I wake up in his arms. He’s still sleeping, his head on mine, and his one arm around my shoulders, and the other on my stomach. I look down and gasp for air. I’ve been sleeping naked, and so has he. I sit up in bed and he grunts slightly, and I sit still. He rolls over on the other side and keeps sleeping. I look at the clock, seeing that the time is 6:31 AM. I slide out of bed carefully, take one of Aaron’s shirts from his drawer and put it on. I carefully leave the room and walk out on the balcony.
I sit on the balcony with my morning-coffee, looking out at the sunrise. I think back to last night, feeling how my mind fills with happiness. Goo Goo Dolls – Iris plays inside my head. I used to listen to Goo Goo Dolls a lot when a few years ago, but then I archived them. Just as wounds become scars, the songs still affect me a lot, and I remember all their lyrics very well. I suddenly feel a hand on my shoulder, and I freeze for a second.
- Don’t worry, it’s just me.
I turn my head around and look up at his face. It’s hard to read; cold, emotionless.
- Good morning Aaron, what’s the matter this morning?
He frowns and walks over to the fence of the balcony and runs a hand through his hair. He stands bent over the fence, resting his arms on the fence.
He looks over his shoulder at me, and winks me over with his head. I put the cup down and stand beside him.
- I have some things to take care of in Brazil, and I’ll be gone for a couple of days. You can stay here if you wish, invite Frankie over here if you so wish?
I nod. The emptiness fills me from within. Could I do without him for a couple of days? Probably I would if Frankie came. I shake the sadness off.
- Can’t I come?
I whisper, and my voice cracks as I say the last word. He stands and puts his hands around my waist and pulls me closer. I lean my face in on his chest, and feel his pulse to my face. He smells my hair for a brief second.
- You can’t. It’s too dangerous Elisabeth. I’ll give you the keys for the ‘locked room’. But please be careful and only go in there on your own, in case you invite Frankie over here.
I hold him close, tightening my grip around him.
- Careful tiger, don’t break my bones.
- If that’d mean you wouldn’t go, I’d continue.
He laughs and takes my shoulders and takes a step back.
- I’ll come back dear, I promise you that. I’ve had harder jobs than this one – It’s just a drug dealer down in Rio, it’s nothing I haven’t done before.
I get chills. I’ve known his secret for such a short time, and I believe that I’ll never get used to the idea that he kills people for a living. I shake the thought off me, and think about the fact that I’m surrounded by two people who have a relation: Frankie studies law, to serve and protect, whereas Aaron serves only those who have the money, and no one can feel safe with him.
- Don’t say that. Anything can happen, even to the best.
- I’ll be careful. Now, call Frankie and tell her to come over here from the day after tomorrow and until Friday.
He hands me his phone and I take it. I dial Frankie’s number and take the phone to my ear and walk inside, leaving Aaron on the balcony. I look over my shoulder and he looks back at me, nodding slowly.
- It’s Frankie?
- Frankie, it’s me!
She sighs in the phone before she answers.
- I’m so glad to hear from you! I had gotten worried that Aaron guy had done something to you since you haven’t contacted me for more than a week!
- I know Frankie, I’ve just been… Busy…
- Anyways, would you want to come over to Aaron’s place from Wednesday to Friday? He’s gone for the time, and he proposed you could come here and spend some time with me?
- That sounds cool. Are you going to come home and pick up your clothes, or should I bring some?
I look out at Aaron who’s smiling at me.
- I have some here, don’t worry.
I smile at the phone, forgotten for a second that she can’t see it.
- Well, see you by then! I hope you send me the address.
I hang up and swing my hair to the other side of my head, leaning myself against the wall and lie my head back for a second. Talking to Frankie feels great, but having lied to her about my disappearance. It all feels wrong, but I can’t betray Aaron, share his secret. I need to be strong. A tear leaves the corner of my eye, slowly running down my cheek. I stand there with my head against the wall, feeling the wetness of the tear run down my face slowly, leaving a track after it.
