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The sky was cloaked in a veil of darkness. The afternoon sun was hidden beneath the dark gray storm clouds. Miss Parker stood looking at the refection of a face she didn't know anymore. She was burdened with the guilt of not having cried at the discovery of her father's body. It had washed ashore on the banks of a small Island just west of Carthis. The local authorities had contacted the Center quickly and transported it back to Blue Cove in just days. The job of identifying Mr. Parker had fallen to Mr. Lyle, as Miss Parker could not bring herself to even go down to the morgue on SL 15. The process there after had gone quickly. He was to buried next to Catherine Parker.
She applied a mask of makeup to her pale face. After the first aspects of her facade were in place, she turned to stare at the closet full of clothes before her. Pulling a short, black dress suit out, She slipped into the clothes of the infamous Ice Queen. The final touch a pair of black stiletto heels completed her attire. Sliding her 9 mm into its holster, she grabbed her car keys off the dresser along with a pair of sunglasses and headed out the door.
The funeral had gone smoothly and had been well attended, mostly by employees of the Center. As she stood beside his casket, it hit her that that not one person in attendance was a friend of her fathers. It was sad , she thought that the only persons, beside herself , that had come out of want and not obligation had been Sydney and Broots. She knew that even they had only come for her. She looked down at the closed coffin before her and couldn't help but wonder if it was truly her father inside. She glanced back up at Lyle, who was sitting engrossed in conversation with Mr. Raines, she suddenly felt sick to her stomach.
They moved on to the graveyard as the sky crackled with thunder and lighting flashed in the sky. She still had not shed a tear and the guilt became like a rock in the pit of her stomach. She sat between Lyle and Mr. Raines during the service more out of duty than want. Truth be known she would have rather been with Sydney and Broots. She stood as each member of the board stepped forward lying a single red rose atop the casket. Each muttered some rehearsed phrase they had been trained to say at such an occasion. Still the tears did not come. As the crowd dispersed the rain began to fall, in forceful hard swells that drenched them as they ran toward expensive cars trying to cover designer business suits. She couldn't move. She just stood staring at the casket a red rose still grasped in her hand.
Off in the distance hidden behind an elm stood Jarod. He had been hidden in the shadows all day watching, wanting to be there for her. Things had changed for him on the Island, truths he had always known could no longer be denied. He wanted to help her but had no idea how. So he just watched hidden from sight allowing her to have the day to herself but not to be alone. Sydney and Broots had spotted him but he knew that they would keep their silence for her sake if not for his. He had simply waved them on and followed a few paces behind. He stood watching her now as the rain came down in waves drenching them both. He won't leave her he couldn't. He couldn't go to her either not here not now as much as he wanted too he couldn't. So he just stood in the shadows and watched hoping she could feel his presence, praying it was enough.
She looked down at the dark wooden box in front of her willing her sadness to come. Sydney and Broots had offered to stay. Their friendship was a comfort but it would not change the truth. She knew they had lives, things far more important than holding her hand. Their being there had meant the world to her, she thought of them as family. Broots had been so kind as to offer her a bed, so she would not have to be alone. Sydney had offered the same and even said he would come and stay with her if she preferred. She gave them each a sad smile and thanked them both but insisted they go home to their families.
At last as she felt the heavens open up with a cold and lonesome rain, she allowed herself to cry. She walked forward and placed the final rose atop the pile on the casket. Reaching out her hand, she placed it on the caskets lid and whispered, "I'll miss you." Then turned and walked away. Walking to her car, she turned one last time as she reached the edge of the grass and whispered a final goodbye.
Jarod waited until he was sure she was gone then made his own way over to the casket. He had hated Mr. Parker that was a fact that no one would dispute, not even him, but he never wanted him to die. If for no other reason than the fact that he was her father. He knew what it meant to have family or at least he believed he knew. He remembered the pain he had felt when he believed his parents dead. He didn't wish that pain on anyone, especially Miss Parker. He looked at the graves around him that of Catherine Parker's and Thomas Gates. Then gave a heavy sigh as he turned to go, thinking to himself that she had spent too much of her life visiting the dead.
