Although only a few days had gone by, it seemed as if everything had changed. Stepping into Sirri's…their…apartment was like walking into a fantasy. Unfortunately, it wasn't an altogether good one. Shadows hung over them like menacing storm clouds, readying to pour vile rain, soaking them to the bone. Mel's sudden demise and the prospect of breaking the news of their marriage to Niko were lingering thickly about them. It was simply one horrid thing after another. Yet, despite that, they were together again, both greatly anticipating the future to come. They had no doubt it would be one to look forward to, but they had no idea how naïve they were, how soon that life would throw them into total chaos.
Tiredly, Makenna dropped her bag onto the floor near the front door. She was too exhausted to move it further into the apartment. Maybe later when her stamina returned. Although she was exhausted, she had enough energy to be concerned for Sirri. There was no love lost between any of them in this weird triangle, but her new husband was haunted. Mel's influence in their life remained even after her death. Her claws were hooked into Sirri's flesh. However, she was not surprised that Mel had listed Sirri as her next of kin. She supposed Sirri was her only contact left in the world. Her mother was gone now. Mel's manipulative personality had all but alienated her friends and other family members. Sirri wasn't exactly close to her, either, but there were ties, at least as far as Sirri was concerned. He wouldn't abandon it or her. He was certain it was his duty. Oddly, Makenna accepted it. It didn't bother her as much as it should have. Basically, his commitment was what endeared her to him, even through the months they were separated.
Quietly, Makenna walked over to the couch and sat down. Almost automatically, her hand went to her abdomen where it began to move slowly, gently. She glanced up at Sirri. He was displaying his characteristic universal sign of distress: hand to the nape of the neck. She wanted to ask him if he was okay, but she didn't speak. It would have been the dumbest of all dumb questions.
"Would you come sit with me," she asked after staying quiet for as long as she could stand it. "I know you're exhausted."
He nodded without speaking. After a moment's hesitation, he approached the couch and sat down beside her. He noticed that she had brought her legs under her and was slightly turned on the seat cushion. Sirri faced her. His hand came out to settle atop hers. Although he had accepted Makenna's pregnancy without pause, it still amazed him all the same. He was certain he had never loved any two people so much in his life. The enormity of what he had nearly lost was more than overwhelming. He felt sick with it, overcome.
"That I am," he said with a brief nod of his head. "You must be as well. Why don't you lie down? I need to take care of some things. A nap would do you a world of good."
Makenna knew Sirri had to go the morgue to deal with Mel and to arrange her burial. He also intended on seeing Niko and Sandra today. These were things he didn't need to tackle alone, especially confronting Niko. "I think I should go with you," she said.
He shook his head. "No. I don't think that's a good idea."
"I will have to face Niko sooner or later. It's best to do it now. To get it out in the open and out of the way."
"Not right now. Not today."
"Sirri, the longer we wait, the worse it will be. You realize that, don't you?"
"I do," he said steadily. "But I'm not worried about Niko's well being. I'm worried about yours. You're at the top of my list." He leaned toward her and placed a soft kiss on her lips. "I love you very much. Take a nap. I'll be back soon."
She opened her mouth to voice a protest, but before she could utter one syllable, Sirri was on his feet and out the door. Makenna couldn't help but feel a lurch in the pit of her stomach. Sooner or later, she would have to tell him that she feared Niko. She thanked all the higher powers in the universe for Sirri's decision to leave Wade and Milionis.
Niko had come into the office today in a foul mood. He didn't know why it was so. Perhaps it was due to the morning paper. Usually, he enjoyed perusing the paper. It gave him an opportunity to troll for clients. One blurb actually comforted him, but the lack of another annoyed him. He knew something had happened, but he hadn't heard anything else after that. What would he have to do? Call up Makenna and fish for information? Oh, but that wasn't so smart. He had no desire to implant ideas into her head. It wasn't wise. It wasn't wise at all.
