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Story a Day: Day 25 – Believe in You

Today’s prompt was to change the POV of one of our previous stories. Since, I’ll be working on Carlos & Tereza’s story once again, I decided to do one of those ones. This one is some backstory that takes place about 20 years before the actual story. I wrote it in third person the first time, but switched it to first here and got into Carlos’ head a bit more.

I dropped the silverware on top of the rest of the dishes in the bus pan. Gathering up the rest of the trash from the table, I balled it all up together so it would be easier to throw away when I got to the kitchen. I gave a little shake of my head. They had certainly left a mess. I’d noticed most didn’t seem to care who would have to come by later and clean up after them.

I lifted the pan and turned from the table, my shoulders getting that itchy feeling between them, the hairs on my neck prickling. People were watching. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t let it matter. I took a deep breath and kept walking through the dining room.

It was nothing. People could look all they wanted. It didn’t mean a thing. I heard all the whispers anyway. They saw my tattoos and automatically assumed they knew everything about me. I must be some kind of thug, had probably done prison time, was likely dangerous and shouldn’t be working here.

I just wished it wasn’t all true.

I shouldered my way through the doors into the kitchen, dropping the pan on the shelf by those doors for the dishwasher to get to. The kid beside the sink jerked his head at me in greeting, but I only grunted back. I still didn’t know his name. I hadn’t bothered with any of that unless I needed to.

I’d only been here for about three weeks, and I knew it wasn’t the strength of my experience or references that got me the job. I didn’t have much of either of those. Only one reference had really mattered. Roman’s. And he’d done more than get me this job. If it wasn’t for him, I would have spent more than the one month in jail. And I would have this, or likely any, job. I wasn’t going to screw up that chance. Even if it was only to clear tables and wash dishes.

Even if I did still miss Tereza and Roman wouldn’t tell me anything except she was settling into her life with them.

I turned to grab another tub so I could clean yet another table off, but as I straightened again, I nearly collided with someone else. My first impulse still was to slam a fist into his face and pull a knife from my belt. Both would get me fired. The second would also, if I even carried one on me, get me sent back to jail.

I couldn’t afford either option.

I only let my lip curl at the tattoo of a wild cat on the other man’s bicep. Fuckin’ Pumas.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. Dios, that word tasted bitter on my tongue. I wasn’t really, but our boss had strict rules about fighting in the kitchen. I wasn’t risking my job for this pendejo.

The other man, Romello, sneered at me. “Just like a cowardly Coyote.”

I bristled at the words but picked up the bus pan I’d dropped during the collision and kept walking. It wasn’t worth it. I needed this job, this new start. The Pumas had taken enough from me, I couldn’t let them have this as well. So, I ignored the words meant to taunt me and walked back out into the dining room to clear another table.

***

I stepped out of the restaurant after clocking out and saw the three men waiting for me. One was little more than a boy, really, but Romello, the pendejo, had roped him in anyway. Romello himself stood right in the middle of them.

Great. Just great. Looked like we’d be fighting about this after all. I could always run, but I’d never done that before. And they’d just chase after me anyway.

I balled my fists and took a step forward. “What do you want? I was just goin’ home.”

“To your hovel, you mean?” Romello scoffed.

I doubted if his place was much, if any, better than my tiny apartment. But, I let the words pass. I really did just want to go home. “I don’t got a beef with you. I’m just trying to start a new life, like you. I just want to be left alone.”

Romello sneered at me again. “You’re nothing like me. You’re a Coyote.”

“Not anymore.” The words felt like a lie. Sure, I didn’t run with the gang any longer, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop feeling like a part of it.

Romello’s lip curled further, until he was nearly snarling. “You still ain’t washed the stink off.” Then, he was swinging at me.

I ducked the first punch, but the second caught me in the shoulder. I stumbled but found my footing quick enough. But the other two were on me a moment later. I got a few blows in myself, but I couldn’t fight off all three at once. I hit the ground but jumped right back to my feet. I wasn’t going down without one hell of a fight.

They meant to kill me. I could feel it in each of their strikes. I wasn’t just going to give up on this new life I’d been given.

I hit the ground again. I tried to get back up, but a boot connected with my ribs. More blows fell, stealing my breath, and I heard the snick of a knife opening. Then, sirens split the air, and the other men scattered. I got my knees under me and grabbed onto the closest thing I could find, a sign post, to get to my feet.