Miss Parker drove down the highway the lines blurred by the rain. She knew she was suppose to go to the wake at Parker Manor but she just couldn't bring herself to spend another moment with those people, pretending that they gave a damn about him, or her for that matter. She didn't know where she was going. She didn't care. She just wanted to get away, as far away as she could, from the Center, from her grief, from her life. The tears she couldn't find for days came in salty rivers down her cheeks as every song on the radio reminded her of her loss. Not just the loss of her father but of the life she had been meant to have. She had given it up for his love and now she had nothing, not even the memory of that love. The tears came harder as she remembered their last moments together. It had been the first time she had felt the love he was capable of giving. That feeling had fleeted away with his life leaving only the faint footprints in her heart to show it had existed at all.
The rain came down in forceful sweeps and the force of the wind blew her car from side to side. She struggled to keep the car on the road, as the wind grew more turbulent. At last the family's summer beach cottage came into sight and the tires screeched to a halt on the wet cement driveway. She pushed the garage door opener and guided the car inside. Exiting the car, she could hear the roar of thunder echo through the sky. Unlocking the door, she made her way inside the warm dry cottage.
The room before her was like a photograph frozen in time. It was exactly as she remembered it from twenty years earlier. Each window draped with delicate fabric to allow onlookers to see the glorious ocean view. The sofas and chairs arranged in cozy patterns around the fireplace. She walked over to the sofa allowing her hand to gracefully sweep over the soft fabric. Making her way over to the fire mantel, she lit the hurricane lamps that rested at each end. Tucked away in the corner was a small wooden cart. It was adorned with a sliver platter, on top of which sat an etched glass bottle filled with amber liquor and a few glasses. She walked over and poured herself a drink.
Moving around the room, she stopped to look at various photographs that graced the walls and tables. Each reminding her of a life she no longer had. When she came to one of her mother and father, she gently lifted it from its place on the mantel. Then made her way over to the couch and sat down. Lifting her glass of Brandy she said a quiet toast to her parents then swallowed the last of the liquid. Cradling the picture to her chest, she snuggled onto the corner of the couch resting her tired weary head on the arm. Listening to the roar of the thunder outside and the pitter-patter of the rain on the windows, she found sleep.
Jarod drove down the highway, his destination unknown. It was almost as if something was pulling him toward it. He followed his instincts and just drove trusting that in the end he would be where he needed to be. The rain made detecting his whereabouts almost impossible. The swishing of the windshield wipes was almost hypnotic in their motion which made fighting the day’s exhaustion even harder. The rhythmic flashes of lighting were all that allowed him to see what lay ahead. Fumbling with the radio, he found a weather reporter warning of a tropical storm that had been driven ashore. All he could think of was Parker and if she was safely out of the rain.
He could make out a faint glowing light in the distance and directed his car towards it. It had been the first sign of life in miles. Knowing that he could no longer drive against the furry of the storm around him, he pulled into the driveway of a cottage nestled into the ocean side. He reached over grabbing his bags off the passenger seat and fought his way through the rain to the doorstep. He knocked on the door and waited but no one came to answer. He blinked the rain from his eyelashes and peered into the window of the door. There appeared to be no movement inside to allude to anyone's presence. He reached down and tried the knob. Opening the door, he let himself inside calling softly to anyone who might be home. Dropping his bags by the door, he stepped a little farther into entrance hall. Glancing around at his surroundings he spotted a photograph hanging on the wall and made his way over to investigate it further. He immediately recognized the occupants of the picture.
He looked around cautiously half expecting to find a 9mm in his face. Stepping into the living room, he found Miss Parker's trembling body wrapped around the photograph of her parents asleep. She looked like an angel in the soft glow of the candlelight. He walked quietly over to where she rested and stood over her for a moment just drinking in her beauty. Seeing her shiver slightly he pulled the quilt that rested on the back of the sofa over her. Shivering a little himself he turned his attention to the fireplace and proceeded to build a fire. Once the fire was alive and crackling, he sat down in a chair across from her still sleeping form and just watched her.
