Orders – Part 1
First, I’m happy to say after a week off rebuilding, my website and blog are both up and running! If you are a WordPress or email subscriber, I’d love it if you’d take a moment to stop by and have a look. It was a lot of work, but entirely worth it (after some horrible moments wondering what the heck I was thinking/doing on Monday and Tuesday of last week!). And I won’t say it is entirely done. There are some pages to be tweaked/created and links to add in. But it works and I want to get back to my posting schedule!
Which brings me to… today’s Monday Reads post! Today begins short story #2 from my new dystopian series, Friends of my Enemy. This story is one of those from Stories from the War, which is on pre-order now! But hey, who can wait? So enjoy…
Friends of my Enemy:
Stories from the War
Part 2: Orders
A touch traced the hollow of her temple. Arinna flexed her fingers as she woke, surprised to feel the smooth nap of the couch. The reminder of the night shot her into consciousness. She opened her eyes to see Michael’s tired face cast in the blue light of predawn.
“It was a depot,” she said, sitting up. Michael shifted from kneeling to sitting next to her. That small act sent her heart into flips. “Are you just getting home?”
A dark emotion flickered in his eyes but didn’t stick. “Yes. There was a lot of relaying info and responding to questions for help. They wanted eyes on all potential routes from the area.”
“Did they say who did it?”
“It wasn’t full. It was empty,” Arinna said.
They stared at each other.
“You are certain? Byran is sure?”
“Yes. I saw the data. The blast signature is too small. It was empty except for the bomb that took it down.”
“Shit. He didn’t tell me that.”
“Who? Byran?” Arinna asked, confused. “You talked to Byran?”
Michael gave in to a bashful smile. “After you left, he called me to give me an earful. Said you had been crying and that… well, it ended with I didn’t deserve you if that was all the faith I had in you.”
“You believed him?” Arinna asked, hardly daring to dream anyone could make this work out, much less Byran.
“I don’t think he was going to let me off the phone till I did. I hope you see why I thought that?”
“I do. I’m so sorry. No more weekends, no more Byran at all if you want.” She was crying again. This time Michael smudged the tears away.
“We need his information. More than ever. But this weekend you are mine. And no more nights away.”
Arinna answered by making up for her earlier realization. She kissed him and made certain they’d both remember it.
“Are you going to Ambassador Eldridge’s farewell party?” Byran asked, his breath visible on a rare chilly day of January.
“Yes. With Michael. My husband, remember?” she teased.
“Right, him. I still don’t think he likes me that much.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“Well, there is so much…”
Arinna laughed. The compromise she’d found in her life was to not need Byran’s information. She’d developed resources of her own, though most were a result of Byran’s introductions such as Marco. And it took time. Months passed during which the news from the USA grew darker, at least what she learned. What they were told remained unchanged. Now the time she spent with Byran was less intense and more social. And it was enjoyable, becoming a refuge from uncertainty and bad news. That was something she never would have expected.
“Well, you must promise me at least a dance.”
“Perhaps, if you behave yourself,” she replied.
“Ah, well that is a lost cause then.” She shook her head, amused. “Come with me on a drive. We’ll go to this little cafe…”
“I have work to do, Byran. I actually need to get paid. I can’t runoff and drive around with you.” Arinna waved her hand at him, which he caught and annoyingly kissed.
“Of course, that is why you are still here. You are busy. Your hands are freezing!” He said, breathing on where he’d tucked both of her hands between his. The warmth of his breath moving over her skin captured within the heat of his hands unleashed a shudder through her. Heat rose to her cheeks without her meaning it to. “Come on, no one will question if you are with me. They have wonderful soup.”
“Do you have any appointments the rest of the day?”
“No. But I also swore I’d never go to lunch with you,” Arinna replied, pulling her hands back in an effort to regain control.
“Or dinner, if I remember correctly. Do you realize how many times you’ve broken that?” He grinned. “Not that I mind. You can break any promise to me that you like. Especially that one. I’ll even have you home in time for a nice quiet dinner with Michael,” he added.
She really couldn’t come up with an argument against that.
Byran dropped her off half an hour later than promised. A light sweat swept her forehead as she hurried through her front door, attempting to decide if an explanation or an apology was needed first. Michael paced the living room, guilt over time with Byran dropping into her stomach before she saw the phone held to his ear. Guilty relief sent her to the kitchen to make coffee. Wondering how she could allow Byran to again flood her with anxiety, Arinna didn’t hear Michael walk up behind her. He pulled her against his chest as he swiped her cheek with a kiss. Gratefully, she let the turmoil Byran caused go.
“Yes. You didn’t hear anything?” he asked.
“No. Not today. You beat me this time.” Michael laughed a breath against her neck. “So what happened?”
“Good news for once. They caught a terrorist cell with most of the weapons from the depot raided a month ago.”
“Oh, the one they claimed was a small depot with only a minor break in? And not one of the three largest and the whole thing was emptied?” Arinna sighed with exasperation. “Still, that is good ne—”
“What is it?” Michael asked, turning her to face him when she froze.
“I didn’t learn of anything. You did. What if there wasn’t anything to hear?”
He rested his forehead against hers, the happiness draining from him. “They made it up. It didn’t happen.”
“It might have,” she suggested. He gave her a disbelieving stare. “What is going on back home?” she murmured.
“There are some days I wonder.”
“Hah. Some days, really? I know you.”
“No,” Michael said. Her heart constricted as he paused. “Maybe when we first got here. But now… I’ve got a different perspective. They’ve lied and keep lying. At first, I was angry. Now, I wonder how far back the lies go.”
Arinna took a long look at her husband, finally seeing his hair that had outgrown any resemblance to a buzz cut months ago. He was wearing a T-shirt, one that wasn’t white, black, or brown. On the street, she might not take him for a former soldier at all.
“Why didn’t you say something before?” she asked.
“I didn’t want to think it, much less say it.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Try to stay here as long as we can and when we go home, be as smart as we can.”