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Rating: PG-13

Mild sexual references, UST.

They waited another two hours, peeking through the small window of the kitchen to be sure Jack Bristow didn’t return, until Maggie went upstairs to hang the white sheet out of Elena’s room.

When Irina saw it, she left her hiding spot and went carefully out of the small forest over the field back to the house. She wore a blouse and the pants the tailor had made for her. Women in pants were scandalous – but she didn’t care. She needed them on her operations. Long dresses were a curse for every woman who had to run and be able to defend herself.

When she reached the large fence behind the house, she climbed over it like she and her sisters had always done in their childhood. Despite its height of almost three meters, the sisters were very well trained in climbing over it – a fact which had driven their father crazy. Irina sighed when she remembered her father. He had died eleven years ago in a revolt, killed by a soldier of the queen. The whole fight had been a massacre. The revolutionists had never had a chance, yet the soldiers had slaughtered them in the most cruel fight. When she had still been unsure whether fighting was the right way – despite her mother’s death – that day had changed her mind. She was determined to kill the queen with her own hands to take revenge for the useless deaths of her parents.

She looked to the ground, scanning it carefully for larger stones before she jumped into the garden. When she lost a shoe during the process she cursed silently. She bent down to collect it out of Maggie’s roses, when a voice startled her.

“I don’t know, London has changed a lot, don’t you think?” She spun around, her face in shock when Jack Bristow was standing right behind her, looking around in the garden. “Not at all the London I remember!”

She didn’t know what he was talking about, and actually she wasn’t even interested in learning. All that mattered was that he was here – in her garden. Fleeing into the house was not an option, neither was going the same way back since he would have caught her before she even reached the fence. But running through the front gate was possibly worth trying…

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she finally stated and pulled on her lost shoe slowly.

“So, Lady Irina Laura Derevko.” His voice was almost tender. “Nice to meet you again.”

“I wish I could return that.” She replied coolly. “But, unfortunately, my amount of time is limited and I don’t waste it on lies!”

“Charming as always.” Jack replied coolly. “I knew that you were somewhere near the house when I found your sister and your maid playing this little comedy inside.”

“How smart you are… I’d be impressed if you weren’t such a prick.” With these words she started to run. She had an advantage. She knew this house and its hidings, he didn’t.

He, on the other hand, had expected her to try to run away. Another amazing side of her. He had never met a woman who could actually run fast. Despite her really amazing skills, he had caught up with her thirty meters later. When she knew that running had not been the successful method, she turned around unexpectedly and attacked him, her fist hitting him hard in the stomach. Although her punch left him breathless for a second, he managed to grab her fist tightly. She started to struggle against him and tried to free her hand.

When she stumbled over a stone right behind her, he hadn’t seen it coming. He tried to hold her – a mistake since he stumbled over her in the process, and finally they were lying in the grass with his body covering hers.

“May I talk to you now – please?” he asked breathlessly and looked down at her, his eyes sparkling with amusement. She returned his look with a murderous expression on her face.

“Get off me, or I’ll make you get off!”

“I don’t doubt that you’re capable of doing so… but I also don’t doubt that you’ll run away as soon as I let you go.”

“That’s right!” she simply stated and he couldn’t help but laugh.

“Your honesty is refreshing and charming in a strange sort of way…” He shook his head and got up, then offered his hand to help her up. She ignored it.

“So, you’re here to arrest me!” she stated and looked down at her ruined outfit. “Then just do it…”

“I will…” he replied, smoothing out his own clothing. “But first I wanted to…” He had only looked down for one second, but this was enough for her to bring him down with a hard punch that seemed to press all air out of his lungs. He was lying on the grass, fighting for air.

In a quick move she jumped up and ran towards the gate. She had almost managed to open it when he slammed her against the wall, holding her in place harshly. She cried out in pain.

“Let me make this clear: I don’t like to be beaten down. You’ve wasted enough of my time and I’m tired of your games!”

He turned her around harshly and noticed that she had a scratch on her cheek. Immediately he loosened his grip. He hadn’t meant to hurt her.

“Sorry…” he murmured, touching her cheek, but she avoided his touch, her eyes sparkling murderously.