- Are you okay?
Aaron stands in the door into the living room, looking at me with his blue eyes. I try to cover my face with my hair, but in an instant he’s there before me. He puts his hand on my shoulder, and has the other on my cheek, and with his thumb he wipes the tear away. I look up at him, biting my lip for it not to be shaking. I don’t want to cry now. It’s too much. He lifts up my face by the chin, and frees my lower lip from the tight grip of my teeth. I look down, I don’t dare to look into his eyes. They’re cold, and so are his motions. Mechanic almost.
- Elisabeth, what’s wrong?
His voice is calm, confused, but at the same time as cold as his fingers. I wonder if I can ever get used to Aaron being an emotionally detached person at times, and then emotional every now and then.
- It’s just that…
My voice cracks, and I bit my lip again. He lifts up my chin and looks me in the eyes. They’re dark, cold, but there’s a sparkle of caring in there. I clear my throat.
- It’s just that I don’t know how to handle all of the things I know about you. I think I’m in love with you, but all of this…
I take a step to the side, bring my arms closer to myself, crossing them, walking towards the big window. I look down at my feet, and out over Chicago.
- I know it’s not your fault that you’re like this, but I just really wish you could show me more emotions. Not be so…
I turn around slowly, and he’s standing where I left him, wearing his pyjamas pants only. His fit torso is showing, and the pants hang just under the “v” his hips form. My mouth dries for a second, and my heart starts pounding. I stop myself and shake the thought off me.
- If you could act less like a stone when I’m around, that would be lovely…
He drops his arms and leans back to the wall, frustration showing in his face. He drags his hand through his hair and closes his eyes. I feel like going over there and embrace him, but something keeps me from doing it. I can’t, not now.
- Stop biting your lip.
I release, curious as to how he knew.
He looks at me and comes over. He looks like a predator, and I’m his target. My heart is pounding fast, faster than it should be possible. He comes over, grabs me by the waist and forces me closer to him. He pulls me close with brute force, his muscles showing. He squeezes me tight and strokes my arm with one hand, and fiddles with my hair with the other. I breathe in carefully and let out a sigh. I feel comfortable in his arms: safe, secure.
- I have contacted a personal trainer from the agency. He’ll teach you how to protect yourself.
- But why…?
He lets go of me, grabs my arms with both hands and extend me out from his body. He lowers himself slightly so we can get eye contact.
- Because I’m going away soon, and I want you to be able to protect yourself.
- But wouldn’t you put bodyguards?
- I still want you to be able to defend yourself.
He looks at me, pleading.
- Fine, I’ll do it.
I feel the sweat gathering in my hairline. It’s pulled back in a ponytail, and I’m wearing a set of black clothes. I’m running, and have been for a while now. The only thing which is different now is the speed. I've never been running this fast on the treadmill before. It feels odd to have someone yelling at you meanwhile exercising, at least when not used to it.
Her name is Isabella, a Swedish personal trainer from Aaron’s agency. She’s annoyingly beautiful and has a beautiful strong body.
My lungs are gasping for air, and I start to see black spots in my field of vision as the speed lowers on the tread mill. I sigh in relief and start following the speed down into a calm pace. I’m not sure for how long I have been sprinting, but it’s long.
I’m in a tall building, and there’s windows all over. It does however only go one way, and that is from the inside. It has an even better view over Chicago than Aaron’s flat.
- Miss McTavish, follow me.
She turns around and walks gracefully towards the door out of the gym. I jump off the treadmill and grab the bottle on the floor. Still panting I catch up with her. She has long, muscular legs and she walks fast. Much faster than I can, so I fall a bit behind.
We enter the elevator and she presses the button to the basement floor.
- We’ll go shooting now. Have you been shooting before?
I hesitate for a second.
- Yes, I have. Once, with Aaron.
- I see.
