She pushed thought the front door and made her way to the dining room. The dining room was the only room large enough for a meeting. Other times for business meeting, they would meet in Hugh’s study or in the library. She avoided the dining room at all costs. It seemed too formal and to serious to enjoy a nice meal. She knocked twice and it opened abruptly. Geoff was standing just behind the door and beckoned for her to come in. With a quick glanced around the room she saw everyone sitting in their respectful place, and staring at her as she entered the room. Her eyes traveled around the room as she took her accustomed seat to the left of Hugh.
“Now that everyone is present I will like to begin.” Hugh’s voice was sharp as he stared around the room.
Jae thought to herself, how long were they waiting for her? How long did everyone else know about this meeting? She looked around and saw the blonde in front of her. She gave a small smile, and there was a gentle tap of her foot. Jae smiled back timidly. Geoff was sitting next to the blonde, his eyes trained on Hugh and taking in every word he said. He was staring at Hugh but stealing glanced at Jae with every other minute. She felt like he was nervous somehow, maybe it was because he was tailing her, or maybe because it was his first mission in a while. She shrugged off the thought and saw Zachary next to him.
Zachary was tall, even in and a sitting position. His eyebrows were straight lines over his dark brown eyes and his face was chiseled into perfection. His cheek bones were prominent as was the dimple in his narrow chin. His blue suit was pristine as his large hands were placed in front of him, interlinked together and manicured to perfection. Xavier was next to Zachary.
Xavier was like Zachary, tall, handsome and dark. He was bald and had a goatee. She rarely saw Xavier in the mansion and she was glad. His eyes were light to his dark complexion with long eye lashes that curled impossibly. He had handsome face but he has a leer that made you think of a deranged serial killer. When he wasn’t looking murderous, his face was angelic, the face of a cherub watching over and innocent baby. His missions were mostly involving women, a mattress and the untimely death of said woman. She was glad he didn’t live in a mansion. Nothing scared her more than a man who knew his way around a bedroom.
Quinn and Kathy sat next to Xavier. She remembered that he was one of the few who were tailing her. She wanted to sneer at him, but she couldn’t he was a nice, normal guy with a limp. He didn’t look threatening or capable of a malicious act, but he was. He was tall and deadly with a blade of any size. He had a weapon on him at all times. The fourteen inch sword attached to his left leg was his favorite weapon of choice, that caused the limp, and which he used a cane to correct it. Kathy was holding Quinn’s hand in. Kathy was an innocent bystander who fell in love with a train assassin. She accepted him for what he was and loved him for who he was. She gave Kathy a weak smile.
Jae wondered if Rhys would accept her for what she was. She wondered if he would still love her after everything she did. If she told him the truth, her secret, when he accept her just as Kathy did for Quinn, or would he leave her high and dry and flee the country for good? She hoped he would stay but not love her the same way as he did now. Jae pulled her mind back to the reality and saw Kathy give Jae a quick acknowledgment before turning her attention back on Hugh.
Next to Kathy, were Eva and Thomas, they ran the factory and gave reports to Hugh every night. They were in charge of the importing and exporting of weapons guns and fabric. They were legitimate business partners with no skills that she knew about. Though they were businesspeople and had no technique, she had to keep an eye on them. There were two empty seats next to her. Blaine, the weapons expert was missing, unless he was on a mission she was not offered first. She thought about the other seat but didn’t dwell on the fact, her name brought her to the present and she looked at Hugh.
He was staring at her expectedly.
“I am sorry, what did you ask me?” She asked innocently.
“Father wants to know how your life out of the mansion is going. I bet you’re doing just fine.” The blonde’s voice was gentle and alluring. “Go ahead; tell Father how your apartment is shaping up.” Her smile was just like her voice but Jae knew differently.
“I am doing okay.” Her voice started out slowly but was gaining confidence with every word. “I plan on finding a part time job so it doesn’t look too suspicious, or I’ll start working on the bar now. I leave every night dressed in all black and sometimes with a large duffel bag hiding my weapon. I want to apply at the corner grocery store, stock shelves or work at the register or –” she said interrupted.
Someone knocked at the door. Everyone’s attention turned to the door. Jae’s attention flew to the door, surprised that someone else will be joining this closed door meeting. She saw movement on her peripheries. The blonde stood up and left the room through a side door. Jae’s eyes followed the blonde, interested why she had to leave so abruptly. A throat clearing turned her attention to the door that was opening. A tall man dressed in a designer suit to enter the room. Behind him Blaine entered the room and took the seat next to Thomas, leaving the seat next to Jae for the new man to sit. Hugh stood and shook hands with the tall man. Their exchange was quiet, sharing secret.
She looked away from them and nodded at Blaine as a greeting. He nodded back and leaned over the empty chair to start a conversation with her. He did not get a word out because at the moment, Hugh addressed Jae.
“Darling, move down a seat.”
“Sure,” She managed to keep her voice calm and not hateful. Everyone watched as she did move to the next seat and sat down. This was significant. She was no longer part of the decision-making group, nor was she Hugh’s right hand. She kept her face passive as her eyes swept around the table to glance at the curious faces. There was a smirk on the Zachary’s face, Xavier was murderous, Quinn’s and Kathy’s faces were masked in worry. Eva’s and Thomas’ face were normal, Blaine’s face shone shocked, but she saved Geoff’s face for last.
Geoff’s face was sea of emotions. He was shocked, just as Blaine was, but then his eyes darted from Father to the new man then back to Father. He made the circuit several times and his eyes met Jae’s with worry and concern. She gave him a small comforting smile which she turned to everyone else sitting at the table. She was perfectly fine losing her rank. She accepted it with relief, which was strange to her. She would’ve felt angry or upset that she had to give up her number 2 seat. However, as she thought about it, it was obvious. She was no longer part of the group because she no longer cared about it. She moved out of the mansion, had a secret boyfriend, was looking for a part time job, and she shouted at Hugh the other day, saying that she didn’t care. Though she was a little upset that it was public without her knowing, but it was for the best in Hugh’s mind. She knew that Hugh love making her feel like a fool, and this was one of the many acts he would do too embarrass her. She threw a triumphant smile at Hugh, showing him that she was perfectly fine. She also smiled at the tall man who sat in his seat graciously, as is sitting on a royal throne.
