We drove for about an hour through dark, abandoned roads. Eventually, Mason pulled over next to a large mountain face and turned on the cab light. I looked on in shock as I saw his arm was drenched in blood, dirt clinging to the wet mess. “Are you okay? Let me look.” My medical training came rushing back to me. “You need stitches, we have to get this cleaned out!”
Mason let out a laugh.
“Why are you laughing? This is not funny!” During the fight, a bullet grazed his arm, cutting into the muscle.
“Trust me, I’ll be fine.” He reassured me, “I’ve been through a hell of a lot worse. Ya know, it’s not the first time I’ve been shot.” He looked at me upset and alarmed, “You on the other hand, are you okay?”
I pulled down the overhead mirror and took a look at myself. My face was covered in blood, a cut still open on the bridge of my nose, bruises were forming around my eyes as my cheek and nose began to swell. I could tell by looking, nothing was broken thankfully. “I’ll be okay.” In reality, my head was still pounding from the blow.
Mason reached under my seat to retrieve a first-aid kit and bottled water. He walked around to my door, motioning for me to lean out. He poured the cold water over my face, taking great care while wiping away the dried blood. “This might sting a little.” He took a peroxide wipe and began dabbing the cut on my face, it was nothing compared to the punch. After placing a bandage over it, he rested his hand on my cheek. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there sooner. I should have noticed we were being followed.” His voice was hardened with anger at himself.
“It’s not your fault, Mason, it’s mine. I should never have made that phone call. That’s how he found us.” I looked away in humiliation. He pulled my face back to look at him.
“No, it’s not. Don’t you ever say that again or think that? Understand? None of us knew Luca was apart of the group. I just don’t understand how we didn’t find anything on his background checks.”
I felt a lump form in my throat thinking about Luca. How could anyone do this to another human? I trusted him! He was the only man I had ever been with; he took my virginity; he took everything from me. Now to find out Luca is not even his real name?? The last 4.5 years of my life have been a lie! I felt my heart breaking as tears began to stream down my face.
Mason embraced me, picking me up from out of the truck and just holding me. We stood like that for quite some time while I let out my screams of disbelief from the realization of everything Luca had done and the stupidity I felt for falling for his lies.
Eventually, my tears dried, and my voice grew course. My legs turned to Jell-O and my body was weak. Mason gently laid me down across the bench seat and closed my door. I rested my head on his lap and closed my eyes as we drove off.
When I opened my eyes again, I was lying in a soft, king size bed. Four tall posts stood draped in a dark opaque canopy. The sheets were a deep red, which complimented the cedar log walls. Long crème-colored drapes covered a glass door that seemed to lead out to a balcony. A large stone fireplace ornamented the far-side of the room. Sitting on the bench that lined the end of the bed sat my duffle bag.
“Mason?” I called out, I did not see him anywhere. “Hello?” I made my way out of the room where I was met with a large lounge room that led to a wooden staircase. Large windows flooded the cabin with sunlight. “Mason?” I called out again. I finally reached the kitchen where I found an empty bottle of whiskey. That would explain the silence. In the sink sat a large puddle of blood, out on the counter was what looked like a sewing kit laid out. As I turned the corner to the den, I saw a large boot hanging over the back of the couch.
In a panic, I ran over to Mason and looked him over. When I heard a loud snore escape his mouth, I breathed a sigh of relief. My eyes scanned his shirtless body, noticing he had stitched himself up and he did an excellent job surprisingly. Carefully, I removed his boots and gently laid a blanket over him. Afterward, I decided to get myself cleaned up.
I walked into the bathroom that adjoined the room I awoke in; I was taken aback as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My face had turned an ugly purple and red, barely recognizable, my cheeks and upper lip were swollen and tender. However, it would have turned out a lot worse had I not been with Mason. He truly saved my life last night. He took a bullet for me! I don’t think I could ever repay him.
To try to thank him, after taking an exceptionally long, much needed, hot shower, I decided to cook him a delicious meal, he’s going to need it when he wakes up. Luckily, the fridge was well stocked, I assume someone must have filled it before we got here. I quickly got to work cooking Chilaquiles and eggs. Cooking reminded me of Rosa, I hope she is okay. When I was little, I would always beg her to let me help cook. Eventually, after a lot of persistence, she let me. Over the years, she taught me her family’s best kept recipes, and I would say I became a pretty damn good chef thanks to her.
I loaded up a plate for Mason and topped it with a sunny side up egg and poured him a cup of coffee. I began to eat mine as I heard groans coming from the couch. “Hey there,” I said putting a large bite into my mouth. “How’s the hangover?”
Mason’s head slowly lifted from the couch, his eyes bloodshot. “What time is it?” He asked, wiping his face.
“3pm. I figured I should let you sleep. I made some food, come and eat, you’ll feel better.” I motioned for him to come sit next to me.
He dragged his feet as he landed his butt in the chair next to mine. His eyes lit up when he saw the meal in front of him. “You made this?” He was surprised.
“Yeah, I figured it was the least I could do, you saved my life, twice now.”
“When did you learn to cook?” He laughed.
“Hey!” I pushed his shoulder, “For your information, there is a lot I can do!”
