Word Count: 2,929
It was late and he was tired, but couldn't sleep. The rest of the house evidently had no problems, because all was quiet as he walked through it. Anyone looking at him would probably get the impression he was casing the place. He just didn't look as though he belonged. He was used to that, had felt that way most of his life. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Not that the senator didn't have nice things, but Taylor didn't really pay much attention. He'd grown up surrounded by people who had plenty of nice things.
All quiet inside, doors and windows secured just as they were when he checked them earlier he decided to take a walk outside. He liked being outside, it gave him a sense of freedom that while false he needed. He wasn't really a stay indoors all day long kind of guy. Of course, he supposed, it went with the job he'd agreed to do. And there had so far been lots of staying indoors. Oh, there'd been the occasional press conference, lunch, dinner, and meetings. Still, though, not much with the activity and, other than the press conference, all had been indoors. It made him go a little stir crazy.
Always as a kid he, Matty, Chris, and Johnny could be found doing something outdoors. Football, street hockey, getting into trouble, or just walking around. It didn't matter if it was winter or summer, one hundred degrees or twenty below. He and the kids he'd run around with were always outside.
He slid his keys into the front pocket of his jeans as he left through the private entrance to his apartment. There was another entrance that came through the main house, which was the one Taylor used while working. He wasn't working at the moment. He could claim to be doing a check if spotted and asked by anyone, but he was just feeling a little restless.
He wasn't used to having his comings and goings limited. He was someone's hired guy now and this gig was pretty much twenty-four seven. Taylor wasn't sure what he'd do if the job got real involved, but so far he had his nights free to a point and the senator's days didn't begin too early in the morning. The senator believed he was being threatened, and from the letters and messages he'd seen and heard Taylor believed he was right. None of the threats seemed above the usual type of thing someone in his position got, but he understood why the man would take precautions.
He slid his cell phone out of his pocket when he heard the tone that identified Matty as the caller. They hadn't talked for a couple of days. Not that they talked a lot or anything. They checked in with one another to see how the other was doing. Confirmation that they were still doing it, staying out. Both knew how easy it would be to fall back in, they'd seen it firsthand with Chris.
"Hey," he said.
'How's it going?'
"Not too bad. You?"
'I know you just started the job, but if you can get a couple of days off we'd like you to come out here.'
"Hmm, I'm pretty sure it's you wanting me there and the wife going along with the deal."
'No, she's in on the idea, too. Just keep it in mind. We have some things I want to talk to you about.'
"It may be easier for you to fly out here. It may be a while if you're going to wait for me to get time off. It's not like I can put in for time off really."
'Well, we'll come out there if we have to.'
"All right," he said. He paused, seeing headlights approach. He stepped into the shadows a bit, recognizing the car. "Is there something going on?"
"Okay," he said, though he wasn't sure what to make of that.
Matty wasn't usually secretive. He was, until marrying his wife anyway, about as predictable as they came. He knew it wasn't just the regular sex that changed his friend. There was something about finding it. The one. At least for his friend. Taylor admittedly wondered what that might be like, though for him the way they grew up he had nothing to offer a girl. He carried the stigma of not fully belonging, not being full-blooded Italian. As if that mattered, made him any more or less tough. He was sure that there were some who wondered just how tough he'd be if he was full-blooded, but they were crazy.
He heard the sound of a car door opening and closing. Only one. Interesting.
"Gotta go. I'll let you know what I can swing."
'Okay, man, take it easy.'
Very interesting. Claire's guy didn't strike him as the type to make her walk to the door by herself. If they kissed in front of the senator chances were they did more than that when he wasn't looking. At least in Taylor's experience that was the case.
It was followed not too long after a second car door opening and closing.
Ah, the type to open doors for her. Of course, he should have known.
"You know, you really don't have to walk me to the door," Claire said. "It's not as if I'm going to get mugged between here and the door."
"Well, of course I do, or your father," her father? "would have something to hold against me and could prevent us from seeing one another."
"Not forever," she said softly, her tone not really flirtatious but there was something there. Teasing? Taylor wasn't sure.
"Well, no, not forever, but longer than I'd like."
"Adam," she said.
"Yes, I told you. Friends. Friends is the most I can give you."
"For now, and I am willing to live with that," he said and if Taylor knew anything about the way guys worked, he was moving in for a good night kiss.
"Well, yeah. I need to have a life."
