Tag Archives: Rob

Jennifer Steel Chapter 18

His fist came to a halt inches from her face. His index finger flicked out and tapped her nose. “You know better than to sneak up on me, Kirei-chan.”

She wrinkled her nose in that cute way she had. “Sorry. I was entranced with your awkward dancing. Do you have seizures often?”

“It’s called a kata, as I’ve told you before.” He scowled.

Jennifer smiled. “You keep straining like that and you’re gonna crap yourself.”

He couldn’t help it, he started laughing. It was so much fun being around Jennifer. After a few seconds, he grew more serious. He looked her up and down, taking in the turquoise karategi and the tape in her hands. “Couldn’t figure out what to do with the tape, eh?” She shook her head. Rob plucked the roll from her fingers. “This is to help protect your joints, Kirei-chan. Hold out your hand.” She raised her right arm and he began to wrap the adhesive tape around her wrist and hand. When finished, it looked like she had a fingerless tape glove on her hand. As she flexed her hand, getting used to the new feeling, he told her to raise her other hand. Moments later, he had her left hand done as well and had moved down to her feet.

Jennifer sat on the floor to make it easier for him to wrap her feet and ankles. She stared at him when instead of rising to his feet after the taping was done, he began to caress her leg. He grinned at her and slid his hand further along her calf up to her thigh. When he lightly squeezed the back of her thigh with his thumb and index finger, she squirmed away, giggling.

Rob rose easily to his feet and held his hand out to her. She took it and allowed him to pull her to her feet. When she stood this close to him, her heart started to beat a little faster. He smelled so good; leather from the sheathe, Brut aftershave and a clean, masculine scent that seemed to be all his own. ‘If only I knew what he was thinking,’ she thought. ‘Then I might-’ She pushed the thought away. It wasn’t the time or place for thoughts like that. Rob positioned her so that she was a few feet away from him. She enjoyed his strong hands on various parts of her body: her legs as he adjusted her stance, her arms so they were ready to defend her and her waist as he tried to get her to relax. ‘I’ll never tell him that I find it hard to relax when his hands are on me like this.’

Rob shook his head. “It’s gonna hurt if you don’t loosen up.”

“I’m loose, let’s go.”

He nodded. “I’ll start slowly. Don’t worry about countering, or blocking. Just duck each swat. When we have increased to a sufficient speed, we’ll move forward, okay?”

“Ready.”

He delivered a long slow swing at her head. It came in so slowly, that she put up her arm as he’d taught her two weeks ago and lightly punched his chest. He raised his eyebrows and she scowled at him, daring him to say anything. Instead, he fired his left hand at her faster than she could see. His open hand tenderly touched her right cheek. She blinked as he grinned. ‘Point taken, Rob.’ Instead of continuing with the lesson, he instead stroked her cheek, lightly trailing his fingertips along her jaw and caressed her lips. ‘His fingers are so gentle. I like the roughness of his callouses. It’s manly.’ She looked into his eyes, trying to mask her thoughts. His pupils were dilated, making his eyes look black. Her breathing came a little quicker. He stepped forward and she took and answering step backward. He stepped forward and she retreated a step once more. They did this twice more, Rob’s grin growing each time.

“Kirei-chan,” he crooned. “Why are you retreating?”

“I’m not. I’m advancing to the rear.”

He paused, the words slowly trickling through his Jennifer filled brain. When they finally sank in, he guffawed. Once again, she had caught him off guard with her wit. She gazed at him, amusement and…something else dancing in them. He approached her again, but this time the wall of the training room was behind her, leaving no place for her to retreat. He stood so that his chest was brushing against hers. She tilted her head up to gaze into his eyes.

“Worth, what are you-”

He tilted his head down and slanted his mouth across hers, catching her with her lips parted. His mouth moved against hers, kissing her with an intensity she had never felt before. When his tongue slid into her mouth and lightly touched her own, she automatically wrapped her arms around his neck as she began to caress his tongue with her own. ‘He’s been eating blueberries,’ she thought briefly. His lips were firm, yet soft. Demanding, yet giving. His scent filled her nostrils as she held him tightly to her. Her pulse thrummed in her veins as she melted against him.

Rob pulled back a bit and began to rain feather light kisses along her jaw as she tried to catch her breath. He kissed his way around to her ear, nibbled it for a second, or two, then moved down the side of her neck. She held him tightly to her, nuzzling the side of his neck. Her breathing was short and shaky as adrenaline raced through her. She ran her hands through his hair, enjoying the silken softness of it. He nibbled the side of her neck before lightly biting it. Jennifer gasped as heat flooded her belly and spread outward. Shortly, Rob’s mouth returned to her lips. She pushed him back a bit and playfully kicked his shin. “What the hell, Worth? What are you doing?”

He chuckled. “You have to use every weapon at your disposal.”

She scowled, eyes narrowed. “Oh really?” She then kicked his shin a bit harder this time. It wasn’t enough to hurt him, she didn’t want that. He hopped up and down on his left leg, clutching his right shin and rubbing it.

