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Love And War

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The girls loved Beth too much to push her out of her comfort zone for too long, so they had agreed on changing the subject as soon as Beth reluctantly admitted she had at least a crush on Rio. But somehow, and Beth couldn't tell if it was intentional from them or not, they had managed to lead Beth to think about it, to question herself, even after their conversation had ended. And it had been spinning through her mind ever since. Because deep down, she was aware that calling whatever she felt for Rio a crush she'd quickly get over with was a lie she kept telling to herself. A positive one, though. She needed to believe that she could do without him, especially while they were fighting, otherwise she knew she'd surrender instantly. But the truth was that she was missing him, she missed his eyes filled with something else than hatred or anger, she missed his smile and his arms around her, she missed the time when she was not that scared to death every time she thought about him because she didn't know what next to expect from him. That being said, she had to admit she had more or less always been scared to death whenever she thought about him. But not as much as she'd been lately, despite all her bossy apparent confidence.

After he brought Turner back in their game, she didn't hear from him for a few days she spent in the anxiety of being arrested by the feds any minute. But nothing happened and she thought that it probably had been Rio's first warning, showing her what he was capable of if she didn't give him his money back. And she briefly considered doing so at some point, after all she'd proven to him, and mostly to herself, that she was capable of outsmarting him in ways he didn't expect, that he didn't impress her as much as he used to, and that she finally could play as his equal. And she had the feeling that somehow he'd acknowledged that, that she'd earned her legitimacy as a part of the game. But was it what she wanted to be, a part of the game? Despite the fact that she was still mad as hell for all the stuff he'd put on her, and she was still seeking for a seemingly endless revenge, there was a growing part of her that was tired of all this, and just wanted to let it go, before they dragged each other into what couldn't be anything but a most probably deadly exit. Ruby had had a point the other day. As time went by, Beth was more and more convinced that her fight with Rio was a recipe for disaster that neither of them could stop on time.

Hence she had mixed feelings when one morning, as she was browsing through the bills that had come with the mail of the day, she spotted a pale envelope without any postage nor address, but only a big Elizabeth handwritten on it. She frowned at first, before she realized with a shiver that Rio, or maybe someone else from his crew, had had to directly put this in her mailbox, and knowing that he'd been so close to her house was both thrilling and frightening. She opened the envelope with slightly shaky hands, since everything coming from Rio scared her these days as it would potentially ruin her life, and a magnetic card, along with a paper sheet folded in two, fell down on her lap. She unfolded the paper sheet and read from Rio's hazardous handwriting, Truce? Tomorrow. 8pm. That was when she realized the magnetic card was a hotel room key, and she blushed hard. If that was Rio's twisted version of a booty call, then fuck-off! But deep down she couldn't help but feel a little tempted. She couldn't deny that ever since their encounter on his desk, he had played an active part in her masturbatory fantasies. Not that he wasn't there before, quite the opposite actually, but still, she had spent a considerable amount of time reliving this moment, and she had to admit that she was craving for another one. But who the hell was he to think she'd come over as soon as he'd whistle her? As if he hadn't given her away to Turner as a foreplay a few days before. She let the card on the low table with a wince of disgust and forgot about it as she kept on dragging through the business of her day.

But that evening, as she was in bed and about to turn off the lights, she remembered the letter and she pictured him, waiting for her in a hotel room, his eyes flickering with desire, his tongue licking his lips in a predatory way that she'd always found extremely hot. And, almost without thinking about it, her hand slowly slid down her belly until her middle finger started to gently press her clit and her hips slightly swayed under her touch. Without really noticing it, her breath got a little louder, her whole body vibrating with the rhythm of her finger as she was picturing his hands all over her and his tongue in her mouth. But soon it wasn't enough, and she had to press two fingers inside of her as the Rio from her fantasy was now thrusting deep inside of her, and she moaned, clenching for him. She could almost hear his broken breath and when she knew she was close enough, she allowed him to mutter 'Elizabeth' in her ear, triggering her orgasm. Imagining Rio whispering her name always made her come. She closed her eyes in the aftershock, his name on her lips, before she got caught with the residual sadness that always fell down on her each time she remembered that he wasn't there for good. But soon she slid in the blessed oblivion of sleep.

