Ashley sat in her living room waiting for Joshua to come home. The paper the sergeant gave her was sitting on the table in front of her, unfolded.
She wasn’t sure she was mad; didn’t really know how she felt. She hoped seeing him would clear up her thoughts.
The sound of keys hitting the lock came to her ears and brought her out of her thoughts. Seconds later, the door opened, and Joshua appeared. He smiled when he saw her and she nearly cried. She loved his smile.
Joshua frowned. “You look mad. Did something happen at the funeral?”
“You might say that.” She looked to the piece of paper, then nodded. No use lingering on this. “Someone told me what you do for a living, Joshua.”
He frowned and looked to the paper. He walked closer, took the paper and took a look. He cursed softly. He sounded worried. “Shit. Who gave this to you?”
He relaxed visibly, then closed his eyes as more issues came to mind. He moved to sit next to Ashley. “I couldn’t tell you.”
“I know. You heard him kill my dad.”
“I didn’t know it was happening.”
“Is there any way it could have been anyone else?”
“I was watching the front and the side of the house. One person can’t cover all locations.”
“Once Riley went in, I stayed hidden, but walked around the house. It looked to only be Riley and Henry. I didn’t see anyone else go in and no one else came out after the gunshot. I stayed in the area and watched the house. As soon as the police arrived, I called Williams and got the hell out of there.”
She sighed. “If you told Lester that, it would be enough to draw up an assignment.”
“He doesn’t know I’m an Operative.”
She hid her head in her hands. “When did you start following Riley?”
“After we started screwing, but before we started dating, your dad reached out to the Operatives. I was assigned. No one knew we were together. It wasn’t serious yet, so I didn’t see a conflict. When we started getting serious, I told your father.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me to convince you to become an Operative. Said you were good enough.”
Ashley looked to Joshua. “So what about us? Is this real?”
He looked hurt by her words. “Ashley… Ashley I love you. This is for real. I’m not in a disguise or costume pretending to be Joshua and pretending to want to be with you. This is real.” He laid a hand on her cheek. “If I could have told you sooner, I would have, but our orders are to tell no one our assignments.”
She pulled away. “This is so complicated.”
“It doesn’t have to be. He was an assignment, Ash. You weren’t. It as simple as that.” He gave her a pleading look. “Please let it be that simple. I don’t want to lose you.”
Ashley stood and moved away. “I need time to think.”
He stood as well. “Wait.”
She turned back, saw the look of pain on his face and felt the pain in her heart as well.
Joshua moved closer and she didn’t move. He slipped his arms around her and held her tight. She slipped her arms around him and returned the fierce embrace. After a moment, she took a deep breath and started to cry. He moved her to the couch and comforted her. After a few moments, she muttered, “I miss my dad.”
He held her for a long time, allowing her to grieve her father, wishing he had been able to stop it.