Her Fallen Angel

 

Joseph twitter card

Chapter One

Note to future self, no man is worth it.

On a positive note, the jail cell was very clean. Although, I really didn’t have anything to compare it to, regardless of what the cop who processed me thought. I’d never been placed in a holding cell before. It wasn’t the worst situation, but I didn’t want to repeat it.

And yet…  logically, even statistically, there was a good chance that I’d be back here again. Especially if I kept dating assholes. So my new daily affirmation would be, “no man is worth it”. The group therapy sessions I’d attended last month had insisted daily affirmations would help. The suggested affirmation was “today will be a better day” and I supposed it would be true… tomorrow.

The therapy group was where I met my now missing boyfriend, Eric — ex-boyfriend now. Cooking and selling drugs at my house was unacceptable; running from the cops and leaving me behind, well, even I had some self-respect left. Although, apparently not enough to date nice guys. But then, nice guys didn’t float my boat. This was why I was in group therapy; it was an ugly cycle…

Jail was easier than having to face my sister, Adrianna. She’d be furious, which was totally understandable. But she’d be disappointed, too — and I could handle anything but that. I hated I let Adri down. I wished I could disappear…

I was pretty sure the cops were waiting until I wasn’t stoned anymore to question me. Really, it only took the handcuffs pinched on my wrists and being stuffed into the back seat of a police cruiser to kill my buzz. Now my anxiety was keeping me company.

It reminded me that I’d really screwed up this time. It had the voice of my father… and I hated it. It chided me that I’d irrevocably ruined my future. There was no point in even trying anymore. I snorted at myself, I hadn’t been trying — I’d been escaping. And I’d been caught.

It felt like hours had passed before the door opened and dull blue eyes stared at me for a moment. I had no way of knowing since they’d taken my phone and the room had no windows or clocks.

“Detective Kendrick, did you want something?” I asked dryly.

He blinked, his expression cold. “Let’s go,” he said with a sigh.

Poor guy, having to deal with the dregs of society, like me. It probably wore on him. I followed his suit down the hall, the seat of his pants were baggy, although they looked comfortable, like his shoes.

We passed a wall phone and I paused. Kendrick looked back at me. “Did you want to make a phone call?”

I considered it for a moment, but there was no one. I wouldn’t bother Adri. She didn’t have the money for bail or a lawyer. Eric and his friends would treat me like a leper.

“No, but I’d like a public defender.”

He rolled his eyes. “Right.”

He led me to a room where an average-sized man, average looking, except for his suit which was well-tailored and expensive. I couldn’t see it, but I assumed his seat wasn’t baggy.

He stood up and said, “Ms. DelToro, I am here to advise you. My name is Abe Finowitz. Were you advised of your rights?”

Kendrick spoke up, “She was.”

The tension in the room ratcheted up. Kendrick clearly disliked the man, his jaw tensed and his lips firmed. Finowitz sat down and motioned for me to do the same.

“What do you want to ask her?” Finowitz asked.

He pulled a photo out of his pocket and put it on the table.  I pulled the photo in front of me and studied it. Normal-looking adult, white male, although he looked a little sleazy. If he were wearing a black suit and white shirt I’d swear he was a Mormon missionary.

“Has he been to your house?” Kendrick asked.

My eyebrows raised skeptically. “Doing what?”

“Visiting your sister.” Kendrick said calmly.

“No. I’ve never seen him.”

“Has your sister had any friends over lately?”

Finowitz held up his hand. “Why are you asking?”

The only man was a big scary guy she had over a few weeks ago. Adri moved in with him.

Kendrick sighed. “That’s the District Attorney that’s missing. You haven’t heard the story on the news?”

“I don’t watch the news.” I answered.

He studied me again, and then his lips firmed in disappointment. I was just another clueless millennial in his eyes. He was so easy to read. Underneath his disappointment was kindness, and that annoyed me. I didn’t want his kindness, I’d rather just be an unpredictable addict in his eyes. It would make it easier for me to disappear.

He tapped the picture with his left forefinger. “That’s Herndon. You’ve never met him?”

“No.”

Finowitz spoke up, “What’s this about, Kendrick?”

Kendrick turned his pale blue eyes to me. “Your garage is a toxic waste site among other things. My gut says your boyfriend was cooking meth and you’re not involved and if you’re willing to cooperate you might be able to walk out of here tonight.”

