J O H N
He found nothing on the hard drive. Which was what he suspected once he saw the multitude of the files and applications in the hard drive. The guy was tech-savvy, and they had been planning this escape for at least two years. He would never have left a trace that could tie back to Marcella. And he would have found his laptop hacked when he woke up.
But it was a misdirect. Whilst Caldwell believed John was only interested in his hard drive, he wouldn’t even think to check his phone for a bug, especially when it had sat so snugly in his pocket.
John listened to the call he had made to a woman named Lucia Rossi. She was clearly a friend of Marcella, which made John wonder what other secret friends Marcella possessed. It wouldn’t matter to him soon.
Through the call Caldwell had made, it sounded as though Marcella had no way to contact her friends. She was also hauled up in Rossi’s apartment somewhere in Philadelphia. And it didn’t take too long to find out what that apartment was, and everything about Lucia Rossi.
John was confused as to how Marcella had made this friend. From what Alessandro had implied, Marcella was overly guarded, protected from the world. The only friend that she was allowed to have was Caldwell and then after their fight, she had none. So how did Rossi and Marcella meet?
He wondered what other secrets she had. She had planned to run, so perhaps she had more tools for her escape, more friends that Alessandro had no clue about. Alessandro had wanted John not to underestimate the young female bounty and yet, he had done just that. He was only scratching the surface of finding out who she was and what she was capable was. But no matter how good she was, she wouldn’t be able to escape him. That was inevitable.
He started his drive, his shades dimming the bright rays of the sun and one hand gripped the wheel lazily. He knew he couldn’t quite relax just yet. Rossi would have managed to warn Marcella about John so she could have panicked and run. But he understood that Marcella was smarter than to do anything out of panic. She had planned this for two years and she wasn’t about to ditch it for her paranoia. What she knew was that John had Caldwell’s hard drive, a drive that was wiped clean for any traces of any plan. So, she thought John had nothing. He believed that wasn’t enough to make her flee earlier than she wanted to.
Soon enough, he crossed over the Philadelphia state line and headed to the apartment. He would have her back home in no time. He wondered, briefly, what had prompted her to take two years solely planning an escape from her father, but then he realized that was none of his business. He didn’t pry into reasons for the bounties placed. That wasn’t his job, and he didn’t feel guilty even if he was sending them to their death. Whatever the reason, whoever they were, he would get the job done. Mercy was not in his vocabulary.
He scanned the list of apartment buzzers and searched for Rossi’s name. Of course, it wasn’t there. She must have taken it down just in case this happened. Swiftly, he scanned for an apartment buzzer that had no name. Apartment 3C. He could ring anyone on the same floor, but he opted for a woman, hoping to charm her enough to distract her from his lies.
“Hello?” the soft female voice called out.
“Hi,” John answered in a cheerful voice. “God, I’m such an idiot. I just moved in with my girlfriend in 3C yesterday and I left my buzzer key at work. I forgot some files, you see, because I work for this incredibly strict boss and so I raced back here to get them and realized I didn’t have my buzzer key and-”
“Oh, that’s okay. I’ll buzz you in, no problem,” she replied. John was relieved the woman had halted him at the point she did. He had run out of things to ramble. He didn’t want to ask outright as that could have sounded quite shady. But rambling to the point where the woman gave in and didn’t want to listen anymore was the way he went.
John climbed up to the second floor, the floor he knew Rossi’s apartment was on. He shifted around outside the door, trying to decipher whether anyone was home. He couldn’t knock and pretend to be a neighbor. Marcella would already be very wary at this point after the phone call he assumed she got from Rossi. No, he needed a way in.
When he heard rustling inside the apartment and the faint flood of footsteps, it could only mean one thing. She knew he was here. And she was running.
He raced down the stairs, missing steps five at a time to catch up to her outside. She would have tried escaping down the balcony stairs he had noticed when he scouted the building. She was naïve enough to think she could escape when he was so close.
He spotted her hooded figure jumping down the last flight of stairs and sprinting down the alley. She was fast, he would give her that. Small too, which gave her a high level of agility. But he knew the area, he had purposefully mapped it in his head beforehand. And he knew where to cut her off.
He hurried back the way he came and around the other side of the building, ignoring the kids who were throwing beer cans in the dumpster beside him. His only focus was on her.
When he turned the next corner, he knew who he would find. He pummeled into her, accidentally, from the velocity both had been traveling at. She was so petite and weak that she easily collapsed to the ground under him and he pinned her to it, completely prohibiting any chance of escape.
In that moment, he could see the youth in her face under her cap. She had golden brown eyes that glistened in fear and trepidation at the sight of him. Her chocolate hair was pulled back neatly behind her, most likely to make her more inconspicuous, but stray strands shaped her face so beautifully. He caught the resemblance between the princess and the king. Alessandro had the same devious look in his eyes as hers held. And they both had big eyes. Whilst his seemed intimidating and unpredictable, much comparable to a psychotic person, hers made her look innocent and vulnerable, like a rabbit in headlights. But he wouldn’t be fooled by that, nor would he be by her beauty.
The light whimper she let out from the pressure of his hands on her shoulders had him snapped back to reality. The glint in her eyes startled him a little, like this was exactly what she wanted, and she knew how to escape him. But he had her. He had her in his clutches, and it was game over. He could let her go and let the chase continue, but Alessandro was too important a client to mess him around.
He was about to pull away when her face came right towards him. He was expecting a head butt or something of that nature, but it was the complete opposite.
She had pressed her lips on his.
They were kissing. And still kissing. And John was too shocked to even comprehend what was happening to move. He just let her do it.
Her mouth worked in sync with his, softening him up, melting him like a heater to ice. Her lips were soft and plump and dangerous.
He was finally in his senses to understand the situation and yet he still did nothing. He wanted her to keep going. But he was still confused.
And within a blink of an eye, she had crawled out from under him and sprinted away. And left him as frozen as a lake in the dead of winter. Nothing could move. He was just… stupefied.
What…? What just…? How…?
This was insane. What the fuck was happening?
He hadn’t let her go and yet… she escaped. She was under him, and she escaped. He had loosened his grip due to the kiss that allowed her to flee. She had… won for now.
This was a new feeling for John. Completely new. He had never been beaten before. Not when he was so close. He had her in his hands. He had her on his lips. And now she was gone.