At first Emma just thought she was losing her knack for the job. She knew there were rogue mercenaries and assassins out there that didn't work for her employers and maybe she was losing her touch so much that, when they needed a hit taken out, they were hiring outside help. But if that were the case, the higher ups would send someone else to do the job and just get rid of her.
It was even more confusing, though, that she was getting the credit for all these jobs someone was beating her to. She silently took it, not wanting to admit someone out there was better than her. Or worse yet, that someone who was better than her was stalking her and she didn't know how to deal with it. Her pride wouldn't let her do that, so she remained silent about it, just smiling when she was given praise for the jobs.
Though, she was determined this time to get there before this other person did. She had been handed the file on the person and set out right then to do it. Normally she spent about a week following the person, learning their daily habits, sometimes even becoming someone new and getting to know them. But when someone out there was trying to one up her in a very messed up way, she needed to get there first.
The man she was targeting tonight owned an up and coming factory and his office over looked the work floor. It was after hours but she knew from the file that he stayed late doing paperwork. He seemed like an all around good guy from what the file said but it seemed like someone, Powers, didn't like the pressure this new company was putting out.
She slid into the darkness of the work floor and looked up at the windows that allowed the mark to watch his company operate. There were lights flickering within, like a fire was burning in the office. She didn't know the layout of the factory or his office so he very well could have a fireplace, which seemed a bit unusual.
She smiled to herself and followed the shadows to the stairs that led up to the office. She was quick and quiet, moving through the darkness as the pro she was. As she approached the door, she pulled her gun from the holster on her hip and held it up as she slid along the wall. She took a deep breath and reached for the door handle. She turned it slowly and sighed in relief when it was unlocked. She hated doing the whole door kicking thing since it left evidence of a break in and knocking had gotten her almost shot before when she was a rookie.
As she'd turned the handle slowly, she pushed the door open and entered the room, gun drawn. What she saw in the room stopped her in her tracks. In the chair over at the desk was the man she was sent to kill, bent over his papers, blood dripping onto the floor from the corner of the desk. The glow was indeed from a fireplace but she didn't even notice its crackling in greeting. They'd beaten her again; the mystery killer had beat her to yet another hit. How did they do it? How did this person know what she was up to?
"Ah, Red, my sweet little flower. You've made it at last," The mocking words floated into her ears as a pair of arms wrapped around her body, one around her hip and the other pressing a gun to the underside of her chin.
She froze and took a deep steady breath. She knew that voice and she knew it well, even though it had been five years since she'd last heard it. "Grant," she breathed the name.
The man behind her chuckled and tilted her head to the side with the gun. "You remember me," It was a simple statement but the words held such menace that an involuntary shiver ran down Emma's spine.
"What do you want?"
"Oh I think you know what I want," He snickered and nuzzled the nape of her neck and the gun began a slow path from her neck, over her stomach, and ran against her leg.
She swallowed hard and closed her eyes. He wasn't going to hurt her, she knew that much. No matter what he had done in the past, he never had, never could hurt her. His anger would collide with everything around her but leave her miraculously untouched. The thought wasn't comforting though. He was still touching her.
"So you're the one who's been hitting all my marks?"
He snickered and rubbed the barrel of his gun against her thigh. She could feel his finger on the trigger. Unsure if the safety was on or not, she didn't dare move.
"Who else would it be, darling? Who else would know you so well?"
"Paxton," she said without missing a beat. She knew how he'd react. All it was now was waiting for his reaction.
She shouldn't have counted down from three because he exploded right on one.
Ravager pulled the gun off her leg, spun her towards one of the chairs in front of the fire, and forcefully shoved her down. "Paxton?! Paxton Powers?! You think that rich, scumbag knows you better than I know you, Red? I know everything about you!" He stomped over towards her chair then leaned down and grabbed the arms of it, his face less than an inch from hers. She could taste his breath, the clean minty taste he always seemed to hold on to even hours after brushing.
"I know everything about you! Everything! I know every last damn curve of your body and flaw in your personality! I know your weaknesses, your strengths, and I worship every single one! I know all of your secrets!" He pushed off the chair, moving the piece of furniture back a few inches, then walked across the room to get away from her. "Do you hear that?" He said as he stopped in front of the desk and grabbed the back of the dead man's head and lifted it. "She thinks Paxton knows her better than I do. What do you think?"
He stared at the former mark as if he were actually waiting for a reply from it. He then laughed. "That's right! You can't talk! You're dead!" He dropped the head with a loud thud. When he turned, the woman he had been hunting was gone from her chair.