I leaned back in my chair, surprised by the news. “Really?” I tried to ignore the gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I would flip on Eric, the bastard ran away. Literally. Still, where would I go? I hated the idea of going back home where he had a key, where too many memories were ugly.

Kendrick leaned forward and barely spoke. “Did you help him in any way?”

Finowitz nodded, encouraging me to answer.

I shook my head. “I was with him, but I never…” I shrugged and refused to finish the statement. I never sold drugs. I never made drugs. I took them. I screwed him.

“Were you working for him?” Kendrick asked me.

I shook my head. “No. I lost my job a few weeks ago.” Because I stopped going…

“How have you been buying groceries?” Kendrick asked.

“Eric bought them. I had some savings, too.” My voice sounded flat.

“Did you know what Eric was doing in your garage?” Kendrick asked.

I looked at Finowitz who nodded again.

“Adri told me what he was doing a few weeks ago. I guess she found something. I told him he had to stop and he was angry, but he did. I looked in the garage and he’d cleaned it out.” I swallowed. “I don’t like the garage, Eric knew that.”

I would never willingly go in the garage. Never again… even with my father dead it still held too many memories that threatened to drown me.

“Eric knew you wouldn’t go in the garage.” Kendrick repeated softly. He pushed back from the table and sighed.

“You never saw Herndon?” he asked.

“No, sir.” I answered.

“Where did you meet Eric Guttierez?” Kendrick asked.

“Group therapy on Wednesday night at First Presbyterian.”

“Al-anon?” Kendrick asked.

I shook my head.

“What was the meeting called?” Kendrick asked and then he braced himself for the answer. His face rigid, his jaw clenched and he was holding his breath. How much did this man know about me or my father?

“Survivors of childhood abuse,” I said softly.

“Fuck,” he breathed. He ran his hands through his hair and then leaned forward. “Look, let me get this straight. You go to this meeting to — whatever —-  and you meet Eric.”

“Yes.”

“Were you using drugs before you met Eric?” Kendrick asked.

“No. I mean I smoke and drank, but nothing illegal.”

“Do you think he was there looking for customers?” Kendrick asked.

I grimaced. “No. No, it wasn’t like that. But he stopped going and when I went to find him… that’s when things got, um…”

Kendrick said cooly, “He stopped going and you went to check on him.”

“He was a nice guy, once.”

“What changed?” Kendrick asked.

Finowitz leaned forward. “Wait. Before she helps you, I want to you to state clearly that you do not believe she was involved with anything found at her home that pertained to illegal drugs.”

Kendrick narrowed his eyes but the softened when he looked at me. “Fine. I believe that Elena delToro is telling the truth and had no involvement in the cache of weapons or drugs found at her home.”

“What?” I pushed back and stood up. “What did you say?”

“Sit down,” Finowitz said calmly.

“No. Tell me what you found,” I said.

Kendrick pursed his lips before answering. “Twelve weapons, several extra barrels, a small meth lab, ten pounds of pot.”

“Oh,” I sat down. “That’s really bad,” I whispered.

Finowitz snorted but Kendrick nodded sympathetically.

Finowitz said, “If she agrees to help you locate Guttierez, you’ll make sure it’s noted she’s a witness, not a suspect or a person of interest.”

“I will,” Kendrick said calmly.

Finowitz cleared his throat. “Ms. DelToro, I recommend you tell Detective Kendrick everything you know about Mr. Guttierez and where he might be found.”

So I did.

It took hours and I was exhausted and jumpy from all the caffeine. I was desperate for a cigarette.

When Kendrick finished, he stood up and pulled a card out of his pocket and slid it across the table to me. “If you think of anything else, please call me. If you see him, please call me. If he contacts you, please call me.” His eyes softened and he said quietly, “If you need help, please call me.”

I nodded and mumbled some sort of assurance that I would and slipped the card into my back pocket. Finowitz stood up and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“Excuse me, I have to take this,” he said and stepped outside.

Kendrick murmured, “I knew your father.”  I froze, tried to ignore the sensation of lead sliding through my veins. I couldn’t look at him. He continued, “I hated the bastard.”

I studied my shoes, the laces were stained with coffee and the threads had broken at the toe, leaving a small gap that would be a hole in another month. And I didn’t care. Not anymore. Appearances didn’t matter anymore.

