Jayden placed the mug of steaming tea on the table in front of Emma and then sat back down next to Bailey at the kitchen table.
"Thank you." Emma said, sending him a grateful smile as she wrapped her hands around the blue mug. Her brown hair struck to her neck and beads of water dripped down to her front. The makeup around her eyes was starting to run, giving her a raccoon eye look. She looked older, granted it had been around three years since he had last seen her and at that time he'd been leaving....
Bailey kicked his leg under the table. A jolt of pain went up Jayden's leg.
"Ouch. What was that for?" He asked.
"You were staring. It was getting pretty awkward." The comment came from Emma. She gazed at him across the table, looking completely at ease despite her comment. Jayden felt his face flush and felt extremely embarrassed.
"Sorry." He said lamely.
"Don't worry about it. It has been awhile since we've seen each other." Emma said. She drank some of her tea. Slurped it is more like it. A grin flickered on Jayden's face. Emma was never one for manners. He remembered when they were little and Emma's mom would make them hot chocolate in the winter. They would add mini mountains of whipped cream and slurp the liquid and laugh at the whipped cream mustaches they sported.
"So Em, What brings you from Philadelphia to Woodbury, New Jersey?" He decided now was the time to ask. It had been bothering him since the moment she arrived.
"Wow, you don't waste any time do you?" Emma joked, but then her expression became a little harder. "I came to visit you of course. I am allowed to do that. Aren't I? We've been friends for 10 years. Just because you move away doesn't mean you can't keep in touch."
Her words hit Jayden like a high speed train. He felt terrible because Emma did have every right to visit him. Not once in two years had Jayden even attempted to call her or visit her. He was a terrible friend, moving on with his new life and dumping her like yesterday's garbage. He had tried to keep in touch after he first moved, but then Jayden had decided it would be better for her to move on from him. He was training to be a spy, he couldn't tell her that, and as the lies started to pile up between them it had just become too much to deal with.
Bailey scraped her chair across the floor and stood up. "I should get home." She said. She glanced between Jayden and Emma and looked truly uncomfortable. Her face plainly said that she knew she was in the middle of a personal reunion and really wanted to leave.
"Are you sure?" Jayden asked. He knew it was selfish to make her stay but if she left then Jayden wouldn't have anything preventing him from talking personally to
Emma. Bailey's eyes widened pleadingly.
"Yep. I'm sure. Sorry to have to leave so early." She was already pulling on her coat. "It was really nice to meet you Emma. Jayden's told me a lot of nice things about you." Jayden's gut twisted with guilt. He'd never mentioned her, but at least Bailey had the decency to lie about it.
Bailey hugged Jayden and gave him a quick peck on the lips. Then she was out the door and running across the sodden lawn to her car. Jayden closed the door behind her, blocking off the cold draft that was trying to creep into the house. He took a moment to calm himself before re-entering the kitchen.
"So...How have you been, Em? How are your parents?"
"Same old, same old. Mom and Dad are fine. They've been traveling a lot recently. I think they're in Japan right now."
"Oh, that's cool. Why aren't you with them?"
Emma looked at him sharply and pushed her mug away. The liquid sloshed over the rim. "Why?" She asked with narrowed eyes. "Do you not want me here?"
"What? No...I just thought you'd have wanted to go to Japan."He said quickly. Did Emma really feel that way?
"Oh..." Now it was Emma's turn to look sheepish. She tugged at a strand of wet hair and refused to look at him.
"Em, I-" He huffed when the words didn't come to him. He tried again.
"Look. I'm really sorry I haven't kept in touch. I should have tried harder. I--I really am glad to see you." He held his breath as he waited for Emma's response.
"It's fine. You're forgiven. Let's just put this behind us." Emma replied.
"Jayden!" The voice of Jayden's mom echoed through the house. Emma jumped in surprise, nearly knocking her tea over in the process. "Honey come and help me with these groceries!" Jayden's mother continued to call.
"Honey?" Emma questioned with a smile. "That's cute."
Jayden glowered at her. "Shut up."
They got up and Jayden led the way to the garage where Jay6den's mother was struggling with two heaving looking grocery bags from the trunk of the Subaru. She had just turned around when she spotted them walking in.
"Emma? Emma Foster is that you?" She asked.
"Hey Ms Torrez. It good to see you again." Emma said and let Jayden's mom hug her.
She hefted the bags back up and opened the door. Jayden and Emma grabbed the remaining bags and followed close behind her. In the kitchen, they placed the bags on the island and his mother started unpacking them while talking to Emma.
"How are you sweetheart?"
"I'm fine Ms Torrez." Emma replied.
"I don't know why Jayden didn't tell me you were coming." She said and swatted Jayden in the back of his head with a stock of celery.
