Look me straight into my eyes by krisrussel, admin
Chapter 1 by krisrussel
Author's Notes:

Post IOTH – minor spoilers – heavy MPJ
This is my second fic and also the longest fic I wrote so far. I would love to have feedback so I know what you guys think and I know how I can better myself in future fanfic. lot's of thanks to my beta-reader MP :^)

Title: Look me straight into my eyes

By: Kris Russel

 

He was close. Miss Parker could feel it. A victorious smile appeared on her face when that feeling was confirmed.

After her return from Scotland, she had sent a photo of Jarod to all her contacts, old and new, and to her surprise, about a month later, she got an e-mail from an old school friend. The man worked in a small grocery shop where Jarod stopped by daily for his Pez and other stuff. He had been coming in around 6 PM for the last week, probably after work.

So here she was, in the parking lot of that small grocery store just outside Minnesota, waiting for him to appear. She had told everyone she was taking a few days off. She didn’t want anyone there. Sydney would just yell to Jarod and alert him. Broots would only get in the way and those clumsy sweepers would only make him run. She wanted to take him in all by herself and the moment she saw him exit the store with a brown paper bag in his hands, she smelt victory. He had no idea she was here and so it wouldn’t be a problem for her to drag the rat back to his lab and gain her own freedom.

When Jarod reached his car, he opened the trunk and carefully put the bag inside. Closing the trunk again, he had the very unsettling feeling that he was being watched. He turned around and looked straight into the barrel of the 9mm and a very smug face. But he also noticed there wasn’t a sweeper in sight.

“Gotcha, labrat.”

“Miss Parker.” He said, trying to ignore the gun. “Nice to see you again, but I really don’t have time for our little game right now.”

“You think I care? Just give me your hands so I can cuff you and drag your ass back to The Centre.”

“No.” He simply answered as he turned his back to her again and walked towards the door of his car.

“Jarod, stop or I’ll shoot you. Don’t you dare get into that car!” She was getting pissed. This wasn’t going as she had planned.

He put his hand on the handle, faced her again and simply stated: “You won’t shoot me.”

Opening the door, he got in and heard a frustrated growl escape her throat before he closed the door. She walked to the other side of the car, opened the door and slid in the passenger seat. He was right; she couldn’t shoot him, especially after what had happened on the island. And she hated him for that.

“What are you doing?” He asked with a sigh.

“You really don’t think that I’m gonna let you out of my sight? I’m hauling your ass back to The Centre.”

“Parker, please, let me finish this pretend.”

“Hell no, I’m taking you back where you belong.”

“I don’t belong there.” He sighed. “Look.” Jarod took a deep breath before continuing. “Let’s make a deal. Let me finish this and then I’ll come with you to The Centre. No fights, no arguments.”

“Ha, and I should believe that?” She scowled.

“Yes.” He answered in all honesty, looking straight into her deep blue eyes.

Her belly made a flip-flop at his intense stare. “What the hell could be so important for you to give up your freedom willingly?”

“I’m trying to bring a child-molester to justice.”

He saw the doubt and kindness in her eyes for just a second before they turned cold again. He let out an inaudible sigh. There was still hope for her.

“No deal.”

“Parker, please. I want to finish this. I won’t come with you before I finish this.”

She aimed the gun at his leg and looked at him coldly. “Maybe I can’t kill you, but I can still shoot you in your knee and drag you back.”

Letting out another sigh, he tucked his hand inside his jacket.

“Careful there, ratboy.” Miss Parker said as she aimed the gun back at his chest.

Very slowly he took out a red notebook and opened it, showing the picture of two young twin girls. They had long blond hair, a lot of freckles on their blushing cheeks and they both had a wide smile on their faces.

“Meet Amy and Lisa. They are his latest victims. They are nine years old and their lives are over. He raped them so violently that they won’t be able to have children anymore. They are afraid to leave the house, even in the company of their parents. They barely sleep anymore and the little sleep they have is filled with horrible nightmares.” He paused for a second. She had a lump in her throat and her eyes were getting wet. “Parker, I don’t just want to do this because he belongs in jail. I want to do this for Amy and Lisa and his other victims. So that they know he can’t hurt them anymore and then maybe, just maybe they can start living again.”

“There are more?” Parker asked shocked.

“At least ten... That we know of. I’m the counsellor of three of them.” Jarod sighed. “Please, I swear on my mother’s life that I will go back with you to The Centre after I finish this. Please, Parker, please.”

She looked from the picture to Jarod’s pleading eyes and back.

“Fine.” She grumbled, finally giving in. “But I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

“You’d better train your pretender skills then.” Jarod sighed as he started the engine and drove towards his latest lair. This wasn’t going to be easy with her tagging along.

 

“Jarod… This is a decent house with furniture, what happened to the sleazy motels and the abandoned warehouses?” Parker asked as they walked into his house.

“Cute. Not funny, but cute.” He replied with a smirk. “I have to be a family man in this pretend. So, I needed a decent house.”

“A family man?” She chuckled. “Then where is your family?”

“My wife just arrived.” He replied with a grin.

“What?!” Her eyes were about to kill him.

“I told my colleagues and neighbours that my wife was out of town for business. But now that there’s a woman in my house who’s probably constantly hovering around me, well, it’s just better if they think we’re married.”

Her eyes were really killing him now.

“Parker, don’t worry. It’s just a charade, a pretend. I have a spare bedroom. You can sleep there.”

She let out a deep sigh. “Fine, but then aren’t I missing something, genius?” She scowled as she showed him her left hand.

He grinned as he turned around and started rummaging in the drawer of his desk and pulled out a small box. Handing it to her, there was an even bigger grin plastered on his face. “It’s suspicious if you only get one wedding ring made.”

Her look was set on kill again as she opened the box and slid the ring on her finger. “Oh yeah, and it just happens to fit like a glove.”

“Well, when he asked the size, you were the first person I thought about.” He didn’t smile or grin; he just told her the plain simple truth as he looked in her eyes.

She wanted to snap something in return, but the honesty in his eyes made her silent and she just nodded.

“Do you have any spare clothes with you?”

“Damned, I left them in my car.”

“No problem. We’ll just go to the store and get you some new stuff.”

“Jarod, I have clothes with me, they’re just in my car.”

“Parker, the problem is that the clothes you have don’t really fit in the profile of the pretend. You need a new wardrobe.”

She let out a deep sigh. “Don’t tell me I have to go casual.”

“Preferably.”

“Then what the heck is my pretend besides playing your wife?”

“You’re my assistant.”

“I’m… what?!” She stomped over to him. “No way! Keep dreaming, labrat.”

“Parker, take it easy. You’re the one who wants to stay with me 24/7 for this. The only way that is possible is if you’re my assistant.”

“Fine.” She grumbled. “When are we gonna go shopping? I need a hot shower.”

“Now if you want.”

“Let’s go.”

 

“Hello Mr. Kane.” A high pitched voice sounded as they walked to the car.

“Oh, hello Miss Laney.” Jarod replied as he turned to the young blonde woman.

“Has your wife returned?” She asked, looking at Parker. Parker saw jealousy in her eyes and she smiled. Torturing this overzealous woman would be fun.

“Yes, I have returned.” Parker answered as she gently laid her hand on Jarod’s shoulder and lovingly caressed his neck. The touch made him breathless for a second.

“Uh, yes… Cindy Laney, this is Parker Kane, my wife. Honey, Miss Laney is the daughter of our neighbours.”

“Nice to meet you.” Parker said with a fake smile.

“Nice to meet you too.” Cindy answered with a smile just as fake and her eyes were screaming jealousy. Parker loved it and it gave her a weird satisfied feeling that women were jealous when they thought Jarod was hers.

“Let’s go, sweetie.” She purred and took Jarod’s hand in hers as they walked to the car. Jarod just followed, too shocked by her behaviour to protest.

 

“Don’t be fooled by my actions.” She sounded threatening as they were driving towards the shop. “I’m just getting into the pretend.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I know my boundaries.” He said as he vividly remembered her actions in the car on the airstrip in Scotland and still feeling a pain in his chest as he remembered her rejection.

“Good.” She grumbled and stared out of the window, wondering why she felt so bad when she heard the slight hint of pain in his voice.

 

“You look great.” He smiled as she walked out of the changing booth.

“I look like Martha Stewart.” She growled and ignored the question marks in his eyes. “Jarod, I’m not wearing this.”

“You look great. Very homey.” He really did think she looked great in those plain blue jeans and the light shirt and her hair in a ponytail.

“I don’t do homey.” She snapped.

“Remember, it’s only for this pretend. After that you can go back to wearing your ice queen clothes.”

“Very funny, ratboy.” She let out a deep sigh. “Fine! Whatever. Have it your way.”

 

“You really will look great in those clothes.” He said as they drove towards the grocery store.

She just stared out of the window. Damned, she hated getting compliments from Jarod. It gave her feelings she didn’t like. No wait, she did like the feelings, but she knew she never could answer to them and that’s why she hated them. Damned, she hated Jarod for making her feel like this.

“Whatever.” She sighed.

 

“Are you sure you have everything you need?” He asked as they walked towards the cash registry.

“Yes, for the billionth time!”

“I’m sorry; I just want you to feel at home.”

“But I’m not at home, am I?” She spat. “If you just came along like a good rat, then I’d be home already and free from that hellhole.”

“Parker, you know why I can’t come with you right now.”

“Yeah, I know.” She sighed. “I know.”

 

“I’ll start dinner.” He said as she walked upstairs towards the bathroom.

“Whatever.” She growled as she stepped inside the bathroom and shut the door with a loud bang. Finally some peace. Finally alone from his whining. Finally alone to get her emotions in check again. She undressed and got into the shower, letting the warm water soak her tired body. A soft moan escaped her mouth as the water hit a sore spot in her neck. Damn, this was a good shower. Now all she needed was a good massage. Didn’t Jarod work as a masseur once? She inwardly cursed herself for the way her thoughts were going and focused on the shower.

 

Jarod was in the kitchen, cutting the lettuce in small pieces when he heard the water running. His thoughts wandered back to Carthis and Parker naked behind the screen at Ocee’s. He sighed hard as he tried to keep his overflowing emotions in check. What was he thinking? Bringing her here, on one of his pretends. No, he knew what he was thinking, or hoping. He hoped, deep inside, that being close to her would open her up again and maybe bring them close again. Maybe they could get as close as they were on Carthis again. Could he dare hope that maybe they would get even closer?

“Ouch.” He softly cursed as he sucked on his bleeding finger. Stupid, being so deep in thought and not keeping an eye on the sharp knife in his hand.

“You ok, genius?”

He looked up surprised as he heard her voice from the door. “Uh, yeah, I just attacked myself.”

Parker chuckled and stepped closer, carefully taking his hand in hers and trying to ignore the electric current flowing between them. “You have a bandage somewhere?”

“Yes, in the cupboard over there.” He answered and pointed to it.

“Ok. Hold it. I’ll be right back.”

“When did you become a doctor?” He asked with a grin as she wrapped his finger gently.

“Well, being stuck with a kid like Debbie now and then teaches you to heal little things like these.” She chuckled and he laughed.

“Debbie’s a great kid.” He said.

“Yeah and Broots is a great dad.”

“That’s true; I hope one day I can be half the father he is.” His eyes wandered over her face and locked with hers. A comfortable silence fell between them as they just stared in each other’s eyes. Her feelings were suddenly so overwhelming that she quickly looked away.

“So, genius, you need help with the food?” She asked with a crack in her voice.

“Uh, yeah, just keep an eye on the chicken while I finish the lettuce.” He answered, quickly turning away from her and once again focusing on the vegetables.

She nodded and turned to the pan on the stove.

“And check the potatoes now and then. I’m going to mash them.”

 

As they were seated at the dinner table, Jarod started talking about his pretend.

“I’m a shrink working for the FBI. I talk to some of the kids that were harassed and I try to bring them out of their shell so that they will testify on the trial. All of them still refuse to talk when they see a picture of him, let alone when they see him in the flesh in that courtroom. They have to be able to tell the jury that he was the one. It’s not enough for a jury that they are afraid of him. They have to point him out as the guilty one and be able to look at his face when they do it. If the kids can’t do that, that bastard walks. There is no other evidence besides their testimonies.”

“You’re not going to lure him in one of your traps?”

“No, this guy is… horrible… he has nothing he cares about… not even his own life. He’s even worse than that racist Bartlet, at least he cared about his own life. My trap wouldn’t work and it would probably get me killed. I’m going to get the kids to talk and leave the rest in the very capable hands of the feds.”

“So, how am I going to become your assistant?”

“I can freely appoint an assistant, so I’ll just appoint you.”

“And they won’t have a problem with the fact that I’m your ‘wife’?”

“No Parker, they won’t. Not if we work well together. And I don’t care if you want to face it or not, but we work extremely well together.”

She gave him an icy glare, but inside she had to agree with him, they worked like a well-oiled machine together. Damned, she hated him.

“Whatever.” She growled.

“Face it Parker, we’re an unbeatable team together.” If only she had stayed on his side in Carthis, god knows how things would have gone for them. But he knew it was impossible for her… for them… especially then with her father, Raines, Lyle, a handful of sweepers and the triumvirate goons so close.

“Shove it, labrat.” She snapped and walked away from the table.

He let out a sigh and followed her back into the kitchen. “Parker, I’m sorry.” He didn’t know what he felt sorry for, but her reaction made him feel bad.

She was staring outside and he stayed in the doorway.

“Don’t… just don’t.”

“Parker, I…”

“Jarod, just leave me alone, ok?”

“Alright.” He whispered and walked out of the kitchen.

Damned, she hated him for making her doubt herself. She hated him for making her doubt her own feelings. She hated him for telling her the truth. Damned!

He walked into the living room and sat down in the recliner with a deep sigh. Why couldn’t they just talk without hurting each other, without ending up in a fight? Without him wanting to take her in his arms and just hold her and kiss her… Yeah, as if he wanted to end up dead… And he wouldn’t make the first move again. His heart wouldn’t survive another rejection from her. If she broke it again, he was sure it could never be mended.

He flipped open his phone and dialled a familiar number.

*This is Sydney.*

“Why do we let people break our heart?”

*It means we care about them.*

“But they don’t care about us?”

*They probably do. Maybe they are just afraid.*

“But why?”

*Jarod, what’s going on? Who are you talking about?*

“Forget I ever mentioned this Syd.”

*Jarod wait.*

“What?”

*If you really care about her, tell her. No matter what. If she breaks your heart, it will hurt, but at least you’ll know how she feels.*

“I don’t think I can handle that again.” And with that Jarod closed the phone.

Sydney sighed as he closed his own phone. He was sure that this had something to do with Miss Parker. They both behaved differently since their return from Scotland and he knew something had happened between them. Her ‘vacation’ and his phone call were too much of a coincidence. What were they doing and what was going on between them?

Letting out a deep sigh, Jarod stood up and started clearing the table, thinking about the phone call. How was he going to get her out of her shell? How was he going to tell her how he felt without getting another rejection?

When she heard the clattering of plates, Miss Parker walked out of the kitchen and helped him clear the table.

Not a word was said as they put everything in the kitchen and started doing the dishes. Automatically Jarod washed them and Parker dried them. After they finished and put everything back in the cupboards, they retreated to the living room. Jarod sat down on the recliner with a book and Parker sat down on the couch, reading the TV-guide. It stayed silent for a long time and the tension was palpable. Neither of them was really able to concentrate on their literature. Jarod got tired of it and broke the silence.

“Can’t we just talk?”

She looked up from the magazine and cocked an eyebrow. “Why?”

“We used to talk for hours. What happened?”

“I was 12. I grew up, what about you?”

Jarod let out a soft sigh. He didn’t want to start another fight so he decided to ignore her painful remark. “Ok, let’s talk about vacations. I like vacations. I think.”

She opened her mouth for another snide remark, but she was thrown back by the fact that he had ignored her last one.

“I… You haven’t gone on a vacation yet?”

“No, not really. You?”

“Not a lot. But I had some.”

“Where did you go? What did you see?”

She couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiastic face and they talked for hours about her experiences on her vacations. Jarod’s sincere interest and enthusiasm made her talk about everything she had seen and experienced, even about the stuff she would never tell anyone. It really was like they were kids again and they finally started to feel a bit relaxed in each other’s company.

“We’d better get to bed.” Jarod said as he checked his watch. “We have to get out of bed around 7.”

“You sleep 6 hours in a row?”

“I always try.” He answered honestly as he got up and walked up the stairs towards his room.

“Goodnight Parker.”

“Uh yeah, goodnight Jarod.” She was surprised by his courtesy, but at the same time, she wasn’t. Letting out a sigh, she followed him upstairs.

 

Barely three hours had passed as she woke up with a startle. Screams were coming from the other room. Feeling worried, she quickly got out of bed and made her way to Jarod’s room. The screams clearly came from his room and she opened it without hesitation.

The sheets were kicked off the bed and his arms and legs were furiously kicking around as he seemed to plead for his life.

“No… no… don’t… don’t hurt her… please… no… nooooooooo”

Not his life. Someone else’s. She carefully got closer and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Jarod, wake up. It’s ok. It’s just a dream.”

He was bathing in sweat and his eyes looked haunted and panicked as they flustered open.

“Monica.” He breathed and wrapped his arms around her. “Thank god, you’re ok.”

She was startled by the mentioning of her first name and the hug, but he was trembling from fear, so she automatically returned his hug.

“Of course I’m ok. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“They killed you.” He breathed. “I thought I lost you.”

“You’ll never lose me.” She whispered and gently kissed his hair. ~Where the hell did that come from?~

He swallowed hard and breathed in her scent. God, she smelled good. He had to do something before he lost it, so he reluctantly loosened his grip on her and sat back on his bed.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, wiping the sweat of his face with the sheet he picked up from the floor.

“Don’t be. Never apologise for a nightmare.”

He nodded. “Thank you for being here for me. You’re the only one who’s able to calm me after a nightmare.”

She softly smiled at his confession. “Is that why you always call me in the middle of the night?”

He slowly nodded. “Yes. When I hear your voice, I can sleep again. And when I call you in the middle of the night, your guard is down for just a few inches and sometimes I recognize my old friend again.”

A slight smile appeared on her lips. “I’d better get back to bed. Only a little over three hours of sleep left.”

“Ok. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She heard the disappointment in his voice.

“Yeah.” She whispered and stepped out of his room. Why was she even considering going back in there and holding him the rest of the night? She shook the urge away and continued towards her own bed.

 

***

 

“Goodmorning!” He cheerfully said as he opened her door.

She growled and pulled the blanket over her head. “Go away.”

“It’s just passed seven. You really should get out of bed.”

“No, go away!”

“Parker, I told my colleagues you’re coming with me today. I already made coffee.”

“Coffee? She peeked at him and sighed as she saw he was already fully dressed. “How long have you been awake?”

“Yes coffee. Black and strong, just the way you like it. And I’ve been up for a little over an hour and a half.”

Letting out another frustrated sigh, she slowly rose. “Fine, I’m up. Just bring me a cup. I need it to wake up.”

“I know.” He grinned and reached his hand behind the door and pulled out a steaming cup.

She gave him a glare, but he saw the tiniest smile flicker on her face for barely a second. Slowly tasting it, she let out a contented sigh.

“Oh, this is perfect. Better than sex.”

“That just means you haven’t found the right guy yet.” He winked and walked out of her room.

Her mouth fell open. What the hell did he mean by that? She shook her head and got out of bed.

 

Walking downstairs, the smell of breakfast hit her hard.

“What are you cooking?” She asked as she walked into the kitchen.

“Scrambled eggs with mushrooms.”

“With mushrooms?”

“Yeah, it’s very good.”