“Did he hurt both you girls?” Kendrick’s voice skated across the desk, hitting me like a pebble dropping into a pond, the waves striking me over and over eroding the facade I held firmly in place. I didn’t move, for fear I’d crumble.

Yes… he hurt me. Never Adrianna… it would have broken her. I would survive, until I didn’t want to anymore. At first, I wanted to thrive just to spite the bastard. Now that he was dead, it was harder to find a reason to exist. His death was the final blow, he’d beaten the fight out of me, emotionally and physically.

“Keep my card. Call me anytime.” I heard the metal chair squeak and slide across the linoleum. I didn’t lookup until I heard his footsteps leave the room.

Finowitz stepped back in and handed his phone to me. “Call your sister, please. I know she’s anxious to talk to you.”

I doubted that. I had been the worst of sisters. It seemed like she’d only moved out a couple of weeks ago, but… it had been months. I hadn’t worked in months, not weeks.

I dialed Adri’s number, dreading the recrimination that I deserved. Instead she was relieved to hear from me. I didn’t deserve her.

“So you can go home?” she asked.

Home… I had no home. I lived in a house that was filled with memories of betrayal.

“I can,” I said with dread. “I…” don’t want to. Please don’t make me. “Can I come to you instead?”

“Yes, of course.”

How could she be so sweet?

How would I ever be the sister she deserved?

Chapter Two

After my night of questioning, I found myself in my sister’s new home. An expensive penthouse apartment that came with granite countertops and a very protective Russian named Alexei.

I still wanted Xanex, but I’d manage with a few shots of tequila and a cigarette. Somehow, I doubted Adri was on board with that. I’d scared her.

It was enough to keep trying. I wanted me back. The girl that laughed at simple pleasures and loved science and studying.

Note to future self: I am worth it.

How could I fail with Adri cheering me on?

I had my sister, she was my family, and she was strong enough for both of us right now. She took me to see our mother, beaten into a coma and now struggling to breathe.

Our mother looked a thousand times worse than that last time I’d visited. It had been too depressing to see her then, now, she was grey, emaciated, a sloppy sound coming from her chest with each labored breath.

She couldn’t continue like this. It was unfair after everything she’d been through.

“He killed her,” I said and looked up at Adri. Alexei, the man who would be my brother-in-law, stood behind her, an ever-present guardian.

I grew silent when the doctor came in and explained our mother most likely had lung cancer. A specialist would be brought in to advise them. I squeezed Mom’s hand, secretly jealous that she’d found a way to disappear. Alexei asked questions about treatment, but I knew our mother wanted to die. If she was able to wake up from the coma our father had beaten her into she’d have killed herself.

Now, cancer would do it for her.

Atta girl, Mom.

Adri wasn’t taking the news so well. She didn’t understand… not like me. To live with the knowledge that she’d been his punching bag, that she’d allowed her daughter to be touched, that was worse than cancer. Cancer was a blessing, but Adri would fight for Mom, like she fought for me.

Alexei returned with a man, dressed in a hoodie with startling blue eyes and tats that screamed danger. He introduced the man, Joseph, to Adri and then me. Joseph shook Adri’s hand and she freaked out at the sight of the tats. Adri still thought appearances meant something.

I could read people. This man was danger, like her guardian.

“I’m sorry to meet you like this,” he said softly with an accent similar to Alexei’s. His eyes softened and I knew he was sincere. Trustworthy eyes. Eyes that had seen too much, like mine.

“Elena,” Adri’s voice was hesitant, “I want you to go with Joseph. He’s going to help you.”

My breath caught in my throat. Seriously? The blue-eyed demon was my help? A fallen angel, perhaps?

“Now?” I asked realizing that this meeting had been orchestrated. “But what about the oncologist?”

“Maybe you can come tomorrow morning?” Adri said and then looked at Joseph who was already calling the shots.

“B-but I thought you meant a hospital.” I said, unsure that I trusted my future to Joseph. The last twenty-four hours had been exhaustive, but even I was alert enough to recognize the danger. My eyes flicked to Alexei, who was studying Adri… with adoration. Adri looked freaked out and uncertain.

Dammit.

What was the worst that could happen?

“Those don’t work, milaya. I will take care of you until you no longer want the drugs.” Joseph spoke softly, as if I were a skittish animal, which I supposed I was.

I refused to show him weakness.

“I don’t want them.” I said. “I use them.”

He looked amused. “Your body needs them. But you chose to give them control of your body, yes? We will fix that, together.”

