tagRomanceThe Perfect Pieces Ch. 06

The Perfect Pieces Ch. 06

byDreamCloud©

Author's note: Chapter 6 of 13. Thank you Tim413413 for selfless editing.

The Perfect Pieces - Chapter 06

I woke to the smell of coffee. I could hear the hiss of the coffee maker and knew the pot was just completing its cycle. I raised my hand to rub the sleep out of my eyes and a wonderfully musky scent graced my nose. I could still smell her on my fingers. I smiled and enjoyed the sensual memory. I didn't know women could smell so good. The few women in my history didn't smell bad, but Amber was intoxicating. I went to find some boxers and a t-shirt. I found numerous reasons to bring my fingers near my nose. It was like a drug. I was getting aroused by a smell. I quickly washed my hands to cool myself off. I instantly regretted it.

"Good morning, gorgeous," I said brightly when I entered the great room. Amber was behind the counter filling coffee cups. She turned with her smile intact.

"I was just about to wake you," she said as she put the cup down. She moved quickly and found my arms. I can't tell you how good it felt to have someone greet you that way first thing in the morning. She was wearing my robe, but it was untied. I was treated to happy breasts that seemed to enjoy the greeting as much as I did. We moved out to the porch to enjoy the morning and bask in the glory that was last night.

"I wish I would have met you ten years ago, " Amber said as she sipped her coffee.

"Does it feel right to you, too?" I asked, surprised that she sensed destiny as well.

"We fit together," Amber said, "mentally and physically." She had a devilish smile when she said physically. I had to admire her confidence. Maybe the trouble she was in forced her to think more quickly and make decisions with less evidence.

"I feel right around you," I said as best as I could, "I thought I was happy, but now I think I may have been miserable." I sipped from my cup, "I know you have a lot on your plate, but I want to add myself to your list of problems." I loved how she laughed. It was so light and held so much joy.

"You, my lovely man, are not a problem," Amber said, lifting her bare feet up into my lap, "you are the oasis in the desert of my life." I moved my hand to her feet and softly cupped them. I loved that she was at ease enough to put her feet in my lap. I felt the connection between us strengthening. I almost probed for her troubles, but decided I was enjoying things too much to ruin it right then.

We had our coffee and our walk. We seemed to find all sorts of reasons to hang on to each other. Humor became part of every trivial conversation and laughing couldn't commence without touching to emphasize the comedy. We found ourselves in a luscious bubble isolated from the rest of the world. Amber really needed the break, and I needed the wake up call to rejoin humanity.

After breakfast, we hit the workshop. I finished my panel, and Amber applied foil to her purplish flower petals. I would teach her the aspects of soldering that evening. She was getting excited about that part, having watched me working on the panel.

"I have to go to Hamond's and mail the panel after lunch," I informed her. We were having another picnic by the river. It was a little warmer than the day before, though still comfortable. "You want to come with me?"

"Is it okay if I stay?" Amber asked, "I'd rather get some of the cleaning I promised done." She took a bite of her salad and looked at me like I might deny her.

"Sure, but you don't have to clean," I replied.

"Yes I do," Amber corrected me. Our first argument.

"No you don't," I said, my smile was ruining my authoritative tone. Amber smiled and lifted her t-shirt above her breasts, letting them hang free in the air. I loved nature.

"Yes I do," she continued. My eyes were glued to her chest as I tried to formulate a stronger argument. I gave up.

"Unfair," I said, trying not to laugh.

"Crying babies and argumentative men are so easily handled," Amber quipped as she enjoyed her salad

"You do know how beautiful I find you?" I said seriously, my eyes leaving her breasts, moving to her dark eyes. She stared at me, unable to find words. I leaned over and kissed her over her salad. It was a tangy kiss, half Amber, half french dressing. She dropped her fork in her bowl and pulled me closer, french mixing with my ranch. Oui, oui, cowboy.

"You stay and do what you want," I gave in, "just be here when I get back. Anything you want while I'm out?"

"Condoms," Amber said, her eyebrows bouncing.

"There's no way I would forget those," I said, wearing a silly smile. Visions of the fun we were going to have had been burning in my brain all morning.

