Glitter Girl – Part 4

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Hopefully for you, the hustle and bustle of this time of year is almost done. I’m mostly done and am looking forward to spending the next couple days with my family.

My present to you is the 4th installment of our Holiday round-robin, Glitter Girl. If you’ve missed parts 1-3, click the links at the bottom of the post to catch up. For the rest of you, grab a cup of coffee and some Christmas cookies and enjoy!

Best wishes for a healthy and happy Christmas and New Year!

Maria

Glitter Girl – Part 4

Tessa glared at her former self on the computer monitor. The photographer had captured her tear-streaked face just as the verdict had been read. The worst possible moment of her life had been recorded on film and could be Googled for all the world to see. Freaking great.

And here she’d hoped to spend this holiday not looking over her shoulder; that maybe she found a small town she could lose herself in—literally—until the start of the new year.  So much for anonymity.

She turned to Garth and took a few steps back. The lying bastard couldn’t be trusted. He wasn’t the hermit writer he pretended to be—nor a potential lover.

She inclined her head towards to computer. “Interesting choice of nighttime reading material you’ve got there.”

His eyes narrowed, as though he were trying to gauge his next words. “It’s not what it seems, Teresa.”

“Oh, now your back to calling me Teresa?” She pushed her bleached hair out of her eyes. “Who are you, Garth, and why are you reading that article?”

“I’m doing research for my book. I came across this article and the woman looked familiar.” He paused and glanced over towards the monitor. “You are Tessa Burke, aren’t you?”

She flinched. How could the feds protect her now? They’d promised her she’d be safe and now she stood in front of a man with a gun who knew who she was and what she’d done. The time for hiding was over and all she could do was hope and pray this man wouldn’t kill her.

# # #

Garth watched a myriad of expressions pass across Tessa’s beautiful face; first defiance, then anger, and finally, acceptance. Now that she knew he knew who she was, he didn’t see any way around coming clean.

“You know I am. Let’s stop pretending and tell me what you know and why you’re spying on me,” Tessa said.

Garth blinked twice and tried to catch his breath at the transformation in the woman standing before him. Gone was the light-hearted Teresa from across the street. The woman shooting nails at him now was strong, tough, and equally as sexy as her more passive alter-ego. God help him, but he couldn’t help but be enthralled by Tessa.

“I know you’re one of the CNN journalists who gave federal evidence against a Navy SEAL last year,” Garth said, relieved to speak the truth.

“How did you find out?” She held up some strands of hair. “I suppose my disguise wasn’t that effective.”

“I like the brown better.” He couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to run his fingers through the shoulder-length cascade of curls from the photo—not that he’d be running his fingers along any part of her any more.

“Let’s stop the games, Garth. Who sent you to find me?”

Tessa cut right to the chase. No hiding in the bushes behind Christmas lights for her. He liked that about her.

“I was a member of SEAL Team 11. I knew Robbie.”

She flinched. He’d caught her off-guard. Maybe he should have broken it to her gently.

“If you knew Robbie, then you must know…”

“Raoul. Yes, I know Raoul.”

She moved towards the fireplace. “Raoul sent you, didn’t he? Sent you to find and kill me.”

The find part was correct. While Raoul had never specifically said to kill her, he’d certainly implied it. But Garth wasn’t a murderer. Sure, he’d killed to defend his country. He’d do so again if he had to, but kill Tessa? What purpose would that serve and how could he live with himself it he did that?

He ran his fingers through his hair and rubbed at the tension at the back of his head. “Look, Tessa. Why don’t we—”

Son of a bitch! He dodged as Tessa charged him, a fireplace poker in her hands.

Regrouping, Tessa squared off, holding the weapon the way a softball player holds a bat…ready and waiting for the pitch to be thrown. Since he wasn’t planning on doing so, he figured he was safe, or at least he hoped that to be the case.

He raised his hands so she could see he was unarmed. “Tessa, I’m not going to hurt you.”

She snorted. “And why exactly should I believe you? You held me at gunpoint.”

