Velvet Roses Ch. 10byvirgofemme©
*As you can see, this will be a long chapter. Thought about splitting it up into two, but I figured it wouldn't be the best idea to leave you all hanging on an unnecessary cliffhanger, so I just left it as is. Anyways, thanks for your continued interest, and I hope you'll enjoy!*
Mornings used to be special to Jeneda. They used to represent a fresh start, a chance for new opportunities, and a sense of optimism. But now, as she lay on her back staring up at the bedroom ceiling, she found herself weighed down with immeasurable dread.
In the next five hours, she was set to meet up with Adrian for coffee, and although their get-together would most likely only consist of no more than casual chit chat, she still couldn't help but feel deeply uneasy about it.
Thinking back to the last time that she'd seen him, she recalled how awkward she'd felt in his presence, and how guilt had consumed her, seeming to eat away at her very soul. Only a few days had passed since Adrian had driven her home, but thoughts of the time they'd spent together was still heavily on her mind.
Besides experiencing her first kiss with him, she'd also confided in Adrian numerous times throughout her angst-filled teenage years. Adrian had been there for her emotionally when Riley had fallen victim to a hit and run driver, and he'd also given her much needed advice whenever she'd been faced with life changing decisions.
He was someone she trusted completely, and although they'd steadily seen less of each other for the past few years, the value she placed on their friendship hadn't lessened a bit.
Although it was early morning and she had plenty to do, Jeneda found herself less than enthused about the day ahead of her, and after throwing the covers off her body, she lazily lifted herself from the reclining position and threw her legs over the side of the mattress.
She picked up her cell phone from the bedside table, and as she pressed a button to illuminate the display screen, she saw that it was ten minutes past six a.m. She also caught sight of an envelope icon, and after pressing a button to open the text, she read the message.
~Check your fire escape~
Her eyes drifted to the sender's number, and as she saw that it was from Dane, her heart did a little flip. Chiding herself for the reaction of her body, she got to her feet, and after exiting her bedroom she headed for the living room window, which gave her access to the fire escape.
Upon reaching the window, she opened it, and as her eyes came to rest on the windowsill, she saw that there was a single red rose, along with a small piece of notepad paper. She picked them both up, and after setting the rose aside, she began to read the handwritten message that Dane had left her.
~I know I don't deserve you, but I need you in my life. It hurts being apart from you, and the thought of never being with you again makes me sick. Give me another chance and I promise I'll make things right. I'm so sorry for what I did. Please forgive me.~
She reread the note a few times before folding it up, and before she could change her mind, she ripped up the piece of paper, then tossed the small pieces out onto the fire escape. Then without a second thought, she threw the rose outside as well.
After closing the window and locking it, she gazed out at the torn pieces of paper that were scattered across the slats of the fire escape. A few of the pieces were carried along by the wind, and as they drifted lazily in the air, she watched on with a bleak expression.
While a part of her had received a sense of satisfaction at destroying the note that Dane had written, she also couldn't deny feeling sorrow, and although she hated to admit it, her heart ached terribly for him. Yet at the same time, she also felt disgust-not only for Dane, but herself.
Logically speaking, she should have felt nothing except hate towards her ex-lover, and yet it seemed that her affection for him was still deeply-rooted. This made her very unsettled, and although she understood that her heart had a mind of its own, she couldn't help feeling as if she were betraying Vincent.
What Dane had done was unforgivable, not to mention completely heartless, and he certainly didn't deserve even a shred of her sympathy, so why was she still allowing him to occupy her thoughts?
*Because you can't help it. You want him back and you know it, so why play ignorant?*
"But I don't want him back."
Yet even as she spoke aloud, she knew that the words were a lie. Deep in her heart, a part of her did long to be with him again, but the moral obligation that she felt towards Vincent and his family kept her from doing so.
Carrying Dane's secret around was emotionally destroying her, and she knew that if she did give in and allow him back into her life, the guilt that she felt would only be heightened, so clearly it was impossible for them to ever again be a couple.
