A Beautiful Lie

Page 52

The most insane thing about the entire situation was that the entire time Garrett was locked away, unable to have any type of contact with Parker, she was closer than he ever imagined. Due to the high profile nature of the case, the trial was held in Washington, D.C., right around the corner from George Washington University Hospital.

"As I've told you three fucking times already, she doesn't have any family. I'm all she has. I need to find out where she is," Garrett said angrily. "If you don't tell me, I'm going to go up and down every single God damned hallway in this place and bang on every fucking door until I find her."

Garrett knew he was being an asshole. He heard the words as they left his mouth, but there was nothing he could do about it. He finally found out where Parker was, and now the Gestapo at the nurse's station wouldn't tell him what room she was in.

Olivia stepped off the elevator in the middle of Garrett's rant and walked over to her co-worker Rhonda in an attempt to help her out. They had to deal with angry family members from time to time; it was just part of the job. Olivia was always better at handling them than everyone else and the look of relief on Rhonda's face as Olivia rounded the counter was evident.

"Excuse me, sir? What seems to be the problem here?" Olivia asked as she removed her coat and clipped her ID badge to the front of her scrubs.

"My name is Garrett McCarthy. I'm just trying to find out what room my girlfr…my frien…my….I just need to know where Annabelle Parker is," Garrett stumbled.

He felt like a fool. He didn't even know what to call Parker. They'd been through so much together and everything changed between them in such a short time. They'd gone from best friends to lovers in the blink of an eye. He knew she loved him, but he had no idea if she still felt that way, if what she went through changed things, if his not being there for her these past two months changed everything. Garrett wouldn't know anything until he saw her.

"Rhonda, could you excuse us for a minute?" Olivia asked softly.

Rhonda was more than happy to leave. Olivia watched her grab a clipboard and head to one of the patient rooms before turning to face Garrett.

This was Parker's mystery man. The one whose name she had called out in the middle of the night every single night. When Parker left the hospital two days prior, Olivia tried to get her to open up one last time and asked her about the man who haunted her dreams and caused her to wake up crying.

Even through the quickly hidden pools of tears in Parker's eyes and the wall that slammed down over her features, Olivia knew this man was special to Parker.

"So you're Garrett," Olivia stated, looking him up and down. "Parker's mentioned you."

Garrett let out a sigh of relief. At least he was finally getting somewhere.

"She's okay then? Where is she? Can I see her?"

Olivia let out a small, forced laugh. "Slow down there, cowboy. I said she mentioned you. I didn't say she wanted anything to do with you."

Olivia watched Garrett's face fall and his shoulders slump in defeat. She felt a little bad about deceiving the guy and making him think Parker was still there. But she needed to make sure he was a good guy before saying anything. The look on Garrett's face right now told her all she needed to know.

"She didn't really mention you. She cried out your name in her sleep. Every night," Olivia told him.

The anguish on Garrett's face was heart-breaking.

"I wanted to be here. It killed me not to be here," Garrett replied sadly.

"It killed her not having you here," Olivia told him softly. "I'm not telling you this to make you feel worse; I just want you to know what state she's in. Physically she's doing well. She made a quick recovery considering the trauma she endured. But mentally, she's struggling."

Garrett rested his palms on the counter and bowed his head.

"I tried to be her friend. I did what I could to let her know I was there for her and she could talk to me, but I could never get through to her. Every day I watched her body get stronger while at the same time I watched her mind and her heart get weaker. I don't know what happened to her, but I know it was bad. I know she feels insurmountable guilt about something and that it's eating her alive. She was supposed to stay here for another week but she discharged herself two days ago."

Garrett's head whipped up and he looked at Olivia questioningly.

"Before you even ask, I have no idea where she went. She promised to call me when she got settled, but I haven't heard from her yet."

Garrett closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then reached across the counter to pull the nurse into a hug. He thanked her for being there for Parker when he couldn't. He promised her he would take care of Parker even if she hated him now.

With just one phone call to Brady as Garrett made his way down the elevator he was able to find out exactly where she was headed. Thankfully, his best friend always used the same passwords for everything. Brady was able to hack into her credit card information within seconds.

Parker should have been exhausted after the day she had: a one hour flight from D.C. to New Jersey, then a three-and-a-half hour flight from New Jersey to Manchester Township, and finally an hour drive in a rental car to the house. As she stood in the middle of the living room staring at the lounge chair in the corner, she didn't feel exhausted. She just felt numb.

Subconsciously she knew what she had been doing wasn't healthy. She knew trying to bury the memories and the pain was only going to make things worse. Every ounce of grief, anger, guilt, and shock piled themselves on top of her day after day, hour after hour, until she felt like the weight would crush her. Week after week, sitting in the back of those post-traumatic stress groups, she heard the counselor instruct everyone that if they didn't talk about what was wrong, if they didn't face their fears and confront their demons, the nightmares would never go away.

So now she stood alone in the house of her childhood facing the first nightmare. Almost everything in the house had changed since she'd last been there: new couch, new carpet, new paint on the walls, different appliances, and a big screen television mounted above the fireplace. The only thing that remained the same was the chair, her father's favorite chair. It looked as if someone sat in it one more time it would crumble into a pile of rubble on the floor.

The air smelled faintly of her father's cologne and lemon furniture polish, the same smells she would always attribute to this house.

Parker walked slowly over to her father's chair and sat down. It seemed like a lifetime ago since she sat on her father's lap and watched scary movies with him in this chair. Considering everything that happened in her life since she had left home, it almost was the span of an entire life.

