Authors: Nicola Cameron
Aimee nodded. “Good luck with the
“Thanks.” Head down, he hurried to
To his dismay Fazia and Miaying
were already at their desks, dressed in casual wear and ready to spend the next
four hours running final pre and post loading tests. The sandboxed production
server was already connected to Trickster’s T-3 line so that the new security
upgrades to the credit union’s server could be installed once the pre-loading
tests were complete.
“You’re early,” Fazia said, winged
eyebrows rising. “I didn’t think you were going to show up until ten.”
He sat down and typed in his
password. “Couldn’t sleep. I thought I’d come in and get my tests started.”
He kept up the idle chatter with the
other programmers while he went into the production server’s secure file system
and located the file that would carry Caren’s trapdoor code. Heart pounding, he
checked it out onto his computer. Once the credit union management and Scott
Devlin discovered what had happened, they would look at the check in/out logs.
His name would be electronically tagged on the target file, marking him as the
I wonder if Delaney will come visit me in prison. Assuming that he
forgives me for destroying Trickster in the first place.
But at least he’ll be alive.
He pulled the flash drive out of
his pocket, thumbing off the cap. The exposed USB connector glinted pewter in
the office’s low lights.
His desk phone rang, startling him.
Putting down the drive, he picked up the handset. The outside line button was
A woman’s chuckle. “Don’t start
getting any second thoughts now, sweetie,” Caren crooned over the phone. “No
one can help you now. Just do what I told you to do, and your boyfriend lives.
The call cut off, and Mark was left
staring at the phone.
So much for her bluffing
about the spycam.
He put the handset back into its
cradle, wanting to throw the damned thing out the window.
You have to do this for Del. No one can help you now. Just do it.
No one can help you.
He blinked, hand still on the
Turning to keep his head and the
spycam aimed at his computer monitor, he blindly picked up the handset again
and laid it to the side. Finding the line buttons by touch—the direct outside
line, and the one used by Aimee to patch calls to any office phone—he pressed
the second one down. The button lit up blurrily in his peripheral vision. He
pressed it again and the light went out.
He hit the button quickly two more
times, then three more times with a slightly longer pause on each light, then
the original three quick hits again. He repeated the sequence twice more then
paused, praying that the former Signal Corps officer wouldn’t just call him to
find out what was going on.
The light lit again and stayed on,
then flickered briefly. Dash dot dash dash dot.
GO AHEAD STATION.
Now came the tricky part. Using his
mouse to scroll through the file on his screen, he painstakingly tapped out a
message in Morse code with his left hand. BEING FORCED TO HACK CODE. GUNMAN ON
DEL AT HOME. SPYCAM ON GLASSES. TELL SCOTT. SAVE DEL.
A pause, then dot dot dot dash dot.
UNDERSTOOD. KEEP HACKER EYES ON YOU.
He took a deep breath, feeling
drops of sweat trickle down his temples. Focusing his attention on the monitor,
he opened the integrated development environment where he could review code for
mistakes and bad syntax, as well as edit and add code. Such as Caren’s trapdoor
He flinched when he felt hands on
his shoulders. They squeezed, then released. Long and short squeezes, silent
DO WHAT HACKERS SAID. CHECK FILE
BACK IN THEN REVIEW CODE UNTIL I TELL YOU TO STOP.
Dry-mouthed, he pushed the flash
drive into one of the USB ports, opening it as soon as it registered as an
external drive. It contained a single text file with Caren’s code. Copying the
code, he pasted it into the appropriate section of the Lone Star file, saved
it, and checked it back into the server. As slowly as he dared, he started
checking out other files, scrolling through each one before closing it and
opening a new one. After what felt like an eternity the hands squeezed on his
shoulders again. STOP.
He obeyed, sick at heart.
“Okay, we’re good,” Aimee said
quietly from behind him.
No, don’t talk to me!
“Aims, I’m busy—” he said quickly, hoping Caren wouldn’t understand.
“It’s okay, Mark,” Aimee soothed. “We
located the transmission uplink. Security recorded you checking out files and
looped it, and is blocking your signal and transmitting the loop back. You’re
Sagging in his chair, he turned and
saw the receptionist wearing an unusually grim expression. “We’ve got to delete
that file I just modified.”
“Don’t worry, Gerardo is already on
it.” She touched her wireless headset and nodded. “Come on. Scott wants to see
Mark forced himself up on trembling
legs and followed the receptionist through the cubicle maze, back to the
executive corridor. Devlin stood next to his office door, nodding as they
approached. “Go in and wait for me. I need to talk to IT,” the Alpha shifter
“Sir, Del’s in danger,” Mark said
quickly. “He’s been knocked out and there’s a gunman at his house. You need to
get the cops over there right now—”
Devlin held up a hand. “Don’t worry.
Your mate’s safe. Just go into my office, okay?” The CEO gave him an approving
smile. “By the way, the Morse code on the line buttons was brilliant. I’m glad
you’re on our side.”
Mark nodded stiffly, heartbeat
racing as he went into the office. He wouldn’t have been surprised to see police
officers or Treasury agents in dark jackets and earpieces waiting for him,
ready to cart him off to jail.
Instead, he saw Delaney pacing next
to Devlin’s desk. The shifter spun, brown eyes going wide as he saw Mark. “Oh, babe.
Mark lurched across the office into
Delaney’s embrace. “You’re okay,” he breathed. “Oh, God, you’re okay.” He wormed
his own arms around Delaney’s neck and held tight. “Fuck, I was so scared. She said
she was going to shoot you—”
“Shh, I know,” Delaney murmured
against his skin, one hand sliding into his curls and carding them softly. “That
greasy asshole she sent actually thought he could get the drop on me. I heard
him while he was still trying to get the damn front door open. All I had to do
was grab him as he came through and put his head into the wall.”
