Divide & conquer, p.2
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       Divide & Conquer, p.2
 

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 2

 

  “We need to go back to the showers. Hot water,” Zane said when he shuddered, and not in a good way. “Riot team will clear those assholes out before we leave. And you know whoever pulled that fire alarm is in deep shit. ”

  Ty shook his head. His fingers dragged against Zanes skin as he removed his arm from Zanes shoulders. “Work, work, work,” he murmured, shaking his head.

  “Im s-serious,” Zane said as the cold really started to set in. “Im too cold. ” His fingers were almost numb as he tried to grasp the bottom of his wet T-shirt to pull it over his head.

  “Ill warm you up later,” Ty promised. It was a nice thought, but not helpful right now. Ty had somehow mastered the shivering and teeth chattering already. Hed once told Zane that the best way to stop the shivering was to consciously relax your body, et voilà, no more shaking. But Zane had never gotten it to work.

  Zane turned and led the way back to their lockers, managed to get his wet clothes off, and rubbed himself down roughly with his towel, trying to ward off the bone-aching chill.

  The alarm abruptly cut off, but the ringing in Zanes ears still covered any sound Ty might have been making behind him. Then three fingers touched the nape of Zanes neck and dragged down his spine, between his shoulder blades, to the small of his back and across a hip as Ty moved past him. “Eight-hour workday to go, Lone Star. Suck it up,” Ty said as he popped open his own locker.

  This time the shiver skittering across Zanes skin had nothing to do with a chill and everything to do with finding the patience to get through the day while looking forward to that night.

  T HEblinking light on his phone drew Zanes attention away from the report he was trying to parse. He always muted his phone when he was in the office, especially at times like today when the whole team—like school kids at desks in a little pod shaped like the Pentagon—was stuck slogging through their casework.

  He was sitting with Michelle Clancy, Scott Alston, Fred

  Perrimore, and Harry Lassiter, the other members of their extended Bureau assignment team. Still, it could be a call from one of the other departments, a contact, or another agent. So Zane slid the cell out from under a pile of folders and thumbed off the key lock as he looked at the screen. It was a text message. Frowning a little, Zane hit the key to open the message.

  Whats proper workplace etiquette for picking up computer and tossing out window? Open window first or break glass? Zane blinked and read the text again. Then he focused on the number and realized whod sent the message. He sighed and set his phone down, going back to his report. It wasnt a message that needed an answer. His partner wasnt more than ten feet away, sitting at his desk, staring at his computer screen and repeatedly tapping the same error key on his keyboard. If Ty wanted a response from Zane, he could just open his mouth and speak. When Zane glanced at him, he saw Ty sit back in his chair and cock his head at the computer. Hed stopped typing, and he looked listless and frustrated.

  Tys computer never worked the way it was supposed to. The team joked that he had electromagnetic pulses going through him, because no matter what he touched, the machine nearly always messed up. The computer, the printer, the fax machine, sometimes even the automatic faucets in the bathrooms. They never worked correctly for him. He also hated paperwork with unusual passion, so it made it doubly funny.

  Zane looked down at the files spread across the desk in front of him. He could sit and do detail-crunching all day; it appealed to his analytical brain. Ty, however, made no apologies for being bored by paperwork. He was definitely a man of action. Zane usually tried to at least send him out on errands, but today there wasnt even that to throw in front of him. With one last glance at Ty, Zane went back to reconciling suspected criminal bank account transfer data connected to a series of kidnappings.

  Several minutes later, the light on his phone blinked again. Zane stopped typing as he looked at the phone and then across the desks at Ty. He didnt appear to have moved, and his phone was nowhere in sight. He wasnt looking at Zane, and there was no ghost of a smile on his lips like there would have been if hed been up to something. Zane had seen that smile too many times to miss even a hint of it. He picked up his phone and saw the second text message. Same phone number. Hed never gotten around to programming Tys name into the contact list.

  He debated not even looking at the text; he wasnt sure he wanted to encourage Ty to distract him from work. Then, after a moment, Zane shook himself. There was no reason to be so seriously uptight about this. He activated the phone to read the message.

