Velvet Roses Ch. 12byvirgofemme©
The next few days passed with Dane on bedrest, and with Jeneda to take care of him, he barely did anything for himself. All of his meals were prepared by her, and she also gave him bed baths, ran his errands, picked up necessary items from his apartment, and even picked up books for him from the library.
Except for him using the bathroom and feeding himself, Jeneda took care of his every need. Used to being independent, Dane quickly grew tired of being confined to the bed, and by the second day of bedrest, he began taking walks around the apartment. By the third day, he was well enough to make it down to the lobby by himself, and although he did it without Jeneda's approval, he began taking strolls twice a day up and down the length of her block.
Worried that Daniel and Adrian might be planning another attack, she tried to accompany him, but he refused. At first she felt a little hurt, and found herself wondering if he was getting tired of being around her. But then she realized that he probably needed to be alone with his thoughts, so she gave him space and respected his need for alone time.
Now five days into his recovery, Dane was nearly back to his old self. The bruises on his face had nearly faded, and apart from his two broken fingers and fractured nose, which was still healing, he was almost fully recovered. The previous four days had been somewhat taxing for several reasons, but now that the week was nearing its end, Jeneda felt nothing but grateful for Dane's speedy recovery.
She was in the kitchen toasting waffles when Dane emerged from the bedroom, naked except for a towel which hung loosely around his waist. His hair was dripping wet and his body smell faintly of lavender shower gel.
The smile on his lips told her that he was in a good mood, and as he sidled up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, she offered a greeting.
"Morning." He tenderly kissed her neck, then watched as she stacked waffles onto a large plate.
"You really are a late riser, aren't you? It's almost noon."
"In what time zone?" He asked. "Last time I checked, it was barely eleven o'clock."
He lightly chuckled, then released her to retrieve a carton of milk from the fridge. After pouring himself a glass, he took a generous sip, then leaned against the counter.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Pretty good. That soreness around my ribs is gone, and when I swallow, I don't feel any pain.
Recalling the severe throat punch he'd received, she found herself appreciative that the damage hadn't been worse. "That's great news. Definitely glad to hear it."
Having finished loading the stack of waffles onto a plate, Jeneda set them on the kitchen table, along with two plates which held scrambled eggs. She then grabbed a bottle of syrup and a stick of butter from the fridge, and they both sat down to eat.
Rather than drizzle his waffles with syrup, Dane drenched them, and after piling some scrambled eggs on top, he folded the dough-based cake in half and took a big, crunchy bite. Syrup oozed onto the plate as he did it, and unable to resist herself, she sarcastically commented on his soggy waffle sandwich.
"Got enough syrup there?"
His eyes briefly met hers before he grabbed the syrup bottle, and after pouring some more onto his waffle and egg concoction, he took another bite.
"Okay, that's just gross."
He smiled, then noisily licked his fingers. "Actually it tastes delicious." He then held it out to her, coaxing her to partake in a sample. "You're welcome to take a bite."
"Yeah, thanks but no thanks," she said before lightly drizzling her waffles with syrup.
Several moments passed before their contented sounds of munching was broken by words.
"I was thinking it might be a good idea for me to go home today. I'm basically healed and can take care of myself now."
Her eyes filled with unease at his suggestion. "I'd rather you not."
"I don't like the idea of you being alone. Not after what Adrian and Daniel did to you."
"They beat me within an inch of my life. There really isn't a whole lot else can they do."
"They could kill you."
"Not gonna happen."
"Really. And what makes you so sure of yourself?"
"They had the chance to do it five days ago, but didn't go through with it."
"They would have, though, if they hadn't gotten into a fight."
"Maybe." He shrugged, finished the remainder of his sandwich, then washed it down with the rest of his milk." I can't stay cooped up in here forever, Jeneda. I need to get on with my life."
"Cooped up? You make it sound like I'm forcing you to be here."
"That's not what I meant, and you know it." He grabbed her hand, and looking deep into her eyes he said, "I'm damned lucky to have you. You've been amazing during all of this, and I'm really grateful for you taking care of me the past five days. But staying here any longer won't make things any easier for us."
