O'Keefe awoke to the sound of his phone issuing a text alert. He looked around the unfamiliar surroundings, confused, until the memories of the previous night began to assemble themselves in his pounding head. That'll go away, he thought. Just need to find some aspirin and some protein. That had been quite a night. He was surprised how it turned out. He hadn't intended to sleep with Svetlana, but he had no regrets. He'd really grown fond of her, and well, maybe that was just the emotional release he'd needed. She hadn't seemed to mind, either. The part of him that worried he may have taken advantage of her drunken state was quieted by the recollection that she had somehow appeared to be quite a bit more sober and in control than he had been. Russians! Guess their notoriety for putting away the vodka is well-earned.
His phone beeped at him again, so he picked it up, and tapped his code on the screen. It was a text from Gary which read:
Hillard ph 555-2336
u want address?
Oh no! Mary! What had he done? How could he say he loved her after he'd slept with another woman? He would have to make amends. The first thing to do was to get the hell out of this hotel room. Where was Svetlana, anyway?
He stood quickly, scrambling around for the clothing he'd so hastily and eagerly shed the night before. He heard the sound of water running from behind the bathroom door. Must be showering. What should he do? Should he just leave? That was just too classless. He would have to face her, tell her last night had been a mistake. It was the right thing to do—the only thing to do. He hoped she hadn't fallen for him too hard. This was going to be awkward enough without that.
one more favor-can u pick me up?
After Gary responded affirmatively, Seth texted him the location and added:
thx-i owe u
Svetlana stepped out of the bathroom, drying her hair with a thick yellow towel. She wore nothing but a pair of deep blue bikini briefs.
"How was your sleeping, Seth?" She paused and turned towards him, surprised to find him dressed in seated in the chair. "Is there something the matter?"
Seth's words caught in his throat at the sight of Svetlana. She was beautiful, standing there with her freshly-cleaned skin glowing in a beam of sunlight. Her eyes sparkled, as did her smile, though that was fading as concern crept across her face.
"I, uh—" He stammered. "Yeah. I slept fine … got a bit of a headache, though—from the drinks. How … how about you?"
"I am feeling quite well." She leaned over the side of his chair and put her arms around him, kissing his cheek. "I am having a small headache as well, but I will be OK."
The sensation of her bare breasts against his shoulder both aroused and frightened him. He jumped out of the chair, backing away from her until he hit the bed and sat down abruptly.
"Listen, Svetlana," he began again. "Umm … about last night … I'm sorry. I didn't mean to—"
"Do not be sorry," she replied. "I am not. Do you have reason to be?" She frowned and furrowed her brow. "Is there something wrong, Seth?"
"Er, well … no. I mean, yes and no, I guess."
"Well, which do you mean? Did I do something wrong? Do you not like me? You said you did last night."
"I mean, I feel like I took advantage …" He held his hand up to stop her from approaching him. "I—I can't think, and I'm going to say something stupid. I just … would you put something on, please?"
"You do not find me attractive now?"
"No, it's not that—I do. I most definitely do, but it's distracting. I need a minute to think, and it's difficult with you … like that."
"I am sorry," she said quietly. "I will dress and give you a moment." She grabbed a few things from a drawer and went back into the bathroom.
Something wasn't adding up here. First of all, what were they doing here? He'd tailed her to another hotel just the other night. Why had she changed rooms? This place looked as though it had been lived in for a while—there were loose bits of clothing on the floor, several chinese food containers and pizza boxes in the trash, clothing on the rack and in drawers. So what had she been doing in that fancy hotel downtown? He remembered being surprised at the address she'd given the cabbie. And then, as they were lying in bed, and he was telling her about his dreams … Must have been the booze. He'd had a difficult time sticking with any particular train of thought. And then, when she kissed him, he'd forgotten reason and just gone with instinct.
