"Good morning sunshine." Eyal smiling at Sabina as she stirred in the back seat of his car.
"Where are we?" Rubbing her eyes and seeing the other two passengers still sleeping.
"Just outside of Washington. I going to drop off Detective Goldman first and then we'll be on our way to your home."
"Do they know I'm coming?" Sabina watching cars as they passed morning rush-hour traffic.
"I called them early this morning. They are waiting for you at the apartment - First time in who knows when the deli is closed." Eyal pulling onto another busy street and the Metro police station.
"Hey guys, what time is it?" Annie was the next to come alive.
"A little after seven. Give Ilan a punch, we are almost at his car." Eyal himself was tired but happy.
"Gee you could have been gentler." Ilan reacting to Annie's not so kind nudge.
"Yeah, I remember how much you liked you sleep." Eyal parking the car next to Ilan's unmarked police cruiser.
"So did you Eyal - so did you... Well Sabina your folks will be happy to see you." Ilan with a compassionate grin and a wink. "Being with family will be good. This will not be the last time you see me." Ilan stepping out of the car, "Shalom and may God be with you Sabina."
"Thank. Yes I know and I owe so much to the three of you." Sabina putting her hand over her mouth, trying to hold back tears as she watched Ilan gradually close the door. She couldn't find the words to express her feelings, so thankful to be going home. She had barely known Eyal Lavin, only the times he was in the deli - a friendly person that she would serve. He always left her a nice tip and she enjoyed listening to him speak with her parents in German.
"Please call me Annie, Ms. Walker makes me feel so old."
"Annie, thank for your kinds words not only to me but the other girls. Knowing our fate was sealed to a life of humiliation and horror we had nothing to hold on to but each other. At times we even talked that death would have been better but strange thing, we never gave up hope."
"That's what your little sister Hannah said." Annie giving Sabina a hug.
"We home ladies." Eyal found a parking spot near the front of the apartment building and standing on the sidewalk - Dalia, Saul and Hannah waiting.
Hugs, cheers and tears were the scene of joyous jubilation. Eyal and Annie stood back, taking pleasure in the family reunion. Saul came over to Eyal and Annie, thanking them for bring their daughter home. Wanting to pay Eyal and his refusal saying their love and happiness for having Sabina home was payment enough. Annie had a hard time holding back her tears of happiness as she held onto Eyal's arm.
On their way to Annie's parked car she had left the day before, she begins to understand some of Eyal's many layers. He could be brutal and yet caring within the same minute. She knew he could without a second thought could have killed the Russian guard that was raping the young girl but didn't because witnessing the murder of someone no matter how evil they may be is a hideous sight that would have haunted eight girls. They had already endured enough without seeing murder being committed. Eyal Lavin is a wise man concerning human nature; she was blessed to know him and wondering how many more yet undiscovered layers to his personality and moral fiber.
"Look, I got some business I have to attend to this afternoon but for tonight, let me take you out to dinner, take in a movie, go dancing or perhaps skinny dipping?" Eyal parking his car next to the red VW in Union Station lot.
"Skinny dipping?" Annie cocking her head with a laughing grin.
"I can dream. No seriously, let me try to woo a dear lady. I know the movies were not on our fantasy list but it's a start."
"I would love it Eyal. Yes, okay it's a date."
Eyal walking Annie to her car, kissing her on the forehead and turned to leave, Annie grabbing his arm and turning him around to face her. With one hand on his chest, she reached with the other to pull his face downward, kissing him with warmth and enthusiasm, a lover's kiss and Eyal responding, gently lifting her slighting off the ground.
"Pick you up at six-thirty, nothing fancy Neshema." With that he kissed her again and departed.
Annie had spent hours going through her closet, looking for the right outfit. 'Damn' she through, 'It's almost like have a first date back in high school.' Well is their first real date, an honest and goodness first date without a mission or mystery attached. Just her and Eyal and she wanted it to be perfect. He had said nothing fancy but what did he mean by that? Finally she found the dress in the back of her closet, one that she had purchased the previous summer but only wore it a few times. A Calvin Klein navy soft denim sleeveless dress with just a hint of stretch, scoop neckline and box pleats from the waist. Paired with a dark red belt and tasteful silver buckle, she chose red sandals with a slight wedge heel. It was the first of May and not knowing where they were going, she picked a navy short waist cardigan - just in case.
Six-thirty and he was right on time, dressed in navy slacks, light blue shirt with a tiny white pin-stripes, the long sleeves rolled two turns up with the top three buttons open from the collar. He cut such a handsome stature with his signature sideburns and closely trimmed stubble.
"Whoa what a knock out." Eyal giving Annie the once over from head to toe, "You are something to stare at Neshema, downright delightful on the eyes." Handing her a bouquet of spring flowers in a glass vase, "Bringing you flowers was on the list."
"They are beautiful Eyal, so cheerful. Can't remember the last time someone gave me flowers." Taking the flowers.
