Leap Of Faith
“Do you trust me?”
frowned, his eyes wide in shock. He looked at the young woman in front of him – from the kindness of her face to the fear evident in her eyes. She looked determined however and was undoubtedly true in her intentions, despite the absurdity of the situation. A car screeched in the distance and the three sets of eyes quickly snapped into the direction of the noise.
“This is insane,” added, shaking his head wearily. “If this is a setup, it’s fucking sick.”
“It’s not. Look, I know we just met, but I need you to trust me,” she spoke again, the urgency now clear in her voice.
“How can we trust you when we don’t even know your name?”
“I don’t know your names either, that’s not important,” she waved a hand dismissively as began to speak. They were used to being recognised, especially when there was more than one of the band together. The woman looked a similar age to them – she’d undoubtedly heard of their band, even if she didn’t know their names. He looked to quickly and they exchanged a look before turning back to her, nodding his head briefly.
“It seems we have no choice.”
“Thank you,” she said, relaxing slightly. Another noise in the distance seemed to encourage her to move quicker. “If you have any valuables, put them in here, fast.” Handing them a small waterproof bag, they placed their phones and wallets into the bag before strapped it around his body, sending a baffled look to . With their eyes still firmly on her, she pulled out three identical items from the bag, handing one to both of the men in front on them. “Put them in and follow me. You can both swim, right?”
nodded, perplexed, before putting the item in his mouth. It was small, similar in shape to a mouth guard but a bit bigger and had a small raised filter in the centre. He watched as did the same, before hurrying into the direction the woman had set off in. She turned her head a few times, before quickly lifting her jacket, retrieving a small black gun from the waistband of her running leggings. She stopped and turned, hearing them both splutter in shock. “It’s not for you – it’s to protect you – we still have a bit to go and with us on foot, our chances of getting out undetected are slim. You don’t know me, but believe me, this is not my first time in this situation. Keep in the breathers and follow me, please.”
and looked at each other once more, jumping as a gunshot was heard in the background. The young woman looked over her shoulder again and the plea in her eyes gave the courage to follow her. Besides, despite her apparent authority she was rather petite and if the worst came to the worst and she ended up not being as trustworthy as she professed to be, the two of them could easily overpower her. The same thought seemed to cross her mind and she stopped once more, pulling a second gun from her rucksack holding it out towards them. Both and stepped back and roughly removed the device from his mouth, his eyes widening in shock.
“What the hell?”
“I take it from your expressions neither of you have shot a gun before,” she smiled gently as they both nodded, aghast. “It’s easy, point and shoot – preferably not at me.” She raised an eyebrow elegantly at the looks of surprise on their faces, a small laugh escaping her lips. “They are not after you – you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and for that, I’m sorry. I dismissed your help earlier because I knew if they saw you with me, they’d think we were together. I had also planned on leaving via my car, which is now, unfortunately, too far away. So this is the plan,” she paused once more and focussed her eyes on the road, checking no one was coming. “You know Millar Point?” “The free dive cliff?” asked, nodding as he recognised the name.
“The very same – we are going there and we are going to jump off. This,” she stopped and indicated to her left wrist, to a small black band, “…this will act as a like a supercharged glow stick. You’ll be able to follow me through the water. We’re not swimming far, but it’s quicker to reach the location this way. Once we’re there, I’ll explain as much as I can. I know it’s hard to trust me – and I know this is a situation you will never have even dreamt of being in. But me giving you this gun hopefully shows you that I trust you, which I do. I pray you won’t need to use it, but if something happens to me that which leaves me unable to protect you, you’ll need something until you get to safety.”
“Who were those men?” said, reaching out to take the gun from her hand. He felt the weight as she let go, a small smile of thanks on her lips as he took it. Watching her expression change, he knew what her answer would be. “You can’t tell us, right?”
“It’s best if you don’t know. We need to leave, come on,” she turned away once more and began walking quickly towards the cliff edge, looking down apprehensively as she stepped over the barrier to a now closed path. Both men followed her, matching the careful route she took down the rocky path. looked over his shoulder to and they both expressed the same feelings; fear and complete confusion. They’d been on a run that morning along the coastal road when a young woman had run into their path, her knees bloodied and a bruise starting to appear on her cheek. He lip was bleeding and she was out of breath. They both stopped, asking her if she was alright, the fear on her face causing them to suspect someone was chasing her. She nodded quickly and a small cry escaped her mouth as a large man turned the corner. Luckily for her, he fell to the ground, but not before shooting a bullet in her direction, which just missed her thigh. She looked down and gasped, before her eyes met and ’s again. As they heard a commotion, she began to run once more, the two men following her, unsure whether it was for her, or their benefit.
stopped abruptly, noticing they had reached their destination. He watched as she carefully stepped around , her hands grasping his forearms as she moved past him, the drop below them evident to them all. Now standing in between them, she looked to them both in turn, nodding at them before taking a deep breath. noticed the distress on her face and removed his breather quickly.
She turned to him and smiled weakly, shaking her head, causing her hair to bounce around her shoulders. He noticed her eyes and how they sparkled, despite the clear anxiety she had. “Water. Put it back in.”
He chuckled gently at her bossiness, noticing did the same. He watched her quickly put her own breather in into her mouth, turning to check he’d done the same. She then slipped the gun back into rucksack and signalling for to do the same. She quickly looked upwards checking no one was following them before looking out to the ocean, her brow furrowed. Looking at the expression on her face once more and regardless of the trouble he knew it would undoubtedly lead him into, held out a hand to her. She looked at him questioningly, before taking it gratefully. He squeezed her hand comfortingly as the three of them stepped forwards and jumped into the crystal seas below.
