Fates Decided – 5
Insanity had struck, Derek thought as he followed Jade with a cart in the supermarket. He didn’t know why he’d decided to allow Jade to stay with him. If he had any sense, he’d take her to a hotel. They were at the supermarket because she’d insisted they stop for supplies for their journey. He didn’t know what she needed, but he hoped she’d get t-shirts and easier shoes for the journey. He’d yet to muster the courage to tell her that. If the worst came, he’d give her his own t-shirts and an old pair of jeans his ex-girlfriend had left in his closet. He just wouldn’t tell her who they belonged to.
Jade stopped in the bread aisle.
“Brown or white?” she asked.
“Mix them,” he said. “I can’t be sure what everyone prefers.”
She nodded and started taking sandwich bread from the aisle. She took ten extra large loaves.
“Why so many?” he gaped staring in to the cart. “I do have food in my house.”
Jade laughed. The sound so unexpected, he stood in the baked goods aisle marveling at how carefree she looked.
“I’ve been on a trip to the North, Derek. It’s better to carry your own food supplies. Sandwiches are easy.”
She led the way to the next aisle and stopped to get lunch meats.
“We’re going to make sandwiches,” she said with a shy grin.
“Great,” Derek pushed the cart for her as she piled it with fruits: apples, pears and bananas. Derek helped her choose the sandwich meats.
They finished shopping and headed out of the large supermarket, Derek smiling as he realized he hadn’t gone grocery shopping with a woman in a long time.
Late in the night, Jade wrapped her arms tight around her stomach and sat on the deck behind Derek’s house. There was a lovely garden a few feet away. She couldn’t tell what was growing in the dark, but the scent of flowers filled the clean air. Glancing at her watch, she shuddered. It was one thirty. She should be sleeping. The convoy was leaving in two hours at three-thirty.
She’d tried to sleep, but worry kept her awake. She kept seeing visions of Jihu in the hands of the militia that had attacked his team. Tao had called her earlier to give her more details. Jihu had left the safety of the medical tents to go help a family in the population at the camp. Tao wasn’t sure why Jihu had been allowed to leave. Those details weren’t clear yet. Jihu and his security team were attacked on transit. The driver manning Jihu’s transport had tried to make a run for it, but the militia had thrown a bomb at their vehicle.
She closed her eyes and pressed a hand into her aching chest. Fear had taken root since. Fear that she’d lose Jihu. This insane fear that she’d never see her fiancé again, she shook her head. They had a difficult relationship, but she didn’t want him dead.
Jade shivered when a cool wind swept in, and gasped when she felt a warm wrap settle around her shoulders.
“You’ll catch a cold out here,” Derek said sitting beside her. He was quiet. She hadn’t heard him. “Can’t sleep?”
She tugged the edges of the wrap closer.
“No.” She turned to look at him. “Can’t sleep?”
“Not tonight,” he answered in his quiet voice.
She didn’t wonder what kept Derek up at night. Her experiences in camps cured her of that. Derek’s had to be worse working in security.
“Who is Dr. Jihu to you?” Derek asked after they’d sat in companionable silence.
She frowned because she was sure Derek had read a report on both her and Jihu.
“He’s my fiancé,” she said. “I’m sure you know that.”
“He doesn’t acknowledge you in all the forms he’s signed with the organizations he works for.”
Jade knew that too. “We’re not quite married in the real sense. H-He—
She broke off and cleared her throat.
“Our marriage was arranged by our parents. Jihu didn’t want to deal with it, so he left Seoul.”
“You followed him.” Derek noted.
Jade stared at the moonlit sky. “Yes, I followed him like an idiot. Moving from one camp to another, making sure we don’t land in the same camps. It has been an exhausting five years.”
“Does he know?” Derek asked.
She didn’t know. Jihu was independent. Most times, he was so involved in his work he didn’t pay attention to what was going on around him. That was probably how he’d gotten into trouble. Paying attention to others instead of him, she shook her head.
“Jihu is not the type to pay attention to small things.”
“Small things?” Derek asked, he shifted and touched her shoulder. “How is a fiancee a small thing? What kind of man is Dr. Jihu?”
