Reluctantly, Felix turned her phone back on. She had been enjoying the silence, which was promptly spoiled by a series of chimes. She didn't bother reading the texts from Carlos. She knew what he thought of her, but she hadn't heard from Andy since yesterday. Was he trying to protect her now that everyone knew she had bolted? Did Shane take possession of Andy's phone, waiting for her to send a text that would give her away? That had to be it.
Felix cracked open a water bottle and stood in front of the window, watching the activity in the parking lot, or lack of it. There wasn't even a swimming pool. How long had it been since she'd slept? She turned her attention to the king-sized bed, with its royal blue bolstered pillows and thick polyester bedspread.
Ryan had explained the dilemma with the watermelon festival causing a shortage of rooms, and he insisted on taking the sleeper sofa. Felix had agreed only because she didn't know how else to respond. Surely, Ryan could tell she was into him. The thought of sharing a bed with him gave her chills in places she hadn't felt chills in a long time. She was craving skin on skin contact.
Felix walked to the bed and pulled the covers back, slipping off her jeans before snuggling beneath the cool sheets. She couldn't have been asleep more than an hour when Ryan walked in the door, making an effort to shut it quietly. The room filled with the smell of grease and Asian spices as he set a pair of brown paper bags on the table.
"What time is it?" she moaned as she sat up.
"Sorry if I woke you, Felix. It's after four o'clock. When you didn't respond to my text, I figured you were asleep. But I admit, I almost skipped a trip to the takeout joint to rush back here."
Felix reached for her phone on the nightstand and read the text from Ryan.
All done here. You still good with Chinese? Or are you craving an Italian?
She smiled at him, offering a censored comeback. "I'll settle for eating Chinese with an Italian."
Making a grab for her jeans, Felix tumbled out of bed, landing unceremoniously on the retro motel carpet. Ryan hurried over to help her, sliding his arm around her waist as she wobbled to her feet. It was a valiant gesture, one that had them standing face to face with his hand tantalizingly close to her butt. Ryan seemed comfortable with their proximity, and he held that position long enough for Felix to feel his heart racing. Was he going to kiss her?
He leaned over and picked up her jeans, handing them to her as he offered a Colgate smile. "It's not a formal dinner. No shirt, no pants, no problem."
Was it the motel room vibe promoting the flirty turn in their conversation? She had definitely been thinking about him without his shirt and pants. Ryan unloaded the bags, giving Felix a chance to pull on her jeans, and they proceeded to devour their meal, sneaking glances at each other across the table. About halfway through, Ryan dug into his back pocket and pulled out a baggie with a flash drive in it, setting it between them.
"I found this at the victim's apartment," he said. "I was hoping you could help me decipher it."
Felix's gut groaned, which wasn't a good omen. "You want my help with an FBI investigation? Couldn't you get into trouble for that?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Ryan wiped the grease from his lips with his knuckle, leaning forward to speak. "I haven't been completely honest with you about this case, Felix."
"What do you mean? You haven't told me anything about this case. I'm just tagging along so you can protect me from assholes who want to kill me."
"Well, we suspect one of those assholes killed the victim I'm investigating, the one you told me about in Huntridge. This flash drive might give us a clue why."
Felix swallowed before chewing, forcing a wonton painfully down her throat. "The woman whose murder I witnessed is the reason we're here?"
"Yes. I helped move her here. We gave her a new identity, a new job, a whole new life. Yet, something brought her back to the very people she was hiding from."
The image of Jenny flooded Felix's head, not the memory of her death, the one before that when she was very much alive underneath Andy. Felix knew two things about Jenny. Her name was Jenny and she screwed Andy, and Felix remembered how much she hated Jenny for desecrating her bed. Still, the woman didn't deserve to die for being a homewrecker. How much did Felix want to reveal about her involvement with these lunatics? Clearly, Ryan thought she was involved enough to give him answers. Would he still sympathize with her once he learned about her stupid life choices?
"What do you want me to do?"
"Just look at the files on this flash drive and see if you recognize anything. There may be nothing of interest, but I suspect there is. It was hidden pretty well." He pulled a laptop out of his duffel and set it on the table in front of Felix, inserting the flash drive. Two files came up, one labeled codes and the other labeled emails. With no small amount of trepidation, Felix opened the folder labeled codes. The numbers that flashed across the screen triggered a chill.
"Damn." The curse was out before Felix could stop it, and Ryan immediately appeared at her shoulder.
"What is it? Can you decipher that stuff?"
Of course, Felix could decipher it. She had helped write it. She scooted closer to the table, putting a little space between her and Ryan. He was breathing into her hair, making it impossible to concentrate, but she didn't have to. She recognized the style immediately. It had Andy and Felix written all over it. What was Jenny doing with the coding system they had developed? Was she one of their secret associates who worked remotely?
"This is a coding script used to hack into financial accounts," she said, feeling her dinner slowing rising up her throat. "It has been streamlined to transfer bits of data inconspicuously and in perfectly-timed increments so no one is tipped. If the account is large enough, the owner may never notice anything is missing before the hacker is gone with the wind."
Ryan glanced at her but said nothing as he started pacing next to the table. "So, Jenny was up to her old tricks. She stole the information she needed, used us to give her a new life, then she set up shop down here. Clever. So, how did she end up dead at the hands of the same criminals? What brought her back to Chicago? Check that email folder. Maybe we'll find the answer there."
Felix didn't want to check the email folder. She was beyond petrified. Would there be information linking Felix to the crime? Could she be responsible for Jenny's death in some crazy, remote way? She clicked open the file and her stomach wretched when she saw the sender's name on the first email.
Andrew M: 2/15/14.
But it wasn't just Andy's name that had Felix's gut churning. Jenny was the recipient of the email, who didn't always go by Jenny.
Hey, Baby. I'm glad to hear you're safe. I guess cybersex will have to do for now. Talk dirty to me.
Baby? Felix pushed away from the table and walked to the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. She lifted the lid on the toilet and stood over it, waiting for her dinner to make its reappearance.
"Felix, are you okay?" Ryan's voice carried through the door like a bass drum. "You don't have to read the emails. Just answer me one question and I'll leave you alone. Is Andrew M your boyfriend?"
The taste of bile hit her tongue first, then the lo mein followed with the force of a bulldozer. In between heaves, she heard Ryan's voice through the door again, speaking in a much softer register.
"I'll take that as a yes."
PLAYLIST SONG: Bodyache by Purity Ring
YOU ARE READING
Inked and DangerousRomance
Felicity Taylor has a beautiful mind and a future with promise, until something happens to blow it all to hell. How does she respond? She gets inked, buys a Harley, and teams up with a bunch of crooks, not necessarily in that order. Ryan Clark is a...