Well, I’m working my way through the typeset and enjoying how Aeron’s story looks as it will in print (and on eBook) which is very exciting. I’m hoping to get the book out to you before Christmas…
Also, I realised that Hayefield Manor got an honorable mention in the Rainbow Awards, hurray!
My thoughts: Well, this scene has a lot of tasty snippets in it which hopefully you’ll enjoy reading. Although The Whistleblower is on my site for free, I had to factor in any readers that hadn’t read Susan’s story so trying to give you the background was a challenge. Hopefully, if you like the series, you enjoy the way Aeron’s story inadvertently tells other stories along the way…
Full Circle exclusive.
Copyright © 2018 Jody Klaire.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the author and publisher.
Please note: all scenes are the intellectual property of the author and that online exclusive scenes may differ from the published version.
Renee sat in the room that she and Aeron had stayed in while they were undercover helping Frei take on Sven. She was drawn straight back to the room and her heart eased when she lay on the smooth cotton sheets.
She needed the comfort because the breadcrumb pieces only played the same message over and over when she put them together and she was stuck.
There’d been no contact from Hartmann and Frei hadn’t heard a word from Theo since they got to the Eis estate. It bothered Frei more than she let on but Renee couldn’t figure out if it was because things were frosty between them or whether Frei was annoyed that Theo had thought she wouldn’t try her best to help his brother. The little conversation she could get out of Frei seemed to show that she was struggling with freedom or struggling to forget her own captivity.
Renee threw the breadcrumbs in a pile at her feet and slumped against the headboard. Institutionalized. She sighed. Yes, Frei was institutionalized like Aeron in many ways.
“Renee?” Jessie poked her head in while knocking the door. “We need you for another round.”
Renee groaned. “I think my feet are pruned enough.”
Jessie laughed, exactly like Frei, and in the warm sunlight through the window she was Frei.
“What?” Jessie looked around her.
“You’re so much like your mom.” Renee held up her hands expecting a full teenage groan but Jessie beamed like it was the ultimate compliment. It was. It truly was.
“Hope so.” She turned then dropped to prone, locksmith style, then mock pounced two kittens who were diving at her. “Not so fast, furballs.”
Renee chuckled. “Hi, Samson; hi, Worthington.” She smirked as the kittens bounced over Jessie’s head and clambered up onto the bed beside her. “I see you approve of your new place?”
They meowed back. Samson cuddled up on her lap while Worthington clawed her way up and down Renee’s thigh.
“Ow, ow,” she muttered as Jessie perched on the bed, gaze on the breadcrumb pile.
“These your dad’s?” Jessie asked, intelligence pouring from her eyes.
“Yeah, I only can get one section of his statement. I think I need to put them together different ways to get a new one but it’s not working.” Renee stroked Worthington as she flumped down with a contented sigh. “I’m not really an expert.”
Jessie picked them up, with deft fingers, paying them as much respect as she could. “Maybe the metal section here moves?” She played with it. “Most of them pieced together probably make up the reading device but the crumb with the file on could move in some way.”
Renee smiled. “Any idea which one?”
“I can take a look.” Jessie nodded to her then got up, then turned, then sat back down. “How did you know you loved Aeron?” She locked her gaze on the breadcrumbs again. “I mean, that’s probably personal… I forget that people take offense.”
“I’m not taking offense, you can ask.” She trailed her fingers through Samson’s fur. “I knew the moment I set eyes on her but discounted it or tried to.”
“Yeah but… how’d you know it was love?” Jessie picked up the breadcrumbs slipping into awkward teenager mode.
“I watched her play the violin. I’d been really mean to her because she wasn’t easy to deal with in Serenity and… well… with the feelings and what happened to me before… she scared me.” Renee tucked her hair behind her ears. “I was really scared.”
“So, like… if you’ve been hurt and stuff… it’s harder to understand if it’s love, right?” Jessie slotted the breadcrumbs together with ease. “I mean… it takes a while?”
“Love goes at its own pace.” Renee cocked her head. “Your mom goes at her own pace.”
Jessie blushed, then inserted the remaining breadcrumb, the cute spider-shaped device replayed the same message she’d heard over and over. “You heard that one, huh?”
Renee nodded. “You didn’t mean your mom?”
“No. I know who she loves even when she doesn’t.” Jessie glanced at the door. “It’s just… Can you look at someone… and then like… well… realize they look… you know… I mean… you feel like… you know.” She slipped out the breadcrumb and flicked the metal around.
