Part 5: Glitter Girl — The Conclusion

Hi everyone! I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful 2013. This went up a little later than I’d anticipated, but I think the end result is worth it. It was a lot of fun to write, and to wrap up all the lovely threads that my fellow Femmes left for me.

In case you missed the previous portions of the story:

Glitter Girl: Part 1
Glitter Girl: Part 2
Glitter Girl: Part 3
Glitter Girl: Part 4

And now…please enjoy the conclusion to “Glitter Girl.”

Joanna

Glitter Girl — Part 5

“Best. Christmas. Morning. Ever.”

Flat on her back and still catching her breath, Tessa rolled her head toward Garth. “Ever?”

“Well,” he gave her a crooked grin, “there was that BB gun when I was seven—”

Laughing, Tessa socked him in the chest with her pillow. Not that he felt it. Garth had been hiding some serious muscles under that reclusive writer disguise. Now, she knew the truth about her neighbor, a former Navy SEAL. More importantly, he knew the truth about her.

Unfortunately, neither one of them had a damn clue what to do next. They’d talked, shared their secrets, even watched the video she’d taken on that dark Iraqi street—and they couldn’t figure out how to untangle themselves from this mess. So the past three days had been spent in bed, which Tessa had to admit was a lovely way to pass the frozen Vermont winters. Hey, avoidance could work.

In a flash, Garth loomed over her, his big, warm body pressing her into the mattress. “So you like it rough, huh?” His blue eyes shimmered and Tessa was unable to look away. God, the man was delicious.

“I do.” She hooked her leg around his hip to tease him. “I like it rough…and hard…and wet…and—”

He groaned, dropped back on the bed. “You’re going to kill me.”

Time stopped, the air between them suddenly weighted with reality. Tessa couldn’t think of anything to say, her brain stuck on the “k” word. Why did it have to be this man sent to destroy her happiness, a man she could see herself with long-term?

Garth spoke first. “Bad word choice, T. I’m sorry.”

Tessa couldn’t help but smile at the nickname. By using only her first initial, it was his way of neither going forward nor back. Just the two of them, together in the present. “I know.” She stroked his naked chest, lightly dusted with springy brown hair. “There’s no need to feel guilty. I know you wouldn’t have actually killed me. Turned me over to Raoul, yes. Killed me, no.”

“He told me you’d framed them. That you’d doctored some footage, the liberal media, blah, blah, blah. I can’t believe I bought it.”

“You’ve known him almost ten years. It’s not easy to learn that close of a friend is a liar.”

Garth started cracking the knuckles on his right hand, one sharp snap after the other. “I feel like I’m missing something in this. None of it makes sense. I mean, why would—”

“Can we have this conversation over coffee?” She scooted to the edge of the bed and slid into his fleece robe. “Or bacon, maybe? It’s still early.”

She enjoyed watching his ab muscles tense and roll as he sat up. “Of course,” he said. “You make the coffee and I’ll start breakfast.”

That sounded like a plan. After all, bacon made everything better.

* * *

“I’m going to run across the street,” Tessa told him after breakfast. “I need to get your present.”

Garth frowned. Presents? Who said they were exchanging presents? “Uh…” was all he could manage. What he meant was, I don’t know what to say because I’m petrified of blurting out the wrong thing, and I really, really like having sex with you and don’t want to do anything to jeopardize having more sex with you in the future. But he doubted Tessa was fluent in guy speak.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s small. I didn’t think we’d be exchanging gifts, but I wanted to get you a little something.”

Warmth blossomed beneath his breastbone. He’d been stalking her and she’d been…buying him a Christmas gift. Tessa really was something special. “Want me to come with?”

“Nah. I’ll be right back.” She wrapped a thick wool scarf around her neck then zipped up her coat. “I need to feed my bird and I know how you feel about that.

“Seriously, who has a bird for a pet? I’ve seen puddles in Fallujah that are more sanitary. Salmonella, anyone?”

She chuckled. “You’re crazy…but also sexy, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree. See you in five minutes.” Tessa disappeared out the door.

Garth finished the dishes, unable to wipe the smile off his face. He loved having Tessa at his house. She made it feel like a real home, someplace he’d actually like to put down roots. He’d never lived in one place for more than six months at a time, always on the move—first in the service and then as a security consultant—but he wanted to stay here with her.

Of course, that complicated his life in more ways than just clearing out a few dresser drawers. Raoul had already texted him three times, asking for updates. Garth had no clue what the hell he was going to tell his friend. I saw the tape, Raoul. I know you’re every bit as dirty as Robbie was. What the hell was going on with you two? What were you involved in?

