Divide & conquer, p.25
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       Divide & Conquer, p.25

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 25


  Zane turned in place as Ty moved past him, and he kept his hands behind him, gripping the edge of the bar. “I could hire a nurse to sit here and read to me,” he offered, hoping for a laugh.

  “Sponge baths are a no. Even I have my limits as to what Ill let you get away with,” Ty muttered irritably. He might or might not have been joking, but it was the second time hed alluded to the concept of jealousy on his part in the last week, and Zane felt a mild wave of surprise. Ty went on talking as if hed never touched the subject. “We could call in reinforcements. Maybe Deacon could come down for a few days, get your head on straight again. ”

  “I like Deuce, but I dont need a shrink for this. Anyone in their right mind would be scared out of it in this situation,” Zane pointed out, trying to keep his calm. Both of them yelling would end with either slamming doors or a furious fuck, neither of which would resolve the problem for any longer than an hour. He could feel Ty pacing around the small dining area that divided the lower level of the row house. The image of a caged tiger came to mind.

  “Then how about this, Zane? Either come up with a viable alternative or fucking stop telling me I need a break!” Ty growled at him dangerously as he moved into the living room. “How about I call Shannon back? She offered to come stay with you, and Elaina—” A sudden pounding on the front door interrupted him and made Zane jump.

  “Hold that thought,” Ty grumbled. Zane heard him draw a gun from somewhere and head for the door. I N A solitary moment of optimism, Ty allowed himself to hope it was one of the field agents working the case at the door, standing on the front stoop, having magically found Zanes keys, explaining it had all been a mistake and Zane was safe.

  He peered through the peephole and cursed emphatically when he saw who really stood out there. Four men, all with identical duffel bags in various stages of wear and tear, all peering down the street at the inconspicuous FBI sedan that civilians shouldnt have been able to spot parked a block away from Tys door.

  Marine Force Recon Team Sidewinder. All four of them. As soon as he laid eyes on them, he knew why they were there. “Shit, shit, shit,” Ty muttered as he flipped the deadbolt and pulled open the door. They all turned to look at him with smiles, but he stood in the doorway with his mouth open, ready to offer an apology. He must have looked more surprised than he thought, though, because Nick OFlaherty rolled his eyes and groaned.

  “You forgot,” he said accusingly.

  “Yes,” Ty admitted immediately. The other three men groaned as well and began a running commentary worthy of any peanut gallery. Ty looked to Nick and shrugged helplessly. Nick was nearly his height, with dark reddish-blond hair and every earmark of a sturdy Irishman from Boston. His eyes were bright green and usually filled with the same sort of mischief as Tys. He was a kindred spirit in every sense of the word. Theyd shared a seat on the bus to Parris Island and risen through the ranks together. Nick was, for all intents and purposes, Tys best and oldest friend.

  “Its been a hell of a week,” Ty tried to explain.

  “Who is it?” Zane asked curiously from behind him.

  Ty turned sideways to look back at him, giving the four men on the stoop a clear view of his partner. “Uh… guys, this is Zane Garrett, my partner,” he said as he tried to decide how best to handle the sudden overflow of guests, especially when four of them were going to be irritated as hell. He looked back at them. “Stop loitering in my front door and get your asses in here. ”

  They filed in obediently, and with six big men standing in the living room, the house was suddenly very small. As soon as Ty shut the door, he gestured at Zane again. “He lost his vision in an explosion a few days ago. Hes staying with me until he gets it back or we catch the guy. Zane, this is… my Recon team. ”

  “What remains of it, anyway. Team Sidewinder, at your service,” Nick provided with more than a hint of pride. Zane stayed in place at the foot of the stairs, hands in his pockets. “A surprise visit from the whole team?” His voice was a little flat, and Ty knew he had to be uncomfortable.

  “Not technically a surprise,” Nick answered before Ty could open his mouth. Ty cleared his throat. “I forgot,” he said again, for Zanes benefit and theirs. “Zane, this is Nick OFlaherty. Boston accent. Owen Johns, upstate New York. Kelly Abbott, Colorado. And Digger, deep Bayou. ” His name was actually Duruand Garrigou, but since none of them had ever been able to pronounce his name to his satisfaction, hed been Digger since hed joined the team.

