It’s flash fiction Monday only this week, instead of a visual aid, we’re doing a musical one…what is being coined as INSPIRED BY A MELODY. Each month, we’ll pick a song—what happens from there is anyone’s guess.
This week, we’ve chosen I’M A MESS, by the extremely talented Ed Sheeran—someone who’s quickly becoming one of my favourite artists. So, without further ado…
“You can do this. Just…pull yourself together.”
Grace Brogan stared at her reflection, rerunning the pep talk in her head. Again. She’d already said it over a dozen times. But nothing stuck. Any inkling of confidence quickly vanished, leaving only crippling uncertainty slowly suffocating her. She palmed the counter, closing her eyes as footsteps sounded behind her—a click of heels across the tiled floor. She didn’t look up, focusing on the drops of water clinging to the side of the bowl. Damn good thing she hadn’t put on any makeup—it would have washed off after the third time she’d splashed water on her face.
A hand landed on her shoulder. “Everything all right?”
She forced up her gaze, trying not to sneer at the woman standing behind her. Hair meticulously styled, makeup blended to match her skin’s natural tones—she seemed the epitome of sophistication. She wore a dark blue business jacket with matching skirt, the hint of mauve from her blouse adding a touch of feminism. Not a suggestion of worry creased her brow, the firm line of her silhouette showcasing her confidence.
Grace forced a smile. “Of course. Other than the fact I’m a mess…” She drew herself up. “Nothing to be worried about, Counsellor.”
Beth frowned, the uncharacteristic expression nearly breaking the perfect mould she’d cast herself in. “I realize this is…upsetting.”
“Upsetting?” Grace spun to face the woman. “I’m testifying against my father—for murdering my mother. Killing his own son and for what? Money? Power? Drugs?” She shook her head, breaking eye contact. “People have this image of mob families—some kind of romanticized concept that the head of the family takes care of his own. At any cost. That the people he loves are safe, above all else.” She slowly lifted her gaze. “The only thing my father loved was being on top. Having everyone bow to him. Fear him.”
Beth shifted restlessly on her feet, seemingly unsure for the first time since they’d met several months ago. “You’re not afraid.”
“Are you high? Of course, I’m afraid. I just hate him more. Hate how he taints everything and everyone he comes into contact with until there’s nothing but darkness left.”
“He’ll never bother you again. Once you get up on that stand—you’re the one with all the power.”
“Please, we both know how this road will eventually end. Putting my father in jail—hell, killing him—it won’t stop the events I put in motion.” She turned back toward the counter, watching the last few drips of water splash against the porcelain. “I can only run, hide, for so long before someone finds me.”
“Christ, I’m gone, what, ten minutes, and already you’ve lost complete faith in me?”
Grace stilled at the gravelly voice filling the small room. Ronan Foster. She’d recognize it anywhere—the only constant in an ever-changing race. Her chest constricted as her gaze rose to the mirror, clashing with the deep blue eyes staring back at her. God, no matter how long she looked at him, he still took her breath away. Sent butterflies fluttering through her stomach. His sandy blond hair fell to his collar, the long strands tousled about his head. He cocked half his mouth into a grin, the stubble along his jaw accentuating the strong shape. The man was stunning. Awe-inspiring.
Ronan huffed out his next breath, glancing at Beth. “Could you give us a few moments…alone.”
Her frown deepened. “I need to go over Grace’s testimony again.”
“Pretty damn sure she can recite it in her sleep.”
“Even so, I can’t compromise her safety.”
“I’m the U.S. Marshal that’s kept her alive for seven months. I think I can manage another ten minutes without you before we go inside.” He moved between them, turning sideways. “I’m sorry. I made it seem as if I was actually giving you a choice. I’m not. I’m in charge of her security, and until I’m a hundred percent certain she’s on board with everything—she’s not going anywhere. Least of all inside that courtroom. So do the right thing and bugger off for a few moments before I deem this situation too risky and take off.” He leaned toward Beth. “And I promise you—you’ll never find us.”
Beth glared at her in the mirror, her contempt more than obvious. “Fine. Ten minutes. But she’d better not screw this up. This is about more than just putting daddy behind bars.” She turned sharply, high heels tapping a hasty retreat.
Ronan shook his head, moving in behind her. His hands landed on her waist, gently tugging her back until she’d allowed him to brace most of her weight. His lips pressed against the sensitive spot behind her ear, trailing down along her neck. “You okay?”
She closed her eyes, wishing she could just stay in his arms. Make everything else disappear. “As much as I’d like to think love is blind…you can see my reflection, Ronan. You know I’m not.”
His arms snaked around her, holding her tight without making her feel threatened. “He took everyone you love from you. Killed them in front of you. Fuck, Grace, he’d tried to kill you twice before you got out of there. Then hired a shit load of others to do the job for him.”
“You’ve stopped every attempt.” She looked at him in the mirror. “And he didn’t take everyone.”
His expression softened as he raised one hand and brushed it across her cheek. “It’s only natural to be afraid. I’d be more concerned if you weren’t freaking out a bit.”
“A bit? Look at me—my hands are shaking, my legs feel weak and I swear my heart is just going to beat through my chest.” Tears burned behind her eyes. “I’m going to have to describe it. All of it. In nauseating detail, including the part where I ran instead of standing up to him. God, what will people think?” She broke eye contact. “What will you think?”
“Stop it.” He palmed her hips, spinning her to face him. “I already know what I think. That you’re incredibly brave. There are very few people in this world that would speak against a man like Francis Brogan. In fact, there’s only you. What you’re doing…” He shook his head. “It’s more than anyone should have to bear. And if you hadn’t run…you never would have lived long enough to have this chance.”
“I’m alive because of you. Period.”
He caressed her face, tucking some hair behind her ear. “You know I love you, right?”
“And you know I think you’re crazy?”
“Only about you. And once this is over…I’ll keep you safe. Promise.”
The honesty in his voice humbled her, and she tip-toed up, gently taking his mouth in hers. The kiss was soft, loving—like the promise he’d made. She didn’t rush—allowing him to deepen it when she’d thought about pulling back. His tongue slid across hers, the firm press sending a jolt of need to her core. Her breath heaved against his cheek when he finally pulled away, the fluttering in her stomach more anticipation than fear now.
He tsked her. “I know that look.” He dropped a kiss on her nose. “You sure you’re up to this? I’ll get Beth to postpone it if you need more time—say you’re unwell.”
“I’m fine. Now.” She drew a deep breath, willing her hands to stop shaking. “You’ll be there, right?”
“At your side every second. Already told Beth you weren’t sitting up there alone. Not when I can’t be guaranteed of your safety from more than a foot away.”
“I don’t deserved you.”
“I know.” He chuckled when she swatted him on the chest. “But I’ll stick around anyway.”
“Fine. Let’s go. Time to close the door on the past and start the future. I’m just glad there aren’t any cameras. I’m still a mess.”
Wow… this was way harder than I thought. And I know I probably took this in a very odd direction, but…there you have it. If you haven’t already visited the other lovely ladies, hop on over to their blogs. I know you won’t be sorry.