I shouldn’t have been shocked by the news. I mean, I really shouldn’t have. I was almost shot in my own bathroom, had a gun held to my head, and then walked into a hail of gunfire. Clearly guns were in my foreseeable future. I just didn’t like the fact that they always seemed to be pointed at me.
Kade, confirming what I had already been denying, was just another push closer to the ledge.
I didn’t respond to his news. What was I going to say? Sorry? It didn’t exactly seem like the most adequate thing to say. I was sorry. Extremely sorry. But saying it wasn’t enough.
A loud knock sounded behind Kade, but he ignored it, appraising me quietly.
I guess he found my unusual quietness concerning. Either that or the fact that I suddenly was trying to look anywhere but at him.
There was a second knock, and I saw him push off the door out of my peripheral.
Ghost stood on the other side and based on the way he was assessing the situation, he had known about Kade’s arrival before I did.
“Vaughn’s on the line,” he said to Kade.
Kade nodded and followed Ghost out, but not before turning back and asking if I was okay.
I nodded slowly, still avoiding any direct eye contact.
“Get some sleep,” he said and closed the door behind him.
Yeah, like that was going to happen.
After Kade and Ghost left, I crawled up the bed and laid down on one of the pillows. Sleep was going to elude me after everything happened tonight despite the fact my body was dead tired and running on empty. Unfortunately my brain wasn’t having that same issue and was running at a hundred miles an hour trying to piece together what was going on.
Who could hate me so much they wanted to see me dead? Who could hate me enough to not only try to kill me, but three people associated with me? Whatever this was about, it wasn’t personal, and that had me scratching my head. If this had been personal, they would have strangled me in my sleep or stabbed me in the back the instant my back was turned. (I’m no expert on the matter of murder, but I had seen enough CSI to know what crimes of passion were.)
I wasn’t currently working, but I had done my fair share of dictation while I had been at the court house. Maybe I knew something I didn’t know I knew? Maybe I had seen or read something that I wasn’t supposed to and now they were trying to make sure I never told anyone?
That was one possible theory.
My family was crazy. Sorry, eccentric. (Which was the same damn thing if you ask me, but my mother would argue otherwise.) We weren’t close, by any stretch of the imagination. My family didn’t understand my need for independence and for the ability to support myself with an honest paycheck instead of a trust fund. I knew some of my cousins had blown through their money since they had more than hinted numerous times that I should just sign over mine if I wasn’t going to actually use it. Could one of them be in such a desperate need for money they would try to bump me off for a large payday?
Sean had been pretty pissed at me for breaking it off. Could he have assembled a hit squad to take me out simply because I rejected him? I live in a world of utter fantasy at times, but even that seemed crazy and implausible to me.
Sam was clearly off the suspect list. She was my best friend and my only ties to the world of normalcy. Not to mention the fact she had also been shot at. The same for Kade and Ghost. While I didn’t doubt any of them would have the evil-genius-know-how to hatch and execute that type of plan, the risks of actually not getting shot in the dark pouring rain didn’t work in their favor.
Sadly, that was all I could name. My life was boring with a capital B. I had a close network of friends (Sam), no love life to really speak of, was between jobs, didn’t run the streets, didn’t borrow money from crime lords, wasn’t in debt for drugs, hadn’t stolen some psycho chicks boyfriend, and didn’t have the necessary skills to be a world class cat burglar or hacker so I didn’t have anything worth killing me for.
So then that begged the question. Why the hell was someone trying to kill me?
I tossed and turned for the next two hours, willing myself to sleep but knowing that it really was a futile attempt.
Finally deciding to throw in the towel, I heaved myself out the bed and wandered over to the bedroom door. I guess I should feel bad that I had taken up residence in Ghost’s bedroom. The poor guy was probably crashed out on the living room couch considering his two guest rooms were currently occupied.
I padded out into the living room quietly. Well, as quietly as a pack of elephants usually can.
The lights were out, and it was utter silence that I found mildly disturbing and relaxing at the same time. Considering the fact that I wasn’t familiar with the layout of the house, I didn’t want to venture too far. Ghost had a lot of nice things that I didn’t want to necessarily wreck.
