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Fish & Chips, Page 2

Abigail Roux

  Zane huffed. This was one of the problems with being Ty’s partner. While they were trying to learn to live with each other without significant personal injury, that didn’t necessarily carry over to their sparring sessions. “I didn’t cover once today,” he asserted. “Backed off, hell yes. Covered, no.”

  Ty glanced over his bare shoulder and smirked. “Granted,” he allowed. “Think I should shower before McCoy hands us our asses, or should I go in smelling like victory?” he posed grandly as he opened up his locker and tossed his sweaty T-shirt into his gym bag.

  Zane bit the inside of his lip against the first answer that came to mind as he deliberately looked his lover up and down, and he spent a few seconds revising what he could say without risking another smack upside the head. “I don’t believe McCoy would appreciate your… expression of ‘victory’.” McCoy wouldn’t appreciate Ty’s finely tuned musculature or his ass either, but Zane was more than happy to pick up the slack in that area.

  “Quit ogling me, sidekick,” Ty warned without having to turn around. He grabbed for his shower caddy and a towel, and with one last smirk and wink at Zane, he headed for the showers.

  Zane spared a moment to wish the locker room weren’t so busy this afternoon. He’d reached a point where Ty’s attitude and cockiness were more turn-ons than annoyances. They were harbingers of Ty’s playful good mood, which more often than not led to copious amounts of rough, passionate sex.

  Zane decided he’d wait to shower until Ty was done. He could only deal with so much bodily temptation in one day.

  THEY sat at McCoy’s conference table, behaving themselves and attempting to appear abashed.

  Ty figured Dan McCoy knew him better than that, though. He was probably still getting a read on Zane, though, just like everyone else in the Baltimore office. They’d only been actively assigned to Baltimore for a few weeks now. Ty was at home. Zane was still an unknown to most everyone, despite the stories that had filtered through about their past escapades.

  McCoy knew enough to know they were up to no good, anyway.

  “I hope you got it out of your systems,” McCoy finally said to them in annoyance.

  “We were just putting on a demonstration,” Ty explained easily. “Zane calls it ‘How to Get Your Ass Kicked’. It goes over real well with the rookies,” he drawled, overly pleased with himself.

  Zane just sat there looking cool and comfortable in his well-fitted suit. He had a small smile on his face as he shook his head slightly at his partner.

  “Shut up, Grady,” McCoy requested flatly.

  “Right,” Ty muttered. He shifted in his seat and leaned forward. “You said you had an assignment for us?” he asked eagerly. He would take anything over the “getting up to speed” deskwork they’d been doing the last three weeks. Despite one blip up in the mountains of West Virginia, the last eight weeks of Ty’s life had been god-awful boring. Even Zane couldn’t keep Ty’s wavering attention for very long unless he had something shiny to wave around. Ty needed to be doing something or he began to go stir crazy.

  McCoy’s lips curved into a slow, slightly malicious smile. “I do,” he answered. “Corbin and Del Porter,” he said as he retrieved a file.

  “Who?” Ty asked, unimpressed.

  McCoy smiled and reached to the middle of the table for a little white remote. He turned slightly and pushed a button, causing a small flat screen to flick on. A picture of a large cruise ship appeared on the screen bolted to the wall.

  “Oh shit,” Ty found himself blurting before he could stop himself.

  “This,” McCoy continued as if he hadn’t heard Ty, “is the Queen of the Mediterranean,” he told them with a wave of his fingers at the ship. “It is currently docked in Baltimore, preparing for a fifteen-day cruise to the Caribbean.”

  “You’re not making us take a vacation, are you?” Ty asked in something close to panic.

  Zane’s chin snapped up in alarm. “Jesus, Grady, we agreed not to even think that word, much less say it.”

  “Corbin and Del Porter,” McCoy said loudly to curtail any more conversation, “were supposed to be on that ship tomorrow. But we finally got enough on these two to detain them.” He slid a file toward Ty and leaned back in his seat with a grin. “There’s a laundry list of no-nos we can pin on them with a little more evidence, and we’ll get it soon enough. What we want from you is something concrete on a few of their contacts.”