As this thought passed through her mind, Jeneda glanced at the rose on the fire escape, and realized that what had been designed as a romantic gesture on his part was really nothing more than a ploy, a pathetic attempt to lure her back into his web. He wanted her to continue thinking of him, and although he knew that she was unwilling to get back together with him, he was clearly thinking up ways to keep contact with her.
Ever since he'd confessed four days ago, she'd been trying her hardest to put him out of her mind, yet despite her best efforts, he just kept invading her thoughts. And now, with the rose and note that he'd left, it appeared he was stepping things up a notch by infringing on her personal space.
But she wasn't going to let him back into her life. No matter how many roses or love notes he wrote her, she was staying firm on her decision. Things were over between them, and no matter how many attempts he made to reconcile, she wasn't allowing him back in.
Yet as she turned away from the window and headed back to her bedroom, she knew he was still there, residing deep within her heart.
* * * *
"Ugh, this coffee is terrible," Jeneda said. "Tastes like mud."
"How do you know what mud tastes like?" Adrian asked.
"I don't. I'm just guessing."
A light chuckle passed his lips before he said, "Come to think of it, you do know what it tastes like."
"I've never eaten mud."
"Yes you have."
"We made mud cakes as kids. Don't you remember?"
"I remember *you* making mud cakes, and then tricking me into eating one. I didn't do it voluntarily."
Vincent snickered. "I can't help it if you were gullible."
"I was only seven, of course I was gullible." She took a sip of her coffee, then said, "Now that I think of it, you picked on me a lot back then."
"Of course I did. That's what boys do when they have a crush on a girl."
"I thought boys hated girls at that age."
"Doesn't surprise me. You always were a bit of a romeo."
"In other words, you're calling me a player."
"I think of you as more of a ladies man."
"Yet somehow, after all these years, you've managed to evade my charms. Why is that?"
"Well for one thing, you never officially made a serious move on me. And we were always more like brother and sister than anything else."
"I gave you your first kiss. Would a brother do that to his sister?"
Her face grew warm at the memory and as her lips curled into a smile, she tipped the mug of coffee to her lips.
"And suddenly she grows silent," Adrian teased.
"Why do you keep bringing up that kiss? We were thirteen when it happened, not to mention totally goofy and unexperienced."
"*You* were unexperienced. I wasn't."
Her body grew warmer, and as he stared deep into her eyes, she averted her gaze from his and looked down into her coffee cup.
"You're blushing," he said with a smile.
She took another sip of her coffee before allowing her eyes to once again meet his, then gesturing to his dessert, she asked, "How's that apple tart?"
He chuckled softly. "Changing the subject on me, huh? Okay, that's cool." He took the last few bites of his pastry before pushing the saucer away.
"So, what are you doing for the rest of the day?" She asked.
"I've got a couple of projects to do around the house. Then after that's finished, I'm going to visit Daniel."
"That's good. I'm glad you're making an effort to go see him."
"I'm not doing it because I want to. Grandma Sophia is forcing me."
"Well It's still good that you're going. Do you know when his release date is yet?"
He lightly shrugged. "Not sure. Don't really care, either."
Jeneda couldn't help feeling a bit of disgust at Adrian's apathy, and although she made an attempt to conceal her disapproval, the expression on her face blatantly conveyed her inner thoughts.
"Okay, what's that look for?" Adrian asked.
"I think you're being too hard on him."
"Listen Jeneda, Daniel's in jail for a reason. He's done everything from selling drugs to stealing cars, and when he gets back out, you'd better believe he's going right back to doing the things he did before getting locked up. He doesn't even make an attempt to straighten up, he just keeps doing the same stupid shit, over and over again."
"I know he has problems, I get that. But turning your back on him isn't going to make things any better. If anything, It'll probably just make him feel more alone."
"He's not alone, he's got plenty of friends."
"Yeah, but they're probably all criminals. He needs to talk to someone who's doing something with their life, someone like you."
Adrian's face visibly softened at Jeneda's remark. "You really think I'd be a good influence on him?"
"Yes, I do. And I'm not just saying that to flatter you. I really mean it."
"Well thanks, I appreciate that. But even if I did try to build a relationship with him, he'd probably just blow me off. Daniel hates the military, and refuses to associate with anyone who's a part of it."
