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Authors: Adrienne Wilder

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BOOK: In The Absence Of Light
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Empty.

Not just empty of the documents containing information on Rubio’s family but empty of everything.

I knew Rubio was good but… damn.

“You mean I’ve been robbed?” I pushed past Jeff and carried the toolbox into the kitchen. When I turned to go back for the rest of the tools on the porch, he blocked the way.

Once again, too close. He took a step, and I wound up with my back against the fridge. “Do you mind?”

“What’s wrong? You seem a little jumpy?” He exhaled a mint-flavored breath.

“No, I’ve just been informed my storage building was broken into and my belongings were taken.  I probably should make a police report, I don’t suppose the FBI could do that for me, can they? I mean, since you’re already in town and you don’t have anything else better to do.”

Closer, head to toe, we were less than a hair apart. Jeff put a hand against the fridge on either side of my head. He was only slightly shorter than me, but he’d always been wider in the shoulders and he used that width to box me in.

“You definitely took the wrong career path,” Jeff said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. With the way you can make things disappear, you could have been a world-famous magician.”

“Maybe I’m not after fame.”

“Wealth.” He smirked. “Now I know you’re not going to tell me money doesn’t interest you.”

“What do you want?”

“What was in the warehouse?”

“Personal items. If you get out a piece of paper, I’ll make you a list so I can turn it into the insurance company. I’m going to need a copy of the report of course. And my lawyer will want to see the search warrant. You did have a search warrant, right? If not, the insurance company might put you on the list of who to interview.”

“Insurance companies don’t interview people over stolen property.”

“Considering how much some of those paintings were worth, my agent is apt to get a court order colonoscopy for everyone on your team.”

“Anything else special in there you want to tell me about?”

“Why do you care?”

“I thought we’ve been over this.” Any closer and he was going to get dirt on his vanilla colored button-up. “I’m trying to help you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, yeah, that’s right. From a would-be hit man, and Lorado’s wrath. C’mon, Jeff, you know as well as I do I have nothing he wants. We dealt in two different worlds.” Lorado: guns, drugs, and misery. Me? Things people liked to look at. Sometimes they drove it around, sometimes they hung it on their walls, sometimes they hid it in their wall safe. “You lied to try and scare me into telling you what you failed to get after four years of playing the part of Jeff Myers. Even standing over me while I arranged a shipment, you couldn’t find one illegal speed bump.”

“What about the job you did for Mr. Avner?”

Ah, my one almost slip-up. Jeff walked in on me while I was gluing the last of the wax-dipped coins to the foot of an antique school desk. “You mean the gold collection three SS officers dug out of his father’s floor safe before putting a bullet in the man’s head, then hauling Avner and his mother off to Ravensbrück. Yeah, I recall that one. I also recall the unwillingness of the so-called victim to file charges. Especially when he realized he’d have to prove how he acquired the coins.” The part of the collection belonging to Avner I’d returned gift-wrapped. The rest of the collection, taken from the unwilling seller, had been moved overseas to a collector with the understanding if the real owners ever showed up he was to hand them over. I’d reimburse him of course.

So far no one had come forward to claim a single coin out of the three million dollar collection. Even Avner hadn’t been able to turn up survivors.

It was probably the only deal I wished I could give a refund on.

“I didn’t steal anything. I just returned a lost item to its rightful owner.”

“So you’re what? Robin Hood now?”

“No, Jeff. Not by a long shot.”

“What was in the warehouse?”

“I told you I’d make a list for my insurance.”

“There is nothing you’d put on an insurance claim important enough for you to risk moving it while under surveillance. The job was clean, and none of your usual associates were involved. But you had to have help, so who was it?”

I winked at him.  “A magician never reveals his tricks.”

“Grant, the Associate Deputy Director wants me to bring you in. If you don’t cooperate, I won’t be able to keep them from doing it.”

“More threats, Jeff?”  I tried to shove past him, but he knocked me back into the fridge hard enough to make the ancient metal casket rattle. His mouth hit mine and he sank his hands into my hair. For a split second, it was just like old times at the loft overlooking the docks.  Jeff would walk in, shove aside whatever it was I had in my hands, and draw me in.

Half the time, I wouldn’t even bother with getting undressed, I’d just get his jeans out of the way and fuck him against the first available piece of furniture.

I yanked my mouth away and dodged another attempt. “No, Jeff.”

“No wires, I swear, it’s just me.” The desperation and hunger in his words left no room for a lie. And any doubt lingering in the back of my mind disintegrated when I met his gaze.

“Does your team know you’re here?”

“No.”

“Hines?”

He shook his head. “They gave me your case. It’s just me.” So even his former boss didn’t know he’d gone off the grid.

Jeff raked his teeth across my jaw and down my neck. Sweat and grime made tracks on his shirt. He shrugged out of his jacket and began pulling at his tie. It made enough space for me to escape. The memory of his body pressed to mine crawled over my skin. How many nights had I held him, kissed him, loved him?

But it wasn’t desire welling inside me. I can’t really give what I felt a name. Something like shame, but closer to remorse. The kind of loss you feel when someone you knew died. Not someone you were close to, but had known just enough to shave off a bit of your life and take it with them when they were gone.

Jeff came at me, shirt half unbuttoned, and his cock practically crawling down his thigh. I kicked a sawhorse into his path, only then did he stop.

Confusion took some of the heat out of his eyes, and the color from his cheeks.

“Go home, Jeff. Or go back to your hotel. Or wherever the hell you’re staying while you stalk me.”

“You’re serious.” He flicked a look over me. For some reason, it made me realize I wasn’t even hard. If anything, my nuts had crawled a few inches higher in an attempt to escape.

