Authors: Laura Bailey
All rights reserved. Circ 2014
Tara walked up the stone steps to the entrance of the club with trepidation, nerves tensing her stomach. She smoothed down her skirt and checked her hair in one of the glass windows as she pulled open the entrance door. With her head still turned to the glass window she failed to see a man exiting with speed. Violent storm-tossed eyes stared down at her; emerald green and deep as the sea on an autumn day; bracing and wild.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going,” she said with embarrassment.
His face was inches from hers, his chest broad and firm and pressed hard against hers. She flushed, taking a step backward and almost losing her balance in her heels.
“My apologies, Ma’am.” His voice was deep, with a southern lilt to it, his eyes searing into hers in their intensity, his presence an overwhelming force, setting off a visceral feeling deep within her. He moved sideways to get past her and down the steps.
Disconcerted, she was lost for a moment before she took hold of the door again and entered. Inside the lobby she looked in awe at the grandeur of the chandeliers, the magnificent sculptures, and the fine art paintings. It was an incredibly impressive building.
She walked as calmly as possible to the reception desk where a pretty, well groomed receptionist greeted her.
“Hi, I have a meeting with Damien Lawson.”
“Yes, he is expecting you. He asked if you could make your way to the Bar and he will meet you there.”
“Oh, ok, thank you very much.” Tara looked around.
“The Bar is straight through there, behind you.”
“Lovely, thank you.”
She turned and saw the entrance through an archway across the lobby. She hated entering places on her own, particularly a formal establishment like this, and especially a gentlemen’s club. She wished he had arranged for a different location. His office would have been better, surely, but she had little option except to meet him where he had stipulated.
Garnering her confidence, she walked into the Bar. Plush, opulent, luxurious, were the words that came to mind as she glanced around; rich leather sofas, antique upholstered chairs, fine polished tables. There was a distinct air of refinement. The occupants were all men, well-dressed in expensive looking suits. She felt underdressed.
Tara quickly walked toward the Barman.
“Good Evening, Madam, What can I get you?”
“Oh, I’m here to meet with Damien Lawson. Would you know if he is here?”
“He was Madam; he asked that you wait for him in here. He said he will be back shortly. In the meantime, would you care for a drink?”
“Could I have a whiskey please?”
She could never get used to the nuances between English and American language, having spent her entire life in London.
“Yes,” she smiled, “thank you.”
She rarely drank, but at this moment she welcomed the opportunity for some Dutch courage.
“I will bring it over for you.”
She turned around, unsure quite where to sit and feeling intimidated by the eyes of the Bar’s occupants on her.
She chose a window seat with a table, half way down the room, thinking she could pass the time looking out of the window whilst she waited, rather than having to look around the room.
The Barman brought over her Bourbon and it looked like a double. She quickly brought it to her lips and drank, hoping to dampen the nerves in the pit of her stomach.
She had been feeling tense and anxious pretty much constantly since her fiancé, Michael, a former soldier turned private contractor, had vanished. His disappearance had brought her here tonight. After several days with no word, and subsequently discovering that he had drained their joint bank account, Tara had been in a state of extreme concern and confusion. Not only had he disappeared without trace; he had taken all of their money. Stranded here in Washington D.C., with no money and no job, she needed answers. This was the Special Forces Private club, where Mike was a member. She was waiting to meet his boss, having made several attempts to get hold of the man. It was her one hope of finding out what had happened and where Mike was.
Damien hurried down the steps needing to make the call in private. Although it was quiet enough in the Bar, he couldn’t be sure of who might hear him and some things he preferred to keep to himself. Urgency was his primary concern, although in the back of his mind he was processing the woman. Such deep, dark blue eyes; long auburn hair framing her face which was paler than most; a vulnerability to her, yet strength in her eyes.
He walked far enough away from the building to make the call as he contemplated her.
Dialling a number he waited.
“Tell me the news?”
“Nothing yet Damien.”
“Not good enough. I want information; today. You’ve got two hours.”
Damien hung up, irritated by the lack of progress and frustrated at having to wait. He had patience; he had had to use it on many assignments in his career, but this was personal. This time his patience was running thin. For now he would wait, but when it called for action he would be a part of it, that was for sure.
He took a walk along the street, deceptively suburban though a stones throw from Union Station in central D.C. He often marvelled at how such quiet streets could exist so close to the heart of the Capitol. That their Club was amongst these streets was a blessing; away from the bustle of the centre yet close enough for the many business meetings he would go to as owner of Pantheon Security.
He realised he should get back to the Club.
Waiting, the bourbon had helped take the edge off her nerves, but she still felt out of place. She didn’t see any other women in the Bar. Outside it was completely dark now and the solitude enveloped her as she stared into it. Her mind flashed back to the image of the man she had collided with on the steps; the fire in his eyes, the visceral feeling they had caused inside of her, so palpable and extreme.
The Barman approached and asked if she would like another drink but she declined. She needed to keep a clear head.
Moments later she heard footsteps behind her.
She turned her head and looked up. It was the man she had collided with on the steps.
He walked around to the front of her. “I’m Damien Lawson.”
As he stood over her he couldn’t hide the flicker of recognition on his face. “So we meet again.” He looked amused. “I apologise for keeping you waiting. Can I get you a drink?”