“Go to hell!” she hissed and he dragged her towards the house.

“Come on!”

“Where are you taking me?”

“I’m going to lock you in your room until you’re willing to talk reasonably and listen to what I have to say!”

“You have no right to lock me up…” she started and struggled against his grip, but he tightened his hold on her wrists immediately.

“Do I have to remind you of the letter of the queen? I have almost every right I want!”

“I don’t care about your queen! She’s not my queen, therefore her rules don’t count in my house! You’re hurting me!”

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“I’m sorry for doing so, but if I loosen my grip you’ll get free and hurt me, or worse try to kill me!” he replied and entered the house. With Maggie and Elena following him in protest, he dragged Irina up the stairs until they were on the second floor, then he opened the first door he could find. He looked around and found that it had a bed and a fireplace and pushed her onto the bed.

Before she could get up again he had closed the door and locked it from the outside. He took the key and turned to face Maggie and Elena who were standing right in front of him, their eyes wide in shock.

“This door won’t be opened, nobody goes in and she won’t get out. The only person who opens that door is me, are we clear on that?”

“Ye-yes Sir…” Maggie replied in total confusion, but Elena was not so frightened.

“Excuse me, but you can’t just lock her up in there! It’s her house! We have rights!”

“Miss Elena, do you want to stay in the room next to hers for the rest of the day? If not, don’t start a discussion with me!” With these words he went down the stairs ignoring the two women, and most of all, Irina, who now started to slam her fists against the wood of the door, throwing the worst curses that existed after him. He hated to lock her up, especially since it seemed to outrage her even more, but it was the only way to make sure that she didn’t start another foolish attempt to escape. He was tired of going after her.

Soon after he had sat down in the living room, Maggie opened the door and walked in hesitantly. He smiled at her friendly.

“Do you have a place for me to stay? A guestroom or something?”

“Yes, but… you…” she started and folded her arms.

“What?” he asked when he saw the amused blink in Maggie’s face.

“You just locked Irina in the guestroom, so the answer would have to be no, we don’t have any guestrooms left…”

He sighed and leaned back in the chair. “Is it the only free room?”

“Yes…”

“Then I’ll take it. I can keep a better eye on her anyway.”

“But Sir!” Maggie cried out and Jack opened his eyes.

“Miss Maggie, your lady has been arrested! She will be charged with treason, a murder attempt, and god knows what else. So, she has no rights left. I wanted to offer her a deal, but the lady was obviously not willing to listen to me. I want to give her a little time to think.”

“That never worked!” Maggie replied dryly with a hint of amusement in her voice. “Not even when she was a child!”

“Well, this time it will…” he promised.

When he entered the room two hours later, after Irina’s furious screams had subsided, he found her standing at the open window. She was looking down, obviously thinking of an option to jump out of the window.

He shut the door with a loud bang and she spun around. Her eyes pierced him as he went towards her.

“What are you doing here?” he asked and looked out of the window. “Thinking about jumping? There are ten meters at the least. You would break your neck!”

“If you say so…” she replied sharply and he closed the window and turned to her.

“Can we talk reasonably now, or will you attack me again at the next opportunity?” he asked and she laughed sarcastically and went to the door. She found it locked. He held up the key.

“You really thought I was a jerk, didn’t you?”

“No…” she replied ironically friendly. “No, jerk would be an understatement. The words in my mind were more like prick, son of a b*tch, or ass – just to name the kindest ones!”

“Nice…” he stated, raising an eyebrow at those words. “A lady like you shouldn’t even know those words – not to mention use them.”

“I told you I am not like other ladies.” she replied coldly, leaning against the wall. “So, what do you want? You haven’t come up here just to annoy me, have you?”

“No!” he admitted. “I want to offer you a deal. I would have done that earlier instead of arresting you here, but you were in that kind of mood where reasonable talking was impossible. I have a job for you – I want you to work with me, to be honest!”

“Work with you?” she laughed sarcastically. “No way!”

“Wait before you refuse. It would only be one mission. One evening – and afterwards I’d promise to forget your name and that you were involved with the rebels.”

