Three months later
The silence was deafening as Scarlett stood frozen, a million thoughts coursing through her mind so fast that she could not distinguishing any of them. Her brain was jumbled but she knew one thing was for certain and that was that she was ready to come back to work. She stared down the long, narrow hallway that led her to her destination but her feet stood rooted to the linoleum floor as agents upon agents stopped with what they were doing and openly stared. Scarlett knew that once she started walking down the hall she wouldn’t feel the stares and the soft whispers would be silenced.
Taking a deep breath, Scarlett finally took a step forward into the hallway, away from the room full of desks and people, away from the stares, sympathetic and glaring alike. Scarlett knew it was unusual to be back at work so soon. Having barely escaped a deadly bomb with bruises and a shattered shoulder and her whole team killed in action, some would say that Scarlet was the luckiest girl ever.
But she didn’t see it that way. She didn’t see that luck was on her side. All she saw were four dead bodies on her conscious. Her family.
She heard her heeled boots connect with the floor, echoing more and more, louder and louder as she got further into the almost abandoned hallway and closer to her destination, the chief’s office. She passed a few frazzled looking I.Ts, almost chuckling to herself as they scurried past her while shuffling through all the papers in their hands. As she got closer to her the Chief’s office, Scarlett recognized a young brunette with a hard and angry look in his brown eyes and a set jaw walk out of the Chief’s office and letting the door slam open against the wall. His name was Johnson, and next to her he was also one of the youngest in the agency. He was 26, tall and broad shouldered. When she was first recruited she was immediately drawn to him, but a 17 year old girl at the time had no chance with a 24 year old agent. Johnson walked by Scarlett, not even giving her a second glance. She knew something had happened between the Chief and him.
Scarlett knew the Chief was difficult, he was brutal, and he had no mercy but he always held a soft spot for her. The special treatment he gave her was one of the reasons why people in the agency hated her. Besides being one of the youngest and most skilled agents, she was also favored by the Chief and that immediately frowned upon amongst her colleagues. She didn’t care, though. Scarlett kept to herself and knew her place, which was much high up on the ladder than many of the agents older than her.
After knocking on the door, she heard a gruff, but soft voice granting her permission to come in. She entered, a small smile on her face and she walked up to the desk at the end of the room. There was always a sense of nostalgia as she walked into his office. She spent more time in here than in her own home, because even though she wasn’t recruited until the age of 17, she spent most of her teenage years studying here.
“Hello, Chief,” Scarlett smiled, setting her bag on the floor just as she sat down in an overtly large, leather chair, crossing her legs.
“Scarlett, my dear, now tell me, what on earth are you doing here?’’ The Chief had voiced a question but his tone was anything but surprised. As Scarlett looked at him, she couldn’t help but sigh as she gave him a once over. His full head of hair was graying and slowly receding, the crinkles by the corner of his gray eyes were getting deeper and more prominent every time Scarlett saw him. It was the stress of the job and how much it took a toll on his body.
Scarlett shrugged before answering, letting the answer marinate in her mind before replying. ‘‘I needed to come back to work.’’ It was a short reply, but one she hoped she didn’t need to elaborate on.
‘’It’s only been three months, your shoulder is not fully recovered. I’m sorry but I can’t let you go out on any assignments.’’
Scarlett knew Chief would say something like this. In fact, she believed it was too soon to come back knowing she was not fully healed, but she could not stay at home for any longer. It tortured her having to think back to three months ago.
“I’m not asking you to send me out to Budapest, but it’ll make me really happy.Give me something to do so I get off my ass because it’s…’ Scarlett felt her voice waver and she immediately looked away from Chief, hoping he didn’t catch on.
But he did. He always did because he was like a father to her, he knew her inside and out, when she was sick, sad, angry, scared all the while bottling it up. He knew her like no one else did.
The great thing about the Chief was that he never pushed Scarlett to talk about it, he just knew.
He was silent for a minute, causing Scarlett to fidget in her seat. With a sigh, he pressed his fingertips together before looking at her. “I can give you a fairly simple job to do.”
She sat up straighter than before, nodding her head slowly. She wasn’t expecting the Chief to give her a job but she was glad.
“Styles & Co. are hosting an event in a week and have hired us to be an extra set of security detail around the venue. You will be the main security detail to the Styles boy, as per request by Mr. Styles. He doesn’t want his son getting into trouble during the event.”
Scarlett frowned and slumped in her seat. She had to take care of a boy?
“You want me to babysit?” Scarlett was a bit shocked, if she was being honest. Never in her life has he given her an assignment that seemed so demeaning. Her dark hair that was placed at the top of her head in a tight bun was suddenly giving her a headache. She did not do this type of stuff. She did hardcore combat in the field and that was that. She was hailed a hero in some places, though she never acknowledges that fact, but now she’s been downgraded to babysitting services.