Swimming behind her, watching the blue lights flash on her wrist made question again, what the hell was going on. As soon as they’d jumped into the water, her hand had released from him and their breathers had transformed into a face mask with a Perspex screen that folded out to cover their eyes sending a small blue hue over their faces, that somehow stopped any water from entering. Who was this woman that had stumbled into their path and convinced them to follow her into the great unknown? He had to admit, part of the reason why he had trusted and followed her was because he felt, bizarrely, like he had to help. There was something in her expressions, in her movements, that made think she needed protecting, helping, and although he and were possibly more of a hindrance than a help, here they found themselves, following this small, bossy woman through the Pacific Ocean to, well, who knew where she was taking them. felt grab his arm roughly, indicating that she had changed her direction. They swam over, watching as she ran her hands over a rock, evidently looking for something. She swam down a little deeper, indicating for them to follow. saw an opening in the cliff side, which was almost hidden from sight and then she gestured them over, pointing at first, indicating he enter the cliff side. He saw his friend hesitate, before he swam into the opening. swam a little closer, but before he could follow his friend, he felt her place her hand on his chest gently, indicating he needed to wait. Looking towards her, noticed the way her hair was floating around her face, giving her an ethereal halo – and the way she still had a seemingly permanent frown of concern on her pretty face. She left her hand there for a moment, clearly asking him to trust her once more and he nodded. She turned away and swam in after . Minutes that felt like hours later, she reappeared, beckoning over before she disappeared once more. Confusion washed over as he followed her, to a small circular space, barely big enough for two. Squeezing in next to her, their eyes locked together and felt his heart skip a beat at the look of intensity in her eyes, the stirrings of his claustrophobia disappearing. Reaching around him, causing her body to press against his, she placed her hand on the rock wall and watched as a blue light appeared scanning her hand. A second opening appeared and she pulled him gently into the second chamber as the rocks closed behind them. Before he had time to adjust to the darkness, he felt the water began to drain around them, a small light around their feet.
“You can take the mask off now.” He heard her speak, their bodies still impossibly close. It took a while but as took off the breather, he realised that they were in fact moving downwards. Feeling the space come to an abrupt stop, the rocks parted once more and was reunited with his friend.
“What is this place?” He asked, stepping towards , looking around the small room. It was circular and seemed to be made of metal.
“Give me a sec and you’ll find out.” Both men watched as she carefully squeezed the excess water from her hair, running her fingers quickly through the curling strands, before stepping into the centre of the room, lifting a hand to stop them from following. Stepping onto a circle engraved onto the floor, gasped lightly as she was surrounded once more by blue light. “Agent Harte, 0104; I am accompanied by two male two civilians, situation code 7741.”
She paused, waiting. “Welcome back Agent Harte; you are authorised to proceed,” a voice spoke. It was female, but was computerised and very welcoming – and as the sound filled the room, the vibrations of the voice could be felt through the floor.
She turned on the spot and beckoned both and towards her, as a set of doors opened behind her, revealing a corridor, with three doors on either side. A small laugh escaped her and grinned. She turned around once more and made her way through the doors and down into the corridor. As they stepped out of the scan chamber, the heavy doors closed and heard a large number of synchronised clicks as the door locked.
“They are reinforced steel, before you ask. Completely waterproof, bulletproof and bomb proof. Okay, so quick overview; that’s the med bay, general storage, armoury and garage, sleeping quarters, life pods and finally, the living area. You can explore later, we need to get to Comms now so I can inform my superiors of the situation.”
“As you say, Agent Harte,” smirked and she shook her head, smiling. They watched her remove her running shoes, lifting the bag from her shoulder, hanging it on one of the hooks that lined the wall. She also removed her black running jacket, causing both men to cry out at the large amount of blood that coloured her white t-shirt.
“When did you get hurt?” asked softly, stepping forwards and placing an arm on her shoulder. “Before I ran into you; I’ll sort it out once I’ve reported back.”
“I know I should and I will in a minute. Its fine, the bullet is stopping me from bleeding out too much.”
“The bullet?” asked, an air of panic edging his voice. She nodded and walked to the final set of doors, turning to her right into a room that took both and ’s nerves away. They grinned at each other as they entered a long room, which had a big glass wall at one end, which looked into the ocean. It had a slight tint to it, suggesting to that although they could see out, no one could see in. There were some sofas and beanbags, a massive television and a fuse ball table. Closer to them there was a small kitchen and a table, as well as a computer console that looked ridiculously complicated, which was where Agent Harte had gravitated too. She was typing away furiously, seemingly muttering to herself.
“Come here,” she held a hand out to the side and both men approached. She scanned her thumb and the wall lit up, a number of computer programmes opening up, including a video link to a very severe looking man, who was dressed in a very severe looking suit, his face serious. “This is Commander Lawrie – he’s in charge.”
“Gentleman, firstly I’d like to apologise for my Agent’s unbelievable incompetency which has led to the two of you being embroiled in this unfortunate scenario. I can assure you that this does not happen and we do not usually invite civilians into our safe houses. Please state your names so we can contact relevant people and set the ball into motion, preventing any damage before it happens.” “Erm,” started, turning his head as he heard the woman next to him cough, almost imperceptibly. The look on her face and the slight plead in her eyes gave him the impression that she didn’t like the Commander any more than he did. Although he had openly insulted her, it was clear that he could be trusted. “ .”
“And I’m .”
There was a small pause and the man’s eyes flicked to the side. He nodded briefly. “You are musicians, interesting. Okay Mr , Mr ; I will send some of our forces out to keep an eye on your friends and family. It is likely, due to Agent Harte’s mistake, that they have a positive ID on you both and will possibly go after your families to lure you back out. Agent, I trust you are capable enough to keep them safe until this matter is resolved?”
“Good. Try not to make any further mistakes. I’ll be in contact in due course.”
“Understood; thank you Commander.” The video ended and Agent Harte sighed heavily, her eyes dropping shut in frustration. The trio were silent for a second and a conversation using only facial expressions passed between and . placed his hand on her shoulder once more and her eyes opened in gratitude. smiled at her, placing a hand on her other shoulder, mimicking his friends move.
“For what it’s worth love, we don’t think you were incompetent at all.”
“Thanks guys,” she smiled weakly, before leading them out of the room.