“Ow, ow, ow! What the hell, Kirei?”

As he hopped, she stepped forward, gripped his right arm, pivoted into his body and flipped him over her shoulder with a judo throw he’d taught her last week. He slammed to the mat, hard, with the air knocked from his lungs. She stood over him, her hands on her hips. “How’s that for using every weapon at my disposal?”

He started laughing. Before he could formulate a response, Danijela’s voice sounded in the room.

“Mr. Worthington, we have a situation near Fort Avenue. Take your new recruit and investigate.”

“Roger that, Danni. What are the particulars?”

“According to the reports, it seems a wild dog attacked a jogger near the Koba Café. Local Leo’s are on scene. Be careful, you two.”

“Change up, Kirei. I’ll meet you back here in five minutes. There will be a tactical vest in your locker.”

“Roger that, Worth.”

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Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 17

Agents Markham and Jensen looked around the cave. There was no sign that anyone other than Rob and Jennifer had been there. Jensen was a brunette woman with dark brown eyes that sparkled as if she wear constantly amused. Markham was a bald man with a deeply lined face. He was only 37, yet the stress of the job had him looking much older. They had been partners for seven years and communicated almost silently. At her partner’s nod, Agent Jensen raised her radio to report. Just outside the cave, a small branch crackled as if someone had lightly stepped on it while trying to sneak up on them.

Agent Markham indicated that he was going to investigate, drawing his weapon as he did so. Agent Jensen nodded and drew her own firearm. Markham stealthily crept to the cave opening and peered out. Strain as much as he could, he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary outside. He pulled a long breath through his nostrils, but couldn’t smell anything either. He turned back to his partner and shook his head. He didn’t see anything. Jensen blinked. When her eyes reopened, her partner was gone. Her jaw dropped and she ran over to the opening of the cave.

She looked out and stared around. Some instinct had her keep silent. It was probably the same one that had her heart racing like an excited horse. Her breathing was coming fast and hard, yet shallowly. Black spots passed before her eyes and the cave felt like it was going to collapse on her. She had her gun pointed out, moving it here and there, jerkily searching for a target. She was so freaked out by Markham’s sudden vanishing act that she wouldn’t have been able to hit the ground had she aimed there.

A branch shook lightly, drawing her attention. The green of the brush’s leaves was a light brighter than she had remembered. She gently pushed aside the roughly barked branch, ignoring the green leaves. Before she could see what had made the branch move, she was abruptly hit in her face with a steam of warm liquid. The hot, greasy, coppery odor told her it was her partner’s blood. Squeezing her eyes shut, she recoiled. She never saw the thick, brown hand that snaked out of the brush and yanked her in. The brush shuddered, then was still. In the distance, birds chirped unconcernedly. A tan doe and white-speckled fawn dipped their heads to drink from the nearby stream.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 16

Jennifer looked around the training room. With the exception of the colorful mats on the floor, it was pretty bland. The walls were a stark white and the ceiling matched. Rob pointed to the opening behind him.

“Ladies locker room. You will find a gi in your size. You’ve already been scanned.”

“I have a question, Worth.”

“Yes?”

“How did you know I would agree to join?”

“I know all, remember?”

“Right, you’re god. How could I forget?” she said sarcastically.

‘I’ve been too lenient with you mortals lately.” He grinned when she rolled her eyes. She shook her head and headed into the locker room.

 

She looked around, not really impressed with the interior. It looked like every other locker room she’d been in. Rows of metal lockers stood side by side like soldiers at parade. They were a non-descript utilitarian grey. Each had a copper nameplate near eye level for an average sized woman. Before each row of lockers was a long wooden bench. The benches were a varnished white pine. The floor was a rough textured tile that she could feel through her soft leather boots. As she advanced further in, she was first greeted by the stench of sweat and dirty gym clothes. This was followed by a variety of flowered scents that when taken in all at once, wasn’t all-together unpleasant. She knew these were the body washes and shampoos the others used after their workouts.  She came to a locker with her name engraved on the nameplate. She reached out and lightly touched the beautifully flowing script.

 

Jennifer Steel,

Agent of the F.S.I.A.

 

The letters were etched fairly deeply into the metal. The way the letters streamed into each other felt marvelous. She allowed her hand to slide downward, enjoying the feel of smooth, cold steel. When her hand reached chest level, a beep sounded. Her hand had continued further past, so she stopped and raised her hand to that point again. Three beeps sounded this time, followed by a warm green light playing over her hand. From within the locker, there was a hollow click and the door swung open. She pulled it completely open and a light clicked on. There were two shelves about eighteen inches apart near the top of the locker, and an empty hanger dangling from a crossbar. She peered at the top shelf. On it was a turquoise jacket, pants and belt, carefully folded. On the bottom shelf was a grey sport bra and a pair of grey spankies, athletic underwear. Next to the underwear was a roll of white tape. She dressed, finding that the gi fit perfectly and was incredibly light and smooth. It had to have been made from silk. She grabbed the tape and headed out, barefoot, to the training room.

