There wasn’t one wink of sleep for me last night. All I kept thinking about was Elena. I never expected that she’d be in my house - I tried putting that off for as long as possible. If I were able to keep her away from the inside my house, then maybe the situation between us would feel less... intimate.
Mike, you’re an idiot. Since the first time I met her, I knew she’d have me wrapped around her finger in no time...and she did. She does. Every moment spent with her is intimate.
I’ve tried to stay away from anything that could fall under the category of intimacy for most of my life. Whenever I felt like a woman wanted more from me, I’d cut her off.
Sure, I’ve had other women over here, but there was no real connection with them; no real intimacy. That Ashley chick was the only one who practically stayed the night. She didn’t sleep here, and she came over at three in the morning as a booty call and left at 7:30 in the morning so, I don’t think that technically counts as someone staying the night.
I’ve never had a woman literally sleep in my bed with me. Ever. I wasn’t planning on Ashley being the first one, so I did everything I could to keep her awake and out of my bedroom without fucking her. I just couldn’t do it. Whenever I got close, I pulled away because all I saw was Elena’s face.
Even if Elena and I were to ever have sex, I’m still not sure I’d be able to. Not when she doesn’t know the truth.
Other than her wanting to dig into my past, everything with her is effortless. Natural. I literally feel a connection with her. When she’s too far away, my chest tightens. When she’s close, it’s like I can breathe again.
What the hell did she do to me?
None of this was supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to develop feelings for this girl. She is a job!
I walk up to the painting and remove it from the wall. I see her and Rachel painting their nails at the kitchen table for the festivities of New Year’s Eve tonight. They’re laughing and having a wonderful time. She’s talked about Rachel so many times whenever I’ve been over there sitting on the couch with her. I could tell she missed her like crazy; I’m happy for Elena to be able to spend time with her best friend. My chest warms, seeing her so happy.
Holding the painting in my hands, I look down at it, then bring my sights back to the picture-show in front of me. It may have been wrong to hide the fact that I have a two-way mirror in place of a window. A two-way mirror that allows me to look out and no one to be able to look in. With my mad painting skills, as Elena so-calls it, I painted the mirror part outside to match the siding of my house, so it looks just like the siding.
I painted the mirror part on the outside just thin enough so I can see out. Anyone who would walk up to it from the outside will only be able to see a little bit of their reflection if they look hard enough...
How would I have been able to explain this to her? I couldn’t. Not without blowing my cover. Not without her getting pissed and never wanting anything to do with me ever again. Now that I have these...feelings, I’m not sure I’d be able to handle her pushing me away.
If she never wanted anything to do with me again, it would take the wind right out of me. It would leave me in total darkness, constantly grasping for air. Grasping for another chance to be a part of her light.
It was only after I started to really spend time with her that I made this painting...
I set the image down on the floor and rest it against the wall. When I walk over to the kitchen table, I pick up the small drywall, the drywall tape, and the putty, then begin to fix the hole that I made with my fist when I saw Douchebag Declan with Elena.
In the middle of smoothing out the putty, there’s a knock on my door. I reach for a piece of paper towel and place it on the kitchen table, then put the scraper and the putty jar on top of it. Maybe Elena is right; maybe I am a bit of a neat freak...
With my hand on the door handle, I yell over the door. “Who is it?”
“It’s Jace, man. Open up.”
I twist the knob and swing the door open. “What’s up?” I motion for him to come inside. He follows me into the house and shuts the door behind him with a click.
“Is she still in the dark about everything?” Jace points at Elena through the window. I nod my head once.
“Do you love her?” Jace’s voice is shaky.
Where in the fuck did that come from?
I cross my arms over my chest. Why do I feel like I need to be on the defense? “I don’t know.”
Are the feelings I have for her, love? I know I’d rain hell down on anyone who treats her poorly. I want to be her rock and her shield in the time of need. I want to have her close to me all the time. I want to take care of her and be the man she deserves...but is that love? Am I capable of such a thing?
I don’t know the first thing about love.
