They managed to make it back to Chicago in time for work. The fatigue from the trip showed on all of their faces, and the lethargic movement was also a clue.
Apollo went straight to Pheonix’s office and closed the door behind him.
“Good morning,” he grinned. Totally aware of the team’s fun without him, he pretended not to care.
“Good morning. Yeah, I know I look awful.” Pheonix said sipping her coffee.
Apollo chuckled. “You do. So how did it go?”
“She’s gonna need a lot of work. But she got better the longer we played.”
“So what did you do while we were gone?”
“Read, napped, hung out on the internet looking for some stores for us to hit. Stuff like that.”
“Really? We haven’t done anything in so long, I don’t know if I remember how.”
“There is a little store in Michigan City. It is a super small town so there isn’t much there, but it will be a good place for Sateria to get her feet wet.”
“Okay so what’s the plan?”
“I don’t have one just yet. First we have to get her ready.”
“So how much longer are we gonna train her?
“That depends on you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Maybe you should just send her to some classes. That way we won’t have the stress.”
“She really that bad?”
“Well put it this way. If Jayden was still wondering if she shot Johnny, he’s certain that she didn’t do it now.”
“Well I gotta get some more coffee and get going.”
“All right. I’ll talk to you later.”
Apollo went back to his office, and started on his own work. Moments later, Sateria knocked on his open door. He looked up to see her standing there and his heart rate started to rise. She looked stunning with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her grey pant suit.
“Can I talk to you about something?”
Apollo nodded. “Sure. Close the door.”
Sateria closed the door and sat down in the chair in front of Apollo’s desk.
“What’s up?” Apollo asked trying to keep himself from sweating.
“We had fun. You should’ve come.”
“I told you I had lots of work to do.”
“I know,” Sateria said and went quiet. She looked around his office, not wanting to meet his gaze.
Recognizing familiar actions, Apollo asked, “Sateria, is there something wrong?”
She closed her eyes and sighed. “Jayden told me about Kalista,” she said quietly.
Apollo tipped his head and raised an eyebrow. “He did?”
“He didn’t mean too. I mean I was asking questions about Johnny’s family, and that’s when he told me.”
“I’m sorry, Apollo.”
“Its okay, Sateria. People lose folks they love all the time. It’s a part of life.”
“Believe me, I probably understand that more than you,” she said sadly.
“So what else is on your mind? I know you didn’t come in here just to talk about Kalista.”
“You’re right. It’s about Jayden.”
Jayden. Apollo’s friend. What was he up too? Apollo had to know. Was he intentionally trying to hurt Sateria? And if he was, what would Apollo do? “What about him?”
“What kind of man is he? I mean I know he’s smart, strong, and can shoot a gun, but what is he really like?”
Apollo’s heart rate went up again, and his body began to get hot. Before she even said it, he knew what Jayden was trying to do. Jayden knew that Apollo liked Sateria, so why was he trying to steal her away?
“Well, he’s a good man to have on your side for those very reasons.”
“I mean, outside of work. Does he have a girlfriend or something?”
His blood pressure was continuing to go up as she continued to talk. “Not that I’m aware of, why?”
“Well, he kissed me.”
“He kissed you? Jayden, kissed you?” Apollo snapped. Sateria was surprised by his tone. She’d never seen him angry before, and she was not sure she liked it.
“Yeah. He told me I was beautiful, and then he kissed me.”
“I see.” He was unable to continue looking at her. Just the thought of her beautiful lips glued to Jayden’s and not his was making him crazy. “Sateria, I can’t tell you what to do, but I would prefer it if you didn’t get involved with him. Now is there anything else?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Okay. I have an advertising meeting this afternoon that I’m not gonna be able to make. Can you go for me?”
Apollo reached in his desk and handed her a folder. “Here are my notes. Now if you can get started on reading them, I’d appreciate it.”
“Okay,” she said and walked out of his office.
Apollo picked up the phone and called Jayden. “Can you come in here for a minute?”
Jayden walked in Apollo’s office moments after Sateria left. “What’s up?”
Apollo stood up. “Close the door.”
