Cut & Run, page 18part #1 of Cut & Run Series
Ty just shrugged as he watched Zane think it over. “We got one thing in common, though, Garrett,” he finally pointed out. “Neither one of us belongs here. And they don’t expect us to play by no rules anyway. ”
“Do you ever play by the rules, Special Agent Grady?” Zane asked.
“Can’t think of a for-instance,” Ty answered with a flippant shrug.
Zane peered at him for a long moment. “How old are you, anyway?”
Ty raised his head and looked over at the other man. “Why?” he asked suspiciously.
“Just wondering. Thought you were about my age or older until I saw you sleeping,” Zane answered.
Ty frowned at that. “I’m thirty-four,” he answered grudgingly.
Zane nodded slowly and went back to eating his now lukewarm fries with no comment. He would never have guessed that Ty was that young.
“Why?” Ty prodded.
Shrugging slightly, Zane looked up at him. “Sometimes you look older than that. You sure as hell act older than that. Jaded. ”
Ty blinked at him, slightly nonplussed, and looked back down at his food with a purse of his lips. Zane watched him, observed him, seeing a glimpse of the more ordered and disciplined man Ty hid under the brash asshole. He wore a mask, just like Zane did. It was somehow reassuring. It was beginning to become clear that Ty actually expended energy to be as abrasive as he was. The calmer former Marine that was beginning to show through seemed much more natural to him.
“How old are you?” Ty finally asked in return.
Zane smiled slowly, still watching. Ty hadn’t looked up at him. “You mean you’ve not checked up on me yet?”
Ty slid his eyes sideways to look at Zane seriously, the rest of his body unmoving.
Zane shook his head, smile pulling at his lips. “I’m forty-two,” he admitted.
“Yeah, you look it,” Ty drawled with a grin that was slightly more teasing than his usual smirk.
Zane snorted. “I suppose I’ve been ridden hard and put away wet a few too many times. ”
Ty rolled his eyes and poked at his food. “Where you from?” he asked without looking up. “I mean, since we’re bonding and all. ”
“Texas. Austin, to be specific. ”
“I’m sorry,” Ty offered sympathetically, the smirk playing at his lips again.
“Where are you from, asshole?” Zane retorted.
“Bluefield, West Virginia,” Ty answered, letting his words roll with his pronounced accent.
Zane grinned. “West by-God Virginia,” he said. “Fits you. ”
Ty glanced up and smirked again, jabbing at his ketchup with a fry.
“Wild and Wonderful,” he quoted with a barely restrained snicker.
“Wild and Wonderful,” Zane echoed with a short chuckle. “All that mountain climbing got you in shape for the Marine Corps. ”
“More like spelunking, but it’s all about rocks in the end. ” Ty shrugged with a smile. “Son of a miner ain’t got much in the way of career options,” he added. “It was either the Marines or going into the family business. ”
Zane tilted his head. “Somehow, I don’t see you as a coal miner. ”
Ty glanced back up at him and narrowed his eyes. The urge to take exception to the statement was clearly written on his face, but finally he gave his head a shake and bit the tip off his fry. “Just add dirt,” he finally responded with a gesture to himself, even though the industry of coal mining had left Bluefield in the 1960s.
Zane saw the look on Ty’s face before the other man shook it off.
“Did you want to be a coal miner?” he asked.
“Nobody wants to be a coal miner,” Ty answered evenly. He looked up at Zane and studied him, pondering the rest of the answer. “But then, nobody wants to get shot at, neither,” he added thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t have been a coal miner. They don’t mine coal in Bluefield anymore. But my daddy minded the abandoned mines. He was a caretaker after they were shut down.
Meant he was still in those damn mines all the time, making sure no one got down there and lost or trapped. Monitoring collapses. And I would have been doing it, too. Or off in another town doing the real thing. I had to choose between a fear of bullets and a fear of small spaces,” he admitted. “Turns out bullets ain’t that scary, after all. ”
Nodding, Zane finished off his burger. He studied the other man as he chewed, putting together the details he’d crow barred out. The little bit of his history made Ty much more human.