"And I've tried explaining to you it's way overrated."
"I understand. I've heard your warnings. But you've had your life, a few of them, and I have to try it. I deserve that much. If you can't give me that, give me space, then go."
"See, and I can't do that."
"Then you have to let me do this."
"Claire," he said, his voice getting softer. "I can't help that I want you. And now that he's around."
"Like it's going to happen again. It's not! You can put off wanting me for a while. I can't do it. I have so much stuff I want to do. Finishing school. A job. A husband. Kids maybe."
"Who will all die! And will hate you while doing so. Do you understand that? The last thing a husband says will be your name, only it won't be as a form of endearment but instead a curse."
"And I want to experience those things. All of them. No matter how much it hurts. I have to. Can't you understand that? You got to."
"No, I don't understand when you can avoid all of it. All of the pain, all of the torment. And children, really, are way overrated."
"Why are you getting so pushy all of the sudden? You agreed, and now you're all in my face, trying to get me to change my mind about things I won't feel differently about anytime soon."
"Because I just want."
"Is there a problem," Taylor said, stepping out of the shadows.
It was a rather odd conversation, but his wasn't the place to judge. He just recognized her voice as not being happy where the conversation was going. He wasn't the type to turn tail and run, leaving a woman in a potentially bad situation.
Both were surprised evidently, judging by the looks on their faces anyway. She looked rather dumbfounded and none too happy. Adam had a different look on his face, though.
Yeah, Taylor got the impression not too many got the jump on this guy. Nathan seemed to think highly of him, and he carried himself in a way that spoke to someone streetwise. Someone Taylor might have a good time having a go at.
"I, uh, no," Claire said.
Adam was standing mighty close to Claire, a hand resting at her hip.
"We're fine, Mr.," he glanced at Claire. "What was his name, sweetheart?"
"Stop calling me that, and you know it's Taylor."
"Ah, yes, of course," he said accompanied by what Taylor thought was a rather mischievous smile. "Mister Taylor. We're fine. Thank you. Run along back to whatever you were doing."
"Adam," Claire said.
"Listen," Taylor said, stepping closer. He didn't appreciate being talked down to as if he was a kid or didn't belong here. "I think it's time for you to go, leave Claire alone. Sounds to me like she's ready to call it a night."
"Taylor, really," Claire said, glancing between the two men.
"Oh, this is priceless," Adam said with a low chuckle. "If only he knew."
"Shut up," Claire hissed.
"I think you've forgotten your assignment, your job, is to protect the senator not Claire."
"Adam," she said again, this time very much sounding like a warning he should heed. He'd heard that tone coming from women before. Never directed at him, but his friends and it was never good.
"Yes, yes, all right," he said, grazing her cheek with a kiss. Ballsy of him, Taylor thought, considering it sounded like they were arguing until he stepped in. "I know when to yield."
"I had fun."
"You always do with me, Claire. Remember that."
"I know," she said, sounding put out by the admission.
"Good night then," he said, walking to his car.
"You okay?" Taylor asked, once Adam had driven away.
"Yeah, fine, sorry if we woke you."
"Nah, I was just walking around and heard you."
"Oh," she said, worrying her lower lip as if she didn't like that idea.
"No big deal. Does he always get like that?"
"No," she said with a frown, glancing in the direction Adam's car had gone. "He's usually fine with the friends thing."
He snorted. "Yeah right."
"Who'd want to be just friends with you?"
"Uh, is that supposed to be a compliment?"
"I suppose probably not, but speaking as a living, breathing man I can sort of understand why he might be put off by the 'just friends' line. You got someone else you're hooking up with?"
"What? Hooking up? No! I just don't want a relationship with him."
"Something wrong with him? He seems decent enough. Nathan certainly doesn't seem to question you two going out every night."
"We don't go out every night. I have other friends. He just gets me the way not too many other people can."
"So, what's wrong with him?"
"Nothing! He just wants more than I do right now. I still have stuff to deal with. He's done things and I want to do things, too."
"That's the price you pay for getting involved with someone older, but I get it."
She tilted her head a bit. "You do?"
"Well, yeah. I didn't go to college, never will, but we all have things we want to do in life. And if you don't want to do those things attached well then you shouldn't."
"It's not that I don't want to be attached."
"Just not to him?"
"Right," she said.
"I'll pretend to understand."
"Why didn't you go to college?"
"Not smart enough."
