|Just Over Your Shoulder
Author: La Vik PM
Carmen had the world at her fingertips. Mort was running out of options, but Fate decided to even the playing field. Finally, Mort Rainey's life is starting to look up...but at what price? And what does Shooter really want from them that they can't give?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Mystery - Chapters: 23 - Words: 62,981 - Reviews: 105 - Favs: 34 - Follows: 16 - Updated: 10-05-10 - Published: 08-27-04 - id: 2031590
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I don't own anything except Carmen...hmm...I'd rather own everything else. I wonder if anyone's willing to trade...
Carmen lived on her own, thank you very much. Ever since her parents died, which was quite a while ago, she had never felt the need to hang around anyone for long. She had been orphaned at the tender age of seven, and had spent the rest of her childhood living in an orphanage- -no, sorry, a group home. They didn't call them orphanages anymore. She'd gotten her hand slapped for telling kids at the home that they were in an orphanage because their parents didn't want them anymore. Well, wherever she had stayed, she was now twenty-seven years old and had let hardly any living soul get close to her.
Not that she had grown cold and heartless. If you came across her on the street, she seemed rather pleasant. Living in the concrete jungle known as New York City, she was often approached and barely short of harangued by men. She took care of herself, that was for sure. Instead of gallivanting around bars, desperately hunting for a man, like many of her acquaintances, she spent a lot of time at the gym. Whatever time she rested from working out was usually spent at the bookstore, or next door at the local coffee shop, reading through a new purchase.
Of course, she had grown up since the days where she considered herself an orphan, and had adjusted accordingly, which meant she had a good enough job to live off of. She had tried a lot of things, trying to suit her taste. She liked writing while she was in school, but now just as nothing more than a very enjoyable hobby that, every so often, she took seriously. For about seven years now, she had been the editor of a successful magazine, but had quit her job. She had saved quite a large sum of money, and now wanted nothing more than lay low and relax, perhaps for the first time.
That's why it thrilled her so much that her real estate agent had just found her a remote home in the seemingly middle-of-nowhere town of Tashmore Lake, up in the hills, where she could about her occasional hermit-like ways as much as she pleased. The money Carmen had saved would more than cover her expenses for a good three years at least while still leaving her with a large sum to spare.
The house was quite close to what she had pictured. Large, roomy, a lot of windows, and a wonderful view.
Her first day there was spent moving things in, all by herself, then driving the moving van back into town. She had her car dropped off there, and drove it back up. Needless to say, by the time everything was finished, she was exhausted, and dropped down for the count on her rug in front of the fireplace for the night.
The next morning...or rather, afternoon, seeing as she had slept in until three, she shook off the drowsiness that still clouded her head and showered, something she hadn't had the energy to do the day before. She changed into a black pair of sweatpants and a forest-green hooded sweatshirt. She looked at herself in the mirror and laughed.
"You're in the forest, stupid," she chuckled to herself, "What are you trying to do, camouflage? This ain't the army." Her green eyes and brown hair certainly didn't make her any more likely not to blend in.
She went outside for a walk, and found herself taking random turns, just to see where they led. Of course, when one sets out exploring a new place without any agenda in mind, they tend to lose their way a bit. She ignored the fact until she found herself walking in large figure eights for nearly two hours.
"Shit, shit, double shit," she muttered, crouching over her knees and panting. "I can NOT fucking get lost out here! I'm too young, my abs are too nice, and I deserve a break way too much to die out here."
It was then that she noticed, through the trees, another house. Without hesitation, she ran over and knocked on the door.
A man with brown eyes, brown-blonde hair, and a neatly trimmed mustache answered the door.
Carmen didn't know a thing of it, but this man was Morton Rainey, a pariah from the town. He'd had his incidents...something dealing with a split personality...but he hadn't had one of those episodes in a long while. Now, he was just Mort Rainey...just Mort, just one Mort, with no extra voices along for the ride.
"Um, can I help you?" he asked unsurely. No one came knocking up here anymore since the sheriff had given up on trying to pin him for murder. "I'm...Mort Rainey."
"I'm Carmen," she said. "I just moved into the house, maybe ten minutes from here. I kinda got lost taking a walk, and I was wonder if you've, erm...ever seen my house before."