As soon as the door closed, Apollo charged at Jayden, grabbed him by his collar, and pinned him to the wall.
“Hey, hey! What’s wrong with you?”
“Do not go around telling people about my relationship with Kalista. That was not Sateria’s business to know that. And stay away from her, Jayden.” Apollo sneered.
“It was an innocent kiss Apollo, that’s all.”
“I don’t give a fuck!” Apollo said through his teeth in order not to yell. “Stay away from her, am I understood?”
Apollo let Jayden go, and backed away from him.
Jayden smiled. “So you really do like her. You like her a lot.”
“So if you knew that, why in the hell did you put your hands on her.”
“To get you to admit it. I was counting on her coming back here to tell you what I did. So that’s why I did it. I kissed her to help you.”
Apollo squinted. “I don’t need your fucking help, Jayden. Stay away from her.”
“All right, all right. Can I go now?”
Too angry for words, Apollo nodded. Jayden straightened out his clothes, and left. Apollo grabbed his jacket, his briefcase, turned off his desk lamp and walked out of his door. He stopped by the receptionist desk before leaving.
“Donna, cancel all of my meetings for the next two days. All but the ad meeting this afternoon. Sateria is gonna take that one for me. I’m not feeling well.”
“Thank you, Donna.”
Apollo made his way to his car, and sped home.
That afternoon, Jayden walked into Sateria’s office right before her meeting. He stared at her seriously as he approached her desk. He put both hands on her desk and leaned in as close to her as he could and quietly said, “I kissed you to jumpstart Apollo, and that was the only reason. I am not interested in you though you are all the things I previously said. I have a woman. Now it is up to you. If you want him, now would be a good time to get him, because he certainly wants you. More so than I originally thought. However, you kill this one, and I’m gonna kill you.”
Jayden stood up, and didn’t give Sateria time to reply. He walked out of her office and went back to his own. He picked up his phone and walked to his window.
“Hey, what’s going on?...Can I see you tonight…Come on babe, I need you…And if you can’t get away, then what am I supposed to do…Fine. I’ll see you when I see you.”
Jayden hung up the phone, grouchy, and went back to work.
Sateria made it through her meeting, all the while thinking about her feelings toward Apollo. Was she falling for him? No. She thought. He’s just a friend. A very nice man, that’s all. She was trying to fool herself. She was attracted to him, but most women would be. He was an extremely gorgeous man, and nice to boot. She shook her head. Johnny had been dead for a while, but she still loved him.
Apollo made it home still quite angry. He needed to blow off some steam so he grabbed his unloaded weapon from his safe, and got back into his car. He took the twenty-three minute drive to his favorite gun range in Lyons. He paid the seventy-five dollar fee for a private range, and immediately began firing off rounds at his first target. By the time he was finished, he had calmed down and gone through three hundred seventy-five rounds. He thanked his safety monitor for sitting with him for so long, gave him a very large tip and left.
On the way home, he’d made up his mind. He was in love with Sateria, and he didn’t even see it coming. That was unusual for him. With all the women after Kalista, he could see love coming a mile away, and would run as soon as he saw it. Sateria blindsided him. She did nothing to provoke these feelings in him, yet they were there. He thought of his beloved Kalista, and remembered that he fell for her the same way. Apollo was in trouble. How could he go after what he wanted, and one day he might watch her die? He had two days to think about it. For now, distance was the best thing.
Three weeks went by and Apollo did everything in his power not to be alone with Sateria. He kept his door closed while he was in his office so he didn’t have to see her walk by, tempting him. When they had meetings, he kept his demeanor professional. When he wanted to know how she was progressing in her weapons training, he went to Pheonix to ask. Pheonix would tell him the same thing every time. “She’s getting better.” That satisfied him to a point, but it wasn’t the answer he was looking for.
Sateria noticed that he’d stopped talking to her on a personal level, and she didn’t like it. Apollo was becoming a good friend, and when she kicked Kyra to the curb, she didn’t have anyone close to her. She missed that. She needed that. She finished typing an email to one of her clients, and rose from her desk. She went to his door and knocked.
“Come in,” he said not immediately looking up.