On the next day, the offensive card was still there in the living room, taunting her, but she chose not to think about it, and around 7pm, as she was still on time to get dressed and go, she mischievously delighted herself by ignoring it. She cooked herself dinner and proudly started eating at eight. But as time went by, she caught herself thinking more and more about him, her mind sending her flashbacks of their past intimacy, until she couldn't hold it anymore. She deeply sighed and stood up, grabbing the magnetic key card on the coffee table before she got cold feet and collapsed on the couch. She stayed there for at least ten minutes, blankly staring at the card. To go or not to go. The idea that he was waiting for her right now somewhere was making her sick from missing it. She badly wanted to go but at the same time she knew she shouldn't. She didn't want to give him that power over her, but she was the first one ready to acknowledge that he could basically do anything to her, she'd still be craving for his skin. You're pathetic! she told herself. He had tried to kill her and she was still hopelessly breaking down like a teenager every time he showed her any sign of interest.

She hated herself when she finally grabbed her car keys, around ten o'clock. The drive was rather quick but she stayed behind the wheel, hesitating, for an extra ten minutes once she was parked in front the hotel. Hence it was already half past ten when she stood in front of the room door, her heart beating so fast that it was buzzing in her ears. She felt humiliated. What if he was asleep? After all she was more than two hours late. Her heart crushed under a worse thought. What if he had left, acknowledging she wouldn't come? She was already losing her mind and she tried to clear her thoughts before she slid the card in its slot with shaky hands, and pushed the door open.

And there he was, very much awake, fully dressed and half-lying on the bed, absorbed in whatever thing he was checking on his phone, as the reading lamp provided a diffuse lightning. Seeing him like this, so harmless, stole her breath and he raised his head, a soft expression on his face.

"I thought you'd never come." he said with a shining smile that melt her heart, and his body straightened.

"Me neither." she said in a breath. They stared at each other before she asked, "Do you really think this is a good idea?"

"Was there ever one when it comes to you and me, darlin'?" he retorted with a smirk.

He jumped out of the bed to face her. She bit her lips and lowered her gaze, heavy-hearted and feeling something ice cold suddenly clasping around her heart. Of course he was right, she thought, and she cursed herself for all the fantasies she'd been nourishing in the depths of her mind. They had always been a mess, a mistake. A mistake they kept repeating over and over again though, no matter what. Her eyes came back at him.

"Why, then?"

It only took him two steps to close the distance between them. He cupped her jaw with his hand and just like that he kissed her in one smooth move. She opened her mouth to him, enjoying the softness of his lips and the warmth of his tongue, her hands convulsively grasping his shoulders. Their kiss only lasted for a few seconds but it carried so much emotion that for a very brief instant, she forgot all the reasons that made her want to hit him so often, she forgot they were fighting over a crime kingdom, she forgot he had tried to kill her, only thinking about how much she actually enjoyed falling so hard for him. Licking his lips, Rio took a step back, his eyes meeting hers again.

"Cause it's worth it." he said, out of breath, and the way he was looking at her right now was everything she'd always wanted.

The internal explosion of ecstatic feelings she experienced at that very moment somehow transpired on her face as Rio furrowed his eyebrows before asking, "What?" with a smirk.

She lightly blushed, trying not to smile, "Nothing!" she shook her head. "Just... Just kiss me agai—"

He didn't even let her finish before his mouth crushed hers and she hopelessly fell into it, relishing every sensation. She wrapped her arms around him, pressing herself hard against him, somehow unbelieving that he was there for real. The kiss was getting hotter and Rio gently guided her backwards to the bed, his mouth still against hers, until they both collapsed on the mattress. She couldn't have enough of him, of his tongue dancing around hers, of his demanding lips, of his teeth that possessively bit her lips, and she let out little moans that she knew made him lose his mind over her.

He managed to pull her on top of him, her knees resting on each side of his hips, and, panting, she dived into their kiss again, his hands roaming her body. Under a sudden need, she left his mouth too press kisses all over the eagle on his throat and she heard him whisper "Elizabeth" in response. And even if this was only supposed to boost her arousal, it turned out to have an opposite effect. Because out of nowhere, the moment he called her by her name, a bizarre twist from her brain flashed his face in her mind, distorted with more hatred than anyone could possibly feel.

I'm gonna destroy you.

