Author Note: This chapter is a work-in-progress and has not actually been cemented into the plot line of the story. I have two alternate scenes planned and I have not decided which to use yet. I am writing this experimentally, to see how they all feel and which I prefer once they're all typed up. So what I'm saying is: do not commit this chapter to the storyline until further notice as it may yet be discarded.
Chapter _: book ii;
Working chapter title: the crossing of hearts
The trip up the narrow walkway was always just long enough for him to sort through his keys, finding the house key and unlocking the door in a single smooth motion. That's funny, he thought, trying to open the door for the second time, the deadbolt is locked. He wondered why she'd locked it up so tight when she never had before. Switching keys and unlocking the deadbolt, he shoved it open and moved inside.
Once the door closed behind him, he was swallowed up by a memory. Distant and murky, as if he was viewing it through deep swamp waters. He remembered this smell, he realized; somewhere in his mind, this smell had been filed away for safe keeping. He struggled for a moment with it, wondering what its source was, but he couldn't place it. Faintly, he could detect layers of shea butter and... something else. Was that, he sniffed again, pomegranate? She must have changed shampoos while he was gone.
He tossed his keys into the keybowl and his military pack against the hallway wall. He'd unpack later, right then he wanted a beer. He popped open a stout from the fridge and took a long, appreciative swallow. He'd never quite gotten used to the Irish habit of drinking beer warm, even though he'd given it what he considered to be a fair go-round.
He turned on the wall screen in the kitchen and opened the browser. Out of habit, he perused local news and world news briefly, before checking his messages.
One titled "Dealer, URGENT" caught his eye and the reference had his head spinning. He'd been called that before. He opened it quickly, his heartbeat lingering in his throat for an anticipatory moment. A woman showed on camera and the moment he saw her, his stomach dropped to his feet. It couldn't be good if he was seeing her face, he knew. This woman he had never met. Her face reflected off the smooth surfaces of the stainless steel appliances. The hushed silence that filled the room stretched out from within his brain and captured the entire room, leaving a far-off buzzing in his ears. Her long blonde hair fell around her face, less filthy and straggly than most of the other times he'd seen her. Soft curls framed her face and her ocean blue eyes were dark and forboding. Nearly black. The video flickered, as if the signal wasn't quite strong enough. Her voice was urgent, pressing.
Deliah has changed her scheme. Find your guardian and get out now.
Pilot hmm'd to himself, curious. He took another few gulps of his brew. It wasn't that he was surprised to find out Deliah had been planning to betray him. That he'd known for some time. What he hadn't predicted was a warning.
Even if it was from someone who had developed a habit of sending him cryptically informative warnings. He wondered who Gabriel was, and why she took the time to warn him of anything at all? What was he to her, a woman he'd never known?
Find your guardian, she'd said. Seeing as he was to find his guardian and then get out, it was safe to assume the guardian was in the house with him.
But where? He hadn't taken notice of anyone, but had he been supposed to? It wasn't like he walked into his own house armed to the teeth and waiting for an attack. Not that he really needed many weapons these days.
The demand that he get out of the house tipped him off to Deliah's location - or her target. The house was either somehow about to be destroyed, or Deliah was in here with them attempting to trap them inside.
The latter would be stupid, he thought as he made his way through the house in search of his company. He didn't particularly care which of them he found first if they were both in the house. Deliah would be easy to be rid of, once he got his hands on her.
Who was he looking for? How was he supposed to know who this guardian was?
He paused just out of sight of the living room. He could hear someone breathing, the quiet, regulated breaths of someone who was trained to go undetected. His implant amplified the sound through his ears, making it almost hard to ignore once he focused on it.
Her comlink beeped in her ear and she nearly jumped. Her heart was hammering in her chest. Something had gone wrong, she could feel it somehow. She thought it was paranoia at first, but the longer she stayed crouched behind the bohemouth couch, the more she couldn't deny it.
It was far too early for Deliah to be walking through the door, but someone had. This wasn't what Malcolm had described to her, something had changed. Some outside influence altered the course of events and now she was trapped in the stupid living room without the faintest idea who was creeping around.
She heard the beeping again but ignored it. She couldn't answer him right then, not with someone lingering out in the hallway. Whatever news Malcolm had would have to wait until the visitor moved on.
If the visitor moved on.
It beeped again and she hit the button to allow his message to get through. It must be important if he wouldn't leave her alone. She didn't speak, instead letting him catch on to the need for silence.
"Evacuate. Deliah's changed her scheme now that her target is home early. Grab him and get to the safe house."
His tone told her the most; she had seconds, at best. He was using his frantic voice, the one that said his plans had been ripped away at the last second, as they were prone to do, and he was scrambling to refit the pieces together. She pulled out her Walthers 22 and aimed for the doorway as she rose from her position. Standing, she tossed a wary glance around the room before bolting for the doorframe and taking a momentary cover against the wall. Counting to two, she rounded the corner and leveled her pistol...
Right between two of the most virid emerald eyes she had ever seen. A Glock 17 was pressed ino the soft dip at the base of her throat.
She stood in front of him, exactly as tall as he recalled her being. Her hair was long and flowing, curled at the ends. The most stunning shade of hot ember red that he had ever seen. She wore a deep gray color that seemed to enhance everything about her. Her eyes practically glowed behind her thick lashes; the deep honey color he had known those years ago was more vivid and alive than he remembered, now a more golden lemon. His breath held behind his adams apple, so close to filling his lungs but lingering there for an achingly prolonged moment. Her name hinged on the tip of his tongue, almost through his lips but not quite ready to leave the hollowed ground of the unspoken.
Simultaneously, they holstered their pistols. The beeping in Eden's comlink went unheard as the silence drowned them both. She wasn't sure her heart would re-start, she realized as she tried to pull herself back into reality. Eden couldn't tear her eyes from his; something about the color held her. For a moment, she thought she would lose herself in them, swallow up mouthfuls of their endless viridian sea.
All at once she shook herself out of her stupor and took a cursory glance at him. His hair was a deep brown, shaggy and mostly unkempt. It was three or four inches long, give or take, but he used to keep it pretty short. "We need to get out of here," she said, not addressing the awkwardness that was their situation. She spun on her heel and they bolted down the rest of the hallway, through the back door and sprinted across the stretch of yard to take shelter in the nearby woods.
Crouched behind a large, fallen pine tree, Pilot suggested, "We need to get farther off." Pilot pulled out his Glock for the heavy comfort of it in his hand. He flicked his eyes over to see Eden fingering the hilt of her bowie knife at her hip. Why was she armed?
He paused, thinking, what the hell was she doing in his house? And considering that, why did she seem just as surprised to see him as he to see her?
Whatever she was here for hadn't been this, he realized. Her plans had been altered.
"Are you working for Gabriel?" He couldn't help but ask. She glanced over for a brief second, careful to keep her focus trained on the house.
"I don't know a Gabriel. I'm here to take out one Deliah Lynn Moore."