I opened my mouth to speak, when suddenly I saw a flash of light across his face. I froze, my gaze narrowing, everything tunneling to that red dot dancing on his forehead. There was a second when its presence seemed incongruous, and then I knew.
“Get down,” I shouted, my body connecting with Kate’s as I knocked her to the ground. I heard the gunshot and then the world exploded into chaos.
For the second time in as many days, I ended up on the ground, staring up at Matt’s face. This time he didn’t look scared or panicked, he looked like he was going to burn the house down.
“Are you okay? They didn’t hit you, did they?”
I shook my head, the feeling I was becoming all too familiar with—panic and terror and adrenaline—swirling inside me. I looked down at my body, running my hands over my torso, my palms coming away red and wet.
Oh god. Oh god.
It wasn’t mine.
“Were you hit?” I asked, panic in my voice.
Matt shook his head.
“Sniper. We need to move. Now.”
“What happened to …”
Oh my god. The lifeless eyes of the man we’d just been talking to stared back at me. Nausea rose as I stared at the blood, the gaping wound, the parts of his body spilling out …
“Don’t look at him. Look at me,” Matt demanded.
Another shot rang out around us. Screams erupted around the memorial.
“Do exactly what I do,” Matt shouted.
I nodded, my breath hitching, heart racing.
“Y—Yes?” My teeth chattered together, my limbs ice.
“You can do this. We have to run.”
He jerked me to my feet and I stumbled. His arms came around my body, steadying me, holding me up. We took off running, his hand pulling me along. Around us people screamed and cried, the pandemonium giving us the cover we needed. The police were on the scene, but for the moment the attention was definitely on the body lying on the ground, and capturing the shooter, rather than on us.
My muscles ached as we ran, my legs little more than wet noodles. I was so going to freak the fuck out whenever we stopped running.
“Where are we going?” I asked, my body doubling over to catch my breath as soon as we’d gotten far enough away. Matt might be in peak physical shape, but even though I worked out, there was running and then there was running for your life. Clearly one thing did not necessarily prepare you for the other.
“Metro. We need to leave the car.”
“Are we going back to the hotel?”
“Right now, I can’t think of a better place to go. We don’t have any evidence that they know where we were staying. They could have been following him.”
God, it was like I couldn’t breathe. I kept trying to drag in air, fire burning through my chest.
“Can you run a little longer? They’ll shut down the surrounding metro stations. We need to get farther away.”
I nodded, even though that was kind of a lie. If the fucking sniper didn’t kill me, Matt’s running might.
“Are you okay?” I asked, surprised he was keeping it together as well as he was. I was the one who was utterly terrified and ready to completely lose it.
“Yeah. I am. I’ll be a lot better when we’re somewhere safe. Ready?”
We ran to the point where I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to walk tomorrow. I worried we looked suspicious, but no seemed to be paying us very much attention. Besides, I guessed by the way we were dressed we could have looked like a couple going out for a run at night. The blood blended in with my dark clothes, and if you didn’t look too closely—which, thank god, no one did—you wouldn’t spot it.
The image of that man’s dead body, his lifeless eyes, the blood pouring from him, kept flashing before my eyes until finally I couldn’t take it anymore.
I leaned over the sidewalk and heaved, the lunch we’d eaten in the hotel room with Blair, Gray, Jackie, and Will coming out all over the grass.
Matt was behind me immediately, pulling my hair away from my face, his arm wrapped around my waist, cradling me in the curve of his embrace. His hand stroked my back, his touch soothing.
“Sorry,” I gasped, feeling disgusting, tears threatening, my entire body nearing collapse.
He cupped my face, his gaze intent. “There’s nothing to apologize for. Your reaction is totally normal. We just need to get out of here. A little bit longer and then we’ll be safe back in the hotel,” he urged.
I nodded, my eyes welling up. “I’ve never seen someone die before,” I whispered, feeling like an asshole after everything he’d been through, but wanting to give him some explanation for why I was completely losing my shit. “His blood …” My voice broke, another wave of nausea threatening.
Matt didn’t answer me, he just put his arms around me, gathering me in his embrace, his hands in my hair, our bodies plastered against each other as he whispered in my ear, telling me he loved me, telling me it would be okay, giving me the support I needed to keep going.
I was shaking by the time we got back to the hotel, my tenuous grip on whatever strength had carried me this far failing me now.
I couldn’t imagine what I would have done without Matt. He ushered me into the room, his tone calm.
“Let’s get you into the shower, okay? You’ll feel better once you’re cleaned up.”
Considering I’d run in the August heat and thrown up, not to mention the blood on me, I figured it was all up from here.
I nodded, surprised to see that my hand trembled, my legs buckling beneath me.
Matt began taking off my clothes, his touch more soothing than sexual.
“The shock will wear off soon. I promise.”
When I was naked, he sat me down on the bed, stripping off his clothes and setting them in a heap on the floor. He led me into the bathroom, his hands on my shoulders guiding me toward the shower, giving me the support I needed to hold myself together.
Matt turned on the shower spray, and I walked in, lifting my face up to the falling water, closing my eyes, feeling clean for the first time all night. I felt him behind me, giving me the space I needed along with the reassurance I craved.
I saw a man die. He’d bled on me. We’d almost died. Again.
My body shook, my heart pounding as the first sob escaped, then the next one. Matt reached out and held me as I cried, comforting me, the water running down my body, washing away all of the ugliness that surrounded us. When I was finished, long after my tears had subsided and the water began to cool, he kissed me, his mouth replacing my pain with pleasure.
We came together, our bodies finding comfort in this moment, in the break from all of the craziness and fear. Our last lead was dead, we’d had two attempts on our lives, and it seemed more and more like getting out of town was our only option.
We deserved this. Needed it. So we took it, disappearing into each other for the moment, lingering in it, gathering our strength before we had to disappear for good.
The funeral of Intech founder and CEO, James Ryan, was widely attended by Washington’s power players …
—Capital Confessions blog
We met at our hotel again, Gray and Blair still in D.C., trying to regroup, attempting to figure out what came next. I was on my second day of calling in sick to work, leaving another message on my boss’s answering machine, and I had a feeling I was pretty much fired anyway. Hopefully, when we did run, the CIA wouldn’t bother coming after us. I was a low-level employee and my security clearance was the lowest access level at the Agency. I wasn’t exactly a threat to national security.