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She walked over to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Scotch; her hand shook and tears filled her eyes as she poured some into a glass. “Damn it! I swore he would never make me cry again and here I am doing just that. Damn you, Daddy, damn you!” She shouted as she thought back to what had happened earlier.
As she was about to leave work for the day, her father had called her into his office and once again berated her for coming up empty in the search for Jarod. She’d tried to explain what had happened, but he’d just brushed her off, telling her she’d better start doing better or changes would be made. Her blood ran cold when she heard that and she opened her mouth to ask him what he meant, but before she could get a word out, his phone rang and he ordered her out of his office. She’d just turned on her heel and strutted out, her head held high and her feelings kept in check, she didn’t want him to know how much he’d hurt her with the words he’d said.
Now here she was at home, a glass of Scotch in her hand and tears running down her face. She looked at the glass then put it down without even taking a sip. She wiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand and decided that instead of feeling sorry for herself and getting roaring drunk at home alone, she would take a shower, find something simple to wear then drive into Dover and stop at the first bar she came to.
Miss Parker stepped out of the shower and toweled off. She pulled on her robe and walked into her bedroom, heading for the closet to find something to wear. She searched through the clothes hanging there until she found a pair of jeans and a polo shirt, which she didn’t even remember buying. She pulled them out and laid them on the bed then went to her underwear drawer and took out a pair of panties and a bra. She headed back to the bathroom to blow dry her hair and when she was finished, she brushed her hair up into a high ponytail. Miss Parker then took off her robe, hung it on the back of the door and walked back into her bedroom naked. She pulled on her underwear and then the clothes she’d laid out on the bed. She looked at herself in the mirror and decided to put on only some lipstick and eyeliner instead of the heavier makeup she wore during the day.
She pulled on her leather jacket and headed to the door, taking one last look at herself in the mirror on the wall by the door before pulling the door open and walking to her car. She got into the car and drove off, heading for Dover and the first bar she came to there. Maybe she would meet someone who could take her mind off her father and the Centre for a few hours.
Miss Parker parked her car and walked into the bar, laughing to herself when she realized that it was a country bar. She’d made the decision to stop at the first bar she came to and this was the first one; besides, she was pretty sure she could get what she wanted to drink here just the same as she could at any other bar.
There was country music playing on the jukebox and a band was setting up on the stage at the back of the bar. There were people sitting at the counter and more were sitting in some of the booths against the wall. She looked around alittle more then went to the counter and ordered a Scotch; when the bartender handed it to her, she headed to one of the booths.
As she walked over to the booth, she could feel the men’s eyes on her and she smiled to herself, thinking, ‘Don’t worry, Parker, you’ve still got it.’ She put her drink on the table and then slid into the seat and took a swallow of the Scotch. She felt it burn its way down her throat to her stomach and took another swallow. Just then, the band started playing and she had to admit to herself that they were good. Maybe tonight wouldn’t be so bad after all. The song the band was playing was unfamiliar to her, but it had a nice beat and she found herself tapping her foot in time to the music. She finished her drink and waved the waitress over to order another one. When the waitress brought the drink over, she thanked her and told her to keep them coming. Then she leaned back against the seat and watched the couples on the floor dancing while she sipped her drink.
She had been there about an hour and was about to take a swallow of her fourth Scotch when she realized that she did not want the drink. Drinking was one of her coping vices and she was getting sick and tired of having to have those vices in order to deal with her life, not to mention her father. She’d given up smoking, which had been another of those vices and very hard to do, so there was no reason she couldn’t give up drinking also. Making up her mind, she waved the waitress over and told her she’d changed her mind about the Scotch and to bring her a club soda instead. The waitress left and came back a few minutes later, placing the club soda in front of her. Miss Parker sat with her back to the door, watching the dancers on the floor and sipping her club soda.
He had been sitting out in his car ever since following her to the bar and had finally decided to go in. He walked through the door and looked around, spotting her almost immediately. It wasn’t hard; after all, she was the most beautiful woman there and even though her back was to him, her hair was in a ponytail and she was wearing out of character clothes, he would know her anywhere. He walked up behind her and bending over, whispered in her ear, “Hello, Miss Parker.”
Miss Parker jumped, her head snapping around. Seeing who it was, she glared at him and growled, “Jesus Christ, Jarod! What are you trying to do, scare me to death?” She reached for her gun only to realize that she had left it, along with her cell phone, at her house.