Jeneda lowered her eyes, focusing them on the small squares in her waffles before looking back at him. "I know," she softly said. "But I like having you here with me."
"I like being here as well, but for the past five days, I haven't been able to do anything at all. You know that heist I'm supposed to pull?"
"I'm supposed to be planning things out, getting everything worked out so that it all goes smoothly. But ever since I got beat up, I haven't been able to work on those plans."
"You could always work on them here."
"No, I can't. I need to be in my apartment, on my own, and without any distractions."
His tone was firm and had an edge to it, and seeing how strongly he was opposed to her suggestion, she decided to just let things be.
"Fine. Forget I asked, okay?"
She got up from the table, took her plate to the sink, and then rinsed it off. She was just putting it in the dish washer when he walked over to where she stood, then lifted her chin so that she was forced to look up at him.
"When I said distractions, I didn't mean it in a bad way. It's just that when I'm around you, I can't get anything done. You're all I can focus on, and then things that I should be doing don't get completed, and normally that wouldn't be such a bad thing."
She said nothing, only blinked and waited for him to continue.
"But this situation I'm in is pretty intense, and if I don't pull this heist off, things will get even worse." A flash of worry crossed his features. "Your life is already at stake, and the last thing I want is to give this guy an excuse to come after you."
"I know." Resting her palm on his bare chest, she slid it upward until it reached his shoulders, then sifted her fingers through his hair. "But can't you stay just one more day?"
He lightly sighed, averted his eyes as if thinking it over, then turned his attention back on her. "Alright, but just one more day, alright? Tomorrow I go home."
Her lips tugged into a wide smile, and she looped her arms around his neck. He lowered his head so that their foreheads pressed together, and as their noses brushed, he spoke to her in a lowered voice.
"You know I wouldn't leave you alone without any protection, right?"
Her brows slightly furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"I was going to wait until I left to do this, but I guess now's a good time as any."
He pulled away from her, leaving her to stand in the kitchen alone, then padded off to the bedroom. A few moments later he returned, and as she saw what he was holding in his hand, her heart beat a little faster.
"You have a gun?" She eyed the sleek, black, weapon warily.
"Yeah, it was in my coat pocket."
"Wish I'd known that was here the night Adrian and Daniel paid us a visit."
"Even if you had, it wouldn't have done us much good. We were both tied up, remember?"
She nodded, and as he placed it in her hand, she lifted it, then pointed it toward the wall behind the fridge. "I've never used a gun before, so you'll have to walk me through this step by step."
"First off, you need to wrap you thumb around the other side."
Noting the incorrect position of her fingers, she did as he instructed. "Now what?"
"Wrap your second hand under your grip hand, then align your thumbs together." He gave pause so that she could do as he said, then continued to speak. "You finger shouldn't be anywhere the near the trigger, so take it off."
She moved her forefinger so that it rested along the side of the gun. "Now what?"
"Close only your left eye, then close only your right." He waited as she did it, then said, "When you left your right eye open, did the gun stay lined up with the object you're aiming towards?"
"Then that's your dominant eye. Always keep it open while shooting."
"Okay. Now what about my stance?"
He gazed down to note the position of her feet, and after eyeing her locked elbows and knees, he offered some tips. "Your feet need to be shoulder length apart, and one foot should be slightly more forward than the other."
She adjusted her position, then asked, "Better?"
"Yep. Now curl your body slightly forward and keep your arms in line with your shoulders." He watched as she did it, and once satisfied with her position, he said, "That's good. Now you have full and complete control over the muzzle."
She maintained her stance for a few moments so that she could memorize it, and once she was completely certain that she had it down, she lowered the gun and turned to face him. "This will probably be more difficult when I'm actually trying to shoot someone."
"Of course. But let's just hope you'll never have to use it." Worry flashed through his eyes before he turned his gaze back on the gun. "You see that moveable button near your right thumb?"
She gave a nod in response.
"You slide it backward to release the safety, and move it forward to engage it back."