Miss Parker snuggled down into the warmth of the blanket that covered her aware that she was no longer alone. She willed her eyes to open. As she fought to focus, she began to recognize the hazy features of her companion. She pulled herself to sit up and forced her eyes to open fully. Jarod sat before her his tan skin illuminated in the glow of the firelight. Habit pushed her to go for the 9 mm that rested on the end table beside the sofa, but something else, something stronger willed her to stay where she was.
"What are you doing here Jarod?" She asked as her eyes traveled between him and the weapon.
"Debating on shooting me?" Jarod smiled and sat forward in the chair.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT?" she hissed, as her feet fell to the floor and she threw the blanket off of her.
"You don't have to go through this alone Parker." He muttered softly, looking up to meet her eyes.
"And I suppose your going to help me?" She got up from the couch and poured herself another drink. "Well save your breath Wonder boy because I am fine. Hell, he may not even have been my father."
"You won’t find what you’re looking for in the bottom of that bottle." Jarod said pointing to the bottle of Brandy in her hand.
"Save me the lectures." She said lifting the glass to her lips allowing the warmth of the liquor into her body.
"I didn't come here to fight with you Miss Parker."
"What DID you come here for? What do you have some new information about my past? Don't tell me let me guess you know some new Parker nightmare that your just dying to share. Or better yet you've discovered which monster is my real father."
"Don't do this." Jarod said sadly.
"Do what? Face the truth. Hell, isn’t that just what you have wanted me to do these past six years. Isn't that the whole point of this little game we play...to learn the truth about who we really are. " She sneered as the tears welled in her eyes once more. She refused them release denying him the right to see her grieve. Turning to look out into the storm, she began to compose herself. The raging sea crashing on the shore was almost comforting in its furry.
"I believe that circumstances may influence who we are, but we are responsible for who we become." Jarod said standing and walking over to stand behind her. "Denying your grief won't change who you are."
"Do you think . . . he ever loved me?" She asked softly, her eyes still held on the storm outside.
"I think that just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have." He reached out and gently grasped her shoulders turning her around to face him, lifting her chin until her crystal blue eyes met his. "I think he loved you the only way he knew how, but yes Parker . . . I think he loved you."
"I know he wasn't prefect. I know he was a monster in the worse sense of the word, but I thought he was my father and for that I loved him." she muttered softly, as a rebel tear escaped cascading down her cheek.
"I know." Was all he said as his brushed the tear away with a soft sweep of his thumb across her satiny skin. With his touch more tears came and he pulled her gently into his arms offering the only thing he could . . . himself.
She nuzzled into him adding her tears to his already damp shirt. Her mind screamed for her to pull away, but the only sound she could hear was the soft whisper of her heart, which beckoned her to remain. The strength of his arms enfolded around her brought comfort and safety in the storm. After what felt like a lifetime, she lifted her head from his chest and pulled back to look at him.
His deep chocolate eyes mesmerizing, she found herself lost within them. He lifted his hand to brush a lock of hair off her forehead and then tenderly kissed her soft pale skin. The soft wetness of his lips sent a rush through her. As he pulled back, she was drawn upward towards the roundness of his lips. She swallowed hard hesitating just inches from them. His hot breath washing over her own lips she licked them and then proceeded to bite her lower lip in contemplation.
Jarod’s eyes shifted back and forth between her eyes and the soft pink welcoming of her lips. He leaned forward just slightly allowing his lips to gently brush against hers. The kiss was perfect, the way he was always sure it would be, much more delicate and graceful than the one shared in childhood. There was no fumbling or thinking involved just instinct. She seemed to fit in his arms perfectly as if she had been designed for them. Her lips tasted like the sweetness of his favorite candy confection . . . Strawberry Pez.
Miss Parker hesitated for a moment before letting herself melt into him. The hunger for his touch grew inside her belly as she deepened the kiss. His hands slid up her back and into the soft brown tresses of her damp hair. His touch was like fire warming her from the inside out. She had dreamed of this moment for years, to be there encompassed in his embrace.
Pulling back to intake the air their lungs hungered for, they stood in an awkward silence. She was the first to move stepping away from him and turning back towards the window. He stood awed, for a moment, at the closeness she had allowed them to have, then made his way over to stand beside her at the window.
