Slippery Slope

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Bombing Part 6 - Return

Bombing: Skiing recklessly without regard for the safety of others or oneself.

Kristy blinked and squinted against the glare of the sun as she looked out of the small window of the chartered aircraft. It was a beautiful day. Beyond the runway the water was a turquoise blue and high puffy clouds were scattered against an azure sky. It had been just twenty-four hours since she and Tom had escaped in his Cherokee Piper from the International airport, flown 35 miles along the coastline and asked for permission to land at West End Airport. They were immediately detained - but apparently Tom Brand was more, much more, than he had originally indicated. Even before he had made his one phone call, whereupon they were immediately released and escorted to a chartered plane with passage to Palm Beach International Airport, Kristy made a disturbing discovery. Actually, it was a lack of discovery. Tom Brand had no media footprint. Nothing. With only a twinge of stalker-ish guilt, she continued through a list of sites. Not a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram feed or email. She even checked out Myspace, remembering that her mom had told her that older people still had them. Certainly no one, not even the most reclusive of 43-year-olds, was untraceable these days and yet there was nothing to find about Tom Brand.

Kristy looked at him. He was casually perusing the pages of Destinations, and occasionally sipping at the whisky he had poured for himself from the private jet’s well-stocked bar. He looked as if he had stepped out of a page of a J.Crew catalog with his well-pressed Dockers and his white tailored shirt open at the neck, like he hadn’t a care in the world. He certainly seemed unruffled at having just recently eluded being kidnapped. Except for a slight bruise on his knuckles, no one would ever think he’d done anything other than spent a few days relaxing on the beach.

“Whose plane is this?” Kristy asked him.

Tom looked around as if the answer was printed somewhere on the wall or ceiling. Finally, he shrugged, “Damned if I know.” Kristy stared at him for another moment and then turned away. She pulled her legs up onto her seat and faced the window. Tom got up and sat down next to her.

“You’re awfully quiet,” he said. He gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.

Kristy turned so suddenly she startled him.

“Is Tom Brand really your name?”

He seemed to waver. “Yes - currently.”

Tom leaned back in the seat and turned his face to hers, rubbing the stubble on his chin. “I suppose after this, I’ll probably have to change it. Again.” He continued to rub his chin as if contemplating a name.

“I suppose you weren’t just a pilot during the Afghan war,” she said.

Tom shook his head, “No. Not just a pilot.”

“And what’s happened to your accent? Are you even from Texas?”

“I’ve always wanted to go there,” he answered.

Exasperated, Kristy slapped her hand against the armrest and stood up.

“Jokes - that is just great.” She ran her hands through her hair, “I sure can pick them. Mystery men with double lives.”

Tom stood up next to her. Even though she was tall, he towered over her. He gently took her face in his hands.

“I’m really sorry if I hurt you,” he offered.

She pulled away. “Hurt me? We just met. I have no reason to even trust you – except, that I slept with you, and then you did save my life – but be that as it may – hurt me? I feel stupid, not hurt. What was I thinking, that I could just relax and have some fun and not have it blow up in my face? What an idiot I am!”

She sat back down abruptly and Tom hovered a moment, then sat back down next to her.

“So you’re still upset about that guy Derrick?”

Kristy’s mouth fell open. “Are you serious, Tom? After what just happened over the past two days, you think I’m upset about Derrick?”

“I guess not,” he answered. “So what is it?”

“Well, other than being threatened and kidnapped, and fearing for both of our lives,” Kristy looked squarely at him, “Is anything you told me about yourself true?”

Tom nodded, “I was in the military.”

Kristy rolled her eyes. That she could believe. He took out three grown men without firing a shot or breaking a sweat.

“And I do have a fourteen year-old daughter.”

“You do?” Kristy asked.

Tom nodded. “Yes.”

“But you’re not divorced, are you?”

Tom shook his head. “No, I’m not. My wife was killed. My daughter was just a baby when it happened. The type of work I do – they got to me through them. My daughter doesn’t even know that I’m alive. She thinks that her mother and I were killed in a car accident. She lives with her grandparents.”

Kristy took a slow deep breath and put her hand on his, “Your wife was murdered?”

“Yes,” Tom answered, “which is why the less you know about me, the better. I’m so sorry, Kristy.” He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes, “I was on the island for a reason I can’t tell you. My mission got scrapped when the airport was taken over. I had no idea that you were in any danger until I walked out onto that beach.”

Now Tom stood and turned away from her. “Kristy, I slipped up. I should have spotted what those guys were up to from a mile away.”

Kristy swallowed hard, stood up and rested her head on his back. She wrapped her arms around his chest.

“You can’t blame yourself, Tom. This was beyond anyone’s control. You can’t have known what they were going to do.”

Tom shook his head, “No, Kristy, I should have seen it. They were completely inept. But even the most inept of men can do plenty of harm if given the chance. I put you into danger and I’m sorry for that.”

Tom turned around to face her, “I really do like you, Kristy - so much that I let my guard down.”

Kristy smiled up at him and kissed him gently on the lips, “Sure, blame me.”

Tom laughed and hugged her back.

She put her lips to his again and they kissed softly until she pulled away.

“You know, I still have a few days vacation. And since whatever it is you were supposed to be doing got cancelled– and believe me, I don’t want to know what it was - can’t we hang out together the next couple of days?”

Tom nodded back, “I suppose I could do that. Where should we go?”

“How about somewhere that you could hide in plain sight?”

Tom smiled, “That sounds perfect.”

After consulting with the pilot, they re-routed to JFK and headed to another exotic island: Manhattan.

