Photo: aleshin - Fotolia.com

Photo: aleshin – Fotolia.com

Pairing: Jack/Irina
Summary: When Jack and Irina meet again after she has escaped, there is nothing but hate and desire between them. It’s a struggle of who is more powerful… but as time goes by both of them have to admit that the feelings they have go far beyond desire.
How hard is it to overcome hate, how impossible to forgive betrayal and how much does love cost, when there are two enemy countries standing between lovers?

Author’s Note: This story “21st Century Juliet” is UNFINISHED and will not be finished in the foreseeable future. If you want to use your own fantasy and finish it, go ahead! Just keep my name with the first 9 parts, please. Also please send me a message, so that I can read it!

 

Attention
This is one of my older stories written before 2006. My style in this story differs greatly, due to lack of experience. One of these days, if I get the time, I plan on revising these older stories thoroughly.

Until then, please excuse the many flaws, and rest assured, I know better now. ;) (Or at least I hope so.)

 


Part 1 – Game of Power (Rating PG-13)

„I told you to take care of him, so he won’t interrupt us! I did not tell you to bring him here!“

Irina Derevko was furious. In fact her reaction was far behind fury. Sark stepped back to bring a little distance between them.

„I didn’t know what to do! I thought…“

„Next time don’t think!“ her eyes pierced him. “Just carry out my orders! No interpretation of yours, understood?”

“Yes…” He watched her turning around. “Do you have any idea what I shall do with him now? Shall I kill him?”

Again she focused him. “Kill him? Sometimes I wonder why I hired you!” She slammed her fist to the table. Her head started to hurt and she tried to calm down by rubbing her temples lightly. “You won’t touch him! I will take care of him…” she decided.

“But… Irina, maybe…”

“Do I talk Chinese, or why don’t you listen to what I order you to do?” she asked and Sark knew that this was the best time to get out of her room if he wanted to prevent another attack of fury.

“Okay, I’ll take him… to the empty chamber in the cellar!”

Irina watched him leave the room and sank back to her chair. If she wanted something done it was best if she did it herself. She was tired of Sark’s interpretations of her orders. He made too many mistakes… mistakes that could cost their lives someday. Sure, he was a good assassin, but he was far too stubborn and childish. He acted out of his emotion and that could cause problems… just like now. What the hell had he been thinking bringing Jack Bristow to her hiding? He should know better than anyone that Jack was not the easiest guy to deal with.

She would have to search for a new place after they got rid off him. And she had to contact and warn him not to show up here.

+~+~+~

Jack Bristow woke up when he heard someone enter the room. He moaned and wanted to hold his head but found his hands cuffed to the bed. He opened his eyes and tried to recognize the person who was coming directly towards him now. Irina Derevko. His fury overwhelmed him immediately and gave him all his consciousness back.

“You!” he hissed and Irina looked at him.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t plan to kidnap you… unfortunately my asset likes to interpret my orders the way he likes to… here, drink that!”

He turned his head away when she held the glass to his mouth.

“I’m not trying to kill you! This will help you!”

“Did you drug me?” Jack snapped at her and she nodded.

“Yes… another one of those misinterpretations.”

She smiled at him and finally he drank the bitter liquid in the glass. She seemed right. He started to feel better almost immediately.

“You’ve betrayed the CIA… me! Again!” he dryly said and Irina lowered her eyes.

“Yes… I couldn’t tell you, Jack!”

“You used me the whole time!”

“That’s not true! Not really… I just didn’t give you all the information about my plan.” She looked at him.

“And what was your… plan?” The way he pronounced the word made clear, that he wasn’t willing to believe her.

“Rambaldi!” Irina turned the glass in her hand. “It was always about him. I turned myself in, in order to get the Rambaldi pieces of the CIA… and to access Echelon!”

Jack sank back and moaned. “So, Kendall was right! The whole time you had your own plans. You played a game with us, Irina! What was with the last night we shared? How was that part of your plan?” he threw the words bitterly at her and locked his eyes with hers.

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“It wasn’t!” she avoided his eyes. “I hadn’t planned this. Actually a lot happened that I hadn’t planned…”

He laughed ironically. “So, why did you kidnap me?”

“It was an accident!” she explained.

“So then… let me go!”

“I can’t… not right now. I just need everything prepared for my leave. I can’t just let you go now, Jack! You’d betray me and within an hour I’d be arrested in my cell again!”

“That’s where you belong!”

She smiled at him. “You’ve always thought about the CIA at first. You’ve never questioned their actions or methods!”

“That is not true!” he replied and shifted uncomfortably. His handcuffs didn’t leave him much freedom to move.
“Promise me to behave, Jack?” she asked and pulled out the keys of the handcuffs. He growled a “Yes” and she smiled.

“Good decision!” With these words she opened the cuffs and gave the key to him so he could get the of his hands. “Jack, I am really sorry about this… if you want, you can join me upstairs.”

“What about your asset… Sark? I’m sure he won’t be so thrilled to see me! There is a slight danger that I might kill him!”

She laughed. “Sark is not here. I sent him away… you can trust me Jack, I’m not setting you up!”

She got up and turned her back to him in order to go to the door. The next moment he grabbed her weapon and pulled her back. She cried out furiously and with a few moves she had freed herself out of his grip. She kicked the weapon out of his hand and slammed her fist into his stomach. Believing that he had enough she didn’t prepare for defense and so she was surprised when his fist hit her back. She stumbled back, her head spinning until she felt the cold stone wall behind her. Before she could move, he pressed her into the wall and she heard the clicking of the handcuffs. He had cuffed her to the old metal pipe in the corner of the room. Breathing heavily he stepped back and sank down onto the bed. His stomach hurt… no doubt, she was really strong. Damn her!

“You promised… to behave!” Irina gasped and tried to get free… without success.

“A promise made to you is worthless…” he answered coldly.

It was more an instinct that made him look at her. He saw her pulling a second, smaller gun out of her jeans with her free hand. He pounced on her and slammed her hand with the weapon against the wall. She cried out in pain and dropped the gun. It fell to the ground and he kicked it away, still pinning her hand to the wall.

“Bitch!” he uttered and she looked at him, her head leaning against the wall. “It was a mistake of you to tell me that you men are all gone!”

She tried to free herself and cried out in frustration. He leaned his forehead next to her face against the wall, still breathing heavily.

“You have a strong beat…” he managed to say. She had calmed down by now and leaned against the wall.

“So what now? Are you going to kill me?”

“I should… yes, I really should!” he answered looking at her. “But I want to see you spent the rest of your lifetime in prison!”

“Let’s discuss it… reasonable!”

When he heard her words, he almost started to laugh.

“Discuss? We’ve got nothing to discuss!”

She tried to free her hand and his grip tightened.

“Don’t even think about it…” he warned.

“So, what do you plan to do now? Pin me to this wall until the CIA finds us by fortune?”

The slight amusement in her voice caused fury to build up within him. He felt for his cell-phone. Of course, it was gone. She was not a fool, even if his kidnapping had been an accident.

“Well, fine by me! By the way, my guards will soon come and look for me if I don’t show up again!”

“Shut up!” he growled and thought.

She was right, he had to let her go… there was no way to get out of here without her. She shifted a little, her body lightly touching his – he flinched at the warmth of her body and cursed himself for doing so at the same moment. Of course she had noticed. She laid her head back against the wall. Her hair softly framed her face although it looked still a little tousled from their little fight. Damned, she looked irresistible to him, and obviously she knew that she did.

He had to bring distance between them… which was hard concerning the fact that he still held her against the wall.

Suddenly she lowered her face to his, their lips so close that they were almost touching.

“What are you thinking of?” she whispered against his lips.

Bitch, he thought. As if she didn’t knew what was going on in his mind. Well, two could play this game and thanks to her, he had a lot of practice in her little games.

“I was thinking…” he whispered back and paused a little. “…how stupid I was to ever believe, that you had some kind of dignity.”

He was satisfied when his words totally put her off. Her confusion was reflected in her eyes only a little moment, then she gained control over her feelings again.

“Oh… really.” Okay, so he wanted to play – fine by her. “So you think I don’t have dignity?”

Her eyes locked with his and he wondered whether they had always had that beautiful chocolate color.

“Obviously you don’t, just look at what you’re trying right now…” he forced himself to think rationally and focus.

“Really… well… I’m not the one pinning a weaker opponent to a wall!”

He had almost let go of her hand when he heard her words. Be careful, he reminded himself, she is very good at manipulating.

“Mmm… let me see. Weaker, huh? I remember that you kidnapped me, you threatened me with a weapon and I believe, that you do still have a knife or something and are just waiting for me to let you go in order to kill me then. So considering my protection I think it would be foolish of me to let you go!”

She laughed. “Well, you might be right… why don’t you have a closer look at me and take the weapon away?”

Damn it, two to one for her. He hadn’t see that one coming… although he should have considering whom he was talking to. She was trying to break down his properly built walls of rationalism.

“I could as well just take your gun and shoot you!” he reminded her but she shook her head smiling.

“I don’t think you’d do that!”

“Don’t you?”

“No… since you want to see me spend the rest of my life in prison!”

“Things can change within seconds!”

Why did the feeling come to him, that she was winning this game? She behaved as if she predicted every single word he said even before he knew he’d say it. Okay then, he thought, let’s give Ms Derevko a little surprise.

“That’s so true!” he answered and before she come up with another provocation, he silenced her with his mouth. His touch was not gentle, on the contrary. It was a mean to make clear that he was the one in power. Relentlessly he demanded entrance with his tongue.

She was totally overwhelmed and… yes, she had to admit it, shocked. Instinctively she tried to free her hand, but his grip tightened again.

Mental note: Never underestimate Jack Bristow again, she thought to herself and tried to force back the feeling of slight panic that started to come up deep within. She had meant to break down his walls, instead he had broken hers by catching her totally by surprise. She made a little sound trying to turn her head away from him and when he realized that she was only inches away from seriously panicing, he softened his kiss. Her panic made him see himself as winner of this game.

His loosened his grip on her hand a little and started to tenderly caress her palm with his thumb.

This sudden change put her off again. Panic, well… she had been trained to deal with it and it would have taken her only seconds to regain control. But now her panic changed into something else, much more powerful and intense which she knew she would not be able to fight long. Well, it was kind of her own fault. She had played with fire and should have been aware of the possibility to get burned.

She suddenly pulled her hand out of his in a last attempt to get free, but he seemed to have expected her to do so. Before she had even realized that her hand was free he had caught it again and entwined his fingers with hers.

Her resistance melted like ice in the sun and she moaned lightly into his mouth. He deepened the kiss and softly pressed her body to his with his free hand.
Red alert… the alarms in his head started to ring almost deafening. He was just before loosing his control. That had not been the plan. He had wanted her to loose control, not himself.

Abruptly he broke the kiss. She moaned at the sudden loss of his warmth, breathing heavily and her head leaning against the wall. He didn’t even think about holding her hand anymore, but let her go and stepped back to get a few meters distance between them

“Just for the record… I defeated you!” he noticed and hoped that his voice didn’t tremble… as his whole body did.

God, this was Irina Derevko, a terrorist and murderer. He shouldn’t be thinking about kissing her, but how to take her back into the next federal prison!

She looked at him and smiled slightly. “Yeah, I guess you did and I accept it! Could you open the cuffs now… please?”

“I’m not a fool!”

“No, obviously you’re not!” she growled, anger starting to build up inside of her that he had managed to make her loose all her ability to think reasonably. “But as I’ve already told you, my men will soon be looking for me and if they find me cuffed to this wall, they will shoot you without asking for further details!”

She had a point, provided that she was telling the truth.

“Okay, I will free you if you promise to neither kill nor threaten me!”

“Fine!”

He took the keys and opened the cuffs around her hand. Only one second later he regretted having done so. Before he had even realized what was happening she had closed the cuff around his hand and taken the key out of his hand. Then she stepped back, rubbing her palm and smiling triumphantly.

“Well, you better be nice from now on or you’ll spend the night cuffed to this tube!” she dryly noticed and wanted to turn around.

“You promised!” he hissed, his voice showing his fury and she smiled.

“Yes, I guess I did, but you’ve broken your promise before too.” She went to him and pressed a hard kiss to his lips. “Let’s just call it even, dear!”

Before he could say another word she left, slamming the door loudly close behind her.

~*~*~*~

“You okay?”

Irina didn’t even look at the man who was coming towards her as she came up from the cellar room. “I’m fine, thanks!”

“Any problems down there?”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle!” she snapped and almost ran the last steps up. She
crossed the small corridor and slammed the door to her private room behind her. Damn him, she thought and sank to the ground, her back leaning against the cool wood of the door. She was still trembling all over from this incredible kiss. She clenched a fist and slammed it against the door behind her.

He hated her, but he knew obviously what effects he could have on her, and he used those shamelessly. Okay, this time it had been her own fault, but next time she’d be more careful. This was her game and damn it, she would not loose it.

Well, then you better stay away from him since you still love him, she noted and shook her head at the same moment. No, she did not love that bastard. Well, maybe she had a little crush on him, but she was quite capable of handling her feelings… she had always been.

Exhausted, she sank onto her bed. For a moment she just stared at the blank white wall, then she curled up and hugged her knees. She was strong! She had always been and she would not let him defeat her!

*** One day when I was seven years old, I went out of my parents house, strolling along the streets of the little village we lived in. I remember, that it was a warm and sunny summer day. I passed by the shop in our village where they always had those delicious candies. All the girls in my class always had some and traded them… but I never got one. My parents didn’t allow me or my sister to eat candies. They said “Once you try one you want to eat more and more. You can’t want what you don’t know!” They were strict.

When I was looking through the window at those gorgeous candies that day, all I wanted to have was one. So I entered the shop and looked around a bit, but always focused at the candies.

And then I just took one. I stole it. It was the first time I’ve ever stolen and I had a hell of a bad conscience, but I finally had a candy to try. It wasn’t even as good as I had imagined, but at least I had tried one.

We lived in a small village and of course the owner of the shop knew me. When I came home that evening, my father had already waited for me. Without saying a single word, he grabbed me at my hair and pulled me out of the house, straight towards the barn.

I remember my mother running after us, crying and pleading him to not beat me, but he didn’t listen to her. And after he had shut the door behind us, he started to beat me.

I thought I’d be dying… I really did. I don’t know how long he continued slapping, punching and kicking me. He just yelled “You will never steal again or I’ll beat the living daylights out of you!” over and over and over again. And then finally he went away, just leaving me out there in the barn. I could taste my own blood and thought I was going to die.. in fact I wished for it. But I didn’t. Sometime in the night I finally found the strength to get up. I couldn’t really walk and I think I had some broken bones, but somehow I made it back to the house and when I entered it, I saw papa sitting at the table, laughing with a friend and drinking wodka as if nothing had happened. I have never questioned my love for my parents before, but suddenly at that moment I knew, that I hated him. That I would never ever allow anyone again to have more power than I have, because having more power than I do, means that this person is capable of hurting me.

My father just looked at me and so did his friend who knew, what had happened. Obviously they had been joking about it.

“Hey, stupid little girl… wanna have some wodka? It will help the pain!”

Of course they were making fun of me… they expected me to break down in tears, but I didn’t. I just went to them and took the full cup they offered me. I downed it in once and it took me all remaining strength to not spit it out again. I don’t know how, but I managed to keep an absolutely unemotional face. I knew that I had only two possibilities. Be weak and depend on my fathers or any other stronger people’s powers, or be strong and make my own rules, never letting anyone behave like they did again. I knew the only way for me and so I just pierced my father with my eyes. Then I slammed the cup back on the table and left the room.

“She’s tough! Not like any other girl I know!” I heard my fathers friend say, and I think I heard a little pride in my fathers voice when he answered something like “That’s my girl!”. I didn’t care. I didn’t want anyone to be proud of me anymore… except for myself. I promised to myself at that evening, that I would never again allow a man to be stronger, or more powerful than I was… or make me feel weak the same way as my father had done that evening. So I trained my strength, mental as well as physical and I found myself getting cold towards people. There were so many times when I felt alone and I can not count how many afternoons I spent lying in the forest near our house crying. But I am a survivor. I knew that I’d either get through with it, or sooner or later be broken down by someone who was stronger than me.

When I was nineteen I was observed by a man of our village. I didn’t even notice him, but he must have been watching me for about two hours doing my training. Finally he came to me and started chitchatting about all and nothing. It was a test. I knew from the moment I looked into his eyes that he knew exactly about what I was capable of.

And then out of a sudden he attacked me with a knife. It was not hard for me to overwhelm him and finally he was lying on the ground right under me.

Then he revealed to me that he was undercover agent for the KGB, looking for new assets. He had in fact been observing me for several weeks and he wanted to recruit me.
I answered no.

“I have been training that hard to never ever have anyone being more powerful than I am, again!” I explained to him and he just smiled.

“Just think about it, Irina. Of course you would have to take orders, but wouldn’t it be a great possibility for you to perfect your martial skills? Just look at it as training… your final training which will finally give you the strength you’ve been looking for!”

Of course he had just wanted to convince me to sign the contract, since once I was member of the KGB, they would never let me out again. But I loved the idea and so I signed a contract with the KGB to train myself. It was a hard training, sometimes I had moments in which I thought that I would never be able to get through with it.

I still don’t know how I survived all the lessons. The ones where I had to learn to suffer pain were the worst. I guess it was my strong will that kept me from breaking.

I remember a lesson when we were playing a scenario: I was caught by enemy agents and I was tortured for a certain information, a word – mine was ‘moon’. The rules were quite simple. We were not to say our special word, under no circumstances, although this word would end our torture immediately.

You know, the torture itself is not the hard thing. The worst thing is the thoughts before, the time when you see them taking out their instruments and explaining what they are going to do to you. That is a time, when seconds become days… and minutes turn into years. This special day we were training in bearing torture with fire. And when I saw them approaching me with the fire, a thought suddenly came to my mind: I was in hell. My parents had brought me up very religious and now I suddenly started to believe what they had told me. There was a hell… and I was right in it. There had to be angels who would come to rescue the people who really regretted, and for the first time in my live I actually prayed for an angel to come and waking me up from my horrible nightmare. No angel ever came to rescue me. I was all alone in the world, my only chance to survive was not to break down.

I was the only one who passed that lesson. All other recruits broke down and were finally willing to give the requested information, their special word, away… but I did not break. When they interrupted the torture to ask me for the information, I spitted into their faces.

I overcame my own fear of torture and pain and that was how my dream of power came true. Nobody can ever have power over you if you are not afraid of anything. It’s the fear that causes us to break and I finally erased that fear in my mind.

But I have never ever thought of the opportunity that my own heart could betray me and cause me to be vulnerable. You can fight and win against every man, no matter how much larger or stronger he is than you… but how do you win a battle against your own heart? ***

Irina hadn’t even been aware of falling asleep. A knock on the door startled her and within a second she was wide awake.

“Who’s there?”

She noticed the tears in her eyes, caused by the sudden remembrance of her past and wiped them away with the back of her hand.

“It’s me!”

Sark… of course! Who else had the guts to disturb her in her private room? She went to the minibar in the corner of her room and filled a glass with wodka.

“What’s up?”

“I just wanted to remind you that it’s time to get ready! The operation starts in about one hour!”

“I will be on time, thank you!” she replied coldly through the closed door and heard Sark walking away. She took the glass to her lips and finished it in one sip. Then she sank down onto a chair.

She wouldn’t cry! The last time she had cried had been the day of the torture lesson and she had made a vow to herself never to cry again. There was no use in crying. It couldn’t make things better, on the contrary. Crying would make her weaker and through the years she had learned, that nobody would come to help her. She had to rescue herself if she wanted to be safe.

Stop crying like a four year old, Derevko, she finally ordered herself and slammed the glass onto the table. It broke into pieces in her hand, the sharp glass cutting into her skin. Irina watched her blood running over her hand.

The pain brought her back to reality. She let go of the sharp pieces and went into her little bathroom, where she held her hand under the icy water and watched her blood be washed away. Then she wrapped a clean bandage around her palm and clenched a fist. It hurt, but it was definitely endurable.

Within fifteen minutes Irina had changed for her mission. She and Sark would go into the embassy where a reception would take place tonight. It was hold for a French politician who carried a disk with several files they needed in order to blackmail some of the highest French diplomats. It was a pretty easy operation and shouldn’t be a problem.

Irina looked at herself in the mirror. She wore a white dress which lay tightly around her waist like a second skin. On one side a long slit went up from the bottom almost to her thigh, which offered a nice look at her perfect leg when she walked. Her hair were pinned up and after she had pulled on her white high heels with the small straps around her ankle she looked very elegant and at the same time breathtakingly sexy.

She lifted her left food to a chair and fixed her gun to her thigh, just in case. She hated to not have any chance to defend herself on a mission.
Then she looked at herself in the mirror again. A thought crossed her mind. It was probably not a good idea, but she had to proof to herself, that she was strong enough to not let him touch her heart again.

Determined, she left her room to set off for the room where Jack Bristow was held.

~*~*~*~

His eyes reflected anger and surprise when he saw her entering the room.

“I hope you’re in a better mood now!” she said dryly and sat down on the bed, observing his reactions carefully. There was no way she was within his reach, but she opted on the side of caution.

“You’re a damned…” he started, but she interrupted him before he could finish the sentence.

“It was a fair game, Jack! You lost, and you should accept it!”

“Define fair!” he growled, which caused her to laugh lightly. “Are you here to free me from that damned tube?”

“Why would I do that?” she asked amused and he shrugged his face neutral.

“Because you’re a gracious winner!”

“I am not and we both know that!” she replied, enjoying the game he was starting again.

“So then, why are you here in that… outfit!”

So, Jack, why the hesitation before saying outfit? she asked herself.
“Do you like it?”

“Does that matter?”

“Maybe…” She sighed. She was on a schedule and didn’t have an unlimited amount of time.
“I’m here to tell you, that I’m going off to the mission now.”

“The disk!” he growled and she nodded.

“Yes, the disk. It won’t be a difficult mission, but it’s a little dangerous. So… in case I don’t return…” She got up and laid his lips to his, gently preventing his hand from grabbing her hair. “Don’t do that! It took me about twenty minutes to do my hair and I’d hate to break your arm for ruining my work!” she whispered playfully against his lips.

He knew that she was absolutely serious and considering his ‘being-cuffed-to-a-tube’ state he though it best not to try how far she’d go in realizing her threat. She backed away from him and lowered her eyes.

“Just so you know, I ordered my guards to let you go if…” she hesitated. “…if something happens to me.”

“I guess you expect me to thank you now.”

“No…” she smiled at him. “Actually I expected you to lecture me about what is going to happen to me when I’m back in CIA custody!”

She made him laugh against his will. No doubt, she could be really charming if she wanted to be. Stop it, Bristow, she’s a terrorist, No. 7 on CIA’s most wanted list, he reminded himself and the smile faded from his face.

She noticed the sudden change of his mood and a shadow covered her eyes. There was no way they could ever be at least friends. Maybe, if things were different… if she hadn’t been KGB and he wasn’t CIA – well, maybe in another lifetime.

“I have to go now. I’ve got a timetable to follow! See you later!”

“I hope not!”

His words hurt her deep and she hated herself for that feeling. Her eyes locked with his, then suddenly she punched her fist into his stomach. Turning around she sarcastically said “I hope you have a good night, Jack!”, then she left the room, ignoring the curses he threw after her. Damned bastard! She would not allow him to gain control over her feelings. She was independent and invulnerable, and he would not defeat her.

“You ready?” Sark asked when she entered the living room. He noticed the dark look on her face.

“Yeah, let’s go!” Without further explanations, they left the house.

 

Part 2 – Innocent Eyes (Rating R)

The mission went surprisingly well. They had had absolutely no problem getting into the embassy as guests.

Getting close to the politician, Francois Berlande, had been a little more complicated, but finally they had managed to steal the disk from him and get away before anyone noticed that the disk was gone.

Irina was in a really good mood when she entered her house again with Sark following her.

“This, Mr. Sark, is our ticket into the world of politics!” Waving the disk she entered the living room where her little laptop was standing on a small table. “From now on, the highest diplomats will be lying at our feet!” She inserted the disk into the floppy drive and lifted her foot to open her shoe.

“Damned, these heels are killing me…” She managed to open her shoe while typing commands into the laptop.

“And?” Sark stepped closer and looked over her shoulder.

“That’s amazing!” They looked at the number of files on the disk. “That’s enough information to blackmail the whole French government!”

“You know what’s weird?” Sark suddenly noticed and Irina replied “What?” Not really listening to him.

“I don’t see your guards around… shouldn’t they be watching the stairs?”

Now he had her attention… too late. She heard the clicking of a gun at her side.

“I’d have never thought that you were that careless about your security… especially if you have an enemy in your house. How you were able to survive this long is a mystery to me! Now lift your hands so I can see them!”

Irina turned to her side and looked at Jack, her hands lifted in front of her.

“I’m surprised you managed to overpower my guards.”

“They’re not at all smart. I wonder how you can trust them with your life!”

“Do you want to offer yourself as my bodyguard?”

“I promise, the place I’ll take you doesn’t require any bodyguards!” He pulled out the handcuffs and she really wondered how he had been able to free himself.

“Sounds promising!” she replied with a seductive look.

“That’s not what I meant! Cuff him!” He threw the cuffs towards her and she bent down to cuff Sark to a chair.

“So, now what, Jack? Do you really believe you can take me prisoner in my own house?” She felt for the gun at her thigh while closing the cuffs around Sark’s wrist.

Only one second later she found herself on the ground, wondering how she’d gotten there. Jack pinned her to the floor and pushed the silk material of her dress away from her legs.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Irina’s voice was a hiss full of fury and her eyes showed clearly that she was very close to killing him.

“You do really think I am a stupid fool, don’t you?” he asked and grabbed her hair.
Then he pulled the gun from her thigh and pressed it to her neck.

“I admit I’ve… underestimated you!” Again, she added silently and saw her gun fly into the corner of the room. Jack pulled her up again, his hand gripping her firmly on her arm.

Some of her hair had freed itself from the hairclips – thanks to him – and hung in wild strands around her face.

“Jack, we shouldn’t start this game over again!”

“We won’t!”

She freed herself with a quick move from his grip and took hold of his weapon. For a moment she looked at it, then she sighed and handed it over to him again. “You know what? I’m going to take a shower now!”

He was raging with fury. She had taken his weapon away and handed it over to him in the next second. Clearly she wanted to show him, that she was the one who was in control of this game.

“You won’t move!” he threatened, but Irina didn’t care. She collected her shoes from the ground and looked at him.

“You can shoot me or let me take that shower!” Words said, she left the room with Jack’s eyes following her in disbelief. “Oh, and just in case you feel bored, you could free him again… I’ll take care of the guards. You might want to stay away from them since they’ll certainly be a little outraged over their defeat.”

He watched her disappear and set off to follow her.

“Irina…” he warned and entered her private room right behind her. She didn’t pay attention to him, but opened her wardrobe and put the shoes in. Then she opened her dress at the side and let it slide to the ground. She stepped out of the material, only wearing her white silk underwear now. She quickly removed the black leather strap, which had been holding her gun, from her thigh and tossed it aside. Then she took a towel and walked into her bathroom.
He was totally confused by her reaction, which made him feel like a stupid schoolboy. He just stood in the doorway, thinking about what to do next.

“Would you mind turning around? I don’t appreciate being observed while showering!” she smiled sarcastically and he closed the door to the bathroom.

He sat down on a chair in her room and looked around while waiting till the sound of water faded away.

This room did not look like hers. The furnishing looked female and elegant. Although there was just a bed, a wardrobe and a small table in the room, it looked well-chosen and high quality.

He hadn’t expected her to pay so much attention to where she lived, or of having such an elegant, soft style.

Finally the sound of running water subsided. Only ten seconds later she came out of the bathroom, a large white towel wrapped around her perfect body and her hair dripping with water. Goddamn, this woman was attractive like hell! Good comparison, he thought to himself and just stared at her… a fact she obviously noted with satisfaction.

Thoughts crossed his mind… thoughts of their night in Panama. The night before she had escaped. Their lovemaking had been incredible, and he doubted that he had ever had an experience comparable to that. Sex, not lovemaking, he corrected himself. Lovemaking had been with Laura 20 years ago, although he had to admit even Laura had never made him feel like Irina had that night. A fact that was pretty weird considering they were both the same woman.

“Jack, a blind person would know what you’re thinking about right now!” she stated amused, followed by a growled “Shut up!” from him.

“All you have to do is ask!” Her eyes were focussed on him and sparkled playfully, while she dried her hair by rubbing it with a towel. “…Oh, and toss that gun away… although it can be quite arousing!”

“b****!” he growled when he realized that she was trying to manipulate him, no, his thoughts. Then another idea came to his mind. Hadn’t she been the one who had lost control in their kiss? Yes, he had to admit, he wanted her, but he was quite capable of controlling his feelings… obviously she was not. She was playing with fire, hiding her weakness behind a fake strength, so why not join in her game or better, make it his game?

In a sudden move he got up and reached her with only two fast steps.

