tagRomanceThe Perfect Pieces Ch. 08

The Perfect Pieces Ch. 08

byDreamCloud©

Author's note: Chapter 8 of 13. Thank you Tim413413 for selfless editing.

The Perfect Pieces - Chapter 08

"You just want to put a little bit where the pieces join," I said, watching Amber confidently drop a small bead of solder on the end of one of her petals, where it touched the circular center. "The flux sucks the solder into the joint and makes it stick." Amber smiled and moved on to the next joint. She had spent a good ten minutes practicing on some scraps after our morning coffee. Now she was all confidence. I watched as she moved from joint to joint, carefully locking each one with solder.

"Now turn it over and do the same thing on the other side," I instructed.

"Shouldn't I let it dry first?" she asked.

"It already is." I smiled. She hesitantly took out the pins that were holding the structure in place and turned it over. She was amazed at the structure's sturdiness. I loved her amazement. It was breathing new life into my workshop. She was about to start dropping more solder. "Flux first," I reminded her. She smiled and went for the small paintbrush and started applying the flux. I put my elbow on the table and set my chin in my hand. I watched as she worked, transfixed by the beauty of it all. My glass, my love and the Grateful Dead playing quietly over the speakers.

"How's that?" Amber asked. I could see the pride in her eyes. All the petals were secure.

"Perfect," I complimented, "now you have to tin the rest of the foil."

"How do I do that?" she asked as she turned the structure around in her hand. Her eyes were so excited. It was probably the first piece of art she had done since she left high school.

"Flux around one of your pieces," I said as I drew my finger around one of the petals, "then build up a small bead of solder and use the flat of the iron to pull it along." I watched as she carefully painted the foil with flux. In time she would figure out that you don't have to be so neat. I didn't want to correct her and damage her efforts. I let it be and just watched.

Three more times I kept my mouth shut as she learned. Eventually, she got into the flow, figuring out the timing on her own. There was nothing she could mess up that couldn't be fixed anyway. My silence paid off when she finished the first side. The look on her face was priceless. It was almost as pleasurable as when we had finished in bed. She flipped it over, without my prompting, and began to flux the other side. Finishing art is personal, so I decided to give her some space.

"I'll start lunch," I said before I moved off. She looked up at me, thinking she was shirking her duty. I never had a duty list, but I wasn't sure if she thought she needed to contribute more. She looked back at the glass flower.

"Picnic again?" she asked, her smile growing.

"Absolutely," I answered, mirroring her smile. I left her there hard at work. I know how if feels to finish your own creation. The sense of completion warms your whole day and carries you through the next. I also knew it had to be hers. She needed it. An all new something not sullied by the past.

We had some lettuce left over from yesterday and a couple of tomatoes. I had some bacon in the freezer, wrapped accordion style in wax paper. Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches sounded good to me. I pulled a few slices of bacon out to thaw as my phone vibrated. Another email from Frank. It was everything the DEA had on Pablo. I decided to read it later on the office computer. I sent back my thanks. I took a deep breath. I still hadn't figured out how to handle Pablo. A bullet always came to mind first, but adding more guilt to the mountain I already carried didn't sound appealing. Not to mention, that it may put more risk on Lizzy.

I filled the tea kettle and set it on the stove to boil. I wondered if Pablo would listen to reason. Maybe he wanted a clean break as well. My experience told me that he probably took the theft of his shipment personally. I surely didn't want him to get the drugs back. I might as well go into the business myself if I did that. The best I could start with was to put myself between Pablo and Amber. I pulled out a broiling pan for the bacon.

Some men fought fear with capitulation. Others took it as a challenge and charged forward. I suspected Pablo was the latter. I needed to make sure I didn't insult him as I laid out the change in his situation. If anything, I was a change to his status quo. One I hoped he would underestimate at first. I pulled out a teapot and set it next to the stove. I pulled five teabags out of the cupboard and placed them in the pot with the strings hanging over the edge. The main thing was to safeguard Amber. I could easily expedite Pablo's plans if I wasn't careful.

