Returning to my apartment that night left me feeling empty. The house was dark, cold and vacant. There were few things in life I really hated. Waiting in lines, airports, and going home alone were among the worst.
With a deep sigh that seemed to linger I flipped on the lights and made my way into the kitchen. Thought about calling that guy from last night...any guy from any night. But no, I was too worn out from everything the day had brought me. It seemed almost surreal to me, the whole thing. How I had come to be recruited for such a task. What unnerved me even more was that they had found me.
Usually whenever I got used to a place, that meant it was time to leave. When I learned all the places I might lose my keys, or when too many people knew which apartment number was mine. But now I knew I needed to stay. I was dedicated to a team, a team of outcasts brought together for a single cause.
I poured myself a glass of champagne, but I'd barely taken the first sip when there came a knock at my door. "Really?" I muttered aloud to myself. There wasnt a single person I could think of that I might want to see just then. And yet, whoever it was, at least I no longer would be alone.
Of all the people who came to mind, who might be awaiting me on the other side, this one had not been even the flicker of a thought. I pulled open the door and stared on with wide eyes as Matthew Geller stared right on back. Like it was totally in the ordinary for a complete stranger to be at my door.
"Um...hi," I said uncertainly. "How did you, uh-"
"Nevermind that," Matt said, cutting me off. "I wanted to talk to you."
"Ask for a phone number?" I asked, with just a bit of harshness in my tone. But still I stepped aside to let him in. The door fell shut behind us. "Want some champagne?"
I didnt bother to wait for a reply, returning to my own glass and pouring him one to match. When I handed it to him, Matt sipped it slowly. As if he was scared I'd poisoned it or something.
I couldnt help but watch him, taking in his very presence. Matt was older, probably in his thirties. His one eye was scanning, memorizing the surroundings. There was something about him that was almost enchanting. The way he carried himself just screamed out power, control. It was obvious to me, without even knowing the man, why he'd been chosen to lead us. He just seemed the sort who knew how to get things done.
"It's rude to stare," Matt noted, amusement streaking his voice. I very nearly choked on the sip of champagne I'd been taking.
"Sorry," I mumbled. "So, you wanted to talk?"
He was standing only across the island counter from me. Close enough that, were I to lean over, I might have been able to touch him. From here I could smell whatever cologne he wore, strong and dark and otherwise consuming.
"Yes," Matt said in a perfectly composed tone. "They chose all of us for a reason. I want to know why they picked you."
I recoiled, pulled away from him in all possible ways. "None of your business," I snapped. I could not deny the stabbing pain in my heart, the one I tried so hard to ignore.
Matt merely cocked his head to the side, sipped at his glass. "I may not know you, but I can tell when there is a drive, a fire in someone. I want to know I can count on you to be my back up in this whole thing."
"I wont back out, if that's what you mean." No. Valerie Hamilton was not a quitter.But I had tired of this conversation, of his infuriating presence. I wanted him to leave me be. Alone would be better than being trapped under his piercing gaze.
As if he could read my mind, he set his glass upon the counter and turned towards the door. "I should go." I nodded numbly, trailing behind him as he went. "I'll be seeing you," he said as he stepped out into the hall of my apartment building.
And just before I could shut the door, Matt spun around and, ever so lightly, planted a quick kiss on the corner of my lips. My hand flew up to the place where his mouth had been; I stood in a daze as he smiled down at me. And then he was gone, disappearing down the hall like he had never been there at all.