There was a clicking noise as she disengaged the safety, then put it back in the locked position, and after giving the handgun a lingering gaze, she looked back at Dane. "Well, I guess I'm as prepared as I can possibly be."
"Yeah, I guess so." His eyes lowered to the weapon in her hand, and as he once again gazed back up at her, his eyes filled with distress. "I hate the fact that I even have to give you one, but at least now I won't have to worry about Daniel or Adrian coming after you again."
"I'm not crazy about owning one either, but It'll definitely make me feel a whole lot safer."
He tried to give her a reassuring smile, but the corners of his lips only tugged slightly upward. Very gently, he leaned in to press a soft kiss against her lips, then pulled back to to look into her eyes. "What are you getting into today?"
"I have a meeting with a few clients this afternoon, then I'm going to my art studio."
"What time do you think you'll be home?"
"Five, maybe six."
"Let's order takeout tonight."
"Sure, whatever you want."
She smiled, and after pulling him down for a deep, wet kiss, she said, "I'll see you later tonight."
She made her way to front door, but before she could reach it, Dane suddenly called out to her.
She turned to look back at him. "Yeah?"
His expression had turned melancholy, and after a long moment of hesitation, he finally spoke. "Be safe, okay?"
She nodded, knowing all too well that he'd meant to say more, and without another word she turned and exited the bedroom, heading for the front door.
* * * *
After a long, but productive day of meeting with clients and working on commissioned sculptures, Jeneda arrived home, and as she reached the door to her apartment, she pulled out her keys.
It wasn't until she'd stepped across the threshold and set the grocery bags down that she sensed something was off, and a pang of dread hit her hard in the stomach as she noticed that the apartment was completely silent.
She quietly closed the door behind her, and standing completely still, listened for voices or any sounds of movement. Aside from the ticking of the clock on the kitchen wall, the apartment was deathly quiet, and as she slowly began to make her way down the hallway toward the bedroom, she reached for the gun in her purse.
Upon reaching the door to her bedroom, she eased it open. The first thing she saw was the empty bed, and as she noticed that Dane's clothes were no longer lying crumpled on the ground, a terrible feeling came over her.
Despite the fact that she knew he wasn't there, she went to the bathroom and glanced inside, but found that it was also devoid of his presence. She turned and went back into the bedroom, and as she spotted a piece of notepad paper on the bedside table, she walked closer to have a look at it.
She could tell from the messily written script that the note had been written in a hurry, and as she began to read the words, an unbearable heaviness settled in her chest.
~Went out to run an important errand. I'll be back as soon as I can. Love you.
As if expecting for more words to magically appear, Jeneda stared at the sheet of paper. It wasn't the first time that Dane had mysteriously taken off and left her with only a brief note in explanation. But the fact that he had done it when they'd made definite plans to order takeout and spend the evening together, made her wonder just what was going on.
She began to wonder if the errand was connected to this man who was after him, and as she came to the realization that it most likely was, a sickness resonated in her gut.
~I'll be back as soon as I can.~
She found herself unable to stop rereading that part of the note, and each time she did, she felt her chest tighten even further. What exactly did he mean by 'I'll be back as soon as I can', and why hadn't he at least called to tell her?
Leaving a note was more of a casual thing, something that one did when they made a quick run to the store, so the fact that he hadn't given her a phone call only reinforced that something was very wrong.
Having never been the patient type, Jeneda already knew that she was unwilling to sit around and wait for Dane to return, so she left the bedroom and headed straight for the front door.
She'd already taken the elevator down to the lobby and exited the building when she realized that she didn't even know where she was going, but that didn't stop her from climbing behind the wheel of her car and starting up the engine.
Instead of taking off right away, she saw there for a few moments, just staring ahead while she tried to work out a plan. She already knew what kind of situation Dane was in, so it didn't make a whole lot of sense to entangle herself any further, but remaining at home would only drive her crazy.
Uncertain of what else to do, she retrieved her phone from her purse, and after searching through the call history, she found the number she was looking for.
She hit the call send button, then waited for the person on the other end of the line to pick up. It took four rings before they did, and after a moment of hesitation, Jeneda spoke into the receiver.
