“Drink this.” Kyle placed the glass of water on the table, before he sat down in front of her, a pad and a pen ready to write down her recollection of events. Even though he was off duty, Detective Kyle Dawson looked very much the cop he was. Despite his old sweats and faded Virginia P.D. T-shirt, Kyle was all business as he waited for Rory to walk him through her attack.
“I was just coming out from the bridal shop. I had an appointment. I was distracted, I didn’t hear him approach me.”
“You think you could describe the man who took you?”
“Evil. Deranged. He very much wanted to take me somewhere.”
“Tell me what he looked like, Ror. Take your time.”
She shut her eyes, and brought back the moments in the alley, forcing her stomach not to roll as fear made her nauseous all over again.
“He was tall, more than six feet. He had short cropped hair……..dark blond, I guess. His eyes………..God, Kyle, I have never seen such malice before.”
“What color were his eyes?”
She pressed her lips into a thin line, trying to bring back the image without letting it take a permanent residence in her head.
“Light brown. He also spoke with some sort of accent. I don’t know…….it’s all so confusing.”
Kyle finished writing down Rory’s description of the attacker, plus some other details about the incident, including the knife. Terry gasped, since she hadn’t told her that part before rushing back to the apartment she shared with Kyle.
She took the glass of water and took a long gulp, immediately wishing for something stronger. Water was only making her edgier, she needed something with more power to it, like whisky or hell, even tequila would do the trick.
“Okay. You know you have to go down to the station, make it official. I’ll give this to my captain, see if there have been similar incidents reported in the area.”
“Okay.” She placed the glass back down with shaking hands.
“Here, drink this instead.”
Terry placed a glass with three fingers of whisky, and Rory almost cried with relief. She gulped the contents fast, and thanked the clearing effect the alcohol had on her. Ever since driving back with Terry, she’d felt inside a bubble, everything blurry on the outside, muffled voices, unable to properly breathe.
“Thanks.” Rory said when she put the empty glass down.
“There’s more.” Terry put a hand on Kyle’s shoulder.
Rory wished she hadn’t told Terry what she told her back at the bridal shop, but it was too late to do anything about it now.
“It’s nothing. I was in shock.” She tried to dismiss it, but her voice shook.
“No, it isn’t. Rory, tell him.”
“What else happened, Ror?” Kyle kept calm, like he did with any other victim he interviewed down at the station, even if this was a more personal situation. Despite the fact his best friend and partner had walked out on her, he and Rory had developed a sort of big brother-little sister relationship.
Rory sighed, tired. She was more convinced now that her brain had played a very sick trick on her in that moment of utter panic. It’s not like she’d seen the other man clearly, she just heard his voice.
“Fine. It’s just….that second man that came into the alley. He……..he sounded a lot like…” Her eyes widened in fear and helplessness.
“Like who?” His fist clenched on his thigh. He knew he wasn’t going to sit still until he caught whoever had scared her like this.
“Like Owen.” She lowered her eyes and clasped her hands together, in anxiousness.
At Kyle’s prolonged silence, she braved one look at him, before feeling her heart go out to the very same man who had told her her dreams were over. Owen had not only left her at the altar, he had walked out on Kyle as well. His partner. Her ex fiancé had betrayed them both.
After being ditched at the altar, Rory had gone back to the apartment she’d shared with Owen, to try and talk to him. When she’d gotten there, it was as if he’d never been there in the first place. His things were gone, even his scent had been gone from the bed sheets. Almost as if he’d worked hard to erase any trace of him from her life. Desperate to disappear from her life.
Rory had then gone to the police station, a sorry sight in her white dress, her face red from anger, pain, disbelief. Owen’s Captain, Kyle’s current boss had looked at her with sorry eyes, and had explained Owen had quit unexpectedly, and had told him he wouldn’t be coming back.
After that, Rory had ceased looking for someone who hadn’t wanted to be found. She’d cried until she was dry, before she began to rebuild her life. If it hadn’t been for her students, her job, her family, she wouldn’t have made it in one piece. And she doubted the piece she’d managed to salvage was anywhere near healed.
“Owen?” It had been a long time since he’d heard that name out loud, especially coming from Rory. His gut clenched at the underlying hurt in her words.
“I know it’s stupid. And it wasn’t him. I’m sure. I was just…..I was just remembering things and I guess I just picked up on some random memory and placed his voice on that second man. That’s all.”
“Rory….” Terry started to go to her but she stood up and backed away from both her friends.
“Please. Let’s just drop it. Like I said, I was in shock. Still, am. All I need is to go back home, take a relaxing bath, some tea and I’ll be fine.” She grabbed her things. “Can I go by the station tomorrow?” Not that she was willing to dwell on something that had not happened, but she knew it would give Kyle some peace of mind.
“We can go stay with you.” Terry offered.
“No, it’s fine. I have work to do, papers to grade, a couple activities to plan for next week.”
Both Terry and Kyle looked at each other before Kyle nodded.
“I’ll drive you.”
Since she was still shaken up to walk back alone, she nodded.
They walked to the door and Terry said.
