For Disclaimers see Ch. 1
Author's Note:I recently discovered an app called werdsmith for my iphone. Best invention EVER!!! I almost never carry my laptop with me; way too inconvenient. But I carry my phone everywhere I go. And most of the time, I find myself in situations where I manage to think of good story line or idea and have no way to write it down and easily send it to myself. And so it ends up lost. Since I downloaded the app, I've managed to be so productive, almost as productive as I managed to be in college.
So, I'm hoping that finding this app, is a good thing for my writing and for finishing this story. Because I've taken far too long to complete it.
So, please, read, enjoy and let me know what you think.
* * *
The boys stood at the open garage door, pondering the house just as a fresh peal of female laughter drifted out the open windows. As a group, they all took a small step back, as if by putting a bit more distance between them and the noise, they would somehow be safer.
“When do you think they'll be done in there? I'm hungry” Peter whined like a five year old, three minutes from nap time.
Connor snorted, ignoring his overly dramatic brother. “No telling with them. Could be five minutes, could be next week.”
“And if we're smart, with the mood they're all in, we'll stay far, far away until they're done.” And with those words, Keith took another, larger deliberate step backward.
David shrugged. “They don't scare me.”
Keith laughed at him. “You're a bigger idiot than I gave you credit for.”
This bald statement started a minor argument, which escalated into a mild bout of rough housing. Both Luce and Tom looked on in amusement until a particularly hard shove from David sent Peter flying out of the garage to land in a heap on the concrete driveway.
“Alright you hooligans, out!” Tom shoved the rest of them out of the building.
“He started it.” David said softly.
That soft statement didn't seem to mollify their slightly irate uncle. “And I'm ending it. Go bother your wives or your girlfriend. Hell, torture your sister for all I care, just get out!” He kept shoving them out the door before reaching out to shut the large door in their faces.
Luce smiled at the sounds of muffled grumbling coming from the other side as they moved towards the house as ordered. She didn't envy them having to step into the house at that moment.
Tom turned back to her, shaking his head. He started chuckling. “I'm glad you were a good sport about this.”
She smiled wryly. “I'm glad you managed to keep it civil after all.”
He chuckled. “For what its worth, Luce, I couldn't have picked a better person for my niece to spend her life with.”
She gave him a thoughtful look. “I'm just glad it didn't bother you.”
He seemed confused. “What?”
Luce shrugged, crossing her arms over her chest, suddenly unsure if what she was about to say might inadvertently offend him. She took a moment to think, gathering her thoughts, trying to be sure she didn't end up doing that. “We both know this is all kind of sudden.”
The statement seemed to make a great deal of sense to him. “Falling for you or realizing she's gay?”
She shrugged. “Either, both. I'm living it and I'm still a bit taken aback by it all.”
Tom laughed ruefully. “I'll admit, I'm a bit startled that it took her a bit longer to realize her preferences, especially given how openly affectionate Steve and I have always been in front of them all. But after giving it some thought, I think I understand why she might have denied what she was really feeling, even to herself.”
Luce arched a brow in silence, waiting.
Tom let out a loud breath. “Kylie was always a bit of a strange child. She could see things in her head, pictures of stories and ideas and was always acting them out or jotting them down. Emma used to tell me that she thought the biggest reason Kylie learned how to read and write so early, was to give her a way to record and express herself. I think she was right because for as long as I could remember, that child was always carrying around a pencil and a notebook. Some kids had a blanket or a favorite stuffed animal, Kylie's security was that notebook.
“And it didn't stop with the writing. Sometimes her ideas were so big, so intense, she would get her siblings involved and other kids in the neighborhood and put on plays for everyone. She came up with some of the funniest stuff when she was a kid. And she was so damned creative that most of us struggled to encourage her and find an outlet for it so she didn't go crazy.
“When Emma and Joe died, she lost that while she recovered. Probably the head injury. Even after she was completely healed, I think it took her a long time to find that place inside her head again. By the time she did, it had been tempered somewhat. It wasn't anywhere near as intense as it had been when she was a child and I think that was the start of a real change in her.
“Suddenly, she wasn't just the kid who told stories or was a child prodigy, now she was an orphan who'd barely survived the accident that killed her parents. The kid that lost almost lost a year of her life to relearn how to walk. It all added up to create this huge chasm between herself and everyone else around her. I don't think she knew how to cope with it. And I think that if she had any indications of what her preferences were, she buried them deep to keep from adding to that perceived gap.”
