Cut and run, p.7

Cut & Run, page 7

 part  #1 of  Cut & Run Series


Cut & Run

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  The waitress brought the ordered beer and smiled at Ty flirtatiously as she passed by. Zane watched her thoughtfully and wondered if Ty really was charming or if he was just good-looking enough to pull it off. Either way, it irritated Zane already.

  Ty slid the bottle across the table and waved a hand. “You can wait

  ’til after we eat, if you like,” he offered charitably.

  Eyes narrowing, Zane looked at Ty, then the bottle, then back at Ty.

  “Oh, hell no. One of us smelling like a drunk is plenty. ”

  Ty merely shrugged. The man wasn’t going with him without playing the part. Whether he did it voluntarily was not Ty’s concern. It might even be fun to douse him down, Ty pondered with a smile.

  “So,” he leered as he leaned his elbows on the table again. “Tell me about your hookers. You don’t seem the type,” he said with a pointed look at the wedding band on Zane’s finger.

  Zane willfully ignored the beer bottle. “And what is my type?” he asked in a clipped voice, his left hand curling into a loose fist before he pulled it off the table and settled it out of sight, hiding the ring. He wondered how many new insults Ty could come up with. It really was a game to him, apparently, and it made it more difficult for Zane to maintain his stony reserve.

  Ty snorted in response. “Yeah, okay,” he responded in amusement. “I guess you would need to pay someone to tolerate you. ”

  Letting the insult pass, for more reasons than the truth of it, Zane prodded back instead. “I’m sure you have a very well-formed and detailed profile ready to throw out there, proving how lacking I am. ”

  Ty’s eyebrow rose and he leaned forward. “Have you read my file?”

  he inquired curiously.

  “In what time, since we’ve been together practically the entire past thirty-six hours?” Zane asked sarcastically. “That’s not to say I didn’t think about having it pulled. ”

  Ty narrowed his eyes, then let it go as a coincidence. “Profile of you, huh?” he drawled with a smirk instead.

  “Despite your insistence on being an utter asshole, you are undeniably educated and highly trained,” Zane said, drawing on the minute clues and data he’d been gathering about Ty to make a strong guess. Number-crunching, as it were. “So, I’m betting you’ve assessed for threat, judged for education, gauged strengths and weaknesses … yes. A profile. ”

  “Your logic is irrefutable,” Ty complimented, still grinning. “I do have one,” he answered with a matter-of-fact nod. “I’m still waiting for you to change it. ”

  Zane’s interest in the line of conversation dissipated, as did any life or spark in his dark eyes as his expression went hard again. People were always expecting him to change. “Very charitable of you,” he said curtly.

  Ty shrugged. “You want me continuing to think you’re a candy-ass content to ride a desk, that’s fine with me. Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance, though,” he warned as he leaned back in his seat again and glanced to his right as someone moved too quickly in his peripheral vision. He watched them suspiciously for a moment in silence, the sudden tenseness filtering through his entire body.

  “There’s nothing I can do to change your opinion,” Zane said sourly, not even noticing the change in Ty’s demeanor. “Besides, it’s not too far off. ”

  His tone had turned decidedly bitter, and Zane took a long drink of his iced tea to get the annoyance back under control.

  “Ah, I hear a past bubbling forth,” Ty responded with a point at Zane as he pulled his attention away from their fellow diners. “There’s another thing I don’t wanna talk about. ”

  “I’ve got no desire to hear violins wailing, anyway,” Zane snapped.

  Ty laughed joyously and nodded. “That’s better,” he said approvingly.

  Zane’s nose wrinkled as he reined in his temper yet again. Something about Ty brought out the parts of him he tried to hide from the light of day.

  Surely, this was headed for disaster. “There were four,” he muttered before thinking better of it.

  “Four what?” Ty asked in apparent confusion.

  Zane cleared his throat in annoyance and glanced around them.

  “Hookers,” he said through gritted teeth.

  “All at once?” Ty asked with a mocking sort of wide-eyed innocence.

  “Not all four, no,” Zane said under his breath.

