Garrett rolled his eyes and sighed. "Yeah, he's a real peach."
Margarita nodded in understanding. "I was young. I made a mistake. My husband and I were having troubles. We had been trying to have a baby, and it just wasn't working out for us. We got into a fight right before I left for the Dominican. I was confused and angry, then suddenly this man comes in. This figurehead of the country who could have any woman he wanted, but he chose me. He flattered me, took me to dinner, and bought me lavish gifts. We had an affair. I flew home two weeks later feeling ashamed of what I'd done. I never told my husband, but four weeks later I found out I was pregnant. He knew it wasn't his. Aside from the fact that the dates corresponded to my time out of the country, he found out he was sterile while I was gone."
Garrett listened to Margarita's story quietly, processing everything she was telling him and trying not to judge her or jump to conclusions about why she was there telling him all this.
"He became enraged, understandably. The abuse started not long after that, verbal and physical. I didn't know what to do. I was so lost and alone I did the only thing I could think of. I called Emilio," she admitted, fidgeting in her seat nervously, her eyes never leaving the gun. "He felt awful for what I was going through, but he was in the middle of huge political campaign, and it wouldn't have looked right to bring a married, pregnant woman from America into his home. He gave me encouragement and strength and talked me through the worst of it. He promised he would send for me and the baby as soon as it was safe and begged me to stay strong for him. For years I put up with my husband's anger, just biding my time until I could be with Emilio again," she continued to explain, wiping her sweaty palms on the top of her thighs. "We talked regularly and he sent me money that I kept in a secret account to use on the day I finally got away from my husband. And then one day the call came. Emilio was finally rescuing me. I was leaving the anger and the abuse behind, and we were going to be a family. My son would be able to have a real father who wouldn't ignore him or push him around. He would have a man in his life he could respect and look up to."
Garrett's blood went cold at Margarita's mention of the word son.
"But that wasn't to be. Emilio explained I couldn't take him with me. He told me I needed to come alone, just until he could come up with a plausible story for why he suddenly had a wife and child. He promised me I would only be apart from our son for a very short time, a few weeks at most," Margarita explained as a tear rolled down her cheek. "I was immediately given a new identity and told that I could never speak English unless I was alone with him. He said it was the only way for the cover he'd crafted to work."
Garrett's mind filled with the things he knew from years past, along with information he'd uncovered recently. All of the pieces fell together in a neat, orderly fashion, leaving his hands shaking in fear.
"A few weeks turned into years, though, didn't it?" Garrett asked.
Margarita nodded her head, the tears falling faster now.
"After months of begging and pleading, he became angry. He had a plan for our son, one that didn't involve him being coddled by a woman. He wanted him to be raised in an environment that would teach him how to be strong. How to be a man he could one day be proud of and use for his gain. I found out about how he made his money that night. I also found out how imperative it was to never cross Emilio Fernandez. Myself along with twelve young girls were auctioned off to the highest bidders among several of his friends that evening. I spent twenty-four hours being used and degraded by the man who paid for me, fear and shame eating away at me, wondering what was happening to the girls who stood in the room with me earlier, being bet on like cattle at an auction."
Her voice quivered and she took a tremulous breath as she told Garrett about her horrific ordeal. He couldn't stand to hear the pain in her voice. He aimed his gun away from her and leaned forward resting his elbows on his thighs and gently patting one of her knees with his hand in comfort. "At least I was older, had experience so to speak. Some of those girls couldn't have been more than thirteen," she said with a sob. "When I was returned to Fernandez, he told me how I would continue the charade of being a dutiful wife, a woman that he rescued from poverty and devastation. I would stick by his side and support him like a loving wife should so the people of this country knew he was a man to be trusted. If I didn't do exactly as he instructed, I would continue to attend the 'auctions', and I would never see my son again."
Garrett held head in his hands. All this time, the information was right in front of them and they hadn't found it. The only thing keeping him from running out of the room to make sure Parker was safe was the fact that he knew Brady wouldn't let anything happen to her.
After several minutes of Garrett mentally kicking himself and listening to the sounds of stifled sobs fill the room, Garrett finally looked up.
"Just so we're on the same page, what was your name before you became Margarita Fernandez?" Garrett asked.
The woman across from him wiped the tears from her cheeks and tilted her head to the side as she looked at him.
"My name was Michelle Roberts."
Garrett closed his eyes and let his head drop down between his shoulders.
"Milo is my son."
The sound of dripping water and the dank, musty smell of the room she was in were the first things Parker noticed upon regaining consciousness. The next was the fact that she had no idea why the entire left side of her neck stung like a bitch, and lastly and probably more importantly, she was sitting on a stool with her back against what felt like a wooden post with her arms chained together above her head.
Parker blinked rapidly to clear the blurriness from her vision and took in her surroundings in an attempt to piece together how she had managed to get herself into this mess.
She was in a basement of some sort. It was about eight-hundred square feet with standard cement walls. The wetness in the air seeped into her bones and the boxes of clutter all around the room made her feel claustrophobic. A door in the corner of the room caught Parker's eye, but it was closed and she had no idea if it led to another room or a way out.
She looked above her head, wincing as a fresh wave of pain shot behind her eyes and squeezed her head like it was in a vice. She squinted through the blinding pain that felt like the worst hangover ever and slowly looked above her head again. She was handcuffed with standard issue police hardware and then chained to a metal hook imbedded in the wooden support beam. Parker gave the chain a good pull and was rewarded with absolutely nothing. There was no give to the metal hook and no way her hands were going to slip out of the cuffs. They were almost tight enough to cut off circulation. And Parker knew that sitting there too long with her arms above her head would speed that process along
. Her fingers were already starting to tingle with numbness and the muscles in her arms were burning from being in the awkward position for so long. She closed her eyes and let her head drop back down slowly, careful not to agitate the headache that was causing pinpricks of pain behind her eyes.
