On the Run

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Mark helped Isabel and Elia move their stuff into the guest room before heading back to the apartment to verify that nothing valuable had been left. It both saddened and embarrassed him that he had to take such precautions, but it was necessary. He had less struggles with it at that time though, and he knew that was because of Isabel.

Damn, he just couldn’t get that woman out of his mind. The way her emerald eyes glistened with joy while she watched Elia. The way her touch felt when he had comforted him. Even the way she yelled at him showing more bravery and emotion then she ever had.
Most of all though, he couldn’t stop thinking about that kiss. When she had wrapped her arms around his neck he had thought he could die happy. The trust and understanding that had passed between them was more than he could have ever expected. He could no longer deny it, Mark was completely in love with her and her daughter. He wanted to win them over, and prayed for guidance on how to handle the situation.
Isabel quickly made dinner while Mark double checked the apartment. She had found some blank paper and a pen so Elia was content coloring up to the table. Isabel slowly reached up brushing her fingers across her lips.
She had never had a kiss like the one she just shared with Mark. It had been so natural, so comfortable, and so completely safe. Her first time with Andrey had felt like an obligation. They had dated two weeks and is he had known what he wanted, she hadn’t wanted to lose his attention.
Her kiss with Mark though, she had wanted. He had waited well over a month to know she was comfortable enough with him before trying. To her surprise she was comfortable with him.
“Hey,” Mark walked in smirking as he eyed Isabel’s fingers on her lips. “You okay over there?”
Isabel flushed red and turned back the vegetables she was chopping.
“Whatcha coloring there, princess?” Mark asked, turning his attention to Elia.
“A puppy.” Elia grinned up at him. “Mommy says maybe someday we’ll get one.”
“Oh that sounds fun, I want a puppy too, but I work so much I’m not sure I have the time. Puppies are lots of work.” Mark smiled, thrilled at the lack of fear in the child’s eyes.
“Yeah that’s what mommy says.” Elia nodded before turning back to her drawing.
Mark gently ran his hand over the little girl's hair, causing her to flinch slightly, before he turned back to her mother.
“Can I help with anything?” Mark asked kindly.
“No thank you. I’m just starting some lasagna and salad so it’s ready to go in the oven for dinner.” She replied suddenly feeling shy.
“Did you guys have lunch yet?” He asked amused at her change of demeanor.
Isabel blushed looking back down at the veggies. “Well no, but I brought stuff for sandwiches though.”
“Huh,” Mark hummed, leaning back against the camera. “Why don’t we have pizza for lunch?”
At the table Elia gasped with delight. “Really?!”
Isabel sighed, knowing this wasn’t a battle worth fighting. Anyway Elia seemed thrilled with the prospect.
“Okay, but can we eat it here?” She asked cautiously.
Mark frowned conflicted. Part of him was glad that Isabel now found this place a safe haven, and part of him worried about her fear of everywhere else. He was tempted to point that out, but when he met her gaze he couldn’t bring himself to argue the point.
“Sure, we’ll have our own little movie day.” He said, smiling at Isabel.
“Yay! I’ll go pick a movie!” Elia jumped up running toward the living room.
“Elia Hope clean up first please.” Isabel said firmly.
“Yes mom.” Elia groaned.
Hearing the child’s middle name for the first time, it struck Mark how little he still knew of Isabel and Elia.
“What’s your full name?” He asked, suddenly desperate to remedy that.
“Caroline Isabel Johnson.” Isabel responded without thinking. “After we left I took on my middle name. I was relieved when your sister didn’t even ask for much information. She always paid me cash. Do you guys do that with everyone?”
“Just you.” Mark admitted, “She had a feeling something was going on.”
Isabel nodded slowly before changing the subject. “I’ll start the oven. My wallet is in my purse…”
“I’m paying.” Mark insisted, cutting her off. “I’ll be back shortly.”
To Isabel’s surprise Mark kissed her forehead before bending down slowly to kiss Elias' head. Elia sat frozen unsure even after the door shut behind him.
“Why did he do that mommy?” She turned to her mother, frowning with confusion.
Isabel blanched for a moment before smiling sweetly at her daughter. “Because he loves you baby.”
“Like daddy loves me?” The little girls voice trembled in terror.
“No, that wasn’t love baby. You don’t hurt people you love.” Isabel clarified quickly.
Elia sat quietly for a moment before nodding, “I love Mr. Mark too, because I wouldn’t hurt him.”
With that she walked away confidently towards the living room. Isabel wanted to explain it was more complicated than that, and that she still should be wary of Mark. However, she could get herself to do it as she watched her daughter walk confidently through the house without peeking around corners. Elia felt safe, and more than anything Isabel wanted her to maintain that feeling.
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