For “A Terrible Lie” over at Terribleminds…
He saw the tension of the day wash from her face when he greeted her at the door.
“I’m glad you’re home.” She kissed him lightly as she shed her coat. “Get out of the office early?”
“Yeah. I got everything together in plenty of time.”
“That makes one of us.” She rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe the nerve of some people, holding out on things until the very last minute…”
“Did you make it clear you needed what they were working on?” He hung up her coat as she rubbed her neck.
“Several times! I swear, sometimes it’s like we’re speaking different languages.”
“I know the feeling. I’m sorry you had a rough day.” He rubbed her shoulders gently. “Do you feel up for going out?”
She sighed softly. “I’d love to, honey, but I’m on call tonight. Some foreign accounts are still open.”
She pursed her lips for a second. “You know what? They’ll wait. Give me a few minutes to freshen up.” She headed for the bedroom and the half-bath tucked away past their bed. “Where were you thinking of going?”
He followed her as far as the bedroom, looking at the framed pictures around the vanity. Photos taken on vacations and at parties, with the central feature being the glossy 8×10 of their wedding. It wasn’t a static photo of them at the altar, however. They were dancing. He was dipping her low, a confident smirk on his face. She was laughing, the white of her dress contrasted with the black of his tuxedo, rose petals all over the dance floor. A perfect moment of bliss, frozen in time.
“Some place nice. I know the guy that owns that fancy French place. He can get us a table.”
“Are you kidding me? That place always requires a reservation!”
“Trust me. I’ll handle it.”
“If you say so…”
He retrieved his phone from the nightstand and walked back out to their living room. She’d left her purse by the door. Tucking his phone into his pocket, he reached for the Coach bag he’d bought her for their second anniversary.
Her voice from the bathroom froze him. He didn’t move other than to speak.
“I think my dark red lipstick is in my coat pocket. Could you check for me?”
“Sure.” He shook off the moment of panic he’d felt and went to the closet. Sure enough, her lipstick was there. He walked back into the bedroom and set it on the vanity.
“It’s here next to your blush.”
“Thanks. You’re a peach.”
He went right back to the living room and, before he could stop himself again, dove into her purse. Her phone had sunk to the bottom under her wallet, various types of casual makeup and other accessories. He tapped in her access code and found her call records. She’d been careful to scrub it of any major messages, but getting into her backup feature brought up the numbers she’d erased for outgoing calls. He recognized three. Purging her phone and returning it to her purse, he pulled out his own and relayed the numbers via text to his office.
“You’re not going to wear that shirt, are you?”
He looked down in response to her question. The shirt was one of his older ones, a light minty green button-down.
“You don’t like the green?”
“I do, but I’m going to be wearing dark red. It’s a bit early for Christmas.”
“Good point.” He went to the closet as she sat at the vanity, applying makeup. She’d shed her work clothes and sat in a fluffy white house coat, not looking away from the powder she brushed into her cheeks.
“Which tie, then, wine or burgundy?” He held them up for her to see in the mirror. She glanced at them for a moment.
“Done.” He put on a crisp, freshly-ironed white shirt and tied on the wine tie. His phone vibrated in the pocket of his pin-stripe slacks and he stepped back to the living room to check it.
They’d sent him photos of her in a park. A man met with her. A package exchanged hands. He shook his head. Why not use a dead drop? Why in person?
He got his peacoat out of the closet, then reached past the outerwear for the false panel and slid it away. The special holster rig’s clip slid behind his belt, magnets snapping shut. It let him carry his .45 at the small of his back, with a suppressor above it in its own sleeve.
He checked to make sure the gun was loaded, holstered it, and secured the suppressor before slipping the coat on.
He looked up. She stood in the door to the bedroom, a dark red dress of silks and velvet clinging to her curves. She’d put her hair up in a vaguely Grecian style, small ringlets of black framing her face and the playful smile on her dark lips.
“You look beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She walked over, slightly taller in her stilettos, and kissed his cheek softly. “Did you call your friend?”
“I’ll do it on the way over.” He reached into the closet, sliding the panel shut as he pulled out her favorite coat. She turned and looked over her shoulder as he put it on her, her bare shoulders and the curvature of her spine disappearing under the leather.
“So, are you ready to take me out?”
She posed the question as she turned to face him. He looked into her eyes, knowing what she’d been doing and for whom, remembering the clarity with which his orders had been given. But instead of duty, he felt doubt.
“I’m not sure.”
Her brows furrowed. “I’m sorry?”
He shook his head. “Sorry. Not sure if I have Claude’s right number. Anyway… yes, to your question.” He offered her his arm. “Shall we?”
Her hands wrapped around his forearm, and they stepped out into the night.