The guilt overwhelmed her when she thought of all the wasted years she spent being angry at her father. If she would have only been a bigger person and tried to contact him at some point maybe it would never have come to this, sitting in the empty house of her childhood, mourning a man she knew nothing about .

Parker leaned back into the chair and let the well-worn fabric and soft cushions envelop her. She looked to her left and saw a framed photo of her mother from her wedding day―the same picture her father had hugged to his body and silently wept over for months after her mother had died. Parker reached over and lifted the eight by ten frame off of the end table to bring it closer. The action caused an envelope that was propped up against the frame to fall flat onto the table. Parker rested the frame in her lap and picked up the envelope. In her father's small, block-lettered print was her name.

Parker's breath caught in her throat, and she blinked back tears as she ran her fingertips over her name. She quickly turned the envelope over and ripped it open.

Dear Annabelle:

If you're here in the house and you've found this letter, I'm either dead or hell has frozen over. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess I'm dead.

Parker laughed through her tears at her father's blunt words.

You know I'm not good with stuff like this, but you deserve answers. So I'm going to give them to you. I made so many mistakes where you were concerned. I look back at my behavior after the funeral, and I'm ashamed. When I realized what I'd done and that I needed to do everything I could to make you forgive me, there was a leak in the CIA and Fernandez found out I was the one who'd been handling the case to try and bring him down. The only thing I could think about was how to keep you safe. He knew I had a daughter and that we were estranged. I knew if I tried to contact you at all, Fernandez would know and he would turn his focus on you as a way to get to me. I depended on Fernandez believing I hated you so he could never use you that way. In my obsession to keep you safe, I truly believed coercing you to join the CIA would be the best option. It would give you the absolute best connections and Fernandez would know that if he did anything to harm you, a CIA agent and the daughter of the man in charge of his case, he would be the first person they would blame. The photos you were given of me all beat to hell? Those cuts and bruises were courtesy of Fernandez's men, not the Capuano mob. We knew that showing you those pictures and coming up with a story about me being in debt was the only way to make you believe I was truly in danger. I'm so sorry for all of the lies. I'm sorry for bringing you into a life you never wanted. I hope you know it was always, ALWAYS to protect you.

I want you to know, I was never far away. I watched you grow into the amazing woman you are now from afar so it never endangered you. I was at your college graduation, I saw every photo you ever took, and I reviewed the notes from every mission you were involved with. You have made me so proud, Annabelle.

When the notes came across my desk that you were assigned to the Fernandez case, I panicked. Never in a million years did I ever think you'd be put on the same case and led right to him. I suddenly realized that bringing you into the CIA never protected you at all. It only gave Fernandez more access to you and insider information on the CIA's investigations.

As soon as I found out, I demanded to get back on active duty and began putting all of my time into researching Fernandez. Just yesterday we uncovered information about Milo that made us believe he is still alive and working for Fernandez. I knew you were in the Dominican to find out what happened to Milo. I have to warn you. I refuse to let anything happen to you. My flight to the Dominican leaves in two hours so if this letter is in your hands right now, I won't feel bad at all about dying so long as you're safe.

I always thought your mother was the love of my life-my everything. The day she died, I wanted to die right along with her. I wish more than anything that I could go back in time and change things. I should have done better by you. I should have been the father you deserved. I should have loved you better. The truth is, you're mother wasn't the love of my life, not really. She was my wife, and I always have and always will love her. But you, my Annabelle, my daughter, YOU are the love of my life.

Be happy, Anna. Take the time to enjoy life, never take anything for granted, and do the exact opposite of what your old man's done.

I love you. Always.


Chapter Twenty-Seven

Garrett powered off his GPS as he pulled into the driveway of the small two story home in Manchester Township. The rental car already in the driveway and the light on in one of the front rooms made him nervous and excited all at the same time. He'd felt empty for the past two months, like nothing in his life meant anything, and he did nothing but exist day in and day out. Being this close to Parker right now, knowing she was within an arm's reach made his heart beat faster and his hands sweaty.

He turned off the engine and made his way up the front walk to ring the doorbell. Within seconds the door opened and he forgot how to breathe. The last time he saw her she was covered in bruises and dried blood and a machine was breathing for her. The faint yellow color of the fading bruises around one eye and her cheek made him remember just how long it had been since he last saw her.

Parker had been asleep, curled up in a ball in her father's chair with tears dried on her cheeks and the letter clutched to her chest when the doorbell rang. She had stumbled across the room and flung open the door without even checking to see who it was. Nothing could have prepared her for the shock of seeing Garrett.

She had purposely avoided newspapers and televisions after she recounted all of the details of their mission to Agent Charles and a member of the Navy legal team recorded her sworn testimony for court from her hospital bed. Due to her condition, she was given a special medical waiver so she wouldn't have to testify in court. She washed her hands of the entire situation after that and wanted nothing more to do with it. The nightmares were bad enough. Watching the trial day in and day out and knowing Garrett was there and not with her would have killed her. Fernandez had robbed her of too much. The fact that the trial against him took Garrett away from her was more than she could handle.

Due to her self-imposed ignorance, she had no idea the trial was over, though she did find out about Fernandez from Agent Charles. It was the one and only time she was happy to see the agent in her hospital room.

"Can I come in?" Garrett asked.

Parker suddenly felt nervous and awkward. She'd wanted Garrett there, wished him to be close enough for her to touch for weeks, and now that he was there, she didn't know what to do. All of the pain and anger she felt back in the Dominican when Garrett got mad and stormed away came rushing back to the surface. She remembered finally letting her walls collapse, allowing her reservations to crumble to the ground, and letting herself love Garrett with everything she had. She remembered finally feeling truly happy for the first time in her life. And then he turned his back on her.

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