Chapter 17: Evening

Marta made it back to the penthouse suite later than she planned on but Aaron had not arrived yet either. She shut the door behind her with her foot and put the bags she carried on the nearest chair. Her stomach grumbled as she kicked off her sandals. Not knowing how long Aaron would be, she decided to order room-service for them both. She figured he would be back soon-if he was going to make it back at all. A jolt of fear struck her at the thought of him not returning but she cleared her mind and picked up the phone to dial the hotel's dining services.

While she waited for both dinner and Aaron to arrive, Marta emptied the smallest of the shopping bags onto a side table. She opened a small pharmaceutical box and popped a tiny blue pill out onto her hand. Grabbing a few more items from the pile, she crossed to the dresser where a tall glass container of water was. She unscrewed the cap and swallowed down the pill. She walked to a bedside table and dumped the most intimate things the kind Frenchwoman had procured for her into the drawer. Getting pregnant would be very, very bad in their current situation.

The rest of the items on the table were mostly cosmetics and toiletries. They were an indulgence; but, Marta thought with a smile, that was exactly the purpose they would serve. If she only had this one night in luxury, she would relish it all-while she could. The fingers of her right hand absent-mindedly twisted the rings on her left. It didn't matter what she and Aaron were exactly; they were in no position to live a normal life. They wouldn't 'get to know each other' in a formal sense; they weren't dating. Because they were cohabitating, a one night stand or casual sex wasn't an option. They weren't married, but it must be all or nothing between them-so they may as well be.

Aaron had been pretty clear about his choice; he was all in. Marta only just realized that she had to choose and be clear with him now, either way. She knew he would honor her wishes, whatever her choice.

This afternoon, as Aaron was out seeing to their future, she made her choice and was happy to embrace it wholeheartedly. Marta was committed to fulfilling their mission, to redeem herself, and she was committed to the man Aaron himself. Though not legal or official, in spirit, tonight was her honeymoon.

A knock at the door startled her and suddenly Marta became anxious. She hesitated, expecting Aaron to come in. When the door didn't open, she chuckled to herself and felt like a nervous teenager. She looked through the peep-hole in the door and saw that it was a waiter with their order. Aaron had trained her to keep exposure to a minimum while not raising suspicion, so she spoke through the door.

"I'm sorry; you've caught me indecent. I will be a few minutes. Would you leave the dining cart there for me?" Marta asked in an apologetic tone.

"Yes, of course, ma'am," the waiter answered. "Please call if there is anything else we can do for you."

"Very good of you," Marta answered, then waited until she heard the elevator slide shut. She wheeled the dinner into the room and ate just enough to tide her over for the night. Once finished, Marta took the toiletries to a vanity table and began arranging them. There was a soft knock on the door then it slowly opened and Aaron stepped through, greeting her with a smile.

"Hi," she said simply, but her voice was full of relief. "How did it go?"

"Better than I hoped," he replied, his back turned to her as he looked out the peep-hole of the door. His eyes performed a sweep of the room then he looked out the window of each side of the suite, checking the surrounding buildings and streets. He opened every closet, room and shelf. He felt along the back-side of each table and dresser, even under the bed rails. Satisfied, he finally turned to Marta and looked her over observantly.

"You're in the same clothes."

"I went shopping," she gestured to the bags on the chair. She assured him, "Just in the hotel's shops. I picked up some supplies but mostly, I'll admit, I splurged."

"On what?" Aaron asked, eying the dining cart.

"Myself," Marta answered evasively, laughing. "The steak dinner is yours."

He lifted the metal dome, savoring the smell of the rich food. "I'm starved," he exclaimed, flopping into the nearest chair to dig into the feast.

"You worked up an appetite?" Marta asked, wondering if he had run into any problems.

"I suppose so," Aaron mumbled around a hunk of meat he had shoveled into his mouth. He swallowed. "There was some action with a few unsavory characters, but we scored ourselves a few extra guns, some incentives and a van."

"Incentives?"

"Cash and drugs," he replied, taking another bite with a shrug. "They always come in handy."

Marta's eyes widened at the casual mention of drugs but didn't probe further.

"The van is in an underground parking structure near the morgue," Aaron continued, spearing vegetables. "Which is convenient-we can take it to a small airstrip just outside of the city once we have the program medication. I've pegged a contact at the morgue I'm pretty sure we can use to get the pills. You still up for it?"

Marta nodded, not sure a 'yes' would sound confident enough right now. "What will I do?"

"All you have to do is approach a young woman as she's getting off work and hope for a little sympathy. Piece of cake," he winked at her, wanting to put her at ease. There was no use worrying about anything tonight.