Oh hell no. I was unfixable. “Adri, I don’t think…”

She interrupted me. “Elena, you don’t respect your own life. You don’t love it like I do. You need this.”

I looked at ‘this’ and narrowed my eyes. “Why should I trust a man?”

He feigned disappointment before saying lazily, “I am not just a man. I am Russian and I would never hurt a woman, milaya. Look at your own sister, she is happy, yes?”

I moved to Adri’s side. “Are you sure?” I asked. If this was what she wanted, I would try, for her. Eventually I would try for me, but right now, just giving Adri some peace was reason enough.

“Yes, Elena.”

Shit… I was leaving with the blue-eyed demon that was doing a favor for Adri’s future husband. Her big Russian that wore his dirty-blonde hair back in a ponytail and hid his tats behind a silk shirt and fine wool suit. He was big money. I wondered if Adri had any idea that Eric was probably working for him somewhere down the line.

Maybe.

Maybe he was just a rich guy that hid his youthful indiscretions under long sleeves. He still looked like he’d kill me if that’s what Adri preferred. That’s two men in one room that I was sure could take my life and make my body disappear. I mentally rolled my eyes because if they killed me, they’d be doing me a favor. If Joseph cured me, he’d be doing me a favor. At this point I had nothing to lose and nothing to fear.

I turned to say goodbye to my mom. I wiped the tears from my face and dried my hands on her blanket before holding her hand. I hadn’t cried this much in months. I leaned down, kissed her forehead, and whispered in her ear.

“Through everything, I loved you. I never blamed you. You have done nothing that should be forgiven, but if it makes you feel better, I forgive you. Let go, Mom. Be free.”

 

No man was worth it. I reminded myself. Tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe two daily affirmations were in order until I had my shit together.

Although, yesterday I was handcuffed and brought to the police station for questioning and today I was straddling a crotch rocket and gripping the sweatshirt of a seriously sexy guy. Still, my circumstances were not improving.

Just the hotness of the guys.

But… no man was worth it.

Celibacy would be tough, but not as bad as dealing with the betrayal when the asshole burned me.  My hands balled fistfuls of sweatshirt as he turned the corner, my arms tightening against the hard body.

Why did he have to be attractive? The man barely said twenty words to me before I found myself on the back of his bike and heading toward my personal hell, also known as my childhood home. Twelve hours ago I’d been sipping coffee at the kitchen table and making my now ex-boyfriend bacon and eggs. He’d been cooking meth in the garage and storing weapons. My ostrich-behavior nearly cost me my freedom, fortunately the police believed I was… dare I say, stupid? I was betrayed. The police knocked on the front door and my ex did a rabbit out the back.

Now, I was bound to a man by a promise I made my sister. The blue-eyed demon would heal my pain, or at the very least kill my addiction.

I gripped the sweatshirt tighter as we took the last turn toward the house. I didn’t want to go back. If a house could express an emotion, ours would feel desperation. Even the linoleum and carpet didn’t want to be there anymore, curling at the edges, fraying and thinning, leaving the place one molecule at a time. The walls had been witness to so much violence growing up, it yellowed their hues. The floors had embraced my mother’s broken body countless time; the carpet muffled my screams.

I’d rather never return. I reminded myself to breathe; to release the tension in my hands; my father was dead and ghosts weren’t real.

Joseph pulled the motorcycle to the curb in front of the house and cut the engine. I scrambled off, not wanting to touch him any longer than necessary. A guy that hot would burn me later. They all did.

Two vans sat in the driveway, one was a police van, probably still collecting evidence from my ex’s, Eric, hobbies in my garage. The second was a cleaning services specializing in industrial hazard.

I snorted. What they really needed was a gallon of gasoline and a match.

Joseph pulled the sweatshirt hood off revealing a perfectly shaped head with closely cropped dark hair. His eyebrows, two dark slashes, framed his amazing blue eyes. They were unreal in intensity, much like the man. His tattooed hand flexed, motioning for me to follow him.

“You grew up in this house?” he asked.

“Yes.”

He walked up on to the porch and waited for me to pull the keys out of my pocket. He took them from me and opened the front door. He walked through the doorway and I tried to look at the house through his eyes.

It was tired, worn, and looked as if it had been shaken and set back down, the contents had shifted…

He grunted. “The police were thorough. Don’t worry, I’ll have a team come in to clean it.”

“I can’t afford that,” I muttered.