But now, in the light of day, he realized this was all wrong. Seth was delusional at times, sure—but he was somehow aware of that fact—at least in his scattered moments of lucidity. (And this was quickly becoming one of those moments.) What would a woman like Svetlana be doing with a man like him? She was intelligent and thoughtful, and she probably had a very bright future ahead of her. She was also very beautiful—hell, just looking at her should have told him something was wrong. Add that to all the questions she'd asked, and the second hotel room. She must be watching him for someone, but whom? Could she be working for the government?
All he knew was that despite what he'd felt last night, he probably couldn't trust her. He'd need to get away from her. He'd need to find out what she was really all about. But first he had to find Mary.
Svetlana returned. She was dressed in loose-fitting black jeans and a white tank top, with a short green blazer that really brought out the color of her eyes. Somehow her presence was every bit as distracting to him as when she'd been semi-nude. What is wrong with me today? She sat next to him on the end of the bed and took his hand.
"Is this better?"
"Yes," he lied.
"Good," she smiled again and leaned her head on his shoulder. "Please do not be sorry, Seth. Even if last night turns out to be mistake, it was the good kind."
"Umm, OK." It became obvious to him that she simply didn't want to lose contact. Her employer must want her to keep very close tabs on him. It occurred to him that if he were a less scrupulous man, he could use this situation to his advantage. But no! He couldn't use Svetlana that way, no matter who she worked for. And he had Mary to think of.
"But please listen," he began again. "I need you to understand that can't happen again."
"Was not good for you?" The expression of hurt on Svetlana's face wrenched at his heart.
"It's not that. I mean, it was … actually it was amazing. You were amazing. But I'm not in a place right now where I can commit to a relationship. I have too much going on, and there's someone else I think I'm meant to be with. Plus, with someone watching me, I don't want to put you in any potential danger."
"You are sure danger is real?"
"Not one hundred per cent, no, but you … you don't need this in your life. You don't need me in your life. You have your education and then your career to think about. You probably have a great future ahead of you and I don't want to mess that up." He stood again and headed for the door.
"You are serious?" She followed quickly behind him, snatching at his arm.
He moved deftly, avoiding her grasp and opened the motel room door. He turned back to her and took her by the shoulders, gazed into her astoundingly bright green eyes. He reminded himself that this woman was not who she seemed to be, that she was using her charm and intelligence and looks to make a fool of him. He couldn't let her know he knew that, though.
"Svetlana," he said, "I really am sorry. But this is just … we are just not meant to be." He kissed her on the cheek and left her standing in the doorway.
After walking around to the other side of the building, he stood by the office. It wasn't long before Gary arrived.
"Where's your car, man?" He asked.
"It's over at the Crabbapple's."
"What are you doing here, then? Did I miss a party?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Wait, did you come here with that Russian?"
"Like I said, I don't want to talk about it."
"Holy shit, man! You bang her?"
"Do you have to be so crude?" Seth shook his head in exasperation. "And no, nothing happened. We just had a few too many drinks is all. We came back here for more drinks, then we passed out."
When they arrived at the Crabbapples, where his and Svetlana's were the only cars in the lot. He drove his Camaro over to where her car was parked and removed the home-made tracker Gary had built fro him from his glove box. Gary kept lookout while Seth attached the device to Svetlana's car.
"Still don't trust her, eh?" Gary asked.
"Nope. I think she's working for someone … whoever put the tracker in my console."
"So … Labelle, then?"
"I don't think so. Why are you so convinced it's Labelle spying on me?"
"Just the likeliest answer. Why are you so convinced it's not?"
"I don't know … it just doesn't feel right. In my gut, I mean."
"That's not much to go on."
"No, I know. But every time I really start to think about it, it just … doesn't make sense."
When they arrived back at Seth's, he made them some scrambled eggs and toast. Seth swallowed three aspirin along with his orange juice. His headache was subsiding, but not quickly enough.
Gary played Venture while Seth showered and changed. Then they spent the rest of the morning looking at Mary's various social media profiles and planning out the best ways for Seth to approach her without freaking her out.