  Ty scratched his head absently as he looked over the file. The two men were implicated in numerous high-dollar thefts: art, antiquities, rare gems. All stuff that was hard to steal and harder to fence. It was difficult to tell whether they were collectors or middlemen, but either way, if the FBI leaned on them, it could produce a lot of information on a lot of different high-end thieves and dealers.

  But Ty and Zane weren’t leaners. They didn’t interrogate suspects who weren’t part of their own investigations. They didn’t know anything about this case and would be lost if they were asked to do the interrogation. Information wasn’t why they were here. He glanced to his side, where Zane shrugged one shoulder, having obviously come to the same conclusion.

  “I’m not sure I understand why we’re here,” Ty said in confusion as he gestured between himself and Zane, still looking down at the file.

  “You are here because you two roughly match the physical description of the two men we now have in custody,” McCoy answered with a wide grin.

  Ty looked up at him suspiciously. McCoy seemed to be enjoying himself too much for this to be good news for Ty or Zane. Zane leaned forward in his seat, frowning, though he didn’t speak up.

  “We look like them,” Ty reiterated flatly.

  “Vaguely,” McCoy agreed. “Same build, mostly. Zane’s coloring.”

  Ty glared at the man. “I’m not following,” he said slowly. “You want us to assume their identities? How’s that gonna work?” he asked.

  “Corbin and Del Porter were booked to leave on that cruise tomorrow,” McCoy said again. “We have it on good authority they plan to meet several of their buyers and sellers while on this cruise, taking advantage of somewhat lax security and customs and what have you in the Caribbean. And since this will be the first instance of the two of them ever showing themselves physically in their business dealings, their contacts only have virtual interactions to go on. They won’t know you’re imposters. We can get a lot of information out of this if you two take their places and play your cards right.”

  “I’m not sure I like the sound of this,” Zane said. “We’ve not got word one on the case until today, and now we’re supposed to impersonate these guys?”

  “You’ll be given a crash course. And you’re both professional bullshit artists; you’re perfect for it,” McCoy replied carelessly. Zane frowned at him.

  Ty scratched slowly at his cheek. “Okay,” he said carefully. He still didn’t understand why McCoy seemed to be enjoying the prospect so much. There was a catch coming.

  “You leave at nine in the morning. The rest of your team has already been put in place,” McCoy told them as he pushed another stack of files toward the center of the table.

  “Our team?” Zane repeated. Ty sighed heavily and closed his eyes. There was the catch.

  “You know the drill, Garrett, a team. Team leader, two more field agents, and tech support. Read the files so you don’t end up shooting one of them when you meet them. And Grady, we’ll be needing you to make just a few… alterations… to your appearance before you go,” he said as he studied Ty critically.

  “What the hell are you talking about, McCoy? It’s not like he can gain fifty pounds overnight,” Zane said crossly.

  “Nothing like that. Some hot wax and a little bleach, and he’ll be set,” McCoy continued, barely keeping himself from laughing now.

  “Hot wax?” Ty asked in alarm. He heard Zane stifle a snort.

  “Del Porter is what you would call… arm candy,” McCoy drawled with a smirk.

  “Oh hell,” Za
ne muttered, leaning back, rubbing his hand over his face, and shifting in his chair uncomfortably. Ty glanced at him, not following.

  “I see that Garrett has figured it out,” McCoy said, his voice nearly bubbly. Ty shook his head in confusion.

  “I didn’t mention that?” McCoy asked in feigned innocence as he flipped through his notes as if he needed to check his information. “Corbin and Del Porter aren’t brothers, gentlemen. They’re lovers. Legally married, in fact.” He reached out and placed two silver rings on the desk in front of them. “Go ahead and put those on,” he instructed.

  Zane went totally still, his eyes locked on the jewelry. Then his chin rose as his gaze shifted to McCoy. “Are you sure this is necessary?” he asked flatly.

  Ty very carefully didn’t say anything in response as he stared at the shiny rings. He’d worn a wedding ring before as part of a cover. But this was different.