He looked at me, one eyebrow raised skeptically. “Your future brother-in-law will pay for it.”

I winced at the mention of Adri’s fiancé. I stood, hands on hips, narrowed eyes and asked, “How long have they been engaged?”

Adri told me it happened last night… while I was in jail. Part of me was hurt that she could just move on with her life when everything else was turning to shit.

Most of me was relieved that she found something good. I hoped like hell it was good. If it wasn’t I’d add murder to my growing list of indiscretions.

Joseph looked at me curiously. “I don’t know. Why does it bother you?”

I shrugged; ignored the question and asked another. “What does he do?”

“Business. He owns a restaurant and has interests in other businesses. You are the older sister?”

I rolled my eyes. “No.”

“You are protective,” he drawled with a Russian accent.

“She’s my sister.” I straightened the cushions on the couch, folded the blanket and tossed it over the back. “She just met Alexei and now they’re getting married. It’s not like Adrianna.”

I looked up and saw he was now leaning against the wall, arms crossed, just watching me. I wished I could disappear.

I pushed the reclining chair back in place and moved the coffee table to its rightful spot. I snorted, wishing my life was this easy to fix. Dust off, put back in place, and all was well.

“When did you start smoking pot?”

I met his steely gaze and said evenly, “The day I figured out that making an effort didn’t matter.”

“What happened on that day?”

I rolled my eyes and moved down the hall toward my bedroom. He grabbed my arm, preventing me from leaving.

“Milaya, you will answer my questions.”

“Why?”

He moved quickly, my back pushed against the wall in an instant, his hand wrapped around the back of my head cushioning it against what could have been a teeth-rattling maneuver. Instead, I found myself inside his space. His body heat mingling with mine. His expression was patient, his face almost angelic.

A fallen angel…

“Milaya, you have spent the last few months taunting death. If you want to heal you have to do the work. Answering questions is part of the work.”

“And if I don’t answer your questions?”

He narrowed his eyes and pushed off the wall and I felt isolated. He spoke plainly, “You will answer only to the drugs, you may find yourself working as a prostitute, until you overdose either accidentally or purposefully.”

I nodded. “That sounds about right. Although, I planned on snorkeling carbon monoxide before prostitution. Unfortunately, my car was repossessed a few months ago.”

He stepped closer, his expression softening as he said,  “Suicidal ideation.”

“Wow, that sounds so sexy with your accent,” I said lightly and slid sideways past him and scurried down that hall. He followed me closely and stopped at the doorway to my room.

“You can bring one backpack with your things. Everything else stays here until you earn more.”

“What?”

He leaned against the doorway and said patiently, “I will search all the items you pack. I don’t trust you.”

I cocked my head to the side and muttered, “Surprisingly, even that sounds a little sexy with your accent.”

He smirked, “Make sure you bring clothes to work out in.”

I pulled a tiny scrap of lace and satin out of my drawer. “Something like this?”

He pushed off the doorway and stalked over to me. “You are wasting my time.” He pulled the drawer open and grabbed three bras and two sport bras, and a handful of panties. “Give me a backpack.”

I went to the closet and pulled out my old backpack. He unzipped it and dumped the contents on to the bed. My old physics lab book fell out along with my notes. He leafed through them before stacking them neatly together and placing them on my bedside table. He opened the front pocket and looked inside before turning the backpack over and spilling the pens, pencils and highlighters onto my bedspread. He held the backpack up to his nose and sniffed.

“You smoked pot in high school.” He looked over at me. “When did you start?”

“My senior year,” I answered with my back to him. I tossed some t-shirts, two pairs of jogging shorts, sweats and jeans on to the bed.

He stuffed everything into my backpack and opened my closet doors. He pushed the clothes around, searched the top shelf, the shoes on the bottom and found nothing.

I said dryly, “It’s my house. I didn’t have to hide drugs.”

He nodded. “Get your brush.”

The backpack was full, and I hoped he wasn’t serious about his threat. I grabbed my massive bottles of shampoo and conditioner, my razor, deodorant, brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, and makeup bag.

He picked up my brush, toothbrush, toothpaste and put them in the back pack.

“Let’s go.”

“Oh, hell no.” I scooped up the remaining items and he shook his head.

“They won’t fit. You get one bag.”

“You’re kind of a jerk,” I muttered.

He grinned. “That sounds sexy with your accent.”