"I doubt that. You don't strike me as being dumb."
He shrugged. "Look at what I'm doing for a living. Muscle. I've always been the muscle. Never had much use for my brain. No one else has really either."
"Well, whoever said that is just…stupid."
He chuckled. "Yeah, well. You get told so many times you'll never amount to anything you tend to believe it after a while."
"Who told you that?"
"Never mind, it's not important. You should get inside."
"Are you expecting someone?"
"You're holding your cell phone," she said, gesturing to his hand. "You were out here late, so I'm just wondering if you had someone coming over."
"No, I never asked about having company, but I don't think I'd bring random girls here my first week."
"Someone might sleep with you to get to the senator?"
"You never know, blondie, you never know."
"They'd have to know you work for him."
"You don't think we're visible? This past week, I've been everywhere he has, always around. He doesn't like me hovering he says, which kind of defeats the purpose of having me, but I try and give him space. Still no question I am what I am."
"He really doesn't like having to hire you."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know. Mr. Linderman died and it seems that's when he felt like he was in danger."
"Not too many people in this town will mess with the likes of Linderman, he had good muscle behind him just with that dude's name being spoken in the same paragraph as his."
"You knew him?"
"Sure," he said with a shrug.
He sighed, rolling his eyes a little. He pocketed his cell phone. "I just did. Shouldn't you be going to bed? Don't you have class or a hair appointment to wake up for?"
"Wow. What did I do to deserve that?"
"Nothing. Sorry. I'm just not much of a talker. You know? And I really don't like to talk about my past."
"And Mr. Linderman is somehow connected to your past?" She squinted a little, looking at him. "You worked for the mob?"
He snorted. "I was son of a mobster, had no choice."
"Yeah," he said simply. "Way."
"I doubt you'd have heard of the old man, he wasn't very well known, but he worked for Benny Chains."
"Oh wow," she said, not sounding impressed but neither was she disinterested or put off by that admission.
"No big. I'm clean and everything now. That's why I'm here, though Benny hooked me up with the lead."
"Yeah, not sure how he heard the senator was looking, but he gave me quite a glowing recommendation from my understanding."
"Did you deserve it?"
"Yeah, I mean, I'm still alive, standing here to talk to you, so I've done my job right every time."
"Worried about the senator?"
"I worry, yes."
"I think he's okay. I haven't perceived any real threats. No one shows up all of the time to his things or anything."
"Well, he's different."
"Aren't we all?"
She smiled a little. "Yeah, I guess we are."
"Well, I'm going to head in. You should think about doing the same."
"I know. And, Taylor?"
"He wasn't doing anything I couldn't have gotten around and he doesn't worry me, he just gets pushy sometimes and I have to remind him of what we are. He could have been, though, and you stepped in to stop him. You're not paid to protect me."
"Don't have to be paid for that. I'm no saint, but a girl talks the way you were she's pretty serious about the no aspect of things."
"No saint, huh?"
There she went eyeing him again as if she was not just interested but familiar with things she had no business being familiar with when it came to him.
He stepped in closer then, wondering if she liked that idea. Judging by the hint of a smile there, yeah she liked it. Maybe a lot. Interesting. She was a pretty tiny thing, if someone wasn't careful they could hurt her without even meaning to.
"Not at all."
She blushed then, all kinds of color on her cheeks and face with her eyes darkening a little as she focused her attention on his mouth. Anticipating? She was looking very much as if she could picture just how unsaintly he could be. Well, well.
"You'd better get inside," he said, instead of doing what was very much on his mind just then. And that was finding out just how well she kissed. He imagined she did it pretty well, and he had no business wondering that or being interested in that. She was living with his boss, so not the way to keep a job that didn't result in him coming home smelling like liquor every night.
"Right," she said, working the alarm code that would unlock the door for her. He watched as she slipped through the opening, closing it tightly behind her almost too quickly as if she was trying to escape from him. Fat chance that if he really wanted to.
If he hadn't stepped in, stopped some guy from making moves on her maybe he would have gone ahead and done it. It seemed a little classless, even to someone like him who had never been too concerned about things like class in his lifetime.
He made his way back to his apartment, letting himself in. He tossed his key on the kitchen counter, taking out another beer. He hoped there'd be something worth watching on TV. Glancing at his phone, he debated about calling Matty back. He didn't run across women like Claire very often and wasn't sure if he was misreading her signals entirely or what.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com