Author: Elliott (email@example.com)
Visit my Pretender fiction at Elliottís Pretender Fiction.
Summary: Jarodís past and future collide.
"Danger?" A feminine voice mocked from behind them at their conversation. "You want danger?"
Deep with luscious contempt, dark with a playful desire.
"You can quit looking."
Her husband rotated slowly, as if already certain of the ruffian that had so calmly invaded their words. Who had made a joke of her asking whether her husband was satisfied with his life, whether it was too normal and if he didnít want danger? He turned as if already knowing what he would face and needing the time to prepare, to compose himself.
The woman they confronted was nothing less than extraordinary.
The petite redhead watched him take her in a low, slow look that seemed to swallow her whole. She tried to divine what he was thinking, but his expression was unreadable.
Itíd been seven long years.
Time had loved her, and stayed with her come morning, whereas it had seen fit only to seduce him.
Whereas his hair was thinning and speckled with a grey she called respectable, this woman seemed untouched by such measures. Her red-brown hair glittered in the late afternoon sun, pulled back like a stage curtain from her face. From her ice-blue eyes that hadnít changed at all.
Eyes that were burnished with mirth, that still hid sorrow.
Eyes that beckoned him.
He turned to his wife, shaken more than he wanted to admit by this dark-haired creature that seemed more myth than life.
The redhead cast a reproach of pity and open confusion on him.
"He seems to have lost his powers of speech," she apologized, a delicate smile etched across her uncertain face at this woman who seemed as likely to laugh at Jarodís present and unheard-of condition as she seemed ready to cock him one across the mouth.
Or kiss him.
"Iím Chelsey Russell." She spoke with a small, hope-filled voice as a blush stenciled her cheeks. "Jarodís wife."
She held out a perfect Victorian hand.
After a suspended second, the woman took it in hers, careful it seemed not to wield too much power in her grasp. As if she was used to handling power, was so adept at it, that such was second nature.
"Is that your first name or last?"
At that, the woman did laugh, a smile that could melt winter into spring gracing her unconventionally enchanting face.
Looks that could clearly captivate without trying, yet love only once.
And which was it now?
"Itís been a long time," the woman said, her intent clearly bent on avoiding her identity.
"Yes." Her husband surprised her at finally finding his voice, but it was a voice she had never before heard. Who was this undeniably beautiful stranger and how had her life crossed Jarodís? And what did she want now?
She wore no wedding ring, but then that wasnít entirely a telling distinction. Many people went without, but then again, she saw no signs of love, of whatever it was that one special person brought to you, bestowed upon her. As she glanced at her husband, she noticed a darting glance at her ring hand and a pang of sadness at the absence of a jeweled band.
And yet it wasnít all sadness.
Just as her proclamation as his wife had elucidated surprise from this stranger but also a hint of jealousy, of possessing something she had once considered her own.
"Are you still with the Centre?" Jarod asked, uncertainty scribbled in his voice.
And like her name, she seemed unwilling to venture more information.
"The Centre? Is that where you know each other?"
For a second, something like shock flushed the womanís expression. But it wasnít quite shock, just as it wasnít quite anger, or even a well-masked fear. Rather it seemed like betrayal, an opening of secrets she preferred well hid, of wondering exactly what Jarod had confided in someone beside herself.
"Yes," Jarod answered easily, his voice coiled like a snake ready to attack. "We pursued the same goals, from different perspectives."
Again, laughter seemed imminent. The womanís eyes furiously somber and indifferently dangerous, now amused.
"Yes, Jarod was always a few steps ahead of us all." A light breeze caught the ends of her shoulder-length hair and flung them across her eyes like embers.
Beside her, her husband tensed.
A fluid tension she didnít recognize.
Apparently the woman did, but she hid it very well as if she was very practiced at it.
As if it was a secret between them, a language only they could translate.
A language they had spent years learning and practicing.
The woman brushed her hair back into place, a disdain at having to tame part of herself. "But we caught him in the end, didnít we?"
She got the feeling the other people hadnít been included in her husbandís answer, that it had been just this one woman. And that somehow that had changed everything.