“This is Mr. Barnes. Mr. Barnes this is my family.” Hugh started as he names every person and their job description. While the introductions were being said, Jae kept her eyes on him. He was a handsome man. His dark chestnut hair reached his collar, and his brown black eyes took in every detail and every word Hugh said. He was probably in his late 20s, early 30s and he held himself as if he was superior to everyone, his nose in the air and his chest puffed out. She wondered idly why he was here, and how he would be worked into this family.
When Jae was introduced, she gave him a vibrant smile and held out a hand to shake. He took her hand by the fingers, and pressed his lip to her back of the hand.
“It is very nice to meet you Jae. I have heard so much about you.”
She was startled to hear the English accent. Her eyes flashed to Hugh for a second and back to Mr. Barnes. “I hope you heard good things.” She said with a giggle.
Hugh cleared his throat and everyone’s attention came back to him. “Mr. Barnes is one of our best clients. He wanted to meet everyone so I brought him along. He would be living indefinitely in bedroom two.”
Besides Mr. Barnes, Jae nodded. Bedroom number two was her former bedroom. She wondered if Hugh intentionally decided to put him in her bedroom or was it to gauge her reaction, or was it plainly the best room in the mansion. She didn’t mind Mr. Barnes living in her old bedroom. She no longer lived there and it was no longer her bedroom. It must have been because it was the best room in mansion. There was a queen sized bed, a large walk in closet with a safe, and a beautiful view of the ground and forest. Not to mention a large oversize bathroom with a Jacuzzi sized tub, and a wonderful shower with four adjustable nozzles.
She noticed Mr. Barnes eyes were on her. She gave him a shy smile and turned her eyes back as Hugh. She wondered why Mr. Barnes was so keen on seeing the mansion and the best assassins. Many clients were interested in the mansion but Hugh would always refuse, saying that secrecy is best especially for the client. A feeling of worry crossed her mind as Hugh continued the meeting. Maybe Mr. Barnes wasn’t just another interested client, may be, due to Hugh’s age, Mr. Barnes would take over, be the new boss? She wondered why Hugh would choose someone from the outside to take over. Geoff was a certainly one of the few who would be able to take over, herself and the blonde included was another possibility to take over. Zachary and Xavier were too power-hungry and to unsettle, Blaine knew nothing except weapons and protection of the body if we were attacked. She wondered why an Englishman and an outsider would be part of their family. This was a big job to overtake and she wondered if Mr. Barnes was capable of learning everything and be as cunning as Hugh is. She saved that thought for moment and join in on the meeting.
As the meeting ended she was going to talk with Hugh about Mr. Barnes. Every concern she had will be answered whether she wanted them to or not, whether he was willing to or not.
“Jae, man I speak with you for a moment?” Hugh beat her to the punch. She nodded and sat back in her chair.
She watched everyone leave, Geoff with a backwards glance, and Hugh to get something to drink. She knew Hugh wanted Mr. Barnes and her alone. She nodded her head at Geoff as she watched Hugh and Geoff leave her along with the Englishman.
She gave Mr. Barnes a smile and he smiled back invitingly.
“How long have you been in America, Mr. Barnes?” she stared with some pleasantries, figuring him out and finding out on what he knows and why he was here to begin with.
“I’ve been here for about five years, and never lost the accent, thank goodness.” He gave a short laugh. “Women find it appealing and I have to say I like being the only one in the area that is British.”
He gave another short laugh. Jae entertained him and joined in on the laughter. She saw Hugh take his time with his drink, taking another sip and another one before refilling his glass.
“It surprised me at first, but as I listen to you,” she cleared her throat to hide the shy grin. “It suits you very well.”
“Well, I had it for thirty one years, it should suite me. I assume it’s nice that I’m around.” He said drooling at the spot, smearing it with indication and radiating smugness.
There was a pause as he looked over her appreciatively.
“So how do you think at the meeting went?” she started, avoiding his scanning of her body for something else to change the topic.
“A think the meeting went well.” Mr. Barnes started. “Father has been talking about everyone in the family. Zachary and his strength, asked Xavier and his unique preferences, Quinn and his ability with the blade, Geoff’s unwavering devotion, they all make an excellent team. Each and every one of them brings something strong and vital to the table.”
She waited for him to talk about her and the blonde, the only two that wasn’t mentioned. “And what does he say about me?”
She did not get to hear what Hugh said about her because he came in and cleared his throat loudly. He announced his arrival and handed a glass to Mr. Barnes
“It is extraordinary is it not?” Hugh’s smile was slightly malicious. He drank from the glass he held. “I am sorry I didn’t call sooner. They will get the job done.”
Jae stared at Hugh, trying to comprehend what he just said. When she turned her attention to Mr. Barnes she nearly cringed away. Mr. Barnes’ eyes were hungry and greedy as they rested on her.
“She got the job done?”
“Yes. There were about a dozen or so men twice the sizes of our Zachary. Yes she is very good.”
“I can see that.” Mr. Barnes said more to himself but he voiced it aloud.
They were speaking as if she wasn’t in the same room, listening to the same conversation. Jae felt the anger rush to the surface and she felt repulsed by Mr. Barnes. She wanted to give him a chance, maybe she was wrong to judge him before she knew him. However she long knew him, she knew he wouldn’t change. She didn’t like him.
“If you do not need me I will be on my way.” She gave Hugh an annoyed look and made to leave the room. She stood and walked a couple steps to the door but the door was already opening. There was a moment when Jae looked at the blonde woman; the blonde woman looked back at her. Jae took a breath and tried to reason with herself. She wouldn’t attack her in front of these two men. The anger boiled in her blood as they stood side-by-side.
Mr. Barnes looked at one and then the other, his mouth gaped, and his eyes were wide and triumphant.
“Thank you ladies you may go now.” Hugh’s voice was silky and absolute.
