Cut & Run, page 23part #1 of Cut & Run Series
“You want to be able to use that hand later?” Zane asked reasonably.
“You gonna make me hit you again?” Ty countered.
“But you seemed to enjoy it so much,” Zane answered sweetly.
“True,” Ty allowed as he reached out and snagged the bag of ice.
Zane let Ty take the cold pack and turned on his heel without comment, returning to the bathroom to make another one. He glanced in the mirror and saw another black smudge coming up on the side of his jaw, extending up nearly to his cheekbone. “Motherfucker,” he muttered, prodding at it.
“What was that?” Ty called from the outer room.
“You got me good,” Zane answered, thinking that not shaving another couple days wasn’t a bad idea.
“Yeah,” Ty sighed contentedly.
Zane rolled his eyes and walked back out, hand wrapped up again. He felt the need to defend himself. “I got in a few good hits, remember?”
“Yeah,” Ty repeated with a frown as he pressed the ice in his hand to his ribs, icing both sore spots at the same time.
Holding his tongue, Zane decided to be content with that knowledge.
He slowly turned his chin to look at Ty, and he really looked at him. Looked at his heart-shaped face disguised by scruff, full lips, forehead between dark brows scrunched in concentration, sharp nose, all crowned by sparkling hazel eyes that seemed to change colors as he watched. Zane’s mouth compressed ever so slightly, and he blinked slowly, breaking the moment before he turned his eyes away and headed back to the files. He would have shivered if he’d let himself. As it was, his shoulders tensed as he tried to quash that damn itch.
“You really worried about the bruises?” Ty asked as he looked up at Zane. “We can stick a needle in ’em and they’ll fade,” he offered seriously.
When Zane didn’t respond, Ty cocked his head and watched him with a raised eyebrow and a small frown. “You okay?” he asked neutrally.
Zane’s nostrils flared as he mulled over his thoughts, and he pushed away from the table again abruptly, suddenly antsy and needing some room.
He stalked over to the window, moving the drapes to look out on the city, keeping the ice on his wrist.
Ty watched him, still trying to figure out the sudden mood changes his new partner suffered. Maybe Zane didn’t drink anymore, but he’d definitely killed off some brain cells along the way. “Want me to leave?” Ty asked in the same neutral tone.
Forgetting about the dark window that would mirror his reflection, Zane closed his eyes as he grimaced like he was in pain. He cradled his wrist against the ice. If Ty left, he might be able to relax more. He just couldn’t get the image of that lean, muscled body out of his head. He might be able to get some sleep, to think without the frustration gnawing at him. . . after he got off, probably. Damn it. His escapade earlier hadn’t done anything but take the edge off. He shook his head in answer to Ty’s question, regardless.
“Good,” Ty responded seriously. “’Cause all my shit’s here now and I’m too damn lazy to move it. Why don’t you get some more sleep?” he suggested softly. If he wasn’t mistaken, he was witnessing the beginnings of a burnout. He’d seen plenty of them. Even had a few himself.
Zane took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good,” he said softly. He turned away from the window, closing the curtain before he crossed the room for the bathroom, intending to get rid of the ice. His hand was numb enough. He shut the door and sat down on the toilet, threw the towel and bag in the sink, and covered his face with both hands.
Fuck, Garrett, get hold of yourself, he thought morosely. His hard-as-nails partner was going to think he was falling apart. He craved the calm a cigarette would give him and briefly considered going out to get one and smoking it right there in the damn room.
Ty remained where he was, trying to decide on a course of action.
Finally, he got up slowly, pulled a clean pair of jeans on, then walked silently on bare feet to the bathroom door and knocked softly. “Hey, Garrett?” he called gently just before his voice turned sarcastic and teasing. “Do you need a hug?”
Stifling a laugh, Zane looked up at the door, raising an eyebrow.
Leave it to Ty to snap him out of a funk with five simple words. “Fuck you, Grady,” he answered, amusement clear in his voice. He pushed himself up and turned on the water at the sink to fill up a glass.