Even more annoyed now, Niko took a seat at his desk. He had to prepare for a hearing tomorrow. With Amandurre's absence, it meant more work for him. At any moment, he expected Sandra to show her face and begin asking him pesky questions about their missing law clerk. She had the supreme hots for Amandurre. When he wasn't around, she moped like a child. It was utterly sickening. He had no time for it today. He would wait a couple more days before mentioning that they should find a suitable replacement. Sandra would pout, but he could take it if the damned newspaper would report the news for God's sake. What would he have to do? Report him missing? Why hadn't Makenna?
His plan was flawless…perfect. Yet, nothing seemed to be working according to his scheme. By now, he expected Makenna to call. He assumed she was quite predictable. If that was the case, she should have called by now. Damn it. Damn her. She would call, by God. She would call or he would knock on her door. She had to see it by now. To know it. Who better for her than a successful attorney? A man who knew what it meant to be faithful? A man who would give her whatever she desired? She had to know. She simply had to. If she didn't know, he wouldn't hesitate to remind her.
"Have you heard from Sirri yet?"
Niko looked up from his laptop and fought to suppress a smile. Like clockwork. Sandra's pretty face held a frown. Her forehead was wrinkled with worry. Today, she looked every year of her age. He shook his head, hoping that he looked sad. He sure didn't feel it. "No," he said through a heavy sigh. "I haven't."
She wrung her hands nervously. "I hope nothing has happened to him," she said, the upset obvious in her voice.
Niko nodded, pretending to empathize with her. "I know, Sandy. So do I."
She turned around and made a move back toward her office. Not five seconds later, he heard her exclaim, "There you are!"
Niko's heart leapt into his throat. There who was? No. It couldn't be. Swallowing hard, his heart pounding crazily, Niko slowly brought himself to his feet. Carefully, as if he had taken a swift kick to the groin, he stepped over to the door. When he laid his eyes on the very much alive Sirri Amandurre, he felt the world dropping out from under him. Unbelievingly, he watched as Sandra embraced Amandurre as if he were her long lost brother. Niko couldn't understand what had gone wrong. They were speaking in hushed tones. He couldn't make out a word they were saying. Inwardly growling with frustration, he quickly moved back to his desk before he was seen. Nothing would be worse than being seen with an exasperated look on his face. That would be bad. That would be very bad.
Nonchalantly, he sat down behind his desk and dug into his paperwork. In the back of his mind, he was trying to figure out what went wrong. The car pitched over, Niko. I saw it. He couldn't have survived that. Well, obviously he did. Obviously, someone was asleep at the switch. Bastard. How dare he show up in the office alive and well. If he had wanted the game to end right then, he would have taken out his letter opener and stabbed him in the heart. That surely would have solved all his problems.
With disdain, Niko looked up at the discreet knock on his door. Sandra didn't bother waiting for an invitation. Instead, she opened the door to allow her and Amandurre to enter the room. What did the bastard want? Was he suspicious? Had he seen the one who hit him? Perhaps later, he would be more creative. He opened his mouth to tell Sandra to get lost, but closed it when she disappeared on her own. He was alone with Amandurre now…face to face. Oddly, he stood with his arms crossed behind his back. What was he hiding back there? A weapon? Niko was ready. He was more than ready.
"Welcome back, Amandurre. We nearly had to call out a search party," Niko said without much amusement in his voice.
Sirri stared blankly at Niko. He wanted nothing more than to launch his body across the desk so he could beat this man senseless. After attacking Makenna, how could he be so damned self-righteous? "I plan to make a formal announcement in writing to both you and Sandra, but I wanted to tell you now. As of today, I quit."
Niko's eyes twinkled evermore with mirth. "Amusing that you're quitting, Amandurre. We should fire you for not calling in sick or something."
"Whatever you want, Niko," Sirri said flatly. "Not that it concerns you, but I was in the hospital. Again, it's truly not relevant. I'll clean out my office and be on my way."
Sirri had turned to make his exit, but Niko wasn't done. "Still smarting over Makenna?"