Jarod grinned. “Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to say hello. Would you really pull a gun in here with all these people, Miss Parker?”
“Well, since I don’t have my gun, we don’t have to worry about that, do we?” She said sarcastically. “How in the hell did you know I was here? Did you follow me?” She snapped at him.
“As a matter of fact, I did. I talked to Syd earlier and he told me that you were very upset when you left work, but didn’t seem to know why, although he did say you had been called to your father’s office. Since I was nearby anyway, I drove over to your house and followed you when you left.”
“So, now you’re stalking me.” She sneered, thinking to herself that she should call a sweeper team.
“I am not stalking you! I was concerned and wanted to make sure you were all right. And you are not going to call a sweeper team.”
“Well, as you can see, Wonderboy, I’m just peachy.” She sneered, wondering how he always seemed to know what she was thinking.
“Yeah, I can see that. You’re so peachy, you’ve been drinking for the last hour.” He said sarcastically.
“I had three drinks, Jarod, that’s club soda that I’m drinking now.” She sighed.
“Yes, really! Here, taste it for yourself since you don’t believe me.” She snapped, thrusting the glass at him.
He took the glass from her hand and took a sip. “So, it really is club soda.”
“Isn’t that what I told you?”
“Look, Parker, I’m sorry. It’s just that I know that you usually drink after you have a run in with your father. Hell, I don’t blame you, if he was my father, I’d probably drink too.”
Parker looked up at him, the hurt showing in her blue eyes as they filled with tears, which she quickly blinked away. “He’s still my father, Jarod, and he’s all I have.” She said softly. “Besides, it’s your fault for being such a smart ass and running away instead of letting me catch you and take you back to the Centre.”
‘He’s not all you have, you have me.’ He thought, but said, “Parker, we’ve had this conversation before. I am not going back there! I just wish you would see them for what they are and get the hell out of there also.”
“I wish I could.” She whispered.
“You can, just leave, I’ll help you hide from them.”
“Jarod, could we please not have this conversation now? I just want to forget about the Centre and my father for a little while.”
“Do you mind if I sit down?” Jarod asked.
“Even if I say yes, you’re going to do it anyway, so go ahead, sit down.”
He took off his jacket and sat on the seat on the other side of the table then he turned to watch the people dancing on the dance floor behind him. Turning back to her, he said. “Let’s dance. You said you wanted to forget and having fun dancing is a good way to do that.”
She laughed. “Jarod, I don’t know how to line dance, do you?”
He grinned, “Miss Parker, we’re pretenders, aren’t we?”
“What does that mean?”
“We’re pretenders, so we pretend. It will come to you naturally.”
“Jarod, you know I don’t know how to pretend. Are you forgetting I was never trained like you were?”
“Come on, let’s at least try.” He reached out and took her hand in his warm one.
She felt a jolt of electricity shoot up her arm when their hands touched and her eyes jerked up to look into his. From the look in his eyes, she knew he had felt it too. She let him take her hand and pull her out onto the dance floor. They stood there for moment, watching the moves the other dancers were doing then they joined them on the floor.
Half an hour later, they collapsed back into their seats, laughing and sweaty.
“See, I told you it would come naturally. You’re great at it.” Jarod grinned.
“Yes, you did. That was a lot of fun and you’re not bad yourself.” Miss Parker smiled, taking a long drink from the glass of water the waitress had brought over.
Jarod sat there looking at her; she looked so relaxed and happy, it was the first time he had seen her look like that in years. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “You’re beautiful.”
She looked up at him and smiled. “So are you.” She said softly, reaching out to take his hand in hers. “Thank you for making me go out there and dance, I needed that.”
Jarod squeezed her hand gently. “You’re welcome, but you don’t have thank me, just seeing that smile on your face is thanks enough.”
“You’re a real sweet talker, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am.” He answered, reaching out to brush some sweaty tendrils of hair from her face and once again, the electricity sparked between them. She covered his hand with her own and leaned her face into it then she turned her head and pressed a soft kiss into the palm of his hand. Jarod looked at her, shocked, he hadn’t expected her to do that, but it thrilled him right down to his toes. He moved his hand away from her cheek and took hers into it; bringing her hand to his mouth, he pressed a gentle kiss on her knuckles.