Luce nodded. A great deal of the comments Kylie had made to her were now perfectly clear given the context of her past. “That makes a surprising amount of sense. It's hard enough being labeled different as a child; either due to circumstances or personality. I think most people would try very hard to deny anything else inside themselves that might add to that.”
He nodded. “For the longest time after Emma and Joe were killed, we were so careful around her, walking on eggshells. Worried that anything we might say or do would upset her or give her a flashback. What we didn't know at the time is that she was doing the same thing. So terrified that everything around her would fall apart, just change in the blink of eye.”
“Just like the day her parents were killed.”
He nodded. “It took years of therapy for all of us to realize that and get past it. But in some ways, Kylie never really did. She was still, shut down, a lot of herself shoved back down deep inside. Like she was afraid to come out, to risk being hurt again, even for her own family.” He paused, smiling. “But then she met you and it was like, she started waking up again. And when I look at her now, I see the niece I thought I lost the day I lost my sister. I have you to thank for that, I think.”
She swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat, touched at the thoughtful words. “Being with her has really changed me too.”
“You know, Mollie will expect a spring wedding. I'm hoping for fall myself.” There was a mischievous glint in his eyes.
The lump came back, accompanied by her heart flip flopping in her chest at the thought. She tried to back pedal. “Tom, we just admitted how we feel about each other. I'd be lying if I said I hoped with everything I am that this works for us, but stranger things have happened.” She resisted the urge to wipe her suddenly sweaty palms on her pants. She was known as the ice queen, nothing ever phased her. Not irate board members, not grabby oil rig workers, not even the thought of drug cartel hit men gunning for her had ever terrified her as much as the thought of standing at the end of an aisle while watching Kylie walk towards her in a wedding dress. And that realization terrified her even more.
Tom chuckled loudly at her discomfort, deciding to rib her even more.“You know, when Emma first married Joe, I thought she was crazy. The Rogers family takes some getting used to.”
She scoffed. “To say the least.”
“But the more time I spent with the members of the family, the more I interacted with Joe and all his relatives, the more I realized that the family wasn't fickle. When they fell in love, it was permanent and it lasted. When they found someone they loved, it was the first and only time they ever really felt that.” He gave her a piercing, intense look. “Kylie is very much her father's daughter.”
It took a moment for his words to sink in. And despite the fresh wave of nervousness it brought on, Luce found herself laughing ruefully at his words. “You've been talking with my mother, haven't you?”
He gave her a strange look. “Your mother? What does she have to do with this?”
Luce sighed loudly. “When I told my mother I was in love with Kylie, she told me about a family legend about finding my soulmate. After listening to you, I thought maybe she was putting you up to this little talk.”
Tom laughed loudly, reaching out to squeeze her shoulder affectionately. “I've always loved your mother's spiritual side; it made her life so much simpler. Most of us who aren't lucky enough to discover that side of ourselves can sometimes cloud the water.”
“I rather like the idea of being in charge of my own destiny.”
“Funny thing about that illusion of control. Just when you think you've got a hold of it, fate has a nasty way of reminding you of just how wrong you are.”
Ignoring the remark about fate biting her on the ass, Luce steered them back to the original topic. “For what its worth, I'm very glad to be a part of the Kylie's life too.”
* * *
After their little heart to heart in the garage, Tom and Luce decided that sending in the boys first might have proven enough of a distraction for them to slip in unnoticed. It might have worked if it hadn't been for David, still whining that he was hungry.
When Tom opened the door, there was a scene of mild pandemonium in front of them. The women, encouraged by their razzing of their beloved sister, turned that delightful attention to their wayward husbands and boyfriend the minute they walked through the door.
Sensing that any distraction might turn the lethal feminine focus on them, Tom and Luce hugged the wall as they quietly shut the door behind them.
Tom looked at his family and sighed. “I have never ever been ashamed of my sexuality. But there are times when I am far more glad to be gay than should be allowed.” He nodded his head at the crowded kitchen, listening as his nieces gave his nephews some much needed ribbing.
Luce nodded sagely. “This is definitely a time when liking women could get you into serious trouble. Let's just hope they're don't suddenly notice us.”
Just as the words left her mouth, there was a strange and sudden lull of the chaotic noise in the room. It was long enough for David's voice to ring out loud and clear, exploding like a shotgun. “We don't have to wait for Luce and Uncle Tom to come in to eat, they just walked in.”