She blinked, trying to chase the memory but it got more and more real as she tried to make it vanish, until she couldn't see nor hear anything else. She roughly pulled away from him, extracting from his embrace and escaping from the bed, almost in the middle of a panic attack. She could read the confusion in his eyes, and she stammered, "I'm sorry, but I can't do this." as an explanation attempt while she was readjusting her blouse he'd started unbuttoning.

The hurt look on his face quickly got replaced with a neutral expression as he asked her, "You got somewhere to go?"

"Anywhere away from you." she hurtfully replied, barely holding her own distress.

She reached for the door and he didn't even try to move as she was leaving. She closed the door behind her before she leant against it, tears already falling down her cheeks, her chest throbbing. There was nothing she wanted more than going back inside and forget about anything else, but all she could think about right now was the angry version of him. What if he was doing the same to her that she had done to him, captivating her in one arm while the other one destroyed her life? What if he was just playing with her, fulfilling his desire but hating her, deep inside? Her clothes and her skin still exuded his smell, exacerbating her need for him and during a terrifying second of lucidity, she realized that he was the very shoulder she wanted to cry on whenever he tormented her. She knew that she had to break that vicious circle, but she simply couldn't. And as her sobs were finding their way through her throat, she finally admitted to herself that it had never been just a crush. She was hopelessly in love with him.

Such an acknowledgement deserved celebration. Or oblivion. She wasn't quite sure of which one she actually craved, but all she knew once she got home was that the only thing she wanted for the moment was to get wasted until nothing would make sense anymore. And she strove for it during the following two hours, swallowing bourbon with her tears, and cursing herself for being weak enough to fall for an inked eagle and a velvety voice she should have triumphantly crushed by now. Hence she was already pretty drunk when she decided it was time to go to bed and she began to close all the curtains downstairs. But she froze as she peered through the kitchen window. She'd have recognized the black Cadillac parked on the opposite side of the street among a thousand of them. Well, okay, maybe not a thousand, what looked more like a car than another car after all, but a dozen, sure.

One minute later, she was approaching the driver's window, and there he was, a sardonic smile on his lips.

"Evenin'." Rio cheered.

There was something about the haze in his eyes, or maybe his slightly slowed elocution, that rang a familiar bell to her drunk brain.

"Have you been drinking?" she asked.

"A bit." he replied with the apologetic expression of a child caught in the middle of a mischief.

He showed her a half empty bottle of tequila by his side and she gasped.

"That's what you call a bit?" she asked in shock.

He shrugged while addressing her a sad smile and her heart sank. She wasn't sure about what emotional damage could drive him to drink that much in front of her house, but it was somehow hurtful to see him in such a weak state. And she refused to believe that the way she had left the room a few hours before was the reason why he acted like this.

"Well, I guess you might as well come in." she said in a breath. "I'm not letting you drive in such a state." she added, trying to make it clear that she was leting him in only for driving safety purpose.

 

Rio nodded. It was getting cold in his car anyway. He could tell that she was as drunk as him from the way she walked and he wondered if she had put herself in such a state for the same reasons he did. He'd been missing her. As cheesy as it sounded, that was the only reason he'd sent her that key card. Obviously he had had to disguise it into another power game, calling for a truce in the middle of the war. But the thing was, he missed the time when things were easier with her, when she worked for him and they could at least be in the same room for one minute without trying to be the first to complete the task of pushing all the other one's worst buttons. Man, fighting with her was exhausting, as was struggling against his own desire each time he had to see her. She indeed had managed to learn a few things and the way she resisted to all of his tricks impressed him. And it made her even more attractive, if that was possible.

That evening he truly had thought she wouldn't show up at all, and to be fairly honest, he would have deserved it. Hence seeing her, even more than two hours late, had cheered him up in an incredible way. And yeah, he had meant it, they had never been a good idea. Ever. But it didn't mean that either of them could break free from it. There was no escape from this unless taking that leap forward and see what happened. And so he had kissed her, hoping that she would get the meaning of it. He'd thought she did. Which was why the way she had suddenly left was even more hurtful. He'd felt he needed a drink. Or maybe two. And after that it had seemed a good idea to come by her house and just stay there in the dark, sipping tequila from the bottle he'd bought on the way. Or maybe it was just because there was nowhere else he wanted to be.

