AN: I just want to say a big thank you to all of my readers and reviewers. We're at over 200 reviews now and almost 35,000 hits! You guys make me feel so special that each of you like Always this much. You guys are simply awesome!

You and I were made for this
I was made to taste your kiss
We were made to never fall away
Never fall away

~Letters from the Sky; Civil Twilight

Always

Chapter Sixteen: Game On

Lisa had just set her purse on the counter when the pounding on her door started. She smiled and shook her head. Her dad was always forgetting something. She opened her door. "What did you for-"

She stopped when a body slammed into her, pushing her back, arms going around her shoulders and feet kicking her door closed. A face buried into the crook between her shoulder and neck. A sigh brushed against her throat. Lisa thought she heard him mutter 'thank God',

"Jackson?" she patted him on the back awkwardly. She wasn't quite sure what was going on. "Jackson what's wrong?"

Jackson pulled away slightly, moved his hands to cup her cheeks and rested his forehead against hers. "Everything's fine. How was lunch?"

Lisa smiled despite her uncertainty. "It was fine. Great. Great times."

"You're not telling me something."

"And you're one to talk?"

Jackson kissed the tip of her nose before he pulled away. "How so?"

Lisa watched him walk to the couch in the small living room. She bit her lip. "Nevermind."

Jackson turned his head to look at her. "What aren't you telling me?"

She turned into her kitchen, opening the fridge and stared into it. "Noth-" Lisa sighed. "There was just a man at the restaurant that didn't seem right. One of those people that just doesn't give a good vibe, you know?"

She heard Jackson chuckle from the living room and glared back at him. "And that's why I didn't want to say anything," she said as she shut the door without pulling anything out.

He laughed again. "No. I'm sorry." He fought to keep a straight face. "Why did he give you a bad vibe?"

Lisa plopped onto the couch next to him, crossing her legs and facing him. "He just-" she paused, crossing her arms and leaning against the arm of the couch. "He just didn't feel right. There was something about his eyes. He smiled at me but all I could think of was a predator stalking its prey." A shiver rolled down her back at the memory. "You know how there are just some people that look inherently evil? People that you can tell from the start that they're not good?"

A look crossed Jackson's face that Lisa couldn't place. He was guarded; wasn't saying something that he was thinking. Jackson shook his head. "What did he look like?"

Lisa shrugged. "Blonde hair. Green eyes. Kind of rugged. Pointed chin. He was dressed nicely." She saw his jaw clench. "Jackson, what is it?"

He shook his head again. Lisa leaned over and reached for his hand without thinking. He looked troubled, far away. All she could think of was to comfort him. Once again there's something you're not telling me.


Jackson jerked slightly at her touch. He hadn't been expecting it. He looked over at her, into her worried green eyes. "What's wrong?" she asked again.

If you only knew.

Jackson dipped his head instead of answering. His lips brushed hers and then pulled away. He looked down at her, a small smirk crossing his lips.

"You're not-"

He dipped again, the kiss lingering. He kept his eyes on her. She didn't blink. She tucked a finger into a belt loop. Lisa tugged at it.

"Why won't you tell me what's wrong?"

I can't. Jackson snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her flush against him. He brushed a kiss against the corner of her eye and trailed his lips down her cheek.

"Mmm. . .you can't just-you're not going to dis-"

Jackson stopped her with a kiss. He felt her tense against him, knew she was going to try to push him away to finish the conversation, but he held her tight, his fingers running along her spine. She arced into his touch. He knew she had given up the fight when she responded to his kiss. Her body relaxed, melting against his. Jackson moved his hands over her shoulders to cup her face. Lisa's hands wrapped around his waist, turning him more toward her. His fingers slid down. He could feel the goose bumps rise on her skin as he played with the tender skin of her throat.

Jackson felt her breath hitch when his fingers brushed the inside of her button down blouse. Her grip on his waist tightened slightly as he hit a small raised portion of her skin on her collarbone. Or maybe I should have some fun with her first.

