See DISCLAIMERS. They explain why things are out of order, or incomplete, or unedited, or FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NOT SAFE FOR WORK.
READ AHEAD ONLY IF YOU ARE 18.
Now that the most important words had been said, Denna couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Katja was still walking beside her in the dark, and must not have expected any other conversation because every time Denna looked at her, Katja only offered a small soft smile. She seemed content to follow Denna around the cold streets of DC, even though Denna hadn’t told her where they were going.
Somewhere on this meandering stroll in the cold air, Denna had decided that she was taking Katja home – to her real home, at least for now. To the place she felt safe enough to sleep. [BACKREV: this place, or the apartment in DAY 20?]
She stopped, right there in the middle of the sidewalk.
Katja didn’t speak her question out loud, but it was all over her face. Denna reached out to gently tug on Katja’s gloved hand – always with the gloves – and changed their trajectory.
This time, she set a brisker pace. Once again, Katja followed without question.
Did that mean she trusted Denna?
Then again, didn’t this mean that Denna herself trusted Katja?
It was a loft apartment – one giant open room with a cement floor and a open ductwork ceiling. In another part of town, it would have been a designer loft, with wood trim and fancy appliances. In this neighborhood, it was just another oddly placed warehouse that someone had converted into a living space.
The furnishings were simple. A few old appliances, a large wooden block table she used like a kitchen counter, a queen-sized bed against an inner wall. There were a few mats in one corner near a dirty free-standing heavy bag.
A section of windows had been blocked blocked off with plywood, with another table nearby covered with computer systems and displays. Denna’s real work, whether she was had a job and was getting paid or not. Another corner held an industrial sink, and she’d rigged a rudimentary shower over a claw foot cast-iron tub.
There weren’t many amenities for guests, but Denna didn’t want a place where she could entertain. She wanted some place where she could work, and be left alone.
No one else had ever been here before, and though she’d wanted to bring her here, she was nervous that Katja was checking the place out with her no doubt precise and observant vision.
Too late to back out now, not that she really wanted to. [Fix]
“Drink?” Denna reached for a bottle of scotch on a shelf near the kitchen area, and raised it in question.
“Yes, thank you.” Katja tipped back the hood of her coat and loosened her scarf. She was walking around the room as if marking a perimeter, taking in everything, saying nothing.
She noticed that Katja hadn’t removed her coat. Or her gloves.
Denna opened and closed the freezer, mildly disgusted. There wasn’t any ice, so she’d have to serve the scotch neat. She walked the glass over to Katja, held it up with a mild apology.
Katja clinked her glass against Denna’s. When their eyes met, Denna felt Katja taking her measure again.
She’d already told her what felt like everything, and had held nothing back. So why did she feel so naked looking at Katja right now?
Katja resumed her walk around the room. “Earlier tonight. All the ways you told me you fought this,” she said. “I understand. Really. I was too clueless to see what was right in front of me.”
Denna leaned against the table, watching Katja’s every move.
“I was fascinated the first time I saw you in Paris,” Katja said. “We knew where Foster’s team was, though I didn’t really care one way or another. But after Foster got smart and hired you, and then you went after my money.” She laughed, though Denna knew it must not have been funny at all at the time. “I was so pissed. Pen and I had to live in this shack outside Paris for weeks.”
Katja took another sip of scotch. “Anyway. I wanted to get a look at you, to see you myself. I followed you one night, and you were…” She sighed. “I couldn’t look away.”
She stopped to stare out the window. There wasn’t much to see, but she stared as if looking at something else entirely.
“And then, in Munich…”
Katja’s voice sounded almost absent. Hypnotic. “I couldn’t bear to watch Roux lay his hands on you,” she said.
Denna didn’t have anything to say about that. They’d already talked about it more than once, and she didn’t want to walk through it all again.
“I felt pulled…” Katja sounded confused. “For some reason, I had to come to the hospital, and see for myself that you’d survived.”
The air in the room, warmer than outside, but still too cool to be comfortable, was still. Silent. As if even the space around them had consciousness and was waiting for Katja to speak again.
“I ran halfway around the world just to see what became of you, and couldn’t understand why it was that I couldn’t kill you. Why I didn’t really want to.”
Denna swallowed. Of course. Of course, at some point, the Falcon would have considered killing her, removing the obstacle. She wondered why it was that she didn’t feel more upset to hear that Katja had thought about removing her from the playing field.
“And then I saw you fight,” Katja said. She walked toward the mats in the corner.
Denna turned her head with a start. The only place she’d fought where anyone could see would have been that gym in Brooklyn, the place the image had been taken of Katja in the coffee shop across the street.
Now it made sense.
Katja laughed as she traced a hand around the worn duct tape on the heavy bag. “Well, you weren’t doing much fighting. You were getting your ass handed to you by one of the meatheads in that place. I couldn’t figure out what you were doing, but I watched you.”