“I never had eggs combined with mushrooms before.” She stated as she took a seat at the small kitchen table.

“Then you’re in for a treat.”

He flashed her his trademark grin and put the plate in front of her.

“Bon appétit.”

She carefully took her first bite and a smile lit up her face. “This is good.”

“Don’t sound so surprised.”

“I love mushrooms.” She stated as she took a couple more bites.

“I know.” He whispered and walked out of the room to gather his stuff for work.

She looked at him as he exited and shook her head again. Damned, he really did know her. The perfect blend of coffee, mushrooms, knowing just the right thing to say to either piss her off or shut her up. Damn him for knowing her.

 

“You ready?” He asked as he walked back into the kitchen and placed his bag on the counter.

“Yes.”

“Good. This is your ID, your drivers licence and a credit card.” He said as he handed it to her. “Don’t lose it and get rid of all the stuff that has your name in or on it. I’ll put them in the vault in my bedroom.”

She nodded and started clearing out her wallet. Her ID, bankcards, credit cards and every other card were all put safely in the vault. For now she was Mrs. Parker Kane, beloved wife and assistant to her husband.

 

“I don’t spend a lot of time in the office.” He said as they were driving towards his office. “I just go in the mornings to check my schedule and go back in the afternoon to file my reports. I work with the kids in their own home to make them feel more comfortable.”

“Jarod, we haven’t really talked about our past. I mean, what am I supposed to answer when people ask how long we’ve been married?”

“Good point.” He chuckled. “Ok, we’ve been married for almost three years. But we’ve known each other since we were kids. No need to change that. We lost track of each other for a long time, but about four years ago we bumped into each other on our vacation in France. We started talking and it was like we had never been apart. We fell in love again and we eloped to France to get married in that little chapel where we bumped into each other. It was all very romantic.”

“I bet it was.” She chuckled. “You really think someone’s going to believe that?”

“People are suckers for romantic stories. They’ll have no problem believing it.”

“So, genius, if we’re that much in love, how come we haven’t had any kids yet? I mean, we’ve been married for three years.”

“Well, just tell them I can’t have kids so we decided not to try for it.”

“That’s just part of the pretend, right? I mean, you’re not unfertile, are you?”

He wanted to remark that she sounded worried, but he decided against it. They were talking like normal people for once and he wanted it to stay that way. “I hope not.” He answered honestly. “I really hope that one day I can have a family of my own.”

“Jarod, wake up. How are you going to do that? The Centre will never stop chasing you and when they find out you have kids, they won’t be safe either.”

His eyes clouded as her words sunk in. She was right, he would never be able to start a family if The Centre was still chasing him and he didn’t want his kids to go through the same nightmare as him. “Can’t a guy dream and hope?” He asked as a single tear made its way down his cheek.

She knew her words had hurt him deep and somewhere deep inside she felt bad about it. “Of course you can.” She simply answered.

The rest of the way they drove in silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts.

 

“Here we are.” Jarod said as he opened the door of the FBI office in Minnesota. “My office is on the third floor. The elevators are that way.”

As they arrived on his floor, an eager-looking redhead greeted them.

“Hey Jarod.”

“Hey Jessie, are there any messages for me?”

“No sir.”

“Alright, thank you. Oh, Jessie, this is my wife, Parker. She’s going to be my assistant for this case. Parker, this is Jessie, my secretary.”

“Nice to finally meet you.” Jessie smiled as she shook Parker’s hand. “Jarod has told us so much about you.”

“Oh, he has, has he? You really should fill me in on his gossip.” Parker couldn’t help but smile back at the enthusiastic woman.

“Ooh, I’d love to. You seem like such an interesting woman. You want to meet for lunch?”

Parker was taken aback by the sudden invite. She’d never met female friends to talk over lunch before.

“We’ll let you know.” Jarod grinned nervously and dragged Parker into his office and quickly closed the door.

“What the heck did you tell her about me?” Parker snapped as her eyes turned cold again.

“Only the truth.”

“The truth?”

“Yes, Parker.”

“Then you won’t mind that I accept her invite.”

“Wha…” Before he could assemble a decent answer, she had already walked out again and confirmed their lunch date.

“What the heck did you did that for?” He asked stunned as she walked back inside his office.

“I just want to know what you’ve been telling people about me. That way I can adjust to the pretend even better.”

He looked stunned at her and then chuckled. “I knew you’d be a good pretender if you wanted.”

“Shove it, labrat.” She tried hiding a grin but failed miserably, so she just tried to change the subject. “So, what’s on the agenda today, inspector Gadget?”

“Gadget?” He asked surprised.

“Forget it, just go rent the movie.”

He just shook his head and plucked his agenda from his desk.

“In about an hour we’re meeting Tracy. We think she was his victim before the twins. Since it happened she’s been living in a shell. She won’t go to school; she barely talks, even to her parents, she sits in her room all day, on her bed, just rocking back and forth.” He let out a deep sigh. “In the afternoon we have an appointment with the twins.”

*Jarod, Agent Wilkens expects you and your wife in his office* Jessie’s voice sounded through the intercom.

Jarod pushed a button. “Thank you, we’ll be there in a few minutes.” Then he turned back to Parker. “You ready to dazzle my boss?”

“I was born ready.” She flashed him a smile so dazzling that he felt his heart skip a few beats.

“Yeah, that’ll definitely do the trick.” He mumbled between his teeth and showed her the way to Agents Wilkens’ office.

 

***

 

“Good morning Tracy.” Jarod said as they entered the girl’s room.

Tracy just grunted and hid her head deeper in her arms.

“Do you remember me? My name is Jarod and I came by last week. I brought someone I’d like you to meet.” Jarod took Parker’s hand. “This is Parker, she’s my wife and she’s here to help you too.”

Tracy peeked over her arms at Parker.

“Hey Tracy, it’s so nice to meet you.” Parker said and carefully sat on the bed. “I know that you don’t know me yet and that I don’t know you, but I want to change that. So if there’s anything you’d want to talk to me about, just talk.” She softly put her hand on the girls shoulder. “Ok?”

The black-haired girl slowly looked up at Parker. Her deep green eyes bore deep into Parker’s soul and she was stunned by their intensity. The nod was so little that Parker almost missed it.

“That’s great Tracy.” Parker smiled and caressed her hair. “The same goes for Jarod. If there’s anything you want to talk to him about, just talk. Jarod’s a great guy and between you and me, in his heart he’s still a kid too. I mean, he’s addicted to Pez.”

Jarod softly smiled at her comment and he was surprised by how gentle Parker was with the girl. But what happened next surprised him even more.

“Pez?” Tracy asked and glanced from Parker to Jarod and back.

Jarod’s mouth fell open. He had only talked to the girl once before, but he couldn’t get a spoken reaction out of her. If he had known that Pez would do the trick…

“Yes, Pez.” Jarod softly laughed and took out his Spiderman dispenser. “Here you go. You can keep it if you want.”

Tracy carefully took the dispenser from Jarod and popped a Pez in her mouth; a small smile appeared on her lips as she sucked on it. “Yummy.” She mumbled and handed the dispenser back to Jarod. “Thank you.”

Jarod’s smile grew even wider. “You’re welcome Tracy. If you want another one, just let me know, ok?”

Tracy nodded and looked back at Parker. “Do you like horses?”

“I love horses.” Parker honestly answered.

“I have a horse.” Tracy said, but her face clouded. “She’s called Beauty, but I don’t think she remembers me.”

“Why wouldn’t she remember you?” Parker asked.

“Because it’s been so long since I’ve seen her.”

“You want to go see her now?”

“No, I don’t want to go outside.”

“Why not, Tracy?”

“The bad man will get me.” She softly sobbed and hid her head in her arms again.

Jarod was absolutely stunned at how easily Parker got the girl talking. He sat down on the other side of the bed and took Parker’s hand in his, giving her a reassuring nod. Parker felt her heart skip a beat by his action, but she ignored it and turned back to Tracy. She slowly took the girl in her arms and was surprised when Tracy wrapped her small arms around her waist and buried her head in Parker’s lap, sobbing softly. Jarod and Parker got teary-eyed at the very emotional scene. Jarod moved to Parker’s side of the bed and put his arm around her shoulder, to his surprise Parker laid her head on his shoulder, using his closeness and strength to stay strong herself. The three of them stayed like this for what seemed hours, comforting each other and simply being there for each other.

Finally Tracy loosened her grip on Parker and looked up the two grown-ups who were still holding each other. She softly smiled. “Do you have kids?” She asked.

Hearing the voice of the girl, Jarod and Parker were pulled back to the present and quickly let go of each other.

“Uh… no…” Jarod answered, trying to slow down his heartbeat. Feeling Parker in his arms was amazing, but not something that could last.

“Don’t you love each other?”

Jarod swallowed hard and Parker slightly blushed.

“Tracy,” She said. “It’s not because people are married that they want kids too.”

“Why not? You’d be great parents.”

“We just weren’t blessed with a child yet.” Jarod said, trying to stay clear of the ‘love’ subject too.

“But you want kids?”

They both automatically nodded and answered ‘yes’ in unison. Taken aback by each other’s answer, they desperately searched for another subject.

“Tracy, you really don’t want go see Beauty?” Parker quickly asked.

“Yes, but I’m afraid.”

“We’ll be with you all the time. And if you feel afraid and you want to come home, just let us know and we’ll take you right back.” Jarod said.

Tracy nodded. “Ok, I’ll go to Beauty, but you have to promise to stay with me all the time.”

“We promise.” Parker said and Jarod nodded.

On the way to the car, Jarod called Jessie to cancel their appointment with the twins and set it for another date. Right now they were making very good progress with Tracy and they couldn’t quit now. The chance of the girl crawling back in her shell was too big if they left her now. Parker took the phone over from him to reset her lunch date with Jessie to a dinner date that evening.

 

“Beauty!” Tracy screamed as they walked towards the horse’s pen.

A magnificent beige horse galloped towards Tracy.

“She’s coming! She still knows me!” Tracy laughed and climbed up the fence, petting Beauty when she was close enough.

“Of course she still knows you. You never forget your best friend.” Parker said and glanced at Jarod. He gave her a soft smile.

“That’s true.” He said, but it wasn’t aimed at Tracy and Parker knew it.

“Oh my, Tracy’s back?” A female voice sounded behind them.

Jarod shook her hand and introduced himself and Parker and told them what they were doing here. The woman introduced herself as Francisca McKenna, Tracy’s trainer.

“Can I ride Beauty again?” Tracy asked.

“Of course you can. Let me get her gear and I’ll be right back.” Francisca answered and walked back towards the stables.

Tracy was exultant as she rode Beauty. Jarod and Parker looked at the scene and felt happy too.

“Parker, you’re amazing with kids.” Jarod said and looked at her.

“So are you.” She answered and softly smiled. A sudden gush of cold wind made her shiver. Jarod took of his coat and hung it around her shoulders. Both suddenly had a flashback to Carthis as their hands touched and an electric current shot through them both. Their eyes locked and a comfortable silence fell between them. Jarod slowly inched closer to Parker and she did the same. A scream filled the air and they pulled apart. Another almost-kiss that wasn’t meant to be. Both looked at Tracy as she screamed again and they let out a relieved breath. The girl was screaming out of joy. And although Jarod loved it that Tracey was feeling so happy, he silently cursed her for breaking up their intimate moment. Parker tried to get the overwhelming feelings for Jarod out of her system. She had almost kissed him… AGAIN!! This couldn’t be happening! This just couldn’t be happening. She couldn’t be feeling this for him… anyone but him… she was supposed to catch the rat and drag him back to his lab… She wasn’t supposed to fall in love with him… That realisation was so overwhelming that she had to steady herself against the fence. She was falling in love with Jarod and deep down inside she knew she had loved him for as long as she could remember. But this couldn’t be. This wasn’t meant to be. He was the hunted, she the hunter. That’s how it was supposed to be.

 

The silence between them the rest of the day was palpable and when they split up as he went back to the office and she went to the restaurant, not a word was said.

 

“It’s amazing really.” Jessie said after they had ordered their meal.

“What is?” Parker asked.

“Whenever Jarod talked about you, I could see pure love shining in his eyes. I thought it was amazing that any man cares that much about a woman. But when I saw you together this morning and especially tonight, you both looked so detached, especially you. I know it’s none of my business but it’s amazing that he clearly loves you so very much and that you barely seem to care for him. I mean, I never met a man who loves me so much as Jarod loves you, but if I did, I would try everything to love him just as much. So I just wonder why, after you’ve been married for three years, you stay with him because you obviously don’t love him.”

Parker let out a deep sigh. This was weird for her; she never had female friends to talk to about her feelings. Especially not her feelings concerning Jarod. Heck, she never talked about her feelings to anyone. But somehow Jessie made her feel comfortable and for some weird reason she needed to defend herself.

“I do love him.” She admitted more to herself then to Jessie. “It’s just that we’ve been apart a long time and I can’t show my feelings that easily.”

 “Yes, three months is a long time to be apart from the person you love. Jarod told me you were working in Delaware. What were you doing there?”

~Hunting the guy you think is my husband.~ “I worked for a corporation that needed help in locating some lost specimens.”

“Did you find them?”

“Sort of…” Parker smiled. “So, what else did Jarod gossip about? I want to know everything.”

“Oh, he never said anything negative about you. On the contrary, it was like you were perfect. He told us he fell in love with you the first time he met you when he was like ten years old. You guys stayed friends for a long time, but then you switched schools and you lost contact. He told me you broke his heart back then, but he never blamed you because your father sent you away. And then when you guys met again in France. Oh my, it was the most romantic thing I ever heard.”

Parker softly smiled. “Yes, it is a small world. He really told you he fell in love with me the first time we met?”

“Yes. That feeling wasn’t mutual?”

Another smile flustered over Parker’s face. “The feeling was more than mutual. But there was always someone watching us and my father was always close by, so we never really got to admit our feelings for each other. I also think we were too young to realise what love was. When my father sent me away… to another school… I was so angry with him and Jarod. I realise it was stupid to be angry with Jarod, but I couldn’t help myself. I felt like he had betrayed and abandoned me.”

“Hey, everything is ok now, right? You guys found each other again and it all worked out.”

~It will never work out for us with The Centre chasing us… him… why did I think us?~ “Yeah, that’s true.”

“So, when are you planning to have children, I think you’d be great parents.”

“Oh, probably never. Jarod… Jarod can’t have children and we’re both so busy with work that we don’t want to adopt either.”

“And in-vitro?”

“No, we’d rather not. Our families had some bad experiences with that and if we want a child of our own, we want it to be made in the most natural way possible.” Parker said with a slight grin.

Jessie giggled. “I’m sure Jarod is quite the stud in bed.”

Parker looked at her with her mouth open. ~I sure hope he is… ok, where the heck did that come from?~

Jessie blushed. “Gosh, I’m sorry, that just sort of slipped my tongue. Just pretend I never said it. I mean, he’s still my boss, it’s none of my business.”

“Jessie, take it easy.” Parker smiled. “We’re just two women, talking about their men. It’s not like you’ll tell him what I said, right?”

“No, of course not. What happens in women-talk, stays in women-talk.”

Parker let out a short laugh. “Good, then I can tell you that Jarod is quite the stud in bed.”

Jessie giggled again. “I knew it. Parker, you are one lucky girl. Not many people find their soul mate.”

Was that really what Jarod was: her soul mate? She thought back to their first meeting when there was still a glass wall between them. She remembered how her heart started beating faster when she saw his friendly and surprised face. And although she didn’t know him at all, she never could shake the feeling that he had something familiar, something comforting, something… something that made her feel at home with him. Jessie was probably right; Jarod and she were soul mates. Another smile appeared on her face at that thought.

“Yes, I think we really are soul mates.” But deep inside she knew that even soul mates didn’t always find happiness together.

 

When Jarod got home late that night, he didn’t bother to make dinner and went straight to bed. His mind was filled with thoughts so he wasn’t able to get to sleep right away. It was filled with hope that maybe there was still a chance that he could get Parker to reveal her feelings for him. He knew she felt the same for him as he felt for her. He could see it in her eyes, feel it in her touch and see it in her movements. He loved her and he was sure she loved him too. But he had to be careful, if he pushed her too hard, her ice-queen wall would go up again and all could be lost. If that happened there would be nothing to stop her from dragging him back to that hellhole. He remembered the pain again he had felt after her rejection in Scotland and he softly sighed. There was no way that he could allow her to put her ice-queen wall up again and give him another rejection. It was like he told Sydney on the phone yesterday: he wouldn’t survive another rejection from her.

 

Parker came home about an hour after Jarod had fallen asleep. The door of his bedroom was still open and she peeked inside. His long form was spread all over the bed. He was only wearing black sweatpants and he had fallen asleep on top of the sheets. Her eyes trailed his muscled chest as she followed its slow rising and falling. She let out a soft sigh. Her talk with Jessie that evening had really opened her eyes about her feelings for him. She loved him more than life itself but she also knew she could never give into her feelings. She couldn’t let this happen, no matter how much she wanted to give into her feelings. She had to put her ice-queen wall up again, if only for his safety.

 

***

 

The next morning the silence between them continued and Jarod noticed how her ice-queen wall was starting to go up again. He couldn’t continue like this so after breakfast he let out a soft sigh and looked over the table at Parker who was reading the paper.

“Parker, we need to talk.”

“About what?” She asked, not looking up.

“Us.”

“I told you before, Jarod. There is no us. I’m the hunter, you’re the prey. That’s the way it is and will be until I get you back to the Centre.” Her voice was cold and her eyes were still fixed on the paper.

“Damned Parker. Don’t give me that bullshit.” He slightly raised his voice. That made her look up at him in surprise. It always took a lot of time before he lost his patience with her and apparently now he was losing his patience.

“Jarod, please.” She let out a sigh and looked back down, shocked by the pain she had seen in his eyes. “I can’t do this. Not now and not ever.”

He got off his chair and walked towards her. Gently he cupped her face in his hands and turned her to face him. “Look me straight into my eyes and tell me you don’t love me.”

Her heart raced because of his touch and his question and she was sure he could feel it through her skin. But she couldn’t let her wall drop now. She looked into his soft and pleading brown eyes.

“I don’t love you.”

“You looked away.” He stated with a slight grin.

“I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“No, I didn’t.”

He closed the distance between them and softly brushed her lips with his. A shiver went through her body as she returned his kiss just as softly. He released her and a grin appeared on his face.

“Yes you did.”

She let out a breath she didn’t realise she was holding.

“Jarod, this will make everything so complicated.”

“I don’t care.” He whispered, his breath caressing her skin.

“Jarod…” She tried, but was stopped when his lips caressed her lips again. She couldn’t help herself and returned the kiss as it deepened. Slowly their mouths opened and their tongues started to fight for control of the kiss. The moment seemed to stop time for both of them and their hands were furiously exploring each other’s bodies. When they finally released each other, they had to catch their breaths.

They were still clung to each other when he let out a deep sigh. “We have to get going to the office.”

She slowly nodded and pulled him closer for a quick kiss and then smiled as she walked out of his strong arms. “Let’s get going genius.”

He smirked and grabbed his bag. They walked outside hand in hand and both had a big smile plastered on their face.

“Hey Mr. Kane!” Cindy’s shrill voice sounded before they opened the car door.

Parker smirked and wrapped her arms around Jarod, pulling him into a longing and sensual kiss as she pushed him against the car and let her hands roam over his muscled chest. He breathed heavily when she finally released him and when she glanced at the place were Cindy stood, she noticed the blonde bimbo was gone. Damn, that made her feel good.

“Damn, Parker, I need more women who fancy me.” Jarod grinned and gently caressed her cheek.

She just gave him a quick kiss, opened the door and slid inside.

