A Beautiful Lie

Page 27

Milo told her to relax as he got up from the couch to take a frozen pizza out of the oven. She opened the drawer of the table next to the couch to pull out the remote to the TV. As she picked it up, she noticed a blue matchbook with the name "Occidental El Embajador" etched on it in silver. She had been in the same drawer just four days ago and it had been empty, save for the remote. She pulled the matches out and turned them over in her hand, the cover flipping open with the movement. A date and time was scrawled in Milo's handwriting on the inside. It was for two days ago.

Milo walked back into the room and stopped when he saw what was in her hand.

"Hey, where did these come from?" Parker asked curiously.

Milo smiled and hurried over to take them out of her hand and push them into the pocket of his pants.

"Oh, just from some club we went to a few years ago."

Milo had smoothly changed the subject back to Parker's trip and her photography, the matchbook quickly forgotten.

Until now.

Parker had been young and new to the CIA at the time. She had no reason to question her boyfriend, of one year, about whether or not he'd been lying.

The sight of a blue matchbook with "Occidental El Embajador" peeking out under a pile of papers on Fernandez's desk was too much of a coincidence to her.

Garrett listened as Parker retold the story of the day she came home from her first mission and watched her frantically type away on the keyboard..

"He told me it was a club he'd been to, and the way he said it made me just assume it was someplace the two of you had been," Parker said as she waited for the website hits to pull up.

"I've never heard of it before. It's definitely not a place I ever went with him."

The only hit was a hotel an hour outside of Punta Cana, where they were currently located. She clicked on it.

"Maybe that place has a club inside it," Garrett suggested as he looked over her shoulder, grasping at straws. He didn't want his best friend to be guilty of something. That wasn't the point of the trip. They were there to find out why he died, not to accuse him of something else entirely.

Parker didn't see a listing for a club anywhere on the website and a quick call to the hotel confirmed that. It also confirmed that the hotel was roughly three miles from the palace.

"Okay, so he lied about it being a club, not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things," Garrett said, an inkling of doubt worming its way into his mind as much as he tried to avoid it.

"It doesn't explain why he had a book of matches from a place right down the road from the palace though. And according to his military records, he was never sent to the Dominican before his final assignment."

Garrett shrugged. "It's probably just a coincidence."

Parker was getting frustrated with Garrett's nonchalance about the entire thing. She narrowed her eyes and glared at him as he casually walked to the side table and picked up the remote for the TV.

"Jesus, Garrett. You don't find it a little suspect that Milo had matches from a place seven years before he supposedly first went there?" Parker asked as she tapped away at the keys.

Garrett huffed in annoyance and tossed the remote back onto the table where it landed with a clatter. He stalked over to his bag at the foot of the bed and began yanking things out of it roughly just to give him something to do.

"The matches Milo had listed a date and time on them from two days before I found them. It was Milo's handwriting. He met someone here in the Dominican. I know he did," Parker said as she turned from her computer to watch Garrett empty his overnight bag.

Garrett would have known if Milo ever went to the Dominican. As his superior for most of their career, he was privy to all of the missions he was sent on. And as his friend, Milo confided in him about everything.

He glanced quickly at Parker as she stared at him and realized Milo hadn't confided in him about everything. He'd failed to mention the fights he'd been having with his fiancé and how distant they'd become. Not only that but Milo had looked him straight in the eye and lied to him about it.

Everything about this situation pissed Garrett off and made him feel like he didn't have any control. When he was on a mission, he was in charge. He led his team, he made decisions, and he always knew what he was getting into. Now the rug was being pulled out from under Garrett with every turn. It frustrated him, pissed him off, and made him want to lash out. Unfortunately, Parker was the only one there to take the brunt of it.

Garrett picked up his empty duffel bag and flung it across the room, wishing he had something heavier within reach to throw.

He faced Parker with his hands on his hips, the fury rolling off of him in waves.

"So, because you guys were having a few problems, you've suddenly decided to turn this mission into a way to...what? Find out if he was cheating on you? Dig up some dirt on him to make yourself feel better?" Garrett said heatedly. "All of a sudden you want to make him out to be the bad guy. Have you already forgotten who he was to us? Just a few short months of doubt and you're ready to turn him into the enemy."

Parker sat there staring at Garrett with a complete look of shock on her face. She knew from the first moment he said he was doing this mission it was going to be a strain on him. She lived with Milo; she had to deal with his ever changing attitude and emotions day in and day out. It was gradual and didn't happen all at once. This was the first time Garrett was witness to the fact that Milo might not have been everything they thought he was. Parker knew it was a hard pill to swallow, but she'd had time to get used to the idea. Everything was being thrown at Garrett all at once, so she tried to keep her frustration with him to a minimum.

"I really hope you aren't serious right now," Parker said, standing up from the table and walking towards him. "I am not trying to turn Milo into the enemy. You don't know me very well if you think any of this is making me feel better."

Garrett knew he should shut up before things got worse, but once he started, he couldn't stop. He watched Parker walk across the room to him and all the years of lies and regret were suddenly too much to bear. The doubt that was eating away at the friendship he'd had for almost sixteen years was crushing him, and the confusion over what was happening between Parker and him was breaking Garrett in two.

"Oh, I know you plenty, sweetheart. Is making Milo out to be the bad guy a way to ease your guilty conscience about what you did in the pool today?" he said icily.

The sound of the slap across his face echoed in the room before he actually felt the blow of Parker's hand connecting with his cheek. He reached up to rub the sting from his face, knowing he deserved the pain and more but unable to take back anything he said. He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth, but he needed to get it all out, and Parker was the only one there to listen .