Jackson pushed her away, the feel of her skin still burning his palms. Lisa looked at him with a confused and lustful stare.

"I'm sorry," he muttered, his heart still pounding from the unwanted thoughts.

Lisa swallowed. "Jackson-"

A phone ringing in the kitchen stopped her. She glared in the direction of the ringing. "Damn it!"

Jackson had to smile at that. "Answer it."

"I'm sorry. This always seems to happen." Lisa stood with a deep sigh and made her way over to the counter.

Jackson fell back against the cushions. He pulled one hand through his hair. This was never how this was supposed to go. He was never meant to get this involved. He told himself that every day and it never seemed to do any good.

"Lisa Reisert," he heard her say and then waited for whoever was on the other line to respond. "No, no, it's fine. What do you need? Yeah. No, I have the files here. Yes. Hang on a second."

Lisa hurried past Jackson, mouthing an apology. He smiled in response. He stood up when he heard her rustling in her room. His mind wandered as he paced. Jackson had no idea what was going to happen and it frightened him.

Jackson stilled in his pacing. Frightened? That wasn't something he felt. Frustration? Sure. Anger? Absolutely. Happiness? Sometimes. But fright? Not something that he ever allowed himself to feel. There was no room in his life for that. There was no room in his life for failure and that is what fear would do.

Jackson quashed the fear he felt and replaced it with calm, closing his eyes and breathing deep. Everything would work out. Everything would be fine.


"Sir? We have an urgent message from the ME's office."

Agent Norman Machado looked up at the man who opened his office door. He lifted his hand, wordlessly asking for the file. The man hurriedly gave it to him.

"They also faxed over a copy of the police report."

Machado flipped through the folder. His eyes flicked over the pages. "Get Miami PD on the phone. Tell them to pick him up and not to question him until we get there."

"What name do we give them?"

Machado closed the folder and leaned back in his chair. "Jackson Rippner."


Jackson stared out at the parking lot. He was looking at nothing, his mind to much of a whirlwind to focus on any one spot. Why had Cade contacted him? What was his game? He couldn't figure out what was going on.

He'd had his suspicions, sure. The note to Lisa signed 'EC', the newscast reporting Keefe's death that showed the man who was an exact match for Cade. But then the call earlier. He seemed to be toying with him.

How had he known about Lisa? For a man that had been dead for years he sure seemed to know a lot about the case Jackson was working.

And Jackson hadn't helped matters by hanging up the phone and running from the food court at just the hint of Cade hurting Lisa. He knew Cade had been watching him. All he had done was prove that she wasn't just a job.

There was no way Jackson could fool Cade into believing he was only worried about him screwing everything up. Not now. He'd played right into Cade's hands. Damn it. How did everything get this fucked up?

A green car pulled into the lot. Jackson watched as it parked a few spots down from his and the driver stepped out, looking up to search the windows. Jackson's eyes narrowed. What was Alex doing here?

He turned from the window and headed toward the door. "I need to go down to my car," Jackson called. "I'll be right back." Jackson opened the door just as a man lifted his arm to knock. "Oh." Shit.

A stunned look crossed the other man's face. "Hello."

Instinct kicked in seconds later. A smile crossed his face. "Hello," he reached his arm out. "You must be Joe. Lisa's talked about you."

"Can't say as she's ever mentioned you," Joe replied, hesitantly shaking Jackson's hand.

Jackson's smile didn't falter. He knew Joe was trying to read him. He was a strange man in his daughter's apartment. He was sure Joe couldn't fathom the idea of his dear daughter, who he was so close with, wouldn't tell him about Jackson.

He fought to keep his professional smile in place as Joe tightened his grip ever so slightly. It was a power play. Jackson had been in enough of them to know when another man, or hell, even a woman, tried to show they were bigger than him. Jackson tucked his hand in his pocket, completely at ease.

"And you are?" Joe finally asked.

"Jackson? Who are you-hi Dad. What are you doing here?"