He let out a small mischievous laugh and dug into the food like it was his last meal.
We ate in a comfortable silence, just enjoying each other’s company and recovering from the events of the last few days. At least we were safe now.
“So, there is something I feel like I should tell you.” Mason broke the stillness. “When the others from our team went to recover ‘Luca’,” his fingers making air quotes over the name, “he was gone.” He reached for my hand.
“What do you mean gone?” My body stiffened; did I murder another human?
“He wasn’t there. He just vanished.” I don’t know if that was worse or better. “They arrived only minutes after we left, and he was nowhere to be found. They searched via helicopter and dogs, but no trace he was ever there.”
“Are we safe here though? Do we have to leave again?” My entire body tensed tightly at the realization.
“We are safe here. Your father added extra security throughout the perimeters of the town. Nobody can get in or out without us knowing. Plus, there is a security system set up throughout the surrounding forest. If you haven’t noticed, we are literally on the side of a mountain.”
“What about Luca? Who is he?” Thoughts of horrid possibilities raced through my mind.
“So, for what I can tell you, he is part of a group that we’ve been looking for. They are responsible for your mother’s car accident.” His grip tightened around my hand. “They want information your father has, but if they get that, our entire nation could be at risk.”
I fell back in my chair, processing the information.
“We assume Luca was assigned to try to extract information from you, get close to you, and attempt to steal information from your father’s office. When that didn't work, they had to up the ante.” Mason was fighting back the urge to get angry, trying to stick to the facts. His eyes fixated on his now empty plate of food. “I figured it would be better to tell you.”
“I’m glad you told me.” I reassured him. It seems I have been kept in the dark for so long, it was refreshing knowing I have someone willing to be upfront and honest with me for once. I really had no idea what my father’s job entailed, I had always known it was considered a high clearance career, but I never realized the risk it brought. Never in a million years would I have guessed my mother’s accident was no accident. My life could have been cut short back then, there must be a reason why I’m still alive and I need to do something to help stop them. I felt helpless, there was nothing I could do except sit here and wait for someone else to find this covert group. It didn’t sit right with me, but with no training and minimal self-defense knowledge, I would just get in the way. There must be a way I can help, but first, I need to heal. My head was still pounding from the attack, making my body feel weak and vision blurred.
The rest of the day was spent being lazy and recuperating. We spent most of the time lying on the couch together watching movies and snacking.
When night came and it was time for bed, we both began to make our way upstairs when I realized there was only one bedroom. “Where are you sleeping?”
“Right here.” He pointed to the small couch in the lounge area next to the bedroom. “I have to be close just incase something happens.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind sharing the bed.” A tinge of guilt crossed my mind, he was shot yesterday, now he has to sleep on an uncomfortable couch.
“Yes, I’m sure, Ms. Aberra.” He smiled as he placed his pillow on the small loveseat.
“I just feel bad, that can’t be comfortable.”
“I really don’t mind it. I’ve slept on much worse. I actually kind of like it.” His voice was sincere, soothing my guilt.
“Well, goodnight, Mr. Hart.” I said jokingly.
“Sweet dreams.” He said as I closed the door.
I lay in the large bed, staring up at the canopy. My eyes not wanting to close. The room was dark and lonely. Every single noise from the outdoors made me jump and cringe. The shadows from the moonlight twirling out of the lightly covered windows, every one of them threatening to turn into a human figure. Panic raced through my mind, worrying Luca or someone else was just outside my balcony. My heart raced faster than a greyhound, beating through my chest. I tossed and turned, until finally my eyes shut out of pure exhaustion.
I was back on the look-out of the mountain, I could feel blood rushing down my face, the sounds of gunshots blazed through the air. Like a stampeding horse, Luca charged me, grabbing me by the waist and slamming me into a rough tree. The rigid trunk dug into my back, each splinter catching the fibers of my shirt. His disgusting hands smelling of dirt covered my mouth as he held a knife to my throat. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead, a look of pure hate filled his now red eyes. I tried to scream, bite him, fight back, but I couldn’t move under his weight. Suddenly, Mason grabbed him from behind and pulled him to the ground. They rolled around, a cloud of dust formed as they wrestled over the knife. I stood helplessly as Luca grabbed hold of the knife, rolling on top of Mason. I began to run towards them, but Luca plunged the knife into Mason’s chest before I could reach them. His lips turned to a terrifying grin; his eyes now locked onto me.
“Scarlett wake up! Wake up!” Mason’s voice brought me back to life. My face was wet with tears, my body drenched in a pool of sweat. Mason was holding my shoulders, perched above me. Worry ran through his eyes, “It’s okay, it’s just a dream…it’s just a dream.” He sat me up and handed me a glass of water while he ran his hand down my back. “I’m here, it’s okay. You are safe.”
“It was so real…” I breathed heavily as I laid my head on his bare chest, simply glad he was here. “Stay with me, please?” I was still in shock and petrified; I couldn't be alone right now; the feeling of helplessness would not settle.
"Of course." He layed down next to me on top of the covers. I grabbed his arm and wrapped it over me, to know he was still there. He was the only thing keeping me from feeling completely alone.