Midnight, finally the fun begins. While I was stuck here looking everywhere but at my date, I'd caught on to the robbery happening across the street. He was busy babbling as the two men seemed to be messing with the alarm system. They were dressed in all black, their hoodies covering their heads, and their sunglasses screaming hello to me. I’d been sitting there with my jacket on, ready to go, for the past thirty minutes, and all this guy wanted to do was talk about some company he'd acquired with all his extra-millionaire money. These two couldn’t have had better timing. If I had to sit there listening to Mr. Chatty for one more minute, I would die of boredom.
“Excuse me. I need to use the ladies room.” I grabbed my purse and got up.
“Yeah, yeah.” My date flashed a smile while I tried my best not to roll my eyes.
I walked out of the restaurant, not even giving Mr. Chatty a backward glance. My heels clicked against the pavement as I headed toward the jewelry store, and suddenly, I wished I was wearing something a little sluttier. I adjusted my black leather jacket and pulled my fitted red dress higher to show more leg. I knocked on the door and waited a beat, but none of the robbers answered. How rude. I yanked the door from its hinges and leaned it against the wall. I made my way in and found them at the back of the store. I looked at one man, whose mouth dropped wide open when he saw me.
I smiled, “Hey.”
“Looky, looky here,” the other man said, coming out from the office to my right. “Sweetheart, I don't know if you noticed but the store is closed.”
“Ah, yes, I noticed. The thing is, I was over there...” I pointed to the restaurant behind me, “with this blind date, David something or other, and he was talking my ear off when I noticed you two—ah, gentlemen—coming in here.”
“Are you a cop?” the first man asked as he reached for his gun.
“Do I look like a cop?” I pushed my hip sideways, trying to look some kind of interesting. “You guys will probably need a hostage if the cops show up, though, so I'm offering myself.” I reached for a necklace and put it on while checking myself out in the mirror that was conveniently placed on the counter. My new layered haircut really emphasized my caramel highlights and almond eyes. I like it.
“Is this a joke? The alarm is disarmed. We don’t need you. I mean, you’re hot, mamacita, but you’ve gotta be crazy,” the second man said.
“Well, no,” I answered as the men continued filling their bags with jewels, “but I am looking for some fun tonight, and you two look like you are up for it, know what I mean?” I bit my lips and started pulling down the zipper of my jacket. The two men came toward me like magnets, so I did what any respectable girl would do: I waited until they were close enough and then grabbed them by their necks, delighting in the sound of their heads colliding with each other. They dropped to the floor, unconscious. I proceeded to toss one man on top of the other and sit on them while I called my NYPD friends to come over. I didn’t bother tying them up, nor did I worry about them regaining consciousness. Even if they did, try as they may, they wouldn’t be able to stir one inch from under the whole five feet and 110lbs that was my body. Yeah, I’m special like that.
“Hey, Annie, so what happened with your date?” Beth asked me the next day at work.
“Nothing. It was quite boring until these two guys came into play.”
She gave me a wink, “Ah, you had yourself a threesome.”
“More like I ditched one for two, you know how I roll,” I said, grinning.
“I heard. Glad you got to kick some ass.”
I shrugged. “It was a simple robbery, nothing a little head banging couldn’t fix. They were at the right place at the right time to save me from Mr. Chatty.”
“Hey, there’s always Derek,” she said. “What? Don’t give me that look, you like him.”
“He is just a friend, Beth. Yes, we hang out and he’s nice, but he’s also our boss. Besides, I’m not interested in dating. I just want to go out there and use my hands to beat the crap out of assholes.”
“Okay, okay, I got it. You’d think a little vacation would have loosened you up a bit.”
“Well, I don’t see why it would. I just stayed home, watched the news, and cringed that I wasn’t able to help the whole time.”
“Of course you did,” she laughed. “I have to go, but I’ll call you later,” she said with a wave.
I made my way back to my office and worked on boring paperwork all morning. The bing on my computer screen alerted me to a message. The digital envelope took over the whole screen and opened up with its message: Ms. Fox and Mr. Cole, please report to duty immediately. I dumped the papers into my drawer and went to get my instructions.
I stood watch at Worldsafe, location confidential. I had gotten here through the portal controlled by my good buddy, Andrew Cole. He was suave like that. He could go wherever, whenever, all he needed to do was open his portal and walk right in. And if you were his friend, like me, you got to ride along. Worldsafe was considered the most secured location in the world to store your belongings: money, documents, nuclear formulas, urine. Whatever you thought would be dangerous for the outside world to find, you could keep it here. It was for rich people only. The leaders of the world probably kept all their illegal belongings here, along with their extra-marital kids' identities, and their countries’ secrets. I didn’t actually know the content of the safes, but as you can tell, I liked to guess. That’s not why I was there, though. I was there because my boss, Derek Lake, had sent me.
Security had been breached, and only Luminaries were cleared to work on the case.
