vignette

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett even further

[Crossposting from thecaregiverseries.wordpress.com]

I was all comfortable and relaxed at a table inside the hotel’s restaurant reading the morning paper and sipping coffee when the billowing of a black coat and the agitated tones of a male voice interrupted my concentration.

“There you are!” Romulus was rushing to my table. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

I put down the paper the moment he stood next to my seat, waiting for something.

After not obtaining a reaction from me, he lowered himself and kissed my cheek before unwrapping his scarf, taking off his coat, and joining me in the seat across.

“It’s six in the morning. I expected to find you still in bed.”

“You took my other key.”

“I did.”

“You weren’t planning on staying the night so I thought I’d get an early start.”

“Ready to order now?” A waitress stood by our table.

I was quick to recite my order. Romulus hesitated when she turned to him.

“Go on. It’s on the agency.” I encouraged him and he ordered something for himself.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon us after the waitress left.

“I thought you’d be… tired.” He said, taking the discarded newspaper to glance at it.

Tired? Not so much. My wrists sure didn’t like being handcuffed for as long as they were subjected to and my buttocks still stung a bit –he sure liked whipping that leather belt– but I couldn’t say the whole act warranted the tiredness required for me to sleep all through the night, though. It warranted me other things. Things I didn’t feel like discussing at the moment.

“Insomnia.” I blurted. “Hits me every now and then. Had I popped one of my pills I would’ve been out the whole day and missed the trip to Spring Gardens.”

“Pills? You mean sleeping pills? Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”

“The sooner the better for the pharmaceutical companies.”

“Maybe I could be of help?” There was that smug smile again. “Maybe I wasn’t rough enough for your liking?”

“There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room before they call security.”

“I have a flat.”

“No.”

“It isn’t mine,” he hissed. “A friend is renting his old flat and I thought maybe you’d be interested.”

“I’ve already got a list of apartments I’ll be checking out. I’m planning on buying one this time. Never been fond of landlords.”

Our food arrived and I hastened to start on mine.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

I kept my head low so I could roll my eyes without him noticing. “Not at all.” I put my fork down. “Look. Last night was nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes, nice. But it doesn’t change anything.”

“That was never my intention.”

“Then what was your intention?”

“I wanted you.” He paused to stare into my eyes. “I couldn’t care less about you signing with the project or not, it’s inconsequential to me. They’ll be the ones missing out, not you.” He stirred, doing that lean-closer-to-me move of his. “I liked last night. Didn’t you? I think we got along pretty well.”

It wasn’t out-of-this-world-great but it wasn’t bad either. He had what I called the Two S’s. Sexy and strong. “We did.”

“I’ve followed your career for a very long time, Scarlett. I know about your ex-husband and your association with Madame Beatrix. I’ve been to her clubs and they are topnotch.”

“Do your colleagues take part in these practices too?”

“No. They don’t.”

I picked up my fork again. “Okay, let’s make this clear. Judging by how things developed last night I can tell you’re not trained in BDSM.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That you’ve visited Beatrix’s clubs once or twice doesn’t make you an expert.”

“Maybe you can teach me, then.”

I looked at him from under my eyebrows and even the chewing wasn’t enough to make him stop smiling.

I was about to change that. I was getting myself into something I wasn’t completely sure about and needed to keep the upper hand somehow. If only with him.

“I don’t mind starting an affair with you but would prefer we keep it private, even more if I were to sign that contract and become an employee under your supervision.” The smile was fading by now. Good. “We negotiate a contract that will specify boundaries. Meet at undisclosed locations. You don’t come to my place, I don’t come to yours. We’re never seen in public together other than during activities concerning our work relationship.”

“Wait.” He shook his head.

“What?”

“Where’s the sentiment in this?”

“Sentiment?”

Uh-oh. I’m not dealing with a sentimental little kid, am I?

“Does it surprise you that much that someone just wants to be with you? Plain and simple?”

Huh?

“I’m sorry. Was there supposed to be any sentiment in this? I gave you what you wanted.”

“And what was that?”

“To fuck the new recruit. Now you can walk into your office with your chest all puffed on the knowledge that you had me before anyone else there.”

“God, Scarlett, no!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you going on about?” Then took a deep breath. “I-”

Oh don’t fuck with me!

“I researched you, Moretti. You’re divorced with three children from two different women. You have been to Beatrix’s clubs more than once and actually got your ass kicked out from her Frankfurt one.”

“That was a misunderstanding.”

“Everything in life is a misunderstanding.”

