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Falling Down an Upward Spiral (part 7/8)

by M. Rose


He watched the clock as another minute passed him by.

It had been almost twelve hours since he last saw her and the ache within him increased with each passing minute.

She was late.

Forty-three minutes and twenty nine seconds late to be precise.

He ran his hand up his unshaven face and through his hair in frustration and then he began to pace in the very small space of the cabin.

He had bought the boat that morning after seeing it advertised in a flyer at a local diner. By the afternoon, it was stocked with enough supplies to last them both until their next destination. That is, if he could convince her to come with him.

His pacing came to an abrupt stop, it was doing nothing to calm the anxiety quickly building within him. After everything they had gone through, he was sure Parker would come. She was as sick of the games as he was and it had already been established that she cared for him. No. She more than cared for him. And he didn't need words of adulation to confirm her feelings. Her actions spoke louder than words could ever tell. She loved him. Of that, he was sure with every fiber of his being.

Whether or not she was aware of that fact was another question.

Regardless of what she felt for him, she told him to leave. She had just revealed her innermost fears to him, exposing the gaping hole of vulnerability that was always taboo in her life and expected him to simply leave?

He wouldn't budge.

She could have grabbed her 9mm and blow his head off. Or worse, she could have sent him back to the Centre to be tortured and killed at the hands of Lyle and Raines. But she did neither. Instead, she simply walked away.

He cheered a silent victory at her change of demeanor until he realized she had a different plan, one that consisted of drowning in a sea of Scotch.

A woman who used to garner enjoyment from watching men cower as she threatened and sometime executed severe bodily harm was now self-inflicting the pain.

Jarod didn't need to use his Pretender skills to see that she was spiraling down a destructive path.

He could never let that happen.

He had cradled his hands in the softness of her features and looked into her eyes. The cracks in the hard exterior meticulously put together all those years ago began to show as tears streamed down her cheeks. He wiped them away, wishing that would be all he had to do to take her pain away.

If only it were that easy.

They have both had a life filled with loneliness and guilt. A life manipulated since birth. A Centre life.

THEIR control over him stopped when he escaped over five years ago, but their control over her life never ended. It was a daughter's love for her father that kept her a prisoner. Rather than show an inkling of affection in return, Mr. Parker used her endless adoration to control her every move.

Her eyes had a far-a-way look to them and he knew she was deep in thought, mentally torturing herself for things beyond her control -- beyond both of their control.

"Don't," he had pleaded as he leaned his forehead against hers and whispered, "Parker, please ... don't ... don't do this to yourself."

He remembered someone telling him once that the eyes were the windows into the soul. After his escape, he wondered for a long time if she even had such a thing. The little girl who had been his constant companion, had given him his first kiss and whispered her name in his ear had turned into a woman with a heart made of stone. He had hoped that the little girl was still in there somewhere.

His last chance came in the form of a man by the name of Thomas Gates. Upon his first encounter with Thomas, Jarod knew this was someone who could do what he could not -- break her tough exterior.

He was right.

Sometimes he hated being right.

He kept in contact with his friend after Miss Parker and Thomas became involved. But the calls became less and less frequent.

It became difficult to hear of how happy the couple was.

As volatile as their relationship was, somehow he always felt deep inside that he and Parker would end up together. He believed in the fairytale ending where he would be reunited with his family and live happily ever after. Parker was a part of that picture until the possibility for her and Thomas to have a normal life together came painfully into view.

Not that Jarod wasn't happy for them, he was. Thomas was a good man who loved Parker with all he had. And Jarod was pretty sure that Parker felt the same. That made the Pretender feel optimistic about his chances of getting her out of the Centre's grasp once and for all. But his plan backfired when Thomas was murdered.

Jarod knew that if Parker stayed at the Centre any longer, she too would become another Centre casualty ... like Thomas ... and her mother.

He leaned back and looked into the depths of her eyes. "Trust what's in your heart.

Let me love you."

And she did.

He smiled at the memory of heated bodies and sensual kisses. And just as quickly as the smile appeared, it faded as he looked around the empty cabin and glanced at his watch again.

Fifty-one minutes and nine seconds late.

His decision to leave her in the morning weighed heavily on his mind. He knew she would head straight into the lion's den as soon as she awoke and that was the last place he wanted Parker to be, but he had some plans to make if they were going to get away without Centre sweepers hot on their trail.

Everything was going they way he planned. He sent his usual clue to Parker's office in hopes that she would track him to the boat.

Preferably alone.

He wasn't worried when she didn't show up at the time he specified on the note, but she was now almost an hour late.

Not willing to wait any longer, he called Parker's cell phone. When she didn't answer after a few rings, he hung up and redialed.

"Come on, pick up."

After two more unsuccessful attempts at reaching Parker, he dialed a different number.

"This is Sydney."

"Do you know where Miss Parker is?"

"Jarod, you sound troubled. Are you okay?"

"I'm not the one you should be worried about."

"Is Miss Parker in danger?"

"I don't know. I haven't been able to reach her. Did anything unusual happen today?"

"Jarod, this is the Centre. Everything is up for speculation."

"Humor me, Sydney."

"Lyle did ask Miss Parker out to dinner earlier today. She refused at first, but apparently she relented. I questioned whether that was wise, but you know how she is."

A surge of panic went through him at the thought of Lyle setting a trap for Parker, a trap that would end in her death.

His nightmare was coming true.

"Jarod? Are you there?"

"Thanks, Sydney."

"Jarod. Do be careful."

Jarod disconnected the call, grabbed his leather jacket and rushed out of the cabin as fast as he could.

He only hoped he could get to Parker in time.

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