Emma had taken the chance to slip out of the room while the deranged man talked to the dead man. She was running through the work floor when his voice echoed behind her. She took a short moment to look back, comforted that he was hanging out of a window in the office and not chasing after her.
"Emma! I'll get you back! You can run all you want but I will get you!"
She didn't look back again until she was home.
The next evening, Emma walked into the main base and headed for her first in command's office. He'd sent her a message earlier in the day, stating that she needed to come in for a new assignment. A second message followed right after the first, telling her that she did very well on her assignment the night before. She had frowned at the second message, hating that she was taking credit for kills Grant had made. It had been different when she didn't know who was doing it but it made her feel dirty knowing the truth. Dirty and really pissed off.
She came to the decision as she took the elevator down into the underground building that she was going to tell her first in command what had really been going on. She hated having to admit she hadn't been making these kills and she would probably end up on probation with some stupid Probation Shadow following her on her missions for the next year or two but at least then she'd have someone watching her back encase Grant showed up again.
She stepped off the elevator and with her head held high, she glided down the hall. The doors she passed all looked the same but she knew the subtle differences between them. They were all made to look the same in case someone from the skyscraper above them somehow ended up in the underground base. Derek Powers didn't want any names on doors or anything to show that the building was even being used as anything more than a dust collector. It would ruin everything they worked for in keeping it a secret.
She stopped in front of the door for her commanding officer and slid her card into the slot next to the door. The scanner within the slot would let the man inside know she was there. After that it would only be a matter of seconds before the door buzzed and she could walk in. And that was what happened. The door buzzed and she steeled herself to say what she had to. She opened the door, stepped in, then froze.
She had a brief moment of déjà vu but it passed in a moment as she stared at Grant sitting in one of the chairs at the desk of her superior. All of her previous intentions were wiped away as she whispered in confusion, "What?"
The superior behind the desk stood, a broad smile on his face, and motioned to the other seat. "Have a seat, please," The man she worked under was in his fifties, white haired, and despite all the killing he'd done in his life, always wore a smile and a gray suit.
"Why is Ravager here?" She asked as she slowly took the seat offered.
The white haired man smile brightened, "You two are going to be working a case together."
"I don't need help," Emma said, appalled. She didn't need any kind of help from anyone to get any kind of case done. She especially didn't want his help.
"Unfortunately you do for this one. You're being sent after a senator and the only way to get close to him is in a pair. And what better pair? You two worked so well together before. It was Ravager's suggestion and a mighty fine one at that."
"Sir, we're not together anymore and haven't been for five years," She didn't have to spare a sideways glance to know what expression was on Grant's face. He was going to win and he knew it. He was probably wearing a tauntingly triumphant smirk.
"Red, there is no arguing this. You and Grant are working this. You two are the best we have who know each other so well. I will not take no for an answer. You have never turned down a job before and you will not turn this one down," He was actually being firm with her and she hated it.
"I will not work with my ex! Don't you think there's a conflict of interest here or something?"
"Red," Her superior said warningly.
Emma knew what was going on. Grant had a way with people and god only knew how long he had been there before she arrived. She sent a look at Grant that would have killed him if looks could do such a thing, then quickly got up from her chair and stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind her.
"I'll go get her. I'll make her understand," Grant said in a slightly mocking tone but the older man didn't catch it. Grant got up from his seat and left the room, speed walking to catch up to her. "Oh Emma..." He taunted and she could hear the smirk in his voice. "I told you, didn't I? I told you I would get you my sweet little blossom. And now I have."
"Screw you, Grant!"
"Just name the place and time and I will be there!" He snickered but straightened up. "Seriously though, how' s my little Jaye doing? I see that she looks so much like me. Oh wait, that's right, you probably wouldn't know. After all you dumped her off onto your parents so they could raise her."
She covered her ears, acting as though that would drown him out, "Shut the hell up!"
"I'm just speaking the truth darling. You can't even handle the son you have with Paxton and ignore him as well. You're great mother material, has anyone ever told you that?"
Emma stepped on the brakes and spun quickly, her hand flying towards his face, stopping barely an inch away from his cheek. She had to keep her cool or at least look like she was. "Don't you dare bring them into this. I may be the world's worst mother but at least I thought about them first. I knew they deserved better than me; that's why I left them. I didn't want to screw them up," She said with anger dripping from each word.
"Oh you're such a saint. That really touches my heart," He said in a mocking tone as he patted his chest. "I might as well start calling you Mother Teresa. What do you think honeybunch?"
"You're an insane jackass, that's what I think," She huffed as she stared at him, her emerald eyes glaring into his icy blue ones. "I liked you better when you were normal, before the H.I.V.E. got to you. Whatever they did to you made you insane."
