I held my breath as I exited the restroom, my chest was tight, adrenaline still coursing through my veins. “So, tell me everything. Who are you?” I ordered the stranger.
“My name is Mason Hart. I’m a friend of your fathers.” He explained. “Please sit down,” he gestured to the cot across from his with a bottled water, “here drink some water, you must be tired. It’s been a long night.”
As I sat down across from Mason, I finally got a good look at him. His dark hair contrasting his light skin and cold ice blue eyes; he was barely older than me. How did someone so young know my father so well? My eyes wandered down and couldn’t help but notice his muscular figure and tattoos that covered his arms. There was no question, he was extremely handsome, but I had to shake that from my mind.
“Your father ordered me to protect you, should something happen.” Mason’s face was stoic and hardened.
“Where is my dad? Is he okay?” I tried my best to stay calm.
“Yes, I spoke with him recently. We will meet with him once it is safe to do so.”
“Safe? What more do these people want? They already destroyed my home, I’m sure they got what they were looking for. They obviously got their point across!” I felt the anger burning inside my chest as I squeezed the corners of the cot, turning my knuckles white.
“We need to let them think they got what they wanted. But I promise you they will never get that chance.” Mason rested his hand on top of my fists, relaxing them.
“Wh-what do you mean?” I knew what he meant, but I couldn’t process it. I needed to hear it to be sure.
“They weren’t looking for something, they were looking for someone, they were looking for you.” His face turned red with rage with the thought. “It’s been my job for over a year now to watch over you and keep you safe but keep my distance. I’ll be damned if they took you that easily.”
“But…why?” Questions raced through my mind, but I couldn’t get them into words. “Who?”
“Listen, Scarlett,” Mason grabbed my hands, massaging them with his thumbs as he looked right into my eyes. I stared back into his, tranced by their inviting, mysterious nature. “I can’t tell you everything just yet. However, I vow to protect you with my life. Do you trust me? Can you trust me?”
His touch and the look in his eyes felt magnetic to mine, I couldn’t help but feel like he meant what he said, and I felt safe, despite there being people trying to murder me. “I trust you.”
Mason squeezed my hands tighter “Good.” He released my hands and stood up, like he was forgetting something. “Are you hungry?”
There was no way I could eat right now; the adrenaline was leaving my body as I finally relaxed. I was exhausted. “No. Just tired.”
Mason turned and blew out the candles and switched off all the lanterns except for one. “Get some sleep, Ms. Aberra.” He sounded very formal.
“You can call me Scarlett.” I yawned, my eyelids falling like boulders.
One Year Prior. CIA Headquarters.
“Do you understand your mission, Officer Hart?” General David Aberra was clear with his orders to protect his daughter from Russian assassins and to keep my distance unless absolutely necessary.
“Yes, General, Sir.” I stood in salute, waiting for him to reciprocate.
“Relax, Hart.” His voice dropped as he gripped my shoulder. “Speaking as one man to another. They already killed my wife and almost my daughter, I did everything I could to protect them so they couldn’t find us, we moved, tried to change our names, but they still found us. We thought we got them after my wife’s murder, but now they are back. These monsters will do everything in their power to get what they want. I refuse to put this Nation at risk, but my daughter is all I have left. She has nothing to do with any of this, she is innocent, smart, and wants nothing more than to do good in this cruel world. She needs to be kept safe. Her safety is required for the safety of our Nation. You are the only man I can trust with this mission. So again, as a friend, do you understand, Mason?” I have never seen General Aberra like this before, tears welled in his eyes as he stared into my soul, searching for answers I didn’t have.
“I promise, David, I will protect her with my life.” I meant it. I owed the General my life, if that meant losing my life to protect his daughter, so be it.
With that, he handed me the file that included everything I needed to know about his daughter and what we knew about the Russians. “Thank you.” General Aberra shook my hand, I was officially in charge of a stranger’s life.
My mission started at Duke University. The General’s daughter must be as smart as he says, that is not an easy school to get into. I sat in my black truck waiting for her to appear from class. I couldn’t help but wonder, seeing all the flashy cars and high-end outfits, if my life would have been any different, had my father not died in war; so, my mother and I didn’t struggle paycheck to paycheck. Maybe I would be a student here, instead of peering into the life of one.
Duke was a dream of mine, an improbable one. My mother and I lived in a trailer park, not far from here in North Carolina for a period. I ended up dropping out of high school in my junior year to join the Marines, like my father, so I could help my mom pay the bills. Although, I am lucky to have met General Aberra, he’s the one who not only saved my life on the front lines, but changed my life, got me into the CIA. Without him, my mother would still be living in her RV, sleeping in random trailer parks and parking lots. I owe him everything, thanks to him, my mom can live the life she deserves.
I spent the hours waiting for Miss Aberra to appear from class by reading and people watching, the things people do when they think no one is watching is fascinating. She finally walked out of the building; my mind froze for a minute. I’ve seen photos of her, but her beauty in person was unlike anything I have ever seen. Her long brown hair swept down passed her shoulders, her long legs and curves could make any man surrender, she seemed to have an aura of etherealness surrounding her. I came back to reality when I saw another man come up behind her and grab her playfully. That must be Luca Drago, her boyfriend, such a shame, she could do so much better than that uppity shmuck. Although the background check clears him, I just do not have a good feeling about him.
My eyes never left her as they got into his high-end sports car and followed as they entered the gated neighborhood and reached her house. The tall brick mansion was ordained with vines and flowers, rod iron gates decorated each window. The immaculate property was outlined by lush trees and bushes with a masonry’s dream for a driveway. After they entered the home, I started my perimeter check, making note of where each room was, all entrance and exit points, and every spot where I would come back to set up the cameras after dark. I took a record of the dirt road behind the property and made sure I would come back to figure out where it led to.