“Yes, definitely.” Renee did her best to hide her smile. “Miroslav making you feel something?”
Jessie blushed so much she stuck her head in her top. “I’m just glad Susan doesn’t stick me in the tub. I dunno how I’d explain.” She blew out a long breath and fussed with her bushy hair. “What you said… about it being okay… that helped.”
“I’m glad.” Renee fussed Worthington’s fur between the cutest ears. “Does he like you back?”
Jessie shrugged and flicked the breadcrumb around, examining it. “I dunno… I don’t… I think so… I mean… it feels like he gets it then he doesn’t and like… well… messes up the moment…”
“Sounds like someone familiar.” Renee chuckled and shook her head. “She took a while to understand and I can’t say I didn’t help her along a bit.”
It wasn’t hard to fall in love over and over with her. When she was awake, Aeron’s gentle presence painted everything around her with calm and joy. Her smile could ease every tension from Renee’s heart but when she slept she looked as innocent and sweet as she was inside.
The dim light from a lamp in the corner of the room gave her smooth skin a flawless complexion. She’d been shivering and crying in the bathroom after being overloaded at dinner. Being undercover was hard for the most experienced of agents, being undercover in Sven’s estate and charged with protecting Frei was painfully so. The strain was showing for them both but Aeron, with her beautiful heart and extra blessings, carried such a huge weight.
Renee stroked a finger over Aeron’s sculpted cheek, feeling the sheer relief of just touching her. She’d pecked Aeron on the lips at dinner to break her mood, not sure why, but now it replayed over and over in her mind.
Renee sighed and went to climb out of bed but Aeron pulled her back, closer, vulnerability etched on her face.
“Alright, dimwit,” she murmured and kissed Aeron on the cheek. “I’m only moving because… because it’s getting too hard to hide… I like being close to you.” She sighed. Aeron slept deeply so there was no way she could hear. Renee had tested that many times, had thrown water over her once, but Aeron woke up when she was good and ready to.
Aeron’s lips parted and Renee groaned to herself.
“I swear you’re trying to torture me, you know that?” She prodded Aeron in the shoulder. “It’s…” Aeron chuckled, mid-sleepy breath, and cwtched into her until their faces were too close, lips too close.
Renee whimpered. It was unbearable. It… she leaned in and brushed her lips to Aeron’s. Electricity rippled its way through to her fingertips. She pressed her lips to Aeron’s more firmly. Felt more than electric, felt… oh so awesome.
She gripped Aeron’s face. “I love you.”
Aeron brushed her lips back, unconscious, responding automatically somehow.
Renee pulled Aeron’s face downward and Aeron moved, instinctively, over her, and eased her hands either side of the pillow.
“Black,” Frei muttered from the doorway.
Renee jumped and shot out from underneath Aeron, clattering her thigh on the nightstand. “What,” she hissed back.
Frei stood in the doorway to her room with her arms folded. “Kissing her while she’s sleeping is cheating.”
Renee stomped over and closed the door to her room before Aeron did wake up. “I was…” She blew out a long breath. “Give me a break, Urs, I love her. You have any idea how hard it is to be patient… just in case she might like me.”
“Black, she’s crazy about you.” Frei rolled her eyes. “But you still can’t go kissing her when she’s sleeping.” She shook her head and motioned to her lamp. “You blew my desk lamp as it is.”
“We did?” She stared at it. “Oh.” She rubbed at her lips. “How did it blow the lamp?”
“I don’t know but my laptop was starting to whir and it’s not even on.” Frei managed a small smile. “It helps if my electrical equipment is in one piece.”
Renee chewed on her lip. “It does.” She ran her hands through her hair. “I’m sorry… I’ll… I’ll go sleep on the sofa.”
Frei nodded. “Probably a good idea. How would you feel if she kissed you when you were sleeping?”
“I’d love it.” She smirked. “Then I could kiss her back and show her how much more fun it is when I’m awake.”
Frei shook her head. “Get back to bed and stop dribbling on your junior officer.”
Renee saluted with a wink. “Ma’am.”
“Noooo?” Jessie snorted, twirling the breadcrumb through her fingers. “Didn’t Mom tell Aeron to kiss you when you were sleeping?
“Yeah.” Renee chuckled as the kittens grumbled at her and relocated to Aeron’s side of the bed. “Your mom is sneaky.”
“And some.” Jessie widened her eyes in that teenage mock “duh” combined with shocked look. “I kinda thought you guys got it together in Caprock.” She tried a different angle with the breadcrumbs but nothing. “I mean, we all kinda thought you were.”