I peeked into the living room quietly, checking to see if Ghost was laid out on one of the couches. Surprisingly, the room appeared empty. I had been certain that Ghost had probably been camped out here since I had taken over his bedroom. Of course, with everything I knew about Kade and Ghost, they were probably hidden away in their own version of the bat cave somewhere below the house plotting their next superhero caper.
Cautiously I tiptoed my way through the living room. Miraculously I could see pretty clearly, which was a complete surprise considering none of the lights were turned on. It wasn’t until I was about half way into the room that I realized there was a pale light lighting my path. Turning toward the unknown source, I was caught off guard by the fact that the wall to my left was made entirely of windows which I hadn’t noticed it earlier. I must have been more out of it then I thought.
Light cast from the moon filtered through the room, bathing everything in a soft gentle glow while the soft slaps of rain trickled down the windows. If you didn’t take into consideration the fact that someone had just tried to kill me a few hours ago, it was all quiet peaceful.
I walked over to the wall of windows and peered outside. The back of the house looked out into an impressive backyard, completely surrounded by huge thick trees. A sliding glass door opened onto a large deck, complete with a four piece conversation set with a matching patio table and eight chairs. A large stainless steel grill right outside the patio doors and looked big enough to cook an entire cow on. Beyond the patio was a luscious green lawn that seemed to stretch on for miles.
I had to give Ghost credit. The man had taste.
Turning back into the living room, I walked over to one of the many shelves surrounding the room. Books, mementos (didn’t feel right to call them trinkets), and framed photos occupied the shelves. I grabbed an 8x10 black frame off one shelf and carried it over to the window for a better look.
It was a color photo of a beautiful woman who seemed to have this halo of light surrounding her head. Her smile was open and friendly with dark hair that fell in curls around her tan skin. Her eyes were a light brown and striking with her exotic features. She was sitting at a table, her head propped on her hands as she smiled at the camera. I couldn’t put a finger on her age. She looked so young, but something about her eyes told me she was older than I would have assumed.
I placed the frame carefully back on the shelf and started looking at the other photos surrounding it.
I’m not sure what it was, but my eye was suddenly drawn to a smaller frame sitting toward the end of the shelf. Grabbing the frame, I tilted it toward the window for more light.
The picture was taken a little less than ten years ago based on the date on the bottom right corner. Four men smiled back at the camera, arms slung over each other’s shoulders. Two of them I recognized instantly. Kade stood on the end, his arm looped around Ghost’s neck. Kade smiled openly at the camera, a genuine smile stretched from ear to ear. His dark eyes seemed younger and I noticed the lack of the scar on his cheek. Ghost had a mischievous grin, no doubt he was about to stir up trouble. His head was still shaved and he sported the dark goatee that made him look dangerous, but strangely alluring with his wide grin.
The other two guys in the photo appeared to be in their early twenties and probably brothers considering how closely they resembled one another. They both had dark sandy hair in need of a cut with straight noses and blue eyes. They were cute, but compared to the other two they were standing with they sorted blended in with the picture.
All four of them wore light beige shirts. Kade and Ghost had dark bandanas tied around their neck. The background showed an old building on the verge of collapse with no greenery, but sand in every direction noticeable.
“You really need to work on those listening skills,” said a voice behind me.
I jumped a mile high, almost dropping the frame before my last minute instincts kicked in and I clutched it to my chest protectively.
“You have got to stop doing that,” I hissed, turning around and swatting Kade in the arm, directly in the spot of his bandage.
He winced slightly.
“Oh my God,” I said in horror, shoving the picture back on the shelf. “I’m so sorry.”
He grinned and shook his head as he stepped back toward the shadows that made up the center of the living room.
“I’m a big boy,” he said, turning on a lamp. “Trust me. Your little tap isn’t going to kill me.”
The fact he had the foresight to actually turn on a light again since we were standing in the dark showed that I clearly was lacking the appropriate amount of common sense at the moment.
“That may be,” I said, walking over to the center of the room and dropping to the couch like a stone, “but I should know better than to kick a man when he’s already been down.”
His brow rose slightly at my little jab, but he just shook his head and sat down on the opposite couch.
“Where’s Ghost?” I asked purely out of need to keep the awkward silence at bay.
