“Something smells good.” Hunter spoke from the doorway. At least he was clothed now. Even so, the black sweater did nothing to hide the broad expanse of his shoulders and chest.
She managed a half smile and tried not to stare too hard. “That’s the coffee if you want some. There’s a little food in the pantry but I’m making oatmeal. We can go to the store later.”
He grabbed a mug from one of the cabinets, then moved in behind her. When he leaned over, brushing against her to pick up the spoon she’d used earlier, she forgot to breathe for a moment.
“How long has he been out there?” Hunter nodded to the open window facing the deck.
“About an hour.” Wearing a thick jacket, a fleeced winter cap and gloves, Jonathan had been entertaining himself with a remote control airplane. She’d been out there with him earlier but he didn’t miss her presence. The little machine kept him completely occupied. Thank God for small favors.
Hunter started to walk toward the French doors, but she stopped him. “Shouldn’t you put on a jacket?”
He turned around and lifted his eyebrows.
Inwardly she groaned. She’d been a parent for too long. “Forget it. I’m not your mother. Breakfast will be ready soon. Then you and I are sitting down to talk.” She pulled out three bowls from one of the cabinets.
He paused by the door. “About what?”
“You know what. There’s a lot you left out yesterday and I want answers. Very detailed answers.” And she wanted to know what their plan of attack was.
She’d already talked to Michael once and he was going to be doing everything he could. She needed to make sure they were all on the same page because she wasn’t spending her life on the run. Her mother had dragged her to North Carolina when she was sixteen in an effort to get away from her abusive stepfather. That bastard had loved shoving her mother around for any perceived wrongdoing. And everything her mom had done was wrong. But when he’d started to hit Alexis, her mother had finally grown a spine and gotten out of there. The circumstances might have been different from what she was doing with Jonathan, but she didn’t want her son to know the kind of fear she’d experienced all those years ago. Alexis had done everything she could to ensure he’d grown up in a normal, loving environment, and she’d be damned if that would change.
As soon as Hunter was outside she set the breakfast table. No matter what happened, she wanted to keep life for Jonathan as normal as possible. After she’d finished everything, they all sat at the table.
And Jonathan promptly spilled his glass of milk. She started to rise, but Hunter beat her to it.
“Sit and eat. I’ve got it.” He covered her hand with his as if it were the most natural thing to do.
Immediately she stilled. He paused and lightly rubbed his calloused thumb over her skin. Then he shook his head as if he realized what he was doing and gritted his teeth.
As he grabbed a dishrag, she fought the rush of heat she could feel creeping up her neck and cheeks. All he’d done was briefly touch her. Her stomach should not be doing flips. Clearing her throat, she turned toward Jonathan. “Are you having fun out there?”
“Yeah, Hunter can make the plane do four twists in a row. It’s so cool.” Jonathan shoveled another spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth.
Hunter returned with a refill, quickly cleaned the mess and sat down, but she didn’t miss the heated look he shot her. Why couldn’t he hide how much he wanted her? He said he wouldn’t touch her again, but when he looked at her like that, she didn’t quite believe him.
“Hunter, where have you been?” Jonathan’s question sliced through the air.
Hunter’s dark eyes widened for a fraction of a second, but he recovered quickly. “What do you mean?”
“Since, you know, since I’ve been born. Why haven’t you been around?” Staring at him, Jonathan took another bite.
Alexis’s heart ached as she watched the struggle in Hunter’s eyes. She might have a lot of anger toward him, but in that instant, she felt his pain. What do you tell a five-year-old kid?
Hunter put his spoon down and focused his attention on Jonathan. His expression was thoughtful. “I’ve been in the jungle mainly.”
“Like in Africa?” Jonathan squirmed excitedly in his seat.
“No, in Central and South America.”
“Oh…are you going back there?”
“Ah, no, I don’t plan to.” He shot Alexis a quick look.
Her hands shook, making the coffee slosh onto the counter. “Do you want any more, sweetie?” She directed her question to Jonathan, ignoring Hunter.
He pushed away from the table. “No, I’m full. Can I go outside and play with my airplane?”
“Don’t leave the back deck. Remember what we talked about?”