Sateria closed the door behind her and sat down. Apollo looked up to see it was her, but continued to sign his name. “What can I do for you, Sateria?”
“You can stop avoiding me like the plague.”
Apollo looked up. “What do you mean?”
“Every since we got back from Olney, you have stopped talking to me. You lock yourself up in this office and only come out when it’s necessary. Stop it, Apollo. I haven’t done anything to deserve such a cold shoulder.”
“It’s not you. I’m busy.”
He avoided answering her. “So, how’s your training coming?”
Sateria clicked her teeth. “You already know how it’s coming, and if you really wanted to know, you’d take me to the range yourself. Stop avoiding me like I’ve done something to you. Okay yes, I learned something about you that you wanted to keep private, but it’s not like I asked for the information. Jayden volunteered that.”
His heart was beating so hard it was about to come right out of his chest. He cared more about her than he wanted too, but now he saw what he was doing to her by avoiding her. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he didn’t want to love her either.
“I know that, and I’m sorry.”
“So what’s the problem, Apollo? I thought we were becoming friends. I mean, if you don’t want to be friends just say so, and we can keep our relationship professional. Hell, I can even quit if you want me too, I don’t need to work, but I’m here because this is what Johnny wanted. He told me that he trusted you with his life, and you were the one I could look too to help me. So what’s it gonna be? You tell me, and I’ll do it.”
He’d never seen her angry before. He learned that when she was angry, her subtle green eyes lit up like fire. She was gorgeous, even when she was mad, and he wanted to take her right there in his office, but he couldn’t. It was his job to train her, in both businesses, so he had to figure out how to be around her and still honor his dead friend’s wish.
Apollo tapped his pen on his desk and opened his mouth. “I’ll pick you up Saturday morning at nine-thirty.”
“You want me to go watch you shoot? I will. I’ll arrange a private range for us, and you can show me your stuff. Fair enough?”
Taken aback by his quiet words, she still wanted to be angry with him. She couldn’t. She didn’t get the answer she was looking for, but at least he agreed to spend some time with her outside of their day job.
“Yes.” She slid up out of her chair, and looked at him, though he refused to look at her. “Thank you, Apollo.”
She walked to the door. “Do you want this open?”
Apollo shook his head. “No.”
“Have a good day, Apollo.”
Sateria walked out, closed the door behind her, and left him in his office to stew. She went back to her office and plopped down in her chair. She thought about the words that recently left her mouth and wondered if all she wanted from Apollo was friendship.
They made it to the range by the time it opened. Apollo signed in, and purchased one hundred rounds. He wasn’t going to leave until she was somewhat proficient, and that was all he wanted. He placed the rounds at their feet, and watched her load the cartridge of the 9mm pistol. She pushed the cartridge into the weapon and put her ear and eye protection on. While she was doing this, Apollo didn’t say one word. He just watched, looking for her to do something wrong.
Sateria fired of five rounds, and Apollo made her stop. He moved the target closer so he could see what she’d done.
“Two clicks left and one up.”
Sateria adjusted her sights, and fired off another ten rounds.
“Stop.” He pushed the button to move the target forward. “One click to the right.”
Sateria reloaded another cartridge, adjusted her sights, and fired off another ten rounds. She was still off. He took the weapon from her hand, and adjusted it himself.
“There. You should be good now.” He managed a gentle smile to let her know he wasn’t angry with her. She smiled back. He handed her the gun back and said, “Go.”
Sateria emptied her clip, and Apollo pushed the button to allow the target to come forward.
“Mmm. Work on your breathing.”
“Yeah. You are off center because more than likely you are forgetting to hold your breath between shots.”
Sateria took a deep breath and fired off a round. Apollo watched her, and she still didn’t understand what he meant.
“No, like this,” he said wrapping his arms around her. He put his hands over hers as she held her weapon. His heart beat rapidly as he smelled her hair. Her body was firm and felt wonderful against his chest.
Sateria’s temperature rose as she felt his big strong arms around her body. It felt good to be so close to a man again.
Apollo took a deep breath and released just enough air for him to be comfortable. He pulled the trigger.
“Feel that?” He asked. He certainly did. “Caress your weapon. Love your weapon. It will save your life. Now you try.”
