In her twenty four years, Rachel hadn’t done much daring stuff. Having spent it mostly confined to her room, she’d regrettably never had a friend to encourage her reckless side, never had a bad influence with her mother closely watching each and every person she interacted with.
Early on, Rachel learned to play the game her mothers way. Although she’s never physically hurt Rachel, Susan knew far worse techniques to discipline her children. Her favourite being to deny Rachel going to school.
In the movies, the children always complained about school. They’d try to find ways of avoiding it. The concept was lost on Rachel, she’d craved school, enjoyed interacting with people, even if that meant sitting alone and just watching. Sometimes she’d pretend to swap places with them, and imagined going home to a house full of laughter. To parents who asked questions because they allowed their children the freedom Rachel so wanted.
So as she waited for the guard to briefly look at the fake ID she’d handed him seconds ago, one could understand the anxiety the situation filled her with. At any moment, she felt her mother’s hand would grip onto her shoulder, dragging her back into her room as she’s done as a kid.
Regardless of the inner panic attack Rachel was fighting, the guard, after barely checking, handed her ID back. Pretending not to notice the slight tremor in her hand, Rachel placed the ID into the small bag they allowed and took her assigned seat.
Why she felt so nervous was beyond her, she’d come here on multiple occasions to visit Jim. None of which her mother had caught onto. Why would this be any different?
As if the universe was listening, her question was answered. A short buzzing noise announced the arrival of an inmate. Rachel didn’t need to see, to know everyone had looked up. Each person, desperate to see their loved one.
Yet as he walked through the door, she knew the man she’d come to see had arrived. There wasn’t anything in particular Rachel could say that gave it away, she just felt it. The atmosphere changed, the other prisoners became alert to the new addition. Or it could have been how his hazel eyes landed instantly on her, narrowing marginally as he assessed her.
The truth was, she’d seen him before on her visits to Jim. He had a larger than life character, when he laughed she felt the vibration. And he laughed a lot. His overly comfortableness in such a dire setting was difficult to look away from. Rachel had noticed many times how Jim withdrew into himself whenever he heard the sound. She’s concluded that he must have been one of those responsible for the marks covering Jim.
Until he’d catch her looking, his face always carried a lazy smile tilted to one side. Not the smile of someone who’d hurt the one you care for, no. It was the smile of someone who didn’t have a concern in the world. The smile was light, and easy.
After getting caught staring for the third time, Rachel quickly ruled him out as a suspect.
Now it appeared he’d hopefully be the one helping her to stop those responsible for the harm inflicted upon Jim.
Way too confidently for someone locked behind prison bars, the man himself strolled over. His eyes, unwavering as he began to weigh her up. Rachel halted the nervous jig in her leg, wanting to appear completely and utterly in control of the situation. Even if she didn’t feel it. The notion was bizarre, he was the criminal here, not her, she reminded herself.
However, his presence was difficult to ignore. The tattoos which covered his body stopped just below his chin, framing his face in darkest. His blonde hair had been slicked back, displaying every flawless inch of his face. The standard orange bottoms fitted loose around a lean waist, but even then Rachel could see the power his legs held. The white top clung to his broad shoulders, their short sleeves showing off more of his tattoos. She noted how none of them touched his face, and were cut off just above the wrist.
Only as the chair opposite her was pulled out, did Rachel realise she’d stared at him the whole way over. By his slightly irritated but not uncomfortable look, she assumed it was something he was used to. People staring.
Heat rushed to her face as she realised she’d been checking him out, purely for Jim’s benefit, she reassured herself.
Hadn’t she gotten used to it as well but for a completely different reason? Everyone knew her mother, knew of the riches awaiting Rachel when Susan died. Feeling ashamed, Rachel realised she’d done the one thing she hated being done to her.
