Rachel woke to Viktor’s face inches from her own. “Wake up!” he snapped, and her cheek stung.
“Did you just slap me?”
“Rachel!” The relief in his voice sounded odd, out of character. Then she blinked.
“What are you doing here?”
“Come on,” Viktor said unhelpfully, and leaned forward. Before she could protest, she was in his arms. He strode through the living room with its ivory carpet and glass and steel furniture. He got to the door and started to open it.
“Wait! Viktor! What’s going on?”
He turned slightly to angle her through the door and she saw a body on the floor of the hallway. A semi-automatic pistol lay inches from his limp hands, but even with the body face down, Rachel recognized him. “Steve!”
Viktor was through the door and into the hallway before Rachel realized she was losing time. Her head felt thick, like it was stuffed with sand, and her stomach burned. “What happened?” she managed to get out.
Viktor made a strange noise in his throat, almost like a growl, and yanked the door to the stairwell open. Then they were below the building and she heard the chirp of a car alarm. Viktor jostled her as he got the door to a red-brown Jaguar XK open. He laid her gently on the seat , protecting her head, and she blinked up at him in confusion. “What is going on?”
“Shh,” he shot back and shut the door in her face.
The interior of the car smelled spicy, like his cologne, with a faint overlay of the cigarettes he liked. It was a surprisingly comforting scent and she found herself relaxing like putty into the seat.
“We’re here,” he told her, waking her.
She stirred and blinked out at the night, the streetlights brighter than usual. They seemed edged with purple and she blinked, her stomachache swelling. “I don’t feel well,” she complained.
“I wouldn’t think so,” Viktor agreed with some note of anger or something else in his voice. He pushed himself out of the car and slammed the door, then appeared next to her to pick her up again.
“I can walk!” she protested.
“Sure you can. Hush,” he said down at her, a gentle expression in his eyes disappearing so fast that she wondered if she’d imagined it.
He made it all the way to her office without anyone seeing them and let himself in with her keys, produced from a pocket.
“My purse!” she blurted.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got your wallet and keys. The rest is gone, but the important stuff is here.”
‘How would you know what’s important?’ she almost asked but didn’t. He laid her on the couch and the nausea intruded insistently.
“I think I need to throw up,” she gasped, mortified.
He swore and started to help her up but the wave hit so fast it took her breath. He snatched her trash can from near the desk and she used that as a receptacle, wishing he would disappear.
When she was finally done, she collapsed against the couch. He set the can down and turned back to her.
“What were you thinking?” he demanded.
“What?” she responded, trying to keep her eyes open.
He laid a hand on her forehead and snarled, “You’re feverish. God, Raych, what were you thinking?”
“What are you talking about, Viktor?”
“Going out with a strange man like that!” he shouted, hurting her ears.
She laughed, it was so unexpected. “Viktor, this is 2008!”
“And he’s one of Krichoff’s men!” he yelled.
“Don’t shout, please,” she winced, and then heard what he said. Her eyes popped open. “What are you saying?”
He stared at her angrily and then stepped away. He motioned toward her desk and it took her a moment to take it in.
All her case files were scattered around the carpet, the file cabinets open and empty. Her desk drawers lay on the floor, clearly having been gone through as well. Her computer gaped, its hard drive missing.
Viktor kneeled in front of her and took her arm to shake her roughly. “You could have been killed, you little fool!”
The shaking proved too much for her head. The dizziness swelled and she blinked at Viktor dully. “Viktor…”
His expression changed, that gentleness she’d seen earlier appearing again. As she fell forward into his arms, he lifted her and sat down on the couch with her in his lap. “It’ll be okay, Raych. You got rid of most of it, and I gave you something that will help wit the dizziness. Just relax, let your body recover.”
She wanted to ask him what he was talking about but couldn’t muster any awareness to speak to him. Between one though and the next, she slid into sleep, or dreams. It was hard to tell the difference.