Home > Seek(9)

Seek(9)
Author: Mia Sheridan


"I figured another hour wouldn't hurt, and it looked like you needed the sleep. Do you want something to eat? Santiago's wife, Mariana, will make some eggs for you."

She shook her head. "Just coffee would be great."

Mariana bustled in, introducing herself and pouring Livvy a cup of coffee. Fifteen minutes later, I'd brought our backpacks down, loaded them in Santiago's car, and we said a quick goodbye. "Take good care," Santiago said, giving me an unusually solemn nod, his gaze moving to Livvy in the passenger seat then back to me.

She is yours for now.

Five days. That's how long this journey would take. That's how long this woman would be mine.

"I will," I promised, ducking into the car and pulling the door shut. I was glad I'd had the opportunity to see them. It'd been a long time.

When we pulled away, Livvy asked, "How do you know them?"

I pulled on my sunglasses as I navigated through the familiar streets. "Santiago's a family acquaintance. I rented a room from him and Mariana for six months before I left for the Navy."

"You were in the Navy?"

"Yup."

"Are you still?"

"Nope." I shifted into fourth as we pulled on to a clear stretch of highway, headed toward the small town over two hundred miles away. This was going to be the easy part of our journey and I settled back, one hand on the wheel and the other resting idly on the stick shift.

"So you, what? Just work for yourself?"

I glanced over at her, and she looked relaxed as well, her ankles crossed and her hands resting in her lap. "I work for a few repeat clients, but I prefer to be my own boss."

"Huh," she said, and when I looked at her again, her brows were scrunched up and she was chewing on those pretty lips of hers as if trying to figure out what questions to ask. We were going to be in the car together for the next three or four hours, depending on road conditions, and so I might as well save us both the twenty questions. And I supposed, as someone who'd hired me, she had some right to my résumé.

"I was a Navy SEAL for ten years. After that, I did contract work but didn't enjoy the restrictions, so I started working on my own."

"Contract work? Like government contract work?"

I shrugged. "Mostly."

"Huh," she said again. "So, you're like a soldier for hire now?"

"That's as good a way to put it as any."

"Did you get your American citizenship or how did that work?"

"I was born in Los Angeles." I fiddled with the air vent, adjusting it so it was blowing more directly at my face. "My mother moved us back to Colombia, where she was from, when I was a baby."

"But you don't have an accent."

"I worked not to. Defining characteristics you can't cover up, or hide, aren't helpful when doing government work."

"Ah." She was quiet for a minute as the scenery zipped by. "Government work." She paused. "I can see what you meant when you said you don't usually take jobs like mine. So, why did you? Why'd you agree to help a woman find her lost fiancé?"

"I'm not helping you find him. I'm taking you to him."

"You get my point."

I paused for a moment, keeping my expression blank. "I told you. I have business near Palomino. When I heard about your situation, I figured I might as well make a little extra cash since I was going there anyway."

She still had that small wrinkle between her brows when I glanced at her, but as our eyes met it smoothed out, and she released a breath. "Well, thanks again. I'm glad it worked out for us both."

"Me too," I murmured, though I wasn't sure if that was the truth.

"So, you mentioned rules we needed to discuss. What are those?"

"Pretend you're my wife in front of people, follow my instructions in any and all situations, and don't complain. That's it. Easy enough?"

There was a long pause. "Easy enough," she finally said.

"Good."

Livvy turned on the radio and flipped through the stations, finally settling on one playing vallenato, a popular Colombian folk music. "Where did you live?" she asked as she sat back.

"A town not too far from here."

"Does your family still live there?"

I glanced at her and her eyes widened before she cast them away. "Sorry. Never mind."

The hum of the engine and the music grew quieter, seemingly background noise to the loud silence that stretched between us. "My aunt, uncle, and cousins do. My mother is dead. I never knew my father."

Livvy's head swiveled. I didn't look at her but could see in my peripheral vision that she was studying me. "Oh, I'm sorry. When did your mother die? Are you close to your aunt and uncle?" She shook her head. "It's not my business, but I just thought since we're going to be spending so much time together, we might as well know each other a little bit." I glanced at her and her cheeks held a pink tinge, her expression embarrassed. "I'm talking too much, aren't I? Never mind."

I looked back at the road. I wasn't used to talking about myself. Even when I'd been in the Navy, I'd seldom shared personal information, and those were guys I would have died for in a heartbeat. Maybe it was the close confines of the car that lent an air of intimacy, or maybe I felt like I owed this woman something. In the rearview mirror, the tall buildings of the city fell away completely. Now there were only rolling green fields, trees, and a never-ending blue sky. "My mother died when I was six. I moved in with my aunt and uncle and their sons but haven't spoken to them since I left for the Navy. And trust me when I say, none of us feel a loss."

Livvy gave me a surprised glance as if she hadn't expected me to answer at all. "That's so sad," she whispered after a moment.

I shrugged. "Not really. Sometimes, you draw the short stick with family. That's just life."

Livvy crossed her legs, turning slightly. "I guess. I just . . . I was adopted and my adoptive parents died last year." She looked away and I glanced at her profile, saw the sadness in her expression, even though I couldn't see her entire face.

"Sorry about that," I said, though I'd already known that fact. I already knew a lot about the woman sitting next to me.

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