Unsure of what to say, Rachel sat waiting for the man to get adjusted. Although he didn’t introduce himself, she knew Jim’s summary of Archer Adams was off. Jim barely mentioned Archer but when he did it was in a whisper and normally involved a fight or upheaval. He’d failed to mention the overwhelming present Archer held, as if a celebrity were sitting across from her. Which was crazy in itself, because before a few months ago she’d never heard the name Archer Adams before.
He glanced over to the other tables, taking in who they were sitting with, even nodding at a couple he obviously liked.
Before his gaze fixed onto her again, he leaned back into the chair, crossing his arms causing the muscles to bulge. Rachel praised herself for not looking at them, instead she was determined to show this man he couldn’t intimidate her.
“Rachel Burton.” His lips caressed her name, if she hadn’t been so stunned to know he knew it, she’d have probably liked the sound.
“That’s not my name.” Rachel said in reflex, the point of arguing was stupid.
A small smile graces his lips as if he were having an inside joke with himself. The whole time his eyes telling her, he knew she was lying.
“Not the fake one you gave on the form. No.” Archer Adams tilted his head to the side, examining her in such a way she felt exposed. “You don’t look like a Liz by the way.” Smugness laced within his words.
“Well, that is my name.” Why she was prepared to die on this hill was still a mystery to Rachel herself. Perhaps it was Archer’s all knowing smile, he felt he had the upper hand and she hated that. She’s spent her whole life with that feeling.
“And you’re a terrible liar.” Archer leaned forward so suddenly, the motion caused Rachel to backup quickly. Honestly, Rachel hadn’t believed he’d hit her. Regardless of the place they were both now sitting, he didn’t strike her as a violent person.
The hasty retreat hadn’t gone unnoticed by Archer either, although he didn’t react in any way, she saw the surprised expression in his eyes before the barriers came up. “Listen sweetheart, I haven’t got all day to play this game with you. I already know about your millionaire mummy, and that you visit Jim Harris with your little fake ID every other week. Am I wrong?” Archer waited for the evidence to hit, enjoying watching the shock cast itself over her face.
A smirk appeared, as he leaned back. Knowing he’d bested her, Rachel was beginning to dislike this man very much.
“How’d you know that?”
“That’s only the surface of what I know.” He looked up as if trying to remember all the details he knew about her. It was an act, she could tell he already knew them off by heart. “You’re an introvert, you have one friend, and despite having millions at your fingertips your favourite place to be is locked away in your apartment, high in the sky.” He paused, waiting for her to disagree, when she didn’t he continued. “You jog for an hour every morning, same route, dangerous by the way. And every Saturday you order the same food, from the same restaurant, to watch the same film.”
He then leaned forward again, closer this time than previous, like he wished to share a secret with her. “It seems unlike you, I’ve done my research.” His words were shushed but carried an underlying lethalness that reminded Rachel of who he was. “Nobody sits across from me without me knowing everything about them. You want to make a deal to protect your punch bag boyfriend, then let’s cut the crap and talk business.” His tone was matter of fact. All sense of messing around vanished.
“He’s not my boyfriend.” Rachel’s attempt to gain some control over the situation had turned embarrassing. The detail of Jim not being her boyfriend was hardly important, yet she felt the need to add it. A tortuous blush slowly swiped its way around her face. Rachel had been around many men before, her mother always had male security around their house. On occasion, Rachel would even talk to one or two. Never for long, she didn’t want her mother to fire them.
Archer however wasn’t employed by her mother, he sat across from her with his leg spread wide, dominating every inch he could. His eyes wandered every few moments from her face to other parts she didn’t wish to think of. Never had Rachel felt so aware of herself, every sense seemed to have become heightened. It was all very distracting.
“I don’t care.” The statement hurt Rachel’s ego. She wasn’t an idiot, she knew nothing could happen between them. Hey, she didn’t want something to happen, she told herself. That being said, didn’t everyone like feeling desired?
“Judging by the healthy balance your mummy gives you each week. The cost for my services is two grand.”
“A month? Deal.” Rachel began to feel happy about her decision to come here today, when she heard Archer chuckle. The sound was warming and yet worrying all at the same time.