 

He followed her in the house and she fetched another glass for him. At this point..., she thought. She wordlessly handed him the glass before she dropped on the couch. He sat by her side, carefully avoiding her looks, and for a while they just drank side by side without talking nor looking at each other.

"Why did'ya leave, earlier?" he finally asked, still staring blankly into space.

She sighed.

"You said you would destroy me." she started to explain. "I just couldn't..."

He nodded, "I say a lotta things, sweetheart."

There was a silence. Beth suddenly grabbed the bottle. She knew she already had had more than enough, but she couldn't handle Rio's presence right at her side without another drink.

"More?" she offered, slightly shaking the bottle at him and he nodded. She filled the two glasses and there was another silence when they both drank up.

He thought about what she'd just said, and the moment he'd told her he'd destroy her. He'd only said that because he hadn't liked her comment about him not having the guts to kill her, hated that it was true. It had sounded like a reproach from her, and it probably was in some way.

"I'm sorry I didn't show up to kill you." Rio suddenly said. "That was..."

"Insulting?"

"Was gonna go with despicable, but... yeah whatever." he shrugged.

Beth was too wasted already to notice how rambling and weird their conversation was. In the cloudiness of her drunk brain, it even seemed to make sense, and she noted that alcohol established a strange sense of intimacy between them, destructing their respective fortresses of pride and power to give space for a honesty she had never experienced with him before. Maybe that was the reason why she finally let out the question that had been haunting her ever since the night she had shot him.

"When you said I was just work, did you mean it?"

She was looking at him and he turned his head at her, catching her gaze with a surprised expression.

"Why you askin'?"

"Because I... It's the main reason why I shot you." she confessed, articulating with an increasing difficulty as the liquor was infusing her whole body.

"Whadyou mean?" Rio asked with a confused look, his brain also slowing down in drunkenness.

Beth sighed deeply, "When you told me that, it... it hurt. A lot. And then you kidnapped me, and it felt like I didn't know you anymore, and I was so, so scared, and then..." her voice broke, "You handed me the gun, asking me to mercilessly murder a tied man and... I mean, I know how you handle your... work problems, and I was becoming one if I didn't do whatchu asked, so...."

There were tears in her eyes when she looked back at him.

"That's a lotta thinkin' for someone who's scared, you really overthink things sometimes, ma." Rio underlined, cocking his brow. He smirked, "So you woulda shot him if I hadn't told you that?"

"Probably not." She admitted, and a part of her mind acknowledged that her life might be much simpler by now if she just had shot Turner that night. "But maybe I wouldn't have done... what I did... the way I did it, you know."

"Hmmm." Rio took a long breath before peering at her with his eyes narrowed, "You know how you tell someone they're work, 'lizabeth? When you hand them their money on your nightstand, like they're some goddam prostitute!"

She could hear the anger in his voice and hearing him putting it all on her once again annoyed her. She looked at him in disbelief.

"So what, you've got a little sensitive heart, now?" she scoffed.

"Never occurred to you I might actually have one, huh?" he replied in a low voice, his eyes carrying a mix of sadness and disdain.

Her eyes widened when his words hit her conscience.

"I... I never thought I could... hurt you. I'm sorry. Did I?"

Rio refilled their glasses as a silent answer, and they drank, both willing to soothe the painful mix of intense and contradictory feelings they experienced in each other presence.

"Can I ask you something?" she asked out of the blue.

He nodded.

"Why didn't you set up my death, if you didn't want to kill me? I mean, if I managed to improvise this you'd have done a thousand times better."

He shook his head at the compliment, "Never wondered how come you got Demon on your side that easy, huh?" he asked, but as her eyes widened he added, "Nah, I'm jokin'."

He stayed silent for a few seconds before he spoke again.

"I'm an idiot who didn't even think 'bout it." he confessed with a apologetic smile that made her want to kiss him.

"Why did Demon help me, then?" she asked, peering at his face.

Rio sighed.

"Cause sometimes he knows me better than I do myself. And it ain't really true I didn't want to kill you. Part of me wanted to. I'm sorry." he admitted in a breath.

He looked her in the eyes and he could tell that she was hurt but she nodded.

"Thank you." she whispered. "Always good to know the truth."

