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] [Part 41
Rubirosa returned to her room to pack as soon as the funeral was over—she would be leaving the vineyard before dawn the next day in order to make her 7:05 AM flight out of Barcelona. Aron had agreed to drive her to the airport, and her father would accompany them. Tío Benicio did appear to see her off, though he was still a little gruff and stiff in his manner; she hadn’t yet been forgiven.—————————————
She didn’t care. It did bother her that she hadn’t been able to tell anyone in New York that she was coming home.
The hustle of an airport was the same everywhere, and she disappeared into it quickly after bidding her brother and father farewell, and promising to bring Mike over for dinner sometime.
The first leg of her journey was short; it was just over an hour in the air from Barcelona to Madrid, and she had an almost five-hour layover.
It’s better than listening to Tío Benny try to convince me of my responsibility to the family for three hours, she thought. The flight to Newark didn’t depart until 1:05, so she managed a little breakfast, and some shopping—Mike is going to need some clothes anyway—and even a light lunch before boarding time.
She ended up wearing the coat she’d bought for Mike on the plane, which was freezing by the time they were an hour into the almost nine-hour flight. She alternated reading and dozing, waking fully when the captain announced their final approach.
Once out of the plane, she tried again to call McCoy—and again, got his answering machine. She told the machine that she’d arrived safely, and would drop by his place in an hour or so.
“You want something to eat?”
“Not really hungry.”
McCoy sighed. He supposed this Cutter was an improvement over the one who had appeared the day before and tried to take heads off just for breathing, but not by much. “You need to eat something.”
Cutter shrugged listlessly. “I’m fine with whatever.”
McCoy looked to Cynthia, who was watching from the kitchen door. She shrugged.
He started at the sound of a knock at the door. Frowning, he crossed the living room and peered through the peephole; with a sly glance at Cutter, he opened the door.
“You made it,” he commented, and the newcomer replied,
“I wasn’t sure you were getting my messages.”
Cutter’s head whipped around, staring intently at the open door.
“I got them this morning,” McCoy said. “Sorry about that. You want to come in?”
Rubirosa stepped inside, wearing a new coat and pulling a wheeled suitcase. She offered Cutter an uncertain smile.
He stared at her.
“How’ve you been?” she asked awkwardly.
He stared at her.
“He’s been pretty damned unpredictable, that’s how he’s been,” McCoy growled when it became clear that Cutter wouldn’t answer. “You want something to eat? We were going to order takeout, and I can’t get him to make a decision.”
“That sounds great,” she responded gratefully. “Anything but Spanish….”
His eyes twinkled at that, but he didn’t press her. Instead, he moved back toward the kitchen, calling over his shoulder, “Chinese?”
“That … sounds great.”
He and Cynthia disappeared toward the kitchen, pulling the door shut behind themselves and leaving Cutter and Rubirosa alone. Only then, and stiffly, did he stand, his expression still one of startled expectation.
He didn’t let her finish, instead closing the distance between them and wrapping his arms around her. Even through the thick black wool coat she wore, she could feel him trembling faintly.
“I missed you,” he said softly, like a small child, his voice muffled by the coat. She was suddenly uncomfortably certain that he was crying.
“Shh,” she soothed, reaching up to stroke his hair. “I’m home now.”
His trembling increased and he clung to her. A moment later, a sob escaped; if he hadn’t been crying before, he definitely was now.
It was several minutes before he regained control. Stepping back, he swiped at his eyes with his cuffs and said, “Sorry.” He sniffed. “I’ve been fine since—since it happened … I don’t know why I’m falling apart now.”
“Then it’s high time you did,” she asserted, and he managed a watery sort of smile.
“Why don’t I take your coat?” he offered in a would-be normal voice, and she started guiltily.
“Actually, it’s your coat,” she replied, embarrassed, slipping it off and offering it to him. “I had some time this morning in Madrid, and it was cold on the plane … uh, here.”
He hesitated, then took it. “It’ll look better on you,” he said, and she shook her head.
“Just try it on.”
He did. It fit perfectly. A mischievous look on his face (that was only slightly spoiled by the fact that his eyes were bloodshot), he turned a few times, finally pirouetting in place as though modeling for her. “Well?”
“Yes,” she responded. “Very handsome.”
They came together more naturally this time, their lips meeting briefly as they embraced.
“Mike,” she whispered, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here for you.”
He stepped back, bewildered. Whatever reply he was considering was interrupted, however, by McCoy’s return; he apparently thought they’d had sufficient time to exchange greetings. His gaze missed nothing as he joined them.
“Chinese in twenty,” he said.
“Great,” Cutter replied. “I’m starved.”
McCoy stopped in his tracks and stared at the younger man for several seconds before shaking his head and continuing on his way.
Link to [Part 43