And just like that, all eyes were suddenly on them. At the somewhat mischievous glint in the eyes of the women, Luce had to resist the urge to take a step back. Instead, she pasted a smirking smile on her face that had charmed many a foe, male and female alike, before arching a dark brow in their direction.
“Ladies, what's for dinner?'
* * *
Luce slid into the passenger seat of Kylie's car, biting back a groan as her lover fastened her seat belt and began backing down the driveway. She reached up to rub her forehead, her eyes closing at the slightly headache that was blossoming behind her eyes.
She gave her lover a hearty sigh before muttering. “Have I ever told you that sometimes your family makes me glad to be an only child?”
Kylie gave her a searching and chagrined look. “Were they that bad?”
Despite herself, she shook her head. “No, not really. They were just looking out for you. However, they're all a bunch of loons.”
This made Kylie chuckle. “No argument from me on that. To be honest, I was expecting them to have another accident like they had when they got a hold of David. I had the first aid kit on standby in the kitchen.”
That caught her attention. “Oh ye of little faith. You didn't really expect me to get hurt did you?”
Kylie snorted. “You? No. But David was out there so you might have been collateral damage. So what did they do?
“They put on a mock trial.” She muttered it in a low voice, still feeling a bit of disbelief at what she'd just gone through.
Kylie starred at her incredulously. “They what?”
It took a few minutes, but Luce filled her in on what happened including the part about David and his misunderstanding with Peter. Kylie was glad she was at a stop sign when the taller woman let that one slip. She was laughing so hard she could barely breath, forget drive.
She leaned against the wheel, her sides shaking and tears rolling down her face. “Oh my...I can't believe David thought Peter was sneezing whenever he said stenographer.”
Luce snorted. “Yeah, tell me about it.”
She turned serious for a moment. “It didn't bother you that they did that, did it?”
Luce shrugged. “I'll admit, a small part of me was annoyed at first. But the more we got into it, the more I realized just how much they loved you to do that. And it felt different...almost like I was part of them. Its been awhile since I felt such easy acceptance.”
That realization had surprised her. She was normally such a quiet, introverted person. She avoided crowds and gatherings when she could and forced herself to grin and bare it when she couldn't. But with Kylie's family, it was different. It was subtle, but it was there and that made all the difference in the world to her.
Kylie gave her a sweet smile. “For what it's worth nearly all of the family thinks you're just awesome. And Keith really adores you. If you were a guy, I'd have accused him of having a bro-crush on you.”
The accusation of being in a bro-mance with the shorter woman's brother-in-law made her laugh. “I like Keith; he accepted everything so easily; never even blinked. Sometimes that's rare. Even with people who say they're open-minded.” Something occurred to Luce. She had no idea what had transpired in the kitchen after she left. “So what did they do to you?”
Kylie groaned. “Ugh, they're harpies, every single one of them.”
“Why do I get the feeling I got the better end of the deal on this one?”
Kylie stopped the car for a light and threw her hands in the air in frustration. “Because you didn't have to sit in that kitchen and get grilled about what it was like to sleep with 'tall, dark and sex-on-a-stick'.”
Luce, gave a weird coughing fit, having been surprised enough to swallow wrong. “What?”
Kylie shook her head, blushing slightly as she gave her lover a chagrined look. “It's my fault; I told Mollie something I shouldn't have and she shared it with the other gossip-mongers I'm related to.”
She leaned into the smaller woman, a heated look in her eyes as she whispered. “Tall, dark and sex-on-a-stick, huh?”
Kylie took a sharp shaky breath, feeling the look shoot through her. It made things tighten down low. Luce's hand trailing lightly down the side of her breast didn't help with things either. She closed the distance between them, letting their lips meet in a lingering kiss. She had no idea what might have happened if someone hadn't taken that moment to honk their horn at them. She looked up to see that the light had turned green and the cars in front of them had taken off.
Swearing softly, she tore her gaze away from the other woman and started through the intersection. “Laugh it up, tiger, but I'm no where near finished with you after that.”
Luce laughed softly. “I'm counting on it.”
For several moments there was silence in the car as each woman contemplated their raging libidos and the remaining distance to Kylie's house. The mood was destroyed by Luce's ringing phone.
She shook her head as she dug it out of her pocket. “Donovan.”
Mac's voice came over the line. “You better be ready to sing my praises and pay up.”
She hadn't expected to hear from him this soon. “You've got it?”
“Yeah, I got everything. We need to meet, tonight.”
She chuckled ruefully. “A bit impatient aren't we?”