“When I thought you were a burglar. Once I realized it was you I put down the gun.”

“Only because you thought I was the sweet and naïve Teresa, which I’m not.” She lifted her chin.  “I’m not afraid of you.

He knew if he could get her to put the weapon down and talk, they could find out a solution to their mutual dilemma. He couldn’t abandon Raoul. The man had been through hell and back. Garth didn’t know what kind of evidence Tessa had, but he had to find a way to convince her to show him so he could figure out how to help Raoul without hurting her. But to do that, he had to get the poker.

Hoping to catch her off-guard, he lunged. She swung just as he had almost reached the weapon. Bracing himself, he took the hit in his upper arm. He spun and grabbed her from behind, twisting her arm behind her back. The poker dropped with a thump on the carpet.

“Let me go,” she shouted and jabbed her elbow into his stomach.

With a grunt, he loosened his grip. Tessa took advantage of his momentary breathlessness—boy did she have some strength behind her small statue—and made a run for it. He fell forward onto his knees and with a quick lurch forward, grabbed onto her foot before she escaped. Thank you sprained ankle for preventing her from moving quickly.

“Dammit, Tessa,” he croaked.

She kicked and called out for help. Using all his strength, he pulled himself forward and held her prisoner with the only weapon he had—his body.

# # #

Tessa panted, a challenge considering she was pinned underneath one hundred eighty pounds of six-feet something hard muscled male. With her wrists restrained, all she could do was squirm and hope for an opportunity to knee Garth in the groin.

But the more she struggled, the more aware she became of the gorgeous hunk of male on top of her. Even in anger, Garth was a gorgeous site. His eyes flared and hell if those baby blues didn’t burn with passion instead of annoyance.

With another shift, his passion became undoubtedly apparent. He pressed his arousal against her parted legs and…oh boy…did he feel good. If he kept moving his hips like that she’d…

“Stop moving, will you?” Garth said, his voice hoarse.

“I will if you stop crushing me,” she tossed back. “I can’t breathe.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll let you up if you promise you won’t try to escape or bash me in the head or any other body part.”

“I don’t know about bashing you, but there is at least one body part that could use some cold water thrown on it.”

His eyes flared with heat. “See the effect you have on me, sweetheart?”

He slid off her and her traitorous body actually missed his warmth and the pressure of him pressed so closely against her. Before she could comprehend what he was doing, she was lifted into his arms and carried to the couch. But instead of just setting her down, Garth sat down with her in his lap.

“Let’s talk,” Garth said. “I’ll tell you what I know if you do the same.”

“How do I know I can trust you?”

He arched an eyebrow. “How do I know I can trust you?”

Stalemate. Well, he may have had the slight advantage since he held her and she had a throbbing ankle.

“Fine. You start,” she said, crossing her arms across her chest.

“I was part of the same unit as Raoul and Robbie. Our last assignment together was in Iraq. The past few missions had been tough and we’d seen a lot of people killed, including a whole team of fellow SEALS. Robbie wasn’t coping well. He’d started drinking. Rumor had it he’d gotten his hand on some drugs and started using.”

“They found all kinds of illegals in his system when he was arrested,” Tessa added.

“He was messed up big time.” He looked at her with sad eyes. “I don’t know exactly what happened the night he was arrested, but I do know he and Raoul argued.”

“About what?”

“Robbie had been drinking and was looking to meet his drug contact to score. He was in need of a fix. Without it, he couldn’t hold his gun straight.”

A classic case of drug withdrawal.

“What happened next?” Tessa pressed.

Garth rubbed the bridge of his nose, as though reliving the details had given him a migraine.

“Robbie left. Alone. Raoul ranted about Robbie’s addictions and that it was going to result in people in our own team getting killed. He wanted to go after Robbie. I convinced him not to get involved.”

Something about his pained expression pulled at her heart. “I’m guessing he didn’t listen?”

Garth shook his head. “We had gone to bed. After being up for thirty-six hours my ass was dragging. I figured it was the same for him and he’d pass out. God knows I did.”

