Divide & conquer, p.5
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       Divide & Conquer, p.5

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 5


  Ty grunted in outrage, but the phone lit up in his hand, and he pulled it away to look at it. Zane could see the display informing him the call had been ended.

  “„Pretty,” Zane said flatly. It was funny—usually—when Ty teased him about being pretty, but this was too much. “When the hell did we become fashion plates?”

  “Eight a. m. on a Saturday, Zane,” Ty said through gritted teeth.

  “ This Saturday? As in tomorrow Saturday? We have to give lectures in twelve hours? Were not prepared for that! I cant just pull a cybercrimes lecture out of my ass!” He could, but it was the principle of the thing.

  Ty nodded and dropped the phone to the couch. He looked Zane up and down and narrowed his eyes, a slow smile forming. “But were still in for the night,” he pointed out.

  Zane let the momentary annoyance fade into the background. They could bitch about work later. “Sure you still want dessert before dinner?”

  “Youre not dessert, Zane. Youre the main course,” Ty informed him in a husky drawl. “And you have about five seconds to take your pick of flat surface before I do it for you. ”

  O NE thing about working for the FBI was that sometimes time passed and Ty thought it might be going in reverse. Other stretches Ty didnt even notice until months had gone by. He and Zane did their jobs, whether that included the god-awful boring paperwork and research Zane seemed to enjoy or the actual tracking and chasing of criminals that was more to Tys taste. Unfortunately, working for the FBI consisted of 5 percent chasing and tracking, 90 percent paperwork, and 5 percent getting your ass handed to you by your superior, a reporter, a nurse who insisted youd tear your stitches, or your mother.

  Ty would much rather run down a guy and tackle him into the Inner Harbor than have to sit and fill out forms.

  Hed ruined that suit, but it had been a hell of a good day. Tys evenings had gone one of four ways through January and into mid-February: most often theyd be out working, which meant no time with Zane away from work. Otherwise Ty was going to softball practice and then home late to Zane, or suffering through another freaking PR presentation. And then home late. To Zane. Ty still wasnt too sure how he felt about all the extra responsibilities that were taking up his free time, so he mostly tried not to think about it and just go with the flow.

  Time passed almost unnoticed when it had so much structure to it, so when Ty went to meet his partner for a late Friday night dinner after a particularly harrowing lecture to a group of high school kids whod only wanted to know if he was single or if hed ever killed anyone, he hadnt expected the chaotic mess hed found. Hed arrived at one of their favorite restaurants to find Zane waiting for him in the parking lot.

  The lot was full to the brim and overflowing into the lot of the bank next door. A crowd of people waited outside in the cold February night, some holding little buzzers to alert them when their table was ready, some clutching their coats around them and huddling with their sweethearts.

  Ty hadnt even been able to find a spot to park his Bronco. Hed driven up to Zane as he sat on his motorcycle—Ty still couldnt believe he rode the damn thing in the dry winter cold—and was met with a sardonic smile. “Valentines Day” was all the explanation Ty had needed.

  Both had completely forgotten about the date and the holiday weekend. Theyd just wanted a nice quiet dinner after a stressful few weeks of barely seeing each other. They were still laughing at each other when Ty let them into his row house on North Ann Street. Some romantic couple they were, forgetting about Valentines Day and being surprised by the crowd.

  “Well just have to make do with whats in the fridge,” Ty told Zane as he shut the door against the freezing Baltimore winter. Zane stopped dead, beaten-up black leather jacket partway unzipped, and turned around. “You think Id better go to Whole Foods?” he asked. He was probably serious. Ty didnt cook much, and they both knew how he kept his kitchen stocked.

  “Give me a little credit, huh?” Ty told him, borderline insulted. “Ive got… stuff in there. ” Zane raised an eyebrow. “Bacon, eggs, cheese, milk, lunch meat, bread, Dr Pepper, Mikes Hard Lemonade you pretend isnt there, chocolate chip cookie dough…. ”

  Ty tried desperately not to smile, pressing his lips together hard despite knowing it caused his dimples to make an appearance. Zane knew him a little too well. Except for the chocolate chip cookie dough. Zane had bought that for himself and left it here for a snack. He knew full well Ty didnt like chocolate and that it would be safe. “Theres also pork chops in there. And theres some emergency canned veggies in the basement,” he told Zane with a mischievous smirk. “Next to the bottled water and zombie-piercing rounds. ”

  “Good to know we wont starve when the zombies attack,” Zane said as he shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the hook next to the door, giving Ty a lazy wink over his shoulder.