Heartbreaking tears fell from her eyes, and she wiped them with the back of her hand before frantically grabbing the bottle and drowning her emotion in another glass.

"My turn for one question?" he asked, and she nodded at this strangely honest version of their twenty questions game.

"What is it you wanted to tell me before you died?"

She half-smiled, "Drove you crazy, didn't it?" she asked, and he nodded with a devious smile. "I'm sorry but I made that up."

"I know. What if you had to think about it, then? Don't make me kill you to find out." he smirked.

She burst into uncontrollable laughter and he gave her a confused look, "What?"

"This is so fucked-up!" she managed to explain as she was giggling in her drunk hilarity. "You're actually considering murdering me only to find out what I'd tell you right before!"

He briefly closed his eyes, admitting the nonsense of their conversation, and laughed with her. Beth refilled the glasses and there was a long pause while they both drank in silence.

She thought about all the horrible things they'd done to each other, that seemed almost bearable in her cloudy mind. She realized how much everything had changed in her life, once again, since she had discovered that wire around her light bulb and suddenly she started laughing again.

"What?" Rio asked, his eyes seriously questioning her sanity.

"Nothing! It's just... I was thinking... You put a camera in my kitchen for months, right?... Must have been so boring to watch!"

He remembered how he'd got fascinated watching her everyday life and he opened his mouth, but then he saw the look on her face, relaxed and laughing and he didn't want to spook her, so he nodded. She laughed even more and he wanted to kiss that smiling face so much that he had to look away for a while.

Beth felt light and happily dizzy, and Rio's smile made her want to snuggle in his arms. And maybe she was a little too much open to confidence now.

"Dean has a new girlfriend." she suddenly said, without knowing where that came from.

"Huh? Why you care?"

"She's half my age." Beth confessed with a hint of bitterness.

"Oh. You shouldn't care, ma, whatever age she is. And whoever Carman dates." Rio's eyes expressed an understanding she'd never seen in him before, and she suddenly felt comfortable letting him see her insecurities about her age, about them.

"Are you seeing someone?" she asked out of the blue.

She had no idea of why she was asking him that, but if there'd ever been a good time for that question, now was the moment.

Rio thoughtfully watched her before he chuckled, "I'm tryna, but last time I kissed her she ran outta the room!"

His face was back to his teasing, flirting cheerfulness, maybe a little more hazed than the usual though, and Beth blushed.

"Speaking of escapin'..." he added, searching in the pocket of his jeans before he handed her the necklace she had given to Demon, the golden chain twirling around his fingers. "Thought you may wanna have it back."

"Thanks."

Her hand reached for it and he kept her fingers into his hand for maybe half a second longer than necessary, his eyes deeply staring at her, before letting them go. She tried to put the necklace back on her neck, but she ridiculously failed at it, unable to coordinate her hands behind her head, and she giggled, "My God, I'm so wasted!"

"Lemme do it." Rio offered in a breath.

She turned her back at him, pushing her hair aside, and he delicately closed the clasp around her neck, his fingers barely brushing her skin. When he got finished, he rapidly pressed a kiss on the back of her neck and she squeaked. His lips were burning hot and she resisted the urge to turn her head and kiss him. It still wasn't a good idea, even after so many drinks that she had stopped counting them. But she could feel his warm breath on her skin as his lips were brushing the back of her neck, sending delicious shivers along her spine, and she lost her own breath.

"One last question?" he whispered, his mouth against her skin.

"Anything." she managed to answer, literally melting under the caress of his lips.

"Where's my safe, Elizabeth?" his voice was low and caressing, mostly seductive, but the question wasn't and she suddenly pulled away and turned her face at him, shocked. At this point she had been almost ready to give it all back to him if he hadn't asked for it. But if he was trying to seduce her to get his empire back, then he wouldn't get anything from her. She blinked and got herself back in control.

"Oh, it's in the garage, you can have it back." she lightly said with a smile and he raised a surprised eyebrow at her, "But there's a big hole on one side, I doubt you could use it again for safety purposes!" she casually added, the corners of her lips raising in a devilish smirk.

He sighed deeply and she could tell he was trying not to let his anger take control yet, "You know what I'm talkin' about, Elizabeth!"

"Oh you mean the passports? No, you can count them as losses."

She lost her victorious smile the minute she saw his face darken.