"Just give it another try. And if he still insists on keeping his distance, then at least you know you made an effort."
"Yeah, I guess. I don't know, I'll think about." He took a sip of his coffee, then asked, "So this guy you used to date. Has he shown up at your apartment again?"
"Nope." The lie slipped effortlessly from her lips, and staring him straight in the eyes, she added, "He hasn't been back since."
"That's good. Hopefully he stays away."
"If you don't mind me asking, why did you two break up?"
"It's a long story," she curtly said. "I don't really feel like going into it."
"No problem, I understand. I recently went through a breakup as well, so I know how difficult it can be."
A moment of silence passed between them, during which they both sipped their hot beverages, then with a thoughtful look on his face, Adrian posed a question.
"Do you still have feelings for him?"
She hesitated, unsure if she should admit the truth, then realizing that her silence spoke volumes, she finally gave her response. "Yeah, I do."
"I can tell."
"Am I that transparent?"
His lips quirked into a faint smile. "Yes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing." He studied her for a few more moments before saying, "He deserved to lose you. You were too good for him."
Her brows lifted, and an inquisitive expression crossed her face.
"Obviously you were," Adrian said. "Otherwise you would still be with him, right?"
She nodded, allowing her gaze to drift to a painting on the opposite wall. It took the sound of Adrian's voice to bring her attention back to him, and as she looked into his bluish gray eyes, she noticed that he was giving her a serious look.
"I don't know what he did, but if he screwed up once, chances are he'll screw up again. Don't give him another chance. It'll only bring you more pain."
"I won't." Her voice had grown husky with emotion. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did."
This caused Adrian to regard her with an expression of intense curiosity, and locking his gaze with hers, he said, "You wouldn't be able to live with yourself? That sounds pretty serious."
She gave no response, only stared nervously back at him.
"What did he do, Jeneda? Tell me."
"I can't," she said with a shake of her head.
"I just can't."
Her voice had wavered slightly, and she could feel her body tensing up. She felt stupid and careless for her slip of the tongue, and as Adrian continued to watch her, a sick feeling began to form in the pit of her stomach.
"I can't tell you, okay?" She reiterated. "So please stop looking at me like that."
"You're giving me a weird look."
"I'm concerned. How else am I supposed to look?" He paused to let her respond, but when it became apparent that she wasn't going to, he spoke again. "If you're in some kind of trouble, you can tell me. I'm here for you, Jeneda. In any way you need."
"I'm not in any trouble. I'm fine."
"It doesn't seem like it."
"Well I am. So please stop questioning me about him."
They sat there for awhile in silence, and as Adrian continued to intently study her, Jeneda did her best to avoid meeting his eyes.
"Did he hit you?" Adrian asked. "Is that why you broke it off with him?"
"No. He never touched me."
Adrian's face took on a contemplative look. "Did he involve you in something? Force you to do things against your will?"
"I already told you, I can't talk about it." She retrieved her cell phone from her purse, and after glancing at the screen, she scooted her chair back and rose to her feet. "I have an appointment in the next half hour, so I better get going."
"Wait, I'll walk you outside."
Adrian got to his feet as well, following behind her as she headed for the door. Once they were outside, Jeneda walked to her car in the lot behind the coffee house, and after pressing a button on her key fob, she opened the driver's door. Instead of immediately sliding behind the wheel, she turned to face Adrian, and as her eyes met his, she saw they were filled with confusion.
"Sorry I couldn't stay longer, but I've got stuff to do," she said.
"Yeah, I know."
"Thanks for the coffee."
"No problem. I hope we can do it again soon."
He pulled her into a hug, wrapping his muscled arms tightly around her smaller form. Her body, which was still tense, relaxed slightly with his touch, and as they broke apart from each other, he gave her a weak smile.
"Sorry for being so persistent," he said. "I'm just worried about you, and I wanna make sure that you're okay."
"You don't have to apologize. I know it came from a place of caring."
He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his cargo pants, and with a hopeful look on his face, he said, "We'll have to do this again sometime. That is if you're up for it."