“You’re sure you don’t want to stay here?”
Rory managed to smile for the first time in the past hour, and shook her head.
“No. Besides, you do remember you’re staying at my parents’ next week right? Dad has a no boys in the room policy. I’m sure you’d want to spend some quality time with your fiancé before that.” Rory winked and Terry breathed in relief, glad to see her old friend back.
“I thought your dad liked me.” Kyle grinned, holding the door open for Rory.
“Oh, he does. He just doesn’t want you kissing his girl.”
Terry chuckled and waved as both her best friend and her man walked down the steps to Terry’s car.
“Be right back, babe.”
“Get her home safe.” And she blew them both a kiss before closing the door.
“I’m sorry about all this. I guess I should’ve gone directly to the station, get this over with. It’s your day off.” Rory glanced at Kyle’s profile, as he parked ten minutes later outside her apartment.
“I’m glad you didn’t. I’ll make sure either myself or someone nearly as good as yours truly, follows it through.”
Rory smiled and opened the passenger side door to get out. Ever since she’d first met Kyle, five years ago, he’d always been able to lighten the mood, to make her feel comfortable and at ease with him.
As they started up the steps to the front entrance, Kyle stayed back and said.
“I’m sorry, Rory.”
She turned around and looked down at him, frowning.
“This whole wedding deal. I’m sure it can’t be easy on you.”
A sudden spurt of anger swept over her and she came down two steps, close enough to jab a finger into his chest.
“Kyle Dawson, don’t. I’m not letting him ruin this. Not again. You didn’t walk away Kyle, he did.”
“I was his partner. I should’ve seen it coming. I should’ve….”
Rory took his face in her hands and leaned her forehead against his, like she did the first time he apologized for Owen’s sudden departure.
“You were there for me. As I’m going to be there for you, because there can be happily ever afters. If I for one second thought you’d hurt my friend, I’d make sure you wouldn’t be able to get close to her.”
Kyle breathed out as if in relief, then pulled back and smiled sheepishly before he hugged her tight.
“I’m so glad nothing happened today.”
“Yeah, me too.”
His face sobered and he reached behind his back.
“Here.” He looked around, made sure there was no neighbor snooping around, and placed the small gun on her palm.
“Whoah!” She actually jumped back, away from the gleaming piece of metal.
“Kyle, I don’t think this is necessary. I don’t know how……”
“Yes, you do. You have a permit. I taught you how to shoot. Your daddy did, too.”
“That was because he wanted me to scare away all potential suitors in college, and you knew Terry wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t tagged along. Besides, that permit has probably expired by now.”
“No, it hasn’t. Look, I’m not saying take it to school. Just keep it handy. Just in case. Give me some peace of mind, will you?”
Rory glanced back down at the gun, and wanted to shudder away from it. Instead, she put it inside her purse, vowing to put it away the second she entered her place. Kyle was right. She couldn’t take this thing to school, too many accidents and tragedies had occurred thanks to guns, she wasn’t about to add to them. Unless someone broke into her apartment, then she would have to trust that this city’s finest would be there to help her when she needed it.
“Okay. I’ll keep it handy.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Before he could go back to his car, she called out to him.
“Hey, promise you won’t tell my parents about this? I already made Terry promise over her Vera Wang dress. If my dad hears about this, he’ll want to hire the Secret Service to follow me around.”
Kyle chuckled. Then he dragged a hand through his hair, in obvious disapproval, but nodded in agreement.
“Thanks. See you later.”
Kyle drove away until Rory was safely inside her apartment, the light from the desk lamp facing the window, going on. Her signal that she’d made it safely back inside and all was calm and quiet inside.
It was a thing they had begun ever since Owen had left. For some reason, being on her own had made her feel vulnerable, even paranoid. Months after he’d left her, Rory could’ve sworn she was being watched, as if all the eyes of the world were glued on this poor naive woman who had not seen deceit and hurt coming at her. Which was why Kyle had insisted she retake shooting lessons, though she’d drown the line when he’d insisted she take krav maga to learn how to kick some ass.
Whenever he could, he would drive by her place and look out for the window lamp. If it was faint, then it meant she’d adjusted the intensity and she was out. If it was on full, she was in, safe and sound.
Rory knew they’d also been worried she would one day do something stupid, like swallow a bunch of pills or something more gruesome. It had taken a lot of convincing of her dad, her mom, Kyle and Terry that she was fine and no matter the nightmare she’d been living through, she would never resort to such drastic measures.
He saw Kyle drive away, fists clenched as he had witnessed the rather intimate hug between the two of them.
He too saw the window lamp go on full, and a shadow move from room to room, turning on lights, getting ready to settle for the night.
Did she still have a cup of tea while she graded papers? Or did she still stay up until late reading one of her romance novels?
Hell, did she think of him at all, like he did of her every minute of his day?
Owen Reynolds looked up from the cover of the trees on the street in front, at the woman he had to give up two years ago. The pain of walking away had been too much to bear, yet it had been the only solution at the time.
And now, all he’d done to keep her safe had been compromised this afternoon.