NOTE: This chapter may contain content not appropriate for young viewers. (Okay, so it’s not a 50 shades kind of scene, but just so you know. You have been warned.)
Rory was hitting the final stretch of her three mile run the next day after school. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, and the heat was being kind though her loose shirt and running shorts already clung to her body because of the sweat.
Music blared from her headphones as she increased her speed for the final part of her workout, before slowing down to a trot, and then switching to walking, as she stretched her arms, then her legs, while her heart rate lowered its hurried pace.
And even after the grueling exercise, her mind was still a mess of unanswered questions. Like why had Owen lied to her? Why was he back? And why was everyone around her hinting that she was in imminent danger?
Twice last night, she’d noticed a police car cruising by her place, probably on Kyle’s orders, and then once this morning before heading to school.
Kyle had been texting her almost every hour, asking her if she needed anything.
What she needed was some peace and quiet to process what had happened Friday night.
Apart from his austere note, she’d heard nothing else from Owen. Still, either it was everyone else’s paranoia that was rubbing on her, but she was fairly certain someone was watching her. The whole concept infuriated her because she was sure she was drawing on everyone else’s concerns.
Still, what she couldn’t understand was if Owen had left her to become a thief, if he had betrayed his oath to serve and protect to change sides, why was he all of a sudden worried about her? He’d had two years to contact her, yet he’d stayed away.
And now he was worried about her?
Rory was about to cross the street to reach her apartment, when the feeling of being watched made the hairs on her back stand up in awareness and her body shiver. She turned around, trying to find the source of her discomfort, half expecting to see Owen watching her. However, there was nothing amiss around the other people walking their dogs, or pushing strollers around the park.
Then, fleetingly, she thought she caught someone’s eye, as that someone leaned next to a big oak tree, its foliage providing enough shade to shadow his features. It was a man, that much she could tell. There was something about the way he seemed fixated on her that had her going back to her awful experience in that abandoned alley.
Her sense of self-preservation kicked in and she started to run in the opposite direction of her apartment. She could still remember Owen’s constant safety pointers about never going home if followed, and always trying to focus on your surroundings and use them to your advantage.
When she managed to look over her shoulder, she felt panic swelling in her chest, as the mysterious man was doing the same, though at a slower pace, but he definitely was following her.
A car honked as she barely missed being run over. She continued to get away, panting, her already tired muscles sucking on her adrenalin to take her to safety.
She ran for three more blocks before she turned around and discovered no one was behind her. There was a small cafe in the corner and she trotted that way, asking if she could use their bathroom.
Once inside, she braced her hands on the tiny sink, then splashed water on her flushed face.
“Oh my God.” She muttered, and wanted nothing more than to hide here and call Kyle or Terry and have them come get her.
“No, I’m not a coward.” She spoke to her terrified self on the mirror and splashed some more water on her face, before pulling a paper towel and drying off. She thanked one of the waiters at the cafe and stepped outside. After walking a bit farther down and making sure she was not being followed, Rory began to make her way back to the park.
She was halfway down the park, when someone waved at her and ran in her direction. Fear gripped her tight and she was unable to move, but only stare with disbelief at the moving figure. It was a woman, not someone she knew, still, she gestured for her to wait for her.
“Hey, this guy asked me to give you this.”
The woman handed her a folder piece of paper. The stranger waited, as if expecting Rory to share the contents of the note with her. When Rory stared at the folded piece of paper, silent, the other woman shrugged and mumbled ‘good day’, then went back to join her friends sitting under the shade of another oak.
With trembling hands, she opened the piece of paper and her knees nearly gave away under her as she read the cold and dangerous words:
I’m watching you……
Balling her fist around the note, she took one last look around the park before she confirmed her pursuer was no longer in sight. She ran all the way back home and didn’t stop until she was in the kitchen, looking for the note Owen had left her last night. Without even thinking about the consequences of making this call, she pressed the numbers on her cell phone and waited two rings before someone asked on the other line.
“You said to call if…..”
“I’m on my way.” He didn’t let her finish and disconnected immediately.
Unable to just wait for him to show up, she showered in record time. She got dressed and was just getting ready to brew some tea to calm her nerves, when someone knocked on the other side of the door.
At first, the sound made her jump, startled, then someone said.
“Ror, open up, it’s me.”
It was the first time since calling him that she hesitated, wondering if maybe that hadn’t been such a good idea.
“Damn it, Rory, open this door.”
His angry command jolted her awake and she ran to unlock the door with shaky hands. The second she set her eyes on him, an avalanche of emotions, anger, fear, relief and outrage that she had had to call him for help were too much for her to swallow and she let out a loud sob and broke down in front of him.
He swore and rushed in closing the door gently behind him. He didn’t think, he simply picked her up in his arms and carried her through to the open door, into her small bedroom, and sat on the edge of the bed, his arms securing her to him, while she continued to cry.
That desperate sound broke his heart, for he’d been around that sound for far too long, and like when he heard the women Alexander sold, he felt helpless.
“God, Rory. This wasn’t supposed to happen. You were supposed to be safe.”
“Whaa…..”she tried to talk but emotion was still pouring out from her. She continued to sob before she regained her composure. At last she was able to ask.
“What is going on, Owen? Where have you been all these years?”
Without realizing it, she clung closer to him as she asked those questions, forgetting for a moment how he’d broken her heart and simply reveling in the feel of him with her. His scent, mixed with whatever his new life was, but with traces of the clean, woody scent of him that always drove her crazy with need.
Owen felt it too, and he swore under his breath before he took possession of her mouth, laying her on the bed, while he used his hands to touch and make sure she was okay.
There was no room for analyzing what her body was doing, which was the opposite of what a voice inside her mind yelled at her not to do. Rory simply couldn’t cling to that voice of reason, and only made sure Owen’s body pressed hers down to the mattress.
In seconds, she had taken off his shirt, and was fumbling with his jeans. He didn’t hesitate and had her naked in seconds, only to dive into her with fierce determination and a thirst that still hurt as much as only thinking about Rory could for these part two years.
“No, not now. Just……….don’t say anything.”
He groaned, for he could tell he’d hate himself for this later, and so would she. Especially when they had so many unresolved feelings standing in the room around them. However, it was like asking a famished man to say no to food placed in front of him. He was greedy, he knew that. A selfish bastard, but he had to taste that sweetness, that innocence and that determination that was Rory, if he was going to be able to go back to hell tonight.
He’d already earned a place there by choosing his job over her, by breaking her heart over duty, this would surely lock him up there for sure.
Owen’s hands took at the same time she offered, arching her back and racking her nails down his back. The second his body joined hers they both jolted, as if realization finally hit them.
They stood staring at each other, panting, before Rory’s tears began to fall again, and she began to move, as if by reaching that horizon of release, she could escape the pain that would ensue even faster.
“Ror…..” He needed her, needed to be inside her but just seeing her break down again was too much. When he made to pull away, she shook her head and said in a pained whisper.
“Don’t leave me.”
Christ, it was like someone was twisting his gut.
He matched her urgent rhythm until she cried out. He followed, groaning when she wrapped her legs around him urging him deeper, until he felt all of the tension, the shame, and the love he’d never stopped feeling for Rory pour out of him, before he collapsed on top of her.