“But the picture—”
“Greasy and I had a little chat
when he came to. Once I knew what he was there for, I rigged up his phone on
delay and took the pic myself. Then I tried to call you, but it went straight
Mark shook his head. “She took my
phone. Popped out the battery so the GPS stopped working.”
“I figured.” He pulled back,
staring into Mark’s eyes. “You okay? She do anything to you?”
Mark heard the subtext:
who do I have to kill?
“No, I’m fine.
Better than fine, now.”
With a groan Delaney kissed him
again, tongue licking desperately at his lips. There was a moment of falling,
and they both dropped backwards onto an expensive leather couch. Delaney
crawled over Mark, caging him in strong arms and legs. “I’m so sorry, babe,” he
said, breath ragged and panting. “I should’ve protected you.”
Mark lunged up, capturing a full
lip between his teeth and tugging on it before letting it go with a small pop. “Stop
it,” he ordered. “I’m not a damsel in distress, and I don’t need protecting.
And neither of us knew what that insane bitch was up to, all right? I mean,
should have known something was hinky
when she kept pushing me to apply here.”
“Thank God you did,” Delaney said
fervently, biting his chin and wriggling against him. “Babe, I need you.
Mark could feel that need pouring through
their link, and his cock hardened sweetly against Delaney’s. “Lube?”
“No time. You have to get back to
Delaney rolled into a sitting
position, pulling Mark into his lap until he straddled the taller man. The
shifter fumbled both their flies open, hard shafts popping out into the cool
air. Mark watched, mesmerized, as Delaney spat into his own hand and wrapped it
around both their cocks, starting a fast, merciless stroke.
A sweet buzz built fast, and his
balls tightened with the need to come. To his surprise Delaney scrabbled at the
bottom of his t-shirt, yanking it up and holding it against Mark’s chest. It
made sense a moment later when the shifter growled and came, spurting thick
spatters of cum over Mark’s belly. The sight triggered Mark’s orgasm and he growled,
adding his own cum to the mess on his abs.
Breathing hard, Delaney let go of
their shafts and rubbed at the pearlescent splatter, smearing it around. Mark
realized his mate was rubbing it into his skin, primally marking him as Delaney’s.
He ducked his head down, kissing
Delaney hard. “Better?”
“Yeah.” Delaney gave him a
wonderfully shy smile, glancing down at the mess. “Sorry. It’s instinctive.”
Mark chuckled. “That’s okay. I’m
just glad Scott has a private john.”
Once they were both cleaned up, Delaney
walked with Mark back to the open plan space. Aimee adjusted her wireless
headset and fell in behind them, a squire following two knights to battle. “Scott
said everything’s go with the servers. You two ready?”
Mark nodded. “Let’s do this.”
His mate’s expression was grim, the
grumpy faun now a furious predator. Delaney stopped at the entrance to the
area, watching as Mark and Aimee returned to the cubicle. Mark sat down and put
his glasses back on, staring at the monitor. Aimee stood behind him, hands on
his shoulders and silently communicating with him through Morse code. After a
moment she nodded and stepped back, ghosting away from the cubicle.
Delaney felt Scott come up behind
him. “You okay?” his Alpha asked.
“For now. Although we’re both
taking a week off after this.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Scott said
absently. Delaney could feel both of them focusing on the deception being
played out in the programming cubicles. “Just so you know, Aimee logged Mark
into the development server and mirrored the files he checked out. Gerardo got
rid of the corrupted file, then cut off Mark’s access to the production server
and renamed the dev server so that it looks like production. Anyone watching
will think he’s working in the live environment.”
“Good.” Delaney could feel his
coyote pacing, hungry for revenge. “I
this bitch, boss.”
“So do I,” Scott said grimly. “Don’t
worry, we’ll take her down. You just take care of your mate, all right?”
Mark leaned back and stretched, feeling
the muscles in his neck and upper back twinge and pop. He glanced at the clock
bar in the lower right hand of the screen. 4:10 AM.
The new security system for Lone
Star had been successfully installed, and the last QA tests passed with flying
colors. Of course, he hadn’t actually been involved in any of it—Delaney had
taken over for him and was running his tests from the server room—but to anyone
watching through the spycam it looked like he’d been backing up the
installation team as scheduled.
His desk phone rang, the outside
line button glowing. Biting back a growl, he picked it up. “Yes?”
“Ooh, you get grumpy when you’re
tired, sweetie,” Caren said, sounding amused. “Nice work, though. Is the site
Mark checked the clock on the
bottom of the screen. “It will be in about twenty-five minutes.”
“Fabulous. Why don’t you get back
over here and we’ll test my code. The sooner I know it works, the sooner you
can see your boyfriend.”
“All right. Give me twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes and counting.”
There was a click, and a dial tone.
He stood, saying goodbye to his
teammates, and headed for the exit. As he expected, Aimee wasn’t there, but
Delaney stood by the desk. Mark walked into his arms, enjoying the quick
squeeze he got. “You okay?”
“Yeah. I just want to get this over
with.” Delaney frowned, reaching in his back pocket and pulling out a slim
black shape. He handed it to Mark. “I’m sorry. I wish you didn’t have to do
Mark shoved the item in his front
pocket for easy access, then leaned up and kissed Delaney. “Don’t worry. As
long as we’re together, we’ll be fine.”
Linking hands, they walked out of
the Trickster offices together.
Mark pulled into the parking
garage, climbing until he was back on the third level. Parking across from the
SUV, he stared at the little blister on his glasses in the rear view mirror.
As soon as this is over with, I’m getting
contacts. And I’m burning these fucking glasses.