The Chief shook his head, letting out a long sigh. “The boy won’t know that you’re assigned to him, but Richard Styles will know who you are. It’s just a precaution he takes at every public gathering. You are to follow him and watch him and ultimately protect him with your life. It is the oath you took before joining this agency.”
Scarlett sighed as the Chief looked at her expectantly, because he was right. She groaned to herself before nodding her head. He looked pleased with himself, the side of his gray eyes crinkling with delight before straightening himself out and putting on a serious demeanor
“Your mission, Scarlett Nova, should you choose to accept it, is to use your set of skills and protect Harry Styles with your life. It is up to you alone to complete this mission. As always, should you be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions.”
She nodded, quirking her head to the side because she had never head a mission message in person. It was the same static, robotic voice and she always wondered how the Chief managed to change his voice to that from a warm, almost grandfather like voice.
“So, Harry Styles? ‘
He smiled and stood up causing Scarlett to stand up along with him. He stuck out his hand and shook her hand.
Sometimes, Scarlett felt blessed to have the job she currently had. Not a lot of people would become agents given the fact that any mission you go on, you might not come back, but Scarlett wouldn’t switch out for the world. One reason, and she swears this reason is not why she stays, though she loves it entirely, involves getting dressed up in a fancy dress that she would never be able to afford on her own and attending galas and charity events and balls all the while going undercover with a security detail. It’s only happened a hand full of times since she’s started working for the agency, though.
Tonight’s event, from what Scarlett gathered, was a charity gala hosted by a lustrous company known as Styles & Co, Scarlett, to her dismay, still had no idea what the whole company did and she’s only heard of it in passing. She knew Richard Styles, the CEO of Styles & Co, was one of the richest men in the world and his son, who she’s never heard of until last week was apparently a notorious playboy. But who was she to judge?
The gala was biggest event in New York and everyone wanted an invitation. Originating in London, this gala came to New York City every five years and only the richest and best looking people were invited. From doctors, to celebrities and socialites, to extremely wealthy businessmen, the guest list seemed like something out of a movie. Scarlett never understood the appeal of galas or extremely large events for charities. She appreciated the fact that it was a charity event, though, and that all the money raised was going to a good cause, but why host such an extravagant party? The money being put forth for the party could just go to charity as well, but she knew this gala was just to gain good PR. Merely a tool being used for the rich and famous’ benefit.
The agency arranged for a black car to pick her up at a nearby hotel from the gala. She was en route, sitting in the back seat of the car, smoothing down her dress. For Scarlett, it was the most precious and expensive floor length dress she’s ever worn, let alone seen. It was a Champagne color with thin straps and a deep neckline. The bodice was completely beaded by hand in an intricate design where it ended mid-thigh in a chevron-like pattern. The rest of the dress was flared out, mimicking that of a mermaid style dress, with a silk chiffon fabric.
It was absolutely breathtaking.
Along with the dress, the agency hired a team of makeup artists and hair stylists to finish her look. Her dark hair was down in lose waves just past her shoulders. Her makeup was kept to a minimum with a light gold eyeshadow on her lid, and a darker gray color in the outer corner while her eyes were lined with a dark kohl that made her light brown eyes pop.
Very few things were running through Scarlett’s mind. She was nervous but only because her last mission was three months ago and it ended in disaster. She knew her shoulder wasn’t fully healed but she didn’t let it stop her from coming back. It was painful having nothing to do, having the same images of that night in India running through her mind of all hours of the day. Going back to work would help her block those thoughts and nightmares.
The car pulled to a stop in front of the American Museum of Natural History, the venue for tonight’s gala. She gathered her thoughts and forced her heart to slow down to a normal heart rate. She grabbed her gold clutch that was laying on the seat next to her and held it tightly against her body and waited before the door opened for her. With the skills acquired through years of training, Scarlett slid out of the car with as much grace as a swan gently gliding on a lake. She smiled at her chauffeur for the evening and took his hand, steadying herself on her feet.
“Thank you.” The chauffeur, who she had learned earlier that his name was Charles, nodded and smiled at her before getting back into the car and driving away. She didn’t know if he would be back.
There was a red carpet leading up to the entrance with photographers being held behind rails on either side, as if it couldn’t get any more glamorous. Scarlett looked up at the building and gasped. In front of her was the most grandiose and gargantuan building she’s ever seen. It reminded her of a modern day castle with columns and a staircase and a grand entrance and for the backdrop, a breathtaking sunset with hues of purple and pink. She was so enamored with the place that for a second she almost forgot why she was here.