Jae managed not to storm out of the room. She walked past the blonde shoving her shoulder in agitation and shut the door behind her. She failed as she stormed out of the mansion without a backwards glanced. As soon as she was miles away from the mansion and in her parking spot at her apartment she let herself go.
The anger that was so close to the surface crashed over her. Instead of screaming out her rage, she started to cry. She never cried and this was one of those rare occasions where the outside influences were out of her control. She didn’t know what to do; she didn’t know what she could do. Her tears were relentless. They were tears of what? Pain? Backstabbing? Fear? Shock? Yes, shock at Hugh to expose Jae to an outsider like Mr. Barnes. Who was this Mr. Barnes, someone to take over her life? She wiped her tears with her wet sleeve and headed home wanted her mattress beneath her. At least there would be someone there to comfort her tonight.
She burst through the door and called his name. There was something simmering on the stove as she walked to the kitchen. His footsteps sounded from the smaller room and to her right. He toweled his sweaty body and walked to her. Once seeing him her courage failed. She nearly bowled him over as she wrapped her arms around his sweaty and in the body. She just wanted to be in his embrace, to feel him comfort her was apparently one of their favorite pastimes. She looked down at his feet and saw tennis shoes and socks.
“No shoes in the house.” She said to break the tension.
“Sorry babe, I was just on the treadmill.” He pulled her away for a moment as she registered her voice. It was stuffed, a strained. “What happened, are you okay?”
She nodded her head and kept her face down. He kicked off his shoes and held her once more walking to the simmering pot. “I made some chicken noodle soup if you are hungry.” He said removing the lid and turning off the electric stove.
She pulled away and sat on the island, feeling helpless and like a sulking child. She sat slouched and stared at him. He noticed her face immediately in the yellow light. Her eyes were red and raw, her nose was red and he noticed her sleeves were damp.
He knew something was wrong but he didn’t know how to start with her. He never saw her cry, nor remembered if she cried in his presence. He wanted to ask her but he didn’t want her to shut down and kick him out of her apartment before he was settled in. He didn’t want to assume there was something wrong when she clearly look like there was anything wrong. His mind started to go in circles as he tried to find a way to bring it up.
“What’s up,” he started; it sounded uninterested as spoke those words. “Is there anything wrong?” He leaned against the counter in front of her. Maybe if he seemed comfortable she’ll tell him what was wrong.
She stared at him and wanted to tell him everything. She wanted to tell him that she was a trained killer and that she went to a meeting to be a showcased. She wanted to take him and run away from America. She wanted to go as far as her legs would carry her. Letting a sigh escape her lips, she resolved to tell him what he needed to know. His casual easy stance made it easier to start chipping at the wall over her secret.
“Hugh, that’s what is wrong. He stabbed me in the back.” She looked at her fingers in her lap, trying to hide the forthcoming tears.
She found his arms wrapped around her, comforting her with his body.
She let him hold her; she loved it when he did it without her telling him to.
“Tell me.” his voice washed over her ear in a soothing whisper.
She shook her head and nestled her head at the crook of his neck. The warmth he brought to her was exhilarating. His thick arms enveloped her, his slightly musky scent was assisting to the calm atmosphere and his hands were rubbing her back comfortably.
“Jae, you have to tell me what happened. How can I help you if you can’t tell me the truth?”
She tried to hold back a sob that ripped from her chest.
“I can’t.” She took a breath and composed herself. “I can’t tell you. You don’t know how much it hurts me. I don’t want to lose you.”
“What makes you thing I want to leave you?” He said pulling away to see her face.
“Stop it.” she said staring into his wonderful face full of concern and curiosity.
“I said stop it.” She shoved him away and stood fuming at him. Her shoved was more powerful than she expected.
He slammed against the refrigerator, making the content server. “I just wanted to help you.”
“You can’t help me.” she said jumping off the island and stepping away from him. The anger in her body started to boil over. Everything was falling to pieces in front of her, her work, her personal life, and now her love life.
“He’s too strong, he’s well protected. Nothing gets through to him.” She couldn’t help but shout at him. She didn’t want Rhys dead; she didn’t want Rhys hurt in the attempt. She saw it in her mind.
Rhys was lying on the floor, tied and gaged. His handsome face bloody and sweaty, he was clearly tortured and for what, she will never know.
He watched as she started to fall apart at the seams. Her eyes shut and her hands clutched her head in pain.
“Jae, talk to me, who is he?” he said grabbing her hands and pulling her face to him. “He? Do you mean Hugh?”
“I tried already and he punished me.”
Rhys watched as Jae shrunk away like a scared child. She was backing away her eyes were still shut, trying to blocking out the image in her mind.
“He made me forget.” She said to herself. “He made me forget what he did. My dreams, they explain everything.” She shut her eyes and rubs her palms rustling over her face, pushing back the tears that crept on her.
“He did it, I know he did it. I remember him there.” She mumbled to herself. She collided with the couch and slumped against it. “I just want to forget, but I can’t forget, I shouldn’t forget.” She huddled against the couch and hid her head in her hands she drew her knees to her face and shut her eyes.
Rhys could not watch her like that. She was rocking back and forth on the hard ground. Something was hurting her, some memory that he couldn’t get to. He wanted to wipe away whatever she saw; he wanted to replace those bad thoughts with something happy, anything to make this scared and helpless reflection go away. He leaned over her and hugged her tightly in his arms. He kissed her hands and she looked up at him. Her face was blank of expression but her lips were in a slight pout and her eyes were saddened. It was as if she just received news that her favorite relative passed away, as if she got terrible news she couldn’t reconcile with. He touched gently held her face in his hands, his thumbs sliding the moisture that trickled down her cheeks.
She sighed and shook her head, maneuvering away from him kindly, as if not to hurt him.
“I’m going to take a shower and take a nap.” She stood slowly, as if she was a hundred years old, and made her way to the bathroom. She took off her one article of clothing one step at a time leaving it where she wanted. She didn’t care, she needed to sleep. Maybe tomorrow she would revisit this, maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she’ll make good on her promise all those years ago.
