Chapter XII:

Ties That Bind

There are few things in life better than waking up with a beautiful woman curled around you. At that moment, I was having a hard time coming up with any. Lying naked in bed with sheets twisted around, surrounded by softness and warmth, all the stress and worry of the world seemed miles away. I was rested, I was comfortable, I was completely at ease.

Unfortunately, if you are anything like me, that feeling only ever seemed to last for a minute or so before reality would come swinging in on a rope and carve its initials in your chest; cackling madly all the while.

I sat bolt upright, which resulted in Delia being not too gently rolled aside, as I blurted, “Oh shit, I forgot about Sammy!”

“Flumfle-wha?” Delia mumbled back. She sat up lazily causing the sheets to slide away from her bare skin. Unencumbered with modesty, she rubbed one eye, gave a little yawn, and looked expectantly at me.

Every nerve in my body raced to come up with some excuse for my outburst so that I could return to her embrace. My conscience overruled desire though. I managed to climb out of the bed and start gathering my clothes.

Stupid right thing to do.

“Where are you going?” Delia asked, almost mewing.

“I’ve got to see some people. Check up on some leads.”

“Stay.”

That single word set my hair on end; part request, part demand, all invitation. I didn’t have time for it. I pulled on my clothes and transferred most of the credits from my unnamed chip to hers while keeping ten-thousand for myself. The money could still come in handy, and I didn’t know when I’d see that much in one place again.

“I’ll be back later. Don’t worry.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” she purred, leaning back almost posing.

I had to hold my breath to stifle the growl coming up from deep inside. “I left you some money. You should be fine here. Just…just keep your head down.”

She picked up a pillow and clutched it atop her head. It was too adorable to watch.

On the way out of the Aton, I noticed the security detail looked at me differently. On the way in they were all grudging acceptance, but now they nodded politely, made no attempt to hamper my exit, and one of them even handed me a muffin. Somehow, I had found a place where the “walk of shame” was entirely reversed.


* * *


I hailed a cab to take me most of the way back to Keys territory then walked the rest. There was no sense in my making a grand entrance, as I was sneaking back and paying for a trip to gangland usually ended up raising a few flags.

Slipping inside Sammy's apartment, I didn't see her up and about, so I plopped down in the easy chair and pretended that I had been there all night. I must have actually dosed off for a bit, because, when I eventually stirred, Sammy was standing in front of the chair staring at me. If you have never woken up to see an emotionless face staring down at you from a foot away I envy you. She scared that crap out of me.

"How long have you been standing there?"

Sammy adjusted her gaze away from directly at my eyes and glared in the general vicinity of my right shoulder. She didn't say anything or move beyond her eyes narrowing slightly.

"Guess, I can't fool you, huh?"

Again she didn't reply; only narrowed her eyes further.

"Look, I'm sorry alright. I didn't mean to stay out so long."

"You said you would return after your call."

"Yes, and I'm sorry about that."

"If you cared, you would have come back."

I frowned. "It's not something that you need worry about."

"You are my responsibility."

"I wouldn't go that far."

"You lied to me."

"Damnit, Sammy, I--" as I stood up I felt something odd around my left ankle. She had cuffed a metal ring outside my pant-leg; it was flat black, about an inch wide, and a quarter inch thick. There was a single hinge on one side and an odd locking mechanism on the other.

"The hell is this, Sammy?" I said, trying not to shout at the girl.

"You can not be trusted to tell me where you are."

"You put a tracking device on me"

"Do not try to remove it."

"Why, will it blow up?" I quipped.

Sammy arched an eyebrow in the way that only women seem to be able to. It was never a reassuring look.

"Will it blow up?" I asked earnestly.

"No." she said.

"Take it off, Sammy."

"No."

"I don't have time for games. I have work to do."

"I will come with you."

”What?” This time I narrowed my eyes. "No."

"Yes."

"No!"

"Yes."

I thought I had an angle. "But I've already got the tracking device on. You'll know where I am."

"You do not have a mobile link. I will know where you are, but will not be able to tell you to come back."

”I’m not some pet you get to order about.”

”No. You are a human male. You are my responsibility. Keys told me so.”

”Fuck, Keys!”

”No.”

I ground my teeth hard. It was bad enough having an argument with someone who didn’t seem to understand how to have an argument, but even worse arguing with someone you are trying to keep out of harm’s way. Why couldn’t she just walk away like last time? "The work I gotta do is dangerous. I don't want to drag you into it."

"I know how to avoid danger. I am not a child."

I had never heard someone say that sentence with such calm resolve before. Granted, I really hadn't seen much of any emotion coming from her, and, while she was young, she was most definitely a young woman. Besides, Keys trusted her. Despite how little I trusted him, I knew that you couldn't survive in the company of people like him if you couldn't stand on your own two feet.

"Fine, but I have a job to do, and I can't have you getting in my way."

Sammy nodded, then after she gathered a few things into a backpack, we headed out.


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