Chapter TWENTY THREE
Paxton is nowhere to be seen by the time you reach the locker room.. You shower quickly, blow drying your hair and applying a light layer of mascara and a spritz of your favourite sugary perfume before changing into the only spare outfit you have at work.. A tight, bright canary-yellow bandage dress that has been in your locker since Patrick asked you to play an undercover role at a fancy country club a few months back..
The dresses hemline reaches your mid thigh and the scoop cut neck shows off just a hint of your best assets.. Slipping into the stappy candy pink heels you wore this morning you head back upstairs..
Its seven-thirty by the time you reach Paxton's office door.. Steeling your nerve you lift a hand and knock quietly.. When he doesn't respond, you push the handle and enter anyway, stepping into the room and closing the door softly behind you..
Hunter sits at his desk with his back to you, his head tipped back in the chair, he pinches the bridge of his nose..
You slowly approach, trying to keep the nerves in your voice from showing.. "Axe?"
His voice comes out a low rumbly warning.. "Now's not a good time, Ellerie.."
You take another tentative step toward where he sits, still and stiff.. You haven't really seen this darker, angrier side of Paxton before and you want to understand where it is coming from.. "I can see that.. The thing is.. I kind of told Jackson to leave already, because I thou-... Well.. Nevermind.. .. Could you at least give me a ride Uptown?" You try to hide you're disappointment at the fact he seems to have forgotten about asking you to dinner only a few hours ago..
He slowly spins him his chair to look at you, finally.. He takes in your dress, his gaze lingering on your bare legs.. His expression turns pained as realisation hits him.. "Shit.. You look.." His strained voice trails off..
"Ready for dinner? Yeah.. I was.." You make your way over to him now, taking the seat on the edge of the desk, fixing him with a curious stare..
"I was gunna say gorgeous.." He growls..
You toss your hair back over your shoulder and shrug letting out a dissatisfied hum.. "Mmhmm.. So.. What the fuck happened back there, Paxton?"
He runs a hand back through his hair.. "Just say it.. I'm an asshole.."
You bark out a laugh.. "You're not an asshole.. I mean-- You're acting like an asshole, sure.. But there's a difference.. "
He shakes his head and blows out a long breath.. "Sometimes I think Lacey would be better off if I had of stayed dead.. She had mourned, grieved and moved on and I.. I came back and I fucked up her whole life in one fell swoop.. But she should be at med school.. Not here learning fucking Martial Arts!"
During his time at the CIA Hunter had severed all ties to his sister, his only living relative, in order to take on black op contacts..
You get it, he was only trying to keep her safe.. You're just not sure he went about it the right way..
This afternoon he had acted a little too overprotective and triggered Lacey's anger.. And you can see where she's coming from..
Telling her what she should or shouldn't be doing probably isn't his place..
But you don't want to make him feel worse..
"She's not strong like you.. The things that she went through.. They changed her.. I just don't know how to get her back, El.." His shoulder sag defeatedly..
"Hunter.." You reach out, placing a hand over his.. His lonely grey eyes looking deep into yours.. "She is strong... She just needs time.." You pause and he nods, not seeming convinced at all.. "And.. she needs to keep training with Jackson.. He can help her.. Maybe in ways you don't understand.."
He scowls, but you don't back down.. You really believe that what you're saying is true.. Part of learning self defence is empowerment.. Lacey needs cultivate the confidence within herself to re-enter the real world, and unfortunately for Hunter, he can't force it to happen, no matter how hard he pushes..
Its seems to you as though this whole thing is as much about his need for control, as it is about Lacey..
He sighs.. "Yeah.. You might be right.. I'll fix it with her.. And I'll apologise to Ford.. I'm ah.. Sorry, Ellerie.."
You lean back in the seat, crossing your legs at the knee.. "Its alright.. Family can.. Make us a little crazy.." You smile, thinking of your own parents and how little they know about your real life..
All they know is that you work with technology, and that was enough for them..
Still you love them..
There's a comfortable moment of silence and you can practically feel him squirming to get away from the topic of family.. .. Since he seems to have nothing else to add, you decide there's no time like the present to bring up the subject currently on your mind.. "Speaking of crazy... I kind of wanted to talk to you about something.."
He cocks his head to one side.. "Ford and I are going to inflitrate the De'lucca Estate.. Exactly how rusty would you say your sniper skills are?"