My ride to Hamond's was boring. I used to be able to entertain myself pretty easily. Now, I kept looking over at the passenger seat to see if Amber was there. It did give me some time to think without breasts in my face. I knew I had to find out what kind of trouble she was in. I wanted to make it go away and replace it with myself. She was my kindred spirit. We were the perfect pieces of glass that were meant to be soldered together. I tried to think of my house and peaceful lands without her. They would be dull and lack color. She was my color now. I was in love.

Then there was Lizzy. I couldn't have Amber without Lizzy. Once Amber's past was cleaned up, Lizzy would be part of the package. Kids need schools and care. I had no idea where the nearest school was. What kind of parent could I be? A crappy one most likely. I probably would make her more neurotic than I was.

Maybe I was just Amber's passing oasis. I tried to see things from her point of view. Here I was, in the middle of nowhere. The perfect place to hide, packaged without guilt and providing a bit of entertainment. I couldn't define my feelings too clearly. If she meant to move on, it would just hurt us both. I really wasn't good enough for her and her daughter. I could think of a dozen situations that would be better. I spent the ride steeling myself against the strong possibility that I wasn't her long-term dream. Her future and her daughter's demanded more. I wasn't feeling very good by the time I got to Hamond's.

"Afternoon, Tom," I said, putting the securely-packaged panel on top of the shipping counter. "I need this to go out today." Tom lifted the cardboard-wrapped panel and put it on the scale. He typed a few things into the computer.

"Comes to $47.50, Mark," Tom said as he started sticking big red 'fragile' stickers on it. I pulled out my credit card and handed it over. He took it and slowed. "It's not my place, but I've been chomping at the bit. Was that really Samantha Donaldson you were with a few days ago?"

"Who?" I said, startled, "I mean no. I was with Amber. Who is Samantha Donaldson?" I realized I never asked Amber her last name.

"I tell you, she sure looked like her," Tom continued as he ran my card through the mag stripe reader. "Amber's hair was darker, but she could be Samantha's sister."

"What are you talking about?" I chuckled, trying to hide my interest.

"I watch that 'Missing' show," Tom said as he handed me the receipt to sign. "I could have sworn that was Samantha with you," he repeated.

"She wouldn't be missing if she was with me," I joked, hoping he would continue.

"She would if she was hiding," Tom said, "that girl has the cartel and the feds after her." My ears perked, I hid it by signing the receipt as if it didn't phase me. "They weren't sure if she was running or wearing cement overshoes. She was some drug lord's girlfriend." His interest in Amber's last visit made sense now. Tom was always a conspiracy theorist and to have one underfoot must have made his day.

"A drug lord?" I said, handing the receipt back.

"Yep," Tom continued, "Pablo...Pablo...Castillo. That's it Castillo." I wasn't sure if it was my Amber, but it sure fit. "The feds want her for questioning and the cartel wants her dead." If the cartel wanted her dead, why would she leave her daughter with her mother. They would surely use the child against her. Maybe it wasn't Amber. Drug lords, I knew, didn't leave many stones unturned. Sadly, I had known some.

"Whew," I said with exaggeration, "I would hate to be her rebound boyfriend." Tom nodded with me as if women were throwing themselves at us, and we could pick and choose. It was a male bonding ritual.

"Especially that one," Tom went on, "she got knocked up. Bet those drug lords don't look highly on someone who does the mother of their children." It took everything I had to not look surprised. Amber made sense again. Pablo wouldn't use his own child as a bargaining chip. "She's probably dead anyway. It's not like someone could hide from the cartel." I wanted more information, but I didn't want Tom to know I was asking. I needed to keep him talking.

"I have my own ex," I joked, "I've thought of devious ends for her myself."

"Don't you know it," Tom agreed, holding out his fist. I knocked my knuckles against his. More bonding for the destined-to-die-alone males. Though Amber was shifting that in my mind. Drug lords I knew. Not sure about the Feds, but they had to follow rules. "Can you imagine the kid, she has to grow up knowing daddy killed mommy. She'll be really messed up."

"She?" I said, trying to sound like I didn't care.