  “Shame,” Ty drawled with a smirk. “Why?”

  Zane sighed inwardly. “One of them was busy with a john in the other bed,” he said as he lifted his glass to call for a refill. That had been one hell of a night—what he remembered of it.

  “That’s fascinatingly kinky,” Ty drawled flatly. “But I meant why hookers,” he corrected with an impish grin. “Paying for it usually means you’re doing it to get out frustrations, not enjoy it. ”

  “Or being too drunk off your ass to know otherwise,” Zane pointed out, taking another sip of tea.

  Ty raised his eyebrows and inclined his head in interest. “Are you a drunk?” he asked directly.

  Zane’s lips twisted in wry amusement, and he took a drink of tea rather than answering.

  “Well, that should make any firefights we get into interesting,” Ty drawled sarcastically. “Sorry, boss, I aimed for the middle one!” he cried softly as he squinted and raised his hand and waved it in front of him, mimicking a man who was seeing double as he tried to aim.

  Zane’s eyes were flat and emotionless. “I don’t drink anymore,” he said after a long pause.

  “Meaning?” Ty prodded slowly. “What, you’re a recovering alcoholic?” he asked with sarcasm lacing the words.

  Trying very hard to push down a sudden desire to commit homicide, Zane’s eyes narrowed and began to glitter with anger. He should have known Ty would disrespect even this. “Alcoholics don’t recover,” he said sharply as he pushed out of his chair. “I’ll be back,” he muttered, heading to the front door.

  “I know they don’t,” Ty called after him without getting up. “They must not have a sarcasm translator in Cyber,” he muttered to himself with a roll of his eyes.

  Zane heard him but was too angry to turn around. He had to calm down or he’d lose his grip on his well-practiced control. He pushed out the doors and onto the sidewalk, walked a few yards away, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and lit up, watching the foot traffic go by as he cooled off.

  Left behind in the restaurant with several patrons glancing at him curiously, Ty simply shrugged and reached for a breadstick to gnaw on. The alcoholism thing didn’t mesh with the mental profile he’d created of his new partner. He’d have to reconsider after his task tonight.

  Taking his time with the cigarette, Zane jammed the butt out when he was done and tossed it in a trash can outside the restaurant before heading back in. The salads were on the table, and he sat down and started eating without saying a word.

  “Bit of a temper, huh?” Ty greeted as he chewed. “That’s a good idea,” commented the man who was notorious for losing his temper in explosive ways. “To walk away like that. ”

  Zane grunted in answer as he ate a few bites of salad, deciding if he wanted to answer. “Had to learn,” he finally said as he nabbed a breadstick.

  “Were you a cop?” Ty asked him in return, his mind making leaps and bounds of logic as he continued to chew.

  “Are we playing twenty questions now?” Zane asked. “No. I was never a cop. ”

  “I ask ’cause big city cops are usually plagued by drinking and anger problems,” Ty informed him. “And I assume they started and were taken care of before you were in the Bureau because you wouldn’t have stayed in after developing them. Military?” he asked dubiously.

  Zane had to smile a little as he looked up and saw the wheels turning.

  “Not military. You get two more guesses. ”

  “Funny, I had you pegged for Air Force,” Ty drawl
ed with a shake of his head and a smirk.

  A sharp bark of laughter escaped Zane before he could repress it.

  “Unfortunately, my candy-ass image is only recently cultivated. I’m pleased that it’s so convincing,” he said, not at all brightly. He still wanted a drink, and his itchy hands and parched throat were getting worse. “You’re military, of course. ”

  “Marines,” Ty offered as he looked up at Zane without moving his head, his fork stopping as he smiled slowly. “Force Recon. ”

  Zane’s shoulders stiffened. So Ty was a highly specialized warrior, trained to take the worst of a hostile environment. To be there and be invisible. To be there and be deadly. The knowledge made something inside Zane go cold. “Makes sense,” he said tightly. “Anyone who could be so insubordinate could only have been the total opposite at some point in time,”

  he observed. Zane pushed the salad bowl away and strongly contemplated another cigarette.

