Crash & burn, p.1
Crash & Burn, p.1Part #9 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
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Hillsborough, NJ 08844
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Crash & Burn (Cut & Run, #9)
Copyright © 2015 by Abigail Roux
Cover art: L.C. Chase, lcchase.com/design.htm
Editors: Rachel Haimowitz, Chris Muldoon
Layout: L.C. Chase, lcchase.com/design.htm
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It’s been five years since Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett first worked together to solve the Tri-State murders, and time has been both harsh and kind. Engaged now, they face the challenge of planning a deeply uncertain future together. Zane is at the pinnacle of his career with one last mystery to solve, while Ty is at sea in a world where he’s no longer the tip of a spear.
There’s just one more hurdle in the way of their happy ever after: a traitor from their inner circle who threatens to burn their world to the ground.
Squeezed between the Vega cartel, an unknown mole, and too many alphabet agencies to count, Ty and Zane must gather all their strength and resources to beat the longest odds they’ve ever faced. To make it out alive, they’ll need help from every friend they’ve got. Even the friends who might betray their trust.
To every reader who walked through fire with Ty and Zane.
To every life that’s been changed.
To every word between us, from beginning to end.
Thank you for making this possible.
About Crash & Burn
Also by Abigail Roux
About the Author
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Zane Garrett sat in his cushy chair in the Baltimore field office, staring at the frosted glass on his door. It read Special Agent in Charge, and it was the title he’d been working toward since he’d entered the academy. Aside from a post in Washington, it was the pinnacle of any agent’s ambitions. In charge of one of the fifty-six FBI field offices.
Five years ago, Zane would have been doing a Snoopy dance behind his closed door the moment he’d taken possession.
Now, though, Zane hated—no—Zane despised sitting behind this desk all day.
He tossed his feet up and clunked his heels on the corner, leaning back in his chair. Fuck this desk.
Zane glanced at his watch. It was a gift from Ty, a surprise from last Christmas. Underneath, the engraving read simply “Yours.” Classic Grady: succinct, romantic, and not at all incriminating. It made Zane smile whenever he checked the time.
He still had ten minutes to his nebulous lunch hour, so he pulled out his phone and dialed Ty.
“Grady,” Ty said after just two rings. Even though he’d resigned from the Bureau a year ago, he still answered his phone as if he expected someone to be calling him to go kill something.
“Hey, doll,” Zane drawled. “How’s your day going?”
“Pretty good, actually. What’s up?”
“I had a thought.”
“God help us,” Ty said under his breath.
“Do you think Burns was the endgame?”
On his first day in the new office, Zane had swept it for bugs. He’d only found one, which rather surprised him. He’d already known it was there, hidden beneath the desk; Richard Burns himself had shown it to Zane and Ty before he’d died. Zane had destroyed it: an opening gambit in a game of chess where pawns were people and kings lived or died on how soon they realized they were playing.
Ty was silent for a few heartbeats. “What?”
“I sweep this office every fucking day, waiting for another bug. Nada.” Zane rocked in his chair and rolled his head from side to side. “Nothing on our phones, either. Do you think it’s possible we were being watched because of our connection to Burns? That he was the target, and I’m just spinning my wheels here when I could be in bed with you all day?”
“Well. Are we still going with your chess metaphor?”
“I like my chess metaphor.”
Ty laughed, and the sound warmed Zane to an unhealthy degree. “Okay. Isn’t chess all about patience and strategy?”
Zane groaned and rubbed at his temple.
“You’re going insane, aren’t you?” Ty asked fondly.
“I feel like this must be what your brain does all the time. Squirrels juggling knives in there.”
Ty snorted. “I think, on the larger scale, it’s our move. You know? We’ve been quiet since Scotland. You’re stuck behind a desk, I’m playing Mister Fix-It. What’s there to spy on?”
“But how would they know that if they’re not spying on us?”
Ty made a clucking sound. “Maybe they are.”
When Zane hung up a few minutes later, having secured a dinner date with his fiancé, he was still frowning. Maybe they are.
Ty’s words haunted him for the rest of the day. Maybe they are. But how? He scanned the office one last time with his device, but registered nothing. He waited until most of his agents were gone for the day, until the floor was clear, and he walked through every cubicle, methodically checking every nook and cranny. He even checked the bathrooms.
Well, at least he knew the entire fucking building was clear of listening devices now.
Finding their mole was Zane’s final mission, and it was eating him alive. The mole who’d been spying on them for God knew how long. The mole whose connections and motivations were still mysteries to them. The mole who’d damn near gotten them killed in New Orleans.
The mole who’d caused Richard Burns to be murdered.
