A/N: Thanks for the reviews, they keep me writing!
Fen laughed. "Ah, no," she said firmly. But when Theresa didn't laugh, her smile faded. "Are you kidding me? You're going to fire me? Because I got attacked? That's…that's…that's…" Fen spluttered, searching for words.
"Not what's happening," Wake-up Guy interjected. "You're in danger."
"I'll talk to Javier," Fen protested. "I'll get him to stop that guy. He will! The guy even said that Javier didn't know."
"He's gone," Wake-up Guy reported matter-of-factly. "His place has been cleaned out, nothing left behind."
Theresa held her hand out to Fen. "Come sit with me, dear. You know I wouldn't fire you. You're the best employee I've ever had."
Numb, Fen joined Theresa on the coach, sinking down into its comfortable cushions. "Gone?"
A flicker of a smile crossed Wake-up Guy's face. "At risk of creating an echo, yes. Gone."
Had her assailant killed Javier? No, why would a murderer take all his stuff? Javier must have decided it was time to disappear on his own. But why would he…
Maybe her thoughts were showing on her face, because Theresa took her hand and interlaced their fingers, while Wake-up Guy leaned forward. "Someone shot my brother. That's attempted murder. You're a witness. The man who connected you to the crime has disappeared. It suggests that he was warned of potential trouble."
"That's okay, though." Fen said. "He's gone, so… I'll just get back to my life."
"You're the only witness to the attempted murder of my brother." Wake-up Guy's voice was gentle again.
Fen's nose twitched in annoyance. He didn't need to talk to her like she was two-years old or an idiot. "And? So? I tell the police what I know and it's over. Besides, I'm not the only witness. Your brother's a witness, too. He can tell the police himself."
Wake-up Guy's face went still before he said, easily, "We certainly hope he can. But two witnesses are better than one."
Fen stared at him. "Injured. You said he was injured. Is he—"
"He's being taken care of," Wake-up Guy said briefly. His eyes didn't meet hers. "We hope for the best."
Fen inhaled, a long deep shaky breath. The boy had saved her life. Was he going to pay for it with his own?
"But dear," Theresa interrupted, "You have to understand. One way or another, the man who tried to kill you isn't likely to walk away now. He planned to kill you even before you could testify against him for two attempted murders."
"I think it was a job for him," Fen said. "That's how he acted. Like someone hired him to do it."
"All the worse." Theresa's hand tightened around Fen's, the squeeze close to painful for a moment. "He's got a job to complete and a witness to eliminate."
"We need to think about the best course of action from here," Wake-up Guy said.
Fen flopped back against the couch cushions and stared up at the ceiling. She blinked furiously. She was not going to cry again, but her eyes were stinging. What would she do? What could she do?
A soft knock at the door had Wake-up Guy standing and crossing to the room. Fen sat up as he rejoined them, laden with a tray. He hadn't been kidding about the tea. The tray held a china teapot, white with flowers, three matching tea cups with saucers, and a plate of cookies. Not chocolate chip. Delicate little butter cookies in fancy shapes. He placed the tray on the table in front of Theresa and took his seat again.
Fucking tea in pretty china teacups.
Fen wanted to pick up one of the cups, hurl it toward the window, and watch it smash against the glass, an urge so strong she clenched her fingers into fists and then slid her fists under her thighs.
Wake-up Guy caught the motion, but his face remained expressionless, as he continued, "I'm unaware of the extent of your resources?"
It was a question, gently phrased, but Fen glared at him anyway. "The fuck you aren't. You were in my apartment, weren't you?"
"Fen." Theresa's protest was soft, almost a whisper, but Fen pressed her lips together and Wake-up Guy tilted his head in her direction.
"I did choose, under the circumstances, to retrieve some of your belongings personally rather than send an aide. It seemed prudent given the uncertainty of the situation."
"What's uncertain about it? Some asshole wants to kill me," Fen said bitterly.
"Yes," he agreed with infuriating calm. "And I would have disliked it greatly if he had been lying in wait at your apartment and one of my friends or employees had encountered him rather than me." He gestured at the teapot and spoke to Theresa, asking, "Would you like to pour?"
