Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chapter 12

Oct. 15 –6:30pm

     "Have you discovered anything from the flash drive Sam sent me?"

     "No, but I'm hoping you will." When Alex looked surprised, he placed the laptop on the table beside her. "It's password protected. Do you think you can open it?" She looked up from the screen and was caught in Erik's amber gaze. It seemed like minutes but was no more than a few seconds when she remembered he'd asked her a question. Dragging her eyes back to the screen that patiently awaited a password before revealing its secrets, she frowned and shook her head.
     "I'm not sure. He never reused them like I do; most things I access online have some variation of the same password. It helps me remember." She drummed her fingers on the table as questions spun through her head. Questions only Sam could answer. "Why would you send me something that was locked, Sammy?" Alex murmured softly. "You should have told me the…wait! The letter!" She jumped up quickly and then regretted it as the room shifted under her feet and she stumbled. Erik caught her before she could fall, one brow quirked in inquisitive amusement.
     "If you will tell me where to find this letter, Alexandra, I will get it for you. You seem none too steady on your feet still." Nodding, cheeks on fire only partially from the embarrassment of nearly tumbling to the ground, Alex was frozen in his arms. With her hands pressed against his warm, hard chest, she could feel the steady beating of his heart against her fingertips. Her common sense wandered off in disgust as she marveled at the feel of him; he didn't seem to have an ounce of fat. She could feel his muscles flexing with even the slightest of movements and a shudder ran from the tips of her fingers to the tips of her toes and everywhere in between. "Alexandra?" Amusement tinted his angelic voice and she looked up at him in confusion. "The letter? From your brother?"
     Alex blinked; then blinked again before his words penetrated the fog in her brain. She backed away slowly and sat on the sofa before her shaking legs gave up the effort to keep her upright. Raising her hands to her cheeks, she didn't think it possible to blush so deeply that it hurt. Until now, that is. Dropping her eyes and hands to her lap, she was mortified at groping him like a hormone crazed school girl. Good Lord, she barely knew the man, wasn't too certain she even liked him very much, yet here she was slowly melting into a puddle at his feet. She really needed a boyfriend. Soon. Struggling to regain her composure, she quietly asked him for her purse. Erik handed her the bag but didn't release it immediately once she had taken it, speaking only once she'd dragged her eyes to his tender ones.
     "Do not be embarrassed, ma petite. It was a joy to hold you in my arms." He released the large bag in order to tuck an errant lock of hair behind her ear. As he pulled away, he slowly ran his finger along the edge of her jaw and up to trace her lips, lingering there for a second longer before moving to sit in the nearby armchair.
     Stunned, Alex didn't move for several minutes. Then, unconsciously, she raised a hand to trace the path of his caress, shivering at the fire he left upon her skin. Fire she still felt even after he moved away. Never had a simple touch reduced her to such a state of confusion and longing and sheer, unbridled hunger. She felt like one of the many instruments in his music room that he played to perfection and the intensity of her desire to see just how skilled those graceful fingers were frightened her to her very core.
     His golden eyes had turned a molten amber as Erik watched her drift along the edge of desire. He, too, could feel the tingling of his fingertips where he'd caressed her silken skin. Though he maintained his usual outer calm demeanor, inside he was on fire. He wanted to taste the nectar of her lips, glide his hands along every inch of her body, and bury himself deep inside her until they both found the pinnacle of ecstasy together. He shifted in the chair, growing increasingly uncomfortable in his fitted jeans. Becoming attached to this woman, any woman, was out of the question. Once more Erik hoped this situation would resolve itself soon so he could return to the theatre and the willing arms of an ambitious actress.
     As if emerging from a daze, Alex retrieved a folded sheet of paper from the bag in her lap and scanned its contents quickly. Chewing on her lower lip, she typed something in and pressed the Enter key. Erik's gaze darted between the monitor and her profile; anxious to see if what she'd typed was the correct password, yet also curious as to what she was feeling. She had yet to look at him since he'd touched her. When the laptop's screen shifted and displayed several folders instead of the password request, Alex smiled faintly and shook her head.
     "You always were the sentimental one, Sam," she whispered softly. "Now, let's see what you stumbled into."
     Erik moved to sit beside her on the sofa, ignoring the sudden tension in her shoulders and back as he leaned over her. As she cycled through the folders on the flash drive, he could see nothing that would have gotten the young man killed. Most were simple text documents in the crudest form, some appeared to be formulae, but they hit the jackpot in the folder containing nothing but photographs. Alex opened them up as a slide show and watched as they cycled by.
     "It looks like a military base…the types of buildings, the layout." She frowned as the pictures continued to change until she stopped it at a picture of what appeared to be a guard shack at a gate. There was a sign attached to the fence just under the concertina wire that contained what she assumed to be the name of the facility in Cyrillic letters.

Кировск химической и электронный центр развития оружия*

     "It's a research facility," Erik stood abruptly and ran a hand through his hair while he paced. "The location appears to match the coordinates your brother wrote on that piece of scrap paper but this," he gestured towards the monitor, "brings up even more questions."
     "Why?" Alex's eyes followed his nervous pacing. "Can you read – what is that? What does the sign say?" Erik moved to the desk and removed the papers he'd placed there the night before.
     "Your brother wasn't surfing the internet to play simple hacker games of tearing down security walls just because he could; he was looking into the deaths of your parents. Unfortunately for him, he was discovered obtaining this information and they had to remove him before he jeopardized them any more."
     "Them?" Alex's voice shook slightly. "Them…who?"
     "More than likely agents of or hired mercenaries for the GRU – Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate; the equivalent of our DIA. The Defense Intelligence Agency." He clarified when she still looked confused. "Intelligence gathering and monitoring is their primary mission. They may not have been the ones who physically neutralized your parents and brother but they would have been the ones providing information to whoever did. This," he waved a hand indicating the laptop, "is a weapons development facility whose focus is chemical and electronic research.
     "If I had to guess, it remained hidden from our satellites due to the high mountains surrounding it as well as the mining sites. Our satellites may have overlooked it as another mine shaft or mineral processing plant. They would not want this information in the wrong hands. I'll get Da'ud to contact a few friends in the Agency and see if they can uncover anything concerning the photos."
     "But what do we do until then?" Alex stood and began pacing in agitation. "Do we just sit here and hope for the best and that they don't find me? I have to do something, Erik! These people killed my brother; they killed my parents. Now, they're after me and I…I…" Tears filled her eyes and she wondered how she still had tears left to cry. It seemed that's all she'd been doing lately. Moving to the sofa, she sat heavily and took a deep, shuddering breath. "I'm scared."
     "I will protect you," his voice wrapped around her like a warm blanket, soft and beautiful. "I won't let anything or anyone hurt you while you are in my care."
     "It's never going to end," Alex wrapped her arms around her torso and looked up at him, her eyes swimming with unshed tears. "Is it?" Against his better judgment, Erik sat beside her on the sofa and took her gently into his arms. His fingers threaded through her hair as he stroked it and placed a kiss, soft as a butterfly's wing, on the top of her head.
     "It will. I promise."

A/N - * roughly translates to the Kirovsk Chemical and Electronic Warfare Facility (if my translator worked correctly).

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