Cut and run, p.17

Cut & Run, page 17

 part  #1 of  Cut & Run Series


Cut & Run

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  Taking an even breath, he turned in place immediately, standing far enough away that the hot water just sprayed on his ass and thighs. Then he took small steps backward, and as the hot water started raining on his lower back he let out a low, unconscious moan of pleasure.

  “It’s gonna hurt,” Ty crooned as he leaned against the door, waiting almost gleefully for the howl.

  Ignoring him, Zane stepped backward again, inhaling sharply as the hot water splattered across the cuts and slices and gouges. It did hurt, but it was all a heated flush that tingled and buzzed rather than actually causing blinding pain. He sighed and relaxed and moved further back so the water sluiced over his shoulders, and he groaned at how good it felt, the mélange of little prickles and bites of hurt mixing with the hot raps that jarred and soothed his tensed muscles.

  “Like pain, huh?” Ty laughed as he listened. “I’ll leave you to it, then,” he snickered as he turned to go.

  “Pansy-ass,” Zane murmured with a smile, just loud enough to be heard.

  “Masochist,” Ty shot back.

  Zane chuckled. “Lightweight. ”

  Ty stepped outside the bathroom again without bothering to respond.

  The groan from Zane had sent an odd jolt through his body, and he wasn’t sure he liked it. He needed . . . to shoot something, maybe.

  He stalked out into the room to pick up the phone.

  Zane took his time showering, staying in the hot water until the steam in the room was making it difficult to breathe. With a sigh, he bent over and turned off the water, pleased by how much easier he could move now. He stepped out of the tub, grabbing a towel to wipe his face, and he flicked on the fan.

  If he could get Ty to put more of that salve on the wounds, he might just be ready for action again.

  In the outer room, Ty was on hold, desperately trying not to think as he waited. He didn’t need to be thinking about Zane Garrett in any form other than as an annoying partner. He glanced up at Zane when the man came out of the bathroom and snorted heavily through his nose in annoyance. “What do 100

  you want to eat?” he asked him, letting his eyes take in Zane’s toned muscles and then turning off that instinctive reaction willfully.

  “You haven’t ordered yet?” Zane asked as he came out from under the towel he had been using to dry his hair. Another was wrapped around his lean hips.

  Ty growled at him.

  Zane ignored him. “I don’t care. Burger, steak, chicken, pizza.

  Whatever. ” He shrugged and walked over to his duffel bag and started digging through it. Ty seemed to be back to his normal twitchy self, he thought, as he dug out clean briefs and a pair of jeans.

  “Make a damn decision,” Ty huffed just before someone finally answered his call.

  “Bacon cheeseburger, dressed, and fries. And a couple cans of Coke. ”

  Zane walked back toward the bathroom with his clothes and kit.

  Ty repeated the order into the phone and then added his own order to it. The man on the other end took the order and politely ended the call, and Ty replaced the receiver slowly as he listened to Zane’s movements. After a moment he let out a long, slow breath and flopped back into his bed. “How’s it feeling?” he asked as he squeezed his eyes shut.

  “Better,” Zane called out before making quick use of his toothbrush and then looking unsuccessfully for his comb. He slid into his clean briefs and pulled on the jeans, but he was still distractedly fastening them up as he padded back out into the main room and over to his duffel bag. “Will you put more of that shit on my back?” he asked as he searched.

  “You’re going to smell like a racehorse,” Ty observed from inside his cocoon.

  Zane looked up from digging in his duffel, brow furrowed in confusion.

  Ty laughed softly and buried his head under the pillow again, burrowing tiredly. Zane smiled at him as he looked him over, letting his eyes slide up and down the lean body just once before shaking his head and pushing the thoughts away. “Have you seen my damn comb?” he muttered.

  “Yes, I’ve been keeping close tabs on all your personal items, Special Agent Garrett,” Ty answered officiously, his voice comically muffled by the pillow.

  “Thank you, Special Agent Grady, I appreciate that,” Zane answered before pushing away the duffel and running his fingers through his hair instead. He glanced back at Ty and tilted his head. “How can you breathe like that?”