Sateria copied how Apollo took his breath. “Now pull the trigger.”
Sateria nodded and pulled the trigger.
“So, let’s see how you did.”
The target moved closer to them so they could get a closer look. Apollo smiled. “Very nice.”
She put the weapon down on the table in front of her and turned to face him. She stared into his striking blue eyes, and saw something different this time when she looked at him. It reminded her of the look Johnny gave her when she realized he was in love with her.
Both of their breathing rapid, as they continued to look into each other’s eyes. The next thing she knew, their lips were together, and she was glad that they were. The kiss was soft and gentle at first, and then the intensity grew as they continued.
Apollo was in heaven. He wanted to hold her for the rest of his life at that moment, but he couldn’t. She was his co-worker, and he always frowned on inter-office romances. What would it look like to the staff if he was in one himself?
“Sateria,” he whispered, pulling away from her passionate kiss. “We can’t do this.”
She stroked his cheek and grinned widely. “Bullshit. I’m the boss.”
He pulled her close and kissed her passionately again.
The door to her penthouse opened, and the two of them couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. The first time he laid eyes on her, he knew he wanted her. Now, in secret, she was his. Screaming his name passionately as they made love, he forgave himself for ever doubting her in the first place. There was no way that a woman with such passion for a man could’ve ever murdered someone in cold blood. Though he thought he would never tell her how he really felt, he was defiantly in love with her. What they were doing was stress relief, he told himself. Everyone needed a sexual release at one point or another. That is how he justified making love to his teammate. His leader.
Sunday morning, Apollo woke in Sateria’s bed to the smell of breakfast. Bacon and eggs, hashed browns, toast and a variety of juices were on the menu for the morning. Apollo rolled over to find Sateria wasn’t in the bed. Breakfast? What is she doing? Apollo thought. Though he loved her, he didn’t want her falling for him. He wasn’t going to tell her how he felt. That would ruin everything. He had to kill what they started immediately. This was his best friend’s girl. On paper, Sateria was the boss. She was on his team at work. But the thing he feared most was the other job.
There was no way that he was going to witness a woman he loved die right before his eyes. What they did was extremely dangerous, and she just wasn’t ready. Apollo didn’t know if she would ever be ready. Deep down he didn’t want her to be.
The sounds of bacon sizzling drew him out of bed. He would eat, and lay down the law. Apollo knew women very well. She would be angry, but it had to be done. If she was angry enough, maybe she would let what happened go. He hoped that to be the case.
Apollo pulled on his jeans. He looked all over the room for his shirt, but it was nowhere to be found. Maybe the living room, he thought. He left the bedroom and walked toward the kitchen. There she was, in his t-shirt putting the finishing touches on their breakfast. He leaned against the threshold of the door and took in her beauty. He was upset that he let her kiss him.
“I wondered where my shirt was.” Apollo smiled gently.
Sateria grinned. “Good morning. I made us breakfast.”
“I see that.”
“Go wash up. It’ll be on the table when you’re done.”
Apollo sighed. “Sateria-”
“Go on. I don’t wanna start without you.”
Doing as he was told, he went to the bathroom and washed his face and hands. Sateria put their plates on the table. She went back into the kitchen to gather up the glasses and silverware. By the time she left the kitchen, Apollo was entering the dining room.
Sateria flashed a smile at him. “Go on, sit.” Apollo reluctantly sat down. “What kind of juice do you want? I have all the usual.”
“Orange juice will be fine. Thank you.”
She grinned, turned on the ball of her foot and went to get the orange juice. She came back in the dining room with a new carton of orange juice and sat down.
She was in an extremely good mood that morning, and Apollo could see it. He hated that he was going to have to put a damper on it, but it had to be done.
“Well, what are you waiting on?” she asked with a grin. “Eat. I worked hard on this food.”
“What’s Jayden gonna say about you eating all this fat?”
Sateria put a bite of food in her mouth. “Screw it. I’ll suffer the extra time in the gym. I have to eat what I want sometimes.”
Apollo chuckled and took a bite of his food. He chewed and watched her eat. He took another bite and decided to get right to it.
