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Fall Into You: Chapter 44

Cole

She’s silent as I carry her through the house and up the stairs to the master, but every so often, she releases a soft, sad sigh.

I know she’s not aware she’s doing it, but it kills me all the same.

I should’ve stayed away. I should’ve been stronger. I should’ve known that whatever forces that led to her standing in my office doorway on her first day as my new assistant were dark and twisted because whatever Fate has in store for me, I’ve always known it’s bad.

There are no such thing as coincidences.

Shay was put in my path to remind me of everything I can never have. To remind me there’s a reason I stay away from people. A reason I don’t get close. A reason that’s bigger than my own selfish desires, no matter how strong those desires might be.

I made a vow that my life would be spent in service to something bigger than me. A vow I’ve kept for a long time. But she sat down at my table at the hotel bar weeks ago and smiled at me, and I’ve thought of nothing else since.

I want so badly to be the man she needs. But the only thing I can give her is uncertainty.

Like she said, she deserves better.

I carry her inside the master bathroom and set her down. I strip off her dress. As she uses the toilet, I turn on the shower and get the water to a nice temperature, then take her in my arms when she steps in.

We stand in silence together letting the warm water flow over our skin. Our heads bowed, our arms around each other, steam rising in billowing clouds that gently caress us…the moment feels holy.

That is, if I knew what holiness is.

Then she takes a breath and grabs a bar of soap from the niche in the wall. Holding it out to me, she smiles.

“Okay, cowboy. You got me pretty dirty. Better clean me up.”

And my heart breaks. It just fucking breaks. For her, for how brave and sweet and wonderful she is, and for me too, because no man should be given everything he’s ever wanted when what he wants is exactly what he can’t have.

I take the bar of soap from her hand, force a smile, and resolve that I won’t ruin our last hours together by being maudlin. “Yes, ma’am. Tell me where you want me to start.”

She goes up on her toes and kisses me.

I kiss her back, trying to pretend the mist in my eyes is from the shower.


After the shower, I dry her off and carry her into bed. She laughs at me, protesting that she knows how to walk, but I know this will be the last time I can do this, so I do.

I make love to her again. It’s different than before, softer, sweeter, and devastatingly powerful.

Probably because we both know it’s goodbye.

She falls asleep in my arms. I lie awake, watching the play of shadows on the ceiling, aching for all the moments we won’t get to share. I finally drift off to sleep, only to awaken with a jolt sometime later.

The room is dark and silent, but I sense someone watching from the shadows.

I listen hard, my ears and eyes open, my pulse jagged. My old friend paranoia has me questioning everything—the hum of the air conditioning, the creak of a floorboard, the rustle of a tree branch outside the window.

Then I hear a distant ringing and realize what woke me.

Careful not to disturb Shay, I rise and walk naked to the closet. I grab a pair of sweats from the dresser and pull them on in the dark. Then I head out of my bedroom and down the hallway to my office, where the cell phone on my desk continues to ring.

It’s the burner I use for business. The number to which only dangerous or desperate people have.

Yonige-ya.

A male voice with a British accent answers me. “You on your way?”

It’s Axel. I frown. “Way where?”

“We have a move tonight.”

Fuck. Not tonight, of all fucking nights.

“Since when?”

“Since Tuesday of last week. I sent you the package.” He pauses. “Don’t tell me you forgot.”

That’s exactly what happened, but I’m not about to admit that my attention has been otherwise occupied. “Got my dates mixed up.”

“You don’t get your dates mixed up.” Another short pause. “She with you?”

I can’t help the growl that rises in my throat. “None of your fucking business.”

He chuckles. “That’s a yes. Look at you, having a sleepover. I’d ask if you were out of your mind, but I already know the answer.”

“Fuck you, Axel.”

He doesn’t take offense. He knows it’s myself I’m frustrated with, not him.

“I love you too, bruv. I’ll send you the address again. You’ve got twenty minutes to get to Van Nuys. It’s gonna be tight.”

He disconnects, leaving me cursing.

Moving fast, I return to the bedroom and dress in the dark. My eyes have adjusted, so I can easily find what I need. I grab my briefcase, dash off a note for Shay in case she wakes up, and leave it on my pillow.

I stare at her silently as she sleeps for a moment. It’s almost impossible to leave her, but I must.

The 405 is unnaturally quiet tonight. One bit of luck. I speed down the freeway into the Valley, my foot jammed against the gas pedal, my mind sharp, and my hands steady.

I’m in go mode.

I’ve done this so many times before, it’s as automatic as breathing.

I park three blocks away and walk the rest of the distance. The streets are empty. The neighborhood is worn around the edges, mostly apartment buildings built after the last world war, strip malls with liquor stores and laundromats and the random fast food drive-through on a corner.

It’s not always like this. I’ve moved women from wealthy neighborhoods too. Money solves some problems but amplifies others.

A black Sprinter van with fake plates idles across the street from the four-story apartment building I’m headed to. Axel is behind the wheel. He spots me and gives me a thumbs-up.

Then I’m standing in front of apartment 2B, lightly knocking.

The woman who opens the door is slightly built, with frizzy brown hair and a chalky complexion. Her sweater is threadbare and her shoes are old too, but the purple bruise on her cheekbone is fresh. So is the cigarette burn on the back of her hand.

The little girl with the big brown eyes hiding behind her and clinging to her leg has bruises around her throat in the shape of fingers.

“Hello, Theresa. Are you ready?”

She nods, opening the door wider to let me in.

When I step inside, I smell cigarette smoke and stale beer. The living room is small but tidy. A single light burns in the hallway that leads past the kitchen. Down that hallway behind a closed door, a television blares.

Good. Ambient noise masks all kinds of nastiness.

Unless, of course, he starts screaming. Which they sometimes do. Then I’ll have to get creative. A crushing blow to the windpipe usually does the trick.

I close the door behind me and turn to Theresa, who’s chewing her thumbnail and hyperventilating. I keep my voice low and soothing because I know her nerves are shot.

“I’ll be out in less than five minutes. Then I’ll take you across the street to my associate who’s waiting. He has all your paperwork. IDs, passports, plane tickets. He’ll take you to the airport and get you on the flight. When you arrive in Vancouver, you’ll be met by another of my associates who’ll assist you from there.”

“How will I know how to find him?”

“It’s a she. Her name’s Kiyoko. And she’ll find you. Just stay inside the terminal. She’ll give you money and the keys to a car and your new apartment. You have my number if you need it.”

Theresa nods. She licks her lips, glances down the hallway, then looks back at me. Her eyes fierce, she whispers vehemently, “God bless you.”

Too late. The devil already did.

“Remember, you can never contact anyone you know again. Your life here is over. Theresa Davis and her daughter no longer exist.”

She nods, but I’m already turning away. I walk silently down the hallway, stop at the closed door, and remove my gloves from my briefcase.

Then I open the door and walk inside.

A sweating man in boxers is propped up on pillows in bed. He’s balding, shirtless, and overweight, eating potato chips from a small pile on his chest and smoking a cigarette. Empty beer cans litter the nightstand and floor next to him.

Not all abusers are such slobs. Like Dylan, most of them appear respectable. It’s one reason they get away with so much.

Good people don’t believe that evil can look pretty.

The man on the bed jerks upright and tries to hide his fear behind a snarl. “Who the fuck are you?”

I let him sit with that fear for a moment, just a small taste of the terror Theresa and her daughter have lived with for years. “A friend of your wife’s.”

I smile and close the door behind me.


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