She clasped her hands in front of her stomach and looked down at them. “Could we maybe sit?”
He wanted to say no, but he couldn’t deny her anything. Not when she looked as if she was ready to burst into tears. Concern thrummed through him, but she was here and unharmed. It was clear she’d left him of her own free will all those years ago. He’d seen her empty apartment and talked to her former landlord. Jordan had paid to break her contract and get out of her lease early and had hired movers to take care of all her things. It wasn’t as if she’d been kidnapped. No, she’d left of her own damn free will.
Grunting, he flipped on lights as he strode down the hallway to his kitchen and leaned against one of the counters. The room was pristine since he rarely cooked and he hadn’t been home for almost a week anyway. He motioned to the chairs tucked under the island.
Jordan pulled out a ladder back chair one of his sisters had made for him and perched on it. She nervously tapped her fingers against the granite topped island as she glanced around the kitchen. It was obvious she was curious about his place, but he wanted his damn answers.
“Talk, Jordan.” He felt like he was about to explode.
Her gaze snapped back to his and he saw a myriad of regret and sadness. “I don’t even know where to start so…God, this is so much harder than I thought it would be.”
Hard? Like what he had gone through after she’d disappeared from his life without a word hadn’t been fucking hard?
She shook her head, as if clearing her mind. “Do you remember Curtis Woods?”
The name sounded vaguely familiar but he shook his head, struggling for patience.
“Seven years ago he was the man responsible for all those fires in San Diego.” Her voice was shaky, unsteady as she spoke and it rattled a memory loose.
“Yeah, I remember. All those women went missing after each fire.” It had happened right around the time Vincent had gotten out of the Navy and had taken a job with Red Stone Security. But he hadn’t moved to Miami yet because he’d been waiting for Jordan to graduate so he could propose. He’d wanted her to come with him and he’d been so sure she would.
Just proved what a fucking idiot he’d been.
“He burned down the clothing boutique next to that little bookstore I worked at. I didn’t see him set the actual fire, but I caught him dragging the owner out after he’d set it. He’d drugged her and had planned to kill her—among other things—but he accidentally overdosed her in his hurry to escape the blaze. He didn’t admit it until later, but the fire started too soon. I guess he got cocky and messed things up. Anyway, I saw the blaze and called the cops but when I saw him I couldn’t just do nothing and let him escape. I… I used that Taser you gave me and disabled him. By the time the cops showed up it was a complete nightmare. The cops, the Feds and the Attorney General’s office—everyone wanted to talk to me.”
As she spoke, his gut clenched. He had a feeling he knew where she was headed but he remained silent, letting her speak. She was talking so fast he could tell she was just trying to get the words out and he wanted to hear everything.
“He pled not guilty even though he clearly was. As the only witness, they wanted to put me into WITSEC until the trial. At first I said no but he had a twin brother he was close with who they suspected was his accomplice. Eventually Woods admitted his brother helped him and he told the authorities where most of the bodies of those women were. He gave them twenty-one graves but held back one. Sick bastard,” she muttered. “But before he confessed to everything, his attorneys dragged everything out for years. He was eventually convicted and a few months ago his brother was found dead behind a bar in Abilene, Texas. A week after that Woods killed himself in prison. So…I’m free again. I took my real name back and left the program. Vincent, I…I’m so sorry for leaving. I’ve missed you every single day. I…” She stopped talking, as if she’d run out of steam and watched him with a touch of fear in her eyes.
That just pissed him off. She should never be afraid of him, but he was so fucking angry he could barely see straight. “I remember when they caught that guy.” He vaguely remembered the details of the news coverage because he’d been so busy getting his life squared away to move. “I also remember that you didn’t fucking disappear for days after he was arrested. You know why I remember? Because we fucked so much I could barely walk.” It had been such an intense time in their relationship, like she’d been branding him as her own. Now he realized it was because she’d planned to leave. “I loved you, Jordan.” She was the only woman he’d ever loved, something she’d known. He’d stumbled over telling her that first time, had felt like an idiot, but once he’d told her, it had been freeing.
“You could have asked me to join WITSEC with you.” God, he would have too. In a heartbeat. But he didn’t say that because she clearly hadn’t cared enough about him to ask. She hadn’t felt the same way he had.