  They each offered mumbled hellos in turn, looking at Ty oddly as they did so.

  After a short awkward silence, Zane spoke up. “So theres a planned something going on? The thing you forgot?” he prompted Ty. Ty held his breath, looking from Zane to the other four uncomfortably. They all looked at him expectantly. “Im sorry!” he finally blurted. “Its been a rough week, okay? They blew up my Bronco, then they blew up my partner, and I got a little distracted. ”

  Kelly and Digger looked at each other pointedly. “Revenge kick,” Kelly decided. “No doubt,” Digger agreed.

  Ty gave them both a disgusted grunt.

  “Hey, dont worry about it,” Nick offered easily. He looked over at Zane. “Wed planned to go out in the woods and play some paintball this weekend,” he explained for Zanes benefit. “We do it every few months. It was Gradys turn to host. ”

  “Sounds fun,” Zane said, a little more energy in his voice this time. He must have been listening to who was standing where, because he turned his head toward Ty. “You should go. ”

  “We just had this conversation, Garrett,” Ty said in frustration. “Im not leaving you alone until you can see or theyve caught the bomber. ”

  “This sounds pretty heavy,” Nick commented drily.

  “Welcome to my fucking life,” Ty snapped. Nick merely laughed at him. “We dont have to go anywhere. If we stick around Grady, we can probably shoot real guns eventually,” Kelly offered as he sat down on the couch behind him. He had been their Navy corpsman, the medical officer. Hed gone through the same training they had and then some. He was slim and wiry, with unremarkable brown hair and eyes a variable color between blue and gray. His manner was unassuming and affable, but he was the only member of their six-man team whod been undefeated in sparring matches. He was hell on wheels with or without a weapon.

  “I flew from fucking San Diego. Im shooting something,” Owen announced irritably. “I hear that,” Zane muttered. “Look. They changed the locks at my place. I can go there. I know my way around better there anyway. ” He was sounding sensible, in front of witnesses, and Ty wanted to throttle him for it. “You can visit with them and come check on me in the evenings if you want. ” Zane gave him a ghost of a smile. “Ill have dinner delivered. ”

  “Were you two the targets?” Nick asked.

  “No,” Ty answered curtly, still glaring at Zane.

  “Maybe,” Zane corrected.

  “Its possible,” Ty granted reluctantly. “Look, I cant leave town right now. A bombers targeting municipal and federal law enforcement and rescue crews, banks are being robbed all over the place, the citys going nuts—”

  “Well, arent you Mr. Doom and Gloom,” Digger observed with a smirk. He was a good-looking man, his skin so dark that theyd never had to paint him with grease oil on a mission to hide him in the dark. His accent was deep Louisiana, which meant half the time he wasnt coherent and the other half he was bitching at them for not answering his questions.

  “Anything we can do to help?” Nick offered as the others settled onto the couch together. They reminded Ty of the no-evil monkeys, lined up in a row. He frowned at them suspiciously.

  “ Please take him out of the house for at least a few hours and make him burn off some energy,” Zane said immediately. “I can hear him bouncing. Go down to Fells Point or something nearby. ”

  “Youll be bouncing down the stairs, traitor,” Ty snapped. “Okay, then!” Nick said with a la
ugh. He stepped up and put his arm over Tys shoulders as if to restrain him. “Well pass on paintball and just bum around the city for a few days. In case you need us,” he said to Ty. The others nodded and murmured in agreement.

  “Usually end up with paintball welts on my nads anyway,” Owen grumbled as he examined his fingernails with a frown.

  “Thats cause you always bend over and try to kiss your ass goodbye,” Kelly told him sensibly. Ty rolled his eyes. Nick spoke over them, ignoring the running commentary from the couch. “Garrett, why dont you come with us to dinner? We wouldnt mind getting to know Tys partner, especially since hes gone this long without trading you in or hitting you. ”

  Zane smiled for the first time since the guys had come in. “Well, youre half right. ” He shrugged. “Im game. We havent eaten yet. ” “Great!” Nick said as he looked at Ty triumphantly. “Weve never met one of Tys partners. We were starting to think they were just a myth. ”

  THE Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille attracted a busy crowd in the evenings. It was a popular hangout in Fells Point, located along the cobblestone roads that lined the harbor, its tables inside and outside always full and busy with a mix of locals and tourists. It took several minutes of waiting before the team plus one could get a table big enough for all of them to spread out. Nick knew it wasnt Tys favorite hangout. He always took them a few streets over, to a hole-in-the-wall bar called One-Eyed Mikes. He must have brought them here out of consideration for Zanes blindness.