She frowned. “Derek, you don’t understand. Our situation is impossible to handle, and Jihu—
“Chose the selfish path,” Derek finished for her. “He didn’t want to release you, so he ran away. He left you to carry the burden of a marriage. I can’t respect a man like that.”
“No one asked you to,” Jade snapped annoyed by Derek’s perfect analysis.
She sometimes wished she could go back home and tell her parents to help her get a legal divorce. However, she’d invested five years into this. She’d cared for Jihu her whole life. He needed her now. How could she walk away?
“What’s your story anyway?” she asked irritated. “Your father owns Woo Securities. What are you doing working here instead of in Seoul beside him?”
Derek shrugged, muscles rippling across his shoulders under the grey t-shirt he wore. He looked harmless sitting beside her, but she could tell he was lethal. It was in the way he moved and the way he sat, alert, listening. He was handsome. The perpetual shadow across his jaw added to his rugged charm. He kept his hair long and wild. She wondered if he ever cut it, or trimmed it. She fought the urge to reach out and touch it to find out if the dark silky curls could straighten out. He turned and caught her studying him.
She met dark brown eyes in the moonlight and asked, “Why are you living here?”
“I’m here to help you, Ms. Sang.” He flashed a grin. His hand moved fast, soft fingers touched her jaw. “You deserve better, you know. No man should treat a woman the way he has you. It’s not right.”
She looked away from him, hating the soft flutter in her chest at his words.
“How would a mercenary know how a woman should be treated?”
Derek chuckled beside her. “What makes you think I’m a mercenary?”
She shifted until her back was against the pillar to her left. Folding her legs under, she tugged the wrap he’d brought tighter around her and studied him in the moonlight.
“That’s the only reason why you wouldn’t be working in Seoul. You must love the wild life, not having to account your actions.”
“That’s not fair. Not all mercenaries live by that principle,” Derek said shifting too until he was facing her, his back against the pillar on his side. “I wasn’t always a mercenary.”
“Oh yeah, what did you do?”
“I was in the army for a while, and then I left.” Derek shrugged. “I joined my father’s security team. We expanded rapidly, and now I’m stationed here.”
“That sounds like a story with very wide gaps,” she said with a smile.
“Yours isn’t that straight either,” he accused with a matching smile.
“What does that make us?” she asked.
“Two people sitting under a moonlit sky,” he said.
She nodded and looked up at the sky. It was beautiful, thousands of stars twinkling beside the bright half moon. When she’d been a kid growing up in Seoul, she’d loved staring up at the stars. Sadly, she didn’t quite remember the sky she’d watched then. Five years was a long time to be away from home.
“Can I ask you something?” Derek interrupted her thoughts.
She looked at him. “Sure.”
“Do you love him?”
Julie and Tao had asked her that question dozens of times. She’d always answered with a yes. She met dark brown eyes, and felt the word freeze in her throat. The Jihu in her memory was fading. That young passionate man she’d known growing up, the one who’d ran away from her, the one who’d made her give up everything. He was fading every night. She closed her eyes sometimes and couldn’t remember his smile.
She cleared her throat and forced a smile.
“Of course,” she said though she could hear her answer had no strength, no straight conviction. She looked away from those dark brown eyes. “He’s my fiancé.”
“It’s a pity,” Derek said, his tone low.
She turned to look at him but he was already getting up. He held out a hand to her.
“Come on, you should at least try and stretch out for the next hour or so. We have a hard journey ahead.”
She took his warm hand and he tugged her to her feet in one smooth move. He really was strong. He let go of her and walked into the house without a backward glance. The disappointment she felt at his departure surprised her.
Back in the guest room, she drifted into a fitful sleep. She woke up at three to the sound of movement in the living room and the kitchen. There were men talking, their voices low.
Jade sat up as she realized Derek’s team was preparing for their long journey.
Wiping a hand down her face, she reached for her cell phone. She found messages from both Tao and Julie, wishes for a safe journey and to call them when they got on the road. She placed the phone on the bedside table without answering the messages. She’d call them at a more decent hour.