“Wha…”

He silenced her with his mouth, impatiently seeking entrance with his tongue. She was totally caught by surprise of his sudden action and before she could think of moving away, he had trapped her in between his arms, against the wall.

Her world started to spin. Stop it, Irina… just punch him away before you lose control, she ordered herself, but another part of her contradicted. No, she had to face this. He was her weak point. She had to prove to herself that she was able to be physically close to him and yet still be fully rational.

She turned her head aside. “My offer expired with your ‘b****’ answer!”

“I wouldn’t count on that!” he murmured into her mouth. “Oh, and just so you know… I am holding your towel against the wall. I wouldn’t move considering the fact that it is your only clothing at the moment…”

“Bastard!” she hissed and gasped for air when his mouth sank to her neck where he started to tease her with his tongue. Her hands lifted from his shoulders to his hair and she moaned lightly.

His mouth wandered over the soft skin of her chin and finally reached her mouth where he started to softly nibble at her lower lip. Then he looked at her, their lips almost touching.

“Wanna change your mind?” His voice was hoarse and showed all his desire.

“Change my mind concerning what?” she whispered back and he smiled.

“The bastard thing you said.”

“No way…” she murmured and brushed her lips over his in what could barely called a touch at all. When he wanted to deepen the kiss she fell back a little and broke the contact. This was her game… she needed it to be her game. After she had broken contact four times, Jack grabbed her and connected their lips in a deep passionate kiss, that took their breath away.
Irina felt her knees go weak and held on to Jack. Suddenly she felt him lifting her up onto his arms, but never breaking the kiss. Just a few seconds later he laid her down on the soft mattress of her bed, his warm body covering hers.

She felt his hands working to open her towel and tried to stop him… at least mentally. Her body betrayed her. Instead of holding his hands or pushing him away she pulled him even closer, not wanting to ever let him go again.

When he cupped her breast through the towel with his hand, she whimpered against his mouth. He bent to her ear and bit playfully on her earlobe.

“All you have to do is ask…” he repeated her words and she gasped for air.

“I hate you!” was her hoarse reply and impatiently she reconnected their lips in a fierce kiss. He moaned when she finally managed to open his shirt and run her hands over the naked skin of his chest. Ten seconds later his shirt flew across the room and landed somewhere on the ground. Neither of them cared where exactly.
Finally her towel followed.

Jacks lips closed over one of her nipples, gently teasing her. She bent towards him, her eyes shut in the delightful pleasure his touch brought to her.

Okay, so much for resisting him, she thought bitterly when his mouth moved to her other nipple.

Focus, she ordered herself, don’t pay attention to him. Okay, she had to think of a plan B, since not paying attention to what he did was absolutely out of the question, especially when he now moved his mouth further downwards and started to caress her belly.

“Jack… wait!” Great, she added silently, is that your idea of a fabulous plan B?
Now he paid attention to her lips again, driving her crazy by slowly tracing them with his own.

“What?” he whispered and got a soft moan in reply. His hands started to caress her hot skin. They made their way down her body, over her belly and the same way back. Every time he got closer to where she wanted him to be.
When she reached out to open his pants, he softly grabbed her hands and laid them back to the mattress.

“This is my game… don’t move!” He pressed his lips to hers again to prevent her from complying. His hand started to move downwards again, softly caressing her belly, then further to her thigh. Her whimpers were silenced by his mouth; so were her pleas.
When she softly laid her hand to his cheek, he broke the kiss but still kept his mouth as close to hers as he could without touching it.

“You should learn to follow my rules… don’t move, or this will end now!”

“Son of a…”

“Oh, and before I forget, every insult will extend my teasing…”

“That’s not fair!” She looked at him and her eyes met his. They were full of desire and he faltered. He had never seen vulnerability like now in her eyes.

“Consider it as my thank you for the nice afternoon I had!” he whispered playfully and when she laid her hand back onto the soft blanket which covered the mattress, their lips merged anew in a kiss, but this time he explored her mouth tenderly and seductively.

Her mind was far from being able to think reasonably. Fine, this was his game… hers would be coming soon and of course she planned to return his every little favor.

She broke the kiss and gasped for air when his hand finally met the core of her desire, softly stroking her with his thumb.

She laid her head back, her hands clasping the white sheets they were lying on. Given the opportunity, Jack took possession of the sensitive skin of her neck, softly tracing its line with his tongue. When he stopped the movements of his hand she cried out in frustration.

“All you have to do is ask…” he teased her playfully and she bit her lip, turning her head to look at him outraged. His mouth softly touched hers, then he backed away again.

“Go to hell…” she whimpered and when she felt him move away, she cried out in frustration.

“Please, don’t…”

“Don’t what?” he asked hoarsely and his lips touched the sensitive spot right under her ear.

“Don’t go…” she answered, and cursed herself for having said the words before thinking about them. His lips caressed her skin with intolerable slowness.

“What do you want me to do instead of going?”

She struggled with herself. She knew that she was far beyond the point of return and that made him the winner of this game. When she realized that, she murmured some curses in Russian.

“Are those words meant to encourage me to go on? If so, you’d better read up on them in a dictionary.” He replied amused and it took all his power to keep control of his feelings. Her Russian words had turned him on like aphrodisiac.

“Damn you Bristow…”

Hearing her answer, he thrust into her with two fingers and her reactions overwhelmed her. Her head started to spin and she closed her eyes. She felt his lips on her cheek, and then her mouth while his fingers continued their movement.

When he stopped again, she whimpered against his lips. “Please… don’t… stop now… Jack, please!”

She pulled his mouth back on hers with one of her hands and he decided to ignore this violation of his rule. He pushed her further and further towards the edge with his fingers, softly whispering encouragement into her ear until she finally reached her climax in his arms, crying out his name before the world turned black in front of her eyes.

When she finally regained conscious again she found herself lying in his arms, still breathing heavily. His hand stroke softly through her hair, his lips softly wandering over her forehead and cheeks.

He entwined his fingers with hers, and when she met his eyes she was confused at the tenderness she could read in them. You hate him… she reminded herself, ignoring the loud voice in her head that told her the exact opposite, …and now it’s payback time.

She turned him on his back, her hands running over his chest and finally cupping his erection.

“It’s my turn now!” she whispered. “And I’m known for paying back the favors I’ve been granted.” Her lips devoured his in a passionate kiss that set his blood on fire.

Hell, she already drove him crazy by just kissing him. He didn’t even want to think about what else was to come. Her lips wandered over his chest, softly teasing his nipples, while her hands opened his pants. She was content to hear a moan escaping from his lips. His hands buried in her silky hair and she went back up to his mouth.

“You know, since this is still the same game, I think we keep up your rules!” she whispered against his mouth, teasing him by not allowing his lips to touch hers.

“Witch!”

“And as you ask so kindly, I will of course extend them to ‘no kissing allowed from you!”

“Irina…”

She laughed softly into his ear the warmth of her breath on his skin almost making him lose control. “As I said, I’m very gracious at paying back favors!” Her voice was hoarse and seductive, her hands burned against his skin.

Finally his pants landed on the side of the bed. Her hands moved down his chest, while she looked into his eyes, their lips as close as they could be without touching.

She’s a genius in torture, he thought grimly, as she now moved her lips over his chest, slowly following the path her hand had taken earlier. He ached to kiss her, to feel her incredibly soft lips on his.

When she released his erection and clasped it with her hand, he was on the brink of losing control. She kissed her way up again, her hair stroking over his overly sensitive skin while she started to move her hand rhythmically up and down his shaft, causing him to moan. Her lips brushed over his, immediately evasive when he went closer to kiss her.

“Don’t break the rules…” she whispered into his ear; increasing the pressure of her hand a little. His mouth touched the skin of her neck. His tongue traced up to her earlobe where he started to nibble softly until he heard her moan again. His hands moved down her back, then slowly up her sides.

“I said… no kissing!” she gasped into his ear and he chuckled under a moan.

“That’s a question of interpretation. You never defined the boundaries of kissing.” He answered breathlessly and continued caressing her hot skin, satisfied when he noticed that she was also at the point of almost loosing control.

“All kissing!” she whispered into his ear, followed by a moan when his mouth immediately broke contact with her skin. “On the other hand…” she started and brought her head to his so she could look into his eyes.

The moment their eyes met they were suddenly aware that there were no boundaries left between them. All hate, all secrets and hidden agendas were gone for this tiny moment. All that mattered was the feelings that they had buried so deeply in their hearts; that were now breaking to the surface.

Jack saw a sudden change in Irina’s eyes, a hint of fear, that disappeared almost the same second as it had arrived.

Oh my god, I think I love him! She thought the words over and over again, their meaning left her staggering. She must not fall in love with him, because that would mean giving him the ability to hurt her… which he would definitely do because he still hated her.

Fascinated by her eyes, he couldn’t stop himself from drowning in them. They were the eyes of an angel, innocent and full of the fear of being hurt, but yet, there was a strength in them, a strong will to survive… no matter what the cost.

He turned her around in a quick move, softly connecting his lips with hers. Her moan was lost in his mouth, so was her soft protest. This was supposed to be her game.

“I need to be inside you…” She silenced any further words of his by reconnecting their lips again, clasping his shoulders when he entered her.

Neither of them managed to keep control. It shattered into pieces like glass falling to the ground. Their kisses became deeper and more and more passionate until they had to separate their lips due to lack of oxygen.

He ran his tongue over the sweaty skin of her shoulder. She bent against him, her hands pulling him as close as if he was her only hold.

And then the world around them exploded into colorful sparks. Neither of them could say if it were just seconds or minutes until they were able to think again.

Still unable and unwilling to move, they were just lying on the bed. Jack’s head rested on Irina’s breast while her hand softly stroked over his hair. Her eyes remained closed until he shifted lightly. She felt the sheets being pulled over her body and smiled at him. As he laid back into the pillows she nuzzled into his arm.

“So, I suppose I won’t need to sleep cuffed in the cellar.” He joked dryly and she gave a short laugh.

“I said, if you weren’t nice you’d have to. You were more than nice!”

He entangled his hands in her hair, softly stroking some strands out of her face until both of them closed their eyes sleepily.

“You still have to free Sark.” Jack suddenly remembered but Irina didn’t make an effort to move.

“It can wait until tomorrow. Cuffed to a chair, he’ll be unable to start another mess with his boyish actions.”

“A mess like this?”

“Yeah…” she smiled, almost asleep. “Although I should be more thankful than angry…”

“Possibly…” he replied and just one second later they were both sleeping soundly.

 

Part 3 – Betrayal

An explosion of pain, caused by the bright light of the sun, hit her when she opened her eyes. Irina moaned softly and fell back into the pillow. She covered her eyes with her hand but the headache didn’t subside.

Great, this was what she needed – a headache, due to a lack of sleep. She sat up slowly and managed to get out of the bed without making any noise. Jack was still sleeping and she didn’t want him to wake up yet. First she had to find a way to deal with the situation.

They’d had sex in Panama a few months ago, but that had been different. She hadn’t thought about her feelings for him… this time she had. Sex with emotions other than desire involved couldn’t be good.

She showered quickly and pulled on jeans and a shirt. She was relieved to leave her room without any sign of Jack waking.

When she entered the living room, she looked at Sark who was still cuffed to the chair.

“Morning!” he greeted her. “I though you had forgotten me!”

Irina didn’t comment, just freed him from the chair. After he got up, he rubbed his wrists.

“I’ll be in the gym.” She announced. “Would you mind freeing my body-guards?” She threw the key to the cellar door at him. “And bring me a coffee… twice as strong as normal. With two aspirin, please.”

“Um… excuse my objection, but you shouldn’t take aspirin in combination with caffeine.”

“Just do what I told you to! No discussions or objections. I’m not in the mood for that today.”

Irina spoke slowly and Sark knew better than to ignore this hidden threat in her voice.

“Sounds as if you had an exhausting night!” he said, his face emotionless, but his eyes sparkling with amusement. Irina lifted her eyes to the ceiling and turned around.

“You’ve got three minutes! If I don’t have my coffee then, you will find yourself waking up in the hospital!”

“Understood!” He watched her leaving the room and grinned to himself. This was so Irina – she didn’t react to any personal questions… she didn’t even comment on speculations. Well, in this case speculations were unnecessary. He had seen the hickey on her neck.
But considering whom she had to thank for it, he thought it better to not provoke her today.
Irina yawned slightly when she entered her little gym. She wasn’t even sure her head would allow her to do any exercises, but she would at least try.

She had to regain control over the situation. What situation – there is no situation, she reminded herself. Don’t be stupid, you do not love Bristow – you never have.

She slammed her fist onto the punchbag, holding it to prevent it from hitting her in the face. She leaned her forehead against it and closed her eyes again.

Love was absolutely out of the question. He hated her, she hated him, they were enemies! He would not hesitate to shoot her given the chance.

She started when Sark entered the room loudly, putting the cup of coffee on the small table in the room.

“Here’s your coffee. I’ve already freed the guards. Do you want them to take Bristow back down into the cellar room?”

“No…” Irina looked at him. “No, let him sleep. Just inform me when he wakes up!”

“As you wish…”

She watched him leave and went to the small table. Taking the cup of coffee into one hand and the aspirin into the other, she sat down on the floor. Yoga had always helped her to find herself, her goals, and most of all her strength again.

She swallowed the aspirin and drank the coffee in one gulp and then she closed her eyes to meditate.

*** “Hi, I’m Laura… Laura Walker.”

The first time I met Jack Bristow, I was truly relieved. This might sound insane now, since it was just a mission – no emotion involved. But just one day before my departure from Moskau to the US, where I was supposed to meet Jack Bristow, I had a conversation with another agent. She was about fifteen years older than me and had been sent to the same kind of job once. She had to marry a guy, German intelligence, and get information about the research he was working on. She told me that it had been the worst three years in her life. He had been unattractive and rude-mannered, not even charming.

After three years she had begged her handlers for extraction. She told me, that since that day, she had never slept with a man again… and had no intention to do so in the future. That man had destroyed every spark of romance or desire that had been in her heart.

I was so afraid. I had never considered this part of my mission. Marrying a man to access information included sex and intimacy, a thought that scared the hell out of me. Of course I’ve had sex before, but the thought of having to sleep with a man I truly hated for the next six or seven years was not very motivating.

When my handler showed me a picture of the man I would be introduced to the following evening, I was only a little relieved. At least he was handsome… but that did not exclude rude manners or a bad character. I wanted to like him at least a little bit… although it was paradox. Wanting to like the enemy.

When I then went to him to introduce myself, I was so overwhelmed by his charm that sometimes I had to remind myself about my mission. He treated me with respect and it took us four dates before he kissed me for the first time.

I will never forget that kiss. He had taken me home and I remember that we were joking about something that had happened that evening. We had been touching the whole time… you know those light touches on the arm, where the other one keeps thinking about whether it’s coincidence or intentional.

Suddenly he got serious and just looked at me. “Laura, you’re amazing. I’ve never met a woman with so much esprit and intelligence… and beauty!” And then he kissed me. It was one of those promising, sweet first kisses that make you feel weightless.

I only stopped trembling when I was up in my apartment. I knew that I shouldn’t feel that way. He was just part of my mission and so I started to work on it. I asked my handlers for help. I was young and had not much experience in shutting out strong feelings like love. I had been naive to think that I could control feelings like love and passion that easily.

So I worked on it, just as I had worked on my mental strength. It was a hard training, but the many dark and hopeless situations my job brought that time, helped me to let mistrust win over love. At the end of the seven years I felt a deep sadness, a hole in my heart, but I was strong. I would be able to deal with it. And over the years I’ve come to believe that I never truly loved Jack Bristow. I had feelings for him because it was the only way to get through the years without it being a nightmare, but those feelings faded away after I was back in Russia suspected of treason and arrested. Over the years Jack Bristow has become no more than a face in my memory, a picture – at least that was what I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I buried my feelings for him deep within, because I knew that leaving him and Sydney, the only two people I had ever truly cared about, behind could break my heart and my so-long trained mental strength. I mustn’t show those feelings, especially not to my handlers. If anyone had known about them, they would have used them to threaten and torture me.

Bury them so deep that even I couldn’t find them was the only way to survive. But now, twenty-one years later, those feelings have resurfaced and they are stronger than ever before. I have no idea how to deal with them. I don’t know if I can find the strength to bury them once again. I have to find a way, because I know if I don’t, they’re going to destroy me. ***

She opened her eyes widely, her body shaking. What had that flashback been? It seemed as if her past crashed onto her every time she closed her eyes lately. Usually Yoga helped her to regain her strength… this time she felt even weaker than before.

Her head felt a little better but the headache had not subsided completely. Irina got up and left her gym room. Instead of letting old memories invae her, she would take a look at the disk and its data.

She let herself sink onto the couch in living room, pulling the laptop onto her legs. She entered the commands to open the contents of the disk, but instead of the files an error sign appeared.

PLEASE INSERT DISK INTO FLOPPY DRIVE

“MR SARK!” She moaned and held her head. Her own yell made her feel as if her head was bursting.

“Yes? Is there any problem?” Sark showed up only ten seconds after she had called.

“Where is the disk?”

“What do you mean?” He looked at her and he seemed as if he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

“The disk we retrieved yesterday! I had it here in the laptop… where is it?”

“I didn’t even touch the laptop!” The man defended himself and Irina got up, stepping towards him.

“Stop playing games. I know you… I’m sure you’ve already made a deal with someone to sell it. So where is it?”

“Irina, I swear to god, I did not touch the disk!”

“Who else except for you could…” She cut herself off and caught her breath. The realization dawned on her and she had to inhale deeply. “Send the guards up to look for Bristow!” she ordered Sark in a sharp voice.

“Of course!” he hurried out of the room and just two minutes later she heard curses from upstairs. She sank back into the couch and held her head.

“Bastard!” she hissed. He hadn’t been sleeping. He had waited for the right moment to escape.

“I’m truly sorry to have to tell you this, but…”

“Let me guess, he’s gone!”

“Unfortunately, yeah…”

“Great!” she threw the laptop next to her onto the couch and got up. “Pack our stuff, we need to leave. This house will soon be overrun with CIA agents. We have four hours… at the most!”

“I understand!”

“And Sark…” She looked at him, her eyes gleaming like ice. “This is your fault! Don’t you dare make another mistake like that again, understood?”

“Yes… I’m sorry!”

“Now let’s get out of here!” She grabbed her laptop and hurried into her room to pack her most important things. When she searched for the weapon under her pillow she found a small note, written on a small sheet of paper.

“Don’t be too angry with me. The disk just contains too much valuable information to be in the wrong hands.
– J. “

“Damn it!” She crumpled the note in her hands and clenched a fist. He was a fool to think that he could beat Irina Derevko in one of her own games. Wait, Jack Bristow, I will get revenge for that.

~*~*~*~

“We just got confirmation from out team leader.” Kendall looked at Jack, obviously thinking about which way was the best to tell him. “The house is empty… no sign of Irina Derevko or one of her assets.”

As Jack had expected. He hadn’t been too rushed to inform the CIA where Irina Derevko’s hideout was, in order to buy her some time to get away.

In fact, deep inside he was relieved that she had managed to escape… but of course he wouldn’t show that to Kendall.

“What do you mean no sign? I was held there! It’s only been six hours! There must be something!”

“I understand that you’re angry, Jack, but she has erased all possible traces. At the moment it’s a dead end. But I promise you we’ll search this place with all possible high-tech equipment and trace every phone-call, internet connection or fingerprint!”

Jack watched Kendall walk away. He was sure Irina had already taken care of anything that could lead to her. For the moment she was safe… but for how long would that be?

 

Part 4 – Farewell (28 days later)

Jack entered the nightclub and looked around. He hated missions like this, where he was the one in the front. He was better in the back where he could come up with strategies… now he depended on the strategies of his colleagues – not that he didn’t trust them, but he felt safer devising his own gameplans.

His anger reflected in his face when he remembered the discussion he had had about this topic with Kendall.

“Why do I have to go in?”

“Because you fit the profile of men who’re ususally go there! Because of your immense field experience… do I have to go on?”

“You’re sending me off into a brothel in Athens on the chance the owner might trade security codes to our facility in Tessaloniki to Arvin Sloane… an intel that wasn’t even approved by anyone! This is a witchhunt!”

“Jack, why are you so upset about this?”

Yeah, why had he been so upset? It was a mission like so many other he had been active in. His mental state wasn’t the best lately. Since that incredible night with Irina, he had been thinking about her constantly – he felt stupid about it! Her face had haunted him in his dreams for the weeks… he thought he was going crazy over her. And now even his job was influenced by these emotions… which were totally inappropriate. You just don’t fall in love with No. 7 on CIA’s most wanted list, he reminded himself. That was treason.

“Why don’t you just relax and enjoy the evening? Remember, you’re going into a noble brothel… all paid for by CIA. You’re lucky!” Kendall had tapped him on the shoulder, his face covered with a wide smirk and Jack had felt the need to punch him. He was an ass and worst of all, he seemed to really enjoy being an ass.

Jack went to the bar and ordered a drink. He sat down on one of the bar stools and looked around. He didn’t know any of the men, although they did all look like men who had political influences or at least a lot of money. Almost all of them where sitting with one or more women around them on a couch, kissing… some of them were even standing in the small niches in the wall. The dark secrets of diplomats, he thought amused. Ignoring the attempts of the woman next to him trying to draw his attention to her, he got up again. He passed by the dance-floor and went to the rooms in the back. There was no sign of Sloane or his assets and Jack doubted that any one of them would show up. He hadn’t been able to find out where this intel had come from and so he expected it to be a setup… maybe a diversion. Kendall had discarded every theory of his going into that direction, but now it seemed as if his fears proved right.

He had just wanted to tell exactly that to Kendall on the other end of his microphone, when he saw her.

Irina Derevko wore a short red dress which revealed almost all of her beautiful legs. Her red heels completed her outfit in the most perfect way. Her hair was down and framed her face in a wild, and yet not tousled manner. She looked like she belonged to this place and yet there was something about her that made her different from the other women around. She had a classy and elegant style – even dressed up like this – that made her look like a true lady. Her moves were slow and he noticed that she took care not to touch any of the men around. She was hot and yet unapproachable – out of the reach of any of the men who now looked at her and undressed her with their looks.

When she passed by the bar she grabbed one of the glasses with champagne, while shooting her most seductive look to the man next to her.

She strolled across the room and disappeared behind a small curtain that led into the back of the establishment. Jack waited a minute and followed her, careful to not draw her attention to himself. What was she doing here?

She crossed a small floor. It was decorated in a noble and yet depraved way. The walls were painted in a warm red-brown tone and a few lamps on the wall washed room in an intimate light. Broad niches with greek statues of gods were set in the wall.

Irina didn’t pay attention to the couple making out on the wall – actually it seemed to go a little beyond making out – but went up a wooden staircase at the end of the floor. It lead to the upper level of the building where the private rooms of the owner were located.

Jack watched her disappear and for a moment he thought about following her upstairs, but then he decided that it was too dangerous. She would notice him up there and so he chose to wait for her right here. She would have to come back down. It was just Irina-style to come and go back the same way, without anyone realizing what had happened.

He was right. It didn’t even take five minutes until she came back down. He concealed himself in one of the niches in the wall and waited until she passed him by.

Before she could even scream in surprise, he had grabbed her, pulled her into the niche and pressed her to the wall. His lips silenced her protest immediately, buying him time to disable the small microphone on the button of his tuxedo. Her hands, prepared to push him away, were lying on his chest, now loose. He ended the kiss in the most tender manner and looked at her. Her head was leaning against the wall, her eyes closed.

“What are you doing here, Jack?” she whispered softly without opening her eyes.

“How did you know it was me?” he asked back in the same tone and she smiled at him. His fingers went up the skin of her arm. “I hope you’re here because of a mission… dressed like that!”

“What do you think?” Her body touched his softly, the heat almost overwhelming him. God, she was sexy… “Do you really think I would let one of those pathetic idiots touch me without breaking his arm?”

“Should I feel scared?”

“I did not mean you… although I should break your arm as a little reward for stealing my disk!”

“Technically it wasn’t yours!” he replied, trying to concentrate to look into her face, not lower.

“Ah, I see. The thief has been robbed! Maybe I should change my mind… maybe you are an idiot!”

“Poor loser?” he teased her, his mouth playfully brushing over the skin of her neck. She inhaled deeply, trying to ignore the feelings that came up inside her. “So, you don’t see me as an idiot in general?”

“Why should I do that? You’re smart, you’re tough and you’re an equal opponent! What are you doing here by the way? I hope this is not the kind of establishment you hang out in.” she whispered back and he chuckled.

“Would it bother you?”

She didn’t answer that question… well, he hadn’t expected her to, her eyes told him the answer.

“I’m on a mission…” he finally answered her question. “And no, I don’t really appreciate locations like this. Although I could come to like it with you here…”
“What’s your mission here?” she asked curiously and pressed herself closer to him when one of the doormen passed them by, shooting them a suspicious look. Their cheeks touched lightly, his hands running down her back. Finally the doorman went away, convinced that they were just one of the couples who wanted to have a little privacy.

“We’ve received intel that Sloane wants to purchase codes to our facility in Tessaloniki here.” Jack finally answered her question.

“Where did that come from?” she asked and he noticed a hint of shock in her voice.

“The source was untraceable…” He nibbled at her earlobe and a soft moan escaped her lips. “We’ve got a problem…” he whispered and she held closer to him, feeling his erection pressing into her thigh.

“I agree…” she replied and he chuckled softly.

“Actually I was talking about a whole CIA operation team waiting outside the building, under the direction of Kendall!”

“That son of a b****…” she breathed into his ear. “I don’t like him… I never have!”

“Neither have I… but he’ll most likely recognize you if you walk out of here.”

“Why are you telling me?” Her lips and hands caressed his neck, making it hard for him to understand her question at all.

“Maybe I’ve come to enjoy our little games…” he answered and caught her mouth with his in a passionate kiss. His hands ran down her body and she shivered against him when they touched her waist. “God, you’re so sexy…” His voice was a moan and she smiled against his lips.

“Kendall would have you taken to Camp Harris for treason if he knew what you just said…”

“Kendall is a fool not to notice how beautiful you are…” His tongue traced her chin and then her neck.

“Oh God, Jack… we shouldn’t… I have to get out of here!” Her words were a desperate whimper and he pulled her closer.

“What do you want with our codes?” he asked, his mouth running over her collarbone. She laid her head back against the wall.

“I can’t tell you…”

“Are you working for Sloane…?”

She lifted his head and pressed her mouth to his in desperate need of a kiss. “You should know, that I am not working for anyone… but I’m working with him… at least I thought I did.”

He looked into her eyes, his hands buried in her hair. “What do you mean?”

“I think that bastard tried to set me up… someone had to tell you that the deal was taking place here tonight… and no one else but Sloane knew about it. He asked me to come here personally since that Mr. Konstakis was an old friend of his, but as it turned out, Konstakis didn’t even know the name Sloane.”

He bent to her ear and let his tongue play at her lobe. She bit her lip to not cry out at the warmth that set her blood on fire. His hand stroke slowly down the front of her body, over her breasts and her belly. She bent towards him. The world started to spin around her. Okay, there was no getting out of here without release or she would not be able to sleep for days.. correct that: weeks.

His hand wandered under her dress, teasing the center of her desire through her panties. She clasped her hands into the material of his jacket. Her skin was burning everywhere his mouth touched her, it came to the point of being unendurable and yet she didn’t want him to stop.

Suddenly his mouth touched hers. “Shhh… we’re breaking several laws with what we’re doing here.” he whispered and only now she realized that she had been moaning. She gave a short laugh.

“Yeah, I can see the headline. No. 7 terrorist Irina Derevko arrested for making out in public…” Her hands ran over his back, pulling him closer. “How ironic… but totally worth it!”

He chuckled against her lips and silenced her next moans with his deep kisses.

She opened his pants impatiently, her desire was far beyond the point of were she had been able to control it.

“I need you, Jack… now!” her voice was a mixture of whimpering and urging. He helped her trembling hands to open his pants and pulled her behind the Greek statue. He caught her when she stumbled and pressed her against the wall, his mouth devouring hers fiercely.

He lifted her up with his arms and pushed her panties aside. Then he entered her, silencing her and his own moans with another passionate kiss. Both of them were caught in an unbelievably strong ecstasy of desire, unable to break their kisses until they reached climax almost at the same time.

Still breathing heavily, Jack held Irina until her body stopped trembling and he was sure that he could let her down and she wouldn’t fall.

He leaned his forehead against hers, her hands softly lying at his cheeks. Her eyes were still closed, her cheeks flushed… a color that made her even more beautiful than she was.
“You okay?” he asked softly and she laughed slightly.

“More than okay.” She opened her eyes to meet his and found him smiling tenderly.

Suddenly she remembered where they were and that she was in danger of being discovered. She lowered her eyes and brounght a little distance between them. Then she rearranged her clothes and tried to comb her hair with her hands.

“Do I look normal?”

“Define normal…”

“Jack!” she replied in an accusingly voice.