 

Rob was already there, dressed similarly except his gi was black and trimmed in red. He was doing some moves like a dance. But, he then snapped out a few kicks and punches in rapid succession. He dropped to the ground, sweeping his right leg around in a circle, then whirling back to his feet. He twirled through the air, kicking out first one leg, then landing on it and thrusting out the other one. He continued this for several moments before halting and smoothly moving into a series of rapid punches. She walked up behind him, causing him to spin while throwing a fist towards her face!

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 15

Out in the hallway, away from the others’ sight, Rob turned to Jennifer and pushed her lightly against the wall. He had an intent look on his face, no sign of humor. “What the hell was that in there, Jennifer?”

‘Shit, he’s using my name. This must be serious,’ she thought. “What do you mean, Worth?”

“This is no time for games.”

She could hear his breath coming out of his nostrils. She wanted to laugh about it, but the pulsing vein in his jaw told her maybe now wouldn’t be the best time. “Maybe a clue?” she said in an attempt to be diplomatic.

“The swat on my ass,” he said through clenched teeth.

She blushed as she replayed that event in her mind’s eye. She grinned, eyes going wide, and showing teeth. “I got caught up in the moment?”

That adorable grin defeated him as always. “I have a request: Don’t do it again?” he sighed.

She shook her head, brow furrowed. “Oh no. Definitely not.”

He stared into her eyes for several long moments as if trying to gaze into her soul, then smiled. “Good. Thank you, blue eyes.”

She sagged against the wall as the tension drained from her body. She hadn’t been sure what was going to happen next. He was simply too unpredictable. It looked like she wouldn’t have to disappear from another guy’s life yet. “My eyes are hazel.”

He grinned, face lighting up. “Not under these lights.”

She smiled. “You’re weird, Worthington.”

His grin widened into a full blown smile. “Yeah. It’s part of the reason why you’re so attracted to me.”

She lost her smile. “No, I’m not.”

“Of course you are. But that’s okay. It happens to everyone, eventually.” He sighed, “Oh the perils of being as pretty as me.” That caught her unawares, making her laugh. He had been messing with her again. Rob reached out and gently squashed the tip of her nose with his finger. “Beep.”

Outwardly, she smiled at his actions, but inwardly, she wanted to cry. It always happened this way. She’d meet a guy that she enjoyed spending time with, but wasn’t attracted to, and they’d look for more. After a bit of time, she’d disappear. She was sure it hurt their feelings a little, but it would hurt them a lot less in the long run. She decided to hang out with Rob one more time before vanishing from his life. She recognized the signs of him falling in love with her, but didn’t want to hurt him: he’d already been through a lot.

“Hey, Kirei-chan. Pay attention!”

“Sorry,” she said. “What does “chan” mean?”

“I erred earlier when I called you Kirei-kun.” He smirked. “When a male uses the honorific “kun” for a female, he’s stating a level of intimacy with her. Usually, they are lovers. I should have called you “Kirei-chan,” which would actually be more accurate. Because we are friends.”

“Oh.”

“Follow me.”

“Where are we going?”

“Training room,” he said with a sinister grin.

She raised her eyebrows. “What’s with the grin, Worthington?” He laughed aloud. “Don’t hurt Kirei, Worth,” she said in a small voice.

“Come on. Has Worthington ever hurt his Kirei?”

His Kirei?”

“Indeed,” he rumbled.

“Oh.” She shook her head. “No, he hasn’t. Kirei is just being sure. Worth likes being mean to Kirei.”

“That’s different. Worthington wants to make sure Kirei doesn’t get used to him being nice to her. Because that would be boring.”

“Indeed,” she said, giggling.

Rob lightly swatted at her butt. “I warned you about using my words. Only I get to.” She blocked his hand with both of hers behind her, laughing with her tongue poked out. He smiled. “Okay, Kirei. Let’s get going.”

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 10

Jennifer sat on the cold stone floor of the cave. Further in than she wanted to go, she could hear small animals scurrying around. The smoke from her bonfire kept larger animals away. The fire crackled and popped as she stared into the orange and white flames. The heat dried her eyes and made her cheeks prickle, but she didn’t want to move further back. She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to keep them moist. A cool wind swept into the cave and swirled the smoke into her face. She coughed hard, and spat excess saliva into the fire. After several minutes of staring into the fire, she yawned. Seconds later, she raised her arms out from her body in a stretch, closing her eyes as she yawned again. Her eyes heavy, her head began to sag forward. She jerked her head up, only to have it slide forward once more.  Soon, her head rested on her knees and gentle snores filled the air.

A large white wolf slunk over to the sleeping woman and sniffed her. It showed its teeth for a moment, lapped her cheek, then flopped down. The lupine rested its head on its paws, and watched the cave opening.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 9

Rob glanced at the carbon fiber face of his Black Seal MTM watch. Jennifer had been gone for over two hours. It was only supposed to take forty-five minutes. He sighed and looked at his friend. The blond woman smiled back and shook her head. “It’s too soon, Rob. You know the deadline is three hours,” she said in a cultured British accent.