I put the quickly-defrosting bacon slices on a broiling pan and put them in the oven. I caught the tea kettle before it began to sing and filled the pot that held the tea bags. I grabbed the plastic jug from the counter and filled it with ice to the top. I watched the water steep as I bounced the tea bags up in down by their strings. My threats would have to be carefully enumerated. I would have to make a show of it without damaging his pride. Turn it into a business decision for him. I smiled, thinking of putting a dead horse in his bed. The Godfather could have come up with an offer Pablo wouldn't refuse.

I could hear the bacon sizzling and popped the oven door to look. Still too rare. I liked my bacon just this side of dried-out crispy. I pulled the tea bags out of the water and drained them over the pot. I poured the potent tea into the jug of ice and capped it. I checked on the bacon, flipped the slices and let them cook some more. Bacon texture is important. You don't want to fight with rubber when you bite, nor do you want it to crumble to nothing at the slightest touch. The smell was good either way.

"It's finished," Amber announced, holding her creation before her. She was obviously pleased with herself. "Mmmm, bacon," she added when the smell hit her. I took the flower from her and pretended to examine it for flaws. I made sure I didn't find any.

"Perfect," I complimented. That earned me a kiss. "You can solder a loop on it after lunch," I said, indicating where the hanger should be placed. She lovingly pushed me out of the way and opened the oven. The bacon seemed done. Amber grabbed the oven mitts and pulled it out.

"BLT's?" she asked. I nodded and watched her assemble two sandwiches. She still felt the need to do things for me. Maybe she just wanted to. Either way I was pleased as long as she knew I preferred her as a lover and not a maid. She packed the meal in the basket that had seen more use in the last three days, than it had in the many years I had owned it. We headed out to the dock.

"I like doing stained glass," Amber said, as she purposely bumped my shoulder with hers. "Lizzy will like her flower...if I ever have a chance to give it to her."

"We'll get it to her," I insisted. There was a bit more determination in my voice than there should have been. Amber bumped me again. She was being playful.

"I've been thinking," she said, "I don't like the idea of you dealing with Pablo. Maybe, if I just give him his stuff back, no one will get hurt." I shook my head.

"Unless he is an aberration, there is no way he would be happy with only the return," I stopped walking, "I can't have him killing you." Amber stopped as well.

"I can't have him killing you," she admitted, "you had nothing to do with my idiocy. If something were to happen to you...I don't know what I would do." The palm of her free hand found my cheek. I could see how the thought pained her. My heart thought it was wonderful that she thought me worthy of her concern. The rest of me felt badly for thinking her pain was wonderful. My hands full of chairs, I bent down and kissed her for the thought.

"Let's try to work it out so no one dies." I smiled. "My friend sent me more information. I think it is everything the DEA has on you and Pablo." I started walking again. Amber followed. "We are one step ahead. Pablo doesn't know me, and I now know him."

"I loved him once," Amber said softly, "I ignored the laws and enjoyed the money." She looked up at me with cinched eyes, "I'm not a good person. You have to know who you're risking your life for." I stopped walking again. Her words brought back memories that I preferred were forgotten. She needed me to understand her. Understanding needed to go both ways.

"I can hit a moving target at 400 meters," I said slowly, my eyes looking away, "20 years ago I was ordered to do just that. I hit the driver of an SUV. The target, I assume, died instantly. His wife and three small children died in the accident that followed." I looked up, ready for her to run, "I've killed children whose only mistake was being born." My eyes swelled as that fucked up memory came back to me. The screams that followed the fire returned as if it happened yesterday. I gritted my teeth, trying to force the thoughts back into hiding.

"Oh, God," Amber breathed. She didn't run. She put down the basket and embraced me. Her arms tucked under mine and she pulled me close. I dropped the chairs and melted into her. There is something miraculous about sharing pain. The agony becomes softer, less potent. I closed my eyes and let the memories flood back. I had done something horrendous and it was time I remembered. I let it flow through me and into Amber. It came back tainted with compassion. It was no less real, but colors other than black flowed around it. The wound stopped bleeding, though it was still sore as hell.

"You have to know who you're staying with," I whispered. She pulled me in tighter.

"The past is past," Amber said, "we can't undo what we've done. I'll never ask about your past, but I will always listen when you need to tell me." The side of her face was against my chest. It was comfortable there. Still, I disturbed it by leaning, making our mouths meet. A soft, compassionate kiss; one moral disaster to another. It took us a moment to collect our feelings and find our way to the the dock. The river, uncaring as always, flowed gently.