“I won’t tell anyone,” Ty continued in a mockingly sincere voice, plastered against the door like a parody of an overeager psychologist, trying to talk someone off a ledge. “You can cry if you need to!”
Zane swallowed the water and rolled his eyes. “You’re an ass, you know that?” But he had to admit; it was breaking the shitty mood and distracting him from the curl of arousal in his gut. Sort of.
“It won’t make you any less of a man!” Ty insisted as he called through the door. “Much. . . well, it will, but. . . . ”
Snorting, Zane set down the glass. “Well, I guess I should feel honored you consider me a man to start with,” he said wryly as he looked at himself in the mirror.
“You’re definitely more like one now than you were in Burns’
office,” Ty offered, his voice serious once more as he leaned against the door.
“I’ll take credit for that. ”
Zane raised a brow. Typical Grady ego. He looked in the mirror again. It had been a while since he’d had two days of beard. He looked 138
slightly rakish, with the dark clothes and the whiskers … and the growing bruise. “Don’t go for the clean-cut professional look, do you?” he asked as he grabbed a washcloth.
“Doesn’t suit you,” Ty responded carefully as he realized the territory he’d stumbled into again. He didn’t want to think about what did or didn’t suit Zane. Ty had already crossed a mental line where his partner was concerned.
Turning on the water long enough to wet down the cloth, Zane sighed and ran it carefully over the back of his neck as he shut off the faucet, then wiped carefully on his upper lip to get the dried blood off. “Yeah, I know,” he said, a hint of resignation in his voice.
“I could help, you know,” Ty offered, hearing the water and guessing that Zane was probably messing with his wounds again. He leaned more against the door, forcibly relaxing himself. He desperately needed to change the subject, for his own sanity if nothing else.
It took Zane a long moment to decide what Ty was talking about.
With a sigh, he decided Ty probably wasn’t offering to help him with his
“manhood. ” Tossing down the rag, he pulled his T-shirt over his head and turned to look at his back. Parts of it didn’t look great. There were new scrapes and his wrist and chin were both killing him. He could certainly blame his crankiness on that; it was Ty’s fault, after all. He leaned over and pulled the door open.
Ty nearly fell into the bathroom as the door collapsed beneath his shoulder without warning. Reacting instinctively, Zane slid his arms around Ty and caught him up against his chest, stopping his potential sideways pitch.
Ty tried not to grab him, knowing Zane’s entire back was sore and tender, but it was either that or hit the marble floor. And he really didn’t want to hit the floor again tonight. Considering he’d been ready to kick the living shit out of the other man earlier, he didn’t feel all too guilty about it.
He offered a grunted curse as he wrapped an arm around Zane’s neck and flailed to try to stay upright. He thought he would have been able to keep his feet if Zane hadn’t grabbed him and tried to help. As it was, he was pulled off balance and practically cuddled as he struggled to get away.
“I’ve got you,” Zane said as he pulled Ty against him, one arm encircling his waist and holding tight, easily supporting the other man’s weight until Ty could find his feet.
Ty’s only response was stunned silence. He looked up and met Zane’s
Zane’s eyes widened as his gut reacted to the proximity, and he stopped breathing when Ty didn’t immediately pull back. It registered how Ty felt against him, somehow fitting perfectly against his slightly taller and broader frame—just like before. And his body reacted again. Seconds passed, and he couldn’t look away. Oh, he was so going to get the shit beat out of him for this. Again.
Ty’s thoughts were running along a remarkably similar line. Beating the shit out of Zane sounded like the ticket. He could feel Zane’s physical reaction to the close proximity and he cleared his throat and straightened, pushing gently against Zane’s chest to back him away. “Uhh. . . . ”
Slowly squaring his shoulders, Zane literally had to force himself to shift back, pulling away from Ty entirely. “You okay?” he rasped. His pulse was elevated, among other things.
“Maybe,” Ty answered as he stepped back and cocked his head, looking away from Zane’s dark eyes and frowning in confusion. He found himself uncharacteristically unable to think of anything else to say as he fought down his own reaction to the incident.
Zane’s hands fell to his sides, and he shifted his stance. “Maybe?” he asked, brow furrowing. It wasn’t like Ty not to have a snappy remark. Nerves began to bubble in his gut as he waited.