“No one has ever taken that long!” He rubbed his forehead. He was developing a headache.

“You worry too much. You know she can do this. You wouldn’t have recruited her otherwise.”

“I worry too much? Have you forgotten about Mary?”

She shook her head, curls flying. “No. She was an aberration, remember. There was no way for you to know she was a half.”

A rumble of laughter came from the senior man. “Other than the nihilism, you mean?”

“Nietzsche was a human. Hard to get more nihilistic than him.”

“Okay. Fair point.”

A yellow light began pulsing. A second later, a small siren began to “wheep” softly. A young man hurried up. He carried a tablet computer in his hands and had a hands free communicator in his ear. “Mr. Worthington, we have a problem.”

“What is it, Mr. Stevenson?”

Stevenson swallowed hard. He hated to be the bearer of bad news. Especially the kind like this. “Um, the Walker of Worlds is there. He spoke with Ms. Steel and he knows she has his sword.” As he spoke, Stevenson sidled closer to the door. He didn’t want to be around when Rob blew up.

Rob sighed and ran his fingers through his dark hair. He shook his head, and looked down at the floor. “Just what we don’t need. Now I have to go in.”

The blond woman touched his arm. “You do and she gets disqualified. Those are the rules.”

Rob sighed. “Damn it.” He looked up, but didn’t see the Ops tech. “Stevenson!” he barked.

The young man poked his head cautiously back into the room. “Yes, sir?”

“Give me a sitrep.”

He nodded and tapped the tablet a few times, then pushed his finger towards the 15 foot viewing screen to Rob’s left. Rob and the blond woman turned and watched Carter confront Lilith and Jennifer running off. Rob sighed again. He hated when things went off the rails like this.

“Alright. We will continue to wait. I recommend that we terminate the countdown under the circumstances.”

The blond woman nodded. “Agreed. Mr. Stevenson, make it so.”

The young man tilted his head and tapped again at the tablet. “Done, Director.”

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 8

Jennifer slowly came to, dimly aware that her legs were cold. Damn it. I kicked the blankets off again. She hated when she did so. Why do I end up kicking off my blankets every time I hang out with Rob, and why is it so irritating? She reached to punch her pillow, which was feeling oddly hard, and came fully awake when her hand hit the cold stone.

“Ow. Fucker.”

She sat up in a hurry. A quick look down her body had conflicting emotions running through her. One the one hand, she was dressed; in a shift, it appeared, but still dressed. The worst part was the knowledge that someone had undressed her to put this on her. She felt…violated. Goddamnit, I’m gonna fuck up whoever took liberties with me while I was out. Her eyes went wide, and she reached between her legs. No soreness, but… What the fuck?! She leaped to her feet. Where’s my fucking panties?!

Jennifer whirled around and saw that one candle had burned down and been replaced with a fresh one. The shift was a finely woven fabric of some type and belted with a golden rope around her hips. On her feet were a pair of soft leather boots that came up to mid-calf. Her sword was laying on the bed in a dark leather sheath. She picked it up and examined it. The baldric was belted for someone much larger than she was. After several minutes of fiddling with the straps, she figured out how to loosen and tighten them. She slipped the baldric over her right shoulder so she could draw the sword with her right hand, and tightened the straps. When it was comfortable, she headed out the wooden door near the recliner.

Outside, she found herself in a soaring pine forest. She stalked along a path, cussing under her breath, vowing to tear the clothes thief a new one. Crickets made their reedy music, and a tawny wood owl screeched in victory as it caught a field mouse. She marveled at its beauty for a moment, and then lifted her face, letting the light and shadow dance across her skin. Bees hummed in and out of a cluster of wild rose bushes. A quick bend at the waist to inhale their perfume before hurrying on, and delighting at the sound of her boots crunching pine needles underfoot. Not too far away, she could hear a creek chuckling as it tumbled over different levels of rocks. It wasn’t long before it became visible through the trees. Jennifer decided to walk towards the creek. As she walked, she startled a pair of rabbits. She didn’t get to see much as they streaked out of sight, just a flash of long ears and twin streaks of brown fur. She felt a smile spread across her face as she continued. She’d never seen wild rabbits before. Not paying attention to the path, she brushed up against the rough bark of an immense pine, and getting sticky pine tar on her bare arm. Brushing the white tar only succeeded in spreading it further along her arm. She scowled at the mess, hating the tacky feel of it. A noise above her caused her to look up and forget all about the pine tar on her arm. A pair of grey squirrels chased each other through the tree branches, leaping boldly from limb to limb, sending a shower of needles and twigs down on her. She found herself giggling like a little girl at their antics. Why am I giggling? I’m supposed to be pissed.