  “Like what?” Ty asked from under the pillow. “Breathing and thinking at the same time, while difficult to master, comes pretty natural after you’ve practiced for a while. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. ”

  Zane rolled his eyes. “At least I think with my head and not my ass,”

  he muttered as he buttoned his jeans and zipped up.

  “Your ass is more fun to look at,” Ty shot back from under the pillow.

  Stopping in place, Zane boggled at the pillow. “You did not just say you’ve looked at my ass. ” Dear God. The tease of that was fucking inflammatory. He didn’t need this kind of torture.

  “You show it often enough,” Ty countered in a sly tone, still muffled.

  “You don’t mean that literally,” Zane muttered as he started stacking folders on the table, trying to make room for food.

  Ty finally pulled his head out from under the pillow and rose up onto his elbows to look over his shoulder at Zane. “I mean everything I say literally. Literally,” he said with wry emphasis.

  Zane sighed and rubbed his eyes with one hand. “I think you do it deliberately,” he grumbled. “Say whatever you can think of to drive me up the fucking wall. ” And Lord, his imagination was now in overdrive. Zane moved his hand, turned, and looked at Ty with narrowed eyes. “And how am I showing off my ass, pray tell?”

  “You’re breathing,” Ty said as he laid his head back down.

  Zane sighed, whether in relief or exasperation, he didn’t want to have to figure out. Ty was just razzing him. A cigarette was starting to sound appealing, and the knock at the door was a godsend.

  Ty peered out from under his pillow and watched Zane go to answer the door. “Now you’re wondering if I’m looking at your ass, aren’t you?” he teased.

  Zane flipped him the bird as he passed by, gun in the other hand.

  “Mm hmm,” Ty murmured with a self-satisfied grin.

  After a minimum of fuss, Zane carried the room service tray back into the room, his gun shoved into the back of his jeans. And damn it, if Ty wasn’t right, the smug bastard. As soon as he walked past him, he wondered if he was feeling Ty’s eyes on his back or his ass.

  “It’s not you, it’s the food,” Ty offered as if he was reading Zane’s mind.

  “You keep telling yourself that,” Zane drawled, uncovering the plates.

  “You know it,” Ty drawled as he stretched again. “Give me food, bitch,” he ordered with relish.

  Zane snorted. “I ought to make you get off your lazy ass and get it yourself. But you were kind enough to help me out, so. . . . ” He carried Ty’s plate and drink over and set them on the nightstand between the beds.

  “Thank you,” Ty said primly as he sat up and placed a pillow in his lap to serve as a tray.

  Zane sketched a bow. “I hope it’s to your satisfaction, your majesty,”

  he drawled before going back to his own food and sitting at the table.

  “I’m glad to see you’re so easy to train,” Ty responded happily.

  Raising a brow, Zane chucked a fry at him, hitting him in the chest.

  “Hey! A little respect for the cleaning ladies, huh?” Ty chided.

  Zane grinned and threw another one, this time landing it on Ty’s plate. He held up both arms in a touchdown sign. “You know, I’m starting to get this whole bug-the-hell-out-of- somebody thing. ”

  “You’re a natural,” Ty responded flatly as he star
ed at the vagrant fry in distaste.

  Zane sighed and shook his head, going back to his food. It seemed Ty would only tolerate so much of his own medicine. A moment later a fry hit him in the nose and bounced off into his lap. Zane’s jaw dropped, but he grinned before plucking the fry up from his thigh and popping it in his mouth.

  “Mm hmm,” Ty hummed again with a smirk from his side of the room.

  Considering the other man as he took a bite of his burger, Zane wondered if this Ty was more like his normal self. He seemed younger right now, not as jaded. “What’s your story?” he asked impulsively.

  “Which one?” Ty asked between bites, with a cock of his head.

  “The one about why you have a chip on your shoulder the size of Manhattan?” Zane asked mildly. “About why when you sleep you look about five years younger than me, and when you’re awake and pissed off you look five older. ”

  Ty cocked an eyebrow. “You were watching me while I slept?” he asked incredulously.