Jordan let out a harsh, scraping laugh that sounded hollow. “Vincent, I wanted to so badly but… I couldn’t put you in that position. You would have had to leave your family and life forever. At the time I had no clue if Woods’ brother would ever be caught or found. I planned to be in WITSEC forever and I couldn’t make you leave your family like that. You wouldn’t have been able to work in the field you chose and you’d have had to leave everyone behind. Your mother, your sisters, all your friends in the Navy. Those men are like your brothers. How the hell could I do that to you? To the man I loved?”
He scrubbed a hand over his face and forced himself to stay where he was when he wanted to stalk across the kitchen and shake some sense into her. “So you made the decision for me? You just decided I didn’t love you enough to go with you?”
“No! It wasn’t like that. We’d only been together four months and you hadn’t even mentioned me moving to Miami with you. It wasn’t fair of me to ask you something so life changing. I knew the type of man you were and I was worried you’d feel obligated or something. I didn’t want to put you in a position where you had to make that choice. If you’d said yes, eventually you would have either resented me or just died inside. No way was I tearing your life apart like that.” Tears shimmered in her hazel eyes, but he hardened himself against the sight.
Grabbing her car keys out of his pocket he strode toward her and slammed them on the island. “Get the fuck out of my house.”
She flinched at his words. “Vincent, I’m sorry. So sorry you can’t even know. You’ve never left my mind. God, I’ve missed you so much and I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but I’m asking for it. I’ve been working up the courage to see you for the past two months and—”
“Get. Out. Now.” He barely managed to get the words out before he turned his back on her and took a deep breath.
“Vincent…” Her voice cracked and he felt the light brush of her fingertips on his back, but he stepped away and stalked out his backdoor into the humid summer night.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. He could barely see or think straight. Seven fucking years without a word and she thought she could just walk back into his life and say she was sorry.
Living without her had been hell. He didn’t know how to handle this, how to handle having her abruptly show up again. She wanted his forgiveness but what else did she want from him? He felt like a fucking idiot still desiring her. How could she have left like that without telling him? He’d bought her a ring, had been ready to propose. Hell, he still had the thing in his safe. For some reason he’d never been able to force himself to sell it. Taking a deep breath, some of his anger dissipated. No matter how angry he was, he couldn’t let things end like this. He couldn’t just kick her out. Not when he still needed answers.
Even though he had no clue what to say to her, he headed back inside and found the kitchen empty. The subtle scent of her familiar perfume lingered in the air. Light vanilla and something that was all Jordan wrapped around him as he raced back through the house. He didn’t have her phone number or any clue where she was staying. He wanted to kick his own ass when he jerked open the door and saw the taillights of her car turning at the end of his street.
Cursing at himself he pulled his cell phone out and called the one person he knew who would be able to help quicker than anyone; Lizzy Caldwell. The woman might have had a baby two months ago but she was a computer genius and Vincent knew she was itching to get back to work. Now that Jordan had reclaimed her own name, Lizzy would have no problem tracking her down.
Whatever hell Jordan had put him through, Vincent intended to finish this one way or another.
Vincent stood in the lobby of Porter and Lizzy’s high rise condo building, trying to control his racing heart. It was no use. The longer it took to see Jordan again, the more stressed he got. What the fuck had he been thinking, kicking her out like that? He hadn’t been thinking at all. He’d just been so pissed at everything. All the years she’d been gone, the fact that she hadn’t trusted him enough to make the decision about their future for himself.
And…he hated that she’d had to go through so much by herself. Starting over, leaving everything she’d known, testifying against a monster—it had taken a lot of strength to do that even if she should have told him the truth from the start.
“You can go up.” The man behind the security desk finally spoke as he placed the cordless phone back on its base on the desk.
“Thanks,” Vincent murmured.
Porter’s place had excellent security and all the residents had to use a biometric scanner to access the elevators—unless a security member overrode the system. And those guys were armed to the teeth. Normally Vincent wouldn’t bother any of his coworkers with something like this, but he needed help, and Lizzy and Porter were more than just co-workers. So he swallowed his pride because finding Jordan was worth it. He just couldn’t let her walk out of his life again.