See disclaimer chapter 1
A huge coffee mug sat on the desk, steam rising from it. The monitor gave off an unearthly glow. Stan sat in front of it yet again, surfing through the Bureau's network, trying to somehow trace their hacker. But so far, everything he had tried, hadn't worked. The blip of an incoming email message caught his attention. He didn't recognize the address, but opened it. Sure enough, it was from his prey.
[So Stanley, have you figured it out yet? Do you know who I am? Shall I give you a hint? No, I don't think I should just yet. I think you should wait it out for a bit. Just like I had to. Oops! I think I gave you a hint anyway! J]
"Screw you!" Stan shouted at the screen. His frustration grew. This guy was toying with him, and it drove him crazy on so many levels. He wanted to be with Abby more than anything, but he couldn't until he knew it was safe. He wanted to find out who this guy was just so he would stop thinking about it constantly. He wanted to be able to sleep at night, knowing that Holly was safe and their life was normal. Being hunted and threatened by some cyber geek was definitely not normal.
For hours he sat at the computer, devising ways to smoke his tormentor out. Just as he was about to take a quick break for lunch, a new email message popped up.
[You took my life from me, and now I am going to take your life from you.]
Stan stared at the screen, then picked up the phone and started dialing, but a knock interrupted him. Going to the door, he opened it to a man in a suit and a woman with a stunned look on her face. "Abby! What are you doing here?"
She smiled, in spite of the weird situation. "I was just about to ask you that." Stan stood aside and let the pair enter. "Stan, this is David Tailorson, FBI," Abby introduced the two men. "He was told to bring me here."
Stan frowned at the agent, but before he could ask, another knock was heard. Stan once again opened the door, this time to find JT Roberts on his front porch. "Hey, Roberts. Maybe you can explain what is going on here?"
"Hi, Abby," Roberts greeted her. "I suppose you have some questions."
Stan broke in. "Damn it, Roberts! I have some questions! Why is Abby here? I thought you were supposed to be taking care of her!" Abby's eyes flew to meet Stan's.
"What are you talking about, Stan?" she asked, incredulously.
"Let's all go sit down and talk about this, shall we?" Roberts led the small group into the kitchen. After everyone had a cup of coffee in front of them, he started. "Abby, David was assigned to watch over you after your bookstore was broken into." He glanced at the younger agent. "Unfortunately, he did not do a very good job of keeping out of sight." David tried to explain, but JT stopped him with a gesture.
Abby looked confused. "I don't understand. Why would the FBI keep an eye on me? It was just a break-in, some vandalism." She looked at Roberts, waiting for him to explain a little more.
He did. "I offered to do it and Stan agreed that it should be done."
Abby turned to Stanley. "Why? Stan, what's going on?" She didn't want to admit it, but the whole thing was starting to scare her.
Stan glanced at Roberts, who nodded. "Abby, let's go somewhere private." He stood, offered her his hand. She stared at it for a long moment, silently debating, but then took his hand and followed him. Stan ushered her into his room and memories of the last time they had been together there flooded back for both of them. Stan sat next to her on the bed and just gazed at her, tracing every feature with his eyes.
Abby placed her hand on his cheek and a tear fell from her eye. "I've missed you," she whispered. "I needed you so much, Stan. Why did you push me away?"
His eyes slid shut, as if to hide from the pain on her face, in her voice. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I thought it would be best. I didn't want you to get hurt. I was willing to never see you again if it meant that you would be safe."
"Please explain this to me, Stan," she pleaded.
He took a deep breath. Taking her hand from his cheek, he held it to his chest, absently caressing it. "The break-in at the shop is tied into what I am working on." He paused, gathering his thoughts. Abby waited expectantly. "Maybe I should start at the beginning." She nodded.
"Back a while ago, I was the best hacker in the U.S." He smiled at her surprised look. "Unfortunately, I did some things that I thought were right but the government frowned on it, so I went to jail for a while. A couple of years ago, I ended up working for some very bad people. When I didn't want to do what they wanted me to, they killed Holly's mother and used my little girl to get to me. I swore after that that I would never let anyone that I love be hurt again."
Abby interjected, "But I don't understand what that has to do with this, with us."
"Roberts was the arresting agent that sent me to prison. He also was on the scene when I was mixed up with this bad group. Now he asks me to work for him every once in a while, like a consultant. Remember when he had dinner with us?" Abby nodded. "He was here to get me to do a job. Someone has been hacking into their computers and he wants me to catch whoever it is. The twist is this person is interested in me. He knows me. I'm pretty sure he was the person responsible for the mess in your shop. That's what the note was about. He knows you are important to me and is trying to scare me by threatening you. That's why I requested that the FBI tail you. I wanted to know you were safe. It's also why I told you to stay away from me. I wanted whoever this is to think that you and I were not friends any more. I was hoping he'd leave you alone."
Stan sat, still holding her hand, waiting for Abby's reaction. Her silence made him nervous. "Darling, would you say something?"
"I wish you had told me." The sadness in her voice cut into his heart.
"I know," he started to explain more but she cut him off.
Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. "Do you know how much it hurt when you hung up on me after telling me to stay away from you? Do you know how hard I cried? I was going through such a horrible time and I needed you!"
"I know," he whispered. "I did what I thought was best." He raised her chin up so her eyes met his. "It was the wrong thing to do. I see that now. I will never, ever push you away again, Abigail. I need you too. I love you."
"I love you, Stanley." Her confession prompted him to pull her into his arms for a gentle lingering kiss that slowly deepened. After they broke apart, gasping for breath, Abby asked, "So, what now? What are you doing? Can I help?"
"I will tell you everything, but not now. Holly is at Stephanie's again for the evening," he smiled a very wicked smile, "and I am going to get rid of the two feds in the kitchen."
"And then what?" Abby prompted.
He kissed her thoroughly. "And then you and I have some things to catch up on. Wait right here." He practically ran from the room after planting another kiss on her lips. Abby could hear him shooing Roberts and Tailorson out. What explanation he gave, she didn't think she wanted to know. Soon he was sauntering back through the doorway. He slowly closed the door and locked it. At her questioning look, he said, "I'm not taking any chances of being interrupted."