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Armed & Dangerous

Abigail Roux

  Chapter 1

  THE scratch of the Montblanc pen whispered in the quiet, well-appointed office. Thick stone walls and double-paned bulletproof glass worked to dampen the traffic noise of downtown Washington, DC, and sumptuous carpet and soundproofing in the walls kept his office a haven of solitude amidst one of the busiest cities in the world.

  Richard Burns, executive assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, flipped through page after page, initialing and signing. The Bureau may have moved into the digital age, but paperwork still made the gears turn. With a sniff, he closed the folder and tossed it into his outbox for his assistant to pick up. At least he didn’t have to write out his full title every time.

  He was reaching to replace the fountain pen in its box when the buzzer on his phone interrupted him.


  “Yes, Nancy?”

  “Security just called, sir. You have a visitor,” his assistant’s tinny voice announced over the speaker.

  “Who is it? I don’t have any appointments until two. ”

  “The ID provided is for a Mr. Randall Jonas. Central Intelligence Agency. ”

  Burns looked at the phone in surprise. “Send him through,” he said as he stood and began straightening his tie and suit jacket.

  It took five minutes, give or take, and the buzzer went off again. “Sir, the escort is here with Mr. Jonas. ”

  Burns walked around his desk to greet his old friend when he came through the door. Randall Jonas had been one of three men in Burns’ original Marine Corps squadron who had returned from Vietnam. Earl Grady was the other. They were like his brothers, and Burns would never turn down a surprise visit from one of them. But when the door opened and Jonas was shown into his office, Burns knew immediately that something was wrong.

  “You look like hell,” he said before he could think of a more appropriate way to say it.

  Jonas nodded. “With good reason. ”

  Jonas didn’t look at all like the sharp CIA section chief Burns saw for an occasional drink at an upscale DC bar. Jonas looked worn, mussed around the edges, wild around the eyes. He was a large man with a lantern jaw, trending toward heavy in recent years, with gunmetal gray hair and eyes that were a washed out brown. He was usually full of good humor and charm, more a mischievous gnome than a spook. Right now, though, he looked like a bear being chased through the woods by bigfoot.

  Burns offered him a hand to shake and then gestured toward the leather sofa in the corner of his office. “Forgive me for skipping over the pleasantries, but it seems like you might want me to. What’s happened?”

  Jonas dragged a hand through his hair. “I really stepped in something nasty, Dick. I was about five minutes from being detained at Langley,” he said as he thumped onto the couch and pulled at the knot of his tie.

  “You what?” Burns sat down across from Jonas.

  “I came across something I was never meant to see. Long story short, someone within the Company has been using government assets to pull personal jobs for profit, and then offing the assets when they got wise. They turned the CIA into a hit service. ”


  “There was some paperwork that made me suspicious, so I started snooping around. And when I followed the trail, that son of a bitch led right back to me. ”

  Burns blinked at him. “What?”

  “Richard, focus for me here. Someone’s setting me up to take the fall for ordering private hits. I found out before they got everything in place. So I picked up and ran. ” Jonas waved a hand, dismissing any further detail of his escape from Langley.

  Burns nodded, frowning hard. Abuse of power happened in the alphabet agencies just like anywhere else. Only it usually ended with death and destruction instead of bankruptcy, bailouts, or moving a factory to China.

  “Someone within the CIA is eating their own. And you’re the fall guy. I gather following the trail in reverse can’t prove your innocence. ”

  “No, they’re just notes from one lackey to another, issuing orders,” Jonas said, leaning forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “It’s bad, Dick. I’m being framed for misuse of resources, running operations on my own authority, unsanctioned elimination of personnel, and if it really goes bad, treason. I’d definitely be put in jail for the rest of my natural life. That’s if whoever is responsible doesn’t just come after me as well. Assets are being cleaned. People are losing their lives. ”

  “Jesus, Randy. ”

  “I need some help, and you’re the only one I trust right now. ”

  Burns realized he was staring, and he nodded curtly. He knew this man, had known him for the better part of forty years, and he knew if Jonas said it, it was the truth. Even if he was a damn spook. “What do you need?”