"You forgot your leftovers in the car," Joe answered, not taking his eyes off of Jackson or releasing his hand. "Thought I'd come back and drop them off."

The smell of Lisa's perfume preceded her arrival. Jackson's eyes closed for a moment as he inhaled her scent. Joe's grip tightened.

"You didn't need to drive all the way back here."

Lisa looked between both of them and a slightly annoyed look crossed her face. She calmly placed a hand on her father's wrist. "Jackson, this is my Dad. Dad, this is Jackson. He's my-ah. We've been seeing each other for a while now."

"Really? You never mentioned anything."

Lisa inhaled through her teeth. "I didn't know I needed to, Dad."

Joe finally looked at Lisa, his eyebrows furrowing. "I guess you didn't," he finally replied and dropped Jackson's hand.

"Why don't I give you two a minute? I still need to get my phone from the car."

Lisa gave a small smile. "Okay. See you in a bit."

"Sure." He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. He suppressed a grin at Joe's narrowed eyes and stepped past him.


"He doesn't feel right Leese."

Lisa crossed her arms over her chest. "What are you talking about?"

Joe jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction Jackson had gone. "Him. He doesn't feel right. It's something I can't put my finger on but I just don't trust him."

Lisa sighed. "I've known him for awhile, dad. I'm pretty sure I'd know if he was trustworthy or not by now."

"You weren't always the best judge of character, Leese."

Lisa grabbed the food container for him and walked away. "One time, dad. One time. I was blinded by first love or whatever," she said as she tucked the food into her fridge. She turned toward him again and leaned against the counter. "And I was sixteen. That doesn't count."

Joe just stared at her, his expression concerned.

"Besides. I really like him. Can't you just trust me and be happy?"

Joe pursed his lips as if he wanted to say something, to try to make her see his way, but then he smiled. "Okay. I will. Maybe it'll just take a little getting to know him."

A smile spread across Lisa's face. "Thank you. I know you'll like him just as much as I do. He's a great guy, Dad, and I trust him completely."


"What are you doing here Alex?"

Alex jerked his head up when he heard Jackson's voice. He pushed off his car and straightened the front of his button down shirt. He dug into one of the many pockets of his cargo shorts and tossed the item to Jackson. "You forgot your phone in your hurry to get here. And before you ask, I tracked your car."

Jackson's eyebrows rose. "You tracked my car?"

"Don't act surprised. It's my job to always know where you guys are. Besides, it gave me time to try and track the phone call from Cade."

"Did you get anything?"

Alex shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. Bastard called from a burn phone."

Jackson bit his lower lip. His eyes were unfocused as if he wasn't actually seeing Alex. "Follow me."

"What's up?" Alex asked, obediently following after him.

"I got an envelope shoved under my door a while back. Wasn't sure what to make of it until I found out Lisa got the exact same thing."

Alex's eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean? Got the same thing?"

Jackson popped the lock on his door and pulled out a folder. He handed it to Alex then settled against the car door. "I was going to keep looking into them somehow but now I'm assuming Cade is the one who gave them to me. Question is, is how did he get my phone number let alone my address."

"Did you show these to the boss?" Alex asked as he flipped through the folder.

Jackson snorted. "Of course not. As of right now there aren't too many people there I can trust."

Alex looked up. "You think there's a mole?"

Jackson shrugged as a scowl crossed his face. "How else can you explain it? There's no other way someone could get any information on me. It's not like I'm in the fucking phone book."

"I can look into it," Alex offered. "See if there's anyone working there now who has a tie to Cade. Most of the people who worked there at the time aren't there now. Our turnover rate is ridiculous."

He almost saw a flicker of a smile cross Jackson's lips. At least the man still had a sense of humor.

"Look into it. Just keep it quiet. We don't want to tip off the person helping him."

"You got it." Alex closed the folder and held it up. "You want me to keep these? Maybe you want to keep them for your scrapbook?"

"Keep them. They're not doing me any good."

