who sat at the table screaming, her face twisted in terror did not live here. But her younger companion did. The kitchen, and what I’d seen of the living room told me that the owner of the house was a man, a bachelor, the place marked with the characteristic disorganization of a young man who lived alone.
He stood, less terrified-looking than his woman, but still nervous. His hand crept toward his belt, and at the same time, our eyes landed on the holster that had been causally discarded on the coffee table. I’d snagged the weapon out of it as I’d approached, and based on the cozy encounter I’d interrupted, I was certain he didn’t have an extra piece.
“Did he send you?” the man asked, his voice remarkably calm.
I said nothing, but the man stood a little straighter. “Get this over with, but don’t hurt her.”
He looked over at his companion, who’d stopped streaming but whose face was still stricken, tears making tracks in the makeup that covered her face. Fleetingly, it occurred to me how much I appreciated the fact that April didn’t wear makeup. I gave myself a mental shake and turned back to the man who stood across from me.
“Hurry up! But make sure you tell him that even when I’m dead, just a memory, he’ll still know that she loved me. That she chose me.” He turned his gaze to his companion. “And tell him that death is a small price to pay for my time with her.”
The love that arced between the man and woman was palpable, and it affected me in a way I couldn’t explain.
“You shouldn’t fuck with another man’s woman. Especially if that man is a dirty cop,” I said, and then I turned on my heel and left.
I wouldn’t do Shaughnessy’s dirty work. There’d be a price to pay, a steep one, but I didn’t care. I’d deal with it later, after I did what I knew I should have before I’d let things get too far.
After I ended things with April.
And killed any good that might have been left in me.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I steeled myself for what was to come, closed off the emotion that threatened to break through, determined to do what was right. But the instant I turned the corner and saw her through the restaurant window, moving from place to place in the way that had sucked me in that very first time, my resolve crumbled into dust. With her I was weak, powerless, and no matter how stupid or selfish, I would stay with her as long as I was able and as long as she would have me.
I approached slowly, my mind whirring with the weight of my realization. How could I keep my work, my life, from her? How could I protect her? And what would I do when my vague answers and unexplained disappearances became too much for her?
“Hey,” she whispered in a throaty voice when I entered, the easy greeting and casual smile that accompanied it making my heart thud wildly.
“Hey,” I said, trying to keep the emotion out of my voice.
We gazed at each other for a few long moments before I broke her gaze and moved to my regular seat.
“We don’t have any pie left tonight,” she said as she stood in front of the booth. “But I’m actually almost ready to go.”
“Take your time. I’m in no rush,” I said.
With a final little grin, she turned and went into the back, and I sat, trying to absorb every ounce of the calm, the normalcy that being in this place with this woman brought me. Far too soon, she returned, switching off the lights and walking across the gleaming floor.
I stood and walked with her to the door, which she locked. When she turned, I trailed my fingers down her arm and clasped her hand tightly, never breaking her gaze. She smiled softly and squeezed my hand, and which she held until we reached the house.
“Are you okay?” she asked as we walked into her bedroom.
“I’m better than okay, April,” I said. “I just—I mean I’ve never—”
Understanding lit her gaze.
“Me too,” she said. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about you, about us
Caitlin R. Kiernan, Kathleen Tierney