Grant just smirked and brought her hand up, pressing her palm against his face and nuzzling it. Her heart actually fluttered at the tenderness he was showing her and for a moment she forgot what was going on. That was until he spoke again. "Baby cakes, I never was normal," He said the words like he would if he were admitting he loved her. He then leaned in, "And neither are you. The H.I.V.E. just amplified what they did to me decades ago. They improved the old me."
She pulled away from him and made a sound of disgust as she wiped her hand on her pant leg, as if he had just licked her hand and blew his nose in her palm. She turned on her heels and again stormed away from him.
"I'll be at the Chateau, in our old room. I expect to see you there, my little rose bud," He called after her.
Emma didn't stop until she was home and made sure all the doors and windows were locked.
The Chateau was a cute little bed and breakfast with a total of fifty rooms in the southern part of Maine. It was set off from any main roads amongst trees. Getting a room there usually meant calling a month in advance to put in a reservation so Grant must have been planning this for awhile.
Emma shifted the duffel bag on her shoulder, walked up the stairs and in to the front living room. There was a friendly little old lady sitting behind a desk near the door who smiled and warmly welcomed Emma to the Chateau.
"Welcome to Chateau, do you have a reservation?"
She nodded. "It's under Wilson," Grant was always ballsy and reserved under his own name.
The woman nodded and checked the computer that was set up on one corner of the wooded top. "Emma Wilson?"
Emma shuddered at the use of her former name; a name she hadn't even used since she'd gotten divorced five years before. "That's me." How sadistic of him to use that name. "Do you need an ID?" She shifted the bag on her arm to open it for her wallet. She hoped there was no ID needed since she didn't have one for the name Emma Wilson. Not one that wasn't expired anyways.
"Oh no deary, your husband has already checked in. He said to give you these-" She paused in her sentence to pull a pair of heart shaped sunglasses in the color pink from a drawer in the desk. She held them so delicately they might as well have been a really expensive diadem rather than a cheap pair of sunglasses. "And I'm supposed to tell you that 'everything looks better when it's rose tinted'."
Emma forced a smile and took the glasses. "Yeah, we're having a hard time right now and hoping this fixes some of it."
She tucked the glasses into her duffel bag, took the key from the lady, and headed up to the room. She knew the layout of this place like the back of her hand. They had been there so many times. They used to come here to plan their hits from the same room throughout the five years they were married and even the two years before they tied the knot. She'd thought he was a different person back then and his change from Prince Charming into the ogre he really was is what ultimately ended their marriage.
Yet she still slept with him one last time. It was the same night the divorce papers, where she had to forge his signature, were signed. Even though she did this out of pity she had payed the ultimate price afterwards. Two months later Emma found out she was pregnant. She had more than enough money to disappear for a year before coming back on the radar to her employers. They didn't seem all too concerned with her disappearing act as it was a rather common occurrence for mercenaries to go on and off the radar.
By the time little Jaye Stewart was two-years-old, Emma knew she couldn't take care of her properly. It wasn't that she didn't have the means to, she just didn't have the heart. That and she had absolutely no desire to be a mother. Every time she looked at her daughter she only saw him and she partially hated her daughter for that sole reason. Judging by the looks on their faces, Emma knew her parents were not particularly pleased but neither of them had the heart to say no to her. Since that day two years ago she hadn't seen her daughter or parents.
As if that wasn't bad enough, she had begun an affair with her employer's son, Paxton Powers, shortly after she unceremoniously dumped her daughter off onto her parents. This affair resulted in an heir for the Powers' throne. After four months of the affair starting, Emma found herself once again pregnant. Vincent Powers was the child produced by a nearly loveless affair between two equally selfish people. While Jaye was being nurtured by her doting grandparents and uncle, Vincent was handed off to the various nannies Paxton would hire so that he didn't have to deal with his own son. Emma, believing she would only ruin the boy's life, had so far limited her contact with him. The poor toddler was shown very little, if any, love or compassion by his caretakers. Emma considered a few times of also bringing Vincent to her parents as well but ultimately decided against it. They didn't need to be saddled with two of her children, one was bad enough. In Emma's perspective it wasn't like his life was going to be that terrible; he was born into an extremely wealthy family after all.
Now the bed and breakfast she was currently at didn't use the automated key cards that any average hotel would use nowadays. They still had old fashioned skeleton keys and each room only had two keys. If one were lost, it was a hundred dollar surcharge.
Emma stuck the old key into the lock and turned it, the door clicking open. Before she was even in the room, she could hear the cries of an angry mob on the television and quickly surmised that it was Frankenstein's Monster on the TV.
"This movie? Again?" Emma asked as she put her bag down by the dresser as she then muttered, "You're as bad as my father."