He contemplated calling Raoul now. Glancing at the clock, he decided against it. It was still too early in San Diego. He’d sneak away from Tessa later on and call then. Raoul owed him an explanation, and Garth damn well meant to get it.

Ten minutes later, he came out of the shower expecting to find Tessa waiting. After a quick rub down with his towel, he walked around the house and called for her. Huh. No Tessa. He angled his head to look out the window. Tessa’s house was dark and he didn’t see any movement inside. The back of his neck prickled. His gut told him something was wrong; he didn’t know what, but his instincts had never, ever let him down. Shit.

In a flash, he dressed and grabbed extra clips for his Glock. Not bothering with a coat, Garth slipped out his back door and crept behind a few houses until he could cross the street without being seen from Tessa’s. He tried to keep calm. Maybe she got sidetracked. Maybe she took a phone call. Maybe she’s in the shower. But he’d never bet the life on someone he loved over “maybe.”

Love? Jesus, his timing sucked. Couldn’t he have come to that realization later, after Tessa was safe? Right now, he needed his head in the game. Remembering all you had to lose was the surest way to tank on a mission.

He came through her neighbor’s yard and then approached Tessa’s front door from the side. His nickname, earned way back in BUD/S training, had been “Luke,” because he remained cool under pressure, so he wasn’t surprised that his hand was steady as he thumbed the latch on the door. Open, as he suspected it would be. After all, why would Tessa lock the door behind her if she planned on only being a few minutes inside the house?

Silent and slow, he came into the house with his gun raised. Listened. Heard a floorboard creak above him. Carefully, he climbed the stairs, his feet ghosting over the hardwood. At the landing, he turned toward the sound he’d heard moments earlier. Hopefully, it was Tessa and they’d have a good laugh—

A blur on his left was the only warning he had before a large, masked shape slammed into his side. Garth hit the wood hard, landing almost all on his right shoulder. Pain exploded up his side but he held onto his pistol. A hand wrapped around his wrist and banged it on the floor, dislodging his gun. Grunting, Garth used his free hand to land a swift punch to his assailant’s throat.

It had the desired effect, robbing the man of breath for a fraction of a second, allowing Garth to roll on top. Their legs tangled and instead of flesh he felt…metal. A sinking feeling in his chest, he pinned the attacker beneath him, making it impossible for the other man to move. He snatched the mask off. Raoul’s familiar face, wild with fury and pain, stared up at him.

“Where is she?” Garth bit out. “If you hurt one goddamned hair on her head—“

Raoul sneered. “I should have known you were letting your dick think for you. I should have known you couldn’t be trusted, pendejo.” He spat the curse word at Garth, his eyes full of venom.

“I saw the tape, Raoul. I know you were dirty—just as dirty as Robbie. Maybe more so, since you let him take the fall.”

“You do not know what you are talking about, you idiot. Robbie means everything to me. Everything. I won’t stop until I have that tape and I can clear his name.”

Garth shook his head. “You won’t get the video. I’ve seen it and I know what Tessa went through to testify. Robbie was guilty. He deserved to go to jail. And so do you. I saw you both buying drugs together.”

“I had to do it!” Raoul shouted. “He needed me to take care of him.”

None of this made sense. His former teammate had lost his mind, apparently. “Who? The dealer?”

“No! Robbie. And that bitch took him away from me!” he roared, using Garth’s temporary confusion to gain the upper hand and flip their positions.

Now on top, Raoul’s fingers wrapped around Garth’s throat, squeezing. Garth gasped and tried to raise his arms to break his friend’s hold. But Raoul’s grip was too strong, and Garth’s lungs started to burn.

Just then, a loud explosion went off and Raoul jerked back, his body falling down onto the floor. Bright red bloomed over his left shoulder. Garth tilted his head and found Tessa, his Glock in her palms. She let out a shaky breath and he jumped to his feet.

“Are you okay?” he asked, gently removing the gun from her hands and sliding the safety back on. She seemed dazed, but otherwise okay. “Did he hurt you?”

Tessa threw her arms around him, buried her face in the crook of his neck. “I’m fine. Just a bump on the head from where he knocked me out. He was here, searching my house when I came in.”

“Baby, I’m so sorry. I knew I should have come with you.” He stroked her hair. “I don’t know what I would have done if he would have hurt you.”