Ty closed his eyes and lifted his head, turning it the other way like a dog trying to hear a distant sound. “I’ve forgotten what I was making fun of you for,” he mumbled.
Confused, Zane just watched him. He seemed almost nervous.
Embarrassed, maybe? For being caught enough unawares to fall over when he opened the door? Or had he felt Zane’s very inappropriate arousal? Jaw tightening, Zane swallowed and backed another step away. This wasn’t a good thing. He should shut the door again and take a shower. Showers were always a good idea for relaxing. Shit shit shit.
“I think you were calling me a pansy-ass again,” he murmured, turning slightly away.
“Right,” Ty huffed as he turned on his heel and headed back out into the outer room. “‘Cause you went and got yourself exploded,” he called as casually as possible as he grabbed his pack and walked slowly back toward the bathroom, trying to calm himself.
Zane leaned over, bracing himself on the sink as his fingers curled against the porcelain. There was no way he’d be sleeping well anytime soon.
Shower. That was the ticket. Cold shower, then sleep. He heard Ty coming back and cursed mentally. He couldn’t take a shower after Ty tended those cuts. He hung his head and tried to breathe evenly. Every once in a while he met someone who did this to him, who made him crazy. God, why did it have to be Ty Grady? Why now?
Ty stood in the doorway and watched Zane for a moment. He licked his lips thoughtfully and frowned. He had noticed a lot of small things adding up about Zane’s behavior, not the least of which was his being aroused by their close proximity. He didn’t think Zane was fucking with him. Ty knew his own sexual preferences weren’t so obvious that after four days a complete stranger would realize he went both ways. Maybe it was just a series of morbid coincidences that made it seem like Zane might do the same.
Yes, because coincidences were so much more likely than a trained FBI agent figuring something out….
He would simply have to tread lightly from now on, just in case Zane had sniffed him out and was planning on using it against him. Or he would have to find out for certain. He really didn’t want Zane having any ammunition on him, but his curiosity had always been stronger than his sense of self-preservation.
A shift of weight warned Zane that Ty had returned, and he straightened, looking in the mirror. Without a word, he lowered his head again and pushed the wet washcloth on the counter toward Ty to use when he cleaned his back. Zane resolved that he would work on case details until he fell over exhausted. Or until he could get another night away. He half-wished he could say something, joke about it. The heat next to him was so damn intoxicating, he wished he had the nerve to do something about it. But his nerve was all tapped out after that fight.
Ty wiped his back clean with the washcloth and then covered the wounds on Zane’s back liberally with salve, rubbing it in carefully, biting his lip the entire time and careful not to look up into the mirror to meet Zane’s eyes. He was still battling with himself, trying to decide what to say. Because an incident like that couldn’t be left with nothing said.
Maybe it was the heat and frustration riding him, but Zane thought Ty seemed almost skittish. Christ. At least he wasn’t angry. Zane already knew Ty fought dirtier than he did.
Leaning on the counter again, Zane muttered to himself. “This case is going to be the death of me. ” If the work didn’t get him, the attraction to his partner curling inside him certainly would. He shivered slightly as the salve cooled.
Ty removed his fingers from Zane’s back as he saw the shiver run through him, and he pressed his lips tightly together, looking up and away in disgust as he resigned himself to what he was about to do. Broaching the subject could possibly cost him his job if Zane went tattling to the higher-ups about sexual harassment or some shit, but Ty was going to do it anyway.
“Anything you need to say to me?”
The other man being so calm when Zane was such a mental wreck went a long way toward cooling him down. Ty wasn’t interested in working out their frustrations in any other way than a fistfight. Zane kept his eyes on his hands, his fingers clenching. What he would do to Ty, given the chance.
And he wasn’t thinking about kicks to the ribs.
The visual of Ty’s nude body flashed behind Zane’s eyelids, and he spoke before he thought better of it. “Nothing you want to hear,” he murmured as he faced the mirror, hoping to diffuse the situation. “Thanks for the help,” he added, wanting desperately to get away from this tension.
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