The watch on Lena Sardel's wrist beeped and she raised a hand to push a button on the side. It gave her enough light to see that it was nearly midnight. She looked around her nervously and then pulled her coat in tighter around her body. She was cursing her best friend for inviting her to this awful party as well as cursing her car for dying in the middle of nowhere. It really hadn't been, but it felt like it as she walked along the dark streets alone. Every sound, every shadow made her jump and she swallowed the lump in her throat. She hadn't wanted to be here, it hadn't been her intention. She'd planned to attend her friend's party, have a few laughs, drink a few glasses of whatever was given to her, then head home. It had gone as planned...until her car sputtered to a stop halfway home. Lena flattened herself to a wall, keeping the shadows, as the sound of footsteps came from behind her. She didn't move, hardly even breathed, as another person walked past her and continued on their way. She relaxed and realized that there had been no danger there. She was just being paranoid about everything. It came from growing up in a very small town where nothing ever happened to anyone. And everyone in town knew everyone else. As she thought about this, her mind switched from nightmarish thoughts to those of home. She remembered her grandmother's pies and Sunday dinners with half the town. Those were the days. Perhaps I'll call Mama when I get home. Lena pushed off the wall and started on her way again. "Come on Jimmy, I told you what would happen if you double-crossed me. I don't like it. Now look, I need to know what you did with those books. If you don't tell me, why I'll be upset and you wouldn't want me upset, would you?" "N-no sir, I sure wouldn't. But it's like this. I, well, I don't remember where I put the books. That's all. I just need a few days to clean up my apartment and find them." "Jimmy...Jimmy, look at me. Do I look like I have a few days? Of course not, because I don't have a few days. I need those books now...like yesterday." Lena swallowed as she heard voices coming from an alley she was approaching. It was dark except for one small light she assumed was coming from a flashlight or similar tool. Slowly, she crept up to the trash cans and peered around. She had always been on the lookout for a story that she could write up for the paper and get paid for. Perhaps this was one of those times. She saw two men holding onto a third man slumped over and a fourth man standing in front of him. She swallowed slowly as she realized that this wasn't just a normal occurrence and that these men meant business. "Sorry Boss, I don't have them. The best I can do is bring you to my place and let the boys go through it." "Alright Jimmy. You got yourself a deal there. Boys, take Jimmy to his place and look around. See if anything jogs his memory." As the men left the alley, she ducked down even more, watching them go. She let out a sigh of relief when she was alone and slowly stood up. Her hand reached for her cell phone when her mouth was covered from behind, stopping any sound coming from it. Her eyes widened in fear as she realized she'd been stupid and forgotten about "Boss" still being in the alley. She added cursing herself for this folly to her list of the night. "You're not gonna scream, are you little lady? You know what will happen if you make any noise at all." "Boss" then placed a knife upon her neck, just enough to let her feel it. Lena quickly nodded her assent and shut her eyes, praying that she would make it out of this alive. "There's a smart girl. Now, would you like to tell me what you were doing down there?" Lena thought a moment as he pulled his hand away from her mouth and she turned to face him. She could lie and say she'd lost a contact lens, or she could be honest and tell him that she'd been listening in on their conversation. Neither one of those choices granted her much in the way of freedom, but she never liked lying to anyone, even a criminal. "I was walking home when I heard voices. I ducked behind the cans to avoid interrupting. I-I only heard a little bit. Honest. Please, let me go. I can...pay you." She made a move to open her purse and the knife was brandished yet again in her direction, so she stopped. "Boss" was shaking his head and watching her. Lena didn't like the way he was looking at her either and shivered under his scrutiny. "You know, it's too cold to be standing around out here like this. Come on, my car is around back. It wouldn't be gentlemanly of me to let you walk home alone, now would it? Besides, I don't want to kill such a pretty woman." He held out his hand to her as he put the knife away. There was nothing Lena could do except take his hand and go where he took her. She would die if she tried to run away, she was sure of this. When they reached a sleek black sedan, she sighed and looked over her shoulder at the man holding onto her. What was he, mafia? She had thought that was a dead profession, but perhaps she had just believed it because she wanted to believe it. She sighed again and got into the car at his insistence. When he sat beside her, she turned her head to look at him. "Am I allowed to know the name of my escort? I am Lena Sardel." She didn't really expect him to tell her his real name, but any name would be better than calling him "Boss" which is the only thing she had to go on. "I suppose I could give you that one, Lena. My name is Paul Hendal. What were you doing on the streets at this time of night anyway? Alone, no less." Lena rolled her eyes and huffed softly. What was it with men these days? Did they really not think a woman could take care of herself without one of them around? Well, apparently in this situation, having a man with her would have helped, but any other time she would have been just fine. "I was at a friend's party and my car broke down on the way home. I was walking the rest of the way. What about you, Paul? Why were you on the streets at this time of night?" Lena figured if he could ask it, so could she. If he was going to kill her, she hoped