  “Everyones a critic,” Ty muttered as he watched Zane appreciatively. Since the awkwardness of New Years, theyd fallen into a comfortable groove, one Ty was happy to stay in. Hed taken the plunge, literally, and told Zane he loved him. Zane had never said it in so many words, but not long after theyd returned from the cruise ship after Christmas, Ty had noticed Zane hadnt put his real wedding band back on. That was enough for him.

  That simple gesture had spoken volumes. Ty knew how much Zanes wife had meant to him and how hed gone through hell after she died. Zane had still been wearing that ring more than six years after she was gone. Seeing Zanes finger bare warmed Ty in a way few things could. Hed never mentioned it, and theyd never talked about what Ty had said that night in lockup on the ship. They were probably better off keeping it all under wraps, anyway. Zane was happy and relaxed. Ty was happy and… well, still twitchy, but that wasnt Zanes fault. They were happy.

  “So, cook me dinner, and Ill repay you with sexual favors. ” “Sounds good to me,” Zane said as he arched his back and rolled his shoulders to stretch. “Any idea what you want?”

  Ty simply smiled. Zane surely knew if Ty had his way hed skip dinner altogether.

  Zane chuckled. “Food, Grady, food. Or youll have no energy for sex later. ”

  “Well, then, get to it,” Ty grunted at him, ushering him through the length of the narrow row house. In short order, they were both in casual clothes and Tys kitchen was lit up and warm with activity. Zane didnt cook often, but at some point hed picked up better than run-of-the-mill cooking skills and was generally willing to fix up a quick dinner if they were too wiped after work to go out. After foraging through Tys refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry, hed come up with barbecue pork chops, green beans, a piece of a loaf of asiago bread from the bakery down the street, and now he was making mashed potatoes. From scratch, which tickled Ty to no end. It seemed such a domestic task for his tough-guy partner.

  Chops sizzled on one burner, and Zane was pushing a pile of chunked potatoes to the side of the cutting board and starting on another, the knife moving swiftly and efficiently in his hands. A pot of water boiled on a third burner behind him.

  Ty devotedly stayed away, mostly because it was a tight fit with both of them trying to move around each other in the narrow row house kitchen. Also because Ty disliked cooking—too many nights in the desert or jungle losing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors and being forced to go hunt up dinner for the entire Recon team—and he rarely had time to do it even if hed wanted to. Instead, he hovered around the other side of the bar, watching. Occasionally Zane would glance up at him, apparently just to check that he was still there.

  Ty leaned his elbows on the counter and held his chin in his hands, trying to keep himself from fidgeting. Zane finished chopping the second potato and looked up at Ty as he scooped the pieces into his cupped hands.

  “You okay?” Zane asked. “Youre twitchy. ”

  Ty laughed and held out his hand. “Have you met me?” he asked, teasing. Zane shrugged one shoulder as he carefully let the pieces fall into the pot of boiling water. “I gu
ess we have been going full tilt since we got back from the cruise, but I figured you would have relaxed a little, at least. Your hairs grown out again, so you dont have that to bitch about anymore. The cat jokes have finally died off at work. And I know youre enjoying the softball practices. ”

  “Its fun. You should come out to one of the games,” Ty answered with a careful look up at his partner. They were about to kick off the softball league that had been organized, this weekend, in fact. It had become a big spectacle, and it took a lot of Tys time. More than he liked.

  Zane picked the knife back up and started chopping again, a slight smile curving his lips. “Come out meaning „watch, or come out meaning „play?” he asked. “I can do watching. Playing, not so much. Me and sports in high school?” He shook his head.