“Um, ?” turned to face her, pulling the dry t-shirt down over his torso. After their conversation with the Commander, Agent Harte had shown them both to the sleeping quarters and had provided them with dry clothes. She’d disappeared, leaving them to discuss the absurdity of the situation they found themselves in. was now in the shower, leaving to think about the afternoon’s events. They’d discussed the ridiculousness of everything, both wondering whether it was an elaborate hoax after all. They had decided, eventually, that what was happening, however unbelievable, was in fact real. It felt strange, like they were detached, wandering around in a world that they knew nothing about, without any contact to the outside world.
nodded as their eyes met and he immediately realised the emotional and physical discomfort she was in. Her hand was resting on the doorframe and her brow was furrowed. He noticed a light sheen of sweat on her chest and how pale her face had turned. He saw her vulnerability and realised that even though she dismissed it earlier, the bullet was causing her a great deal of pain. “How are you with blood?”
“I’ll be fine.” He walked towards her, holding an arm out which she gratefully took, allowing him to lead her back down the corridor and to the Med Bay. He hadn’t been in this room yet and as the doors opened, the overwhelming medical smell greeted him, the room erupting into a harsh white light. There were three beds on either side of the room, accompanied by glass cabinets containing an array of medical equipment a selection of machines and diagnostic apparatus. Without hesitating, he lifted her into his arms, walking into the room to lay her gently on the nearest bed. “Let me see.” She lifted her top and inhaled heavily. Her stomach had started to bruise and there was a wound on her waist that had been hastily bandaged, the medical tape curling on the edges – obviously a result of the unexpected swim they had taken earlier. He shook his head and looked around the room, noticing a sink. He walked over and washed his hands carefully before heading back. He tenderly took of the bandage, the open wound taking his breath away. A fresh flow of blood began again and she supressed a cry, her hand lifting to grasp his arm tightly.
“,” he paused and smiled, receiving one in response from her. “What do I do? I can clean it up but we need to get the bullet out, right? I don’t want to hurt you; you’re clearly in enough pain as it is.”
She nodded. “I’ll talk you through it, but you need to do it. It’ll be messy and painful but I trust you and I need you. I can’t leave until I get the order and it’ll kill me unless you get it out soon.”
“Okay, but you need painkillers. Where are they?”
“You need to scan it first. That machine there,” she gestured towards a machine next to her. “Pick the paddle up and turn the machine on – when it glows green, hover it over the wound and an image will show on the screen. It will tell you if the bullet has ruptured any organs and it will help you see where it actually is.”
nodded, doing as she asked. The machine thankfully told them both that it had been a clean shot and the bullet hadn’t caused any serious internal damage. frowned as he saw ’s eyes drop closed, her breathing becoming more rapid. “I need to get you something for the pain, love,” spoke gently, watching as she nodded. He turned to the side, looking for something that would help with the excruciating pain she was in. “Erm…”
“Morphine will do the trick.”
Her voice came out strained and looked over to her once again, picking an already prepared syringe from the cupboard. He turned back, his heart beating wildly at the sight of the woman on the bed. Despite his nerves, he had never felt more focussed in his life. Without him, it was clear she’d die and that was not something he was willing to let happen. As he approached her, she held out an arm. Moving automatically with the knowledge gained only from watching hours of medical dramas whilst on tour, he inserted the syringe into her arm, pressing down to slowly release the medicine into her system. Watching her breathing slow a little, he turned his attention back to the wound. The scan had shown the bullet wasn’t far from the surface – a few inches at most. Removing it wasn’t what worried him; it was the pain it would cause that concerned him more than anything. She grasped his hand again and her eyes opened. The harsh lights made him realise, for the first time since meeting, how beautiful her eyes were. A myriad of shades of , speckled with gold and completely mesmerizing. He felt, in a different situation, that he could easily get lost in the depths of them – and he knew, from the expressions they held now, that despite her strength, her eyes would always give her away. They held so many emotions at the moment and were full of overwhelming trust – giving him the courage to continue on.
“, about the bullet,” he paused as she nodded, a glimmer of panic washing over her face. “How the hell do you plan on managing that pain?”
“I’ve had worse, .”
“That may be the case. But I’m sure you’ve never had a bullet pulled from your body by someone as scared as I right now,” he chuckled softly as she shrugged, the softness in the way she’d said his name repeating through his mind like a melody on replay. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“Go to that cupboard, there are some surgical kits in there. Clean the wound quickly, water will do. Using the tongs, gently push into the wound until you feel the bullet, secure it between the tongs, pull it out. Then, pad the wound, stop the blood. You can stitch or staple me; either will stop the blood until we get out of here. Bandage me up; hit me with more drugs, all the drugs preferably. Easy.” She stopped, her eyes dropping shut again, her grip on ’s hand intensifying a little. He noticed she was slurring her words slightly and knew he had to act quickly. The instructions she’d given him could not have been more terrifying if she had tried and he knew there was no way, regardless of how flippant she’d acted about the impending pain, that she wouldn’t be in complete and utter agony. Feeling like he needed his friend’s support, he released her hand quickly and shouted for ’s help.
woke to a faint beeping sound. She lifted a hand to her head gently, the pain rippling through her body. Looking down, she saw a small and very neat white bandage covering part of her waist – her bloodied t-shirt neatly tied to the side, a thin sheet covering the lower part of her body. She looked around, a curtain of green light surrounding the bed, before smiling as she realised had somehow managed to figure the life support out. The tidiness of the room also betrayed nothing of the complete panic it had been in hours before – only remembered ’s concerned eyes and ’s strong grasp on her shoulder’s before the excruciating pain had caused her to pass out.
Unsure of how long she’d been sleeping for, she sighed and carefully swung her legs from the bed, a wave of pain washing over her as she stood up. Feeling a chill come over her body, she took the sheet from the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders, before leaving the room. She stepped into the living area, a small giggle escaping her lips as she realised they’d found the stash of action movies. Both men were lounged on the sofas, feet up, a few mugs and empty plates on the table in front of them.
