COMPLICATED {6}

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Elise knew he would be there, but she was still unprepared when he walked in the door. She’d spent the last two weeks painstakingly arranging every detail for the bachelor/bachelorette party at the secluded cottage; It was her way of focusing on something other than her missing lover.

“Oh, so you’re on that bullshit tonight, huh?” Josalyn said, watching attentively as Elise finished the large cup she’d just poured. Elise gasped and winced as the liquor burned its way past her throat and stomach.
“Long week,” she said flatly.

It killed her to keep the secret from her best friends, especially when she needed their advice at the moment.
“What’s the point of having a bachelor/bachelorette party if they’re already married?” Amara said, swigging from her own cup.
“His family is very traditional. I don’t even know if they know about the house yet,” Elise said. She poured another serving of Hennessy into her cup.
“I see what kind of night this is gonna be,” Josalyn said, still awed by her friend’s consumption.
“She’s just trying to keep pace with Liam.”

Elise found her eyes, scanning the room for him. His animation with her sister made him easy to spot, booming over the speakers and conversations. The rage that had been boiling inside her pooled into another heat that sat between her thighs at the sight of him. His beauty and charm gave him access to any woman he chose. On anyone else, the busily-patterned button-up would be played and his exposed chest from its lack of buttoning would be corny, but Liam was regal. Elise watched him like a hawk, examining his every move, anticipating her attack. She knew he’d seen her and was waiting for his opportunity to strike. He made his way to the trio to deliver his traditional greetings. He seized Amara in his arms and squeezed her as tight as he could.

“Are you drunk?” Amara asked.
“Quite,” he said, hugging Josalyn before turning his attention to Elise.
“What’s up?” he said, taking her in.
“What’s up?” she repeated before he swept her into his arms. She’d kept her hands glued to her side as he pulled her into his chest. Her icy demeanor held briefly, until it was thawed by the gentle press of his lips onto her neck. Suddenly, she was ablaze beneath her skin. “I hope you didn’t drive,” Elise said.
“Well, this is a slumber party, right?” he said, winking at Elise before he walked away.

Elise managed to drag her sister off of her husband’s lap, just long enough to pull her into the master bedroom. “I literally can’t hold this in any longer,” she said, shutting the door behind her.
“What, what happened?”
“My secret one-thing? It’s Liam,” Elise said. The words felt like she was releasing a breath she’d been holding in.
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Yeah, but I fucked up. I asked him out and now I know he’s weird about it.”
“Go talk to him! Not me!”
“I can’t! What am I supposed to say? Hi, I know I asked you out and it’s cool if you don’t like me that way, but I’d still like to hit that?
“Yes! Say exactly that!”
“Em! Be serious!”
“What do you want?”
“5 minutes in the linen closet?”
“Make it 10,” her sister said before shoving her back out the room.

In her mind, she’d known she still wanted him. She’d plotted the whole night, from the decorations and the music, to the black dress she wore that accentuated her body. With her sister’s approval, Elise was ready to make her move.
“El, do you wanna play this drinking game?”
“Yeah, let me grab a cup,” she said, making her way into the kitchen. As she reached for the red solo cups on top of the fridge, she could feel the hair on her neck raise sharply before the hands snaked around her.

“Shit,” he whispered into her ear as he draped himself over her. “This dress is driving me crazy. I need to take it off,” he said, his hands lazily ambled across her body. Just as she settled into his warmth, he was gone, several feet from where he had once been as one of the guest wandered into the kitchen. They exchanged heated looks, before Liam went back into the living room. She’d managed to let out an annoyed sigh as Amara entered.

“Five bucks he’s passed out on the floor before midnight,” Amara chuckled, refilling her cup.
“I’m not gonna take that bet. He’s blasted.”
“He’ll be ok. He just broke up with someone and he’s a little raw.”

Elise found it impossible to mask her fury as she turned and stormed out onto the porch. She’d been saving her special friend as an after-party treat, but her anger rose in her throat like bile. Her breath was jagged as she inhaled and exhaled the thick smoke, almost immediately calming her raging brain. She replayed the last two months over and over in her head, looking for any sign in her murky memories. She’d known Liam her whole life and found it hard to believe that he’d lie to her and cheat on someone. She’d always held him to a slightly higher standard but it dawned on her that Liam was a man, just like that rest: capable of anything. The weed began to work its magic, slightly relaxing Elise, as she heard the door creak open.