“Trust me, when you see what I dug up, you'll be glad I was pushy.”
“Fine. I can meet you at the usual place in an hour.”
“No, too public. This is too delicate to be aired in a public place.”
A bit annoyed at his sudden paranoia, she resisted the urge to snap at him. “What do you suggest?”
“I'll be at your place in an hour.” Then, he hung up.
Luce closed the phone and turned to Kylie. “Change of plans for tonight.”
She simply nodded. “So I gathered. So where we headed?”
“My place.” Luce sighed, her mind racing. There was something about this she didn't like.
The change didn't phase the shorter woman. “Just let me swing by the house to feed the cat and pack a bag and we can head over there.”
Luce was pulled out of her mulling by that statement. If she wasn't sure about the meeting, she sure as hell wasn't going to let Kylie follow her there. “Kylie, I'm not really sure...”
Kylie never let her finish. “What part of that sounded like an option?”
“Dammit, Luce.” Kylie echoed her exasperated tone. “You're getting death threats. If you think I'm going to let you meet someone back at your place, alone when someone's out to kill you, you've completely lost your mind. And not in a good way.” There was no mistaking the fight that was brewing just under the surface of the other woman. It practically burned from her eyes.
Luce found herself smiling at the stubborn look in her lover's face. “And everyone still thinks I'm the dangerous one.” Her mutter was almost breathy, nearly inaudible.
But Kylie caught something of what she said and her eyes narrowed dangerously. “What was that?”
Luce gave her a stunning smile before kissing her lightly on the hand. “I am madly, madly in love with you?” And she let the truth of that statement into her eyes, letting Kylie see just how much she meant those words.
Despite her anger, Kylie found the gesture endearing. “Nice try.”
“I thought so.” The moment gone, she leaned back in her seat, the real world crashing down on them again. “This might be dangerous.”
She seemed confused. “But you know this guy, right?”
Luce nodded, finally realizing just what it was that bothered her about Mac's sudden hang up. “Yeah, I do. For a few years now. But I've never told him where I live before.”
She was quiet for a long moment. “What are we going to do?”
“I don't know.” Her phone rang again suddenly. She answered it with an annoyed bark. “Donovan.”
“This is Agent Smith, we've been monitoring your cell phone conversations. Did you just agree to meet someone at your place in an hour with a contract hanging over your head?”
Luce could feel every muscle in her jaw clenching as his angered voice came over the line. She felt a strange, tight smile on her face as she spoke, her words honey coating barbed wire. “Smith, I'm going to ignore what you just said about monitoring my calls since I'm going to assume that after tomorrow, its going to stop. Because if it doesn't, I'm going to track you down and personally kick your ass from one end of town to the other.”
That made the agent pause. “Are you threatening me?”
“You're damn right I am.” The dangerous purr in her voice was unmistakeable.
This seemed to piss the agent off. “We're in the middle of an investigation and trying to keep your ass alive.”
“Well call me ungrateful that my privacy was violated without my knowledge.” She snapped.
Agent Smith ignored the acid laced comment and tried to get her back on track. “Did you or did you not just agree to meet an unknown subject at your home?”
Luce sighed softly, clearly having reached her limit with the whole damn situation. “I know the guy, I hired him to do some surveillance for me that was pertinent to this investigation.”
“You should have cleared that with us first.” His condescension could be heard from a mile away.
She exploded at the agent. “Why, so you could drag someone I've known for the past few years under a microscope too? I don't think so. My job allows me to use whatever legal means I have at my disposal to get the information I need. If you had special protocols you have to follow, you should have told me.”
There was a sigh from the agent. “Be that as it may, you can't meet this guy at your place by yourself.”
She didn't even try to force the issue. “For once, I agree with you.”
Agent Smith couldn't hide his surprise. “Wow, no arguing?”
Another soft sigh. “I said I knew the guy, I never said we were bosom buddies or anything. But I've never hidden the fact that I know him, either. There's no telling who might have gotten to him.” She hated to think it, hated that the thought even occurred to her in any form. But the truth was, she'd be stupid to ignore the implications. And right now, her gut was telling her that something was off about her conversation with Mac. What that was, she couldn't quite put her finger on. But she would be a damned fool if she ignored the feeling or the facts out of pride.
And that was enough for Agent Smith. “We're sending another pair of agents to your place.”
Knowing she had no choice, she let him that small victory. “Fine, I'll be there in an hour.” She took savage delight in managing to hang up on him before he could respond.