Dammit. I put the things down and handed him the deodorant and razor. He took them and slipped them into the front pocket.

“How long is this going to take?” I asked as he led me back outside. He locked the door.

“That’s up to you.”

“Well, then…”

He interrupted me, “When you no longer want the drugs. Not when you think you are done, milaya. Put this on.” He helped me slip the backpack on and swung his long leg over the bike.

He held his hand out and I looked down the street. An old Toyota Tercel was parked down the block. I recognized the car. The driver, I didn’t know his name, but I knew he did business with Eric.

I got on behind Joseph and hoped the police found Eric before the Tercel driver. Joseph handed me a helmet and I squished it down over my ears. Joseph started the bike and my hands immediately wrapped around his waist. I leaned my head against his back and hoped to hell my fallen angel wouldn’t send me home anytime soon.

Tomorrow would be a better day. I called bullshit.

Chapter Three

No man was worth it. I reminded myself. Tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe two daily affirmations were in order until I had my shit together.

Although, yesterday I was handcuffed and brought to the police station for questioning and today I was straddling a crotch rocket and gripping the sweatshirt of a seriously sexy guy. Still, my circumstances were not improving.

Just the hotness of the guys.

But… no man was worth it.

Celibacy would be tough, but not as bad as dealing with the betrayal when the asshole burned me.  My hands balled fistfuls of sweatshirt as he turned the corner, my arms tightening against the hard body.

Why did he have to be attractive? The man barely said twenty words to me before I found myself on the back of his bike and heading toward my personal hell, also known as my childhood home. Twelve hours ago I’d been sipping coffee at the kitchen table and making my now ex-boyfriend bacon and eggs. He’d been cooking meth in the garage and storing weapons. My ostrich-behavior nearly cost me my freedom, fortunately the police believed I was… dare I say, stupid? I was betrayed.

Now, I was bound to a man by a promise I made my sister. The blue-eyed demon would heal my addiction.

I gripped the sweatshirt tighter as we took the last turn toward the house. I didn’t want to go back. If a house could express an emotion, ours would feel desperation. Even the linoleum and carpet didn’t want to be there anymore, curling at the edges, fraying and thinning, leaving the place one molecule at a time. The walls had been witness to so much violence growing up, it yellowed their hues. The floors had embraced my mother’s broken body countless time; the carpet muffled my screams.

I’d rather never return. I reminded myself to breathe; to release the tension in my hands; my father was dead and ghosts weren’t real.

Joseph pulled the motorcycle to the curb in front of the house and cut the engine. I scrambled off, not wanting to touch him any longer than necessary. A guy that hot would burn me later. They all did.

Two vans sat in the driveway, one was a police van, probably still collecting evidence from my ex’s, Eric, hobbies in my garage. The second was a cleaning services specializing in industrial hazard.

I snorted. What they really needed was a gallon of gasoline and a match.

Joseph pulled the sweatshirt hood off revealing a perfectly shaped head with closely cropped dark hair. His eyebrows, two dark slashes, framed his amazing blue eyes. They were unreal in intensity, much like the man. His tattooed hand flexed, motioning for me to follow him.

“You grew up in this house?” he asked.

“Yes.”

He walked up on to the porch and waited for me to pull the keys out of my pocket. He took them from me and opened the front door. He walked through the doorway and I tried to look at the house through his eyes.

It was tired, worn, and looked as if it had been shaken and set back down, the contents had shifted…

He grunted. “The police were thorough. Don’t worry, I’ll have a team come in to clean it.”

“I can’t afford that,” I muttered.

He looked at me, one eyebrow raised skeptically. “Your future brother-in-law will pay for it.”

I winced at the mention of Adri’s fiancé. I stood, hands on hips, narrowed eyes and asked, “How long have they been engaged?”

Adri told me it happened last night… while I was in jail. Part of me was hurt that she could just move on with her life when everything else was turning to shit.

Most of me was relieved that she found something good. I hoped like hell it was good. If it wasn’t I’d add murder to my growing list of indiscretions.

Joseph looked at me curiously. “I don’t know. Why does it bother you?”

I shrugged; ignored the question and asked another. “What does he do?”

“Business. He owns a restaurant and has interests in other businesses. You are the older sister?”

I rolled my eyes. “No.”

“You are protective,” he drawled with a Russian accent.

“She’s my sister.” I straightened the cushions on the couch, folded the blanket and tossed it over the back. “She just met Alexei and now they’re getting married. It’s not like Adrianna.”