Something about the forest path – what, she didn’t know – pulled the anger out of her, leaving her more at peace. What the hell is going on with me? For some reason, even that worry faded away. A soft, warm wind began to blow across her face and playfully toss her hair across her eyes. While she walked across the rich, loamy, black earth, long blades of grass caressed her bare legs. Birds resumed twittering in the treetops. The insects never bothered to stop their humming.

The ground became softer and wetter as she approached the banks of what turned out to be a wide river. Soon, Jennifer came to the edge of the running water. It was a beautiful blue, perfectly reflecting the clear sky above. As her gaze roamed the stretch of waterway, she could see that the river grew swifter about fifty feet further down. She made her way to it, the sound of a waterfall building in volume as she got closer. She soon found herself on a rocky outcropping far above a plunge pool, with a white, frothy cascade of water diving all the way down to it. A cool mist landed on her skin, beading up and then running down her limbs as far below, a deer drank from the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. A flat boulder rose up from the center of the plunge pool, its sun-baked surface drawing her on like a cat to a sunny window seat. She absently wiped spray from her cheeks as she contemplated her sudden desire to dive in to the pool below.

Jennifer leaned towards the waterfall, her lips parted, breathing faster and shallower. Her cheeks were flushed, and she wore a big grin of anticipation. She practically vibrated with excitement. Her lips shone as she unconsciously  continually licked them. I’m gonna do it! She took three giant steps backward, stopped, and then raced forward and dove off the outcropping of rock.

“Yaaaaa-hoooooo!” she yelled as she fell.

She arched her back, swept her arms forward and executed a perfect swan dive into the plunge pool at the base of the waterfall. Ignoring the sound of thousands of gallons of water thundering into the pool, Jennifer pushed to the surface, taking a huge breath as she broke it. She threw a triumphant fist into the air, laughing giddily at the same time.

“Yes! That was amazing! I wish Rob had seen that!”

Now why the hell did I say that? She mused, dropping her arm.

She swam to the boulder in the middle of the pool and pulled herself up onto it. She slid her fingers through her wet hair, slicking it back. She then lay back on the sun warmed boulder and looked up at the clear blue sky. She enjoyed the gentle heat of the sun as it warmed her and pulled the moisture from her skin and drenched clothing. The scent of the water saturated air, combined with the smell of rich earth and green, growing things further served to relax her.

Suddenly, the wind began to pick up, kicking a fine spray of grit over Jennifer’s body. At the same time, the light hairs on her arms and the nape of her neck stood straight up. She felt dizzy as if she had twirled in place. Chills danced up her spine and down her arms as she unknowingly bit at her lower lip and cleared her throat. Her mouth went dry as she sat up and looked around her. She could see nothing, but her legs were growing tense as if she wanted to start running. She stood, tears falling unnoticed down her cheeks. She abruptly turned and dove into the water, swimming for the shore. Oddly, the water felt colder and thicker as if it wanted to keep her from reaching the safety of the shore. She finally scrambled from the water and backed away from the water which suddenly seemed dark and sinister. Jennifer wrapped her arms tightly about her body as she shook uncontrollably and gasped for air.

A cold, white mist grew above the surface of the plunge pool. The animal and insect sounds faded away. The smell of earth grew stronger as the mist grew thicker. Jennifer back around a tree and continued to watch. A bank of fluffy, greenish-black clouds formed near the center of the boulder she had sunned herself on just moments ago. The clouds began to spiral up and into a vaguely humanoid form. A bolt of lightning struck the center of the clouds, leaving a bluish after image on her vision and the smell of ozone in her nostrils. Jennifer was surprised when she wasn’t deafened by thunder. Air, superheated by the lightning bolt seconds ago, exploded outward, nearly deafening her. She cringed, having never been so close to a lightning strike before.

Blinking away tears of pain, and the after images of the bolt, Jennifer looked back at the boulder in the center of the waterfall’s plunge pool. Standing confidently on the rock was a statuesque, curvy woman. She had long, thick rich red-orange hair, long sable lashes, and ice blue eyes. Her face was perfectly symmetrical and flawless. She had firm, up thrust breasts, a line outlining her abdominal muscles, and a defined “V” shape where her abs descended to her pubis, which had no hair. There was a very evident inward curve to the outline of her body at her waist and a sharp flare outward at her hips. She had muscular, yet feminine legs and delicate feet. Poking up above her shoulders were a folded pair of bat-like wings, the fingers of which were black.

“Come here, child,” the creature said in a soprano voice.

Jennifer unconsciously checked that her sword was loose in its sheathe by lifting it a bit with her thumb and letting it drop back. I have three options: I can run, I can go talk to her, or I can attack. After a few seconds of deliberation, she gave a heavy sigh and approached the creature with dragging feet. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she approached the bank of the pool of water. The winged creature snapped her wings out, showing an impressive span. She flapped them slowly at first, then more rapidly. She gently rose into the air, the downdraft causing wavelets to ripple away from the boulder. Shortly, the creature was settling gracefully to the ground before Jennifer.

