Divide & conquer, p.22
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       Divide & Conquer, p.22
 

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 22

 

  Zane blinked and straightened. “What?”

  “Can I borrow your goddamn motorcycle to go to the office?” Ty asked, resigned.

  Zanes jaw dropped. “Youre not seriously going to take the Valkyrie. ”

  “I could hotwire one of the cars in that parking deck, but they dont take kindly to that sort of thing round here,” Ty drawled. “All these months, all the times Ive asked you to ride with me, and youre finally getting on the Valkyrie when I can’t see it?” “Hey, lifes a bitch,” Ty told him without a hint of sympathy. He reached out and petted Zane on the top of the head. “You want more?” “More what?”

  “Breakfast. ”

  “No, thank you,” Zane muttered, knowing he had another piece of toast and some bacon still to eat. “A drink, though, please. ” Ty slid a glass toward him, already poured. “If you dont mind, Im going to go now so I can catch them unawares and take down the weakest of the herd before they can regroup,” he said with a certain sadistic relish. “I need the helmet, jacket, and keys. ”

  Zane sighed. He felt more than a little cheated. “The helmets on the bike. The jackets wherever it fell last night. ” Ty didnt answer as he moved past. In short order Zane could hear the creak of the leather as he put on the jacket and zipped it up. Zane wished like hell that he could see Ty on the bike. Talk about fuel for jacking off.

  He could smell the leather as Ty came closer, hear it moving as he checked the pockets. No doubt it would fit; the jacket had been Tys originally. Ty stood right in front of him and leaned in to kiss him briefly. “If youre good Ill do this again when you can see,” he promised, mischief lacing his words. “Keys?”

  Zane blinked. “Really?” He smiled despite the current disappointment. “How good do I have to be?”

  “Very,” Ty whispered, just a breath away. “You can start by giving me the keys. ” Zane let a few heartbeats pass as awareness tore through him, then swallowed as he set both palms on the leather covering Tys chest. “In the dish on the bookshelf by the door. ”

  “Thank you,” Ty murmured with another teasing kiss. Then he moved away again, his footfalls barely there in his Converse sneakers and the leather jacket still creaking. The keys tinkled as he picked them up. “Ill call you when Im done,” Ty said to him as he passed on his way to the back door. “Keep your phone on you in case you need anything. Two hours, tops,” he guessed as the door opened.

  “Ill be here,” Zane said wryly, and then added, “Hey, Ty?” “Yeah?” Ty responded as the door groaned open. A vision flashed in Zanes mind, what Ty must look like, standing in the open doorway, wearing his beat-up jeans and Western-style shirt and Zanes leather jacket, looking back over his shoulder at Zane expectantly. He probably had one eyebrow raised.

  “Be careful. I want that chance to see this again,” Zane replied easily.

  “Yeah, yeah, love you too,” Ty groused flippantly, shocking Zane into silence as the door clicked behind him, and he was gone. Zane blinked hard several times, realized his mouth was hanging open, and let out a long, slow breath, sitting there until he heard the Valkyrie start, idle for a minute or two, and then purr away. When he couldnt hear it anymore, he ate the toast and cold bacon automatically, absorbed in thinking about—feeling about—what Ty had said so casually, and how he himself hadnt found a way to say it at all.

  He was so absorbed in his thoughts that when someone knocked on the front door, he jerked in surprise and sent the dishes sliding, the plate knocking into the glass and crashing to the floor, sending the orange juice splattering across the bar—and him.

  “Aw hell,” Zane swore, standing up and stepping back carefully. His hands and arms were wet and sticky with juice, and he could feel it soaking through his T-shirt and cutoff sweatpants. He turned his head toward the door at the next knock, and then he thought he heard his name. After sparing a thought for the cruel humor of fate, Zane stripped off his T-shirt, using it to mop off his hands and arms as he walked tentatively to the door and cracked it open, immediately shivering in the February wind.

  “Zane? Its Ryan. From Chiapparellis?” Zane blinked in surprise and opened the door a little more, though he kept himself behind it. All of a sudden he was very aware of how undressed he was, and it wasnt just because of the cold morning breeze. “Ryan?”

