Author's Note: This takes place one year after my first story, A Question of Want.
In terms of canon, this story is after Blood Lines.
After what seemed an eternity his lips left hers and he smiled. Breath trembling as she opened her eyes Cindy looked at this man, this wonderful man and couldn't thank Providence enough for bringing him to her.
"Let's get out of here before the king's guard find us," he said lightly.
Almost as if on cue Cindy heard loud voices at the end of the hall. Her handsome savior grasped her hand and quickly led her from the room and up the spiraling stone staircase. Racing down the corridor they knocked down a servant girl and forced two more to press themselves against the wall. As they took a left turn it became immediately obvious that they should have kept going straight as only a short length of hall with several doors lay before them. The sounds of armor-clad men neared so there was no turning back. Cindy tried door after door, finding all save the last locked. Again thanking Providence, both she and her lover forced the door open and rushed to close it even as the guards spotted their movement and followed in pursuit.
While Cindy locked the door her handsome savior advanced through the room and out to the balcony. As soon as he had passed the threshold a glass wall separated him from the room and his love. Horrified, he slapped his palms in frustration against the crystal prison. Hearing the guards at the door, Cindy bit her lip as she looked around the room. She spotted a chair in the corner and brought it to the glass but the barrier held as the chair was reduced to splinters. The knocking and pounding became more intense as shouts and hollers seemed to slide under the door and fill the chamber. Desperate, she went to a free standing candle holder and dragged it to the balcony entrance. Swinging it back and forth until her momentum allowed her to raise it high enough Cindy gave a yell and smashed it against the barrier. In an instant the glass shattered and she was free! Her lover extended his hand and after gathering hers he led her to the edge of the balcony.
"We'll have to jump into the river. It's the only way," he said quickly.
Cindy looked down and nearly fainted. The river seemed but a tiny line from this height.
"Trust me," he breathed against her cheek. Eyes filled with love, he took her into his arms and gave her a heart-felt kiss.
When they parted he winked and took her hand. As the door behind them splintered open Cindy held up her arms to the wind and stepped off the balcony with her lover into the welcoming arms of the water below.
Only as she neared the ground did she hear the laughter.
Since it seemed more and more likely that he was going to let the alarm ring Vicki took it upon herself to reach across Celluci's body and shut the damn thing off before it drove her nuts. Her fingers slapped blindly on the buttons in a desperate attempt to silence the machine but to no avail. Frustrated, Vicki grabbed the clock and ripped its plug from the wall as she launched it across the room. She rolled off Celluci back to her place on the bed.
"Feel better?" he mumbled.
"Next time get your own damn alarm," Vicki muttered as she dug her elbow into his back.
Celluci rolled over and stretched, his six foot four frame easily covering the bed. "Good morning to you, too."
Vicki slid in close to his body and planted a firm kiss on his lips. "Shower's now or you lose your place in cue."
Returning the kiss with more enthusiasm, Celluci traced the side of her jaw with his calloused fingers. Vicki ran her hand down his body and it was all he could do not to moan into her mouth. With one smooth motion his long arms coiled around Vicki as he slid her prone form beneath him.
"This better not be because you want the bathroom first," he whispered into her ear.
Vicki's laughter turned into a squeal of delight.
Vicki spent the morning tidying her apartment before her potential clients came to call. As her second bedroom functioned as her private investigator's office it was important to remove last night's Chinese takeout and bottle of wine from the coffee table and make the living room couch look as though two people hadn't made out on it. She hated to admit it to herself but she was feeling pretty happy with how things were going at the moment. After Henry's 'death' and reappearance relations between her and Celluci were almost at their darkest. He felt as though she was spending too much time with Henry; of course, Henry wasn't making this any easier since it was within his nature to exploit any advantage. In fact, it would be fair to say that both men had become almost uber possessive of her as if it was their intention to make her choose. Vicki snorted at the thought—make anyone choose which arm they want to keep or which ventricle they want removed and they'd call you insane. Celluci and Henry were her fire and ice. Besides, things did eventually fall back into their old patterns so the idea of having her choose could take a seat next to the kung po chicken scraps in the trash.
Looking over her note pad, Vicki went over what little information she had about the case. Apparently Cindy Matheson had committed suicide four days ago at York University and her parents felt that the school was more interested in hushing up the matter than investigating what went wrong. Vicki had fished out the Wednesday newspaper from the recycling box in order to read the article on the girl's death. This had not been a good year for the university as this was the second suicide in four months. The first girl, Janice Goldman, had died in November and there was speculation that Cindy's death could be a copycat. Not a time to play 'follow the leader', Vicki thought.