Taking a deep breath, Scarlett walked through the hordes of people dressed up in the most dazzling and expensive ball gowns and suits. She looked down at her dress and decided that this was much more her style. A small smile tugged at her lips as she heard photographers yelling left and right to pose for their picture. She swiftly and skillfully moved through the masses, even in her heels, before finally making it up the stairs and in front of the entrance, where she was immediately stopped.
“Name?” An enormously, large man put a hand out towards her and looked down at the clipboard.
“Abigail Rose,” she coolly said, a smirk forming on her lips as she flipped her back. She always loved going undercover. Her acting skills were ace.
The man nodded before waving her through and inside was even more extravagant and Scarlett’s eyes sparkled as she took everything in. From the high ceilings and marble floors, to the mounted statue of an Elephant.
But Scarlett had a mission and even though it wasn’t the most remarkable of jobs she was still going to pull it off.
Standing by the entrance to the rather large room the event was going to take place in, Agent Johnson stood, stiff and nonmoving, an earpiece in his ear. Scarlett saw his lips move before he looked at her directly, for only a moment. This would have made 17-year-old Scarlett weak in the knees, but this Scarlett merely nodded at him, no longer affected by his strange pull. The nod was a sign telling him that she was ready for the mission, and he nodded as well, making sure to do so as without dragging any attention to him.
She was ready and she walked into the grand hall. The room, if she could even call it a room, was bigger than any house she’s lived in. It was decorated with crystal chandeliers that sparkled whenever the light hit them, silk fabrics that felt almost like water running through fingertips and dazzling centerpieces that complicated the chandeliers. The place was enormous.
Scarlett looked around, realizing that it would be close to impossible to find Harry. The room was being flooded by people by the second and as she tried walking towards a clear section, bodies kept bumping into her. Even in her heels, Scarlett seemed to be the shortest person there, as everyone almost towered over her. She made it home free, just barely making it to the base of a set of a grand staircase when she ran into something hard.
The thing grunted, and turned around and Scarlett wondered why tonight of all nights her feet decided to be as ungraceful as a toddler learning to walk.
She locked on a pair of bright green eyes that shone under the luminescent lights, his chocolate brown curls looked as if he had just gotten out of bed, but it worked. Scarlett gulped, keeping her eyes trained on only his face, but she was so short compared to his tall built. His suit fit him to perfection but Scarlett would never admit that to him or herself. A smile tugged at his lips as he his eyes trailed further down her body.
“Well, hi.” His voice was deep and ultimately slow as he drawled out his vowels. His eyes finally made their way to Scarlett’s face where she glared. She clutched her bag by the sad, trying desperately to bite her tongue. She couldn’t say anything to him. At all.
With a huff, a roll of her eyes, she turned on her heel and blended with the crowd. She didn’t bother to turn around and stare at him just as he was watching her retreating figure get lost in the crowd with a lazy smirk and confused stare.
Once was hidden well amongst the people, she let out a sigh of relief, glad to be away from the infamous Harry. He could not know that she was his supposed body guard for the night. Why? She still had no idea, but that was the mission. Now that Scarlett knew she was out of Harry’s vision, she made sure to keep him in hers the whole time.
The night was a long one. Harry was constantly moving, talking animatedly, his hands usually placed behind his back or touching the person he was speaking to with a delicate hand, engaging in the conversation. He kept his attention on the person, absorbed with what they were saying and then he would proceed to either nod or shake his head. He seemed respected by everyone and respectable towards everyone. Scarlett could almost admire him, almost.
It was a different story with young women. Scarlett lost count with how many women almost jumped his bones. And he would take it all, basking in the attention, loving every moment of it. This was when he became hands on with the ‘guests’, touching their waist, stroking their arm up and down as they twirled a piece of hair around their fingers, batting their eyelashes. Harry’s smile went from being polite to almost sinister as he drank the women in, eyes lingering on anything but their face. She wanted to puke, but thought that it would be inappropriate so she settled with rolling her eyes as she took a sip of her drink, non-alcoholic since she was on the job. She made sure she was 5 feet away from him, and that was perfect because he never paid her any mind, too busy with the busty women at his feet.
It was getting late, Harry made his rounds, making sure to greet everyone, shake every hand possible and thank them for being there. Scarlett was confused as to why it wasn’t Mr. Styles doing the public appearance, especially after the “riveting” speech he gave earlier. It was also confusing to see two different sides of Harry. It didn’t matter, of course, and this gave the younger Styles all sorts of great press.
Her feet were starting to hurt and just when it seemed that things would end smoothly, just as Chief promised, it didn’t.
The party was still going strong and even though it neared midnight, it looked like nothing could stop it early, or so it seemed.
