These are the things that I miss
These are not times for the weak of heart
These are the days of raw despondence
I never dreamed I'd have to lay down my torch for you like this
South Beach Crossing: Chinatown Tunnel - 4:55 pm
Ryan paced the ten steps down the sidewalk, past the liquor store, keeping an eye on the bank across the street. Mel had been in there only two minutes. He glanced around the corner, started to turn back, when one of parked cars caught his attention. You're imagining things, he gruffly told himself. No way she would be in this neighborhood.
The hotel door swung open, banging on broken hinges, catching the woman by surprise as she tried to catch it, prevent it from slamming into the glass. She missed, let it go, stepped out into the hot sunlight, blinked, and looked directly at him.
Stunned, Ryan could do nothing, say nothing, staring at her while she stared back. She took a step in the other direction, then turned back, looking at him, still silent. "Beth?" he finally managed to say. When she didn't move, didn't speak, he drew a long, unsteady breath and went to her, still not sure she was going to wait for him. The air shook, cars thundering across the overpass above him. She looked up, hesitated, but she didn't go. She waited.
The awning cast a shadow across her face but she hadn't changed, the same woman who continued to haunt his dreams, the one he had when he woke up alone and sweating. "How are you, Ryan?" she said, that soft familiar voice, but she seemed stiff, her voice careful, formal. She backed up, smoky blue eyes, pretty little lace dress, rings sparkling on her fingers, exactly as he remembered her. Better than he'd remembered her.
His right hand propped against the grimy wall, he smiled down at her. He hadn't seen her since that brief glimpse at the police station, and hadn't been this close since she turned him away that night outside Stanfield's mansion. It couldn't hurt to say a couple of words to her. It couldn't hurt to talk to her... "What are you doing here? Are you here by yourself?"
"I was supposed to meet someone about a renovation; he didn't show. I was just leaving." All the easy camaraderie they'd once had was gone, replaced by painful intensity and wariness. She looked almost frightened, poised to leap and run, arms crossed defensively across her breasts.
Ryan had spent a lot of time wondering if she knew about Rayne, struggling with the shame, shoving the thoughts aside, but they crept back again now. He didn't believe she knew. She wouldn't exchange one word with him if she did. It wasn't him, it had to be Cooper, that had to be it, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do but respect that choice.
"It's not safe," he gently told her, letting his hand brush her bare shoulder, travel down to her hand. Beth didn't pull away, but neither did she accept the handclasp. His heart aching, he let it go. "I'll walk you to your car."
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 27