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Authors: Adrienne Wilder

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BOOK: In The Absence Of Light
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“A shack.”

“When I’m done restoring said shack, it will make your downtown apartment look like a shit hole.”

“We know about the money.”

I held his gaze. “What money?”

“The offshore bank accounts.”

“I have an offshore bank account?”


Accounts
.”

“You make it sound like there’s more than one.”

“Stop playing dumb.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have account numbers would you? ‘Cause if I’ve got money out there, I sure could use it. Do you have any idea how much a two by eight costs?”

“Stop it, Grant.”

“Not to mention wiring. The price of copper has gone through the roof.”

Jeff hit the table with his fist hard enough to slosh our drinks. “I’m trying to help you, all right? If it wasn’t for me, you’d be in jail right now. I’ve convinced the higher-ups you’ll cooperate. That’s the only reason you aren’t in cuffs.” Every word came out on a hiss.

“First off,” I pointed a fry at him. “I haven’t done anything to get arrested for. Second, you don’t have that kind of pull. If your superiors wanted to arrest me, we’d be in a little gray room with a one-way window right now.” I popped the rest of my fry into my mouth and chewed. All the while I smiled.

Jeff flopped back into his seat and proceeded to stab the glob of ketchup on his plate with a french fry.

Morgan walked up and slid in next to me. His wayward hand fluttered by his temple.

Jeff’s cursory glance turned into an all-out stare.

“Jeff, Morgan, Morgan, this is Agent Jeff Shaldon with the FBI. He and I go way back.”

Morgan didn’t look up. He stole a fry from my plate and ate it.

“We still on for tomorrow?” I said.

Morgan tipped his head. His smile was subtle but still blinding. “Don’t be late.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

A tic pulled at Morgan’s shoulder.

“Grant?” Jeff flicked a look from Morgan to me. “You two are dating?”

“That’s what I said.”

Jeff propped his elbow on the table and messaged his temple.

“Something wrong?” I narrowed a look at Jeff.

“You really have to ask.”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have.”

“Do you think dating this…” He glanced at Morgan. “Young man, is appropriate?”

“He’s twenty-four, well over the legal age.”

“Twenty-five next month.” Morgan snapped his fingers, then tossed thoughts.

“You didn’t tell me you had a birthday coming up.”

“You didn’t ask.”

“I didn’t know I was supposed to.”

“Well, now you know.” Someone yelled for Morgan in the back. “I better go see what they want. Tomorrow, nine sharp Driving lessons. My place. Set your watch. Might want to get a new one.”

“I won’t be late. Go.”

Morgan flashed me a wicked grin, then slid out of the booth. I couldn’t take my eyes off him until he was gone.

“Grant.”

“What?”

“You’re sleeping with him?”

“That’s a bit personal, don’t you think?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Nothing that I’m aware of.”

“What do his parents say?”

“He doesn’t have any.”

“Then whoever takes care of him.”

I shook my head. “Lives alone.”

“Is that why you think you can take advantage of him?”

“No one is taking advantage of Morgan.” I reached for my burger, and Jeff pulled my plate out of reach.

“You’re having sex with a mentally disabled kid.”

“Sorry to interrupt.” Our waitress raked a look over Jeff. “I thought I would drop by and see if you needed anything.”

“More tea.” Jeff pushed his glass over.

She turned to me, and her cheery voice was back. “Need anything?”

“No, thanks, I’m good.”

She left without taking Jeff’s glass.

He frowned. “What the hell is with her?”

“Must be something in the air.” I pulled my plate back over. “Your burger’s getting cold.”

Jeff propped his elbow on the table and held his chin. His frown peeked at me from between his fingers. “I don’t know what’s happened to you, Grant, but it isn’t good.”

“What do you mean? I feel great. Nice town, friendly people.” I leaned across the table. “Best sex I’ve had in my entire life. I mean Morgan does this thing with his tongue…”

“Jesus.” Jeff jerked back. I wanted to be pissed for the look of disgust he gave me. But six weeks ago, I probably would have reacted the same way. Of course six weeks ago, I still had visions of pristine beaches and living the highlife.

Every passing second, oceanfront scenery seemed less and less appealing.

“I appreciate everything you’ve done.” I said. “Keeping up with Ulrich and letting me know where he is. It’s a relief to know it isn’t here. As for why he’s in Cali?" I shrugged. “I’ve got nothing to tell you, and even if I did—”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Yup.”

Morgan came out from the back with a box tucked under his arm.

Jeff’s angry expression turned to pity. “And I hope you at least come to your senses.”

He stood. Morgan held out the box. “Take it.”

Jeff did. “Why are you giving me a box of toothpicks?”

“Well, I know you don’t think I’m smart.”

“That’s not what I…”

“No, it’s okay. I just wanted to show you what I can do.”

“And what’s that?”

“I can count toothpicks.” Morgan waved at the box. “Go on. Open it.”

The woman behind Jeff was back to peering over the booth, the people beside us turned in their chairs. Pretty soon the entire restaurant watched.

“That’s okay you don’t have to.” He tried to hand the box back.

“No, no. Please. I’d love to show you.”

Jeff cast an uneasy look at the room full of people. He opened the box.

“Take out a handful,” Morgan said. “Count 'em. Then dump the rest on the floor. I’ll tell you exactly how many are left.”

I coughed to cover up a laugh.

“There are fifteen hundred toothpicks in this box.”

Morgan gasped. “Really? Is that what all those zeros mean?” He tipped his head and looked at the box. “Wow. That’s a lot. But that’s okay. Go ahead. I can do it.”