“What the hell are you doing?” ’s voice made her jump slightly. He frowned, putting the film on pause before turning to look at her, his movement mirrored by .
“I…” faltered slightly at the sternness of his voice, momentarily unsure of how to respond. She turned on her heel slightly; about to leave the room but ’s voice stopped her.
“Did we wake you?” asked, shooting a warning glance in ’s direction. He stood up quickly, striding across the room towards her, his hand reaching out. She took it and let him lead her across the room and onto the sofa. The tenderness in his movements – the way he arranged the cushions for her to lean on, the way he draped the blanket over her legs, the way his head tilted slightly as he spoke to her – making her smile. She was not used to being treated so softly, so delicately. When she was finally settled and the worried frown had left ’s face, she turned to look at .
“I can’t lie around just doing nothing.”
“You had a bullet removed by a wannabe surgeon. You passed out from the pain and have been asleep for almost fifteen hours. I hardly think that counts as doing nothing.”
Her eyes widened at the amount of time she’d been asleep for. “Still, I need to do something .”
“I get that , but won’t Commander Lawrie sort everything out?”
frowned, trying to find the right words to say about her Commander. Although it was a safe house and supposedly clean; she always had the feeling that it was bugged and did not want to risk saying anything bad about her superior that could be used against her in the future.
“I’m sure he has much more pressing matters-” she paused, hearing a small snort come from . She turned to look at him and shook her head. “Not here,” she mouthed to him and he nodded, smiling slightly. “As I was saying – regardless of my physical state I’m still expected to work. I can call some contacts, prepare the jet and plan my next moves. I have some intelligence to go through to; I need to get ready to leave at the shortest notice. None of that can happen if I’m lazing around.”
and looked to each other, grinning as they spoke at the same time. lifted his arm, indicating that could speak first, turning to grin at after noticing the look on his friends face.
“Yeah, the one in the garage,” shrugged nonchalantly, her eyebrows rising, amused at ’s obvious excitement. Despite ’s calm demeanour, she could feel the curiosity radiating off him too, as he sat next to her on the sofa.
“Oh, you mean in the locked room?”
“It’s locked for a reason. There are weapons in there – some pretty dangerous ones at that. We can’t allow any old madman to just saunter in.”
“Who you calling a madman?”
“You wanna see?” smiled, a small laugh escaping her lips as jumped to his feet. “Should I take that as a yes?” She looked to who chuckled, his eyes following his friend as he left the room hurriedly.
“I’d take it as a yes, .” He stood up, holding his arm out once more, for to take. He noticed her struggle and leant down, his hands resting gently on her sides, just above her waist, allowing her to put her weight on him as she lifted from the seat.
“Is he always like?” She smiled, walking next to . was at the end of the corridor, tapping his foot impatiently, a huge grin on his face. chuckled again giving her answer. As they approached , she lifted her hand to the pad on the wall and once more, a glow of blue light scanned her hand, before the door slid open, revealing a large room. She smiled again, hearing a loud gasp come from the two men at her sides. In front of them lay a sleek black jet, surrounded by an array of computers and closed cabinets. Both men stepped into the room, leaving on the threshold, watching them take everything in. They turned to each other, an expression of childlike excitement on both their faces as they pointed out various things around the room. Following them into the room, she typed a code into the nearest console, which made the cabinets lining the room light up, the doors turning clear to reveal an alarming yet impressive selection of weaponry, including a few scuba suits and uniforms. gasped again, walking over to the cupboards, his eyes widening. He turned to and shook his head incredulously.
“Can I ask a question?”
“Go ahead,” replied, turning to face – whose expression, although excited, was a little more confused than his friends. He clearly had questions.
“How does a jet work, when we’re and I’m guessing this, so correct me if I’m wrong, still underwater?”
“It’s clearly amphibious ,” cut in, nodding his head knowingly. He started to walk around the jet, nodding his head again at the various features and heard mutter indecipherably under his breath, causing her to giggle. He looked to her and grinned, languidly resting an arm around her shoulders. She let her head rest on his chest briefly, before hearing a deliberate cough come from ’s direction.
“Bloody hell guys – less canoodling and more explaining! Agent, if you don’t mind…?” He laughed as flipped him the finger and blushed gently, which went almost unnoticed. She sighed, trying to dismiss the smirk threw in their direction, before stepping from the warmth of ’s embrace to walk over to .
“Well, here, Mr , we have the AJH400 – which is a technologically advanced jet, adapted by our engineers back at base. It’s pretty cool, I won’t lie. It has loads of unique features – is fully loaded with a range of weapons, can fly at extremely high altitude and at extreme speeds, it has full cloaking technology which is particularly useful for stealth missions or for extraction or rescue, advanced navigation and communication and, as you clearly pointed out, , is capable of aerial and aqua combat. We also have a basic lab on board as well as advanced life support facilities – and four escape pods. There is also an incredibly intelligent computer system, which is tailored to each agent’s preferences and skills, so you are able to fly it regardless of whether you have an in depth knowledge of avionics. It’s a joy to fly, too.”
“And you can fly this?” asked, whistling lowly, turning to grin at once more.
She nodded, her eyes twinkling teasingly. “What, because I’m just a woman I can’t fly a jet?”
“I didn’t say that,” he chuckled, his expression full of mirth. “And besides, you’re not ‘just a woman’ – you’re the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting – and completely full of surprises.”
smiled – her eyes locking with , who raised his eyebrows, almost daring her to argue with his assessment of her. “That’s kind of you to say, . And yes, I have flown it. It’s our way out of here, so you’ll get to fly in it too, eventually.”