“What are you?” she said in a strained voice.

“I am Lilith, the Mother.”

“Mother of what?”

Lilith gave a small smile. “All.”

Jennifer’s right eyebrow arched upward. “Are you trying to get me to believe that you are the Eve from the Christian bible?”

Lilith shook her head. “No, Jennifer, my dear. I’m informing you that I am the one all Abrahamic religions call Eve. You may believe what you wish.”

“Rob says religions are make believe.”

“Rob? Is he your mate?”

“Oh god, no. We’re just friends.”

Lilith chuckled. “Have it your way.” She suddenly got serious. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

“What kind of favor?” Jennifer asked suspiciously.

“A helpful one. Now listen: Not too far from here is a gem. It is in the shape of a clenched fist. It looks like it is made from a blue-white diamond, but it is really a different kind of mineral; one not found on your world. I need you to get it and hand it to me.”

“That’s it?”

Lilith nodded her head. “That’s it.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I can give you your heart’s desire. The one you won’t even admit to yourself.”

Long association with Rob made her say, “The question is: Will you do so?”

“Yes, I wi—”

“Don’t trust her Jennifer!” a man’s voice thundered.

Jennifer and Lilith turned to the new comer. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with long and thick black hair. He had dark eyes, high cheek bones and a wide jaw which was covered with dark stubble as if he hadn’t shaved that morning. Thick arms were folded across a massive chest, clad in a silvery, purple-green colored, form-fitting armor. Across his forehead was a band of the same color of his armor. He looked regal, deadly, and intimidating. When Lilith saw him, her face contorted into a snarl of black rage. Her breathing picked up as she shook. “Carter!” she spat.

“L’Arc,” he responded, his eyes flinty.

“What are you doing here?”

“My job.”

Jennifer blinked and the mysterious man appeared, sword raised to chop, behind the winged female who vanished from sight. She reappeared several feet away, facing him once more.

Jennifer began to slowly back away. She had no idea who this Carter individual was, but she had no desire to get between him and the winged woman. Lilith growled and hissed, but made no move to follow. Jennifer backed into a tree, causing the sheathe of the white sword to knock against the trunk. Without taking his eyes off Lilith, he spoke to Jennifer. “Don’t lose my sword and only use it if you have no other recourse.”

Jennifer turned and fled, running nearly blind through the woods.  She ignored the brush scratching her bare legs, the tug of mud on her boots and spider webs breaking over her face. She leaped over a foul-smelling stagnant pond, startling squirrels  – which leaped up tree trunks – and a red fox that scurried into a hollow under a mighty pine tree’s roots. Fallen evergreen needles crunched underfoot, releasing their clean scent into the air. The light was fading, creating new shadows and dark patches around her. The wind sighed between distorted trunks, carrying the sickly odor of wood rot. She ran faster, ignoring the briars that caught at her shift, and the damp leaves griming her skin.

Her headlong rush was brought to an undignified end moments later when her foot slipped in some dark mud. She belly-flopped on the ground and slid partly into a stream, getting scrapped by the rocks and wet from the cold water. The sudden impact drove the wind from her lungs with a pained grunt. She immediately rolled off her wounded middle to her side. She curled around the stinging pain, trying to get it under control. Her breath shuddered painfully in her sore lungs. After several painful moments, she rolled to her belly again and pushed herself up on her hands and knees. Her limbs trembling with the effort, she pushed herself upright. She pulled up the soaked shift and hissed at the sight of the scrapes on her legs and the developing bruise on her abdomen.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 7

 

She found a six-foot steel door twenty minutes later. A thick wooden bar across it sealed the portal. She lifted the bar up and tossed it to one side, swinging the door silently on well-oiled hinges. She stepped through and had to turn on her flashlight again. As she played the light around the room, she discovered it was very similar to a basement. Overhead were air ducts, support beams and spider-webs (abandoned and otherwise). The walls were rough and unpainted. Hard-packed dirt made the floor. She walked for so long her legs were starting to burn. Finding a wooden door, she walked though. Inside was a candle lit room with a comfortable looking bed, a small table with a delectable looking steak, mashed potatoes and a glass of wine, and a thick cushioned recliner. Jennifer realized she was suddenly tired and hungry. She went to the chair and collapsed into it, tearing into the steak and potatoes as if she hadn’t eaten in days. The old saw about adrenaline spiking hunger was true. She reached for the wine glass, but it suddenly doubled. Suddenly, her head felt heavy and muzzy. She pushed away from the table and tried to stand, but she collapsed to the floor instead. ‘Someone help me!’ Before it registered that she hadn’t made a sound, blackness overcame her.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 6

 

Jennifer strode down a darkened hall, noting the slow, but steady increase of illumination. As it got brighter, she noticed shelves lining the walls filled with DVDs. She picked up a handful and began reading the titles out loud.

“‘Debbie Does Dallas’? ‘Busty Asian Beauties’? ‘Her First Lesbian Sex’? What the fuck? Did I somehow end up in Rob’s room?”

