As we sit in her drive way I’m reluctant to wake her up, but I don’t want to startle her by carrying her while she’s sleeping. I gently shake her forearm,
“Hey, you’re home darlin’.” She stirs slightly then her eyes open slowly as she tries to focus on my face.
“What time is it?” She asks stretching her arms out to her side.
“A little after midnight,” I whisper. I open my door and I pull my jacket close against the cold breeze. I walk around and open Ruby’s door and I grab the stuffed gorilla before it hits the ground.
“Nice save,” she says as she steps downs from the truck. “I’m sorry I fell asleep during our date.”
“That’s okay, I usually have that effect on woman,” I say wounded. She reaches up and puts her arm around my neck as I hold her waist with my free hand and walk her to her door. We stand on the porch in silence for the longest moment with our lips so close together and I can feel their warmth. Every inch of my skin is alive with yearning at the closeness of her body and I want to devour her right here on the cold porch wood. I lean closer and I plant the lightest kiss on her forehead.
“Goodnight,” I say with a heavy heart. She looks at me taken aback.
“Goodnight.” She replies and lets herself into the house. I run back to my truck and I sit in her driveway cursing my stupidity and outright cowardice. I am not a coward I scold myself, I choked. I should’ve kissed her I tell myself sternly as I slam the steering wheel a few times. I run my hand through my hair infuriated with myself. After another couple of minutes sitting in her driveway like a moron I make a move. I jerk the truck door open and I run back to her porch and the outside light flicks on before I can knock, in that horrifying instant I realize she must’ve been watching me in the truck. The door flies open and I pick Ruby up over the threshold and lift her out to the porch.
I gently push her up against the wall and her arms lock around my neck as I move my hands under her thighs and bring her up onto my hips as I pin her body against the wall. My lips rush to hers releasing the hunger that’s been waiting in them for so many months. Her body arches and her grasp on the back of my head is desperate and urgent. Her lips part way to allow my tongue entry to taste her and I can taste the left over sugar from the cotton candy. Her kiss is sweet in every sense of the word as I hold her as tightly as possible to me. The cool breeze blows hers loose hair across our melded faces and it tickles her nose and she starts to smile amidst our kiss.
I lean back to allow us both to breathe before we suffocate. I take a deep breath and the contrast of cold air in my warm chest burns.
“Wow,” Ruby breathes out. She leans her head back against the wall like her neck muscles no longer have the strength to hold it up. We’re both breathing rapidly and I struggle—calling on strength I didn’t even know I possess— against every desire in my body to take her to bed. Her head peels itself from the wall and I unlock myself from her body. The separation of our bodies doesn’t tear at my heart nearly as much as the look of yearning in her eyes.
Slowly losing my will power I lean my forehead down to touch hers and I rest it there for a moment trying to mentally pull her memory of me from the deep recesses of her mind. I close my eyes and my mental prowess turns into a combination of silent despairing prayers and wishes. I don’t open my eyes while I try to supress the warm fluid building behind them.
“Would you like to come in?” She whispers seductively.
“No,” I answer too quickly and I open my eyes and see a hint of rejection in hers. “I mean yes, of course I want to.” The internal battle of consciences in my head is about to explode. Ruby looks at me curiously as I become a statue. “I’m sorry, what I mean to say is that we don’t have to rush this, we have plenty of time.” I try to explain terribly.
Ruby pushes her body lightly up against mine as she reaches up and kisses my scarred cheek with a feather light peck.
“You’re too sweet to me, I don’t think I deserve you.” She utters desolately. I take a firm hold on either side of her face and crush my lips to hers again in an expression of pure need. When I break I look at her seriously.
“You deserve the world,” I say with my eyes imploring her to understand. She tucks herself into my chest as she wraps her arms around my torso and I grab a fierce hold of her so she knows how safe she is with me. “Sweet dreams firefly,” I tell her. Kissing her forehead softly I break away from our embrace. She smiles at me shyly as she rests one hand on her belly and the other reaches for the door.
“What did you call me?”
“Firefly,” I confirm without further explanation as I start towards my truck.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” She calls excitedly.
“Nothing could stop me,” I assure her. I jump into the truck and I back out of the drive after she disappears back into the house. I float the entire way home as I drive along. In my driveway I sit in my truck for few minutes trying to wrap my mind around what just happened. That kiss was mind-blowing, how did it not shake anything loose from her memory? I congratulate myself for walking away, it’s not that I don’t want to fall into her and drive her to pleasure until she begs me to stop. I’m just uncertain morally, I know she’s my Ruby but she doesn’t know I’m her Mason. It just wouldn’t be right, I keep telling myself as I get out of the truck and walk to the front door. As I open the door I’m almost to the point of believing what I’m telling myself.