I looked up and saw he was now leaning against the wall, arms crossed, just watching me. I wished I could disappear.

I pushed the reclining chair back in place and moved the coffee table to its rightful spot. I snorted, wishing my life was this easy to fix. Dust off, put back in place, and all was well.

“When did you start smoking pot?”

I met his steely gaze and said evenly, “The day I figured out that making an effort didn’t matter.”

“What happened on that day?”

I rolled my eyes and moved down the hall toward my bedroom. He grabbed my arm, preventing me from leaving.

“Milaya, you will answer my questions.”

“Why?”

He moved quickly, my back pushed against the wall in an instant, his hand wrapped around the back of my head cushioning it against what could have been a teeth-rattling maneuver. Instead, I found myself inside his space. His body heat mingling with mine. His expression was patient, his face almost angelic.

A fallen angel…

“Milaya, you have spent the last few months taunting death. If you want to heal you have to do the work. Answering questions is part of the work.”

“And if I don’t answer your questions?”

He narrowed his eyes and pushed off the wall and I felt isolated. He spoke plainly, “You will answer only to the drugs, you may find yourself working as a prostitute, until you overdose either accidentally or purposefully.”

I nodded. “That sounds about right. Although, I planned on snorkeling carbon monoxide before prostitution. Unfortunately, my car was repossessed a few months ago.”

He leaned closer, his expression softening as he said,  “Suicidal ideation.”

“Wow, that sounds so sexy with your accent,” I said lightly and slid sideways past him and scurried down that hall. He followed me closely and stopped at the doorway to my room.

“You can bring one backpack with your things. Everything else stays here until you earn more.”

“What?”

He leaned against the doorway and said patiently, “I will search all the items you pack. I don’t trust you.”

I cocked my head to the side and muttered, “Surprisingly, even that sounds a little sexy with your accent.”

He smirked. “Make sure you bring clothes to work out in.”

I pulled a tiny scrap of lace and satin out of my drawer. “Something like this?”

He pushed off the doorway and stalked over to me. “Don’t waste my time.” He pulled the drawer open and grabbed three bras and two sport bras, and a handful of panties. “Give me a backpack.”

I went to the closet and pulled out my old backpack. He unzipped it and dumped the contents on to the bed. My old physics lab book fell out along with my notes. He leafed through them before stacking them neatly together and placing them on my bedside table. He opened the front pocket and looked inside before turning the backpack over and spilling the pens, pencils and highlighters onto my bedspread. He held the backpack up to his nose and sniffed.

“You smoked pot in high school.” He looked over at me. “When did you start?”

“My senior year,” I answered with my back to him. I tossed some t-shirts, two pairs of jogging shorts, sweats and jeans on to the bed.

He stuffed everything into my backpack and opened my closet doors. He pushed the clothes around, searched the top shelf, the shoes on the bottom and found nothing.

I said dryly, “It’s my house. I didn’t have to hide drugs.”

He nodded. “Get your brush.”

The backpack was full, and I hoped he wasn’t serious about his threat. I grabbed my massive bottles of shampoo and conditioner, my razor, deodorant, brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, and makeup bag.

He picked up my brush, toothbrush, toothpaste and put them in the back pack.

“Let’s go.”

“Oh, hell no.” I scooped up the remaining items and he shook his head.

“They won’t fit. You get one bag.”

“You’re kind of a jerk,” I muttered.

He grinned. “That sounds sexy with your accent.”

Dammit. I put the things down and handed him the deodorant and razor. He took them and slipped them into the front pocket.

“How long is this going to take?” I asked as he led me back outside. He locked the door.

“That’s up to you.”

“Well, then…”

He interrupted me, “When you no longer want the drugs. Not when you think you are done, milaya. Put this on.” He helped me slip the backpack on and swung his long leg over the bike.

He held his hand out and I looked down the street. An old Toyota Tercel was parked down the block. I recognized the car. The driver, I didn’t know his name, but I knew he did business with Eric.

I got on behind Joseph and hoped the police found Eric before the Tercel driver. Joseph handed me a helmet and I squished it down over my ears. Joseph started the bike and my hands immediately wrapped around his waist. I leaned my head against his back and hoped to hell my fallen angel wouldn’t send me home anytime soon.

Tomorrow would be a better day. I called bullshit.

Return to Prospective Agents page.