A hand closed around my arm. I tried jerking away, but metal snapped around my wrist before I could. The man’s words were barely more than a buzz in my head, but the actions were all too familiar to me. And my head was spinning too much to resist even if I’d planned to.

***

“You’re damn lucky they held you instead of taking you straight to booking.”

I held my head in my hands, not even looking up at Roman. I didn’t feel too lucky about anything right now. The cops who had brought me in had slapped a Band-Aid over the cut on my forehead but that was it. My head was splitting, my ribs nearly screaming in agony, but I was stuck in this damn holding cell. The only lucky thing I could see was that when Romello and his buddies had been hauled in too, they’d been put in a separate cell.

“I didn’t start the fight, Roman. Romello and his buddies were waiting for me outside. He’s always baiting me.”

“That’s why you ignore him. I thought you wanted this job.”

“I do!” More pain shot through my head, and I drew back, digging the heels of my hands into my temples. Dios. How hard had I hit my head? “And  know, I probably lost it now.”

“If there weren’t witnesses who gave the same story as you, that would probably be true.”

At a gesture from Roman, a guard stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. The loud whine of it opening nearly had my head exploding. I squeezed my eyes shut as if that would help ward off the inevitable.

“Come on,” Roman said softly. “I’ll take you home. You’ll have to talk to Aberto in the morning about the job.”

I couldn’t think too much about that right now. Not when my head was splitting open and my ribs were on fire as I followed Roman out of the police station. Aberto’s place was known for giving released cons a second chance. He wasn’t known for giving ones for breaking his rules, though.

I just hoped he’d make an exception this time.

***

I stepped into the restaurant and winced at the bright lights. Roman had taken me by the hospital the night before. Head contusions and a couple cracked ribs. He’d stuck around until this morning, to make sure I woke up again. He really made sure of that, too, waking me several times during the night and asking me questions. When I flipped him off each time, he just laughed and left my bedroom again. Guess that was a sign to him my brain wasn’t too rattled.

They’d wrapped my ribs at the hospital and given me something for the headache, but it only helped so much. And these damn lights certainly didn’t.

Roman had said he’d already talked to Aberto this morning, so he’d be waiting for me. Now, I just had to plead my case. I knocked on the doorframe of the office even though the door was open, and my boss watched me approach. No point in taking any chances. Certainly not this morning.

“Come in, Armas,” my boss called out to me.

I stepped into the office and licked my lips, wishing they weren’t so dry. “Mr. Aberto-”

He held up a hand, and I came to an instant stop. I had to shove my hands in my pockets to keep him from seeing the way they trembled. I didn’t want to show any weakness now.

“You know I don’t allow any fighting in or around my restaurant.”

“Yes, sir.” I could barely get the words out. My throat and tongue felt so thick, I felt like there wasn’t room for anything else. “I can explain.”

“No explanation needed.”

My shoulders drooped at those words. That was it then. It was all over for me. I started to turn away but Aberto’s next words stopped me.

“I’ve seen the way you and Romello have been. And I’ve seem how you’ve handled it. I also talked to the person who reported the fight last night and said you were the one assaulted. I imagine you didn’t see any way around the fight.”

I shook my head. “Figured if I ran, they would’ve just chased me down.”

Aberto nodded as if he’d expected that. “Charges have been pressed. Romello will no longer have a job here.”

I swallowed hard. “And me, sir?” If I lost this job, I wasn’t sure what I’d do.

“Well,” he said, his lips curling up slightly, “I’m going to have an open position for a server. I’ve seen you’re a hard worker and seem determined to make your place here.”

I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. “Why?” I shouldn’t be questioning it. Shouldn’t risk him realizing he was making a mistake and change his mind.

“I see something in you,” Aberto said. “And I believe in the things I see. I believe in you, Carlos, and you should believe in you, too. Now, get on home and rest up. We can start your training tomorrow.”

 

Story a Day: Day 17 – Baby on Your Porch

Today’s prompt was to take something from the headlines and use it in a story. Well, I saw this story while I was browsing msn, and it kind of fell into place. I can probably even slip it into the WiP for Carlos & Tereza’s story.