"I've always been fascinated by storms," she said softly. " The way they are exciting and frightening at the same time. The fear they instill in you makes you want to run away and hide. But their beauty wills you to stay captivating you with endless wonder."
"Sometimes the things that scare you most are the very things that save your life." He said referring to their stormy relationship more than the storm that was ragging outside.
"Jarod . . . I'm," she stopped unsure how to say what she was feeling. After all expressing her feelings was hardly her forty. She took a deep breath and headed back over to the cart in the corner. She needed a drink, something to numb all the raw emotions that day had uncovered.
Jarod watched her but stayed silenced in his opinion this time. Instead he walked over and poked at the fire again, sending a whirlwind of growing embers floating upward. He starred at them hypnotized. He envied their freedom, their innate ability to go where the wind took them. Feeling her presence beside him, he turned to look at her. The firelight reflected in her eyes made it appear as if the flame was actually burning within them. He took the glass of Brandy she offered and sat down in the chair he had occupied earlier in the evening.
She remained on her feet gazing into the firelight. "I know you were there today." She said suddenly in a soft voice almost unheard over the loud crackling of the fire. "After all he did to you Jarod why . . . why were you there?"
Jarod sipped his brandy debating if this was the time or place to tell her just what had brought him. Placing the glass on the coffee table, he stood and turned her to look at him. "I was there because my best friend lost her father, and I didn't want her to face that alone." he answered looking into her eyes again.
"How can you still think of me that way? Jarod I have hardly been a friend to you over the past six years. I'm your huntress for God sakes. We fight more than we do anything else, we drive each other crazy." She looked away.
"Just because two people argue doesn't mean they don't care about each other. " He said softly in response. "No matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you have to forgive them for that. It's human nature to protect oneself. I don't blame you for my life Parker, I never did. I know that you just did what you had to survive in that hell."
She lifted her eyes to meet his again. "Why is it that your always there when my world is falling apart? Why not just leave Jarod, disappear?" It was a question she had wonder for years now. He had said on the island, that it was supposed to be that way but she needed to know why. . Why it was suppose to be that way.
"Don't you get it Parker? I'm here for the same reason I can't leave. I’m here because . . . because I love you." He said taking her face in his hands so she couldn't look away. Tears welled in her eyes and slipped gracefully down her cheeks. He pulled her chin upward brushing his lips against hers once more.
She deepened the kiss wrapping her arms around his waist to draw him near. His lips were like oxygen breathing life back into her. His hands trailed off of her face, falling tenderly over her shoulders and slipping around her slender waist. She opened her mouth allowing his warm tongue entrance to explore. She wanted to be close to him, she needed to be.
As their tongues entangled in each other dancing back and forth between their mouths, She slipped her hands up his shoulders and slipped them under his black leather jacket allowing it to fall to the floor. Then her hands glided down his chest to the top button of his shirt. Her fingers fumbled with each one undoing them quickly. When the last button fell open she slipped her arms around his bare torso letting her hands travel up his back.
Jarod's hands wandered up to the buttons of her long blazer and undid them. Her hands on his bare flesh filling him with desire he pushed the blazer off her shoulders letting it fall in a pool to the ground. Caressing her almost bare shoulders, his hands traveled back down the silky satin of the camisole she wore. As his arms wrapped around her pulling her closer into him still. His lungs protested the lack of oxygen their embrace brought with it and he pulled back to fill them air. Looking at her standing before him so vulnerable and open, he reached out his hand and caressed her cheek.
"Are you sure?" He whispered, pulling away from her a little farther. His heart pounded in his chest as he awaited her answer, afraid that the moment would be lost once he had spoken. "If we do this it will change everything. They'll be no going back, no denying what we feel anymore."
"Make love to me Jarod" She purred back leaning forward and embracing her lips with his again.
He slipped his arms around her once more pulling her body to him fully. Thunder and lighting raged war on the outside world, but it went unnoticed by the pair inside as they surrendered to the storm within them.
Author's note: This is a response to Tiffany's Stormy night challenge!