We ate in silence for a while. Our hands would intertwine and we exchanged small smiles as we let nature humble us. I thought of what I had divulged to Amber. I wondered if it was too much. Truth had a way of ruining things. I told her the worst, but kept other things to myself. I looked over at those lips I loved so much and knew she would never know everything. The worst would have to be enough for her to decide on our future. I wasn't going to make her climb my mountain of sin. She might tire and leave me in a downhill run.

"Can we wait a week?" Amber asked, breaking the silence.

"For what?" I questioned, not quite sure what she meant.

"I want to be happy," Amber clarified, "at least for a short time before we do anything drastic." Her hand found mine, her fingers combing into mine. "I want to forget everything before you bought me dinner. Just you and me living like a normal couple." I squeezed her hand and smiled. It was the best idea I had heard in long time. The idea of ignoring our pasts and concentrating on each other was sublime.

"That sounds wonderful," I agreed, turning in my chair to better face her. Humor flooded back into her eyes.

"What should we do this afternoon?" Amber asked, her eyebrows bounced in a seductive way.

The week that followed was, by far, the best week of my life. We played, we laughed, we enjoyed each other thoroughly. I took Amber back to town and spent some time shopping. Like a couple, I took her out to dinner. We caught a lousy movie at the theater and laughed about it all the way home.

The ease with which we became comfortable with each other was astonishing. Tasks were partitioned without verbal communication. We knew what the other was thinking and we rarely collided. I pulled a steak out of the fridge and Amber would be there with a pan. She would pull the sheets off the bed, and I would have an arm full of clean ones. It became second nature that we were an extension of each other.

As promised, I fixed Amber's hair. I carefully died her roots. It was a new experience for me, and she laughed a lot. She enjoyed me taking care of her. I trimmed off the purple ends of her hair. I replaced them with one finger's width of purple that ran down the right side. I don't know if it was because I did it, but I found it arousing. A little devil in my sweet girl. Amber recognized my desire and teased me with the strands. One morning, I awoke to find her sitting naked beside me, her purple hair curled in seductive ripples and lust in her eyes. She knew me too well.

"I need to see Lizzy," Amber said to me. We were lying in each other's arms, sated from making love with Santana playing in the background. We were getting better at it.

"It's time then," I said, anxious to free her from her past, but sad that our time would be no longer solely ours. She brought her hand to the side of my face, her eyes sad, but loving.

"I miss her terribly," she said, "I've been a horrible mother, selfishly loving you and ignoring her." I selfishly wanted it to continue.

"Your choices were limited," I said, trying to help her justify her necessary neglect. She smiled at me, followed by a soft kiss.

"You are my choice, selfish as it is," she continued. I loved being her choice. "I can't live without her though. I have to try to get her back." For a split second, I saw Pablo through the scope of a rifle in my mind. I shook it off. I wanted to avoid any more deaths.

"Tomorrow then," I whispered, "we'll begin." I still wasn't sure how to handle the situation. I was sinking my hopes into Pablo being somewhat reasonable. Not a great gamble.

"Thank you," Amber returned, her lips once again telling me how much I meant to her. I wanted to free her more than life itself. She was my summer and I never wanted to be cold again.

I woke before Amber the next morning. I pulled on a pair of shorts and t-shirt, smelling her all over me. It is hard to explain how pleasant the scent was. I was smiling at the walls as I started the coffee, my nose lost in ode de Amber. I went into my office and brought up the email from Frank. I had let it sit, greedily enjoying Amber for the week. Now, it was back to business. I read, learned and retrieved a cup of coffee when it was ready. I read some more.

Pablo had a fairly large file. Enough legit businesses to hide his ill-gotten gains. The guesstimates of his drug empire were not quite as large as I had hoped. The million dollars of smack would hurt if the numbers were real. It looked like it was about a fifth of his yearly volume. More of a drug prince. That meant he would have fewer men than expected, but would be more desperate to get the drugs back. I had aerials of his estate and lists of his businesses and associates. The DEA had been unable to make anything stick to Pablo, so they were very interested in obtaining the whereabouts of Samantha Donaldson. There were notes about her possible knowledge of his business affairs. It looked like she was involved since the DEA became aware of Pablo.

