The Reunion #01byDawnJ©
Whoosh! Whoosh! Phwap!...Silence. A breathless, painful heartbeat later, I opened my eyes to intense darkness., and tried to think past the stampede in my chest and the thunder in my ears. I was not dead, which is what I had expected to be. I tried to concentrate on breathing, on slowing my heart rate, on feeling my body.
I heard a sound. It was more a whisper of a sound, really, and it came from right above my left ear. I froze, and held my breath. Something touched the fingers of my left hand, strapped to the table, something warm, dry, and rough. It felt familiar, and I could almost feel the charge that jolted by me. It touched my lips in a silencing motion, and suddenly I knew it for a finger. I resisted the overwhelming urge to scream, and tried to see the person standing over me. Nothing. Just inky blackness, thick, impenetrable.
I felt the metal restraints melt away from my wrists, ankles, neck, waist, and knees. I felt a warm breath against my cheek, then strong hands pulling me up to sit on the metal table.
"Are you okay?" a disembodied voice asked. It was a man's voice, and he sounded so familiar, like someone I should know well, and yet...I couldn't place it. The man was waiting patiently for my answer. I could tell by his measured breathing.
"I...I guess so," I stammered.
"We must hurry!" he said, not seeming to whisper, yet in a voice I knew only I could hear.
I shivered at the familiar sound, goosebumps suddenly shivering up my arm where his rested. Who was he?
"Come on, then, Lacey," he said, helping me to stand. "Up you go!" How did he know my nickname?
He waited until I was steady on my feet, his arm around my shoulders, holding me securely to his side. I stiffened.
"It's okay. I won't hurt you!" His voice was warm, reassuring, smoothing over my jangled nerves. He squeezed my shoulders gently.
"Relax, and follow my lead."
I nodded, and then remembered that he couldn't see me. I giggled nervously, and tried to move when he did. We seemed to walk forever. I felt beads of sweat popping out all over my body, and
I raised my right hand to flick some off my forehead.
"Almost there," he encouraged me, and suddenly I knew him.
"Gabe?" I whispered. "Is it really you?" I tried to turn to him, but he kept me firmly planted at his side.
"Didn't I promise you I'd be back for you?" he asked, steering me toward a dim light.
I felt myself shudder in sudden anger, and he must have sensed my changed mood.
"You can clobber me as soon as you're safe." His voice was amused and resigned at the same time.
"Pay attention now," he warned me, suddenly all business again. "I'll have to go ahead of you. Follow me closely."
By now, I could see his shape outlined against the growing light, and I saw his finger go to his lips in the universal sign for quiet. He let me go, and I felt desolate, abandoned. I swallowed the confusion of anger, resentment, fear, and joy that swirled around inside me, and followed closely at his heels, bumping into him several times. When he stopped suddenly, I almost knocked him over.
"What...?" I began.
"Lacey," he said, a note in his voice I couldn't identify, "I know you have no reason to, but I need you to trust me now. More than you ever did before."
My heart lurched. "Why? What do you want? What are you going to do?" I tamped down the hysteria, but only just.
"I need you to put your arms around me and jump."
I froze, holding my breath. "Where are we?"
He did not answer my question, but asked one of his own. "Do you want to live?" His voice was hard. I swallowed, the bile rising in my throat, and nodded, unable to speak.
"Do you think I came back to hurt you?" he continued, then waited.
My response was immediate and telling. "No, of course not!"
"Then do as I ask. Wrap your arms around me and jump."
He put his arms around me, facing me for the first time, and waited again. When I didn't move, he said,
I wrapped my arms around his waist and he continued.
At my whispered affirmative, he twisted suddenly and we fell. I tried to hold it in, but the scream escaped and flew through my aching throat, past Gabriel's ears, and into the dark night air. The stampede and the thunder returned a split second before we landed with a lung-crushing thud on what felt like a plastic sheet. Gabriel rolled over and held me against him, breathing hard. He caressed my arms and shoulders, soothing me, before asking,
"Okay?" His voice was strangely hoarse.
"Yeah," I croaked, mine no better than his. I tried to clear my throat, but it remained clogged with fear and sudden tears.
"We've got to get moving, Lacey," he said, and rolled with me to the edge of the sheet. He let me go and jumped down.
I could see his face now in the half-light of a cloudy full moon night. I could not see his black eyes, but the curve of his full lips, the dent in his chin, and the scar marring his left cheek, all appeared in sharp relief on his rugged face. He raised his hands to catch me as I followed him to the ground.
"Come on," he urged me, turning away and beginning to run. I followed, keeping pace with him and suddenly recalling with bittersweet clarity the long runs we took together in the park across from his condo. I allowed myself to remember, for the first time in five years, the way we cooled down after a run, from the walking to the stretches to the hypnotizing kisses to the sensual showers and the breath-stealing lovemaking.
I ran right into his hard body, and could not help the gasp that came from my heated lips. He put out his hands to steady me, and the charge that jolted through my veins this time felt like liquid fire. Not even the abruptness of his departure, nor his note explaining who he was and why he had to go, nor the memory of my rage and my fear that I had lost my heart to a con man, could douse the flames.
"Lacey," his voice was still hoarse, "once we get you to the safe house, you'll have to give a full statement to The Committee before we let you leave." He paused, then continued, "I won't be allowed to stay with you, but I'll be around," an almost imperceptible pause, "if you want me to be."
He turned away before I could answer, and I stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. He turned back to face me.
"You saved me," I said simply. "Thank you, Gabe. You really are my guardian angel."
I stepped closer and kissed him.