Not that she had ever been in there. It just seemed like what his room would be like. ‘Ewww,’ she thought. ‘I did not need that mental image in my mind.’ She tossed the movies back on the shelf. She continued walking down the corridor, determinedly not looking at the walls. She once more began seeing the trail of blood. To her dismay, the path of blood began to widen and freshen. She was so focused on following the blood, she failed to notice the hallway had widened into a large room with three antechambers branching from the main one.

Soon the crimson stain was as wide as a human torso and wet. A sickly, coppery scent was in the air. The cloying perfume was so thick, Jennifer was able to taste it. She gagged and nearly puked. Resolutely, she forced her gorge back down and moved forward. She looked up from the blood and had to bite back a scream. Her best friend Danni was hanging from a tree with a spike driven into her skull. Blood had turned her blond hair a dull pink. Her blue eyes stared into eternity. She was also missing her lower half of her body as if someone had literally torn her in two.

A growling began behind her and stopped as suddenly as it began. Jennifer whirled, tightening her fingers on her H&K Tactical .45’s solid grip. An enormous monstrosity was crouched and ready to spring. It had the curved, forward pointing horns like a ram, a muzzle like that of a Hollywood dragon, back plates like Godzilla and long, sharp claws. It was poised like a cat ready to pounce: its muscles coiled and bunched. As soon as she had completed her turn, the monster leaped. Without flinching, or even blinking, she squeezed the trigger of the gun as Rob had taught her. Eleven shots thudded home in its torso, but the beast seemed not to have noticed. Its momentum allowed it to crash into her, sending her sprawling. The bullets had done one thing, it knocked the monster far enough off its trajectory that Jennifer was able to regain her feet and look around for another weapon. Not too far away, she saw a rack of middle ages weapons. She ran over as fast as she could. There were a variety of weapons: a heavy-looking battle-axe which she wasn’t certain she could lift, much less wield; a big club with a bigger spike ball attached to the top; a long stick connecting a chain to a spiked ball; and a long, pure white sword. Thinking quickly, Jennifer grabbed the pure white sword and whirled around to fight the monster.

To her surprise, the big thing was directly in front of her. Before she could bring the sword up to defend herself, there was a dark blur before her eyes, a flash of silver and a spray of red. She flinched, expecting to feel the large claws of the monster rip into her, but nothing happened. It just stood there. She hesitantly poked it with the tip of the sword, and as if in slow motion, its head dropped to the ground. She swore with disgust and revulsion when blood geysered over her. She soon forgot her disgust as her attention became drawn to the sword.

The pure white blade slowly warmed in her hand. To her surprise, the blood from the monster was swiftly being drawn into the pommel of the white blade as if the sword was sucking it through a straw. As more of the blood was absorbed, warmth slowly spread through her body, starting from where she held the sword. As the warmth spread through her body, Jennifer found that she was feeling more energized and awake. Within minutes, all the blood was gone. She looked around for her rescuer, but no one was around. She found herself wondering about the odd blur. She went back to her friend’s body, trying to steel herself for the grizzly task of taking her body down and taking her home. However, when she returned to the tree, the only thing there was a bloodstain and a piece of paper. She tore the paper from the tree and read it.

 

It’s not her.

Keep looking

きれい

 

Jennifer scowled down at the message and the puzzling scribble, but decided to shove it in her back pocket and resume looking for her friend. Her instincts told her to trust the mysterious author.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. (Chapter 5)

Rivulets of sweat ran down Rob’s face as he sucked back his third bottle of water. The plastic crinkled as he pressed it to his forehead. He shifted further in the shade, trying to get away from the baking of the sun. He squinted against the glare on the asphalt, hoping to see the familiar deep tan of Jennifer’s truck. Still nothing. He glanced at his watch. Twelve forty. Twenty minutes late. He growled to himself. He pulled his cell from his pocket, and a horn beeped at him. It was Jennifer.

He waded through the heat miasma to her vehicle, climbed in, buckled his seatbelt and turned to her. She leaned forward so he could lightly pinch her cheeks. It was the start of a traditional greeting he’d come up with. “Awww, look at these cheeks! They’re so cute!” he said in a high-pitched voice.

As always, a huge grin spread across her cheeks. He was so adorable when he did this. “So, where’re we going?”

“Head to B&A boulevard, Utsukushī-kun,” he said. “I’ll let you know where to turn and what not. I’m not spoiling the surprise.”

She sighed. “Alright.”

They drove for a half an hour with Jennifer turning as he indicated until they arrived at a long brick two-story building with a green roof. Rob climbed out and strode around to her side of the truck and opened the door for her. After she climbed out of the truck and he closed the door, he led her to the long building, lightly draping his arm across her shoulders. She pushed closer to him.

Rob opened the door of the building for her and gave the usual exaggerated bow. Jennifer grinned at him and entered. He flowed behind her. A short, portly man dressed in a white buttoned shirt and blue jeans greeted them.