Jeff took out a few toothpicks.

“Now don’t let me see them.” Morgan covered his eyes. “Make sure you count 'em right. I don’t want you to think I got the number wrong.”

Jeff looked at me.

“He did it for me,” I said. “And let me tell you, it’s pretty damn impressive.”

Jeff counted the toothpicks.

“When you’re done, dump the rest out.”

Jeff hesitated. I gave him a thumbs-up. He dumped the box of toothpicks, and they covered the floor beside the booth.

“Okay, they’re dumped.”

“All of them?” Morgan parted his fingers.

“Yeah.” Jeff shook the box.

Morgan dropped his hands.

Jeff watched. I watched. Everyone in the restaurant watched.

“You sure…”

“Shhh—” Morgan held up a hand at Jeff. “I’m counting.”

Someone slurped their drink with their straw. It was the only sound other than dozens of people breathing.

“Look,” Jeff said.

“Give me a minute.”

He did. Then another. And another.

“Okay, I’m done.”

The tension drained from Jeff. He even managed a smile. “All right, how many are there?”

Then Morgan gave him the look. That stone cold, sharp as a razor, predatorial, cunning, flash leaving you with no doubt you’d just been played. And not just played, but rolled in shit and stuck out in the sun to dry, played.

“Fuck if I know, asshole, but you got yourself a mess to clean up.” Morgan tugged me out of the booth.

The guy in overalls at the table beside us pointed at Jeff with his tuna sandwich. “I gotta nice stretch of beachfront property in Arkansas I’m looking to sell. You interested?”

Our waitress squeezed past Morgan and me. She held a broom and dustpan out to Jeff. “Here ya go, hon. That ought’a help.”

The look Jeff gave me almost made me feel sorry for him.

Almost.

Morgan towed me through the kitchen and into the back office. He shut the door. Locked it.

“What are we—”

He met my gaze, and the heat in his eyes practically set my boxers on fire.

“Morgan?”

He shoved me into the wall.

“I don’t know what you think—”

“Shut up, Grant.”

“He was asking questions about—”

“Grant.” Morgan grabbed the front of my shirt. “I said shut up.” He attacked my mouth. I barked out in surprise, but it quickly turned into an agonizing groan. I slid my hands inside Morgan’s jeans and cupped his ass.

He pulled away and bit my earlobe. “Fuck. Morgan… Whatever you think was going on—” He covered my mouth.

“I don’t think you were trying to cheat. I don’t even think you like him all that much. But I want to make sure you know there’s nothing he can give you I can’t.”

I held Morgan back. “That’s where you’re wrong.” He quit moving. “You can never give me what he can.” With a hand on each cheek, he could not look away. “And you can’t because he has nothing I want. Do you understand? Nothing.”

I didn’t have to worry about Morgan believing me. He’d see the truth. He’d peer right into my soul and know I meant every word I said.

He caressed my jaw, my cheeks, my ears. He dragged his touch to my neck. His fingertips were cold, but the skin to skin contact burned. Morgan hooked a leg around my hip and pulled himself up my body until he looked down at me.

Like the fragments of light he chased, he mapped my features with his touch.

“There will never be anyone like you, Morgan.”

He closed his eyes for a moment.

“Never, not in a million years or a million lifetimes, will there be anyone else who has what I want.”

He kissed me again. Slower. Deeper. Stroking the inside of my mouth with his tongue and drinking my sigh.

The distinct sound of muffled voices came from the other side of the door. Morgan gave me a questioning look. I lowered him to the ground.

Shuffling and someone whispered something.

I pointed at the door. Morgan nodded.

The lock was one of those push button kinds so I only needed to turn the handle to disengage it. I opened the door.

The waitresses, the kitchen staff, and fucking hell, I’m willing to bet half the customers had squeezed into the tiny space between the rack of pots and pans and office door.

We stared at each other until a lady with snow white hair held out her handkerchief and said, “Can I have your autograph?”

 

********

 

I had exactly two minutes to spare when I pulled into Morgan’s driveway. He was already on the porch and had on a bike helmet.

I barely had the truck stopped when he skipped down the steps and opened the door.

“See, I’m not late.”

Morgan flicked thoughts. “Only because you’re early.” He waved me over. “If you’re gonna teach me how to drive, you’re gonna have to move.”

“At least let me get stopped first.” I put it in park and scooted to the passenger side. “Where do you want me to put this?” I picked up the box from the floorboard.

“Just set it by the gate.” I left the letters and box beside the footpath leading to his house, then got back in the truck.

“Okay, I’m ready.” Morgan bounced in the seat.

“What’s with the…” I tapped the helmet.

“Safety first.”

“But this is a truck.”

“Yeah, Grant, it’s pretty obvious this is a truck.”

“You don’t wear a helmet when you ride your bike.”

“Why should I? I know how to ride a bike, and besides, do you have any idea of the statistical difference between my chances of wrecking my bike verses crashing a car? Or in this case, truck?”

“Not really.”

“Astronomical. A good five hundred to one. You have a greater chance of being hit by lightning while being eaten by a shark.”

I attempted to do the math. Made sense. Sort of. How many bike wrecks did I see on the road? Excluding motorcycles? None.

I glanced at Morgan, and his mouth twitched.

I propped my elbow on the door. “You’re doing it again, aren’t you?”

“Yup.”

“Damn it.”

“Had you going, didn’t I?”

“Nah.”

He held up a finger.

BOOK: In The Absence Of Light
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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