"We've got all day tomorrow to go over the details. I spent today getting everything set up, so we're good till two or three tomorrow, when we leave the hotel."

"Okay," Marta said with a nervous smile, standing. She walked towards the bathroom. "I'll take a shower while you finish dinner."

"Wait..." Aaron stood as he scooped a few more bites into his mouth and chugged half of a bottled water. But, as he turned towards her, she avoided his eyes and quickly closed the door behind her. He frowned as he heard the lock turn over.

Aaron drank the rest of the water slowly as he waited a few minutes. He almost expected to hear the bathroom door unlock after the toilet flushed and the shower began running, but it didn't. Fighting frustration-however irrational-Aaron sat back down to eat without really enjoying the meal.

It seemed to Aaron that Marta was taking forever even after she had turned the shower off. He could hear her brushing her teeth, using the hair dryer and messing around with who-knows-what women products. He had just about lost his patience, and was about to pound on the door to tell her to hurry up, when she unlocked it and swung it towards him, stepping through. She startled to see him standing over her, his arm outstretched against the frame.

Marta had a towel wrapped around her that she clutched to her chest. It revealed the full length of her bare legs temptingly. Aaron stilled at the sight of her, all previous irritation gone, replaced with bother of a different type.

"The shower is all yours," she said, not meeting his eyes. Swiftly, Marta dipped under his arm and walked to the vanity table where she sat down and began brushing her hair out. Aaron stared after her for a beat, wondering why she was so distant with him tonight. He gave up waiting for her to look at him and took his turn in the bathroom.

Marta relaxed after she was alone in the room. She fluffed her natural curls back into place with her fingers. She rarely wore her hair free like this; it was too unruly for her taste, normally. But she was not feeling tame tonight. She picked up the kohl liner and made her eyes up dramatically, using the cosmetics and products she had picked up downstairs. Marta finished her make-up with a pale french lip paste that was more a chapstick than a lipstick. It had a little gloss to it without being sticky. She silently praised the ingenious Frenchwoman again.

With a quick glance back at the mirror, Marta strode towards the chair across the room for the shopping bags. She pulled out a long, thin black silk robe with a delicate Asian design hand-stitched in fine silver thread. To Marta, it was the embodiment of moonlight rippling through a Manilan midnight.

The screech of a faucet turning brought Marta out of her brief reverie. She quickly pulled out a pair of elegant, deep maroon-red undergarments so dark they almost looked black. She dropped her towel to slip them on and hooked the silken lace bra. She could hear Aaron use the sink; probably to shave and brush his teeth.

Marta figured she had a few minutes to straighten things up. She pulled on the exquisite robe and tied it about her waist, admiring the quality and hoping she could keep it, even after tonight. She walked over to the dresser and picked up two tall glass bottles of spring water. She set one on each nightstand and turned down the covers of the bed, folding them at the foot, so they were out of the way but could be pulled up easily.

Marta suddenly felt silly and very anxious. The feeling only intensified as she heard the bathroom door swing open. Marta turned away quickly, facing the wall, and took a steadying breath.

Aaron stalked towards the luggage without looking her way. He was still feeling rather annoyed. He picked up his case, dropped it on the couch and began rifling through it. He had toweled-off but was still damp, his hair dripping beads of water. He raked his hand through his wet hair, pushing it out his face. He wiped his hand on the towel around his waist, which he held in a knot at his side, with the other. He was pulling out contents from the bag and dropping them carelessly on the couch when he felt a gaze upon him. He stopped and slowly turned to face the eyes watching him.

Holy s**t. Aaron had almost resigned himself to Marta's confusing aloofness but nothing about her was cold or distant anymore. Dark, sultry eyes looked him over in languid relish as Aaron stood rooted in place. His mind, normally swift, stuttered to catch up with the unexpected change of atmosphere. He noticed his body had caught on a lot more quickly than his brain.

Desire had stilled Marta's nervousness and she approached, her robe billowing out behind her making it look like she was floating to him. She stopped a few steps in front of Aaron, just out of reach, and met his big, mesmerized blue eyes. He stared back at her, searching her limpid green eyes. He understood now why she had always avoided looking at him in the lab exam rooms. He could see straight into her soul and read her thoughts. She was his.

As if she could read his thoughts just as clearly, Marta's lips curved in a soft, inviting smile. She untied the belt about her waist to let the fluttering robe hang open. Aaron drank in the sight of her with a powerful hunger barely contained. He burned the image into his brain so he would never lose the breathtaking moment of Marta entrusting herself to him completely.