“You’re blackmailing me!” she stated dryly, but he shook his head.

“No, I’m offering you a deal to save yourself.”

“No, you’re offering me to sell myself… and all that I believe in! Working with you would be like collaborating with the enemy.”

“I’m not your enemy – I never was!”

“Oh, I must have missed that part when you locked me in this room – in my own house!” Her voice was sarcastic and she didn’t seem to be willing to cooperate at least a little.

“May I tell you what this mission is about?”

“I guess you wouldn’t care if I said no, so just do it – since you’ll do it anyway.”

He sat down on the bed, his eyes resting on her figure. She was beautiful, her shape very female, and yet she was worse to deal with than the angriest man. No wonder she had managed to deal with gangsters without getting seriously hurt.

“We’ll have to work undercover in the ‘Blue Star’ for one single evening. There are clues that a large smuggler-ring has its meetings there. Maybe the boss of the club himself is involved. I will be there as a guest, but I need a woman who can look behind the scenes and has access to the private rooms. That’s what I need you for.”

“The ‘Blue Star’ is a…” she swallowed the word she had meant to come up with, and closed her eyes to calm down. “It’s a place where women sell themselves.”

“I know.” He replied and wanted to add something, but Irina didn’t let him finish.

“Ah, I see…” Her voice was sharp, her expression cold now. “You think only because I’m acting like I do and doing things my way, I wouldn’t mind to work in a place like that, selling my body to bastards like you!”

“Actually, I thought of you, because you’re the only woman I could think of that would not be afraid of doing the job. You’re smart and you’re beautiful. I wouldn’t have to watch you all the time since you’re capable of defending yourself so you would be an equal partner. And by the way, for your own sake, I did not hear the last part of your sentence!” He replied amused and she looked at him, her eyes scanning his.

“Yeah, well… no, thanks. I don’t think I’ll do it!”

“Why not?” he asked at her refusal. “There would be no danger, I’d be right there, if that’s what you’re concerned of!”

“No, I’m concerned with working for you, and therefore the queen! I’m an enemy of hers and I don’t care a penny for whether there are smugglers or not. Maybe your dear queen should lower the taxes to give poor people a chance to buy the things they need legally. That way they wouldn’t have to smuggle in order to be able to afford food.” Irina explained coldly and turned around. “But why do I tell you that? You don’t care anyway!”

“I have to admit the times are not the best for poor people. But blaming the queen is just ignorant. The whole situation is bad and the death of the queen won’t change anything! If you’re unwilling to help us, I’ll have to arrest you for rebelling and planning the queen’s murder which – as I think – will lead to your execution.” He simply answered and for a moment he feared that she would attack him, when she took a few steps towards him.

“If you think you can threaten me or impress me in any way by doing so, you’re wrong! And now leave my room.” Her voice was cold and louder than normal. “I gave you my answer, and since you’re obviously deaf I’ll repeat it: NO. THANK. YOU.”

For a moment their eyes fought a battle, then he got up and went to the door. “Maybe I was wrong thinking that two hours time of thinking would be enough. I will give you some more time.”

Irina returned his look when he turned around at the door to face her one more time. She shook her head softly. “What I do, Mr. Bristow, is what I believe is right. I won’t and I can’t do anything else because I would not only lie to the people around me, but also fool myself. If you want to arrest and have me executed for that, feel free to do so, but I want you to know the following two things: First of all, there are many more people who think exactly like me and if you kill me, you could start a revolution right now. Secondly, if you think that I would just surrender, you’re mistaken. I will give you a really hard time, every step to prison until you wish you would have just let me go. Are we clear on that?”

He scanned her, his face reflecting his appreciation. “Totally… you’re a challenge, Milady, and I like to be challenged. I just have to warn you. I’ve never lost.”

“Well, then it’s about time for you to!” she replied fearlessly. The intensity of his gaze suddenly made her go weak in the knees and the thought of their meeting two nights ago crossed her mind – when he had kissed her just out of nowhere. No, it hadn’t been just a kiss – it had been the most amazing kiss of her life. Why, was a puzzle to her.

“I guess, we’ll talk soon. I’m sure you’ll reverse your decision.”

