Texas Stand-Off: The Omega Team Novella (Kindle Worlds Novella) (6 page)

BOOK: Texas Stand-Off: The Omega Team Novella (Kindle Worlds Novella)
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Nothing. She’d been cooperative, respectful and…hell…sweet as sugar. Everything about the woman was sexy, even the way she could beat the pants off of him. He groaned, covering his face with his hands. She’d gotten the pants off of him all right. Remembering how it felt for his cock to be buried balls deep inside of her, he groaned, his dick growing from limp to erect faster than a Tesla goes from 0 to 60. Only the buzzing of his cell phone kept him from unzipping his pants and finding another release.

Without even looking at the display screen, he barked. “Jones!”

“Well, I guess I don’t have to ask you how things are going. Remember, she’s a trained sniper. If you make her too angry, she might retaliate. I hear she’s an expert in nunchucks and throwing stars too.”

Deacon didn’t doubt it. “She seems to be able to do everything well.”

“Ah, so you’re recommending her.”

He could hear the teasing quality in his friend’s voice. The thought crossed his mind that this was all a set-up. Would his friends do that to him? Hell, yes. “I didn’t say that. I don’t need to remind you how the idea of sending a woman into harms’ way tears up my guts like razor blades.” He looked down at his shirt, seeing a spot of blood. What the hell?

“This is no ordinary woman, Jones.”

“No, she’s not. I still want to interview her; see how she responds to some pointed questions–then I’ll let you know one way or the other.” Of course, Deacon knew Holden would do exactly as he saw fit. Despite telling Deacon he’d follow his recommendation, if Grey felt Deacon was being unfair–he’d override him. Deacon respected that.

“So, if she’s doing everything well. What’s got you in such a snit?”

Deacon pressed his lips together. “She’s…different.”

“Different than what? Sylvia–God, I would hope so.”

His dry comment caused Deacon to snort. “Did you call just to check up on me or did you want something in particular?”

“I want you to move to Florida and work full time with me and I want you to rejoin the human race. Is that too much to ask?”

Deacon sat up straighter in his chair, stretching his right leg out, rubbing his aching knee. He couldn’t help but smile, remembering the workout he’d just enjoyed. Lord have mercy, it had felt good being inside Natasha. “I think you enjoy having a branch office in Texas. How’s Athena?”

“She’s good, she’s on the phone with your protégé right now.”

Deacon frowned. “She’s not my protégé. How much did your lady tell her about me?”

“Hmmm, let me see. I don’t know. But I don’t think she’d break any confidence, that’s not like Athena. Is something wrong?”

“No, I don’t suppose. Athena told her I was a man’s man and Levin interpreted that to mean I was gay.” The roar of laughter that met Deacon’s ears annoyed the hell out of him. “It really wasn’t that funny.”

“Oh, yes it was. That’s priceless. And how did this come up?”

Deacon grunted. “Don’t ask.” He stared at the blood again. Had he hurt her?

“Okay, I’ll just use my imagination.” He laughed some more. “Look. I’m just checking in. Let me know what you think after the interview and try not to let your preconceived prejudices make you into more of an asshole than you already are.”

“Man, with friends like you…”

“You’re a lucky man to have a friend like me. You’re not exactly anybody’s idea of a BFF.”

Deacon grunted. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m the life of the party.”

“A wake maybe. Hey, I’ve got another call I need to take. I expect to hear from you soon.” The line went dead and Deacon laid his phone down, wondering how in the hell he was going to handle this situation.

In the second bedroom, Taz sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m not sure how to answer that question.”

“You can’t tell me if you’re getting along with Deacon Jones?” Athena asked with a hint of amusement.

By the time she got on the phone, Taz had lost her courage. She decided not to mention the fact she’d had sex with Grey and Athena’s friend. “He’s grumpy,” she stated that fact with absolute assurance. “He doesn’t like me very much. I don’t think this is going to end well.”

“Deacon hasn’t had the easiest life. He was hurt in Afghanistan and his wife walked out on him when he came home. But he saved Grey’s life once, so as far as I’m concerned, he hung the moon.”

“Hung the moon? I don’t understand.”

“Ah, you and your literal interpretation. I meant that I think he’s a wonderful person. English is not the easiest language to learn is it?”

“No, it isn’t.” 

“Give him a chance, Taz. He’s a good man.”

“The chance isn’t mine to give, Athena. He’s not the one on trial. I am.” She felt a sense of despair creep over her. “I need to ask you something.”

“What is it?” Athena’s voice held concern. “Is something else wrong?”