He stopped and turned to face Niko again. The other man wanted a fight. Sirri wouldn't play his game. Yet, Sirri felt more than vindicated. One day, he would probably pay for this, but he couldn't help it. "I don't think it's necessary for you to worry about Makenna or my connection to her. In fact, I am doing just fine with her." Sirri drew closer to Niko's desk, almost close enough to lean against it if he chose. "Touch her again and you'll pay. I'll make you pay." He stepped back as suddenly as he drew near. "If you'll pardon me now, I would like to collect my things and leave."
Fine you smug bastard. Just go. Makenna will never be yours again. "You do what you must. Best of luck to you, Amandurre."
Sirri afforded Niko a black look of hatred before turning away toward his office. Once inside, he found a small box to stow away his few personal items. He had used the same box on his first day. Quietly, he began to pack. After a few moments, he felt as if he was being watched. When he looked up, he noticed Sandra watching him.
"I had a feeling this was going to happen," Sandra said.
He nodded solemnly. "You're right. It was inevitable. I appreciate your guidance and kindness."
"Oh, Sirri," Sandra gasped in surprise.
He realized she had seen his wedding ring. "I'd appreciate your discretion."
"Of course, Sirri. But I must say good for you and congratulations. She's one lucky little lady."
Sirri smiled before nodding his head briefly. "Thanks, Sandra. For everything."
While Sirri busily packed up his belongings, Niko sat in his office sulking. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Amandurre wasn't supposed to be able to walk about. He was supposed to be in the fucking ground. No wonder he hadn't heard or read about it in the paper. The bastard was still breathing. Goddamn, but he hated incompetence. Why did he rely on amateurs to get the job done? One of these days, he might learn his lesson.
Fully aggravated now, Niko reached into his briefcase for his cell phone. He stared at the small device for several long moments before he pecked out a number. The phone he was trying to connect to didn't ring, but went straight to voice mail instead. He snapped his phone closed, disconnecting the call. He wouldn't leave a message. Let her come to him. By God, she would. She would come to him. She could come to him or else…The room was dimly lit. Although that was the case, Makenna didn't have any problem understanding that she was in a hospital room. She tried to move, but she saw that her wrists and ankles were in restraints. What the hell? She was fine until that realization dawned on her. Instant panic seized her. Fruitlessly, Makenna fought against the bonds, but it was to no avail. Her heart began to pound frantically in her chest as her rate of respiration went up an octave. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. She grew more certain of this as her eyes fell on her abdomen. Makenna knew she was no more than four months along, but suddenly, her middle had taken on gigantic proportions. She could have easily been eight, even nine months. How did this happen? How did she suddenly go from four to nine months? Why couldn't she remember?
As soon as she saw her enormous stomach, she immediately began looking for Sirri. If she was going into labor, he had to be there with her. But this was no normal labor. If so, why would she now be in restraints? Had something happened to their son? Was he in danger? Was there a chance he wouldn't survive? Why wouldn't someone come to her? Why wouldn't someone tell her what was going on? The panic that had begun to build within her blossomed even more, threatening to transform her from a mild woman to a raving lunatic. She began to turn her head from side to side, desperately seeking out her husband. Where was he? Where had he gone? Why wouldn't he come to her? She could not give birth to his son without himhere. She opened her mouth to scream for him, to scream for anyone, but no sound came out. She couldn't speak. Had the hospital injected her with something that had totally screwed her system to shit? Was that it?
Paranoia had joined panic in this intimate dance to possess her body and mind. Dear God. Why wouldn't someone help her? Why wouldn't her husband come to her? He most assuredly had to know that this was happening. Her heart began to race even more frantically than before as her breathing came in sharp and heavily. Soon, she would be hyperventilating. Soon, she would pass out. She knew she could not let that happen. Makenna tried again to sit up, but the restraints were stronger than strong. Someone help me, she cried to herself. Someone please, please help me. I don't know where I am. I don't know where my husband is. Worse still, she didn't know where she was. The last thing she remembered was falling asleep on the couch in Sirri's…their…apartment. That had been months ago. Her time was lost. Her mind was lost. Would this be her last moments spent on earth? Was that it? Was she dying?