  Nick watched as Ty walked Zane in, staying close, holding his elbow. This Zane Garrett seemed to trust Ty a hell of a lot. He hadnt questioned Tys instructions even once as they walked the few blocks here and wound through the crowd to a table near the TVs in the back. Ty got him seated in the corner where people wouldnt bump into him and thumped down in a chair beside him.

  When Ty finally got settled and glanced toward Nick, Nick gave him a questioning look and nodded his head toward Zane. Ty shrugged easily, letting the unspoken question slide off his shoulders in a way only Ty could. Nick was going to have to get his old friend alone soon and interrogate him.

  Until then, he slid into the seat next to Ty, leaning over him to look at Zane. “So give us the story,” he told them both. “Zane, we need a new supply of embarrassing Grady tales. ”

  Zane grinned, though his eyes remained downcast. He set one hand on the table in front of him, closing his hand around the edge. “Well, there was this time at the Chinese laundry—”

  “No,” Ty broke in urgently. He raised his hand to call the waitress over, ordering five drinks by holding up five long fingers and then twirling his index finger around the table. Nicks eyes followed the motion, then moved to look at Ty. He looked worn out, not as apt to go spinning toward the ceiling as the Ty Grady Nick knew so well.

  “Theres six of us, man,” Owen interrupted. “Whos not drinking?”

  “That would be me,” Zane said.

  “Forgive me for stating the obvious, but you dont appear to be the designated-driver type right now,” Kelly said wryly. Ty nudged Nicks elbow, and when Nick glanced at him, Ty put his thumb and index finger out like he was holding a shot glass and tipped it toward his mouth. Nick nodded in understanding.

  “A drink is the last thing I need right now,” Zane said as he leaned back in his chair. Nick clucked his tongue. So Tys partner was an alcoholic. That was uncomfortable. He searched for something to say, watching his companions closely. Zane seemed okay with the topic, but Tys shoulders had tensed, and he was looking at the table devotedly. Nick knew the posture well, had seen Ty assume it many times. He was preparing to defend a friend.

  “So,” Nick drew out, “Chinese laundry, huh?”

  Zane rapped his knuckles on the table. “Three guys and a dog walk into a Chinese laundry—” he started, phrasing it like a joke. “Dude,” Ty interrupted again. “I told them before we went in: that dog was eyeing me funny!” Nick chuckled as the others started in on Ty. Nick waited until Ty turned his head to look at him, meeting his hazel eyes, then reached out and patted his shoulder consolingly. Only the two of them and the man whod debriefed them knew why Ty didnt favor dogs.

  Zane continued with the story, telling it well and drawing chuckles from the guys and a dirty look from Ty. It was funny as hell, really, and Nick could imagine Ty and a dog both ending up in a vat of suds and fighting over who could scramble out first. Of course, the dog had won. Digger launched into another story right after, and the laughter continued. When drinks were delivered, the waitress brought a Coke, too, and she moved to scoot around the table to put it in front of Zane.

  “Thank you, darlin,” Ty drawled. She winked at him and let her hand rest on Zanes arm as she moved away. Zane lifted his head and sent a smile in that direction. Obviously, they came here a lot. Nick watched Ty for a minute longer. Ty rarely went drinking with his coworkers. Zane Garrett was obviously his friend, and a close one at that.

  Zane set his hand on the table and shifted it slightly. He didnt even say anything. Ty continued talking to Digger as he moved the glass of Coke against Zanes fingers. The corner of Zanes mouth quirked up as he picked up the drink.

  Nick was surprised to find that Ty and Zane reminded him of Ty and… him. He was also surprised by the spike of jealousy. Knowing he could watch Zane without being seen as long as Ty was occupied, Nick observed him for a while longer. He was a good-looking guy, perhaps five years older than Ty and himself, maybe more. He had his head cocked to one side, the one ear turned toward Ty, and a small smile played on his lips as Ty talked about something there was no way Zane knew anything about, since it was an old line from their Recon days.
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