Word count: 678
Christian was just about to push through the large glass doors when the reflection of the woman he'd seen in Hullings' office caught his eye. He paused, turning to where her reflection came from, and pushed open the door for her with one arm.
"Miss," he said, keeping his tone empty but pleasant as she approached.
"Thank you, Christian," she said, throwing him a casual smile. Her narrow plum lips parting faintly.
Did she realize she'd slipped up? The entire moment felt surreal.
"Come again?" Careful stoicism, he reminded himself.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I don't know where that came from." She moved passed him, through the door, and continued out into the street. She didn't seem to have anything else to say.
His practiced eyes scanned the area once again before he followed her. His hand on her elbow was sudden, but not rough.
"Let me call you a cab," he said, remembering that he'd seen her do so every day after work. Either she didn't drive, or she didn't drive to work. His free hand went up into the air and almost instantly a little yellow car pulled up to the sidewalk. Beneath the gentle press of his fingers, her muscles were tense. Ready to spring into action, or bolt. Probably the latter.
The jitters of a rabbit, he thought.
He opened the door and she climbed in, clearly glad to be rid of his hand on her arm. He took a second to do another routine glance around, and slid himself into the seat beside her.
She hadn't expected he would do that, and the passing scowl on her face told him just that. He blinked, and it was gone.
Her mahogany eyes peered at him suspiciously over the rims of her, now aqua blue, rectangular spectacles. "What are you doing?" Her tone was even, calm, but those big doe eyes gave away her anxiety. Something deep inside of her didn't trust him; didn't think he was safe to be around, or to be alone with.
He smiled at the driver and said, "648 87th Avenue, please," and didn't look away until the man pulled out into traffic. To her, he said, "We have been working together for a week already." He leaned back against the seat, laying his arm up on the back of the cushioning. "How terribly impolite of me to be asking so late into our co-worker relationship, but what is your name?"
It was not as much of a question as he let on.
"My name is Mila," she said, her arms crossed beneath her breasts. "And I do not live on 87th Avenue."
He smiled, but it was cold. "I never thought you did, Miss Alarno. In fact," the smile faded, "I happen to know you live in a claustrophobic studio apartment above the bakery on 14th Street."
For a secretary, even one with her fingers in dirty business, she managed to keep the shock from her face better than he expected. Better, perhaps, than some of the other men he'd served with in the Marine Corps. She wasn't quite good enough to fool him, however.
"It's all right, Miss Alarno, we both know things we shouldn't know." When he smiled this time, it was hollow and dangerous.
"I knew your brother," she said, her words tumbling out all at once.
For an instant, his heartbeat held silent; when the second ended, his heart broke into a maddening gallop. He tried to stuff the semantics down, swallow them back like a shot of whiskey, and felt the truth burn all the way down. His breath came out in a ragged huff once, but returned to normal immediately.
Sitting only a foot away, her eyes turned from him, she continued, "I went to high school with him. That's how I know you." She paused, as if struggling to take in a breath of her own, "I'm sorry."
His voice was gruff, thick with the emotions and memories he was attempting to suppress, "I think we should have dinner, Miss Alarno. Would you join me?"