The last shower she had didn’t work; it was too rushed as she was running late to a meeting she knew nothing about. She stepped into the shower and turned on the hot water. She adjusted the nozzle and let the water wash over her face, down her neck and over her exhausted body. She stood under the one nozzle until it became too hot. She adjusted cold knob until the temperature was just right. She let the water pound her face and her body. She wished for a full body massage beneath the warm water. A long massage where all she had to do was received and not think of anything. She just wanted to feel better again.
There was a noise outside the shower stall. She peeked at the distorted form of Rhys as he ducked in for something. She didn’t pay attention to him as he did his business. She concentrated on the pounding water. She imagined it was like a cleansing shower, washing away her worries, her stress, and everything else she couldn’t deal with at this moment. She’ll have to revisit it later for sure but now nothing would worry her except being able to wake up in the morning tomorrow.
There was a rattle of the shower stall. Rhys stepped in and gave her a smile.
“May I join you?” he asked.
She nodded and watched him enter. She was glad he was with her, glad there was something else in the world she cared about but herself. She was glad he was there with her when she wasn’t herself. She found it funny that he acted as if nothing had happened, as if she didn’t have a nervous melt down moments ago.
She stepped aside and watched as he let the water rinse his body. The droplets of water weren’t enough to be relaxing but she didn’t mind watching Rhys’s strong hand wipe off his body. As she stared at him from behind she noticed the dimples and the groves of his muscles. She remembered Rhys was a bit softer as she wrapped her arms around him. Watching him rinse off his body was making her mind think of silly things. She remembered he was working out when she came in with her attitude. She remembered there was lunch simmering in the kitchen. She let out a sigh that was more of a quivery exhale. Without realizing it her hands found his trapezius.
He slowly turned and stared at her. Her hand moved on their accord, over his shoulder to his neck, up his ear and behind his head.
“I’m sorry for before.” She said coming closer to his lips. “I’m so lucky to have you in my life. I feel as if-”
He pressed a finger to her lips and kept it there. He maneuvered her beneath the shower head and started to wipe the water across her body in small circles. He poured a dollop of shampoo in his hands and gently massaged it into her hair. She leaned her head back as he took care of her. As she washed out the shampoo, he added some in his hair. After their hair was clean, and hers conditioned, he started on her body. The small circles of the shower poof were soothing. He washed her body several times, taking the time and care he never did with himself. When the shower was done she wrapped herself in a large towel, his towel was around his waist that left not much to imagine. She blushed as she wiped herself from water. After all the time he had seen her naked, she was still embarrasses about showing off her body around him. He didn’t mind being nude around her. He had lost most of his fat and gained more muscle than he imagined. From work and their specialized workout, he was getting in shape faster than he imagined. As for her she didn’t mind staying naked after they made love, but any time not involving sex is something different all together. He pulled on boxers and a shirt and waited for her next to the bed. She dressed in a tank top and boy shorts panties. He drew the curtains to make it as dark as possible. He then pulled the covers together and straightened up the bed as she towel dried her hair.
“Your bed awaits my dearest.” He said majestically.
She couldn’t help but giggle at his words. She crawled into bed and a minute later he curled securely behind her; an arm around her own and laced in her fingers. They lay in bed for a several minutes. She knew he was awake. He was unsatisfied from the feeling at her back. She rolled over and stared into his eyes. He gave her a half smile. She leaned in and kissed him slowly, dragging out the passion and the desire further. She climbed on top of him and she tilted her head to taste him better.
“You don’t have to.” he said pulling away.
She knew he was just trying to be nice. She knew he wanted her and the evidence was hard to disregard.
“What if I want you, would you refuse?” She said pulling her top off.
He sighed, “I guess I can’t if you’re throwing yourself at me like this.”
He forced her to her back and pulled off his shirt in the same move. Her hands touched his face, slowing his movement and staring into his green eyes.
“Rhys, I love you.” She took a breath, not sure that was the best thing to say at the very moment.
He smiled. “I love you too Jae.”
Jae woke up easily and immediately to Rhys combing her hair with his fingers. She looked at her alarm clock which read for 9:42 PM. She nestled deeper into his chest. Realizing she was on his heart tattoo she gave him a kiss and looked up at him to see his reaction. His half smile was a bit condescending. She shook her head dismally and rolled off him, lying on her back and the blankets it to her neck. He propped himself on an elbow and waited. When she didn’t talk, he prompted her.
“So, I was running on the treadmill and I had soup on simmer; I was waiting for you to get home so we can eat together. You came home, upset, and I just wanted to know what happened. You said something about Hugh stabbing you in the back. You said he’s strong and that you tried once already. You also said he made you forget.”
Jae turned her head away, which struck a nerve that she kept closed for so long.
He gently turned her face to his. “Please, tell me what happened. I want to protect you if you need it. Do you need money? You can keep all of mine. Do we need to move? That’s good because I’m still packed, except some clothes and my hygiene products.”
She smirked and gave him a baleful glance; sorry that she brought him into her mess and into her now ruined life. She managed to open her mouth a few times, but when the right words can come out, she shut her lips. This happened several times, she couldn’t find the right words to make their lives easier.
“All right,” he said with a grin. “So it’s a secret.”
“It’s a very big secret.” Her voice rasped. “I can’t tell you, trust me I do, but I can’t. Not yet at least, and not now.”
“You don’t trust me.” His voice was dull, and unaffectionate.
“Look, Rhys, I do trust you.”
“But?” His voice dragged, drawing out his confusion.
“My situation, it is my problem. It is complex, especially right now.”
He lay on his back, placing his hands behind his head and shut his eyes. In a less tense atmosphere, she would’ve laughed at him, mocking his sun bathing pose and the face that it was still hours before the sun rose. She wanted to force him to understand that her problem was bigger than them. She wanted to tell him everything she was, everything she did, and everything her mind forced herself to think of, before she thought through her options.
“If I could tell you everything, I would believe me I would, but I can’t. I don’t want—”
The rest of her sentence was drowned out in a shrill ring. She grabbed her robe angrily and left the room tying it rougher and tighter than she wanted it done. She couldn’t see him frowning as she left the room. He watched her stomp through the hallway and answered her phone with an angry hello. There was silence in the apartment and she listens to the person on the other she gave a couple of ‘yes’ and ‘I will be there’ before she hung up the phone. He heard her sigh and a slight thump as herself hit the couch. Her walk was slow, depressing as she walked toward him to the bed room.
