KILLING ME SOFTLY - Teenage Assassin - Chapter 35

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CHAPTER 35: 

ANNABELLE’S  POV:

Running out of the restaurant in a near panic, I hail for a taxi.  We drove Jackson’s rental car here, but I don’t have time to wait for the valet to bring it around.  I keep a car in the parking garage of our Manhattan flat, but I only drive it while not on a job. 

Right now, I’m on the job.  Or at least I was, until the last person I thought to ever see again showed up while I was working.  Crap!  I so don’t need this right now.  This job is different than ones in the past.  Sort of a maybe-kill job.  Despite the unusual aspects of this assignment, Simon accepted the contract and gave me the duty of fulfilling it.  I plan to do exactly that. 

My target is William Coster, VP of a Wall Street brokerage and kinky son of a bitch.  Mr. Coster was dining in that restaurant with his current lover, a social climber who’s willing to indulge him in his games in the hopes of snagging him permanently.  My plan was to subtly get his attention and eventually take that woman’s place in his life, at least on the surface.  From there, I would get close enough to him to find out what the client wants to know and wait for further instruction from there. 

Instead, here I am, dashing out of there like a bat out of hell.   Or like a girl trying to avoid an ex.  Well, maybe I did get my target’s attention, along with everyone else’s in the place. 

Plan B it is.

As I reach for the door handle of the taxi at the curb, a hand closes over mine, “Stop, Anna.”

Um . . . no.

As I feel Gabriel run his hand over my wrist, up my forearm and grip it in the effort to try and yank me around, I let my temper loose.  I grip his wrist myself to spin him around instead and slam him against the side of the taxi, pushing my knee into his thigh and my arm against his chest to keep him in place.  With my body leaning against him, I’m close enough to smell his cologne.

For a brief moment, I wonder who the woman is that he was with.  Then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter anymore.  Hasn’t for a long time.  If I wasn’t so shaken up about running into him in the first place, I wouldn’t be losing my cool like this.  I would also probably laugh at the startled look on his face right now.  Did he forget who I am? 

“Hey!” the taxi driver yells irritably out from his window.  I ignore him and quickly glance over my shoulder to see if Jackson followed us out of the restaurant.  I shoot him a glare when I see him leaning against the side of the brick building, looking amused and very unhelpful.  The poor valet is looking more along the lines of shocked and uncertain.  I so don’t need the guy calling the cops on me. 

The moment I turn my head back forward to look at Gabriel, his lips are on mine.  For a split second, I let myself linger in the familiar feeling, but then hastily rip my lips away.  “What the hell, Gabriel?”

“More like heaven,” He voice is as shaky as the hand that’s about to cup my cheek.  Leaning my head back to get away from the intimate touch, I change the subject and ease off him.  Jackson’s car shows up from around the corner, with another valet behind the wheel.  The young Asian guy gets out and tosses Jackson the keys.  I turn my attention back to Gabriel as Jackson is tipping the guy.

Taking a couple steps back, but keeping my eyes on him, I say, “It was good to briefly see you, Gabriel.”  He reaches out as if to grab me again and I glance down at that hand, shaking my head slowly,  “Not a good idea.”

Instead he runs the hand through his hair and, looking down at the sidewalk, lets out a big breath, “I think we should talk, Anna.”  I follow the path his hand takes and notice that his hair is longer than it was when I saw him last.  A lot less styled too, as if he’s no longer worried about keeping with the trends. 

I let out a sound of disbelief, “What in the world would you and I have to talk about?”  The way I see it, the bullet that went through me spoke louder than words.  He couldn’t have made his feelings any clearer regarding me. 

His mouth drops open, then he gathers himself, “Well, maybe about where the heck you’ve been the past two years?”

I shrug nonchalantly, “Here and there.  This country and that.”

“Obviously,” he says sarcastically, “But you know what I’m talking about, Anna.  Why did you let me think you were dead?”

Someone steps around Gabriel and gets into the cab.  The cab that was supposed to be my getaway car.  After watching it roll away, I tell him, “I dunno, maybe because you SHOT me!”

He stiffens and says defensively, “I told you , I didn’t mean it.”

Not being able to resist my curiosity any longer, I ask, “What are you doing in New York, Gabriel?”

“You don’t know?” he asks in a tone that really says, ‘how can you not know?’

