A few days later Ria laid in bed with her head resting on Cal's chest. The last couple of days had been a whirlwind. The good news was that Loker came through the surgery with flying colors and was on the mend. The bad news was that Daniel Greene was still on the loose.
Special Agent Dillon swore that they were closer than ever to bringing the deviant in. However, Ria didn't believe a word of it. Perhaps it was the microexpression of doubt she picked up as he spoke. Despite her best efforts to be brave Ria was absolutely terrified but she didn't allow that to change how she lived. Today she spent the majority of the day at the hospital sitting with Loker and went to lunch with her sister, Ava.
Leaving the house was a feat of monumental proportions. More than anything she wanted to lock herself in Cal's bedroom and never leave. The hardest part of today was filing a police report about her rape. She was grateful that the nurse at the hospital had convinced her to do a rape kit the night of the attack even though she didn't want to report the crime. There was evidence to back up her claims now that she'd changed her mind.
Cal caressed her back and asked, "Do you want to talk?"
Ria looked up toward his face. "Hmm?"
"You've been quiet since I got home tonight. Is there anything you'd like to talk about?" asked Cal. He reached out and gently tilted her chin upward to maintain her gaze. The older man could feel how tense her body was at the moment.
She shook her head and rolled onto her back so that she was staring up at the ceiling. "I don't really have anything new to say. I wish that monster was dead or in jail and I won't feel safe until that happens. I'm happy that Loker is alive but I hate that any of this ever happened. I wish I could turn back time and do things differently but I can't so here I am. Did you visit Loker today?"
He caressed her back and said, "I stopped by the hospital on my way home tonight. He seemed to be in good spirits."
"I was wondering when you were going to go see him. Eli still looks at you as a mentor and a father figure even though he is pissed at you right now. He'd be hurt if you didn't visit with him."
Light chuckled. "Gillian told me something along the same lines this evening when I was preparing to leave the office. Has his father been there to see him?"
Ria shook her head. "As if he could ever be bothered. He's on a business trip and can't make it back until next week. I can't believe Eli turned out as well as he did with that man as his father. Did the two of you have a good talk?"
"He wasn't really supposed to be talking," said Cal.
She snorted. "As if that has ever stopped Loker. The first time I met him he talked non-stop."
"Eli was mostly concerned with your safety. He wanted to know that you were going to be okay."
Ria smiled a little. "I've been wondering that myself. Daniel seems untouchable. He's outsmarted how many branches of law enforcement? I am starting to lose hope."
Cal rolled onto his side and looked at Ria. "I know that I don't have a lot of faith in Bernerd, but he is going to close this case. He is motivated…more so than I've ever seen him. Even if you think he's a despicable human being you have to believe that he wants to close this case just to get a commendation that has to be in the works for bringing down a serial rapist. This is the sort of case that careers are made from."
Ria chuckled softly. "Now that I believe. He is always trying to prove himself. Never more so than when he is around you. You can tell that he has inadequacy issues. I wonder if that stems from a lackluster performance in the bedroom."
Cal quirked an eyebrow and gently tickled her side. "Do you often contemplate Bernerd's sexual exploits? Should I be jealous, Love?"
The tickling elicited giggles from the younger woman. She squirmed away to put distance between herself and Lightman's nimble fingers. "I don't know where that came from and I'd just as soon like to forget all about it. I imagine Agent Dillon's body is flabby, pale, and hairy. Not exactly what my sexual fantasies are made of."
"What a coincidence?! That is how I imagine Bernerd's body too. But then you like older men. Look at me. I do believe you are the youngest woman I've ever dated. Comparative to my own age I mean."
Ria's laughing died down and she was quiet for a minute after Lightman mentioned their age difference. "I saw on the caller ID that Zoe called earlier. Everything okay with Emily? If it is none of my business you can just tell me so."
She didn't want to appear to be the new girlfriend jealous of the ex-wife. The green eyed monster had already reared its' ugly head where Gillian was concerned. Ria didn't think a sequel starring Zoe was needed.
"I told Zoe that I think Emily should stay with her in Chicago until Daniel Greene is safely behind bars. I could be on his hit list and I don't want Emily to end up in this psychopath's crosshairs. Zoe agreed with me whole-heartedly on the subject."