“Yeah, you look perfect.” He smiled and she let her hands smooth out her dress for the last time.

“I gotta go…” she took a deep breath and wanted to go, but he caught her arm with his hand and pulled her into him in a last tender kiss.

Oh God, I’ll miss him, she thought when they finally separated. What was she doing? She mustn’t miss him, because missing him implied that she had feelings for him… and she had done everything to convince herself that that was just not the case during the last two weeks.
He returned her look, wanting to hold her and never let her go again. He knew that this was not only impossible but also inappropriate to want… he shouldn’t even think of it.

“See you, Jack!” she murmured and he watched her hurry away.

She needed a little distance. Her mind was distracted, obviously. What had she been thinking to have sex with Jack Bristow here. Hell, she was on a mission! Her incompetence to control her emotions, especially when she was on a mission, was dangerous, not to mention foolish. She was a grown-up, not a sixteen year old high school girl.

From now on, she ordered herself, no making out, especially not with Jack Bristow!
She caught a deep breath and entered the main room with the bar again. She felt still a little too enthusiastic and weak, but she had to focus now. She couldn’t go out the front and she was sure that Kendall had as well placed men in the back.

Well then she had to play out her cards as a woman…

She went to the bar and ordered a drink, her eyes wandering around. She had seen the photos of many diplomats and politicians, all she needed was someone who had so much influence that Kendall wouldn’t dare to control his girlfriend. She needed a good cover.

“Hi Irina!” She froze when she heard the voice next to her ear. There you see what you get from being unable to focus, she lectured herself. All her instincts were gone… normally she had felt someone behind her even before he was standing there.

“Hi, Paolos!”

“Can you imagine my surprise, when I just saw you? The woman who betrayed me and stole my best information!” he whispered with a strong Greek accent. His hand ran over her belly, pulling her close to his body. “Rumors say, that you’re working for the CIA now, others that you’re dead! The second one is obviously wrong… what about the first one?”

Irina took the drink the barkeeper offered to her and took a sip. “You know me, so you know the answer to your question!”

“Stop playing games with me, you little whore! Because of you my boss had me tortured…”

“How tragic…” she replied sarcastically and his hand grabbed her hair. She bit her lips in order to not cry out in pain.

When Jack entered the main room, he saw her standing at the bar, obviously having trouble. He was still thinking about whether to help her or not, when he saw the men right behind her pulling out a knife. There was absolutely no way that she knew about the knife. He would stab her… Jack grabbed a drink from the bar, ignoring the protest of the drunken owner of it, and went to them. He pushed the man cleverly so he lost the knife and it fell to the floor. He let go of Irina in confusion and both turned around, Irina’s face getting pale when she saw the knife.

“I’m really sorry!” Jack said in a perfect British accent. “I just wanted to get to the bar!”

“Well, feel free to go!” Paolos answered unfriendly, still holding Irina’s wrist.

“Lady, is he bothering you?” he asked, blinking at her with his eyes.

“She’s not a lady!” Paolos growled and shot Irina a sharp glance. “She’s my wife. Could you mind your own business now, please!”

“Your wife!” Jack looked at him. “Really… you don’t look like a happy couple!”

“Listen, friend!” He let go of Irina and grabbed Jack. That was her chance. She shot Jack a thankful look and disappeared in the mass of people on the dancefloor.

“Okay, okay… I’ll leave you alone!” Jack said giving way. Paolos let go of him and wanted to grab Irina again. He let out a furious cry when he found her disappeared.

“Hey! That’s your fault you son of a…”

Jack’s fist hit his face unexpected and he went to the ground before he had even realized what had happened. Ignoring the man on the floor, Jack went away. He waited a moment until he felt that he could handle Kendall, then he turned on his microphone again. He could hear Kendall’s voice almost immediately.

“Jack, what was up? Why did you go on radio silence?”

“I.. um… had a little problem with my microphone, but I fixed it.”

“Any sign of Sloane or one of his assets yet?”

“Nothing!” Jack replied dryly and fully in control again. It wasn’t even a lie… he hadn’t seen Sloane or one of his assets. Technically Irina was not one of Sloane’s assets, but his partner.

A fact which made his actions even worse. He had not only lied to his superiors, but also helped an international terrorist to escape twice. Okay… this had to stop. Irina was absolutely not worth the risk. She had betrayed him twenty-one years ago and he was sure she would betray him again if it served her personal goals, so the best move would be to arrest her next time and turn her in to a federal prison where she would most likely be executed. But why did he feel so bad about this thought?

*~*~*~*~*~*~

It started out as the worst day ever. Jack hadn’t slept well… in fact he had barely slept at all. Astounding since he hadn’t slept for almost three days now. Every time he closed his eyes he saw her face. He had fallen for her again… it was like a deal with the devil – no, worse, he corrected himself grimly.

He had always thought he was over her, her face nothing more than an unpleasant memory. After all she had done to him, to Sydney, he should want her captured, executed, at the very first opportunity. But instead he’d helped her escape. Not to mention that he had broken several laws by doing so.

If Sydney acted as foolish as he was, he’d have her medically examined for brainwashing.

When he entered the office about an hour and a half later, he saw Vaughn shooting him an accusing look, then turning around and going away. He had stopped wondering about agent Vaughn’s behavior, but as he saw Sydney face, he considered the possibility that there might be something wrong. She stepped towards him and pulled him aside.

“Dad, Kendall wants to talk to you, but I wanted you to be prepared.”

“Sydney, what’s going on?”

“They interrogated Mr Konstakis – the owner of the nightclub. They had him tortured in Camp Harris and he told them, that he traded the codes that evening – to a woman!”

“Really?” Damned, he should have seen that one coming.

“The description fits Mom… Dad, she was there at the same time you were! You should have seen her! That and the fact that theoretically she couldn’t have gotten out without being seen by anyone on our team, makes Kendall believe that you… conspired with her!” Her eyes pierced him, her fists clenched. “Dad, is that true? Did you help Derevko to escape?”

“No, of course not! Why would I do that? You know that she betrayed me more than once… last time being two months ago in Panama!”

“That’s another thing. Kendall thinks that you might have helped her to escape back then.”

“That’s ridiculous! Yes, it was a mistake to let her convince me to remove the transmitter in her shoulder, but if I wanted to help her to escape, there would have been a dozen of other possibilities! He needs a scapegoat for the CIA’s failures concerning Derevko!”

“I know, but you better make sure that you’re not going to end up as his scapegoat!” She pointed at Kendall’s office and Jack nodded.

“I will, thanks… for preparing me.”

Sydney smiled and went away. Jack sighed silently. This was just perfect. See what you get for fooling around with a wanted terrorist, he thought grimly. He prepared his usual pokerface and entered Kendall’s office.

“Jack, sit down!” Kendall greeted him.

“Thanks, but I don’t think I need to!” Jack replied coldly and Kendall looked up from the file at his desk.

“Fine, then I’ll get straight to the point. Since I saw you talking to Sydney, I assume she has already informed you of what this is about.”

“Vaguely!” Jack replied and Kendall got up from his chair, pressing his ball-pen against his lips.
“Jack, I have to admit I was shocked when the results of the interrogation came in. I thought ‘Irina Derevko, how could that be? Jack was in there, he must have seen her!’. And then I reflected about everything that’s happened. It’s most likely that she had an accomplice inside the CIA who helped her to escape and who warned her two days ago.” Kendall walked around in the office in his usual slow move. “And I couldn’t think of anyone but you!”

“Interesting!” Jack replied neutrally. “I would have considered anyone except for me!”

Kendall ignored the last comment. “You had the means, you were alone with her more than once and you have a past with her. Maybe she offered you something that…”

“What could she be offering me that might convince me to commit treason?” Jack’s voice was level, he seemed totally under control and that set Kendall off.

“I don’t know…” he finally admitted.

“To me it’s more likely, that it was a set-up! I’d been there the whole evening and you’d been standing outside… there was no sign of Derevko, Sloane or anyone of his assets. We had our people at every entrance and exit. There was no way she could have escaped without us noticing her. Maybe Mr Konstakis described another woman who looked similar to Irina.”

At Jack’s use of her forename, Kendall frowned his forehead. “We showed him a photo of Derevko. He said, it was her!”

“Let me make this clear: You had a civilian tortured… a man who isn’t even trained to bear pain. He would have told you that the person was Elvis if you’d shown him a photo of him. By the way, I don’t thing it’s legal to have civilians tortured… even if they’re suspects!”

Kendall shot him his typical ‘I don’t trust you, but I can’t do anything to you’ look and sat back down at his desk.

“Fine. But I want you to know that from now on I’m keeping an eye at you. If I find the slightest hint that you and Derevko are accomplices, I’ll have you delivered to Camp Harris myself!”

“Is that all?” Jack asked coldly and Kendall nodded.

When Jack left the room Kendall observed the man disappearing in the large office. He was sure that Jack Bristow was hiding something… his intuition had never betrayed him.

When Jack had shut the door he exhaled deeply. That one had been close… too close. He wondered why he hadn’t just admitted to having helped Irina two days ago. Of course Kendall would have drawn him off field duty and maybe demoted him, but when he discovered the truth, Jack would be charged with treason. And in this case treason would end with death penalty.

He would take two days off to get himself straightened out. He needed a little time to himself… and most of all he needed sleep!

*~*~*~*~

“Nice to see you again!”

Irina didn’t even look up from her laptop when Arvin Sloane entered the small garage.

“I guess, I owe the nice evening in Athens to you?”

He sat down on the edge of the table and looked at her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, you do! And just so you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Next time you betray me, I will kill you!”

“Charming…” He took her glass of wine and drank a large sip. “By the way, I’ve heard that you and Jack Bristow had an… interesting encounter.”

“Really?” Still she didn’t look up. “Well, let me guess… you had a nice chat with Sark!”

“Fortunately! Now, imagine what I thought when I heard that you had captured Jack Bristow… that you had a little fun with him and then just let him go!”

“I didn’t let him go.” She said emphatically and leaned back in her chair.

“I was just assuming that you might have changed sides… I like clarity about the loyalties of my employees!”

She shut her laptop with a loud CLACK. “I am not your employee!”

“Without me, you’d still be sitting in you glass cell!”

“And without me you’d be dead by now!” She pierced him with her eyes. “Nobody owes anything to the other! If you don’t trust me, you can go wherever you want! I don’t force you to stay here!”

“It’s okay! If you tell me that you didn’t betray me, I believe you! Well, then it shouldn’t matter that I took care of Jack Bristow.”

“What?!?” Her face went pale within a second. “What have you done to Jack?”

“Nothing! I just had a little chat with Mr Konstakis before he was caught by the CIA. Civilians can be scared so easily, even though Konstakis has contacts with the mafia and thinks of himself as a professional… I didn’t even have to describe how he was going to die if he didn’t help me. I told him to recognize you on the photo and to tell them that you purchased the codes. I assume, Jack Bristow is interrogated already! But I guess, since you don’t have anything to do with him, it’s not of interest to you!” Sloane smiled at her and took the last sip of wine of her glass. It had taken Irina only two seconds to regain her control. She took her glass out of his hands.

“Well, how nice of you. So you were the one who betrayed me!”

“Not really… your business there was done! Nothing will happen to you, even if the CIA knows that you were there.”

“Yes, but since they know I purchased the codes, they’ll have the facility in Tessaloniky strictly observed and the codes changed!”

“Let that be my problem!” He turned around and Irina watched him leave. When the metal door had shut with a loud crash, she leaned back in her chair and ran her hand nervously through her hair. Damned, allies like Sloane could kill you. She thought for a little moment. Her mind went of to Athens… to Jack. How was he doing? She imagined him being interrogated and tortured… maybe they’d arrest or killed him. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. What the hell was up with her? Jack Bristow was a grown-up, not to mention her enemy. She shouldn’t even bother to worry about him. Then why did her worries about him almost drive her crazy?

I don’t know anymore when exactly it was… I just know that it was one of those beautiful, warm summer evenings. There was this huge festival at the beach… it had been incredibly hot the whole day, only in the evening the temperatures sank to a point that was bearable.

Every year they had this great beach summer festival where there were volleyball games, contests and stands, where you could try to shoot balloons.
I’ve always loved this festival… maybe because I didn’t know occasions like that from my homeland Russia. Jack knew I loved it and he took me there that evening. It was the most beautiful night of my whole life. I remember one thing very clearly:

I was standing on a stand, trying to shoot one of those stupid ducks to win a prize. Of course I behaved as if I was holding a gun for the first time. Jack went off to get us a milkshake from another stand and shortly after he was gone those group of three guys came to me. They had this typical language of rude-mannered idiots who saw women as trophies or something. They surrounded me and I can still hear one of them say “Hey babe! Wanna have some fun?” I told them to leave me alone, but instead they started to make fun of me. I would have had no problem kicking their asses… in fact I was quite in the mood to do so, but it would have blown my cover. So I just left… at least I tried. The guys followed me and kept making their jokes… in fact pretty inappropriate jokes for a woman in that time.
“Could you just leave, please?” I turned around to face them, but I had never thought that they could be so misbehaved to really pester me. It was scandalous during the 70ties. Of course I had experienced situations pretty similar at the KGB, but I was in America..

Then suddenly Jack appeared. I hadn’t even seen him coming, he just pushed the guys aside and pulled me out of their midst.

“I think, the lady has made her interest in you pretty clear, didn’t she?” he asked and for a moment I feared that they might start a fight. But even back then Jack had this incredible way, something in his tone that just didn’t allow any contradiction. The guys just looked at him and finally turned around to go away. Jack hugged and kissed me softly and for the first time in my whole life I felt safe, that feeling that you have when you really trust somebody. In that moment I knew that he was the one I could learn to trust, even with my life… Being with him gave me incredible inner peace, that made me forget about the fact that I was actually on a mission. For the first time in my whole life I didn’t feel the need to be prepared to defend myself when I was with him.

It was on that same evening that he proposed to me. I didn’t agree because my KGB superiors wanted me to, but because I really wanted to. Because that was the night I realized that I had truly fallen in love with Jack Bristow…

Irina closed her eyes, trying to hold the picture of the happy times back then just a little longer, but it faded away too fast, shattered by the cruel surroundings of her reality. Determined she got up, taking her laptop with her. Jack had saved her life in Athens… and he was most likely in trouble because of her now – no, correct that, because of Arvin, but she had been the means to put him into trouble, so she would find a way to get him out. She had acted after other people’s wills for so long and by doing so she had sacrificed everything in her life that had meant something to her. It was time that she started to act for herself… damn Rambaldi, she thought. He was worth working with a man like Arvin Sloane who was as trustworthy as a wolf promising not to eat the sheep.

*~*~+*~*~

Jack didn’t know how long he had been sitting here, staring at the glass right in front of him… cognac. From the strange looks of the woman behind the bar he assumed that it might have been quite a while. He had ordered at least two glass of water in addition to his cognac, which he had drunk while staring at the alcoholic drink. He knew it hadn’t been the best idea to come here, but maybe a little bit of alcohol could help him to forget her – on the other hand that thought had been exactly the mistake he had also made 21 years ago. He had wanted to stop thinking about her by drinking… and hadn’t realized how much he had in fact been drinking.
Goddamned, one cognac wouldn’t kill him. He lifted the glass and wanted to down it in one.

“Don’t do that…”

He started and the content landed on the table.

“What the hell…” he scolded and turned around. Irina sat down next to him, her hand on his shoulder. She smiled at the woman who was just drying a glass with a towel while curiously examining her.

“Give me a vodka, please! A big glass!”

The woman frowned her forehead and filled a glass with vodka which she pushed over to Irina. She wondered what a woman like her might do in a bar like this. In fact she looked pretty elegant, not at all as if she frequented locations like this. Maybe she needed to prove herself… kind of a woman’s midlife crisis, she thought grimly and grinned lightly. Well, let’s see your face when you tried my vodka, she thought. She made this vodka herself and she had already seen tough guys fail on her vodka. With this picture in her mind, she leaned against the wall, interestedly observing the couple.

“What are you doing here?” Jack didn’t look up.

“I was worried!” she replied, playing at her glass.

He laughed. “I don’t believe a single word you’ve just said!”

“I’ve heard that you might be in trouble because of… me!” she looked at him.

“That could be true in more than one way!” he murmured grimly and took another sip of water.

“What?”

“Nothing!” He met her eyes. “Are you aware that I’m being observed by the CIA? They suspect me of treason… or better, conspiring with you… which is pretty much the same thing actually.”

“I know… thanks to Arvin Sloane, who you have to thank for it by the way!”

“Sloane?” Jack growled and she nodded.

“Yes… he set me up, too.”

“And you’re still working with him?”

“No, not anymore… although he most likely doesn’t know it yet.” She smiled at him and he smiled back lightly.

“Why are you here?”

“I already told you…” Suddenly she realized that the woman behind the bar was still looking at them. “Hey, lady, is something wrong?”

“No, why?”

“Then would you mind to stop staring at me?” Her voice was friendly but Jack could hear the threatening tone in her voice. The woman obviously didn’t have that ability for she stepped closer to Irina.

“I was just wondering what a woman like you is doing here? You don’t look as if places like this are the usual ones you hang out in.”

“So, what do I look like?” Irina asked, an aggressive tone in her voice now. Jack sighed.

“Irina, let it go!”

“No, I want to know why this ‘lady’ thinks, I don’t belong here!” she snapped and the manner in which she pronounced the word lady made clear that she thought of the woman as anything but a lady.

The woman laid her hands to the bar-table and lowered her face to that of Irina who was holding her eyes coldly.

“Lady, I bet you haven’t ever seen vodka in your life before! And now you want a big glass.”

“This is a bar, isn’t it? And you’re here to sell drinks… I bought one, so what’s your problem?”

“My problem is missies like you, rushing in here like little princesses, only believe that they’re better than the rest of the world because of a huge wardrobe and a big villa…”

Jack couldn’t help but grin. The description would have fit any woman… except for Irina.

“Okay, let’s have a little bet!” The woman challenged Irina. “I bet you will take one sip of the vodka and run to the woman’s room to throw up!”

“Seems fair!” Irina replied dryly and smiled. “But if I win, you won’t charge our drinks!”

“Fine by me!”

Jack, who had at first feared that the two women might start a fight observed the scene with a certain amount of amusement.

Irina lifted the glass without losing the eyes of the woman, then she downed the content in one drink without turning a hair. When she put the glass back down on the table she looked as if she had just consumed a glass of water.

“Would you mind to leave us alone now… please?” she asked firmly and the woman turned around, still unable to understand what she had just witnessed. “Back to us…” Irina looked at Jack whose eyes were sparkling with amusement. “What?”

“Amazing!” he just commented.

“What? That am here or that I arranged our drinks to be free?”

“Both! I will certainly never contest you in drinking.”

“Jack…” her face got serious. “We need to talk… I am here because I need your help… kind of. I know that our past hasn’t been the best and I don’t expect you to forget everything that I’ve done to you and Sydney. But I need to know, Jack… do you still have feel…”

“Don’t move!” he suddenly interrupted her with hissed words and Irina shot him a confused look.

“Why?”

“I knew Kendall would have me watched. Over at the door.” He got up, grabbed his jacket and went towards the door as if nothing had happened. Without paying attention to the two men in tuxedos, which he had seen in Kendall’s office once, he left the bar. Irina waited two minutes and followed him. She caught up with him at his car.

“Jack…”

“Irina, are you insane? They observing me and if they find you…”

“I know, I just need to know – Jack…” She looked into his eyes. “I have betrayed Sloane and Sark. I’ll have to go into hiding, because they’re surely going to kill me if they find me – and they’re not the only ones…” she added humorously. “I just need to know, after everything that has happened between us during the last weeks… what did it mean to you?”

He looked at her stunned. “I don’t know where you’re going!” he finally managed to reply neutrally. “What should it mean?”

“Oh…” she looked at him, her eyes suddenly covered by a shadow. “Okay, then we’re at the same point. I just wanted to make sure that neither of us has wrong expectations.” She smiled, but to him it seemed as if her face was suddenly a mask.

Damned idiot, he thought, tell her that it meant something to you… tell her that you couldn’t sleep the last days because of her…

No, he reminded himself. That would have just complicated everything. Okay,
maybe he wanted her, and yes, maybe he had troubles sleeping because of her, but that didn’t have anything to do with feelings, especially not with love.

“FREEZE!”

Suddenly they seemed to be surrounded by agents. Irina saw the two men running out of the bar and on the other side of the parking lot, another agent appeared, all aiming their guns at them.

It didn’t take Irina long to know what to do. She pulled out her own gun and grabbed Jack.

“You bastard, you set me up!” Her voice was filled with fury as she pressed the gun to his neck now. “Don’t you dare move, or he’s dead!” she ordered the agents, her eyes full of rage that convinced every single one of the man that she was determined to shoot if necessary.

“Irina, what are you doing?” Jack hissed. Her mouth was close to his ear.

“Shut up… I’m saving your ass here!”

“How exactly would that be?”

She pulled him with her towards a little alley. The agents looked at each other confused, obviously hesitating because they weren’t sure what to do. As far as they knew, Jack and Irina were accomplices.

Irina grabbed for Jack’s weapon. “Mind if I borrow that?”

“Would it make any difference if I said yes?”

She laughed slightly and kissed him on the neck then. “Since we’ll never meet again… I’m sorry… for everything, but especially for what I’m going to do now! Maybe you won’t forgive me, but I have to do it to prevent you from following me or even more foolish… trying to save me again!” He heard her taking a deep breath… was that a sob? “I never wanted it to end like that 21 years ago… in fact I’d do everything to change the past…”

With these words she pushed him away from her. “Don’t you dare try that ever again, Jack Bristow! Did you think, you could fool me that easily?”

And then she shot him. He heard the typical sound of a firing gun, then he saw the blood on his shoulder… and the tears standing in her eyes. He had never seen her cry before.

Irina turned around and disappeared in the alley, not paying attention to Jack anymore, who fell to the ground, holding his shoulder. The pain was almost overwhelming him and it took all of his control to not let his conscious fade into darkness.

He saw the faces of the other agents over him, talking to him, but he could only guess what they were saying.

“Agent Bristow, don’t move! The ambulance will be here in three minutes. Can you hear me?”

Despite all his efforts, the darkness finally surrounded him, haunted by just three words that repeated over and over again in his mind. She shot me…

“Dad?”

Jack felt as if he woke up after a long sleep… The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was a white ceiling… almost too white for his eyes right now. Then he turned his head and found Sydney looking at him, her brown eyes wide in fear, her hand touching his cheek.

“Sydney…” he murmured and closed his eyes again.

“Dad, you’re awake…” she answered and when he opened his eyes again he saw a single tear flowing over her cheek. “Oh god, I was so worried… when Kendall called me and told me that you were shot by Derevko… I feel so guilty for not having trusted you! Dad, why didn’t you tell me that she had approached you to offer you to be your informant. We could have tried to arrest her together!”

“What?” he asked, unable to follow her words although he tried hardly to put together the meaning of her words.

“We’ve found the email. Oh Dad, you could have been tortured… why didn’t you just tell them that you had a possibility to set Derevko up.”

Jack looked at her and suddenly it dawned on him. Irina must have taken care of everything. It hit him like a rock. She had saved him by shooting him. Suddenly everything seemed to clear up. By playing that little scene in front of the bar she had made it look as if he, Jack Bristow, had betrayed her. She had planned everything to free him from the suspicion of having conspired with her. Of course she had known of the CIA agents who had observed him. That’s why she had behaved so foolish and followed him to his car. And after getting away she must somehow have managed to hack into his mailbox and fake an email. She had risked her life to clear him of the charges of treason.

“Derevko approached me and her conditions were that she wanted to be granted anonymity like all of my other informants. I thought if I could gain her trust, I would be able to set her up and finally bring her back to prison. I guess it was a mistake to not tell Kendall or you about that plan, but I feared that she might guess that I was just trying to play her out. That’s why I thought it best to follow her rules. I wanted to arrest her in a good moment when I had gained her trust. But unfortunately Kendall kind of messed that plan up.”

Sydney smiled, her eyes still shimmering with tears. “Yeah, and he has one hell of a bad conscience.”

“Did they at least get Derevko?” Jack asked and sat up. His shoulder was still hurting like hell, but it was bearable.

“No… she disappeared. We’ve been observing every airport, photos of her have been given to very single police station in the states, but there are no clues by now. I’m sure she has already managed to leave the country somehow.”

“So I was shot for nothing!”

“Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t trust you! I shouldn’t have questioned your loyalty, especially concerning Mom. I mean… she could have killed you. And I didn’t trust you!”

She laid her head to his chest and sobbed. He wrapped his arm around her and stared to the wall. He felt bad. He lied to Sydney. But she would never understand why he had helped and shielded Irina – he didn’t understand it himself.

He remembered her last words, her promise that they would never meet again… and her tears. He knew he should be happy about never meeting her again – that she had finally left his and Sydney’s life.

But it felt even worse than 21 years ago when he had thought that she was dead. Why haven’t I told her the truth, he suddenly thought, why haven’t I told her that it meant something to me – that she means something to me?

 

Romantic Interlude – Someday… somewhere…

The night was warm, in fact it could be considered as unbearable hot. A soft breeze made the leaves of the palms rustle slightly.

The woman closed her eyes and let the wind play with her hair. It didn’t cool her at all; on the contrary, the breeze seemed to be even hotter than the sultry night air.

Her eyes went over the endless horizon when she stepped into the cool water. The waves played around her ankles and soaked the bottom of her dress – she didn’t care.

Nothing could be as bad as the feelings that almost tore her heart apart inside and which she didn’t understand at all. She felt such a longing for him that she wanted to cry – which was not an option. Irina Derevko would not break down in tears like a sixteen year old because of a man.

Leaving him had broken her heart… again! The words he had said – or, more accurately, not said – had hurt her so deeply that she didn’t know if that wound would ever heal again. She had to start thinking about other, more important things again… for example how she would take revenge on Sloane and Sark.

But not tonight, she thought and pulled her dress over her head. Tonight she would forget everything, her life, her problems, and who she was. She just wanted to live in the moment and let her soul drift. She threw her dress carelessly into the sand and stepped deeper into the water. As it almost reached her breast, she dove in. When she surfaced again, she stroke her hair out of her face and laid on her back. For a moment she let herself drift on the water, staring into the dark sky on which the full moon and the stars shimmered like diamonds on a black velvet cloth.

Her eyes lost in the moon, which seemed to be unnaturally huge in this part of the world. For the first time she wondered where the people saw those different figures in the moon. The Japanese saw a bunny that was baking rice-cakes, the Europeans saw a man in the moon.

Her mind drifted away to the moon, her eyes still fixed on it. And suddenly she could see her a shape in the craters of the moon – a crying woman. Clearly she recognized the eyes, the mouth and the tear and almost at the same moment her eyes started to fill with tears. No, she wouldn’t cry… she had been through so much, she would get through this pain too.

But her eyes didn’t obey her mind. The tears kept flowing down her cheeks and finally she started to sob. Her tears mixed with the salty water of the ocean, lost in its infinite depths.
Irina let her body sink under the water and closed her eyes. She felt weightless, her mind drifting away and sinking into the darkness. She saw her life, ruined and shattered, go by in front of her inner eye and for a moment she thought about the things that held her here. Her love lost, her friends gone, no one to trust – what was left for her in this life?

There were no angels who shielded and supported her in the storm. She was all alone and she felt so tired – too tired to go on. Suddenly the thought of just sinking into the waves of the ocean, forever subsiding in the mysterious depths, seemed too incredibly seductive to resist. She resisted the urge to surface, ignored the lack of oxygen that made her lungs stitch and gave in to the overwhelming darkness.

*+*+*

It had been a hot day, the air humidity finally reaching a point that was beyond bearable and now the heavens opened and the rains splashed down to the earth like waterfalls. Jack Bristow didn’t care.

He was standing at the beach of Los Angeles, staring into the dark sky and the wild ocean waves. He didn’t know what he wanted here. He hadn’t been able to sleep and finally he had felt the strong need to go to the beach and just walk… free his mind.

The last days had been hell for him. He didn’t know whether she was alive or dead. He missed her so badly that he thought he couldn’t bear it any longer. He had finally given up denying his love for her. Yes, he had had to admit, I love her – probably more than ever before.

But he had to get over her. They would never meet again, she had said farewell to him. And yet, he thought, maybe we’ll meet again someday… somewhere in this world…

Deep in his heart he wished for them to meet just one more time, to tell her that she would always be the only one for him.

“I miss you…”

*+*+*

I miss you… the words resounded in her head like an echo, she didn’t even know where they had come from. Irina surfaced and gasped for air. The world started to spin around her as she opened her eyes. She felt drops of the salty water in her mouth and leaned back until the dizziness faded.

There was something left for her in this world. The hope, that maybe there would be an angel… someday… somewhere in this world. She wouldn’t give up – Irina Derevko had never given up and she wouldn’t break that tradition now.

Her eyes went up to the crying girl in the moon again and she started smiled slightly. There would come a day when her life would be full of joy again and when she could lean back and feel safe with someone behind her whom she trusted with her life… she just had to carry on and keep fighting.