"That's what they said, Elizabeth, I think her name was," Tom added. "Poor girl will probably spend half her life in therapy and the other half in rehab."

"That's messed up," I agreed. Samantha. Amber was her hiding name. There was no way this could be a coincidence anymore. Amber did say she never lied to me. If her name was really Samantha, then there was one lie. I wondered if there were others. I remembered our shower, her joy in the workshop, our morning coffee. I didn't care if the whole thing was a lie. I'll live in ignorance and take what I can get.

"Some kids are just born wrong," Tom said. Wisdom from the childless.

"I've got to get some groceries," I said, trying to end the conversation, "think that will go out this afternoon?" I asked, pointing at my fragile package.

"Should," Tom replied, forgetting our discussion, "UPS will be here at three."

"Thanks Tom," I said. He nodded. I headed to the grocery aisles. I smiled to myself as I moved out of Tom's vision. Drug lords I knew. I had no idea how Amber found me, but fate must have had something to do with it. I would have to verify a few things, make sure I wasn't over guessing, but at least I was knowledgeable about her problems. I wasn't swimming in the dark.

For a place that prided itself on lack of selection, Hamond's had a huge selection of condoms. I hadn't purchased any since college. The selection had increased dramatically since then. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out which ones to buy. I settled on a box that seemed to expound the same theories I was shooting for.

I grabbed some wine and fresh veggies. Amber seemed to enjoy her salad this afternoon so I decided that maybe a move toward more vegetables would please her. If not, well they rotted quickly and I could throw them out with a good excuse. A brick of sharp cheddar caught my eye so I grabbed it and went looking for crackers. I had to pass the frozen pizza display on the way, so I added frozen crap next to my healthy veggies. I ended up with about five times the amount of food I intended to buy. There was nothing I wanted to put back so I bought it all. It was hard buying for someone else when you didn't fully know what they liked yet. You ended up grabbing a bit of everything.

On the drive home, I called Frank. He was one of the few I could call who would understand. I had lost touch with everyone else. I still saw Frank once a year. We were each other's therapy.

"Hey, Frank," I said when he answered.

"Mark, long time. It's good to hear your voice," Frank said. He sounded sincere.

"I've got a problem and need your help," I said. We had never tried to ease each other into anything. We were always straightforward and came right out with it.

"Shoot."

"I think I have fallen for a capstone's ex." I laid it out for him. "She's being hunted by both sides. I want her out and I don't care if the asshole takes a perma nap." It was so easy to fall back into

the language. My anger and determination returned like it was yesterday.

"Damn, you don't drop out very well," Frank returned, "who's the shit." I wasn't in it alone. The feeling of camaraderie returned ten-fold. It was no longer driven by necessity, but by friendship and a bond that only a history of nastiness could have developed.

"A Pablo Castillo," I informed him, "do you still know anyone at the DEA?"

"Ed Larkin is still there," Frank answered, "is this going to be public?"

"Nope," I answered, "think Ed can keep it quiet?"

"For us he would, but I don't want to hang him out there," Frank said.

"I want Pablo's phone number," I said, "the normal info would help and anything they have on Samantha Donaldson."

"You don't ask much," Frank laughed.

"I love her, Frank," I said. I should have told Amber, but there was too much fear there. Strange, guilt I knew, fear was something new. I wasn't good enough for her and her daughter.

"Good enough for me," Frank said, "I'll see what we can get. I'm going to call Gabby as well. He's been a little strung out, and I think a return to the game will settle him down again."

"I love you too, Frank," I said with a smile he couldn't see.

"If you had tits, I would have had you a long time ago," Frank laughed. "I'll email what I find. Call me when you need support."

"Thanks," I replied, "I mean it."

"Any time," Frank said. He meant it. He also knew it would be returned in spades if he asked. I ended the call, confident that things were moving in the correct direction. Drug lord. My whole life had prepared me for this problem. There must be someone up there laughing at how they put his all together. Fate had a humorous side.