“Howdy folks. How may I help you?”

“Hey, Bill,” Rob said, “Is Bart available?”

“Yep. I’ll get him.” The balding older gentleman walked behind the counter and headed into the office. Jennifer began to look around the room they were in. Guns of all kinds were displayed on the walls and in the case under the counter. Rob pointed out and named some of the unfamiliar ones to her. On six different occasions, she named them before he could. He grinned with pleasure each time she did. “Looks like you’ve been paying attention to my lessons.”

She giggled. Moments later, a tall, blonde haired, young-looking man with blue eyes stepped out of the back. He was dressed in a black vest, white button shirt and black jeans. As the door opened, Jennifer heard the tell-tale sounds of gunfire. The guy waved at Rob.

“Hey, Rob. You here for the package?”

“Yep. This is Utsukushī, the pretty filly I’ve been tellin’ ya about. Utsukushī, this is Bart.”

“Glad ta meetcha, little lady.” Bart said jovially, shaking her outstretched hand.

“Likewise, Mr. Bart.”

Bart chuckled. “Just Bart, ma’am.” He turned back to Rob. “What’s a Utsukushī?”

“Utsukushī is the Japanese word for lovely. It’s a nickname I gave her.”

“You still givin’ folks random nicknames?” He shook his head.

“That’s right, Keebler.”

Jennifer smiled. “Why ‘Keebler’?”

Bart rolled his eyes. “You tell her, Rob.”

Rob laughed. “Two reasons. One, that’s his favorite brand of cookie. The other is because he’s an original hippie.”

“What’s that?” she asked.

“He was a hippie in the 60’s. Tree hugging, peace slogan shouting, the works.”

“But, you own a gun shop.”

Rob sang, “Isn’t it ironic?”

“Don’t sing!” his friends chorused, then laughed.

The older man lifted a small teak chest onto the counter. He turned it so it faced the two of them and tilted the lid back. Inside, resting on red velvet was a gun. It was matte black and looked deadly even just sitting there. “The Heckler & Koch Universale Selbstladepistole kompakte taktische Kaliber .45, or the HK USP .45 caliber Compact Tactical. It has an ambidextrous magazine release lever that is shielded by the trigger guard from inadvertent actuation.”

“Say what now?” Jennifer said. Bart threw his head back and guffawed. She glanced at Rob who shrugged. A few minutes later, Bart’s laughter tapered off. “What’s so funny?”

“I’m sorry, little lady. The way you said that just hit my funny bone.”

She put her hands on her hips and tilted her head slightly to the right. “How so?”

He shrugged. “Just one of those things. Pick up the .45.”

She gingerly lifted it from the case. “Wow. It’s pretty heavy.” She sighted down the barrel, inadvertently pointing it at Rob.

“Whoa!” He pushed it to point at the floor. “Always be mindful of where you aim. Treat the weapon as if it is always loaded.”

“Yeah, even if you think it’s not.” Bart tucked his thumbs in the loops of his jeans. “My pappy always said, ‘Old man Splitfoot has a tendency to load guns when you’re not watchin’.’ He said the guy liked to cause mischief that way.”

Jennifer’s brow furrowed. “Old man Splitfoot?”

“The Devil, little lady. Pappy said that to remind me that weapons are dangerous, and it’s easy to forget a round in the chamber. If you treat it as if it is always loaded, you’ll not have any accidents.”

“Got it.”

Bart placed two boxes of ammo on the counter and stepped back through the double doors he’d exited. Rob turned to Jennifer an gave her such an intent look, she felt a shiver race up and down her spine.

“Do you know how to load this?” he asked.

“I’ve never even held one before,” she admitted.

“Right. Pay close attention.”

She nodded and he began to explain the loading of the HK while explaining the steps to her. He guided her through the steps twice before having her try them. He allowed her to fail twice and then placed his hands over hers and showed her the proper movements. It felt weird having his hot body so close to hers, but she tried her best to ignore the unusual sensations. After guiding her movements in loading and unloading the .45, he stepped back and watched as she successfully loaded the gun. He praised her and led her to the back.

“This is the firing range. We’re gonna teach you how to shoot.”

After an hour of work, Jennifer had gotten to the point where she put all 15 shots in a tight ½ inch spread.

“That’s pretty damned good shooting.” He scratched the back of his head. “I know I’m good, but not that good. You sure you never held a gun?”

“I never said I never held a gun.” She smiled up at him. “I just never held this model before.”

He tilted his head as he nodded. “Good point.”

They left the range and stopped in the front of the store. On the counter where the teak chest had sat was a cleaning kit. Rob showed her how to break the gun down and carefully clean and reassemble it. He then slid it into a holster and clipped it to the small of her back. She involuntarily gasped when his fingers brushed her thong, but fortunately, he didn’t seem to have heard. He tugged her t-shirt back into place and handed her a laminated card.

“It’s a carry concealed permit. Keep it and the weapon on you.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I have a feeling you’ll need it.”