The file on Amber was not as thick, more concise. She was considered complicit, but not directly participating in Pablo's business. She had met him when he had sprained his back and visited the doctor Amber was working for. More information than I needed to know, but I found it reassuring that she hadn't lied to me about being a receptionist. It was just the assumed timing that she allowed to be stretched when I first met her. She had been with Pablo for close to eleven years. I could see it. A receptionist swept off her feet by a suave South American with unending cash. We all make mistakes. Mine were worse than hers anyway.

I went back to the beginning and began my memorization exercises. I was surprised how well it came back to me. I was trained to remember documents since the delicate nature of the missions didn't allow written information to be carried. It only took me six times through to commit it all to memory. Still no plan, but I had the information.

"Would you like a refill?" I turned to see Amber in my open robe, standing in the doorway, looking like Aphrodite.

"I'll join you on the porch," I said, rising. I loved her morning smile. It made for a wonderful start to the day. I moved toward her to get my morning kiss that I now took for granted. It was strange how quickly I got comfortable with her. How much I needed those small kisses that weren't special, but held a future so bright my mind needed sunglasses.

"What's the plan?" Amber asked. I could see she was nervous. We were embarking on something that would put our lives at risk. Her nervousness was to be expected. Mine was strangely mute. I was on a mission again. Fear wasn't allowed until after it was over. When it was all said and done, then the shaking hands and dismay would invade.

"We're going to Phoenix," I said calmly, "I am going to have a face-to-face with Pablo. If he is reasonable, we may be able to end this quickly."

"He's not reasonable," Amber said, shaking her head. Her eyes had widened at my piss poor plan. I smiled to set her at ease.

"He's a businessman," I continued, "I'll explain the alternatives, he will weigh the options and hopefully decide you aren't worth the risk."

"Mark, he will kill you," Amber stated. I could feel her fear now.

"No," I said, "first he will underestimate me. I will explain his options in terms he can understand and then he will make a decision. Until he makes that decision, I can't do anything more." I looked into her wide eyes, "No more cars full of children," I added, knowing it explained my methods.

"What if he doesn't want to talk?" she asked.

"He will," I replied, "it is the only thing I am sure of." Greed and power had a way of steering men like Pablo. He will smell his heroine and a chance to get back at Amber. He will meet with me. I just had to make sure it was on my terms.

"You can't die on me," Amber pleaded, reaching out to me. I took her hand in mine. I loved the concern, but there was no way I was backing out now. I was on a mission. Every mission had to be completed. This one was backed by love. Much more powerful than duty, honor and country.

"I love you," I said. It just came out of my mouth explaining why my life was easily risked and were I found the strength. I should say it more often. I had so many other chances. It may have been more appropriate during passion. Now, it brought tears. Early morning, coffee-on-the-porch tears.

"I love you too," she stammered before moving quickly into my lap. I smiled. She cried. I held her, wishing the morning would last forever. I squinted and saw the trees as streaky green glass against a most glorious cloudy blue backdrop. The world seemed wonderful with her in my arms. Her tears washed over me, cleaning away so much pain. Amber would be my redemption. I held her until the tears slowed. She surprised me by changing to a giggle.

"You smell like sex," Amber said.

"I smell like you," I clarified.

"Then I'm stinky," she said. I tried not to laugh. I spent a good part of the morning enjoying the scent. I'd take that stinky over fresh roses any day. "We need a shower."

"That sounds like fun," I said, remembering the first shower we took together. We forgot about Pablo for a short time as we played in the water. I concentrated on her filthy breasts. She found one part of me so dirty, it took excessive scrubbing to get it cleaned to her satisfaction. And mine.

We found ourselves on the road well before lunch. I stopped in town and picked up a prepaid phone. I doubted Pablo had the wherewithal to track me down via a cell number, but it always paid to be careful. I called Frank before we left. He was going to meet us in Phoenix. I received a text later that Gabby was en route as well. At least the camaraderie of my past had some benefits. I keyed in what the DEA thought was Pablo's phone number and put the phone on speaker so Amber wouldn't be in the dark. .

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