Davey pushed herself out of the chair and walked out of the room. Her fingers grasped the lock on the front door and deftly flipped it open. The tiny bells jingled their happy tinkle as she rushed out onto the busy street. Davey inhaled the clean, clear air and rushed down the sidewalk. Ignoring angry stares she pushed by people. When she reached the door of the hotel, she burst through before the doorman could open it for her.
“Ms. Nesbitt,” He nodded at her, “Is everything alright?”
“I’m fine.” She nodded and hurried forward, “Oh, I’ve lost my bag. Could you send someone up to open my room?” She called back over her shoulder.
“Of course, right away.” He nodded.
When Davey finally made it into her room, she threw herself onto the bed and felt hot tears build behind her eyelids. She didn’t cry. Ever. Unless it was a tool to accomplish a goal. Veils never got emotionally involved in engagements. In fact, Veils didn’t feel strong emotions at all. Davey couldn’t figure out what she was supposed to do. What she should say. Who she was even supposed to talk to. She tried to regain her composure, but couldn’t. She couldn’t pull herself together. The tears spilled down onto her cheeks. A sob caught in her throat before it hiccupped out. Pain spread through her chest as it began to heave.
A knock sounded at the door followed by a quiet, “Damhnait…? Davey, please answer the door.” Ajay’s voice filtered through the wood. “Please. We didn’t mean to upset you.”
Davey pushed herself off the end of the bed. She dragged her feet along the carpet, stopping when she reached the ornate door. She rested her head against the wood, not sure she wanted to answer. Not entirely sure she didn’t.
“Please, Damhnait.” His voice was quieter now. If she hadn’t been leaning against the door, she wouldn’t have heard it.
Her fingers found the knob and twisted. The latch clicked as she released the door from its jamb. She didn’t open it any further. She simply released it and walked away, unsure if she was ready to see him. The tears were still flowing from her eyes as she settled into the big armchair in the sitting room. She avoided the bedroom. Not wanting to confront that betrayal along with everything else that was being pushed on her. She stopped in front of one of the windows, staring out at the square. Pictures of the two very different versions of the town she’d been shown flashed across her vision.
“Damhnait,” Ajay stepped into the room behind her, no longer in his uniform, and dropped the bags she’d left in the bakery onto the table in the corner. “I don’t know how to do this.”
“You seemed to know exactly what you were doing earlier.” Davey crossed her arms over her chest and continued to stare out the window. She couldn’t seem to stop the tears, but no longer wanted to try. “Distracting me just like I was warned you would. And I fell for it. Believed you were interested in me. But you were just doing your job and pumping me for information. Keeping me from achieving my objective.”
“That’s not what it was.” His voice was close now. “It was how it started. My job was to get close enough to you to find out how much you knew about us. Then I met you. I met you and realized that you were different from than any other Veil I’ve encountered.”
“You’ve met other Veils? Did they know what you were?” Davey turned away from the window, curiosity getting the better of her.
“No, never. We’ve never revealed ourselves before. To any Veil. This situation is completely unprecedented, Damhnait.” Ajay stared down at her.
“Then why now? Why to me?”
“You’re not like other Veils. You have depth. You feel like a real person, not just an empty shell filled with a two dimensional persona read from a sheet of paper.”
“I am a real person, Ajay.” Davey squeezed passed him and settled into one of the armchairs, “Whether I’m D, or Davey, or Delores or whoever, I am a person.”
“Are you telling me that this posting doesn’t feel different? That every job you work feels like this?” Ajay settled into a chair across from her.
Davey was silent for a moment. She should hate this guy. She should be running as fast as possible to contact the Masters, telling them that she’d been compromised. But that didn’t feel right either. “No, it’s not the same. Nothing here feels like it’s supposed to. Nothing at all.”
“Why?” Ajay leaned forward, elbows on his knees.
“I feel like… like I’m settling into this persona. Not just as a job, but as a life. This feels like me.” Davey rubbed her eyebrows. “It feels right. Like I don’t want to go back to the Commune when this is done. I don’t want to give up who I am in this body.”