The grin stayed plastered on his face all the way to the office.

 

When they entered his floor, Jessie immediately noticed the change between them. They had pulled apart from what seemed like a very passionate kiss when the elevator doors opened and they walked into the office hand in hand, not able to stop glancing and smiling at each other.

“Good morning, Jarod, Parker.”

“Good morning, Jessie.” Jarod smiled

“Hey Jessie, thanks again for dinner, I had a great time.” Parker winked at her friend.

Jessie threw them a big grin. “You’re welcome, Parker. I had a great time too.”

 “I think that next time I should join the both of you.” Jarod smiled and softly kissed Parker’s neck.

She giggled and lovingly slapped his chest. “You wish labrat. This is a ladies thing.”

He looked at her with fake hurt. And her smile only grew.

“Can’t you live without me for an hour?”

“No.” He faked a pout and pulled her closer.

“Guys, please.” Jessie said, shaking her head. “Jarod, go into your office with your wife and seduce her there.”

“Gladly.” Jarod laughed and pulled Parker into his office.

Jessie smiled and shook her head again. Parker was one lucky gal.

 

In his office they continued the exploration of each other’s mouths and bodies. He pushed her towards the couch and gently lay her down as he started fiddling with the buttons of her blouse.

“Jarod.” She moaned. “We’re in your office.”

“I know.” He growled and started kissing her neck.

“What if someone enters?” She asked between moans. The things he was doing to her neck  should be outlawed. No! Bad idea… What he did to her neck was amazing. ~If he can give me this feeling by just kissing and licking my neck, what else could he do?~

“Jessie will stop them.”

“What about the pretend?” ~Why am I trying to stop him?~

“We’re meeting the twins at ten, so that still gives us about two hours.”

Her blouse was fully open now and his hands and mouth explored her naked skin.

“Jarod.” She moaned again. “I didn’t picture our first time on the couch in your office.”

He looked up at her in surprise. “You pictured our first time?”

“Yes, I did.” She answered and blushed slightly.

“So, what did you picture?” He asked her with a grin.

She returned his grin, but morphed it into a seductive glare as she pulled him closer and whispered in his ear. “In a big bed and all night long.”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.” He whispered and kissed her longingly.

*Guys, sorry to bother you, but Agent Wilkens wants to see you in his office about the progress on Tracy.*

Jarod groaned, got up from the couch and walked towards his desk where he pushed in the button of the speaker.

“Thank you Jessie, we’ll be right there.”

 

The meeting took much longer than they expected, so by the time they got out of Wilkins’ office, they had to leave to go visit the twins.

 

***

 

The two girls weren’t as easy to talk to as Tracy was. They were highly dependent of each other and mainly ignored Jarod and Parker’s talks and just clung onto each other and barely said a word. Not even Pez did the trick this time.

It was late in the afternoon when Jarod and Parker went back to the office. They were both exhausted from trying to get the girls to talk.

After filing in their report they said goodbye to Jessie and left for their house.

 

Jarod glanced at Parker and felt worried. She just stared out of the car window without saying a word. Carefully he took her hand and gently squeezed it.

“Are you ok?” He asked.

“I don’t know.” She sighed, not taking her eyes of the passing scene.

“I know today wasn’t easy. These kids are very troubled and I know you care about it, about them. I do too. But they will be ok, Parker, we’ll make sure that they’ll be ok.”

“I know we will, it’s our job, it’s what this pretend is about, but…” She was interrupted by the shrill sound of her cell phone. Jarod looked at her in surprise. Taking it out of her pocket, she glanced at the name.

“It’s Sydney.”

“I didn’t know you kept it on, what if someone called when we were in the office?” His voice slowly rose. She knew he wasn’t really angry at her, just frustrated and worried about the pretend.

“I have to take this, Jarod. If I don’t they will get worried and start looking for me.”

“Fine, just keep it short, you never know who’s tracking and listening.”

“What?” She grumbled as she flipped open her phone and brought it to her ear. “What? No, that can’t be… of course…”

He heard the distress in her voice and reassuringly squeezed her hand; to his surprise she squeezed back and almost leaned into his touch.

“I’ll be fine… I don’t know…” Her voice turned into a whisper and when he glanced at her face he saw tears forming in her eyes.

“Of course I’ll be there… yes… ok… thank you Sydney.” She closed her phone and let out a sigh that turned into a sob. Jarod was really worried now and steered the car to the side and came to a stop. He turned to her and put his arms around her; she leaned into his embrace and started sobbing uncontrollably.

“Parker, please, talk to me. Tell me what happened.”

“They found his body, Jarod. He’s really dead.” She whispered between sobs.

“I’m sorry.” He honestly said and gently kissed her temple.

Although she still wasn’t sure if Mr. Parker was her father, to her he was and always would be. Now that they found his body, the constant worry for him was over and now she could finally grieve, but it wouldn’t be easy. Losing one of your parents was never easy. Jarod knew this and would be there to support her. Mr. Parker never was his best friend, but his daughter was and always would be.

She took a couple of deep breaths and pulled away from his strong arms.

“The funeral is in three days. I have to be there.” She whispered.

“Of course.” He nodded.

She stared outside again and after letting out a sigh he started the car and drove on.

 

“I’ll order in Chinese.” He stated after walking inside the house.

She just nodded and sat down on the couch.

After making the call he sat down next to her and gently put his arm around her shoulders.

“I’m here for you, Parker.” He whispered and kissed her shoulder. She let out a sigh, stood up and walked away from him towards the kitchen. For a moment he didn’t know what to do, his touch apparently didn’t give her the comforting feeling he expected. She even seemed to avoid him. But his hesitation only lasted a few seconds. He wouldn’t let it end this way. Never this way. He got up from the couch and followed her inside the kitchen.

When he walked inside, he got a flashback to the first night they were here together. She stood in front of the window and just stared outside.

“Don’t… just don’t.”

“Parker, I…”

“Jarod, just leave me alone, ok?”

“I can’t. You can’t go through this alone. You already denied my help when your mother died. I can’t let you go through something like this alone again.”

“I don’t need your help, Jarod.”

He let out a sigh and walked towards her. “Don’t do this Parker, please.” He gently laid his hands on her shoulders.

“No.” She huffed and shrugged off his hands. “I don’t need anyone. I can’t care about anyone. I’ll just end up alone, standing in front of graves.”

He didn’t have a chance to reply as she practically ran past him and out of the kitchen. A moment later he heard the door of her room slam. Another sigh escaped his lips and it took every ounce of his willpower not to run after her and bang down that door. She needed time and apparently she didn’t need him.

 

“Parker, the food is here.” He said gently through her closed door. “Can I come in, please?” He didn’t get a response, so he tried the knob. To his surprise the door opened. She had never locked it. Damn, if he had known that…

She sat on her bed and was staring out of the window again. He stood in the doorway and looked at her beautiful but troubled form. He could read her like a map and right now that map seemed very lost.

“Do you want to eat it here or are you coming down?” He asked.

“I’m not hungry.” She croaked. He heard the pain in her voice and he knew she hadn’t stopped crying. Putting the bag of food on the cupboard, he walked over to her and sat next to her on the bed. He kept his distance; he didn’t want to drive her away again.

“Please Parker, talk to me. I’m here for you.”

She was surprised by the tenderness, worry and care in his voice. Not even Thomas had ever sounded like that. No one ever had. The only person that ever talked to her like this was… Jarod, after her mother had died. Slowly she turned her head and studied his face. Tenderness, worry and care were written all over it. The same tenderness, worry and care she had seen on his face when they were kids and he tried to comfort her. She had brushed him off then and told him to go to hell. It was the stupidest thing she had ever done.

“I don’t know how to depend on someone else.” She whispered so softly that he had to strain to understand her.

“You can always depend on me, Monica. Always.” He said as he gently took her hand and reassuringly squeezed it.

“I know and that’s what scares me.” She sighed, ignoring the fact that he used her first name. It didn’t really bother her; on the contrary, it made her feel more at ease when he said it out loud. She inched closer towards him and laid her head on his legs. He lovingly brushed her hair and her cheek and wrapped his other arm around her trembling body. They stayed like this until the moon shone through the window.

“I have to leave tomorrow.” She finally said.

“I know.” He replied.

“Stay with me tonight.”

“Of course.”

 

***

 

By the time he woke up, she was gone. He hadn’t really expected it any other way, but he still missed her beside him. His nightmares hadn’t come and he had slept peacefully for the first night in a very long time. Damn, he missed her.

He took his phone off the nightstand and dialled a familiar number.

*This is Sydney.*

“Be there for her Syd. She needs you now more then ever before.”

*Jarod?*

“Sydney, just tell me you’ll be there for her.”

*Of course.*

“Thank you.” Jarod whispered and closed the phone.

 

Sydney looked strangely at the phone in his hand. What was going on between his protégé and Miss Parker?

At that moment the door of his office opened and Miss Parker walked in. To anyone else it looked like the ice-queen was back in full force. But he knew her better than that and he saw that something had happened. Something that had changed her.

“Miss Parker.”

“Sydney. How are the thumb-less-man and Mr-wheezy-corpse reacting to the news?”

“I have barely seen them these last days. But how were your days of leave? I’m sorry that they were interrupted by this.”

“I had a great time. Thank you.” A slight smile appeared on her lips. Anyone else would have missed it, but Sydney didn’t. “Maybe I’ll go back after all of this. I still have some… unfinished business there.”

“Oh, hello Miss Parker.”

“Broots.” She said with a smirk.

“I’m so sorry about your… uh…”

“Father, Broots. Even if he isn’t my biological father, for me he is and always will be my father.”

Broots nodded and excused himself. He needed to get back to the tech room.

“Miss Parker, will you be alright?”

“Do I have a choice, Syd?”

“If you need to talk. I’m here for you.”

“Jarod called you, didn’t he?”

“Yes, and he sounded worried.”

She let out a soft sigh. “I want to talk to you. But not here, where the walls have eyes and ears.”

He nodded. “My cabin. We can stay there until the day of the funeral.”

She agreed and they decided to meet each other there that evening.

 

***

 

Angelo was hurrying along the many ventilation shafts.

“Warn daughter, warn daughter.” He was reciting it as if it were a mantra.

He almost fell out of the opening as he pushed the grade away. Sydney jumped up from his chair.

“Angelo, are you ok?”

“Warn daughter, warn daughter.”

“Miss Parker has left already, Angelo. I am meeting her tonight. If you want I can give her the message.”

Angelo quickly shook his head. “Friend will help. Warn friend and daughter.” He jumped back inside the vent and hurried away.

Sydney let out a sigh. Angelo had looked very worried and if he rather wanted to involve Jarod instead of him, that meant something was very wrong.

 

***

 

Jarod was pacing his office frantically. The message he had just received from Angelo couldn’t come at a worse time. He had finally gotten Tracy to talk about that horrible day. And now he had to leave. Damned, he didn’t want to leave, but he couldn’t ignore this either. He had to warn Miss Parker, he had to tell her about this. But he would come back here. He had to finish this. One testimony wasn’t enough to get that monster in jail for life. He needed more of the kids to talk. But right now he had to find Miss Parker. He had tried her cell phone more than once but all he got was her voicemail. Finally he had decided to call Sydney again. The older man had told him that he was meeting Miss Parker at his cabin that night. Not in that many words of course, but Jarod had understood what he wanted to say.

Jarod packed up his gear, stepped outside of his office and looked at Jessie.

“I have to leave.” He simply said.

“Parker needs you?” She asked.

“Yes, the death of her father has touched her harder then she expected. I don’t want her to go through it alone.”

Jessie nodded. “When will you return?”

“I have no idea.” That was probably the first truth he had told her in a long time.

“Give her my greetings.”

“I will.” He said with a nod and walked outside.

 

***

 

“Miss Parker, are you here?” Sydney asked as he walked into the dark cabin and threw his stuff down. “Miss Parker?”

“Yeah, Syd, I’m here.” She whispered.

He turned towards the sound. She was rolled in blanket and curled up on the couch. Sydney felt a stab of worry when he saw her like that.

“Angelo and Jarod have been looking for you. Apparently Angelo had something very important to tell you.”

She sat up and looked at her old friend. “What was it about?”

“I have no idea. Neither of them wanted to talk to me. But I think Jarod is coming here.”

“I don’t want him to come, Syd.”

“No one knows we are here. He is safe here.”

“It’s not his safety that I’m worried about. I… I don’t know if I can face him.”

Sydney let out a soft sigh and sat besides her. “You saw him when you were on your leave, didn’t you?”

She slowly nodded.

“What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Parker, I’ve known you and Jarod for almost your entire lives. I know something is going on between you. I want to know what it is. I worry about the both of you. Please tell me what happened.”

“I… We… I knew he was there. I waited for him and instead of bringing him in, he talked me into helping him with the pretend he was doing. I couldn’t drag him away from it, he was helping kids. Kids that desperately needed help. And I… Damned Syd, I broke his heart in Scotland.” She let out a sob and Sydney put his arm around her shoulder.

~Something really did happen between them on that darn island.~ “Just start at the beginning Parker.”

“When we were on Carthis we talked. I mean, really talked about *us*. One thing led to another and we almost kissed.” A sigh escaped her lips. “We would have kissed if we hadn’t been interrupted. After that everything went so fast and before either of us realised it, we were surrounded by sweepers and he was dragged to a limousine. The next time we were alone, we were sitting in the limousine on the tarmac of the airstrip. He never said it out loud, but he told me… he told me he loved me right there. I turned away from him and saw his heart break. But how could I do anything else? My father, Raines, Lyle and the African goons were right next to the limousine.” She was now sobbing much louder and buried her head in Sydney’s shoulder. “I told myself nothing could ever happen between us. I mean, I’m supposed to hunt him and drag him back to a place we both despise. Of course yesterday, during that pretend, things escalated and when he asked me to look him in the eyes and tell me I didn’t love him… I couldn’t… I tried, but I looked away and of course the genius saw that. We kissed, right there and then…” Her voice turned into a whisper. “It was the most amazing feeling I ever had.”

Sydney softly smiled at her confession. Venting her feelings like this wasn’t easy for her, and he was glad she finally decided to confide in him.

“Then you called about my father and that night Jarod stayed with me. Nothing happened between us. He just held me and comforted me. But I barely slept and before the sun was up, I left without saying a word. He was still asleep and I just left him. I never… never told him…” Another deep sob escaped her throat.

“He knows.” Sydney whispered into her ear. “Otherwise he never would have challenged you to confess your feelings. He was so afraid that you would break his heart again.”

“He told you?” She asked surprised as she looked up at him.

“Not that it was about you. But now it all starts to make sense. He told me that he wouldn’t be able to handle it if someone broke his heart again. That someone was you.”

“That’s just it Syd, I left him without a word, without saying goodbye, without an explanation. I probably broke his heart again.”

“No you didn’t.”

Both people on the couch jumped up at the sound of the other voice.

“Jarod?” Parker gasped.

“Parker, you look like hell.” He grinned and slowly walked over to her.

“So do you.” She whispered with a slight smile and brushed away her tears.

He wrapped his arms around her waist and almost lifted her off the ground as she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head in his shoulder. Sydney looked at the scene with a smile plastered on his face. ~Finally.~ Was all he could think.

They stayed clung together for a long time until she finally loosened her grip around his neck and softly touched his slightly stubbled cheek.

“We have to talk.” He stated.

“Sydney told me about Angelo.”

“Yes, he sent me a message you should see. It’s part of a DSA.”

She nodded and reluctantly stepped out of his embrace when he reached for his laptop. He set it on the dining table and flipped it open. It only took a few seconds before the program was ready to run.

“Just push play when you’re ready.” He said and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her and softly kissing her hair.

She nodded and pushed the key. The further the movie played, the more he felt her tense up in his arms. When it was over she stayed silent and blinked a couple of times. Jarod looked over at Sydney and the man looked a bit pale.

“Are you ok?” Jarod whispered in her ear.

“How can I be?” She gasped, pried herself out of his embrace and walked up the stairs.

Jarod let out a deep sigh.

“Go to her.”

Jarod looked up in surprise at his mentor.

“She needs you.”

Jarod nodded and hurried up the stairs.

 

“We need to talk about it.” Jarod said as he entered her room. She stood by the window and stared outside.

“They used us. What is there to talk about?”

“We need to get him out of there. We can’t let Raines or Lyle get their hands on him. They forged your father’s will to get their hands on that boy. We can’t let them do that.”

She turned around and looked into his tender brown eyes. Her own eyes were filled with tears.

“Then what do you want to do? March in there and take him from his room? Or do you plan on kidnapping Raines and asking that boy in return. Wake up, Jarod. We’ll never get close to him.”

“I won’t let him spend the rest of his life there. I grew up there. I don’t want him to go through the same hell. And I know you don’t want that either. I still had Sydney and you to keep me sane. He’ll have Lyle and Raines. What kind of a man do you think he’ll become under their influence?”

“Then what do you propose? That we run with him and spend the rest of our lives running from them? What kind of upbringing is that for a child? Always on the run, never any good friends, never a steady life.”

“When he has parents that love him, that won’t matter. I’d rather have had that kind of life than the life I had at The Centre.”

“You’ve never even met him. How can you love him?”

“Because he is a part of me. And a part of you, Parker. He is our son. We have to protect him. Your father confessed it all in his will and he wanted you to raise him, away from The Centre. Away from Raines and Lyle. Respect the last will of your father and take care of our son.”

She stayed silent for a few seconds. “What about the answers we were looking for? What about your family?”

“I don’t care about the answers. I want to finally start living. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of being alone. I need you by my side, Monica. I don’t care about anything else. Together we can face anything.” That last part he almost whispered as he cupped her face in his hands. “I can’t live without you anymore.” He closed the distance between them and softly kissed her.

After their lips, she stared into his eyes. The overwhelming feelings for him were tearing through the body again and she gave up the fight with them. Her heart, mind and body were filled with love for the man that held her in his arms. All she did was close the distance between them again. The soft kiss quickly turned into a passionate one and it didn’t take them long to start shedding clothes.

 

Sydney was sitting downstairs on the couch, quietly reading a book when he heard the clear noises of lovemaking coming from above. A smile appeared on his lips.

“Finally.” He chuckled and turned back to his book, choosing to ignore the noise.

 

The next morning Jarod opened his eyes and felt the weight and warmth of another person on his body. A smile spread over his face as he remembered last night. A big bed and all night long, exactly as she had pictured it to be. The look of pure joy and ecstasy on her face when he had made her come was an image that he would cherish for the rest of his life. And he silently whished that he would see that face a lot more.

She stirred in his arms and slowly raised her head.

“Good morning, beautiful.” He whispered.

“Good morning.” She moaned and lovingly kissed him. “Damn, I have to pee.” She groaned and reluctantly got out of the bed. He stared at her nude form as she made her way to the bathroom.

“You truly are a beautiful woman.” He said. She turned and saw pure adoration and love shining in his eyes. He got out of bed too and stretched his long muscled form.

“You’re not that bad yourself.” She winked and closed the bathroom door.

He grinned and looked around for his shorts. To his surprise they were hanging over her bedside lamp. He took them off and put them on. A soft laugh escaped his throat as he looked at the scene around him. Their clothes were spread all over the place in absolute disorder. He chuckled when he saw her bra dangling from the chandelier. Taking it off, he let the silk glide through his fingers.

“What are you planning to do with that genius?”

He turned to her and slightly blushed. “I didn’t really get to touch it that long last night, so I just wanted to know what it feels like.”

“Hmm, and you like it?”

“I love it.” He grinned and threw it to her. “I’ll get you a cup of coffee and some breakfast. You just wait in bed.”

“Why? You still have plans?” She winked and sensually walked over to him.