"Oww!" Jayden cried, rubbing the back of his head. "Mom I didn't know she was coming?! She surprised me. I didn't even know she knew our address."
"Of course she does. I gave it to her before we moved." She pushed a brown paper grocery bag into his arms. "Here make yourself useful and put these away. I didn't raise you to stand there like a bump on the log."
Jayden opened one the pantry doors and started with empty out the bag. He heard his mother telling Emma to stay the night and asking Emma how long she was visiting for.
"I'm not sure. My parent's called my school and got me a few days off while they're away so I might stick around until then. Is that ok?"
Jayden's mother actually looked shocked that she asked. "Honey you're like family. You can stay as long as you want with us."
Emma looked genuinely happy. "Thanks Ms Torrez."
After dinner Jayden's mom left to make some business calls and Jayden and Emma headed up to his room. It was last door on the left and in the corner of house. Emma set her bag down on his bed and made a circle as she inspected his room. He saw her take in the dark blue walls, the wooden dresser and desk with his laptop open on top. She spared a glance at his messy closet with the pile of clothes at the bottom. He went over and shut the door, blocking out her view.
"Smooth." She said laughing.
"I try." Jayden answered.
"Why don't I give you the upstairs tour." Jayden walked out to the hall with Emma following and opened the door across the hall. "Bathroom." He said indicating the small tiled room. He pointed to a door in the middle of the hall. "Closet."
"At the other end of the hall is my mom's room. We don't have a spare room so you can take my bed and I'll sleep on the couch downstairs." He continued.
"You don't have to." Emma said. She was leaning against his doorframe leisurely.
Jayden raised an eyebrow at her. "You...want to take the couch? I mean, I won't stop you if you want to but-"
"No not that!" Emma interrupted. "No one has to take the couch. We could just...share the bed." She said it slowly like she was testing out how he would react.
"You want to share a bed with me." Jayden restated. This was awkward for him. Would it be offensive if he refused? It wasn't that Jayden wanted to take the couch but to share a bed with Emma was just a little too close for comfort.
Color flooded Emma cheeks. "It's no big deal Jayden. We're friends and your bed is more that big enough for both of us. There's no reason for one of us to be uncomfortable."
Jayden thought about it for a moment. When he couldn't think of any valid reasons not to he gave up. "Alright, I guess." He scratched the back of his neck and walked back into the room. Emma left to get changed in the bathroom and Jayden hurriedly changed into a grey t-shirt and sweatpants. Normally he would wear only his boxer-briefs but now that Emma was going to be sleeping next to him, that outfit felt extremely inappropriate. Emma walking back into the room in short pajama bottoms and a tank top. Something like brotherly concern jumped up in Jayden's stomach at seeing her outfit. Emma caught his look.
"Oh calm down. It's just pajamas."
Sure like he could try. He reluctantly averted his gaze and walked to the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he'd finished he flicked off the lights and entered his room to see Emma laying on the left side of his bed. Jayden usually slept in the middle of his bed, he really hoped he could sleep on the right side. It would be insanely embarrassing if he rolled over into Emma during the middle of the night. He crawled quickly under the covers.
He switched off the lights and turned on his side. "Good night." He said to Emma.
"Good night." She responded and her voice was low like she was about to fall asleep any moment. That would make one of them.
Not long after Jayden heard Emma's even breaths to confirm that she was asleep. He couldn't get used to the feeling of body heat against his clothed back. Soon though, the rhythmic sound of Emma's breathing and his fatigue pushed him to sleep.
It was the loud banging that bolted Jayden to consciousness. He sat upright quickly and flicked on the lights. Emma was awake next to him and if her shallow breaths were anything to go by she was scared. The banging continued and now Jayden could hear shouting. The voice was distinctly male, an adult male to be exact.
"Who is that? What do you think he wants?" Emma asked in a quiet whisper.
"Nothing good." Jayden said then got out of the bed and crossed the room. He opened the bedroom door and Emma bolted up from the bed. "What are you doing?!" She hissed.
"I'm going to get that asshole to stop banging down the door." He walked out into the hall and saw his mother standing there in her robe with bed hair. "Should we call the cops?" She asked as she looked worriedly down the stair to where the door shook with the man's continued assault. It was dark in the house and the street lights outside illuminated the man's shadow through the glass panels of the door. Now Jayden could hearing something that sounded vaguely like "Open the god damn door."
"No, I'll deal with it. Stay here." Jayden said and descended the stairs carefully. "Jayden!" His mother cried worriedly.
"Jayden stop! Let the cops deal with it. You could get hurt." Emma said and started to follow him.
