I awoke the next morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and toast. I blinked the sleep away from my eyes, noticing Mason standing in the tiny kitchen, shirtless. My brain took a second to catch up with what I was laying my eyes on. His thick arms enveloped in tattoos, his pecs rippled beneath his taut skin, abs hard and defined, I felt my body tingle as my eyes locked onto the perfect V shape above his pant line. I felt it must be a dream had it not been for the pain radiating from my neck.
Then, the memories from the night before came rushing back to me, my childhood home reduced to cinders before my eyes, taken away to this strange place by a complete stranger, no clue where my father was or if he was safe, not to mention learning that there are people actively trying to kidnap me or murder me! The wave of emotions flooded my body, making me sick to my stomach. I sat up in my small cot and buried my face into my knees, fighting back the tears that threatened to escape.
“Scarlett,” I heard the deep, comforting voice whisper my name, “hey, talk to me. What’s going through your mind?” I felt Mason’s soft touch on my knees.
I was embarrassed, I didn’t like to cry in front of others, worrying I would completely breakdown if I spoke and not wanting him, or anyone to see that, I just shook my head, sniffling. I felt his strong arms wrap around my body as he lifted me up and sat me on his lap, just holding me close. His long fingers ran through my messy hair, combing out the tangles. His chest felt like my own personal heater and cocoon, wrapping me in protection.
“It’s okay,” he finally spoke as he laid his head on top of mine. “You don’t have to speak, just know everything is going to be okay. I spoke to your father this morning, he is safe. We can’t meet with him just yet, but he said to tell you he loves you and is so proud of you. We are leaving this dump today too. There is a much better safe house we are going to be staying, it’s a far drive, but its much more comfortable.” His voice somehow relaxed my entire body, I began to breathe deep, his intoxicating scent filling my mind, soothing my body even more.
I finally was able to lift my head and wipe away the tears that betrayed me. “I’m sorry.” I apologized wiping my face, I know I must’ve looked a mess. Which was even more humiliating in front of this Greek god of a man.
“Hey,” Mason lifted my chin with his finger and thumb, “never apologize for having emotions, you have every single right to cry, rage, scream, any of that. I’d say you are holding on amazingly considering your situation.”
I just hugged him for a minute until I decided I should get up and fix myself. “Thank you, Mason.”
“You want some coffee and I have some oranges or toast if you want?” He asked while moving back into the kitchen.
“That would be amazing, I like a lot of sugar…”
“Sugar and milk, I know, I told you, your father has had me keeping an eye on you for a year now.” He laughed as he handed me the already made coffee that was already made to perfection.
“I see you were very good at your job.” I was surprised, but also strangely comforted by the fact he knew more about me than I realized. “Now about…um…I can’t leave here like this, can I?” I motioned to my extremely short and loose-fitting shorts and large T-shirt with no bra.
“Oh yes! Here you go.” Mason handed me a duffle bag that was laying next to the cots. “I hope everything you need is in there, your father packed it for you. There should be a few sets of clothes and toiletries.”
“Perfect.” I turned and made my way to the modest restroom.
I closed the door and sat the bag on the toilet to begin rifling through what my father had packed me, worried at what he thought I would be comfortable in. To my surprise, the clothing wasn’t too far off what I like to wear and was so ecstatic when I realized literally all my daily lotions and soaps were packed. I have a feeling my father may have had help with this.
I turned the shower on and stepped in, “Ah!” I squealed as the freezing water hit my body. I forgot, no hot water. I could hear Mason laugh from outside the bathroom. “It’s not funny!” I rushed to clean myself before hypothermia took over. At least it’s Summer, the heat should warm me up quickly.
Once I exited the restroom, I noticed Mason had everything packed up by the door. “Ready?” he asked, looking me over.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” I shrugged, “Where are we going?” before he could answer, I heard my phone ting in my pocket. As I grabbed it, I watched in horror as Mason yanked it out of my hand. His face turning red with anger.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had your phone with you?” He snapped.
I put my hands up in defense, “Woah calm down! I don’t see what the problem is!”
“You don’t see the problem!” He looked at the screen. “Anyone could be tracking us and even listening in on our conversation!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know!” Just then Mason took my phone and smashed it onto the floor into pieces, then picking up the tiny sim card and snapping it in half. “WHAT THE FUCK! You didn’t have to smash it!”
“Yes, I did! Even if its off they could be tracking it.”
“Ugh!” I grunted as I marched past him, purposely knocking my shoulder into him. I understand why he had to do that, but I was still angry. “Whatever. Are we leaving or what? And you owe me a new phone!” I demanded.
“Just…ugh…let’s go.” Mason picked up our bags and led the way to the truck.
The ride was quiet for the first few hours, the awkwardness was palpable in the air. “Can we pull over soon? I have to use a toilet and stretch my legs.” I finally broke the silence.
“Uh, yeah I think there is a gas station at the next exit.”
“Are you going to tell me where we are going? We’ve been driving forever!” I was becoming impatient, and this wasn’t the most exciting road trip.
“It’s a small town in Colorado. About a 26-hour drive or so.” Mason informed me nonchalantly.