“Thank you, bourbon please.”
She asked for it only to buy herself time to find some composure. He was the most stunning man she had ever seen. His presence was astonishing; his physicality so masculine and raw. He was a man who exuded physical power. He scared her.
She felt hugely awkward, and at a disadvantage, which she hated.
He returned quickly and placed her drink in front of her, taking the chair opposite her.
“Now, what would you like to know Ma’am?”
The scrutiny of his eyes was intimidating; fierce and startling. The sharpness in them almost flickered. As she dropped her eyes from his, she saw a scar on the side of his face, a small jagged line that cut through his cheekbone, strong cheekbones that further added to his indomitable features.
Garnering her voice, she said, “As I mentioned in my telephone call, I want to know where Mike is. When he went away on jobs before he always told me that he was going, and always contacted me if he could whilst he was away. I know that wasn’t always possible so I was used to that; but he has never gone away before without telling me.”
At this point, she didn’t disclose to the man that Mike had also drained their joint bank account.
“Of his disappearance, I am well aware,” the man replied.
“He’s not away working for you?”
“Do you know where he is?”
“That I don’t.”
“Excuse me?” Anger flashed in his eyes.
“But you’re his Boss.”
“Lady, I know that.”
“Then why can’t you tell me?” anxiety was creeping into her tone.
“I was hoping that you would tell me.”
His hand rested on his chin, in questioning mode as his eyes pierced hers.
“I don’t understand what you mean?”
“I need to know his whereabouts; rather urgently. I don’t know his whereabouts, and that concerns me deeply.”
What he didn’t tell her was that he was actually more concerned about the whereabouts of $5million in company funds that had disappeared at exactly the same time as Mike. That Damien had millions more and was extremely wealthy was beside the point. He wanted that money back. Badly.
His eyes were fixed on her; his hands now flat on the table. She became fascinated by his slow controlled movements, as though he were keeping a reign on a temper ready to flare at any moment.
She felt disturbed by his revelation.
“I was hoping you might shed some light on the matter?” he said, his voice calm yet provocative, as though accusing her.
“I don’t know anything; that’s why I came to you.”
“Mmm. Is that so?” He smiled but it wasn’t one of friendliness.
“I’ll give you twenty four hours.”
“To decide that the right thing to do is to tell me.”
A stunned silence fell over the table. Her eyes darted around as though searching for clarification from somewhere to tell her what the hell was happening here. Anger rose inside her.
“I came to you!” She gesticulated with a finger.
He did not rise to her anger. He couldn’t have looked calmer.
“That’s true,” he considered, “however, subterfuge is a common trait in my line of business, so you wouldn’t be the first.”
She was going through hell worrying about where Mike was, and now he was accusing her of something she didn’t even understand. He may be a fierce opponent but she was furious.
“I don’t do subterfuge, Mr Lawson. I just want to know where he is. That is my concern.”
“And mine too. As I said, twenty four hours. Same time tomorrow.”
With that he got up and walked away.
Tara’s eyes followed him out of the bar, as she sat there shakily. What on earth had just happened? Why would he turn the tables on her like that?
She kept her head down as she left the Bar, embarrassed at the thought that any of the onlookers who might have caught some of the conversation.
She was alone and pretty much desperate now. This was not the outcome she had expected, and as she walked along the side streets back toward the Metro, she longed for Mike to turn up and rectify this situation for her.
Damien was driving away from the club; his temper making him drive the short distance to his apartment faster than was necessary. He thumped the steering wheel with his fist, trying to decide whether to change direction and go back to the office or just call it a night. What could he achieve at the office now anyway? It was 10.30pm, and whilst the office was staffed night and day due to the nature of their work, he couldn’t see what more he could do that he hadn’t already done. His personnel were experts in intelligence gathering; they had many years of expertise between them, and all being ex-Special Forces, they were some of the best in the world at what they did. They had come up with nothing on Mike or Tara.
He called one of his most trusted men. “Make sure Adam and Kane stay on her tail for the next 24 hours. I’ve just sent her a warning, and I don’t want her fleeing now she knows we’re onto her.” Tomorrow he would get the answers he was looking for from her. He could have done so tonight perhaps, but he would rather she was followed to see whether she went straight to Todd or tried to contact him and warn him.
He knew all there was to know about double crossing and bluffs; he was no longer shocked by the betrayal he had seen in the world he operated in, chasing terrorists and Persons of Interest. What stunned him when he had first started; the guile of the most innocent of looking people, no longer disturbed him now. It was almost a given. He knew what humans beings were fully capable of, in their worst moments, and sometimes it was treacherous. She may appear an innocent woman but he wasn’t easily fooled, and Mike didn’t carry this off all on his own.
He sighed. He needed to let it go tonight. He needed patience. He needed to get his mind off this situation; he would loose his temper if he didn’t.
He headed home, going up into his apartment and immediately turning on some classical music. Its ability to calm him had been a blessing many a time. He went straight to bed leaving the music on, needing to be up early for a breakfast meeting with a client downtown, but her face was in his mind as he lay there awake.
Tara had spent a very restless night, sleeping only fitfully and she now felt dreadful; even more so as she recalled the incessant images that had run through her mind as she had lain there most of the night; Damien Lawson’s presence imposing on her.