Hearing a cheer from , he turned to , holding his arm out for her. His expression changed once more and felt a slight magnetic pull as her body moved towards him, seemingly on its own. “Shall we get you changed into something warmer, ?” His voice was soft and there was a frown on his face as he looked down at her outfit. She still wore the ripped leggings and the blood stained torn t-shirt from the previous day’s events. and had both showered and had both changed into fresh clothes since then, but however, looked awful and in need of a proper shower and a change of clothes before she even thought about getting on with whatever she felt like she needed to do. “I can’t look at you in that shirt and not see you on that bed, your blood on my hands.”
looked down and nodded. The main reason she hadn’t changed yet was the feeling that taking her clothes off would cause her extreme discomfort. Although she would never tell and – mostly because the former of the two would worry for her immediately – she was in constant pain, not just from the bullet wound, but from the fight she’d had previously. She was pretty adept at hand to hand combat, but she received a beating from the men chasing her and the effects of their punches were only just starting to affect her.
“You don’t need to worry about me.”
“I know, but I am. I’ll help, if you need me to.”
looked at and nodded weakly. She knew resisting him was futile – he was far too kind and far too persuasive for her to disregard his offer of help. Besides, he had already had his hand inside her body, unfortunately in a far from pleasurable way, so seeing her in her underwear, seeing her bruised body should be a walk in the park for both of them. Sensing her acceptance, began to lead her out, pausing to call back to .
“I’m just gonna help , mate – don’t dick around with anything, yeah?” He laughed, hearing throw a string of colourful words in their direction. Exiting the room, he led her back down the corridor, a comfortable silence between them both.
Sighing as they reached the sleeping quarters, looked up to , knowing immediately, from the look on his face, that he knew what she was having an internal battle over. “This is embarrassing.”
“It is not embarrassing.”
laughed as she blushed slightly. “, I have seen many women, in varying stages of undress. You don’t need to be embarrassed – I know what I’m doing.”
She coughed indignantly. “Okay – I get it. You’ve helped hundreds of women out of their clothes – but I doubt very much you’ve seen women whose bodies are as messed up as mine.”
“I wouldn’t say hundreds, love,” he grinned again, squeezing her shoulder playfully. “And I promise you, a few cuts and bruises will not detract from your beauty,” he paused, smiling once more as turned to look at him, a small look of disbelief on her face as he openly flirted with her. liked her. He felt it was too soon to be developing serious romantic feelings towards a woman he knew very little about, but the experiences they’d shared so far, along with the warmth she emitted made him attracted to her. He couldn’t deny his feelings were based on her physical beauty too, which shone through her injuries like sunlight through the clouds; but it was her personality and her soul that were starting to work their way into his heart. Besides, a bit of shameless flirting never hurt anyone and he knew their blossoming friendship was one that she found comforting.
“Maybe I should ask …” spoke softly, awaking from his reverie. looked at her and she grinned. He sighed, amused, pressing the door release for the sleeping quarters, pushing her towards the bathroom.
“Clothes off Harte.”
“I…” stopped, a big frown appearing on her face. How do you ask – she thought to herself – a man you barely know, to remove your clothes without it sounding suggestive?
“Come on, I’ll close my eyes,” smiled, seemingly reading her mind. He walked over to her and pulled her into the adjacent bathroom carefully, shutting the door behind him.
hesitated, before standing in front of him. His face, although rather amused, also showed something else. There was kindness there, an overwhelming amount in fact, but it was marred by a flicker of something that made butterflies immediately flood her stomach. There was no denying was one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. He was also extremely kind and very easy going, with, she had learnt, a very sexy and very contagious laugh. There was his accent too, smooth and melodic, like music to her ears. He was easy to listen to but it was even easier to lose yourself in the dulcet tones of his voice. Sighing slightly, dismissed the ideas that entered her mind. She could not and would not allow anything to happen between them. There was no room in her life for love and there was no way she would jeopardise his wellbeing for the sake of her attraction to him. He probably had this debilitating effect on every woman he met – she was nothing special; he was just trying to make her feel comfortable in the most uncomfortable of situations. “Can you lift your arms?”
nodded, her arms rising upwards. Before they were in the air she winced, a small cry escaping her lips. sighed and stepped closer, his fingers grasping the fabric firmly. Using one of the rips that was already there, he tore the fabric quickly and pulled the shirt down of ’s arms, a smirk on his lips as she gasped at him.
“Done that before then?”
rolled his eyes, still smiling as he crouched down and pulled the running leggings down, his hand grasping around each of her slim calves in turn, helping her step out. His actions were quick and detached, edged with a gentle understanding of the situation. He stood up, placing a hand on her shoulder once more. Trying to ignore the bruises that coloured her body, he coughed, before speaking again. “Do you…” he paused, his eyes dropping downwards to her chest briefly, before he looked back at her. The bra she was wearing gave him only the smallest glimpse of what lay hidden underneath – as did her underwear. Both were black, with a slight edge of frilled lace – feminine and flirty but still, he assumed, comfortable enough to allow her to get up to whatever the hell gave her the bruises. As ’s eyes met hers once more, he noticed the insecurity and the worry. She shook her head, turning once more to step into the shower.
“I’ll be right outside if you need me – try not to get the bandage wet babe,” he watched as she nodded, a look of appreciation appearing on her pretty face. Leaving the room, he threw himself onto the nearest bed carelessly, closing his eyes wearily as he heard the water begin to run.
jolted awake, a pain flashing through her body and she supressed a sob. Carefully sitting up, her eyes searched through the dark for and , and she exhaled quietly seeing their bodies still. She swung her legs quickly out of the bed and gingerly exited the room, heading to the living area. As she entered the room, she noticed a green light flashing on the console and she frowned. Walking over to it, she tapped a few keys, bringing the system to life. Scanning her thumb as before, she waited for the video link to connect. A few beeps were heard, followed by a message telling her that her call was on hold. Using this as an opportunity, she wandered towards the kitchen, to get a drink. She flinched as she reached into the cupboard and then poured a glass of water for herself, swallowing two painkillers quickly.
She jumped, her heart pounding heavily in her chest as Commander Lawrie’s image appeared on the screen.
“Thank you for returning my call Agent. I assume you were asleep.”
“Did you sustain any injuries?”
“Nothing too serious Commander; bruising and a gunshot wound to the torso.”