  The last 3 calls on my phone are for backup and pizza and sex. In that order. Cant decide what that says about me. Zane almost forgot to repress his smile. The night before Ty had called him to say hed ordered pizza and that Zane should pick it up on his way over. They had intended to watch some football in front of Tys big-screen TV, but pointless playoff games not featuring any of Tys favored teams werent enough to hold Tys attention for long. After the pizza was gone, theyd wound up in front of the TV all right, doing something entirely different than watching it.

  Zane sniffed. He very purposefully did not shift in his chair as he set his phone down without answering or looking up at his partner. Maybe hed pick up dinner tonight too. His phone almost immediately lit up again. Zane hadnt even picked his pen back up. This time he glanced around the desks at their team members—none of them were paying him or Ty a bit of attention—before he poked at the phone to read the message.

  You realize I have free texting plan right? Obviously, ignoring Ty wasnt going to work. But Zane pushed away the phone, determined to do his level best. Simply because the struggle would amuse Ty, if he were being honest with himself. And keeping Ty amused was good for the rest of humanity.

  The phone lit up again, and when Zanes eyes cut to look at Ty, his partner was leaning back in his chair, feet blatantly propped on his desk as he held his phone in his hands.

  Zane kept typing with one hand as he unobtrusively shifted his phone across the papers strewn in front of him so he could hit the button and read the message without drawing attention to it.

  Pop quiz partner. How many letters in the government alphabet? Biting his tongue, Zane tried to decide what the answer to that would be. It was fifty-fifty that it was a joke. He figured Ty was trying to break him now, to get him to react, maybe even to laugh. As he checked his peripheral vision, he could see Ty watching him, his head lowered just enough to make him look slightly predatory. Zane knew that look too well. Most people who didnt know Ty were intimidated by the glint in his hazel eyes and the slightly malicious curve to his full lips. But Zane had come to learn that Ty only wore that look when he was enjoying himself. And it made his clean-shaven, heart-shaped face that much more handsome, which irked Zane to no end. Irked and aroused.

  Just to egg him on, Zane ignored the message, went back to working on the reconciliation, and tried to build up the resolve it would take not to react to Tys next attempt to break his cool.

  The phone lit up again, and this time Ty had returned his attention to his computer when Zane surreptitiously glanced at him. Zane wondered how the hell Ty typed so fast on the itty-bitty phone keypad. He would have liked to have seen it, if it wouldnt have spoiled their game.

  He made them both wait five minutes through a discussion of assets with Alston before he hit the key to open the latest text message. Answer: 19. ET went home on a UFO and the FBI went after him. Zane blinked several times at the screen as he kept a straight face, though by all rights, that one did deserve a laugh. Whod have known hed be tapping into years of undercover experience to hide that he was playing text games in the office? He tapped his pen thoughtfully on the ledger as he stared at it blankly. He was certainly distracted now. He suspected Ty knew it. But theyd both continue to enjoy it if Zane tried not to admit it. He wouldnt have dreamed of goofing off like this at work a year ago. Hell, six months ago. But Ty Grady had done his damnedest to yank the
stick out of Zanes ass….

  The little message icon in the corner of his phones display began to blink, indicating he had yet another message. He hadnt even seen Ty move. Was it possible to schedule these texts ahead of time? That would take quite a bit of forethought, but it was just the kind of plot Ty would favor. Zane shifted around his stack of folders, took a drink of coffee, and checked the message.

  You know you want to laugh.

  Score one for Zane Garrett. He looked up slowly, face composed, raising one eyebrow. Ty was watching him. He winked when Zane met his eyes, but he wasnt fully smiling yet. He still wore that infuriating smirk. Instead of answering in any way, Zane sniffed and turned to his computer. That reaction would surely get another out of his partner. Besides, Zane was intrigued now to see what Ty would come up with that would be enough to get Zane to laugh despite his practiced control.

  He didnt have to wait long for Tys next attempt. His phone lit up, and Zane was able to catch a glimpse of Ty reaching out to set his own phone on the desk. Zane deliberately waited a couple of minutes before turning in his chair to change out files and check the message.

  Did you hear about the guy downstairs who lost his left arm and left leg in a wreck? Hes all right now. Zane stared at the little screen really hard for a long moment before he was able to shake his head ever so slightly and turn away from the phone.