Determined to keep searching for her angel, she swam back to the beach and left the water.

 

Part 5 – I hate you… but I love you (Nineteen months later)

“Okay, I’m entering the main hall… I’m turning you off now!”

“Copied!”

Jack heard Dixon’s voice on the other end and quickly turned off his microphone. He looked around in the luxurious entrance room of the small hotel on one of the small Pacific Islands and finally decided to go to the reception.

“Welcome to our hotel, Mr…” The young girl at the reception smiled welcoming.

He wondered if she was already old enough to work… he estimated her age to fourteen or fifteen. What a shame, he thought, that they even introduce children to their criminal activities.

“Donelli!” he replied with an undefined accent.

“Ah, Mr. Donelli… yes, we have a suite waiting for you!”

She had a clear voice with a strong Asian accent… he couldn’t distinguish whether it was Thai or Japanese. She handed a small key over to him.

“Mr Conzales is looking forward to making your acquaintance. You’ve been granted unlimited use of our private pool for special guests. That includes every service related to it!” She handed him a brochure, obviously the program. “If you have any more wishes, just call for the room service!”

She outlined a bow – most likely still a manner of her native country – and pointed at the stairs that led to the upper levels of the building.

Jack nodded courteously and wondered once again how that child came to work at a place like this. He went up the stairs and searched for his room, carefully scanning his surroundings.

It had been one month ago when they had received intel that dozens of members of the covenant used this hotel as their holiday retreat. The owner himself was said to be a high-ranking member of the crime organization and they had come into the possession of surveillance camera photos that clearly showed Sydney in this hotel. She had disappeared almost eighteen months ago and during all his research, this was the first clear hint they had, that proved, that Sydney was alive and that the Covenant might be behind her disappearance.

Here he was, out in the field like he had been so often during the last year. He had given his best to find Sydney, contacted all of his informants, asking them to contact their contacts and informants, to get any possible location where his daughter might be. There had been many dead-ends… and some valuable hints, but none of them had really helped.

The photos of the camera had been the first hints that really led somewhere…

Jack entered his room and closed the door behind him. The first thing he did was disarm all kind of bugs with the small cellphone Marshall had given him.

Then he started to play the role of someone who really enjoyed his vacations here. He unpacked his clothes and changed into something more comfortable. This took him about an hour time – hurry was unnecessary and would only draw unwanted attention.

He took care of the surveillance camera by causing it to record this afternoon with a small microchip he inserted and replayed it in an endless loop. He wanted the security guys to see only what he wanted them to.

After he had finished his work, he decided to go down and check out the surroundings. The first and second floor didn’t seem to be extraordinary in any way, although they were unusually luxurious furnished. On the ground floor he found the huge dining room – he almost felt as if he was in the castle of some king and wondered how the owner could afford such luxury for a hotel. Of course, the price for one night was almost his whole month salary, but he doubted that hundreds of guests visited this hotel.

Every guest was checked properly – he had experienced that – and only after it had been proven that he wasn’t an intelligence or police agent, he was granted entrance.

Jack thought back at the profile Kendall had written for him. Jack Donelli, private assassin, killed his own wife…

“Is this your sick kind of humor?” he had asked him with a raised eyebrow and Kendall had just laughed.

“It sounds at least convincing…”

He hadn’t discussed the subject further, because it just hadn’t been worth it. It was only a profile that proved that he was a criminal.

He went through a small arch into a beautiful, huge garden – actually a comparison with a park would have been more accurate. He looked around and discovered the huge swimming pool. Slowly he strolled towards it.

“You must be Mr Donelli!”

A corpulent man in a black tuxedo hurried towards him, smiling with a big cigar between his white teeth.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Mr. Conzales! Yuki notified me of you arrival. ”

Jack took his hand and smiled. “Yuki?”

“My entrance maid.”

“The Asian girl…” Jack said and smiled. “Pretty young, isn’t she?”

The man laughed. “Yeah, her parents died when she was eight. She lived on the streets of Tokyo. I offered her a job here, she took it. Children are the best, they’re naive… although she’s growing old now. I was thinking about training her, but for about a year she has a protector here. She’s starting to ask questions, and I’ll soon have to take measures… you understand!” He sighed. “It’s a pity. She’s a beautiful girl, and could make a really good ‘room service’…” His laughter was dirty and Jack felt the need to punch him. It took all of his control not to. “… but unfortunately her sense of moral is too strong. She still thinks, she’s working for a hotel for extra-rich people who want to escape paparazzi.”

Again his laughter. They had arrived the pool now and Jack looked around.

“This is our place for training… you can also just lie down and enjoy one of our drinks. Only well-chosen guest have access to this area, so you shouldn’t be disturbed here. Of course, your anonymity is guaranteed! No personal information is given out to other guests… just to prevent personal revenge attacks or unwanted job offers which will darken you stay at our beautiful hotel!”

Jack hadn’t even listened to the last words. His eyes were fixed on the slender silhouette of a woman who stepped now out of a door on the other side of the pool. She freed her hair from the pin she had been wearing and shook her head to loosen it a little.

Dropping her towel carelessly to a free chair, she revealed her perfectly shaped body, her skin shimmering like velvet in the sun. She headed elegantly into water and dove almost the whole length of the pool. When she surfaced, she started immediately to do the crawl.

“She’s one hell of a woman, isn’t she?” Conzales grinned while he puffed on his cigar. He had of course noticed what had drawn Jack’s attention away from him. “I always come here at this time because I know this is when she does her daily training.”

“Training?” Jack asked, not really interested. His mind had drifted away. She was here… how could that be? This was a place of the Covenant!

“Yes! She swims one hour every day, and in the evening two hours down in the ocean. She’s one of my girls… one of the best assassins you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately she can be incredibly stubborn – especially concerning Yuki…”

Really?” Jack’s face darkened. One of his girls – why did this phrase cause rage to build up within him? “She’s Yuki’s protector?”

“Yeah, I don’t know why! She’s obsessed with the little girl. At the moment she’s working on convincing me to let her go. She wants the girl to attend a school… the hell knows why. If you want, I might be able to arrange something for you for tonight.”

Jack looked at him, his face fully under control, only his eyes reflected a little of his anger. “Yeah, why not. That would be really nice…”

Gonzales laughed loudly. “I see, we’ll be very good friends. I’ll leave you alone now. Feel free to look around… if there are any problems, just contact your friend Conzales!” He hit Jack’s shoulder and went away.

Jack watched him until he was gone, then he turned to the pool again. So, here she was and obviously, as he had just learned, she was one of Conzales private whores. It took all of his strength to control the fury, that made him want to pull her out of the water and take her back into US-custody. For a short moment the thought occurred to him that he was jealous, but he discarded it almost at the same second.

He was definitely not jealous, because jealousy required love, and that was one of a few feelings he did not have for Irina Derevko – he had spend the last one and a half year trying to convince himself of that.

He strolled over to a free chair and sat down on it, then he observed her doing her training and finally climbing out of the pool. She squeezed the water out of her thick hair – good, she looked gorgeous in that black swimsuit. He realized that a few other men were, like him, staring at her and for a moment he wondered how many of them had already been in her bed.

She walked slowly towards her chair and reached for her towel which she wrapped around her well trained body.

She was already used to the stares of the men and had learned to ignore them. During the first time there had been some very courageous guy – they had thought she was one of the service girls – who had tried to go for her. They had soon learned that she was not that easy to get – in fact she was not to get at all.

She took her hairpin and wanted to leave the pool area when she saw Antonio Conzales coming towards her.

“Hallo Irina!” he greeted her with his usual slimy grin. She didn’t even try to pretend that she was happy to see him.

“Antonio, what do you want?”

He grinned through his cigar. “I’ve arranged a little date for you tonight!”

“How nice… unfortunately I have other plans!” she wanted to go away but he grabbed her wrist.

“Irina, I warn you! We’ve already had this conversation! I give you a place to hide here! I would be so easy to call some of my informants and you’d be dead within two hours… or captured by the CIA… or the Russian intelligence. You’re a famous terrorist and almost every country would pay millions of dollars to see you dead! But I gave you a place to hide here… don’t you think you should pay back my favors at least a little bit!”

“I am… I’ve been committing murders for you, killing people who were threatening you!” she replied dryly, her eyes sparkling with rage, but her face appearance was calm and controlled.

“Yes, you have, but every other of my men could have done that. I expect a little more gratitude!”

“With other words, you expect me to share your bed!” At his smiled she chuckled disgustingly. “I already told you, I am not your slut!”

She wanted to turn around but his grip fastened. “Irina, I want you to date this Donelli tonight. I’ve never heard of him before, he appeared from nowhere, and there is a possibility that he is an agent. I want you to check him out… sleep with him. Men are very talky when you sleep with them.”

“I won’t! Why don’t you send one of your personal…” she started, but he didn’t even let her finish.

“Because he asked for you!”

“Then tell him that I am not available for that kind of service!”

Antonio Conzales pierced her with his eyes. She returned his gaze, her eyes steady and without fear. That was her fault, he thought grimly. All his other girls were afraid of him, but she wasn’t. At least not for herself… The thought occurred to him like a flash and he started to grin.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to send Yuki then!”

“You son of a—“

“Yuki is beautiful and sweet… and I’m sure she wouldn’t dare to contradict me. How old is she? Fourteen? She should be old enough… Or maybe I’ll keep her for myself tonight!”

Irina grabbed his sleeves and pulled him close. “You lousy bastard, you will not touch her of I’ll swear I’ll cut off your arms myself!” Her voice was fully under control and for the first time he was the one who actually feared her – but of course he didn’t show her that.

“It’s okay, I won’t harm her… but nonetheless, I expect you to visit Donelli and find out what his plans are!”

He freed himself from her and she pierced him with her eyes when he walked away. He could feel her eyes in his back and knew better than to provoke her fury. As far as he knew her, she wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if he did anything to Yuki. And she was too damned good in her job to fail. He thought it better to not make her his enemy.

+~+~+~+~+~

It was already past nine when Irina knocked at the door of room 142. Although she had no intention to sleep with the man, she had changed into something more appropriate. She wore a white jeans and a nice shirt, both very tight. Actually those were some of her usual clothes, but they would do.

All she wanted was to convince the video cameras that she was doing what Conzales had requested.

She looked up to the videocamera in the corridor and faced the door when she heard it opening.
“Mr Donelli, you asked me to visit you and I just wanted…” She cut herself off and stared at the man who was standing opposite to her now, unable to decide whether she was dreaming or awake.

“Ms Derevko, it’s a pleasure to see you!” Jack smiled, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. He pulled her into the room and closed the door behind him.

“I… I am just here to tell you I am not going to…”

His lips silenced hers in a demanding kiss, his hands drawing her close to his body. Suddenly he interrupted the kiss, let her go and went to the mini-bar. He filled two glass with vodka and handed one of them to her.

“What are you doing here?”

She looked at him, the coldness of his voice setting her off.

“I’m hiding here…”

“Really… I see. Are you aware that this is a facility of the Covenant?”

She took one sip of the vodka and nodded. “Mmm… yes, I am.”

“And I assume that you do also know that they most likely kidnapped Sydney?”

Her glass landed on the ground with a tinkling sound and she stared at him in total disbelief.

“What? When?”

“Eighteen months ago.”

“Eighteen…” she sat down on his bed, her face pale. “Is she… still alive?”

“I hope so!”

Jack observed her carefully. Her shock seemed to be real, but who knew. Irina Derevko was a master in playing roles.

“She was seen here… she’s on a video camera tape from six moths ago.”

Irina just stared at him for a moment, the she got finally up again. “I have to go now… I’m sorry about the glass, I’ll send someone to clean it up…”

She turned to the door, but before she had reached it, he had grabbed her and pulled her lips into his again. He let his glass drop to a small table and draw her slowly to the bed, never breaking the kiss. When he heard her moan softly into his mouth, he let her go. She took his hands, searching for the warmth of his lips again, but he avoided her touch.

“Oh, just one question before we get started… how much is it going to cost me?”

“What?” she asked, not even listening to what he said. Here he was, right before her. Jack Bristow… her Jack.

“Having sex with you. I want to make sure I have enough cash…” he replied coldly and she backed up abruptly.

“What?” she asked in disbelief now, her voice in a mixture of anger and hurt.

“Well, since you’re obviously employed as a whore in here I assume you have your price and don’t offer you services for free…”

Slowly, very slowly it dawned on her what he was thinking of her – he thought she paid her bill for staying here by working as a prostitute. Damned idiot, he hadn’t learned anything.

She stood up straight to keep at least the last remains of her dignity and not show her hurt, her face was totally emotionless, her eyes locked with his.
“Yes, you’re right… and when I think about it. My price is far beyond the amount you could afford!” she replied coldly and turned around to leave the room. Before she shut the door she faced him once again, shooting him her most seductive look. “Sweet dreams, Mr Donelli!”

When the door slammed, he let himself sink down to the bed. Maybe he had been a little too harsh… but she hadn’t even denied being a whore. In fact she had proven his suspicions by her words.

Irina rushed along the corridor until she reached her private rooms. After she had slammed the door shut behind her, she let herself sink against the wall and sighed deeply. That damned, insufferable bastard! How could he believe that she would sell herself to other men when the only man she could think of was him? Maybe she had made some mistakes in her past – including using sex as a mean to get something – but that had been when she was younger. She had changed – well, maybe she was still a terrorist, but her priorities had changed. She would do everything to protect the two people she loved the most – Sydney and Jack…

And now she learned that Sydney had been kidnapped. Why had she went into hiding and stopped observing them? Maybe she would have been able to prevent Sydney’s disappearance. After what had happened to Jack, she had though it best to leave their lives forever – to protect them. Obviously a mistake again…

What was Jack doing here now? Looking for Sydney, that was for sure, but most likely not alone. He must have a CIA team somewhere close and that would mean that she was in danger here.

She took another deep breath and grabbed for her swimsuit. She needed a little training now to free her mind and decide what to do next – whether to go away or ally herself with Jack.

+~+~+~+~+~+~+

The water was cold and helped her to throw away any unwanted thoughts. She swam a few minutes out into the ocean, then back to the beach. When she stepped out of the water and wrapped her towel around her, a figure stepped out of the dark shadow of a palm.

“I knew you would come here!”

She started and spun around. “Dammit, you scared me…”

Jack strolled towards her and she turned away from him.

“What do you want here, Jack?”

“I want some answers!” he replied, sitting down on a rock.

“What kind of answers?” she asked and knotted the towel around her waist.

“Do you have anything to do with Sydney’s kidnap?”

“Jack, no!” She looked at him as if he was crazy. “Do you really think I would kidnap my own daughter? …Of course you do!” she added after she had seen the look in his eyes. “But I’m sorry to disappoint you here. I didn’t know they had kidnapped Sydney!”

“Okay, what are you doing here then… besides selling your body to those…”

“Oh, that’s it! I live here and get the orders to sleep with men to steal secrets from them!” she answered sarcastically and he shot her one of his warning glances.

“What?” Her voice was cold. “That’s what you want to hear… you won’t believe anything else anyway, so why even bother to convince you that this is just not the case!”

“What is the case then?”

“I live her… and I do jobs for Conzales, but not the kind of jobs you think of. I get things he wants to have… and sometimes I kill someone who is a thread to him. That’s it!”

“I don’t believe you!”

“I didn’t expect you to!” She turned around and wanted to go away, but he grabbed her wrist to hold her.

“I wasn’t finished yet!”

“Well, I was!” She freed her wrist out of his grip and went to the small rock staircase that led back up to the area of the hotel. He followed her in a certain distance.
When she passed by the pool and went towards the entrance to the staff rooms, he caught up with her and held her softly, trying to prevent her from entering the house.

“Irina, have you seen Sydney here?”

“No, I haven’t!” she replied, her eyes holding his steadily. “If I had I would tell you!” She sighed. “I don’t know what you think of me… most likely you take me for a monster who wouldn’t hesitate to kill her own daughter if given the possibility. I can’t blame you for that… maybe you’re right in a way. I know you loathe me, and don’t trust me… I don’t trust you either, but I swear to you, I would never ever hurt Sydney.” Or you, she added silently but didn’t tell him out loud. “I offer you my help to find her. You can take it… or reject it.”

He had let her finish her little speech, his eyes observing her now carefully. “You’re offering to help me find Sydney?” His tone implied that he was seriously considering her offer. “Okay!” he finally agreed. “But I have two conditions: Number One, I am the one in charge… you follow my orders. And Number Two, no hidden agendas, no betrayal… not even lies. You share all your ideas and results with me!”

She folded her arms. “Concerning Number One: go to hell! And concerning Number Two: No hidden agendas, no betrayal. But I’ll see if you’re worthy to be told everything! And I have one condition as well!”

“What?”

“Since we have to leave this place… I want to bring Yuki to Japan first.”

“Your protege!” Jack answered dryly and Irina shrugged.

“If you want to call her that, yes. I just don’t want her life ruined because of one wrong decision she made.”

He heard the softness in her voice and for the first time he considered the possibility that she might indeed regret her errors of the past. The new faces he discovered on her amazed him. She was taking care of Yuki as if she was her own daughter… just like Laura had done. Laura had been warm-hearted and always worried about other people.

But this was not Laura! Laura had been an illusion… like a character in a theater was an illusion, he thought grimly. And yet, he discovered qualities in her that were really sweet.
Stop it, Bristow, he commanded himself.

“Okay, we’ll take Yuki to Japan…” he nodded. “Do you have any idea where to bring her there?”

“She has a grandfather. I’ve searched for him and found out that he works in a Shinto temple near Yokohama. Obviously he doesn’t even know that he has a granddaughter, otherwise he would have already searched for her. I’ve found out that he and Yuki’s mother had hardly any contact. They had disputed about her marriage, and when Yuki’s mother married the man she loved against the will of his father, he turned away from her. I’m convinced that he will take good care of his granddaughter.”

Only now she realized that they had gotten closer to each other while talking. Their chests were almost touching, his face close to hers. She tired to back up a little to get some distance between them, but he held her firmly in place.

“Jack…” she started to protest, but he didn’t even listen to her.

Their faces were just inches apart and finally his mouth found the cool skin of her neck, softly starting to caress it until her soft moan satisfied him. His hands went to her waist, pulling her close to him. She shivered against his body and closed her eyes. God, how much she had missed him, his touch, his warmth…

Her lips ran over his cheek and earlobe, softly caressing his hot skin while her hands ran though his hair, pulling him even closer. Finally their lips met in a passionate encounter that left them both breathless.

No, this didn’t feel right… Irina broke the kiss and leaned her forehead against his, her hands framing his face. She bit her lip, her eyes still closed.

“I should go now!” she murmured hoarsely, still breathing heavier than normal. “I have to take care of the ship to take us away from here… and Yuki!”

“But you don’t have to do that now…” he replied, outlining the shape of her waist with his fingers which caused her to tremble again. But then she freed herself from him.

“Goodnight, Jack!” She turned to leave.

“Why can’t you stay for me, because of all the other men?” he asked, his voice showing more anger than he wanted to.

A knife stabbing her couldn’t have outraged her more. Irina stopped abruptly, turning around slowly. It didn’t take someone who knew her to see the murderous expression on her face.

Before Jack knew what was happening, Irina had pushed him into the cool water of the swimming pool.

“Are you insane?” he yelled anxiously when he surfaced and shot her one of his darkest looks.

“Am I insane?” she repeated his question. “Ask that question of yourself, Bristow! And don’t you dare ever touch me again!”

With these words she turned around and left. Jack climbed out of the pool, his clothes soaked and dripping with water. He watched her entering the house in bewilderment, then anger started to build up inside him. Damned he needed her and she rejected him! Why did she prefer a man like Conzales to him?

He swore to himself, that he would kill Conzales next time he saw him.

~+~+~+~

“Do you remember the conversation we once had?” Irina pulled Yuki into her room and grabbed the girl at the shoulders. “I want you to pack your most important things… without anyone noticing!”

“What? Why?” The girl looked at her in complete confusion.

“And I also told you, that if I ordered you to pack your stuff someday, I didn’t want to hear any protests or questions!”

“Yes, and I made clear that I don’t take orders!” Yuki replied dryly and when Irina looked into her eyes, she sighed. Yuki was just a little too much like her.

“Just do what I told you to… I have to leave this place and without anyone protecting you, you’ll be in danger here!”

“I can defend myself!”

“Yuki! I warn you…” The hint of fury in Irina’s voice showed that she was about to lose control.

“I’ve been training very hard! They won’t be able to do anything to me!” Yuki’s voice was even to that of Irina and the woman grabbed the girl’s shoulders.

“You can’t defend yourself against a profi! They’ll kill you before you even noticed…”

The next moment she found herself flying to the ground, her arm pressed painfully to her back and Yuki sitting over her.

“I’m sorry, but in the face of your situation I don’t think that you’re right! Unless you would not consider yourself as a profi…”

“Cheeky little brat!” Irina growled and Yuki let go of her laughing.

“You seem a little rusty!”

She avoided Irina’s grip still grinning, but then stumbled and finally found herself pulled into Irina’s arms.

“I just don’t want you to get hurt!” The woman pressed Yuki close to her. “You don’t know these men… you don’t know what they are able to do, but I do! And I don’t want you to become part of their world.”

“I’ll be okay!” Yuki hugged her. “Really! I survived living in the streets of Tokyo, I survived working here for five years… Conzales doesn’t know that I know what this hotel is about. He thinks I’m just a weak, naive girl who isn’t even able to defend herself.”

“But Yuki, this can’t be what you have planned for your life! You’re smart, you’re intelligent! You could achieve something in life… besides being Conzales best asset! I’m planning to take you back to Japan. You have a grandfather living there… he will take care of you! You can attend a school and change your live! No more criminal activities. You could live a normal life!”

Yuki held her eyes, then she hugged the woman. “But what about you? I can’t leave you alone!”

“I can take care of myself… I have done all of my live! Although I’ll miss you terribly! But you have the chance to turn away from this life in hiding and danger to get killed every second. You get a second chance! Take it!”

“Okay, I’ll pack my stuff!” Yuki smiled and Irina let go of her.

“Make sure to be ready tonight. The ship will be down in the bay at eleven. Oh, and wrap your stuff in plastic. We’ll have to swim a little. And now get back to work before Conzales gets suspicious!”

Yuki smiled and went to the door to leave the room. She was about to shut it, then she grinned at Irina once more.

“By the way, maybe you should do some training. Defeated by a fourteen year old girl… that’s really pathetic, Irina Derevko!”

“Get your butt back to work before I decide to kick it!” Irina replied smiling and Yuki shut the door giggling.

+~+~+~+~

“What the hell…”

Jack couldn’t believe his eyes when they climbed onto the huge luxury-yacht, which lying a few hundred meters away from the beach in the hidden bay.

Yuki’s expression reflected his thoughts, but Irina didn’t even pay attention to them. She greeted the man who was hurrying towards her now.

“It’s nice to see you, Omar!”

“It’s nice to see you too, Irina! When Katya told me that you were in danger, I was afraid that I was too late!”

“No, you’re right on time!” she smiled. “When can we leave?”

“Immediately if you wish to!”

“Yes… I want to be as far away from this place as possible when the sun rises.”

“I’ll take care of it. I told my helper Jamis to prepare some food for you. You find everything you need?”

“Of course, thanks!” Irina turned around to Jack and Yuki. “Come on, follow me, I’ll show you the rooms.”

“Irina, where the hell did you get a ship like this? It’s huge!”

“It’s not mine!” she replied simply. “I kind of borrowed it!”

Jack and Yuki followed her below deck. They went down wide stairs and found themselves in a luxurious corridor that could easily compete with every luxury liner.

“Welcome to Deck B! Here are your personal rooms! Yuki, that’s yours…” she opened the door to a huge room. The girl cried out in surprise and hopped onto the huge soft bed. Irina watched her, amused, and decided it best to leave her alone.

“Jack, this is yours…” She showed him his cabin that was as huge as Yuki’s had been before.

“Where is your room?” he asked curiously.

“Why?” Was her cold reply . She didn’t look at him but realized, that her behavior was ridiculous. “The last door to the left at the end of the corridor! I suggest we rest for one hour and meet in the living room at eleven-thirty to discuss our plan.”

“Fine by me!” he replied and watched her go to her own room and enter it.

One hour later when he entered the huge living room on the first floor, she was already there, sitting on the large sofa in the corner studying some plans on the table in front of her.

Jack looked around. The room was incredibly beautiful, furnished in brown luxury wood. On two sides huge glass windows offered a panoramic view of the wide ocean.

This room offered everything one could wish for. A sofa corner with a TV, a desk, a billiard table… even a small fireplace and a piano. He didn’t even want to think about the costs for such a luxury… or how she got it.

“Beautiful!” he commented when he sat down opposite to her. She ignored his comment and leaned back in the sofa.

“Is everything okay in your room?”

“Yes… more than okay!” he replied and she nodded satisfied.

“Fine, then let’s not waste our time. This is a report of one of my informants about a meeting he had two days ago with a woman whom he identified as Sydney.”

“What? Where?”

“Spain… we can be there in five days. We’ll take Yuki to her grandfather and catch the next flight from Tokyo. But we have to be careful. Conzales will most likely look for us… not to mention your CIA team!”

“I told Dixon to cover up for me! I didn’t tell him I was working with you… just that I had a lead on Sydney and followed it.”

“Good, so we have three, maybe four days until the CIA will follow us.”

“Have you ever thought of the possibility, that Conzales might have known something – about Sydney?”

“He didn’t!” Irina replied, taking a sip out of her glass of wine. “He was a high ranking member, but just because he was an important source of money for them with his hotel. I’ve learned a lot about him during the last one and a half year. He doesn’t even know who his bosses are! They are too careful…” She sighed. “Sometimes I doubt that anyone knows the head of the Covenant personally.”

His eyes pierced hers, looking for a hint that she was lying to him, but he found none.

“What?”

“Nothing…”

They looked at each other for a long time, then finally she offered him a glass of wine. He refused.

“May I ask you a question?”

“Sure…” she replied and leaned back.

“How did you get this ship and where do you know the captain from?”

“He’s the man of… a very good friend of mine.” She replied evasively. “The ship belongs to her.”

“Katya?” he asked and she nodded, surprised, that he had followed their conversation earlier. “Where do you know her from?”

“Why does that matter? I don’t like to reveal the identities of my helpers! And neither do you…” she reminded him and got up. She stepped to the side of the room and stared out of the window into the darkness.

“We should find some kind of agreement…”

She started when she heard his voice so close behind her. Why did his closeness made her feel so nervous? Where was her good old and so long trained control?

“What do you mean?”

“Your hostility.”

“My…” she gasped outraged. “I’m not the one, who started the hostility! You did. I’m only trying to find Sydney now.”

She felt his hands on her arms, but evaded his touch when he tried to pull her closer.

“I think I’ll get some rest now. It’s been an exhausting day…” Her voice was cold, not showing any emotion and that caused anger build up inside him. What kind of game was she trying to play here?

He caught up with her before she could leave the room and held the door close with his hand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked aggressively in a tone that promised a coming Armageddon.

“I return the question! Playing the ice-queen just doesn’t fit you!”

“Getting frustrated already?” she asked angrily and pushed his hand aside to open the door. “Nice feeling, isn’t it?”

It was intended to be her revenge for his insinuations. His words had hurt her and she was determined to show him that it took a little more than just money – or nice words – to get her…But she hadn’t been prepared for his reaction to her provocation.

Jack grabbed her and lifted her to the billiard table, his mouth devouring hers in an impatient kiss, that was far beyond tenderness. She screamed out in protest, her sound was lost in his mouth. She started to pummel his shoulder with her fists.

“Bastard!” she hissed when he broke the kiss to fulfill his need for oxygen. “I hate you!” she managed to add before his lips met hers again, this time seductively.

He bit her lower lip softly, outlining it with his tongue until her hands stilled and she moaned against his lips. Playfully he fell back when she wanted to deepen the kiss. His hands moved up her body and found their way under her top. He pushed her softly down to the table, his mouth never stopped teasing hers. Then he slipped her top up and revealed the bare skin of her belly. When his mouth brushed over her belly button, she gasped for air.

His hands held her firmly in place, not allowing her to evade his touch. He buried his face in the soft skin of her belly, breathing in her scent and absorbing the warmth of her body. God, he needed her so badly…

His mouth melted with hers again, then moving over the sensitive skin of her neck until she was whimpering and desperately pressing him against her, urging him to touch her. He teased her earlobe – and then suddenly broke free. She shivered at the loss of his warmth and looked at him in confusion.

This had not been his plan. What had happened? When had he lost control over his actions? He didn’t know, but there was one thing he knew for sure. He had to stop now, otherwise he wouldn’t leave tonight, and that would give her too much power over him. He wouldn’t allow her to win his heart again, because he wouldn’t be able to stand the inevitable betrayal. It was easier if he stayed emotionally uninvolved.

“Goodnight, Irina!”

“What’re you doing?”