Scarlett saw him hidden within the massive crowd, his gun pointed straight at Harry. For normal people, their blood would run cold and they would freeze on the spot, never having been at the end of the barrel of a gun, but Scarlett was no normal person. It took her less than a second for her body to move and when she did, she sprinted like she’s never done so before.
Harry didn’t notice anything, he didn’t notice the man pull out his gun from the waistband of his slacks, he didn’t notice the man lift up the gun at eye level, he didn’t notice that it was pointed straight at his head. All he noticed was that of a petite body slamming into his long limbed body with an incredible force and knocking him onto the ground. Before he had the chance to scream his head off, the gun went off.
And then the screams started.
Scarlett jumped off of him and, without looking at Harry and checking to see if he was still breathing, pulled him up by lapels of his jacket and dragged him deeper into the crowd and as far away from the shooter as possible. She wasn’t thinking, only doing, her instincts taking over any sense that she had. She was used to this, but her heart was beating so erratically that it seemed as if this was her very first mission all over again.
It wasn’t expected, none of this was, but now she had to do her job and that was to protect Harry Styles with her life.
Scarlett pulled Harry until they were in the middle of the room, enclosed by all the hot, running bodies and that was when she was able to look at her surroundings. She lost the original shooter in the crowd but she could make out three hooded figures on the third floor. They were making their way down the stairs, and that’s when she noticed the M-4 Carbine’s in their hands. Scarlett would have groaned in annoyance before she remembered the clutch that was in her other hand. She let go of Harry, who had yet to say a word, before pulling out her 9 mm pistol, switching off the safety and cocking it back. Almost immediately, she raised up the gun and aimed for one of the hooded figures. She fired; the bullet, too fast for her to see, hit its target on the chest and went down. Everyone screamed as they heard her fire and at the corner of her eye, Scarlett saw Harry flinch, backing away from her.
Her eyes were ablaze when she turned to him, throwing her clutch on the ground. “Don’t you fucking go anywhere.”
Harry visibly gulped before nodding and Scarlett wasn’t so sure what made him stay because if she was in his position, she would be running for the nearest exit.
As she thought about running again, she lifted up her dress, taking out a hidden knife from a holster on her thigh and she cut off the end of her dress. It almost pained her, as she grew so attached to it in those few hours, but she forgot about it once she heard yelling from upstairs. She couldn’t make it out and the resumed to put the knife back into its holster.
Scarlett didn’t know where the rest of her team was and she didn’t know why these hooded figured men kept marching in through the second story but that didn’t matter. She had to get Harry out of this room and fast. There were a round of shots that went off around them and one by one people fell to the ground, limp. Blood splattered on them but she was immune to. Harry’s expensive suit was covered with more blood than he probably would have liked. Scarlett didn’t dare look around at the body count but she latched onto Harry and pulled him away from the chaos. Harry wiped his forehead, smearing the few drops of blood that landed there. At the corner of the room, she saw an ‘Exit’ sign and raced towards it. She felt Harry slightly resisting but one look towards him made something within him wake up and finally run alongside of her.
They were almost near their destination before a man slid towards them, blocking the exit, a gun in his hand pointed directly at Scarlett. She wasted no time though, before jumping in the air and roundhouse kicking the gun out of his hands. The man had no time to react before Scarlett grabbed his head and kneed him, hearing a crack on impact. That surely broke his nose. She pushed the man away as hard as she could and ran towards the door.
When she looked back though, Harry hadn’t moved an inch, staring at the unconscious man a few feet away from the door. She didn’t have time for this but deep down she knew how he must of felt.
Harry whipped his head towards her voice before sprinting out the door. Scarlett followed him, shutting the door behind her. They were in an alley way in the back of the museum. All that was heard were their heavy breathings and the screams and gun shots insides. Harry flinched away from the door, seemingly unable to handle the noises. The alley was dark, a single light flickering on and off. She couldn’t see his face clearly, but she knew that nothing she could say would make him feel better.
Hell, she didn’t know what she could say to herself at this moment. Her dress was tattered, covered with splatters of blood, and feet felt like they were blistering. Harry was probably worse, and it made her almost sigh. He looked at her, but the green eyes that once shone and twinkled in the hall were gone. Now, they were dull and lifeless, as if no one was occupying them.
“Let’s go,” Scarlett said once she felt the air turn nippy, her voice sympathetic. She turned on her heel, though, careful not to look at him and walked further into the alley way, knowing that it would come out into a small street. From there she would take that street all the way back to her hotel. Without any hesitation, Harry followed her into the eerie darkness of the alley surprising them both. Scarlett, because she didn’t expect him to be compliant, and Harry because he didn’t expect to listen. But he did. And now they were stuck together. Scarlett only hoped that it would be for a short while.