"Yeah, who's this?"
"Hey." There was an awkward pause before she continued. "I'm calling about Dane. You wouldn't happen to know where he is, would you?"
"No, why would I?"
"I figured since you guys are friends, that he might have told you something."
"He hasn't called or come by, so I don't know anything more than you do."
"Oh, okay." Disappointment was clear in her voice. "Well if you do hear from him, could you give me a call?"
"Wherever Dane is right now, he clearly doesn't want you to know, so why are you even trying to find him?"
"Because I'm worried," she said, matching Cassie's sharp, irritated tone.
"I don't know where he is."
"Right. Well nevermind, then. Sorry to have bothered you."
She pulled the phone away from her ear so that she could hang up, but the sound of Cassie's voice made her once again lift the receiver.
"Yes?" Jeneda asked.
"I'm not trying to be a bitch or anything, but if I were you, I'd butt out and let him have his space."
"I don't think It's space he's after. He's in a lot of trouble."
"Even more reason why sticking your nose into it is a bad idea. If anything, It'll just make him more stressed out."
"I'm not just going to just sit at home worrying about him," Jeneda said. "I have to do something."
"Do what you like. It's just a word of advice."
"Yeah, well thanks anyways."
"Take my advice. If he wanted you to know where he was going, he would have told you."
Jeneda opened her mouth to respond, but before she could get a word out, Cassie hung up. Both annoyed and frustrated at being thwarted from speaking her mind, Jeneda tossed her phone aside. Then without a moment's hesitation, she put the car into gear and hit the gas, taking off down the street.
* * * *
Not knowing where else to go, Jeneda found herself at Dane's apartment, and after nearly half an hour of waiting, she spotted him pull up to the curb, then get out of his vehicle and head for his apartment.
Not wanting to be seen herself, Jeneda had parked half a block down from his residence, and had purposely situated her car so that it was concealed behind a large white van.
An hour later, just shy of four p.m., Dane reemerged, carrying a black duffel bag that was much like the one that had been in his possession on the day that she'd last visited him.
Instead of his usual velvet blazer, he was wearing a wool trench coat, and he'd also changed into fresh clothes, which consisted of a pair of black jeans and v-necked gray sweater.
His shoulders were hunched slightly, but his stride was purposeful, and due to the drizzle that had begun to fall, his hair hung limply around his pale, solemn face.
He looked completely miserable, and although he seemed to have an air of assurance about him, it was clear that he was less than reluctant to carry out whatever task he was set to do.
After placing the duffel bag in the trunk of his Prius, Dane got into the driver's seat, then pulled away from the curb. Jeneda started up her own car and took off down the street as well, but despite her eagerness to tail him closely, she was careful to maintain an appropriate distance.
After traveling half a mile, Dane turned onto the highway, and as he accelerated, so did she. Luckily for her, she was used to traveling at high speeds, so when the speedometer reached 75, she was able to still comfortably maneuver the car.
Forty minutes into the drive, Dane switched lanes so that he could exit, and as he made his way down the ramp and onto the street, Jeneda continued to tail him. By this time, the sky had become gray with patches of blue, and what had previously been a light drizzle was now steady rain.
No longer properly in the city, but on the outskirts of San Francisco, Jeneda found herself curious as to who Dane was meeting, and was more eager than ever to find out just what the purpose of this meeting was.
As she spotted a yellow light ahead, Jeneda noticed that the speed of Dane's car increased, so she accelerated to keep up, but was abruptly cut off by an aggressive driver in a monstrous pickup truck. She hit the brakes just in time to avoid rear ending the huge vehicle, then cursed loudly and slammed her palm against the horn.
The driver of the truck stuck their hand out of the window and gave her the finger, then sailed right through the light, and she would have as well, but before she could enter the intersection it turned red, so she was forced to make a stop.
Infuriated by the idiotic driver, Jeneda heaved a frustrated sigh and impatiently waited for the light to turn green. Once it did, she hit the gas and raced down the street, and after driving a block without seeing Dane's car anywhere in sight, she began to nervously wonder if she'd lost track of him.