Parker took inventory of everything she could remember. She and Garrett had just come back to the resort after leaving her father at the hospital. Milo had been waiting for them. Milo was alive.
Milo was alive, Parker remembered with aching clarity.
Parker's heart rate picked up at the memory of rounding the corner and seeing him standing there by the front door. Milo told them he was a double agent. She remembered that part. She remembered how angry she'd been and how she'd punched him in the nose. Garrett had been pissed and walked away from her. Tears pooled in her eyes when she remembered the look on his face when he told her she was on her own.
He had been upset with her, thinking she was choosing Milo over him. She could see it written all over his face. He left and she didn't even get a chance to explain anything. Garrett jumped to conclusions, just like always. He told her he trusted her, but that wasn't really true. She'd learned a lot about herself these past few weeks. She knew given the chance to go back in time, she would have done everything differently. She would have chosen Garrett from the beginning and made the decision to be happy no matter what the cost to her heart.
Telling Milo she would give him a chance to help make things right had nothing to do with choosing him over Garrett and everything to do with putting an end to Fernandez, no matter the cost. She just wanted this to be over. She had just wanted to go back home and start her life and her future with the man she loved.
Garrett must have thought she was a complete idiot. He had honestly believed she would jump head first into something like this and take everything Milo said as the truth. If Garrett knew her at all, he would have known she was just placating Milo, telling him what he wanted to hear so she would have time to find out if he was really telling the truth. If Garrett would have stuck by her side and supported her, she would have told him all of this. He would have seen the text she sent while Milo was busy explaining things and understood what she was trying to do.
Now she was stuck in a basement with no recollection of how she got there.
She remembered Garrett walking away. She remembered Milo trying to comfort her and pushing him away… Everything after that was fuzzy and made her head hurt worse than it already did.
Pushing away from the wooden beam with her foot, Parker managed to angle her body to the side and slide off of the stool. Doing so caused something attached to her ankle to slip down a little further towards her foot. She held her breath and calmed her racing heart when she realized whoever brought her down here had failed to search her for weapons. Her back-up .357 snubnosed revolver was still resting comfortably in her ankle holster. Before she could get to her gun though, she needed to get unchained.
She clasped the metal hook holding her to the beam with both hands and twisted around and under one arm, shocked to realize the hook turned with her. When she was facing the beam, she looked up at the hook and noticed that it was screwed into the wood. It would take some effort, but if she continued twisting, she might be able to free herself enough to reach her gun. Her hands would still be cuffed together, but she'd fired it under worse conditions.
On Parker's fourth twist and turn, she heard the pounding of footsteps descending stairs close by. She hooked her foot around the bottom rung of the stool and pulled it back to her, sitting down on top of it just as the door in the corner of the room opened.
"Ahhhh, Senorita, I see you are finally awake."
Fernandez smiled at her as he made his way across the room to stand directly in front of her.
"Why am I not surprised to see you here?" Parker asked sarcastically.
"My dear, you seem to have attracted quite a bit of trouble since you set foot in my country," he told her, ignoring her statement. "Almost getting yourself blown to pieces, watching your father shot right in front of you, and now this. Such a pity."
Fernandez shook his head in disappointment while Parker calculated how many more turns would pull the hook from the beam so she could reach down for her revolver and shoot him between the eyes.
"Well then, since you're the one who's caused all of this trouble for me, it's a good thing I'm going to end your pathetic, miserable life, you pompous asshole," Parker seethed.
Fernandez stood up straighter and stared her down, all previous signs of mirth wiped from his face.
"You have a mouth on you, Miss Parker. A lady shouldn't behave the way you do," he replied.
"It's a good thing for me I'm not a lady," Parker said with a smile as she kicked her foot out in front of her, slamming it right between Fernandez's legs.
As he dropped to his knees with a whimper and his hands clasped to the family jewels, Parker jumped down from the stool and kicked it across the room. She twisted around and around, as fast as she could, pulling against the cuffs and ignoring the slices she was making against her wrists and the blood that started trickling down her arms. In just a few seconds she felt the give from the hook and with one more twist, she stumbled backwards as it popped out of the wood.
She whipped around, all set to kick Fernandez again just for good measure when she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.
"Seriously, Park, you've got to stop beating people up," Milo told her with a laugh, his face full of surprise and mirth.
Her head protested in pain when she looked him in the eyes and all of her memories came flooding back in a rush of clarity.
Milo in denial that she didn't want to be with him.
Milo pacing back and forth in agitation when she told him she'd never loved him.
Milo's hand, clenching a hypodermic needle rushing towards her neck.
"You lying piece of shit," she said through gritted teeth.
She had a feeling the things he told them earlier were all fabrications, but she hadn't been absolutely positive until now.
A few of Fernandez's guards had entered the room with Milo and helped Fernandez get up from the floor.
"Now, now, my dear, let's not cast stones," Fernandez said as he brushed off the front of his pants calmly and moved to stand next to Milo. "After all, someone in the CIA has most likely done her own share of lying, has she not?"
The two guards moved behind Parker. One of them grabbed her elbow and wrenched it back so tightly she couldn't move while the other pointed his gun towards her kneecaps, just in case she had any more bright ideas of putting her foot between someone else's legs.
"The difference is that my lying was to protect the people I loved, not to deceive an entire country and hurt innocent girls."