VENICE, ITALY SUNDAY, JUNE 5TH 7:30 P.M.
The order to terminate was confirmed. Two targets. Aaron Monroe knew their names, had their descriptions memorized, and knew where they would be. It was a simple assignment — except for one complication. He gazed out the window of the water taxi at the blue-green water of Venice’s Grand Canal and wondered: What will happen if Sarah finds out?
His cover was as an analyst for the US Department of State. He was a “treaty expert.” That was all he could tell her. He couldn’t disclose that his life was dictated by coded messages, like the one on his cell phone received ten minutes earlier.
He sat next to Sarah and held her hand. “I’m sorry, honey,” he said. “I know this is a disappointment, but I really have to take care of some important business in Trieste tomorrow. I know it’s our last day here but it can’t be helped.”
“I know,” Sarah replied, her eyes downcast. “I’m not very happy about it, but I understand. Your job is important.”
She’s incredible. Not demanding and always willing to accommodate. Those were just a few of the many reasons Aaron loved her. He turned his gaze toward Sarah and when she saw this she responded with a smile.
Aaron felt the surge as the polished, red plank mahogany water taxi slowed. He held Sarah’s hand and they stood in the upholstered leather saloon area as the boat heaved in the swells. Aaron felt the boat rock as the pilot worked the engine throttles and slowly edged next to the fondamenta near the Ponte dell’Accademia.
They stepped forward into the boat’s cockpit area to disembark. It was low tide so Aaron timed his leap with the swells from the gunwales to the pavement alongside the canal. The taxi pilot carefully handed two large boxes and a shopping bag up to Aaron, who placed them on the concrete walkway next to him.
“Are you ready?” he asked Sarah.
“As I’ll ever be,” she replied.
The constant wake rocked the boat. “Hang on,” he told her.
“It’s a little slippery here. I’d hate to see you fall.” He grinned at her.
With a hint of her British accent, Sarah replied, “Don’t you even think about letting that happen!”
Aaron reached down and took hold of Sarah’s hand and she placed her right foot on the pavement. As the boat rocked away from her, Aaron pulled her from the gunwale and into his arms. They started laughing.
They had returned from a day-long shopping trip to the Venetian islands of Murano and Burano where Sarah had stopped at almost every one of the Venetian glass factories and fabric mills looking for the perfect, whatever. And Sarah knew what it was when she saw it, hence the boxes and shopping bags. Aaron, being the perfect companion, enthusiastically went with her every step of the way.
Aaron bent over and paid the taxi pilot two hundred euros for the ride. “Grazie,” he said as he tapped his forehead and gave the pilot a two- nger salute.
The pilot returned the salute as he throttled the engine and backed away.
Aaron turned toward Sarah. She stood next to her bounty for the day smiling with her hands folded in front of her. She stood five feet ten inches tall with brown hair in a shoulder length ponytail and wore a short yellow sundress with blue flower prints and brown leather gladiator sandals.
Several men passing by ogled her.
Aaron picked up the two boxes of Murano glassware, Sarah the shopping bag of fabric, and they turned to walk the fifty yards or so to the door of their rented apartment.
“I had fun today,” said Sarah.
“And I was delighted to be your pack mule for the day,” Aaron jested.
Sarah bumped him with her hip and said, “Oh cut it out, you big whiner. I know you had a great time, too.”
“Yeah, I did,” he replied.
Sarah unlocked the front door and they climbed the four levels to their top- floor apartment. They each fell into comfortable chairs and after a few minutes Aaron closed his eyes and dozed off .
A short time later, he awoke and showered, then stepped out of the slate-tiled shower, toweled dry, and put on a pair of running shorts. He saw Sarah in the large free-standing claw foot bathtub next to the open window across the room so he quietly slipped into a teak chair with a fat leather cushion next to the bathtub. He gazed over the side of the tub and admired Sarah’s toned shoulders and pert breasts surrounded by shimmering, blue bubbles.
A soothing, smooth jazz saxophone played softly from the wall speakers and Aaron reached over and turned down the volume as he noted the sensuous Prosecco Rose scented candles that lled the air. Sarah’s head leaned to the left against soft Milano bath towels and she wore a content smile as she drifted in and out of her slumber.
She opened her eyes, smiled broadly, and playfully asked, “What are you looking at?”
“The most beautiful woman on Earth,” Aaron answered. She giggled and said, “Okay. Now, what do you want?” “The same answer applies.”
Sarah chuckled as she stood. Drops of water rolled down the curves of her flawless, caramel-shaded body into the tub. “Mr. Monroe, you are a piece of work and I just happen to be in love with you.”
He handed Sarah one of the bath towels and she dried herself off as she stepped out of the tub. He held a violet-colored terrycloth robe with the arms outstretched and Sarah stepped into it, then turned to face him. He grabbed both ends of the robe sash and pulled her close. Her breasts felt warm against his bare chest and he kissed her for a full minute. They allowed their silent embrace to linger and she leaned her head on Aaron’s shoulder.
Aaron spoke softly in her ear, “Let’s sit on the patio for a while and enjoy our last evening in Venice. I opened a bottle of Brunello to let it breathe and it’s probably ready to drink.”
They stepped out to the patio that overlooked the Grand Canal and sat in cushioned chairs. Aaron poured two glasses of wine and they watched the sunset over the blue-gray dome of the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute while water taxis and gondolas slowly passed below them on the canal.
“This has been one of the best weeks of my life,” said Sarah as she adjusted her robe to be a little less revealing to the gondoliers below. “I wish we could stay a little longer.”
“We’ll come back some day.”
Sarah turned her head to gaze over the canal. Her cat-like green eyes squinted and Aaron thought she looked pensive.
She took a sip of her wine, then asked, “Aaron, do you really need to work tomorrow? Can’t your office send someone else to do” — she paused as she placed her glass on the table and leaned toward him — “whatever it is you do?”
Aaron leaned toward her, took her hand, and said, “Baby, please let’s not do this. It’s only one day. You can sleep in. I’ve made arrangements for our luggage. All you need to do is take a water taxi to the airport, and I’ve arranged that, too. I’ll take care of my business and meet you at the airport in the afternoon.”
Sarah’s eyelids slanted slightly upward and she held Aaron’s hand with both of hers. “Why can’t I come with you?”
“Sarah, please,” Aaron implored.
“Dammit, Aaron. I love you more than I can put into words but I can’t stand that you are so secretive about your work. It frightens me.”
Goddamn it! I want to spend the rest of my life with this woman but I can’t tell her what I do. Aaron’s jaw clenched.
“You’re getting mad now, Aaron. You’re getting that look on your face so I’ll drop the subject.”
They sat quietly, each sipping their wine. After a few minutes, Sarah stood, opened her robe, and let it drop to the oor. She moved over to Aaron and sat in his lap facing him. “I want you to know what you’ll be missing when you’re in Trieste tomorrow.”
He stood with her legs straddling his hips and carried her to the bedroom.
Excerpted from "The Monroe Decision" by Patrick Clark. Copyright © 2017 by Patrick Clark. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.