Kerry was hyper alert as he left his place to go meet Pia for lunch. You're being paranoid, he told himself even as he checked his rearview mirror for the umpteenth time. He didn't see anything suspicious and didn't really expect to but he still couldn't keep from looking.
After parking in one of the downtown lots close to the department store, he walked around to the side door, smiling when he saw Pia standing there.
"You look very nice," he said in way of greeting as he joined her.
Pia laughed lightly. "Meaning I'm in something other than jeans?"
"Not a thing wrong with jeans, especially on you, and there I go again saying stupid things."
"Kerry, there's nothing wrong with complimenting a woman," she told him as she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow. "So where are we going for lunch?"
"There's a nice place a couple of blocks from here and at this hour we should be able to get a seat without waiting."
They did. The waiter arrived moments afterwards to take their drink orders, pointing out at Kerry's request which menu items to avoid since they didn't have all afternoon to sit and eat.
Once the waiter had left, Pia leaned back with a sigh. "This is nice, much nicer than my usual lunch spots."
"Fast food is you," Kerry said with a grin.
"Big time. I know the clerks at some of the places by their first names now and—" She frowned as she looked closely at Kerry's face. Though it was fading, she could see a bruise on his cheek. "Been in a fight?" she asked, hoping it hadn't been with her stalkers.
He shrugged. "A minor altercation with those two men from the bar, and before you get upset I had help from your bouncer friend. I just didn't want them trying to follow you."
"I hope they got the worst of the damage," she said, resisting the temptation to touch his cheek.
"Thanks to your friend, yes." He tapped a finger against his lips as he looked at her long and hard before saying, "You may walk out and never speak to me again."
Pia nodded, understanding what Kerry's words implied. "You want to know what's going on."
"Please. I don't think a man, or men, trying to pick up a woman would act the way they were. Not even if they had a bet on who would win. They haven't tried to approach you, but they did come after us when we left."
"Maybe they decided that since I was with you they should forget it?"
"That doesn't wash, Pia. If that were the case they'd have left immediately or set their sights on someone else." He thanked the waiter when the man brought their drinks but waved him off for the moment while keeping his eyes on Pia's face.
Taking a deep breath, she nodded, saying, "I don't know who they are or what's going on but I think you're right, they are interested in me." That was the truth, just not all of it.
"Then we're going to have to find out."
Pia shook her head vehemently. "No 'we' are not. I've got a friend—" She winced, realizing what she'd just done.
"So you already figured out something was going on and called for help. I don't know whether to be pissed or relieved. Relieved because you at least had sense enough to do that," he told her when she looked at him in question. "And definitely pissed because you tried to make me think it was nothing."
"I'm sorry, Kerry. I didn't think—I mean we hardly know each other if you think about it. Getting you in the middle of who knows what didn't seem fair. It still doesn't actually."
"I am in the middle now, Pia. They've seen me with you and I tried to keep them from following you. I know what they look like, probably even better than you do unless you haven't been truthful with me about that either."
"I saw them in the mirror at the bar," she stated firmly.
Too firmly in Kerry's opinion but he let it go for the moment. "Then you probably need a decent description of them to give to your friend."
"It would help," she said quietly, not meeting his eyes as he told her what he remembered. When he was finished, she thanked him. "That's more than I could give him."
"Anything to assist a damsel in distress." A smile touched his lips but didn't reach his eyes.
The waiter returned at that moment and they both ordered sandwiches to take with them when Kerry pointed out that Pia's lunch break was almost over. As they waited, he asked with concern, "Are you quite certain these men only know you go to the bar? You haven't seen them anywhere else?"
"I'm very certain," she replied after the barest of pauses.
He nodded. "Now look at me, not past me, and tell me that."
"Are you saying I'm not telling you the truth?" she growled, trying for offended.
"Pia, I'm an actor; I study people as a part of that so that I can learn how they react in any given situation if possible. As a result, well let's just say I think you've been telling the truth, just not all of it, and definitely not in answer to my last question. It's your business how much you trust me, or don't as far as that goes, but I do want to help if you'll let me. If something is going on that you can't talk about just say so up front. I perfectly willing to accept that and still be your friend and occasional escort when necessary."
Pia took a deep breath and looked him square in the eyes. "I don't know who the men are; I don't know why they're interested in me. I have my suspicions but I can't tell you what they are. That has nothing to do with not trusting you; it's just the way it has to be. I would love to have you as a friend if you really are willing to accept that some things need to remain—secret."
"I can do that." He smiled, reaching out to take her hand and give it a squeeze. "I always wanted to be the unwitting accomplice of a super spy who's deep under cover."
Pia snickered. "That's me, Mata Hari going after the secret code book that will end the war."
"Or hunting for the traitor who caused the death of your lover. Those men are his minions and plan on dragging you into his clutches so he can have his wicked way with you before sending you to your death as well."
"But I'll kill him before that happens to avenge the man I loved," she said with a wide grin.
They were both laughing hard enough that the waiter couldn't help but chuckle as he brought them their boxed sandwiches. Kerry paid and tipped him well before standing. When Pia was ready, they headed back to the department store, but not before Kerry took a good look around to make certain no one seemed overly interested in her, or him.