“What do I have to do to prove to you that this is not what you’re thinking?”

I cleared my plate, pushed it to the side, and was about to say something when he crossed me.

“Has it been that bad? That awful? To feel unappreciated for so long?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and set it aside. “You’re young, skilled, clever, yet I can bet my life no one has ever told you these things to your face. There’s a loneliness that is only felt when you’re in the company of others. You keep yourself busy with work and have only pursued relationships that you knew wouldn’t give you what you really wanted, that would leave you as empty as you were the moment you walked into them.”

Now he was getting on my nerves.

My mobile vibrated in my pocket but I kept my sight locked on Romulus’ because I knew who it was. The only person that would be calling me so early, probably locked inside a bathroom so his pregnant wife wouldn’t hear him.

“I’m not saying I’m what you’re looking for. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that it’s not all angst and hardship. That there’s fun to be had.”

He smiled. Wide.

I couldn’t help the slight tremor that took me over.

“When I met you in Miami I told you if you signed with us I’d make it worth your time. Sign or not, I’m keeping that promise.”

“Are you?”

He twisted away from me, reached out to the unoccupied table behind him, plucked a flower from the arrangement it held, and presented it to me.

“To the very last second.”

I took the flower and held it to my eyes.

The mobile ceased vibrating.

And so it began.

——————————

Go to: The Vignettes

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On how Scarlett got into this mess in the first place… (The Caregiver Series vignette #3)

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she met Romulus Moretti, the one that would become her superior at Interpol, years before the story on the book starts. It gives a glimpse of how and why she became an agent. Enjoy!

Read Vignette #1 here.

Read Vignette #2 here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a fucking long corridor. I kept glancing at the backs of the two men walking in front of us, thinking how wrong all of this felt. The air conditioning was a nice change from the scorching Miami sun, that was for sure.

Their names were Douglas and James. They introduced themselves when we reached the lobby of the unidentified building we were in, right after we exchanged some of the most uncomfortable handshakes I’ve ever experienced.

Cisneros’s incredibly sober look didn’t help either. I was sure they were cops, it showed in the way they walked with their puffed chests and the permanent grimace in their faces. Why we were there was beyond my comprehension. All Cisneros told me was to trust him.

He’d never given me a reason not to.

But, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.

The officer by the name of James opened the door to an office and ushered us into a pair of chairs in front of a cheap-looking metal desk, then left. Douglas stood behind us in silence.

Cisneros was fidgeting with the edge of his jacket over his lap. I was starting to believe it hadn’t been a good idea to leave my gun in the car, like he asked me to.

James opened the door –apparently, he was the designated doorman– and a tall man, dark hair peppered with gray at the temples, appeared. We stood to greet him but he crossed us.

“No need for that.” His English accent struck me. “I promise this will be quite quick.”

He was the oldest of them all. Douglas didn’t look more than forty, and James could only be a couple years older than me, nowhere close to thirty.

Cisneros stirred in his seat. He had deals with some London people but they never came to the States, he always flew to meet them there.

“My name is Romulus Moretti.” He proceeded to sit behind the desk and place the folder he had been carrying on the desktop. “I’m a Detective Inspector from the Metropolitan Police in London, and do believe me when I tell you I’ve been looking forward to this meeting, Miss Lang.”

“Have we met?” As soon as I spoke, Cisneros gave a little jump. Odd.

“No.” He drawled, as he started pulling pictures out of the folder and setting them on the desk. “But I know more about you than you think. Come. Take a look at these.” I stared into his eyes and he gave me a half-grin. “I don’t bite.”

I don’t need to say that phrase didn’t make me feel any better about this.

I pushed myself forward and felt the color on my face vanish. An array of pictures lay between us. Pictures of victims I had murdered. Blown heads, bloodshot eyes, brain matter scattered on the pavement.

“What is this about?” I flashed Cisneros an angry glance that he didn’t meet. “What the fuck is this?”

“It’s OK, Miss Lang. We’re not here to prosecute you. We’re here to make you an offer.”

“Whatever it is, I’m not interested. Thank you.” I rose, but a pair of hands were immediately at my shoulders, pushing me down.

“Not so fast, Miss Lang,” Moretti barked, nodding at James, encouraging him to make sure I sat back down. “You can’t jump to conclusions if you haven’t even given me the chance to explain.”

I rearranged my shirt and stared angrily at Moretti, all the while shooting darts out my eyes at James.

