Either I need to keep better track of the time, or days are simply flying by. How is it song flash fiction time already? This month, the song is Family by Noah Gundersen. I can tell you, it was not my pick, lol. Not a bad song. A guy and his guitar. Raspy. But…depressing. Oh, so depressing. And honestly, nothing jumped out at me, but, in the spirit of perseverance, here is my attempt. Oh, and if you want to listen to the song, here you go…
Hmm, it might not play on here, but it looks as if you can click over to YouTube if you like. I honestly don’t know. It shows up then doesn’t, lol. Now, on to the story…
“You do know it’s not safe for you to be here, right?”
Nick cursed inwardly as the barstool beside him scraped out, Megan’s lithe form slipping onto the fake leather. Her boots scuffed the floor as she lifted one foot, resting it on the chair’s lower rung, the shiny metal surface wedged against the heel. She motioned to the bartender then twisted, leaning her right elbow on the counter as she made a point of perusing the establishment. Her gaze seemed innocent enough, but Nick knew she’d already identified every threat, every damn exit. She didn’t look at him, choosing to stare at the group of bikers playing pool at the other end of the room.
Nick took a long pull of his beer. After virtually disappearing from his life for nearly a month, he hadn’t thought he’d see her again. And sure as shit not here. Now. “You make it sounds as if I should be hiding.”
Meg snorted. “You should. Took me all of three stops to find you.” She twisted around when the bartender placed her shot in front of her. Megan nodded her thanks, downing the brown liquid in a single gulp before signalling for another. Finally, she glanced at him. “You look like shit.”
“You come all the way from Virginia just to tell me that?”
“I was already in the neighbourhood.” She pursed her lips, glancing over her shoulder. “It’s really not safe for you out in the open like this. I’d have thought you’d have known that without being told.”
Nick glared at her. “If you’re here to warn me about the pitfalls of helping out your illustrious agency, you’re a bit late. That’s a lecture I could have used three weeks ago.”
“I would have given you one if I’d been able to. Unfortunately, I was…otherwise detained.”
“Right. Tell me, darling. What regime did you help overthrow this time? Or did you merely supply the weapons? Weapons I fucking got you, courtesy of the NYPD.”
“I wasn’t involved in the sting, Nick. Hell, I didn’t even know they’d recruited you until it all went for shit a few days ago. I told you. I wasn’t available.”
“How convenient for you.”
Meg turned to face him, leaning in until she’d invaded his personal space. “You knew what I was long before we ever shared a bed. So don’t patronize me by crying foul, now. And for the last god damn time, I wasn’t part of the team.”
“So you’re saying your partner lied to me? Fed me all that bullshit just to drag me in? Because he knew I’d have a hard time saying no when they waved your picture in my face. Told me it was a matter of life and death.” He scrubbed his hand down his face. Fuck he hated being played. But knowing Meg had been part of it… He took another pull, hoping to burn the bitter taste away.
Meg back away, the slight tremble in her hand as she downed her second shot out of character. “Jordan’s a manipulative bastard. I’m sure he told you whatever he thought would get him the result he needed.”
“That’s the best you’ve got? It’s all on Jordan? I thought you were all one big, happy family? Guarding each other’s back and all that bullshit.” He mimicked the stance she’d had moments earlier, hovering this face an inch from hers. “If you’re going to fuck me up the ass, darling, at least have the decency to tell me to my face.”
Her chin quivered as her eyes teared over. She clenched her jaw, the muscle in her temple twitching. “Not sure why I thought you’d be willing to listen. It never was your forte.” She gained her feet, tossing some money on the bar. “Have a beer on me. Then get your ass back to whatever safe house you found before it gets shot off. And stay there until someone tells you otherwise.”
She spun, taking a few quick strides away, boots clicking on the floor. Nick lunged at her, snagging her left arm and spinning her around. She gasped, falling against the counter as her strength seemed to wane.
Nick stopped cold. He’d known Megan for three years. Had been intimately involved with her for six months. And the girl didn’t have a weak bone in her body. She drew in a ragged breath, pushing off the bar, keeping her left hand tucked against her waist. Pain creased her brow, but she straightened, looking every inch the deadly operative he’d fallen in love with. He took a step closer, but she matched it back, her hip bumping against another stool as she shook her head.