Ty returned his attention to his food, feeling eyes on him and just letting Zane stare for a while. “So what else was there, Serpico?” he finally asked after a tense moment of silence. “Need my blood type? SAT scores?”
Zane’s brow wrinkled. “Did you go to college or just join the Marines?”
That question did rankle, but Ty visibly repressed his initial reaction.
He exhaled loudly and pushed his plate away.
“You did say SAT scores,” Zane reminded.
“I went to college,” Ty gritted, acknowledging that he had indeed opened up that door. “Government paid for it. ”
Zane nodded slowly, feeling as well as seeing the tension back in the other man. “Nothing wrong with that,” he said. “You earned it. "”
Ty cut his gaze up to look at Zane from under lowered brows. “You humoring me, Lone Star?”
Zane set his plate on the table with a clunk. “If you served our country in the armed forces, you deserve it. ” He was dead serious; it showed clearly in his eyes.
Ty glared at the man for a brief moment longer and then looked back down. “Thirteen-ten,” he finally answered with a nod.
Raising a brow, Zane sat back with a nod. “Well-done,” he complimented.
“Bite me,” Ty muttered as he poked at his chicken and frowned.
“National average is eleven-fifty,” Zane said, a small smile curling his lips. Tough guy obviously didn’t take compliments well. It was almost endearing.
“I find it disturbing that you know that offhand,” Ty informed his partner flatly.
Zane shrugged. “Numbers stick with me. ”
“I find that disturbing, too,” Ty deadpanned.
“Disturbing, huh? Maybe I’ll take that as a compliment. ”
“Whatever helps your ego,” Ty muttered with a shake of his head.
“How’d you fall into this, anyway?” he asked, ready to change the subject.
Zane considered what to share, figuring Ty would rag him about anything he gave up. “I jumped. ”
“And then the rope broke?” Ty supplied.
“More like they cut it and let me fall,” Zane muttered, turning back to the files and starting to shift them. “I was totally unprepared for the academy. ”
“Wait wait, let me guess,” Ty said as he held out his hand toward Zane. “Psychology major with a. . . ,” he narrowed his eyes and cocked his head, “political science minor,” he guessed.
“Statistics and Spanish. Before law school,” Zane admitted, not looking over at the other man.
“Don’t tell me you’re a lawyer,” Ty groaned in response. “I was starting to almost not hate you. ”
Zane snorted and glanced up. “No, I’m not a lawyer. I was saved from that gruesome fate by an academy recruiter. ”
“Send that man flowers,” Ty ordered.
Zane actually laughed. “I agree . . . now. Then? I wanted to skin him.
“Why? Were you the mascot being tortured in your academy class?”
Eyes narrowing, Zane’s good humor faded. Bad memories did that. “I bet you were top of the class at climbing that damn rope,” he muttered crankily. “For me, it was only four months of utter hell. Then I got to go through it again. How lucky is that?”
Ty frowned and cocked his head, looking Zane over crit
Zane looked over at him and could tell right away why Ty was asking. “Out of grad school I was six-five and one-seventy. Not a scrap of muscle on me. ”
Ty’s eyebrows climbed in surprise, but he shook his head and shrugged. “Must have been hell on wheels with the mental parts of it,” he ventured.
The answer was a wry smile. “Fifteen-eighty. ”
“What happened with the other twenty, spell your name wrong?” Ty asked with a teasing smile.
The smile warmed a little. “Thanks,” Zane said deadpan.
“What’s the Z stand for?” Ty asked abruptly. “Zane Z. Garrett,” he mused with a slight wince. “Momma didn’t like you much, huh?” he inquired in amusement.
“Family name,” Zane said with a shrug. “Zachary. Nothing really scary. And in Texas, Zane is fairly common. ” He squinted at Ty. “I remember Burns said your name. Something Tyler Grady. An initial for your first name.