“There you are,” Liam said, before he dropped onto the steps next to her. He reached out to take the cigar from her hands, when she pulled it out of his reach.
“Oh, you being stingy tonight?”
“I don’t like to share,” she said in a grim tone.
“What’s wrong?”
“You’ve been with someone this whole time?”

Liam sighed and rubbed his face. He’d come to the party to avoid his thoughts of Kim and her “happy” marriage.
“It wasn’t anything serious. And it’s over.”
“Obviously it was more serious than you thought,” Elise scoffed. Up close, Liam was a sweaty, drunk mess, which eliminated a lot of his charm.
“It was. Or I thought so. But it’s over and I’m over her.”
“So you couldn’t tell me you were with someone else? Or did you just want to have your cake and eat it too?”
“That’s the dumbest idiom ever…”
“Only because you don’t understand it,” Elise said, ashing the blunt and standing to leave. Liam leapt up and blocked her path to the house.
“Come on, don’t be mad. I’m sorry,” he said, running his hands over her chilled skin.
“No, fuck you. I’ve been, I don’t know, holding out hope that one day you would see me since I was a kid. I’d given up until…. I don’t know what you and ole girl had going on, but obviously you’re upset about it. You came here, hoping I’d be ok with you ignoring me for weeks now so you could get your sad little rocks off but it’s not happening.”
“Ok, I’m upset! Damn, I thought friends were supposed to be there for one another.”
“You don’t know what a friend is, Liam. Everything is always about YOU. You think the world is supposed to just stop for you and it doesn’t. I have feelings too. You don’t even have the decency to turn me down properly!”

Liam’s face changed instantly, an unfamiliar emotion Elise had never seen. He took his hands off of her and stood back. “Is that what this is about?”
Elise bit her lip and shook her head. She’d be damned if she dropped tears in front of him.
“Bro, you’re tripping. No, I know what it is. You’re jealous.”
“Jealous?! Of what?”
“Jealous that I actually wanted something with her. Terrified that you were another side piece just waiting for a ride around the block and a pat on the head.”

Elise felt as though the air had been ripped from her lungs. If her reaction time hadn’t been impaired, she might have tried to peel the flesh from his bones. She shut her eyes for a moment, trying to turn off the brewing storm.
“Goodbye Liam.”

COMPLICATED {3}

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Liam hated being tough with Maya but this time, she’d gone too far. The car ride was silent, with Liam glancing at his daughter in the rearview mirror.
“I’m still waiting on this explanation.”
“I didn’t start it, Dad.”
“It’s not about who started it. It’s about who ended it.”
“Well, if Desiree didn’t irritate me everyday…”
“So you punched her in the face?”
“I punched her because she called me a name.”
“People are going to call you names, babe. That’s just life.”
“Yeah… but no one had to laugh.”
“So you punched her?”
“Yes.”
“Because you were embarrassed.”
“What’s embarrassed?”
“It means something happened to you and because everyone thought it was funny, it made you uncomfortable. Like you want to run away and hide…or in your case, punch her in the nose.”
“Then yes. I was embarrassed,” Maya said slowly.

Liam was always in awe of how quickly she’d grown and how brilliant she was at just 7 years old. He could remember the moment she was born, how she opened her eyes and grinned with all her gums at him. He’d been madly in love with her ever since.
“We don’t solve problems with our fists, Maya,” he continued. He struggled to maintain a firm voice with her, but being in the driver’s seat helped. He knew that one look into her big brown eyes and he’d be putty in her tiny hands.
“I know, Daddy.”
“Well, if you know, then we don’t have to have this conversation again.”
“We won’t, Daddy. I’m sorry,” Maya said. One glance in the rearview mirror and he felt his heart breaking as she hung her head into her chest.

Continue reading

The Trouble with Diamonds: Fourteen

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Dorian didn’t feel right about Noelle’s plan. “Let me come with you,” he said again, his hand reaching out for her. “No. You’re my ace in the hole. If this goes south, I’m gonna need you.” Her words stirred him, wondering if they were meant for more than just tonight. Before he could speak or move, she was out of the car and walking into the darkness. He huffed and pulled out his cell phone.