“Let me guess, that was Hugh and he needs you.”
“Rhys, this isn’t my fault. I have a mission and I have to do it.” Her voice was monotone, as if she said these words a million times out loud. She had sort of bored look on her face and as she went to gather her sleepwear around the room.
“Selling bed sheets isn’t what I call a mission.” He threw her a taunting smile but she never turned to face his way. She averted her eyes by concentrating on the shirt she wore to bed. She picked out the edges and tried to look busy in the act. The word ‘mission’ slipped out of her mouth before she had time to register what she said.
“You know, I thought moving in would be a great idea.” He gave a light chuckle. “That’s so far we spent the last 12 hours sleeping or arguing.” He chuckled again, shaking the bed with his laughter.
She gave him a grin and made her way towards him. “I have to see Hugh, but I will come back and we will talk.” She ran her fingers through his loose hair and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “I know we will figure something out. After what we’ve been through and everything that happened last night and the words we exchanged,” her lips twitched in a satisfied and loving smile. “We’ll figure something out.” She kissed him on the cheek one last time and made to change. He walked her to the front door. He gave her a gentle kiss, and watched as she went to work at ten o'clock at night.
She sat in the bar drinking a soda and nibbling on peanuts in a communal bowl. She thought about everything that happened. She was there for him whenever he needed her and he was there for her graciously, without a second thought. She tried to remember what happened in the last few hours of the night, the softness of his lips, the tenderness of his touch and the epic and ground shaking ending of their love making. A slight pink tint covered her face as she took a sip of her drink. She sat as far as she could from Charlie, the bartender. He read her face so easily. He would know instantly how she was feeling with a simple glance. She didn’t want him see her blush, so she hid behind her hair and smiled as she thought about her passionate lover.
She looked around the bar at the other people. She was glad it was steady tonight. She saw a bachelorette party in the corner of the room, and some guys trying to pick up girls at the opposite side of the bar. She smirked as she thought about the bar, her bar. It was steady income and Charlie didn’t mind running it in her absence. She wondered if he was stressed or over worked. He hired people to clean the bar and to take out the trash and to restock the shelves. The new people never stayed long, a couple weeks or three days at the least. If she worked here, it would be an immense help to Charlie. An actual employee that didn’t need training, that didn’t need to be told to do something. She wanted to slowly distance herself from Hugh and this would be a good leeway into her own business, a world without Hugh.
This was her second option, to ease out of Hugh’s ruling and work at the bar full time. It wouldn’t be so difficult. Maybe if she was seen around here more often her name would be known, rather than Hugh Robbins’ adopted daughter. Maybe if she cleaned out the kitchen and started serving food, there would be more people in the bar. The lot next to the bar was vacant. She wondered how much it would take for her to build a club adjacent to her bar. Maybe she could redesign and remodel her bar too. It would be a restaurant on one side, a bar in the middle, and a dance floor on the other side of the building. She’ll probably have to add a security, surveillance, and have a bigger office for all the paperwork, file cabinets and, a cot if she needed spent the night to sleep.
She gave a short chuckle. She could build her dream house above her business. Maybe a secluded balcony, a nice open kitchen, and training room in the basement. Her happiness failed. Why would she need a training room if she was getting out of the business? Her mind was set before she thought about anything. Missions, killing, and training to stay in the best physical peek.
Option two wouldn’t be the best choice if she was still in Hugh’s business. Her mind thought of the possibilities without Hugh, Zachary, and everyone else. The handsome Mr. Barnes and everyone in the meeting need to be killed in order for her freedom to be complete. Her eyes closed and remembered the people around the room, the blonde, across the table, Hugh, Mr. Barnes to her left, Blaine, Eva and Thomas. Her heart dropped as she thought about the two business people.
She didn’t want to kill them, they were innocent and nonthreatening. However they were guilty by association, they knew her face and knew what she did; they would have to be killed.
Next came Kathy and Quinn, her heart dropped even lower, she wouldn’t want to kill them, they were in her shoes and they survived though it. She would consider letting them live if they can keep her secret.
Xavier and Zachary would have to be killed in their sleep. She couldn’t physically over power them. Maybe from a distance, she can sharp shoot them while they were in the mansion. That would be easier than sneak up on them in their protected houses, and try to kill them in their sleep. She decided from a distance, it would be easier and it wouldn’t be traced to her once Blaine is dead.
Next was Geoff. Her hands rubbed her face roughly. She kept her face hidden as she felt Charlie’s eyes on her. She couldn’t kill Geoff; she couldn’t even consider one of her friends dead.
He was her friend. She confided in him and she trusted him with Rhys. He was always there when she needed him and vice versa. She wondered if he considered her as a friend or as competition.
A shuffling of a bar stool to her left jerked her from her thoughts and internal debate. The man picking up the other women in the bar was apparently sitting next to her. There were plenty of vacated seats next to her but he chose the one to her immediate left. She looked away and caught her eyes with Charlie. She waved him off, knowing Charlie; he would grab the drunk by his collar and kick him out quicker than he could whip out a bottle of whiskey. She should have went to the office and waited in there. It was too lonely and dark in the office; she wanted company around her even though the only company she craved was in bed several miles away.
“Hello little lady, do you mind if I sit?” his voice was slurred, clearly he was drunk.
“You’re already sitting.” She said as she took a gulp of her soda.
“So what is a little lady doing on this fine night? You’re alone and I know you need company.” he said, hanging over the bar to stare at her.
“I’m fine. I’m not in the mood for company. Please leave.” She kept her voice lethal and deadly. She didn’t want him to ruin her already disastrous day. She would rather be with Rhys, eating chicken noodle soup than here for drop-off duty. She felt his hand move toward her. “Don’t!” she snarled, staring at him angrily.