“And you’re attached to Carly. More than as a means to an end.”
“Yes. She feels like my friend. She’s feels important. And that makes what you showed me earlier… it just makes everything so much harder. How am I supposed to let her kill herself, Ajay?”
“There’s more going on here than you realize. The future depends on more than just Carly’s actions. It depends on yours.”
“I realize that, Ajay. If I do my job the future changes.”
“Not just that, Damhnait. You don’t see it yet, but you have a role to play in saving this planet. Being placed here, in this place at this time, is part of your fate.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Davey ran her fingers through her hair. She’d never been as confused as she was at this very moment. “Travelers don’t have fates. That’s what makes us perfect for our jobs.”
“What do you remember from before you were a Veil?” Ajay’s asked curiously.
“Nothing.” Davey wrinkled her forehead, “I’ve always been a Veil. It’s not like it’s something we’re hired into. There isn’t a job posting and an interview.”
“It’s not something you’re born into either.” Ajay pushed himself out of his chair. “You’re at a sort of crossroads.”
“I don’t know what you mean!” Davey replied louder than she meant to, feeling frustrated and desperate. “Why can’t you just lay it all out for me? Explain what you damn well mean, Ajay!” She threw herself at him, pounding her fists against his chest.
“I’m not allowed,” Ajay did nothing to stop her fists from slamming into him. “If I could, I would tell you everything, but this has to be your choice. We’ve given you the information you need, but all decisions are yours to make.”
Davey let her fists drop to her sides and rested her head against his chest. Ajay wrapped his arms around her and let her cry. Davey felt her shoulders shaking as she tried to process. She didn’t want to think about anything right now. Nothing at all. On the table across the room, Davey noticed a faint white pulsing coming from the purse on the table. She knew it was the Masters trying to recall her. Things were so out of control, she knew they were going to pull her from the assignment. And she knew she couldn’t, wouldn’t, leave.
“They’re trying to pull me back.” Davey looked up into those deep hazel eyes. “I don’t know why they don’t just do it.”
“It’s me.” Ajay shrugged.
“The all powerful Ajay?” Davie raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“No. The Provenance. We have the ability to cloak our presence. It’s how we’re able to do our jobs. We can also extend that protection to others, if we choose.”
“Why don’t you just cloak the towns you’re in to keep us away entirely?”
“That would draw attention to places your masters might not otherwise notice. Someone has to be incredibly important for us to cloak them.”
“And you’re cloaking me?” Davie looked surprised.
“Of course I am.”
“Cause I’m important to your mission.”
Ajay’s thumb brushed along her cheek, wiping tears away. A gentle smile touched his lips and he nodded.
“And they can’t see anything we’re doing?” Davey whispered.
She wrapped her arms around Ajay’s neck and pulled herself to him. Her lips crushed his in desperation. This wasn’t about romance. This was about need. The need to distract herself from everything. To not have to think for a little while. Ajay’s hands found her waist and pulled her close. Damhnait toed off her boots as her fingers worked their way under his sweater. She pushed up until he had to step back and allow her to pull it over his head. The light brown skin of his chest gleamed in the light filtering in from the window. The defined muscles rippled under her fingers.
Tears continued to fall from her eyes in a slow, steady stream. She couldn’t get control of these emotions. This body wanted to crumple. She wanted to let herself fall apart. As Ajay gripped her hips, Davey forced her emotions to follow the sensations created by the feel of his fingers digging into her skin. She adjusted her hands around his shoulders and vaulted herself up so her legs wrapped around his hips.
“I want you so badly.” His voice was hot against her ear, his teeth grazing the lobe. “But I remember what you said.”
Davey allowed him to hold her in place as she pulled her sweater over her head and let it fall to the floor. She leaned back as his lips trailed across her collarbone. Her breath caught as heat and moisture explored new territory. Her eyes drifted back to her pulsating purse. “Forget what I said and just make me forget that I have to make this decision, okay?”