He swallowed hard when she almost slithered her body around him. “Maybe.” He croaked.

“I sure hope so.” She whispered in his ear and longingly kissed his lips.

“You know, we can always skip breakfast and coffee.”

“No chance. I need coffee in the morning.”

“Alright, I’ll be back in five minutes.” He gave her a quick kiss and hurried out of the room.

She chuckled and looked around. The room was a mess and their clothes were everywhere. ~He’s one horny little lab rat. Well, not really that little...~ She chuckled again and crawled back into bed.

 

“Oh, hey Syd.” Jarod said surprised when he saw the older man sitting in the kitchen.

“Good morning.” Sydney replied with a smile. Jarod couldn’t hide his grin as the smile on his mentor’s face told him that he knew what had happened.

“Any coffee left?” Jarod asked.

“Of course. I know she needs her coffee in the morning. There are some croissants left in the bag too.”

“Thanks.” Jarod said, quickly filled two cups and grabbed the bag.

“Jarod.” Sydney said before the younger man left the kitchen.

“Yes?”

“I’m very happy for the both of you.”

Another grin spread over Jarod’s face. “Thank you, Sydney.”

 

“You were right, you know.” Parker said after taking a sip of the coffee.

“About what?” He asked as he propped a piece of croissant in his mouth.

“Sex can be better than coffee with the right guy.” She simply stated.

“They don’t call me a genius for nothing. Some stuff I really do know.” He grinned.

She put her coffee on her nightstand and threw the empty bag to the floor.

“But you’re my genius.” She growled in his ear and crawled on his body.

“You bet.” He groaned and wrapped her arms around her.

 

It was a couple of hours later when they both finally made it downstairs fully clothed.

“Miss Parker, nice to see you today.” Sydney said and gave her a soft smile.

She tried to give him an icy glare but completely failed and a smile appeared on her lips too. Jarod had his arm around her waist and kissed her neck.

“We still have some planning to do.” He said.

Parker nodded and Sydney got up from the couch.

They sat around the dinner table. Jarod opened his laptop and checked his mail to see if Angelo had sent him anything new, then he looked around the table. “They have our son and Raines and Lyle will do anything to keep him in their grasp. We have to get him out and we have to keep him safe. I’ve been in and out of The Centre more times than I can remember since I escaped, and with Angelo’s help we’ll have no problem navigating around without anyone noticing our presence. But Angelo sent me the schematics of the surveillance in his room. He is being heavily guarded and we’ll never be able shut down everything. So once we enter his room they’ll know we’re there. The best timing to do this would be during Mr. Parker’s funeral. Most people will be there so The Centre would be almost abandoned. Of course, this only gives us today to plan everything.”

“But Jarod, Sydney and I have to be at the funeral, you’ll be alone in The Centre. That’s too dangerous.”

He heard the distress in her voice and gently squeezed her hand. “Angelo will be there to help me.”

“Oh, please. Angelo?”

“Honey, he’s the one that told us in the first place.”

A soft smile appeared on her lips that confused him.

“What?” He asked.

“You just called me honey.” She chuckled.

“Yeah, I guess I did.” He grinned and gave her a quick kiss. They stared in each other’s eyes for a few moments.

Sydney just smiled at the scene and felt happy for the two people in front of him.

Jarod let out a contented sigh and reluctantly turned back to the screen.

“Anyway, Angelo will be there to help me. He probably knows The Centre better then the people who designed it. He knows the security systems better than me and I designed most of them. Angelo has been helping me from the inside since the moment I escaped.”

Both Miss Parker and Sydney laughed.

“No wonder Raines could never find his mole.” Sydney said.

“That wheezing-bag couldn’t find a mole if it bit him in the ass.” Parker chuckled.

“Oh, please, don’t give me a mental image.” Jarod laughed.

After a few moments Jarod turned serious again. “There are a few problems along the way though. We can’t use the vents because they’re too small in that area. That means the only entrance is the door. But that door is always guarded by a sweeper. Only the doctor, his nanny, Raines and Lyle are allowed inside. The nanny is our chance to get to our son. Angelo found something out about her that really could work out for us.”

The three of them kept planning the rest of that day and Jarod kept in regular contact with Angelo to give him updates and ask for advice. By midnight they had an almost solid plan.

 

About an hour later Jarod was packing his bag.

“Jarod, if his nanny won’t cooperate, we’ll be back to square one.” Parker said sounding worried.

Jarod looked up from his bag and closed it. “I know honey, I know. She’s the only uncertain factor in this, but we need her. Without her we’ll never get close to our son.”

She closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around him. “Please be careful. I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t lose me.” He assured her and hugged her tight. Then a grin appeared on his face. “You’ll be stuck with me for the rest of your life.”

“God, I hope so.” She whispered, surprising herself by her honesty.

He cupped her face between his hands and softly kissed her.

“Think of me when you need strength tomorrow.” He said between kisses.

She nodded. “I’m going to miss you tonight.”

“Next week we’ll be together again. Keep that in mind.”

“I know.” She sighed. “But I’m still going to miss you.”

A sad smile played on his lips. “I’m going to miss you too, Monica, I’m going to miss you so very much.”

“I’m sorry to interrupt.” Sydney’s voice sounded from the doorway. “But Jarod, you really have to get going if you want to keep our timetable.”

The younger man nodded and stared into Parker’s eyes and his hand lovingly brushed a hair behind her ear. “I love you, Monica Parker.”

A slight gasp escaped her throat but before she could say anything he was gone. “I love you too, Jarod.” She whispered to the empty spot.

Sydney put his hand on her shoulder. “He’ll be ok Parker.”

“I sure hope so Sydney, I sure hope so.”

 

***

 

He looked at the sleeping figure on the bed and let out an inaudible sigh. No, spooking her wouldn’t work to get her cooperation. He needed to talk to her. Just talk. Explain her everything. Only that would work to get her cooperation. She wouldn’t wake up in another hour. He decided to wait in the car and left the house just as quietly as he had entered it.

 

An hour and a half later he stood in front of her door and rang the bell. A greying woman in her late fifties opened the door.

“Yes?” She asked suspiciously.

“Mrs. Carlson, my name is Jarod. I would like to talk to you.”

The name had something familiar to her, but she couldn’t place it. “What is it about?”

“You take care of my son at The Centre.”

At that instant she wanted to shut the door in his face, but there was something in his eyes that told her to do otherwise. His eyes looked so familiar. A slight gasp escaped her throat.

“My gosh, he’s got your eyes.”

A slight smile played on Jarod’s lips. “Could we please talk?”

She nodded and opened the door further to let him in.

After they were seated at her kitchen table and she had poured him a cup of coffee, she started their conversation.

“I thought that boy was Mr. Parker and Brigitte’s son?”

“No, Brigitte only carried him to term. I didn’t know he was my son. They used my sperm and one of his mother’s eggs without our knowledge.”

“Who is his mother?”

“Miss Parker.”

“What?” The older woman gasped. “Why would they want to make such a child?”

“Because of our genes. We both posses a gene called the pretender-gene, if a person with that gene is trained properly, he or she can become anyone he wants to be. Mr. Parker and Raines hoped that if they combined our genes, our child would become an ultimate pretender and by raising him in The Centre, he would stay loyal to them.”

“Well, he is a very bright boy, so they probably succeeded.”

“What’s he like?” Jarod asked.

She saw a spark of curiosity in his eyes that she saw daily in the boy’s eyes. “Just as curious as his father.” She chuckled and Jarod softly laughed. “Jarod, he is a wonderful and bright boy. He is very inquisitive and talkative.”

“Does he have a name?”

“No.” Mrs. Carlson answered with a sigh. “Raines always forbid giving him a name. We just had to call him ‘the boy’. I don’t like it, but I don’t have much of a choice.”

“Then from now on we’ll call him Kyle.”

“That’s a very nice name.”

“It was my younger brother’s name. He died to save my life. He jumped in front of a bullet Lyle fired at me.”

Mrs. Carlson let out another sigh and studied Jarod’s face. “Why are you telling me all of this, Jarod?”

“I need your help getting him out.”

She almost jumped out of her chair and started pacing frantically. “Oh, no, no, no, I can’t help you with that.”

“Please.” Jarod got up and placed his hands on her shoulders, trying to calm her down. “You’re his only chance. Our only chance.”

“Jarod, I can’t. They will kill me.”

“We’ll protect you, we’ll get you away from them.”

“No.”

“You had a son, didn’t you?” Jarod asked.

She looked up at him with a stunned expression. “Yes.”

“How old was he when he died?”

“Six.” She whispered.

“He died at The Centre, didn’t he?”

“Yes.” She said almost inaudible.

“Did you ever get to see his body?”

“No, Dr. Raines said the virus had eaten through his skin. He wanted to spare me that.”

“Raines lied. Just like he always does. Your son didn’t die. Raines made him into a schizophrenic for one of his experiments. Dannie is still alive and under the care of one of my friends.”

Mrs. Carlson just stared at Jarod in utter confusion. After a couple of moments she fell back in her chair and started sobbing uncontrollably. “You’re lying. This can’t be.”

“I wouldn’t lie about something like this.”

She looked into his eyes and saw he spoke the truth. “This can’t be. How could they do that to me? I almost died after loosing Dannie.”

“I know.” Jarod sighed. “Please help me get my son and I’ll help you to get your son back.”

“Dannie is really still alive?”

“Yes.”

“When can I see him?”

“Next week.”

“Only next week?”

“We need that time to cover our tracks.”

She slowly nodded. “If Raines really did that to my son, I’ll get your son out of there. That sweet little boy doesn’t deserve a life like that.”

Jarod let out a deep and relieved sigh and a smile spread over his face. “Thank you so much.”

 

***

 

“Hello little man.” Mrs. Carlson said as she entered Kyle’s room.

“Hello Mrs. Carlson.” The three-year old said politely.

She inched closer to him and whispered in his ear so softly that Kyle had to strain to understand her. “In a minute we’re going to play a game. You have to stay absolutely silent until I tell you to talk again. Ok?”

Kyle looked at her with a face that was filled with wonder and he nodded his head.

“That’s a good boy.” Mrs. Carlson smiled. At that moment she saw the red light of the security camera flicker and then die out. Jarod had warned her that an automatic audio system took over from the video system and that they had to stay silent because neither he nor Angelo could shut it off.

She pressed her finger against her lips and Kyle enthusiastically nodded his head with a big smile on his face. They now only had twenty minutes. She had to hurry. She emptied the box with clean clothes she had been carrying, lifted him up and put him in there. Kyle looked at her with big eyes and again she pressed her finger to her lips. The young boy nodded his head again and she piled his dirty laundry on top of him. It was disgusting, but they didn’t have any other choice. The sweeper outside would never look through his filthy clothes.

She said goodbye to the man outside and he barely grunted a reply. Trying not to look suspicious, she hurried down the corridors and quickly entered Miss Parker’s office and shut the door behind her. Immediately the vent opened and Jarod jumped out, Angelo stayed behind and monitored the activity from the sweepers and made sure the right security cameras stayed inactive. She emptied the box and Kyle looked at the strange man with big eyes. A big smile formed on Jarod’s lips. The young child really did have his eyes and he had Parker’s nose. He softly chuckled and bent down.

“Hello Kyle. Nice to meet you.” Jarod extended his hand.

Kyle looked at the stranger and then turned to his nanny with questioning eyes.

“It’s ok. You can talk now. Our game is over and he is a friend.” Mrs. Carlson said reassuringly.

The boy nodded and gently shook Jarod’s hand. “Hello. Why did you call me Kyle?”

“Because that’s your name.”

“I have a name?”

“Yes, of course. Everyone has a name.”

“I don’t.”

“Of course you do.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Because…” Jarod took a deep breath. “I’m your father.”

“My daddy and mommy died.”

“No, Kyle, they are very much alive.” Mrs. Carlson said with a soft smile. “And he is your father.”

“Leave.” Angelo’s voice sounded from the vents. “No more time.”

Jarod didn’t hesitate for another second and lifted Kyle into his arms. For some weird reason Kyle felt safe in his arms and he decided to trust this stranger who called himself his father.

Mrs. Carlson followed them closely through the vents and a couple of minutes later they were outside.

“Angelo, come with us.” Jarod said.

“Angelo home here.”

Jarod let out a sigh. “You can have a life away from The Centre.”

Angelo shook his head. “Angelo home here. Keep friend and daughter safe. Keep family safe.”

A sad smile played on Jarod’s lips. He put Kyle on the ground and wrapped his arms around his friend. “Thank you Angelo, thank you for everything.”

Angelo nodded and disappeared back into the vents. Barely a second later the alarms began to blare.

“Now we run.” Jarod stated with a determined face. He picked his son up again and started running towards the woods, closely followed by Mrs. Carlson. Behind the first trees, out of sight, stood a black pick-up truck. They jumped in and Jarod handed Kyle to Mrs. Carlson. “If something happens. Get down.”

She nodded and he stepped on the gas, leaving the sweepers that were on their trail in a cloud of dust.

 

***

 

Miss Parker couldn’t cry anymore. She had mourned her father’s death in Jarod’s arms and he had helped her over her pain and sorrow. And now that she knew her father had used her like this, all she felt was contempt for the man in the coffin.

The ceremony was almost at its end when the words of the priest were interrupted by the loud shrill of more than one cell phone. Parker and Sydney both knew what that meant. Broots just looked up surprised. Raines and Lyle were the first ones to answer theirs and their eyes almost popped out.

“Impossible!” Raines wheezed.

“That’s outrageous!” Lyle yelled at almost the same time.

Sweepers started to leave the scene and they were followed by Raines and Lyle who looked extremely pissed. The priest looked utterly confused by the whole scene.

“Just continue.” Miss Parker told him and the man nodded, quickly wrapping up the ceremony.

“What was that all about?” Broots asked as they were walking back to the car.

“Nothing to worry about.” Parker told him and earned herself a stunned face that made her chuckle.

“Broots.” Sydney continued. “Get your stuff and Debbie and be ready to leave tomorrow.”

“Leave?” The tech asked surprised. “Does this have to do with why Raines and Lyle were acting so strangely?”

Parker and Sydney just nodded.

“We’ll explain everything in due time. Right now, just act as if nothing’s happening.” Parker said to the confused man.

 

When the trio arrived back at The Centre it was as if they walked straight into a war zone. Heavily armed sweepers were walking around everywhere and they all had faces that predicted doom for everyone that got into their way.

“What the heck happened?” Broots asked again.

“I think we’re about to find out.” Parker said as she saw her brother furiously coming their way.

“Lyle, what the hell is going on here?” She asked him.

“Like you don’t know!” He spat.

“No I don’t know, you idiot. Now tell me what the hell is going on here!”

“It’s Jarod. That fucking bastard abducted my… our nephew and his nanny.”

“Why would Jarod do that?” Sydney asked.

“How the hell am I supposed to know what goes around in that monkey’s brain!” Lyle almost yelled. “You’re the man who’s supposed to know him, you tell me.”

“Jarod would never take a child away from his family unless there is a very good reason for it.” Sydney explained.

“I agree.” Parker nodded. “So Lyle, any idea why the rat would be interested in our ‘brother’ or ‘nephew’ or whatever he is?”

She knew! Lyle was certain about it. But how the hell was he supposed to prove it? “Like I told Sydney. I have no idea what’s going on in that supposedly genius brain of his. Otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted a day out there.”

“Good point.” She said with a fake smile.

“Our father wants to talk to the three of you. He is certain you have something to do with it. And so do I.” Lyle hissed that last sentence between his teeth.

 

Broots looked like he was about to puke as they entered Raines’ office.

“Broots get a grip, you don’t know anything.” Parker growled in his ear.

“What do you know about this?” Raines wheezed when they stood in front of his desk.

“Why the hell would I want Jarod to abduct my nephew?” Parker asked defiantly.

Raines looked at her suspiciously. “The search for Jarod is now more important than ever before. We need him and especially the boy back. I want results rather yesterday than today. Now leave me with my daughter.”

Parker shuddered at that. She would never be his daughter.

Raines turned to her after Sydney and Broots left the office. “My brother always thought highly of you. I hope you won’t disappoint me. But I thought you’d be angrier at Jarod for taking away part of our family.”

“I’m furious with him.” She lied without blinking or looking away. Lying to Raines was much easier than lying to Jarod. “But I know Jarod. He won’t hurt a hair on that child’s skull.”

“I hope for yours and Jarod’s sake that you’re right. Now leave and find Jarod.”

She gave him a quick nod and left his office.

 

***

 

“They vanished!” Lyle stormed into Raines’ office the next day. “All of them just vanished.”

“No one just vanishes.” Raines wheezed. “Who are you talking about?”

“Parker and her two lap-dogs of course. They had a lead on Jarod this morning and they left. No one has seen or heard them ever since.”

“And that lead on Jarod?”

“Fake of course. As are all the others he’s leaving for him, the boy, that nanny, Parker, Sydney and Broots and his daughter.”

“Others?” Raines wheezed so hard he almost fainted.

“He already left over a couple hundred thousand leads for the seven of them and they are still pouring in. The techs predict that by the rate they are coming in, by the end of the day there will be around a million leads.”

“That’s impossible. There has to be a way to verify them.”

“That’s just it. We can verify every one of them. He’s plundering all of our accounts and doing nothing else with the money but buy plane tickets, train tickets, bus tickets, boat tickets and every other bloody sort of ticket you can imagine. There are even a couple for Disney world and shows on Broadway!” Lyle was more frustrated then ever before. “They can be anywhere in the world by now.”

Raines sat down in his chair and looked utterly defeated. “Miss Parker and Sydney always warned us that if Jarod wanted to disappear he would. He’s probably been planning this since the moment he escaped. They found out about the boy. There is no other explanation.”

Lyle nodded and sat down in the chair in front of Raines’ desk. “Now what? The Africans will have our heads for this.”

“My brother told me that Miss Parker and Jarod were the most dangerous if they ever worked together. That is why he brainwashed her to hate him. Apparently that never really worked. Now that they are working together it will mean the end of us, the end of The Centre and the end of The Triumvirate. All that is left for us to do is disappear, just like them, and avoid being caught up in it.”

Lyle nodded. His father was a coward but not a fool. If he told him to run, Lyle would run as fast as humanly possible. And that was exactly what they were both going to do.

 

***

 

“I only have one extra bedroom.” Jarod told Mrs. Carlson and Kyle as he was showing them around his house in Minnesota. “I never really planned on bringing a lot of people here. A friend of mine is dropping off a bed for Kyle in the afternoon. I’ll put it in my room. You can have the spare room until the others arrive. After that we’ll figure out how to deal with sleeping arrangements.”

She nodded and he picked Kyle off the floor. The three year old looked at him with big eyes. He had accepted the fact that he had a father, but he still had trouble believing it. He was certain that he would wake up from this dream soon.

“You want to see your new room? Well, our room for now.”

“Ok.” Kyle answered with a slight smile.

Jarod carried him inside the master bedroom and the boy looked around with big eyes. “Is that my bed?”

Jarod chuckled. “No that’s the bed for me and your mom. Your bed will come right over there.” He said and pointed to the opposite corner. “They are dropping it off this afternoon and after that, we’ll go to the shop to buy some clothes and toys.”

“Toys?” Kyle asked suspiciously.

“Yes, you never had any toys?”

Kyle shrugged. “I don’t know. What are toys?”

“Kids play with toys.” Jarod said, feeling shocked that his son didn’t even know what toys were.

“Mr. Raines never allowed me to play. It would only distract me.”

Jarod let out a deep sigh but a smile appeared on his lips. “Then you’re in for a treat when we get to the toy store.”

 

“Jessie.” Jarod smiled and hugged his friend.