“But he didn’t?”

“No. The next thing I remember was being awakened by an explosion. There was mass chaos when I arrived at the scene. Raoul had been injured and Robbie was being arrested.”

“I know,” Tessa said. “I was there.”

“Tell me what you saw.”

She wiped at her eyes. “I was with some fellow journalists walking back to our hotel when we saw Robbie meet with a man at the entrance to an alley. Robbie had a small envelope—money I presume— and passed it to the man.”

“They didn’t see you?”

“We were hidden in the shadows. One of the men on my team recorded their interaction.”

“What about Raoul?”

She shifted on his lap and he rubbed at her arms. “He approached Robbie and the man. They exchanged some words and then I saw another envelope and exchange of money pass from Raoul to the man.”

Underneath her, Garth tensed. “You saw Raoul take drugs?”

“Yes.” As sure as the evidence she’d recorded with her iPhone. “It was right after that when all hell broke loose. I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but both Robbie and Raoul backed up and started firing.”

The sound of the firearm discharge would forever be imprinted in her mind and on bad days, her dreams. As would the screams from the mob of people who spilled out from the surrounding buildings.

He gathered her close. “What else?”

“I was hidden behind a dumpster trying to stay out of the way. Raoul took off down the street, chasing a group of people. It was shortly after that I heard an explosion. The force of it slammed me into the dumpster and I lost consciousness. When I came to, the military police had arrived and were trying to contain the scene.”

She laid her head on Garth’s shoulder and shuddered. “It was horrible.”

He pressed a kiss to her head. “You’re safe now, Tess. I’ve got you and I won’t let anything happen to you.”

His words touched her. After keeping this secret buried inside her for so long, she was tired of running and pretending to be someone she wasn’t. At the very least, she’d wanted to enjoy Christmas and had even bought herself a few presents to unwrap Christmas morning. And crazy or not, she’d planned to cook a special dinner and invite Garth to share it with her. But was any of this possible now? Could she trust Garth to keep his word about keeping her safe?

“Can I presume the evidence you have and Raoul wants is of him taking the drugs and both he and Robbie open firing on the civilians?”

She nodded and reached down to unzip her boot. She winced as she tried to pull the boot off her swollen foot. Finally free, she reached inside and removed the thumb drive.

“It’s all here.”

Glitter Girl – Part 1

Glitter Girl – Part 2

Glitter Girl – Part 3

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8 Comments

  1. Jenna Blue

     /  December 26, 2012

    Maria! Great job! I love how you’ve started to unravel the twists! : ) I could never have come up with this myself–you ladies rock! Can’t wait for Janet’s finale!
    Jenna

    Reply
  2. Wow! You built in the drugs and solved the mystery of Robbie and Raoul! Great job! Now, what does Garth do with the knowledge? And where does there romance go? It’s up to Joanna to figure that all out!

    Jaye

    Reply
    • I thought it’d be fun to keep both Robbie and Raoul even though that wasn’t the original intention. Now let’s see what Joanna does with all the info. I needed to make Garth good (so he can get his HEA) and didn’t think him having a bad friend would work. Unless Garth doesn’t know Raoul is bad (or in this case on drugs).

      Reply
  3. Nicely done, Maria! I admit, I haven’t started thinking about the ending. But you ladies have all done such a great job setting it up. I hope I can only do the story justice.

    And maybe work in a cape or two.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you liked it, Joanna. I struggled with how to pull it together so you’d have enough info to wrap up. I can’t wait to read your ending. I know you’ll do a great job!

      Reply
  4. Maria, I love it! Nicely done. Similar to what was running through my head with Robbie and Raoul. Good work with the romantic suspense, too. Kept me on my toes. Fun!!! Michele

    Reply
    • Thanks, Michele. I had fun with the RS angle and at the same time wanted to work in the “all I want for Christmas” wish. Once I figured out where I was headed, it was fun to write. Glad you liked it.

      Reply

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