Resisting Her

By: Kendall Ryan

Chapter 2

Cole didn’t count on the woman appearing in his dreams. For the past several nights, she’d played a starring role. Though each dream contained a different scenario, they were all a variation of the actual take-down. Only in his dreams he’d spoken to her, made her laugh. He’d calmed her worries, and eased that little line that creased her forehead. Then he’d leaned in close to inhale the scent of her hair, carried her to his SUV, and tucked her safely inside. He woke each morning cursing himself out. He didn’t get to keep her. But damn if his subconscious knew it, uncooperative prick that it was.

Now in the office, sitting at his desk with the sunlight streaming through the cheap blinds, dotting his computer screen with flecks of light, Cole scrubbed a hand across his stubbly jaw. The case that had consumed much of his time over the past month had come to an unsatisfying conclusion. Jacob had been found dead in an out-building adjacent to the compound, of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. From the Bureau’s standpoint, the case was all but closed. But Cole had spent the last several days milling through the mountains of files they’d accumulated on the group, making sure everything was done correctly He kept finding himself stuck on details that might somehow relate to Savannah. Then he gave up trying to be sly, and read every single note they had on her. She was nineteen and had joined the group with her mother when she was just seven years old. Her mother, believed to have been one of Jacob’s lovers, passed away when Savannah was fifteen. Savannah had been living with the group in the compound just outside of Dallas ever since. That God damn cult was all she’d ever known.

Cole knew that all of the children, fourteen of them under the age of eighteen, had been taken into Child Protective Services. He had no idea what would become of those of legal age. He supposed once they were brought in for questioning and their statements taken, many of them would be free to go.

Gulping weak coffee from a paper cup, it took him a moment to realize his boss was standing in front of his desk.

“You look like shit, Fletcher.”

Cole didn’t bother explaining he hadn’t been sleeping well, preferring not to get in a conversation about exactly why that was the mysterious girl he’d rescued from the compound still clouding his thoughts even in his sleep—knowing that excuse wouldn’t go over well with Norman.

Cole rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. “Thanks,” he muttered.

“You need a break, Cole. You’ve been working eighty-hour weeks nonstop the past few months. Now that this case is over, I’m not assigning you to another until you take some time off.”

“What are you talking about, a leave of absence?” Cole had heard of other guys messing up and getting forced into a leave, if only to make an example of them. But as far as he knew, he hadn’t fucked anything up, at least not lately, and he was in line for a promotion at his next review cycle.

“No, like a vacation.” Norm’s stern gaze met Cole’s confused one. “You’ve heard of a vacation, right?”

Cole almost laughed, and would have, had he not been pissed at where this conversation was headed. It was the exact same conversation he’d had with his meddling older sister, Marissa, just a few days before. When she’d stopped by last weekend and seen the dark circles under his eyes, she’d challenged him on when he’d last taken time off. The truth was he’d never purposefully taken time off work. He wouldn’t know what to do with himself. The one and only time he’d taken some personal days was the standard bereavement leave when his parents were killed six years ago.

Norm was still staring down at him expectantly. “I checked with HR, and they told me you’ve never taken a single vacation day in six years with the Bureau.”

No shit. And for good reason. He’d be bored as hell in two hours. “And what exactly do you expect me to do?”

“How the hell should I know? Do whatever it is people do when they have time off work.”

“Thanks, but I’m actually good. Just give me another case, Norm.”

“This is non-negotiable.”

He wasn’t averse to taking on Norm, but he wasn’t stupid enough to argue with him when that vein in his forehead was throbbing.

Cole stood, knowing it’d be pointless to press the issue, and scooped up the files from his desk. He’d just work from home. Norm cracked a sideways grin and pulled the files from his hands.

“No. No bringing work home. Get a massage, go to the fucking Bahamas; I don’t care what you do, as long as you take a break. Don’t come back until Monday. Next Monday,” he clarified.

Fuck. A week off of work with nothing to do? He’d go insane.

Unless…

No, he knew he shouldn’t check up on Savannah, but once the idea had planted itself firmly in his mind, he knew it’d be damn near impossible to shake.

Cole spent the first two days of his vacation much like he spent every other weekend: catching up on sleep, hitting the gym, grabbing some takeout and parking it on the couch with a beer and flipping aimlessly through the TV channels.

But by the time Monday morning rolled around, he knew he was in over his head. There was no way he’d survive another week of this shit. He was already bored out of his mind, and it was day one of his Bureau-enforced vacation. Damn Norm.

Thoughts of Savannah continued to occupy his mind, and he found himself wondering where she was and if she was doing okay. After his third cup of coffee, he was jittery and pacing. Damn, he’d be crawling the walls of his condo by noon if he didn’t get out and do something.

Cole made a snap decision, knowing he wouldn’t be able to let the thoughts of Savannah go. Not until he knew she was okay. It was simple curiosity, nothing more. Plus, it’d give him something to do to occupy his time. A win all round. He’d do a simple stakeout, no big deal. After a quick phone call to another agent that morning, he had a good idea where they’d taken her.

The safe house.

She was taken to the only nearby facility with an opening—a transitional housing development on the shady side of town. Something about it didn’t sit right with him. She was too innocent and good-looking to be somewhere like that.

He would stakeout the house, assuming she was still there. Since the file hadn’t mentioned any other family, he was betting she was. Once he saw her with his own eyes, and confirmed she was safe and doing well, he would let it go.

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