  “I need a contact brought in. ”

  “A contact?”

  “From what details I was able to pull together before I ran, there’s just one guy still alive who has the information needed to point to the bastard in charge of all this. They tried to clean him a year ago, but he got away. ” Jonas shook his head. “They’ve been eliminating agents, Dick. Agent and handler teams going down or disappearing—for a couple of years now. Slowly, almost randomly, and I can’t say I would have caught on without coming across that file and getting suspicious. ”

  Jonas nodded as he sat up and then leaned back, looking truly miserable. “I’ve worked my ass off for the Company, Dick. I’m not going to let it go down this way. There’s a cell inside, one that’s not sanctioned and not supervised. I’m not sure how high it goes, other than too high if they’re gunning for me. ”

  “Do you have the stats on this contact? The one with the information?”

  “Sort of. He went dark over a year ago. I’ve been in touch with his former handler. ”

  “Okay. We’ll get him pegged down and then I’ll send an agent after him. We’ll bring this to someone we can trust. ”

  “You can’t dispatch FBI resources, Dick. They’ll be monitoring everything. ”

  Burns raised an eyebrow at the paranoia, but that was a spook for you.

  “Look, Richard, I don’t know much about your operations, other than the CIA uses you and whatever assets you’ve cultivated over here for certain jobs. I know you’ve got the means to do this off the board. ”

  Burns pursed his lips and scratched at his nose, trying to hide the discomfort. “I might know someone. I’ll mobilize him. And until we can get this mystery asset of yours in, you’ll stay here. Even the CIA isn’t going to storm FBI headquarters to get to you. Who’s the contact?”

  “He’s a foreign national named Julian Cross. Records say he’d been taken out, but then he popped back up on the radar and rumor was he was still alive. When I talked to Blake Nichols, his former handler, he confirmed Cross is alive. For now. But he can’t get Cross to come in. ” Jonas tapped his fingers on the arm of the couch, visibly agitated. “I have an address, and I can only hope this guy has the information I need. He’s the only one who could have it. All the others are dead. ”

  “Julian Cross,” Burns muttered as he scratched at his chin. “Why does that name sound familiar?”

  Jonas shrugged.

  Burns stood and went to his desk, waking his computer to type in a search. It returned nothing. But he knew the name. He tapped in a code and then searched again. This time the computer searched through a cache of hidden files, and it popped up with one file.

  Burns snorted when he scanned the information contained in the file. Paris. Of course. He looked at Jonas. “Give me all the information you have. I’m putting my best man on it,” he said as he pulled a cell phone out of a locked drawer. />
  “If Cross doesn’t know who was giving those kill orders, no one does. But I have a feeling he put everything together and he thinks it was the CIA trying to kill him. That’s why he went off the grid. He won’t be easy to bring in,” Jonas said as he walked over to the desk, pulling a folded piece of paper out of his pocket. “This is it. Name, contacts, addresses. And your man should know Cross is a high-level federal asset and wet works operative—considered armed and extremely dangerous. He’s… very capable”

  Burns nodded as he dialed, and he couldn’t help but smile. “They’ll get along famously. ”

  I’m sorry. Walls are closing in and I need to go.

  Love you.

  ZANE sat straight up in the bed, soaked in sweat, ears ringing as his lover’s name echoed off the walls. He had been dreaming, his mind taking him back to Ty’s living room and the dance they had shared. Ty’s name was still on his lips. He could still smell him and feel his arms around him as they swayed together. But that had been over a week ago.

  It seemed he could still hear the music.

  Zane shuddered and leaned over to grab up his cell phone. He swiped the screen to answer the call, interrupting the ringtone. “Ga-Garrett. ”

  “Zane. ”

  The smooth voice struck Zane hard enough that he fell back onto one elbow, struggling to swallow the butterflies. He was too caught up in the dream. He wasn’t sure he was awake at all.

