Authors: Abigail Roux
Tags: #Mystery, #Gay
Ty cleared his throat. “What would you suggest, then, since you can"t be left to your own incompetent devices?”
“I think I can manage for a while,” Zane said seriously. “Go out.
Do something. You"ve been fluttering like your mom. Not that I don"t enjoy it, but I can hear you twitching.”
“Fluttering like my mom?” Ty repeated with special emphasis on the words that insulted him, meaning all of them. Zane heard him throw something that flopped like heavy paper onto the counter. “You are an ungrateful jackass,” Ty said slowly.
“Ty, I don"t think I could be more grateful. I just don"t want you to resent helping me.”
“You told me I flutter like my mom!”
182 | Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
“To me, that"s a hell of a compliment. It means you care enough to stick around and take care of me even when it"s driving you crazy,”
Zane tried to explain. This wasn"t how he"d expected Ty to react. He"d figured Ty would have been off like a shot. Not in a bad way, just in a golden-retriever-shut-up-in-the-house-way-too-fucking-long way.
Ty snorted like a bull, and even though Zane couldn"t see him, he instinctively knew Ty"s head was down. “Well, what about you?” Ty countered, his voice obstinate. “You feeling the need to climb out the window too?”
“Absolutely. But the overwhelming fear of free fall is a definite deterrent,” Zane replied, setting both hands on the bar as he shifted his weight. “So I"m sticking with iTunes on the couch for now. You can download a new book for me. That"ll keep me amused for hours.”
Ty hummed unhappily. “I don"t like the idea of leaving you alone. And not just because you could catch a toe on the carpet and go plummeting down the steps.”
“You don"t have carpet on the steps.”
“Not the point.”
“We have to try it sometime,” Zane said quietly. “As much as the idea appeals, you can"t be within shouting distance forever.”
“You getting tired of me?” Ty posed in the same tone.
“No.” Zane also had a more florid answer, but he didn"t think making Ty guffaw would really help this discussion. He"d be a happy man if he had Ty within arm"s reach at all times.
“Okay. So. A couple days apart so we don"t kill each other, is that what we"re talking about?” Ty asked as he started moving around behind the counter.
Zane hadn"t really been thinking in terms of
. He"d simply been hoping to get Ty out of the house for a couple of
. He really had no idea how he"d cope by himself for days, but to keep Ty from fraying around the edges, he"d get through it. “Sure,” he tried to answer confidently.
Divide & Conquer | 183
“I"m not comfortable with you being alone, Zane,” Ty told him with the sort of blunt honesty for which most people disliked him. “So give me an alternative, or killing each other is what we"ve got.”
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 I"ll let you get away with,” Ty muttered irritably. He might or might not have been joking, but it was the second time he"d 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 he"d 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 don"t 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.
IN 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 Zane"s keys, explaining it had all been a mistake and Zane was safe.
184 | Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
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 shouldn"t have been able to spot parked a block away from Ty"s 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 O"Flaherty 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 Ty"s. He was a kindred spirit in every sense of the word. They"d shared a seat on the bus to Parris Island and risen through the ranks together. Nick was, for all intents and purposes, Ty"s best and oldest friend.
“It"s 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 Divide & Conquer | 185
few days ago. He"s 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 Zane"s benefit and theirs. “Zane, this is Nick O"Flaherty. 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, he"d been Digger since he"d 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 there"s 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. “I"m sorry!” he finally blurted. “It"s 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,”
“No doubt,” Digger agreed.
Ty gave them both a disgusted grunt.
“Hey, don"t worry about it,” Nick offered easily. He looked over at Zane. “We"d planned to go out in the woods and play some paintball this weekend,” he explained for Zane"s benefit. “We do it every few months. It was Grady"s turn to host.”
186 | Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
“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.”
had this conversation, Garrett,” Ty said in frustration.
“I"m not leaving you alone until you can see or they"ve caught the bomber.”
“This sounds pretty heavy,” Nick commented drily.
“Welcome to my fucking life,” Ty snapped. Nick merely laughed at him.
“We don"t 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. He"d 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 who"d been undefeated in sparring matches. He was hell on wheels with or without a weapon.
“I flew from fucking San Diego. I"m 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. “I"ll have dinner delivered.”
“Were you two the targets?” Nick asked.
“No,” Ty answered curtly, still glaring at Zane.
“Maybe,” Zane corrected.
“It"s possible,” Ty granted reluctantly. “Look, I can"t leave town right now. A bomber"s targeting municipal and federal law enforcement and rescue crews, banks are being robbed all over the place, the city"s going nuts—”
Divide & Conquer | 187
“Well, aren"t you Mr. Doom and Gloom,” Digger observed with a smirk. He was a good-looking man, his skin so dark that they"d 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 wasn"t 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.
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 Fell"s Point or something nearby.”
“You"ll be bouncing down the stairs, traitor,” Ty snapped.
“Okay, then!” Nick said with a laugh. He stepped up and put his arm over Ty"s shoulders as if to restrain him. “We"ll 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.
“That"s "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 don"t you come with us to dinner? We wouldn"t mind getting to know Ty"s partner, especially since he"s gone this long without trading you in or hitting you.”
Zane smiled for the first time since the guys had come in. “Well, you"re half right.” He shrugged. “I"m game. We haven"t eaten yet.”
“Great!” Nick said as he looked at Ty triumphantly. “We"ve never met one of Ty"s partners. We were starting to think they were just a myth.”
188 | Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
THE Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille attracted a busy crowd in the evenings. It was a popular hangout in Fell"s 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 wasn"t Ty"s favorite hangout. He always took them a few streets over, to a hole-in-the-wall bar called One-Eyed Mike"s. He must have brought them here out of consideration for Zane"s 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 hadn"t questioned Ty"s 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 wouldn"t 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.”