he would have done it already. It had to mean something if he had brought her with him, right? As she waited for his answer, she took her time to study Paul in the light from the streetlamp. He was tall, she knew that from when he'd walked her to the car, but he was also ruggedly handsome. Strange that she would think about her "kidnapper" in such a manner, but it was true. She guessed he stood about six-foot-one or so and even though she couldn't see much of his body, her mind told her he was fit and could strangle her if he chose to. This kept her behaving as she sat beside him in the car. In the light, it appeared he also had dark hair and she hadn't been able to see what color eyes he had, but she felt determined to find out before they parted ways. "Why am I out at this time? Because sometimes one's meetings can't be done when we wish them to be and thus I must take to meeting when I can." Lena rolled her eyes and looked out the window, thinking it a lame excuse. It also solidified her thoughts that he was in the mafia. How many other guys would be out so late in a dark alley, threatening someone about "books"? How many other guys are called "Boss" in such a way? She worked with several guys, but none of them had ever used that title, even in jests. No, there was something definitely not right with this man and if she ever found out, it could make a wonderful story for the paper. "Your name is pretty. Lena, like a princess. Would you like me to drive you home, Lena?" Her head whipped around so fast that it hurt and she winced. Had he just offered to drive her home? Why had he done that? To say that she hadn't expected it was putting it lightly. She bit her lower lip slightly as she tossed this back and forth. The advantages would be not having to walk home in the dark the rest of the way or dealing with fear anymore tonight. However, the disadvantage would be that he would then know where she lived and could do whatever he wished whenever. She swallowed, thinking about all of this. Paul used this time to examine her as she had done to him. He had, of course, known that she was looking at him before, so he simply returned the favor. He hadn't been lying when he said that she was pretty. He guessed that she stood about five-foot-four or somewhere around there. Her hair was a hard color to distinguish in the ill lighting, but he wagered that it was a chestnut red color. Her personality matched that hair color. She had paler skin than he had, but that didn't matter much to him. What mattered was what he was going to do with her. The offer to drive her home had been unlike him. An impulse. Normally he would never have shown himself to her and threatened that if she ever told anyone what she saw he'd kill her. With this one, however, he'd been unable to stop himself from turning her around to face him. He'd caught a glimpse of her hair and turned her. Now he had to decide what to do about her. If he let her go, he ran the risk that she would squeal to the cops and he didn't want, or need, that. If he kept her, he would constantly be watching her to make sure she didn't run to the cops. He sighed and ran a hand through his seal brown locks, eyes focused on hers as he waited for her to answer. "You don't really need to do that, Paul. I'm sure I'll be fine." She stopped the groan that started in her throat at the waver in her voice as she spoke. It scared her to walk home alone now. If he had been anything else but a mobster, she would have gladly accepted his invitation to drive her home. "No, no. I insist. I couldn't, in good conscience, let you walk home alone now. Let me give you a lift. I'll drop you off a block from your place." He had sensed the reason for her reluctance and went with it. "Oh, uhm, thank you Paul. That would be lovely. It is cold outside tonight and your car is...warmer." "Good choice, Lena. I knew you were a smart one when I saw you back there. George, drive on. Where to, my dear?""To 46th Street, please." Lena would have him stop two blocks away from her apartment instead of the one. She hoped that by doing this she would throw him off from finding her if he decided to keep tabs on her. Paul motioned for his driver to drive to 46th Street and then he looked at Lena. "I guess you're wondering why I was asking about books? I'll tell you. I'm a librarian. Seriously. That guy hasn't brought his books back for over a month now. You understand I'm just trying to keep the library from losing some of its great books." Paul could tell that she didn't believe him one bit, but at least it was a conversation starter. Lena picked up on that part of it and started to talk with him. "Oh, was that all that was? Guess my imagination was running away with me again. I thought you were a mobster beating a man for holding evidence against you." Lena looked straight at him, daring him to speak to her about what she had seen. Perhaps she shouldn't have, but it was said and there was no talking it back now. She would have to roll with it and take what may come. Paul raised a brow at her boldness and then one side of his mouth quirked into a smile. This vixen had spirit, he had to give her that. He hadn't met many women who stood up to him, but they had known who, and what, he was from the start. This little one had no idea that she had hit the nail right on the head with her assumption. He sighed and shrugged. "Guess so. What do you do for work?" "I'm a scientist. I study the lowest forms of life on the planet. Care to volunteer?" Lena blushed as she said it, turning her head quickly lest he see it. Where had THAT come from? Placing her head in her palm, she sighed and closed her eyes. She was making a complete fool out of herself and for some reason she couldn't, or didn't want to, stop herself. "Well now, that was a little harsh, don't you think? I mean, I'm giving you a ride home and I haven't even made a pass at you, not that I don't want to, but all I get from you are snide remarks like that? Quite unfair I'd say." Paul was smiling to himself though. There was no settling this woman and he liked it. It stirred his blood and made him thirst for more of it. This had not happened in a long time, but he didn't want to examine it right now. He needed to get her out of his system. Now. Before things got out of control. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. I'm just tense and on edge tonight. You have been nothing but kind. I'm a writer. Or at least an aspiring one. I haven't been able to get published yet, but it doesn't stop me from writing. I've been able to make enough to live on by writing for the newspapers freelance." Paul raised a brow at this and lifted his head. He guessed that to be the reason she'd been hiding behind the trash cans. Had she planned to do a story on him and his boys? He thought about that and wondered how much she had really seen and heard. Enough to write an article? Perhaps he should keep her under his eye for a bit. The car came to a slow stop at the curb and Paul looked over at Lena. After she left his car, that would be it. He needed her phone number or her address so that he could watch what she did. He held out a piece of paper. "May I have your phone number? I'd like to call in a few days to make sure you got home alright." Lena stared at the paper and then back at Paul. She moistened her lips and wasn't sure if she wanted to give him her number, but he seemed genuine about wanting to make sure she was alright. She took the paper and wrote down her phone number, then handed it back to him. "You seem like a nice guy, Paul. Perhaps we'll catch up in a few days and go out to lunch or something. Thank you for the ride home. You saved me a cold walk." Lena opened the door to get out when her hand was grabbed by Paul and she looked at him, startled. "It's no problem, really. I would like that, going out for lunch with you." Then, before she could resist, he pulled her close to him and lowered his lips to hers. Lena was completely thrown for a loop and froze for a moment before responding to his masculine kiss, allowing her arms to drift up to and around his neck. Her body felt as if it were on fire immediately and she melted in his embrace. Again before she knew it, the kiss was over and he was waiting for her to get out of the car. Lena numbly stepped out of the car, looked at Paul once more and then made her way to the sidewalk. She walked as if in a daze, not even noticing that Paul's car was following her the two blocks to her apartment. Fumbling with her keys, she unlocked the main door and stepped inside. She leaned back against the door, regaining her composure before heading up the three flights of stairs. She unlocked the door marked 304C and walked inside. After locking the door behind her, she made her way into the living room and turned her lights on. Sitting on the couch, Lena's mind began to run through everything that had happened that night and pick out the good and bad parts. Her fingers moved to her lips and she could still feel Paul's own lips there. It had not been her first kiss, but it had felt like it. He'd had such passion, such power, and she'd let him go. Closing her eyes, she smiled softly to herself and sighed. Click. Lena's eyes shot open at the sound and met with darkness. When had she fallen asleep? Well, it wasn't like it mattered now. What mattered was that someone was in her apartment and she couldn't see a darn thing. "Who's there?" Lena sat up and looked around the dark apartment. When had the light gone out? She knew she had turned it on when she'd come home. Why wasn't it working anymore? Swallowing to wet her suddenly dry mouth, she looked around again as her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. A shiver went down her spine and she knew that whoever it was that had entered her apartment was standing beside her. Her eyes closed and she breathed a slow breath. A calmness flowed over her and she had no idea why, but even when her head was pulled back she didn't struggle. "You're a dangerous woman, Lena. Too dangerous." With those words, she raised her arms and reached for Paul. Somewhere between the kiss in the car and now she had come to want him with equal passion and power that he'd had in that first kiss. She didn't care what he was or what he did, she only cared about him and it was a very strange feeling. Lena didn't even protest when Paul picked her up off the couch and held her against his hard body. When his mouth came down upon hers once more, she sighed and melted against him again. Her legs moved of her own accord as she led him into her bedroom, not even bothering with the lights. When the back of her legs met the bed, she pulled her mouth away from Paul's and tried to look into his eyes. "I was dreaming about you and here you are." "Yes, and here I will stay." Paul then kissed her yet again, his hands removing each article of clothing they each wore. As they lay together as one, Lena felt as if she were making love for the first time again. Never before had she imagined a lover as wonderful as Paul was and she guessed that she would never again feel this way with anyone else. Hours later, when both were tired and sated, Lena looked back at the odd turn of events and decided that she had never been so glad to meet this man for she knew that he would always be something special to her. These thoughts remained with her even after Paul had slipped out of the apartment while she lay sleeping in the bed. Two days later, she was eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast when she opened the newspaper and saw the headline. The food caught in her throat and she stared at the words upon the paper. HIGH MOB BOSS KILLED IN RAIDNever again would she feel his lips upon hers or his arms around her. She had only one night with Paul, but that did not matter. It had been special. Reading the words before her, she mourned in her own silent way and not a tear was shed. He had known what life he led and what may come of it. He had taken the risks and at least he'd had a little bit of happiness before the end. Lena stood up and took her bowl to the sink, rinsed it, then left her apartment to head off to work with a grin. So long, Paul.