  “I thought you were too busy square dancing,” Ty drawled, trying not to smile. Zane chuckled as he pushed chopped potatoes to the side of the cutting board with the back of one hand. “That too,” he admitted. He glanced up at Ty. “I did think about joining the team anyway, you know. ”

  Ty smiled, but his brow furrowed as well. “Why? I didnt think you liked it. ” “I dont like making a fool of myself in public, no,” Zane agreed, going back to chopping. “But between those damn PR seminars and you at practice, weve been lucky to have a couple of nights a week to ourselves that arent simply crashing into bed exhausted. ”

  Ty shrugged in agreement, pursing his lips. It was true. And annoying. “You want me to quit?” Zanes head snapped up, eyes wide with clear surprise. “No, not at all. You enjoy it too much. Just thought I might see about learning something we could both do. But I figured that for now, the AA meetings were more important. ”

  Tys lips twitched, and he raised one eyebrow as he looked at Zane. He didnt touch the subject of Zanes AA meetings. He never did. “Ill take you to the batting cages one night,” he offered instead.

  Zanes smile reappeared. “Deal. ”

  Ty hummed and idly watched Zanes hands move. After a few silent moments, he looked down at his own hands, turning them over and frowning at the fading tan line on his finger where the fake wedding ring had been. It had been cut off in the end, but hed kept the band. It sat upstairs in a box, hidden away with all the other bits and pieces hed kept from cases. The line would be gone soon.

  “I dont suppose if I agreed to go to a game that youd agree to go dancing,” Zane suggested as he scooped more chopped potatoes into the water.

  Ty looked up and snorted at him. “I dont mind going dancing. Its just the clubs that make me nervous, too many ways to get killed. ” “And strobe lights,” Zane added, obviously remembering what Ty had told him when hed balked at the dance club on the cruise ship. “Id still have your back,” he said, looking up to meet Tys eyes evenly.

  Ty stared back at him, feeling a shiver run up his spine as he looked into Zanes dark eyes. It was frustrating sometimes, how one look in Zanes eyes made Ty want to throw everything else out the window. But mostly it was fun.

  The shift of his weight to stalk around the bar and steal a kiss was interrupted when the police-band radio he kept in a little-used corner of the kitchen crackled to life, the voice sounding marginally panicked as it asked for backup and the bomb squad.

  “10-79!” Ty straightened as he looked at the radio. The signal was weak enough that it only picked up on calls from his neighborhood, alerting him to anything in the vicinity he might be able to help with. It rarely came to life.

  Zane set the knife down and picked up a towel, drying his hands as he turned to listen, a frown on his face.

  “10-79,” the radio spat again through the static. “501 East Pratt Street. ” Another voice answered, also sounding panicky and out of breath. These people werent making official police calls; they had to be offduty.

  “Jesus, thats the aquarium,” Ty told Zane.

  Ty stood and pushed away from the counter as Zane turned off the burners. “What is it? Ten, twelve blocks?” Zane asked as he strode to the couch, plucked up his shoulder holster, shrugged into it in a quick and long-practiced move, and slid his gun into place.

  Ty nodded as he jogged toward the coat rack by the door and the small table drawer where he kept his sidearms. He hurried to put the shoulder holster on, getting the straps tangled as he did so and not caring. Zane grabbed his keys and leather jacket.

  “Well get there faster on foot in this kind of traffic,” Ty told him as he yanked at the front door.

  “Ill drive between cars and on sidewalks if I have to,” Zane answered. Ty stood at the front door, momentarily indecisive. He would gladly ride on the back of Zanes deathtrap Valkyrie if he really thought itd get them through the Friday night traffic gauntlet of Fells Point to the Inner Harbor faster than he could hoof it. Maybe.

  “You ride. Ill run,” he told Zane, completely sincere in his belief that he could get there quicker.

  “Meet you there,” Zane said as he headed for the bike parked in front of the row house. Ty slapped his hand down on the badge that lay on the table, sliding the chain it hung from over his head as he pulled the door closed and hopped from the top step of his stoop to the sidewalk. He sprinted toward Fleet Street as Zane started the bike with a quick jump and revved the engine. He knocked back the kickstand and got the Valkyrie moving as he shoved his helmet on without buckling it.

  Ty watched him weave into the heavy traffic and followed in Zanes path for half a block, but then he did what only a man on foot could do and parkoured his ass over someones fence and into the alleyway between two buildings. It wasnt just a matter of getting to the aquarium in time to help now—it was a matter of pride. Hed beat that damn motorcycle even if it killed him to do it.
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