"Stay there!" He said with more force. She stopped walking and gripped the banister in a white knuckle grip.
He reached the last stair and stepped up to the door. He formed a fist with his right hand and swung it as hard as he could into the door. It made a solid bang. Instantly the man stopped what he was doing.
"I don't know what you want but leave before I call the cops on you!" He shouted through the door.
"Open the door! I know she's in there." Came the man's reply. Emma whimpered from her spot on the stairs.
"I don't know what you're talking about now leave!"
"Give me the girl!" The man shouted and started to bang on the door again. He hit one of the glass panels and Jayden could see a crack forming. That's it. He'd given the bastard the chance to leave now he deserved what came to him.
Jayden walked back up the stairs and into his room. He pulled the chair out from his desk and yanked the top drawer open. The 9mm handgun his father had given them for protection slid to the front of the drawer. He picked it up an checked to make sure it was loaded. He slammed the drawer shut and walked quickly back out into the hall. His mother gave a shocked gasp when she saw the gun and Emma shrank back against the banister as he pasted her like she wanted to get as far away from it as possible.
"Jayden you can't open that door! That man's dangerous." Emma said from the stairs.
He switched open the first of the two locks and chain on the door.
"Jayden stop!" Emma ran down next to him and clutched at his arm. He shook her off and pushed her back to the first step.
"Emma stay back. If he breaks past me I don't want you in the way."
Emma's eyes were wide with fear. Jayden doubted she had ever had anything like this happen to her. It was only the lessons for emergency scenarios at Denton that kept Jayden's breath even and his heart from jumping to his throat.
He opened the second lock on the door. The man outside wasn't giving up easily. He must be extremely strong to keep his assault going so long. Now with only the chain holding the door in place it quaked and looked like it would break any second. The chain strained at the door burst open only to be stopped by the thin links of metal.
He reached for the chain. Emma clutched his arm. "Please stop! He works for them. They're after me not you-"
"What!" Jayden snarled at her right as the chain broke. He whipped back around and aimed the gun. A man dressed in a black sweatshirt and jeans stood in the doorway. He moved forward and Jayden clicked off the safety and raised the gun in line with the man's eyes.
"Back up!" Jayden yelled. The man raised his hands and backed up slowly.
"Don't shoot." He said. It was impossible to make out anything about the man since his hood was up. Jayden wanted to know who this man was, he would need to look out for him later in case he came back.
"Pull down your hood. " The man reached up hastily. "Slowly!" Jayden barked. "Hands where I can see them."
The hood fell from the man's face and Jayden could make out rugged stubble on an angular face.
"Wait!" Emma came running out and something sparked in the stranger's eyes when he saw her. He lunged forward. Reacting quickly Jayden flung an arm out and caught Emma in the stomach. He shoved her back into the doorframe and she let out a cry of pain. He caught the man with the butt of the gun in the side of his head.
"Get the fuck off of my property." He yelled.
The man stumbled back triggering the motion detectors. The lights came on in a blaze blinding all of them. Jayden squinted and.... he knew this man.
"Chris?" He asked cautiously.
"How the hell do you know my name? I just want my friend you kidnapped."
"Wait a minute." Jayden said lowering the gun. "Kidnapped?"
Emma came forward clutching her middle. "Chris it's Jayden. Jayden Torrez."
Chris lowered his hands that had been covering his face. "Shit...Jayden that you? You're not screwing with me?"
"It's me." Jayden said. Chris had the traces of a beard covering the pale skin of his face and his hair was still cut short in a buzz of light brown hair. He wore his signature diamond stud in one ear and Jayden knew the tattoos on his biceps were there, just hidden at the moment. He looked exactly like the fierce gang leader in Philadelphia he'd known three years ago it was amazing Jayden hadn't recognized him instantly. Maybe it was the fact that Jayden never thought Chris would leave Philadelphia. It was Chris's home and it fit him like a second skin.
Jayden remembered what Emma had said right before the door was broken open.
"Em," Jayden said looking at her. "Who did you think was at the door?"
She stood there for a moment with her mouth working but no sounds were coming out. Jayden raised his eyebrows at her.
She sighed. "I'll tell you inside. It's cold out here." Chris and Jayden followed her back into the house. His mother was standing at the in the kitchen with the phone in her hand looking like she was five seconds from dialing the police. She looked up when they entered the kitchen and her mouth dropped.
"You're letting him in the house! Didn't he just try and break in?"
Jayden placed a hand on her back and started to rub circles there to calm her down.
"Mom it's fine. Chris is an old friend of sorts."
His mother rubbed a hand tiredly over her eyes. She plopped down in one of the kitchen chairs. "Jayden, sweetheart, these surprise visits have to stop. You're going to give me a heart attack."