"Yep," Mort said casually. "I've seen it. Carmen, was it? Is there a surname- -"
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't ask me that," she said hastily, her eyes glinting in panic for a moment. "I don't really know myself, you see. It's a long story."
"Ah," Mort nodded. "Noted. Well, I can take you back to your own house,"
"Really?" Carmen asked. "That'd be great."
Within minutes, she was in his car, and he was driving her back to her own house. It was no manner of good luck when it started to rain, and the unpaved roads were quickly turning too muddy to drive. Mort pulled over.
"We ought to wait for the rain to stop," he said matter-of-factly.
"Ah, no problem," she said. "I live alone, so it's not as if anyone's waiting for me."
Mort just nodded in comprehension. They sat in silence for a while, their heads lolling off towards their respective windows.
Carmen's biting sarcasm wound its way into her thoughts...Wow, a dazzling conversationalist this one is. Got me on the edge of my seat.
She's kind of a looker...Mort thought. I haven't thought a girl was so good looking since Amy. I wonder what she's like...NO! Off limits, remember? Wouldn't want more incidents...incidents are bad, especially incidents where crazy stalkers show up at your door... Besides, she's not my type. I fall for girls like Amy. Easy girls who'd cheat on you with any fuck-for-a-buck...Hold on buddy. Remember, hostile equals bad...This Carmen chick seems respectable. Wonder what it'd be like...
"It sucks," Carmen said aloud. Mort flinched. Did she just read his mind or something?
"Excuse me?" he said uncomfortably.
"The weather," she said carelessly. "Sucks, doesn't it?"
"Oh," Mort sighed in something like relief. "Oh, yeah. It sucks...sucks and blows." He didn't realize he was flirting with her until she laughed at his joke.
"It seems the sucking won't be stopping soon," Carmen said as the pouring rain pounded down on her window.
"Ah," was all that Mort managed to get out this time. "So, how come you live alone?" Damn curiosity...He thought immediately, Scaring away the only fucking decent looking girl in, what, several millennia?
"I'm practically celibate," Carmen laughed, "No offense, but from my experience men are pigs in every sense of the word."
"Ah, trust me," he chuckled darkly, "The women in my life haven't been much apart from barn animals either."
"Humph," she huffed good-naturedly, "It seems whoever you are, the opposite sex will always screw you over. I suppose being gay may have its perks, then,"
"So, where'd you move from?" he asked, unconsciously changing the subject. "You don't seem like you're from anywhere near here."
"New York," she said simply. She had realized she was flirting shamelessly, and had now sworn she'd tone down the natural charm.
"Ah, city girl?" Mort asked. She nodded. "I assumed that much. I mean, it takes someone from the middle of civilization to get lost only ten minutes away from home just because of a few trees."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were making fun of me," she smirked. "And I'm the kind of girl who likes to be taken seriously."
"Didn't mean to offend," he smirked back. "Don't meet a lot of natural-born city mice around here." City mice? Where am I getting this crap? Mice...people...big difference...
"Well, keep looking, because I wasn't born in New York," she laughed vaguely. "Yet another crazy thing, I don't know where I was born,"
"What, did someone throw a rock at your head and drop you in the middle of nowhere?" he asked. "I mean, no last name, no birthplace, there's a reason behind that, right?"
"My parents died when I was seven, and I was put in a group home in New York," she said, as if she were only saying her name. The fact didn't seem to bother her at all. "The incident rattled my poor little brain, and I can't remember anything before then. The doctors said it's just a symptom of the trauma. They didn't tell me anything either. Said it'd be best for my poor little psyche if I remembered everything on my own."
"You're surprisingly open about this," he said, raising an eyebrow. "Are you just making this up? Because I'M the writer in this car. Making up stories is my job."
"Don't worry, I'm not stealing your career, then," she smirked, leaning back in her chair. "That's my true-to-life sob story. I've acquired quite a few sob stories, actually, so that one doesn't bother me much,"
"Ah," he said, lost for words yet again. I bet she's just SO riveted by our conversation...I have no clue whatsoever how to deal with women. No clue...
Carmen cleared her throat suddenly, and Mort swung his head around, having been disturbed in the middle of his train of thought. "The rain's stopping," she said simply.
