He pushed deeper inside of his wife. Her gasp pushed her warm breath onto his full lips, her brow furrowed in borrowed ecstasy. He wound his arms around her, sharing the air between their mouths and the sweat on their skin. “Tell me you love me,” he said as he watched her. She squirmed on top of him, trapped like a field mouse and its slithering predator. He filled her again and again with no remorse for her moans. “Tell me. Say it.”
“I love you.”
He rolled over deftly, still tucked away but she was different, her scent spreading through the room: honeysuckle and orchids. She pushed her knees back so he could peer down and watch her love bloom for him. He pressed his lips onto her knees as he dipped inside of her. He could feel every muscle inside of her twitch around him and he felt himself unravel with every thrust. He wanted to hate her; he wanted to stop and drag her into the deepest hole the federal government could provide. Yet, he wanted nothing but to bury himself deep inside of her, to release the thick sorrow and melancholy that kept him captive. He was trapped in quicksand; a harrowing love for his dead wife and the forbidden lust he possessed for the thief.
The fine mist had turned into a downpour in a matter of hours. The roof was fractured in places, which caused the water to drip onto the wooden floors and aged fixtures. The first few splashes didn’t wake Dorian, though they had picked up speed as the rain progressed outside. The droplets struck his face and lips and caused him to jerk upright in the bed. He was alone and cuffed to the headboard, still half dressed. “Shit!” he yelled when he looked over onto the nightstand next to him. There was his (reassembled) satellite phone, the key to his shackles and a piece of paper. He yanked the yellowing paper into his hand, labeled “Special Agent”. He knew the elegant scrawl belonged to her and his heart began to race.
It didn’t take Deputy Director Dorson long to find him. He was waiting on the porch when the four federal vehicles pulled into the soggy driveway of the cabin. The smell of rain and moss stung his nostrils as he waited. Dorson was the first to reach him. “Where is she?”
“She got away,” Dorian said, his voice abundant with irritation. “She got the drop on you? You are rusty,” Dorson said as she looked up at the welt starting to form on his hairline. “Have someone take a look at that…” Dorson began.
“No. I’m fine,” he said, putting his hands on his hips. Sanchez sauntered towards the porch, his expression more smug than they would have liked. “So what’s the move from here?”
Noelle’s leg pain had grown exponentially by the time she had reached the safe house. She didn’t know what kind of information the Fed had on her so she couldn’t be too safe. The warehouse district was all but abandoned, overlooking a river that wasn’t any shade of blue she’d ever seen. The outside windows remained opaque but the inside looked as if it had been designed by the world’s most competent interior decorator. The furniture was black leather, situated in front of a massive tv, a king sized bed was tucked in a far corner, and the kitchen was beset with the most modern of appliances. Noelle scoffed, unsurprised that Yiao’s “safe haven” would rival most palaces. She sat down on the closest chair and pushed up the leg of her sweatpants. The bandage that covered her wound was now soaked with blood. “You should get that looked at,” a voice boomed from around the corner and reverberated around the walls. Instinct kicked in and Noelle produced the weapon she took from the Fed a few hours before. The figure stepped into view, with his hands in the air, and Noelle felt her lungs lock up and refuse to breath.
Kyle Rutherford, her “dead” father, stepped from the shadows; tall, smooth and the liveliest corpse she’d ever seen. He was more musclar, apparent through the clothes that clung to his frame. His face remained youthful, his familiar eyes crinkled in the corners as he flashed her his bright smile. Noelle thought she was seeing things, that she had lost too much blood and was now hallucinating, except all the hair on his head was no longer jet black, like the last time she saw him but salt and peppered. “Hey baby girl,” he said. He hadn’t seen his daughter in ages. She was no longer gangly and awkward because of her overnight growth spurt; this woman was in total control of her body and, by extension, the Glock .40 in her hands. She stood and began to advance on him, gun still drawn center mass. “Who are you?”
“You know who I am.” Hot tears furled in the corners of her eyes and jettisoned down her face. “My…my father is dead.”
“No, El. I’m very much alive,” he said, taking a step towards her. She tightened her grip on the pistol, ready to discharge at any moment. Her mind raced at the possibility of this being a cruel joke, one designed to unravel her. “El…put the gun down, please. I can explain everything,” he said. A chill ran down her spine as he spoke; his voice was exactly how she remembered. “Prove it. If you’re my father, tell me something only you and I would know,” she said, never faltering with the gun. His dimples appeared when he was pensive. She always knew it was important, whatever distressed him, because he made the same slightly awkward face. “On your 16th birthday, you insisted I let you go out on a date with….Remy Hammersmith. He took you to the drive in theater and you guys saw A Nightmare on Elm Street. He got so scared, he spilled his soda all over your dress.”
Noelle felt too many things at once, confusion being the front runner for the show. She lowered the gun slightly and watched him quizzically. “How did you know that? I never told you that part.”
