‘Sorry it’s not the best brand.’ Roman chuckled as Clarice made a face after taking a sip of the coffee he’d gotten from the station’s coffee machine.
‘Don't worry about it; I’ve tasted worse.’ Clarice grinned ruefully. It was hard for Roman to think of her as Clarice in the meantime; again he wished he knew the reason behind her amnesia. And like Bo, he couldn't help but notice; she really looked more beautiful than before.
Clarice looked at Roman carefully, thinking how good looks ran in the family; Roman was as handsome as his brother. And funny and witty; comfortable to be around with unlike Bo who set her heart fluttering anytime he was near.
‘You should try the coffee served at our family Pub; best one in Salem though The Java tries to prove otherwise.’
‘Your family owns a Pub?’
Roman nodded, inwardly wanting to scream in despair. When she was Carly she had helped with the renovation.
‘It used to be a Fish Market, then my parents decided to change it to what it is today. You should stop by and see it for yourself.’
Clarice nodded then frowned. ‘Is Victor Kiriakis your stepfather then?’
Roman shuddered at the very idea. ‘Lord, no. He’s Bo’s biological father that’s all. My father Shawn was the one who really raised Bo. We lost him a few years ago.’
‘I’m sorry.’ Clarice murmured sympathetically. ‘Bo must miss him as much as you do.’
‘Yeah they were very close.’ Roman thought of Shawn with a small wave of sadness.
Clarice put down her cup. ‘I don't mean to pry, but what’s going on with Bo and Hope? I got the feeling she’s angry with him about something.’
‘Oh that...’ Roman waved his hand dismissively, ‘just a misunderstanding; the usual stuff between married couples. They’re probably settling things as we speak.
‘And you? What’s your story?’
‘Divorced 16 years; five kids and four grandchildren.’ Seizing the opportunity, he leaned forward, watching her intently. ‘And your story, Clarice?’
‘I have no family; only my work. When I’m not chasing criminals and secrets around the world, I’m at my small lake house in Connecticut; fishing or tending to my garden. I have an apartment in New York but I try to get away from the city whenever I can.’
‘You’re so lucky!’ Roman sighed enviously. ‘I don't remember the last time I went fishing.’ Not wanting to digress from the subject, he probed further. ‘You said you were in the FBI, before that... with the NYPD. So... you grew up in New York?’
Before Clarice could reply, Bo appeared at the doorway, looking shaken. Roman guessed rightly that he and Hope have been at each other’s throats again.
‘Bo...’ Clarice got up, walking to him. ‘Are you alright?’
How could he be alright... when his wife persisted at being hostile to him. Bo felt like pounding his fist against the wall, break something.
‘Bo?’ Clarice took his arm. ‘What is it?’
Oh God, Carly... please don't touch me, he thought as he looked down at her beautiful eyes which were filled with genuine concern. Sixteen long years apart and she was affecting him in a way he wasn't at all comfortable with. He cared enough about her to want to help her get back her memory but it didn't mean he was interested in going back to their past. He was very much in love with Hope; he and Carly were the past.
With that in mind, he smiled faintly; gently removing his arm from her touch. ‘I’m fine. Hope and I just got in a little disagreement, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.’
‘Okay... if you say so.’ Clarice replied, although she didn't believe him. She didn't like the way he looked upset and she felt oddly protective of him. Why am I so aware of him? She wondered.
She glanced at her watch. ‘I have to report to Headquarters now. So, I’ll see you later at your mother’s house?’
‘Yeah, here’s the address.’ Roman wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to her. ‘Mum’s a great cook so I hope your meeting won’t take long.’
‘It will be nice to have a home cooked meal for once.’ Clarice agreed, laughing. Glancing at Bo, she said quietly. ‘See you both later.’
Bo nodded at her, his eyes following her as she left.
‘What happened?’ Roman asked.
Bo sank into a chair. ‘Hope feels I screwed up... by offering a reward instead of letting her pay the ransom. Now she wants to give the ransom to Dean.’
‘Dean’s isn't eligible for the reward.’
‘I told her that but she seems to be playing the tit for tat game; I didn't listen to her hence she won’t listen to me! And Justin, I’ve had it up to here with his meddling and I’m going to make sure he knows it the next time I see him.’ Bo said angrily.
Roman shook his head, exasperated by Justin as well. ‘I think you and Hope need to get away from town for a while. Take Ciara and go to Chicago and see Shawn D and Belle; go sailing. Hope will probably feel better then.’
‘Ciara’s case isn't over.’
‘Carly... I mean, Clarice and I will handle it. And speaking about Clarice... you need to be careful.’
Bo turned his head to look at his brother warily. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Bo, I’m not an idiot. I saw the way you looked at her in your office. Things between you and Hope are already rocky... you don't want to bring Clarice in the middle.’
‘Nothing’s going to happen between me and Clarice, Roman; it was a long time ago and a lot of things have changed since we broke up. I just want to help her, that’s all. I love Hope, always will.’
As he spoke , he tried not to think of Clarice’s emerald green eyes and how his body had reacted when she touched his arm. How wonderful it had felt to hear her voice again...
That may be true little bro, but you and that little girl had a deep connection back in the day; way deeper than whatever you had with Billie, thought Roman. Bo’s love for Carly had been deep, spiritual. Letting her go really devastated him.