The Queen's Room, as the room they shared was called, had only one bed. It was a beautiful room and did its name justice; a queen would feel right at home there.
"It's a ritual, you know that," Grant was lounging on the bed, eating popcorn from a bowl. "You know, hit men and mercenaries like us are a lot like Frankenstein's Monster. We're all these different parts, these different people, sown together in one big hideous form."
"And here I forgot my pitch fork and torch at home," Emma muttered, not entertained by his ramble. Though he did have a point comparing who they were to the creature on the TV. They were a bunch of created parts coming together in one person, a killing machine. The only part he was wrong on was that the monster didn't want to kill people. Well, at least not until his maker rejected him but that was a different thing. She was putting way too much thought into this. It was just some stupid ramble she'd heard multiple times before.
"The case file is on your side of the bed," Grant said, not even looking away from the flickering lights of the TV.
Emma looked around their shared room. "I don't see it on the couch."
He finally looked away, staring at her like she was stupid, then looked down at the file sitting on the bed next to him.
Emma had taken to moving pillows around on the couch, lifting the cushions and looking under them. "I still do not see that file anywhere. Have you finally lost it?" She stood and turned to look at him. He was still looking at the file on the bed. "That's not my side of the bed," She said flatly.
"Yes it is," His voice was firm and it sounded menacing. If Emma hadn't known better, she would have swallowed hard and taken a step back. But she did know better and she made no such movements. Actually, she stepped forward and grabbed the manila folder off the bed then walked over to the couch, taking a seat.
"Nope, this is my bed since you've already claimed the actual bed."
"But we're partners," He said as he sat up, putting the half empty bowl of popcorn aside. "We're sharing a bed."
He scowled as the woman rolled her eyes. "Just because I have to work with you does not mean I have to sleep with you," She shook her head. "This isn't like the old days Grant."
Ravager growled softly and was off the bed in seconds, leaning over her, a hand tight around her throat as a warning. A warning he wouldn't follow through on. She didn't even wince, didn't even look up from the open folder on her knee, her eyes scanning over the words. He growled again, angrier this time, and tossed the folder aside, the papers and pictures scattering.
She finally looked up at him. "Do you know how long it's going to take to put all that back in order?"
Either he didn't hear what she said or he chose not to, she wasn't totally sure.
"We are working together! As a couple! And if anyone is to get wind of anything out of the ordinary, it's all over! Do you understand that Emma?!" He barked, fire in his eyes.
Admittedly, Emma was a little afraid. Okay, maybe more than a little but she was good at keeping that under wraps. If she had a dollar for each time her heart beat so loud in her ears that she couldn't hear and her palms became slick with sweat, she would be a rich woman and never have to work again. Luckily she was skilled enough to ignore it all, to hear past her heart, and slowly wipe her hands off on something and make it look nonchalant. Her choice of surface this time was Grant's chest. She pressed her hands against his shoulders, moving them down only a little as she pushed him back, away from her. His hand fell free of her neck, just proving that she had nothing to worry about. The heart beat slowed in her ears.
"I understand perfectly well, Grant," she nearly spat his name, like it was a poison he'd poured into her mouth. "But unless we are outside of this room, I am nothing but your work partner. I am not your wife anymore. I am not your girlfriend, I am not your lover, and I am not your sex buddy anymore. I am nothing to you but a co-worker. Do you understand me?" She had risen out of her seat. She was shorter than the man in front of her but she had her own air of menace when she needed or wanted it. That was probably the only thing that kept Grant from actually hurting her. He saw too much of himself in her. She pushed that kind of thinking away, not wanting to compare herself to his disgusting existence in any way.
He frowned and backed away from her, muttering something she couldn't understand as he walked over to the bed side table and picked something up. "I'm going out," He finally said in a loudness she could actually understand.
"Fine," And that was the last word she said to him for the next few days.
They moved around the room, around each other, but no one said a word. Somehow they planned out what they were going to do without uttering a word. Notes were left on tables, pamphlets that showed where they needed to be, but they never actually addressed one another.
It was the night of actually going into action that they finally spoke.
"I think we should go as husband and wife," Grant casually said, adjusting his tie. They were headed to a black tie dinner party with the senator they were aiming at. Grant had spent the time getting in good with the senator and his crew while Emma did the more mechanical part of it: getting a room to take the senator to, buying the clothing, getting guns with no paper trail attached to them. Grant had always had a way of getting people to like him. He was a charmer, a very good one. Maybe that was how Emma had fallen for him twelve years ago when she'd first met him, before she found out who he really was. She shook her head and ran a hand through her long, amber hair.
