Chapter 1

Ruth stormed up to the front door knocking twice and then again twice more. After the sixth rap, the door opened to reveal Harry, clad in beige chinos and a sky blue golf shirt.

"Ruth!" he exclaimed, surprise in his eyes.

"You resigned?" she questioned him, allowing her wrath and disgust to be plainly evident in her voice.

Harry walked away without a word, leaving the front door. Hesitating, she followed him into his lounge, finding him sitting on his blue-grey couch, flipping through documents in a file folder, scrunching the occasional page and throwing it into the open fireplace.

Ruth slipped her coat down her arms and sat on the soft chair across from him.

"Harry, you resigned?" Her voice was gentler this time but still demanded an answer.

Not looking up, Harry responded, continuing to flip through the documents before him, "They gave me the opportunity and I took it."

Ruth could feel frustration warring with the anger within her. "Why?" she demanded to know.

Stilling his hands, Harry glanced up once. "I don't have the energy to fight anymore." And then he looked up to meet her angry gaze. "The Service has taken—No, I've given away everything to the Service. I've lost my friends, my wife, my children. I've lost you. I've nothing left. I'm fifty—something or other, and I'm left with nothing."

Ruth's anger began to drain away. "You have me."

Harry released a wry chuckle. "As a friend—no, not even a friend, a colleague; some impossible relationship that tears me to shreds. No! I don't want it Ruth. I love you. I would have married you and taken everything I've learned in my sad and sorry life to make you happy but you didn't want it. Don't want me." Harry shrugged, dropping his gaze to his stilled fingers, perhaps studying them for a solution to the mystery of his life. "Why should you be any different from anyone else?"

Ruth's heart ached in her chest at his sad and hopeless words. "You need me. We need each other."

Harry's eyes were soft, vulnerable, as he met her gaze again. "No. I don't need you. I thought I did but what I really need is to make peace with my past."

Ruth froze. She didn't know if her body flinched from the verbal slap, as gentle as it was, but her soul cringed within her.

Harry stood and retrieved a paper bag from the corner of the room behind him. He handed it to her and instructed, "Look what I bought yesterday."

She opened the bag to reveal a book, turning it over to read the cover. What to expect when you're expecting. "A pregnancy book?" she asked, utterly confused.

"I missed it all when my children were small, when Jane was pregnant. Well, now Catherine's pregnant. She and Fabian are getting married. They're moving to the UK to be closer to family when the baby comes. She's letting me into her life, Ruth. I can't pass up this opportunity. I was a bad father but maybe I can be a good grandfather."

Ruth caressed the cover of the book and placed it on the coffee table. "Graham?"

Harry brushed his hands over his face, absent-mindedly playing with the corners of the pages in the book. "He's in Rehab again. Rather a captive audience." He chuckled wryly again. He seemed full of a mild bitterness, a Guinness of the heart. "He's so bored that he actually welcomes my visits. We built a model of a Bugatti Veyron together yesterday and when I left, I gave him a hug and told him I loved him. Do you realize, Ruth, how long it's been since I told my own son that I love him?"

"Is that really going to fulfill you for the next twenty years?" she asked. "Trying to rebuild some lost moment in time?" She could feel her anger building again.

"I'm not looking for fulfillment or even redemption as you may accuse me next. I reneged on my responsibilities as a younger man but I won't anymore. It was my job to protect my family and I realize now that I didn't. I thought I did. I kept them separate from my work, from the danger and intrigue, but that's not what they needed. They needed me and I let them down."

Ruth stood abruptly. "So, you're giving up?"

"Giving up what?" he replied, looking up to meet her angry gaze. "I have nothing."

"This is the life you want?" she asked skeptically.

"No, Ruth, it's not the life I want but the choices I've made seem to have disqualified me from all other possibilities."

Ruth's phone buzzed indicating a text received. She pulled it out and made her excuses. He escorted her to the door and she was certain that she saw a look of regret in his eyes before he shut it behind her.

The message had called her back to the Grid. There was a new threat on the horizon but she couldn't seem to move. She remained frozen, facing away from the front door of his house.

The repeat message on her mobile pulled her from her paralysis. "So that is that," she told herself.

But NO! I don't want that to be that. I don't want that to be the end.