Chapter Four – Apprehension

2020, Post-Pulse Seattle, Washington – Present Day

Asha returned home to a shaking penthouse. The walls were rattling and her head was aching from the shattering music emanating from within. Slipping the key in the lock she turned the knob and stepped inside.

Max was swaying her hips to the beat as the music reached a crescendo. Strains of Linkin Park‘s ‘One Step Closer’ pounded all around. Max seemed oblivious to her presence.

“Max!” Asha shouted above the blaring music. This is ridiculous! “Max!” She tried again. “Turn the damn music OFF!” Her taste in music is as bad as her taste in clothes. Ugh, I’m going to kill Logan for this. Asha was getting fed up. She strode over to the stereo and turned it off.

“What the fu…Oh, Asha. Hi.” Max smiled in greeting. “Sorry. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I noticed.” Asha replied tersely. “Look, I didn’t mean to interrupt your um, fun, but I have work to do and I’m going to need a little privacy.”

“No sweat. I’ve got some stuff to do anyway. Need anything while I’m out?”

“I’m good. See you later.” Asha tuned abruptly and made her way over to the bookshelf.

Max picked up her jacket and looked at the blonde quizzically. “You got some kind of problem with me? Cuz I know we didn’t get off on the right foot.”

Asha looked at Max. “Nothing that won’t sort itself in time.” Logan needs her. I’m going to try for his sake. Then she smiled. “It’s just going to take some getting used to. See ya.”

“Later.” Max said as she left the room.

Max returned to the apartment to see Logan sitting at his computer, apparently a common occurrence in the Cale household. He smiled up at her.

“So, how’d it go today?” he asked amiably.

“Not too bad. I turned in my resignation this morning. I also told Kendra I was moving out. She was a little pissed, but when she heard where I was moving to…let’s say she’s holding out for an invite.”

Max and Logan shared a smile. Both of them knew Kendra had been flirting shamelessly with him.

Logan laughed. “Invite her for supper tomorrow. Maybe seeing me with Asha will put her off a little.” He gave Max a pointed look. “Tonight I’d like us to talk.”

“Sure thing, boss.” Max grimaced just thinking about the topic of conversation. Manticore was not her favorite subject. Her past held many secrets, tremendous amounts of pain and left her sad and lonely. Feelings that a soldier kept hidden away. Max knew without a doubt that dredging up the memories would allow her feelings to resurface.

She decided to change the subject. “ Logan , there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What is it?” he asked, sensing her worry.

“It’s Asha.”

“What about her?” his curiosity was piqued now.

“I get the distinct impression that she doesn’t like me.”

So do I, He thought. “Whatever gave you that idea?”

“She’s always on edge when I’m in the room. She practically barks at me. She won’t talk openly in front of me…little things like that.” Max felt bad talking about Asha behind her back, but the blonde girl definitely made things awkward.

“I’ll admit, I’ve noticed too. Let me talk to her.” Max turned to leave the room. “Max,” he called to her. “Remember, we don’t really know you. It’s perfectly normal for her to be nervous around you. I took a chance, maybe it’s a gut instinct, but I feel I can trust you. Asha is her own person. She has to draw her own conclusions.”

“Yeah. I just hope one of these days she’ll see that your trust in me is well placed.” Wow This is so not me. I never let my guard down enough to care. Kendra was the first and only in years. Can I really do this?

Logan caught the emotions that crossed Max’s face. “Max, you ok?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. See you at dinner.”

Logan was thoughtful as he watched Max leave the room. She’s a tortured soul, full of secrets. I just wish she’d let me in.

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