Oct. 20 – 6:45pm
Keeping quiet while the detective filled Alex in on what they’d learned recently, Erik simply watched her and tried to figure out what drew him to her. He’d known her for less than a week and yet the thought of her leaving when all this unpleasantness was over didn’t appeal to him at all. Her hair was in tousled disarray like she hadn’t bothered to brush it since she woke. She wore no makeup and he could see dark smudges under her eyes from pain and lack of sleep. Though she should be in a nightgown, she was dressed in the most casual of clothing and yet…he couldn’t remember seeing anyone so very beautiful. Or stubborn. There were times he wanted nothing more than to wring her pretty little neck and then at other times all he wanted was to kiss her until she made those sweet mewling sounds that had robbed him of sanity in the Music Room. She was sweet and compassionate but also feisty and not afraid to back down from an argument. Would that translate to passion in the bedroom? He could picture her spread across his black silk sheets, her red hair and pale skin a beautiful contrast. Dropping his head in his hands, he sought to calm both his thoughts and his aching arousal. The woman was going to be the death of him yet.
“Erik?” Da’ud’s extremely amused voice penetrated his desire-fogged brain.
“What, Daroga?” Erik’s fierce scowl had sent many running for cover but the detective merely laughed.
“I’ve said your name four times, my friend, but you seemed lost somewhere far more enjoyable than a mere Library. Some calls have come through and we’ve gotten some new information. We’d like your input.”
“Oh, and I need my sketch book if you don’t mind. Unless, of course, you prefer that I get it myself?” Alex didn’t know what made her push Erik’s buttons but she had to admit that she enjoyed it immensely. She was normally a quiet girl having too long been overshadowed by her brilliant parents and brother. Normally she was the peacekeeper who avoided conflict like the plague; one of her few boyfriends had once asked her, rather nastily, if she had any opinions of her own. He had been pushing her rather persistently into ‘proving her love’ and lashed out when she refused yet again to jump into bed with him. Needless to say, their relationship ended that night. After their split, he spent the next month tormenting her and called her a ‘sheeple’ for her tendency to simply go with the flow. But now, with the most dangerous man she’d ever met, she suddenly wanted to see how much she could get away with before he throttled her. Maybe it was the way his eyes flashed when he was irritated that made her want to push her luck? He really was too gorgeous for words.
“Do you really wish for me to answer that, Alexandra?” His angelic voice was steely and her impudence was rewarded with that menacing flash in his golden eyes that set her heart to racing. When she didn’t reply, he rose with the sleek feline grace of a panther and stalked out the door. She couldn’t help but admire his physique when he left the room and wondered how that grace would translate in the bedroom. At a soft noise, she caught the detective watching her with a knowing grin. Alex just shook her head and tried not to blush like a fourteen year old. Da’ud smirked and returned to the files and his notes, cautiously optimistic that his friend had found someone to heal the scars Christine had left on his heart.
While Erik was gathering the drawing materials, he couldn’t resist another look at the portrait she’d drawn of him without his mask. She had captured him perfectly in all his horrific glory and yet…his attention was drawn to his eyes. Alex had put so much emotion in them with so few strokes of her pencil that you almost missed it at first glance. He could see pain and anger but also something else that he couldn’t put his finger on. She’d avoided his questions about the picture earlier but they would discuss it and soon. He had to know what she meant by drawing him in such a way; as if he was attractive, as if he wasn’t a monster. Closing the book, he returned to the Library only to find the detective very obviously trying not to be amused at something while Alex’s skin resembled a very ripe strawberry. He glanced between the two of them and wondered just what he’d missed. Da’ud looked up with one of his oh-so-innocent smiles but the girl refused to look any higher than his knees. With a shake of his head, he decided he probably didn’t want to know, gave Alex her things, and retreated to the chair behind the desk.
“What have you got?” Locking away his emotions and personal questions, Erik became focused and business-like once more and was pleased when the detective followed in kind.
“European Electronics is thought to be a front organization for the GRU that buys breakthrough technology as well as lures workers away from competing countries. There are many branches throughout the world though no one can prove what they do with the technology once they have it. The company that approached Mr. and Mrs. Roberts the day they died is the same company Samuel, among others, had been investigating. They are also the company who originally accused Sam of hacking and electronic theft after their attempts to recruit him also failed. And, they own the warehouse we investigated earlier in the week.”
“What?” Alex looked up from the sketch she was working on and stared at Da’ud in shock. “This…this company is responsible for my parents’ and my brother’s deaths? But why?”
“It isn’t an actual company, Alexandra,” Erik explained, concerned at how pale she’d gotten. “A front organization is merely a pretty façade for other companies or organizations to hide behind, similar to the money laundering companies for organized crime. I doubt there are any physical offices in any of the countries in which they operate. Few are suspicious of a large entity that uses a postal box.”
“Exactly,” Da’ud nodded in agreement. “European Electronics provides a legitimate sounding work environment with great benefits and pay; however, it is really just the GRU in disguise. Understandably, few who’ve gone to work for them were ever seen again. The official word is they were relocated to another branch and simply lost touch with those they left behind. Of those who have resurfaced are two names you should recognize, Alex: Martin Szoboszlay and Frederick Winkfield.”
“Sammy’s attorney and the judge!”
“Yes. The whole accusation and trial was a sham. The company manufactured false documents to provide evidence of your brother’s theft and even deposited money into an off shore bank account in his name. They had been trying to intimidate Samuel into joining them since it was clear he was extremely brilliant and persistent but he refused them at every turn. It seems he was already suspicious of their role in the deaths of your parents. Once he was released, they approached him again only this time they threatened the one thing he held most dear.” The detective looked at Alex as comprehension dawned and the little remaining color drained from her face. “You were his only remaining family and he was desperate to protect you. He gathered information and mailed some of it to you and gave the rest to one of his friends at the café. When Samuel was killed, the friend went into hiding and was found only a few hours ago.”
“My God…” Alex could barely absorb all the detective was telling her. It sounded like something out of a spy novel or action flick. She was so far out of her league it was pathetic and, though she was already scared, now she was terrified. Desperately, she turned to the one person who could keep her safe as tears formed in her eyes. “Erik? What do I do? This is so…” She made a helpless gesture with her hand as her voice trailed off.
“You will be safe, Alexandra,” he moved to sit beside her and gently take her in his arms. “No matter what else may happen, I will protect you.” He held her close and stroked her hair, whispering soft words of comfort. When her tears ceased, she pulled back with a watery smile.
“Thank you,” she wiped her eyes with her fingers until they were suddenly filled with Erik’s handkerchief. “You’d think I’d be through with crying by now. I’m sorry for being such a pest.”
“Hush, petite, never apologize for being afraid. It’s when you fear nothing that you must worry.” He trailed a finger along her cheek before leaning in to kiss her softly. As he returned to the desk he caught Da’ud’s eye and scowled at the perceptive smile he wore.