Strangers & Sinners
Monday, December 18
No one on the fourth floor was foolish enough to get in his way when he stalked down the hallway. Conversations stopped abruptly when he was spotted emerging from his office. Those who were easily intimidated darted into doorways, away from his potential wrath. Even the Deputy Director avoided any confrontation with AD Verona today.
His agents on special assignment, ignorant of their boss's current testiness, showed up for a scheduled afternoon appointment. If he was surlier than usual, they didn't notice. After working with him for years, they were pretty much immune to his temperament. He snarled at his assistant when she let him know they had arrived, telling her he would let her know when he was ready for them. In the meantime, he continued to stew over Anna Sophia.
He paced from his desk to the conference table, back to his desk, over to the window, and back to his desk. He sat in his chair, his elbows resting on the arm rests, his fingers tented under his chin and scowled. He lost track of how many times he questioned what had caused Sophie to leave.
Why didn't she wait for me? I know she enjoyed the sex - she was so hot and wet for me - all day and the night before and... crap! The whole time she was there, she was...
Maybe, that's it. She got tired of the loving, his inner voice suggested.
"Bullshit!" he snarled aloud.
Maybe, she decided it really was fucking, and nothing else.
I can't believe that. She was too warm, too receptive to my touch, my kisses... He shook his head, stood and looked out the window. "I missed her in my bed, last night," he said softly. Remembering the events that followed when he got home and found her gone, he bristled at what happened, agitated all over again.
It was after ten o'clock when he got home the night before. He had called her name as soon as he opened the door and when she didn't answer, he took the stairs two at a time, thinking she might be asleep. Finding his bed empty was like getting sucker punched in the gut. He had yelled at nothing and no one as if a miracle would occur and the yelling would make her materialize just because he wished it. He was so pissed she had left, he had been ready to write her off when his conscience convinced him to go after her. He raced back to the garage and drove to Arlington and the Presidential Arms, the small hotel where she said she was temporarily staying. Arriving at such a late hour, the hotel clerk was hesitant to give the scowling man the information he wanted.
"I'm looking for Anna Sophia Bergdorf," he told the man. "What room is she in?"
"Sorry, sir, I'm not at liberty to give out that information."
"Call her room," AD Verona ordered. "Tell her..."
"Can't do that, sir," the clerk insisted.
"Yes, you can," Nick said, an ominous tone in his voice, waving his FBI I.D. in the hapless man's face.
"Yes, sir," the clerk replied, ringing Sophie's room.
"She isn't answering, sir."
"What room is she in?" Verona demanded.
"Can't give out that information, sir," the man repeated, recalling he had a spine.
Probably with a client, his conscience snorted.
She is NOT a hooker!
He gave up and went home where he spent a restless night, and called the hotel again this morning. Sophie had not answered the phone and he decided he'd go over there and bang on every door until he found the right one. Sooner or later, he'd get lucky and he'd find her.
Now, he stood in front of his window and cursed.
It was more than sex, wasn't it, *Sergei?*
Hell, yes! It was... I need her. I have to find her.
Making up his mind to search for Sophie until he found her had a settling effect on his gut and his temper. He had a goal.
Sophie had a number of clients in the Hoover building and after finishing her business with them, decided to check the directory in the lobby to see if Sergei's name was listed. Ryan, Sanders, Thompson, Verona! Nick S. Verona! He does work here... Assistant Director? Sergei's an assistant director of the FBI? He's... a piece of camel dung, that's what he is! Why didn't he tell me he had such an important job? That... that hairball! That slime ball... bag...thing!
She took the elevator to the fourth floor, intent on confronting him. When she entered the outer office, she recognized his assistant right away. They had shared a table in the cafeteria on several occasions.
His assistant knocked on his door to ask if he had a minute for a friend of hers who didn't have an appointment.
"No," he snapped, "I do not."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Sergei," Sophie said softly, pushing her way past her friend.
He dismissed his assistant with a wave, stood behind his desk, and hid behind his AD persona. His starched and impeccable look made him seem unapproachable and he used it to cover his relief at seeing her. But seeing Sophie also caused an adrenaline surge so he folded his arms across his chest in an effort to remain angry with her. It was a futile effort and it didn't work. Sweet Jesus! She's beautiful - even with clothes on! Her silky brown hair was pulled back in a chignon, the flecks of gold in her eyes brighter than ever.
He realized she was angry. What the hell?
"So," she said, spacing her words. "AD stands for assistant director. You're not an art director or an assistant derelict, after all." She glared at him and then taking a deep breath, lowered her voice, an unexpected sadness washing over her. "Why didn't you tell me you were an assistant director for the FBI? Did you think I'd be unhappy that you have such an important position? Did you think I'd take advantage of some connection you might have? Or maybe, you thought I was just a one-night stand, not important enough to know what you did for a living." She paused to take another breath. "Was that it, Sergei? I'm not good enough for you?"
"No," he said simply, not moving from behind his desk.
"I enjoyed our time together, Sergei. I'll remember you with fondness," she said softly and turned to leave.
"Sophie, wait!" he yelled, grabbing her arm before she had a chance to open the door. "Please don't go. Stay. I want you," he lowered his voice and pulled her to his chest.
She turned to face him and cupped his cheek. "I know you want me, Sergei, but that's just your body responding to memories. That's just your..."
"No, no it isn't," he murmured, kissing her forehead, one hand gently squeezing her neck, the other still holding her close to him. It dawned on him that she was very angry with him, but he could have sworn he was the one who should have been angry that she left him the night before.
"Why did you leave last night? I went looking for you. I drove to Arlington looking for you." His arm tightened around her, his emotions in charge. "You didn't answer the phone at the Presidential Arms. Where were you?" Out of habit, he quickly fired off one question after another, expecting immediate answers, acting on automatic.
Sophie was stunned. This was a side of him she didn't like. Autocratic, angry - demanding. She went into defensive mode. "Take your hands away, Sergei. I'm leaving."
"No, you're not! You're not leaving until I get some answers, Anastasia!" he growled.
"Let me go, Sergei!"
"We're not finished. Answer me. Why did you leave? Where did you go when you left? Tell me why..."
"Don't make me hurt you, Sergei," she warned, not realizing he wouldn't have to use his strength against her, the sheer size of him could easily overwhelm her.
"Hurt me?" Before he could stop it, a smile curved his lips. Belatedly, it dawned on him she actually thought she could physically hurt him. "Please don't hurt me," he said softly, bending his head to kiss her.
"Don't you make fun of me, you slime thing!" she yelled, raising her knee to his groin and simultaneously punching him as hard as she could. She aimed for the soft, vulnerable pressure point on the inside of his shoulder cap.
He evaded her knee but not her punch and it did hurt but not as badly as it would have hurt if she had any weight behind her fist. Without thought, he shoved her against the wall with his body and used it to hold her still.
"I want you, Kitten," he murmured, his chest pressing against her breasts, his hands holding her shoulders, and his mouth moving slowly against hers. He was hungry to touch her.
Sophie felt his erection pressing between her thighs. She was weakening, afraid she'd give in to him. She wanted him badly.
He wasn't honest with you, her conscience nagged. He thought you were good for sex but he didn't think you were good enough to share anything personal.
I didn't tell him what I did either.
Did he ask? I don't remember.
"I'm good enough for you to sleep with, to fuck," she whispered the objectionable term, "but not good enough to know who you are or what you do. Let me go, Sergei."
"No, it's not like that, Kitten. I want you. I want to make love to you. I want to..."
The ringing of the phone startled them. Nick ignored it but the ring was incessant and interminable.
"I have to take this call. Don't move," he growled, a low warning deep in his throat.