Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)


by Abigail Roux

Chapter 1

Zane Garrett glanced up in time to see Alston toss a balled-up scrap of paper across the pod of desks where their team of six sat. Ty Grady threw up his arms, signaling a touchdown as the paper skidded across his desk and into his lap.

“Garrett, Grady, in my office,” McCoy called from his door. He disappeared inside.

“What’d you guys do now?” Alston asked.

Zane rolled his eyes. “Wasn’t me.”

“This time,” Clancy chimed in.

“I hope it was me,” Ty said with relish. He stood and buttoned his suit, leaving a half-finished firearms discharge form open on his computer.

“Sometimes I wonder how far you’d go to get out of paperwork,” Alston said.

“Watch old episodes of Pinky and the Brain and you might get close,” Zane muttered, drawing snorts of laughter from their other two teammates.

“Before everything went digital, I had the Bureau docs convinced I was allergic to paper pulp,” Ty told them, dead serious. His hazel eyes were shining. “It was beautiful.”

“You’re allergic to everything else,” Zane said as he pushed out of his chair. “Come on. You know what he did to us the last time we made him wait.”

“Salon appointments,” Lassiter mused.

“PR lectures,” Alston said.

“Enforced vacation?” Clancy added.

“Christ, I don’t know which of those is worse,” Zane said. It was all part and parcel of being Ty Grady’s partner. And, Zane had to be honest, some of it was his own fault too.

Ty pointed around at each of his teammates, playfully threatening them as he trailed after Zane. He knocked on the doorjamb, peering into the Special Agent in Charge’s office. McCoy looked up from his computer screen and smirked.

A cold chill ran through Zane’s body. “Oh hell.”

“What now?” Ty blurted. They both knew that the look on McCoy’s face was a harbinger of doom.

McCoy shook his head and motioned for them to come in and close the door. Once Ty had pushed it shut, McCoy waved two sheets of paper at them. “Several weeks ago, we had a request put in. An unusual one, but it’s a reasonable step toward keeping our noses clean in the press.”

“Is this more PR bullshit?” Ty asked.

“It’s not bullshit,” McCoy had the gall to say with a straight face.

Zane sat with a deep sigh. “You’ve still got me giving a community lecture once a month as it is. The last one? The deputy mayor asked me if I’d speak to the Chamber of Commerce. How am I supposed to be a discreet, undercover criminal investigator when everyone knows who I am?”

“That’s a very good point,” Ty said.

“That’s one of the things I need to speak to you both about. Individually. Later,” McCoy added with a more somber cast to his face. “But for now we’ll deal with this one—very reasonable—request.”

“Which is?” Ty asked.

“There’s a fundraising calendar being put together by a local first responder organization.”

Ty stood up, holding his hand out toward McCoy as if to ward off evil. “Hell no!”

Zane blinked. “A calendar?”

McCoy nodded. “They’re using people from state, federal, and municipal organizations, and all proceeds are going to a fund set up to aid first responders injured in the line of duty.”

“Admirable,” Zane said.

“You’ve both been requested as . . . models,” McCoy managed to say without cracking a smile.

Zane looked from his partner back to McCoy. “You’re joking.” Ty was shaking his head, thumbing through numbers on the cell phone in his hand. Zane hadn’t even seen him pull it out.

“I never joke,” McCoy said with a hint of mischief. He looked to Ty. “If you’re intending to call Richard Burns to get you out of this, I won’t have it. The Bureau needs this and you’re the ones they want.”

Ty narrowed his eyes at McCoy, then turned his phone off and curled his lip at Zane. There was also a hint of apprehension in his expression, but he hid it quickly.

“We’ve been assured the photographs will be tastefully done,” McCoy said.

“Fine,” Zane said, pointing at Ty. “Send him. But why me?”

Ty shook his head and gestured toward Zane while raising one eyebrow at McCoy. “I think the real question is: Why do they need me when they have such a fine specimen right here?” he said, sounding like a used car salesman trying to sell a Pinto.

Zane reached out and whapped Ty on the back of the head.

Ty laughed and ducked away, still trying to sell Zane. “Little bit of eyeliner, some spray tan, I mean, come on! He’s beautiful!”

McCoy smiled, though he looked as if he was trying not to. “Am I to assume the two of you will agree to representing the Bureau in this?”

“I think ‘agree’ is too strong a term,” Zane said. “This is a bad idea. Remember when we were on TV?”

“Yes, Grady got fan mail for a month.”

“I did?”

“We burned it, as you should all evil things,” McCoy answered.

From Ty’s expression, he was trying to figure out if McCoy was being facetious or serious.

Zane laughed and wiped his hand over his face.

“I’m not going to force you, Garrett. But I am going to force Grady because he owes me.”

“What?” Ty shouted.

McCoy ignored him. “But I need an answer from you right now.”

Zane was still laughing over the absurdity of the idea as he glanced at Ty, weighing his options and wondering just what the punishment would be if he bowed out. Because there would be retribution from his partner. For sure. Of course, if he went along of his own free will, there might be a reward involved. A hot, naked, angry reward. Not that McCoy needed to know anything about that.