I was too busy being horrified about being paired up with you to catch it. ”
“Probably better for it,” Ty told him with a shrug, obviously having no intention of answering or meeting Zane’s eyes while he had his mind on it.
Zane raised one eyebrow and considered pushing, but since they were finally actually talking, he didn’t want to ruin it. So he opted for humor. “You were right about the name. ”
“Of course I was,” Ty responded almost immediately. He looked up and narrowed his eyes. “Right about what?” he asked.
Zane sighed. “About my name. And the other twenty points?”
Ty stared at him blankly for several long moments. Finally, he closed his eyes and shook his head. “You spelled your name wrong on the SATs?”
he asked in exasperation.
“No,” Zane said, smiling slightly. “I left out my middle initial. ” His eyes sparkled and he was hard put not to smile.
“Jackass,” Ty muttered under his breath.
The grin broke free and Zane chuckled before leaning back and looking up at the ceiling, drawing in an even breath and relaxing. “It was embarrassing,” he tacked on, just for effect.
“Yeah, well. I’m sure you’re used to that,” Ty muttered. “What the hell,” he added with a sigh. “We can’t all be perfect,” he offered as he looked back down at his uneaten food in distaste. His foot was bouncing slightly as 110
he sat cross-legged on the bed. He was beginning to get edgy again. All the training in the world couldn’t rectify a natural nervous twitch.
Zane sighed quietly and turned back to the files. “Long way from perfect,” he murmured.
Ty rolled his eyes and banged his head back against the headboard.
“Don’t jar loose the few you’ve got,” Zane advised, eyes on the papers he’d pulled out.
“Well, get done with your little pity party, then,” Ty huffed.
“Party, great, where’s the drinks?” Zane sniped.
“And I was almost starting to like you,” Ty sighed under his breath as he twisted and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“God forbid. ”
Ty nodded and glanced back down at his food. He had lost his appetite along with the desire to spend any more time with his self-pitying partner. “I need a break from this fucking room,” he muttered as he pushed to stand and stretch.
Zane glanced up from where he’d been staring blankly at the reports.
Ty was patting down his jeans as he searched for his wallet. Finally, he located it and pulled it out, retrieving a little piece of paper and unfolding it with a frown.
Zane didn’t say a word. He just made himself keep his eyes on the paperwork. He remembered when Ty had been handed that piece of paper, and he knew the implications. He fought hard not to be slightly jealous.
Ty reached for the phone and dialed, eyes straying to Zane and glinting in the low light. “Want me to see if she has a friend?” he asked with a smirk.
“I’ll pass, thanks,” Zane murmured, not even looking up.
Ty nodded, watching his partner as the pretty little stewardess answered her phone. Ty didn’t take his eyes off Zane as he set up the illicit rendezvous that he knew would rid him of some of the frustration his new partner had been creating.
The hair on the back of Zane’s neck rose. Ty was watching him.
Waiting another minute, Zane turned his chin to look toward him, a brow rising lazily. Hmm. Ty shouldn’t be the only one to vent his frustrations.
Maybe he’d go find someone to pass the time with, too, now that he thought about it.
Ty smirked as he watched Zane look up at him, grinning at the slightly breathless voice of the woman as she said goodbye. He hung up and looked at Zane. “Going to be okay on your own for an hour or two?” he asked rakishly.
“Me and my right hand will be just peachy, thanks,” Zane said down at the papers.
“Won’t get no sympathy from me, Lone Star,” Ty told him as he slid into his boots. “I served my time with you,” he said with a shake of his head.
“I’ll call you if I spot a tail,” he added as an afterthought.
“Have a good time,” Zane offered sincerely, finally looking up.
Ty just laughed as he walked out the door, waving his cell phone over his shoulder to let Zane know how to contact him as he went.
The other agent watched the door for a bit before shifting in the chair.
He stood up and paced a little before making a decision. He walked over to the desk and uncovered the area directory the hotel provided in each room.
Laying it open on the papers, he found a list of bars and nightclubs in the area.
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