“I…sort of…followed you,” he said, jamming his hands into his pockets. “Dad,” Noelle sobbed, her tears free flowing now. She dropped the gun and buried her face in her hands. In several strides, her father was able to catch her and pull him into his chest.
Noelle stared down at the plate her father sat before her. He’d made her favorite meal – baked ziti – which she hadn’t had since his “death”. He sat on the other side of the table with his own food, watching her. She couldn’t bring herself to lift her fork. It still felt like a dream and she was afraid she was about to awaken. “Something wrong?” he said, his voice surrounding her. Her heart thudded in her chest every time he spoke. It wasn’t real, it couldn’t be. She had played this moment out too many times in her head; he would come back and she would swell with happiness and love. In reality, she was terrified. Before she could open her mouth to make any noise, he was down at her side. “Hey, hey,” he said in a voice that seemed to hum from his chest. He ran his hands down her face and caught the errant tears that had fallen. “How…how is this even possible?”
Kyle sighed and looked around, searching for the words. “I had no idea what I was going to say when I finally saw you. Or when I finally let you see me…” Noelle’s mind kicked into overdrive as she thought back on the past few weeks. “The thief at RexTech…that was you,” she said, scooting back from the table and standing. She needed to put space in between them. “I wasn’t trying to…I wanted to give you a message but then you attacked me…”
“I attacked you? *I* ATTACKED YOU?! YOU NEARLY THREW ME OFF A BUILDING!”
“I think you’re exaggerating, honey…”
“YOU NEARLY THREW ME OFF A BUILDING.”
“You tried to KILL me?! Dad, what the fuck?!”
“Sit down, please.”
“No, I need answers, now! What the hell is this? You think you can just waltz back in and make pasta and think shit is supposed to just fall back into line?!”
“Noelle! Sit the hell down and let me explain!” he yelled, now on his feet. He didn’t mean to startle her but just like a scolded child, she slid into her seat. Kyle rubbed his head and took the seat next to her. Noelle’s face was contorted in pain and damp with her tears. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t be…gentle. I know how strong headed you are. But I was trying to save you.”
“Save me? Yes, trying to cut my head off will definitely earn you that Father of the Year award.”
“I didn’t know it was you. It wasn’t about you, until I recognized you. You are so beautiful,” he said, resting his hand on top of hers. Noelle’s heart fluttered but her face held its steely resolve. “I’m after Yiao,” Kyle said flatly. Noelle’s head snapped toward her father at the mention of her enemy’s name. “Things were…complicated when you and I first crossed paths. We were both…lost and I saw so much of you in myself that it was easy to take you under my wing. You were just a kid: hungry, scared and on your own.”
Noelle remembered the bad times vaguely. The foster home, the cold nights, the stealing for food; Kyle had saved her from all of that and gave her something she never dreamt she could have for real: a family. He continued with his saga. “A little while after that, he approached me with the same proposition I’m sure he gave you and at the time, it sounded amazing. Except Yiao was finally a big shot after he killed his own boss and was hellbent on making the world fall to his feet. He got enough dirt on me and soon, I became his ‘acquisitions team’. Most of the things he had me steal were well within his price range to just buy…”
“So…what does that have to do with…?”
“Soon, I started refusing his work. You and I lived so remotely that he couldn’t find us at first. But he started following you to school. Sending me pictures of you… Told me that I would work for him or I would never see you again. Instead of just shutting up and submitting, I decided to confront him head on. He put six bullets in me,” Kyle said. He stood and lifted the tan sweater he wore, showing Noelle the circular scars that ran up his entire torso. “They dumped me in a construction site after I played dead. Luckily, they didn’t’ bury me in cement,” he chuckled, as he had just told a joke.
“But…why stay gone? Why not come find me?”
“Every day I wanted to come and get you. Everyday I had to talk myself out of it. If Yiao knew I was still alive, you would still be in danger and I couldn’t risk that. You were already an adult and going to college. If I had come back, Yiao would’ve had his hooks in you long before now.”
“If you had come back, I wouldn’t be in the mess. I was out. When you…when I thought you were dead, I quit college. I picked up the family mantle. It was the only way I could keep a part of you alive.” Kyle hung his head before he spoke again. “It’s all my fault.”
“But he found me anyway.”
“He doesn’t know you’re my daughter. You answered the call, wrong place, wrong time. All the more reason for me to end this…”
“You…you were at the Mayor’s Gala.”
“Yes. You were very lovely,” he said, a proud grin spreading on his face. “Did you steal the Markov?”
“And you used me as a distraction to escape?” Kyle turned his face away from his daughter, meaning a resounding yes. “And had I been captured?”
“I taught you everything that I know. I knew that wouldn’t happen,” he beamed. Noelle wanted so badly to be angry with him but she knew, if the shoe were on the other foot, she would’ve done the same, or possibly worse. He let her turn over on his words as they sat, wishing he could see the cogs turn in her mind. “The things he made me do….” Noelle shuddered before finishing. “What’s next?”
“Eat your dinner. We’re gonna kill the son of a bitch.”