He stood waiting for the elevators, muttering to himself as he checked the batteries in the damn detector. “You’re obsessing, Garrett. You’ve been s
He shoved the batteries back into the thing and tucked it into his leather satchel as the elevator dinged. He glanced up, eyes wide as he realized what he’d just said.
Why the hell would anyone bug Zane at work if half of his or her interest was in Ty? It had been effective when they were partnered; they’d been together all the time. But now? Ty wasn’t here. Ty was at home.
Home. The row house.
Ty paced through the living room of the row house, listening to Zane’s voice mail greeting for the fourth time in the last hour. Zane was hours late now. He was never this late.
“Oh, I’ll leave you a message, you son of a . . .” He left a one-word message at the beep this time: “Asshole!”
He tossed his phone at the couch as he prowled by. He hated being stuck like this. And Zane knew he hated it! Zane never did anything even remotely dangerous without calling Ty first, because he knew Ty would rain down hellfire on Baltimore looking for him if he went radio silent. The cartel was still out there, lurking. And Ty didn’t have Zane’s back now.
He stomped out to the back stoop and threw himself down on the top step. This step had seen him through many of his dark moods over the years, and now he sat out here a lot, staring at his Mustang, while Zane was at work. She was Nightmist Blue, a hauntingly beautiful and historically accurate deep hue, with two thick white racing stripes going up her center and a white interior to match. She was finally done, inside and out, and Ty had stuck with vintage parts right up until he got to the electronics, when he’d found pieces online made to look vintage but that were entirely modern. She could sync with an MP3 player, keep your ass warm in the winter, and start up with the press of a button from the comfort of your home.
She was so beautiful that Ty hadn’t had the heart to cover her up since he’d finished her, even though the weather this winter had been especially harsh and dark.
Ty was fairly certain that was more about his state of mind than the weather, though. And now it seemed that Zane was going to start disregarding their dinner plans and not bother to tell Ty when he’d be late coming home.
Ty shook his head. One pass, that was all that bastard would get before Ty threw a fit of epic proportions.
He could only sit here for a few minutes before concern and restlessness got to him again and he headed back inside, going for the cabinet under the kitchen sink where he kept his new stash of Cubans.
His sharp ears caught the scratch of keys at the door before he could reach his stash. He stomped to the front door, prepared to give Zane an earful. The door didn’t open, though. Ty heard the keys jangle and a soft curse from the other side. He threw the dead bolt and yanked the door open, and Zane stumbled inside as he tried to get his keys out of the lock.
“Where the fuck have you been?” Ty shouted.
Zane waved a hand at him, and the smell of alcohol wafted off him with the cold wind.
Ty gaped. “Are you . . . are you drunk?” he asked, voice going higher.
“If I am?” Zane challenged as he leaned against the open door.
Ty opened his mouth to respond but nothing came. He stood blinking at the man in his doorway like it wasn’t the man he’d been living with for almost three years.
“God, Ty, don’t be so fucking uptight,” Zane said with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. He discarded his wool overcoat and his suit jacket and kicked the door closed. Snowflakes wafted in with him, drifting to the wood floors as Zane tossed his satchel aside.
Ty couldn’t even decide if he was awake right now, much less what to say if this wasn’t some sort of hallucination. The last time Zane had fallen off the wagon, he’d tossed Ty through a table. The time before, he’d ignored Ty’s bid for assistance and left him alone to be hung over the side of a cruise ship by two Italian goons. Zane wasn’t exactly a good person when he drank, which was why he’d been working so fucking hard at sobriety.
Zane was digging in his pocket for something, and as he scrounged around for it, he took hold of Ty’s arm and pushed. Ty moved with him more out of shock than anything else, gritting his teeth as Zane shoved him against the wall.
“God, did you swim in it? What is that, tequila?” The smell was so strong he could have licked Zane and gotten buzzed. Anger began to boil deep in Ty’s gut. After everything that’d happened, after everything that could still happen, and Zane had just . . . decided to go out for a drink? The rage came out in a shout that echoed off the brick wall of the row house. “You don’t even like tequila! What the hell is wrong with you?”
Zane pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, then brought his finger to his lips in a shushing motion. Ty growled at him, but Zane raised the paper before Ty could rev up for a retort. Ty read the note with barely concealed contempt.
House is bugged. Play along.
Ty blinked at the paper, and then Zane kissed him. There wasn’t a hint of alcohol on his lips or tongue; the scent was coming off his shirt. Ty had taught him that trick. Zane shoved the note into Ty’s pocket, then grabbed his hip and pressed him hard against the wall to deepen the kiss.