He frowned, his expression changing. “You look well for it. Have you dealt with the wound?”
nodded. “, Mr removed the bullet for me and dressed the wound. It seems to be healing okay and I don’t have a fever or any symptoms to indicate infection.”
“Very well. Did or sustain any injuries?” He watched as she shook her head. He nodded and sat up in his chair, before looking down to his side and opening a file. “Agent, I wanted to speak to you earlier, as I have spoken to colleagues in London and it appears that there are no concerns at their end. You can tell and that they will be protected upon their return – by competent forces who will be working with their security detail. I assume you are now well enough to leave via the jet?”
“Yes Sir. I have one question though…”
“Very well, but make it brief. I have the Prime Minister’s office on the phone to discuss a lingering threat to her life.”
“Do you have any idea how they found me?”
Commander Lawrie’s expression softened for a second. “They are very intelligent men – despite your extreme skill, they will track you down again,” he paused and then continued once more, his usual tone returning. “Next time however, try not to make a stupid mistake. You put yourself in a difficult situation because you didn’t kill on sight.”
“You know very well I object to that. I will not shoot to kill unless I have no other option. Besides, I have questions; we have questions that need answering first. And we won’t get those answers if they are all dead. And even if I had killed those men, there would be a dozen more in their place. I don’t regret my actions – I only regret dragging and into this. We’ll keep them safe Sir, won’t we?”
“Your lack of faith in me is astounding, really. Of course we will keep them safe. That is our job. Now, go and get some sleep – you look exhausted.”
“Yes Sir. I’ll prepare the jet first thing in the morning, if that is suitable.”
“Affirmative; good night Agent.”
closed the link and sighed heavily. “Get some sleep, he said. Not bloody likely,” she muttered to herself, padding back to the window, letting her body drop onto a chair, wearily. Sleep was something that had eluded her for almost eighteen months, ever since her partner and Commander Lawrie’s nephew had been killed whilst they were on a mission. It wasn’t his death that haunted her; it was the immorality of the men who killed him that stopped her from sleeping. He was killed in a horrendous, painful, tortuous way, as she was forced to watch on helplessly. Vincent Lawrie was an outstanding agent, quick, resourceful, fair, brave, protective, and intelligent. He was one of their best, but he and had been assigned a case in Eastern Europe, codename ‘Hive,’ that, it transpired, was a bigger and more global problem then they could ever have foreseen. The leader of the elusive gang was still unknown, but he was as ruthless as his men and as soon as he realised Vincent and were close to discovering the location of one of their hideouts, he had put his forces to work. They’d both been kidnapped. had been beaten and abused whilst Vincent was chained to watch. The roles had swapped and he was killed in front of her eyes. Not long after his death, an extraction mission had saved her from their clutches and she’d been returned to England and hospitalised. She’d gone straight back to work, refusing another partner. Her work was peppered with other cases, with other missions, but it was this one that she continued to track, which was how she had ended up in LA, running into and .
. Her feelings towards him confused her and there was a great insecurity as to whether she’d noticed or imagined the feelings being reciprocated. Both men were charming, extremely attractive and very kind but it was who had left a lasting impression on her. There was something about him, his movements, his personality, his warmth – it was like a magnetic pull, one which she was helpless to resist. It was ridiculous really, to think that a relationship with this man would be possible – they lived lives worlds apart. He was easy going, fun, free, with a network of friends and family and a lifestyle that anyone would dream of. He was also a wonderful person, considerate, funny, intelligent, talented, caring and very gentle. ’s life was far from stable, it was complicated, lonely and dangerous and she would not allow herself to fall for the twinkling eyes and kind heart, only for him to be used against her in a horrible way.
Sighing heavily, she made her way back to the kitchen, placing her glass in the sink. As she reached the door, she hesitated – suddenly nervous to leave the solitude to return to the sleeping quarters. She knew the reminder of her night would be restless – she’d never been a good sleeper and her pain and discomfort would further add to her difficulty in falling to sleep. Just as she placed her hand on the door, it opened from the other side and she almost walked into a very shirtless and very sleepy .
“Whoa – watch out babe,” he smiled gently, lifting a hand to brush the hair from his face, the action causing the muscles on his torso to ripple slightly. ’s eyes dropped to his chest, the sight transfixing her to the spot. The shorts sat low on his waist, and his chest had a light covering of hair – which trailed down to his waist. She took a breath, moving her eyes back to ’s, where she found enjoyment at her awkwardness. “, are you okay?”
Dismissing his question, she stepped backwards, shaking her head. “Did I wake you up?”
“You did, but its fine. I’m just going to get a drink.”
nodded as he passed her and she remained in the doorway. She was undecided as to whether staying with him would help her and whether talking to him would help ease her discomfort about the whole situation she’d put them in. She turned around, her gaze falling on who stood leaning against the kitchen counter. He was watching her, his face showing concern and a hint of amusement. It was clear to him that his sudden presence had surprised her and he would be lying to himself if he said the only reason he’d got out of bed was to get some water. He’d heard her leave the room and had panicked slightly when she didn’t return straight away. He smiled kindly, placing the glass next to him, before crossing his arms over his chest. He couldn’t help but wonder how the woman in front of him found herself in such a world. How did she end up running from gun toting men, how did she end up with a safe house enclosed in a Californian cliff and how the hell did she manage all of this on her own. She looked so fragile standing opposite him; her hair falling in curls onto her shoulders, her face open and innocent. She was petite, with small hands and a slim body and he’d already seen parts of her form which captivated him – the swell of her breasts, the impossible smallness of her waist and the dimples at the bottom of her spine. She also seemed so innocent – and at times, so lost.
“So, how did you become a spy, then ?”
His question made her jump – his voice disturbing their silence. “I…” hesitated, unsure what to tell about her past. On the one hand he could be undercover. It was unlikely – he was a very famous musician, it would hardly be the most discrete of covers but it would be unexpected. On the other hand, she trusted him. He’d had at least two opportunities to kill her so far and had been nothing but kind.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I understand.”