His hand never paused his reaching. His hand collided with her shoulder and she reacted. She was angry at everything, at Hugh, at being here, about Rhys, about the world, and at the man who was too drunk to reason with. She reached for his hand and twisted it with a jerk of her hand. Her fist collided with his face and toppled him from his seat. He fell to the floor with a loud crash. She glared at him angrily.
“I said don’t touch me!” She shouted at the drunken man. He was struggling to get up. The anger boiled in her blood as she wanted to kick him, deform him for not listening to her. She seethed at him and glanced around the room. All eyed were on her and she felt embarrassed. Her action was uncalled for and a bit of an overreaction. “Charlie, get him out of here.”
She walked behind the bar to the private door. She unlocked it and walked into the dark storage room. She walked straight to her office. She should’ve locked herself in there from the beginning. She slid the lock in place and sat in her chair angrily. Her office phone rang and she answered it, only one person knew this phone number.
“Charlie?” she answered.
“Hey, are you alright?” he asked out of breath. Apparently he threw out the guy and hustled back behind the bar to speak with her.
“Yeah, he was just a drunk, how is everything out there?”
“Steady, still shaken about the way thing played out. He was pawing women around the bar; maybe we need another bartender besides me. I can deal with the customers but guys like him get past my notice sometimes.”
She like the way Charlie spoke to her; they were in a business relationship. She signs the check and he runs the bar. However she trusted him with the bar not with anything else.
She sighed, “Sure, hire someone you can trust. I’ll have to talk to you about remodeling and maybe adding a club next to us, maybe a kitchen, and maybe a bouncer. Give a round on the house. And I’ll be out there in half an hour.”
“Alright, that sounds good, I’ll see you then.” He before she hung up the phone. She liked that Charlie didn’t question her. He took her for what she was and she did the same to him. She felt sorry that he didn’t spend much time with his family. She remembered to give him a nice spring bonus and a long vacation and time off to spend time with his family. When his second son is born he would get another long vacation. She smiled to herself, she liked Charlie and he was just what she needed, someone reliable and someone who knew their distance and kept their personal lives personal. She looked in the mirror hanging on the wall. She needed a new life, and maybe a makeover once everything settles down. She wanted to cut her hair or chemically make it straight. She sighed and made to leave her office. She made sure to lock the office door as she walked to her car. She thought about security and she added it to the conversation she planned with Charlie.
She sat in her run down car and started it with a roar. She drove carefully to the designated drop off and lugged a large suitcase into the back seat of the car. She made a three-point turn and made her way back to the bar. She walked back into her office and placed the case in a closet of her clothes. She pulled out a t-shirt and some faded jeans and tied an apron around her waist. She tied her hair in a messy ponytail and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She pulled her cell out and called Rhys.
It rang five timed before it went to voice mail. It was really late; if he worked the next day then he would be sleeping. She cleared her throat and smiled as he introduced himself.
“Hi, sorry for calling you so late, it turns out I have to work later than I anticipated. I’ll see you tomorrow if you go to work early. Have a good night and a good morning if I’m not up. See you later.” She hung up the phone sadly and made her way to the bar.
The bar was more than steady. Apparently there was a game on that she didn’t know of. It was overtime and something like this never happened before. She smiled at the shouting man and gave him his beer. She didn’t follow football as much so of course she wouldn’t know a game was on. She was working quickly and was worn out by the end of the night. The team won and they spent a couple hours there celebrating and spilling beer on the floor. After she moped and cleaned the tables with the help of a slow elderly woman, she pulled Charlie aside.
“Sorry about not being here. I’ll try to be here more. I didn’t know it was so crazy like this.”
He shrugged. “Sometimes it’s dead slow and sometimes it’s busy like this. So what did you want to talk with me about? You want to add a club and fix the kitchen?”
“Yeah, I want to talk, but not tonight, aren’t you tired?” she asked, seeing that he was tired in the face but he still wanted to talk.
“I am a bit but if you want to talk, I’ll talk.”
“Maybe not tonight, sleep in and I’ll come by tomorrow at nine, we can talk then.”
He nodded as they walked out and locked the bar. She called a good night to him while they drove in opposite direction. She looked at her watch and sighed. It was past three and Rhys would be dead asleep when she came home. In turn she would be sound asleep when he went to work in two to three hours. When she came home she took a quick shower and silently crept into bed next to Rhys. She pulled in arm around her and fell instantly asleep.
She was driving to the bar, thinking over her renovations and her remodeling of the bar. There was something nagging and she could’ve guessed what was. When she woke up this morning, Rhys was already gone. She found a not taped to the refrigerator, ‘went to work, be back late, and talking to my parents. Have a good day.’ She felt guilty as he openly told her of his day. She had to construct half-truths or smile at him whenever she couldn’t say what she wanted to say. She wanted to tell him everything, but she knew he would take it the wrong way. Murdering and assassinating wasn’t in ideal job, nor was it easily acceptable to a normal human being.
As she pulled up to her bar she was glad Charlie hadn’t arrived yet. She walked through the empty bar and was amazed how everything looked in the morning. She started taking notes about things change, things to remove, and things to replace. If she wanted the new restaurant to be here she would have to redesign, and reconstruct everything. This would be extra money and she would need extra man power. She walked into the rundown kitchen and let out a groan. It seems like everything would have to be replaced, a new stove, prep tables, pots and pans, and utensils, not to mention sinks and refrigerators. If she wanted a restaurant, everything would have to be larger to accommodate the quantity of a busy restaurant.
When the assessment of the inside was complete as she thought it would be, she went outside to look at the empty lot. She visualized the club part of her building. It would have to be bigger to accommodate the dance floor and a DJ stage. There will have to be a sitting area and a restroom area separate from the restaurant. She took a couple steps back and imagined the second floor as her home. As far as her home was involved she wanted extra rooms and extras space. If she wanted to add family, or ask Rhys about children – she let out a hysterical laugh. She was already thinking about children and a family before they were thinking of engagement or spending the rest of their lives together.
She shook off the strange thought as she heard a car engine coming toward her. Charlie’s truck roared past as he parked next her car. He made his way to her that she halted him was a hand. She motioned him inside where a pot of coffee was slowly dripping.
She sat down with Charlie joined her with the coffee.
