A brief look into the life of a woman who keeps her secrets close but her heart open.
Will she ever find love again, or at least overcome the bitterness that past rejections have caused her?
She could have devoured him.
However, she was in a merciful mood and only snaked herself around him before kissing him hungrily - this boy toy she found in her bed when she awoke well after morning tide had come in.
If she remembered correctly, he was a local resident she must have snatched up from the dance club the previous night and she could see clearly why now. He was quite striking with his long, dark hair and crystalline blue eyes.
He glanced at the clock on her nightstand and suddenly broke away from her; he hopped out of bed, and began rummaging on the floor for his clothes. She jumped out after him, closing in, until she had him backed against her dresser.
Leaving so soon?
"Sorry gorgeous, but I have to go," he smiled with apology.
"And where must you go?" she pouted, putting her hand on his chest which kept him from escaping her sights. The strength she applied didn't go unnoticed either.
"I have work," he explained nervously, glancing at the clock again, “and I’m already five minutes late!”
She backed away with a fixed frown until she felt the edge of the bed behind her knees and slumped onto it with her arms crossed. She watched him dress and pull his hair back. He saw her frown and sighed before approaching her.
"I'll stop by later," he gave a small smile and brushed his hand through her hair but she didn't return the expression. He sighed again before kissing her on the top of her head and departing.
She hated it when they left, because they never came back. Men were made of broken promises.
She eventually made herself breakfast.
She eventually got dressed.
She eventually did some cleaning.
She eventually took her dog on a walk.
She eventually poured herself a glass of wine.
Then a second.
And a third.
It was after midnight by the time she was struggling to keep her eyes open, sitting on the floor where she had been waiting by the door when she resigned herself to the fact that he wasn't going to 'stop by later.'
Lyndsey Piper had never had much luck in the field of romance. It was hard to juggle any kind of prospects when her job demanded absolute secrecy. Not that the guy from yesterday knew anything about what she did for a living–he was decidedly, a one-time deal.
Thor, her dog, was cuddled up at her side as she slept in after staying up way too late, waiting for nothing.
Suddenly her doorbell rang followed by a series of obnoxious pounding sounds. Thor jumped up and started barking while Lyndsey grudgingly removed herself from her sleep to see who was bothering her on her day off.
There was a man in a suit jacket, holding out a coffee on the other side of the sliding glass door. She scowled and opened it.
, what the hell do you want?” she growled but took the coffee he offered nonetheless.
“You should really check your messages, Piper. Boss wants you to come in for an emergency briefing. There’s been a break in the Midas Investigation.”
That fact surprised her and she briefly let up on her scowl to show it.
“By the way, nice underwear,” her co-worker teased and her scowl returned ten-fold. She briefly considered pouring hot coffee onto his crisp, gray shirt but instead mumbled some incoherent expletives while retreating into her bedroom to get dressed.
Once she was gussied up with her hair pinned back and sporting her professional attire, she emerged and nodded to Palisade that she was ready to go. He was loitering around her kitchen, razzling up Thor for the fun of it.
"What changed?" she wondered as they walked toward Palisade’s vehicle. She took a quick sip of her coffee and appreciated that he ordered it how she preferred, with a pinch of cinnamon and vanilla.
“I’m sure we’ll know once we get to that briefing,” he quipped.
She threw an annoyed look over her shoulder, “Your sunglasses…are stupid.”
“You’re just mad because another idiot from the club jilted you and you spent all day drinking wine.”
She narrowed her eyes and Palisade shot her a knowing smile.
She wasn’t going to deny it.
She wasn’t going to confirm it either.
“There’s a rat in King Midas’s palace,” The SCIA director opened the briefing with a metaphor. Lyndsey barely contained rolling her eyes, not understanding why the woman couldn’t have just said outright that someone came forward to snitch on the rising syndicate leader.