"Oh," He said. "Should get going, then," He started his car back up, and they were off again. Within about seven minutes, he was parked in front of her house, a log cabin quite similar to his own on the outside. Carmen hopped out of the car, then, almost as an afterthought, walked around to Mort's window and rapped on it gently with her knuckles. He was already starting the car again, but stopped and opened it.
"It doesn't look like it's quite done raining," she said. "It should be getting dark soon. Wouldn't want you getting caught out there and having to camp out in your car all night, would we?"
Mort smirked and nodded. Is she inviting me inside? She can NOT possibly be inviting me inside...
"Driving at night up here can be a bitch. You want to stay?" Carmen asked, "Or at least until the sky clears up a little,"
"Uh..." Mort muttered. Don't say 'uh,' you dummy. Yes or no! Yes or no! Heck, forget no! Say yes! "Yeah," Mort said finally. "That'd be great." He stepped out of the car and followed as she unlocked the door and showed him in.
"Well, here it is," she laughed, "Just got here yesterday, so sorry if things are a little out of place still."
They really weren't. Carmen had been quick putting things away. She seemed quite settled in already...More settled in than I am, I daresay. Mort thought.
"You want to sleep in the bedroom?" she asked nonchalantly.
"What?" Mort snapped, "I couldn't throw you out of your bedroom. I mean, it's your house- -"
"Oh, be my guest," Carmen laughed. "Someone's gotta sleep in it. I've gotten into the habit of sleeping on the floor,"
"Well, if you're on the floor, I'll just take the couch," he replied...Yeah, right. You've just forgotten how it feels to sleep on a bed.
"Suit yourself," Carmen shrugged. "Can I get you anything to eat?"
Real food? Mort thought. Been a while since I've had any, seeing as I can't cook for shit. "Sure," He replied. "Anything you got,"
"Aha, you have no idea what you're getting yourself into, buddy," she laughed from inside the kitchen. "I spent two semesters in culinary school before quitting, and I've been dying to get someone to try my cooking," She came back holding a tray out and putting it on the table. "I was heating this up for when I got home...luckily the oven shuts off automatically,"
It didn't look bad. Barbecued chicken, easy enough. Mort strode over to the table and took a bite. "Not bad," he said.
"I'll take that as a high compliment, seeing as I haven't tried to cook anything but TV dinners in quite a while," she said. "I lived off of Easy Mac, Sprite, and Pringles for longer than I can remember."
"Besides the occasional trip McDonald's?" Mort suggested.
"Ah, yes," Carmen nodded. "Or, as I referred to it, 'eating out.' I was at work too much to cook."
"Oh, you work?" he asked. "Where?"
"Nowhere anymore," Carmen said, taking a bit of her own cooking herself. "I quit my job. I'm on a VERY long vacation."
"Where'd you work?" he asked. "You don't seem like the secretary type,"
"That's because I'm not," she replied, not sure if she should be offended. He obviously doesn't think very highly of women. Secretary my ass..."I was editor-in-chief of A-List Magazine." she said, drawing herself up.
"Ah, the renowned A-List. That one, I've heard of," Mort said reminiscently. "The first magazine to reject some of my work, you know,"
"Well, that was before my reign, I swear," Carmen laughed, holding up her right hand.
"I'll take your word for it," Mort smirked. "So, if you were the editor, they had to at least credit you with a last name didn't they?"
"They did, but it wasn't a real name," Carmen said. "I went by Carmen Anderson,"
"Random last name?" he asked.
"Very random," Carmen laughed, "I got it by picking it out of a phone book."
Mort was about to reply when the phone started ringing. Carmen held up a finger apologetically and ran over to the couch, sat down on it, and picked up the receiver. "'Lo?" she said casually.
"Carmen, thank god!" said a frantic voice on the other end. It was Rob Wallace, whom she had appointed new editor-in-chief of A-List. "I've been calling your cell all day, but, as usual, you went and turned it off. I thought you would've intentionally given us the wrong house number too,"
"Nope, I gave you the right number, obviously," she said matter-of-factly. "And I gave you specific directions to only call if you found I left something behind,"
"Yeah, you left something behind," Rob said in annoyance, "Damn it, Carmen, you left your goddamn magazine behind. A month ago, we were the number one weekly magazine on this side of the country, and now, since you left, we've practically gone belly-up,"
"You're the big cheese now, remember? It's not my fault you can't tell what's crap and what's not," Carmen sighed. "I quit my job, so why are you still even calling me?"