“Still take cream and sugar?” he asked, placing it in front of her.
She nodded and looked over her notes. It was undistinguishable as she looked over her scribbled hand writing.
“Are you ready?” she prepared.
He leaned back and nodded waiting for her to proceed.
She started with the outside and worked her way in, top to bottom, left to right. She wanted a two story building with a basement. The basement would mainly be for storage and possibly the surveillance area of the building. The first floor would be more complex. On the left side of the building, she wanted it to be a grand restaurant, circular tables and secluded booths. In the center of the building and of the first floor would be the bar area. It would be a 360 degree bar with a path leading to the storage area and the kitchen. On the other side of the bar is the club. There would be seating at the end of the room and a stage for a DJ, or a band, or for karaoke. The second floor would consist of her home, a four bedroom, three bathrooms with a large kitchen and a larger living room. She told Charlie that most of the rooms would be guest bedrooms, for friends, or for him whenever he wanted to crash here instead of at home.
He gave a short chuckle and smiled. “I think I’ll risk it and take the short drive home. My wife can’t sleep unless I cuddle her and I like spending time with Jack. He’s three years old and going to preschool in the fall.”
“Oh, he’s getting so old.” She said. “Next thing you know it he’ll be coming here with his friends and the next he’ll be married with children.”
He chuckled. “Let’s get past potty training first.” He pulled the papers to him and looked over the long list. “You know this is going to cost a lot of money. Not to mention getting the legal stuff checked too. For the restaurant you’re going to deal with the health inspector, and they aren’t so generous. If you want to the entire club on the other side, then we’re going to have to demolish almost everything and start from scratch. You’re going to have to hire a contractor, make sure everything is up to code, building codes, housing codes, for your home. If you want a basement then you’ll have to dig everything out, build a working room and then have it pass inspection. Not to mention the electrical wiring for security cameras and for the club, dim lighting, mood lighting and everything else. You’re adding close to a thousand square feet. That’s going to cost you for employing people to run your place, people to look over your place, people to clean your place.” He chuckled. “It’s going to be very expensive.”
She stared at his face as he spoke. He didn’t look mockingly or unbelieving.
“Do you think it’s a good idea, remodeling the bar?” she couldn’t help but ask. Her mind was excited with the prospects of leaving the business she wanted to live her own dreams. She cleared her throat and continued. “If I said I want this to happen will you believe me? Would you trust me to close that bar to fix it up?” She watched his face as he listened to her words.
“Yes. I think remodeling is a good idea, I believe in you because I always have. Nothing you said sounds unobtainable, everything you said is doable, it’s reasonable and it sounds like a nice place.”
“But?” she said, knowing that there is a catch.
“It is going to be very expensive, not to mention the time it takes for the paperwork to go through, the construction, the designing. I’m on your side, I always am. Maybe we can think about it a bit more?”
Jae kept her face calm and masked. “Alright. I’ll table it for the time being.”
“Are you mad at me?” he questioned instantly.
“No, I’m glad you’re truthful with me. Thank you.”
She stood and held her arms out. He grinned and hugged her.
Jae and Rhys were eating dinner silently. The minutes that passed felt like hours as Jae stared at Rhys.
“This is just our first fight. One of many that will inevitably happen.” She said bringing her plate and setting it in the sink. “It could’ve been worst.”
“It could’ve been better.” Rhys commented back.
They were quiet as she washed the dishes; he dried next to her and placed them in the cupboard. After she washed her hands as she dried them on a hand towel. She sat on the kitchen island and started at him.
“So Hugh is having me work at night now. I don’t know how long it’s going to be but,” she sighed. “I hate working night shifts.”
“Tell me about it. Is this what you mean by stabbing you in the back?” He asked.
She debated on giving him the true answer or the safe answer, she decided on the truth, rather the half-truth. “No. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“When you stay your starting the night shift, do you mean your starting tonight?” he said leaning against her.
She nodded, “Yes, tonight and the next following night.”
“What time do you start?” He said wrapping his arms around her. He pressed into her gently which caused her to writhe and scoot to the end of the counter. Her arms looped around his neck and she pressed her lips to his.
“I don’t have to be at work for a couple hours.” She murmured.
He watched her crawl out of bed. Something about that act of crawling over blankets nude was positively cruel. It was as if she knew what her body was making him feel. She chuckled as she wrapped a robe around her form. She smirked at him and made her way to the closet. She wore form fitting jeans, a flirty tank top, and a thin cardigan. She pulled everything on slowing and dramatically. She loved his every intake of breath. He was obviously watching her get dressed.
“It’s pretty cold outside.” He said in a growl.
She smiles as she heard the bed move. The sound of elastic bands snapping in place and a large hand sending warmth across her back was definitely Rhys. She pulled out a trench coat and waved it pointedly. He pulled it from her hands and opened it for her. Rhys helped her into the coat. He couldn’t help but run his arms down her slender ones. This display of affection brought a smile across her face. She tiptoes to give him a passionate kiss.
He groaned and pulled away for a second. "Do you have time for a quickie?”
She pulled away. “Is that all you thing about?” Her sparkling eyes made her remark less severe. “And I can’t, I don’t want to be late. Rain check for tomorrow?”
He sighed disapprovingly. “Can’t, I work in the morning.”
She gave him a kiss on the cheek and pulled on her black boots and hustled to the door. “We’ll figure it out, we are living together now.”
She turned and loved it that she watched her leave. His smile made her wants to turn back and stay in the room for another couple or rounds.
She was in her tank top and glistening in the lighting. She was opening several beers for a rowdy of college students. She gave the student a wink and grabbed his fifty and put it in the register. Charlie was cleaning several tables at once. His over packed tray was spilling into his hand. He ran his tray back and started on another table. She was mixing and pouring at the same time. It was a busy several of minutes as she came in. She took off her jacket, said a quick hello to Charlie, threw the black case in her office, and started helping the next customer. It was a steady rush as the night went on. Her cell phone started to vibrate in her back pocket. She excused herself and hid in the office to take the call.
When she read the caller ID her heart sank. She was expecting Rhys.