"Oh, that's bad, darlin', that's bad..." he nodded while extracting from the couch with more difficulty than he had expected, "I kinda hoped I wouldn't have to do that, but..."

"Do what?" she suddenly sobered up.

Seeing him so soft and harmless had made her forget how cruel he could be when he didn't get what he wanted.

"I may have written a text to Turner 'bout you, sweetheart, given him a few tips!" he toothily grinned, "was about to cancel the whole operation if I could get my stuff back, but now..." his thumb swept across the screen of his phone, "Whooops, it's sent! My bad. There is no way to erase those once they're sent, right?" he added cocking one eyebrow, pretending that he was genuinely asking.

"What did you tell him?" Beth asked, inches away from throwing her glass at him

She jumped out of the couch, her anger flowing in quicker than the usual, and she immediately had to brace herself against the wall not to lose her balance. God, why did she drink that much?

"Wouldn't be fun if I told ya!" he replied with a little laugh, "By the way, that garden of yours, it's gorgeous this season. Did you know Turner's a bit of a flower guy?"

She thought about Jeff's body still decomposing under her flowerbeds, almost throwing up at the idea, and a wave of pain irradiated her chest as she understood how far Rio would go to take her down. She had allowed herself to believe that he cared, even a little, but reality was violently slapping her back in the face.

"How could you?"

Tears were rushing out of her eyes and she was shaking, and he tried not to be affected by her obvious distress. He hadn't wanted to do this to her. He had thought that Turner's first visit would have been enough, that she'd have understood how badly they needed to stop this. Obviously she didn't, but he still needed his business back, right? He hadn't wanted to have to choose between work and her, but it seemed that he had to, and he couldn't afford to lose everything, especially for someone who clearly didn't give a shit about him. And that whole thing made him sick.

"Oh I'm sorry, you said you wanted the war, did you think I'd stay with my arms crossed while you tried to steal everythin' from me?" he replied, his eyes narrowed.

"Get out!" she hissed with all the venom she could fill two words with.

"Was leavin' anyway."

His car keys were on the coffee table, and Beth grabbed them before Rio could move. She threw them at his face with all the violence she was capable of, fully aware of the unpleasant reminder she was offering him. Something on the set of keys must have been particularly sharp, or maybe it was just the strength with which it hit the target, but a droplet of blood appeared on Rio's right cheek and he carefully touched the cut before considering the blood on his fingertips. He angrily looked back at her with something hard in his eyes, and he instantly closed the distance between them, catching her wrists as he came closer and roughly shoving her against the kitchen island.

"Get your hands off me!" she yelled at him, struggling with him with a wince of pain.

But he only hardened his grip on her wrists, pinning them to the counter, before he came so close to her that she had to bend backward not to touch him, and he stayed still for a while, wordlessly threatening her, until he saw fear in her eyes.

"Never, ever, do that again, Elizabeth." he hissed, slowly articulating every word, his jaw convulsively ticking.

"I hate you!" she spat back.

He let her go and bit his lips, looking at her with contempt and something that looked like disappointment.

"I hope you get a short sentence." he muttered before he turned around, quickly making his way to the front door.

He sincerely meant it.

"I hope your car crashes!" she shouted at his back as he was slamming her door.

She furiously drew the curtains, uncontrollably sobbing, before she collapsed on the couch, her sadness increased by the emotional sounding board provided by drunkenness. And she was starting to feel sick. Sure, she had had way too much to drink, but maybe this was also because she couldn't bear their argument, his betrayal, and the way he was walking away from her. She ran to the bathroom.

Several glasses of water later, as she was processing their talk from earlier, she realized with a growing frustration that despite the apparent honesty running their conversation, he had managed to avoid any direct answer to her questions, and the way he always slipped through her fingers every time she figured she was getting closer was killing her. She cried herself to sleep that night, but the alcohol still mixed to her blood was probably the reason why she was so emotional. Probably.

