I’d come to know so intimately.
“Chris?” The word left me on a gasp as I took a step out of the shadows towards the husband I thought I’d lost.
The three men turned to me, having heard me say his name, and their eyes widened in shock. My instincts kicked in, and before I even knew what I was doing, the knife hidden on my right thigh was embedded in the chest of the man nearest to me, the force of my throw making him stumble and fall down the stairs. I hoped his fucking neck broke.
I let out a shrill scream as I ran and jumped towards John, two more knives in my hands before they could even react. I knocked hard into John, his body thrown into the wall behind him, his neck snapping back hard while I stabbed him over and over in the chest. Strong hands banded around me from behind, lifting me off John’s limp body and I flailed and kicked into the air, almost dislodging myself from the arms around me.
“Madeline! Stop!” Chris’s voice broke through my red haze, and I went limp in his arms. He set me down and then turned me around to face him. I stepped back from him, blood-covered knives in my hands in front of me, not sure what was happening.
His cool gray eyes observed me, a calculating look in them I’d never seen before.
“Who are you?” My broken words hung in the air between us, his silence putting me on edge. Which was probably his goal.
“You haven’t put the pieces together yet? I’m surprised. I mean, I know I’m good at what I do, but at this juncture it just seems obvious.” His voice was hard yet amused, like he was making fun of me.
He stared at me, waiting for me to understand, and when my eyes widened, he knew I had.
“Yes, my simple little wife. I’m Theo Salazar, not that fool I framed and you put in prison. I’m sure you heard about his escape; although it wasn’t so much as an escape from prison as it was from this world.” His demented smile filled his face before he continued. “Every moment since you walked into the office and became my partner, you were merely a tool. You made it easier than I thought though, when you believed that I was in love with you.” His hard laugh hit me in the face like a physical slap, and everything inside me went still.
I had no heart left, not after Tristan had said that my husband was gone. He’d been right about that; the man I’d thought was my husband was gone. He’d never even really existed, and I was a fool to have ever believed him.
So now, because my heart had already withered and died, my soul was the last thing I had left. I’d held on to it until this moment, where I felt it slipping away to die with the person I’d been before this moment right here.
“Why?” My voice was dead, and I wasn’t even sure if I cared about the answer. Everything I’d known had been a lie. I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t exist and had my heart had died with that reality. Now, I was sure that my soul had fled in the face of this new betrayal.
“Why? Oh, my love, there’s so many answers to that question.” He paused and reached into his pocket, pulling out a gun and leveling it at me. “But you just don’t have the time to hear the answers.”
Just as he began to pull the trigger I moved to the side. The gunshot rang out and a fire lit into my left shoulder. I grit my teeth against the pain as I crossed the small distance between us, stabbing whatever I could get close to. My knife pierced the jeans he wore, and a deep grunt escaped him as the knife dug into the flesh of his thigh.
I twisted the knife, not feeling anything even as his cry echoed through the house. The hand holding the gun came down and smacked me on the side of the head. Stars winked behind my eyes as I fell to the floor, losing my grip on the knife while trying to stay conscious. I shook my head hard to clear it and saw him look at the knife in his leg.
“You fucking bitch!” He was pissed, and a satisfied grin crossed my lips. Good.
I watched as he took John’s belt off him to make a tourniquet just above the knife before pulling it out. Blood immediately soaked his jeans, and I wondered if I’d managed to nick an artery. I managed to get the last of my knives from my left ankle, a small one that could inflict enough damage to kill when used properly.
Which I absolutely knew how to do.
I got up from the floor, watching Chris- no, Theo, eye me warily as I haltingly approached him.
“I see you’ve learned some combat skills since I left,” he commented drily. I didn’t bother to answer him. He was trying to distract me, but it wouldn’t work. After all, I only had one thing on my list left to do. Kill. Theo.
We danced around each other, and not for the first time I was grateful for my small size. I managed to avoid him catching me by moving quickly, and I delivered a strike of my knife before I moved away from him again over and over. In minutes, he had nicks and slices all over his body, his anger growing at the same rate as the smile on my face. I could see him getting weaker from the original thigh wound I’d caused, and after about 15 minutes, he was slumped on the floor, his eyes hazy at the blood loss. He could barely move by then, and I crouched over him, not caring about the fact that the carpet and myself were soaked with blood.
I didn’t say anything, just watching with detachment as the life began to leave him. He had been a computer and technological genius, and although he was built, he was not trained to fight like I now was. We stared into each other’s eyes as he slipped away, and I saw the gray eyes that I had never really known go dull at last.
Standing up from my crouch, I looked around at the bodies. I took in all the blood but did not flinch at the sight like I would have before. An odd sense of completion filled me, knowing that it was finished. I’d done what I came here to do, and now I could move on. I closed my eyes and took in a deep, contented breath, relishing at the sudden joy flowing through me.
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