  He slowly looked around at the rest of the team, wondering how none of them had caught on. Did they really pay so little attention? Or was it that they werent at all surprised to see Ty texting someone, and they just didnt connect him with his partner? Zane knew Ty received about half a dozen text messages from various people on a normal day, but Ty rarely checked them or responded when he was working.

  Zane deliberately shoved some files into his outbox and did not look in Tys direction. He turned his attention to a conversation between Clancy and Perrimore about calling a judge for a search warrant, but he was hyperaware of his partner.

  He heard Tys chair squeak as he moved. Tys chair always squeaked because he was so damn hard on the thing, always moving around and fidgeting. His chair stayed broken and noisy, just like his computer.

  Zanes phone lit up again, and he keyed it with his right hand while answering a question from Clancy. When she turned away, he finally glanced down at the phone. What do you call a monkey in a mine field? A baboom.

  He had to admit: that one was funny. This time Zane had to close his eyes to keep his reaction under control. When he opened them, he deliberately turned his chin to look right at Ty in an open challenge.

  Tys feet were still propped up, and he was leaning one arm against his desk, fingers strategically covering his mouth as he shook silently. He was watching Zane, and his hand couldnt cover the smile lines around his sparking eyes or the slight dimples that formed when he laughed.

  Damn, Ty Grady was a fine-looking man. Even more so when he was relaxed and smiling. Zane didnt feel the urge to laugh anymore. Instead, he found his thoughts slightly more erotic, thinking about the man sitting several feet away and just exactly how fine-looking he was, both in and out of that suit. Zane pulled himself toward his desk in the rolling chair, just to get his lap under cover. Then he offered Ty an angelic smile.

  Ty shook his head and bit his lip to stop his silent laughter, though the dimples were still there as he grinned. Zane stared after him for a few moments, thinking about just how amazing it was when Ty smiled or laughed and his eyes lit up and the hard shell melted away from him.

  Ty waved his hand at Zane in apparent surrender as he turned his chair to face his own desk again, still shaking his head and laughing. Zane doubted that was the end of it and expected another text message within a few minutes, but Special Agent Scott Alston chose that moment to stand up.

  “Time to meet with McCoy,” he said to Ty and Perrimore. “Have a good time, guys,” Clancy teased as she sipped at her melting smoothie. Ty stood with a decent amount of grumbling and fanfare, making a show of gathering his files and his suit coat and getting his gun out of its drawer to slide it into his holster. Zane tidied a file, set it aside, and opened another as he watched Ty discreetly. “Say hello for me,” he said smugly. He knew that the only thing worse than paperwork, in Tys opinion, was a multi-departmental meeting where he was expected to sit still.

  “Dont break anything playing solitaire,” Ty shot back as the three of them headed toward the elevators.

  Zane let the smile pull at his lips as he tapped his fingers on his phone and watched Ty walk away. T Y HAD his eyes closed and massaged the bridge of his nose as he leaned his elbow on the arm of his chair, slumping slightly. He was listening. Quite attentively, to his everlasting chagrin. But he could listen with his eyes closed.

  He was pretty sure he, Alston, and Perrimore had all been summoned to this meeting by mistake anyway. So far theyd been over the escalating violence in the city, in particular a nasty case of arson in which a second explosion had been rigged with the express purpose of injuring or killing firefighters. Everyone was up in arms about it, including Ty. There would be a memorial for the slain heroes next week.

  But while escalating violence could possibly be in Tys job description, arson certainly wasnt. Next they hit on a bank robbery that had “professional job” written all over it. Theyd caught a break publicity-wise with that one, since it had happened on the same day as the arson tragedy and hadnt received much press yet. Whats-His-Name from Financial Crimes was told to look for similar robberies in neighboring states over the weekend. Something that organized had probably been run before somewhere and would surely be run again. Soon.

  Weekend assignments. Awesome.

  And bank robberies werent Tys job either. Then the agenda moved on to the negative image the FBI was being painted with of late and several avenues the PR people had come up with to nip it in the bud.

  None of which had much of anything to do with Ty, so he still wasnt exactly sure why he was supposed to be here at all. “So,” Special Agent in Charge Dan McCoy was saying, “were going to give them what they want so theyll get off our backs for a while. And Grady, the next time you and your partner want to blow something up, at least pretend youre sorry afterward, got it?”
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