No Need for Threats

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As it turned out, Lee was much more unsteady than either anticipated. While walking was possible, her equilibrium had been compromised, and the pain only worsened when she stood upright for long periods. She practically hung off Alex just getting into the trashed living room.

Lee tried not to look at the evidence of her ill-fated attempt at breaking and entering when Alex gently lowered her onto the couch and headed into the kitchen with instructions for her to sit tight. She tried to look at something other than the papers strewn all over the floor—a bat thrown carelessly in with the mix—but try as she might, this felt like returning to a crime scene. Time had frozen around the violent disturbance, preserving the chaos for a later date.

A distraction was in order, and while her head ached and her vision continued to slip in and out of focus, Lee took the opportunity to take in the rest of her surroundings. The apartment was small—kitchen by the door, living room, bathroom, master bedroom—but well lived in. Pictures hugged the walls around a squat writing desk overtaken with notes, snapshots of a world far removed from New York's concrete jungle.

Piqued curiosity temporarily overriding the ebb and flow of her wattery balance, Lee stood with grimacing effort and shuffled closer one of the photo-bearing walls and was delighted to find photographs highlighting points in her friend's life throughout the years.

Alex, much younger than the woman in the kitchen, in a vivid, green jungle, spattered in mud with her hair back in a red bandanna. Alex in a dusty city at twilight, looking off at something unseen with a pensive expression, notebook in hand. Alex in a market, dressed in a saree that hugged her curves, the smile bunching her cheeks bright enough to power a city by itself. Alex crouched in front of a gaggle of children, her arms elbow-deep in a backpack, mouth open mid-speech.

Why, Miss Bailey, I didn't realize I was standing in a room with someone so well-traveled. She tried to keep jealousy from showing.

"You're supposed to be sitting," Alex chastised.

Lee turned with a smile. I'm supposed to be a lot of things. How much of the great wide world have you seen?

"I used to travel a lot when I was younger," Alex said with an exasperated smile. "Before I went off to college, I did a little work for Greenpeace, if you can believe that. It was mostly for my resume, credentials and all, but I wound up really loving the work my team did. I realized I wanted to be a journalist during one of my last trips to Sudan."

A journalist and a philanthropist? Is there nothing you can't do?

"Shut up," Alex laughed. "I can't cook if that makes you feel any better. And I certainly can't wrap my head around complex machinery like you can, Miss Leanna."

Lee felt a thrill crackle up her spine. Why did her full name have such a sultry drawl to it when Alex said it? Or was she imagining her lips curling around the last vowels of her name?

Touché, she coughed, managing a straight face.

Alex turned away, leaving Lee to wander until something powerful donned on the Undergrounder as she neared the window. Ignoring the pain the light caused her sensitive eyes, she braced her hands on the frame and felt her breath catch.

For the first time in thirty-two years, she was looking down at the city—and in the light of day.

It wasn't like she was overlooking Central Park from a high rise or gaping at the expanse of her city from the Empire State Building, this was just Alex's block from eight stories up, but Lee had never seen New York from any height. Her life was spent subterranean. Always looking up. Always dreaming what the city looked like from above.

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