Happy Friday, Readers! I have returned with a brand new Friday Fictioneers. As per usual, thanks is given to Rochelle for hosting this weekly prompt, and to J Hardy Carroll for providing this week’s photo. Enjoy this short story!
Hot and Sweet
“I’m a mess,” she laughed, holding up her sticky cotton candy fingers for him to see.
“When aren’t you?” His eyes crinkled with his smile. She laughed again, shrugging.
“Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Then her fingers were in his mouth. The tinkling carousel, the noisy crowds, the crackling country music blaring over the loudspeakers; all faded under the thunder of her heartbeat in her ears. Neither said a word until he finished. The hot July air around them thickened unbearably.
He spoke first. “Race to the fun slide?”
The tension broke. She grinned and took off running in answer.
Hello Readers! I’m back again. Sorry for my absence! I hope no one has been wasting away waiting for an update.
I’ve decided to return to writing Friday Fictioneers as individual little stories (keep an eye out for a new story soon!). But for those of you still interested in Nick and Emmeline’s story, I will try to keep up with it with its own little posts here and there. To prove it, here is a little update after our last adventure with the estranged couple, which can be read here.
Constantine is really shaking up Emmeline’s world, it seems.
The Web We Weave
Emmeline’s silent shock and look of fear vanished the instant the policeman turned away to keep other bystanders from advancing too close. Nick winced at the sound of breaking glass behind them as one of the windows in the apartment building burst and half a dozen firemen rushed forward, yelling as they attacked the flames. But Emmeline didn’t even turn around.
Nick studied her, tension radiating from every angle and in every line of her face. She was frowning and worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. He wanted to say something, but despite the multitude of questions that had plagued him since her declaration – “I’m a spy, Nicholas” – he could find nothing to say. Instead he just stood there on the sidewalk, watching her think.
At last she seemed to come to a decision. She released her bottom lip and her whole face relaxed into an emotionless calm. It was a look unlike any other he had seen on her lovely face, and it terrified him. “Em?” he said at last, still having nothing else to say.
She turned her cool gaze onto him. “I’ve been compromised,” she said in a tone of voice that matched her expressionless face. This terrified him even more. He didn’t know this cold, detached woman. This woman, he realized, he could easily believe to be a spy. “I need to return to my apartment,” she continued, seemingly oblivious to his inner turmoil.
“But Constantine already found you there!” said Nick with alarm. He had not forgotten her injury either, and anxiously looked to the place where he knew she was still heavily bandaged. “And you’re still hurt!”
Proving his point, a grimace of pain broke through her calm face. She quickly masked it again, but there was no hiding it from Nick. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Constantine proved his point. He can get to me. He’s isolated me. Now I just have to find out what he wants.”
“Well you’re not going alone,” Nick said firmly.
Emmeline looked at him in surprise, and for a brief moment he imagined her eyes softened when looking at him. He stepped up next to her and decidedly linked her arm through his. She leaned on him gratefully, and they set off back down the sidewalk at a much slower pace than they had come, looking for all the world like any other couple out for a walk.
They said nothing the entire way back to her apartment building. A brief wave of the hand was all they spared when Mary Ann loudly hallooed them from across the lobby before stepping into the elevator. Inside, ritzy jazz music playing over the speakers was jarring in Nick’s ears, but Emmeline appeared not to notice it. She stepped instantly forward the moment the doors opened onto her floor and made for her door.
Nick hastily moved up beside her to help her inside, but she entered before he could do anything.
The flowers were gone.
Nick’s eyes widened upon seeing the spotless apartment, not a single trace of the dozens of bouquets that had filled it earlier, not even a faint smell in the air. He glanced at Emmeline, who showed not the slightest surprise at the missing flowers. She grimaced again and limped forward towards the table. Instantly Nick was there to pull out a chair.
“For God’s sake, Em, sit down and let me help you.” He helped her gently into the seat.
“Don’t swear,” Emmeline scolded, suddenly sounding like her old self. It was such a welcome change that Nick smiled.
“I’m sorry, Emmeline.”
Suddenly recollecting the prescription he had picked up earlier, he pulled the crumpled bag out of his pocket. “Here,” he said, breaking the seal and twisting off the cap. “Take some for your pain. And don’t tell me it’s not bad, because I can see that it is. I’ll get some water.”
Emmeline said nothing. Obediently she swallowed the two pills, gulped down with a glass of water.
Constantine’s messages were still on the table. With a grim air, she leaned over and picked them up and immediately noticed a new one tucked into the middle of the pile.
Nick was hovering anxiously at her elbow. There would be no way to read it without him seeing. “Nicholas?” she said.
He was instantly attentive.”Yes?”
“Could you…” she trailed off for a moment, unsure what request to make. “Could you go into my room and get my tan sweater? I’ve got a chill. All this excitement hasn’t been good for me, I think.” She blushed, as though she were embarrassed to send him into her bedroom. Nick said nothing, just moved towards the hall to her room. Inside, Emmeline cringed at the blatant lie and wondered at his quiet compliance – the day had been nothing but a whirlwind of strange events and her behavior, she knew, had been completely out of character.
The moment he disappeared in to her bedroom, Emmeline pulled out the new message. It was in a pale blue envelope. Without hesitating, she broke the seal and pulled out the card inside. It was a thick heavy paper. Her heart leapt to her throat despite her efforts to remain calm.
The only thing written on the card was an address, and below that the words, “When you’re ready, my dear.”