“Nope,” I say, hoping that I don’t sound eager to know.  Stealthily, I scan him up and down.  Besides the hair, he still has a put-together look, but the dressy 80s-inspired outfit he’s wearing is different than the stuff he wore a couple years ago.  I’ll admit that he looks good.  The naturally tanned skin from his dad’s Hispanic genes has always been a dramatic contrast to his light eyes. 

A few memories of our time together flash through my head, but I do my best to ignore them.  In the end, disaster was always inevitable when it came to our relationship.  I’m not even mad anymore about him shooting me.  I’ve also gotten over the hurt.  Now, I see it like this, it’s life and it sucked, but you get past it. 

At least that’s what I tell myself.  That’s what I’ll tell him too.  The fact that my heart is racing has nothing to do with lingering feelings.  It’s just the shock of seeing him after so long.  Anyone would feel this way when confronted by their would-be murderer. 

Gabriel’s answer to my question pulls me from my thoughts, “I live here now.  I go to NYU.”  He has a hurt look on his face. 

“Oh,” I say dumbly.  Then I figure out why he looks that way.  Does he think that I’d keep tabs on him after we broke up?  The only thing I ever planned to do was never visit Miami again.  Putting a sincere smile on my face, whether I’m sincere or not, I say softly, “See, everything worked out for the best, Gabriel.” I gesture to him, “You have your life and I have . . . mine.” 

Even if it took me awhile to accept that my life would be without him.  And accept it I have, so this discussion is completely pointless.  Unless he still wants me dead, then we have nothing to talk about. 

“For the best?” he asks in a harsh tone, rubbing his fingers over his eyes.  Then, looking at me with a glistening of tears in his eyes, he shouts, “I thought I’d killed you, Anna!”

His emotional outburst is the catalyst for one of my own, “You did kill me!  You killed us!”  Instantly, I regret my words.  I’m not upset about it anymore.  Not angry, I tell myself.  I need to just calm down. 

Why does he have a hopeful look in his eyes at that remark?  It makes me uncomfortable, this emotional encounter.  I don’t feel these things anymore.  I haven’t since I finally got over him. 

The honk of a horn makes me drag my eyes from his.  Jackson is behind the wheel of his rented black Lincoln, giving me an impatient look.  He’s right, this isn’t the place to have it out with Gabriel.  My target could walk out those doors at any moment.  There will never be a right time for me and Gabriel.  I should have realized before I even killed his dad.  The choice was made for me from the moment I first received the pictures and information on his family. 

Keeping my eyes on Jackson’s car, I say stoically, “I have to go now.”

As  I’m walking towards the passenger side of the car, I turn my head to the side and say, “I really wish the best for you, Gabriel.  Good luck with school.”

He looks stunned, “But I shot you.”

“And I forgive you.”  That too always seemed as if I had no choice in the matter.

GABRIEL’S  POV: 

She forgives me.  She must still love me, or she wouldn’t be able to forgive me.  Right? 

But she’s leaving me again.  I can’t let her go.  For all I know, she’ll be across the world by tomorrow.  With no real plan, I rush forward, grab onto her arm again and begin dragging her towards my car, which a valet is nervously standing next to, gripping my keys and shifting from one foot to the other.

“Gabriel, what are you doing?  Let go!” In her heels, she has trouble getting her footing after my forcefulness, so I’m half-carrying, half-dragging her along. 

Stopping, I open the passenger door and urge her physically to get inside.  “Please?” I ask in an entreating tone.  “Just to talk.  I’ll drop you off wherever you want afterwards.”

“Even the airport?” she asks in a sarcastic tone, with a disbelieving expression.

“If that’s what you want,” I lie, not feeling a bit guilty.  Just determined.  I need to get her alone.  After that, well I don’t know.  One step at a time.  As I walk around the car, the image of her tied to my bed, where I would never let her go, flashes through my mind.  The image of Jackson then breaking into my place and giving me a beat-down has grimacing. 

My heart is racing and my body still hasn’t stopped shaking by the time I settle into my seat.

“Jesus,” she murmurs, “Jackson didn’t even try to help me.”

My laugh is almost genuine, “Because he knows that you could have gotten away if you’d really wanted to.”

She doesn’t say anything for a moment, just gazes away from me, out the window.  “If you need closure, Gabriel, this is it.  Say what you have to say.”