"No," It was a simple answer. She didn't want to pretend to be that happy with him.
"I already told them we were married."
Emma scowled at herself in the bathroom mirror. "Fine but I get to be the husband."
Grant laughed a short and cynical laugh. A moment later he was standing behind her in the small bathroom, his head just over her shoulder, staring at her, "I got you something to go with your dress."
"Is it a rental?" She said scathingly. "Or stolen?"
Grant frowned deeply but didn't reply to her mocking. He never did. He didn't like being mocked. He detested it actually and usually acted out about it. Not with her though, never with her. He looked at her too much as his possession. She was his and he could never hurt what was his.
He moved both hands in front of her and laid a heavily diamond encrusted necklace against her chest and pulled the two sides around her neck and did up the clasp in the back. Emma slowly reached up and touched it gently. It was beautiful. She tried but couldn't recall a time when he had ever given her anything so stunning.
"It's a Double Wing pave-encrusted pendant necklace that was handcrafted by Anita Ko herself all the way back in 2011, 18 karat white gold with 3.5 carat diamonds. It's currently valued at $55,000. The value jumped over the years because of the gold prices going through the roof. Play the part correctly and you can keep it Red."
She jumped. She hadn't noticed when but he had leaned down and, when he spoke, his lips brushed against her ear.
She changed her expression quickly from deer in the head lights to smug. "I have never messed up a job to date. You should know that, stalker," She brushed against him and left the bathroom. "We have to get going," She picked up a small purse off the couch and turned to look at him. "Or am I doing this alone?"
He walked into the bedroom with his shoulders squared, an air of self confidence swirling around him. "Now why would I send my pretty little flower into the fray alone?" He smirked as he brushed his fingers along her jaw, from her ear to her chin.
She pulled away and left the room.
He snickered as he followed her.
When Emma walked into the ballroom, she was amazed by how beautiful it was. There were two huge chandeliers hanging from the high vaulted ceilings. The light coming through the crystals that hung from it was flickering. She blinked a few times then turned her head towards Grant, though her eyes stayed on the chandeliers. "Are those lit by-"
"Candles? Yes," He nodded. "I suggested to the senator that it would add so much more class to his party if it were held by candle light rather than bright fluorescent lights. I think it's fitting, don't you?" He smirked but she didn't see it.
"You have really outdone yourself," Emma muttered. "A candle light dinner, really?" She shook her head then walked farther in the ball room, moving between tables and around people. Grant kept close to her.
"Grant! My good man!" A jolly voice stopped the both of them. Rather, it stopped Grant, who put an arm around Emma's waist and pulled her to a stop.
"Senator Gray, I was just going to look for you after showing my wife our seats," Grant smiled as he saw her shudder when being referred to as his wife.
The man, Senator Gray, smiled brightly at Emma, holding his plump hands out in front of him like he was presenting her something. "You must be Emma Wilson. Grant has spoken so much about you. He is absolutely smitten with you and I can see why," He winked.
He was a nice man though quite overweight. She was sure the suit was custom tailored just to fit his girth. He had gray hair and a gray mustache under his nose. She wondered for a brief moment who would want such a sweet guy dead. Most of the cases she was assigned to, where she had to play a role, the person was some kind of a jackass. Senator Gray seemed like a doting grandfather who took care of his own but he was a politician. Maybe that was it. He was a better candidate and someone wanted him dead.
This case may be the first one to actually make her sad.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Senator Gray," She held her hand out for him to shake. He took it, brought it to his lips, and kissed her knuckles.
"The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Wilson."
"Please, call me Emma, I insist," She didn't want him calling her any of those things but she had no choice. What would he think if she asked to be called Red?
"If you'll call me Bernard," He said with such a sweet smile.
Something was wrong here. She didn't feel right about this job and she had never felt like this while on a job before. She forced a smile to try and dismiss the thoughts.
"It's a deal, Bernard," She nodded as he smiled warmly.
"I'll let you two find your seats and mingle but I'll come find you in a little bit. I want to talk to you some more, Emma. After everything I've heard about you, I really must talk to you some more," He smiled then bid them goodbye and went on to the other guests.
"What have you told him?" She whispered sharply as he led her, hand on her lower back, towards their table.
"Nothing you can't handle darling. Remember," He smiled but she could see the sharpness behind his eyes. He was jealous and nothing ever went right when he was jealous. "I taught you how to lie so you should have no problem."
It was about half an hour before everyone was settled in their seats and dinner was served. Once they'd eaten, they were free to mingle again, a dessert bar having been set up against one wall, like an all you can eat buffet. Emma eyed the large bowl of chocolate pudding but turned her attention from it quickly, knowing that wasn't her goal here. Pudding, especially chocolate, would just distract her.
"Go on, have a little fun for once, Red," Grant whispered to her.
"I have plenty of fun, Grant, but I have other things on my mind," And she didn't just mean the job. There just wasn't something right here but she didn't know what. Was this a set up of some kind? Had her bosses found out that Grant had been beating her to her jobs and they thought she wasn't any good at her job anymore? Was her higher ups working with Grant to get rid of her?
She was getting too paranoid over this. She would have noticed a set up right off the bat and she knew how her bosses worked. They didn't play with their food. Hell, she had done a few terminations herself. They were as quick and painless as possible.
"Emma, Grant, I have found you at last! I was afraid you'd wandered off!" Emma smiled, feeling oddly relaxed with the senator there. Like a break in the tension.
"I would never leave without getting to talk to you first," Emma said with a pleasant smile, a real smile, something she hadn't done in years.
Bernard grinned then looked at Grant. "Do you mind if I steal your darling wife for a little bit? I want to show her around and have a nice little chat with her. I promise I'll return her by midnight."
Grant sent a look at Emma then back at Bernard and nodded. "Of course. Don't let her lose one of her glass slippers."
They laughed, Bernard's being loud and boisterous yet Grant's bore hidden trouble. Emma actually shivered; she had heard that laugh many of times. It wasn't a good one.
"This way, darling lady," Bernard said and offered his arm, leading her away from Grant and into the crowd.
They talked as they walked, stopping only to let Bernard introduce her to some big shot or other.
"Have you seen the gardens?" he asked as they neared the doors.
She shook her head. "No I haven't. Are they nice?"
"Oh ho ho, young lady, you have not lived! Your husband must not take care of you," He smirked and of course he was just joking but Emma couldn't help but agree with him.
"You have no idea," She muttered. Luckily enough he was too excited in leading her out to the garden to hear what she had said. She wondered how he would have reacted if he had actually heard what she said. He seemed like the kind of guy who would have laughed nervously at first, thinking that she was joking and when he saw that she wasn't, he would whisk her away to safety and have Ravager put in jail or something of the sort. She was glad then that he didn't hear her.
"...but the garden actually burned in the 1940's and it's said that for years after that, the ground was black with the ashes of all the flowers that had been here before the fire. I wish I had been alive to see that, what a sight! Don't you agree?"
Emma blinked but then nodded with an absent smile. "Of course."
He smiled and she relaxed. He went bustling on with his conversation about how the garden had been barren for years and then like a phoenix from the fire, the flowers just grew again, or at least that was the tale.
"Oh I am sorry, Emma, would you excuse me for a moment? I need to speak with my accountant over there about my retirement plan for a brief moment."
"Retirement?" She asked, confused. He should have been running for president if someone wanted him dead enough to hire both her and Ravager.
Bernard nodded. "Yes, retirement. Once my term is up at the end of the month, I am going into retirement. This is my retirement party. Didn't Grant tell you?"
She laughed nervously. "He might have mentioned it but I've been so preoccupied I must have missed it."
He smiled sweetly. "You're just like my wife. That's a compliment just so you know," He nodded then excused himself again and left.
Once the older man was out of ear shot, Emma made sure no one else was around and pulled her cellphone out of her little purse. She pressed in three numbers then the green phone button and put it to her ear. "Boss, I need a favor."
"What's up, Red?" The man was cheery, as he usually was, and normally that made Emma more relaxed, but not this time. The something that had been bothering her before was back.
"I need to know the name of the person who contracted this hit," She whispered, keeping a look out for any prying ears.
"Give me a minute and I'll let you know."
She smiled. Boss was always such a help, never questioning her motives behind anything she asked of him. She could have almost loved him for that.
"Joseph Wade," He said simply.
Emma's eyes went wide. "Joseph Wade?"
"Mmmhmm Joseph Wade. Says here he took out the hit the day before it was given to you and Ravager."
"Thank you, Boss," She hung up and put her phone away. She knew why it all seemed so wrong now. Boy, were her employers getting the full riot act from her.
It was a set up, though not by her bosses to get rid of her, but by Grant himself. Joseph Wade was an alias he had used, before they'd gotten married, on the jobs they'd worked together. He wasn't as careless with his name back then. He wasn't as cocky either. He had seemed so normal back then; which was entirely a facade he had constructed to lure her in. She almost wished for those days again. Almost. With what she knew now she would never want to go back.
That was when she noticed how quiet it was behind her. Everyone had stopped talking. Had they heard her conversation?
She turned to check the scene out but there was an explosion of pain on the back of her head as everything went black.
When she opened her eyes again, she was slouched forward in a chair, her neck stiff from how her head had been hanging. She slowly sat up, groaning, and took in her surrounding. Then she noticed the restraints. She was tied to the chair. There were a few loops around her chest, a few more around her legs both above and below the knees. She wiggled her hands and, yes, her wrists were tied together. She huffed softly.
"Emma? You're awake?" The voice was concerned even through the pain she could hear in it. It was Bernard.
She looked over and nodded. "Bernard, I have to tell you something. The man pretending to be my husband and myself were sent to your party to kill you. But something wasn't right and I-"
"You're damn right something wasn't right! Good old Bernard here had to mention his retirement! And I was stupid enough to think it would be safe for you to go off with him," The voice made both of them shiver in fear. It was one thing when Emma could move and fend for herself if need be but he had the advantage here and he was pissed off. She could hear it. Last time she'd heard that tone in his voice he slaughtered everyone on that floor of the hospital instead of just the doctor. If there was one thing he hated more than being mocked, it was his plans being ruined.
"Grant, what's going on?" Emma asked.
"Oh, it was all pretty simple, Red! Pretty goddamn simple! You and I would work this job together, we would kill good old Bernard here," He stepped out of the darkness and grabbed the older man's chin, shaking his head with his hand "And you would see that I'm not as messed up as you thought I was and would fall back into my arms and we would be happy again!"
"But you're as screwed up as-"
He cut her off, roughly pushing Bernard's head away like trash. "Of course I am, Red! What makes you think I would be any different, huh? Was it the necklace? The way I let you have your space? Even after that whole talking to the head fiasco? I slipped up there, I know I did, but you just..." He gripped his blond hair at both temples and made a small growling sound. "You just piss me off so bad! It's like you know my buttons and you push them on purpose!"
She opened her mouth to contradict that but couldn't and just closed her mouth again. After their divorce, she had started pushing his buttons whenever she saw him which, after two months, was something that never happened. He had disappeared, at least that's what Emma thought.
"But I can't help but love you!" He yelled then squatted in front of her, his expression soft as he reached up and gently touched her cheek. "So beautiful, so soft, so angelic. You were my all, my everything," He said softly, his eyes following his fingers along her jaw. "But then you had to go and ruin it!" He became angry and his attention went from soft and loving to his nails digging into her flesh. She cried out in pain.
"Get your hands off of her!" Bernard yelled, hoping to pull the attention away from her. It worked. Grant quickly pivoted and back handed the older man.
"Shut up! Don't you know it's rude to interrupt?"
Emma frowned but took the chance she had while his attention was elsewhere to start wiggling her arms and wrists. She knew if she worked it enough, one hand and then the other would come free. At all of the things he was good at, Grant had never been good at tying wrists. Really he wasn't very good at tying people up in general. That had always been her job when they did things like this.
"We're going to play a game."
Emma froze with wide eyes. She was half glad to see that her ex-husband had his back to her and wasn't talking to her. She remembered The Game and it was one she swore to herself she would never play. She felt bad for the senator though. He had a doozie coming to him. She went back to wiggling and tugging her wrists. The faster she got them undone the faster she could help the poor, old man.
His voice became soft, like he was explaining something to a child. "See I've got these dice," She heard the shake of the two red dice he had in his hands. "I'm going to shove them in your mouth, since you can't use your hands and you're going to spit them out. It's alright to get some slobber on them, just don't scratch them with your teeth, these are my lucky dice," He turned and she froze. "You remember these, don't you Emma? You got them for me for our one year anniversary."
She scowled. "You still have those old things? I picked them up at the dollar store on my way back from a job. I had honestly forgotten about our anniversary and I needed a last minute gift." She shrugged like it didn't matter.
Ravager growled and barked, "Stop mocking me!" His hand against her cheek made a sharp sound and left behind a tingly stinging sensation. She shook her head to try and clear her vision.
"I said leave her alone!" Bernard yelled. He was such a kind man. It gave her all the more incentive to help him get out of this alive.
Grant turned back to face the senator. "Where was I? Oh right, you're going to spit the dice out," He was back to the soft talk. "Each combination of numbers is something different I do to you from bashing your toes to cutting out your tongue. If you get doubles, then you're safe for that roll. Snake eyes and I set you free. Now I am a man of my word. I know you probably don't believe that but I am. If doubles is the first thing you get then I will let you go. Or if you get it after I break both your knees, cut out your tongue, and blow out both your elbows, you can just go. No more harm done. But you can't use it to set little Red here go. I have other plans for her."
Emma heard him snicker and she didn't like it. She swallowed as a shiver ran down her spine. She knew what he did to his female victims.