* * *
Luce sat in her condo staring out the window at the traffic below, waiting and annoyed at having to wait. It gave her too much time to think, to much time to worry that she might have done something phenomenally stupid. That she may have put not only her own life at risk, but Kylie's as well.
There'd nearly been an argument, again, over whether the other woman could come with her. Well, there'd been a sort of argument. After her conversation with the oh so congenial Agent Smith, Luce had been even more determined than ever that Kylie not come with her. And she'd bluntly told Kylie that the minute they pulled into her driveway.
But Kylie wouldn't budge. Point of fact, she'd set her heels and refused to even listen to Luce when she tried to convince Kylie to stay behind. She just calmly went about packing up some things to stay overnight at Luce's place as if Luce weren't even there.
Twenty minutes of stone walled silence from the other woman had been more than enough to convince Luce she had no chance of winning the argument. Not that she blamed Kylie. If their roles were reversed, she'd be damned if she let Kylie go off on her own. And she sure as hell wouldn't have been satisfied with hiding in the bedroom either. Even if she did have a cell phone. Although, Kylie hadn't seemed too happy with that arrangement either.
There was a soft knock on her door, drawing her out of her worries about Kylie and her annoyed feelings. She walked over and opened it, glad to see that Mac was alone. She'd only arranged for the doorman to let him up; if he'd had company, they'd been told to call the cops. It was the only way she'd been able to keep the Feds out of the building.
Mac walked in, brushing past her and heading straight for the kitchen. "I have to hand it to you, Donovan, you know some interesting people.”
She shut the door behind him. "I like to make friends, what can I say?" Her flippant tone made him laugh.
"Friends like these, you don't need." He held out a manilla envelope full of photos.
"And here I thought I'd have some of them over for tea and cookies." She took the envelope from him and poured out the photos. She leafed through them, studying them carefully. None of the looked familiar. "Just who am I looking at?"
Mac shrugged. "Two bit thugs and drug dealers, mostly. I haven't run any of the photos through facial software yet so I don't know who most of them are exactly, but after awhile, you recognize the look. Damn, I need a beer.”
“There's a six pack in the fridge.” She nodded her head in its general direction. She continued leafing through the photos, only vaguely aware of him opening the door as he helped himself. She held up a photo that had a bright tag on it. "And this guy?"
Mac shut the fridge door, cracking the bottle before taking a quick, deep slug. "Now that guy is interesting. Name's Miguel Sanchez. Goes by the nickname 'Hammer'. He's an enforcer for a South American drug cartel called Los lobos."
She sighed. She'd been seriously hoping the FBI's claims had been wrong. "The Black Wolves; I've heard of them a lot lately."
Mac leaned on the table, nodding. "Then you probably know these guys aren't a group you want to mess around with. Not if you like breathing at any rate."
Luce continued to leaf through the photos, looking for familiar faces. She didn't see any. Finding another tagged photo, she held it up to Mac.
He nodded at that one. "Another member of the cartel. No one seems to know his real name. Goes by the nickname of “Loco”. He's rumored to be the boss man's right hand man but I'm thinking that's just a rumor to keep some of the higher level members safe. Because from what I hear, he's a bit of a nut case. Enjoys his job a bit too much, if you catch my drift."
She shook her head. "Sounds like a real humanitarian."
He chuckled. "Aren't they all?"
For a moment or two, there was silence as she studied the photos, trying to commit the faces to memory. He kept sipping his beer, watching her, waiting for her next question. The silence stretched between them and for the first time that she could remember, it was thick and heavy with tension.
He broke first. "Luce."
She looked up at the use of her first name, something he had never done since the moment they met. It was more than enough to grab her full attention.
He set his empty bottle of beer down on the counter, meeting her gaze. "I'm gonna level with you, here."
"You mean up til now you haven't been?" She smirked, trying to lighten the heavy look in his eyes.
He ignored the levity. "Most of these guys are nothing. Street thugs for the most part. They've got no clout, no power. The only way they'd be dangerous is if they caught you in a dark alley on a night you had more than 20 bucks cash on you."
That was the feel she got from most of them as well. "Point taken."
He reached across the counter, pulling out the two tagged photos. "But these guys ain't like that. I don't know exactly what your company is involved in here, but if these two are a part of it, it ain't good. And sooner or later someone's gonna come crash the party. When it happens, it won't be pretty. Especially if you get caught on the wrong end of a double cross."
She set the rest of the photos down, looking at him carefully. Yet another flag went up, this one bright red and flashing. "A bit paranoid, wouldn't you say?"