Happy Friday Readers! I’m popping in to give you a long overdue Friday Fictioneers! We’re returning to the present with Nick and Emmeline and the startling revelation that Em is a spy. The tensions are only going to keep building for now. Enjoy!
It didn’t compute. The sweet, kind, adorably girlish at times woman he had come to know and love could not be a spy.
She’d take him to meet her CIA contact, she told him.
They rounded the corner. Emmeline froze suddenly. The street was covered in firetrucks, ambulances, and police. An apartment building was engulfed in flames. “Stay back!” ordered a policeman in a bright vest.
“But my uncle lives in that building!” Emmeline said with real fear in her voice.
“I’m sorry Miss,” he said. “No one made it out alive.”
Happy Friday, Readers! Sorry to leave you hanging with my last story (Emmeline is a spy? Who knew?) but we’re making a jump back in time this week with Friday Fictioneers. We’re visiting a scene from Emmeline’s past. But don’t worry, I’ll return to the present soon. Enjoy!
Happy Friday, Readers! We’ve made it through another week! Now it’s time for Friday Fictioneers (which again, I am so sorry for skipping last week). Back to Nick and Emmeline’s story. I am sorry (not sorry) to say the cliffhangers are just going to keep on coming. Special thanks to Rochelle for providing the prompt, and to J Hardy Carroll for this week’s photo. Enjoy!
P.S. For those of you who celebrate it, Happy Michaelmas!
Price, Emmeline Price
He’s a what?”
Nick stared at Emmeline, mouth open. She squeezed his hand again. “Stay calm, dear. Whatever I tell you, just react as if we were having a normal conversation over breakfast.”
He took a large sip of his coffee and scaled his tongue. Wincing, he said in lower tones, “How the hell did you get mixed up with an Armenian weapons dealer?”
“It’s a long story.”
“We have time.”
“Then I guess I’ll start at the beginning.” She gazed at their entwined hands, but didn’t say more.
Readers…I skipped last week’s Friday Fictioneers! I’m sorry about that. To make it up to you, here’s a continuation of Nick and Emmeline’s story using WordPress’s Daily One Word Prompt: Focused.
The usual Friday Fictioneers post will follow after.
Nick couldn’t get another word out of her until they reached the little bakery a couple blocks down the street. Emmeline smiled and laughed and leaned on him when her injury gave her pain, looking for all the world as if she hadn’t just told him someone was trying to kill her.
He quickly gave up asking her anything about it, but watched her closely. She smiled with her usual brightness, but her eyes had a sharpness in them he hadn’t seen before. She scanned every street corner, window, doorway and alley. Though she leaned on him, she seemed poised for flight.
The arrived, and he helped her into her chair before ordering them both a coffee from the bubbly waitress. As she hurried away to fill their order, he took Emmeline’s hand in his and smiled. “Now, are you going to tell me what this is all about?”
Emmeline returned his smile and gave his hand a squeeze. “I don’t think I have much choice.”
Nick’s smile faltered, but he recovered quickly. He stared into her eyes, searching for an explanation. “I don’t understand,” he said, half to himself.
“I know, and I’m sorry,” answered Emmeline. She released his hand as the waitress returned with their coffee. “Constantine is a man from my past. A man with a grudge. I thought I had lost him, but it seems I was mistaken.”
“Can’t you just go to the police?”
“They won’t help.”
“Because I can’t prove any of this.”
Nick shook his head, baffled. “What about a restraining order?”
Emmeline gave a short laugh. “We’d have to find Constantine first, and trust me, no one wants to do that.”
Nick ground his teeth. “What kind of ex is this guy?” His voice rose in volume.
Emmeline covered his hand with hers. “He’s not an ex. I told you.”
Nick took a deep breath through his nose. “Then what is he?”
Emmeline hesitated for a few moments and Nick braced himself, certain he wasn’t going to like whatever she said next. Her eyes again darted to the surrounding buildings and street, and the tables next to them with old men reading the paper and hipsters taking pictures of their coffee for Instagram. She bit her bottom lip and studied Nick’s face, as if trying to come to a decision.
Just when Nick could hardly stand it any longer she leaned forward and said calmly and in soft tones, “He’s an Armenian weapons dealer.”
Hello my dear, sweet, and patient Readers! I apologize for not posting anything for a terrible long stretch of weeks, especially after leaving you with that last cliffhanger (Who is Constantine?! What’s up with all those flowers? What is going on in Emmeline’s life and why is it suddenly so dangerous? Will Nick stick around?) but life has been crazy and busy and brilliant, and all my writing time had to be momentarily pushed to the side. But hopefully now I will get back into a regular posting schedule, even though I am sure life will not stop being busy and crazy.
First, some news! I am engaged! (that’s the brilliant part). I am overwhelmingly happy and so excited to start this new part of my life with my fiancé, Aaron!
And with that happy news imparted, let us continue on to Friday Fictioneers (at long last). Thank you very much to Rochelle for faithfully providing us bloggers with a prompt week after week all year long, and this week thank you to Kelvin M. Knight for providing the photo!
Do You Like Bagels?
Emmeline immediately spun around and winced, clutching her side as she hobbled away from her apartment.
“Woah! Where are you going?” Nick let the door close and ran after her, reaching out to steady her. “Em, slow down. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
She stopped. “Do you like bagels?” she said a bit wildly. “I like bagels. I’m hungry. Let’s go to breakfast.”
Nick looked bewildered. “Not until you tell me what’s going on,” he insisted. “Em, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Constantine,” she said, a quaver in her voice. “He’s found me, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to kill me.”