Carlos walked out into the living room and let out a jaw-cracking yawn. The restaurant had been busy the night before. Apparently being closed Thursday after the vandalism had affected business after all. It had made more people want to come after he reopened. And that he certainly wasn’t going to complain about. Now, he just needed to get some coffee so he could join the land of the living before he had to get back to prep things for lunch.

Thank goodness he didn’t open for breakfast. That would likely be too much to handle. Of course, he could let someone else handle it. But, that didn’t feel right to him.

He stood at the counter, watching coffee drip down into the pot. As if he could will it to brew faster. It would have been easier if he’d been able to sleep after coming home the night before. He usually didn’t have a problem, especially after being so busy. But, last night he hadn’t been able to settle. Maybe it was seeing Tereza, or what they’d talked about. Every time he saw her, it brought back so many memories. All the time they’d spent together. How she’d just walked away from him. They’d never officially broken up twenty years ago. But, she’d never come to visit him, and when he got out, she wouldn’t even see him. It had been obvious she’d moved on. So, he did, too.

Or at least he thought he had.

He shook that thought off. He wasn’t any better a match for Tereza now than he was back then. Hell, he’d needed to go to her for help with his brother. That was what he should be concentrating his attention on, not old feelings he shouldn’t even have anymore.

He’d only taken the first sip of his coffee when he heard a knock on his door. He let out a little growl but set the cup back down. Who the hell was stopping by so damn early? He glanced at the clock and saw it was already after nine. So, okay, not that early for some people. But, for him, it certainly was. And anyone who knew him, knew exactly that.

Carlos stalked over to the door and just barely restrained himself from ripping it open. Instead he took a steadying breath and glanced through the small window in the door. And groaned at the man standing there, an infant carrier in one hand. Not that he minded visiting with Jared and his “niece”. But, still.

Opening the door, he said, “You know I need to be at the restaurant in an hour?”

Jared’s gaze was directed to something lower, though. “You know there’s a baby on your porch?”

“Yeah, yours,” Carlos said. “Why don’t you hand her over?”

Jared shook his head and pointed toward Carlos’ front step. His stomach dropped when he followed and saw another infant carrier sitting right there, a baby, its eyes closed and not making a sound, inside it. “What the-” He picked up the carrier and stepped back inside. He set a finger lightly over the baby’s lips and felt air brush against it.

“She’s still alive,” Carlos said, reaching to unbuckle the straps holding the baby into the seat.

“You sure she’s a she?” Jared asked, setting his daughter’s carrier next to the mystery infant’s.

“I don’t know,” Carlos admitted. “You’re the doctor. You tell me. Speaking of, why aren’t you at the clinic?”

Jared moved to lift the baby out of the seat. Carlos found himself wanting to keep his hands on the little form. Even though he knew Jared was perfectly capable of not dropping it. “It’s Saturday. Mel and I switch off on the weekends so we don’t need a sitter for Hallie then.”

“Do you two ever see each other?”

Jared looked up at him and blinked a few times, as if trying to process the question. “We work together most of the week,” he said.

El tonto,” Carlos said and shook his head.

“I’m not a fool,” Jared said without looking away from the baby again. “We have our priorities. And we see each other plenty at the end of the day.”

Carlos laughed at the way his friend wiggled his eyebrows. “Really? You trying to give Hallie a brother or sister already?”

That did have Jared jerking his head up. “What? No. Worrying about Mel for nine months nearly killed me last time. Not sure I can do it again. I’m getting too old for it.”

Carlos let out a snort. “Like you’ve stopped worrying. I know you better than that, J. And you’re younger than me. What’s this too old stuff?”

He caught Jared’s smirking smile and huffed laugh. But, he didn’t look up from unbuttoning the little bodysuit or whatever it was called the kid was wearing. Carlos didn’t spend enough time around kids. Jared’s hands moved over the little body in a clinical manner.

“He seems in fine health,” Jared said. “I can’t tell for sure if there’s anything wrong unless I take him to the clinic, but I don’t see anything.”

“That still doesn’t answer who left him on my porch. Or why.”

“Well, he doesn’t look much older than Hallie, so he won’t be able to tell you much.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

Jared was still examining the baby. “Call the police and report it. Someone abandoned this baby. We don’t know-Oh shit.”

“What?” Carlos asked, his heart suddenly jumping in his chest. “Is something wrong with him?”