“I’m going to bed… leaving you a little time to think about the meaning of frustration!”

“You son of a b*tch!”

He hurried to close the door before the billiard balls, which she threw after him furiously, could hit him.

Irina stared in disbelief at the closed door, then she let herself sink back to the table and stared at the brown ceiling. Why did she have the feeling that she had suddenly lost control over the situation? It had all gone well… until she had been foolish enough to let him seduce her. She groaned, frustrated.

She had had every intention to not respond to him, but somehow he had shattered her walls… again! And the worst was that it didn’t take him more than a touch, or a kiss at the most to make her forget about everything else.

It was too dangerous for her to fall for him. It had taken her too long to get over him the last times, not to mention that he thought of her as a whore at the moment. Her chances to ever win his heart again had sunk below zero, all she could possible get was sex, but that was just not what she wanted.

‘Who are you trying to fool here?’, she asked herself grimly. Of course she wanted him, she needed him. Since she had seen him yesterday evening all her feelings seemed to resurface, slowly drowning her reason, a fact that really scared her. He had so much power over her – too much – enough that he could destroy her. And yet she was drawn to him like a moth to the fire.

Could it be that there was no way for her to resist him?

~+~+~+~

The sun was already rising when Jack opened the door to the living room – drawn by the loud sound of breaking glass.

He had been fast asleep when the noise had woken him up. Maybe they had an unwanted intruder onboard, although he had no idea how that could be possible.

He stared at disbelief at the scene that presented itself to him as he entered the living room now. Irina was sitting in front of the sofa, a bottle of vodka in her hand… his eyes went to the corner next to the door. At least four glasses were lying shattered on the floor – obviously broken from being thrown against the wall.

“Irina… what’s going on?”

“What?” She looked at him in stunned disbelief and started to giggle. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

He went closer and sighed. “God, how much have you been drinking?”

She tried to get up, but stumbled and fell back onto the couch.

“Wow… “ she murmured, closed her eyes for a short time and started to laugh again.

Jack noted the two already empty bottles of vodka on the ground and frowned his forehead. Irina took another sip of the bottle she still held in her hand.

“Did you drink them all alone?” he asked and Irina finally stood up, staggering a little. Jack wanted to offer his arms to help her, but she refused.

“I have to buy more glasses!” she murmured, staring at the pieces in the corner and wanting to take another mouthful of vodka.

“That’s enough!” Jack said softly and took her bottle away. She protested and tried to get the bottle back, but grabbing for it put her off balance and she landed in his arms.

“Don’t…” she warned and stood up again, pushing him away slightly. “…touch me…”

He considered it useless to start a discussion with her now. She was totally drunk… in fact he would have seriously thought about calling an ambulance, if they hadn’t been on the high sees with no island within hundreds of miles. She had finished two and a half bottles of vodka all alone, it amazed him that she was still conscious, not to mention able to walk.

He followed her when she staggered to the door.

“Why are there two doors…?” she murmured and ran against the wall before he could prevent it. She started to giggle again. “I feel like Alice in Wonderland… which door shall I choose… left… or right…”

“Irina… wait!” he tried to catch her, but she avoided his touch and almost ran out the door.

She was too drunk to keep her balance when running and would have fallen down the stairs if he hadn’t caught her. He threw the bottle of vodka he still held in his hand into the ocean to free both hands.

“That’s enough! Come on, let me take you to bed.” He said softly. He wanted to lift her up onto his arms, but she pushed him away with both her hands.

“Go to hell, Bristow! I don’t need you… I’m pretty good in doing my stuff alone… I have always been…” She staggered to the rail. “I don’t need anyone…”

“No, you need sleep!” he replied.

She closed her eyes and felt the wind brushing over her face. The spinning of the world in front of her eyes was almost unbearable. She turned and faced him again.

“And you know what? I am not at all frustrated, because I don’t need you!”

God, suddenly it dawned on him. The reason why she had gotten drunk…

“And you know why I don’t need you? Because…” She stepped back while talking and held her stomach for a moment. “Because you are a f*cking CIA agent… that’s the reason! And you’re my enemy, and I hate you… and you’re CIA agent… oh, I mentioned that, didn’t I?” she asked, shooting him a confused look.

“Irina please! Let me take you to bed!” He his initial amusement started to turn into worry.

“No… no, because I don’t need anyone to tell me, what to do! Especially not you! I’m fine! I can decide myself when to go to bed! You know what I realized… we can never… ever… be happy, Bristow, because I am not Laura, I am just… I’m just Irina.” For a moment the look in her eyes changed. “Do you remember when we were on that party of Arvin’s? We stayed up the whole night, standing at the harbor. God, you were so sweet when you offered your coat to me… that was the most romantic night I ever had. You had the same expression on your face then… you can’t even imagine, how much I…”

She held her head and tumbled a little. “Dammit I don’t even like you!” she scolded herself and he couldn’t help but chuckle softly.

“Come on let’s get you to bed…”

“Yeah, you’d like that… could you get me a drink, please? Vodka would be fine!”

He sighed and for a moment he considering just grabbing her and taking her to the next bed he could find, but she would most likely starting a loud protest and finally wake up the whole ship.

Their eyes were locked and Jack reflected over her words. Of course she was totally drunk, but somehow her words had touched him. She was right, she wasn’t Laura… but the way she had said it made it seem as if she regretted not to be her – as if he regretted it. If that was what she thought of him, she was just wrong. He wasn’t even interested in Laura anymore… he took a deep breath at the sudden realization. During the first time when Irina had turned herself in he had thought of her as Laura… even referred to her as Laura during a conversation with Barnett. Now he thought of her as Irina… even when he remembered the past – and their marriage.

While stepping back, Irina had come to the place of the rail where a small door was set in to allow the owner to get easily into the water, as it was usually in private yachts.

Before Jack could react she had tried to hold on to the small knob, that opened the door. Inevitably the small door opened, Irina lost her balance and fell with a surprised scream into the cold water of the ocean.

“For heaven’s sake.” Jack scolded in shock and jumped after her. Thank God they had decided to stop the ship, so the captain could get some rest, otherwise the situation would have been dangerous.

It took Jack a moment to locate Irina, then he pulled her back to the surface. She held on to him, her eyes meeting his in bewilderment.

“Whoops…” she murmured as she finally realized what had happened.

“Irina, you’re…” he started, but she didn’t let him finish.

“I know… you want to tell me that I am insane…” she murmured giggling and laid her hands to his cheeks. He couldn’t help but smile at her reaction.

“No, that would be the understatement of the century!”

She buried her head on his neck. It took him some time to get her back to the yacht, obviously she had crossed the border over to exhaustion now.

When they were finally aboard the ship again, she didn’t even struggle against him when he lifted her up onto his arms and carried her below deck into her room where he let her down and helped her to undress, until she wore nothing but underwear.

She fell onto the bed and didn’t even realize that she was still wet from the ocean. He covered her with the sheets and started to go, but she grabbed for his hand.

“Jack! Don’t leave me… I don’t want to be alone again…” He saw tears in her eyes.

She seemed so vulnerable that he felt guilty, because after all, she had gotten drunk because of him… and now she asked him to stay.
He bend down and laid his mouth to hers, softly silencing her words with a tender kiss. When their lips finally broke apart, she was almost fully asleep.

“I love you…” Her voice was no more than a whisper.

He looked at her thoughtfully and stroke one wet strand of hair out of her face. When he was sure that she was sleeping soundly he got up and left the room… still confused by her last words. Had she been too drunk to realize who she was talking to, or too drunk to hide her feelings?

~+~+~+~

“Good morning…” Jack looked up when the door opened and Irina entered the small galley. She reacted with a moan and held her head. Sympathetically he took a cup from the small cupboard, filled it with coffee and handed it to her. She took it without looking at him.

A long silence passed until she finally dared to meet his eyes.

“Jack… how did I get to my bed?”

He looked up from the file he was reading. “You don’t remember?”

The look in her eyes told him the answer.

“Well, I took you to bed…” he replied and took a mouthful of his coffee.

“That’s all?”

“Well, aside from the fact the you shattered a few of your glasses and we had a nice bath in the ocean, yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

“Oh God…” she hid her face in her hands. “I can’t believe I did this…”

“I can’t believe you survived this!” he answered. “And I won’t even talk about your astounding luck at not drowning or breaking your bones… given the fact that you consumed about two liters pure vodka, it is amazing that you were able to walk at all.” His eyes sparkled amused. “But you’re pretty chatty when drunk…”

Now he had her undivided attention. “What did I tell you?”

“Other question, what could you have been telling me, that you wouldn’t tell me when sober?”

“Oh no, agent Bristow, I’m not going to answer that question! You’re bluffing! Shame on you, trying to use my situation to your advantage!”

If I would have wanted to do so, I’d have had other possibilities, he thought, but didn’t tell her.

They looked at each other for a moment. Jack tried to read something in her expression… anything that would confirm, that she had not just told him that she loved him because she was drunk. Irina in turn tried to appraise if he told the truth and she had really told him that much.

Oh God, what if I told him about my feelings, came to her mind and the thought had almost made her moan.

Suddenly the door flew open and Yuki stormed into the room.

“Jack, Jack. They are back! The dolphins are accompanying our ship again! Morning, Irina.”

The woman just nodded in return, holding her head in pain. She just couldn’t stand loud voices today.

Yuki left the room again and Irina sighed. Jack looked at her concerned.

“Maybe you should get to bed again and rest a little.”

“I’m fine…” she answered and finished her cup of coffee before she got up. She was about to leave the room when she turned around again. “Jack… if you tell anyone about last night, no matter what I told you or not told you, I’ll kill you…”

“You know me, and therefore you also know that I’m not afraid of your threats!” he replied amused and she turned around and left. He could hear her cursing him until she had disappeared in her room.

 

Part 6 – Frustration

It was the second day on the yacht. They had spent the previous day in peace. Irina had stayed in her room the whole day, recovering from her hangover and regaining her control. Jack had been reading the files Irina had given to him from her source in Spain and the afternoon, Sydney had been seen.Yuki had explored the whole ship.

Omar had patiently shown the girl how to drive a ship and explained the different instruments to her. She had also made the acquaintance of Dimitrjii, the tech guy, who was taking care of the machines. The old man had showed the girl how to repair a machine and how it worked.

The only man who didn’t seem to like her was Jamis, the galley worker. He hardly talked at all and Yuki didn’t like him. She had decided to keep an eye on him… just in case.

They would berth at one of the small islands in the pacific today to buy some supplies and fill up their water reserves.

It was already noon and Irina was lying on deck, reading a book and enjoying the warmth of the sun. Yuki was playing ball around her – actually she was more occupied with preventing the ball from flying into the ocean . Jack hadn’t shown up the whole day.

Irina was quite glad about that, because his presence made her feel unsure… and the more time they spend together, the more unsure she felt, especially after she had been drunk – although she should be prepared to face him now.

She hated to show any weakness, especially to Jack.

“DUDE!”

Irina looked up when she heard Yuki’s curse and followed her eyes. The yellow ball was lying in the waves, growing smaller and smaller as the yacht kept its speed up.

“Don’t even think of it!” Irina noted dryly and looked at her book again. “We won’t stop because of a ball and if you jump to get it, it will be a long way to swim for you!”

Yuki grinned at her, knowing that Irina would immediately stop the boat if she would really jump into the water, but a ball was just not worth the effort.

“I think there’s another one downstairs!” Yuki replied and hopped downstairs. Irina followed her with her eyes. This girl was amazing. Although she had been through so much, she was still naive and happy like an innocent child. She sighed and closed her eyes. This girl deserved a second chance. Maybe she would have changed her life as well if given the possibility…

“Have you ever truly regretted it?”

Irina started at the sudden interruption of her thoughts and looked at Jack.

“What?” she asked confused.

“Having missed seeing Sydney grow up.”

He sat down next to her and she nodded.

“Yes…” she replied, her eyes focused to some point on the horizon. “But leaving was the only way to keep her safe… at least that was what I thought. Of course I didn’t expect her own father to use her for some project to train spies!”

Jack shot her a cold look. “I don’t think you’re in the position to judge my decisions! At least I’ve been there for her, while her mother abandoned her.”

“Yeah… at least physically you’ve been there!” she snapped, eyes focusing at her book again.

“And what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

She sighed. How had this happened again? She hadn’t meant to start a fight with him…

“Nothing… I’m sorry.”

Jack wanted to reply something, but in that moment Yuki hopped out of the door again. She had found another ball and shot it against the rail.

Irina watched her a moment, then she got up.

“Excuse me!”

Without shooting them one more look, she went up into the living room. Yuki and Jack followed her with their eyes, then Yuki turned to Jack.

“I know what you think about her!” the girl said dryly and threw her ball to him. Jack caught it and blinked, amused.

“Do you?”

He had come to like the girl. She was cheeky, but in a refreshing way and if she told you something you could just be sure that it was the truth. He didn’t know why, but he trusted her, and although he didn’t even know anything about her he liked her.

“Yes…” She caught the ball as Jack threw it back to her. “You love her, but you’re too proud to admit it, maybe too afraid to get hurt as well… understandable. And now, after you’ve seen her and after what Conzales told you, you’re incredibly jealous and again too proud to admit it to yourself, because you think she’ll use it against you!”

Jack had almost choked. “What?” he asked totally stunned. The girl had described his feelings as accurately as it was possible. “How do you…?”

“How do I know?” she smiled mysteriously. “I’m fourteen, and I’m not stupid.”

“No, obviously you’re not! Have you told Irina what… you just told me?”

She laughed and he caught the ball again. “No, I’m not your matchmaker! I just wanted to make sure I’m right.”

Jack shot her a look and sighed. “You were right about everything except for one little detail!”

“What would that be?” Yuki sat down next to him curiously and took the ball as he handed it to her.

“I don’t love her! I did love her once… but too much has happened.”

“I know you don’t trust her.” Yuki smiled at him. “But I can tell you, none of your recent accusations towards her are true. She may have made a lot of mistakes in the past… but she has a good heart, and does definitely not deserve to be treated like that. Maybe you’ve been hurt by her… but have you ever thought of the possibility, that she was hurt too? You can’t expect her to trust you and be honest with you if you don’t return that trust. Sometimes it’s hard to do the first step, but maybe she deserves a second chance!”

“She had dozens of second chances!” Jack growled and Yuki looked at him, her eyes piercing his.

“No! She has not had a second chance, because you always treated her with prejudices and assumed that she would betray you again.”

“I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with a fourteen year old! You don’t know anything about our past at all… you don’t know her!” Jack murmured and Yuki smiled again.

“Yes, of course, maybe you are right. I don’t know anything!” she replied in a way that made him feel stupid.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

Yuki didn’t react to his question. “You see a woman who betrayed you, abandoned you and your daughter and is a murderer, a terrorist and a traitor. I see a woman who protected me from harm and did everything to get me a second chance to start over again. If she was what you believe her to be Jack, ask yourself, would she have even looked at me once? But you’re right. I’m just a child… how can I know about how the world works?”

Leaving him in stunned silence, Yuki jumped up again and continued her one-person ball game.

~+~+~+~

Irina slammed the door to the living room shut and leaned against the cool wood. She hadn’t meant to start a fight with Jack, actually she had planned to be really nice to him and not allow him to break her control again.

But he couldn’t let go of the past and that outraged her. Yes, she had made mistakes, but so had he…

Why the hell did she feel so aggressive lately? All her self-control seemed to flow away like a waterfall – not even her meditation brought her the inner peace she was so in need of, at least not long-term. She denied the possibility of being frustrated, because that was just not the case. She was happy, when she was alone. She didn’t depend on anyone… especially not Jack.

Okay, maybe she wanted him, but that was all. The natural reaction of a woman’s body to a man. Not to any man, to Jack, her subconsciousness corrected her and Irina slammed her fist to the billiard table.

Her life had been perfectly under control… until two years ago when her damned search for Rambaldi had caused them to meet again.

“Am I disturbing you?” Jack entered the living room and shot the woman at the billiard table a concerned look.

“Yes!” she growled. “But I doubt you care!”

He chuckled and shut the door behind him, then walked to the billiard table. He looked at her for a long time until her eyes pierced his in fury.

“Have you come to annoy me?” she snapped.

“No, but obviously that’s inevitable. You’re pretty easily annoyed lately!”

“Wise words from the inventor of annoyance!” Her voice was level and she closed her eyes. “So, what do you want?”

“What about a game of pool?” he suddenly asked, rolling the billiard balls around with his hand. Her eyes sparkled with interest.

“To what purpose?”

“Truth…”

She shook her head in confusion. “What?”

“Every time one of us sinks a ball he can ask the other one a question which has to be answered truthfully. And if you don’t want to answer that question, you have to do something I want you to.”

“Why are you just saying that about me?”

“Because I have nothing to hide and will answer your questions.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Irina turned and wanted to leave as Jack laughed.

“You’re afraid!”

“What?” she yelled and turned around abruptly. “I assure you I am certainly not afraid.”

“Prove it!” He handed the cue to her. “I thought you love games… let’s have this one.”

“We shouldn’t waste our time with…”

“I can’t believe it. The great Irina Derevko is afraid of a game!”

“Give me that damned cue!” she growled and he handed it to her laughing. “But we should install some rules for the questions!”

“Why?”

“Why?” she repeated and he nodded.

“Yes, why? Are you afraid I could ask questions you don’t want to answer?”

Why did she get the feeling that he controlled this game – a feeling that she didn’t like at all? Okay, Mr Bristow, you wanted to play without rules, you’ll get your game.

She shot him a cold look and focused her mind to the table then. She did her first break – nothing. She cursed silently and handed the cue to him then. Her curses got louder when he sank a ball at the side of the table.

“Why are you being so frustrated?” he asked without looking up and thought, which position was best to shoot next.

“No special reason!” she replied and his eyes met hers.

“Did I mention that a lie has the same consequences as the refusal to answer the question? You get one more chance!”

His eyes fell to the red eight again and he measured his chances to hit the hole in the left corner.

“I’m still waiting! You have to reply fast, otherwise I have to assume that you came up with a lie!”

“I’m frustrated, because you’re such a damned bastard!” she growled in a hint of fury and he grinned.

“Answer accepted!”

He shot and the ball sank into the hole. “Let’s give you any easy one… who is Katya?”

“I already answered to that question!” she replied dryly and he nodded.

“Yes, but not to my satisfaction.”

“I can’t tell you more than what I told you… and that was the truth!”

“So you refuse to answer?” His eyes sparkled she gasped for air in rebellion.

“No…”

“Yes, you do! Tell me at least, where do you know her from?”

She pressed her lips together. “I can’t! And Jack, this question is just not fair!”

“Why? We’re allies now. No secrets!”

“Fine then say what I have to do, because you won’t get the answer to that one!” She held his eyes with hers. She couldn’t tell him that Katya was her sister, because he was CIA. She didn’t want her sister to be involved with her international crimes… at least not officially.

“Fine, then…” He went closer to her. “…you have to take the consequences.”

His mouth was just an inch away from hers and she felt tension starting to build up inside her. He noticed with a certain satisfaction that his closeness had its effects on her although they didn’t touch at all.

She didn’t turn her eyes away from his and for a moment it seemed as if he would kiss her. Every inch of her body was prepared, no, awaited his touch… but then he simply said “Get me a drink!” and turned back to the table.

That set her totally off and it took her a moment to regain her control.

“What?” She didn’t even bother to hide the confusion from her voice and he smiled.

“Wine would be fine!”

Although that hadn’t been the answer she had aimed to achieve with her question, she turned and filled two glass with wine.
She handed one to him in exchange for the cue.

“It’s your turn… I missed the last ball.” He replied and took a sip of wine without loosing her eyes.

‘Two can play this game’ she thought grimly and quickly examined the table for which ball offered her best chances. About thirty seconds later she had sunk two balls at once.

“Make that two questions!” she replied. “Or three? One bonus for two balls at once?”

“As you want!” he replied coolly and the fact that obviously he was totally under control made her angry.

“Okay… do you plan to play me out in any way by working with me? Is that why you agreed to my offer so quickly?”

“No!” was his short reply before he took another sip of wine. “I allied with you to find Sydney. If I wanted to play you out I would have done so in Athens some time ago… I had my chance there… as you should remember.”

The vivid memory of their encounter in Athens crossed her mind and she lowered her eyes.

“Answer accepted!”

Why did she have the feeling that he was trying to manipulate her… and even worse that he succeeded in doing so?

“So, why have you saved my live back then? You could have easily gotten rid of me. Either by letting that guy stab me or the CIA catch me. Why did you warn me if you hate me?”

“Because I don’t hate you!” he simply stated. “I never said I hated you…”

“You don’t hate me?” she asked in total surprise, rising her eyes from the table to him and he chuckled.

“No. That would make it three questions.”

“Hey, the last one wasn’t supposed to be one of the questions!”

“You can’t just ask questions that step out of the line!” he replied and she decided that any discussion was not only futile, but also ridiculous.

He watched her as she bent over the table to reach a ball in the corner. She was so damned beautiful and his body reacted almost immediately. When she shot the ball against the cushion and missed the hole, he was almost relieved to be able to focus his mind to other things.

It was easy to finish the shot she had failed to complete, because the ball was lying in a perfect place.

She took a mouthful of wine to drown her frustration and leaned against the table, looking at him in await of his next question.

“Do you love me?”

She almost choked on her wine.

“What kind of stupid question is that?”

“It’s a question… an equivalent to your hate question! So what’s your answer?” he replied dryly and she held his gaze.

“No!” she replied with a steady voice, her face a mask again. He chuckled and grabbed her wrist, then he pulled her close.

“What are you doing?” she asked stunned and got nervous as she felt the edge of the billiard table in her back.

“I have been thinking the entire time about…” he started and she shrieked in a mixture of fright and anger when he tipped some of his wine over her neck and shoulder.

“…what this wine would taste like on your skin.” He finished his sentence and before she could react he started to lick the wine of the hot skin of her neck.

“That’s against the rules…” she protested weakly and turned her head a little to give him better access.

“Not exactly.” he replied and teased her earlobe with his tongue. “You lied and are paying your debt now.”

“I didn’t…” she started, but he interrupted her.

“And I have to warn you the game is still going on and if you lie while paying your debts, you’ll have to pay even more.”

His lips went over her shoulder, savoring every drop of wine off her skin while he pushed her back to the table and opened the knot of the blouse, which she had loosely tied over her body, to reveal the naked skin of her belly. Then he emptied his glass over her.

She moaned at the tickling sensation of the cold wine on her hot skin. His lips brushed over her belly and finally closed over her navel.

“God, you’re so delicious…” he whispered hoarsely.

“Jack…” She wanted to sit up and feel more of him against her body but he held her softly down.

“Don’t move, I’m not finished here yet.”

He took his time in continuing to lick and caress her body until he had enjoyed every single drop of wine and she was writhing in desire under his mouth. He pulled her softly up until their faces were just inches apart.

His hands slipped her blouse down her arms and finally tossed it aside to the table. Then he pressed her hips against his erection. They moaned in unison at the heat of the other’s body, both gasping for air with their lips as close as they could be without touching.

“I need you so badly!” she whispered hoarsely, her hands working on his shirt. She whimpered frustrated when it took her too long to open his buttons. He helped her and smiled warmly.

“Let us put an end to your frustration…”

She growled challenging. “Seems pretty obvious, that I’m not the only frustrated one onboard…”

“Touché…”

Before he could say any more, she merged her lips with his in a fierce and desperate kiss, her hands finally touching the bare shin of his shoulders and chest. He slipped the straps of her bra slowly over her shoulder, every touch of his setting her skin on fire. A soft moan escaped her lips when he broke the kiss too fast, only to follow the path of his hands with his lips.

Suddenly a knock at the door brought them back to reality. They broke apart within a second, Irina glided off the table and collected her blouse hastily. They had expected Yuki to enter, but it was Omar.

“Irina, we’re going to…”

He shot them a stunned look and started to grin.

“What are you doing, folks?”

“We were… um… playing pool!” Jack answered totally controlled with a look at the table, covering Irina’s body until she had pulled on her blouse.

“I see…” Omar nodded and the grin widened. “However, I just wanted to notify you that we’re going to reach Panoubla in fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, thank you!” Irina replied dryly, fully clothed again but still looking a little tousled. “Anything else?”

“No…” Omar turned. “By the way… who was about to win?”

“What…?” Irina asked, looking up from her blouse.

“In your little game!”

“Get out!” she growled and Omar left the room laughing before anything could hit him.

When the door had shut behind him, Irina turned to Jack and shot him one of her darkest looks.

“Next time you plan to play, please take the time to lock the door… unless you had planned to increase my frustration and embarrass me. You might think of me as a whore, but I’m not.”

He tried to force back his anger and grabbed his shirt. She acted as if he was the only one to blame.

“I’ll remember yes… but just so you know, I had not planned this. Actually I just came to negotiate an armistice… obviously an inappropriate effort!”

If looks could kill, he would have been shot by the deadly expression in her eyes now.

“So, that was why… you tried to…”

“No!” he interrupted her. “I don’t use sex for my own interests.”

The way he pronounced the word ‘I’ made clear that he thought that she was exactly doing that.

“The chance for an armistice has just moved into unattainable distance, thanks to your unsurpassed ability to destroy all negotiations with fifteen words or less!” she announced furiously and turned around.

“Irina… wait! Don’t you dare leave…” he warned and she slammed the door emphatically in his face. Her hands clenched to a fist she went down the stairs to the main deck.

“Irina… have a look at this!”

Yuki ran to her, but Irina lifted her hand to stop her.

“Don’t talk to me right now.”

She moved in direction of the bridge to talk to Omar.

“Um, Irina…”

“Yuki, I just told you…”

“But… your hair…” Yuki looked at her with amusement sparkling in her eyes.

Irina looked at her reflection in one of the windows and cursed silently. She tried to rearrange her hair with her hands and looked at Yuki with a threatening expression in her eyes.

“Don’t you dare tell anyone…”

The girl laughed and watched her walking away. When Irina was gone, she shook her head seriously. Obviously they had quarreled again…

Would they ever be able to overcome their past and difficulties? Yuki looked at the open sea and really hoped so. Only very little time was left…

~+~+~+~

“Ah, Irina!”

Irina ignored the grin in Omar’s face and looked out of the window at the ocean.

“What you’ve just seen… I expect you to not talk about it ever again, understood?”

“I would never…”

“Not even to Katya!” Irina faced him now. “I don’t want my… affairs to be a point of discussion in the next family meeting, understood?”

Omar laughed and nodded. “Fine, but that will cost you. Let’s say a kiss?” he grinned at her and his eyes sparkled in amusement.

“Another proposition: I won’t have to kill you for what you’ve witnessed if you promise to keep silent.” She offered coolly and he laughed.

“You’re exactly what Katya described you to be.”

“I miss her… how is she?” Irina suddenly changed topic and focused her attention to the land that could be seen in the distance.

“Pretty good. She’s trying to live a normal live again. Although she misses working with you…”

Irina pulled a face. “Last time we were almost killed! How can she miss working with me?”

“You two have more in common than you think!” Omar shot her an amused look, then he got serious. “What about you? You didn’t tell me that you’d bring your lover with you.”

“He’s not my lover…” Irina replied. “He’s my… husband.”

Omar turned to her, his face reflecting a mixture of confusion and amazement.

“That is Jack Bristow?”

“I see, Katya informed you well about my past!” Irina commented dryly and Omar shrugged his shoulders.

“She mentioned him, yes. And she also mentioned that it would be better if you two never met again.”

“Yes, my wise elder sister.” Irina sighed and leaned against the window. “She has always been right about such things.”

“I don’t think so…” Omar mentioned, eyes focused on the water. “Maybe she had been right often, but this time she might be wrong.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you two seem to be really meant for each other!”

“Another one of those questions I regret to having asked!” Irina murmured and Omar laughed.

“I know you don’t believe in fate, but in my belief, everything is predestined. You were asked to marry him thirty-two years ago… maybe it was arranged by the KGB, but the fact that your ways cross over and over again…”

“Stop it, please! I don’t believe in fate or predestination. Our alliance is just to find our daughter. And I’m not having this conversation again, are we clear?”

Omar shrugged his shoulders and stopped the yacht about a mile before the landing stage.

“Okay, let’s get ready to land. We’ll have to take the small boat from here. I don’t want to risk to scuttle this ship, because Katya would break my neck if I did.”

Irina laughed and left the room to get ready.

~+~+~+~

The island was small, but obviously well prepared for tourists. As soon as they had entered the small landing stage, they were surrounded by people who wanted to offer them food or pearls or all available other kinds of necklaces, bracelets or earrings.

The village was very modern, and looked as if the main influences were westerns, even the houses looked more like the ones in an American city than on a pacific island.

Yuki couldn’t get enough of the colorful stands with all the beautiful things they had to offer and she was always about fifty meters ahead of them. Omar and his kitchen help Jamis took care of the food and Jack and Irina were just observing the whole scenario without really participating.

Irina looked at some necklaces, lost in her thoughts and not really paying attention to the beautiful handmade pieces of jewelry.