As they sat there staring into each other’s eyes, the band started to play again. This time it was a slow song; Jarod gently pulled her to her feet and they walked out on to the dance floor, their hands still clasped. He pulled her into his body, wrapping his arms around her waist as she placed hers around his shoulders. Their bodies fit together perfectly, as if they were two pieces of the same puzzle and they started to move in time to the music.
They had been dancing for a couple of minutes when they realized that they were the only couple on the floor. All the other couples had walked off and were now standing off to the side watching them along with every other person in the bar. Miss Parker blushed, burying her face in Jarod’s neck; Jarod just grinned and pulled her even closer as they continued to dance.
The song finished and the band started to play another slow song. Jarod and Miss Parker continued dancing and this time the words of the song caught their attention.
"Once upon a time, people fell in love
And they stayed in love
It never crossed their minds
Not to see it through
When they said I do
This modern world changes so fast
Hearts break apart
Like they’re made out of glass
Making it hard to believe
In love that will last
I will if you will."
As he listened to the words of the song, Jarod took Miss Parker’s right hand in his left one and placed both over his heart. Miss Parker could feel his heart beating strongly under her hand and realization hit her; she loved him, had loved him for almost her whole life and would love him for the rest of her life. Deep inside, she knew that he felt the same way about her and it sent warmth flooding through her entire being. She knew now what she had to do and making up her mind, she covered his lips with hers, kissing him deeply, conveying all her feelings to him. Jarod kissed her back, pulling her even tighter against him, still moving in time with the music. They broke off the kiss and continue to listen to the words.
"Once in every life
Someone comes along
Like you’ve come along
And it would be so nice
If this happiness
Could go on and on
But in this modern world
Troubles come by
People let go
The first tear they cry
Someone has to be strong
To keep love alive
I will if you will
But in this modern world
Troubles come by
People let go
The first tear they cry
Someone has to be strong
For love to survive
I will if you will
Let’s give it a try
Let’s do it or die
I will if you will"
The song finished and Jarod pulled back from Miss Parker. Looking into her eyes, he whispered, “I will if you will.”
Miss Parker’s eyes filled with tears and she smiled tremulously then said, “I will if you will.”
Jarod pulled her back into him, hugging her tightly then he pulled her away from him again and with a huge grin on his face asked, “You mean it? You really mean it?”
Miss Parker grinned back then pressed her lips to his in a soft kiss. “Yes, I mean it. Let’s get out of here.”
They went back to the booth to collect their jackets and her purse then headed for the door. As they walked towards the door, a woman came up to them and said. “I have no idea who you two are, hell, I don’t know you from Adam, but you are definitely the most beautiful couple I have ever seen.” She smiled then continued, “It is very obvious from the way you look at each other how in love you are. It’s clear to me that you two have found the one thing everyone spends their entire life looking for – true love, that one special person in the world that was meant for only them. You two are soulmates and I want you to promise me one thing.” She reached out and took one hand of each in hers, “Promise me that no matter what happens, you two will work through it and stay together because what you have is more important than anything else in this world.”
They both nodded and said in unison, “We promise.”
The woman smiled again and said, “You know what? You two have inspired me, I’m going to start looking for my special someone. Thank you.” She released their hands and walked off.
Jarod and Parker looked at each other and grinned. “Imagine that, the lab rat and his huntress inspiring someone, if she only knew the whole story.” Miss Parker said.
“Yeah, the I run, you chase part. Well, Miss Parker, I ran, you chased and now you’ve caught me and let me tell you one thing, you are not getting rid of me ever again. So, now that you’ve got me, what are you going to do with me?”
Miss Parker leaned over and whispered something in his ear, making Jarod blush from the roots of his hair right down to his toes. Looking at him, she burst out laughing and said, “Jarod, you’re all red. Come on, Wonderboy, we have to get as far away from the Centre as possible so that we can put that suggestion I just gave you to good use.”
Taking his hand in hers, she pulled him out of the bar and he went willingly, a goofy grin plastered on his face. They got into his car and drove away, leaving her car in the parking lot. They drove to her house so that she could get some of the personal things she didn’t want to leave behind then drove off, not looking back.
They both knew it wouldn’t be easy at first, but they knew that together they could bring the Centre to its knees and then they would be free to live the life they should have been living for years now.
Soon, there would be no more running.