"About whatI did?" Parker repeated with an angry whisper as she stood a foot away from Garrett with her hands clenched angrily at her sides. She was shaking with fury and her throat was closing up with the burn of unshed tears.

"I get that you're angry, and you're confused, but don't youdare put the blame for what happened today at the pool all on me. You were just as much of an equal participant as I was. I am not about to feel guilty for what happened today, even if you are."

Garrett kept his head down, refusing to look at Parker. He could hear the hurt and anguish in her voice, and it tore his heart to shreds knowing he was the one who put it there. She was right. Hewas feeling guilty for betraying his friend and for thinking just for a moment that Milo was this totally different person who had secrets and lies that Garrett knew nothing about. He was taking it out on Parker and he had no right to do that.

"I am here for one reason and for one reason only," Parker continued angrily. "And that is to find out the truth. Good or bad. You want to pretend like nothing happened today at the pool or last night in bed, fine. You want to look me in the eye and tell me that touching me, kissing me…" Parker faltered, "That it meant nothing to you and it was all part of the show we were putting on for the President, go for it. But if that's how you want to play it, then when we're finished with this mission, you stay the fuck away from me," Parker told him with a sob in her voice.

Garrett closed his eyes as Parker bumped her shoulder into his while she hurriedly walked past him. He jumped when he heard the door to their suite slam behind her when she left.

The ringing of Garrett's secure cell phone several minutes later pulled him out of his stupor as he quickly pulled it to his ear to answer it.

"McCarthy," he barked.

There was silence on the other end of the line, save for the soft sound of someone breathing.

"Hello?" Garrett said.

Whoever it was hadn't hung up yet, so Garrett kept the connection open.

"Listen, I can hear you breathing. Who is this?"

After several more seconds of silence, Garrett was getting ready to hang up when the person on the other end finally spoke.

"Is-is dis policía man?" a quiet female voice asked him in broken English.

"Ah, not really. Who is this?" Garrett asked. His phone had a private phone number and strangers shouldn't have access to it.

"Excusa, I am Maria. My amiga was Catalina Olvera. I live next to her padre."

Garrett cursed himself for not remembering that he had given that asshole father his phone number when he and Parker questioned him the other day.

"Gotcha. So Catalina's father gave you my number?" Garrett asked.

"Oh! No, no, seńor. If he knew I call you, would be very bad. I was on my front steps and saw you give him your number. He threw it to the ground, and I took it when he went in house," she explained nervously.

Garrett realized that Mr. Olvera had probably been an asshole to everyone he came in contact with if this girl was afraid of him. She sounded young; he figured she couldn't have been over sixteen. The same age as Catalina.

"Okay, I promise I won't tell him you contacted me. Can you tell me why you called?"

There was a long pause as Maria contemplated what she should tell him. He seemed nice when she watched him talk to Cat's father. She hated that man. He was so mean to her best friend. He treated her like dirt and threw her out of his house leaving her with nowhere to go. Maria felt like she could trust this man on the phone. He didn't make fun of her attempt at speaking English and he didn't treat her like a child, even though she was.

"Bad things happen to my friend," Maria said quietly.

Garrett remained quiet waiting for her to continue. He walked over to the table and grabbed a pen and paper from next to Parker's laptop and scribbled the name Maria.

"She have nowhere to live. She come to me one day and say American man going to make all her dreams come true. She will have money and see the world and always have nice place to sleep," Maria explained.

Garrett wrote down as much as he could and urged her to continue when she paused.

"Cat very excited even when I tell her it sound too good to be true. She tell me she go to hotel for…um, how you say, question? Interrogatorio?"

"Interrogation? Interview?" Garrett supplied.

"Si, interview," Maria agreed. "She go to hotel the next night for interview, and I never see her again. She muerto the next day," she said with a quiet sob.

Garrett's heart was practically beating out of his chest and he knew before Maria even replied to his next question, what her answer would be.

"Maria, do you remember the name of the hotel that Catalina went to?"

She responded immediately and with absolute certainty.

"Occidental El Embajador."

Chapter Fifteen

Parker walked down the path that led away from the villas and towards the lobby, swiping angrily at the tears that left wet trails on her cheeks. For the first time since she met him, she wanted to be as far away from Garrett as possible. She tried to be sympathetic to what he was going through, but he pushed her too far. He took everything that happened between them in the past two days and made it into something disgusting and guilt-ridden.

The only solace for Parker was the fact that at least Garrett hadn't crashed through all of her defenses. Her heart was still intact, and he hadn't broken her. She was strong and fierce and knew exactly who she was and what she wanted. She wasn't about to let him stomp all over her. There may be complete and utter confusion between them about the line they'd crossed with each other in the past few days, but they were still friends. Garrett knew her better than anyone, and he damn well better remember that before he did something that could never be forgiven.

Parker got to the lobby and looked around, unsure of what it was she even needed right now or where she should go. She spotted a few people sitting at the bar at the other end of the room and sighed. Parker knew drinking would get her nowhere. It would enhance her emotions and decrease her ability to think straight.

With a sigh she realized it was exactly what she needed. She needed to not think. About Garrett, about Milo, about regrets and decisions, betrayals and lies, and everything else that was at war with her head and her heart that night.

She made her way over to the other side of the lobby and sat down on a stool at the end of the bar, ordering a dirty martini with extra olives.

After a quick call to Brady, Garrett met him out in the parking lot by the rental car. They pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards Santa Domingo as the sun began to set.

"So, are you going to tell me what has you so pissed off?" Brady asked as he grabbed onto the car handle above his head when Garrett took a turn a little too fast and a lot too sharp.

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