“Hey Jarod. Where is that little rascal?”

“Kyle. Come here son, there’s someone I want you to meet.” Jarod yelled towards the house.

The young child came running out and grabbed Jarod’s leg.

“Kyle, this is Jessie. She’s a good friend of me and your mom.”

Kyle politely shook her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Hello Kyle. It’s very nice to meet you. You are a very polite young man.”

“Thank you.” Kyle blushed and hid behind Jarod’s legs.

“And a bit shy.” Jarod chuckled.

“I’m so happy the both of you finally decided to adopt. You’re gonna be great parents.”

“Thank you.” Jarod smiled. “His bed is in there?” He asked surprised as he pointed to her small car.

“Yes. But it still needs to be assembled.”

“Ah. Ok.”

“You need help?”

“Yes, I promised Kyle to take him shopping and if I take to long the shops will be closed. If you don’t mind, of course.”

“Would I suggest it if I minded?”

“No probably not.” Jarod smiled and helped her to get the boxes out of the car after he sent Kyle back inside.

“Need help?” Mrs. Carlson asked when she saw them entering the house.

“No we’ll be fine. Just watch Kyle, please.” Jarod said and put down his box. “Mrs. Carlson, this is Jessie, a good friend of me and my wife. Jessie, Mrs. Carlson is our help and nanny.”

They greeted each other and Jarod and Jessie went upstairs to start assembling the bed.

About half an hour later they came back down.

“Hey prince, you want to see your bed?” Jarod asked Kyle who was watching TV.

“Yeah!” Kyle jumped off the couch and ran upstairs, closely followed by Jarod and Jessie.

“Thank you.” The young child hugged Jarod and Jessie when he saw his bed. “It’s so much bigger then my other bed.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Jarod smiled. “Now, you want to go get some toys?”

“Yeah!” Kyle laughed and ran downstairs.

“You want to come too?” Jarod asked Jessie.

“No, this really is a father-son thing.” She replied with a smile.

Jarod nodded. “Ok, Thanks for your help and I’ll see you back in the office tomorrow.”

“Are you sure you want to get back to work this fast?” She asked.

“Yes. I want this to be over for those kids.”

“Ok, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

They shook hands and she left the room. Downstairs, she said her goodbyes to Kyle and Mrs. Carlson.

 

***

 

“Waaaaaaw…” Kyle exclaimed for the tenth time as they walked down one of the aisles in the toy store.

“If you want anything. Just take it.” Jarod said with a big smile.

“There’s so much, I don’t know what to take.” Kyle kept looking around with big eyes.

After about an hour of strolling around, their shopping cart was filled over the top. And both men had huge smiles plastered on their faces at the prospect of playing with it all.

“Oh, my… that’s a lot of toys.” The perky blonde at the cash register shrieked.

“Only the best for my prince.” Jarod grinned at Kyle as he started to unload the cart.

The young boy just smiled and watched all the toys that passed by in pure amazement.

 

***

 

Jarod let out a relieved sigh when he read Angelo’s mail. It simply read: “Daughter safe. Sydney safe. Broots safe.”

They did it. They got out. The plan had worked. He checked the program that was running in the background. A smile played on Jarod’s lips. When this was finished, The Centre would have such a big debt with the banks that they wouldn’t be able to continue working and bribing the right people. And there would be so many possible leads on him, his family and his friends that it would be impossible to check even a percent of them. They did it. All of them were free and The Centre was on the verge of being destroyed by a simple thing called money. Another sigh escaped his lips. He just wished she were in his arms to celebrate this moment.

“Daddy, you ok?” Kyle asked with big eyes as he tugged at his father’s pants.

“Yeah.” Jarod answered and took his son in his arms. “Have you finished stacking your toys away and putting your new clothes in the closet?”

Kyle nodded his head.

“That’s good. Hey, do you want to join me at my work tomorrow? There are two girls I would like you to meet.”

“I can talk to other kids?” Kyle asked surprised.

“Of course you can.” Jarod smiled.

Kyle just smiled and nodded. He would love to meet other kids.

 

***

 

They were standing outside the door of the twins’ room when Jarod kneeled down and put his hand on Kyle’s shoulder. The boy looked up in expectation at his father.

“Now son, remember what I told you in the car. These girls are very shy and quiet and they lived through a horrible experience. So don’t push them too hard. Just be their friend and try to talk with them, try to get them to talk about what happened, but don’t push them.”

Kyle nodded and Jarod smiled. He got back up and slowly opened the door. Amy and Lisa were sitting next to each other on one of the two beds. They barely looked up when Jarod and Kyle walked in.

“Hello Amy. Hello Lisa. I brought someone I’d love for you to meet. His name is Kyle, he’s three years old and he’s my son. Kyle, meet Lisa and Amy.”

The two girls peeked up at the small boy when he uttered a soft hello.

“Now, you three just play a bit and girls, in the mean time I’m going to talk to your parents.”

Jarod walked back out of the room and let out a soft sigh after closing the door. He hoped this would work. If this didn’t work he was out of ideas.

 

About an hour later Jarod stood in front of their door again. A smile appeared on his lips when he heard the noises from behind it. They were laughing. They were actually laughing.

Softly he knocked on the door and walked inside. The three kids looked up at Jarod with big eyes.

“Kyle, are you behaving yourself?” Jarod asked with fake sternness.

His son feverishly nodded and the girls giggled. Jarod’s heart made a leap at that sound.

“Girls, is there something I should know about?” Jarod looked at the twins with a cocked eyebrow that made them laugh even more. “I think there is something I should know about.”

The twins looked at each other and then looked up at Jarod.

“Kyle doesn’t…” “know how to…” “jump rope.”

Jarod watched in amazement as the twins filled in each other perfectly. This kind of behaviour had always fascinated him immensely.

“Then why don’t you teach him?” Jarod asked with a smile.

“We…” “tried.” “He doesn’t…” “get it.”

Jarod turned at his son. “It’s not that difficult Kyle. You just jump over the rope.”

“I know daddy, but I just don’t see the point in getting tired because you have to jump over a rope.”

Jarod couldn’t help but laugh. “You know what, it’s warm enough outside. Why don’t we go to the garden and then all four of us can try it.”

Kyle agreed but the girls just stared at the ground.

“Amy, Lisa, is there something wrong?” Jarod asked.

“We don’t…” “want to…” “go outside.”

“Why not?” Jarod asked and kneeled down to their eyelevel.

The girls glanced at each other. “We’re…” “afraid.”

“Don’t be. I’ll be there the entire time. We won’t go outside your back garden. It’s perfectly safe there. Don’t you want to see how Kyle makes a fool of himself?”

“Daddy!” Kyle exclaimed.

“Ok, don’t you want to see how I make a fool out of myself? I never jumped rope either.”

The girls looked up in surprise at Jarod and then nodded with a slight smile on their faces.

 

***

 

“Daddy, when can I go back to play with Amy and Lisa?” Kyle asked as Jarod tucked him in.

“I’m going back to them tomorrow. If you want you can join me.”

“Yes!” Kyle cheered with a broad smile.

“You really did have fun today, didn’t you?”

Kyle nodded and yawned.

“But right now you have to get some sleep.” Jarod kissed his son’s forehead. “Goodnight Kyle. Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

“There are bugs in my bed, daddy?” Kyle asked with a scared voice.

“No, son, it’s just a way to say goodnight.”

“Ok, Goo’night daddy.”

Jarod closed the door of the bedroom and walked downstairs. He was still amazed by the progress the girls had made today. Now, if only he could get them to talk about that day…

 

***

 

“Jarod and you… you and Jarod… a child… baby Parker?” Broots asked again in amazement.

“Yes Broots.” Parker sighed.

“How old is he?” Debbie asked enthusiastically.

“He’s almost four.” Parker answered with a slight hint of pride in her voice.

“And he’s with Jarod now?” Broots asked still not believing that Miss Parker was a mother.

“Yes Broots, for the fifth time.” Parker sighed.

“Dannie is safe and ready to meet his mother.” Sydney announced as he walked into the small motel room.

“Good.” Parker smiled and took out her brand new cell phone. “Let’s give our genius a call.”

*What?* Jarod’s tired voice sounded over the speaker.

“Now Jarod, who taught you phone manners?”

*Parker?*

“Don’t sound so surprised.” She couldn’t help but smile at hearing his voice again.

*Angelo sent me a message that all of you are safe. Is it true?*

“Yes, Jarod, all of us are safe. And according to Sydney, Dannie is safe too and ready to meet his mother.”

They heard a relieved sigh from Jarod.

“Jarod.” Parker continued. “How… how is he?”

*He’s doing great. He’s an amazing boy and he can’t wait to meet his mother. And I hope you don’t mind but he didn’t have a name yet so I named him Kyle.*

“Kyle is perfect.” Parker honestly replied.

Jarod let out another relieved sigh.

Parker picked up the phone, put the speaker off and moved inside the bathroom where she closed the door behind her. The action surprised Broots, but put a smile on Sydney’s lips.

“Hey, I’m alone.”

*Good.* She heard the grin in his voice. *You have no idea how good it is to hear your voice again.*

“Same here.” She agreed.

*Honey, I miss you so much. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again.*

Tears appeared in her eyes as she clutched the phone in her hands. “I miss you too Jarod, more then I could ever imagine.”

*Only two days left. We can handle that.*

“Yeah, we can.” She almost whispered.

*Hey, guess what, Kyle and me have been meeting with the twins for three days in a row now. It’s amazing how they are opening up. If you go with us when you’re here, you won’t recognize them again. They smile and laugh. It’s amazing.*

“That’s great. I can’t wait to see them again. How’s Tracy doing?”

*She’s doing great. Since she told us everything that happened, it’s like a weight that lifted off her. Her parents told me yesterday that they are finally recognizing their daughter again.*

“Sweetie, that’s great. I knew you could do it.”

A soft chuckle escaped Jarod’s mouth.

“What?” She asked.

*You just called me ‘sweetie’.*

“Yeah, I guess I did.” She grinned.

*I guess I’ll see you in two days.* He said after a few moments of silence. *Goodbye honey, I love you.*

She heard the phone click and let out a soft sigh. Opening the bathroom door again, she looked at her three friends. Sydney simply smiled, as did Debbie. The girl had a way of sensing what people felt and she was happy with the things Parker seemed to feel. Broots just looked at her with big eyes. He noticed there was something different about her. There was something softer playing on her face. Something he had never seen before. Little did he know that she had never felt this way before, not even Tommy had made her feel like she was walking on clouds after a mere phone call. She was deeply in love with the pretender and she couldn’t wait to feel his arms around her again.

“Ok, people. We have to get moving again in about an hour. So let’s start packing.” She announced. The three others nodded and started moving around the small motel room.

 

***

 

Jarod was lying on the couch, reading a book and keeping an eye on Kyle who was playing on the rug with his Mr. Potatohead. Mrs. Carlson was out shopping, so they had the house all to themselves.

*ding dong*

Kyle jumped up and ran towards the front door. He opened it and stared at the surprised people in front of him.

“Daddyyyyy!” Kyle screamed and ran back towards his father who had risen from the couch.

Jarod peeked at the door and let out a slight gasp. “Dad! Gene!”

“Jarod.” Major Charles grinned and embraced his oldest son.

“Hey Jarod.” Gene said shyly as he hugged his older self.

“How did you guys get here?” Jarod asked surprised as he guided them towards the living room.

“We got a message from a guy named Angelo who told us we could find you here. We’ve been staking out your house for the last two days to make sure it wasn’t a Centre trap.” Charles explained. “But, is there anything you want to tell us?” He asked Jarod and looked at Kyle who was clinging on Jarod’s leg.

A soft smile appeared on Jarod’s lips. “Dad, this is your grandson, Kyle. Kyle, this is your grandfather Charles and your uncle Gene.”

“Grandson?” Charles gasped.

“They’re my family too?” Kyle asked Jarod.

“Yes, they are son.” Jarod answered with a smile.

The young boy looked up at the two strangers and a grin formed on his lips.

“How… When?” Charles squeaked out.

“That’s a very long story.” Jarod answered.

Charles extended his hand and put it on Kyle’s shoulder. “I have a grandson.” He stated as if he were trying to convince himself. Kyle opened his arms and Charles pulled him into a crushing hug. “I have a grandson.”

 

***

 

~They’re late.~ Jarod paced his bedroom and glanced at his watch again. At that moment he heard a car stop in front of the house. He looked outside and a wide grin spread over his face. He ran out of the room and almost flew down the stairs. The other occupants of the house looked up strangely when he flew past them straight to the front door.

Parker reached for the doorbell, but before she could ring it, the door flew open. She looked at the grinning man and whispered his name. They were in each other’s arms before they realised it. The people in the house and on the porch were looking at the scene with big eyes. The only one that didn’t look at all surprised was Sydney; he actually seemed to be glowing with pride.

The moment Jarod’s arms closed around her, she felt home. And when their lips met she knew she never wanted to leave his side again.

“I missed you so much.” He whispered in her ear.

“I love you so much.” She whispered at the same time.

He looked into her tear-filled eyes and smiled.

“You really do?”

“Yes, Jarod, I love you more than anything in this world.”

“So do I baby, so do I.” He whispered and brushed away a falling tear from her cheek.

“Now, where is our son? I would love to finally meet him.” She asked after giving him another kiss.

“I think he’s watching us next to his grandfather.”

“Grandfather?” She asked and finally looked at the people who were watching them from inside the house. “Major Charles? Gemini?” She gasped.

“It’s Gene now.” The young man said and walked over to the couple. He felt happy for them. Whenever his brother had talked about Miss Parker he had seen that tiny sparkle of love in his eyes and whenever she had talked about her old friend he had seen something more in her eyes too. He took her hand to shake it, but she pulled him in a hug.

“I’m so glad you’re ok.” She said and smiled.

“I’m glad you’re ok too. After you got shot on that airstrip, I was worried about you. I was so relieved when Jarod called and told us that you were ok. You know, he told us you were ok, before he told us that he escaped The Centre again.”

Parker chuckled and looked up at a smiling Jarod.

“I was glad you were ok too.” Jarod tried and got another chuckle from her.

“You saved my life on that airstrip, you do realise that, don’t you. If it hadn’t been for your first aid, I wouldn’t have survived.”

“I barely did anything.”

“You did enough.” She said and gently caressed his cheek, then turned back to the people inside the house. “Major Charles.” She said with a nod.

“Miss Parker.” He simply greeted her with another nod.

“Kyle, come here son.” Jarod said when he saw the young boy hiding behind Charles’ legs.

Kyle reluctantly let go of his grandfather’s pants and walked over to Jarod and the strange woman. Parker had only been allowed to visit him before he turned one. So he had no memory of her. Jarod lifted Kyle in his arms and turned him towards Parker.

“Kyle, this is your mommy.”

Kyle looked at the woman with big eyes. “You really are?”

“Yes I am.” Parker smiled and gently brushed her son’s hair.

He grinned and opened his arms. She took him from Jarod and hugged him tight.

“Daddy told me you looked like an angel and he’s right.” Kyle said with a proud smile after Parker had loosened her grip on him.

She blushed a bit and glanced at Jarod who looked at them with so much love in his eyes that it took her breath away.

“Sweetie, have you said hello to Syd, Broots and Debbie?” She asked Jarod.

He looked flabbergasted for a moment and then turned to the people on the porch.

“Sydney. I’m so sorry.” Jarod said and hugged his mentor. “I’m glad you made it.”

“Jarod, do not apologise. Your family should come first.” Sydney assured the younger man.

Jarod nodded and looked at Broots. The man looked utterly lost and confused at everything that was going on. He had accepted the fact that Miss Parker and Jarod had a child together because The Centre had created him without their knowledge. But what completely shook him up was that Jarod and Parker actually were together and by the way they acted, they were very much in love. He had felt his heart crack when she had leaped in Jarod’s arms and the very passionate kiss that followed broke his poor heart.

Jarod shook Broots’ hand and gave him a reassuring smile. “You ok, Broots?”

“What? Euh… yeah…” He shook himself together and pulled Jarod closer and whispered in his ear. “If you ever hurt her, I swear to god…”

Jarod looked surprised at the balding man. “I’m glad she had friends in that hellhole that care so much about her. And don’t worry Broots; I love her too much to even consider ever hurting her.”

“You really do love her.” Broots stated with a sigh.

“Yes I do, with every fibre in my body and soul.”

“Then make her happy.” Broots said with a sad smile.

“I will.” Jarod nodded and then turned to Debbie and shook her hand. “Hello Debbie, my name is Jarod.”

“You came to our house once.”

“Yes I did.” Jarod grinned.

“Dad said it’s thanks to you that I got to stay with him instead of with my mom.”

Jarod nodded.

“Thank you.” Debbie said and hugged Jarod.

“You’re welcome.” Jarod said and returned the hug.

“And I’m glad Miss Parker finally found someone to make her happy.”

“Thank you.” Jarod said and turned to the others. “Right, introduction time. Dad, Gene, you already know Sydney. And this is Broots and his daughter Debbie. Syd, Broots, Mrs. Carlson over there was Kyle’s nanny. And of course you know my dad, Charles and my brother Gene.”

Greetings were thrown all over the porch until Parker broke the chattering. “Kyle, the man over there is your grandfather Sydney.” Sydney looked at her with big eyes and she gave him a reassuring nod.

“I have another grandfather?” Kyle asked surprised.

“You sure do.” Parker smiled. “Now, the guy over there is Broots and the girl next to him is Debbie. She will baby-sit you when your daddy and me are away at work or something like that.”

Kyle politely shook their hands and then wiggled out of his mother’s arms and stepped towards Sydney. He raised his arms and Sydney understood the gesture and took Kyle in his arms. The young boy hugged Sydney tight. “Hello grandpa Sydney.”

“Hello Kyle.” Sydney almost seemed to glow with pride. He handed Kyle back to his mother and turned to Mrs. Carlson. “This is the information you need to get to Dannie. And all the papers you need to start a new life together.”

Tears formed in her eyes as she took the envelope. “Thank you so much. I can’t believe I’m going to see my son again.” She quickly packed her bags and said goodbye to everyone.

 

***

 

“Why did you tell him I’m his grandfather?” Sydney asked Parker when they were seated on the couch.

“Because you’re more like a father to me than Mr. Parker ever was. Let alone Raines. You deserve to be his grandfather more than anyone else.”

“But does Jarod agree?” Sydney asked, doubting that Jarod would ever approve of it after everything that happened between them in The Centre.

“Yes he does Sydney. We talked about it in the cabin and it was his idea. For him you are like a father too.”

“I am?” Sydney asked surprised and looked over at the rug where Jarod and Kyle were playing together.

“Yes you are, Syd. You are like a father to both of us.”

He looked back at Parker and hugged her. “You have no idea how much that means to me.”

They turned to the sound of giggling and saw Jarod was furiously tickling Kyle.

“Jarod is an amazing father. I wonder if I’ll ever be a good mother.”

“You will be.” Sydney said and reassuringly put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s like Jarod always tried to tell you. You are your mother’s daughter and she was a good woman and a good mother.”

“I can’t believe Jarod loves me so much after everything I put him through.” She sighed.

“He knows it wasn’t the real you. He always knew that deep down inside you were still that nice and funny little girl that he fell in love with. I honestly think he never stopped loving you.”

“I know.” She almost whispered. “And I’m starting to realise that I never really stopped loving him either.”

Sydney nodded towards Jarod and Kyle. “Go to them. Be a real family now.”

She smiled, got off the couch and sat down next to Jarod on the carpet. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her temple. She giggled loud when Jarod and Kyle jumped her and tickled her until she had trouble breathing. Sydney looked at the scene with amazement in his eyes. Parker had changed so much and he was sure she was more like herself now than she had ever been before.

