“There’s a storm coming?”
Harris nodded, tapping a thumb against the side of the Thermos. His eyes wouldn’t quite meet mine, a faint blush tingeing his cheeks. “Yeah. Big one, coming in from the west. Heavy wind and rains. It’ll make some pretty scary waves, I’m thinking. Best to take shelter. We’re really not big enough to tackle a storm, especially if Mr. Roth is sick.”
I never saw Sitia. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t leave the room except to empty the bucket and bring him more water to drink. He spent three days vomiting, three days during which the boat rocked and pitched under the deluge of rain, three days of hell.
The passage of the storm coincided, ironically, perhaps, with the subsiding of Roth’s illness. Anger boiled deep inside me, buried way down beneath the concern and the love.
After he was able to keep down some water and crackers, he fell into the sleep of the dead, and didn’t so much as stir the entire trip from Sitia to Alexandria.
I was on the bow of the yacht, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Dawn. The sun was rising up over the alien silhouette of Alexandria. Spires, tall and thin, pierced the cityscape, next to rounded towers and twisting cupolas. A high, thin, wavering voice broke the silence, calling out in a strange, chanting song.
I heard his shuffling footsteps behind me, and didn’t have to turn to know who it was. “That’s a muezzin.”
“The singing?” I turned and glanced at him.
He had a towel wrapped around his waist, naked but for that. He nodded. “Yeah. He’s calling the faithful to prayer. Five times a day you’ll hear that.”
We sat together, side by side, listening to the muezzin’s call echo across the city. After a few minutes, the song faded, and we were left with the soft lap of waves chucking against the sides of boats. I could feel Valentine ruminate, feel him thinking, trying to formulate a thought.
“It isn’t over,” he said, his voice smooth and his words crisp and formal once again. “She will come for me. And now, for you. And Harris. She will come, and she will enlist the help of her father.”
“What do we do?”
He let out a long breath. “I should hide you somewhere. The farthest corner of the earth. Indonesia. Russia. Tierra del Fuego, perhaps. Put you up in a tiny flat. Make sure not even I know your precise location. Post a guard and pay them enough to ensure their unwavering loyalty.”
I pivoted on my butt to face him, pressing my knees into his thigh. “No, Roth. That’s not happening. I will not be separated from you again.”
“I need to keep you safe. I can’t let her get hold of you. I cannot. I will not.” He growled the last part, enunciating the syllables with increasing venom.
“Then don’t. But I’m not going to let you out of my sight. I crossed the world to find you, Roth. I risked death.” I took his hands in mine. “I was shot at. Chased in a car. I watched men die. I—I probably killed at least one person myself. Just to be by your side.”
He withdrew his hands from mine. “I know.” His voice shook, thin and pained. “I know, Kyrie. And I—I hate myself for—”
“And I’d do it all again. In a heartbeat. I know it isn’t over. I know we’re in danger. I know who we’re facing.”
“No. You don’t.” He stood, paced toward the very point of the bow, gripping the railing. The towel rode low on his hips, exposing the muscular arc of his hipbones. “You really don’t. What you saw? Those men? They were…just her household staff. Not even that. A skeleton guard. Her father runs a—it isn’t merely a cartel or anything so simple. It’s more than that. He has an empire, Kyrie. Access to literally everything. A small army, and that’s no exaggeration. He can wield tanks. Rocket launchers. And we’ve got…Harris.”
“And you and me.”
He nodded. “True. But I’m still weak from being sick. I can still feel the drug in my blood. And, that aside…I’m not okay.” He glanced at me over his shoulder. “And you?”
“I’m no one. I’m just your girlfriend, and there’s nothing I can really do, is there?” I hung my head and stared at the deck between my feet. “That’s your point, right?”
“Kyrie—” He was clearly confused by the turn of the conversation, by my sudden and vitriolic self-loathing.
“It’s true, and you know it.” I stood then, pulled the blanket tighter around me, moved to the starboard railing, and leaned over it. “It’s true, and I know it. I learned a few things rescuing you, Roth.”
“Kyrie, that’s not—”
I kept going. “I realized how useless I am. I have a degree I’ll never use, and never planned to. Social work? What the hell was I thinking? I’m not an entrepreneur like you. I don’t have a specific skill set, or—or anything. I’m your girlfriend. That’s all I am. I know you love me. I don’t doubt that. And I’m not even doubting why you do. What’s that stupid saying about gift horses?”
“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“Yeah. That. Whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean. I’m not doing it, is my point. You love me. Why, I’m not sure. I don’t care. I’m just glad you do, because I love you, and I don’t know what I’d do without you. You—you saved me first, Roth. I was going to starve, or go homeless, if you hadn’t—done what you did. And now I’m here. I have you. I have the memory of the last few months we spent together. Seeing the world with you? God, Valentine, those months were the best of my life. But when you went missing, I realized…I was forced to ask myself, what do I do? And I couldn’t come up with an answer.”
Roth didn’t answer right away. I lost myself in the movement of the water a few feet below, trying to see through the dark ever-moving ripples. I felt him beside me, but I couldn’t make myself turn to face him. He didn’t touch me. He just leaned over the railing beside me. That should’ve been a warning flag to me, but I was so lost in my own crisis that it wasn’t.
“I suppose you should know. Before we left New York together, I made some…provisions. Should anything happen to me, you will be provided for. By which I mean, every single dime of my liquid assets will belong to you. The structure of my company will be shifted to streamline things, which just means selling off and combining subsidiaries, all proceeds from which will go to you as well.”