“Not health-wise that I can tell. But, I’ve seen this baby before. Not too long ago, either. He’s got a birthmark here on the back of his arm. I know his parents, his mother was overwhelmed and didn’t know how to get him to stop crying. His father’s a small time dealer. If someone dropped him here, they probably did him a favor. Not that his mother is a bad person, but she’s caught up in the world, too.”

Carlos knew just what Jared meant by that. This kid was born into a house of drug users and pushers. But, for him, it wouldn’t be too late. Not if they could help. Still, his hand shook a little as he took out his phone. He wasn’t used to actually calling the police. “Will you stay here?” he asked Jared. “Tell them what you know?”

Jared nodded. “Of course.”

Carlos reported the abandoned baby while Jared laid a blanket on the floor for the babies to play on. Then, Carlos called one of his cooks in to open the restaurant and start the prep work. He’d probably be here a while.

Story a Day: Day 9 – New Start

This is some back story for Carlos & Tereza’s story in my Gilbert, Co series.

Carlos Armas dropped the silverware into the bus pan on top of the rest of the dishes. He gathered up the rest of the trash the diners had left and balled it together so it would be easier to throw away back in the kitchen. His shoulders itched, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled. People were watching him. He took a deep breath before lifting the pan and turning from the table.

It was nothing. People could look all they wanted. It didn’t mean a damn thing. He’d heard the whispers for himself. They saw his tattoos, automatically assumed they knew everything about him. He must be some kind of thug, had probably done prison time, was likely dangerous and shouldn’t be working here.

He just wished it wasn’t all true.

Carlos shouldered his way into the kitchen, dropping the pan on the shelf beside the door for the dishwasher to get to. The kid beside the sink jerked his head at Carlos in greeting, but he only grunted back. Tomorrow their duties would be switched, with Carlos lifting and lowering the doors on that dishwasher.

He’d only been here for three weeks. And he knew it hadn’t been the strength of his experience or references that had gotten him the job. Only one reference had really mattered. Roman’s. If it wasn’t for him, Carlos probably would have spent more than that month in jail, and he wouldn’t have this, or probably any, job. He wasn’t going to screw up that chance, even if it was only to clear tables and wash dishes.

He turned and reached for a clean tub so he could go clear another table but didn’t see the man coming toward him until they collided. His immediate reaction was to slam a fist in his face and pull his knife. The first would get him fired, the second, if he even had it on him, sent back to jail. He couldn’t afford either option. So, he only let his lip curl at the tattoo of the wild cat on the man’s bicep. Fuckin’ Pumas.

“Sorry,” Carlos muttered, grabbing the tub that he’d dropped during the collision. He wasn’t really. But, their boss had strict rules about fighting in the kitchen. They could both be fired, no matter who had started it.

“Just like a cowardly coyote,” the other man said, sneering at him.

Carlos bristled at the words. But, he kept walking. It wasn’t worth it. He needed this job, needed this new start. The pumas had taken enough from him. He couldn’t let them take this as well. So, he ignored the words meant to taunt him and walked back to the dining room to clear another table.

***

Carlos stepped out of the restaurant and saw the three boys waiting for him. Romello, the server he’d bumped into earlier, stood right in the middle of them. Great. Just great. Looked like they were going to be fighting about this after all. He could always run, but he’d never done that before. And they’d catch him anyway.

So, he balled his fists and took a step forward. “What do you want? I was just goin’ home.”

“To your hovel, you mean?” Romello scoffed.

Carlos doubted the other man’s place was much, if any, better, so he let the words pass. “I don’t have any beef with you. I’m just trying to start a new life, like you. I just want to be left alone.”

Romello sneered at him. “You’re nothing like me. You’re a Coyote.”

“Not anymore.” The words felt like a lie. Sure, he didn’t run with the gang any longer. But, he wasn’t sure he’d ever stop feeling like a part of it.

Romello’s lip curled further, until he was nearly snarling. “You still ain’t washed the stink off.” Then, he was swinging his fist.

Carlos ducked the first punch, but the second caught him in the shoulder. He stumbled back but found his footing quick enough. But, then the other two were on him as well. He hit the ground once but jumped right up again. He wasn’t going to go down without one hell of a fight. He wouldn’t just give up on this new life he’d been given.