“Good. Now that I have your attention, I can proceed by telling you that after being in contact with your grandfather for a while, we’ve decided to make you a deal. I’m currently working for the Interpol in the United Kingdom and have taken part in an interagency project that is seeking recruits…”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Moretti, but I think you’re mistaken.” My interruption drew a nice frown in his face. “If you know me as well as you say you do, and if you’ve spoken to my grandfather, you should know there is no way an agency like the Interpol would even consider hiring me.”

The frown melted into a sardonic smile. “That’s exactly why this is a deal and not a job proposition. You see, Miss Lang, this project requires both expertise and… connections. We’re not looking to recruit sheltered young men and women that dream of becoming agents just to put a spice in their lives. We’re looking for people that have been there, and – literally – done that. Young people like you, with the skills and the desire to get out of that life.”

“Get out?” A sideways glance confirmed Cisneros was looking intently at me.

“Yes.” He leaned forward, his hands steepled over the desk. “Get out. We are aware of the tension that has permeated in your relationship with your grandfather. And Rafael here has told us about your intentions to leave the murder-by-contract business as soon as you finish studying. You will not be removed from the life you lead, all you will have to do is pick up the phone when we call and be available to go on missions when we ask you to.”

“Missions? Military kind of missions?”

“There will be some akin to military jobs. Undercover work may also be necessary. You’ll have a steady paycheck and agency credentials. In your case, since you will be working under my supervision, we would be arranging for you to have Interpol credentials.”

This didn’t make any fucking sense.

“I’ve been working with them for the past year.” Cisneros spoke like someone that had broken a vow of silence. “Scarlett, I know how much you want to leave all this behind you.” He turned to me and some of the nervousness had slipped off his features. “It’s not too late to change paths. At least not for you.”

“What if I refuse?” I switched to Moretti. “What if I don’t want any of your shit?” I spat out that last word in utter disgust.

Moretti snorted, then looked at me from under his eyebrows. “When was the last time you spoke to your grandfather?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Six years ago?”

“He’s never shown any repentance from the things he did to you, or has he?” He was staring at me, searching for whatever sign my face was giving away. “He still regards you with that nickname he had for you. What was it? Scumbag?”

Oh poker face, don’t forsake me now. “Yes.”

Again, Cisneros was looking intently at me. Fuck this psychological shit.

“This doesn’t make sense at all. They could’ve sent someone from the Miami Police Department, not you from the other side of the Atlantic.”

“It is in our interest that you work far from where you’re already known. I was randomly selected to recruit you. As I said, this is an interagency program, so you will be working with other agents with Interpol credentials, as well as from other agencies. It really doesn’t matter as long as we can guarantee that travel won’t be a problem.”

“What’s the catch?”

“There is no exact catch. Just the fact that you will be working for us, all under my strict supervision. You will have to travel, and it may be required that you spend some time in London, but that hasn’t been decided. Other than that, you will receive, as I said, a steady paycheck, while having the liberty to go on with your current job.

Once your work with us is done, your record will be clean. You’ll be given a clean slate, a new life, Miss Lang. Away from the world that has hurt you, from those that have deserted you. The same world that took away your parents and forced you to live a life of misery and loss. Isn’t it time you took your knowledge and used it for good? We are giving you what you crave, a second chance in life. We don’t give this out to just anyone, you know?”

I rested my eyes on Cisneros and, when he faced me, it was with a solemn plea in his eyes. He was mentally setting his hand on the small of my back and pushing me, ever so gently. Like a father would.

Like he always did.

“I’ll have to think about it.”

“Take all the time you need, Miss Lang.” Moretti rose from his seat, collecting the pictures and putting them back into the folder. “We will be in touch.” He strode to the door, where James was, already waiting for him. “This is James, by the way, but we all call him Jimmy, and that is Douglas.”

Cisneros and I were standing next to our chairs. “Yeah, they introduced themselves.”

“Great. After you, then.” He gestured us to the open door and when I had crossed it, he cut between Cisneros and I to set his hand on my back while leaning into my ear. “Your grandfather told me you were no good. That I would be disappointed.” He then shifted to step in my way. “I beg to differ.” His teeth gleamed through his smile. “And I would love to prove that old man wrong.”

He patted my shoulder and started down the corridor, an air of casualness in his stride.

I looked at Cisneros and he held my gaze.

“Please?” The porter called James nicknamed Jimmy interrupted, beckoning us to follow him out.

Decisions. Decisions.

I rushed towards Romulus’s receding back. “Hey!” He paused, waiting for me to reach his side. “What if I say yes?”

He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side. “Then I swear I will make it worth your time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

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The Caregiver book cover

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