I hear a thumping noise echo from the hall direction, I laugh as I remember the bastard I left tied up and freshly cauterized in my closest. I open the door and rip the duct tape off his eyes and I fix him with a dark threatening glare. I drag the chair bound prisoner from the closest to the kitchen. The tile floor will make the clean-up easier. I may as well get this done now, I’m far too wired to sleep tonight anyway. I pull out a few knives and lay them on the table next to him. I know it’s a bit cliché but it’s a cliché for a good reason I reconcile as I see the fear flood his face. He starts yelling muffled pleas against the duct tape and I signal for him to be quiet then I rip the tape from his mouth taking skin from his lips with it.
“You were saying,” I permit.
“I’m sorry about the girl, but once the boss figured the baby wasn’t his, he just flipped. I was just following orders, I had no choice.” He spurts out information like a broken water fountain. I hit him for good measure, to keep his information honest.
“Where is he?” I probe with a clenched fist. I know better than to hit a guy in the jaw with a closed fist —as I look down at the torn skin on my knuckles— but sometimes you just have to do it.
“I swear I don’t know where he is, I’m just supposed to call his number when I find the girl alone.” He spits through the blood filling his mouth.
“Then that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Tomorrow night, you’re going to call Viktor and tell him that the girl is here and alone.” I explain coolly.
“But what about—”
“If he questions it, just tell him that I relocated her for her safety but she’s unprotected because I left after receiving a lead on his whereabouts.” I tell him calculatedly.
“He’ll kill me if he finds out I helped you,” he spits terrified.
“And what do you think I’ll do to you?” I ask rhetorically, “Besides he’s going to come for her anyway, I’m just trying to expedite the process and have the upper-hand.”
“And if I help you?” He gargles uncertainly. I lift one eyebrow at him and smile a psychotic smile at him.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what kind of a mood I’m in after I kill Viktor.” I click my tongue at him. I check his wound and give him a glass of water. I give him some more sedatives and I tape his mouth and eyes closed again before returning him to the closet. I’m not a complete asshole, I set the fire raging to warm the entire small cabin to make sure my prisoner doesn’t freeze during the night.
It’s the early hours of the morning and my head no sooner hits the pillow when I’m woken by a thumping sound. I open one of my eyes and it’s stabbed with a warm blade of sunlight as I strain my ears to hear the sound that woke me. In a distant part of the house—I could identify more easily if I’d had more sleep—I hear the light thumping sound again. Goddamn it, I curse in my head as I storm towards the hall closet ready to knock out my prisoner again, this time with my fist.
I unlock the closet door and I hurl it open in a rage, and I see him with his head leaning back perfectly still. Either he’s still asleep or he’s dead, I feel for his pulse on his wrist and I feel the tiny throb. Then the thumping sound startles me from behind. The door? I grab my gun and hold it in my hand behind my back and I answer the door wearing only sweat pants.
“Good morning,” says the goddess on my doorstep, bathed in the morning sunlight. She steps up onto her tiptoes and brushes my cheek with a light kiss. Then I’m almost knocked over by the mass of fur—that is Kida as she goes— barrelling past me running straight for the closet and starts barking at it.
“Sorry to wake you, I know it’s still early.” Ruby apologises and I wave it off as I stand aside to let her in. I try to call Kida away from the closet door and I accidently turn too far around and Ruby spies my gun in hand behind my back.
“Oh my God, what were you going to do with that?” She exclaims wide eyed, “Shoot me?” I quickly put the gun away in its draw and I hold up my empty hands towards her.
“No of course not,” I smile at her as I take a step towards her and fold her into my arms. She smells like melting snow and sunlight mixed with peach scented shampoo. Her arms tighten around my bare torso and she tries to call Kida back to us as well.
“I guess you’re really not a morning person,” she laughs as her eyes look towards the gun draw.
“It’s not that,” I start to try to explain. Then her head shoots to the side doing a double take.
“Is that blood?” She asks with a hint of fear in her voice.
“It’s not what you think,” I try to cover as smoothly as possible while mentally kicking myself for not cleaning the mess last night, “well it is blood.” I tell her calmly.
“Are you hurt?” Her eyes start to frantically scan every inch of my body and I have to think quickly.
“No I’m fine I promise.” I reassure her.
“Then what happened?”
“Well when I pulled in last night I ran over an animal in the driveway. I picked it up and brought it into the house to check the extent of its injuries but it freaked and jumped out of my arms and started scurrying around the place bleeding everywhere.” I look to see if she’s buying it and she appears to be so I strengthen the story. “I will admit it got the best of me and I finally trapped it in the closet, but I was too tired to fight with a feral racoon last night so I just left it in there and went to bed.”
“The poor thing, it must be what Kida is barking at,” Ruby says, “is it dead?”
“I’m not sure I was just about to check when you knocked, hence the gun.” I add pointing to the drawer.
“You were going to shoot it?” She cries out. I shrug.
“If it’s not already dead,” I explain to her.
“Maybe we should check,” she says walking towards the closet. There is no way I’ll be able to talk my way out of that.
“No,” I call as I reach out to stop her. I pull her back into my arms and I look at her. “It might have rabies or something, and I would feel terrible if it bit you or Kida.” I tell her acting concerned.
“Well okay we’ll go and let you battle it out, how about lunch later?” She asks me.
