ANNA ROMAN woke with a start. Sitting up like a rocket, she pushes her palm against her forehead only to discover it is sticky with sweat. The cool skin of her hand feels like ice against her face, and she exhales as she wipes a glob of thick brown hair out of her eyes.

Humidity hates her.

She reaches around underneath her squished pillow for her cell phone, clutching blindly in the dark, until she snags it and detaches it from the power cable before bringing it in front of her.

4:19AM.

The fajr prayer call blasts through the city of Istanbul, a melting of voices from various mosques calling out for the first salah, or prayer, of the day. Anna is no stranger to these interruptions. At 28 years old, she's traveled around the world more than her fair share, but she slept fitfully the night before and was startled from dark dreams by the loud yet strangely soothing sound of voices uniting together in prayer in the early hours of the morning.

With a groan, she swings her legs out of bed and relishes the feeling of the cool wood floors beneath her toes as she stumbles in the darkness across the small hotel room to the bathroom. She doesn't bother flicking on the light but splashes her face with cold tap water in a futile attempt to lower her body temperature. It's nearly 78 degrees already, hot even by the standards of Istanbul, but she's used to the relatively crisp 68 degree July weather of her native London. That, and the hotel's air conditioning seemed to have failed the day of her arrival and had yet to be fixed.

Glorious.

After she dries her face on a towel, Anna combs her hands through her wavy brown hair to pull it up in a ponytail at the crown of her head, smoothing out any bumps with her adept fingers without the aid of a mirror. A few minutes later, she's traded her faded black Queen concert t-shirt - now drenched in sweat from a night of tossing and turning - for cropped black running leggings inset with mesh panels along with a loose cotton t-shirt. She digs into her open suitcase in the darkness and pulls out her sneakers one by one, slipping them on and adjusting the laces snuggly.

Before long, she's running steadily along the streets of Istanbul with her hotel key tucked securely in the hidden pocket of her leggings. After heading north up the street, she dodges through the sluggish morning traffic and into Taksim Square before redirecting northeast toward Maçka Park.

The sun will soon peek over the horizon to her right, and the burnt orange glow already begins its slow creep outward in muted tendrils to conquer the dark sky as she makes her way through the ancient city that served as capital to so many empires. It's not long before she's reached Maçka and is running along its unpaved path, mentally clocking her heart rate and pushing herself faster in the midst of the greenery.

Always running without headphones, Anna listens to the sounds of the city gradually coming to life outside this oasis of trees in the heart of one of the most diverse and engaging cities in the world. She's traveled to Istanbul many times - run in this very park often - and it never gets old. The city where east meets west, straddling both Europe and Asia, in an exotic and bustling blend of old and new.

By the time she finishes her last lap, the sunrise has erupted over the horizon to flood the sky with brilliant colors. Flaming orange sets the city aglow, and Anna smiles to herself as she comes to a stop at the southeastern tip of the park with her hands on her knees as she catches her breath. The familiar flood of endorphins pumping through her veins erases any of her exhaustion from the previous night of sleep - or lack thereof - and she checks her watch before heading out of the park and back to her hotel near Taksim Square.

She's addicted to it and she knows it, the surge of adrenaline from a long run, just like she's addicted to her fast-paced, low-paying job. No one ever said being a journalist was going to be easy (or lucrative, for that matter), but she loved the thrill. After a mundane childhood in Norwich, England - aka, one of the safest cities in the UK - she needed something else.

Something different.

Her parents are retired schoolteachers, and they'd since moved from their quaint house on Earlham Road in Norwich for a retirement living apartment just outside the beach town of Cromer. Anna was their only child, and she'd long since moved away from home for university and a series of jobs in London.

Anna loved everything about her childhood. Norwich was filled with parks and shops, and the historic city had just enough bustle to keep things interesting for a quiet teenage girl. The University of East Anglia provided ample specimens for her to analyze whilst people-watching, with over 15,000 students flooding the city each year, so she never lacked a new subject. She'd invent stories for all of them, intricate tales of family rivalries and romantic triangles, and wrote all of them down in one of her countless journals.

Basically, she was an observer from day one.

As she runs down the street in Istanbul, her feet pounding the pavement in a comforting rhythm as she absorbs the sights and sounds of one of her favorite cities, what Anna doesn't notice is the man on a motorcycle observing her.

Now Playing: "Jungle" by the X Ambassadors.

*****
Author's Note

Welcome! My name is Jandra, and I'm so glad you're here! Here are a few quick notes:

1) You're will have to wait for Loki to appear in the storyline. It's worth it, I promise! (Your reward is waiting for you in Chapter 34. And Chapter 40. Oh, buddy, Chapter 40.)

No, you don't have to wait for Loki to appear until Chapter 34. You'll see.

2) You can listen to the whole playlist for The Ides of July on Spotify! The link is in my profile.

3) I have more books! My original fiction, Rache, is now on Wattpad, as well as my newest fanfiction featuring none other than the Winter Soldier himself, Bucky Barnes. Check 'em out.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you love it as much as I do. Please do me a favor and vote!

x

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