  “Hi, I know its early, but I got to the restaurant to start prep work, and Leticia and I got to talking, and, well, because you dont cook—or dont cook a lot, anyway—we made you a care package. Since youre stuck at home and probably arent up to dealing with hot pots and pans and knives. ”

  It took Zane a few seconds to parse all that. “A care package?” “Yeah. Italian cold cuts, some fresh bread already sliced, a crock of minestrone, easy stuff. Oh, and cheesecake, of course. ”

  Zane huffed a laugh, truly surprised. “Wow, uh, well. Thats great. Thanks. ”

  He heard Ryan laugh quietly. “Youre blushing. ”

  “Must be the cold,” Zane said quickly, dragging the sticky T-shirt over his chest and hiding bare-chested behind the door. “You could let me in and shut the door,” Ryan suggested, the repressed laughter all too clear in his voice. “That might help with the cold. ”

  Zane squeezed his eyes shut and said a quick prayer. He really, truly, honestly had never given Ryan Morelli a single thought other than that he was a nice guy. Now Zane hoped he was right. “Ah, right, yeah, sorry. ” He cleared his throat and stepped back, opening the door. Ryan thumped up the steps and walked past him, and Zane shut the door firmly before turning around to face blindly into the apartment.

  “I grabbed the mail off the steps too. Ill just put this stuff away… ah, I see. Well, that explains it. ”

  “Explains what?” Zane asked. “Why youre blushing. Theres breakfast everywhere. Give me a sec and Ill get it cleaned up. ” Zane tried to object, but Ryan talked right over him. “Its no problem. Actually, here—”

  Zane heard a rustle of fabric, then the sink switching on and off. He straightened as he heard Ryan approach. Then Ryans fingers touched the top of his hand, and Zane flinched in surprise. The touch disappeared, and Zane was again conscious of being half-dressed, his T-shirt crumpled in his hand. When Ryan spoke, he wasnt even an arms length away.

  “Sorry, didnt mean to startle you. Here, you can clean off,” he said, and he draped a damp dishtowel over Zanes wrist.

  “Thanks,” Zane murmured. “No problem, Zane, really. ” Footsteps moved back toward the kitchen, and Zane followed as he tried to wipe juice and pulp off his arms.

  “So, wheres your partner?”

  Zane paused in surprise. “What?”

  “Your partner? Ty, wasnt it?”

  “Oh, yeah, Ty,” Zane said with a nod. “Hes at work. ”

  “Leaving you all on your own?” Ryans tone conveyed a slight disapproval.

  Zane frowned. “No, hes just checking in. Wont be gone long. ” “It was nice to meet him. You two must have different shifts since hes never in the restaurant with you. And now youre hurt and he still has to work. You must miss him. ”

  Zane blinked several times as what the man was saying filtered in. “Ah, no, we work together, actually. Hes my partner at the Bureau. ”

  “Really?” Zane could hear the surprise in Ryans voice. “Huh. I didnt get that at all. You said „partner, and I just assumed…. ” Zane tipped his head to one side, turning his face to where he thought Ryan stood. “Assumed what?” he asked carefully. “Sorry. ” Now Ryan sounded embarrassed. “You make a handsome couple. ” Zane was at a loss. Ryan had seen him and Ty at one dinner and had come to that conclusion? Then he laughed in more than slight amazement, and the words came out easy as could be. “No, youre right. We are… together. Not just at work. „Partner just makes me think work first. ”

  “Well, good-looking man like that, Id say you should think „together first and „work second. ”

  Zane could hear the smile in Ryans words. “Th
ats good advice,” he agreed.

  “I know. Okay. All the cleanups done, foods in the fridge. Is there anything else I can do to help?” Zane shook his head, still a little thrown. Hed have to remember to tell Ty about this. Maybe hed drop his crusade against Chiapparellis. “Thank you for helping with the mess. ”

  “No problem. When you need more food, just call, and somebody will bring another package over or Ty can pick it up. ” Ryan moved past him, toward the front door.

  “Hopefully it wont last that long,” Zane said as the door opened. “Well keep our fingers crossed. Oh, I put the mail on the end of the island there. Take care, Zane. ” The door shut before Zane got out another reply. Bemused, he slid onto a bar stool, then curiously reached out to pat the top of the bar. He occasionally got junk mail and circulars left on the steps out front or half-jammed under his door, and that was what the crumpled stack felt like. A couple of envelopes, one with no stamp, some single-sheet pieces of paper folded in halves or thirds, some large sheets of glossy paper with perforations. Zane set the stack back down to look at—to have Ty look at—later.

