This story is by Gramisha Hernandez and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Noa Fitzgerald paced behind her glass desk in worry. Usually, the Atlantic Ocean view would calm her nerves, but currently, she pulled at her curly locks in worry; Brendan Darling said he would check in thirty minutes ago, two hours later still no word. As a handler for Grimm Intelligence Task Force, her operatives had to go behind enemy lines; however, today Brendan had a simple task in Miami. His level head and intuition made him the best interrogation specialist she had on payroll. Unless he had found something else to occupy his time…Noa shook her head clear of those types of thoughts. She had no claim to Brendan, but the possessiveness in her heart didn’t know that. His voice, deep and smooth, in her ear for the last two years, made her desire more than her tower would allow.
Noa checked the time again on her monitor. She had to give a status update to Dame Gothel in ten minutes. All her other charges were safe in their castles except for Brendan, either Noa would have to turn Brendan in or lie for him. Four computer screens spread across her desk. She swiveled between two keyboards. Nothing.
Resolved she picked up her communication device, placed the headset over her riotous curls to report that he was missing. “Rapunzel, come in, Rapunzel.”
Relief made her body sag, but steel laced her voice, “Damn it, Brendan. You cannot go off line like that again.”
“Worried about me, Rapunzel?”
“Yes, I’m worried about you; I’m also worried about me. If you pull shit like this again the boss is going to have my ass.”
“Get me a clean line.”
Noa opened a covert line. “Clear.”
“Pixie confirmed that the red apple is in Illinois.”
“Yep,” he confirmed. “When do I leave?”
She maneuvered from screen to screen. “Done. You leave tomorrow morning at seven thirty. I’m sending all the info to your laptop now.” Indecision warred inside of her. “Brendan? Please be careful.”
“I will,” he said. “Now, sweet girl, onto a more important topic. When are you going to let me take you on a date?”
Noa had never been tempted to break free before, but Brendan made her want. She sat back in her chair, eyes wandering around her luxurious prison. Resigned, she said, “When I can come and play, you’ll be my first call.” Her intercom system buzzed. “Brendan, I have to go.”
“See you soon.”
See me soon?
The buzzer sounded again. She rushed over to the wall mounted system. Her video monitor detailed her caller’s face. Why was an Abercrombie model on her doorstep? Spiked brown hair, styled probably inadvertently, framed almond brown eyes, straight nose, plump lips, groomed beard. He was beautiful…and familiar.
No fucking way.
Noa picked up her cellphone and dialed the number she committed to memory, but didn’t have the gumption to use. He answered on the first ring. “Brendan,” she growled.
“Hi, sweet girl,” he said.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
The sexy voice spoke softly, “I know, but I have to put a face with the voice. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”
His voice had been driving her crazy since he had been assigned to her. She had never yearned to break a rule, but Brendan on her doorstep made her throw caution to the wind. “Penthouse,” she said, and pressed the unlock on the elevator.
She had exactly forty-two seconds to make herself presentable. She ran to the bathroom, and glanced at her reflection. She swished Listerine, and decided to remove her natural hair from its messy bun; her brown and gold locks cascaded to mid back. There was nothing she could do about her sweat pants and spaghetti strapped shirt. She heard the ding of the elevator, and heard the first step of Brendan’s boots on the hardwood. She took one more glance at herself, sighed, and decided to let it go.
She stepped out of hiding, and her breath caught.
Audibly, so did his. “You’re beautiful,” he said.
Noa’s cheeks ignited. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” His eyes did not leave hers, “Do I pass inspection?”
Noa’s hand went to her back holster. She aimed her Beretta Nano at his heart. “Not yet. Both arms up.”
He slowly raised his hands. His body matched his face. Although he was across the room, she could tell he would tower over her five-one stature. A leather jacket covered his upper body, but it emphasized the width of his shoulders.
Her measured steps towards him were sure and confident. Her eyes didn’t waver from his. “Well, our boss taught me well. Especially, since this place should be top secret. Face the wall. Slowly slip out of your jacket.” Her heart started to race from his slow strip tease. “Tell me, Mr. Darling, how did you find me?”
Brendan looked over his shoulder, “How often do you scan for tracking devices?”
“Every half hour…” her hands went to his hip briskly checking for a gun.
“You might want to up that to every quarter hour.”
She sank to her knees quickly checking his ankles. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You’ve never thought about that?”
She dropped her gun to her side and retrieved his jacket from the floor. “No…never.”
He pivoted to look at her again. “Well, I’ll check it out. If I can find you, anyone can, and I need you safe.” He nodded to the gun. “Do you know how to use that?”
“I’ve been packing since I was twelve. I might be able to teach you a thing or two.”
He laughed, husky and deep. “I bet. What you doing packing at twelve?”
“Well, when you work for a protector of justice and order, you’re suddenly worth more dead than alive.” His gaze slowly moved from her wild mane to her bare toes. She fidgeted under his perusal. Realizing her gun still in hand, Noa placed it back in her back holster, turned, and walked further into her living room. She said over her shoulder, “Would you like to come in?”
“Yeah, I would.”
“Can I get you something? I might not ever have company, but I do have manners. Just give me a moment, I need to check in.” She grabbed her communication device, and typed out a message.
“Ever? Tutors? Friends?” he took a deep breath. “Dates?”
Noa smiled. “Not very covert, sir.” He winked in response; her cheeks were on fire. She grabbed her communication device. “Dame Gothel is extremely protective. As a matter of fact, I need to check in with him.”
“Wait! Dame is a man?”
Shit, she cringed; having Xander in her sanctuary made her forget her training. She met in incredulous look, and warned, “Whatever happens in this tower, stays in this tower.”
“Keeping secrets is kind of my speciality.” He leaned on the counter, “How often is Dame here?”
She went back to typing her message, “Dame practically lives here.”
“Should I be jealous?”
The harsh tone made her look up, but the absurdity of the question made laughter erupt. “No, you do not have to be jealous at all, Brendan.”
Noa’s hand trembled; a secret for a secret. “Really? I wouldn’t have pegged you for an Alex.”
“What do you go by?”
“When I’m in your tower, you can call me Xander. What about you? I cannot imagine your parents really naming you Rapunzel.”
She bit her lip in indecision. Xander stood across from her leaning against her kitchen counter waiting for her to trust him, “Noa. My name is Noa.”
When he whispered her name, warmth settled in her stomach. “That totally fits you.” He walked towards her. “Well, Noa, I really want to get to know you.”
“Xander,” she explained, her eyes on his, “I don’t leave this place.”
“Never. This is my home until…”
“Until the person who killed my mom is either in prison or dead.”
“Which would you prefer?”
“I would prefer dead.”
“How long ago?”
“You’ve been trapped for that long.”
“Do you have evidence?”
She nodded. “I know who did it,” she admitted.
Noa’s alarm went off…someone was attempting to break into her castle. She ran over to her computer; typed in her kill code. She only had forty-two seconds to make sure that her team was safe and secure.
“Shit, was that the elevator? That’s not Dame is it?”
“No.” her fingers flew across the keyboard.
Xander grabbed her hand, pulling her away from her life.“I got to get you out of here now. Is there another exit?”
“Take a look around,” she yelled. “It’s a fortress. ”
“A glass fortress?”
“From the outside.”
“Do you trust me?”
She moved back several steps. “Fuck no.”
He followed her. “I’ll accept that for now.” As the elevator doors slid open, Xander, pulled her close, took her gun and fired at the intruders and then at the glass. “Jump!”