Alex nodded and turned away. He raised his hand in the air as a goodbye when he reached his car. "I'll let you know what I find out," he called.

Jackson lifted his chin in acknowledgment.


"So I take it you hit a nerve?"

"More than likely," Cade replied, the smirk evident in his voice. "I knew the little bitch was the way to go. Rippner doesn't have anything else in the world that he cares enough about. Except for maybe his precious pride. I want to see the look on his face when he fails. I wish I could have seen his look when Keefe was killed." He chuckled.

"They must be squirming now. The employer isn't happy. How much ass are they going to have kiss to get out of this mess?"

He heard a breathy chuckle on the other end. "I doubt it's pretty. Too many questions that they don't have any answers to. I'm surprised they haven't pulled Rippner yet."

Cade laughed again. "Oh they won't. Not yet. That would be admitting defeat and they won't let that happen. Not yet."

"Are we going to move on him?"

Cade tapped a key on his computer, his smile growing wider. "Soon. "


"This just came in sir."

Richards held his hand out to accept the papers. His scowl deepened as he perused them. "So they're making their move."

"Seems so, sir."

Richards sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Call McCalister. Tell her her services will be needed."

"Yes, sir."


The second meeting with Joe went about how Jackson expected it to be. Joe was only as cordial as he had to be. Of course by the end he had begrudgingly begun to defrost. Jackson ran his hand through his hair as he unlocked his door and stepped inside. He pulled his jacket off, tugging his shirt from his pants and tossed the jacket over the back of the sofa next to him. With a sigh he sank down on the sofa and propped his feet on the table.

It wasn't imperative that Joe like him. It really didn't matter. His job didn't rely on Joe caring about him at all. And yet the conflicted part of himself thrived on making Joe like him; on making him think Jackson was suitable for his daughter.

Joe didn't trust him. It was that sixth sense that parents had that told them someone was not right for their children. He didn't want Joe to look into him anymore then he had to. His head fell back against the cushion, his eyes closed.

A ringing made his eyes open. He inhaled. He really did not want to deal with anyone right now. Jackson exhaled when the ringing stopped and closed his eyes again. The phone starting ringing again. Jackson cursed and reached into his jacket pocket.

"Rippner."

"You moved quickly earlier today? Did I strike a nerve?"

Jackson's feet fell from the table as he sat up. "What do you want Cade?"

"To finish our conversation. You hung up before we could. That was very rude of you."

Jackson rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Get to the point."

"You don't get to tell me what to do, Rippner. I am the mastermind. You will play by my rules. If you don't . . . well, you know what I would be willing to do to your precious Miss Reisert.

"So what are you going to do Rippner?" he asked snidely. "You going to run? Or are you going to keep playing my game?"

"What are you talking about?"

Cade snickered. "Maybe you should get that."

"What-?"

A knock caused Jackson to pause. His gaze flicked to the door, the phone still held to his ear.

"Mr. Rippner?" a voice called. "MPD. We have a few questions."

Cade's laughter echoed through the receiver.


AN: I am so sorry it has taken so long to update this. I had plans to update three times in the last month and each time fell through. The only explanation I can give is that the inspiration wasn't there. I hope all of you can forgive me and that you liked the new chapter.

How is Jackson going to get out of this mess? Or is he? What is this going to mean for him and Lisa? Things are picking up now, aren't they?

EmpireX: Cade is a bit of a monster. You'll get to see more of that within the next couple chapters. And at least Joe wasn't the cock blocker in this chapter! But damn that phone!

Oneofthosegirls: I'm sorry it took a long time to update. I didn't realize it had but I just couldn't get inspired. But it's here! I hope you enjoyed!

Wow101: I am so sorry I didn't update sooner. There are times I can update regularly and then others I can't. I hope this chapter didn't disappoint!

Billie: Thank you very much! I'm glad that you liked it!

May: Thank you! It makes me happy that you like all of my stories.

Anon: Thank you! And it's up now. Sorry for the wait!