‘King Midas’ was the moniker the man had come to be known as, on account that everything he seemed to touch made him extraordinarily wealthy. To anyone not paying attention, they could chalk it up to his luck at gambling but the SCIA’s internal teams had been following a string of busts on various prescription drugs and found evidence to suggest that product was being moved through King Midas’ public-facing company–and that was how he was making bank.
“So what evidence did they bring us?” Lyndsey blurted, just wanting to get on with it. Her boss took her question as initiative and smiled broadly.
“Since you’re such a go-getter, Agent Piper, I’m assigning you as head of this leg of the investigation and I’ll gladly tell you in my office. The rest of you are dismissed.”
She swore she heard Palisade snigger from behind her as the rest of the SCIA agents shuffled around and back to their daily tasks within the headquarters. Her boss motioned her inside the corner office and closed the door after her.
Lyndsey didn’t have time to put in her doubts being assigned as head of an investigation before the Director threw a file in front of her. She opened it to see a man’s picture—and his name on a page underneath: 'Theodore Zeitlebahn.’
“I hope you enjoyed your days off Agent Piper because you’re going to be working this guy until we have what we need to bring Midas down.”
“With all due respect Ma'am, how can I enjoy my days off if you make Palisade
interrupt me in the middle of them?”
Her boss turned around from where she was gazing out across the downtown skyline and frowned with slight perplexity, “I didn’t make Agent Palisade do anything. He volunteered to retrieve you since you weren’t answering my messages.”
Typical. Palisade seemed to relish making her life more annoying. Still, she hadn’t really enjoyed her days off–they were lonely. They just weren’t the same, and hadn’t been since the breakup. She shook her head to keep her heart from spiraling down into a dark pit of quicksand and focused back to her task at hand, at the photo in her hands.
“Tell me what you need from this guy and I’ll get him to talk.”
‘I am an elite operative. This will all go fine.’
Lyndsey reassured herself as she stood in a darkened parking lot, next to a phone booth, waiting for face-to-face contact with the snitch known as ‘Theodore Zeitlebahn.’ It didn’t escape her notice that the man was attractive in his picture and if they had any chemistry at all this whole investigation could be compromised.
“Hey Piper,” Palisade’s voice rang into her ear over the communication device.
He was a great deterrent for any kind of rising romantical notions she could have had. She didn’t understand as to why the director assigned him as Lyndsey’s second in the investigation. They hadn’t been paired together since they were lowly field agents and that mission ended up a disaster.
“Hey Piper,” he repeated. She clenched her jaw and kept silent, “Hey Pip—”
"Look at the sky.”
She tilted her head back and saw it blanketed with clouds and drenched in deep velvety blues. A moment later a speckle of stars emerged from the shroud. She smiled, but only a little.
Her gaze was ripped away from above by movement out of the corner of her eye. A tall man walking down the city sidewalk slowed and approached her cautiously.
“Agent Piper?’ he asked quietly, for confirmation.
“We should find somewhere private to talk,” Theodore Zeitlebahn gestured across the street to a 24-hour diner that didn’t seem to have a lot of patrons at the moment.
She thought the parking lot was private enough but two people loitering in a such a place at such an hour could arouse suspicion so she nodded and led the way. He smiled at her as she passed him and she decided then he had a very nice smile.
“Hey Piper,” Palisade repeated once more, this time his voice was low and serious.
“Yeah?” she whispered, because her informant wasn’t that far behind her and wasn’t aware she was wearing a wire.
She found herself oddly touched that he had said it. For all the times Palisade plucked her nerves as expertly as a musician on strings, in that instance, she didn’t feel that prick of annoyance. Typically, she would have been riled at such a sentiment because of course she would be careful—If she wasn’t, how could she have ever made it as an agent at the SCIA?
Theodore, or ‘Taz’ as he liked to be referred to as–proved to be much more than an informant. After their third meeting they casually went out on a coffee date to discuss things other than King Midas. After the fourth, she was invited to Taz’s apartment and things got a little too informal in terms of their working relationship. Luckily, she wasn’t wearing her wire that time and was saved from enduring lectures from Palisade about how it was ethically averse to be philandering with an SCIA informant.