“It’s over. Everything. Your lies about Lorado, your BS scare tactics.” His chest continued to rise and fall. “And us. Especially us.”

“I told you I’d do everything to keep you from going to jail.”

“Do you really have that kind of authority?” For a second or two, there was a dark flash in his eyes, whispering of secrets untold. “Out of curiosity, Jeff. What are you not telling me?”

He wiped his mouth and turned away.

“At least tell me why Hines is so hot to have my client list. It won’t do him any good. You know that.”

I don’t know if Jeff meant to, but he nodded. “So when are you going to tell him?” He buttoned his shirt.

“Who’re you talking about?”

“The kid you’re fucking.” It was the way he said it. Like I was doing something obscene.

“What the hell does Morgan have to do with anything?”

Jeff brushed at the dirt stains on his shirt.  “You know being a thief is one thing, but having sex with a—”

I didn’t even know I’d shoved him into the wall until I was there, our faces inches apart, and a rage so deep I was less than a hair away from wrapping my hands around his neck and breaking it. I’ve been angry in my life more times than I could count, but what boiled inside me then wasn’t something I’d ever experienced. I think it caught Jeff off guard too because he reached for his gun, but it wasn’t there.

“I’ll ask you one more time.” My voice warped into something thick and dangerous. “Why are you bringing up Morgan?”

Jeff stepped aside, and I didn’t stop him. “Touchy, are we? A little bit of guilt maybe?”

“For what?”

“I just wanted to know if you’ve told him.”

“And what is it I’m supposed to tell him?”

“That you’re not going to stick around. How in two maybe three years you’ll be in some far off place where the US government can’t touch you, enjoying the millions your
business
has made you.”

“Who says I’m leaving?”

Jeff laughed and shook his tie at me. “Oh, now that’s a good one.”

Thing is, now I’d said it, I meant it. I mean, the thought had been there, every morning I got to wake up next to Morgan and every night I got to fall asleep with him at my side. I could see beautiful beaches in pictures, but I’d never experienced anything like him. There was no sunset, no sunrise, no virgin stretch of coast worth losing the opportunity to look him in the eyes, to know I was worthy of the opportunity.

Something must have shown in my face because Jeff left his tie half looped and shoved on his jacket. “What the hell has happened to you, Grant? You used to be…”

“What?”

“Normal.”

Now I laughed. “And somehow I’m not?”

“Normal people don’t take advantage of mentally impaired people.”

“Morgan’s not mentally impaired.”

Jeff headed toward the door but not quick enough to hide the look of disgust on his face. I snagged him by the arm of his jacket. “He’s a grown man, capable of making his own choices.”

“I’m not talking chronological age here.”

“Neither am I.”

“He isn’t normal.”

“Doesn’t mean he isn’t smarter than you are, or me, for that matter.” Jeff’s expression didn’t change. “Look, I thought the same thing you did when I first met him. But I was wrong. He’s different, I’ll give you that, but the way he’s different isn’t a bad thing.”

“Whatever.”  Jeff pulled away. “The least you can do is tell him you’re not sticking around. Maybe by the time you ship off he’ll realize what that means.”

“The relationship was his idea.”

Jeff paused with his hand on the doorframe. His knuckles whitened with the flex of his hand.

“He thought it would be more entertaining than crossword puzzles. He knew my plans were temporary.”

Jeff watched me from the corner of his eye.

“Yeah,
were
temporary. Not anymore. I mean it, Jeff, I’m staying here as long as Morgan will have me.”

Then there it was. Defeat flashed through Jeff’s eyes so quick and fleeting I could have imagined it, only his body betrayed him. It was like all the fight drained from him, pulling his shoulders down until he was almost a shell of a man.

And I still didn’t feel anything for him even though I thought I should.

“I’ll fax a copy of the search warrant to your lawyer. If I were you, I’d seriously reconsider the ethics of your clientele. I need those names, Grant. Even if it’s just a few. I need dates, times, and route. We both know you’re nothing but a common criminal, not Robin Hood, not some self-proclaimed equalizer. You help people move stolen goods. That makes you as much of a thief as they are.

“Until you do something to right that, you’re never going to be rid of the FBI. We’re going to watch everything you do, every place you go, and search every piece of trash you throw away.

“Eventually you’ll fuck up.  And when you do, I’ll be there.”

He headed down the steps to the trunk of his car. There he changed his shirt and tie both. Didn’t surprise me one bit he kept a spare. Jeff the FBI agent kept his closet color coded, his sock drawer like a file cabinet, aligned his shampoos in alphabetical order and his cologne by engagement.

I knew a lot about him he didn’t realize, for reasons I was ashamed to admit.

“While you’re here, you should try the biscuits over at Fran’s. They make them fresh every morning, but you have to get there early or they run out.”

He fixed his tie and slipped on his glasses. “I will not give up, Grant.”

“Like I said, early.”

“I’m done trying to help you.”

“Ask for Miranda, she’ll fix you right up.”

“Eventually, you will go to prison.  Maybe some time in an eight by six room with nothing but a brick wall view will loosen your pride and you’ll realize just how generous I’ve tried to be.” Jeff slammed the trunk shut. New shirt, tie in perfect order, you would have never known just minutes before he was ready to go down on his knees and suck my dick.

A cloud of dirt followed his sedan to the main road. It paused at the stop sign a lot longer than it needed to. Just when I began to worry he might turn around and come back, he made a left and vanished beyond the stretch of trees and farmland.

 

********

 

I arrived at Toolies about fifteen minutes before Morgan’s shift was due to end. It was Tuesday so the only ones still hanging around were the regulars who practically had name plates on the seats they occupied.

BOOK: In The Absence Of Light
4.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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