Reed scrubs his hands over his face, “Please don’t tell me something incriminating, Miss Ruiz. There’s nothing I can do right now and if I have to put you back under arrest, it’s going to seriously put a shitty end to an already shitty day. All I have is my integrity. Don’t make me choose between it and you.”
“Please, Reed! I have to tell you the rest of my story,” I plead. It’s the most important part, the part I’ve been saving until I knew I could trust Reed. I just hope I’m not too late.
“I’ve heard all I need to know. My job was to investigate the border incident. You’ve been cleared of charges. My job was to locate the auction – done. I did my job. I came here to tell you you’re free to go and I was willing to listen to the rest of your story if it would give you closure, but if you’re just going to incriminate yourself, I don’t want to hear it. If I hear it, I’ll act on it. Do you understand?”
Reed is angry, but I don’t care. Caleb is too important. He’s sacrificed so much for me, even to the point of protecting me from myself. I would have followed him anywhere, done anything he asked of me, but he’d cared enough not to let me. For all I knew, he would be at the auction, trying to kill Vladek and getting himself killed in the process. It was my turn to save him.
“Please,” I beg, “you have to help him. If you arrest him, I know he’ll live. There’s no telling what will happen to him if he’s in Pakistan. You said it yourself, Rafiq has a lot of power over there. Please! Please, Reed! Help him.”
Reed stands deadly still, but his chest rises and falls harshly with each breath. “Are you telling me Caleb is alive?” Reed hisses.
My heart is racing. “No. Not yet. But if he were? Could you help him?”
“Goddamn it, Livvie!” Reed kicks the chair, “You lied to me!”
“Maybe! Maybe, I did,” I plead. I don’t know if wording things hypothetically changes anything, but I have to try. I have to know if Reed can help me. I have to know if he will. “I needed time and you weren’t giving me any,” I sob, “You came in here, asking me all kinds of questions and calling me a fucking terrorist. What was I supposed to do?”
“You were supposed to tell me the truth! That was the deal. You tell me the truth and I help you,” Reed says and resumes pacing.
“I did tell you the truth! I told you everything you needed to know. I helped you find the auction, but here you are – telling me there’s no justice! So who’s the liar, Reed?” I cry.
Reed turns and glares at me. He looks a lot of things: angry, exhausted, and sad. Finally, he looks away and collapses into the chair.
“Reed?” I hedge closer.
“There’s nothing I can do, Livvie. The team is already on its way and the FIA is calling the shots,” he says.
His words play in a loop in my head until they’re reduced to their true meaning: I’ll never see Caleb again. I feel dead inside. Empty. Hollow. Vivisected.
“There…has to be something,” I croak.
Reed shakes his head.
In my head, I can hear myself screaming. I can see myself clawing at my skin and tearing at my hair. In reality, I’m motionless, no tears, no screams, no flesh being torn from my bones.
Reed is silent. He can’t help me. No one can.
My thoughts turn to Caleb and the last days we spent together.
Caleb had been gone for hours. I sat on the floor, next to his gun, waiting for something to happen, anything to happen. Several times, I thought about leaving the room and searching for him, but kept talking myself out of it. Caleb had said to wait. I waited.
A feeling of dread began to settle over me when I saw light peeking in around the curtains. The sun was coming up and Caleb still hadn’t returned. I wondered if Celia might come back, but I doubted it. Our bridge was well and truly burned. My only solace was in knowing she would keep Felipe from hurting me.
Suddenly, there was a hard thump on the door, then another. My heart felt like it had leapt up into my throat, but then I remembered Caleb had said he would knock twice. I reached for the gun, just in case.
I watched as the handle turned and when the door swung open I could barely process what I saw. Caleb stood in the doorway. He was covered in dirt. He was smeared with blood.
“Caleb?” I managed to whisper, but still couldn’t move.
He wouldn’t move from the doorway. He just stood there, his eyes fixed on some distant point. He looked like he’d been crying. His blue eyes were ringed with red and swollen. He had a cut on his forehead and blood dripped onto his eye. He didn’t blink.
Instantly, I was in tears. Something terrible had happened. Something awful! Slowly, I stood up. I grabbed the shirt Caleb had left and pulled it on over my head. We had to go and it was going to be up to me to get us out. I scrambled for a pair of pants and found a pair of Caleb’s boxers instead.
Caleb never moved.
“Caleb?” I whispered and came a little closer. His mouth turned down briefly, like he’d been about to cry, but then his face returned to a catatonic state. “You’re scaring me, Caleb. Please, say something,” I sobbed.
Tears fell from his open eyes.
It was more than I could bear to see him in so much pain and not know why. I rushed forward and wrapped my arms around him. “Please, Caleb! Wake the fuck up!”
His weight collapsed on top of me and we fell. As I lay flat on my back, Caleb pulled me close and released an agonized wail into my chest. The sound terrified me and I wrapped my arms around him, holding him as tight as he held me. It was all I could do. His entire body trembled and shook with the force of his gut wrenching sobs. I felt like a knife was buried in my intestines and someone kept turning the blade. The only thing I could do to keep from screaming was hold him.
My hand shook as I stroked his hair, “Shh, Caleb. Shh. It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay.” I sobbed when he pulled me tighter and tried to bury himself deeper into my chest.
His hair was stiff and brittle – gritty with sand.
He’s been digging. He’s covered in blood.