Charles looked at the scene from the kitchen entrance. He didn’t really like the fact that people from The Centre were here and he really didn’t like the fact that his son was obviously deeply in love with one of them. But looking at the scene on the carpet made his doubt about her completely melt. She made Jarod happy and she would be a good mother to Kyle. That was all that mattered to Charles.

Broots sat in front of Jarod’s laptop and looked at the running program with a lot of interest. He was truly amazed by what Jarod had accomplished. The program was still taking Centre-funds and completely bankrupting them, while it bought them tickets to everything you could possibly think off. It was so simple and yet so efficient. Broots loved it. But at the same time he was watching the screen, he kept a weary eye on Debbie and Gene. They were sitting on the bench on the front porch talking about everything they could think off. It had clicked between them the moment they started talking and that had amazed them both because neither of them were that good at making friends.

 

After dinner, Sydney joined Jarod on the porch.

“Jarod, if you want, Charles and I can put Kyle’s bed in our room. That way Parker and you will have some privacy.”

Jarod looked at his mentor and gave him a soft smile. “No, I couldn’t let you do that. Kyle is our responsibility and he still wakes up screaming from nightmares now and then. We have to be there for him at that moment. And don’t worry; we’ll behave ourselves in front of our son.” Jarod said with a grin.

“I never worried about that, Jarod. It’s just that I figured that Parker and you would like to have some privacy the first night that you’re together again.”

“I would like nothing more than some privacy with Parker, but that will just have to wait until we’re settled into our new house where Kyle has his own room.”

“Does she know about the house?”

“Not yet. I want to keep it a surprise.”

Sydney nodded. “Jarod, I didn’t get to thank you for telling Kyle I’m his grandfather.”

“Syd, if there’s anyone who deserves that title it’s you.” Jarod smiled and hugged the older man.

Charles walked away from the window he had seen the scene through. He had been thinking about it ever since these people arrived on the doorstep and now that he had witnessed this, he had made his decision.

 

That night Parker was lying in Jarod’s arms and she felt happy, she felt like she was finally home. She was where she belonged.

Jarod breathed in her scent and felt his body react to her presence. Damn, if only he had accepted Syd’s proposal.

“You really are a horny labrat.” Parker snickered in his ear.

He let out a soft laugh and pulled her into a kiss. “Only with you honey, only with you.”

 

***

 

“Gene, are you ready?”

“Dad, I don’t want to leave. I like it here. I finally have a family and people that care about me.”

“But son, I’m your family too and I care a lot about you, I love you, son.”

“I love you too, dad. But I don’t want to be on the run anymore, looking for people I never met.”

“They’re your family. Your mother and your sister.”

“I know dad, but I don’t know them. I’ve only seen a photo of them. I want to stay here, with the people I do know.”

Charles nodded. “Say goodbye to Jarod for me.”

“Why don’t you wait until he wakes up and say it to him yourself.”

“No, I can’t. If I find your mother and Emily I’ll return so you can get to know them. Goodbye son.”

Charles hugged Gene and then left through the backdoor without another word.

“Goodbye dad.” Gene whispered as the door closed.

 

***

 

“Jarod, Charles is gone!” Sydney said, sounding out of breath, as he opened the door of their bedroom.

Jarod and Parker woke up from their deep sleep and looked at the man who had just come barging into their room.

“What are you talking about?” Jarod asked with a sleepy voice.

“When I woke up, he wasn’t in his bed. I went downstairs and Gene told me Charles had left.”

“What?” Jarod asked, pulling away from Parker’s embrace and quickly getting out of bed. He was out of the room in a heartbeat and ran down the stairs.

Gene was sitting in the kitchen, staring at his hands.

“Why did he leave?” Jarod asked the young man.

“He wanted to find mom and Emily.”

Jarod sat down heavily in the chair on the other side of the table. “No, we talked about that. He was going to wait until I finished this pretend and then I was going to help him.”

Parker entered the room and stood behind Jarod, gently placing her hands on his shoulders. He took one of her hands and softly kissed it.

“He didn’t want to involve you anymore. He told me that he had to find his family and that you had already found yours.”

Jarod let out a deep sigh and sat back in the chair, using Parker’s body as support. “He really told you that?”

Gene nodded. “When he finds them, he will return. He asked me to come with him, but I couldn’t. I… I feel good here. I… I feel at home with everyone who’s here. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life looking for people I don’t know. I just want to start living a normal life. Is that selfish?” He looked up at Jarod and Parker and they saw tears forming in his eyes.

Parker let out a sigh and sat down at the head of the table in between the two men. She gently took Gene’s hand and reassuringly squeezed it.

“You’re not being selfish at all.” She said. “You want to start living a normal life, just like everyone else in this house. None of us are selfish, we just want to forget the past and move on with our lives. And you’re right; you don’t know the people your father is looking for. You shouldn’t feel guilty because you stayed behind.”

Gene looked up at her and a sad smile played of his face. “You’re right. But I can’t help feeling guilty for letting him leave alone.”

“I know.” Jarod said. “That’s a normal reaction. Look, let’s just start making some breakfast so that we can think of something else.” He got up and walked towards the fridge.

Parker got up too and took his hand before he opened the fridge door. “Are you ok?”

“No, I’m not.” He growled and pulled away from her grasp and stormed outside the kitchen.

Gene looked at the two people and saw Parker’s hurt face. “Go after him. He needs you.”

She gave him a thankful smile and walked out of the kitchen following Jarod upstairs.

“What’s wrong with Jarod?” Broots asked looking up from his mattress on the floor.

“His dad left without a word.” Sydney sighed.

 

When Parker entered their room, Jarod was getting Kyle dressed.

“Kyle baby, go downstairs. I need to talk to your daddy.”

Jarod turned away and fixed his eyes on a point outside. Kyle looked at his parents in confusion.

“You’re not going to fight, are you?” He asked in a tiny voice.

Parker smiled and kneeled down to her son’s level. “No baby, we’re not going to fight. We just need to talk.”

Kyle nodded and walked outside.

Parker walked over to Jarod and gently put a hand on his shoulder. “Sweetie, talk to me. You seem angry. Please, talk to me.”

He let out an angered sigh and ground his teeth. “Of course I’m angry! He just left! My own father left his two sons without a decent explanation.”

For a second he looked at her and she let out an inaudible gasp. She saw something in his eyes she had never seen before: pure anger and hate. It scared her to her deepest core.

He turned away from her and out of her grasp.

“No Jarod, we have to talk about this. You can’t just let it boil up inside of you. Please, talk to me. I know your dad hurt you because he left you without a decent explanation. So, please, Jarod, talk to me about it.”

He sat on the bed with a deep sigh and tried to hide his falling tears. She was by his side instantly. She sat next to him, wrapped her arms around his trembling body and pulled him closer. To her relief he accepted the gesture and deep sobs left his throat as he clung onto her.

He was glad she was here; her touch and closeness comforted him more than he could ever have imagined. He breathed in her scent and felt himself relax more and more.

“Better?” She asked with a whisper.

He nodded and lifted himself from her embrace to look her in her eyes. “I was just so angry with him because he left Gene with such a guilty feeling behind and because he didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t even talk to me about it. I thought father and sons were supposed to be able to talk about that kind of stuff.”

She heard his voice break and pulled him into another tight hug. “Jarod, you have to remember that you and your dad have been apart for over 30 years. You guys have to get to know each other again. You have to become family again.”

Jarod looked up at her. “He was right.”

“About what?”

“I already found my family. You, Kyle, Syd, Broots, Debbie and even Gene. You are my family, always were and always will be.”

“Jarod, what are you saying?”

“Mom, dad and Emily are my biological family and I would love to get to know them better, but the people that are in this house now are my real family. They know me, I know them, we understand each other, and we all know what we’ve been through, especially you and Syd. You are and will always be my family.”

He jumped up from the bed, opened the drawer of his nightstand and returned to his spot next to her.

“I… I wanted to wait with this until we finished this pretend and settled down in our own house. But I can’t wait anymore.”

She looked at him with questioning eyes. “Jarod, what are you talking about?”

He let out a deep sigh and opened his hands. In it was a small box. He opened it and a gasp escaped her lips. In the box was a beautiful golden ring that was set with diamonds.

“Jarod…” She breathed.

He put his hand on her lips and brought it down to take her hand in his. His eyes locked with hers.

“Monica Parker, I love you more than live itself. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life without you. I need you. I want to be there for you and for our son. You are my family, but I want to make it official. You are the love of my life, so please, marry me and be my wife.”

She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times before finding her voice again. “Jarod, are you sure? You’re very emotional right now. I… I don’t want you to regret this afterwards.”

He cupped her face in his hand and pulled her into a deep and passionate kiss. “I haven’t been surer of anything in my entire life. I will never regret this. I want to grow old with you, honey. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you.”

She looked deep into his soft brown eyes, but a sudden pang of worry filled her. “I don’t know.” She whispered, stood up and flew out of the room. He stayed behind, staring at the open door, wondering what had just happened and why she hadn’t said ‘yes’. After a few moments he looked at the opened box in his hand and closed it with a sigh. Something was troubling her; he could see it in her eyes. He needed to find out what it was.

 

The rest of the gang was seated around the dinner table for breakfast when Parker came storming down the stairs and without even glancing at them, walked outside, got in the car and drove off. The people around the table looked stunned at the front door.

“Damned, I warned him.” Broots growled, got up and stormed upstairs.

“What the heck is going on?” Gene asked looking flabbergasted.

 

“What the hell did you tell her?” Broots yelled as he stormed into the bedroom. Jarod looked up in surprise.

“I didn’t…”

“Don’t give me that bull Jarod, she just stormed out of the house with tears streaming down her face. What the hell did you do to her?”

“I asked her to marry me.”

“Oh yeah! You…” Broots went quiet and blinked a couple of times at Jarod. “You what?” He asked in nothing more than a whisper.

“I asked her to marry me.” Jarod stated and showed Broots the ring.

Broots stayed quiet for a few seconds. “That’s a beautiful ring.”

“I thought so too.” Jarod sighed.

“What happened?” Broots asked and sat down next to Jarod.

“I asked her to marry me and she said ‘I don’t know’ and practically ran out of the room.”

“Why would she do that? I thought she loved you.”

“So did I… But there’s something troubling her. I need to finish this pretend, find her and talk to her about whatever it is that’s troubling her.”

Broots put his hand on Jarod’s shoulder. “If there’s anything I can do.”

Jarod looked at the balding man and softly smiled. “I know. Thank you Broots.”

Broots smiled and got up. “Come downstairs, there’s still some breakfast left.”

Jarod nodded and followed his friend.

 

Kyle was completely shook up about his grandfather’s disappearance and then his mother storming out of the house without a word. Jarod stayed with his son all day, trying to explain him why two people he had started to love left without saying goodbye. But his explanations were hollow. If Jarod couldn’t explain it to himself, then how was he supposed to explain it to his son? But Jarod promised Kyle that he’d bring his mother back and that his grandfather would return too… One day… Hopefully…

 

***

 

It took Jarod and Kyle another three days to get the twins to talk about what happened to them that horrifying day. But he finally got them ready for court. He needed to come back when the trial started and they had to testify. All three girls needed him for moral support in that courtroom when they had to face the man that tried to ruin their young lives. But for now he was finished. He could finally go after Parker and talk to her. But first he had to locate her.

 

***

 

Jarod packed his bags just like the other occupants of the house that had become their home.

He promised Kyle he would return with Parker and that they would become a real family. Kyle sobbed hard when Jarod handed him to Debbie. The young boy feared that this was the point that his dream about having parents and a family fell apart.

After Jarod said goodbye to Broots and Debbie, he turned to Sydney and handed him a piece of paper.

“These are the addresses of your houses. They are barely a block away from the house where Parker and I…” His voice trailed off and his eyes seemed lost.

“Have faith in your love Jarod. She will return with you. Just give her time and talk to her. Be there for her.”

The young man nodded and hugged his mentor goodbye. He got into his car and started driving. He hadn’t found a single clue about her whereabouts and although Sydney had advised against it, Jarod’s brilliant plan was to just start driving and be guided by his love for her.

 

***

 

After two days of almost constant driving, Jarod let out a deep sigh. Some genius he was… just driving around in one of the biggest countries in the world trying to find a single person without a single clue to her location. Tears welled up in his eyes. He would never find her. He would not be able to keep his promise to his son. Jarod silently cried for the love he had lost. But then his eye fell on a road sign.

-MAIN 50 miles-

He knew where she was. Complete and utter joy filled his whole body and soul and he pressed down his gas pedal, breaking every possible speed limit he came across.

 

***

 

It still felt like a lifetime had gone by as he finally parked his car in front of the inn. Jarod got out of the car and walked inside.

“I’ll be right there.” The voice that came from the kitchen still sounded familiar to Jarod.

“Jarod?” Ben gasped when he saw the younger man standing in front of the counter.

“Hello Ben.” Jarod smiled but then turned serious. “Where is she?”

Ben looked at him in silence for a few moments. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

“Please Ben, I need to talk to her. Tell me she’s here.”

The older man heard the distress and worry in Jarod’s voice and when he looked into his eyes, those same feelings shone through and were made stronger by love and care.

“I… She told me she doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Anyone.”

Jarod let out a soft sigh. He’d been right. She was here. “Is she in Catherine’s room?”

“I can’t tell you that Jarod.” Ben answered, but he nodded his head so slightly that Jarod had almost missed it.

Jarod threw the man a thankful smile and almost ran up the stairs. Outside the room he took in a deep breath and gently knocked on the door.

“Go away Ben, I don’t want to talk.” He barely recognized her voice and a pang of deep worry shot through him.

“It’s not Ben.” He answered. “Can I please come in?”

For a few moments it stayed quiet on the other side of the door and Jarod had to gather every fibre of patience he had to not kick in the door.

“No, go away.” Her voice sounded soft and painful. He had to strain to understand her.

“I can’t leave Parker. I love you. I can’t just forget about you and neither can Kyle.”

“Go away.” He heard the tears in her voice and tried the doorknob again. She had locked it from the inside and he let out inaudible curse.

“Here.” Bens whispered behind him.

Jarod turned towards the man and took the master-key from him.

“I love that woman in there too Jarod. I don’t want to see her hurt and I know you can make her happy.”

Jarod nodded, turned back to the door, opened it and stepped inside without hesitation.

“I told Ben I didn’t want to see anyone. That includes you.” She whispered.

He turned towards the sound and let out a gasp. She sat in a big chair, her chin was resting on her knees and her arms where clasped around her legs. She stared outside and barely looked like the woman he had fallen in love with. It was as if the ghosts from her past had attacked her all at once. The lines around her eyes and on her face had seemed to deepen and for the first time he actually thought she looked old. He walked towards her and kept his voice soft.

“I’m not just anyone Parker.”

“No, but you can become anyone.” That remark hurt him deeper than before and he wondered why.

“When I’m around you and our family I’m only one man. Myself. I can’t pretend when I’m surrounded by people I love.” He kneeled down next to her but kept his distance.

“I can’t do this. I can’t become someone I’m not.”

 “Then don’t Parker, I fell in love with the person that you are. I don’t expect you to change.”

“For thirty years… no, for my entire live I’ve been trained by The Centre. I can’t just file that training away and turn into a mommy and a housewife.”

“Honey, you don’t have to turn into anyone. Don’t you understand? We’ve all been through the same shit. Every member off our weird family has been through the same shit. No one expects anything from anyone.” She still hadn’t looked at him, still hadn’t said his name and that worried him. He wanted to see her eyes again. He had missed her eyes. “Not even Kyle expects anything from you. He just wants you to be there for him. And I need you just as badly as he needs you.”

“How can he need me? He barely knows me.”

“Like every normal child he needs his parents and their love. I know you love him Parker; I can see it in your eyes when you look at him.”

She stayed silent and kept her eyes trained on that point in the garden. “How can you need me and love me after all I’ve put you through?” She whispered.

He finally found the courage to take her hand and softly squeezed it. “I’ve loved you from the moment I met you and I never stopped loving you. Not even when you turned into that cold bitch your father expected you to be, because I knew that deep down inside you were still your mother’s daughter. I will always love you. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life without you. I need you more then I ever thought possible.”

“But why do you love me?”

“Because when I’m with you I feel safe. I feel at home and I feel like all the pieces of a very complicated puzzle are finally falling into place. I never felt like this with anyone. When we make love we’re like one. When I hold you in my arms it feels like you belong there. When I feel you in my arms when I wake up, I feel like I can take on the world that day. Even if I just think of you, I feel love for you. And I love you because you are an incredible woman: inside and outside. I love you, because you, are you.”

If Thomas had ever told her he loved her because ‘you, are you’ she would have slapped him and asked him for a better explanation. But when Jarod told her this, it felt right. Jarod knew her to her deepest core; he was the only one she would accept an explanation like this from.

He saw a tear fall down her cheek and gently cupped her face with his free hand and turned her face to him.

“Tell me you don’t feel the same. Tell me you don’t love me and I’ll go away. If you don’t feel the same, I’m fighting a losing battle here. Please Monica, tell me you love me.”

He felt her start to shake and saw her lower lip trembling. He had a lump in his throat. Wrapping his arms around her, he kissed her on her forehead.

Her voice sounded very far away when she finally talked: “I can’t fight the demons anymore Jarod.”

“You don’t have to fight them anymore honey.” He whispered in her hair. “The Centre is going down and we can fight the nightmares together. Whatever happens next we’ll face it together. Together we can face anything.”

“I know.” She sighed and wrapped her arms around him, breathing in his scent. How could she have ever doubted this? How could she have ever doubted him, her feelings for him, the fact that they belonged together.

He felt how she pulled him closer and he let out an inaudible sigh. Not all was lost between them.

“You need a shower.” He said with a playful glint in his eyes.

He was right. She really did need a shower. Since she had arrived she had barely eaten anything and she just sat in that chair and stared out of the window, she hadn’t even bothered to take a shower or take care of herself. She nodded and he pulled her out of the chair and guided her into the bathroom. There he gently undressed her; she saw he had switched into ‘rescue’ mood and only concentrated on her well-being. He helped her inside the shower after checking the temperature of the water. Taking off his shirt to keep it dry, he turned on the water.

“I’ll be waiting outside.” He said and turned away, but was stopped by her hand on his shoulder.

“Please stay.” She whispered so softly he would have missed it if a needle had dropped on the floor.

He turned to her again and looked into her sad blue eyes. “Are you sure?”

She nodded and stepped aside.

“Inside?” He asked surprised.

She nodded again.

A small smile played on his face as he got undressed and joined her under the water.

She handed him the sponge and he slowly traced the curves of her body with it. His body was already reacting to her closeness and her nakedness. He tried to stay objective, but completely failed and the fact that she took the sponge from him and began tracing his body with it, really didn’t help. She noticed his struggle and put a gentle hand on his chest and then traced it up to cup his cheek with it. He looked at her with eyes filled with surprise, hope and love. Somehow every time he looked at her, his eyes had love in them, no matter how angry or worried he was feeling. She hadn’t noticed this before and felt ashamed for missing something like that. A soft smile appeared on her face as she pulled him closer and softly kissed his lips. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.

They both chuckled when the rumbling of her stomach broke their kiss.

“I’ll go downstairs to get you some food. Just wait here for me. I’ll be right back.”

She nodded and he quickly got out of the shower, dried himself off, slipped in his pants and put on his shirt. He didn’t bother putting on his undies or closing the buttons of his shirt.

 

Ben smiled when Jarod leaped down the stairs. His hair was still wet and his shirt was buttoned open.

“Ben, I need some food for her.” Jarod told the older man.