Raoul moaned on the ground, clutching his shoulder. Garth pulled out his cell phone and handed it to Tessa. “Call 9-1-1 while I find something to stop the bleeding.”

* * *

Hours later, after they’d had visits from the local police, the FBI, two Federal Marshals, and a few nosy neighbors, Garth stretched out on the hospital bed next to Tessa. She felt fine, but the doctors insisted on keeping her overnight for observation because of the bump on her head. Secretly, she was glad Garth refused to leave her side. She’d never liked hospitals.

“Do you have enough room?” he asked her.

“I should be asking you that. You can’t seriously be comfortable in this small bed.”

He threw an arm over her waist and shifted closer. “T, even if I’m miserable, there’s no way I’m leaving your side tonight. I need to be able to feel you, to reassure myself you’re okay.”

“Well, I’ll have nightmares of Raoul choking you. I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

“You made me so proud, babe. Even though you were scared, you saved me.” He pressed a gentle kiss to the top of her head. “I swear, I never thought he’d come after you himself.”

Raoul had recently acquired state-of-the-art metal prosthetics, a fact he’d never shared with Garth. Tessa knew Garth regretted allowing her to be hurt, but how could he have known Raoul would travel across the country? She yawned, snuggled against Garth’s warm body. “No one did. But it all worked out for the best. Raoul’s off to jail. Robbie’s going to be behind bars for a long time to come. And I can go back to my former life. I have no regrets, Garth.”

He fell silent and Tessa could feel him tense up ever so slightly. “What? What is it?” she asked. “Are you upset because you didn’t figure out Raoul and Robbie’s relationship?”

“No, I don’t care about that. I mean, I didn’t know but I can understand why they wouldn’t have told anyone. We were all still living under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in those days. It makes a weird kind of sense, that his love for Robbie pushed Raoul right over into revenge.”

“So what’s wrong?”

He sighed. “It’s just… I have no right to ask this, especially considering all you’ve been through, but I was kind of hoping that….”

“Yeah? You were hoping….?”

“Okay, I’m just going to say it. You said you’re going back to your former life, which I get because you had to give up a lot to go into WITSEC. But I was kind of hoping that you’d stay here, in Vermont. With me.”

She craned her neck to see him. He looked so adorably sheepish, her big, rugged former Navy SEAL. Her heart kicked over, a good kind of ache spreading through her chest. “I’d like that,” she told him. “Of course, if you take me, you’ll have to take my bird, too. We’re a package deal.”

He groaned. “Oh, God. I guess I don’t have a choice, do I? You’re lucky I love you, T.”

A grin broke out, one so big it hurt. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

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10 Comments

  1. Joanna, Loved it. Great way to wrap up the story, especially with the motivation behind the Robbie/Raoul love affair. Love that Tessa was the one to shoot, too! Interesting how we all put our personality into this story but it still holds together.

    Worth the wait.

    Cheers, Michele

    Reply
    • Thanks, Michele. Glad you liked it. It is great how each bit is different, but it all works. At least I let the bird live.

      Reply
  2. Great ending! It’s funny how the Raoul/Robbie thing started out as a slip but ended up being an integral part of the motivation to wrap up of the story. Nicely done.

    Reply
  3. Jenna Blue

     /  January 4, 2013

    Joanna,
    You should write more military hero’s! You’re darn good at them! And this twist is so you! You definitely made good on my mistake! ; )
    Lots of humor in this, too! So enjoyed this round robin, ladies!
    Jenna

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jenna. I looooove me some Navy SEALS. I’ ve never written one before, but I’ve read a lot of military hero books. So it was a fun exercise. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  4. Joanna, once again, you crack me up! You worked in the “unsanitary” peck on the bird’s head, Tessa’s kookiness, and a great way to explain the Robbie/Raoul connection. Great job! And, like Michele, I like that you had Tessa save Garth.

    Reply
    • Heh. Glad you liked it! I was thinking of you when I wrote the bird part. I had to bird sit once and the thing would NOT shut up. Ever. So I think I just harbor this weird thing about birds as pets. 🙂

      Reply
  5. R.A. DeFranco

     /  January 7, 2013

    Joanna, I love how you wrapped this up. Bacon made everything better=Hysterical to me, because it really does! And I love how you threw the M/M angle into the story. You really have a strong male POV in your writing. And like everyone else already said I love that Tessa saved Garth.

    RoseAnn

    Reply
    • Glad you liked it! I love writing heroes. They’re so much easier for me than heroines. And yes on bacon. Truer words never written.

      Reply

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