We stand there in awkward silence and I sigh with relief when the door opens. I walk out and enter a hallway, looking like it’s been dug out inside a mountain. The walls are uneven, of cold stone. I let my hand slide across the cold stone and feel that they’re slightly wet. We walk down the hallway and we come closer to a glass door at the end of the hall. We enter and inside is a big shooting range and obstacle course. I widen my eyes, and Isabella looks at me.
- We’ll only be shooting.
I sigh from relief and go towards the booth. I stand in front of the half-wall and look down at the weapons placed on the counter. There’s knifes, a pistol and what looks like a machine gun.
- Start with the knives.
I grab them, one in each hand and wonder for a second what I’ll be doing with them when 2 targets appear. I position the knife in my hand, feel its weight. I put the blade inwards, towards the palm of my hand: feel the sharp, cold blade. I take a deep breath and put the right leg backwards, putting my weight on it. I exhale through my nose, shift my weight to my left leg, and the speed I achieve goes through my body and into my arm, into the knife. I release it, and it spins around in the air. I hear a thump and open my eyes.
I walk in the entrance hall in Aaron’s flat and throw my stuff on the floor. I kick off my shoes and walk into the bedroom. Aaron is not there, and I open the drawer, find some of the clothes I put there for myself. I walk out into the bathroom and take a shower. The warm water feels nice against my warm, sweaty skin, and I slowly wash myself everywhere. I notice that he has bought me a new shower gel and shampoo. I use them, and they smell lovely. The shampoo smells like strawberry. I hear Aaron enter the bedroom, but I don’t put too much effort in thinking about it.
A few seconds later however, I hear the door to the shower open and he steps in with me. I feel his hands on me, carefully touching my shoulders. Just now I realise that they’re sore from having been shooting with the machine gun, which had much more recoil than the pistol.
I feel his hands on my hips and I turn around and he stands there with his blue eyes looking at me. They’re clear, and his face is distorted into a smile. The steam from the warm water surrounds us and we stand there just holding each other. I sense that he put music on the dock station, Panic! At The Disco – The End of All Things and the song plays calmly out into the room. I take his shower gel and squeezes some of the substance into my hand. He turns around and I slowly wash his back. I feel the unevenness in his skin from all of the scars. They’re a beautiful contrast as to who he is. It’s his inside which comes to the surface. His muscles are tense as I stroke his back. It’s strong, beautiful. I put my arms around him, squeeze him tight. I feel his strong hands on mine, he caresses my fingers.
I feel his touch, his fingers on my back as I take on my underwear. He helps me close my bra, and I start drying my hair but he stops me.
- Here, let me do it.
I hand him the towel and he starts massaging my scalp. I close my eyes and enjoy his fingers massaging my head. I can’t help but moan when he massages, it feels so terribly good. He stands in front of me, and I can look at his lower body while he dries my hair. His legs are so strong, beautiful. Strong like a horse, wild as a tiger. His abs are slightly visible under the tight shirt he’s wearing. What are the odds? I’m in this maniac’s flat, having my hair dried by him, while the last thing others see are his ice cold blue eyes. I shudder by the thought and reminds myself that is not a side I will ever see. I hope.
I sit down in the kitchen, eating the spaghetti which Aaron had made. His cooking isn’t perfect. He usually orders take away or makes himself a salad and a steak. I got to start cooking for him. It practically feels like I’ve moved in suddenly. I sit and wonder if I’ll ever go back to living in the flat with Frankie again. I haven’t been home since I was abducted.
- What do you think about?
Aaron is standing by the refrigerator, pouring white wine in our glasses. I look at him, carefully chewing my food, considering what to say.
- Just that it’s a long time ago since I was home. You know, where Frankie is.
- Oh. Well, you can stay here, I don’t mind, but only if you wish to of course.
He looks at me, his blue eyes penetrating my mind.
- Thank you, I’d love to, until you’ve found the abductors. I’d feel safer that way.
He smiles at me and gives me one of the glasses of champagne. He lifts it up.