“I am doing fine, how about yourself?”
She was shocked to hear a low rumbling voice on the other end. Her next guess what has been Geoff, never Hugh.
“To what do I the pleasure?” She said in a slightly peeved voice.
“Where are you?”
“I am at my bar right now. It’s busy I call you back later? The crowd dies around nine o’clock to 10 o’clock, can I call you then?” She said leaning against her desk.
“No? That won’t be necessary. I’ll see you then, have a good night.”
Before she had time to say a goodbye, Hugh already hung up the phone. She stared at her phone until it went black. She stood up, stretched her neck and made her way back to work. There was a lull in traffic as she got behind the bar working on remodeling the bar. She really wanted a club next a restaurant. When Rhys spoke about dressing up and dancing, she had an itch to learn how to dance. She wanted to learn everything, like the waltz, square dancing, and everything in between. Of the bar in between the club and the restaurant was genius. Both club and restaurant needed a bar, and putting it together was a no-brainer. She suppressed a smile that bubbled to the surface. When she looked up, Charlie’s eyebrows rose questioningly. She shook her head and dismissed him. He didn’t need to know that she was a genius. He cleared his throat on loudly, and she looked back up at him. His eyes were at the door, and automatic gesture he did. When her eyes followed his she let out a soft sigh, Hugh in the flesh.
“I think I’ll deal him.” She said with a note of finality.
Charlie nodded and made his way to leave the bar.
“You don’t have to leave.” She called to him. “I’ll bring him to the office, but call me if you need any help. I’m serious,” she whispered to him, “I don’t mind a distraction when I’m with him.”
Charlie gave a short chuckle and eyed the man entering. His eyes grew wide as two people came in with him. Zachary and Xavier looked like a bodyguard as they hovered around Hugh. She waited until they approached the bar.
“What can I do you for you?” She said in a chipper tone, her smile grew in tight.
“I know what you can do for me.” Zachary leered, flashing his shiny white teeth at her. His eyes roamed over her chest and his smile widened.
“Is it me, or are your pickup lines getting a little mediocre. You should really freshen up on your pickup line, or the girls won’t be pawing over you as easily as they did before.” She said staring at Zachary in the face.
Xavier’s shoulders were shaking roughly. When Zachary turned to look him, his face turned bright red.
“Shut up man.” Zachary said punching Xavier in the shoulder to shut him up.
Hugh stood there looking at the exchange of words.
Jae gave Zachary a condescending smile.
“You’ll get there.” She said rubbing his shoulder consolingly.
Hugh cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. Three sets of eyes met his. His anger was palpable.
“Have a seat Zachary, Xavier.” His tone was a lethal as he commanded them. When he turned back to her there was smugness to him. “Can I have a word with you, privately?”
She nodded and addressed Charlie behind her. “Don’t forget to charge them, whatever they get, or break.”
“Hey, we work together.” Xavier said waving his hands at the prospect of paying.
“I’m sorry, if you’re at my bar, you pay. Nothing here is free for the taking, and don’t try to steal anything I’ll have my eye on you.” She said pointing a finger at the hulking men in the bar stools. “I’ll be back, Charlie.”
She led the way to her office, through the little hallway that led to the men’s and women’s restroom, and pass the locked kitchen door to her office. She pushed the door open and waved a hand to the end the seat in front of her cluttered desk. She really needed to clean her office, get some more cabinets, and maybe more shelves for payroll and blank order forms.
“The gun is there.” She said pointing to the black case. “I know how Blaine is about his toys. He can have it back and it’s only been three hours.” She said looking at the clock on the wall.
“So, how is the bar business.” Hugh started, taking off his jacket and placing it over the back of his chair.
She sat down in her office chair and leaned back. “It’s good, business is picking up and I finally paid off the loan.”
“I thought you paid for it in full when you purchased it?” He asked skeptical.
“I would’ve done that but I wanted to build credit under my own name and if the bar didn’t work out as well as I plan, I could’ve sold the bar and the loan to someone else.”
“I guess that sounds reasonable.” He said, desperately trying to see some kind of reasoning behind it. He took a breath and smiled at her. “Jae, my dearest Jae.”
She gave him a smile and waited for him to continue. She hated it when he used those words; they were only for Rhys to use.
“I know you don’t want any outsiders to know but Kenji is respectable.”
“Kenji, Kenji Barnes?” She confirmed her eyes quirky together. She thought he was British? She remembered him saying that he was British. She had to dwell on that later.
“Kenji Barnes, yes. He is interested in my company and in you.”
“Don’t you mean her?” She gave a curt laugh. “I guess you forgot, I’m on drop off duty. I might as well quit and work here full-time. It’s more respectable and I’m getting good customer service here. Everything I need to find a new job. And I get more respect here then I to you at the mansion.”
“I do respect you. I let you move out, and let you buy whatever you want, this bar included. I even let you live your life.”
“Live my life? Why do I have to come there after every mission, why can’t I get another job? Why did I have to prance around Mr. Barnes last night? And why am I being followed?” she was leaning forward in her chair her fist on the desk. If she was a child and less in tune with her temper should be pounding her fist on the table and shouting at the top of her lungs. She kept her cool and took a deep breath. She didn’t know why she asked the last question. She wanted the answer, but was hesitant at the answer.
“You’re being followed?” Hugh’s face was indifferent; his lined face was concerned and unbelieving. “I think you’re becoming paranoid. I want to see you safe after every mission, that’s why I want you to come back to the mansion. You can definitely find another job, just as long as it doesn’t interfere with your missions. This bar is a good cover for a job, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be full-time here.
“Last night with Mr. Barnes,” he continued. “He wanted to see something concrete. He wanted to see something I kept secret. He already knew about our special shipping, he’s bought several of our supplies already. He knew about the underground shooting range and about the extensive property, my extensive property. I told him about you and he fell for you instantly. He needed to see the proof. He is going to be an important entity in this company. Soon he will know everything about the company. How we work, how we train, and how we live. In order to make his commitment concrete, he needed to know one of our deepest secrets.”
“Why couldn’t it be another secret, why did it have to be mine?”
“He was very keen on see