"It was me and three stolen daffodils."
Laughing at him, "Yeah at the hospital. Where are we going?"
"Not telling, don't want to spoil the element of surprise." Eyal holding his arm for Annie, "Be thankful I'm not blindfolding you."
Eyal parked his car in a lot near docks on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. "A dinner cruise along the Potomac this evening on the Evening Queen." Open the door for her.
It was a magical evening, a wonderful buffet dinner with excellent prime rib and wine. Entertainment of an electrifying floor show, after there was dancing to oldies but goodies. Eyal took Annie for a relaxing stroll on deck with a canopy of stars as their ceiling and the most magnificent view of Washington skyline.
Standing at the railing of the boat, watching the lights of the city, Eyal slipped his arm around her waist, and pulled her close to his side.
"Annie I'm sure you have been told many unpleasant things about me and most of them are possibly true. I know what my reputation is as a spy in the field. Not sure I know how I want to say this but I'm two different people. I want you to get to know the man who I have hidden for years, the real me. Please my dear sweet Neshema have an open mind about me and always remember what I say to you is the truth, I will never lie to you and I'm very good at obscuring the truth."
"I'm seeing past the charming lying spy and finding a gentle man with deep sensitive feelings about important things." She putting her hand on his stomach in a loving move, as if to say she understands. "Are we having a heart-to-heart talk?"
"I guess we are." Looking out at the water Eyal was taking a big step, one he had sworn he would never take again - falling in love."Annie we are starting on a long journey of romance which can be exhilarating and pleasurable but I want this to last, to grow into a bond of trust, love and enduring friendship that can stand the test of time."
"We have the trust."
"I wasn't sure Annie, not after the West Virginia episode. You don't how deeply it hurt me to watch you walk away. I thought for sure we were finished as friends." Eyal touching her face, tilting it to look at him. "Believe me I'll never do anything again for you to feel like you have to leave." He kissed her and she holding the back of his head accepted the deep and loving kiss. She in her mind she had made her commitment to him and now from this point forward, they were starting to grow in cherished love together.
Not much else was said, they didn't need any more conversation but just enjoy the night air, stars and the rushing sound of the paddle wheel boat cutting its way through the river. All too soon it was over and Eyal drove her home.
"That was a wonderful surprise Eyal, I loved the evening, the cruise and mostly the company." Annie holding Eyal's arm with both hands as they walked across her patio. Reaching the door she took her key and holding it in her hand, "Come for some wine. See if you approve my selection that I purchased today."
Taking the key from her hand and open the door, "Love to be your wine steward. I'm impressed, didn't think you were that much of a wine connoisseur."
"I'm learning thanks to you. Danielle and I went to a wine tasting event in California and I'm hooked. Been studying and there is a lot to learn."
Eyal gently opening the bottle of California wine, "American wine has taken its place in the world today, some very fine vineyards here." Pouring two glasses of wine and holding his glass in a toast, "To us and the future."
"To Us." Annie tipping her glass to the man she wanted a future with.
"To the future my dear Annie, how would you like to spend Christmas with me in London?"
"What about your family?" Annie responding without thinking.
Chuckling, "Did I ever tell you I'm Jewish? My family does Chanukah. Besides, I want you to have a memorable Christmas."
"I would love too and how could I forget you are Israeli, tall, dark and my lover." Annie leaning toward him, touching his face.
He taking her in his arms with a gentle kiss, "And you my sweet American pie, my partner and most magnificent lover." Kissing her again before releasing the embrace. "I'll be here in DC for a few days before I have to make a quick trip to London. I've booked your passage to France for our F1 weekend and will meet you at the airport." Eyal pulling from his pocket her reservation conformation. "You will be travelling as Tasha, no need for CIA to know where you are going. Joan has pretty much guessed we are a couple."
"Yeah I know and I don't care. CIA can not control my heart."
Eyal slowly moving closer to Annie, touching the side of her face with the back of his fingers and trailing down to her chin, "You are a very beautiful woman Neshema." Tilting her face to meet his, he kissed her lovingly. Both putting their glasses on the table, and embraced.
"We shall make it work for us." Annie holding the back of Eyal's neck and nibbling at this ear.
"Our future is now starting Annie." Picking her up in his strong arms and carrying his soul mate to the bedroom to start their journey of romance, adventure and adoring lasting love. As he dimed the lights. "Remember always you are Neshema Sheli."
Footnote: Ilan Goldman and the Metro Police are investigating the murders of Sergey (James Lewis Ledbetter) and his mother Lucy Ledbetter. The assumption is a Russian mob ordered hit as Sergey had a change of heart and was going to let the girls held at the warehouse go free. Death to those who double cross the Russian mob.
Thank you for reading my story and hope you enjoyed another mystery for Annie and Eyal to be involved with. I so delight in writing about these two characters and bring them together. Thank you again.