I sit down in the bed, the soft silk around me from the lingerie that I’m wearing. I blush when thinking about how I didn’t even manage to get it on last night when I was supposed to wear it. I feel a slight disappointment inside me. Aaron had an important online conference to participate in, so he’s sitting in his office. I decide to go into the kitchen and make him a cup of tea, chamomile.
I stand there over the counter, waiting for the water in the kettle to boil. I find the tea in the cabinet, and a mug in the same cabinet. I put a drop of milk in it, and some honey. It usually calms me down when I drink it. I walk into the office, and see Aaron sitting by his desk, talking.
- There is absolutely no reason why he would be the mole. No, it doesn’t make sense! He’s dead God dammit!
Aaron hammers his fist into the table, and some papers fall to the floor. I carefully open the door completely and his face changes completely. It goes from being angry to a more relaxed one.
- Lady and gentlemen, can we continue this conversation in five minutes? Something urgent has appeared and needs my full attention.
He presses the button on the earpiece he’s wearing and comes over to me.
- I made you a cup of tea.
He smiles a boyish smile at me, and suddenly he looks like a teenager again.
- Thank you very much my lady. You look absolutely stunning in that gown I must admit.
I blush and look down at my feet. He lifts my chin, as he always does when he wants to kiss me, but this time he just looks me in the eyes.
- Don’t even doubt that you’re looking good. Okay?
I nod a little, hindered by his hand holding my chin. He leans in to kiss me, and just before our lips touch, you know that where you can almost feel the lips touch yours, feel the tickling sensation already, his earpiece starts beeping, indicating a call. Five minutes have passed.
- I’m sorry, but this is important.
He stands upright again, and I feel a heavy blanket of disappointment fall upon me. I know this is important, I could guess it from what I heard him say. He takes the cup of tea, blows me a kiss and brings his hand to the earpiece and answers the call.
- Yes, I’m ready.
He turns around and walks casually back to his desk. I stand there for a second admiring his way of walking. He’s wearing a shirt, which is hanging over a pair of dark jeans, and he has bare feet. I look at him for a second, just long enough for him to see me stand in the door, waiting. He smiles at me and focuses on some papers in his hand, and the computer screen in front of him.
I turn around and walk out of the room, heading to the kitchen. I’ll make myself a cup of tea, go to the library and sit there and read.
I find Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of my favourite classics and I sit down and open the book. I read carefully through the pages. It’s an old sample, one of the first editions she had written. It is a piece of literature history, so I treat it carefully. I sip of my tea.
I get startled as I feel the ground moving beneath me moving. I feel the light uneven movements from being carried and I inhale through my nose. I inhale Aaron’s smell, and suddenly I feel safe again. I feel him open a door with his elbow, and a short moment later I feel the soft bed carrying me in its soft grip. Aaron lifts my lower body carefully and drags out the duvet from underneath me, and puts it over me. I feel comfortable, and roll onto my side, facing where he’ll be lying. I wait in anticipation for him to come and lie down next to me, but moments pass and I realise he’s not going to lie down next to me. Of course not. He’s still busy with that conference. I should have known.
But just as the disappointment strikes really hard, I feel him lower himself on the bed, taking me in his arms, sighing. I cuddle up to him and he puts his arm around me. The other, I can feel, he’s holding it up. He’s sitting with his phone, making a call.
- Yes, it’s me. No, I have no specific, determined data yet, but I do however have some encrypted files which could give us a clue as to who it is. No, I see that there is a risk to this. Madam, I beg you. It’s for our all’s safety, not just mine. Our information has been leaked. Our, as in all of the field agents. I doubt that you have any idea of how big a danger this brings upon us! If people know that we’ve killed people, even some of their relatives, there will be a massive crisis! Not only will all of Your field agents be put in jail for the rest of their lives, You will be hunted down. If you manage to escape, You will have to live the rest of Your life looking over Your shoulder.
I don’t wish to eavesdrop any more on his conversation, so I relax my mind, and after a short while, I feel my whole body relaxing, and I fall into a deep sleep.