  “The Porters are a very out gay couple,” McCoy continued, ignoring their reactions to the news. “The fact is well-known to all their contacts. It would be an alarm bell if you weren’t wearing the rings,” he said to Zane. “Corbin is what you’d call the brains of the operation. Del is… pretty.”

  Ty still sat motionless, staring at McCoy with a churning in his gut as he realized what they were being thrown into. A very out gay couple amongst people who would expect them to act as such—including a team of their own people. He slowly reached out and picked up one of the rings, turning it over in his hand. It was a simple silver band, flat and wide. He glanced at Zane apprehensively. Zane still wore his own gold wedding ring on his finger. Ty didn’t know how his partner would react to replacing it, even temporarily. But Zane didn’t move a muscle, didn’t even twitch as he stared at the single ring still there in front of McCoy.

  “Now understand: this may put you both in a few uncomfortable situations,” McCoy went on sincerely. “But you’ve both got UC experience, and I’m sure you’d both rather have to kiss each other than be shot at,” he joked. Ty cleared his throat and tried to restrain a smile. McCoy had no idea how right he was. “Those rings are all we’re going to provide you for this one,” he continued. “We’ve appropriated the bags they’d already packed for their cruise, so you’re set on being clothed and otherwise outfitted. Lucky for us, you two are even roughly the same sizes,” McCoy rambled as he stood. “Everything they needed for the deals they were making is in that luggage. You’ll have to smuggle weapons on board; we’ll come up with some sort of concealment for them in the luggage. The captain and head of security on board have been informed of your involvement, but you are not to break cover even with them unless absolutely necessary. Ty, if you find yourself in the brig, you stay there until they make port. You’ll have the rest of your team there if you get in trouble, but when you make land, you’re shit out of luck.”

  McCoy stood at the end of his little speech, looking down at them with a raised eyebrow and a smile. Ty and Zane sat staring at him, their mouths hanging open as they listened.

  Dan McCoy had been a good field agent, and he was a good Special Agent in Charge. Ty had even worked on a few cases with him before McCoy had been promoted, and they’d gotten on well—which was probably why McCoy was enjoying this so much and letting it show. Ty sort of wanted to hit him.

  “Come with me,” McCoy invited with relish as he swept out the door.

  A few moments after he disappeared, Zane stood abruptly with a sniff and straightened his jacket. Ty saw that he was grinding his teeth. He lowered his head and looked at the ring in his hand, not sure what to do or say about it. He supposed he would just put his on and let Zane work it out himself. He slipped it on his finger discreetly as he stood up. It was a little tight; he had to force it over the knuckle that was still a little swollen from the surgery he’d had to remove a piece of cougar tooth, but once it got on, it fit well. Ty very carefully didn’t give it any extra attention after that.

  Zane reached out and plucked up the other ring, closing it into the fist of his right hand before turning on his heel to leave the room. Ty followed them out silently, dreading the hissy fit that would come soon enough.

  They followed McCoy down a few floors to an interrogation room and filed into the observation half of one of the suites where an agent, Harry Lassiter, already stood at the glass. Ty and Zane nodded to the man as McCoy pointed through the two-way mirror. “Gentlemen, meet Del Porter.”

  The man sitting at the table was handsome, probably about Ty’s height and build, just a little slimmer. He had short, spiky hair bleached an unnatural platinum blond that contrasted oddly with his dark tan. He wore a sleeveless vest that tied with a simple cord of leather at the crest of his ripped chest, and his entire upper body was well-muscled and toned. He was also clean-shaven and completely devoid of body hair.

  He looked to Ty like he should be standing under a waterfall in a gay porno.

  Zane paused in place, eyes a little wide, looking from Del to Ty to Del and back.

  Ty blinked rapidly at the guy. “I’m supposed to be… him?” he finally asked in a stricken voice.

  “Good thing you’re a hell of an actor,” Zane murmured as he continued comparing them.

  Ty glared at him briefly and looked back at the man behind the glass. “I’ll never pull this off,” he said to the other men in the room.

  Zane tipped his head to one side, openly appraising Ty’s body. “I don’t know,” he said distractedly. Ty looked back at him hatefully, feeling himself blushing under the scrutiny.