"Ready Bernie?" It wasn't actually a question. He was now shoving the dice in the old man's mouth, holding his mouth closed to let him 'shake the dice' around.
Emma bit her lip as she tugged on her wrists, biting back the cry of pain as the rope dug into her wrist, rubbing it raw. He had gotten better at doing this whole thing but she could feel it loosen just a little. He wasn't that good, not as good as her.
Bernard's scream made her stop and look up from her knees. Ravager had taken a bat to one of his legs, the bone crunching under his scream.
"Again," he said as he picked up the dice and shoved it in his mouth again.
She went back to her tugging and wiggling, ignoring the repeated yells of pain and protest from Bernard, keeping her mind on the tight restraints. But they were becoming looser, she could feel it.
Finally her hands popped free. She caught the rope before it could fall and make a noise on the ground to alert her captor to her release. But now she needed to figure out what she was going to use to attack him.
First thing first, she needed to untie the rest of her body. She brought her arms around and tugged on the knot for the rope around her chest. It came free easily and she moved on. As she leaned down to untie her ankles from the chair, she felt a weight pull at the back of her neck. She reached up and touched the necklace he'd given her. He probably enjoyed the way it looked on her too much to remove it. The chain was too frail though. It would break immediately.
Her eyes fall to the rope next to her feet. She smirked softly. That would work perfectly
Once she'd gotten her ankles untied, looking up to make sure Grant was busy with Bernard, she picked the rope up off the ground. Quietly she stood, one end of the rope in each hand. She waited for Grant to stand again after shoving the dice in the older man's mouth again. She held her breath and pulled the rope over his head and tightly around his throat.
Grant gasped and tossed but she held onto him, pulling the rope back with so much force that she felt it beginning to cut into his skin. He choked and clawed at it.
In a last ditch attempt he threw his head back, the back of his skull coming on contact with the top of Emma's head. She yelped and her grip on the rope fell away as she stumbled back.
"Dammit!" She yelled, holding the top of her head.
Grant turned and panted, trying to catch his breath. "You...bitch!" He gasped and stumbled towards her. "Get...over...here...bitch..." He reached out for her with both arms.
Emma backed up, feeling a lot like she was running from a zombie. But she knew better than to take that for advantage. He would gain his footing again momentarily and, when he did, she would be as close to death as she ever had been.
He brought his hands back and rubbed at his eyes, the black fading from his vision, his breath returning to him. He looked at her. "Oh you little bitch!" He turned and walked back to where Bernard was sitting and grabbed the baseball bat. "I'm going to get you, Red! My little pet!" He laughed and turned around, bat raised for use.
The room was empty.
He blinked in confusion and walked forward slowly. They were just in his basement or at least the basement of the house he was renting for the time being. "Oh Emma!" He called in a sing-song voice, lips pulled into a smirk. "Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
There were a few piles of boxes and a furnace in the corner. He took a swing at the first pile of boxes, sending them falling to the floor like children's blocks. "Not there? Well how about here?" He moved to the next stack and knocked then over. "Hmm not there either. Don't worry, I'll find you. I'll make sure it's a quick death, my precious. So come on out."
"I'm back here, you bastard."
He turned, bat ready to fly but he was met with a face full of flame. Emma had found an old can of hair spray and a lighter scattered around the basement. Grant screamed and dropped the bat, his hands swatting at his face as he tried to put out the searing pain.
Emma took the chance to jump forward and grab the long club. She tossed the can and lighter aside and gripped the bat's handle. She surged forward, with a war cry that could put her mother's to shame, and swung. The bat hit the side of Grant's skull and upon impact broke right in two. He froze, stared at her, then his irises vanished as they rolled backwards and he hit the floor.
She stared down at him, waiting for him to get up again. When he didn't she back tracked to where Bernard was still tied to his chair. With his accelerated healing factor, there was no telling how fast Ravager would recovery and be ready for round two. So after quickly getting his binds untied, she helped the senator up and with one arm over her shoulder she limped with him up the stairs.
"You were really married to that animal?" Bernard asked as they exited the house.
"Unfortunately," Was her answer. She noticed when he nervously looked behind them, "Don't worry, you're safe now. Look, we're going to go down the street and I'll call for help. You stay put until the police arrive. I don't care what you tell them but I was never here."
Bernard stiffly nodded, "You saved my life and doing so would make us even. I've never wished this on anyone but he deserves it. Make sure that you one day kill that man."
"I can only dream of doing so," She replied.
As they slowly made their way down the street, a bloodied figure slipped out of the house and stood in the middle of the sidewalk for a few moments. "Feel safe for now, Emma. It won't last long. I will get you back!" And then he was gone, like a leaf in the wind.