“Shh, baby,” I whispered and kept stroking Caleb’s hair. He was barely allowing me to breathe, he gripped me so tightly. “Whose blood is this?”
I felt him shaking his head, fast, angry. He accidentally nudged my chin and I winced. “Okay. It’s okay. I don’t need to know.”
I was at a loss for how to reach him. The man in my arms wasn’t Caleb, he was a shell of a human being. Primal and stripped bare. I had my suspicions about whose blood Caleb wore, but I didn’t dare say it out loud.
He killed his only friend. For me.
My chest shook with the force of the sobs I kept trapped in my chest. Caleb needed me and I couldn’t help him by falling apart. “We have to go, Caleb,” I whispered. “It’s not safe for us here.”
Caleb moved fast. He lifted himself off my chest and caged me in with his body. He looked predatory and I knew instinctively, not to scream. His eyes raked over me, moving quickly from my eyes, to my mouth, to my neck, all the way down to my feet. I wasn’t sure he even knew who I was.
My fingers hurt after being ripped away from his hair so abruptly. There were several strands intertwined with my fingers. Without moving, I let my eyes cut to my hand. Caleb followed my eyes and when I slowly lifted my hand, he watched it intently. I put my fingers to the wound on his head, wiping away the blood. He needed stitches. Caleb closed his eyes and let me touch him.
“We have to go. Please…let’s go,” I repeated. Caleb’s eyes flew open and narrowed on my face. For several seconds all he did was stare.
“Mine,” he whispered.
“Yours,” I said.
Caleb brought his mouth down on mine with such ferocity I almost pushed him away. The timing was terrible. Our lives were in danger. But Caleb needed me. He needed to be close and I owed it to him to give him what he needed.
I put my fear aside and opened my mouth to him, letting his tongue invade my mouth. He groaned when I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him down on top of me. I pulled at the filth covered shirt he wore and broke our kiss just long enough to pull it over his head. Sand and, I was sure, blood, fell onto my face, but I brushed in away with the back of my hand and went back to kissing Caleb.
His hands seemed to be everywhere at once, touching my hair, pulling me close, squeezing my breasts. His knee planted itself between my knees, prying them apart. I opened my legs and let Caleb’s lower belly press against me. I could feel his cock, trapped inside his jeans, against my inner thigh.
As we pawed at one another, some of Caleb’s primal behavior seeped its way into me and before I knew it, I was pushing him off of me and to the side. He grabbed hold of my shirt and made a sound I took as a warning.
“Yours, Caleb. I promise,” I said. I grabbed the hem of my shirt and pulled it over my head, exposing my breasts to Caleb. His mouth latched on, forcing me to cry out and hold him to my breast. I straddled his hips, grinding against him through the fabric of our clothes.
For all of Caleb’s animalistic intensity, he wasn’t hurting me. He might have, if I’d given him a reason, but I was as open to him, as water to a pebble. When his mouth pulled away from one nipple, I fed him the other.
“I love you,” I said and stroked his hair. He whimpered.
Caleb would never regret the sacrifices he had made for me. I would make sure of it. For the rest of my life, I would dedicate myself to giving Caleb every ounce of love I had in me to share. I was his and he was mine and it was everything.
I pushed at Caleb’s shoulder, urging him back toward the floor. I followed him down, resting my weight on him. His hands found the waistband of the shorts I wore and shoved. I reached back and together, we pushed the fabric down and off my legs.
I hated the feel of Caleb’s dirty jeans against my bare skin. “Take these off,” I said. I helped him push his pants down to his ankles. His feet were bare and caked in dirt, but I was more preoccupied with getting as close to Caleb as I possibly could.
Caleb’s cock sprang up between us like a living thing. We reached for it at the same time, his hand over mine and guided it between my legs. I was sore, but wet, and Caleb’s cock slid into me with minimal effort. Caleb gripped my hips, pulling me down as he thrust.
“Oh, god,” I cried out. My fingernails dug into his chest, scoring his skin, but Caleb only groaned and thrust into me again. And again. And again.
I fell forward, my hands bracing me above Caleb’s head. I was adrift in a sea of pleasure and all-consuming lust. Arching my back, I teased Caleb’s mouth with my nipple and he pulled it into his hungry mouth. I felt my pussy getting tighter around his cock. I whimpered as my orgasm approached and Caleb fucked me harder, sucked me deeper into his mouth. I didn’t have the breath to make a sound. I froze on top of him, letting him keep fucking me as I came.
His mouth pulled away from my breast with a loud pop and then Caleb’s sounds filled the room as his come filled my pussy. Pulse after pulse of hot come flooded my insides and I couldn’t get enough. I wanted Caleb inside me forever. I collapsed on top of him, loving the way my body rose and fell with each of his breaths.
“Livvie?” he whispered.
I forced myself up on my elbow and stroked his face with my other hand. “Yes,” I said. My tears made him blurry, but I could tell he was back now, from wherever he had been.
“Are you okay? Did I hurt you?!” He sounded frantic.
“I’m fine, Caleb. I’m fine. I’m more worried about you,” I said. I bent down and kissed his lips. When I pulled back, my heart ached to see him turn his face away from me.
“Don’t look at me, Livvie,” he whispered.
“Caleb, no.” I tried to make him look at me, but all at once he sat up and put my head on his shoulder where I couldn’t see him. I could feel him sliding out of me, his come aiding in the effort.
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