“COLORADO?!” I was shocked, “Why are we going all the way to fuckin’ Colorado? I thought we would be meeting my dad soon.”
“It’s safe there, it’s taking longer than we had hoped to locate the intruders.”
“Well, how long is it going to take? What about my college? I can’t just bail on my dreams!” I was furious! Sure, I could take a semester off, but how long would I have to be in hiding? There was no way I could leave my entire life behind! I was expecting everything to be back to normal within a few weeks, I hadn’t even registered for my classes yet! OH MY GOD! What about Luca! He must be devastated; I can’t have him thinking I’m dead!
“Honestly, I don’t know. But please don’t worry about any of that. Your father found a way you can continue your schooling if we are still in hiding when classes begin. Please, calm down, it will be okay.” Did he just tell me to calm down?
“Did you really just tell me to fucking calm down?” I stared daggers at him. You know, this man might be extremely sexy, but he is really starting to piss me off!
“Scarlett, that’s not what I meant!” He reached over and squeezed my hand. “Listen, we could be in hiding anywhere from weeks to months, I don’t even know. But we cannot risk these people finding you.”
“That’s another thing! Who are these people? Why are they after me? Is my dad the leader of some crazy drug syndicate?”
Mason laughed, I don’t see what is so funny about this, “No, no. Exact opposite of that.”
“What, so is he a cop and are some drug dealers after me? What can you tell me?” Why isn’t he just being straight-forward with me? It’s really getting on my nerves.
“Okay, okay. Listen, I really cannot tell you that much. It’s classified information. Let’s just say if I did tell you anything, the government would kill both of us, understand…?” He hinted to me, giving me a deliberate look. “Look, I’ll talk to your father tonight and ask what exactly I can safely tell you, deal?”
I’m assuming it has something to do with either the FBI, CIA, or military then, but he is really sticking to his guns. “Fine.” At least I can hopefully get some information later.
“Here’s some cash if you want to grab some snacks,” He handed me a few 20-dollar bills as we pulled into a gas station in the middle of nowhere. “I’m going to fill up the tank, and please be quick.”
As I walked into the convenient store, I noted all the Kentucky license plates, we must be making good time, I hope. I don’t know how much longer I can stand on the road without literally pulling out my hair!
After using the restroom and perusing the aisles, I spotted a payphone on the wall next to the ATM machine. “Is that all for you, missy?” The gray-haired woman working the counter asked, eyeing the armful of snacks and drinks I had.
“Uh, yeah,” I said setting them down, “Hey, does that payphone work?”
“It certainly does, sugar. Anything else I can help you with?” She handed back my change and bags of food.
“No, that’ll do it.” I peeked over at Mason through the window, he was still pumping the gas. I felt the need to call Luca and let him know I’m okay. He must be worried sick! I know he could keep a secret.
I snuck over to the payphone, checking on Mason to ensure he wouldn’t see me as I dropped in my change and quickly dialed Luca’s number. My heart raced as the dial-tone took its time with each deafening ring, “You’ve reached Luca Drago, I’m not here right now, leave a message.”
“Luca it’s me. I’m safe. I had to leave town for a while. Just know I love you and I’ll be back soon…I…” A strong hand came from above me and slammed the phone hook down. Mason grabbed my hand very tight and led me out of the store and into the truck.
“What in the actual hell was that, Scarlett?” Mason was filled with fury.
“No! You listen to me and don’t say a god damn word!” His words filled with emotion and anger, “People are trying to fucking kill you, okay? Not just one shot and you’re dead, these men want information, they want you alive and they will go to any length to hurt you before they take your life. They are professionals at this, it is their passion to hurt people. My one job, the only job I have right now, is to protect you! Right now, you are making it incredibly difficult, especially with that stunt! Who did you have to call that was so important? If you want to talk to your dad, I can make that happen! Just tell me. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you.”
“I’m sorry!” I pleaded with Mason, “I didn’t mean to put us in danger.” I lowered my head, “it was stupid of me.”
“Who did you try to call?”
“Luca…I’m worried, he must think I’m dead!”
Mason shook his head, “Exactly! Everyone has to think that, Scarlett! These people aren’t stupid! They will hurt everyone around you to get to you!”
Oh shit, “Did I just put Luca’s life in danger?” My heart pounded; did I just get him murdered?
“Just hope he isn’t dumb enough to tell anyone about the voicemail.” Mason hit the gas and got back on the road. “I’ll forgive you, just don’t pull anything else stupid like that. That’s an order. Not a suggestion.”
“But what about Luca? Is he going to be okay?” I love that man; we’ve been together since high school! We had plans to get married one day and have a family, I still plan on finding a way to be with him again.
“I’ll have someone check in on him, I’m sure he will be fine.” Mason was very reluctant. I’m sure he watched us, and I know from the outside looking in Luca does come off as a complete jerk, but under all that, he cares about me, sure he does some asshole things, but he’s a good guy and he’s the only man I’ve ever been with.
After driving for a little while longer, I fell asleep to the rhythmic bumps in the road as the sun began to set and night filled the sky.