When she suggested they stay in one of the outer boroughs because of the expense, Tom just smiled at her, “We’re all set, Kristy.”

A limo drove them from the airport to the Peninsula Hotel, where they checked in under the name Steven Dally and rode the elevator up to a suite on the twentieth floor. For two days they took long walks along the city streets and wandered through Central Park holding hands. At night they ate room service in the suite’s dining room by candlelight as they looked out at the city’s twinkling lights. They took long luxurious baths in the deep, jetted tub. Tom wrapped her in her robe and carried her to the fireplace, where they spent the night making love before wrapping themselves in silk sheets and falling asleep in each other’s arms. They hardly left the hotel, or wanted to.

All the while, each time she checked her phone, there were messages and texts from Brent.

“Why don’t you call him?” Tom asked her finally, handing her phone to her from the nightstand and kissing her on her forehead.

“I don’t want to,” she replied, shutting off her phone. Tom climbed into bed next to her and snuggled up.

“He’s obviously worried about you.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Kristy, he’s your friend. He cares about you and you care about him.”

Kristy threw her leg and arm across Tom’s body.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said again. She walked her fingertips over his body, sweeping her hand slowly along the hair on his chest and stomach and then under the sheets. Tom groaned at her touch and pulled her on top of him, running his hands over her hips. She arched her back as he slid into her and they moved in sync until they were both spent and trembling. She kissed him long and deeply, “I’m going to miss you, Tom. I mean, Steve.”

He rolled on top of her and held her as he kissed her neck, her breasts, her stomach.

“It’s Tom, Kristy,” he said.

“Uh huh, sure,” she replied winking at him.

He pressed against her and swept her long hair back from her face.

“I swear. It is.”

Kristy smiled, “Thank you, Tom.”

The next day Kristy watched as Tom threw his things into a bag. They would have breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then part ways at LaGuardia Airport. Rather than feeling sad, even knowing she would probably never see him again, she felt wonderful. She smiled to herself thinking how she knew every inch of that man’s body and how he knew every inch of hers. When she shared the story of this adventure of her life she would tell everything except the intimate moments she shared with Tom. Those she would guard jealously in her memory. Those were hers and hers alone. She knew she’d never meet another man like him. But now she needed to get back to reality, back to her life.

Kristy turned her phone back on and the texts beeped in frantically. Taking a deep breath, she pressed Brent’s number.

He answered immediately, “Where the hell are you?”

She tried to sound as bright and sunny as possible, “New York!”

“New York,” he repeated.

“Yes,” she said, “and Brent you’re not going to believe it but,”

“I tried to file a missing person report on you.”

“Oh, Brent! Why?”

“Because you disappear and don’t answer your phone for five days – five days, Kristy, god damn-it.” Brent was silent.

“So they didn’t let you file it.”

“No. That dickhead detective said you probably had PMS or something.”

Kristy laughed, “He really said that?”

Now Brent laughed, too. “Yeah, Kristy, he really said that.”

For a moment, they both just listened to the sound of each other’s breathing.

“Are you okay?” Brent asked.

“I’m fine, Brent. Really,” she answered.

“Good. You’re sure?”

“Absolutely,” Kristy replied. Tom was now sitting next to her, nuzzling her neck. “Good girl,” he whispered to her, biting her ear.

“Okay, because I am pissed as shit at you!”

“Brent!” she widened her eyes at Tom.

“How could you leave like that?” Brent yelled.

Kristy took another breath and realized she had been holding it.

“I’m so sorry, Brent,” her eyes felt hot. He said nothing.

“Brent?” she asked.

“Yeah. Kristy, just come home.”

In truth, even with Tom’s hot breath against her ear, she couldn’t wait to.

Kristy and Tom stood and faced each other.

“I want you to promise me something,” Tom said to her.

“Of course!” Kristy stood on her toes and kissed him lightly.

“If you need me, call me.”

Kristy wrinkled her brow, “And how exactly am I supposed to do that, International Man of Mystery?”

Tom pressed a round piece of metal into her palm. Kristy looked down at it. It was the size of a dime, attached to a chain. There were ten digits on it.

“It’s a phone number. Dial it starting with the last number. I’ll get to you as fast as I can.”

Kristy nodded, “You know how fantastic this is, right?”

Tom hugged her and kissed the top of her head, “Of course. Don’t put it around your neck until you’re on the plane.”

He kissed her one last time and then was gone.

Brent met her at the airport. She wrapped her arms and legs around him and gave him a quick peck on the lips.

“Brent! I’m so happy to see you!”

Brent put his hand behind her head and touched her forehead to his.

“Me too.”

He picked up her bag and they headed toward parking.

“So,” Kristy finally said, “do you want to address the elephant in the room?”

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Hildy. You have to know that’s what I’m talking about.”

“So you’re making some crack about her weight.”

Kristy stopped in her tracks.

“Brent. I walked in on the two of you.”

“I told you, Kristy. It wasn’t what you thought.”

She stepped in front of him.

“Tell me again,” she demanded.

Brent rubbed his hand over his face, “I walked into Asher’s office and the woman grabbed me, literally, and kissed me. That is what you saw.”

“And what didn’t I see?” Kristy asked.

“What you didn’t see is that I left, Kristy.”

Kristy stared up at him, not moving.

“Kristy, why do you care anyway? It’s not like you and I are involved with each other anyway. Can’t I do what I want? Don’t you do what you want?”

Kristy instantly thought of Tom. She nodded and threw her arms around Brent.

“I’m so sorry, Brent. You’re right.” She looked into his eyes, “You are right.”

They started walking again. “So what have you done for the past five days?” Brent asked.

“Wait till you hear this,” she answered.

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