He nodded and put his cap and gloves back on. “Yes, ma’am.” Then he looked at Hunter. “Do you want to come play?”
“I need to talk to your mom but we’ll be out in a few minutes.”
In an effort to keep her hands busy, she loaded the dishwasher. She heard the door slam behind her son but didn’t glance up.
She could feel Hunter looking at her but the house phone rang, slicing through the air and dispersing the tension. “Michael said he’d call if he found out anything,” he said, likely for her benefit. She could only imagine how freaked out she looked.
They’d both gotten a few throwaway cell phones and had kept them turned off so they couldn’t be located with any sort of GPS tracking. Michael had already called the house once but the hairs on the back of her neck rose just the same.
After two more rings Hunter picked up the portable from the cradle. He didn’t say anything, just listened.
“Alexis? Are you there?” Michael’s voice was loud enough that she could hear him two feet away.
“We’re both here. Hold on.” Hunter pressed a button and put the receiver down. “You’re on speaker now.”
“What’s going on? Have you found out anything?” she asked.
“Not yet. Sheriff Barton has increased the police presence downtown, around House of Hope, and at Gwen’s house.”
“Why are you calling?” Hunter interjected.
“There’s been a man asking questions around town. He’s trying to blend in, but it’s not easy to hide in a town this size.”
“What does he look like?” Hunter asked.
“Caucasian, midthirties, in shape, dark hair and blue eyes. And he’s not acting like a tourist.”
“Can you manage to get a picture of him? I think I have an idea who it is, but I’d like to make sure.”
“I’ll do my best… How’s Jonathan doing?”
Automatically, she looked out the window. He ran back and forth on the deck, totally immersed in playing with his plane. “He’s fine, Michael. He thinks we’re on vacation. Thanks for asking, though.”
There was a long pause, then Michael spoke again. “Can you take me off speaker, Alexis?”
“Sure.” She picked up the phone. Hunter’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t say anything. “Will you watch Jonathan for a sec?”
His jaw clenched, but he nodded as she stepped into the hallway. “It’s just me now.”
“How’re you holding up?”
“Okay I guess. Everything’s still a little surreal.”
“How is he with…Jonathan?”
“Surprisingly good. And Jonathan seems to be taking everything in stride. So far he doesn’t have any idea what’s going on.”
“When do you think you’ll be able to meet us here?” she asked, thankful he couldn’t see her face right now. Surely he’d be able to see the guilt written all over it.
“No idea yet. I thought about leaving now, but with you gone, I can’t be sure someone won’t follow and I don’t want to lead someone directly to you. Sheriff Barton has gotten in contact with the deputy director of the FBI.”
“And it looks like the man Hunter was working for has been under investigation for a few months by another agency. Not sure which one and I don’t know anything else yet, but either way, this Tom Davis guy is bad news. I’ll call as soon as I have more information.”
“Okay.” She clutched the phone against her head as if it were a lifeline.
“I miss you.”
The words stuck in her throat because she wasn’t sure if they were true. “I miss you too.”
As soon as they disconnected, she walked back into the kitchen. Hunter met her with a guarded look. She wondered if he’d overheard them talking. An irrational sense of guilt overwhelmed her at the thought that’d he’d heard her tell Michael she missed him. It wasn’t six years ago and they weren’t anything. It didn’t help that every time she looked at him vivid, naked memories danced in her brain.
She buried those thoughts and focused on the present. “Who do you think the man back in Hurley Beach is?”
“A man named Marcus Foster.” His words were clipped.
“And he’s with the CIA too?”
He nodded. “Yes. He works with Tom Davis. The bastard who blackmailed me into working for him.”
A billion questions raced through her mind. “I still don’t understand why they were blackmailing you.”
“Everything I told you about working for the DEA was true.”
She nodded as she listened. He’d been with them for eight years when they’d met, but she remembered he’d been talking about looking for a new profession even then. He’d been tired of law enforcement and had wanted a change.
“We did a lot of jobs with the CIA, mainly in Florida and along the East Coast. Tracking runners to and from Miami, and—”
Suddenly he froze. She turned around and looked out the window. “What’s wrong?”