The risk was just too great. Continue reading

The Trouble With Diamonds: Eleven

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It took Dorian a split second to react to Noelle standing at his front door. His arm whipped to his waistband and seized the gun, swinging it to her face. She grabbed the muzzle and forced his arm down, sending the gun flying. Dorian grabbed the thief by her lapels and dragged her into the apartment. She used her forearms to break his grip and block his strikes as he came at her full force. She was the reason he was out of a job & under investigation. She had seduced him, made his drop his guard for one minute, and outfoxed him, something he could proudly say didn’t happen often. Dorian hated to admit it to himself, but he had a point to prove.  Continue reading

The Trouble with Diamonds: Ten

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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.

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The Trouble With Diamonds: Seven

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Her body shook as she pulled herself up on the bar. “Come on, I need five more, Noelle,” he said, his voice gruff below her. “I can’t!” she yelled as her scrawny arms gave out and she swung from the bar. “CAN’T isn’t in our vocabulary,” he barked. Noelle dropped down onto the floor and stuck her acrylic fingernail in his face. “No, it’s in YOUR vocabulary. This is some bullshit, I’m gone,” she said as she grabbed her bag. “Noelle,” Kyle yelled after her, his hands on his hips. “I don’t know why I have to do this crap. I told you, I don’t need a dad!”
“So what, you expect to go back out there and do what? Keep grifting at the grocery store? Go to juvy? Get lost in the system?”
Noelle adjusted the bag on her shoulder and bit her lip. “If you want to do this, you need to do it RIGHT. I’m offering more than these lessons…” he trailed off. His own daughter would be a little younger than Noelle and he was constantly reminded of her when Noelle was around. He felt like it was a second chance and he needed to do it right. “Do you wanna go grab some dinner?”

Continue reading

The Trouble With Diamonds: Six

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Deputy Director Dorson signed the last of the paperwork as she waved Agent Sanchez into her office. “You said you have an update for me on the Trevant case?”
“Actually, it’s about Agent Shaw,” Sanchez said as he sat down. Dorson’s brow furrowed and she stopped her task. “What happened?”
“I think you mean ‘What hasn’t happened?’ Shaw hasn’t shown up to any briefings in 3 days now. Security puts him in the building, but I have yet to see him coming or going.”
“I’ll admit, he’s been a bit reclusive since he was reinstated but that’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Yeah, well, you won’t feel that way when you see what he’s been up to,” Sanchez said, before he placed the files onto her desk. She flipped open the first few and was puzzled. “What is this?”
“I think he has a ‘lead’. According to these and his web of delusion in his office, he believes the thief is a bounty hunter of sorts, contracted from the Dark Web to steal priceless items. He researched EVERY high value item stolen in the last 5 years and its history. How many times it was almost stolen, tips and rumors about those who would pay for these items, etc.”
“So…he’s tracking the criminals who could have paid this thief?”
“”Exactly and the last four thefts have been within a 100 mile radius of the Trevant case…”
“Meaning a local contract,” Dorson said.

Sanchez produced a different folder from Shaw’s office. “All the items that have been taken have been on the assumed radar of one Li Yiao.” Dorson’s skin crawled when she saw the dated mugshot of the mobster. “We’ve been after this guy for years. He’s untouchable. How did he get this information?”
“I have no idea. Like I said, he’s working all this out on his own.”
“Does he have anything concrete?”
“Nothing. It’s all circumstantial, and frankly, a little crazy.”
“Well, we can’t go after this guy again because he likes expensive things. He has the best representation money can buy and the Bureau refuses to go after him until they have enough to put him away for good.”
“Don’t think Shaw cares about that. Also on that web of his, he’s planning on catching the theft in the act. Tomorrow.”
“Jesus Christ,” Dorson said before she picked up the phone.

“What you’re asking for is impossible,” Noelle said, tossing the invite back onto the table. She was at her wit’s end with the mafioso, especially after the incident at the train station. “You’re a professional. The best money can buy, or so I hear,” Yiao said. He shuffled a pair of cards behind his desk, the clacking of the plastic cards reverberated around the circular room. “I’m the best because I don’t get caught. Robbing the house of the most affluent man in the city in a crowd doesn’t exactly resonate that.”
“A thief is a thief,” Yiao said passively.
“The building hasn’t been cased. I don’t know ANY of the security protocols AND it will be filled with security guards, police officers and hundreds of witnesses, INCLUDING the Mayor.”