 

Rio didn't sleep at all that night. He called Cisco to drive him back home, fully aware that he was too wasted to drive himself. He felt a little remorseful for throwing Elizabeth in the lion's den once again, knowing that this time Turner wouldn't let her any chance to escape. He had tried not to, he really had, but it seemed that every time he decided to soften things with her she came out with something that pissed him off. Obviously the passports were of no use to her without the customers contacts, so she only held them to goad him, push him to his boundaries until he'd inevitably strike back. But he was done with this little game now. This whole madness had to stop, and Heaven knew he didn't want it to end that way, but if she insisted so much on being a collateral damage, good riddance, then. He'd already wasted enough time on her. And now that she was screwed beyond reasonable, he knew he couldn't resist to tease her a little more.

 

Beth woke up with a dried throat and confused memories of the night. She was almost sure that at some point Rio had been drinking with her in the living room, but she couldn't figure out why. She only recalled some flashbacks from a talk that seemed so weird that she wondered if she hadn't dreamed it instead. But the two glasses and the almost empty bottles of tequila and bourbon still on the coffee table confirmed it had been real. She swallowed coffee after coffee to get through her hangover, remembering little pieces of the night, the memories popping in her mind like bubbles at the surface of a pond, until little by little, she got a clearer idea of how the night had gone.

As she went for the mail, she found a small parcel waiting for her on her front door, and her heart beat faster when she recognized the handwritten 'E' on the top. Her hands were shaking when she opened it, exposing a small cardboard card along with a jewelry box. She immediately frowned. Was Rio sending her jewels now? She mechanically touched her neck and she felt the necklace he'd brought back to her, suddenly remembering the moment he'd clasped it back on her neck. She picked the card first, and deciphered Rio's terrible handwriting.

I'm sorry about last night. I hope your wrists don't hurt anymore.

She stopped her reading and blinked, trying to understand, before the flashback hit her conscience like a punch as she remembered the violence with which he had pinned her against the kitchen counter with a painful grip on her wrists. She reflexively rubbed them at the thought, and they didn't hurt indeed but she noticed that they were slightly bruised. She looked back at the card.

Here is a little something that will look good on them.

Intrigued, she opened the box, and she unwrapped the silky paper inside before she froze with a high-pitched squeak. Shining in the velvet, a pair of silver handcuffs was taunting her and suddenly the whole night came back to her mind. How she'd cried and drunk alone, how she'd found him across the street, how they'd shared the weirdest drinking honest talk of all times, how things had gone wrong at some point and how he'd tipped Turner about her.

She put her head in her hands, and a little desperate noise escaped her lips. Why did she have to drink so much and oversleep? She'd already wasted so much time she could have used hiding every evidence Turner could find. There was no doubt he'd quickly show up at her house with a warrant and search everything. Especially the garden. But she couldn't move Jeff's body now anyway, and wasn't that thing half-liquid by now? She repressed her nausea at the thought and tried to assess her options. She couldn't hide the body by herself, and there was no way she'd involve the girls in this. And that was already enough to send her away for a long time. And who knew what else Rio could have told or given Turner? There was no way out this time, and she had to admit her defeat, but something inside of her refused to surrender that easily, reminded her she'd managed to make her way out of a murdering attempt, told her that she could figure out something to get through this too.

The knock on her door a few hours later was inappropriately enthusiastic and she winced. Being arrested was something she could handle, but having to bear Turner's triumph was revolting. She opened the door to face him, smiling, a bunch of people with FBI jackets gathered around a minivan behind him.

"Good morning, Mrs. Boland."

She swallowed. There was only one way out of this and she knew what she had to do.

"Good morning, Agent Turner, I see you're not alone this time?" she asked, cocking one eyebrow.

"This time, Mrs. Boland, I came here with a search warrant. And shovels." he added, making his point clear.

It was past time to play innocent and she chose to immediately reveal her cards.

"Makes sense." she admitted. "Can I speak to you for a minute before you start?"

Turner looked surprised and he seemed to gauge her for a moment before he slightly nodded and turned his back at her, "Wait for my signal." he addressed his crew.

Beth let him in and closed the door.

"I have to admit that I'm curious to see what makes you think you can stop this, this time." he said.

Beth faced him, determined, and she tried to keep her hands steady.

"Just tell me something, Agent Turner. Who do you want the most, me or him?"

Turner smirked. He was smart, and she could tell he knew where she was heading to and was already weighing his options.

"Depends on what you have against him." he finally said.

Beth took a deep breath, her heart heavy as a stone. She didn't want to do this, but she had no choice. Please, forgive me, she thought.

"Everything." she said, out of breath.