“If Deacon rejects me, does that mean you reject me also?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Why is he getting all the say? Couldn’t I prove myself to Grey? Couldn’t he test me?”

“Whoa, whoa, Taz.” Athena laughed. “You’re hitting me with a barrage of questions.”

“Sorry.”

“Well, to answer your question simply, we trust Deacon’s judgment. We think he will be fair, despite the fact that he says he doesn’t support the idea of women in combat situations.”

“I don’t understand. Why would you think he’d change his mind?” Clearly, Athena hadn’t met the Deacon Taz knew.

Athena sighed. “Because he has worked with women, fought with them side by side. He had one in his unit in Afghanistan. She was killed on of their missions and Deacon blames himself, but we don’t think he will let those feelings influence his best judgment.”

Taz struggled with her explanation. “So, I’m a test? What if I’m good enough and he just can’t see it? I’ll be the one to pay the price.” Even as the words she said sunk in, she found their meaning significant. She’d been the one to pay the price before. 

“Listen, I know how good you are. I was the one who found you standing over those thugs you singlehandedly tackled and tied up with fishing line. But the Omega Team didn’t exist then. I hadn’t even met Grey at that point. Last year was crazy, I left the force and he and I decided to go into business together. To tell you the truth, you were one of the first people I thought of when we started to put together a team. But by that time, you’d picked up and moved on. Jacqui worked for weeks to find you and that RV of yours, you didn’t leave much of a paper trail. Where you’re currently located is much closer to Deacon than to Tampa. Despite the hard time he gives Deacon about living in Texas, Grey’s dream is to have a network of highly skilled operatives located in various parts of the country. We think you and Deacon would work well together. I can’t see him deliberately making the wrong decision. So, let’s not worry about something that might not even happen. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Bridge? What bridge? She didn’t ask, this was probably one of those odd English idioms everyone understood but her. “I hope you’re right. Right now I feel like I have more of a chance of being asked to be Hilary Clinton’s running mate than a part of the Omega Team.”

Athena laughed. “You’d be an improvement over most politicians, although I think the birthers would have a heyday with your background. Seriously, just see this through and I think you’ll be surprised at how it all works out.”       Taz didn’t agree. She was very afraid she knew how all of this would end. Deacon Jones was going to break her heart…and that was one English idiom she understood very well.

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

 

When Deacon emerged from his office, he searched for Natasha but she was nowhere to be found. Had she left without saying anything to him? An odd sense of panic crept over him. Although he hadn’t changed his mind about approving her for the Omega Team, he didn’t like the way they’d left things. He’d had no business acting like a jackass. He should’ve been man enough to keep his hands to himself.

After searching every room in the house, he went immediately to the garage, halfway expecting to find it empty. Leaving Eagle’s Nest was easy, all of the gates opened automatically from the inside. But when he opened the door, the ancient RV was still sitting there.

He let out a long relieved breath. She was still here–somewhere.

At the base of the stone stairs, on the banks of the Pedernales, Natasha sat on a rock deep in thought. Since she’d talked to Athena, Taz better understood Deacon Jones. Like her, he’d experienced loss. The circumstances of his life molded him into the man he was today. A hard, irritable, bad-tempered, sexy man who’d turned her world upside down.

The time she’d spent in his arms had been incredible. He’d made her feel like a woman–desirable. She still didn’t understand why he’d pushed her away. Had she been a poor substitute for the wife who’d left him? Or had he been alone so long, that any member of the female persuasion would suffice? She rubbed a tired line across her forehead. It was sad to think the only other man she’d been with said she was too aggressive, which confused her because neither one of them had known what they were doing. Vince had also been repulsed by her scars. Remembering his reaction, Taz shrugged. The marks of her suffered brutality were part of her, symbolizing what she’d survived. Usually she could forget they were there, faded over time until they appeared as a faint pattern of cracked porcelain on her skin. Deacon hadn’t mentioned her scars, perhaps he hadn’t seen them in the fading light or perhaps that was why he’d pushed her away.

Taz picked up a rock and tossed it into the gently flowing river. The bright moonlight reflecting off the waters cast an unearthly glow all around her. She wasn’t close enough to view any reflection she might cast, but she didn’t have to see it to know she was pale. No doubt her freckles stood out in sharp contrast making her appear young and vulnerable.

And maybe she was. Even with all she’d been through, she could still be hurt. Today was proof of that. Her hope of finding a place to belong seemed more elusive than ever. Like it or not, Deacon Jones held her future in his hands and from what Athena had told her, there were forces at play she had no control over.