“No – I do. I don’t really know how to start. No one has really asked me that before.”
He smiled and walked towards the sofa, gesturing for her to follow. He sat down and sat next to him, her posture so different from the casual way he had almost thrown himself onto the cushions. He grinned, obviously noticing it himself. “The beginning is a great place to start.”
rolled her eyes, seeing him grin back at her. “I don’t have any family. I grew up in foster care, moving from one family to the next – so I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I worked a lot of jobs from, well, as soon as I was old enough – so I never really had free time either but it was okay, because the more time I spent alone, the stronger I became. I hated my childhood, my teens. People say you make memories to last a lifetime, when you’re young, but that was never my experience. The minute I turned sixteen I left everything I knew behind and never looked back. I moved to London, got a job waitressing and enrolled at college. I started studying photography, which I loved. I met a few friends had a few relationships. When I was eighteen, I was walking home. It was dark and cold and in hindsight, a stupid, careless move, but I took a shortcut through a park. I heard voices and foolishly followed them. I didn’t get close, but saw enough. There were a few men, discussing something – something that sounded pretty terrifying. I didn’t stay long, I was too scared to, but as I turned, I brushed against a bush and they heard me. Long story short – they made me regret walking through that park. I woke up in hospital the next day, aching all over – covered in bruises with, the main pain, coming from between my legs. I couldn’t really remember it. I guess maybe I just blocked it out. Later that day – a man in a suit came to talk to me, allegedly from an organisation called Alpha. There was a policewoman too, which made me realise I could trust the man. It was Commander Lawrie. I gave him all the information I had and he gave me his card, making me promise to call him if I ever needed his help.”
stopped, looking to to let him take in what she’d said so far. His handsome face was arranged in a deep frown and he looked more than angry. sighed gently and placed a hand over his clenched fist. He looked down, his expression softening as he grasped her hand in his. “You were just a kid – I’m sorry you had to go through it all alone. Who looked after you after all of that?”
She shook her head. “I did. Like I said, I didn’t – I don’t have any one to look after me.”
let out a small growl, squeezing her hand gently. “But-”
“, its fine – I’m used to it. So, after that I just carried on. I went on to autopilot – get up, shower, go to college, come home, have dinner, go to bed. Repeat. I lost the motivation – I was petrified that it would happen again. I lost contact with my friends and eventually stopped going to college. I sold my camera in the end so I could afford my rent and started working ridiculously long hours. One night when I was in bed, there was a loud bang on my door. It was the middle of the night and I couldn’t sleep and the first thing I did was call Commander Lawrie. Calling the police did not even enter my mind. After a while, I heard a strange noise, a massive brawl and then there was silence. Honestly , the silence was just as terrifying as the noise. I got up and opened the door. He gave me a proposition and I took it. I found myself enrolled in training school – learning self-defence, weaponry skills, engineering, flying, survival, emergency first aid. I leant languages, techniques, secrets. I got thrown into the deep end but loved every minute of it. Although I was so out of my depth I found a family. I met people who had experienced horrors that made my own past look easy. Six years later, I’m still here. Still fighting, still enjoying being a part of something like Alpha, but still as utterly terrified as I was the day I started.”
“I – I… what the hell do I say about that, love?”
“You don’t need to say anything,” smiled at him, warmth washing over her as she looked up and saw the worry on his face. Sometime during their conversation he’d wrapped an arm around her shoulders and without realising, she’d leant against his chest, the vibrations as he spoke to her comforting her greatly.
“Don’t you ever get lonely?”
“Of course I do – I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Sometimes, mostly when I see couples out together or when I go home to an empty apartment, I wish I had some semblance of normality in my life – that I had somebody to welcome me with open arms. But I will not start a relationship with someone – I will not give myself that weakness. As soon as I let someone in, it becomes ammunition to use against me and I won’t risk that person getting hurt. I have some cruel people looking for me and I’d rather be alone than take the risk of them getting hurt.”
remained quiet for a long time. His eyes had dropped shut and his head was leaning on the cushion behind him. His breathing had slowed a little and his body was still and soft. He processed the information – his mind wandering to all the horrible situations she could find herself in – and how, if anything did happen, there would be no one to care for her, to protect her, to mourn her. It made him feel nauseous that this woman, this wonderful woman who he was enjoying getting to know, who clearly had an important and difficult job, could leave such a little impression on the world. He felt in a stab of pain in his chest at all the things she was missing out on in life, at all the experiences that were passing her by because she was putting the safety of others before her own happiness. They’d known each other for two days and already she was making an impression on his life, with her softness, her humility, her kindness and her bravery. She was completely beautiful, inside and out but didn’t know it because she hadn’t let anyone get close enough to her to realise, to tell her and to love her in the way she deserved.
Suddenly, he felt her move from his embrace. Before he could open his eyes, he felt her place a small kiss on his cheek as she got up, her hair tickling his chest as she leant over him. Without thinking, he placed his hands on her cheeks and pressed his lips against hers, swallowing the gasp that escaped her. He smiled against her, feeling her kiss him back, her lips impossibly soft against his. The kiss was tender and gentle and he pulled her back down on the sofa, his arms wrapping around her body as they pulled apart. Her face held a thousand questions and she touched her lips softly, a smile on them as he looked at her carefully, encouraging her to rest against him once more. Feeling her body relax, kissed her head, taking in the faint scent of flowers that emitted from her, closing his eyes as they shared a moment of intimacy.
He sighed softly, “I said you were an extraordinary woman, but I didn’t realise quite how extraordinary you are until now. I would like to get to know you better, , if you would let me.” A small whimper escaped her lips and her head moved to face him once more. He knew, before she even spoke what she was going to say. Her face said all he needed to know and he nodded gently. “Let’s get you back into bed love, you need to rest.”
“So she got naked for you?”