  “He’s not what I’d call stupid. But he sure as hell isn’t the brightest bulb in the pack,” McCoy informed them. “He knows just enough to keep his mouth shut. But that and the fact that he’s pretty and got himself a rich husband are about all he’s got going for him.”

  “Holy fuck, man,” Ty finally muttered. “I’m gonna be this dude for how long?”

  “Relax, Grady. You have the easy end of this,” McCoy assured him. “Garrett’s guy is the real brains here, and no one who’s familiar with them will expect you to do anything but lay in the sun and work on your tan. Garrett? In the field, you’re the lead on this one. You’re calling the shots. Grady is just there as scenery and backup.”

  Zane snorted as Ty turned to look at McCoy in outrage. Backup? They were partners; there was no lead and backup!

  “Ty, we’ve booked you an appointment at some spa with a name I can’t pronounce,” McCoy went on as he handed Ty a slip of paper.

  Ty reached out woodenly and took the certificate. “I’ll get on board with the hair color,” he bargained pleadingly. “You’re seriously gonna make me wax my chest?”

  “You see that guy in there?” McCoy countered with a point of his finger at the man in the interrogation room.

  Ty swallowed hard. He had done a lot of things he wasn’t proud of in order to assume identities that weren’t his. He’d changed his appearance, changed his behavior, treated decent people horribly to make an impression on a scumbag, prepared crack cocaine for others to smoke, taken lives, and any number of other things he didn’t care to remember. He knew how important a part the smallest thing could play when trying to convince a stranger that you were someone they thought they already knew. He looked down at the silver ring on his finger and back up at the man behind the glass with a heavy sigh.

  “There’s a good man,” McCoy said with a pat to Ty’s shoulder.

  Ty glanced at Zane as he felt himself blushing slowly. Though Zane’s face was composed, Ty could see the laughter in his eyes.

  “I don’t know how they’ll get rid of the tattoo, but they’ve assured me they can,” McCoy added with another pat to Ty’s shoulder.

  “What?” Ty cried as he looked at McCoy in outrage.

  McCoy just smiled at him. “This guy was obviously never a Marine,” he reasoned. “Now, Grady, you get going,” he ordered before Ty could have a meltdown. “You’re getting the works, so you’ll probably be there all fucking day. Garrett, come with me,” McCoy said
as he gestured for Zane to follow him. “I’ll introduce you to yourself,” he said wryly as they headed out the door.

  Ty felt the sudden urge to beg Zane not to leave him there. He could feel the raised writing on the slip of thick, cream-colored paper in his hand. He looked down at it, thinking of all the procedures the makeover would entail. Salon Láurie… waxing, tanning, bleaching, manicures, lotions, scented mud….

  Del Porter said something suddenly, complaining about being left in the room for so long. Ty turned to look at him in shock. He pointed his finger in outrage and turned to the other agent in the room. “He’s British?” Ty cried.

  Special Agent Lassiter, who’d been standing there silently the whole time, covered his mouth with his hand and merely nodded in answer, unable to keep from laughing any longer.

  “DO YOU realize what kind of shitfit Grady’s going to have over this when this is all done?” Zane asked McCoy as they walked down the nondescript hallway of holding and interrogation rooms.

  “Oh, I’m looking forward to it,” McCoy said with relish. “I want pictures, Garrett. They’ll be great for the newsletter.”

  Zane rolled his eyes. “I hope your insurance is up to date,” he said as they stopped at another door. “Grady doesn’t forget people who fuck around with him.”

  “He gives as good as he gets,” McCoy said good-naturedly as he opened a door. Zane grunted and walked in.

  The man on the other side of the two-way glass was as different from Del Porter as night was from day. And McCoy was right. Zane did have a general resemblance in height, build, and coloring. But Corbin Porter was definitely high-class. Or he thought he was: finely cut hair slicked back, a ruby stud in one ear, an expensive designer suit with a high-collared shirt rather than a tie, custom cuff links, manicured hands, and Italian leather on his feet. He held himself like a man accustomed to receiving respect, or possibly groveling.

  “I didn’t say anything to Grady because I didn’t want to mitigate his horror. You’re going for a haircut and manicure too,” McCoy said with a twist to his lips.