“You did?” Renee leaned forward onto her knees. “Even though we were bickering?”
“Yeah,” Jessie smiled. “Although, we did kinda wonder what was going on between Mom and Aeron sometimes.” She winced. “Sorry.”
“I wondered too and got jealous…” She sighed. She hadn’t enjoyed experiencing Aeron’s ability to feel emotion especially around teenagers.
“Yeah. I got mad Miroslav was talking to one of the girls…” Jessie sighed and flicked the breadcrumb in another way. “He didn’t get it.”
The device whirred.
“I met the POIs out in France because they were certain that Gossett had stolen their baby. I know you were grieving now but I just didn’t see it, and I know now that the way you were so set on bringing Gossett to justice was partly down to that; the rest is because you are, without doubt, the best soldier I have ever had the honor of working with. I mean that. I know you’ll wave it off but I mean it.”
Jessie raised her eyebrows. “Your dad.”
Renee nodded and leaned forward. “Great work.”
“You wanted to get Gossett and I wanted to show you I could be the kind of officer you saw in me. The POIs were called Pacemaker and Corporal but we only managed to pull out Corporal. Pacemaker got captured, do you remember?”
Renee stared at the breadcrumb. “Pacemaker?”
“Hey, Susan keeps circling that when she writes her notes.” Jessie ruffed up Samson’s belly fur.
“That’s because Pacemaker was an inmate that Gossett tortured—He’s not really her father either but abducted her.” Renee pulled out her cell phone and hit record. “Corporal is Susan’s mother… we think.”
“So, your dad was helping Susan’s mom?” Jessie raised her eyebrows. “He was trying to help them find Susan?”
Renee nodded. “Could have been.”
“But, I know you missed how Pacemaker put herself between the guards and us to make sure we got to safety. I didn’t know what Bryan had gotten himself into when I went in. He’d fallen head over heels for Corporal to the point he didn’t care who knew.
Corporal had their baby but she kept going on about how Gossett must think that the baby was his and that he wanted to take her away. It didn’t make much sense to me but she named the baby after my mom for some reason and said I was some big hero.
Bryan stayed with her, that’s why he transferred out and not because he didn’t rate you like you thought. He lived with Corporal for a while and he thought he was in the clear but then some guy they called Bucher stole her. I don’t know how they knew it but Corporal said that he’d snuck in when she was resting and took Susan away.”
Jessie and Renee stared at each other.
“Susan’s dad was CIG,” Jessie mumbled then waved her hands around, then put them to her mouth. “Bucher… He… he hurt you… Your dad…”
Renee’s pulse pounded in her head. It made sense. Too much sense.
“Mom!” Jessie yelled it and hurried to the door. “Mom!”
“So, Bryan went crazy and he broke out Pacemaker thinking that it would get to Gossett somehow. Bucher was there and killed him but the POIs wouldn’t explain why he hadn’t shot them too. I thought maybe that we could win him around but Pacemaker told me there was no way. She kept saying he was a slave like them but I didn’t get that they really meant slaves.”
Frei hurried in with Jessie dragging her by the arm and met Renee’s eyes with worry in hers. “Pacemaker.”
“Pacemaker.” Renee hugged her knees. Her whole body shook. Her breaths were so hard to catch.
Frei climbed next to her and held on to Renee’s left shoulder “Your dad was helping Pacemaker?”
“Yeah, Susan… he was trying to help her and Corporal to find Susan.” Renee clung on. What was her dad doing helping a violent mentally unstable experiment? He should have taken her to a hospital or to Bess, not tried to help her find a vulnerable child. “Why would he be so stupid?”
“He was helping her find a child. I don’t get it.” Jessie climbed around the other side next to the kittens and held Renee’s right shoulder.
“Pacemaker was a Fury Fiend,” Susan whispered from the doorway. “I think… If I remember… she might have been his first successful experiment.”
They approached me when I was kinda drunk and you’d brushed me off like you always do so I was ready to prove to you that I was better than you thought.”
Jessie wrinkled up her mouth. “I’m guessing that means…?”
“Sounds like my dad was trying it on with Bess… and she had to put him back in line.” Renee peered through her fingers. “Oh, I hope my mom didn’t know that.”
“I know that Bucher got caught up with Hewitt because Hewitt had been the Fed on the case. His job was investigating the bodies of young women that had been found a few miles north of the institution but he hadn’t been happy to share information with the local police.