The drive home was as difficult as the drive to Hamond's. My life had changed. I was better solo before I met Amber and now bad thoughts invaded when I was alone. I convinced myself that she meant more to me than I did to her. I would help her either way, but I didn't want to invest more of my heart if I was merely an oasis. How that word changed from when I first heard it. It was so all-encompassing at first, and now it was more transient. I needed to concentrate on Pablo. I needed to generate a clean separation between him and Amber. Something that would allow her to continue without him. I would most likely lose her in the process, but Lizzy needed her mother and Amber needed Lizzy. Maybe it would earn me a bit a redemption. I could use some of that.

My phone vibrated as I started to pull into my drive. I pulled off, out of sight of the house. An email from Frank contained a picture of Pablo and Samantha. Amber was Samantha or her twin. I suspected the first. I had a brief description on what Pablo was suspected of. He was another king of scumbags. Living the high life in Phoenix, running a west coast distribution network. I had wasted my time ending a few of these self-proclaimed lords south of the border when I was younger. It did no good, but it did a wonderful job of making me hate myself. There was always someone who would pick up the mantle and the drugs would flow again. I couldn't stop the drugs. I could try to set Amber free. I had a mission again.

Frank wrote that the info was preliminary and more would follow. I replied with a quick thanks and drove to the house. Amber greeted me at the door, her smile lighting up everything I could see. How I wished she could be my future. I steeled my heart, promising I wouldn't let her get in any deeper. I would enjoy what we had and not demand any more. A killer would make a horrible father.

"What's wrong?" Amber said, her smile fading away.

"Nothing," I lied, forcing a smile to my face and trying to forget my thoughts. "Long ride with the sun in my eyes." Her smile returned, but I could tell she didn't trust mine. She kissed me and my heart rebelled against me and tore open like paper. I was shaking when I took her in my arms and returned the kiss, holding her tighter than I should. I had lost all my strength. My life had changed and when she left it, I would be lost again.

"Something's wrong," Amber said, pushing away from me. I looked at her, or the facade that was her. A woman on the run who needed a place to hide. I couldn't go any deeper. It would be suicidal. I could help her and then let her go. My heart was pounding in my chest as I tried to put up walls. I closed my eyes and my mouth moved without thinking.

"I know, Samantha," I said softly. My whole body wanted to die. Blood was rushing with every heartbeat. My arms and legs tried to send the blood back in revolt. Everything felt wrong, my extremities didn't feel like mine.

"Oh, God," Amber said. I opened my eyes to see her backing away from me, her hand over her mouth. I tried to speak, but my mouth couldn't form words. Her eyes watered. "I...I'll get my things," she said, as she turned and ran into the house. I reached out, knowing I had fucked up telling her. She moved too quickly. I couldn't have handled it more poorly.

I found her packing in the bedroom. She was crying so hard I didn't know how she was moving at all. I was such a shit. I entered the room and watched for a moment, almost said something then gave up. I sat on the floor by the door. It took her a moment to see me there.

"I... I'm sorry," Amber stammered, her voice broken and tears flowing freely. My heart was trying to crawl out of my body. I needed my mouth to move and it was being stubborn. She continued packing her backpack. My mouth moved when I realized she meant to leave.

"Don't leave me," I said. It was meant to be a intelligent declaration of why it would be unwise for her to leave. A description of why staying was in her best interests. Instead, my mouth sounded like it was begging. I was. She stopped packing and turned. I hated the tears on her cheeks. I wanted to wipe them away and glue her tear ducts closed.

"But..." Amber stammered. She dropped her pack on the bed and looked at me. "You... don't want me to leave?" She sounded surprised. Why wouldn't she? I was just some dumb fool who had fallen in love with broken glass. I took a deep breath.

"I'll take care of Pablo," I said, looking toward the floor, "you can get Lizzy back and start a new life." I took another deep breath. My heart was tearing me apart. "Stay until it's done." Maybe I could sneak a few more days with her. It would be worth it.

"NO!" she screamed, "he will kill you!"

I looked up, this time with tears in my eyes. Her image of me was about to change. I hated it. I wanted her to only know the artist. "No," I said softly, "killing is what I do...or used to do." I looked up into an expression I never wished to see. One that jumped out of a fire right into a frying pan. "I will remove him, if I have to, and you will be free of him."

"What?" Amber said, as she sat on the bed. Her shoulders lost all their bones.

Continued...

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