“Scouting,” he replied.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
He shrugged casually. “Means Ghost is off doing what Ghost does best.”
I paused a minute before responding, hoping he would elaborate further, but I should have known better then to expect something so simple.
“Still going with cryptic I see,” I replied, crossing my arms over my chest. “Ever stop to think our conversations could be so much more productive if you didn’t always speak in code?”
He shrugged again.
“Probably,” he said, “but where’s the fun in that?”
As usual, I wasn’t sure what the hell to say to Kade. A big part of me wanted to rehash the kiss that took place before the shooting. But it didn’t seem like something I should bring up considering the fact that I had just ended my previous statement with “shooting”. Mind you, I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I was also taught that you can feel the heat from the fire before actually getting burned. In other words, heed the warning and step away quickly.
“Thinking pretty hard over there,” he said quietly.
“A lot to think about,” I replied in a whisper.
He nodded in understanding but didn’t say anything else.
And since awkward silence and I had never been friends, I tried to fill the void.
“Ghost has a really nice house,” I said, looking around. “You seem pretty comfortable here, lurking in the shadows. I assume you spend a lot of time here.”
He smiled mysteriously.
“You could say that,” he replied.
Again with the awkward silence.
I was beginning to wonder if this was his plan. Make me blab away all of my secrets by making me sit in awkward silence. Someone should tell the government about this particular interrogation method.
“So…” I began, but was already at a complete loss for what to say.
When nothing witty or humorous flowed freely, I blurted the first thing that came to mind.
“When are you going to tell me what exactly is going on,” I erupted.
Not surprising, he wasn’t fazed by the question. Odds were I was eventually going to actually ask that imperative question at some juncture. The question now was how prepared was he to actually answer it.
“When I have all the answers,” he replied easily.
Of course he was prepared. Cryptic was his second language.
“When you have all the answers,” I parroted. “Ooooookay.”
“And when exactly will that be?” I asked.
He shrugged. “There’s no time stamp on when exactly I will have all the information.”
“Right,” I said, shaking my head as I chewed my lip. “So what I’m hearing then is that you don’t know who the hell is trying to kill me or why, but that you just know someone is trying to do it. Does that about sum up what you can actually tell me?”
“I didn’t say I didn’t know who or why,” he replied.
“So then you do know who is trying to kill me and why?”
“I didn’t say that either.”
Argh! This man was so frustrating!
“Okay, can we stop acting like we are talking about something as inconsequential as what to have for breakfast. Someone is trying to kill me. Do you know who?”
He was quiet for a minute and I wondered if he was going to sit in silence rather than answer me.
“Yes and no,” he finally said.
Say what now?
“What does that mean exactly,” I pressed.
“It means that yes, I have an idea of who wants you dead, but no, I don’t yet know all the resources that have been engaged to do it.”
“And that means what in English?”
Instead of replying he just watched me with that same assessing look I was beginning to know all too well and hate just as easily.
“Okay…” I said after a moment. “Why is this unknown person and his unknown resources trying to kill me? And please do not talk in riddle. It’s the middle of the night, I’ve been shot at twice, I don’t know where I am, and I am currently staying in someone’s home that I don’t know. A little bit of forthcoming without me having to actually pull teeth would be really appreciated right now.”
He gazed at me quietly before looking towards the windows.
Shadows of the rain streaking down the windows reflected over Kade’s face and for a moment he reminded me of a vengeful spirit. Something was off with Kade, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. Whatever it was, it was causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. Up to this point I had never really gotten a good read on Kade, but alarm bells were ringing in my head and considering everything I had gone through over the past twenty four hours, I wasn’t willing to dismiss them so quickly.
“You’re in possession of something they want,” he replied quietly.
More cryptic speak.
“Care to elaborate?”
I was met with silence.
“What do I have?” I asked. “Whatever the hell it is, they can have it.”
He sighed and ran his hands over his face, something I was realizing he was prone to doing when frustrated or internally debating with himself.
“I know you want the answers right now Addison. But trust me, the less you know about what is currently going on, the better. Right now, denial is your best option.”