He lightly chuckled. "I don't blame you if you don't want to hang out again. I know I can be a bit overbearing sometimes."
"You did nothing wrong, Adrian. If there's anyone at fault here, It's me. So please don't blame yourself."
"Well if you do wanna talk, I'm always available. So don't be a stranger, okay?"
She nodded. "Take care of yourself."
"You too. Later, Jeneda."
She slipped behind the wheel, and after giving him a wave, she closed the door. Then she started up her car and drove off.
Just before she pulled out of the parking lot, she stole a glance in her rearview mirror, and as her eyes landed on Adrian, she saw that he was still standing in the same place, watching pensively as she drove away.
* * * *
Invotech computer chip company was located in a large warehouse along the Embarcadero, and for the past half hour, Dane had been staking the building out.
Rather than drive his own car, he'd chosen to get a rental with tinted windows, and knowing it was imperative that he remain inconspicuous, he'd made the decision to park in an abandoned lot directly across from the warehouse. He'd also banded his hair back into a ponytail, and had even donned a baseball cap to further disguise his identity.
Before beginning his surveillance, Dane had driven through the neighborhood to get a feel for his surroundings, and had also passed by the front and sides of Invotech's building to see where the exits were located.
After getting a close up look at the warehouse, Dane had driven across the street to an abandoned lot, and now here he was, scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad that rested on his lap.
So far he just had general information about the exterior of the building, and therefore didn't have much of anything to assist him in planning out how he would defeat the company's security system. But as his cell phone vibrated in his jacket pocket, he knew that the person he'd been eagerly waiting to receive a call from had finally managed to contact him. After retrieving his mobile, he pressed it against his ear, then spoke into the receiver.
"Hey, Dane. Sorry it took so long for me to call you back, but figuring out the IP address to Invotech's security system was more difficult that I thought. Not to mention their firewall was a bitch to bypass. Anyways, you got a pen and piece of paper handy?"
As she gave him the information, he jotted it down, filling nearly the entire page with his small script. Then after she spoke the last few words, he gave his thanks.
"I really appreciate this. You're doing me a huge favor."
"No problem. I'm happy I could help." She gave brief pause before posing a question. "So if you don't mind me asking, why did you decide to go back to work for Kenichi? I thought you were going straight."
"I did, and I'm not pulling this job for Kenichi. It's for an acquaintance of mine."
"Come on, Cassie. You know I can't tell you that."
"Is he one of Kenichi's rivals? Because if he is, I strongly suggest that you reconsider."
"Not that I know of, but even if he is, I could care less. I have bigger things to worry about, remember?"
"Yeah, that's right. I guess Kenichi is the least of your troubles." The sound of a whistling kettle came from her end of the line, and as it gradually tapered off, Cassie continued to speak. "By the way, have you been able to track down the person who sent that text message?"
"No shit! When did this happen?"
"So did he actually confess to killing Marla, or what?"
"Not in so many words, but I know he's the guy."
"Well who is he, and was he related to that guy Marla killed?"
"No, he Isn't. And that's all I'm going to say."
"Well what does he want from you? Money?"
"Really? I'd have thought he'd try to blackmail you."
"No, he's got other plans."
"What kind of plans?"
Knowing he'd already said too much, Dane remained silent, which in turn only caused Cassie to piece things together.
"Please tell me you aren't pulling a job for this guy," she said in a voice laced with dread. "Tell me I'm wrong, and that you're doing this for someone else."
He remained wordless.
"You can't be serious! If you go through with this, something bad is going to happen."
"And why do you say that?"
"Because the guy is crazy, that's why. If he killed Marla, what the hell do you think he's going to do to you?"
"Worse things could happen."
"Really? What would possibly be worse than you losing your life?"
He swallowed hard, then shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I have to get off the phone."
"No, you're not ending this conversation," she firmly said. "I spent half my afternoon hacking into a security system for you. I risked my ass to get you sensitive information, so you owe me. You are *not* getting off the phone until I say so."
"What do you want from me, Cassie?" He asked in a voice laden with frustration. "It's not just my life that's on the line here, but someone else's. I can only tell you so much."