"I'm just keeping you up to date so you're not lost when you come back- -"
"Point one, I'm not coming back." Carmen said calmly. "Point two, even if I did decide to start running the magazine again, if you guys keeping going about things the same way, then there won't be a magazine to come back to,"
"Carmen, you're the only good thing the magazine has going for it!" Rob pleaded desperately. "We just need your ideas."
"I told you idiots to be ready," Carmen muttered. "I told you, if you didn't do as I did, the magazine would go belly up before I even finish paying off my new place."
"Fine, you want me to grovel?" he snapped. "I'm fucking begging you, we need your brains behind this magazine, or it's about seven hundred more people without jobs."
"All right," Carmen huffed, "If you don't know how to bitch at your employees, I'll help you there on two conditions. One, I get paid, which you obviously predicted. Two, you do me a favor and get your best snoop to do some digging,"
"I want you to get into the records of every group home in New York and find me a last name," Carmen said stiffly. "My last name."
"Done," Rob said.
"Oh, one more thing," she said before hanging up. "I'm not gonna be driving up to New York every week. Anything you want done gets done over the computer, or on the phone, got it?"
"Concept gotten," Rob said.
"All right, then we agree. You got my email." she said, clicking down the receiver.
"Vacation cut short?" Mort asked. Carmen rolled her eyes.
"Not quite cut short," she sighed, plopping down onto the couch. "It's just been switched to a working vacation."
"You mind if I use your shower?" he asked.
"Go right ahead," Carmen said, "Towels are in the first cabinet you see when you go upstairs."
The next day, the weather had improved immensely. Mort had gone home, but had also left his phone number scribbled on a napkin. ("In case you end up lost again," he had told her.) She had spent the rest of the day eating Cheerios straight out of the box, watching cartoons in her pajamas and contemplating whether or not she wanted to have the napkin with the phone number framed and mounted. She fell asleep on the couch, waking up the next day with the Cheerios box stuck on her hand, its former contents spilled all over her lap.
Call him, Carmen was thinking. Just fucking call the guy. I don't have anything to lose. He can't be worse than the other pigs I've dated. I've hit rock bottom. Nowhere but up now.
Finally, she just picked up the phone and dialed. I will NOT hang up. I will not act like a stalker. I will chicken out. I am so going to...
"Um..." she began. Words, honey. Use words. "Hola," English, dumbo! We ARE in America... "Remember me, from yesterday?" Oh yes, very specific.
"Oh, hi," he said. Pause. "What's going on? Not lost again, are you? It's a little soon for that."
"Huh? Oh, no, I'm in my own house still. I know where I am and all." she laughed weakly. "I was just wondering if you were doing anything. I'm not used to being by myself in big buildings."
"Gonna try to feed me again?" he chuckled.
"Wasn't planning on it," she replied honestly. "I was thinking more along the lines of coffee,"
"Sounds good," he said. "Is right now okay?"
"Right now? Sure!" she said, maybe a little too enthusiastically. "I mean, yeah. Yeah, come on over."
"See you in a bit, then," he said. Click.
Carmen squealed loudly and stood up on the couch, letting out a victorious whoop before stopping herself and sitting down. Deep breath, she thought, he's just a guy...a very cute guy...a very cute, very amicable, and completely made-for-you guy!
She ran upstairs and changed out of her pajamas. She knew quite well that there was no need to change, seeing as they were just going to be lazing around the house, but she still changed out of her flannel pajama top into a plain grey tanktop.
Showing off? Me? No way! It's a little warm in here anyway. I'm just getting comfortable. I'm not trying to look good or anything...Okay, I'm trying to look good. I'm trying to look VERY good. No sense denying- -
The doorbell rang before Carmen got the chance to even contemplate hair and makeup, thank god. She ran down the stairs and open the door.
"Hola," he laughed. "Just woke up?"
"Yeah, and I'm bored already," she lied. She'd been awake for hours.
"Well, you look fine at any hour of the day then," he said with a wan smile. "Honestly, I thought I should be flattered that you got ready just because I was coming over."
"I brushed my hair, if it's any consolation," she laughed. "Come in."
Not sure how long this chapter seems to any of you, but I personally find it short. The rest are gonna be better, i swear! Just please, oh , please review. I'm not too proud to beg, here