She nodded slightly. "I am sorry about all of this, Cal. I put you in the middle of this situation. I know how much you really want Emily home with you. She's been gone for so long already. Not to mention you said yourself that she is leaning toward going to college in the Chicago area."
"You have nothing to apologize for. Greene would be after me even if I wasn't dating you, Ria. I am the one that convinced his brother-in-law to testify against him. I've cut a wide swath through his family and friends identifying the people that have helped him evade capture. I am sure that I am enemy number one."
Lightman left out what he'd learned from the psychological profile Foster conducted on Greene.
Ria smiled softly. Cal liked to pretend that he was a hardass but at the end of the day he was an incredibly loving man. It was one of the reasons she fell in love with him without even realizing it at first.
"Not being able to work is driving me crazy. I am not used to just sitting around doing nothing at all. The only good thing is that I get to spend more time with Ava. She's actually thinking of going to college. I'm proud of her. She asked if I would take her to tour a couple of schools. I just need to square it away with her foster mother."
Cal nodded. "That is quite a change for Ava. What schools is she interested in?"
"She is really interested in American University. I think she wants to stick close to…me. I never thought that I'd say this about Ava but I'd really like for her to stay close to home. I'd be worried about her if she decided to go to school in another state. American is a good school and her grades are good enough to get in."
"Sounds like she is finally getting her life together. I think that has everything to do with the relationship you've formed with her, Ria. She looks up to you more than she will ever admit," said Cal.
Ria nodded. "I know that now. Before I was so busy not trusting her that I didn't pay attention to the person she really was. Ava and I aren't that different. Her behavior was a façade. It was her way of protecting herself from the crappy life we've had. I know all about doing that. I'm happy for Ava and a little sad for myself."
"I don't know. I had this crazy idea that one day I'd go to college but I have a career now. I have a life, " said Ria. Her mind drifted back to the things Loker said to her in the break room the day he wanted to quit. There had been some truth to his accusations.
"Why can't you do both? A lot of schools have programs geared toward working people. If you want to go to college I think it would be a good idea," said Cal. He lightly brushed Ria's hair away from her face.
"You really think that is a good idea?"
"Why not? You are a smart girl, Ria. You shouldn't let anything hold you back from what you really want in life. You are still young. Your life is not set in stone," said Cal.
He hoped that Ria understood that he was talking about himself. He would never stand in the way of Ria's future.
Ria laid there in thought. She wondered if going to college and maintaining her job at the Lightman Group was even possible. She wouldn't be able to afford school without the job. Even if she didn't go to college it was nice knowing that Cal wanted that for her.
"Have you heard anything else from your uncle?" asked Cal. Their relationship or lack thereof was a subject of interest to him. He liked understanding what made Ria tick.
She scoffed. "I talked to him this afternoon. He wanted me to know that if I needed anything I could call him. Like I would ever call him for help."
"You can spot a liar in a crowded room. You have to know that his concern for you is genuine. Why are you punishing him? Is it because of the manslaughter charge?"
Ria shook her head and said, "No, I mean Lorenzo served his time and tried to better himself behind bars. I think that is admirable considering how deep into the life he was when he first went to prison."
"Then why do you give him the cold shoulder every time he tries to reach out to you?" asked Cal.
"No matter what I do…when I look at Lorenzo I see my father and that is one ghost I am not ready to confront. He looks so much like my dad. He even sounds like him. It all just takes me back to a time I'd rather forget."
He put an arm around Ria and drew her closer to him. "But you know that they are two different people. You have no reason to believe that he'd ever hurt you."
"Of course not. I barely knew Lorenzo when I was a kid. He was in and out of jail and heavy into the gangs. He didn't come around the family much because of that. He didn't want to bring the streets to our house. And then he went to prison for 15 years. Logically, I know that he isn't looking to hurt me. I know that he isn't my father. But there is part of me that is that scared little girl cowering in the corner so that my father can't get to me. I know that I am being hard on him but…I've been protecting myself for this long. I don't know how to stop now."
Early the next morning Ria walked into the kitchen and started breakfast. She was absolutely starving. Ria hadn't really had an appetite in the last couple days. She was glad to see that it was finally returning. She glanced around the kitchen and smiled. She really did like her life here with Cal. Maybe Loker was wrong. Maybe she could have it all.
Ria put together a simple breakfast casserole and tossed it into the oven. Today seemed like a good day to have breakfast in bed with Cal. She had given their conversation from last night a lot of thought before she finally went sleep. Ria wanted to discuss college with him over breakfast.
She chuckled to herself and went back to slicing fruit for breakfast when she heard a knock at the door. She glanced at the time and saw that it was barely 7 AM and it was a Saturday morning.
Ria washed and dried her hands quickly and went to the front door. She looked out of the peephole and saw a man in some type of delivery uniform holding a bouquet of flowers.
Ria opened the door cautiously.
"Good morning. I am looking for Ms. Ria Torres. I have a flower delivery for her."
"Morning. That's me," said Ria.
He handed a greeting card to Ria along with a bouquet of red roses. "Have a good day."
"You too," said Ria. She closed the door with her hip and made sure the door was securely locked before returning to the kitchen. Ria smiled assuming that the flowers were from Cal. She removed the greeting card from its' envelope and began reading it.
Her eyes widened as the card fell from her shaking hands and floated in the air until it landed on the kitchen floor. Ria stood there in shock for only a moment before picking up the card and walking back to the front door.
She threw the door open and craned her neck from side to side looking for the agents that were assigned to keep an eye on her. Ria spotted the dark sedan halfway down the block and marched herself down there. She knocked on the driver's side window impatiently.
The window slowly lowered and an agent asked, "Is there something wrong, Ms. Torres?"
Ria glared at him and shoved the greeting card at the agent causing several pictures to spill out of the card onto his lap.
The man carefully examined the card and realized that pictures were of him and his partner sleeping in the car the previous night. There were a couple of snapshots of the agents stocking up on junk food from a local gas station. There were more than a few shots of Ria being escorted home by the agents.
"Tell me again how the two of you are supposed to keep me safe when he could just as easily pick the two of you off like sitting ducks," said Ria.
She didn't wait for a reply. Ria turned around and strode back to the house with determination. She needed a gun and quick. Counting on the agents to protect her just wasn't going to cut it. Greene was crafty and dangerous.
Ria slammed the front door and locked it. She went to the kitchen and tossed the flower arrangement into the trash can. Ria felt dirty for having even touched them.
After washing her hands she went upstairs to the bedroom and went straight to the walk-in closet. Ria started emptying her shoeboxes and sifting through the contents.
Lightman was roused from his deep sleep by the banging sounds coming from his closet. His eyes shot open and he looked toward the closet. "Ria?"
"Go back to sleep, Cal," said Ria.
He sat up in the bed more processing the tone of her voice. Ria didn't sound scared or upset. His protégé sounded pissed off. That was worse than her being scared or upset. Cal slipped out of the bed and walked over to the closet. He watched as Ria kneeled on the floor searching shoe boxes and purses for some coveted item. "What is going on, love?"
He leaned against the door frame watching her cautiously. Obviously, something had set her off early this morning.
"I am looking for my gun. The agents are incompetent and they are going to get me killed or worse. Apparently, they don't know when they are being tailed and surveilled."
She'd put the gun away after moving in with Cal. She was with him the majority of the time and felt quite safe. Not to mention at the time she didn't think Daniel Greene would be looking for her at Cal's house. All of that had changed. He knew where she was and had every intention of seeing her again and soon if the sentiments in his heartfelt greeting card were to be believed.
Cal said, "Your gun isn't in the closet anymore. I moved it."
Ria looked at him with wild eyes. "Well, where is it?"
"I put it in my safe. I was worried that you might fly off the handle," said Cal.
She frowned seeing the odd expression on his face. "Well, that was a big lie. Why did you really move the gun, Cal? And when?"
He rubbed at the back of his neck tiredly. It was too early to be thrust into an argument. "I moved it not along after you moved in here. I was worried that…Ria you were incredibly emotional and you were all over the place."
"You thought that I was going to kill myself?" asked Ria.
Cal said, "I can't say that it didn't cross my mind. Can you say that it didn't cross yours?"
His question was rewarded with silence and dewy eyes from Ria.
It took a moment but Ria finally regained her senses. "Statistically, women are less likely to use a firearm in a suicide attempt."
"Good to know but then you aren't what I'd call the average woman. Why don't you come out of the closet, take a deep breath, and tell me exactly what set you off this morning? I am still sketchy on the details at the moment. I was in a pretty sound sleep before you started throwing things around like a madwoman." He flashed a small smiled and offered Ria his hand.