He scoffed. "Says the woman with two Feds babysitting her front door and her girlfriend hiding in the bedroom."
She simply shrugged at his comment. "You didn't want to meet in a public place. It seemed like a good idea. No offense." She felt her face locking down, trying to hide the surprise she was feeling. It was a familiar look, one she'd worn often to hid her emotions from those around her. But the shock wasn't. Truth be told, it took a lot to surprise her anymore. Her job had made her very, very good at seeing the twist coming. And, in her experience, anyone who had ever managed it in the past, was often someone with a very sinister motive.
He laughed, going to the sink to rinse out his empty beer bottle. "None taken. It's always a good idea to never let someone you don't trust know where you're sleeping at night."
For some reason, this comment got through and broke the wall she had built to hide her nervousness and surprise. The genuine surprise on her face made Mac laugh even harder. "Don't look so surprised, Donovan. You'd be an idiot to trust anyone at this stage."
"Even you?" She fired back.
He grinned. "Even me. Especially with a hit out on you."
There was a few seconds of stunned silence in the room as his words registered. "How the hell do you know about that?"
This time, his eyes went very, very blank. "Let's just say I like to keep my ears open."
She looked at him for several moments, studying, evaluating, measuring. She'd known for a while there was more to Mac than met the eye. She'd suspected for some time that might just be a day job for him. He always seemed to know a bit more than a hacker should about certain things always seemed a little too abreast of the political currents in and outside of the country. And he never seemed worried that his hacking might get him into trouble.
Before, she'd pushed her suspicions aside as paranoia or even the result of too many damn action movies. But now she was starting to wonder again. Because what she was seeing today couldn't simply be written off.
She set the pictures down, the thugs on them forgotten and decided to go for broke. "You're not just a hacker, are you?"
He looked at her, clearly amused. "What makes you say that?"
This time she rolled her eyes at the unconcerned, even jovial tone of his voice. He laughed. "I'm whatever I need to be, whenever I need to be it. Depending on what the situation calls for."
She sat back, several things clicking together all at once for her. "Let me guess, some kind of black bag Fed?"
He winced. "You make it sound so dirty."
"My first thought was DEA since a drug cartel was involved."
"But now?" It seemed he couldn't resist either encouraging or ribbing her.
She cocked her head, her thoughts whirling as she let her mind roll along. "Now I'm leaning more towards CIA, special ops, something along those lines."
He smiled and this time it didn't reach his eyes. "Bit of a reach don't you think?"
She shrugged, running with her gut. "Maybe. But then again if you were DEA, you'd have stomped all over the Feds to get to me first, despite their jurisdiction."
He snorted. "The DEA aren't the only ones with a territorial bone up their asses."
"Granted, which is why I'm thinking CIA or something similar fits better."
He crossed his arms and leaned back, nodding at her. "Enlighten me."
She held up her hand, ticking off each point. "You called me tonight to give me a report on the evidence you gathered and proceed to identify the major players you spotted. Both from South America, both from a known drug cartel and both extremely dangerous."
He scoffed at that. "Any self respecting DEA agent would have known who they were."
"Ah, but would any self respecting DEA agent have shared the info so easily? Without pulling a classified or jurisdictional card out of their ass?"
He shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. What else you got?"
She ticked off another point. "You spotted the Feds on my doorstep and knew I wasn't alone in this apartment."
“Like I said, you'd be an idiot to trust anyone right now, even me. I expected you to have someone here with you. Although it might be nice if you let her out of the bedroom.”
A third finger went up. "Granted, but that brings us around to the fact that you knew about the hit.”
He shrugged again. “I have lots fingers in lots of pies.”
Another finger. “And knowing where I live?"
This time his smile was genuine. "Google and the yellow pages are the damnedest things."
She ignored his flippant tone. "But you know what the clincher for me was?"
"I can't wait to hear it." He was practically giddy at her thoughts. Almost as if he were a bit proud that she was managing to put it together.
She raised a final finger. "You know where I've been sleeping lately. You've been following me."
Suddenly serious, his voice got real quiet. "A DEA agent could have managed all that, even following you."
"Without tipping off the Feds? Most of you guys can smell your own a mile away.” He gave a slight nod at that. She continued. “CIA or something deeper would make a lot more sense. Especially if this whole operation to bring down a drug cartel had an ulterior motive.”
That seemed to catch his interest even more. “Such as?”
She gave him a wolfish smile. “Giving you the opportunity to take someone out of power that you can't touch any other way.”
He went still. “I'm surprised, Donovan. I think you've been watching too many spy movies.” The merry tone in his voice was gone.
The flat tone of his voice told her more than anything else that she'd hit on to a great deal more than he'd wanted to reveal at the moment. For some reason, she felt a great deal of pride for having set him on his ear a bit.
She smiled wryly. “Maybe, maybe not. I guess time will tell.”
He smiled at that. “Don't you think its about time you let her out of the bedroom?”
Luce had the good grace to look a bit embarrassed. “I'd better; she's probably pretty pissed right now waiting for me to give her the all clear.”
“We're good then?”
She nodded. “We're good. But we're going to come back to this later.” She turned and called out to her closed bedroom door. “Kylie, you can come out now.”
The door opened and the shorter woman practically stormed into the room. The fury practically rolled off her in waves as she walked to the kitchen and sat down next to Luce. She didn't spare her lover a glance, saving her murderous glare solely for Mac.
“I'm assuming you're not here to kill her.” Her clipped words cut through the silence of the kitchen.
Faced with that fierce gaze, he repressed the urge to shudder. “Damn, Donovan, I've been wrong all these years thinking you had one of the worst tempers I've ever seen. If looks could kill, I'd be a cinder right now.”
Luce chuckled. “I'm just glad she's directing it at you instead of me.”
Blazing jade eyes turned in her direction. “Oh, don't think you're getting off that easily.”
Despite the temper she could see flashing there, Luce could see a twinkle as well and knew she was being tweaked. She chuckled again, turning her attention back to the remaining photos, leafing through the remaining ones. Near the end, at nearly the last one, she found herself staring at a face she knew. “Shit.” The word came out almost violently.
Mac studied her as she studied the photo in her hand. “Someone get caught stealing your Wheaties?”
“Worse. Did you see this one?” She held the photo up she was looking at.
He nodded. “Yeah, but I didn't recognize him. And like I said, I was going to run some facial recognition software I have access to on some the photos later. But from the look on your face I don't think I need to do that. Who is he?”
She sighed, setting the photo down. “A serious complication.”
Kyie took the photo. “You know him?”
Luce nodded. “I should, the little prick hit on me at the last company function I was forced to attend.”
Kylie snorted. “I take it he didn't know your preferences.”
She shook her head. “No, that's the twisted part, he did. He just seemed to think he had the cure to my problem in his pants.” She took the photo from Kylie, studying it closely. “It didn't take much to set him straight.”
Mac snorted this time. “I'm sure it didn't. So, what gives? Why is he such a problem?”
“He's the son of the CEO of my company.”
This time Mac swore loudly. “Shit.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
Mac shook his head, suddenly angry. “I ran all the board members, every one of them, through a mesh screen. All that came up was his two daughters.”
“That's because his son doesn't share his last name. He's the result of an affair with his accountant, before his marriage to his current wife.” Something else important clicked. “She was Colombian.”
Mac shook his head. “Imagine that.”
Kylie looked at them both confused. “I don't understand. What's so important about this guy being the son of the CEO?” She pointed at the photo.
Luce held it up. “It means, we may have found our front man.”
* * *
Kylie and Luce sat at the counter several beer bottles between them, some empty, some not. Both of them pondering the pages Mac had left for them to go over. After Luce's revelation that the young man in the photo was the son of the CEO, he'd run down and grabbed his laptop. Using Luce's WIFI connection, he did a rough, quick dig on the young man, pulling up some seriously, bad stuff. He handed over a handful of printed out sheets, intending to do a more in depth search that night.
Luce walked him to the door. “Thank you.”
Mac stood in the doorway giving her a sober look. “Consider it a freebie. And, Donovan? You need backup on this, you call me and let me know. You taking this thing down is going to piss off a lot of people. They might come gunning for you even harder when the arrests come raining down.”
Luce nodded. “I've thought about that.”
He reached out and squeezed her shoulder. “I'll be keeping my eye on both of you, so don't go doing anything stupid to make that harder.”
She laughed. “Thanks, Mac. I owe you one.”
He waved as he walked down the hall.
Luce shut the door softly and went back to the kitchen. Kylie was still bent over the counter, reading about Jerry Munoz. A known thug, criminal and drug dealer who seemed to have a very deep seated almost obsessive need to get in good with the cartel. If Luce had been a psychologist, she might have ventured that he had some serious abandonment issues or some self esteem problems. But thankfully she wasn't and at the moment, she really didn't give a damn why he was doing what he was doing. Just that he was doing it.
She sat down with Kylie, reading over the shorter woman's shoulder pondering what her next move was going to be. She was going to have to confront Don with all this, find out how deep he was involved in all of it; she knew that. But she was really not looking forward to having that conversation.
Kylie looked up at her, sighing loudly. “This doesn't look good.”
She shook her head. “No, it doesn't.”
“Do you really think he could be involved?”
Luce sighed loudly. “I don't know. I know this guy, I've known him for a while. I can't imagine him being willingly involved with something like this.” She reached up to her temples, feeling a headache building suddenly. This whole thing was suddenly making her sick. “He's a good guy, stands by his people and his decisions, even when they blow up in his face. That kind of loyalty is rare in this day and age.”
“Sounds like you admire him.” Kylie, noticing her discomfort, reached up to rub Luce's neck and shoulders, wincing a bit at the knots she found there.
She nodded, nearly groaning aloud at the relief that spread from Kylie's loving and skilled hands. “I do. A lot. To think he might be involved in something like this, it makes me sick.”
“Maybe he's not as involved as you think.”
That made her pause. “What do you mean?”
Kylie shrugged. “Maybe the person he thinks of as his son isn't who his son really is.”
Luce's eyes went wide in disblief. “You think Don is clueless about his own kid?” She didn't think the man was an idiot, not by any stretch of the imagination, but then again, people sometimes had some really big blinders when it came to family.
Again, she shrugged. “Stranger things have happened. Especially when parents aren't as much a part of a child's life as they want to be.” Kylie held up the photo. “Its worth thinking about.”
She looked at the image for several moments thinking. It made sense and yet, it left so much unanswered. She finally shook her head. “I don't know, Kylie. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I just don't know.” She stood up, feeling antsy, needing to move. She began gathering up the empty beer bottles and taking them to the sink.
She couldn't help but notice her lover's agitation. “This is really bothering you, isn't it?”
Luce braced her arms against the sink and nodded. “Yeah, if someone like Don can fool me, someone I thought I knew and could trust, maybe I've been at this too long. Maybe its time to think about getting out.” She felt her shoulders sag a little at the words. The admission was hard for her.
That surprised Kylie. “I thought you loved your job.”
Luce turned, looking at her with intense blue eyes, haunted by something she couldn't name. “I did, I do. I just don't think I can do it anymore. Not after this. If they could find a way to get to a guy like Don, someone who always seemed untouchable, what does that say for the rest of? Could I be tempted or twisted? If I stay after this, am I risking my own soul trying to do the right thing?” She ran her hand through her hair, the rough gesture making it stick up slightly.
Concerned by the trapped look in her eyes, Kylie stood up and reached out to her. She touched Luce's face gently, trying to ease the worry lines there. She smiled softly, giving her a gentle kiss. She pulled back and her green eyes were filled with love. “You are one of the strongest willed people I know; I have complete and utter faith in your ability to resist.” Luce didn't look convinced, so Kylie pressed on. “You know what I think? I think that tomorrow is time enough to answer that question. And for tonight, just for tonight, we're going to ignore it.”
Kylie, reached out, stopping her words with a touch to her lips. “Tonight, you and I are going to spoil each other rotten. Starting with a wonderful home cooked meal, which we will both prepare, and moving to the living room where we will enjoy a lovely movie of sheer stupidity. Followed by some making out on the couch and ending with us in bed, naked, sweaty and completely satisfied.”
Luce chuckled. “Are you sure we want to risk burning down the kitchen again?”
Kylie smirked. “Well, neither of us is drunk at the moment and we're both aware of the danger of putting you any where near an open flame. But with that said, you'll be in charge of the salad.”
Luce laughed out loud, pulling Kylie to her and hugging her fiercely. She rested her head on Kylie's, breathing in the scent of lavender and rosemary, a new shampoo they'd been trying recently. And for a moment, the world just disappeared. All she could feel was Kylie, pressed against her, fitting perfectly against her, almost as if she'd been made to be there. And she realized that right now, she was holding her whole world in her arms.
Feeling the threat of tears stinging her eyes, she whispered in Kylie's ear. ““I have no idea what I ever did to deserve meeting you, but I plan on getting down on my knees and thanking every god I can think of, every night for the rest of my life.”
Kylie pulled back, “You never really struck me as the religious type.”
She smiled. “I'm not. But for you, I could be.”
* * *
To be continued...
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