A young woman started to shower her with compliments and offer her dozens of pearls, earrings and bracelets, but Irina refused courteously.

“Irina…” Jack caught up with her as she continued walking along the stands.

“What do you want?” she replied coldly and he held her to keep her from walking and forcing her to look into his eyes.

“I wanted to… I’m sorry.”

She looked at him interested. “For what?”

“For… what I’ve said earlier.” He finally managed to say, his eyes showing that he really meant it.

“Okay…” she nodded and wanted to walk on, but he held her.

“That’s it?”

“That’s what?” she answered confused.

“Just ‘okay’?”

“How do you expect me to react? Your apology has been noted.”

He groaned in frustration. “Why are you doing that?”

“Doing what?” she asked, louder now and her eyes reflected her confusion. “I’m not doing anything! I’m just accepting your apology.”

“You have a strange way of accepting apologies!” he snapped and now she lowered her face to his, her eyes sparkling aggressively.

“And you have a strange way to make apologies. I accepted this one, but you can’t seriously expect me to be happy with it when you show me in every single reaction that you think of me as exactly what you’ve told me to be. You don’t need to apologize only because you think you’ve hurt me and have a guilty conscience now. You did not hurt me, so don’t bother to apologize.”

He grasped for air and stared at her in disbelief. “Stubborn b*tch!” he growled.

“See what I mean?”

“Why do you always have to fight with me?”

“I don’t… you’re the one who starts, so I’m returning the question!”

“And why the hell do you always have to distort the facts?” His anger had changed into amusement. No doubt, she was playing.

“I am not distorting anything.”

“Ah… lovers like to tease each other!” Omar looked from Irina to Jack, ignoring Irina’s killing looks. “Come on, let’s walk on. I want to be back onboard before it gets dark!”

They watched Omar walking away, then looked at each other, both serious.

“You know, maybe he’s right…” Jack noticed and looked at her challenging. If she wanted to play, it was fine by him.

“That we’re lovers?” she challenged him back, her eyes sparkling.

“No…” He lowered to her ear so that only she could hear his next words. “But I love to tease you… not only when talking.”

He heard her catching her breath slightly as her thoughts turned into another direction, as he had intended them to. Suddenly it felt as if she was too close to him. He noted her making a move to bring distance between them and caught her hands in his to hold her in place.

“Hey, love-birds!” Omar, who was already fifteen meters ahead, turned around and looked at them, slightly annoyed. “We have to go! Do you need that in writing in order to follow me?”

“If I kill him, could that be considered as self-defense or murder?” Irina asked and shot Omar her darkest look. Jack chuckled at her words.

“I think it’s murder, but in the face of the extenuating circumstances the judge might be convinced of you only being partially guilty.”

“Extenuating circumstances?” she asked interested and he grinned.

“Frustration due to a lack of sexual satiation.”

She pushed him away, her anger resurfacing immediately. “I am not a sex addict, Bristow! I’m pretty much in control of my actions and if I kill someone then in full possession of my mind. You should remember that…”

“Threatening me again?” he teased her and she turned around.

“Go to hell!”

He followed her grinning and wondered if they would ever be able to not end up fighting. Most likely not, because he loved to challenge her temptations and obviously she could be tempted very easily by him.

 

Part 7 – Cold War

“Everything is onboard, we’re ready to start!“

Omar entered the bridge and laid the sheet of paper on the table.

“We should have enough water for one week now… provided that you don’t take three showers a day!“

She shot him a warning look and got up from her chair. “What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!“

Omar sighed and turned to his instruments. Irina’s mood wasn’t the best since they had returned to the yacht and he blamed that on Jack Bristow.

It was a puzzle to him how a man could be courageous enough to piss Irina off like Jack did, and even worse, enjoy doing so – on the other hand he didn’t seem to be endangered by Irina.

He had seen her kill a man once because he had – as he had said accidentally – grabbed her ass. It had only taken her seconds and she hadn’t even had a weapon. Since then he was careful to not outrage her more than absolutely necessary, although he knew, she would never harm a friend – but this was Irina Derevko, you could never be sure.

He started the machine, it spluttered lightly, then went back into silence. Omar looked at his instruments and tipped at one of the displays, then he gave a new try on starting the machine. This time it didn’t even give a slight splutter.

“What’s up?“ Irina looked up from the list of supplies she was viewing and Omar turned around, shooting her an unsure look.

“I’m not really sure!“

“What do you mean, you’re not sure?“ she got up and he lifted his hands.

“Calm down, I’m sure it’s just a slight defect.“

He grabbed a box with tools and left the bridge, Irina following him.

“DIMITRJII!“ he barked and Irina didn’t doubt that the whole island could hear his words.

“Yes…“ The old man stepped out of the door to the gas tank. His face was black from oil and he shot Omar an confused look. „I’m not deaf.. no nee to yell, man. What’s up?“

“What’s with the machines?“

“The machines?“ The old man looked at him, then at Irina and he had obviously no clue what they were talking about.

“Yes, the machines!“ Omar repeated annoyed. “Why are they dead?“

“The machines are okay, I checked them this afternoon!“ Dimitrjii contradicted.

“Well, they don’t start now! I want you to clear that up in thirty minutes. As you should recall, we don’t have an unlimited amount of time!“ Omar handed the box with the tools to him and Dimitrjii took it sighing.

“Are you sure you opened the gas pump?” he asked and Omar glanced at him as if he was ready to kill him. Dimitjii lifted his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay! Don’t worry. I’m sure it’s just a slight mistake! As I said, they worked perfectly three hours ago.“ The old man opened the hatch to the machine room and climbed down the ladder into the darkness, Irina and Omar following him. When they had arrived at the ground, Dimitrjii stood still for a short time.

“That’s weird…“

“What?“ Irina asked and Dimitrjii knocked with his screwdriver against one of the small pipes next to him. The metallic sound echoed in the large room.

“Listen…“

“I don’t hear anything!“ Omar answered impatiently and Dimitrjii shot him a short glance.

“Exactly! It seems all dead!“ He got to his knees and looked at one of the displays. “There is no pressure in the system.“

“Dimitjii…“ Omar’s voice was threatening now. “What does that mean in time? How long until you have this thing working again?“

“In hours?“

Irina moaned. “Hours?” she repeated in disbelief.

“Well, actually two days… at the least! To find the error I’ll have to check the whole machine system and as you can see it’s huge. And then I have to repair it… how long that’s going to take depends on what caused the breakdown.“

“With other words we’re stuck here for at least two days!“ Irina asked and Dimitjii shot her a sympathetic look.

“I’m afraid so, yes!“

She slammed her hand against one of the metallic containers and looked furiously at Omar.

“Dammit! Did I mention that we’re on a schedule? Not to think of the fact that a high member of the Covenant and most likely the whole CIA are following us and are just waiting for the chance to catch up with us! I thought this boat was the absolute best we could get and would certainly not break!“ she repeated the words, Katya had used in their conversation. “Well, thanks to your f*cking boat we will either be caught or shot… which for me will both end with death!“

She turned and climbed up the ladder to leave the room. Omar shot one last glance at Dimitrjii.

“I expect you to do the best you can!“ he hissed and Dimitjii nodded, then Omar hurried to follow Irina and calm her down. He found her at the rail on the main Deck, staring at the dark ocean.

“Irina, I’m sorry! I don’t know how this could happen!“

“It’s not even about me!“ she hissed and looked at him. “But if they find Yuki in my company… the CIA won’t hesitate to arrest and torture children if suspected of collaboration with a wanted terrorist. You know that… better than anyone else!“

He lowered his eyes as she painfully reminded him of his son.

She turned her attention back to the calm water. “If the machine isn’t working again when the sun rises, Jack and I will leave the ship. We’ll try to find a way to get to Spain, maybe one of the other tourists can take us. I expect you to carry out the mission as planned. Take Yuki to Japan…“

“I will…“ he nodded and Irina turned to face him.

“I count on you to protect her with your life… but I doubt that it will be necessary. Without any sign of me or Jack they won’t be able to make any connection from her to us.“ She set herself in motion and was about to leave the ship.

“Where are you going?“

“I don’t know…” she replied, still lost in thought about what was the best thing to do. “I just need to get away and free my mind.“

She almost fled the ship and didn’t notice the eyes that were following her. Yuki had been about to enter the main deck when she had heard Irina’s words, but thought it better not to show up.

As she heard her leaving the ship now she went the last steps up and looked after the woman.
Damned, this hadn’t been her plan. She needed all the time she could get and now they were very close to continuing there way alone and leaving her, Yuki, here! She had to find a way to prevent that.

Yuki ran to the open hatch that led into the machine room and looked down. In a pale orange light she could see Dimitrjii working at the machine.

“Hi!” she waved at him and he smiled when he saw her happy face.

“Hi little one! Watch your step at the ladder!” he reminded her when she climbed down to him.

“What is wrong with the machine?”

“If I just knew! I’ve checked it and it was all fine… now it seems all broken! It must have been overloaded somehow, but I just don’t know how.”

“Is it true that we won’t be able to start until tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” he laughed out loud and turned to her. “Hand me that hammer, would you?” She handed the requested tool to him and he crawled under one of the pipes. “There is absolutely no change to get this baby working until tomorrow! Maybe tomorrow evening… maybe!” he moaned while trying hardly to loosen a screw that was all rusty.

Yuki looked around. She had to do something. She must not let Irina and Jack get away without her accompanying them.

“Okay, I’ll help you! Maybe we can get this done by tomorrow morning!” she announced and Dimitrjii laughed at her.

“No way… but you can help me! Get me the torch and my measuring instruments from the storage room!”

“Okay!” she jumped up and he watched her climbing up the ladder like a little monkey. He shook his head smiling. Irina was right in protecting this girl. She deserved better than a live like this in hiding…

Yuki hopped over the deck and ran down the stairs, taking two at once. She was just about to push the door to the storage room open when she heard a voice. At first she thought it was Jack, but then, as she went closer she was sure that is was definitely not Jack.
Not making any noise, she pressed her head to the wooden door of the private room of Jamis.

“No, Sir, everything went as planned.”

She pressed herself closer as the voice went lower.

“It will take them some time to figure out what’s broken! Two days, I’d say, plus the time they need to repair it. No way they can get away from here until you arrive!”

Yuki gasped for air, pressing her hands to her mouth to prevent herself from crying out in surprise. Jamis, of course – she had known that there was something wrong with him since she had seen him the first time. His eyes had been false and he had never looked into her eyes while talking.

“Thank you… When will you be here?” Jamis continued, then a short silence followed. “Tonight already? How am I supposed to go on… shall I use the poison for the little brat? …Yes… I see… Yeah, she could be useful. Derevko might be a little more willing to cooperate. She seems to really love her. What about Bristow? Do we need him?”

The voices got too low for her to understand anything. Her mind was working feverishly – what was she supposed to do?

“Sir, it took you over a year to come that far. I’m sure, there is no way you will fail tonight!”

When she heard steps coming closer to the door, Yuki dashed away, bursting into the next room she could find. When she closed the door behind her, leaning breathlessly against it, she looked directly at Jack’s confused face – of course, this was his room.

“Yuki… what’s up?” he asked, getting up from his chair.

The girl gasped for air, buying herself time to come up with an answer, that sounded at least a little believable.

“It’s Irina…” she finally managed to say.

“What about her?”

“She wants to meet you… now!”

“Really?” Jack grabbed her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “You look pale! Are you alright?”

“I’ve been hurrying because it’s urgent! I am to tell you to meet her immediately at the bar down at the beach!”

“At the bar!” Jack repeated, not really believing the girl’s words. “Did she tell you why?”

“No! But she told me, that if she needed to come to get you, she would break your arm… and maybe more than that!”

Well, that sounded like Irina, Jack mused and for a moment he seriously considered to piss her of, but discarded that thought immediately. They were on a mission with the purpose to find Sydney after all, and the more he outraged her, the less they would be able to work together.

“Okay…” he nodded. “I’ll be there in a few minutes!”

Yuki looked at him, but there was no sign in his face that he was giving her the answer she wanted, just to get rid of her and so she left his room, strolling along the corridor as if nothing had happened. When she reached the main deck again, she started to run. She had to prepare everything, and there wasn’t much time left…

~*~*~*~

Irina had indeed gone to the bar. The lively music and laughter of the people had drawn her here. She needed a little distraction and the happy people around her gave her at least the illusion of living a normal live – if only for a few moments.
Some natives played on drums, creating the atmosphere of a Caribbean night as it could be seen in every Travel-TV Show – obviously a show for the tourists, but nonetheless very beautiful. It delighted her and helped her to free her mind from unwanted thoughts and fears.

Irina looked down at her glass of water. Why did her life have to be so complicated? Why couldn’t she just be like one of those women on the small wooden dance-floor, who enjoyed their second honeymoon with their husband on this beautiful island. Instead she was always on the run…

Suddenly she felt somebody’s eyes on her and turned around. Jack smiled lightly and went towards her. Irina sighed and turned back to her glass of water.

“Are you following me?” she asked irritated and took a mouthful of water.

“Excuse me?” he shot her a confused look and ordered a water himself. “As far as I can recollect you asked me to come here!”

She looked at him, her eyes reflecting anger now. “Definitely not! Are you out of your mind, Bristow?” she snapped and wanted to leave, but Jack held her hand.

“What kind of game is this? Did you ask for me just to turn me down?”

“I DID NOT ask for your company!” she replied slowly, emphasizing every word, and it was impossible to miss the threatening fury in her voice.

“But Yuki told me you wanted to meet me in the bar at the beach… here I am!”

“Yuki told you…” she started at him in disbelief, then she shook his hand of hers. “That little brat, remind me to have a conversation with her when I see her! ”

Irina left the wooden pavilion, crossed the dance-floor and made her way down to the water. She had no idea how Yuki had known where she was going, and actually it didn’t really matter at the moment.
Jack paid for their drinks and followed her, catching up with her about fifty meters away from the dancing couples.

“Wait, what is up with you?” he asked and she turned to face him, her arms wrapped around her waist.

“The engine of the yacht is broken, Jack! We’re stuck here and I have no idea how to get away before the CIA or Conzales arrive. We had an advantage as long as we kept moving, but now…”

“I see…”

“No you don’t!” she interrupted him, harsher than she had intended to. “If the CIA arrives, they will take Yuki into custody as well! I don’t care about what happens to me, but she is innocent! I don’t want her to become a victim in all this.”

He followed her eyes to the horizon. “They will see that she was innocent! The CIA would never harm a child. They will most likely take her to a safehouse… that’s it!”

Irina laughed bitterly and went on. “There are obviously a few things you don’t know about the people you work for!”

“What are you implying? That they might torture her?” He shook his head. “No way. She’s still a child and there is no indication that she worked with you…”

“She was with me, Jack!” Irina stepped closer to him. “I know you won’t believe me but I have seen them treating suspects… even children!” She lowered her eyes. “It was about twelve years ago. I was on a mission with Omar, we retrieved something he wanted to have. I helped him, because he had helped me before. Just a favor I paid back. It was supposed to be a pretty easy mission, but something went wrong… the CIA was able to follow us, we were set up by one of Omar’s informants who turned out to be an undercover agent.”

She didn’t look at him and turned away as she felt her eyes burning with tears. Her view became blurred when she looked at the dark horizon.

“We didn’t even realize they were following us until we entered Omar’s house and found them already waiting for us. Ali was only a child, he was seven years old and didn’t know anything. He was Omar’s son… and therefore for them he was as guilty as Omar himself. They tortured him to make him talk about his fathers plans, and as he couldn’t say anything they tortured him to blackmail us. I may have done the same things, Jack, torturing people to get information, but I never harmed a child! Never a helpless creature who didn’t even understand what was going on. His son died during that torture. We had told them everything we knew, but they just kept asking and asking questions – questions we didn’t knew an answer for, but they didn’t believe us. They raped two of his women and would have killed all of us, if Katya hadn’t gotten us out! The agents were all killed by Katya and her team and I swear to god, they deserved it, although they were honored like heroes by your government!”

Her eyes met his again, rage filling her expression now.

“They were CIA agents, Jack! Partly high-ranking officers! So don’t you dare tell me, the CIA wouldn’t hurt Yuki!”

Jack had listened to her story and didn’t know what to say. He could only guess which operation she had been talking about – Operation ‘Desert Sand’. The operation was officially reported as a failure, all agents killed in a cruel assassination. He had read the reports, but there had been no clue in the files that would have proved anything that she had just said.

“I can’t believe that!” he finally murmured. “I knew about the operation, I’ve read the files on it and went through the profiles of the killed agents. There was nothing that would approve your accusations. They were all exemplary and very successful agents.”

“Of course!” Her eyes sparkled with fury and – he caught his breath – deep hurt. “No government likes to admit that their agents have raped women and even killed a child! It’s easy to hush up the facts in a classified operation. No one will ever ask questions, and no one ever did.”

“Why didn’t you say anything? You were a witness, as well as Omar. It was a crime, they could have been…”

Her sharp laughter cut him off. “Because things like that happen, Jack! It’s just the way people of your country treat people from ’poor countries’. I could spend a lifetime on accusing agents like them, it would do nothing, because someone would always back up for them or hush up the facts, and in the end the victims become the bad guys! Either you’re able to defend yourself against acts like that, or you suffer. That’s how the world works and there’s nothing any legal action could do about it.”

She turned to go away but he held her softly. The pain in her eyes was just too real… it made him be sure that she didn’t came up with the story. During her last words, a question had come up in his mind… he needed to ask her, although she would probably refuse to answer.

“Irina…” His voice was soft. “Have you been… did they… do anything to you?”

“You mean, did they rape me?” she corrected his sentence softly and shook her head. “No… I was quite capable of defending myself and prevent them from doing so… unfortunately the other women were not.” She added bitterly.

“Was that why you refused to talk to any agents when you turned yourself in?”

“No. You were right, I didn’t trust them, but my walk-in was not about trust. I had an agenda, you know that. Refusing to talk to anyone except for you and Sydney was the only possible way to… “ She caught her breath, obviously weighing her next words. “…to see you again.”

Her voice was low and she didn’t turn around, feeling his body at her back. “I knew you would never agree to talk to me, if not absolutely necessary, so I made it necessary. But actually it was useless for my agenda. I could have pulled it through without you or Sydney being involved.”

“So then why didn’t you? You betrayed us again by involving us!” Jack noted dryly. “It broke Sydney’s heart to find out that you’ve lied to us the whole time!”

“I did never betray you or Sydney! I betrayed the CIA… there’s a difference! Everything personal between us was true… unfortunately you and Sydney have difficulties distinguishing between things that involve the CIA and things that don’t! You’re just too much into your work. You live for your work!”

“Is that an accusation?” he asked amused, holding her closer. For the first time he didn’t see a terrorist and murderer, but a woman who had been hurt.

“No, that was an observation!”

He turned her around, softly stroking a strand of hair our of her face. He loved her eyes… he could drown in them, especially in moments like this, when there was no hate or lies between them and they could just talk like normal people – well, ‘spy-normal’ he corrected silently.

She laid her hand to his which was resting at her cheek now, softly entwining their fingers. Her eyes were still connected with his and she stepped almost invisibly closer to him.

He lowered his lips slowly to hers, his eyes never leaving hers. He wanted to kiss her and this time not because of desire or the fact that he wanted her. For the first time in twenty years he wanted to kiss her because of love. He wanted to comfort her and make her forget about their past – about her past.

Their lips were just about to touch when an ear-splitting crash could be heard all over the beach. They separated immediately and spun around to see flames of fire bursting out of a ship – their ship!

Irina cried out the worst Russian curses that existed and stared in total disbelief at the burning yacht. Then she finally set herself in motion and started to run towards the landing stage, followed by Jack. The flames had already extended over almost the whole ship. It was impossible to rescue anything, and yet they had to try.

Before she and Jack had reached the pavilion, Yuki jumped out of the bushes. She pulled them behind some palms.

“You can’t go back there!”

“Yuki!” Irina grabbed the girl by the shoulders. “Oh god, I thought your were still on that ship!” She hugged the girl hard and pulled back after a short while. “Yuki, what happened?”

“They’re waiting for you!”

“Who?” Jack interrupted and Yuki turned her attention to him.

“Two men! When you had left the ship, I could overhear a conversation between Jamis and another men he had on the phone. They were planning to set you up, Irina… and they wanted to use me to make you cooperate with them.”

“Yuki, what about Omar and Dimitrjii!” Irina’s voice was louder than normal and she didn’t even bother to try to control her emotions.

“Don’t worry, they are safe! I warned them. They left the ship right in time.” She walked away a few feet and pulled back some leafs. “Here is your stuff! We have to leave! They will soon search the island for you if you don’t return!” Yuki threw the bag to Jack and disappeared between the palms. Jack looked at Irina, who was sitting on her knees in the sand, staring at the burning yacht. Some people were already running towards it and trying to extinguish the wild flames with water, which they brought in buckets, and save at least the last intact remains of it.

“Come one, we have to leave…” he finally decided and grabbed her arm. When she didn’t react, he pulled her up and dragged her behind him, following the path Yuki had chosen before. They had soon caught up with the girl.

“Yuki, where are we going?”

“There is a big harbor on the other side of the island. A passenger ship is lying there. I managed to get three tickets for us.”

“How?” Irina asked absently, not really interested in the answer. Her mind was still at the ship. Her plan, everything was ruined. They hadn’t even had time to cover their tracks.

“I’m pretty good at poker!” Yuki said, not willing to give any more details and Jack chuckled, when the girl continued. “The ship leaves tomorrow at 9 am. We should have crossed the island by then. And if you feel bored, you could come up with aliases! I understand you’re more experienced in things like that than I do!”

Jack didn’t answer but looked at Irina who hadn’t said a word the whole time.

“You okay?” he asked softly, when Yuki was ten yards ahead of them. Irina shot him one of her looks.

“Am I okay? That’s the most stupid question of all time, Bristow!”

“Obviously you are!” he commented dryly at her mood and she shot him a murderous look.

“Look, some guys have just blown up my ship and ruined all of my plans. I don’t like things like that…”

“You’re pissed… understandable!” he nodded and she laughed bitterly.

“I’m more than that! I want to find out whom I have to thank for this action in order to send my best greetings!”

For one second he was really glad that he was not the one she was angry at, because that person would most likely soon curse the day he was born. Then he noticed something else.

“I thought it wasn’t your ship, but you had just borrowed it!”

“I told you ‘kind of borrowed’!” she replied shortly. He accepted her unwillingness to talk and kept silent himself. They had to come up with a Plan B as soon as possible. But first of all they had to reach the ship on time.

~*~*~*~

“Welcome onboard our wonderful ship!” The steward bowed slightly. “May I have your names please?” he asked with a short glimpse at their tickets.

“Katherine and John Miles. This is our daughter Nina!”

“Welcome! May I see your passports, please?”

Jack handed the young man a sheet of paper, his arm never leaving Irina’s waist. The man read it shortly, then he looked up.

“I’m sorry for your loss. It’s a shame that so many tourists fall victim to thieves. We have a consultant onboard. He may be able to take care of the problem and call the ambassador in Melbourne to make sure, that you will receive temporary passports in the US embassy.”

“Thank you!” Jack smiled dryly and took the sheet of paper back from the steward.

“Apartment 47 A, down the main corridor and up the stairs, floor 2 C is yours.” He gave them a last smile and Jack, Irina and Yuki followed his direction.

“I thought my heart would stop when he asked for our passports!” Irina whispered when they were out of reach. “I hadn’t thought of that problem!”

“Well, I did!” he whispered back. “It was quite likely that he wanted to see them, since we’re on a ship that crosses international borders! You’re being careless not thinking of the possibilities! One mistake could ruin everything… or cost our lives!” he lectured, but she didn’t react to his comments.

“What did you give to him?”

“A letter from the local chief of police, confirming that all our property was stolen from our hotel room. It’s practical if the tourist information is the police station at the same time.” Jack replied.

“You’re priceless!” she whispered back, pecking him slightly on the cheek.

“What was that for?”

“For saving me – us from being discovered… which would have happened if we hadn’t had a passport!” she replied and he grinned.

“Your life is worth more than a small kiss on the cheek… how about…” he teased, but she didn’t let him finish the sentence.

“Shut up, Jack, before you start a fight again!” she warned and he laughed. They had reached their apartment and Irina opened it with the small key, they had been given by the steward.

Yuki, Jack and Irina entered it and closed the door behind them. It was a worthy replacement to the rooms in their yacht, maybe even more luxurious.

They had three rooms to themselves. One small one with a bed, which was meant for a child, a large living loom and another bedroom – with one huge bed – meant for the lucky couple.

“I’ll take the small room, you and Yuki can take the big one!” Jack offered generously, but Yuki crossed their plans.

“No way! I take this one! A room all for myself, I love it!” She hopped into the room and Jack and Irina looked at each other.

“I don’t mind!” Irina sighed. “If she wants the room, she can have it. I think we can get along with each other… and if not, you’ll have to sleep on the couch!” She announced and entered their sleeping room.

They put the small bag on the bed and Irina opened the curtains to look out of the small window. She saw the busy harbor right under them.

She just wanted to turn around and unpack the few things they had brought when her eyes were caught by a person who was standing down there, looking around and obviously searching for something – or someone. She gasped for air and pulled the curtains shut abruptly, when the person looked up into their direction.

“What’s up?” Jack asked and lay down on the soft bed.

“Sloane!” Irina breathed and slammed her first against the wall. “That son of a b*tch is here – and most likely responsible for our situation!”

“What?” Jack sat up and looked at her in disbelief. “You must be mistaken! Sloane is running a company in Switzerland. He’s a humanitarian and been granted immunity by the US government. Many things have changed in nineteen months.”

“Well, however, he’s standing down there… obviously looking for someone – I assume us! And he’s with two guys who don’t look as if they are here to help people!” she replied ironically, having a look through the curtains.

“But how did he…”

“Conzales.” Irina cursed and didn’t even let him finish his question. “That is exactly his way of revenge. He sends someone after you… and he knew that Sloane was after me.”

“He was after you? I thought you were allies… and he betrayed you, not the other way around!” Jack had gotten up and peeped through a small chink down at the figure. It was indeed Arvin Sloane, standing there in a beige tuxedo and looking like a tourist. Two men in black tuxedo stood next to him, obviously reporting to him.

“You know me, Jack… I don’t like being played, and I don’t like people who make decisions for me!”

Jack sighed. “You took revenge!”

“Of course, you idiot! Or how else did you think, Sark went into your custody?” she snapped and Jack chuckled.

“It was you? Well, that was a great job. We always thought he had pissed off Arvin – we all know loyalty isn’t one of his strengths.”

“Actually I had planned to play Arvin Sloane himself. I had collected everything, letters, files… even footage that could prove that Arvin was up to more with Rambaldi. But the whole thing went a little wrong. I hadn’t expected Arvin to be more paranoid than I am… well, I underestimated him. All I could get was Sark… so I handed him over to the CIA, because I knew, that was the only way to get him out of my way. Then I went into hiding, because Arvin was, of course, mad as hell and swore to kill me.” She explained and he shook is head in stunned amazement.

“It’s astounding. You seem to have a natural talent for making people want to kill you!”

“It’s my second nature!” she replied neutrally and looked out of the window again. “The ship is already moving! There is no way he can catch up with us now!”

Jack went back to the bed. “We should get some rest. We haven’t slept the whole night and need to recover from the long walk.”

When she heard his words she became aware of how tired and weary she was. She supressed a yawn and pulled off her jeans. Without caring, she kicked them aside and crawled under the sheets. Jack watched her amused and she shot him a warning glance.

“Stick to your side if you don’t want to start the next Cold War, agent Bristow!” she warned and he laughed.

“I wouldn’t dare to risk…”

She turned her face and looked at him for a long time. He smiled slightly.

“I’m glad I have you here with me.” He finally said and she returned his smile.

“Why?”

“Because you’re the best asset one could ever find to work with!”

“Oh…” she replied, turning away from him. What had she hoped for? That he told her that he liked to be with her? Her mind drifted away over this thought and only a few minutes later both of them were sleeping soundly.

When Irina awoke about six hours later, she found herself softly entangled in Jack’s arms… but obviously he wasn’t the one to blame. She was lying on his side of the bed.

Carefully she freed herself from him and got up. She opened the bag and growled. Yuki had packed everything, except for clothes.

“Great!” she murmured. They would have to buy new clothes in the boutique of the ship. But first of all she had to find a phone. She had to call Katya and confess what had happened. Besides they needed help. The ship would land in Melbourne and they would need valid passports to go on from there. All that had to be arranged for.

She pulled on her jeans and cursed herself when she stumbled by doing so, falling onto the bed.

“Irina?” Jack sat up, still sleepy, looking at her through half closed eyes.

“Shh, go back to sleep!”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m getting us new clothes. I’ll be back in an hour!” she whispered back and tied her hair together at her back. He was too tired to contradict and was almost asleep again before she had even left.

Irina peeped into Yuki’s room and found the girl sleeping on her bed. She stole out of the room and pulled the door close behind her. Then she checked her money and counted. Not as much as she had thought, but it would be enough until they arrived in Melbourne.

