Dorian had been seeing things, or so he thought. It’d been a while since he was haunted by the ghosts of his wife and daughter. In the beginning, he saw them everywhere, in the faces of every stranger. At night, he could almost feel Olivia’s arms around him and smell the conditioner in her hair.
It had nothing on the déjà vu he was having today, and it wasn’t Olivia. He looked over his shoulder for the 3rd time, looking for the familiar shape. As he approached the building, he turned around, his back to the rotating door. He’d felt it: someone was following him. He scanned the busy avenue, looking for anything or anyone suspicious.
“Looking for me?” A familiar voice said from the left, snapping his attention to it. Carmen de Antos approached Dorian and planted a kiss on him.
“Of course,” he replied with a smile. He and Carmen had been dating for 6 months and recently went public with their relationship at the agency. She come into his life at a time when he was hesitant to open up, following the end of his European vacation.
“Are you ready to go?” Carmen asked, looping her arm through his.
“I got some work to finish up first. Pick you up at 8?” Carmen pushed a lock of auburn hair behind her ear before kissing him again.
“See you at 8.”
Dorian hated to admit it, but his favorite part about his relationship with Carmen was her empathy with the job. With his late wife, she was always worried about him not coming home. She’d expressed her fear of his on-the-job death more than once. However, with Noelle, he felt himself torn between his duty and his affections. El had forced him to choose more than once and every choice pulled him further and further outside the law. When she left, it only proved she would never choose him the way he’d chosen her.
He stepped off the elevator to a still busy bullpen. Even though the sun was setting over the city, there was always work to be done. Dorian slipped into his office and into his chair to submit his reports for the week. A knock on the open door, calling his attention to Special Agent Sanchez standing in the entry.
“You hear the news? They caught your boy,” he said.
“Mihai Cohen,” Sanchez said, before he disappeared from the doorway. Dorian pulled up a window on the internet to access his file. He’d spent months searching for Mihai and now he was dead, at the same time he’d been suspicious about being followed by his ex. It couldn’t be a coincidence.
She was every bit as addictive as alcohol. Her taste, her scent, the coo of his name on her lips intoxicated him. They’d spent days tangled beneath Italian sheets, drinking the best wine room service could find. Dorian hated to admit it but being a criminal had its perks.
He groaned at the knock on the door, unwilling to pull his lips from hers. “It’s room service,” she gasped, running her hand on his head to stop him.
“Not it,” he shouted before he rolled over her. Noelle scoffed and whacked him in the back before sliding from the warm bed. He watched her saunter across the room and cover herself before going to open the door. She followed the bellman back into the center of the room with the cart, her eyes watching him carefully. His hands and forearms were covered in tattoos, unusual for the employee at a 5-Star rated resort.
“Grazie,” Noelle said, ready for the man to leave. As she followed him back to the door, Dorian sat up on the bed in time to hear their hushed argument in a different language. The door slammed suddenly and Noelle reappeared with a smile, as she slid something into the robe’s pocket.
Rather than cause alarm, Dorian crawled out of bed and went to investigate breakfast. “He wanted to haggle for a tip,” she said, picking up a piece of bacon.
“I hope you weren’t cheap.”
“Let’s go into town today!” She’d performed the line perfectly, as if the thought had just occurred to her. If he hadn’t been professionally trained to be paranoid, he would’ve fallen for it.
“It’d be interesting to see you in clothes,” Dorian said, raising an eyebrow suggestively at her. Noelle pulled the string and shrugged from the robe, re-exposing her naked body.
“Not right this second, I hope.”
For a moment, as they strolled hand-in-hand towards the busy square, they felt normal. Two people in love, enjoying food, drink, and amazing sex in a different country. Everything had been perfect until Noelle needed to lie again, putting a damper on her romantic mood. Dorian raised her hand and pressed his soft lips into her knuckles. Where ever they were going, he had no intentions of letting her go. They followed the swell of music through the crowd that had formed around the massive fountain. Navigating through the people had become a task and Dorian felt Noelle’s hand slip from his grasp.
“Shit!” Dorian swore as he began hustling through the crowd, looking for her. She’d slipped away to complete her task and he was unsure of how long he’d have. He debated with himself his options if he caught her in the act: turn her in or would he just let her go again and pretend he saw nothing? At the base of the fountain, Dorian needed to stand on the ledge to see over the crowd, looking for his cinnamon brown woman in the white dress.
“How’s the view?” She said from below him. He looked down to see her holding two ice cream cones. He stepped down and took the one from her left hand. She raised her own to him in a toast.
Dorian eyed her, infatuation sullied now by distrust, before cracking his ice cream against hers.
“Have you been sitting here this entire time?” Carmen said. Dorian looked up from his computer at her. She’d changed clothes, from her standard agency black suit to a marigold mini dress that clashed perfectly with her tanned skin. Dorian looked back at the clock to see he was nearly an hour and a half late for their date.
“Shit, babe, I’m sorry,” he said, spinning his seat around as she approached him. She filled the space between them as she began reading at his screen.
“What’s so important about a dead Russian?”
“He’s a part of a cold case I’m working. Wanted to make sure his death wasn’t related.”
“Says here it was a grease fire.”
“I just wanted to be sure,” Dorian said, pulling her attention back to him. He ran his hands down the back of her legs. Carmen took his face in her hands lovingly.
“Seriously, what’s wrong?” She knew how hyper-focused he became when he was upset.
“I’m just…I’m tripping. I thought I was being followed today.”
“Followed? By who?” Carmen said, her accent slipping through.
“No, no one. It was nothing,” he said, smiling. He wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince himself or Carmen.
“Have you talked to Dr. Harris about it?”
“No, babe, seriously, I’m cool…”
“Still. It has been a while since you’ve seen her. Maybe…”
“Maybe there’s still time to salvage our date. If you’ll have me,” he said, standing to his feet.
Dorian was overdue for a night out, however, he couldn’t shake the need to look over his shoulder. Carmen deserved the time, especially since she’d been so understanding when he went into work mode more often than not. Carmen had been with the agency for 5 years and knew what was often asked of Dorian. After what happened to Olivia and the sudden end with Noelle, getting close to someone was the last thing he thought he would accomplish again. Things with Carmen were easy and without question. He didn’t want to take his eyes off her as she shimmied along to the live band. He was almost sure he could love her, if he could ever truly let go of the past.
Except the past happened to be sitting at the bar across the room. Dorian didn’t look directly at her, at first, unsure if his mind had begun to play tricks on him. Even in a wig and fake glasses, he knew it was her. She’d turned slightly to keep her face hidden behind the patrons but she knew she’d been busted. They locked eyes before she stood and began moving through the crowd. Dorian excused himself to the restroom and discreetly raced across the room behind her. He was on her heels as he pushed through the crowded exit and out into the bitter cold.
“El!” He yelled after her, still pursuing her down the block in a full sprint. In a handful of strides, he was at her side, snatching her into the alleyway.
Beneath the wig and the dark glasses, he still recognized Noelle. They stood for an incredulous moment, both of them unsure of how to break the silence. He wanted to kiss her, wrap his arms around her and have his way with her, yet, he was resisting the urge to have her arrested on the spot. A screeching ambulance pulled his focus for a moment, giving her the chance to slip away and down the alley. Her echoing footfalls were his only proof it was real.