  Right now he needed a shower or hed smell like Floridas Natural the rest of the day.

  “WHAThave you got?” Ty asked as he walked into the conference room where Scott Alston sat working over stacks of paper.

  “Youre not on this one, Grady,” Alston answered seriously. “Go home. ” “I went home. ”

  “Yes, but then you came back. ”

  “Who won the pool?” Ty asked as he shrugged Zanes leather jacket off.

  “Lassiter. Dammit,” Alston muttered. “I had you for four hours. ” Ty snorted as he sat down across from the man to reach for the file he was working on. Alston pulled it away and taunted him with it, waving it just out of Tys reach.

  “Youre wearing each others clothes now?” Alston asked wryly. “Long story,” Ty muttered. He gestured for the folder. “No,” Alston told him firmly. “Boss orders, man. ”

  “What?” Ty demanded.

  “They saw you on that newscast, they blew up your car, they blew up your partner. You cannot be involved in the investigation. ” “Give me information or I start making a scene. ” “Like thats new,” Alston muttered as he held the file protectively to his chest and reached for a phone in the center of the conference table. He picked it up and pressed a button, then said in a deep, mockingly serious voice, “I need backup, Conference Room 4. ”

  It wasnt ten seconds later that Harry Lassiter and Fred Perrimore showed up at the door and looked in at Ty in amusement.

  “You need to go see McCoy,” Alston said neutrally.

  Ty pointed his finger at Alston and waved it threateningly. “Next time you get blown up, dont come whining to me. ” Alston smirked crookedly at him. “Game next week is at seven,” he reminded as Ty stalked out of the office. “Dont forget youll need a ride!”

  “Kiss my ass, Alston,” Ty shot back over his shoulder as he made his way to the Special Agent in Charges office. “You might as well come in, Grady. My trouble meter started dinging the minute you stepped in the building,” Dan McCoy said before Ty had even darkened his threshold. He sat behind his desk expectantly, smoothing his tie.

  Tys jaw tightened as he bit back the response that immediately came to mind. He breathed out slowly through his nose, then calmly asked, “How long am I being kept out of the loop on this case?”

  “As I said, were considering you a possible target,” McCoy said in his deep, gravelly voice, repeating what Alston had said. “You and Garrett were at both locations during the events. Now, I know it could just be coincidence,” he added, holding up a hand in a “wait” motion. “But until we know for sure, youre grounded. ”

  “Im not asking to be part of the investigation,” Ty pointed out as he stepped into the office. “I just want to know what weve found. Do we have suspects? Has forensics gone over the components? Was it even the same signature?”

  “No, in process, and yes,” McCoy rattled back. “Look, Grady. Theres not much I can tell you. Were pulling in every single person we can from both scenes to submit reports so we can try to rebuild what happened. But theres precious little to work with right now. And two more banks were hit on the same days, so our agents are worn thin. ”

  “Two more banks?” Ty asked, pulling up short. “Thats not weird at all. ”

  “Yes, thank you, Kojak, weve already connected the dots on that one. ”

  “If the bombs are being set solely as distractions so banks can be robbed, then why am I being considered a target?” Ty posed. “Because youre you—youre always a target. ”

  “That seems unreasonable,” Ty muttered disconsolately. “Look, youve got to be stretched to the limit on this. ” “We are. ”

  “All the more reason to let me do something. ”

  “The last time you worked a bomb, you ended up blowing something kind of important up. And the last bank robbery you worked, you didnt have any gray hair,” McCoy told him.

  Ty frowned and looked up as if he could see his own hair. “I have gray hair?”

  McCoy laughed at him. Ty growled in frustration and looked away. Either this was a friend being blunt, or it was his superior being evasive. Either way, he wasnt going to get any information. He sighed. “Fine,” he agreed grudgingly. Hed find another way to get some information. Instead he moved on to the other reason hed come in. “I need to find a rookie that was at the second scene. He drove me to the hospital, then ran off with Garretts keys. ”
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