At two-fifteen Vicki heard a knock at the door and opened it to receive the somber-looking Mathesons. They both assured her that they didn't want anything to drink so they all settled quickly in the office. Fortunately for Vicki years of police training had prepared her in dealing with delicate situations, particularly when it involved a death of a loved one. She assumed a face of attentiveness with a hint of sympathy and asked what she could do for the grieving couple.
"We were hoping that you could find out what was going on in her life prior to her—passing," said Mr. Matheson.
Vicki folded her hands on the desk. "As this was a suicide I'd just like to go over a few questions. It'll give me a place to start my inquiry, should this warrant one." She knew that sometimes what grieving parents wanted was someone to lay out and organize what had happened so they could truly understand the situation. "How old was your daughter?"
"Twenty," Mrs. Matheson said quietly.
"And how long had she been studying at the university?"
"This was her third year. She studied English and creative writing. She would have graduated next year." Mr. Matheson gave Vicki a matter of fact look that attempted to reflect itself in his voice.
"Ok. Now, has Cindy ever had a history of depression?" Vicki knew this was a loaded question. The last thing the survivors of a suicide wanted to admit was that they'd missed the signs.
Mrs. Matheson frowned at her husband. "They always ask the same thing." Mr. Matheson tried to put a reassuring hand on his wife's shoulder but she shrugged it off. "Cindy is—was—a wonderfully happy baby who grew into a bright, confident young woman. The only seriously down time I can remember is when her Nana died when she was fourteen but she came through that in about six months. They were very close as they both liked writing and literature." Mrs. Matheson seemingly became lost in thought before recovering. "Cindy was a joy. That's why none of this makes sense."
"Although she was looking thinner than usual this year," Mr. Matheson remarked.
"That's just the campus food. You know how she'd complain about the lack of vegetables," Mrs. Matheson snapped back.
Vicki looked from husband to wife and began picking her words carefully. It seemed as though Mr. Matheson had some relevant details but getting them past his wife would be like driving a hummer through a minefield. "Well, even if it is a food issue it still is a change. When did you notice the weight loss? Were there any other differences—no matter how minor—in her physically or emotionally?" She stared meaningfully at Mr. Matheson.
"Cindy was fine when she left in September. We saw her at Thanksgiving and she was all aglow with her classes and seeing her friends again. It was when she came home for Christmas that I noticed a change." Mr. Matheson looked at his wife before continuing. "She looked tired. Dark circles under the eyes, wane pallor—and she was visibly thinner. Brenda asked if there was anything wrong but she said it was nothing."
"I thought she was working too hard," Mrs. Matheson whispered. "I told her to take the holidays to rest."
"At first she seemed to improve. Her brother came home from Western University along with her friend Helena and they all hung out with their friends." Again Mr. Matheson glanced at his wife but she was staring fixedly ahead. "Then Cindy started sleeping in—at first until ten o'clock, then eleven, noon. One day we had gone out to do some shopping and we got home at three-thirty to find her still in bed. Yet the crazy thing was the more she slept the worse she looked. I asked Brenda if we should take her to a doctor but Cindy assured us she was fine. She was up late working on her writing project—a novel I think—and the strange schedule was playing havoc on her system."
Vicki finished writing and looked up. "Since Christmas had you seen or been in contact with her? If so, how did she seem?"
"She was fine," said Mrs. Matheson, who waved her husband to keep quiet. "She sounded tired but otherwise she was in good spirits. Cindy didn't mention anything about a tiff with her friends or bombing a class or meeting a boy." Brenda Matheson stared at Vicki with reddened eyes. "She called me two days before she—two days to say that her book was going well and her papers were almost finished. Not that she was down. Not that she was suicidal or trying to say goodbye."
"Maybe there were things going on we didn't know about. The university is giving us sympathy but little answers. We need them if we're ever going to…." Mr. Matheson looked away from Vicki.
Closing her notebook, Vicki straightened in her chair as she spoke. "I think I can find you some answers. Closure doesn't come in a day but it can't come at all without knowing what happened."
Vicki opened the window in her living room after the Mathesons left in order to air out the cloud of depression from the apartment. She decided not to charge them for the initial investigation. If time ran long—which she doubted it would—she'd put something nominal together but otherwise this case was adding up to good karma. After what the Mathesons went through a little goodness would be a small mercy.