Looks like Hewitt got involved there and took money off Bucher to cover his tracks. That’s why Hewitt was always so slippery. He knew you wanted Gossett slammed in a cell.”
Frei scowled and pulled out her cell phone. “Fleming could really use that evidence.”
Jessie nodded. “I can help if she gets me into her computer.”
Renee gave them both a squeeze.
“Gossett was clear thanks to Hewitt and brought Susan back to The States but he kept Bucher close. My best guess is that Gossett had something on him but Pacemaker isn’t easy to get sense from. She’d only tell me Bucher had been experimented on like her.”
Renee glanced at Susan. “You need to cuddle too. Standing in the doorway is making me nervous.”
“Sorry,” Susan mumbled, wide-eyed. It was clear she was trying to remember something, her eyes flicking to and fro but then they would go blank and she’d blink and start again.
“Hug Jessie,” Renee muttered.
Susan wandered over and Jessie moved the snoozing kittens for her.
“It took years to track down Susan. I’d always get to a place and meet the POIs there but Gossett would catch on somehow and move before we could reach Susan enough she’d come with us. Whatever Gossett had done to Susan, she could never remember her mom to start but then she’d slowly catch on. I wanted to grab her and go in my usual hotheaded way but her mom, Corporal, told me that she would be trained to tell Gossett where she was and leave him messages. It was too risky but they wouldn’t tell me why for the longest time.”
Susan rubbed at her forehead. “I don’t remember. I’m sorry. I don’t remember this man or my mother…” She gripped her head. “Why can’t I remember?”
“Corporal did manage to start helping her though, place by place, year by year, we slowly reached her and I used the breadcrumbs you came up with and our old code so that Susan could leave messages to herself and recognize it. We worked out that if we used the technique you did for training recruits to remember subliminally during combat, then Susan would gradually put the escape plan into place herself.
It took patience and you know I don’t have a lot of it. Pacemaker was more than crazy. I know I told you some of what she was like but there were more than a few times when I’d check in and she’d want to take out the mail guy or beat someone. I nearly turned her in too, especially when some criminal tried to break in. She’d done some damage to the guy, enough he couldn’t walk. Made me sick to the stomach but Corporal always said that it was her scars.”
Susan raised her eyebrows. “I…” She blinked several times. “I moved a lot…” She met Renee’s eyes. “I… I wrote my own notes to myself?”
Frei stared at the breadcrumb as it whirred again. “I know you found notes. I know that the more you read them, the more you were confused then remembered a different childhood to what you knew before, then you stopped taking your medication.”
Renee couldn’t speak. Tears were dribbling off her chin. She didn’t know if she was proud of her dad for trying to help or she wanted to throttle him. Why didn’t he tell someone? He’d told Bess about Pacemaker on the mountain but why not before?
“Bess can’t remember a lot either,” Jessie mumbled rubbing both Renee and Susan’s shoulders. “Maybe there’s a reason she can’t.”
Frei nodded. “I would guess they fed Bess the medication.” She sighed and leaned into Renee. “But we know why Bucher knew who you were.” She rubbed Renee’s back. “And why Hewitt is on our tail… that gives us something to work with.”
Jessie crawled off the bed and took the breadcrumbs. “Can I see if I can get the files off these?”
Renee nodded, rubbing face in her tee.
“Mom, if you call Fleming, I know what I’m looking for.” Jessie set her jaw. “I say we use a slave owner tactics back on them.”
“What tactic?” Susan mumbled. “I need to continue my experiments.” Her eyes went blank. “I need you both to help.”
Renee chewed on her wobbling lip. “Target what’s precious to draw out the treasure.”
Frei tensed beside her.
“Sorry, Mom.” Jessie smiled, gentle, sweet. “If Hewitt has anything to do with Aeron going missing, I can find it in his files.”
Frei met Renee eyes and her icy blues filled with confidence, reassurance and strength. “I’ll call Fleming.”
Renee nodded. “Tell Abby why,” she mumbled to Jessie. “I know she’ll do everything she can but if she knows how much it hurt me too…” She shrugged. “It’ll give her the push she needs to show how good an agent she is.”
“You got it.” Jessie pulled Susan by the hand. “Come on, Pickles, I can’t electrocute people without you.”
“You should go with them,” Renee murmured to Frei, rubbing fresh tears away.
Frei shook her head. “I’m needed for cwtches.”
Renee turned, buried her head in Frei’s shoulder, and let out the sobs in one desperate blurt. Her dad had been helping to find Susan and it had seen him killed but why were Hewitt and Gossett so set on hurting Aeron too?