“Excuse me!” she asked a steward who came along the corridor. “I need to make an international phone call…”

“Down in the shopping mall. There’s a shop where you can make phone calls and access the internet. You can get there by taking the elevator.”

“Thank you!” she replied courteously and headed to the elevator.

About five minutes later she entered the small shop. She went to the counter and looked at the young woman.

“I need to make an international phone call!”

“Yes, Cabin No. 3 is free! What’s your Room Number?” she asked and looked at Irina.

“I’d like to pay in cash!” she replied and caught a confused glimpse of the woman.

“As you wish, Ma’am!” She handed a card to Irina. “Insert this card and your fees will be counted.”

“Thank you!” Irina entered the cabin and closed the door behind her. Then she inserted the card into the telephone and dialed the number of a cell phone. She let it ring two times and hang up the phone. It didn’t take twenty seconds until the phone rang.

Irina hurried to pick it up.

“Yes?” she asked and heard the familiar voice of her sister on the other end.

“Iri, where are you?”

“I’m on a ship!” Irina replied. “Listen, our yacht has been…”

“I know! Omar already called me!” When she heard her sisters words, Irina exhaled relieved. Omar was safe. “He confessed what happened and I had him executed.”

“Katya!” Irina exclaimed shocked, louder than she had wanted to and heard her sister laugh.

“Don’t worry! I had a conversation with him. I had told him not to hire a man without having him approved by me. He hired Jamis without notifying me… that could have almost cost your life! Any idea who Jamis was working for?”

“Arvin Sloane obviously!”

“That lousy prick! Where is he?”

“He’s hopefully still searching for us in Panoubla. Listen, Kat, we need passports and money in Melbourne in order to get to Japan.”

“Already arranged. I knew you would need them, I just didn’t know where to deliver them. I have a contact in Melbourne. His name is Marcel!” Katya gave her the details of how and where to find Marcel and switched to a different topic. “Another thing, little sister. Omar told me, Bristow is with you!”

“Kind of, yeah!” Irina replied evasively.

“Irina, be careful! This man is CIA… no matter whether you’re still married or not. Have fun with him, do whatever you want, but please don’t get emotionally attached to him! If the time comes for him to decide between his country and you, he’ll choose his country.”

Too late. I got emotionally attached thirty years ago, Irina thought to herself and let out a sigh. “I am not emotionally attached to him!” she answered and wondered who she was trying to convince in saying so – Katya or herself.
She was far beyond ‘emotionally attached’, but she knew, that her sister was right. No matter what had been between Jack and her… or what would be, if given the choice, he would never stay with her. Her life was just like their situation right now – she lived in hiding, moving from place to place, her way paved with death and danger.

In a way his life was similar, but his actions were approved by his government. He would never be able to give this life up. In a paradox, he was still someone who needed structure and safety in at least the basics of his life – a life with her would offer him none.

“Iri, you still there?”

“Yes… yes, I’m here!” Irina murmured. “About the money, could you,… um…, transfer twenty thousand US Dollars to my personal account?”

She felt it hard to focus on what was important now, when the reality of the chances of her relationship with Jack Bristow dawned on her.

“I’ll arrange for it.”

“I… I have to cut you off now. We’ve lost everything on the ship and I need to buy some things.” Irina ended. “Thanks for everything!”

“Never mind…”

“See you soon!” Irina wanted to hang up, when the voice of her sister held her back once more.

“Irina!”

“Yeah?”

“Be careful and stay safe…”

“You too!” She finally hang up the phone and leaned her head against the thin wall of the cabin. Katya was definitely right about everything she had said about Jack. It was wrong to fall in love with Jack and that was not even because of some rules. It was wrong because there were too many differences, too many misunderstandings and too much past between them – not to mention a government.

And yet, she thought to herself, I can’t do anything about it.
If it was wrong to love him, why did her heart tell her the opposite?

~*~*~*~

“Here…”

Jack reacted quickly and caught the bag Irina threw at him.

“What’s that?”

“Clothes…” she replied dryly and handed another bag to Yuki.

“I thought it might draw unwanted attention if we kept wearing the same clothing the whole time on this ship.” She explained ironically and Jack shot her one of his looks.

“What’s up with you?”

“Nothing!”

“Nothing in common or Irina meaning?” he asked and his eyes blinked.

“What?” she asked stunned and he didn’t even care to look up while answering her question.

“Common-nothing is nothing. Irina-nothing is something like ‘I’ve got my problems, but they’re none of your business so don’t you dare poke your nose in’!” he explained and checked if there were any heavy things within her reach she could throw.

Yuki started to giggle at Jack’s explanation and caught Irina’s attention. “Go change!” she ordered and turned to Jack. “And you go to hell! I’m damned hungry and I don’t want to miss dinner! You can join us or not, I don’t care!” she stated dryly, but Jack could clearly hear the aggression from her voice.

“Aren’t you going to change?” he asked with a look at the clothes she still wore, her dirty jeans and the white – correct that – gray blouse.

“I’m about to!” she snapped back and he sighed. Cold War after all, he thought to himself. Obviously it was inevitable for them to fight.

When Irina entered Yuki’s room about thirty minutes later, she wore the white dress she had bought. It had been the only dress in the store that came close to what she had looked for. Actually she had wanted a simple dress with the only purpose to not draw attention to her at the luxurious evening dinners. The woman in the shop had instead showered her with extravagant dresses and accessories, until she had finally came up with this dress. Irina had decided to buy it since it was obviously the only dress on this whole ship that came close to ‘casual evening wear’.

It fitted her and outlined the shape of her slender body in the most elegant manner. Yuki was standing in front of the mirror, doing her hairs, but when she caught a glimpse at the reflection of Irina, she turned around, her mouth falling open.

“Wow!” she murmured, then she started to grin. “Are you trying to seduce him?”

“Am I trying to do what?” Irina asked. “You read too many of those girl magazines! I’m just wearing the appropriate dress for a happy married wife… which I’m playing here. You’re hopefully not going to wear these dirty jeans, are you?”

“You know, you do really sound like my Mom!” Yuki replied slightly annoyed. “And just so you know, I’m pretty sure you want to seduce him!”

“Would you please stop? This is a normal dress!”

“That might be, but it looks incredibly hot on you!”

“I can’t believe I’m told that by a fourteen year old girl!” Irina murmured and Yuki laughed.

“And I can tell you, wearing this dress you might really succeed!”

“Succeed in what?” Jack’s voice suddenly asked from the door and Irina spun around in shock. She noticed the look in his eyes when he examined her with delight.

“In…” Yuki started, but Irina interrupted her hastily.

“In convincing the people that we’re a family.”

Jack frowned his forehead and looked from her to Yuki and back at her.

“However,” he finally said. “are you ready to go?”

“I am!” Yuki turned around, her hair finally tied together in two pigtails.

Irina decided that every comment on her dirty jeans was a waste of time… she wouldn’t change anyway, and so she went to the door.

“Then lets go!”

Jack offered her his arm. He wore a black suit and she had to admit that he looked incredibly sexy. “Mrs. Miles…” he said with the hint of a smile and she linked her arm gracefully with his.

“Don’t you dare get wrong ideas!” she hissed and he shook his head.

“Always have to keep up our good old hostility, don’t we?”

She avoided his eyes. She was too afraid that he might be able to look through her and see what was behind her. In fact she was afraid. Playing the happy family with him was more than her nerves could bear. She had absolutely no problems with playing the role of the devoted wife, but not if Jack Bristow was her husband. Emotionally uninvolved, she reminded herself, just try to lock your emotions behind a door as you have learned to do.

It annoyed her that he was obviously completely emotionally uninvolved – another fact that proved that he didn’t have the slightest feeling for her apart from physical need.

She couldn’t have been more wrong. It took him all of his mental control to keep his face neutral and treat her as if they had been married for quite some time when all he wanted to do was devour her with his eyes… his lips.

They made their way to the huge dining hall in silence. When they entered it, Yuki caught her breath and looked around in amazement. The dining hall was divided into three floors, the upper two floors were built like balconies from which you could look down to the ground floor with its bar and the dancing stage. Yuki leaned over the balustrade to catch a glimpse of all of the happenings in the lower two floors.

“Yu… Nina?” Irina turned around and saw the girl at the balustrade. “Nina, honey! Be careful… James, would you say something, please?” she shot Jack one of her looks and he grinned.

“John, darling. My name is John!”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Must have mixed that up with one of my affairs!” she replied coldly, which caused him to chuckle as one of the waiters passed by, shooting them a slightly shocked look when hearing Irina’s words.

“You’re ruining our cover!” he hissed, still smiling and she didn’t even bother to look at him.

“I’m just trying to play the married woman in a convincing way!”

“How nice, so you think that every woman who is married as long as we pretend to be, has dozens of affairs?”

“No, not every woman… but I do.” she replied. “You know, if a wife is faithful and loves her husband, but he accuses her of having affairs without believing her when she says that she hasn’t ever had an affair, there comes a time when she gets annoyed and thinks ‘well, if he accuses me anyway, why not at least have the fun’… NINA!”

“You’re always going to reproach me for that, aren’t you?” he asked slightly annoyed and she shot him a kind look.

“Honey, I’m not reproaching you for anything! I’m just fulfilling your… expectations concerning my behavior!” she replied friendly, but when he looked into her eyes he could see that they blinked with everything else than kindness. He groaned frustrated and turned to look at Yuki.

“Nina, would you mind to join us at dinner?” he asked irritated and the girl finally jumped towards them, almost causing a waiter with glasses on his tablet to stumble. Irina and Jack caught their breath and sighed relieved when the man could catch his balance without losing any of the glasses from his tablet.

“Okay, listen!” Irina grabbed the girl’s hand, her voice reflecting her anger when she dragged Yuki with her now. “Did I mention that we don’t have an unlimited amount of money at the moment? I don’t want to waste any to pay for some glasses that got broken because of you, understood?”

Yuki shot her a confusing look, then looked at Jack.

“Although your …mother could have chosen her tone differently, she has a point!” Jack said and caught Irina’s warning glance. Yuki grinned when she realized, that he was obviously mocking Irina.

They sat down on a free table, Yuki hastily occupying one chair so that Jack and Irina couldn’t do otherwise but sit next to each other.

Almost immediately a waiter came to them.

“Good evening. What do you wish to drink?”

“Vodka.”

“A bottle of white wine!”

Jack and Irina said at the same time, then looking at each other. Jack shook his head.

“Katherine darling, you can’t drink vodka now…”

“Why not? I’m not telling you to not drink wine either!”

Jack smiled at the waiter. “A bottle of wine, two glasses, please!”

“Correct that!” Irina interrupted. “I’d love to have a glass of vodka!”

Jack and Irina started a heavy discussion now, followed by Yuki with confusion and amusement. The poor waiter had obviously no idea how to react and stood helplessly in front of the table, following the heavy dispute with uneasiness until Yuki finally turned to him.

“For me an orange juice, please… it seems that it might take some time until my parents have decided, so could you already bring me the juice, please?” she asked smiling and the waiter bowed and went away, glad that he had a reason to leave the table.

“Stubborn!” Jack murmured finally, tired of the discussion which obviously didn’t lead anywhere. Irina gave a slight scoff.

“I just don’t like if other people claim the right to make my decisions!”

“Fine!” Jack turned away from her and Irina nodded.

“Fine!” she said as well and turned, her face showing confusion when the waiter was gone.

“I… um… told him to bring me an orange juice, since he felt obviously uneasy observing your little… discussion! Honestly, Parents, this is pathetic! And you’re telling me to behave?” Yuki shook her head and Jack shot her a warning look.

“Careful with what you’re saying, daughter!” he growled but Irina sighed regretful.

“She’s right, Jack! If we keep behaving like this, we’ll ruin everything!”

“This is not my fault!” he snapped back coldly and she moaned frustrated.

“No! No, of course it’s not… everything is my fault – as it has always been!” she replied with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

“There we go again!” Yuki interrupted, seeing another fight coming up. “You do really act like a couple that’s been married for about twenty years… and about to divorce now!” she added. “But keep going! I didn’t mean to interrupt you!” She smiled at the waiter who returned with her orange juice now. “Thanks!”

“Have you decided?” The man asked with an uncertain glance at Jack and Irina.

“Yes.” Irina replied and shot Jack a short look. “We’ll take a bottle of white wine with two glasses please.”

“As you wish!” He went away and for a moment the ‘happy family’ sat in silence. Then Irina finally turned to look at Jack.

“Yuki was right, you know?” she finally said. “We should… overcome our differences. We’re trying to find Sydney, but we can’t do so if we start a fight each time the other one opens his mouth. Let’s just… act professionally… both of us!” She suggested and sighed silently. Act professionally, easier said than done when working with Jack Bristow.

“Seems fair enough!” he agreed and Yuki looked from one to the other. Their definition of acting professionally was obviously not talking at all, and so the dinner passed in silence. When they had finished eating, the waiter took away their plates and smiled at Yuki.

“There’s an adventure evening for children today. It starts down in the lobby and there will be many games and challenges!”

Yuki smiled. “That sounds fun! I will leave you two alone in your… important conversations!” she winked at Irina and left the room. Irina sighed and got up as well.

“Excuse me…”

“Where are you going?”

“I just need to breathe some fresh air! Don’t wait for me!”

With these words she left. It didn’t take her long to enter the main deck. The fresh, salty breeze greeted her face and she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She had to think of a way to act professionally and the fact that it was so hard for her to think of a way confirmed that she had already went too far with her emotions.

She strolled along the rail, looking at the waves deep under her. When she had finally reached the end of the ship, she looked at the horizon where the sun was about to set, making the water glow like burning lava.

She closed her eyes as the wind started to play with her hair and sighed deeply. She was a professional, and she had managed to act like that twenty years ago… then why couldn’t she act like that now?

When she entered their rooms about two hours later, she had recollected herself and was fully in control… at least until Jack greeted her.

“Where have you been?” he asked suspiciously and Irina passed him by without turning a hair.

“Up on the deck, breathing some air.”

“May I ask a question?”

“Sure!” she replied peeking into Yuki’s room to look if the girl was alright.

“She’s asleep!” Jack said and waited until she had closed the door again. “You’ve thought of everything, evening clothes, casual wear, even swimming clothes, but why didn’t you think of nightwear?”

She turned to him and it took her some time to realize where his point was. Then it dawned on her. Of course, she hadn’t bought anything for the night.

“Don’t get wrong ideas, Bristow, I simply forgot!” she said. “Don’t forget that I had to buy a whole new set of clothing for three persons. So I focused on the really important things! I think you will find some shirt you can wear tonight.” Her voice was cold as she entered their bedroom with him following her. She searched her own clothes for something she might wear in the night and finally ended up with a tight white top. She turned around and found him staring at her.

“What?”

He didn’t overhear the threatening tone in her voice and chuckled.

“Am I not allowed to stare at my wife?”

“Considering the fact that I’m your FAKE-wife: No, you’re not!” she snapped and wanted to pass him by since he had obviously no intention to leave her some privacy to change. The next moment she found herself in his arms.

“I remember someone once saying ‘Technically we’re still husband and wife’.” He replied, his face close to hers. She shot him a cold look.

“Yes, I remember! Oh, and you know, what else I remember? Someone saying ‘How much is sleeping with you going to cost me?’.” She replied and pushed his arms away. “And I told you it was more than you could afford. As far as I recollect that’s not the usual phrase a husband uses to make his wife sleep with him – at least not where I come from.”

He moaned frustrated.

“Irina! I told you I was sorry!”

“Yes, you did, but words are nothing more than that – just words!” She turned to face him, her eyes not showing any emotion – which he knew was pretty dangerous. “I’ll give you a chance, Jack! Tell me right here in the face that you’re absolutely sure that I have never slept with one of these…” she hesitated and swallowed the insult she had meant to come up with. “…men. Look me in the eye and make me believe that you don’t think of me as a slut and I will…” Make love to you she had wanted to say, but could stop herself from doing so. “…f*ck you right here on this bed. Apologies are made very easily. I need you to convince me. Make me believe that you mean what you’re saying – that you’re worth spending a night with.”

He returned her stare, not sure what to say. He wanted to believe that what she told was true, and yet, she had lied to him too often. “Irina, why is that so important to you? I… I don’t care whether you’ve slept with these guys or not.” Bad lie, he thought to himself.

“Wrong answer!” she replied emphatically and turned around to leave the room. Jack followed her.

“I don’t understand you. Obviously you want me as badly as I want you.”

“Yes!” she replied, in the bathroom now. She loosened the clips out of her hair, looking into his eyes in the mirror. “I have to admit that I want you. But I don’t want to be your cheap whore, Bristow. As you’ve correctly stated earlier, I am your wife! I don’t want to sleep with you and then the next morning feel as if it wouldn’t make any difference if you just left money.”

“Technically!” he emphasized outraged. “Technically you are my wife. Practically I don’t think you can still claim that status! And when have I ever treated you as a whore?”

“Oh, let me think! You make clear that you don’t believe me when I say that I’m not a slut, then you suddenly deny my status as your wife, when only two minutes earlier you brought that as a reason to convince me to sleep with you. And to top all of that you still expect me to jump into your arms when you want to f*ck me. You’re right, it’s really hard to recollect when you treated me as a whore!” she said with bitterest sarcasm in her voice. He grabbed her arm and turned her around, harsher than he had intended to.

“The fact that I want to sleep with you doesn’t automatically make you a whore!”

“Well, the way you act does, not the fact itself, you idiot! And now get your hands off me before I break your arms! I’m tired and I want to go to sleep!” Her tone made clear that her words were meant to dismiss him.

“Stubborn b*tch!” he growled, but let her go. He knew that she was quite capable of breaking his arms in her momentary mood. He left the bathroom and shut the door with a slam. Then he realized that Yuki was leaning in the doorframe of her room, shooting him an accusing look.

“Weren’t you already asleep?” he asked lost in thoughts and Yuki nodded.

“Yes, but you guys make it hard to be able to sleep. Do you have to fight so loud that the whole ship can witness your discussions?”

“Sorry…” Jack murmured and wanted to enter his room, when Yuki’s call held him back.

“Jack! By the way, she is right! You are indeed an idiot!” The girl stated dryly and shut the door to her room behind her. Jack looked perplexed at the closed door and growled in frustration. Damn it, Irina was the one who had betrayed him and abandoned her family, not the other way around.

He entered the bedroom and tossed his shirt aside – his pants followed thirty seconds later – then he let himself fall to the bed and stared to the ceiling. He wanted to trust her but she gave him absolutely no reason to. To start with she didn’t tell him who Katya was.

When she entered the room about five minutes later he caught his breath at her appearance. She was only wearing her panties and a tight white top that revealed some of the delicious skin of her belly.

She ignored him gloriously and crawled under the sheets on her side of the bed.

“Do you mind if I turn off the lights?” she asked courteously, but coldly and waited for his answer. When she got none she shrugged her shoulders. “Fine, then… goodnight, Jack!” With these words she turned the lights off and snuggled up in her sheets.

 

Part 8 – The Right Kind of Wrong

Note: This chapter is dedicated to LeAnn Rimes for wonderful inspiration I got hearing her song “The Right Kind Of Wrong” over and over again while writing this part.

When Jack awoke the next morning he didn’t even realize that something was different at first. Usually it took him some time to pass from the state of sleeping to being awake, but this morning the time was shortened when he suddenly realized that his chest felt heavy… He managed to open his eyes, ignoring the hurting sunlight and found Irina snuggled into him. Her head was resting on his chest, her arm possessively wrapped around his waist. Her legs were still on her side of the bed and he wondered how she was able to sleep in this position. His hand touched her silk hair slightly and he couldn’t resist to softly stroke her. This reminded him of those many Sunday mornings they had had, back then when they had still been a happy family. They had stayed in bed, sometimes until noon and had spend the time talking or just cuddling. He wished he could bring back those times – no, he corrected himself, not those times. I don’t want Laura, I want her.

His hand stroked over the arm around his waist, then he decided that it would be best to get out of this bed before she awoke, otherwise she would most likely blame him on her position.

Carefully to not wake her up, he lifted her arm and rolled her over to the side. She moaned softly, but didn’t wake up. He looked at her for a long time, noticing that one strap of her top had slid over her shoulder, drawing his attention to the soft skin of her shoulder.

He knew she would kill him if she woke up just now, but he couldn’t resist. In the softest touch, he laid his lips to her skin, moving them up her shoulder to her neck. Then he finally looked at her, softly stroking her cheek with his finger.

“I love you…” he whispered, his voice couldn’t be called more than a breath and he was shocked, first when he realized how true these words were and secondly when he heard her reply.

“I love you too…” Her voice was sleepy and he doubted that she knew whom she was talking to at all. He thought it better to leave now. After he had moved away from her, he covered her body with the sheets in order to keep her from getting cold.

Then he showered quickly, got dressed and left the room.

When Irina awoke about half an hour later, the first thing she did was wondering about why she was lying on Jack’s side of the bed. The second thing was thinking. Wasn’t there something she should remember?

She felt so light-hearted within and she couldn’t remember why… although she should.

Maybe a nice dream, she concluded and got up to look out of the window. She stretched and smiled then. Tomorrow afternoon they were scheduled to reach Melbourne. That would make one and a half day to them, and since they had arranged for everything, they could just take some time off.

Irina quickly did her workout and left the bedroom. She found Yuki sitting in the living room and watching TV.

“Morning!” the girl warbled and Irina smiled at her.

“Morning… where’s Jack?”

“He left about thirty minutes ago. I don’t know where he went.”

“Oh… fine. He’s adult. Do you want to accompany me to the pool?”

“YAAA!” The girl cried out and Irina held her ears.

“I will just have a shower!” she interrupted Yuki and smiled at her face.

Ten minutes later they left in their casual wear with their bath-clothing underneath.

The pool area was already very populated, which was natural given the already very hot temperatures. Irina pulled off her clothing and dropped them into a free chair, then she headed into the water, followed by Yuki. They swam a race and after about half an hour Irina left the water in defeat. She was good in swimming, but that girl was like a fish in the water. She chuckled and let herself sink to her chair, closing her eyes to the sun. Only ten seconds later she jumped when cold water hit her unexpectedly. Yuki started to laugh out loud.

“Damn it, don’t do that again!” Irina scolded and sank back lazily. Yuki jumped to the chair next to her, still laughing and rubbed her hair with her towel.

“Hey, they’re starting a game in diving for little rings! Let’s participate!” she cried out about three minutes later and Irina sighed.

“No, I just want to lie here for a moment…”

“You’re boring!”

“I’m a little older than you, missy!” she reminded and peeked through half closed eyes. “But feel free to participate! I’ll be lying here… sending out good thoughts for you!”

Yuki laughed and got up. “Fine then… sleep well!”

“I’m not sleeping. I’m well aware of my surroundings!”

“Yeah, we’ll see that at the next load of cold water.”

“Don’t you dare…” Irina warned and Yuki ran away laughing. The woman sighed and closed her eyes again. This felt so comfortable, so sure, as if nothing in the world could ever happen to her again.

She let herself drown in the comforting sounds of laughter from the pool and the people talking around her, her mind drifting more and more away to sleep. She only came back to reality when she heard the squirming of the chair next to her that told her someone had sat down on it.

“And, did you win?” she asked sleepy, not opening her eyes.

“In what?” Jack’s voice was amused and Irina sighed, too lazy to open her eyes.

“Sorry, I thought you were Yuki. She’s participating in that stupid dive game over there in the pool.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve been watching her. She’s pretty good, but she has a strong rival who looks as if he usually participates in swimming contests.”

Irina laughed softly and opened her eyes, blinking against the bright light of the sun and finally looking at the man. He offered her a drink.

“Thirsty?”

“Thanks…” she murmured surprised and took the cold glass. “Why are you…”

“I’m trying to negotiate a truce…” he explained and she shot him a smile.

“Starting another attempt after your last one failed pathetically? I have to admit that’s courageous.”

Only now she realized that he was wearing his swimming trunks, which allowed her to caught a glimpse at his well trained chest. Unaware of her reaction to him, she bit her lower lip and forced her attention back to the pool.

“Where have you been this morning?” she asked, trying to think of something else.

“Oh, I needed to free my head.” He explained and caught a confused glimpse of her.

“Of what?”

“Of our fight yesterday. I thought that maybe you were right. I didn’t mean to treat you… inappropriately. And I didn’t mean it to come over as if I just wanted to sleep with you.” He finished his sentence and took a sip of his cold drink. “I know your opinion of apologies, but I just wanted to say that. I’ve been a little… unbalanced lately.”

She didn’t say a word but observed him in a stunned silence. She had expected everything except for this.

Jack hated to lie to her, but he was sure that she would kill him if she knew what he had actually done this morning. Of course he had done some thinking, but he had also made some phone calls… including one with Kendall. He had told him exactly what was going on and despite Kendall’s accusations and threats he had been able to convince him to not arrest Irina Derevko as soon as they reached Melbourne.

‘What do you expect me to do? Wait until you decide to deliver her?’ Kendall had asked ironically and Jack had tried to calm him down.

‘Our efforts combined with hers might be able to be enough to locate Sydney… maybe even more. Maybe we can bring down the Covenant!’ There had been a long silence, then finally he had heard Kendall clearing his throat.

‘Fine. But I expect you to stay in contact with me. And as soon as you have finished your work, no matter to what conclusion, you will hand her over to us.’

‘I will, but I’ve one condition!’

‘Why did I have the feeling you had conditions!’ Kendall had moaned.

‘If I hand her over to you, you have to promise that she’ll be granted immunity.’

‘Jack, are you out of you min…’

He hadn’t let Kendall finish, but continued. ‘Not only will she be granted immunity, she’ll also be allowed to be transferred to a safehouse where she can live at least with the illusion of a normal life. Of course there will be twenty-four hour surveillance. I will live with her, in that house, so there’s no way she will be able to escape.’

Kendall had sighed deeply on the other end. ‘Jack, please don’t tell me you have fallen for her over again… She’s Irina Derevko, a murderer and terrorist. Do I have to send you a copy of her file again to remind you of who she is?’

‘Just do as I told you to! As soon as I have your agreement in writing, signed by the president of the United States, I will deliver her to you… otherwise you’ll get nothing! And don’t you dare try to interfere and arrest her before I tell you to.’

‘Jack…’

He hadn’t listened anymore but had hung up the phone staring into the dim darkness of the phone cabin. He knew she would be pissed like hell if she found out that he had contacted the CIA, informing them of their plans and whereabouts. To him it had been a good strategic move. If they got caught by the CIA now, they would at least not be treated as traitors.

“Why don’t you lie down and relax?”

Her question interrupted his thoughts and brought him back to reality. He observed her for a moment, then he made a move to get up. “No, I wanted to read that files over once again, so I think I’ll…”

“Jack…” Irina sat up straight, grabbing his arm. “You’ve read those files four times, we’ve been analyzing them about twice as often. I know you’re worried about Sydney and so am I. But there is no sense in just reading over the same sheets of paper over and over again. We will find her! Now relax and enjoy the sun… or the pool. You can’t be working all the time.”

“There is still a lot that has to be taken care of. Passports for example… our flight tickets to Japan… money… just to enumerate the most important things.”

“I already took care of that, now would you please sit down? You’re driving me crazy standing in front of my chair all the time!”

“What do you mean by you took care of it?” he asked, sharply now and Irina shot him a confused look, not overhearing the upcoming anger in his voice.

“I contacted Katya and arranged for passports and money to lie for us in Melbourne.”

“You did what?” he asked, a little louder than he had intended to.

“Jack, what’s your problem? By the way, maybe you should yell a little louder! I think the steward on the other side of the pool didn’t quite hear you yet!” she replied ironically and leaned back in her chair, determined to not let him ruin this beautiful day and her mood.

“Your attempt of being humorous is absolutely inappropriate!” he leaned over her, his eyes reflecting his anger. “What were you thinking, contacting the woman we don’t know anything about!”

“You don’t know anything about her, Jack, I do!”

“Well, I do know that someone planned to kill us on the ship, and that Jamis was a helper of that person. Who can tell you that Katya isn’t one of them as well? She obviously knew where we were, and she hired Jamis.” he pierced her with his eyes and stepped back. Irina shook her head.

“She is reliable, Jack. I can’t tell you more than that.”

“Do you have proof?”

“I don’t need proof to know that she would never betray me! Would you please trust me on that?” she requested, starting to get annoyed now which he could clearly hear from her voice.

“Trust you.” He laughed. “Why should I do that? You give me no reason to! All I know is that you just do things on your own without consulting me although we’re supposed to be partners on this mission.” He ignored the voice within that told him that he had done the exact same thing by calling Kendall.

“Jack, trust isn’t actually about me telling you everything I do, but you not expecting me to, because you believe in my abilities and loyalty.”

“But I don’t! At least not in your loyalty. You’ve betrayed us more than once before, remember?”