From across the room, Makenna heard a deafening noise…creeeeeek… It was the sound of a massive door opening somewhere near her. Everything seemed almost like Alice in Wonderland. She was very, very tiny, and the environment around her was very, very large. The bed grew to massive proportions, as did the walls, the ceiling, and the floor beneath her. This had to be a dream. This absolutely had to be a dream. Nothing about it made sense. This was not real. This was not happening to her. It simply was not.
Lifting her head ever so slightly, she saw a lone figure standing in the massive doorway. It wasn't Sirri. Oddly, the individual was dressed as the Mad Hatter, as if this was the famed fable. She blinked her eyes and the costume suddenly disappeared, revealing the real man behind the mask. Niko. How did Niko figure in this? Why would he be here while she was giving birth? The questions died in her throat as he drew nearer to the bed. Like everything in the room, Niko was a giant. He was an evil, twisted giant.
Smiling, Niko drew closer to the bed, closer still, until he was almost touching it with his oversized leg. Makenna tried to scream, but it was no use. She couldn't find her voice and wouldn't…not for some time. Niko reached out with his only his thumb extended. Horribly enough, it was the length of her entire body. Once again, she opened her mouth, praying that she would find her voice to summon assistance. Niko pressed downward with this thumb until it met the rounded curve of her abdomen. The pressure was as enormous as he. No! He wanted to kill her son, to make him disappear, to ensure that he never saw the light of day. She couldn't let that happen, but she was helpless to stop him. The pain was consuming, agonizing. Her terror was only outshined by the brutal pain assaulting her. She couldn't let him do this. She couldn't…
Makenna took a sharp, deep breath. She had almost screamed. Still feeling the restraints, she resisted against them and sat up suddenly. It was at that moment when she realized she had been dreaming all along. There was no dark, hospital room. No evil Mad Hatter Niko out to destroy her or her baby. There was nothing but the apartment…now hers as well…that she had just begun to familiarize herself. Her hand went down to her lower abdomen where she was still only four months pregnant. Oh God. Oh dear God. What had happened? Slowly, she brought her body up to a standing position. She suddenly needed water more than she needed anything. She had begun making her way toward the kitchen when the lock on the front door rattled. Turning toward it suddenly, she realized it was Sirri returning home. The moment she saw his beautiful face, she changed her mind. She didn't need a drink of water as badly as she thought. She needed her man, her partner, the father of her child.
Sirri was stunned when Makenna met him at the door. Before he had a chance to speak, she had wrapped her arms around him and held on tightly. Although surprised at her behavior, he returned her embrace, burying his face in the sweet smelling hair that fanned against her right cheek. They were so close that he could hear the frantic beating of her heart. She was trembling against him as if she had been attacked by a hard chill.
"Makenna…baby…are you all right," Sirri asked, his voice muffled against the side of her face.
She closed her eyes tightly, but managed to nod her head. "I'm okay. I had a really freaky dream."
Concerned, he broke the embrace so he could look at her. Her face was flushed and the hair on each side of her temples was damp. "About?"
She shook her head. As if embarrassed, she looked down for a moment before meeting his gaze. "I don't want to rehash it," she said softly. "It was too disturbing."
He nodded. "Okay. We don't have to talk about it now." He took her hand and led her back to the couch. Together, they sat down. "Did you dream of Niko?"
"Yes," she said. "But please…I don't…"
He placed two fingers over her lips. "It's okay. You don't."
"How did it go today," she asked tentatively.
He shrugged. "As I expected." He wouldn't tell her about his exchange with Niko. She didn't need the additional stress it would cause. He knew she was worried about Niko's reaction when he discovered that they had married. "I go back this evening to take care of Mel's arrangements." She turned her head away and he knew that she was going to cry. He moved closer to her so he could cup her chin in his hand. He turned her face toward his. "Makenna, no bullshit. Are you okay?"
She blinked her eyes rapidly, fighting hard against the tears that threatened to overcome her. "No, Sirri," she whispered. "I'm not."
"Come to me," he commanded gently.
She did not hesitate. She went into his arms, allowing him to cradle her close to his body. She didn't want to be such a baby, but her dream had shaken her down to the core. There was no basis to it in reality, but it cut just as deeply all the same.
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