The row house was bugged? Ty wasn’t quite sure how Zane pretending to be drunk would help with that, but he was willing to play along until he could get a better explanation. Mostly because Zane had him shoved against the wall and was kissing him like he had when they’d first met: sharp and messy, mean and desperate.
Ty returned the ferocity of the kiss, pushing back. It was rare that he could convince Zane to really manhandle him, but it was fun. Zane doing it without provocation was downright legendary.
Zane ground against him, rough gasps escaping as they kissed. It was as if he were trying to eat Ty alive, a sort of passion they’d kind of forgotten about over the years.
Zane started pawing at Ty’s shirt. “Fucking buttons.” The volume of his grumbling was exaggerated, but it worked to make him sound inebriated. He shoved his hand into Ty’s pants as he rubbed himself against Ty’s thigh.
“Hey,” Ty barked, and he swatted at Zane’s hands. He lowered his voice to a bare whisper, speaking against Zane’s cheek to further muffle his words. “Careful with the goods there, Hoss, you break it, you bought it.”
“I already bought it,” Zane whispered, smiling against Ty’s lips. “You got to fight back a little if this is going to work.”
Ty scowled. Zane went to work on his neck, licking and sucking, and Ty’s eyes drifted closed as a thrill ran through him. Zane wanted a fight that sounded bad enough for Ty to kick him out of the house without alerting anyone that they knew about the listening devices. And he apparently thought a nice violent round of sex would do.
Fair enough. If there was one thing Ty and Zane knew how to do, it was abuse each other for fun.
Ty gave Zane’s shoulder a shove and sneered at him. “Go sober up! I’m not dealing with you when you’re drunk.”
Zane nodded encouragingly, looking relieved that Ty had caught on. He mouthed the words, “I love you.” Then he shoved Ty’s shoulders back against the wall. “Hold still,” he ordered in a tone he so rarely used that for a moment Ty did exactly as he’d been told rather than putting up the fight he was supposed to.
This was some next-level role-play. Ty bit his lip against a grin. Fuck, this might turn out to be too fun. They could have accomplished the same thing by throwing shit at each other and shouting, but this at least gave them a chance to whisper to each other, to get a little bit of a plan together. And hell, when had they ever passed up a chance to maul each other?
Zane pushed at Ty’s pants, then grunted in frustration when he couldn’t get the fly undone. Ty had spent most of the day at the bookstore, tearing out its insides, and he was wearing a pair of work pants stiff enough to protect him from sharp edges and hot surfaces. They weren’t exactly made for being groped in. Hell, they were more suited to being burned alive in, as tough as they were.
Ty gave Zane a taunting grin. “What’s wrong
Zane retaliated by grabbing Ty’s work shirt and ripping it open. A button flew up and pegged Ty in the chin. He closed his eyes and snorted, then let out a muffled grunt when Zane’s lips met his. Zane bit him hard enough to sting.
“Ow! Jesus, Zane!”
“Get these off.” Zane tugged at the pants.
“Get them off yourself! You can’t handle a fucking zipper, you sure as hell can’t handle me.”
Zane gave him a pointed look and tugged at the zipper again. He leaned closer and whispered, “No seriously, I can’t get these off.”
Ty rolled his eyes. So much for a spontaneous mauling. He tugged at the zipper to his work pants, but they were stuck. He glanced up at Zane, his cheeks heating as he bit the inside of his lip, trying not to laugh. “Uhh.”
Zane didn’t waste more time on buttons. He pulled his dress shirt over his head, tossed it away, and slid one of his knives from its sheath at his wrist.
“Garrett.” Ty held up a hand, trying to press himself further into the wall. He didn’t have to fake the fear in his voice. “Don’t you fucking dare! Not the knife!”
“Hold still,” Zane ordered again with a hint of sadistic glee.
Ty squeezed his eyes closed and turned his head away. If he was going to lose a chunk of himself in a sex-related accident, he definitely didn’t want to watch. Zane sliced his waistband cleanly, though, the cold edge of the knife against Ty’s hip sending a shiver up his spine.
Zane shoved Ty’s pants down his hips, his fingertips gliding reverently against Ty’s skin. The knife blade was still down there somewhere, but Ty forgot all about it when he met Zane’s eyes. They were nearly black, not their usual warm shade of brown, and filled with real heat. It made Ty’s breath hitch.
His eyes flicked to the knife still in Zane’s hand. “You think you need that?”
Zane hummed and pressed his bare chest to Ty’s. He rubbed his nose against Ty’s jaw, then ran it up to Ty’s cheekbone, his lips grazing skin. Ty’s eyes drifted closed when Zane kissed his cheek.
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux / Romance & Love / History & Fiction / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes