- Beautiful Redemption
“Let’s get one thing straight. The S.A.C. didn’t say that, and neither did I.”
“You kind of did.”
“That’s not what I meant. I would throat-punch someone if he ever said anything like that about you.”
Now, it was my side of the line that was quiet. “Th-thank you.” I didn’t know how else to respond.
“Be on the lookout for that email from Constance.”
“Good day, Lindy.”
I put the phone on its base and returned my ankles to their previous position on my desk, pondering the trip we would take in seven weeks. I was going to be spending several nights alone with Maddox, posing as his girlfriend, and I wasn’t at all upset about it even though I wished I were.
I tried not to smile. I didn’t want to smile, so I frowned instead, and it was the biggest lie I’d told since telling Jackson—and myself—that I was happy with him in Chicago.
Val lightly knocked on the glass with one knuckle and then tapped her watch. I nodded, and she walked away.
I wasn’t sure how much Maddox wanted me to share. Keeping the secrets about our first night and my purpose in Squad Five was hard enough. Unfortunately for me, Val was my only friend in San Diego, and postulation happened to be her superpower.
MY FINGERS KNOTTED IN MY HAIR in frustration as I struggled to focus on the words on the screen. I’d been staring at my computer for more than two hours, and my vision was beginning to blur.
The blinds on the exterior windows were closed, but the sunset had slipped through the slits and then burned out hours before. After studying Travis’s case file, I’d spent the rest of the evening looking for ways to get him out of prison time for the fire, but using him as an asset was not just the best idea. It was the only idea. Unluckily for Travis, his brother was so good at his job that the Bureau felt adding another Maddox would only be beneficial. So, he wasn’t only an asset. He would be recruited.
A knock sounded, and Agent Sawyer slipped a file into the metal holder screwed on the front of my door. The holder was there so that agents wouldn’t have to bother me with every approval request, but Sawyer opened the door just enough to poke his head into my office, a bright white Cheshire smile on his face.
“It’s late,” he said.
“I know,” I said, resting my chin on the heel of my hand. I didn’t take my eyes from the screen.
“I’m aware,” I said. “Have a good weekend.”
“I thought maybe you’d like to get dinner somewhere. You’ve got to be starving.”
Maddox stepped into my office, cool and pleasant to me, and then he glowered at Sawyer. “Agent Lindy and I have a meeting in two minutes.”
“A meeting?” Sawyer said, chuckling. Under Maddox’s intense stare, his smile faded. He smoothed down his tie and then cleared his throat. “Really?”
“Good night, Agent Sawyer,” Maddox said.
“Good night, sir,” he said before disappearing down the hall.
Maddox ambled to my desk and sat in one of the club chairs, casually leaning back with both of his elbows perched on the arms.
“We don’t have a meeting,” I said, my eyes on the monitor.
“No, we don’t,” Maddox said, sounding tired.
“You made me his boss. You’ve got to let him speak to me at some point.”
“I don’t see it that way.”
I leaned to the side to see his face, my face still squashed by my hand, and frowned at him, dubious.
“You look like hell,” Maddox said.
“You look worse,” I lied.
He looked like an Abercrombie model, including the stern yet impervious stare, and I happened to know that he looked like one under his suit and tie, too. I hid behind my computer again before he could catch my eyes lingering on those damn unforgettable lips.
“Hungry?” he asked.
“Let’s go pick up something. I’ll drive.”
I shook my head. “I still have a lot to do.”
“You have to eat.”
“Goddamn, you’re stubborn.”
I looked around my monitor again for effect. “Agent Davies is saying I fucked my way to the top. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get the agents to take me seriously when I walk in here and get a promotion on day one?”
“It was day two actually. And Agent Davies did fuck her way to the top—well, to her top. She won’t likely be promoted any further.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Have you ever given her a raise?”
“Well, Davies might have, but technically, she’s right about me. It’s gnawing at me. I’m putting in extra hours, so I can make myself believe that I earned the spot.”
“Grow up, Liis.”
“You first, Thomas.”
I thought I heard him breathe out the tiniest hint of a laugh, but I didn’t acknowledge it. I simply allowed myself a smug smile from behind the safety of the lit screen between us.
Car horns and sirens could be heard coming from the street below. Out there, the world continued, unaware that we worked late and lived lonely lives to make sure they could go to bed with one less mob boss, one less sex ring, and one less serial killer on the loose. The hunt-and-capture was what I worked for every day—or that was what my function used to be. Now, I was tasked with keeping Thomas’s brother out of prison. At least, that was what it felt like.
My smug smile vanished.
“Tell me the truth,” I said against my hand.
“Yes, I’m hungry,” Thomas droned.
“That’s not it. What is your objective? Taking Benny down or keeping Travis out of prison?”
“One is entangled with the other.”
“I practically raised him.”
“That’s not an answer.”
Thomas took a deep breath and exhaled, his shoulders sagging as if the answer were weighing down on him. “I’d trade my life to save his. I would definitely walk away from this assignment. I’ve walked away before.”
“From the job?”
“No, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Understood,” I said. I didn’t want to talk about her either.