I want to touch her so badly.  This feels so surreal that a part of me still thinks I’m dreaming.  Maybe I should ask her to pinch me.  Anything to get her hands on me.  “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not have the most important conversation of my life in a car.  We’ll go to my place.”

Even though her face is averted, I can see the corner of her mouth and the small smile that she’s trying to hide.  “Really?  The most important conversation of your life?  A little dramatic, don’t you think?  Sure puts the pressure on me to converse well.”

“Shut up,” I say playfully, smiling myself.  This is really happening.  Later, I’ll probably be pissed at her, but at this moment, I’m so freaking happy that I feel like doing back flips.  Not that I’ve ever done one before.  But with the emotional high I’m feeling, anything’s possible. 

I try to keep my eyes on the rode, instead of her, and am relieved when we finally pull into my parking garage without me rear-ending another car.  As soon as I turn off the car, I’m sprinting around it to open her door for her.  She hesitates before taking my hand, but I feel a small victory when she finally does.  With a thoughtful look, she says, “You still have the same car.”

I’m wondering if she’s thinking about the beginning of our relationship.  It’s definitely one of those, ‘if I could do it all over again’ moments for me.  But then again, I have those moments everyday.  I don’t let go of her hand as we walk to the elevator, not when we’re going up to my floor, not even when I’m unlocking my apartment door.  I take encouragement from her not pulling away. 

In the entryway, she looks down thoughtfully at where our hands are joined, almost as if she’s confused, then pulls her hand out of mine.  I can hear the television on in the living room, so I figure Max is home.  As I move past the wall blocking off the entry from the main living area, I see Max sitting on the edge of the couch with a bowl of cereal.  He looks as if he’s just woken up, wearing nothing but a pair of boxer briefs and his hair is going this way and that. 

The click of Anna’s heels on the wood floor lets me know that she’s a few steps behind me.  He looks up and smiles, “Hey man, was your date that bad?  You’ve only been gone an hour.”  Anna is standing behind me now and Max gets a sly smile on his face, “Brought her back, did you?”  He finishes off his cereal by drinking the rest of the milk and stands up, moving around the coffee table in the direction of the kitchen.

Anna makes a disgruntled sound from behind me, then with the click of heels, she steps around me, “Hello, Max.”

As his cereal bowl goes crashing down onto the floor, I’m glad we don’t have carpet, and that I don’t have to clean up the broken ceramic chunks.  Max still hasn’t moved from his spot, his mouth still hasn’t closed.  I clap my hands together, “Well, we’ll be in my room.” 

Anna is smiling at Max’s bewilderment, not phased by the fact that she may have just traumatized the guy, coming back from the dead and all.  As I grab onto her arm and start hauling her towards my room, she laughs, “Nice underwear, Max.”  I glance back and realize that Max is wearing his blue Superman boxer briefs with a big red ‘S’ on the crotch.  Nice.  I doubt he’s embarrassed though, with all the girls that have already seen them. 

I feel jittery as we finally get into my room, with the door closed.  Anna calmly walks over to the recliner I have in front of the flat screen and sits down, crossing one leg over the other.  For a long moment, I sit there, staring at her legs where the white skirt is riding up. 

The white skirt and blazer that she’s wearing is not the type made for the respectable businesswoman.  It’s more along the lines of a slutty secretary look.  The whole ensemble is fitted like a second skin and the jacket shows a heck of a lot of cleavage, especially since she’s not wearing anything underneath.  Except maybe a bra. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like it, a lot, but am a little confused as to why she was wearing it to dinner with her brother. 

I’m brought out of my musings when she clears her throat, “Are you done?”

I arrogantly stare back at her and grin, “Just getting started.”  Because I know this is going to be the fight of my life.

ANNABELLE’S  POV: 

I have almost no warning before Gabriel pounces on me.  He’s still by his bedroom door one second and the next he’s in front of the chair I’m sitting in, bracketing me in with is body.  Instead of lifting up my legs, digging my heels into his stomach and kicking him across the room, as I should, I’m curious and wait to see what he’ll do. 

I don’t have to wait long.  He grabs onto my shoulders and pulls me forward to meet his lips.  I shouldn’t, but I let him kiss me, let him devour me is more like it.  It’s an odd feeling for someone like me to feel like the prey, but that’s exactly how he makes me feel as his lips, tongue and hands consume me. 