“Don’t be a dick – I said I helped her get changed,” rolled his eyes, taking a mouthful of tea. The evening before had left him in a state of confusion. After having her shower, had resisted ’s offer to help her fully change her clothes, but accepted him waiting in the room just in case she needed his help. It turned out that she did, as a painful cry had caused him to quickly turn to her, a feeling of panic washing over him as he faced her. She’d almost collapsed into him, as he approached her, the effort of attempting to do the clasp up on her bra causing her a lot of unexpected pain. He’d chuckled as she stood with her back to him and he hadn’t been able to resist teasing that this was the first time he’d put a woman’s bra back on. She laughed, her hands covering her blushing face at the situation. She’d led him dress her fully and help her into bed, where she fell, almost immediately to sleep.
“Same thing mate,” grinned, clapping on the shoulder roughly, the impact causing him to splutter into his drink. “Did you like what you saw?” They both laughed and shook his head, exasperated.
“I won’t lie to you, she’s a beautiful woman and I couldn’t help but let me eyes wander. Her body is fucked up though mate; whoever hurt her did a thorough job of it. There wasn’t really a part of her that wasn’t bruised,” grimaced, his mind wandering back to the bruises that covered her body. After their conversation in the kitchen, he’d felt a crushing amount of worry and had watched her sleep for a while before trying to fall back to sleep himself. When he did finally drop off, his sleep was restless and disturbed. He sighed, looking to once more. “Can we not discuss this though, I offered to help because she couldn’t do it herself and it was clear she didn’t want to ask. I don’t want her to think that I offered to help to get her into my bed.”
smirked. “But you do want her in your bed, yes?”
“I would appreciate it if you don’t continue, .” Both men turned quickly, their eyes focussing on , who had appeared in the room without them noticing her. She had her arms crossed delicately across her chest, an eyebrow raised. Her expression was difficult to read – there was something that neither of them could decipher. They both started to speak, stopping as she raised a hand to silence them. “It’s fine. I grew up and work almost completely around men – I’m used to the teasing. I also understand,” she looked to and smiled slightly, “that your offer of help was out of kindness. And I very much appreciate everything you have done for me.”
“,” tried again, stepping down off the kitchen stool, to make his way towards her.
“No, no. Look, I have some news. We can leave.” and both cheered simultaneously. smiled as they walked over and delicately pulled her in for a hug. “The even better news, , is that we’re leaving via jet.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
She laughed, shaking her head in disbelief. “I’m gonna miss your excitement, I truly am! Shall we get ready to leave?” Both men nodded and left the room to collect their few belongings. paused on the way past her, his hand lifting to gently stroke her cheek. He looked as though he was about to say something, before ’s voice pulled him away. Watching him leave, sighed, an overwhelming feeling of sadness enveloping her.
“Can I see you again, when everything is back to normal?”
frowned a little, torn between doing what her heart wanted and what her head wanted. The past days had taught her how wonderful was, how caring, how understanding, how considerate. His kiss the evening before had left her unable to sleep properly, his face appearing every time she closed her eyes.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea ,” she said, softly. “Thank you for everything, for saving my life, for trusting me, for making everything so much easier. And thank you for the kiss, it was…” she stopped as he coughed lightly, a small smirk on his lips. He raised his eyebrows and titled his head towards ’s superior, Commander Lawrie. He was chatting to and ’s security and although he was clearly concentrated on the conversation, did not want him to hear what was going to say.
“You don’t have to thank me; it should be us thanking you. Let me take you for dinner.”
“That would be inappropriate.”
“Okay. Can I take you for a coffee instead?”
“I can’t.” chuckled, his eyes twinkling in good humour and laughed in response, shaking her head. “I don’t think it’d be wise . We still don’t know where those men are; if we’re so much as pictured together in the same location they’ll use you to try and get to me and I will not risk that. You are not getting involved in this; I refuse to let you get involved in all of my madness.”
“That doesn’t scare me,” he added simply, sighing as he realised she was not backing down. It was clear she felt something between them too, or she would have stopped the kiss they’d shared the previous evening.
“It scares me.”
lifted his hand, gently brushing it across her cheek. “Email?”
smiled. “That I can do – give me yours and I’ll send you my encrypted address.”
“Finally!” He grinned mischievously, before opening his arms to her, “I’m not used to working this hard. Women normally say yes on the first try!”
She rolled her eyes and stepped into his welcome embrace, her eyes dropping shut as she inhaled his now familiar scent, the feeling of his arms around her comforting her. Breaking apart only to the sound of ’s voice, they turned to face the group of people around them.
“Mr , Mr . I have installed a few of our security agents around your homes and one will be joining each of your security details for the foreseeable future. It won’t be permanent, just until we can be sure you are safe. I won’t ask you to sign any confidentiality forms, I trust my Agent and she assures me of your discretion, which is enough for me. I would like to apologise for everything you have been through – it has assumedly been traumatic. Please accept my card – if you need anything give me a call and I will get someone to you within minutes.”
“Thank you Commander. It should be us thanking Agent Harte, really. She saved our lives,” nodded, smiling at kindly. She returned his smile in thanks, shaking her head dismissively.
“Well, I think you pulling that bullet from me is thanks enough.”
“Still, -” stopped immediately, noticing the anger that flashed onto the Commander’s face. realised that was not supposed to have told them her name and the fact that they knew could somehow put her in danger, as well as, he assumed, get her into trouble with her superiors. He looked to apologetically and noticed her brow was furrowed, a sight he had got more than used to, but that still concerned him. “Sorry, Agent Harte – you have our thanks anyway. Are you returning back to LA?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that, Mr . I will be leaving via the jet though – it’s not quite as luxurious as yours and I must admit, I’m slightly jealous of the champagne you’ll undoubtedly have on tap; but as you discovered, it is comfortable enough!”
“You can say that again!” grinned, laughing.
“Very well, we must depart. As I said gentlemen, contact me should you need me, whatever the time, whatever the place.”
“We will; thank you.”
looked to , feeling his gaze on her. She sent him a look, promising to stay in contact, before turning on her heel and leaving. As she rounded the corner, with regret, she allowed a single tear to roll down her cheek, brushing it away before stepping back into her jet, back into her world.