Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
Cliff pushed his plate aside and gestured with his fork. “All right, Victoria Johnston. You don’t want to marry for money. You don’t want to marry for sex. You don’t want to marry just for children. Yet you do want to marry. For what?”
For what indeed? For love?
Yes, love would be her reason to marry. But not love like Ron meant it. Not love that stopped at the bedroom and was forbidden outside the home.
Her life stretched beyond that. No matter the corporate games she had learned to play, no matter how much she masked her feelings, they were there, at home, at work, dating.
Vickie wanted a man to love in the bedroom, yes, and at home. But that was only part of her life. She wanted a man to love at play, and at work, and all the in‑between times, too. “I want to marry someone I can spend my entire life with. A friend.”
“Well, I’d want it all. I would marry someone who was not only my friend, but someone I loved, too.”
Someone I loved. That resonated so strongly when he said it. She wondered if this man was the right one, the one she could love forever.
But was she the right woman for him?
Her voice sounded a little strange when she finally spoke, but she kept her words emotionless. “Well, of course. Everybody wants to have the perfect mate. But not many of us find perfection.”
“No, that’s not it.” He put his fork down and leaned forward, intent. “Perfection isn’t what I’m after. I want love, which is a very human emotion, and human means far from perfect. You can’t program love, after all. That would take the wonder, the delight out of it. I’m not looking for Ms. Perfect, or even Ms. Right. I’m looking for someone who’s as human as I am, but who’s willing to make mistakes and try again. And someone who…would try to love me in return, and keep trying, for the rest of our lives.”
She looked up, nearly drowning in the depths of his eyes. I love you, she wanted to say. But what if she did? Was he really asking for her commitment? Or was he just making conversation? How could he ask for a commitment like that from her without making his own commitment?
If he wanted her to put herself on the line like that, why didn’t he show her, somehow, how he felt about her?
Will he treat me like Ron?
She played it safe. “I think we all look for people to love us.” Trite. She looked away.
He sighed and sat back. “That’s true. But I guess it’s easier to take than to give.”
She winced. “No question about that.”
They sat, silent, until the hall clock struck a rather jarring ring. Vickie looked up.
“Is it really one in the morning?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“I’d better be getting home. I promised you I’d have that tracker module written, and, to be honest, I haven’t even started it yet!” She jumped up, dumped her dishes in the dishwasher and raced to the door.
Cliff didn’t catch up to her until she got to her car. “Vickie.”
She turned, her breath catching in her throat. Hoping for a kiss.
He stood there for a long moment, seeming at war with him self. Finally he shook his head. “Be careful.” He opened her door and waited until she was inside to click it shut. Then he stood back and watched as she pulled away. He was still watching when she drove out of sight.
* * * * *
The phone rang again. The man opened one eye and blearily took in the time. Two o’clock, as in a.m. He picked up the receiver, grunting as his muscles stretched.
The man grunted again. “What’s the matter?”
“I just got word from our primary contact. The subject is getting antsy, and wants us to move in the new protection grid as soon as possible.”
It was not good news. “Are we ready?”
“Can we delay, then?”
“Not with the project almost complete. I’m sure the subject is aware of that. His timing is too perfect.”
The man rolled onto his back and ran one hand through rumpled hair. “Could we sabotage the project, then, to set it back?”
There was a long silence at the other end, and the man knew. “You still haven’t told her.”
“You’ll have to.”
“In time. Now is not the right time.”
There was a short silence from the other man. “She is beginning to trust me. When I’m sure of her reaction, then I’ll tell her.”
“I think you’re making a mistake.”
A sigh, sounding empty and alone over the phone. “Maybe. You might be right. But I can’t take the chance.”
The man shook his head to himself as he hung up. Organization was going too slowly, information was not being passed along. About the only thing going on track was the project they did not want to complete.
He sighed, and got up to make some tea and think up some solutions to their problems. He did not get back to sleep that night.