When Gabriel murmurs, “I love you,” the sweet taste in my mouth turns bitter and I’m reminded of why this isn’t a good idea.  The old bitterness that I’d thought I’d exorcised starts building within me again. 

I finally lean back, bring my legs up and execute the move that I should have pre-kiss.  Gabriel gets lucky and falls back against the bed, not quite on it, but his back hits the edge of the mattress.  He throws up an arm to steady himself and keep from falling on his butt to the floor. 

With a tight smile and a calm that I don’t feel, I say, “There’ll be none of that.”

He glares at me and comes to his feet, straightening his clothes.  Pacing back and forth in front of the bed now, he eyes me out of the corner of his eye.  “You seemed to enjoy that.”

Giving him a smirk I don’t feel on the inside, I smooth down my skirt, “It isn’t the first kiss I’ve faked.”

He scoffs at that, swiping his hand through the air, “It’s not dead between us.”

I make a clucking sound, “What?”  Then I raise my eyebrows and ask sarcastically, “The love?”

Shaking his head, he says, “We’ll get to that later.  First I want to know what happened after . . .”

Raising my eyebrows, I put on an innocent tone, “After you tried to blow my brains out?”

He stops pacing and his whole body goes tense.  Not looking at me, but instead his clenched fists, his voice is so quiet that I can barely hear him, “I didn’t really want you dead.”

It’s my turn to scoff, “Could have fooled me.”  Then I add, “Could have also fooled everyone else, including the machines that the paramedics used to keep me alive.” 

With more force in his voice, he turns to face me, “I mean it, Anna.  I had just found out about my mom and reacted without thinking.”

Okay, now I’m confused.  “What about your mom?”

Gabriel looks momentarily hurt, before it turns to anger.  “Jesus Christ, Anna.  What did you do, forget about me the moment I left?”

I clench my teeth, “I didn’t owe you anything, Gabriel.  And I don’t now, either.  What did you want me to do, stalk you afterwards?  Come back for more of the same?”  I laugh humorlessly, “I was pretty much an amateur when it came to relationships back then, but I did know that you were essentially breaking up with me.”

His eyes narrow and he takes a step towards me, “And now you know so much more about relationships?”

Waving my hand in the air, I brush off his question, “Irrelevant.” 

Seeing that I’m not about to appease his curiosity, he swiftly changes the subject, dropping a bombshell I should have seen coming, “I want you back Annabelle.”

This time my laughter is full of nothing but humor.  It’s kind of that ‘oh my god, I can’t believe that’ kind of humor.  I lean forward and put my face in my palm, still laughing.  “Holy crap,” I say in-between laughs, “That’s hilarious.”  I peek up at him to see his disgruntled expression and then bust up laughing again. 

“I’m serious,” he grunts out.  He actually looks cute in his exasperation. 

I hold up a hand, “Oh, oh, wait, just let me go get my gun so you can shoot me again.  Of course I want to get back together with you.”   Putting on a serious face, I say earnestly, “He shoots me cause he loves me.”  I roll my eyes at the thought, “Please someone take me to a domestic violence home.”

Tired from laughing, I sigh and rub my hands slowly over my face.  When I’m done letting out that big breath, I uncover my face and am startled to find Gabriel in front of me again, crouching on his knees.  “Anna, I had just found out that my mom had committed suicide.”

This time, I suck in a gasp.  “I’m sorry, Gabriel.”  What other words are there? 

His jaw twitches and he glances to my shoulder, “It wasn’t your fault.  You were just the person I lashed out at.”

I don’t buy it for a minute and the sympathetic feeling leaves me, “Well, it’s a good thing some poor maid didn’t walk through that hotel room door.  Since you were going to lash out at the first person you saw.”

Gabriel throws his hands up in the air, “Dammit Anna!  I was out of my mind with grief!”  He leans forward and palms both sides of my face.  I put up with it, for now.  “I didn’t mean it!”  After shouting in my face, his voice becomes tender,  “I love you.  The grief I had for you totally eclipses any grief I’ve had for my parents.  When you died, so did I.”

“Oh yeah?” I ask, just getting started.  “And you don’t completely hate me for your mom’s suicide?  You don’t blame me?”

“No,” he says resolutely. 

“And your dad?”

“It wasn’t your fault,” he says after a moments hesitation. 