“I’m sorry I’ve got a couple of things I need to wrap up with my last FBI assignment.” I tell her regretfully.
“Dinner?” She asks hopeful and I give her the same reply with even more apologies attached. If I’m going to lure Viktor Nolikov here tonight she can’t be anywhere near here. “That’s okay, Leon asked me if I wanted to work tonight anyway.” She says recovering her pride. I need her to know I’m not trying to blow her off.
“Not the graveyard shift?” I ask protectiveness soaking my voice.
“No,” she says with a smile at my reaction, “the dinner shift with Leon.”
“What time do you finish?” I ask her trying to turn on my charm.
“Why, what’s it to you?” She teases.
“Well I was just thinking I could pick you up after work and we could pick up where we left off last night,” I tell her wickedly. Her face flushes and she leans closer to me and I kiss her with the same fervour as last night. When we both recover our breaths she staggers like a drunk to the door and Kida follows her outside. I wave goodbye from the doorway as they leave and I’m surprised to find they drove here, so this wasn’t a spontaneous drop in while out for a walk. Now I need to get to work.
I set about cleaning the mess from yesterday’s interrogation so nothing looks suspicious when Viktor arrives. I patiently wait for my prisoner to wake up as I make my plans. I set the house up to look like she’s asleep when he arrives. I’ll park my truck up an old fire trail off the road a couple of miles away, it’ll be hidden in the woods. I refuse to leave anything to chance tonight. I call Agent Greenberg and tell him I’ve received a tip that Viktor Nolikov will be in my town tonight. I lie and tell Greenberg that he’ll be looking for me.
Greenberg instantly offers agent backup in case the tip turns out to be real. I accept gratefully then I explain a hard truth to him.
“Greenberg, you have to know that if I find Nolikov first, I won’t be arresting him.”
“I’ve suspected as much since what happened to Agent Denton. Of course officially I have to tell you not to do what you’re thinking, that the justice system is the best way to make Nolikov pay for his crimes.” Greenberg recites.
“And un-officially?” I ask.
“Well un-officially I would certainly understand a case of self-defence if you happened to be threatened by this man after he tracked you down. In the chaos of a showdown I would even expect there to be more than a few bullets to make sure this killer was really taken down. What could you do really, this psycho has already killed one of ours?”
I’m reassured by Greenberg’s words as I explain where I need his agents to be to back me up and when. I make sure that this is a low presence assignment in case the tip is wrong, also so no one alerts Viktor. Ruby will be safe at the diner in a public place, especially with the agents watching her as I instructed. Now to put my plan into action, I open the closet door and drag out my prisoner.
He looks a little out of it still from the sedatives and I’m sure his wounds have left him weak. I rip the duct tape from his lips and he starts to try to talk his way out of his part of this. I fix him with a terrorizing scowl as I hold his phone out between us.
“The number?” I demand.
“Please don’t make me do this.” He begs but his pleas are falling on deaf ears. I backhand him and he fights the tears of pain in his eyes.
“The number, and don’t make me ask again.” I hiss impatiently.
“He’ll think something’s up if I don’t speak in Russian.” He cowers.
“Go ahead, I understand Russian perfectly.” I instruct him and I see him flinch at his failed attempt to get out of this. I leave him bound as I dial the number he gives me. I listen to the rings before I hear Viktor’s rage inspiring voice answer then I hear him command me to speak then I quickly hold the phone to my prisoner’s ear.
“Boss, it’s me.” He says then he continues. “It’s time, it’s happening tonight.” He pauses. “No he’s following a lead about you.” He looks worriedly at me and I nod warning him to continue. “No boss, she’s at his place.” He starts to tremble. “Yes I’m sure, completely alone.” He tells Viktor and I pat his leg congratulating him for holding it together as his bids Viktor goodbye.
Despite the coolness of the air today this man is covered in sweat, his pulse is racing. I’m glad he didn’t have to lie to Viktor’s face, this man would’ve crumpled like paper.
“He’ll be here at five o’clock tonight, I’m supposed to be close by to help with the body afterwards.” He gulps and I jump to my feet and start pacing back and forth.
“So he has every intention of killing a pregnant woman.” I spit the words from my mouth like a bad taste. “Then I have no choice, he has to die,” I say out loud talking to myself more than my prisoner.
“I can help you,” a quivering voice breaks me from my dark thoughts.
“Why would you do that?” I ask doubting his trustworthiness.
“You have no reason to trust me and I’m no saint but I could never kill a pregnant woman.” He pleads and I raise an incredulous eyebrow at him remembering his previous attack on Ruby.
“Is that so, then I supposed you just tripped and fell while holding a knife to her last time.” I snap and I pick up the roll of duct tape ready to silence this scumbag.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he pleads. “I only just cut her before and I felt bad about it, but if you don’t believe me I do have another reason. If you don’t kill him tonight then he’ll know I set him up and he’ll kill me and my family. So if I help you then I make sure he doesn’t.”
He has a point, but I can’t take any chances. I gag him and put him back in the closet, for now. I set about checking that all the weapons that are hidden around my house are cleaned and fully loaded.