  “Ty?” he said after too long a pause. It sounded plaintive. He rubbed his hand over his face.

  “You sound horrible. Are you okay?”

  Zane shook his head, and his gaze fell on the shaft of moonlight that painted the wall across the room. He tried to focus his eyes on it. It was just enough to provide a soft blue glow in the room. He wiped a hand across his forehead. It came away damp. “I… where the fuck have you been?”

  “Calm down and I’ll tell you. ”

  Zane growled. He leaned over and groped for the almost empty bottle of water on the nightstand. It was tepid, but he took a few swallows anyway. “Calm down, my ass. Where are you?”

  “Well,” Ty said, the word drawn out. Zane recognized the tone of voice Ty used when he was trying to figure out how to explain something that didn’t happen to normal people. “I’ve been told I’m in Tennessee. Or Kentucky. It wasn’t really clear. That’s not why I called. ”

  “Are you in one piece?” Zane asked. He curled his free hand into the sheet.

  “So far. But listen, Zane, I don’t have much time. I got a call from Burns. ”

  Zane shivered and shifted back to lean against the headboard. That meant Ty wasn’t coming home any time soon, Zane was sure of it. When he spoke, his voice was dark and just barely controlled. “I’m listening. ”

  Ty was silent for a moment. “I miss you,” he said. He sounded wrecked, which didn’t help Zane feel any better. “But I have to go dark. He didn’t give me a choice this time. ”

  It was on the tip of Zane’s tongue to demand an explanation, but the regret in Ty’s voice stopped him. With anyone else, this conversation would have been ludicrous. Zane rubbed at his eyes. He’d only gone to bed a couple of hours ago, and far earlier in the evening than normal. Ty wouldn’t have expected to wake him.

  “You scared the hell out of me, Ty. ”

  “I know,” Ty said, and though he sounded sympathetic, he didn’t necessarily sound contrite. “But I had to go. I don’t…. ”

  Zane had known Ty wasn’t himself after their two weeks of hell. Zane had known, and he’d hoped to have the chance to help once they’d both caught their breath. But Ty’s midnight exit had upset that plan. Frustration and anger swamped Zane again, drowning his brief feeling of relief. “Do you know what I thought when I woke up without you?”

  “Hopefully that you couldn’t wait to see me again? I left you a note,” Ty said, voice hopeful.

  “Yeah, and you know what? It didn’t help!” Zane said, giving up on trying to be understanding. “That’s not something you want to find when you wake up to what’s supposed to be the first day of the rest of your life!”

  “The what, now?”

  Zane groaned, turned sideways, and flopped down onto his side. He pulled a pillow over his head and then talked anyway. His words came out muffled and stilted. “Beaumont. Tyler. Grady. ”

  “Wait, whoa, full names? What the hell, Garrett?”

  “I told you I loved you, and the next day you were gone. ”

  Ty was silent, but Zane could hear him breathing. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and hoarse. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think of that. ”

  “Did you think at all?”

  “Zane. ”


  “I love you, Zane. I do, and you know it. And when I get home, we’re going to sit down and talk this out. I promise. ”

  “I told you I loved you. ”

  “And I appreciated that. ”

  Zane pulled the pillow away and rolled onto his back to stare up through the dark at the ceiling. “I told you twice. ”

  “Zane. ”

  “What the hell does Burns want now? You’re supposed to be on wellness leave. ”

  Ty didn’t answer for a long time, long enough that Zane checked the display on his phone to make sure the call was still connected. Then he heard Ty huff. “God, I love it when you’re cranky like this. Promise to still be pissed when I get home, okay?”

  “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. ”

  Ty laughed affectionately, and Zane’s body responded to the sound despite the anger still washing over him. Zane grunted. There was no denying that his exasperating lover would be able to charm his way out of this. Damn him. But Zane was by far too angry to let it go so easily. “Are you saying you knew I loved you before I said it?”