“I meant what I said. It’s not safe for you out in the open. Not now. I’ve got a friend watching the front. He’ll shadow you once you leave here. See you safely back, but that’s as much help as I can offer.” Her gaze ran the perimeter again. “Don’t trust anyone else from the agency. I’ll do what I can to make this right, but…”
She groaned, her eyes fluttering closed for a few moments before she seemed to gather her composure. “I am sorry you got involved, Nick. I never would have let…”
Nick covered the scant distance between them before she could move, boxing her in. She held her ground but didn’t try to fight him, dragging in rasping breaths through her nose. And for the first time since she’d entered the bar, he took a real good look at her. Dark smudges stained the skin beneath her eyes, her usual sparkling personality noticeably absent. She’d left her blonde hair down, but it didn’t fully hide the bruises along the side of her neck. A slight tremor seemed to rack her body, which he realized looked thinner than he remembered. He glanced at her left side. Raised patches pushed against her shirt, a few drops of fresh blood marring the fabric.
He leaned in, letting his breath rustle the hairs around her face. “Time to level with me. What the hell’s going on?”
Her lips pursed, another groan whispering between them. “The less you know, the better. Just…go home. Wherever you’ve been laying low and stay there. I’ll send word when it’s safe.”
“You’re bruised and bleeding. Why are you bleeding, Meg?”
“I already told you. I was otherwise detained.”
“For three weeks?”
Her chin quivered again, more tears pooling in her eyes before she blinked them away. “Remember how we were supposed to have dinner that night? But I didn’t make it?”
He nodded. He’d known that was the beginning of the end. That whatever they’d had wasn’t enough to make her leave her other life behind. That he was the only one who’d ever really fallen.
She gave him a genuine smile, reaching up to caress his jaw. “I was going to tell you I’d quit. Turned in my damn badge. Told Rawlings to go to hell. God, how I wanted to be there.” A few of the tears slipped free. “I have to go. I just wanted you to know that.”
She pressed her palm against his chest, but he held firm.
“You want to walk out on me, then you tell me the fucking truth. Where have you been for the past three weeks if you weren’t in the field orchestrating this operation from the other side?”
She snorted. “Is that what they told you? I was overseeing it abroad? At least a few more things make sense, now.” She pressed against him again, huffing when he didn’t budge. “I don’t have the strength to fight you. Please don’t make me try.”
The inklings of fear crawled down his spine. He glanced at her side again. “How bad are you hurt?”
“Worse than I’d like. But not nearly as bad as they’d hoped.” She seemed to force down a swallow. “I’m fine. Not my first rodeo. Now, please…go. And remember. Don’t trust anyone.”
He shook his head. “Not going anywhere until you tell me what the actual fuck is going on. If you weren’t part of this operation… Fuck. Was Rawlings holding you prisoner?”
“This isn’t something I can explain in a few minutes. Hell, I’m not sure I fully understand it, myself. Not to mention the fact it’s not safe here.” She peered over his shoulder then around the room again. “I can’t stay. Probably shouldn’t have come in the first place, but…” She sighed. “When Jack told me you hadn’t shown up for work since the raid. And you weren’t at the apartment… I needed to know you were safe.”
He didn’t resist when she shoved against him this time, allowing her to brush past him. “Megan…”
“One big happy family, right?” She snagged her lower lip, biting at it before drawing herself up again. “Sit back down. Drink your damn beer. Wait four minutes then leave.” She clutched her side, another shiver trembling through her. “If you don’t hear from me inside of a week, go to your captain and tell him everything. And I mean, everything, Nick. The man’s not on the payroll. I triple checked.”
“You can barely stand up. You really think you’re up to do anything other than pass out?”
She winked. “I’ll manage. And Nick…I’m sorry I missed dinner. I was hoping to tell you…”
Her voice trailed off as she slumped against the bar, head bowing to her chest. He darted over to her, pulling her against him. Warm, slick liquid soaked against his palm, and he didn’t need to look at it to know it was blood. Her blood.
He slipped off his jacket, wrapping it around her before cinching his hand around her waist. Making it appear as if he was merely helping her stagger out to her car. He headed for the door, maneuvering them both through before angling toward his Jeep. She mumbled something about him leaving her, but the words faded into a series of low groans as he shuffled her into the seat, quickly closing the door before climbing in the driver’s side. He glanced in the rearview, noting a man standing off to the right, lips pulled tight, newspaper folded under his arm. He gave Nick a nod then disappeared around the corner of the building.
Nick revved the engine, joining traffic as he headed south. He glanced at Meg, noting the pale cast to her skin. He needed to get her somewhere safe, and not the fucking room he’d rented on a whim. Somewhere…unexpected. An image wavered in his mind, and he smiled. If she wanted him to lay low, he’d do just that—but only as long as she stayed with him. And once she recovered enough to regain consciousness, she’d tell him the truth.
So, I’m not even sure if that goes with the damn song. Again, this one didn’t really speak to me. It was just overwhelmingly dark and sad. But, at least I thought up something. Now go visit the other ladies and see their take on the music. I’m sure theirs will be brilliant.