Then, he hit the ground again. He tried to get back up, but a boot connected with his ribs. All the air left him as more hits connected. Then, sirens split the air and the other men scattered. Carlos got his knees under him and grabbed onto a sign nearby to drag himself to his feet. Then, there was a hand on his arm and metal snapping around his wrist. His head was spinning too much to resist even if he’d planned to.

***

“You’re damn lucky they held you instead of taking you right to booking.”

Carlos held his pounding head in his hands. He didn’t feel too lucky about anything right now. They’d slapped a Band-Aid over the cut on his forehead, but that was about it. They hadn’t given him anything for the pain coursing through his body. The only thing that felt lucky was that Romello and his two buddies weren’t in the same cell as him.

“I didn’t start the fight, Roman. Romello and his buddies were waiting for me outside. He’s always baiting me.”

“That’s why you ignore him. I thought you wanted this job.”

“I do!” he cringed as saying the words brought more pain to his head. And it wasn’t so much the job he wanted as the chance it gave him. “And I know, I probably lost it now.”

“If there weren’t witnesses who gave the same story as you, that would probably be true.”

A guard stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. The loud whine of it opening nearly had his head exploding, though. “Come on,” Roman said. “I’ll take you home. You’ll have to talk to Aberto in the morning about the job.”

Carlos couldn’t think too much about that right now. Not when it felt like his head was splitting right open and his ribs were on fire. Aberto’s place was known for giving released cons a second chance. He wasn’t known for giving ones for breaking his rules, though.

Carlos just hoped he’d make an exception this time.

***

Carlos stepped into the restaurant and winced at the bright lights. Roman had taken him by the hospital after leaving the police station the night before. He’d gotten some medicine for the headache and had his ribs wrapped up. But, it only helped so much.

Aberto would be waiting for him. Roman had already talked to him. Now, Carlos just had to plead his case. He knocked on the doorframe of the office even though the door was open and his boss was looking right at him. No point in taking any chances. Not this morning.

“Come in, Armas.”

Carlos stepped into the office and licked his lips. “Mr. Aberto-”

His boss held up a hand, and Carlos came to an instant stop. He shoved his hands in his pockets to hide their trembling. He didn’t need to show just how nervous he was right now.

“You know I don’t allow fighting in or around my restaurant.”

“Yes, sir.” Carlos wished his tongue didn’t feel so thick. “I can explain.”

“No explanation needed.”

Carlos’ shoulders drooped at that. That was it, then. This was all over for him.

“I’ve seen the way you and Romello have been. And I’ve seem how you’ve handled it. I also talked to the person who reported the fight last night and said you were the one assaulted. I imagine you didn’t see any way around the fight.”

Carlos shook his head. “Figured if I ran, they would’ve just chased me down.”

Aberto nodded as if he’d expected that. “Charges have been pressed. Romello will no longer have a job here.”

Carlos swallowed hard. “And me, sir?” If he lost this job, he wasn’t sure what he’d do.

“Well,” he said, his lips curling up slightly, “I’m going to have an open position for a server. I’ve seen you’re a hard worker and seemed determined to make your place here.”

Carlos couldn’t quite believe it. And he wasn’t sure he could believe it was actually happening. “Why?” he asked even thought he knew he shouldn’t be questioning it.

“I see something in you,” Aberto said. “And I believe in the things I see. I believe in you, Carlos.  Now, get on home and rest up. We can start your waitstaff training tomorrow.”

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “Ha”

It’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday again.(though apparently pingbacks are not working) Today’s prompt is “ha”, either use it as a word itself or the beginning of a word. And I’m visiting with Carlos again, through a friend’s perspective this time, though.

“Hallie Catarina.” Carlos bounced the infant gently as he said her name, gently as if it was a prayer.

Melanie couldn’t help thinking they made a strange picture. The big man, tattoos up his throat and down his arms, but his scarred hands were gentle against the back of her daughter’s head. Even at barely a month old, frizzy red hair poked out from beneath the hat she wore. Carlos leaned back in the chair in the dining room of his restaurant, and looked as relaxed as he could be.

“You’re good with her,” Melanie said, smiling at the two of them. “Almost better than me sometimes.”

His smile was soft as he looked back up at her, and Jared who stood right behind her, one hand resting on her shoulder. “I’m sure that’s not true. But, yes, I’ve had experience. Three little sisters will do that.”