“If you insist.” His voice was so low, she almost didn’t hear him. Ajay carried her to the bedroom. When he crossed the threshold, Davey pushed the door closed gently behind them, blocking out the pulsing beacon calling her home. Taking her first real step away from the Commune.
Davey stared at the ceiling, her head cushioned by the fluffy pillow. She crossed her fingers over her stomach and thought about how drastically her life was changing. She glanced towards the closed door, thinking about how frantically the light from the Commune must be flashing now.
“How are you feeling?” Ajay’s voice was soft, trying not to be intrusive.
“Confused.” Davey felt less frantic than she had before. She turned and smiled at him. “More relaxed though.”
“I’m glad. I wasn’t sure you were ever going to stop crying.” Ajay reached over and brushed her hair back from her face.
“You have some useful skills.” Davey nestled into her pillow. “But now I need you to go.” She said gently.
He nodded. “I’m more than a distraction, Damhnait. I’m a resource. If you need any help making this decision, or understanding what’s going on, just give me a call, okay?”
“You can take calls inside the soldier factory?” Davey raised an eyebrow, surprised how much freedom Ajay appeared to have for a Fenton soldier.
“Oh no. Not at all. There aren’t even phones inside the facility.”
“Then I’m just going to call your name into the wind and you’ll hear me?” She grinned and swung her legs over the edge of the bed.
“I keep a phone at Sinder’s.” He chuckled and grabbed his pant. “Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing you running down the street, yelling my name.”
“That wouldn’t draw any undue attention at all.” Davey laughed and pulled one of her dresses from the closet. If she couldn’t wear it outside, at least she could wear it while she was holed up in her room.
“I’ll leave my number on the table.” Ajay called as he wandered into the sitting room to find his discarded sweater.
“Ajay,” Davey called as she slid the zipper on her dress into place and followed him into the other room.
“Yes, Damhnait.” His voice was muffled by his shirt as he pulled it over his head.
“Thank you.” She followed him into the room,
“You’re welcome.” He shifted his gaze back to the bedroom.
“Not for that!” She swatted his arm. “I mean, thank you for showing me what’s going on. It makes me feel a little less crazy.”
“I was starting to think that there was something wrong with me. That I was seeing things in this assignment that weren’t actually true, but then you and Sinder showed me that stuff, and now I know. I’m good at my job. I couldn’t figure out why this one was messing me up so much.”
He smiled and headed towards the door. “Remember, when you need…”
“I will.” She stepped up to him, resting her hand on his arm and rising up on her toes. She placed her lips gently against his cheek and inhaled his musky smell. She pulled away and smiled. “Now go away.” She shooed him towards the door. Ajay grinned as he turned the knob to let himself out of the room and swung the door open. Standing on the other side, fist raised in the air, was a tall girl with short, bleached blond hair and big, dark brown eyes.
“Hello,” Ajay started, “Can I help you?”
“Um, yes, I think I have the right room. I’m looking for an old friend of mine.”
“And who’s that?” Ajay had positioned himself in front of Davey, blocking her from the girl at the door.
“I’m right here.” Davey placed her hand on Ajay’s shoulder. The girl tilted her head to the side and smiled. Davey knew instantly that it was M. “Hey there!” She grinned and playfully shoved Ajay aside. “Come on in. I’m just going to say goodbye and I’ll be right back.” She hugged M and stepped into the hallway with Ajay.
“What’s going on, Damhnait?” Ajay glanced towards the closed door as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close so they could talk quietly.
“That’s M.” Davey kept her voice low, “She’s my closest friend in the Commune.”
“What’s she doing here?” He brushed his lips against her ear to continue the illusion of romance.
“I ignored a summons. I think they’ve sent her to figure out what I’m up to.” Davey ran her fingers through his hair, “And to take me home.”
“Do you need me to stay? Or to ask Sinder to come? She’s more powerful than I am.”
“No. I’ll take care of it.” She looked into his concerned eyes. “Don’t worry about me, Ajay. I’m older than I look. And regardless of what you saw earlier, I’m usually pretty collected.” She kissed him, took a deep breath, and let herself back in her room. There was no time like the present to make things even more complicated.