  Ty snorted and shook his head in amusement. “Insubordinate,” he echoed with a little snicker.

  Glancing up, Zane was already resigned to being insulted. Modus operandi for Ty. “What?”

  “If I were really all that much of a liability, do you think I’d still be around?” Ty inquired curiously. “I mean, I’m good, but I ain’t that good. ”

  Zane didn’t even have to think up his answer. “Incorrect. It means you’re so good that you can be as insubordinate as you like and get away with it. We both know there’s a difference between being a liability in the field and an asshole in the office. ”

  “We certainly do,” Ty agreed with a shit-eating grin. “Asshole. ”

  “Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment. ”

  Ty merely shrugged and went about eating his salad happily. Zane seemed to have a higher opinion of his abilities than he did of Zane’s. Which was how it should be, as far as Ty could tell. Soon, the main dishes were brought out and Ty gave the waitress a wink for her trouble. “So, what’d you do?” he asked Zane finally.

  Zane knew what Ty was asking. His lips lifted into a small smile.

  “The hookers were informants. ”

  “Oh, yeah?” Ty asked, his tone of voice that of a patient parent entertaining a child.

  The anger flared again, and tamping it down took serious effort. “I don’t need another goddamn priest. You want to know or not? Because if you’re just going to humor me, then I’m shutting up,” Zane growled.

  “Temper, temper,” Ty tutted with a wave of his fork in Zane’s face.

  “What sort of cybercrimes informants are hookers?” he asked, completely changing the direction.

  “I didn’t always work in the Cyber Division,” Zane told Ty tightly.

  “Huh,” Ty commented disinterestedly. “And you were fucking your informants, too?”

  Zane shrugged one shoulder. What was it about Ty that made him want to fly off the handle?

  Ty gave a low whistle, shaking his head. “No fucking wonder you got busted down. ”

  Zane gave him a hateful look. “Didn’t think when they put you on a leash it would be to a damn anchor, did you?” he asked testily.

  “I was expecting an anvil with a little pink slip attached,” Ty admitted. “Call me Wile E. Coyote. ”

  Surprised by the candor, Zane leaned back when the waitress refilled his tea pitcher, waiting until she was gone. “So what’d you do to piss them off?”

  Ty actually winced as he took a sip of his water and shrugged.

  “That’s still classified,” he answered honestly.

  “Ouch. ” ‘Still classified’ usually meant the shit hit the fan, and then some. “So the bricks, the anvil, and the ACME explosives. ”

  “You got ACME written on your forehead,” Ty muttered. He leaned back and cocked his head with an audible sigh. “I was in charge of the op,” he explained, completely unashamed of what he knew probably should have gotten him fired … and possibly arrested. “We skirted some corners and whited out some of the rule book; then it all went to hell. ”

  “From what little I know of you, it should have worked, though, huh?” Zane said as their dinners were delivered. “It would have been worth it. ”

  “Yes,” Ty answered succinctly. “It would have been worth it. ”

  Zane raised his eyes to study the other man. “So what went wrong?”

  Ty looked up and met his eyes seriously, hazel eyes glinting angrily at just the memory. “That’s classified,” he murmured finally before looking back down.

  The clipped heat of Ty’s voice and the snap in his eyes gave him away. “Sounds like you’ve got your own anger issues. ”

  “Only when I’m pissed off,” Ty answered with a forced smirk.

  Snorting, Zane shook his head. “And that's what … only seventy-five percent of the time?” he asked seriously.

  “I’m very easygoing,” Ty huffed with a pious inclination of his head.

  “Mm hmm,” he hummed contentedly as he picked at his food.

  Zane shook his head, stifling something nearly resembling a snicker.

  “You’re not right in the head, Grady. And I mean that in the most respectful way possible. ”

  “What the hell?” Ty responded with a gesture of his hands.

  “Easygoing, my ass. You go out of your way to make people’s lives hell. But now, I wonder if it’s because you enjoy it or if it’s because you honestly don’t care about anything but the job anymore. ” He’d seen it before.
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