“How nice to know!” she snapped back sharply and got up from her chair, her mood finally ruined. “So, if that’s how you think about it, we should end our partnership now and here. I can’t use a partner who questions my loyalty with every step I take on my own. If that’s the case I’ll be more successful if I go on from here on my own.” Having said these words she just rushed him by without paying any more attention to him. She headed into the water of the pool and did the crawl until she felt neither fury nor her arms anymore.

When she left the water, she took some time to overcome the dizziness and stop her arms and legs from trembling.

Jack was gone.

Irina let herself sink to her chair. A bad conscience started to dawn on her. She knew that he was right, and she knew that, after all that had happened, if she had been in Jack’s place, she wouldn’t have trusted Katya either. But Katya was her sister.

For a moment she thought seriously about apologizing to Jack and explain that little fact to him, but then she reconsidered the dangers of this revelation. If Jack planned to play her out, which she didn’t believe since he was concerned about Sydney’s life more than anything else, he would most likely draw Katya in as well. Irina didn’t want her sister to pay for crimes she hadn’t even been involved in. Although Katya wasn’t an angel herself, her crimes were more confined to their homecountry Russia.

She had rarely committed any international illegalities except for the very few times when she had helped her, Irina or it had been absolutely necessary to cross international borders. To other people Katya had a really white slate, nobody expected her to be involved with terrorists or murderers, and that was what gave her such a great power.

I can’t trust him on that, she thought to herself and closed her eyes, losing herself in thoughts. Jack had helped her. He hadn’t set her up in Athens and even when she had caught him, he had protected her by buying her time to escape.

He might have stolen my disk, but he never did play me out, she thought and sighed as her thoughts went further. On the other hand, many things had changed since then. She had felt as if Jack had trusted her back then – at least enough to not question her behavior. Now he didn’t seem to trust her at all. Was it because she had shot him? Was it because she had been staying in a hotel of the Covenant?

She didn’t know for sure, but she decided to have a conversation with him next time she saw him. She didn’t want to work alone – in fact she needed him. It made her feel safe if he backed her up on a mission. She opened her eyes abruptly when she realized, that of all the people she had ever known or worked with, she trusted him the most – along with Katya.

~*~*~*~*~

Irina didn’t see Jack the whole day long. It was as if he had disappeared – which was actually impossible given the fact that they were on a ship.

When he didn’t show up until night, her wonder turned into serious concern. She had dissolved their partnership and as she knew Jack he had taken her words exactly as she had said them.

“He isn’t here yet!” Yuki interrupted the silence and Irina shot her a slightly annoyed glance by this stating of the obvious. The girl didn’t even care. “Aren’t you worried?”

“He’s adult!” Irina replied hoping that the girl didn’t see her true feelings, and turned her attention back to the TV screen without actually knowing what the movie was about.

“Why do you adults always have to be that stubborn…” Yuki sighed dramatically, but Irina didn’t react.

She started when suddenly a loud knock on the door interrupted the sounds of the TV and jumped almost up. Hastily tying her bathrobe together, she opened the door and looked into the face of a steward.

“Um yes?” She didn’t hide the confusion of her voice and he cleared his throat.

“Mrs. Miles… this is really embarrassing to us, but…” He stopped, obviously weighing his words and Irina looked at him impatiently.

“What is it?”

“Your husband… he kind of refuses to leave the bar. We want to close and if he doesn’t leave voluntarily, we’ll have to consult our security team. So I thought, I’d contact you to prevent any unnecessary embarrassing situations.”

“Yeah…” Irina nodded absently. “I’ll take care of him. Thanks for coming to me first.” She left her room and pulled the door closed behind her, not caring that she was barefoot and wore her bathrobe. “Where is he?”

She followed the steward down the corridor, her mind working relentlessly. It was her fault. It wasn’t typical for Jack to behave like he did right now, and she blamed her words on that. She had hurt him.

They crossed some larger halls, until they reached the lower floor of the dining hall. They passed it by and went up the small stairs to the second floor, then through a smaller door into a private bar room.

It was beautiful, one side all covered with windows through which allowed to look out into the huge dining hall – a magnificent view since they were on the middle level and could therefore see the lower floor as well as the upper floor.

Two barkeepers were cleaning the rest of the glasses behind the bar, obviously sunken into a private conversation.

“Over there…” The steward said lowly and pointed to the piano. Jack was sitting on the chair in front of it, a drink on the top of the instrument. Irina nodded at the steward.

“Thank you… will you give me a few moments alone with him?”

“Of course…”

He left and Irina went slowly towards the piano, ignoring the confused looks of the barkeepers, who were now turning their attention to the woman in the bathrobe.

“Jack…” Irina said softly when she stood behind him. His body didn’t show any reaction at all.

“Leave me alone!” he demanded simply and she frowned her forehead.

“I will, as soon as you come with me! They want to close this bar and they’re going to call security if you don’t leave. So…”

“I told them, I will leave as soon as they arrange for a single room for me!” he interrupted her sharply and turned to look at her now. His eyes widened in disbelief and he scanned her appearance in disbelief – started with her bare feet to her silk bathrobe.

“Why are you dressed like that?”

“Because I was about to go to bed when the steward knocked on our door and told me what was going on.” She took the glass from the piano into her hand and looked at the brown liquid inside. “How much have you been drinking?”

“Nothing! I realized that I can’t let you make me ruin my own life by drinking every time we meet!”

She raised her eyes to the ceiling and sighed at his obviously aggressive attitude towards her, but decided not to react to his hidden accusation.

“Jack, since you’re sober you know that refusing to leave this place will get you nowhere, except for an empty storage room where they’ll arrest you for the rest of the journey if they feel that you’re disturbing the ship’s order!”

“Don’t pretend that it would disturb you! I would be out of your way, not bothering you or your… agendas anymore!” he replied dryly and turned around to the keyboard of the piano again. She sighed, her eyes meeting those of the barkeepers, who were still following the conversation with interest. When they now saw the threat in her face, they turned around hastily, suddenly busy with taking the glasses back to the cupboards they belonged to.

Irina went closer to the man in front of her, her body softly brushing his as she laid her hands to his shoulders, softly stroking them.

“We both said things, that weren’t actually compliments for the other and as far as I’m concerned… I’m sorry! I don’t want this partnership to end, Jack! I need you on this.”

“For what? I thought you could do everything on your own!” he replied dismissive, forcing back the feelings that her touch woke inside him.

“I’m terribly sorry. I can’t do everything on my own.” She murmured and he gave a short ironic laugh. She stroke softly through his hair. “Okay, I’ll tell you. She’s my sister!”

“Who?” Jack asked, his voice not hiding his confusion at this revelation he did not really know what to do with right now.

“Katya.” Irina replied lowly. “She’s my sister. I didn’t tell you because… she has nothing to do with any of my crimes and I didn’t want her involved in some way. But obviously one of us has to start trusting the other. I totally understand that given our past it can’t be you, so it has to be me then.”

“You sister…” he replied her words and turned around unexpectedly. “You have a sister?”

“Actually have two… but I’m closer to Katya. That’s why I knew she would never betray me.” She avoided his eyes. Suddenly they were so close – too close for her to force back her feelings. “I don’t expect you to trust me now, but please lets finish this together!”

She shrieked softly when he turned them both around abruptly, so that she was trapped between his body and the piano. His hands formed out the shaped of her waist.

“I want to trust you…” he murmured and opened her bathrobe. “But every time I start to, I remember the many times before when you have just played with me or Sydney – used us for you own intentions.”

Her hands lifted to his head and softly stroke through his hair. She didn’t know what to answer to this accusations since she knew he was right.

“God, you’re so beautiful…” he whispered and placed his lips softly to her belly. At the first touch of his mouth to her skin, she felt herself drowning in him and feared to lose her balance. Her hand went to her side to lean herself on the keys of the piano. They gave a slight plunk when she hit them.

Jack got up, finally searching her lips with his, devouring them in a deep kiss. He lifted her up so she was sitting completely on top of the pianos, her legs standing on the keys. In the softest touch he let his lips draw a path down her chin to her neck. She leaned her head back, her hands clasping his shoulders searching for support.

Finally their eyes met and Irina was overwhelmed by the tenderness she found in his eyes.

“Considering our agreement to act professionally, you should leave now…” He murmured close to her lips. “…because if you don’t I might not let you go anymore.”

“You know, I’ve been thinking this agreement over!” she replied, her lips brushing over his in a playful breath of a kiss, that could barely be called a touch at all.

“Have you?” he asked and chuckled amused.

“Yes! I was thinking that maybe we should drop it when the sun goes down.” Her voice was hoarse, her hands pulling him impatiently closer to her. Her lips searched for his, but he evaded her touch playfully.

“So are you implying, that we have sex at night, and act professionally at day?” he asked, bending his head to let his tongue run across the skin of her neck.

She closed her eyes, her hands stroking through his hair. “To me it seems the best way. We can’t get our hands off each other… we’re both frustrated, which might be one of the main reasons for our recent aggressions. So it’s actually a means to improve our professional partnership.” She explained and gave a soft moan when his tongue ran over the sensitive right under her ear.

“So your theory is that if we have sex at night it will help us to work as a team without fighting all the time.” He asked and looked into her eyes that were gleaming dark with desire.

“That’s the theory, yes…” she replied, her hands lying on his cheek. “Provided that neither of us has any expectations later. It would be just meaningless…”

“But what about…” he stopped for a moment, carefully scanning her eyes. “What about our discussion yesterday evening where you wanted me to prove that I don’t think of you as…”

She silenced him with her fingers which she placed softly on his lips. “Shhh… Doesn’t matter anymore.”

He looked into her eyes, surprised by her reaction. “Really… why is that?”

“Because maybe we both expected too much. We can’t trust each other personally… at least not yet, so we shouldn’t try to force anything, since that’s how we always ended up fighting. If we just work together on a professional base, it doesn’t matter what you think of me, or I think of you. We’re free persons, just having meaningless sex, that’s it. No deeper emotions or fears of betrayal involved.” She whispered seductively against his ear and felt him shiver.

“That doesn’t sound very romantic…” he breathed into her ear and she smiled while running her fingers over his cheek.

“Well, what about our relationship is romantic, Jack? We’re enemy spies! We betray each other, we don’t trust each other, we fight every time we have a conversation… but we need each other physically, so let’s just give in to it! Just the way we did nineteen months ago… in my house and Athens. You do still remember, don’t you?”

She nibbled seductively on his lower lip, her hoarse words leading his thoughts back to their hot encounter in Athens. As the vivid memory of the happenings in the brothel crossed his mind, he suddenly took possession of her mouth in a passionate, fierce kiss, urging her further onto the piano.

She was right, he needed her, but wasn’t willing to trust her – although he loved her, that he had to admit – at least to himself. But thinking or worse analyzing his relationship with her had caused nothing but problems so far. So maybe the best way for them was to bring it to a level where talking about what they felt for each other was unwanted – therefore he wouldn’t be forced to neither think about his feelings nor dealing with them.

Irina gave in to every touch, every feeling – and every emotion she felt deep within. She knew that her offer to him was the best way to do in order to find Sydney – besides she needed him, and this – meaningless, passionate sex – was obviously all he was willing to give, so she would take it. Even if it meant that her heart would break when their mission was complete and they separated to continue on different ways.

Katya’s warning words were still vivid in her mind – not to fall for Jack again and under no circumstances get emotionally attached to him – and Irina had to admit that Katya had been right with everything she had said. Nonetheless, with all the heartbreak it would bring to her, she did not want to waste the very few time she could have with him, even if it was wrong –Jack Bristow was just the right kind of wrong.

Passionate Interlude – If love is out of the question…

She flinched as she suddenly felt two hands covering hers on the rail.

“I’m sorry!” Jack whispered close to her ear and she could feel his body in her back.

“Sorry for what?” she managed to say and tried to make her voice sound as cool as possible.

“For being such a lousy bastard!”

“Understatement!” she murmured and leaned back into him. “But apology accepted. I’m also sorry for being so…”

“Bitchy?” he asked and she sighed.

“If you want to use that word, yes!” She caught her breath when he softly stroke her hair aside and covered the back of her neck with his lips, softly playing with his tongue at the sensitive spots of her skin until he felt her shudder against him.

“I’ve been thinking!” she managed to say and he chuckled.

“About what?”

“About us and… acting professionally.”

“I’m listening…” he whispered, softly biting her earlobe.

“We should… get to bed.” She murmured and he laughed.

“That’s a extensive definition of professionally.”

She smiled. “No, but obviously, we’re both frustrated, we both want each other and we both can’t concentrate on anything else if close to each other.”

“True…” he murmured, softly biting her neck.

“So then, I suggest that during the night we sleep together… with one little condition: It’s just meaningless sex, and therefore no talking about it. We act professionally.”

“Your theory is, that if we have sex at night, we will be able to act professionally the other time! Well, due to my experience in fighting with you, that seems to make sense!” he murmured and she laughed, turning around in his arms to face him.

She looked at him, her hands on his chest, playing at the material of his black tuxedo.

“You do know that you look irresistible in black suits?” she murmured and he smiled slightly.

“It’s nothing compared with your appearance in that dress.” He replied, his hands moving over her back to her waist. “You know, technically it’s not night yet.” She turned to look at the sunset and shrugged her shoulders.

“Let’s ignore that fact today

It took them the whole afternoon to get all the stuff they needed. They had planned to not interrupt their journey again to buy food and so they were all carrying bags with fruits, meat, and every other kind of eatables.
The new fresh water would be delivered to them in the evening. Some men had agreed to bring it in the evening.

“Three boxes of potatoes… two boxes of… what’s that?” Irina pointed at a box with indefinable fruits.

“They’re a local delicacy.” Jamis replied. “Full of vitamins and very satiating.”

“One box of bananas…” Irina continued and finally moaned. “Is there any money left at all?”

“Don’t worry! Master Omar said, that he can arrange more money if we need more!” Jamis replied, filling the shelves with the boxes.

The woman got up and let the paper drop to the table. It was almost getting dark outside and she decided that it was time to go to bed. Omar could take care of the water himself. She needed a little rest. She left the storeroom and shut the door behind her.

When she crossed the corridor to get to her bedroom, she ran into Jack. She gave him a slight smile.

“Goodnight, Jack!”

“Goodnight…”

She passed him by and he made no efforts to hold her back or say anything else. She entered her room and leaned against the closed door. God, she needed him so badly that she didn’t know how to sleep at all. But he hadn’t given her any signs that he felt the same. He had just said goodnight.

She pulled of her clothes and laid down in the soft bed then. For a moment she stared at the ceiling, than she decided to meditate into sleep.

It took her about half an hour to jump out of the bed, pull on her dressing gown and leave her room to knock on his door.

When he opened the door he couldn’t help but stare at her. She looked so incredibly sexy that he had to concentrate on his words.

“Irina, what is up?”

“Don’t you dare ask me what is up…” she replied. “The whole afternoon has been like a foreplay, every time you touched me I wished, that we were alone and now you’re passing me by, just saying ‘goodnight’! That’s just far beyond acceptable, not to mention sufferable Bristow.”

She pushed him inside his room and shut the door with her foot, then she pressed him to the wall, her lips devouring his in a desperate kiss that left them both breathless.

“I knew you’d come…” he whispered against her lips and pressed her closer to his body.

“You knew…” she repeated and suddenly it dawned on her. “You planned this… treating me as if you didn’t care, because you knew that I’d come to your room.”

“I wasn’t sure it would work…” he admitted. “And I was two minutes away from coming to your room.”

Their lips reunited in a short kiss, until Jack pushed her onto his bed, covering her body with his. She moaned at the sudden heat that rushed through her bloodstream at the feeling of his body against hers. He undid the knot of her dressing gown and pushed it aside to reveal her black underwear.

She bend against him as his lips fell down on her belly, passionately exploring her skin, her hands ran over his arms and his neck and finally she turned him around, pinning his hands over the pillow.

“The last times you were the one in control. But not now…” she whispered against his lips.

“Unacceptable!” he replied, brushing her lips with his. “I’ve been waiting too long for this to allow you to be the one in control.”

“Are you going to fight with me again?”

Their lips met in another impatient kiss before her mouth wandered over his cheek, and traced the lines of his jaw.

When she started to lick and suck his neck, he moaned and surrendered to her for a little moment.

She let go of his hands and unbuttoned his shirt to caress his muscled breast with her hands and lips. His hands buried in her silky hair and as her lips found his again he sat up and pulled her bode close to his.

He removed her bra in an accomplished move and before she had even realized what had happened, he brought his lips to her breast.

She buried her face in his hair, her breath coming in small pants. As his hand moved down her belly and to the core of her desire, it was far beyond sufferable.

“Ja-ck… don’t…” she whimpered, but he silenced her protest with a deep kiss, her moans were lost in his mouth.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. “Jack?” It was Omar.

Jack moaned lightly and Irina pressed her cheek to his. “Don’t you dare answer…”

“Jack, have you seen Irina? I’ve searched for her everywhere and I can’t find her. I think we might have a problem…”

Irina leaned her head to Jack’s shoulder and Jack kissed her neck softly.

“I can’t tell him no, because if he has searched everywhere, you’re either here or jumped into the ocean! We’re on a ship…”

“You could not answer at all!” she moaned back.

“Then he would search the ocean for both of us!” He kissed her one last time, then let her go.

“Yes, she’s here…”

Irina got up and pulled on her dressing gown. “I’ll be there in a minute. What’s the problem?”

“We might have been compromised! There’s a boat following us for quite some time now.”

Irina shot Jack a look , but he shook his head. “I swear to you, I had no idea!”

“I’ll be there in five minutes!” Irina replied through the closed door and turned to Jack. “I guess, we won’t get to end the frustration…”

He walked to her and their lips merged in a hungry kiss again, while he softly urged her against the wall, his hand moving under her gown and continuing massaging her between her legs. She broke the kiss.

“Jack… what are you doing…” Her words were more a moan, and he smiled.

“Putting an end to your frustration!” His lips found her neck, gently brushing over her sensitive spot under her ear.

“But we can’t…” The rest of her sentence was lost when she gasped for oxygen at the heat that returned in an overwhelming wave.

“We can.” He whispered and changed his language to Russian. “Let it go. I know you want to. Come for me.” He breathed into her ear and she leaned her head back against the wall. Him speaking Russian almost drove her over the edge, not to mention what he said.

“Oh God, Jack…”

She had switched to Russian as well, although her voice was no more than a desperate whimper. He brushed her lips with his, softly silencing her moans as she finally reached her release.

Only one moment later she pulled him back to the bed.

“What are you doing?” he asked and she devoured his lips hungrily before replying in Russian.

“I need you to be inside me, now…”

She had barely finished the sentence when he claimed her mouth until she moaned helplessly. They undressed each other impatiently until they were lying skin on skin on the bed.

As he entered her, they moaned in unison, kissing and caressing each others skin until their reason had to give in to the ecstasy, that overwhelmed them.

It took them long to be able to move again. Irina’s hand stroke lazily through Jack’s hair, her lips softly pressed against his temple.

“I didn’t know that you speaking Russian was that sexy…” she murmured hoarsely and he chuckled.

“We should make it our official sex-language!” he replied and she laughed, hugging him close.

“You’re so cute…” she murmured and sighed when she got aware of the warm feeling in her heart. “I have to go now…”

“I know…” he replied regretfully and she stroke through his hair one last time. Then she got up and dressed quickly.

“Shit… it’s been thirty minutes since Omar was here.” She cursed with a look at the clock and he laughed.

“He will get over it.”

Irina shot him a smile and searched for her bra. When she had finally found it, she felt him hugging waist and pressing his lips to her shoulder.

“What do I have to do to make you stay?”

“Jack, I can’t…”

“But my need for you is not at all satiated!” he confessed and she leaned against him.

“Neither is mine, but we have two days left until we reach Japan. And I’ll come back as soon as possible.” She freed herself from him and went to the door, but couldn’t leave the room before being pulled into a last tender kiss.

She felt like flying when she finally went back to her cabin, showering quickly, getting dressed and finally making her way up to the bridge were Omar was waiting.

When she entered it, Omar shot her an amused look.

“You have a weird definition of five minutes!”

She didn’t react to his comment but went to the window. “Where is it?”

“Over there!” Omar handed her the binoculars and Irina observed the strange ship for a few moments.

“Have you tried to contact them?”

“Yes, no replies.”

“Mmm… that’s suspicious. “Ask them to identify themselves again… I’ll try something else!”

She left the room and made her way to the living room where she took her laptop out of the drawer of the commode. She connected it with the box in the wall and opened it.

It took her only a few minutes to hack into one of the satellite systems and gain access to a video of the ship that was following them. All she needed was the name… or another hint that could help her find out who was following them.

She got up and filled her glass with wine. As she did so, she suddenly heard a beep from her computer. That had been fast. She turned her attention to the screen where the name of the ship and the information about it appeared.

She dropped the glass to the table, staring in disbelief at the words. The she slammed the glass against the wall and screamed out in fury.

Part 9 – Trust Me

“Jack Bristow, you son of a bitch, open the door or I’ll break it!”

Yuki stepped out of her room, wiping her eyes tiredly.

“Why are you making such a noise?” she asked and Irina turned.

“Go back to your room please!”

But she didn’t pay attention to the girl anymore when Jack opened the door.

“Irina, what the hell…”

She pushed him inside, her fist hitting his face so hard that he went to the ground before he had even realized what had happened.

“Shit, are you crazy?” he cursed and she pulled him up.

“You betrayed me, you… Was that why you wanted me to stay? Why you distracted me in sleeping with me? You didn’t want me to learn about the ship, did you?”

He avoided her next punch and pulled away her legs. She fell hardly to the ground which made her even more furious.

“You bastard, you lied to me and I trusted you! I hate you!” she pummeled him with her fists.

“IRINA! Stop it!” Yuki tried to hold her back, but Irina didn’t listen to the girl.

“You knew I wanted to guarantee Yuki’s safety! Why didn’t you wait until we had her in Japan?” she screamed at him and Jack finally managed to catch her fists.

“Irina listen to me, I did not set you up! Would you explain to me what is going on?”

“Liar! And I trusted you…”

Yuki stood next to the couple and looked from Jack to Irina and back to Jack. “Yeah, what’s going on?” The girl asked and Irina faced her. Yuki saw the tears blinking in her eyes.

“A ship of the CIA is following us. Jack was lying. He never planned to bring you to Japan. He just wanted me to be on the high seas so I couldn’t escape again.”

“That’s not true…” Jack replied softly and sat up. “I’ll let go of your hands if you promise to not attack me again…”

“I won’t attack you… I’ll kill you!” she hissed and he chuckled.

“At least you’re honest. Irina, I guarantee you I didn’t know of them. Trust me!”

“If you didn’t contact them, how do they know that we’re here?” she snapped back and tried to free her hands from his. “Let me go, you traitor…”

He let go of her hands, only to find her attacking him again. This time he was prepared and it was easy for him to overwhelm her. He pressed her to the wall and turned her arms to her back.

“Listen…” His voice was level, but threatening now. “I don’t like to be attacked every time I let you go, so either you stop it, or I’ll lock you in the storeroom until you’re in full possession of your right mind again! I did not betray you, so you’d use your efforts in thinking about HOW they could have found you! Could this Katya have given the CIA a hint?”

“No way!” Irina hissed back and struggled against his grip.

“Why not? She’s the one you got the yacht from and she knew about your plans. To me she’s the most likely candidate to betray you.”

“She did not betray me!” Irina replied emphatically, her voice still reflecting her anger.

“What makes you so sure about that?”

Irina didn’t reply and Yuki looked at her. When she saw that Irina obviously had no intentions to say Jack the reasons, she decided to interfere. It had all went so well and now her work was ruined.

“Katya didn’t betray her. She’s her sister!” Yuki answered Jack’s question, followed by Irina’s frustrated scream and Jack’s astonished look.

“Yuki, I told you to never…” Irina started, but Jack interrupted her.

“She is your sister? Why haven’t you told me?”

“Because you’re CIA, and I wanted to shield her from being drawn into my problems.”

Suddenly she surrendered and he turned her to look into her eyes. She didn’t even make an attempt to fight him.

“Okay, so Katya wasn’t the one. Focus, honey, who could have set you up?” he urged softly and she looked at him in surprise of his use of this tender nickname.

“I… I thought you!” she answered and he laid his lips to hers in a tender kiss.

“I assure you I did not contact the CIA. What about Omar?”

“Do you think he would have told me about the ship if he planned to play me out? Neither of us would have noticed that we’re being followed. Besides he’s a friend of my sister and he knows she would castrate him if he harmed me in any way.”

“What about Jamis?” Yuki added. “As far as I know, Omar hired him only four days ago after Katya had called him to get you out.”

Jack and Irina looked at the girl, then at each other again.

“Let’s check this Jamis!” Jack replied and they hurried to the bridge where Omar was waiting. When he saw Jack’s black eye and Irina appearance, he looked at her in shock.

“Oh my God, what happened? Did you two have a fight?”

It had meant to be a joke, but as he saw the expression on their faces, he knew immediately that he was right.

“Is he the son of a bitch who set you up?” he asked, his voice getting threatening as he stepped two steps towards Jack. Irina held him back and shielded Jack.

“Omar, no! He isn’t the one…” She looked at Jack and her eyes told him, that she still didn’t fully believe him. “This Jamis, how did you meet him?”

“Jamis?” Omar looked at her. “He came to me and asked for a job. And since my helper was disappeared, I engaged him.”

“Did you have my sister check him?”

“No, there was no time! I had to leave immediately to get you of that island.”

Irina closed her eyes and clenched her hands to fists.

“You know, Katya told you to have every worker ckecked before bringing him in contact with me! Dammit, Omar, I trusted you to be careful!”

She felt the sudden need to sit down and leaned against the window.

“Okay, we can’t change it now. We have to get rid of Jamis first, then we have to come up with a plan. How long until we reach the coast of Japan?”

“If I speed up we can be there within twelve hours.”

“Do it!” Irina nodded and looked at Jack and Yuki. “We’ll get off the ship in ten hours and make the rest of our way in the small boat. Omar, you’ll go on! Divert them… our boat will be too small for them to be on their sensors. Yuki, pack your stuff, I want you to be prepared. Jack, check the boat for any kind of trackers.”

“What are you doing?” Jack asked and Irina looked at him, fully in control again.

“I’ll take care of Jamis.” She pulled out her gun and checked it.

“Irina… don’t! He’s CIA!”

“Yes, and therefore he’s my enemy! Don’t try to hold me back, otherwise I’ll have to assume, that you’re his accomplice!”

She rushed out of the room and Yuki followed her with his eyes. “Try to hold her back, Jack! She won’t listen to anyone but you!”

“Or she’ll shoot me!” Jack replied growling.

“She won’t shoot you!” Yuki smiled at him. “But you might be able to prevent her from digging her own grave. Hurry!”

Jack looked at the little girl and the expression in her eyes made him move. He left the room to follow Irina. When he was on the steps down he suddenly heard the crashing of a shot. He took the last three steps at once and pushed the door to the storeroom open. It didn’t take him more than a second to overview the situation.

Jamis was too surprised to react to his sudden presence and Jack’s fist hit him before he could avoid it. He went to the ground. Jack checked his pulse and took the weapon out of his hands, then he went to Irina who was lying against the wall, holding her bleeding arm in shock.

“You okay?”

“Yes…” she nodded and stared at Jamis. Jack helped her to get up and took the weapon out of her hand. “You… you saved my live…” she murmured. “If you had come just two seconds later…”

She didn’t finish the sentence and Jack pulled her softly out of the room. He locked the heavy door twice and turned around to examine Irina’s arm.

“You’re lucky. It’s just a scratch. Come on, I’ll treat it.”

“Jack.” She grabbed his hand when he turned around to leave and pulled him close to her. Her fingers touched softly his black eye. “I’m so sorry …for hitting you! I should have trusted you when you told me that you weren’t the one who betrayed me!”

He returned her glance and nodded. “I guess we will never find a way to fully trust each other. That’s just the way it has to be…”

“Really?” she asked and lowered her eyes. “Do you think we will never be able to trust each other again?”

“Well, it’s hard to trust someone who has lied to you for thirty years.”

“You’re mad, because I didn’t trust you!” she dryly stated and he shook his head.

“I’m not mad for you not trusting me! I’m mad because that was so typical for you!”

“What?”

“If Yuki hadn’t interfered, you would have killed me. That is just so Derevko: shoot first, ask questions then! I don’t want to have to watch my back every single second because of the possibility that you shoot me out of a slight hint or suspicion!”

“You’re right…I made a mistake. But I would not have killed you!” she contradicted.

“If you had had your weapon, you would have!”

“I HAD my weapon, Jack!” she replied and he looked at her in total bewilderment. She took a deep breath. “I will trust you from now on… it might be a mistake, if you plan to play me out after all, but I’ll do it anyway. I won’t question your actions anymore, nor will I observe you.”

Her face went pale and he grabbed her before she lost her balance.

“I should take care of your injury, before you loose more blood.” He said softly and brought her back to his room.

This story is unfinished. Interested in finishing it? You are allowed to do so, as long as the original author is listed for the first chapters.