Very sweetly, I smile at him, “So, you didn’t shoot me because, if I hadn’t killed your father, then your mother wouldn’t be dead too?”

“No,” his voice trembles, then he says more firmly, “You were misinformed about my father.  It’s the fault of whoever hired you.  It’s that person's fault that my mom killed herself too.”
 
I lean forward, taking his cupping hands with me, with my lips just an inch away from his, I look him right in the eyes, “And what if I told you that I can prove to you what kind of monster your father was?”

He lets go of my face, and leans back on his heels, away from me, “I’d say that you’re lying.” 

That sets me off and unleashes the bitterness and anger that I’d thought I’d long gotten past.  Dammit!  I am still mad about him shooting me.  And I’ll admit it, I’m still hurt that he didn’t love me enough not to.  Despite his pretty words, I wonder if he even loved me at all. 

Trying to get back the emotional coldness and untouchable feelings in regards to Gabriel, I close my eyes.  When I open them, he's standing by the bed again, arms crossed over his chest in a defensive position. 

“Do you still want to know what happened after you shot me?” I ask and continue on in a detached tone without giving him time to answer. “After Jackson dropped you off at airport, he rushed to the hospital, not knowing whether or not I’d be alive or dead.  By the time he got there, I’d been in and out of surgery already.  All patched up and still in critical condition, but stabilized.  Two days later, before any doctor would have advised me leaving, Jackson checked me out early in the middle of the night.” 

I closely watch Gabriel’s facial expressions during my explanation, and when he grimaces, I get an odd sense of satisfaction.  “Anyways, I had just did a kill the day you shot me and the police were asking questions that Jackson and I didn’t want to answer.”  I pause, “By the way, you shot me through a lung.” 

“I’m so sorry,” Gabriel whispers, looking genuinely the part.  

Feeling even more coldness seeping into me, I continue, “You want to know why I didn’t know your mother was dead?  Why I didn’t know you were going to NYU?”  I stand up and stalk over to him until I have to look up at his face, “Because when you tried to kill me, you killed us.  As I was healing from the bullet wound, I was also healing from you.  I have scars from where you shot me, the skin is tougher there.” My voice lowers automatically, from the intensity of the subject, “I also have a scar over my heart.  And now it’s tougher too.” 

I start backing away from him, towards the door.  Gabriel is silent, but he hasn’t lost that determined look in his eyes, which for some reason worries me.  Makes me think that I need to protect myself from him.  Which is odd, because he can no longer touch me in any way, especially not my heart. 

I stop and shrug nonchalantly, “Sorry if I didn’t keep in touch with you, but I thought it was for the best.  And now, it really is time for me to go.”

I spin around, deciding that this really will be goodbye for me and Gabriel.  The further I get away from him, though, the more the calmness leaves me and turbulent emotions begin to surface.  Almost to the door, his arm wraps around my chest from behind.  I’m holding my breath, wanting to know what he’ll do, but wanting him to let me go at the same time.  The sudden indecisiveness in me has me hating this situation, my weakness when it comes to him, all the more. 

“No,” he says in my ear.  “You still love me.  You’re a good actress, so good that you may even be fooling yourself, but I can feel it.”  He makes a fist and lightly thumps my chest, “In here.”

My stiff posture starts to relax when he begins alternating between kissing and sucking on my neck.  I bite back a moan and weakly beg for him to stop.  Weakness, that’s what he is.  I don’t even realize that he’s moved us over to the bed until I feel the soft mattress beneath me.  He hasn’t moved his mouth away from my neck the entire time. 

As he rolls me to my back and hovers over me, his warm lips move from my neck to my cleavage.  And it feels so freaking good.  I’m running my hands over his back as he murmurs, “I knew you still loved me, Anna.” 

Feeling an irrational panic, I start to push his shoulders away.  The suffocating feeling I have mildly resembles when I had a hole in one lung and was gasping for breath.  “Off, Gabriel!” I practically scream. 

When he growls and shakes his head, I take more extreme measures.  Those measures end in Gabriel’s nose bleeding and him on his ass on the floor.  As he tries to catch the blood with his hand, I rush more quickly to the door this time. 

As I unlock and open the door, I vehemently tell him, “I don’t love you, Gabriel.  And you sure as hell don’t love me.”

The fact that I start to cry as I rush past a still surprised Max in the living room doesn’t mean a damn thing. 

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