Yiao seemed unperturbed by her concerns. He pushed a black folder across the desk with his index finger. Noelle grimaced before she picked it up. “I took the liberty of doing all the legwork for you. Consider it a parting gift.”
“And the video?”
“All evidence against you will be surrendered upon completion of the job. We’ll be done.” Noelle narrowed her eyes suspiciously. She didn’t trust him but she had very little choice in the matter. He had too much dirt on her and one anonymous murmur from him could lead to a lifetime in a hole under the Pentagon. She snatched the file from the desk and Yiao’s face spread into a sickly sweet smile. “Relax. You’re holding the ticket to your freedom.”

Outside, the busy street was humming in the unusually warm weather. Noelle turned towards home and began maneuvering through the bodega traffic when someone slammed into her, throwing her back against the wall. “Jesus!” she yelled after the stranger, whom had continued walking. She straightened herself when she noticed a piece of paper tucked between her and the folder. She opened it and nearly lost her breath.
In a familiar hand, she read:

THE MAYOR’S GALA IS A TRAP. DON’T GO.

She peered down the street but the stranger had disappeared into the sea of people.

“I’m not comfortable with this, Dorian,” Davis Shaw whispered to his son. He didn’t want to alert anyone to his son’s plan to play Cops and Robbers during the biggest event he would probably experience. The great hall was swarming with decorators and local volunteers, readying the space for the following night. “Dad,” Dorian said. Davis stepped closer to his son and hissed into his ear. “You’re asking me to let a criminal steal a precious valuable in the home of the most respected figure in the city. Surely, you can understand my apprehension.”
“I promise, I have everything under control.”
“How come someone hasn’t come to, I don’t know, debrief me or the mayor? What kind of security measures are being taken?”
“Dad,” Dorian said, turning to face his father and grabbing him by the shoulders. “Relax. Everything is already in place. The sting will be handled swiftly and with such care that you or the guests will know it ever happened.”

The lie seemed to placate the senior Shaw, who went off to double check the rest of the arrangements. In reality, Dorian was flying solo and blind on the mission. He had alerted security of a credible threat and (after showing his credentials) insisted on coverage for all the exits for the entire evening. As he made another walkthrough, his phone buzzed in his pocket; upon first glance, he saw it was Deputy Director Dorson’s fourth call. “Not now,” he whispered to himself as he silenced the phone. He turned around to see Dorson, standing before him, phone in hand. “Seems like an important call,” she said sarcastically. Dorian felt as if his stomach had dropped down to his feet. “Deputy Director…”
“Can I speak with you? Alone?” she said before walking towards the alcove beneath the grand staircase. “HOW DARE YOU SET UP A STING OPERATION WITHOUT INVOLVING THE AGENT IN CHARGE OR YOUR COMMANDING OFFICER?!” she hissed, nearly pinning him to the wall. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I…” Dorian began before she held up her hand to stop him. “Never, in my tenure at the Bureau, have I seen such blatant disregard and disrespect for authority, even after a slew of warnings and second chances. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t suspend you WITHOUT PAY upon review and recommendation of termination,” Dorson continued in a low voice.
“I know this is complete unorthodox but….”
“Unorthodox?! This is completely unprecidented!”
“I’m going with my gut here. You know I wouldn’t jump headfirst like this without being absolutely sure.”

Dorson scoffed as he tried to reassure her. “I’ve done all the pertinent research. I’m 100% sure that something is going down tomorrow night. You know I’m a bloodhound. I just need you to trust me.”
“You WERE a bloodhound, Shaw. Now, you’re a loaded gun in the hands of a child. I don’t know what to expect out of you anymore and frankly, I cannot stick my neck out any farther for you.”
“Ok, I’ll make you a deal. If I don’t make an arrest tomorrow, you can take my badge and put me on leave. Fire me, stick me in a padded room, if that’s what you desire.”
“You’re that confident?”
“I am,” Dorian said. Dorson thought for a moment, before pointing a finger into his chest. “I’m sending backup, Sanchez and his team. One fuck up, ONE and you’ll be praying for that padded room.”