“Why?” I ask, albeit coldly.
Jace’s right hand twitches. He begins to pace. “Let it out, Jace,” I order him.
“I have word from Connor about that 1.3-million-dollar deal from Marcus -err -whatever his name is.” Jace looks more than a little nervous now. Is he sweating? He’s not making eye contact with me.
I cock a brow. “What’s the deal?” He looks quickly to the window then to my eyes.
“It’s Elena,” he whispers.
“The deal is Elena. He wants to pay you 1.3-million-dollars for her,” Jace strains to say. “He wants you to deliver her to him.
“Hell no! No fucking way, no deal! Elena is going nowhere near that bastard!” I bellow out into the room and in his face.
Jace puts up a hand. I want to slap it out of the air; he has no right to silence me—stupid Jace. “I know. I know it’s a no-deal. I told Connor that you’d say ‘no.’ That’s when Connor told me that Marcus has a backup plan.”
“Backup plan?” I repeat, nearly breathless.
Jace gives me a single nod. “Whatever surveillance you’re doing with Elena, you gotta tighten it up. Marcus knows about Isaac.”
“What?” Marcus or whatever the hell his name is can’t know about Isaac... “Did he find the body?”
“No. He didn’t find the body, but he knows you were involved.”
“How?” I never spoke into the phone. I wasn’t on it long enough for a signal if he was tracing it. I shut it down and never turned it back on.
“I think there might have been a tracker on the phone,” Jace tells me the very thing that I was afraid of. How did I not check for a fucking tracker?
Jace nervously steps to the fridge and opens the door. I hear a couple of clinks from my beer bottles as he continues, “I think the deal was originally something else. Then the whole thing with Isaac happened...I think Marcus is trying to teach you a lesson. I think he knows that you were hired to watch over her. He may even somehow know that you have feelings for her.” He pops the top off a beer bottle.
My knees collapse as I take a seat closest to me, then Jace places an unopened beer on a coaster. “What kind of fucking lesson?”
The blood in my veins is beginning to boil. If only I knew where this asshole was, I could end all this shit with just me and him. I bow my head, trying to sink all this in.
I lift my head and see Elena through the window. Ever since Cobra practically blackmailed me for help, he said that Marcus was after her...
Jace is wrong. Stupid Jace. There was no other deal. Elena has been the deal all along. The nameless imbecile has been planning for her all along...the assault from Isaac was no coincidence.
He has a backup plan.
Why? Why is he after her? Did Cobra do something to piss Marcus off?
Elena elegantly blows at the polish on her nails. The precious and temporary light in my world has darkness closing in all around her.
Shit. I lean back into the sofa and drop my head against the backing as the realization falls on me.
It can’t be...
Jace sits next to me. “I’m not sure, man...I’m not sure.” I roll my head slightly to the side to watch Jace take a sip of the beer from my fridge.
Two beers later, Jace finally leaves.
He leaves me with never-ending thoughts and scenarios Marcus may have for his ‘backup plan.’ He’s a bad guy, a criminal -just like me.
I pace back and forth in front of the two-way mirror window and watch Elena with her best friend. They are chatting, giggling, and smiling.
The thumps of my angry leather boots scrape and thud against the shiny polish of the wood floor. There will be black marks that I will have to clean later.
The only difference between Marcus and me - is that I have somewhat - a moral compass. A code that I live by. Marcus has no code. He plays dirty.
What is his backup plan?
We aren’t that different -him and I. What would I plan if I was him?
My feet stop in front of the window. I’m close enough to it that the smell of the drying putty on the wall is poisoning the otherwise clean air filling my lungs through angry puffs.
If that poor excuse of a man ever lays a hand on my girl, he will have more than Hell to pay. I’m a Devil’s Henchmen, and he’ll be my next victim.
Cobra. It’s his daughter; I should call him. If I were her father, I’d want to know what’s going on. In a swift move, I reach for my back pocket and extract the phone. There are three short rings, then he answers.
I tell him everything Jace told me just a few short minutes ago.