I couldn’t believe it. Someone is trying to kill me and he says that my best option is to not know? He thinks I should continue to play dumb and do what? Hope they eventually forget about me so I can run along on my merry little way?
The alarm bells were turning into a five alarm fire, but his blatant refusal to tell me what I considered to be vital information about my ability to see my next birthday was pissing me off to levels I never imagined I could reach. And as I had mistakenly done before, I pushed aside my trepidation and went full on PMS bitch.
I jumped up from the couch, anger coursing through my veins.
“Fuck you Kade!” I yelled. “Someone is hunting me, trying to kill me for reasons I don’t know and all you’ll tell me is that denial is my best option? What the hell kind of answer is that?!
“Who the hell do you think you are? You know who the hell is doing this to me and you’re going to sit there and tell me I don’t have a right to know when it’s my life at risk? Fuck you. You don’t get to decide what information I can and cannot know when it pertains to my life and my wellbeing. This isn’t some stupid game. People are shooting at me. At us. And you’re sitting there telling me it’s better that I deny everything. It’s not going to stop or go away just because you tell me to ignore it.”
Kade sat forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. The dark expression on his face told me I was stepping out of line, but I didn’t care. This was my life. A hellish, unpleasant life at this current moment in time, but my life just the same. How dare he not tell me what I wanted to know; what I needed to know. My ability to continue breathing was dependent upon a highly skilled but dangerous stranger that always seemed to appear at just the right moment.
“Until I have all the answers, that’s the only one I can give you,” he said simply.
I deflated at his answer and tone. I wanted to pick a fight, burn off the frustrations and anger that were coursing through my body, but he was resigned and almost apologetic in his response and the unsaid pleading of understanding in his tone tore down my defenses.
I walked over to the window, running my fingers through my hair in frustration as I swallowed down the tears that threatened to spill over again.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked in a broken voice.
He had come up behind me again. This time my body had been more aware of his close proximity so I was prepared for his sudden invasion of space.
I turned around and faced him, broken hearted by the look of pain and regret on his face.
“Why are you helping me?” I asked.
He sighed and looked over my shoulder at the falling rain outside.
“I could say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said as he stared out. “I could say it was a chance meeting that took an unexpected turn or just a really bad stretch of bad luck.” He shrugged. “Princess, I could tell you any number of reasons, some of which I’m sure you would like to hear, others I’m certain you wouldn’t.”
I watched his forlorn look as he continued to gaze out the window.
“The truth is one that I’m almost certain you don’t want to hear.”
“Try me,” I whispered.
He shook his head slowly.
“Addison, if I tell you the truth…” He sighed. “If I tell you the truth about who I am, you’re not going to trust me anymore. Believe me. You’re not going to like who I am. You’re not going to like what I do. Everything you have come to know about me will disappear and only that dark side will remain. And for me to keep you safe, I need you to trust me.”
I wrapped my arms around myself, stepping back towards the window as the alarm bells started blaring once again.
“Why should I trust you?” I asked in a whisper. “You’re purposefully keeping me in the dark and trusting that I’ll rely on you in my hour of need without even knowing who the hell you really are. You’ve already warned me you’re one of the bad guys. You’re basically spelling it out again for me now. Do you really think that anything you say beyond this point is going to make me trust you any less then I do at this exact moment?”
His gaze met mine but he remained silent.
“I can accept your faults,” I said. “I can accept the fact you seem to know more about what’s going on in my life then I do. Hell, I’m even willing to accept the lies you’ve told me before now. What I won’t accept is your unwillingness to be honest with me when I’m standing right in front of you and begging for you to tell me the truth.”
Something I said must have struck a cord and for brief second he looked regretful.
He sighed again, running his hands over his face.
“If I tell you who I am, it’s going to change everything.”
“It’s going to change everything if you don’t.”
He turned away, walking back into the center of the living room. His hands were on his hips as he stared down to the floor.
After a few minutes of silence, I decided I had had enough. I turned to leave when he finally spoke.
“I’m not the person you’ve been starting to believe that I am,” he said emotionlessly.
I turned back to him, a sudden chill running through my body.
“Then who are you?” I asked, afraid to know the answer.
He sighed heavily as he turned to face me.
“I’m one of the resources.”