Rallying her sleepy body, she went into the bathroom for a shower.
“Wow, who helped you with the food supplies?” Tim Bragar asked, studying the neat plastic containers on the kitchen table.
“Jade,” Derek said, remembering how determined she’d been to finish making the sandwiches.
“Jade Sang, as in the client’s fiancé?” Tim studied him.
Derek ignored the blue gaze on him went instead to the freezer where Jade had made him place Geri cans of water. They were frozen now, but in the coming hours, they’d melt under the heat in the North. He turned to place two of the five-liter containers on the table beside the sandwich containers.
Tim leaned on the counter sipping coffee. “How pretty is she?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” he asked with a scowl.
Tim chuckled. “You know, my friend, women are your big weakness. How hot was it last night?”
“Nothing happened, she’s not that type of woman,” Derek said glaring at his best friend.
He’d known Tim for ten years. The man was brilliant when it came to tactical solutions in the field, but the blonde-haired buffoon leaning on his counter was a pain in the ass when it came to personal solutions.
“Can you try and act like gentleman with her, Tim? I don’t want her to think we’re barbarians or something.”
Tim whistled. “Say that again, boss. I didn’t quite hear you the first time.”
“Bragar,” he said with a warning glance.
Tim chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, the pigs are flying outside if you’re asking me to act like a gentleman on the road. This Jade Sang must be some kind of woman.”
Derek sighed giving up on setting Tim straight. He’d just have to watch out for Jade through their journey. He sighed when he caught sight of the time on the microwave.
“Will you get these to the car? I have to make sure she’s up. We should be on the road in the next ten.”
“Sure, boss,” Tim said pushing off the counter.
“I’ll get the rest of the ammunition from the basement,” Derek said as he turned to leave the kitchen. “We have to be extra prepared for this one.”
Tim nodded. There was no need to explain. Having Jade with them meant they needed extra precaution.
Derek left the kitchen and turned down the corridor headed to the bedrooms. He was glad to see the guest room light on, though he couldn’t be sure. Jade hadn’t slept much. He knocked on the door softly and was surprised when Jade opened the door.
“I’m up,” she said moving back into the room.
She was also dressed in light brown cargo pants and a sleeveless white top. She pulled on a light white shirt that she left unbuttoned. Her hair was tied in a neat ponytail. She looked ready to face the heat. She’d been up for a while too since the bed was made, and her trusty bag sat in the middle already packed.
“Am I late?” she asked as she sat on the neat bed to wear brown hiking shoes.
He’d worried for nothing. She seemed quite prepared in terms of clothing. The woman seated on the bed hardly looked delicate. Instead, she seemed seasoned, as if she’d faced worse situations.
“Not at all,” he said. “We have eight minutes before we get going. Did you get any sleep?”
“Some,” she said finishing with her shoes. She sat up to meet his gaze, “and you?”
Her light brown eyes fascinated him. There were slight shadows under them, proof she’d barely rested. He made a note to ensure she fell asleep in the first leg of their journey.
“I slept enough,” he answered her question. “There is coffee in the kitchen. Don’t mind the men, they’re friendly.”
She nodded and got up. He couldn’t help noting how the white cotton fabric of her t-shirt clung to her petite body. She wore a silver chain on her neck that disappeared under her t-shirt. He wanted to walk over and tug it out, find out what she kept so close to her heart. He berated his wandering mind and turned to leave before he did something stupid.
“Thanks,” she said.
He paused to look at her.
“For what?” he asked.
“Letting me stay here,” she said waving her left hand to indicate the room. “You have a lovely home. It was kind of you to let me stay the night.”
He didn’t want her thanks. He wanted a chance with her, but she was quite unavailable. It annoyed him. “Go get some breakfast, Jade.”
He left the guest room quickly determined to get to Daadab as fast as possible. The faster he got Jade Sang out of his life, the better. He could return to building a deck in the east side of the house instead of worrying about a pint-sized woman who had no sense of preservation.
How could she love a man who clearly cared nothing for her?
To be continued…