Fen stared at him. Okay, he was either crazy or… no, he was definitely crazy. He wanted to be the person to run into a killer? Sure, she got not wanting to let anyone you knew get killed, but if he'd thought that was a real possibility, why not get help? Like the police? Maybe a SWAT team?
"Are you a cop?" she asked.
He wasn't as obviously amused as he had been when she'd asked him if he were a vampire, but his smile was genuine as he took the tea cup that Theresa passed him. "No."
"Don't you think this is a problem for them?" Why hadn't she woken up in a hospital? How had he found them? Questions that she hadn't thought to wonder were beginning to bubble up in her mind.
"I have resources unavailable to a local police department." He took a sip of his tea without adding sugar or milk or lemon.
Local police department? Chicago was a major metropolitan area. The city had thousands of police officers. Sure, crime was still an issue—it's not like she'd ever thought the streets were safe—but a big chunk of the city's nine billion-with-a-b budget went to the police department.
"What does that mean?" Fen demanded. "What kind of resources?"
"Suffice it to say, for the moment, that I believe my ability to prioritize our needs exceeds that of the local authorities."
Fen stared at him as he took another sip of his tea. His words sounded so smooth, so elegant in that dreamy, not quite American voice. But what the hell did they mean?
"Speak English, please," she said flatly.
He hid a smile behind his tea cup.
"Fen." The name was a gentle reproof from Theresa. "Mr. Delmar is being helpful."
"Delmar? That's your name?" Fen scowled at him.
"Do you dislike it?" He sounded only mildly interested in her answer but his green-blue eyes had sharpened.
"It sounds very… American."
He set his tea cup back in its saucer. "My first name is Kaio. You must feel free to use it."
Kye-oh. Fen turned the sound over in her mind. It was much better. It fit. "Are you Hawaiian?" she guessed. "Eurasian?"
"At some later date, I should be delighted to discuss my background in detail with you. Even, perhaps, boring detail. But I'm afraid that right now is not the time." He shot back his suit jacket sleeve and glanced at the gold watch on his wrist.
"As I've told your employer, I am removing my brother to a safer place while the crime against him is investigated. If you should care to join us, we would be delighted to host you until your assailant and his employers are safely incarcerated."
Fen glanced at Theresa uncertainly.
"You know I'll do anything I can to help you, dear," Theresa said quietly. "I suggested to Mr. Delmar that you join my sister in Ohio, but he pointed out…"
"If someone is searching for you, your employer is an obvious target," Kaio interrupted her. "It would be best if she didn't know the details of your location."
"I'd take the risk for myself," Theresa said, "But Jenny's got three kids. I can't…"
"It's all right, I understand," Fen said. She didn't want Theresa to take any risks for her either. She glanced at Wake-up Guy—Kaio, she corrected herself—uncertainly. "Where would we be going?"
He nodded toward Theresa. "No details now, please. But one of my employees will take your place at the bookstore temporarily. Should Ms. Stevens need to get in touch with you, he'll be able to make it happen."
One of his employees. Who was this guy? "You have a bookstore clerk on your payroll, just waiting to leap into action when needed?"
His lips twitched. "No. But I have multiple bodyguards. I can spare one."
She wanted to go home, back to her tiny apartment, the place that was hers, all hers. And maybe she would have taken the chance on her own. Sure, she got the point of what they were worried about, she heard what they were saying.
But fuck that shit.
She'd buy a big-ass gun and learn how to use it. Asshole came back, she'd blow a hole in him before he had to chance to do the same to her.
Except—she couldn't afford a gun. She could barely buy groceries.
And she might not have time to learn to shoot. What if she missed?
Still, she could probably have said no to Kaio Delmar for her own sake.
But Theresa would be safer with her gone. And a lot safer with a bodyguard covering her shifts.
Reaching down, Fen picked up one of the delicate butter cookies and bit it in two with a snap. It melted on her tongue, sweet and slightly nutty and as delicious as any cookie she had ever tasted.
The offer was too good to refuse.
Did that also mean it was too good to be true?
Fen knew it didn't matter. She had no choice.
She popped the second half into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and dusted off her fingers.
"When do we leave?"