“I’m sure I won’t. Now leave… and please shut the door!” she added ironically.

“Have a nice afternoon!” he replied bemused and then left the room. Irina sighed when the door had shut behind him. When she heard the key lock the door, she let herself sink into the next chair she could find. Why did she suddenly feel unsure?

She had never been afraid of death or torture, but now she was afraid and she didn’t even know of what, she just knew that it had to do with him – Jack Bristow. It was absolutely necessary to get this man out of her house as soon as possible.

Those men who worked for the queen were all the same. They offered you a deal with the promise to let you go afterwards – a promise which most of them never kept. Irina had read the newest lines by the queen. Rebels had to be brought to prison without exception. So, if Jack Bristow wanted to catch and arrest her friends, he would certainly not achieve that by her help. On the contrary, she would make it pretty clear to him how much she respected the queen’s orders.

Suddenly, her sister Katya, who had always known how to get out of dangerous situations, came to her mind. Although her radical methods were not at all appreciated by Irina, they were most of the time very effective. She needed to send a message to Katya somehow, but for that purpose she had to get out of this room.

For now, Jack Bristow thought that she was the only person in this household involved with rebels and smugglers. It had to stay like that. She would have to flee. Maybe she could stay at the house of one of the peasants near the coast for one or two days… then she could probably get over the border to Scotland. She still had many friends in Scotland who, she knew, would support her against the English law.

In the evening when she heard the sound of the key in the lock, she was prepared to defend her freedom.

Before Jack knew what was happening, Irina pounced on him. Her fist hit him hard in the face and he stumbled back. His obvious surprise giving her the momentary advantage she had counted on.

Within a few seconds he found himself on the ground. His initial consternation had faded, and despite Irina’s strength, it didn’t take him much of an effort to free from her grip. She struggled against him, unwilling to accept that he was stronger than her.

“Irina… wait!”

She ignored his yell and smashed her fist into his stomach. The pain and the feeling of not being able to breathe made him aggressive, and so he just grabbed her and threw her against the wall. She cried out in a mixture of pain and rage, but didn’t waste a single second. Almost immediately, she resumed her beatings until Jack went to the ground all of a sudden. Breathing heavily, Irina stared at him then looked up and found Elena standing opposite to her, a skillet in her hand.

“Are you insane?” Irina yelled angrily and got to her knees to feel the pulse of the unconscious man. He didn’t move, but his pulse was regular. She sighed totally relieved, and for a moment it occurred to her that her relief was founded on more than just the fear of having murdered a man. “This is the queen’s head of security, one of the most important men in the kingdom. The least we need now is to be charged with murder! And besides I didn’t want you or Maggie involved. I wanted to escape!”

We are not involved. He didn’t see me.” Elena simply stated and looked at Maggie who now entered the room, her face growing pale when she saw the unconscious man on the ground.

“Oh my god, is he…” she started under her breath and Irina hurried to calm her down.

“No, he is unconscious, but he is alive – which is a miracle given the fact that my little sister used your skillet.” Irina replied, still angry. Elena pulled a face at her sister. Irina shook her head and got up without reacting. Sometimes Elena was worse than a child, and being the woman of almost thirty years that she was, pulling faces was beneath her.

“Fine. I will be gone… don’t search for me and don’t give him any names! It is most likely that he will have the house and all of you observed. I’ll try to contact Katya and meet her halfway to London.” Again, she looked down at Jack and couldn’t resist touching his cheek. He was handsome – in fact he was the most attractive man she had ever seen in her whole life. If he had just not been one of the queen’s counselors… hastily she forced back those thoughts. There were more important things to do than thinking of a man. That was what the ladies at court did, but she was different. She had always been different and she would not turn into one of those emotional, ridiculous chicks.

“Oh, and something else…” Irina looked up at Elena. “You will let him go when he wakes up. Don’t hurt him or lock him up. Just let him go, otherwise the two of us will have a serious problem when I’m back…”

With these words she got up and left the room without paying any more attention to the unconscious man. She had to be very careful. Jack Bristow was her enemy and she shouldn’t even feel sorry for him…

 

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