The question was–what was she going to do about it? Should she just quit? Cut her losses and move on, hoping to find a place in this vast country where she could escape her past? Or should she stick this out and hope to be welcomed into an organization where she could use the skills her father taught her? Skills so deeply ingrained they were second nature.

A slight breeze lifted her hair, the cool air drifting over her skin. Weighing her options, she came to a decision. She wanted this–she wanted it enough to fight for it. And she wanted more of this man who made her feel things she didn’t know were possible. If he didn’t desire her in return, she could live with it, but at least she’d known she tried.

“Levin!”

Taz raised her head. He’d found her. Her pulse quickened as if anticipating another contest of wills. This excited her. Deacon Jones was a worthy opponent. “Down here,” she called.

Up top, Deacon smiled, a sense of relief making him feel lighter. “Hiding?” He stepped closer to the side where he could see her climbing toward him.

“No, not hiding. I needed a place to think.”

“Careful, those steps can be treacherous in the dark.”

“I’m always careful,” she replied, knowing her statement wasn’t always true. She hadn’t been careful with him. “Do you feel better?”

“Better?” What was she asking? “I didn’t feel bad.” He took a step back as she reached the top, her scent enveloping him. She always smelled fresh, like the sea. He fuckin’ loved that smell.

“Do you always push a woman away after you’ve made love with them?” The question burst from her lips. Taz realized she was goading Deacon into a reaction. She feared if she didn’t, he would pretend none of it had happened.

“We didn’t make love, I fucked you on my kitchen counter.” The words rumbled out of his chest like thunder.

Another cut, more precise and deep than Sokolov’s knife. “I see.” Not waiting on him, she started back toward his home.

Deacon almost grabbed her hand to stop her, but he was afraid he’d pull her in his arms if he did so. “I don’t think you see anything.”

“I see well enough; the moon provides sufficient light.”

Deacon closed his eyes in frustration. He didn’t know if the woman was being deliberately obtuse or if she was playing some type of coquettish game he didn’t understand. “Did I hurt you earlier, I saw blood on my clothes.”

Taz had to think. “No. A tiny cut when you took the knife from my hand, that’s all.”

“I’m sorry, you should’ve said something.” This was his fear, that he’d hurt her and never even know it, be the one responsible for getting her killed. “About earlier, that shouldn’t have happened.”

Taz kept walking. “I enjoyed it.”

Deacon felt his cock twitch in agreement as he started down the path behind her. “I still think a woman on the Omega Team is a bad idea.”

“I wouldn’t be the first, or even the second. Athena and Jacqui are part of the team and there might be more by now.” A night bird’s cry pierced the dark and she flinched involuntarily at the sudden intrusion. Crossing her arms across her chest, she hugged herself tightly.

“Yes, but none that I sanctioned. Women have a place; their contributions can be valuable without exposing them to the harsh realities of war or violence.” What he said made absolute sense. He didn’t know why everyone didn’t agree.

“How magnanimous of you, Mr. Jones. Unfortunately, war and violence can’t always be avoided, sometimes we’re thrust into their midst against our will.”

“I know. Unlike you, I’ve been in war and I’ve been responsible for placing a woman in danger, much to my regret.”

Taz stopped in her tracks. The sorrow in his voice tore at her heart. When he came even with her, she couldn’t have stopped herself from reaching out to him if she tried. “You should not take upon yourself unnecessary burdens. The woman you speak of made her own choice. I have to face my destiny as well.”

Deacon hated that Natasha knew more about him than he did about her. “I can’t fault your abilities. You held your own with me, you’re every bit as talented as Grey said you were.”

Taz absorbed his words, they were a balm to her soul. “Thank you, you won’t be sorry. We will work well together.”

“We tied in the tests, Levin. We’re well matched.” God, he couldn’t argue with that fact. He’d never been with a woman who he felt was with him every breath of the way. “I can’t argue with your abilities. But, I didn’t say I changed my mind. We still have the interview to go.” Deacon didn’t know if he was giving her false hope or if he was losing his mind. “Let’s go inside. The temperature is dropping quickly. News said bad weather is on its way.”

When he placed a hand on the small of her back, Taz trembled. “I am ready for this interview.”

“Tomorrow, when we’re both more clear-headed.” Tonight, his mind was still too clouded from the haze of desire he felt every time she was near. Like now. He couldn’t forget how she’d responded to him, how it felt when she flew apart in his arms. If things were different–if he were whole, she’d be in his bed right now and he’d be buried to the hilt in her velvety heat. Deacon bit back a moan. He felt like a starving man who’d been given just a taste of heaven and now he ached for more.

