8 Pt 2 : Done

Théo straightened in the backseat and stared at the woman beside him about to start crying. What she just told him didn't quite sound right. He was still pretty jet lagged; maybe he'd misheard her.

"Honestly..." Veronica took the handkerchief he offered and wiped her eyes. "We both need it right now."


She must be sloshed. Or high?  Did smoking weed affect her judgment and emotional state this bad?    "It doesn't have anything to do with that. Okay?"

"Quoi?" He looked into her glinting eyes while his brain did a rewind. She probably thought he was still brooding over her refusal to his stupid proposal.

"I should've talked to you sooner. It's not fair; I know. And I feel awful. I'm not trying hard enough." Her voice wavered, and he could only watch as she tried to steady her breath. "It's just— You're doing so great and...I don't want this to confuse you. Or keep you from doing what you want—"

"It's not." 

"It's just gonna be like, a little time off." 

"Non." Théo stayed still. Waiting for her to calm down shouldn't take a while. 

"Please."  Veronica kept fidgeting beside him and sniffled, disappointment clear in her strained voice. "You know what I mean—"

"No.  In how many languages do you want me to say it? What d'you really wanna say?"

"I'm getting sick of this setup." 

He shrugged. "Which is why I asked you to think about moving to Paris. But you keep saying no."

She took deep breaths and wiped her face using her palms. His sulky reply didn't help stop her tears.

"Take a break. You're just stressed out. Stop overthinking." He sighed. His hands fisted but felt somewhat numb. His palms kept sweating. Théo swore to himself.  He really hoped this night would turn out differently, but he was almost relieved than sorry for himself for her bluntness.

Via moved closer to embrace him, then pulled away when he didn't budge. A mixture of pain and hopelessness welled up across her face.

Her lovely, pretty face...   Her nearly bare makeup just made him want to stare at her all night.  She smelled fantastic, too.

Shit. His chest actually hurt now. Something in him ached; most of him felt hollow. He wanted to run off.

Truth be told, he was itching to get out of her car, get a drink, and then tie himself onto something because she looked so beautiful in her floral dress. She'd look beautiful without it, too, for sure.

Oh boy. It hadn't even been a week yet since he last saw her.  Dammit.  Why?  Why did he have to miss her so much all the freakin' time?

"You'll be fine," she then said matter-of-factly just to cut off the awkward silence. Her hands were busy wiping off more tears. "You'll do great, babe."

"Tu as bu, ou quoi?"

"You wouldn't need to put up with this anymore," Veronica said while her slightly quivering lips faked a smile.

He sat still and said nothing, bothered by her attempt to lighten up the conversation. This talk was somehow making him dizzy. It would only end with them being in disagreement.

She made, played, lived, and breathed music...and he knew how much she loved her job. Everything else was just secondary—including him. He didn't need to make sense of it all. It was just the bitter truth.

But how was he anything but supportive?

At one point, he'd even sworn to his friends she was his soulmate.  "She's the one,"  he'd proudly told his best friends barely a month ago. She was what he'd been waiting for all this time—talented, intelligent, kind, and beautiful. She was going to be his keeper. His future. His life.

Apparently, she thought he was demented for thinking it.

"I'm just tryin' to be reasonable."

"And I'm not?" He scowled at her tone. It made him think he just had no choice in the matter. His hand moved and blindly reached for the door handle. Not knowing what to do next, he watched her cover her entire face, then watched her sob.

He bit back the urge to curse out loud. His face was heating up. His throat felt sore. Air barely penetrated his lungs now. Not long, a rush of panic pushed him to open the car door.

Via grabbed his forearm. "I don't know why I thought you'd understand, but could we at least deal with this like adults?" she managed to say before he could step out of her car.

Her damp cheeks, swollen eyes, and the impatience in her voice forced him to stay still beside her. Her reasons were beginning to sink in. But her pained expression told him their grueling schedules and demanding jobs wasn't the whole picture. 

A pesky feeling in his gut made him suspect their unstable long-distance setup wasn't the only culprit. Why now? After almost three years together? Why did she decide to just break it off?

Théo shut the door. His disappointment was pushing him to leave and detach himself from the situation and process everything. But instead, he sat closer to her, let out a sigh, and just waited for her to stop crying.   "Somethin' else you wanna tell me?"

"I want to stay friends," she murmured, staring down at her hands, cheeks now flushed. 

Friends?  She must be joking.


He scoffed. "Yeah, 'cause that just sounds like it'll pan out for everyone."

She kept still beside him and didn't say anything back.

"You've gotta be kidding."

"Could you just drop the attitude so we could talk this through?"

He massaged his temple. Why did he even think for a second that this date would be some kind of kickoff for their upcoming third anniversary? Heck. It was like dealing with his overdramatic ex all over again.  "You're throwing it in. We're not even halfway there yet."

Veronica kept wiping her face with his handkerchief. It took her a couple of deep breaths to give him a response. "It's just some time off.  Why's that so hard to—"

"Fine! Get it done. Go tour with him all you want, do whatever you gotta do."  He shoved the car door open and stepped out before he could smash the window.  "Just stop trying to make me think you're doing me a favor." 

• The next day •

Two new spycams.  

A black leather belt. 

A new app.

A recent family photo. 

Four people.

A spycam on the leather belt...not so original.  But it was definitely less conspicuous  than the big old camera lens glued to his government-issued "reading specs".

The newly developed app for retrieving and forwarding audio recordings should come in handy, too.  The materials got sent via an online delivery application.  The package came from one of his secret job's undercover offices.


It was the name written on the back of the A4-size picture.  The last name of his newest targets?  Valtieri sounded Italian.  Or maybe  Spanish?  Time to do some research.  

The young woman in the picture caught his attention next.  She stood farthest to the left.

Brunette.  Shouldn't be older than 25.  Fairly tan complexion.  Slim. Long, shiny hair that looked as straight as her parents' rodlike posture. 

Pretty smile.  Pretty dress.  But the sense of melancholy in her eyes almost begged for his attention.  Théo sat back and studied the other people standing beside her in the photo.

The guy farthest to the right was the tallest among the bunch.  Probably in his late 20s or early 30s.  He had darker hair, almost as black as his lifeless eyes, light stubble.  The guy stood beside the older man holding his wife's pale hand.

A balding, bearded white man in his 50s. Or early 60s.  Must be the father.  Beside him stood the older woman in the photo.  Wavy brown hair.  Photogenic European features.  Tall, slender figure.  Expensive-looking white dress and diamond-studded jewelry.

The younger woman inherited mostly her mom's genes.  No other information or clues in the small package the agency had sent.  Théo stared at the family photo for another minute. 

It must be his new targets.  An entire clan?  Did this mean he would have to charm the pants off all these people?  Sneak into their social circle and gather intel for his boss? Until when?

Well, hopefully he didn't have to sleep with any of them to do this job right.  

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