Strain spanning between their two bodies.
Calling out to each other without even knowing they were doing it.
Begging for a release from this burden of not-touch that they had been suffering under for so long.
Distress flocked to her, that she had not known this about her husband. Envy, free-willed and calamitous in her blood at this marvel who had stepped across her life and seemed able to destroy all she had ever known. Jealousy, to covet whatever it was her husband had seen in this stranger and who even now seemed unwilling to let her go, as if she had always been part of him, a part she had never known about or simply ignored.
Feminine mistrust of what she did not understand and could not fight.
And this woman interpreting every nuance.
"I canít stay," the woman called Parker remarked, backing away a step, as if to put distance between them.
Her body was oddly taut, sprung with the same fluid tension she felt in her husband without even touching him.
Their bodies so in sync without ever touching.
"Itís been nice, Mrs. Russell," she said to Chelsey, as if it were a line in a play, a well-rehearsed play. But her words were jagged. Like broken glass, as if this were the last time she would say them.
And afraid to loose it.
And realizing how much this woman must have loved her husband and how much more she did still, to let him go.
To let his life be unbroken.
"Yes," she found herself replying, now confused and rather embarrassed at her own irrational behavior and trying to mask it with husbandís awkward silence.
"Jarod!" she asked, pushing his shoulder, the muscle rigid under her fingers like a mouse-trap set to spring. "Arenít you going to bid farewell to ÖMiss Parker?"
For a second, the earth seemed to fall off its axis.
"Oh, Jarod never liked goodbyes," the woman answered, to cover the silence. A trace of bitterness in the back of her words.
"Parker." Her husbandís voice a tone sheíd never heard before and after today, didnít think sheíd ever hear again. It seemed old with remorse, yet young with something so potent she couldnít catalogue it and much later decided was too powerful to have a name.
Without warning, he went to the woman, took her into his arms and held her for just a split second.
It was nothing he hadnít done with her, as his wife.
Except that with his wife, he didnít have to let go.
His arms clasped around her back, his chin buried in her shoulder.
The tension bleeding out of them like tears.
And a long time ago, or maybe not so long, she knew he would have stormed heaven and earth not to let go of this woman.
Of whoever she was and whoever she had been.
That he would have died for her, and she for him.
That theirs was a love simply too powerful to bear, something so strong it had shattered them both.
And so he released her.
The woman nodded and for a second, Jarodís wife thought his answer was what she had come for. Come from nowhere, for this.
Jarod put his arm around his wife the way any woman dreamed a husband would and drew her against him.
As if he needed support.
The woman nodded, a slow twist of her head and spun back the way she had come.
It was only then, as they turned too, and continued in the other direction, that she realized the tenseness had left his body, only to be replaced by a shiver, a tremble that he hid as well as the womanís identity.
She had been his lover.
He hesitated, as they maneuvered through the crowding street.
There was that doubt again.
"Who was she really?"
"A friend," he answered shortly, as if struggling for breath. But somewhere in his words she felt as if he meant the opposite, that she was no friend, but rather an enemy.
It was a strange thing for a lover.
But what was love but finding a worthy adversary?
"Do you love her?"
It was a trick, she knew, to ask. But she had to know, to know her worth to him. Both their worths.
"I did love her," Jarod admitted as they crossed the cobblestone intersection and threaded past the florist shop that he had sent her flowers from every month for four years.
He pulled her close, and kissed her forehead, a gesture that had always been comforting in the past.
Yet somehow today she had seen a touch more intimate than making love.
"I love you more."
And yet, his voice was slurred.
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Iíve seen that look before, here comes that doubt again.
You think that girl we saw was more than just a friend.
Yes there was a time I thought she had it all
She meant the world to me back when the world was smallÖ
~ Collin Raye
Disclaimer: The characters of "The Pretender" are not mine; they rightfully belong to NBC, MTM, and Pretender Productions, as well as the actors and actresses who give paper and ink a life and a voice. I am making no profit from these writings; imitation is the highest form of flattery.