“And a brother,” Jared murmured.

Carlos nodded, but his gaze had returned to the infant’s face. “But, I was only three when he came along. Nearly ten before Adriane did. Then, there was Analise and Carisa.”

Melanie watched him for a moment then tipped her head up to look at her husband. Carlos never spoke much about his family, not even in the two years she’d known him. But, from the sympathy she saw in Jared’s face, and maybe some of his own sorrow as well, there had to be a lot more to this story. She’d learned not to push too hard. People around here tended to shut down when she did that.

“She’s pretty much a daddy’s girl, since the day she was born. She’ll tolerate me feeding her then wants him again.” That made for a long day when he was at the clinic. She couldn’t wait to get back there herself. She loved her daughter, even if it hurt a little when she seemed to prefer anyone over her, but she missed her patients as well.

Carlos whispered something in the girl’s ear. Melanie couldn’t catch the words, or understand them, but she heard Jared huff out a laugh. Then, Carlos handed the baby back to her. “I should get back to work. I hear the boss likes to crack the whip.”

She laughed but turned her face for the kiss he always brushed over her cheek when they visited. “You are the boss, Carlos.”

He grinned at her and winked. “I may be the one spreading those rumors. Keeps ’em on their toes.”

Melanie just laughed again and shook her head. “Pretty sure anyone who’s worked for you long knows better than that.”

She started buckling Hallie back into her carrier to take her out to the car, but Carlos paused in the kitchen to look back at them. “Don’t doubt for a moment that baby girl loves you, Melanie. You’re her mama, and the best one she could have.”

She tried not to let it get to her, though it had been more of an adjustment than she’d expected becoming a mother, when she thought all she’d ever be was a doctor. But, his words warmed her, and soothed the doubts that she was doing something wrong. “I’m sure you’re right, Carlos.”

“Of course I am,” he said with another grin.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “Be”

Today’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt is “be”, either as it is or as part of another word. And since my CP “gave me permission” to ignore everything else yesterday and work on plotting a story that wasn’t supposed to be worked on yet(already have all the brainstorming done now), I’ll be diving a bit more into that with today’s. I do so love writing characters who have checkered pasts.

Carlos stared at the woman across the table from him. He couldn’t believe she was here. Sure, he’d caught glimpses of her over the years, but she’d never come into his place before. And she’d said she wanted to speak to him. What could she have to say to him?

He didn’t think they’d spoken since Adriane’s funeral.

“What can I do for you, Tereza?” he finally asked. How did his voice sound so smooth when everything felt so ragged inside.

“I needed…I needed someone to talk to.”

“Don’t you have friends for that? I’m sure you have plenty of them. You always did.”

“I have friends from law school. And I have colleagues at the firm. None of them know me from…”

“Before?” he asked softly. “When you were just a street kid like the rest of us.”

“Yeah.” her voice was quiet, barely more than a whisper.

Carlos reached out and set a scarred finger under her chin, lifting it so she had to look at him. And he swathe guilt and shame in her eyes. “What is this? You have nothing to be ashamed of. You survived, Reza. We all did. Not everyone was so lucky.”

“And I got swept  away from it all, adopted by the Pella family, given everything  could want. None of you were that lucky.”

Carlos rolled his eyes and leaned back in the chair. “So, you feel guilty for your good fortune?” He let out a stream of Spanish at that, and she narrowed her eyes.

“I am not stupid, Carlos, nor am I a fool.”

“Then, stop acting like one. What is this really about?”

She twisted her fingers together then let them drop again. “You’ve done things that never should be forgiven.”

He closed his eyes at that. Fifteen years and he still hadn’t completely shut those years away. He wished he could totally erase them. Unfortunately, that would never happen. “And I haven’t forgiven myself for them. I know others haven’t, either.”

“So, there’s no way to redeem yourself for past sins?”

His eyes snapped back to hers at that. “Not for some things. What have you ever done that you’d need redemption for, though?”

“My job. And because of it, someone died. A man I helped get free went out and killed the woman who was going to testify against him. And it’s my fault.”

He reached across and took her hand. “You know better than that. You didn’t make him do anything.” It had been so long since he’d touched her. Her skin felt like silk against his rough hand. He had to close his eyes against the reaction that rose up in him.

“I wish I could make myself believe that.”

 

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