“I’m glad she’s eating something again.” Ben answered and let Jarod inside the kitchen. “The fridge and sandwiches are over there. Just take whatever you need.”

About ten minutes later he was back inside her room, his hands and arms filled with sandwiches, fruit and a big water bottle. She sat on the bed in a plain white bathrobe and gave him a thankful smile. He was happy to see her so refreshed. She looked completely different from the woman who’d been sitting on the chair by the window.

He sat down on the other side of the bed and put the food and drinks in between them. “There’s cheese in the sandwiches. I hope you’ll like it.”

She nodded and took one, carefully biting off a piece. He took an apple himself and watched her as she finished all the sandwiches by herself in rapid speed. She hadn’t realised she had been this hungry. She finished her meal with a banana and a gulp of water.

When she looked up at him, she caught his eyes and got lost in their beauty for a few moments.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered so softly he had almost missed it.

Jarod cleared the bed, closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her.

“Don’t be.” He said and kissed her hair.

She put her head and her hand on his chest and slowly traced his half-naked torso. She had missed his closeness and his touch. She had missed him, plain and simple.

Closing her eyes, she let herself drift to sleep. The first good sleep she had in days. Jarod just held her and finally drifted to sleep himself.

 

***

 

Around 7 am Jarod woke up and felt her weight on him. A soft smile appeared on his lips and he lifted his head to look at her. To his surprise she was fully awake and looking at him.

“What are you doing?” He asked, the sound of sleep still clear in his voice.

“Watching you sleep.” She simply answered.

“You like what you see?” He asked with a playful smile.

“Yes.” She whispered and softly kissed his lips.

“We should go down for breakfast.” He said after pulling away from her.

“Not yet.” She purred in his ear and kissed his neck.

He let out a soft moan as his hands started untying her robe.

“God, I need you.” He groaned as her hands tugged on his pants.

“I need you too.” She finally admitted. “I love you.”

He pulled her fully on top of him and the kiss they shared was filled with love and promises for the future. She felt his body react to hers.

“I want you now.” She moaned and the only coherent thing he could do was nod and moan.

 

About two hours later they made it downstairs.

“Good morning kids.” Ben greeted them with an honest smile and led them inside the kitchen.

“I’ll make you some scrambled eggs.”

“Do you have any mushrooms?” Jarod asked.

Ben looked up at him in surprise. “Yes, there should be a box in the fridge. What are you planning?”

“I’m gonna make my baby’s favourite breakfast.” He answered and gave Parker a quick kiss on her shoulder.

“Who says it’s my favourite?” She asked with a wicked smiled.

“Because I saw it in your eyes when you first tasted it.” He answered and gave her a soft kiss.

Ben looked at the scene with tender care in his eyes. From the moment he had met these two, he knew that there was more between them that either of them cared to admit back then. And he was very happy that they had finally been able to admit it.

 

That evening after dinner, they started talking about their family.

“You know, Ben, we really should come visit again with Kyle. I’m sure he would love it here.” Parker said.

“Kyle?” Ben asked.

“He’s our son.” Parker said and both men could hear the pride in her voice.

“You have a son?” Ben asked surprised, his eyes almost popping out. “How old is he?”

“He’ll turn four in about three months.” Jarod said with a twinkle in his eyes. He couldn’t wait for the first real birthday party in his family.

“You’ve been together for four years?” The older man asked even more surprised.

Parker looked at Jarod and he took her hand and gently rubbed it with his thumb.

“No.” She sighed and told Ben what had happened and how Kyle was made. The greying man looked very pale when she was finished.

“I knew they were bad, but I had no idea…” He whispered. “Catherine never wanted to tell me about anything they did. I don’t blame her.”

“So, is it ok if we visit with Kyle?” Parker asked.

“Of course it is.” Ben said and his face lightened up. “Parker, you and Jarod are like family to me. You are always welcome here and so are Kyle and anyone else in your family. And I can’t wait to meet that kid.”

Parker let out an inaudible sigh of relief. Ben had become a very good friend of hers and she loved it here. She didn’t want to leave Jarod and Kyle behind when she craved for the peacefulness of this place. But then again she also wondered why she had ever doubted that Ben didn’t want to meet Kyle. He loved kids and she knew he thought of her as the daughter he never had. He would love Kyle, no matter how the boy had come into this world.

“So, how long are you staying?” Ben asked after a short silence.

“I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about that yet.” Parker honestly answered.

“I was actually hoping that we could stay for a couple of days. I mean, I would love to get back home to our son, but we’ve had so little time alone together. I just would like to spend some time alone with Parker without the constant ‘threat’ of family and friends that would barge in. That is, honey, if you don’t mind.”

A smile appeared on her face and she gently cupped his cheek in her hand. “Why would I mind some alone-time with you?”

“I don’t care how long you stay.” Ben said. “Just know that for special visitors we provide room service.” He gave them a wink and walked into the kitchen.

“So, you want to stay longer?” Jarod asked her and softly kissed her cheekbone.

She turned to him and longingly kissed his lips. “Alone in a bed with you and room service at the ready? How could I say no to that?”

 

***

 

Three days later they said their goodbyes to Ben and promised to return with Kyle in the near future. The ride from their new home was only a six-hour drive, so they could come by regularly.

The time alone together had done them a world of good. All they had done apart from sleeping and eating was talking and making love. They had talked about their problems and their demons of the past and possible future. Yes, they had finally been able to talk about their future, but Jarod tried to avoid the marriage-subject. He knew she wouldn't run again, but he still felt somewhat uncomfortable. He had poured his heart out that day and she had run away. The pain he had felt on the airstrip in Scotland had been nothing compared to the pain he had felt then and he really didn’t want to feel that way ever again.

So when she proposed to him, his heart had almost jumped out of throat. The day before they left, she had dragged him outside to the lake to watch the sunset. The colours of the sun and the sky were breathtaking on the lake and when the sky almost turned black, she had turned to him and showed him the ring he had bought for her. She had found it in his bag and the moment she had held the box in her hands she had known what to do with it. He said yes and deeply kissed her before she even had a chance to ask the question. She didn’t care and deepened the kiss even more. God, she loved him so much.

Ben waved them off as they drove away from the inn. They would soon come back here. Both of them loved this place and knowing Kyle he would love it here too.

 

***

 

“They’re back!” Gene yelled through the house and ran outside. Sydney, Kyle and Debbie were right behind him.

“Mommy, daddy!” Kyle cried and jumped in his father’s arms.

“Kyle, I missed you so much.” Jarod said and hugged his son tight.

“Missed you too daddy. And mommy too.” Kyle said and crawled over in Parker’s arms.

She hugged her son tight and kissed him on his cheek. “Don’t worry baby, I’m never leaving you or daddy again.”

Kyle smiled brightly at her words. “Promise?”

“Promise.” Parker answered with a smile just as bright.

“Do you want to come inside or do you want to go home?” Sydney asked them.

“We’re going to get settled in our new house. You can come by tomorrow. Debbie, tell your dad that we’re inviting you guys for dinner tomorrow.” Jarod said.

“So, everything’s ok?” Gene asked.

“Yes.” Parker answered and showed them the ring on her finger. “We have a wedding to plan.”

Congratulations were given and Jarod walked Parker and Kyle to their new house. It was only around the corner from Sydney’s and a block away from Broots’. It was a quiet neighbourhood. Perfect to raise a family. Parker loved it and when they arrived at the house a smile lit up her face. It didn’t have a white picket fence and she was actually glad about that. But the house looked amazing. It had two storeys and seemed to come right out of a romantic Hollywood movie. A year ago she would have shot anyone who even tried to show her a house like this, let alone tell her that she would spend the rest of her life in it, but right now she loved it and she knew why. Jarod had opened the door to the little girl she used to be and this was the house she had told Jarod about when they were kids. She loved it.

“It’s perfect.” She whispered and gave him a loving kiss.

“I’m glad you like it.” He answered and opened the front door. Kyle ran in and his parents quickly followed.

“Even inside it’s perfect.” She said and hugged Jarod tight.

“Daddy, where’s my room?” Kyle asked enthusiastically.

“Upstairs, second door to the right.” Jarod answered and Kyle ran upstairs, letting out a pleased yelp when he opened the door.

Jarod and Parker followed him upstairs. By the wall over the stairs hung a few framed photos and she let out a gasp.

“You hung it here.” She pointed to the picture of her and her mother.

“Of course. She’s part of our family too. And I hope to add a lot of pictures on this wall in the near future.”

She looked at the other pictures; there was one of Kyle, their son and Kyle, Jarod’s brother, one of Sydney, one of Broots and Debbie, one of Gene and his father and the picture Jarod had always carried around from his mother and Emily. Her eye fell on a particular photo and she softly smiled. “I didn’t know Sydney took this one.” She said and pointed to the picture of her and Jarod that Sydney had taken without their knowledge. It was in the kitchen of the cabin. They had their arms wrapped around each other and Jarod gave her a soft kiss on her forehead. The love between the two people on the photo almost radiated from it.

“It’s beautiful.” She sighed.

“I thought so too.” He said with a smile, took her hand and guided her upstairs.

 

“You like your room?” Jarod asked as they entered Kyle’s room.

“This is all mine?” He asked with big eyes as he looked around at the bed, the over-the-top filled toy-closet and his filled wardrobe.

“Of course it is.” Jarod answered.

“Wow.” Was all that Kyle said and he fell back on the bed, enjoying his big room.

Jarod and Parker walked back out. “The main bathroom is through that door. But we have our own private bathroom.” He said with a wink and led her inside the master bedroom that was at the end of the hallway.

“That’s a big bed.” She said with a smirk.

“Uhuh.” He nodded with a grin. “The walk-in-closet is through that door and our bathroom is right here.” Jarod said and opened another door.

“That’s a big bathtub… and a big shower.” She grinned and gave him a sensual look.

“Uhuh.” He nodded again. “The only access is through our bedroom, so we should have complete privacy here.”

“I like the sound of that.” She purred and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him in a deep sensual kiss.

“Daddy! Look what I found!” Kyle yelled as he burst into their bedroom.

“Remind me to put a lock on that door.” Jarod whispered in her ear. Parker just giggled and nodded.

“What is it son?” Jarod asked and pulled away from Parker. He was so glad they had stayed those extra days at Ben’s place. At least they had some real privacy there.

Kyle held up the big box that was filled with PEZ dispensers.

“Ah, I see you found the kitchen. Well, take two out and they are yours. Deal.”

“Yeah.” Kyle smiled and rummaged through the box, taking out a Batman and a panda bear dispenser. “I like these.”

“Good.” Jarod nodded and took the box from him. “Now, let’s show you guys the rest of the house.” He took Parker’s hand and did just that.

 

***

 

Two months slowly passed for the small family. Their friends came over regularly for dinner or just to talk.

Jarod had taken up a job as a doctor at the local clinic. It didn’t earn him a lot of money, but money was the least of their problems, he was there to help people, people who couldn’t afford a fancy hospital, and he loved what he did. He brought Kyle along now and then and the boy was fascinated when he saw his dad in doctor-mode.

Parker had started working for a small import/export company that did a lot of business with Japan and Russia. The boss of the company had felt like he was blessed when he found Parker. She was a hard worker and spoke those two languages fluently. He didn’t mind she brought Kyle along now and then. He was a wonderful and quiet child. And it amazed everyone how fast Kyle took up Japanese and Russian words when Parker was talking on the phone.

Gene and Debbie went back to school and they had shared their first kiss together. Broots kept a close eye on his daughter and the young man whenever they were together. But somewhere deep inside he knew Gene could be trusted with Debbie.

Broots was hired by Microsoft and he was usually working at home. Only once every two or three weeks he had to go to Silicon Valley for a meeting. Debbie loved it that her dad was home so much.

Gene stayed with Sydney and he loved the older man. Sydney spend most of his time writing psychology books, babysitting Kyle and holding long discussions with Gene about psychology. The two of them got along great.

 

***

 

They all had been spending the last three days at Ben’s, preparing for the wedding. Jarod had chosen Broots to be his best man and Debbie was Parker’s bridesmaid.

Jarod’s breath got stuck in his throat when Parker came in his sight. She looked stunning in her simple cream coloured dress. Her shoulders and back where bare and she seemed to be radiating in the colour of the setting sun. They had chosen the place by the lake where they got engaged to hold their wedding.

Parker clasped Sydney’s arm and he slowly led her down the aisle.

“She’s so beautiful.” Jarod whispered and tears appeared in his eyes.

Broots put an arm on his friend’s shoulder and chuckled. “You are one lucky bastard Jarod.”

“I know.” Jarod said and his eyes never left Parker for the rest of the ceremony.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered…” The priest started talking but neither Jarod nor Parker heard him. They stared in each other’s eyes and drowned each other in pure love. It took both their breaths away.

“Jarod?”

Jarod came out of his trance and stared dumbly at the priest.

“Your vows?”

“Oh.” Jarod smiled and turned back to Parker. “Monica, from the moment I met you, I knew you where the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. You are my best friend and you were my only friend for a long time. Even when we were enemies and you tried to shoot me, I could only love you. I’m so happy we’re finally able to spend the rest of our lives together. I’ve always loved you and I’ll always love you.”

She felt a lump in her throat at his beautiful words. “Jarod, you are the man I’ve loved for all my life, I just didn’t want to admit it for a very long time. You were my only friend when we were kids and you were always there when I needed you. Back then, when we were older and now. You were always the one by my side when I needed someone; you opened my heart so I could acknowledge my love for you. I love you with all my heart, soul and body and I’ll love you until eternity.”

By now both of them had tears in their eyes and the priest continued.

“Jarod Hall, do you take Monica Parker as you lawfully wedded wife.”

“I do.”

“Monica Parker, do you take Jarod Hall as you lawfully wedded husband?”

“I do.”

“Then I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Jarod wrapped his arms around her and gave her a kiss so filled with love that she felt her knees go weak and her body melt.

 

***

 

Their honeymoon was a simple one. Just a week extra at Ben’s after the others had left. A big bed and room service was all they needed in that week and every evening they walked to the lake to watch the sunset.

 

“Jarod, I’m not feeling so good.” Parker said on their last day when they were packing their bags.

“What is it?” He asked and sat her down on the bed.

“It’s probably just my period that’s starting. Finally. I’ve never been this late before.”

“Honey, what are you feeling?” Jarod asked.

“Just a bit of nausea, my nipples are very sensitive. You noticed that this morning.”

“I did.” Jarod grinned. “We’d better get you to a doctor when we’re home again.”

“Jarod, no, I’m fine. Like I said, it’s probably just my period.”

“Honey, I think you’re pregnant.”

She looked at him with wide eyes. “What?”

“Don’t sound so surprised. We never used any contraceptives.”

“I know.” She whispered and kept staring at him. “I just…”

“I know.” He said, took her hand and sat next to her. “Before we get to any preliminary conclusions, we need to go see a doctor.”

She nodded and wrapped her arms around him. “Do you really think I’m pregnant?”

“I think so, maybe. I hope so.”

She looked up at him. “I never really thought about it to be honest.”

“You… you do want another kid, don’t you?” He asked, feeling worried about her answer. They had never really talked about it. He had just presumed that they would be having more children. But then again, it was never safe to presume anything where Parker was concerned.

“I never really thought about it.” She honestly answered. “I don’t want to get rid of it, if that’s what you’re afraid of. I just never thought I would be pregnant or give birth to a baby, or take care of a baby.”

“But you do want it?”

“Of course I do.”

He let out a relieved sigh. “We’ll get through it together. Just like everything else.”

“Together? So you’ll carry him for four-and-a-half months and I’ll carry him for four-and-a-half months? And will you give birth to him or should I? Or should we just split that up too?” She tried to sound serious, but he didn’t miss the twinkle in her eyes and the soft smile on her lips.

“Parker, you know what I mean.” He said with a smirk.

“Yeah, but I just like to pester my little labrat.” She chuckled and gave him a soft kiss.

“I know you do.” He grinned and deepened the kiss.

 

***

 

To their joy Parker was pregnant. She had been pregnant about two months when they went to the doctor. Kyle was overjoyed when he heard the news. He couldn’t wait to have a brother or sister.

The others were also happy when they told it. Debbie hoped it was a girl and Gene hoped for a boy. Broots and Sydney didn’t care about the gender. They were just happy for the newlyweds.

 

***

 

Another month passed when Jarod got a call from Jessie. The trial was about to start and he had to come to the office for a meeting. Because it was almost a day to travel, he rented a small apartment close by the office and the courtroom. Parker and Kyle joined him a day later. He wanted to take them both to the courtroom. Parker had been a big support for Tracy and Kyle had become friends with the twins. The reunion between the kids was heart-warming, as was the meeting between Parker and Tracy.

The trial was long and winding. The defence for the man tried every possible way to get him off the hook, but when the testimonies of the kids started, the entire courtroom was crying and everyone knew the man would get sentenced for life. Luckily that was confirmed when the jury returned and sentenced the man to life without a chance for parole.

The children that were hurt by him could finally start living again.

 

The day after the trial Jarod, Parker and Kyle met up with Jessie for dinner.

“Hey Kyle.” Jessie said and shook the child’s hand. “I’m sure you don’t remember me.”

“Yes I do, you’re Jessie, a friend of my mommy and daddy.” Kyle stated.

A surprised look appeared on Jessie’s face. “You’re a very smart young man.”

“Thank you.” Kyle said with a smile and grabbed Jarod’s hand.

They sat down on their table and started talking about everything that had happened since they said goodbye almost four months ago. Of course Parker and Jarod couldn’t tell her everything. As far as she knew they had been married for years and Kyle was adopted. But they did tell her that Parker was pregnant and Jessie was overjoyed for them.

Before they left, Jessie made them promise that they would keep her updated on the pregnancy. Parker and Jarod had no problem with that and they said their goodbyes.

 

- 10 months later -

 

It was Jarod’s day off from the clinic, so it was his turn to watch Catherine. Kyle was at school and Parker was at work. It was early in the afternoon when Jarod was sitting on the couch, holding Catherine in his arms while he read out loud to her. It was the first Lord of the Rings book. Jessie had given it to him at her latest visit and she told him he had to read it. Now every day he had a chance to read it, he took his daughter in his arms and read it out loud to her.

“Gandalf looked down at Frodo and frowned. The Hobbit couldn’t…”

*ding dong*

Jarod looked up surprised when he heard the doorbell. Who could that be? Gene and Debbie were at school, Broots was at the Microsoft headquarters for a two-day meeting and Sydney was probably at home, but he would usually call before stopping by.

Jarod stood up and held Catherine close when he walked to the front door and opened it. His eyes almost popped out.

“Dad?” Jarod asked shocked.

“Hello Jarod.” The older man smiled and then he noticed the small bundle in Jarod’s arms. “Is that…?”

“Dad, where have you been? Why did you leave without talking to me? Do you have any idea how guilty Gene felt after you left? Even Kyle felt abandoned by his grandfather. Do you have any idea what you did to us? All of us?” Jarod’s distress was obvious to Charles.

“Son, I’m sorry. But I had to. And I found them.”

“You… you found them?” Jarod asked surprised, his eyes growing even bigger.

Charles nodded. “They’re waiting in the car. You want to see them?”

“Of course I do!” Jarod sounded almost offended.

Charles waved to the car and two redhead women instantly stepped out and almost ran towards the house.

“Mom. Emily.” Jarod gasped. He wanted to hug them, but remembered about the baby in his arms. “Dad, hold her.” Jarod said and carefully lay Catherine in his arms. Charles looked at her and recognized Parker’s deep blue eyes. He knew instantly that this was his granddaughter and he loved the beautiful girl right away.

“Mom… It’s really you.” Jarod wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight.