Ty flopped his hands. “I mean, hell, I have about as much say in it as I usually do, so why not? I’m game.”

Zane sighed. “I’ll never hear the end of it if I say no, will I?” Ty jerked his head to the side, raising an eyebrow higher in warning. He was a handsome man when he was annoyed. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Fine, I’ll do it.”

“Good!” McCoy stood and clapped his hands together once. “Go now.”

“What?” Ty asked flatly.

“The crew is in the lobby to take you to a hotel for the photo shoot. Go. Now.”

Ty stood staring at him, head cocked, apparently immobilized by the prospect.

“How long have you known about this, and you’re just now telling us?” Zane asked. It was classic McCoy to sit on this for a week and then spring it on them at the last minute so they couldn’t wiggle out of it.

“They’re in the lobby waiting for you.” McCoy sat back down and waved his hand in dismissal, even picking up his pen and pretending to study a report.

Zane pushed out of his chair with an aggrieved sigh. It took two tugs to get Ty moving. As he pushed Ty out the door, Zane turned back to McCoy. “One of these days, Mac, one of these stunts is going to backfire on you in spectacular fashion.”

“But not today,” McCoy said, smug and smiling.

Zane growled and turned, only to bump into Ty, who had stopped right where Zane had left him. “Grady!”

“I changed my mind.”

“Too late.” Zane gave Ty a gentle shove toward the elevator.

Ty gave the emergency stairs a glance. He had always been an odd mix of cocksure and shy; part showman, part recluse. He loved a crowd, playing class clown or alpha dog or whatever the situation called for like a chameleon. Zane had seen videos of him from when he had been in service, dancing with other Marines, making fools of themselves to pass the time or entertain wounded companions. He was also willing to play up the sexy in person, using his good looks and charisma for any purpose he deemed fit. But as soon as someone tried to record it for posterity, Ty would freeze like he was hiding from a T. rex. He would much rather be shot at than shot with a camera.

Zane ignored the glances from their curious coworkers, focusing instead on getting Ty into the elevator. Once the doors shut, he groaned and covered his face with both hands.

“A calendar.”

“This is not my fault,” Ty muttered as the elevator whisked them toward the lobby.

“Of course it’s your fault, Ty. Look at you.” Zane dropped his hands with a huff. “And what was he talking about with the ‘talk to you individually’ thing?”

Ty shrugged his broad shoulders, shaking his head and then peering at his hands like he was examining his fingernails. He definitely knew something.

“Ty,” Zane rumbled.

Ty glanced at Zane. “I don’t know,” he insisted. His eyes were wide and sincere, but he couldn’t fool Zane. Not after a year of living together.

Zane took a step, intending to pin his partner to the wall to get some answers, but then the elevator pinged to signal their arrival at the first floor, forcing him to halt.

“We will be discussing this later,” Zane said through gritted teeth.

Ty’s lips twitched and his eyes danced, but he didn’t argue.

“You know, I might not have minded this with a little forewarning,” Zane muttered. “How I became anyone’s idea of a goddamn pinup, I have no idea.”

Ty just looked back at him, blinking innocuously. As the doors began to grind open, he smiled. “You’re my idea of a pinup,” he whispered.

Zane snorted, amused by how easily Ty could still charm him. He brushed his fingertips over Ty’s lips before turning to lead the way out into the lobby.

They didn’t even get around the corner before three women in various styles of business attire stood and hurried over to them. “Agents Garrett and Grady, thank you so much for agreeing to support our little project!”

Ty gave them a charming smile, even though his discomfort was still obvious to Zane. “We can’t really take the credit,” he said, voice smooth as honey.

A slim blonde in her mid-thirties, with every hair on her head perfectly in place, shook both their hands, lingering over Ty. “If you’ll come with us, we have a van waiting.”

“A van?” Zane asked.

“To take us to the hotel.”

Zane slid his hands into his trouser pockets and gave an uncomfortable fake smile of his own. He and Ty fell into step as they trailed after the women.

“Tell me, Special Agent Garrett,” asked a rather matronly looking woman with a smile on her round cheeks. “Did you happen to ride your motorcycle to work today?”

Zane steps stuttered as they reached the lobby doors. Ty stifled a snicker by pretending to cough.

“Ah, no, ma’am, I’m afraid not,” Zane lied through his teeth. It’d just gotten warm enough to start riding the Valkyrie again, so of course he had.

“Oh, that’s too bad.”

The other woman, dressed in a dark blue pantsuit, just laughed. “Oh, come on, it’ll be fun!”

Zane nodded, unconvinced.

“I’d rather chew on a lightbulb,” Ty said under his breath.

“That motorcycle was my favorite idea,” the short woman said from the backseat of the van as soon as they’d all piled in.

“Oh Violet, forget the bike. We want the men, after all,” the lady in blue said. “I’m Cynthia, by the way.” She reached over the seat and shook Zane’s hand, then Ty’s.

“I’m Susan,” the blonde added, her voice low and pleasant. “I’m sorry, we should have introduced ourselves before. We’re just so excited you agreed to do this!”

“Susan’s the one who saw you both on the news,” Cynthia said.

Zane smirked. “Is that so?”

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