  “You watched me,” Zane pointed out. “And don’t avoid the question. ”

  “I wasn’t,” Ty protested in amusement. “That’s just . . . really fucking weird, man,” he observed with a snicker. “And I told you my story. I was Marine Force Recon. After the last mission we were supposed to run went tits up, they deemed all of us stricken with PTSD. We were all discharged with big-ass pensions before we could get upset. Full honors. It was all complete bullshit, and everyone knew it, but we were all tired and slightly traumatized from the bureaucracy of it all,” he said bitterly. “They needed to plant us all somewhere nice and safe and keep us from Idle Hands Syndrome, know what I mean? Me, I got sent to Quantico as a ‘civilian aid’ sort of thing until Burns found me and convinced me the Bureau might be entertaining. I was a Marine, in it for the long haul, and I miss it. But that’s life and here I am. No chip,” he insisted with a shake of his head.

  “So why be such a bullshit artist? Amusement factor? Mask to avoid questions? You’re just a prick at heart?” Zane asked after another bite.

  “All of the above,” Ty answered readily through a mouthful of food, grinning and chewing as he watched Zane.

  Nodding, Zane took a few more bites. “You know, when I was fucked up, I got real familiar with medical regulations and treatment regimens. Did you know they won’t clear agents for field work if they’re being treated for depression or mood disorders?”

  “Yep,” Ty answered succinctly.

  “Post-traumatic stress disorder falls into that category. If it was in your file as a reason for discharge, you’d have been parked at a desk and never let out into public,” Zane commented neutrally.

  “Yep,” Ty responded again as he looked up at Zane and smiled crookedly.

  “So, you’re lying to me,” Zane said, just as neutrally as before. “Any particular reason you don’t care to share? Other than the fact that I’m just your partner who might have to bail your ass out of something someday. ”

  “My file is classified for a reason,” Ty responded readily, as if he had known the cover story wouldn’t pass muster with Zane. “Parts of that story are true, though,” he assured Zane seriously. “And nothing in my past is going to come up and bite you or me on the ass,” he added with a shake of his head.

  “I’ve got no mysteries. Only thing I’ve got back there is some broken hearts and a whole lot of red tape. ”

  Zane studied him for a long moment. “All right,” he murmured, going back to his fries.

  Ty watched him, narrowing his eyes. Finally, he sighed loudly and looked around the room, then back at Zane in annoyance. “Special Agent Sanchez,” he announced with a huff. “He was on my Recon team. ”

  Raising his eyes to look at Ty again, Zane thought he was beginning to understand. Understand why Ty was so determined to stay on this case no matter what exploded. And why he was such an ass to keep people from getting too close. It was a similar defense mechanism to what he himself had, albeit for a different reason. Ty and his companions had lived a dangerous life. They expected to lose one another. Just not to serial killers. “That’s hard,” he said quietly.

  “What’s hard is figuring out how some punk serial killed him. He slept with an arsenal under his pillow and one eye open,” Ty told him seriously. “And if anyone looked at the files close enough and saw that we were colleagues before the Bureau, they’d yank me off the case,” he added.

  “That’s why you were surprised when Burns handed you this case—

  and why you’re so keen to solve it. Beyond keen,” Zane said as it all clicked.

  “Burns knows me,” Ty said as a form of answering. “And he knew Sanchez. He recruited us out of the dregs of desk work we were being forced to do at Quantico, personally pushed us both into the Academy. He knows I’m not supposed to be here. Meaning he wanted me here for a reason. I just can’t figure out what the fuck it is, other than to be sneaky. ”

  “Okay, then why stick you with me? I’d been up in Cybercrimes over two years, mostly off field work. I’ve not been out like this in nearly four years. Why would he try to weight you down?”

  Ty looked up at him thoughtfully and tilted his head inquisitively.

  “Are you going to weigh me down?”

  “I know I won’t. But Burns, he’s the one that threw my ass out of action, sent me into detox on threat of jail. He’s not liked me since. Why give me this chance?” Zane asked rhetorically.

  “Why would he care enough to put you in detox and then reinstate you if he didn’t like you?” Ty countered quietly.

  Zane didn’t have an answer for that. It was a question he’d asked himself over and over.
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