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  • Writer's picturecorajanzenwrites

Ryn found me. She wanted to discuss things. She wanted answers.

Life had a way of getting in the way, so I secluded myself in a coffee shop in a city where no one knew me and put my headphones on. My favourite EDM DJ, Tiësto, was ripping up the soundwaves in my ears, and I cracked my fingers ready to get down to business.

A hand slapped down on the table, making me jump and slosh the tea latte I was just about to drink. I pushed my headphones off to rest around my neck. My brow furrowed in annoyance, and I glanced up with a glare, but the snappish retort died on my lips.

Hair like a Christmas caramel with a myriad of browns, reds, and blonde woven through it.

Black, form-fitting clothes that didn't restrict movement.

Cunning intelligence shining through those grey eyes, which were narrowed at me.

Raya Aspen. Severyn Andrews. Ryn.

Ryn has always been my favourite name for her.

I sat there stunned, staring at this woman who had lived in my head now for thirty years, as she stood in front of me.

"What the hell are you doing?" she demanded, sitting down across the small table that was filled with my laptop, tea latte, a glass of water, and a napkin.

"I... What?" I was struggling to comprehend my current reality.

"I said." She leaned toward me, narrowing her eyes even more. "What. The. Hell. Are you doing?"

I lifted my mug carefully to my lips, blowing softly before taking a drink. "About what exactly?"

"You're working on the first book in Hidden Legacy?"

"Um... Yes."

She huffed out a breath and sat back. "How much more?"

"What do you mean?" I set the mug down and she pulled the napkin toward her and fidgeted with it. Ryn never fidgeted. "What's going on?"

She realized what she as doing and fisted her hand on top of the table and looked up at me. "How much more? As in, how much more angst and anguish?"

Unease bloomed within me and she, like the badass covert operative she'd been trained to be, picked up on it instantly. Her face was schooled though, and I couldn't read her inner thoughts. Which was frustrating as hell, because, you know, I wrote those thoughts.

"A bit," I replied, slowly. Cautiously. The tension around us had increased. This was a woman that could be lethal if she chooses to.

"Is there a HEA?"

A happily ever after.

I relaxed back in my chair, and replied, honestly, "That's, in large part, up to you."

She huffed out another breath, blowing a tendril of hair that fell over her forehead. "It comes down to my choices. My family or..."

I reached across the table for her hand and squeezed before pulling back. "It could be 'and'."

Ryn ignored my comment and was back to fidgeting with the napkin. "What about Len?"

Sipping my latte, I weighed my response. "You've forged a bond with Len."

Her eyes flicked up to mine. "Len had my back."

"When you needed to go rogue."

Ryn nodded. "She's going through something."

"I know."

"It's bad, isn't it?"

"It will be."

"Can you stop it?" Ryn almost pleaded.

I sadly shook my head. "But that story doesn't happen until book 3. We have time."

Ryn chewed her lip. "What about book 2?"

"Slade is going to need your help."

Ryn's brow furrowed. "Sophie... Helping Antonio find her right now is priority. That's all I can focus on for now."

"So, just focus on Sophie, then," I agreed.

"Because you're thinking of Slade."

I shrugged. "It's what I do. I'm the writer remember. I'm constantly thinking of all you characters."

Ryn chewed her lip again. "You've seemed distant this past month. Like you haven't really been around much."

She was right; I had hardly touched that manuscript in April. "I got busy with an ad course and had some family stuff come up. Plus got sick."

Slade's story had also been consuming my brain space and writing time, but I didn't mention that.

The door to the coffee shop banged open, and Ryn winced and swore under her breath.

My eyes widened as I realized who filled the doorway with his broad shoulders and tall height. Intense golden-brown eyes scanned the room quickly and efficiently. He looked like he just glanced around but I knew he took in every detail in that brief scan. Where the exits were. The people in here. Things that could be used as a weapon. And most importantly, anyone who was close to Ryn and who could pose a threat to her.

Taggert Hale. Tag.

His square jaw clenched, making the muscle at the back jump. Then he was stalking toward us, his eyes zeroed in on Ryn.

"Shit," Ryn muttered, knowing who was coming for her without turning around.

Tag grabbed a chair from an empty table and swung it to ours and sat down. His hand clenched on his thigh, the one with the scar that ran down from the base of his thumb to his wrist.

"Cora." He nodded at me. "Good to see you again."

I frowned; very sure I hadn't actually ever seen Tag in the flesh. He was all eyes for Ryn, though, and she squirmed under the laser intensity of his stare. Correction, his glare. Tag was pissed AF.

"Something you want to explain to me, Ryn?"

Her head snapped up. "I'm not a prisoner—"

"No," Tag admitted. "But you're not supposed to be out walking around without security."

Frustration flared over her beautiful features. "Enough, Tag," she hissed. "I'm fine."

He leaned toward her. "You're fine, because Nexin and Rolf ran interference and got rid of that crazed fan. You're here helping find Sophie, but not as an operative, Ryn; you've been out for too many months for you to be active in the field without refreshing your training."

"I know, Tag."

I used my fist to hide my mouth and bit my lip to stop from smiling or laughing as I was reminded of Todd and Margot fighting from Christmas Vacation based on the tone and infliction on the words that Ryn used.

"Can you talk some sense into her?" Tag looked at me. His eyes were hard but filled with concern. And love. This was a guy that would do anything for the woman he loved.

"She's a woman with a strong mind, Tag," I said, making him grunt in response.

"I just do the stuff and Cora writes it up." Ryn turned to me from her secretly ogling the man she loved but refused. "Right?"

"Hmmm," I responded, nonchalantly.

Tag looked between us and muttered, "You two are gonna be the death of me." Then he stood and held his hand out to Ryn. "We need to go. Antonio needs us."

There was a slight flicker of movement as she instinctively reached for Tag but then her hand stilled and she stood without taking his hand. Frustration coated Tag's features, but he remained silent and his stoic mask fell back into place.

Staring down at her, he said, "Careful, Ryn. Everyone has a hero and a villain within them. And the dark side of me is growing. Don't taunt the beast."

Ryn smiled. "Well, that sorta sounds like a load of fun." She pivoted on her heel, then strode out.

Tag watched her go, knowing that Nexin and Rolf were outside waiting for her and would protect her until he got to her side. "Go easy on us, Cora."

"And where's the fun in that?"

His head snapped to me, and I smiled, and patted his forearm which was firm with tense muscle as he clenched his fist. "Stay the course, Tag. She's worth it."

"I know," he rasped, then was gone.

I sat in the coffee shop after they left, my tea latte growing cold, as I considered the plot twist that had popped into my head. It was dark. It would take Tag to a place where the kind of actions were needed that he had made the choice not to use after he left the Rangers.

Putting my headphones back in, Tiësto's 'Maximal Crazy' song now playing, I got to work.

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