“Sateria, we have to talk.”
She put another bite of food in her mouth, and sipped her juice. “About what?”
Apollo sighed. “About what we did for most of the day yesterday.”
She immediately stopped eating. “What about it?”
Apollo glared at her. “It can’t happen again. It was just two people in need.”
Sateria shook her head. “Apollo, what are you talking about? It was more than that.”
“No,” he shook his head and looked away. “Two people who needed to be held and touched. That’s all it was. I can’t get involved with you. It’s professional suicide. I don’t like office relationships because it hinders the work getting done. You understand right?”
Sateria dropped her fork and glared at Apollo. “You can’t mean that. You don’t mean that.”
Apollo looked at her. “I do. I’m sorry. I let it go too far. I should have stopped you at the range.”
“I see.” Sateria smirked. “First Jayden and now you. I’m not a toy, Apollo. No one is gonna play with my emotions-”
Just then, Apollo’s phone rang. He held his finger up and answered the phone.
“Mr. Leonard, this is detective Dave Aurora with the CPD. We need you to come home right away.”
“What’s going on?”
“There was a break-in in the building, and it seems that your home was the target.”
Apollo stood up. “I’ll be right there.”
Her anger suddenly turned to concern. “What’s going on?”
“Someone broke into my house. I gotta go. Give me my shirt.”
She didn’t hesitate, and pulled the shirt over her head, exposing her breasts and the rest of her hard body. “I’m going with you.”
Apollo immediately turned away. “No. You stay here.”
“Apollo, I have to go.”
He shook his head. “Stay here. We’ll finish up this conversation later.” He pulled his t-shirt over his head.
“But the collection.”
“If they robbed my house, and got into my safe, it’s gone Sateria. There’s no need for you to go. I want you to stay here.”
“Apollo, please,” she begged.
“Someone is watching my movements Sateria. I don’t want you anywhere near my place. Stay here…please.”
Apollo tucked his shirt in his pants and was out the door faster than she could reply.
When he reached his building, there were police cars everywhere. Ambulances and fire trucks were amongst the many vehicles. People stood outside pointing and watching as the best of city government did their job.
Body bags were coming out of the high-rise residential one at a time. There was smoke coming from the lobby. Apollo parked as far as the barricade would let him, and ran toward his building. He stopped to ask an officer where he could find Detective Aurora. The officer pointed him out, and Apollo made his way to the very busy man.
“Yes. Sir you’re going to have to step back.”
“I’m Apollo Leonard. We spoke earlier.”
“Ah, Mr. Leonard. Glad you could come so quickly.”
The detective told Apollo what he believed happened while he was away. Apollo continued to watch as bodies continued to come from his building.
“It’s my understanding that you were an associate of a Mr. Aurelius Gianopoulos?”
“We understand that his girlfriend inherited a very valuable jewelry collection from him. Is that correct?”
Apollo was puzzled by the officer’s knowledge of his personal life. He wondered if the police were watching Johnny. Of course they were. That moment, and only for a second, he was glad Johnny was dead. “Yes it is. I was storing it here until we found a safer location for it.”
“Well there won’t be a need to do that now.”
Apollo’s mouth fell open. “Gone?”
“Gone. Along with whatever else you had stored in your safe.”
“But I live in a secure building. How did someone break into my house? How did they even know I had the collection here?”
“It’s obvious isn’t it, Mr. Leonard?”
“Well, can I see my place?”
Aurora shook his head. “No. There is nothing left of your place. The thieves set your place on fire, and then when they came down with the contents of your safe, they set the lobby on fire. Several people have died in this burglary Mr. Leonard. I suggest you call your insurance company.”
Apollo stood and watched the detective go back to work. Where would he live now? How would Sateria react to the collection being gone? What would his team say? Apollo didn’t know. He only knew he needed somewhere to lay his head. Until he could move back into his place, a nice hotel would do. Apollo pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed the Palomar. A hotel Donna often booked for the board when they were in town.
“Hello. This is Apollo Leonard. I need a suite…Indefinitely.”The thief who stole the collection, laughed maniacally, caressing and fondling the jewels now in his possession.