Well, it wasn’t as bad as philandering with a fellow SCIA agent, that was for sure.
This went on for many weeks, she and Taz meeting up so she could gather intelligence, and exchange saliva until one evening when she was at his apartment. She was in the throes of an intense questioning-turned-make out session when she moaned a name. A name that wasn’t ‘Taz.’
His lips stopped what they were doing and asked, “Who’s Argon?”
“Does it matter?” she snapped out in breathless annoyance, grabbing Taz’s face to finish what they had started. Taz leaned his head back and denied her kiss, his brows folding into a frown and waiting for more of an explanation. Lyndsey rolled her eyes and let out a different caliber of moan, “I’m not with him.”
“But you’re hung up on him,” Taz stated with a raised brow.
“I’m not a SCIA agent, but even I can tell that’s some crappy cover up to the truth. I think maybe we should ice these little rendezvous until you sort yourself out,” he sighed and stood, forcing her to remove herself from his lap, “I’ll stay in touch, and let you know when I have more information regarding Midas.”
Lyndsey was dumbfounded at the abrupt change in Taz. She didn’t mean to hurt his feelings, and she was NOT ‘hung up’ on any other men! She actually liked Taz and felt a familiar sting of rejection as he opened the door to his bedroom and gestured for her to leave.
She grabbed her purse, put on her glasses, and stomped out–her anger rising, her heart breaking. Why? Why did she have to say that name? The heavy vice in her chest only grew as she drove aimlessly downtown as she realized Taz hadn’t been wrong.
She pulled into street parking next to an old brick building, marched in, and slammed her fist against one of the apartment doors. Her emotions were heightened, and she nearly fell as the door swung open. There stood Palisade, looking like he was getting ready for bed, and completely and utterly puzzled as to why she was there so late.
“Piper? What’s wrong?”
She fought back tears threatening to explode from her eyes by crumpling her face into Palisade’s shoulder. He didn’t rib her like she would have expected. Instead, she heard him let out a deep, concerned sigh and felt his arms wrap around her.
“I thought…” he said and hesitated, “…that I told you to be careful.”
Then it struck her that his words from a few weeks ago weren’t meant for her physical safety when she met Taz. Of course they weren’t—they both knew she could handle herself in a dangerous situation; it’s what they trained for. He had meant her to be careful in other matters she was not so good at.
“Why would you care if my heart gets broken?” she mumbled bitterly against his skin.
“Because I broke it first…”
Back when they were both rookies in the field–when Lyndsey wasn’t a train wreck of failed romances, there once was a blissful time spent with Argon Palisade, which now seemed like a distant dream; cuddling as they watched stars, waking up in his arms, stealing kisses in the elevator at headquarters, and simply being happy until he chose to walk away from what they had–all in favor of the job.
She tried to forget about it by drowning herself in a series of romances with fleeting satisfaction, yet hoping one would stick. He never got jealous, he never got angry, and she hated him for it. She hated that she had to see his stupid, handsome face every day at work which was like a band-aid being pulled off a wound over and over until it was just a numb ache of everyday life. She hated that she hated him because he was right to end it and that’s when her tears broke the barrier.
“…and I’ll always be sorry for it.”
He had never apologized before.
She took a shuddering breath and looked up into his pretty eyes, which usually danced with mischief but now were absolutely and entirely sincere, then he murmured, “Please forgive me, Lynds.”
She blinked a few times at hearing her old nickname instead of the impersonal use of her surname he’d taken to calling her since the breakup. It was a jolt of nostalgia that was simultaneously refreshing but painful. If there was any chance of them working well together and pulling off the rest of this mission, she had to let that resentment go and found herself willing to this time.
She took another breath, steadier yet, wiped at her eyes, and slipped out of his arms–stepping backward until she had her shoulders pressed against the door. She took one last, appreciative, look at his shirtless torso and bit her lip in a playful half smile, “I forgive you, Palisade–but if you tell anyone at work you saw me cry, I’ll have to kill you.”