“Jarod.” Margaret whispered and held him close as tears appeared in her eyes. “Finally I found my son again.”

Jarod smiled at his mother through tear-filled eyes and then turned to his sister. “Emily, it’s so good to see you again.”

She flung herself around his neck. “Same here big brother.”

“I would love to meet my grandson.” Margaret said after he had release Emily.

“Kyle’s in school for another two hours. Monica’s picking him up after work, but you also have a granddaughter.” Jarod said with a proud smile and turned towards Charles who was making funny noises to the baby.

“Oh my…” Margaret whispered as Charles handed the girl to her. “She’s beautiful.”

“Mom, meet Catherine. We like to call her Cathy.” Jarod said and lovingly caressed his daughter’s cheek.

“You called her after Catherine Parker?” Charles asked surprised.

“She always was a good mother for Monica and she tried to get me out. I had absolutely no problem naming her after Catherine.” Jarod answered.

“Monica?” Margaret asked. “She’s Miss Parker?”

“Yes mom. We got married about 11 months ago. You can see the photos if you want. Broots made a very nice album.”

He received congratulations from his family and he finally led them into the house.

“Jarod, where’s Gene?” Charles asked his son after they sat down in the living room.

“He’s in school. He should be getting home in about an hour or three. I’ll call Syd and tell him to come by with Gene.”

“Gene’s staying with Sydney?” Charles asked, clearly uncomfortable with that thought.

“Yeah. Gene didn’t want to stay with us, because he wanted to give us some privacy. Broots didn’t want to take him in because of Debbie. But that didn’t stop them.” Jarod chuckled at the thought of the madly in love teenagers. “Sydney was living alone anyway and the two of them got along right away. It seemed like the best solution and it was.”

“You told me before that Gene was feeling guilty. Why?” Charles asked.

“He felt guilty because he let you leave alone and because he wasn’t able to stop you.”

“I had no idea.” Charles whispered. “You also said something about Kyle.”

“Well, Kyle felt like you abandoned him and that same morning I got in a huge fight with Monica and she left too. At that moment Kyle felt like everyone would abandon him and he was miserable. It took a lot of time before I got him convinced that his mom and grandfather would return.”

“I’m sorry Jarod, I had no idea.”

“The least you could do was talk to me before you left. Maybe then I could have decently explained it to my own son. But no, instead you decide to disappear in the middle of night.”

“I’m sorry. I thought that was the best choice at that moment. I tried to explain it to Gene. You already had your family. And the more time I spent with you guys, the worse I felt, because my family was still somewhere out there. I had to find them and I knew you would just try to stop me.”

Jarod looked at his father and let out a deep sigh. “You’re right. I would have tried to stop you. But you would have left anyway.”

Charles nodded and turned to Margaret who was looking at the photos on the wall.

“You really do love each other.” She said and pointed to the picture of Jarod and Parker at Sydney’s cabin.

“Yes, we do.” Jarod smiled.

“I think it was a nice wedding.” His mother continued, as she looked at the picture of them in wedding outfit and the group pictures in front of the lake.

“It was.” Jarod simply answered. “If I had known you were coming today, we would have waited a year so you guys could be there.”

“Oh, Jarod, don’t worry about it. Maybe in the near future we can arrange a wedding for your sister.” Margaret said with a slight smile.

“Mom!” Emily exclaimed.

“Sis, you’re seeing someone?”

“Sort of. I’ve met him at a computer fair about six months ago. We’ve been keeping contact online ever since. He’s a very nice guy, but he has a daughter and I don’t even know his last name. But of course mom’s already planning a wedding in her head.”

Jarod softly chuckled. “If you care about him, just try to meet him and his daughter.”

“I would love to, but maybe he lives on the other side of the country.”

“Emily, true love conquers all, trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”

“Jarod, you’re not starting either, are you?”

Jarod softly chuckled. “No, it’s your life and so it’s yours to do with as you please.”

“Thank you!” Emily said and turned to her mother with a face that said: ‘Listen to your son.’

Margaret joined her family in the living room and lovingly looked at Cathy. Jarod was feeding her and she was happily sucking on her bottle.

“Cathy really is a beautiful baby, Jarod.”

“Thanks mom.”

They started talking about their lives and everything they missed in each other’s lives until they heard a key moving in the lock of the front door.

Jarod’s face instantly lit up. “They’re home.”

“Daddy!” Kyle screamed as he ran inside the living room. He instantly stopped in his tracks when he saw the others, until he saw a familiar face. “Grandpa Charles?” He asked in a tiny voice, afraid that he was dreaming.

Charles was amazed that Kyle still remembered him so well and he got up from the couch. “Yes Kyle, it’s me.”

Kyle jumped in his arms and hugged him tight. “I missed you grandpa Charles.”

“I missed you too sport, I missed you too.”

Margaret let out a slight gasp when she saw the boy. “Jarod, he looks so much like you at that age.”

Jarod nodded. “Yeah, Sydney told me that too.”

At that moment Parker walked in too. “Oh my gosh. You found them.”

By now Jarod had put Cathy back in her crib and he walked over to Parker, giving her a soft kiss. “Honey, I’d like you to meet my mom and my sister Emily. Mom, Em, this is Monica, my wife.”

“You really look just like her.” Margaret said and hugged Parker.

“It’s so good to finally meet you. I always hoped that you could tell me more about my mother.”

“I can.” Margaret smiled.

Parker smiled too and turned to Emily.

“I finally have a sister-in-law.” They both said at almost the same time and the small group laughed.

The women hugged and felt comfortable together almost instantly.

“Kyle, son. There are two people here I would love for you to meet.”

Kyle walked to his father and took his hand.

“This is your Aunt Emily.”

“Hello.” Kyle said and politely shook her hand.

“Hello Kyle. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“And this.” Jarod continued as he turned to Margaret. “Is your grandmother.”

“I have a grandmother?” Kyle asked with big eyes.

Margaret swallowed the lump in her throat and crouched down to his level.

“Yes Kyle, I’m your grandmother.”

A smile lit up Kyle’s face and he flung his arms around her neck. But when he released her, sadness played over his face. “Are you gonna leave too like grandpa Charles did?”

Margaret hugged him tight again. “No sweetie, neither of us is leaving ever again.”

They sat down in the living room again and talked until the bell rang.

“That must be Sydney, Gene and Debbie.” Jarod said as he got up to open the front door.

Introductions were made and Margaret was absolutely stunned to meet Gene. Charles had told her about him, but it was still a shock for her to learn she had another son and to actually see him and hug him.

They ordered in Chinese and kept talking until late in the evening. Jarod took his parents into the kitchen after the meal.

“Do you guys have a place to stay?” Jarod asked them.

“For now we’re staying in a motel just outside town. We didn’t really talk yet about what we’re going to do.” Charles answered.

Jarod nodded, took out a key out of his pocket and handed it to his father. “The house is only a block away from here. It’s yours to do with as you please. If you don’t want to stay around, you can sell it, and if you want to stick around, you can live there.”

“Jarod, we can’t take this.” Charles said, looking stunned at the key.

“Yes you can dad. Call it a final gift from The Centre. A good gift, that is.”

“Of course we’re staying here Jarod.” Margaret said. “I want to see my grandchildren grow up and I want Gene to stay close to his friends. Thank you so much.”

Jarod hugged them and they returned back to the dining room, telling the others about the house. When Charles asked Gene when he was moving, the young man looked stumped. He hadn’t even considered leaving Syd’s house to move in with his parents. Sydney told him it was ok. Debbie was still staying with him until tomorrow and Michelle was coming by in about four days. Gene decided to try and live with his family. For tonight he would still stay with Sydney and tomorrow they would all move into the new house.

 

***

 

The week rapidly passed and because of the constant pressure of their family. Emily finally had the guts to ask her computer man out for a date. And Gene finally found the courage to ask Debbie out for their first real date.

“Hey Emily. Hey Gene.” Parker smiled and led them inside the house.

They walked into the living room and sat down.

“Emily, you look stunning.” Jarod said as he entered the room.

“Thank you.” The redhead slightly blushed.

“You know Emily, it can’t be just a coincidence that you and this guy live in the same town. You are meant for each other.” Parker said with a wicked smile.

Emily chuckled. “I don’t believe in that soul mates theory or love at first sight stuff.”

“I do.” Jarod stated and sat down next to Parker, gently put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close to him.

“So do I.” Parker grinned and lovingly kissed him.

“Ugh, Please. Ok, maybe for like, one in every ten thousand couples this fits, but I still don’t believe it’s there for me.”

“Hey this guy could be the one. I mean, you only met him once, but you guys constantly talk online and when you talk about him, I see this sparkle of love in your eyes.” Parker said.

Emily let out a sigh. Time to change the subject of their conversation. “So, little brother, your first real date tonight too huh?”

Gene slightly blushed. “Yeah. Now that her dad finally has a date too, we thought it was time we took a chance of the opportunity to have our first date.”

“Broots has a date too?” Parker asked with a snicker. “On what site did he pick her up?”

“Parker!” Jarod said stern but couldn’t hide a slight grin either.

“I dunno.” Gene shrugged. “I didn’t ask for details.

*Ding Dong*

Gene’s face instantly lit up. “That’s gotta be Debbie. Ok, wish me luck.” He hurried outside the room.

“Break a leg!” Parker called after him.

Jarod looked at her in pure surprise. “Why do you want him to break a leg?”

Both Parker and Emily started laughing.

“Sweetie. It’s just an expression. It means good luck.”

“So if you want to wish someone good luck, you want them to break a leg?” Jarod looked absolutely serious and confused.

Parker tried to hold her laughter but completely failed. “I don’t want him to break a leg, sweetie. It’s just an expression. Don’t worry about it.”

“Oh.” Jarod said but still felt confused.

“I’d better leave too before I’m late for my date.” Emily said and got up.

“You sure you don’t need a bodyguard?” Jarod asked with a grin.

“I’ll manage.” Emily answered with a smirk.

“Ok, then break a leg.” Jarod said and looked with a proud face at Parker. She just started laughing again and gave him a loving slap on his chest.

“Oh Jarod, if I didn’t love you so much…”

“Then what?” He asked with a questioning look.

“I wouldn’t be kissing you like this.” She purred and invaded his mouth.

 

***

 

The next day Parker and Emily met up for lunch. Cathy was staying with her grandparents, so they had all the afternoon for lunch and a shopping spree.

“So, when are you going to tell me about last night?” Parker asked with an amused twinkle in her eyes.

“Not much happened, really. Peter’s too much of a gentleman. I think that if I want anything to happen, I have to make the first move.”

Parker chuckled. “Do you want to make the first move?”

Emily slightly blushed. “I dunno… I mean, I think so… Peter’s a great guy, but there’s still so much I don’t know about him and there’s still so much he doesn’t know about me. And I still haven’t met his daughter. He keeps avoiding talking about his family and his past, like he’s hiding something. It’s weird that I do the same.”

Parker let out a sigh and then smiled. “Maybe he’s been running from The Centre too.”

Emily softly laughed. “That would be too much of a coincidence.”

Parker turned more serious again. “Look Emily, if there’s one thing I learned from my history with Jarod, it’s that you have to talk about what’s on your mind. If you like this guy, but want to know more about him. Just ask him and talk to him about it.”

Emily nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Parker laughed in herself. ~Look at me, giving dating advice while a year ago I ran away from Jarod whenever he tried to talk to me.~

“Hey Emily, why don’t you bring him along this Saturday for the barbeque at our house and ask him to bring his daughter. I’m sure Debbie would be thrilled by that.”

Emily nodded. “I will ask him. Thank you. But I do think that Debbie is more thrilled by Gene’s presence these days.”

Parker let out a snicker. “Good point.”

 

***

 

“Hey Em.” Jarod greeted her as she entered the yard through the garden gate door. “You came alone?”

“Yes. Peter already had plans with his family today.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.” Jarod said and poked the coals of the barbeque.

“Where is everyone?” She asked as she looked at the abandoned table in the middle of the garden.

“Inside. Probably hovering around Cathy. When Monica said she was going to feed her, everyone followed her inside.”

“So, I’m here last again?”

“No, Em. Broots still has to come, but he was called in a last-minute online meeting. He’ll probably be here in about an hour. Debbie came alone already.”

“Ah, the mysterious Broots. He’s the only one I still haven’t met yet.”

“Well, you both are busy people.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Emily said and went inside the house to look for the rest of her family.

 

“Dad. Finally.” Debbie said when her father entered the garden an hour-and-a-half later.

“Sorry I’m late, guys. The beta-tests weren’t going as planned.” Broots said as he walked up to the filled table. “Is there still some room left?”

“Yes, right there next to Emily.” Jarod said and pointed to his sister.

“Oh, Emily. It’s so nice to finally meet you.” Broots smiled and shook the girls hands. ~Heck, if I had known she was this cute, I would have located Jarod a long time ago just to meet her.~

“Hello Broots. Do you have a first name, cause I don’t like calling people by their last name.” Emily smiled amicably. ~Oh, he’s a cutie-pie.~

“It’s John, but just call me Broots. Even my parents call me Broots.” ~Would Jarod mind if I ask her out on a date?~

“Ok, Broots it is then.” Emily chuckled. ~Is this love at first sight? Maybe I should ask Monica later.~

 

“So, Emily, do you still regret that Peter couldn’t make it tonight?” Monica asked when she saw Emily staring at Broots who was playing and laughing with Kyle.

“Peter?” Emily asked confused. “Oh, Peter… I don’t know.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“Your love at first sight theory… I think I believe in it now.” Emily said and looked at Broots again. He quickly looked away, hoping she hadn’t caught him staring at her.

A soft smile appeared on Parker’s face. “Broots is a great guy Emily. If you like him, don’t hesitate.”

“Yeah, and he’s a great father too, isn’t he?” She asked.

“Besides Jarod, Broots is the best father any kid could wish for.”

Emily let out a chuckle. “How do you think Jarod is going to react when his little sister starts dating his best friend?”

“I honestly think that he’ll be happy for the both of you. He only wants what’s best for you and Broots. But if you want his blessing, go to him now. He’s always in a very good mood when he’s playing with the kids.” Parker said and looked at her husband who was lifting Catherine high in the air. The smile on the baby’s face told them she loved it.

“When is he in his best mood?” Emily asked with a chuckle.

“For that you’d have to be in our bedroom. Bad idea, I’m sure.” Parker said and gave her a mysterious wink.

“I think bad idea would be a major understatement.” Emily laughed.

 

- 6 years later -

 

“Cathy, sweetheart, why won’t you eat your ice-cream?” Jarod asked when his daughter kept playing with the spoon and not really eating any of it.

The little girl looked up at her father with big eyes. “I don’t like ice-cream.”

Jarod opened his mouth and closed it again; he heard Parker giggle and looked at her. “Are you sure she’s mine?” He asked with a playful glint in his eyes.

“Jarod! How can you even think that?” Parker said stern, but couldn’t contain another giggle and quickly took a spoon full of ice cream.

Jarod softly laughed when he looked at Kyle. The ten year old was shoving ice cream into his mouth almost faster then he could swallow it. “Now, he really does take after his old man.”

Kyle looked up with a smile, his mouth covered in dark chocolate ice cream.

Jarod turned back to his daughter. “Cathy, is there anything else you would like? They also have pancakes and waffles here. I’ll sacrifice myself to finish your ice cream then.”

“Ha, great sacrifice that is.” Parker scowled with a smile.

“A waffle, daddy.”

“With whipped-cream?”

Cathy nodded and Jarod got up and walked to the counter, ordering a waffle. When he turned around again, he glanced out of the window and a gasp escaped his mouth. “No, impossible!”

Parker heard him and followed his gaze outside. “Oh my god.” She whispered when panic took over from her. She quickly looked back at Jarod. “What do we do?”

“I… I don’t know.” He stumbled and sat down on the couch. “The Centre’s gone. What’s he doing here of all places?”

Parker saw Jarod’s hands trembling and she took them in hers, gently squeezing them. “I’ll go talk to him.”

“Parker, no! I’m not leaving you alone with him.” Jarod’s voice slightly raised and both his kids looked up surprised at him. Their dad never raised his voice, unless something was really really wrong.

“Jarod, either I go alone, or you come along, but then we have to take the kids with us. I really don’t want to do that.”

He let out a deep sigh. “Please be careful and stay close so I can keep an eye on you.”

Parker nodded and got up, giving him a quick kiss before she stepped out of the ice cream parlour in the shopping mall.

“What are you doing here?” She snapped when she approached the man.

“Parker?” He gasped as he spun around. “My god. I never thought I’d see you again.”

“Lyle, don’t give me that bullshit. What are you doing here?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.” Parker growled.

“I’m trying to find something for my daughter’s birthday.”

Parker looked at him stunned for a few moments. “Daughter?”

“Yes Parker. Believe it or not, but I got married and I have a three year old daughter and a son  on the way.”

His look was honest, but could she trust him? He had lied to her that much in the past. “Prove it.”

Lyle nodded and took his wallet out of his pocket, taking out a couple of pictures and handing them to her. “The first one is my wife, Grace. The second one is Ann, our daughter and the third is one of us three together.”

They could be fake, but Ann really looked like a combination of Lyle and Grace. Parker was confused and unsure of what to do.

“Parker, you look great, you know that? What happened to you since you decided to disappear?”

She looked up at him, still unsure of what to do. “Lyle, look me straight into my eyes and tell me this is true.” She said, holding up the pictures. To her surprise and relief, he did just that. “Ok, I believe you.” She said.

“Thank you. So, care to share on your new life?” Lyle asked.

She gave him a weak smile. “I married Jarod and besides Kyle, you know, our supposed brother/nephew, we have a six-year old daughter. We named her Catherine, but we usually call her Cathy.”

“I’m happy for you sis. I’m sure Jarod is a great husband and father.”

“He is.” Parker said with a slightly wider smile.

“And what happened to the other stooges?” Lyle asked with a curious grin.

It was weird for her to talk to him like they were friends who simply hadn’t seen each other in a very long time. But for some weird reason she felt comfortable with him in this weird new situation.

“Sydney got married to Michelle about six years ago. They live right around our corner. Broots married Emily about five years ago. Together they have two twin girls, Faith and Eve.”

“Wait…” Lyle interrupted her. “Emily? Jarod’s sister?”

Parker nodded.

“And Jarod didn’t kill Broots for touching his sister?” He asked with a chuckle.

“Not at all. Funny thing was that both of them asked Jarod for his blessing without knowing that from each other.” She softly laughed at the memory.

“Did Jarod every find the rest of his family.”

“They found him to be exact. His parents and Gene are living around our corner too.”

“Gene?”

“Ah yes, you know him better as Gemini.”

Lyle looked at her surprised and smiled an honest smile. “I’m glad he’s ok.”

“He’s more than ok.” She chuckled. “He’s getting married next week.”

“He is?” Lyle asked even more surprised.

“Yes, to Debbie, Broots’ daughter.”

“That’s amazing.” Lyle said and glanced at his watch. “Sorry Parker, I have to get going or the shops will be closed.” He reached inside his pocket and pulled out a business card. “Call me whenever you like. I would love to get together again to really catch up on our lives.”

Parker nodded, but before he walked away, she stopped him. “Lyle, what happened to Raines?”

“He died nearly six months after we fled from a falling Centre. I had his body cremated and dumped his ashes in a dump somewhere.”

Parker softly laughed. “Good choice. Goodbye Lyle.”

“Goodbye Parker and don’t forget to call me.”

And gone he was. Barely a minute later Jarod and the kids were by her side.

“So, what’s he doing here?” Jarod growled, glaring at the direction Lyle had disappeared to.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Parker laughed and lifted Cathy in her arms. “Let’s go home.”

 

THE END



This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=5028