She stopped pacing and turned looked at Denna. “I watched you change. Become someone new, someone stronger, someone…else, but perhaps, more…more you.”
Denna swallowed against the lump in her throat. Katja was scratching at the surface of a truth Denna wasn’t sure she could acknowledge yet.
“But I didn’t know,” Katja said. “I didn’t know for sure that I loved you until that night that…” She looked at the floor, the walls, out the windows. Suddenly, Katja was looking everywhere but at Denna. “The dream that made you cry out. You woke and…and told me about Roux. And I told you I’d been there.”
Denna remembered. She’d thought Katja had been on the whole thing, the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to her, and there, naked in her own bed, she’d wondered if this woman she’d allowed to touch her had been the one to break her down.
Until she’d seen the look in Katja’s eyes. Even then, she’d understood how Katja felt, though she hadn’t dared to put words to it yet.
Now, she realized that Katja was waiting. She was waiting for Denna to make the call, not just here, but wherever they went from this point forward.
She could stop this now, end it before it went any further, and Katja might just walk away and not look back.
Denna nearly laughed out loud. It was far, far too late for that.
She’d decided a long time ago. She was Katja’s. Katja was hers. Everything else was just a long line of details they’d either sort or they wouldn’t.
This would either work, or it would immolate them both.
She set her glass down on the table with finality, and turned to meet Katja’s eyes.
Katja was watching her every move.
Denna stood, legs shoulder width apart, removed her jacket and tossed it on the table. While Katja watched, Denna unbuckled her belt, then shifted her weight to kick off one, then the other of her boots.
She watched Katja, watched her breathing speed up, as Denna removed every piece of clothing one article at a time, slowly approaching Katja as she did.
When she got within a touching distance, she didn’t. Instead she walked past Katja, drawing her to follow with a glance, as she headed for her bed. She lay down, and waited.
Katja must have sensed something was different between them this time, because she waited. She stood staring for a long moment while Denna’s skin pebbled in the cold air, but Denna didn’t say a word.
Katja would give in, or she wouldn’t.
Finally, Katja pulled her scarf from her shoulders and tossed it on the floor. Her jacket followed.
When Katja removed one glove with her teeth, Denna nearly moaned at loud.
Katja, naked at last, fell in Denna’s arms, and Denna put everything else out of her mind. There was nothing more to say The situation was still impossible, but she could not deny that she would bend her whole world if it meant she could hold Katja like this, love her like this, give and take as only they could when they were together like this.
Later, Denna looked across the beautiful expanse of Katja’s body. Denna was nestled between Katja’s legs, having kissed her way from neck to navel, burning with the need to conquer – something she’d never quite accomplished in all their long months of dancing toward the inevitable.
Denna loved what she saw.
The pure coiled power in Katja’s limbs, not from the strength of her body, but from the sheer presence of her will, was like an intoxicant.
Katja had never submitted to her for anything, but now….
The need in Katja’s eyes was obvious, and it made Denna even hungrier. She wondered if Katja would give in, this once. She never had before. [ BACKREV: check to make sure this is true. If not, fix.]
Denna kissed and nuzzled and stroked everywhere but where Katja wanted her, until she felt a fist clenched on her crown, tugging to get her attention.
“Please,” Katja asked, and the tone in Katja’s voice made something within Denna seize.
Denna wrapped her arms Katja’s thighs. She felt like she’d been unleashed, and lowered her head to feast.
It was late, but not very much so. Denna looked at her display across the room with a scrolling screensaver of the time. Just after midnight.
“How long are you going to be in DC?” Katja said.
The room was cold, so they were tucked under the blankets on the bed. The sheets had come away from the mattress while they’d loved, but Denna was too content, at least physically, to do anything about the linens right now. Katja was warm, and felt too good. Denna wasn’t going anywhere right now.
“Not sure,” Denna said. “I had planned to reject Rayner’s offer, but now…”
They were never going to agree, but Denna knew now that they loved each other too much to give up. If she didn’t take the job, Katja would reject the arrangement, and there would be no way for them to see each other. Not without both of them ending up marked as traitors.
Katja squeezed her, pulled her closer, and sighed. “Why don’t you just do what you do best, and I’ll do the same?”
Denna closed her eyes. “You say that like I don’t know what that means.”
Katja was a killer, and good one. That hadn’t changed.
“Yes, but you also know that I don’t do it without cause.” Katja spoke quietly, and Dena sensed that she didn’t want to argue either. “Sometimes the bad guys escape justice. Sometimes, they game the system to suit themselves, and no prison will hold them or keep them from hurting good people.”
She rolled on her side and propped her head on an upraised hand. “I won’t stop doing it, not if it needs to be done. But I don’t want to lose you either, so please…”
What wouldn’t Denna do when Katja asked her like that?
Katja’s eyes were soft and sad. “Let me do what I do, but don’t let me become like Renault.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You’re the only one who can.”
Denna kissed her softly. “Never.”
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