So now here I was, standing with my back against the heavy, layered steel armory door. It stood at ten feet tall, six feet wide, and fourteen inches thick. It had combinations and keys, and it took two ex-marines to pull it open. It was the only entrance and exit to the vault. The surrounding walls were made of even stronger materials, I’d been told. It didn’t matter to me. The reflection was quite terrific, so I turned to adjust my lip gloss while one of the ex-marines shook his head in disbelief.
“Can you believe that?” he whispered to the other. He got a shrug in response, and I couldn’t help myself.
“Come on, big guy. At least I’m a change of scenery for you.” I gave him what I thought of as one of my best smiles in the spirit of keeping peace.
“You’re less than one third my size! Where is that guy that you came with? Or even the other girl? At least she’s taller and older.”
“Andrew is standing guard outside the building, and Beth is walking the lobby and not that it’s your business, but she and I are the same age.”
“You look like you just came out of high school.”
“I graduated years ago, but trust me, I’m the one you want here.”
“We don’t need anyone else here. We’ve been guarding Worldsafe for years, and nothing has ever happened. Besides, I can fit you in my pocket,” he laughed.
“You can try to put me in your pocket, dude, but you’d be sorry,” I challenged playfully.
“Oh yeah?” the other guy jumped in.
“You have no idea.” I walked over to them and raised my hands up to their chests. “Try to push me.”
I felt the pressure, but really? It felt like a joke. I gently nudged them, and they both fell backwards. “Satisfied?”
As they gawked at me, the screams from two levels up reached my ears. The lobby was under attack. I could hear the crashing sounds of glass breaking and the cacophonous sound of something blowing up. Right before the smell of burning wood hit my nostrils, one of the guys went to check out the corridor that led to us from the stairway. His partner started following protocol, which involved him opening the vault to lock himself inside. He entered the codes, and as I pulled the door open for him, the other guard’s body came flying towards us, landing at the feet of his partner.
The sizzling of fire in the air didn’t stop me from ushering the guard inside, but instead of following through, he lunged at me, catching me by surprise. I was trapped under him when I saw another figure run into the vault. Shit! The guard was choking me, his elbow on my neck, while the intruder ran after the safes. I pushed against the wall with my left leg and sent the guard blasting away from me in one swinging motion.
Coming to my feet, I ran into the vault and found myself at the bottom of what seemed like three floors. It was filled with storage units, all next to each other. It reminded me of prison cells, each of them with their own armored doors. I smelled more smoke coming from above, so I ran up the first set of stairs and let my nose guide me. I saw the figure trying to melt one of the armored doors, and I launched myself at him. He was ready for me, though, so I found myself thrown across the room like a ragdoll. I pretended to be injured as he approached me, and when he was close enough, I kicked his feet from under him and he fell, hitting his head on the concrete floor. I jumped on him and pinned his hands down just as he looked up at me.
And there he was, Nick Logan.
I stared at the face I'd once loved, now with a patch covering his left eye and scars running all the way down his jaw. They were almost hidden under his days-old beard and wild, dark hair. His deep hazel eye looked at me, empty, daring me to speak first. I punched him.
“What? No kiss?” he said. “It’s been years.”
“You cold-hearted murderer,” I said between clenched teeth.
“Annie, you are getting weaker.” He licked the blood splatter from his lips and gave me a half smile. “If you are going to kill me, darling, do it now,” he told me as he tried to push my hands. But we both knew any attempt to escape me would fail.
I knew what I had to do. Orders were clear… KILL ON CONTACT.
The thing is, it was Nick.
Before I knew what I was doing, I'd released my hold. He got up and rubbed his mouth.
“What did I tell you about giving second chances?”
“You won’t hurt me,” I said.
“Honey, you are so wrong! I wouldn’t even blink an eye, no pun intended,” he smiled. “Next time you won’t be so lucky. If you ever get the chance again, take it.” He shoved me down and gave me a hard kick in the ass. He started to leave but turned instead, his smile still plastered across his scarred face. “If you can.”
I watched him leave and took a deep breath. I had to give this some thought. I wondered if there was any excuse I could come up with that the Organization would believe. I was going to be in so much trouble. And it was possible they would even strip my abilities away. Although my job could be mentally exhausting, I knew that, deep down, I couldn’t give up what made me, me. I was a badass, I liked using my extensive training to bring down the bad guys of the world, and what had I just done? I'd let the worst of them walk away. I came into this Organization to serve a purpose, and I had never regretted it. Until now.
Nick had taken advantage of all the knowledge he’d gained when he was part of the Org. He was guilty of kidnapping, attacking government buildings, killing a lot of people, and was considered enemy number one for all Luminaries. But while I had no respect left for him, I couldn’t hate him. Not like the rest of them did. This was the man with whom I had exchanged wedding vows, the man who was once my whole world, and he had to be taken down. But he still had enough power over me that I'd let him go. Stupid heart. I never wanted to be one of those girls again, the ones who live for love or die for it. No, love no longer had any place in my empty chest.
The problem was, I'd found my heart staring at me through one eye, and I'd lost my shit.
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