Chris was standing at the entrance to the kitchen. He cleared his throat. "Um Mrs Torrez-"
Jayden's mother cut him off with a wave of her hand. "Ms Torrez. I'm divorced Christopher and you can call me Dianna. I feel too old with a 20 something year old calling me Ms."
"I'm 26 ma'am." Chris said. "Anyway I really am sorry for scaring all of you and waking you up. I'll come back this afternoon and fix the door for you."
Dianna gave him a tired smile. "That's very nice of you. Thank you." She got up from her chair and started rifling around in the cabinets. "Now I heard Emma has something to explain. Anyone want coffee? I think this will take a while. "
Everyone in the room raised their hands.
"Alright before Emma starts I have a few questions."Jayden said. "Chris, why did you come looking for Emma?"
"She just bailed during the middle of the school day. I promised you I would look after her when you left so when she went missing..." He shrugged his shoulder. "I followed her."
"That's such an invasion of privacy!" Emma complained slapping her hand down on the table for emphasis.
"Hey!" Chris pointed a finger at her. "I wouldn't have done it if you hadn't driven off like the devil was on your ass."
Emma rolled her eyes. "Very charming Chris."
Jayden raised both his hands between them. "Alright settle down. Emma I think you need to explain your part now."
Dianna came back with their mugs of coffee and cream and sugar. Emma poured a heaping of sugar into her coffee and took a big gulp before starting.
"Alright..." She thought for a moment. "This goes back a little while. You know how my brother was in the Army? Well awhile ago I found some old files hidden in the back of his closet while I was cleaning out his room with my mom. Well when I looked at them later that night, they were all about these terrorist groups."
"Terrorists?" Jayden asked, his brow creasing with concern.
Emma sent him an annoyed look. "Yes, Jayden. Terrorists. You know a group of people who like to kill people they don't like."
"I know what terrorists are. Just keep going." Jayden said.
"There was one group in particular that had a lot of information about them. They were called ATLAS." She continued. Everyone had gone quiet to listen to her talk.
"The name stood for something...it sounded really bad. Associative Terror League of Assassination and Sabotage."
"Em," Jayden said. "I still don't understand what this has to do with you coming here."
Emma took a deep breath before speaking. It looked like she was preparing to say something big. "That's the thing Jayden...I know why you really left. You left to be trained...as a spy."
Emma stared straight at him as she said it. There was no doubt in her expression.
"A spy? Really Emma that's a little over the top. Even for you." The denial came out smoothly from Jayden's lips. He knew there wasn't a hint of unease in any of his features. What he didn't count on was Emma's undying certainty.
It was then that she decided to throw her best card on the table. "I saw the letter from Denton Academy in your room before you left."
There was a moment of silence on Jayden's part. It was decision time. He knew he could cover up her statement with a lie. The school supplied them with plenty of lies about their letters in case they were misplaced and found. It would be so simple to do it and Jayden knew he should, but Emma was his friend. He wanted her to know. That first year of lying to her was painful, if he had to do it again it would be twice as bad. He could tell Emma because he knew she would never rat him out and Chris...The man had chased Emma across the state to his house because Jayden had asked him to watch over Emma. If that wasn't a sign of loyalty he didn't know what was.
"You're right Emma. I'm training to be a spy."
"Jayden you weren't suppose to tell." His mother chastised. When he looked at her though, she didn't look angry. They both knew Emma would keep his secret.
Emma's eye lit up. "I knew it!" She cried She had his goofy smile on her face like she'd just won a million dollars.
"Erm What? You're seriously a spy?" Chris asked, he looked pretty confused. Jayden felt bad for him.
"Technically a spy in training." Jayden corrected.
"Oh who cares!" Emma cried happily. Jayden was glad at least someone was happy. If it ever got out though, no one would be.
Jayden waved his hand in front of Emma. "Emma come back to us for a minute. This still doesn't explain why you came here."
"Oh well, I don't know how, but someone found out I had the files and a man came looking for me a school. At first I thought he was an FBI agent or something, but then I saw the same symbol on a pin he was wearing that was on the files. That was when I knew he was from Atlas. He wanted to take me in for questioning but I ditched him when he was signing me out. I decided to come to your house thinking that if anyone could help me it would be my best friend Jayden, the spy."
Jayden mentally groaned at the last comment. Hopefully the phrase "my best friend the spy" would wear out quickly. That wasn't really the main issue at the moment however.
"So let me get this straight." Jayden said pinching the bridge of his nose. He was starting to get a killer headache from all this information. "You came to my house with possible extremely dangerous men after you."
"Yes." Emma said and grinned at him. It would have been sweet if Jayden hadn't wanted to strangle her.