‘Whatever. Have you talked to Shane?’
‘Yeah.’ Bo straightened up in his chair. ‘He’s going to get back to me as soon as he’s gathered what we need. Did you call Frankie?’
Roman shook his head. ‘He’s in Brazil on business. I left a message.’
‘Damn it!’ Bo snapped. ‘Well we’ll just have to...’
‘Bo.’ Victor entered. ‘I was just at your office looking for you.’
‘If you’re here to start with me about the ransom again...’ Bo began angrily.
‘I’m not here to talk about your bad judgment call, it’s about Carly. What’s that woman doing back in Salem?’
Bo rose from his seat. ‘How’s that any of your business?’
‘I’m making it my business.’ Victor said coldly. ‘Especially if she’s going to be a threat to your marriage.’
‘You don't know what you’re saying.’ Roman retorted. ‘And you have no right to assume Carly’s here to make trouble.’
‘Oh really?’ Victor scoffed. ‘Coming here and carrying out that performance for Ciara’s benefit, what am I supposed to think otherwise?’
‘Carly doesn't know us, she doesn't even know who she really is.’ Bo snapped. ‘She has amnesia and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it.’
Victor looked momentarily taken aback. ‘Amnesia?’
‘That’s right, sorry to disappoint you. Right now, she’s Clarice Parker and for the record, I don't want you anywhere near her, for any reason.’
‘What... you think I’ll harm her?’
‘Why not... you did all you could to hurt her years ago,’ Roman replied. ‘Since she can’t remember anyone of us or her own past, it will be more than convenient for you.’
‘You’re being ridiculous, I’m just watching out for my son’s welfare.’
‘Let me worry about my own welfare, Victor; thank you very much.’ Bo said coldly. ‘My marriage’s none of your business. And stay away from Clarice. I’m not about to let her get confused her by a damned inquisition from you.’
‘Does Hope know she’s your ex?’
‘No she doesn't, and Bo just told you this got nothing to do with you!’ Roman shouted. ‘She may be Bo’s ex, but her brother was adopted by this family which still makes her one of us and we’re willing to do all we can to help and protect her. You leave her alone or you’ll answer to us. And don't you dare tell Hope anything.’
Victor’s eyes glittered, furious at being spoken this way. ‘She just better not cause trouble within the family that’s all I’m saying; amnesia or not.’ With that, he stalked out.
‘Damn him!’ Bo spat savagely.
‘We’ve got to keep him away from her, Bo.’ Roman said. ‘And he can’t find out she’s ISA; not with his criminal ties.’
‘I know!’ Bo ran his hand over his head in aggravation. ‘But that might not be too difficult; ISA agents usually have cover identities so she’s safe unless Justin tells Victor.’
‘Justin’s got his faults but he won’t deliberately expose her like that and if he does I’ll kick his ass from here to Harmony.’ Roman vowed. ‘I wish Shane will hurry up with that info; I can’t stand this whole suspense!’
Clarice’s debriefing lasted for a few hours and was commended for a job well done afterwards. As soon as she left the ISA building- its cover name being Transworld Finance- she shopped for some new clothes and a hair trim before going back to The Salem Inn to change into something more casual for her lunch with the Bradys; a white silk blouse with elbow sleeves and black pants, sprayed on some Givenchy and brushed her hair. As she looked at the mirror, she thought of Bo Brady again and the connection she felt with him. Like he was someone who’s been missing from her life... her missing other half.
She put the brush down, shaking her head. Oh Clarice... Clarice... snap out it! How can you possibly feel a connection with a man you just met!
But there was no denying it; she was deeply attracted to him... whether she meant to be or not. She could avoid him by cancelling and say she couldn't make it to lunch but she didn't want to offend Mrs. Brady either. She could only rely on sheer stoicism especially since Hope was going to be there.
Caroline met her at the door; enveloping her in a warm hug. ‘I’m so glad you’re able to join us, welcome.’ She led her in, watching her closely; like Bo she wondered if the house would trigger a memory.
‘Thank you Mrs. Brady; you have a lovely home. Hey Ciara!’ She opened her arms as the little girl ran to her, scooping her up in her arms then flinched at the dull pain from the healing gunshot wound on her lower back.
‘Are you okay?’ Ciara asked anxiously as she was set down.
‘I’m fine, just a little pain on my back, nothing serious. Hello again, Hope... Bo.’
Hope nodded, while Bo smiled warmly at her in spite of himself. She looked so beautiful in the casual clothes she’d changed into. Luckily some of the family members were either too young to remember Carly or not born when they were together; Stephanie, Phillip, Will and Brady- who looked at Clarice oddly- when they were introduced, the few who did remember her: Sami, for instance, stared at her in amazement but did what her father instructed her to do.
To her relief, Caroline seated her next to Roman but she still had to cope with not meeting Bo’s eyes since he was seated opposite her. As they ate, Bo watched Clarice, unobserved as she chatted with Ciara who was seated on her left. Already she had a rapport with his daughter just like with Shawn D when he was a boy. He suddenly wondered about Nicky; if he was aware of his mother’s condition. And until Frankie returned from his trip, they were yet to know his own answer.
Clarice suddenly met his eyes. Brown and Green locked again for a few seconds. Blushing red, she turned away and resumed tucking into desert.
This is not going to easy at all, thought Bo.