Had his fingers moved? Was he caressing her. Taz needed to be sure. “I enjoyed being with you, Deacon.”

Fuck! Deacon almost shook with frustration. Could she accept him? Hell, he’d always thought he was a brave man. He was wrong. Deacon now knew he was a coward of the worst kind. The only thing he could think to do was pick a fight with her to get her mind on other things. “I’m sure you did, Natasha.” Was that cold enough? “What kind of name is Natasha anyway? If you’re going to live in America, you might not want to have such a cliché Russian name. Every time I say it, I keep looking around for Moose and Squirrel.”

In the face of his insult, she didn’t want to laugh at his poor joke. Natasha didn’t always understand all of his references, but the fact he was having fun at her expense was plain enough. Why was he acting this way? She hadn’t been the only one to enjoy their encounter, she could still remember the hot splash of his cum deep within her. As far as her name… “Natasha is a very respected Russian name. It is derived from Natalia which refers to Natal Day or the birth of Christ. Many girls born around Christmas are given this name.” Mimicking his question, she volleyed one of her own. “What kind of name is Deacon? Isn’t that a priest or a religious servant? You don’t strike me as being very pious.”

They were approaching the door, so he stepped up and held it open for her. “Actually, it’s a nickname. My real name is David Jonathan Jones.”

She liked all of his names, but she wouldn’t say so. With her arms still folded tightly, she trailed in behind him to the kitchen. She was hungry. “I don’t know the term nickname. What does it mean?” Before he could answer, she went to the stove. “I will cook. What food may I prepare?”

“How about a hash made from corned beef, potatoes and onions?”

“All right.” She would’ve liked to add cabbage to the dish, make it similar to a borscht, but she didn’t suggest it. He probably would’ve made some reference to Russian peasant food if she did. And then she would’ve had to kill him and that would be messy. She smiled, amused at her own joke.

Deacon found himself smiling back at her. She made his kitchen seem like a warm welcoming place. “I’ll cut up the vegetables.” He laid out the ingredients and found a skillet. “We’ll have to use canned corned beef, but it will be good.”

“I’ll look for some oil.” She bent over and began to rummage in the lower cabinet.

Deacon’s hand froze as his gaze followed her down. God, her ass was fine. “There’s vegetable oil and olive oil down there, I think.” When she rose with a jar in hand, he went back to his slicing. “A nickname is something your friends call you.”

Taz poured the oil in the skillet, then turned it on low to heat. “We’ll cook the vegetables first, then add the beef later. Good?”

“Yes, good.” They worked together in companionable silence for a few minutes.

“I have a nickname too,” she finally announced. “My father and my friends call me Taz.”

Deacon laughed, handing her a plate full of sliced potatoes to add to the oil. “I’m not surprised. In fact, that explains a lot.”

“What does it explain?” She lowered the heat and put a lid on the skillet. “I’ll add the onions when you’re ready. Where’s the black pepper?”

He opened a door on the upright pantry and gave her the can. “Here. Well, now I know what you remind me of and your nickname says it all.” When she gave him a quizzical expression, he continued. “Taz. Short for Tasmanian devil. Haven’t you ever seen that cartoon, the crazy little varmint that spins like a vortex and bites everything in sight? He’s like a ferocious little tornado.”

Taz stuck her tongue out, then shocked the shit out of him by bending over and pulling her pants down just low enough for him to see a small tattoo on her hip of the cartoon character he referenced. “Like this?”

Hell yea, he liked that. “Uh, yea. Fitting.” He finished slicing the onion, gave it to her and hoped she didn’t notice the huge erection straining against his fly. Just a glimpse of her shapely ass had lit a fire in his blood. 

“So, you used to be married?”

Her question took him by surprise. “Hey, the interview is tomorrow and I’ll be asking the questions.”

“Is this another one of those things you’re afraid of–opening up to someone else?” Taz was never short of courage, but even she knew she was pushing him.

“I’m not…” He started to say he wasn’t afraid of anything, but the lie stuck in his throat. “Just because I don’t care to share my personal life with a veritable stranger doesn’t mean I’m afraid.”

Taz added the corned beef, then replaced the lid on the simmering combination. “You don’t feel like a stranger to me. This afternoon we became acquainted fairly well, I think.”

Deacon had no answer for that. She was right. He felt a connection to her that was hard to fight. Once the meal was ready, they sat down to eat, falling back into their silent routine of reading one another’s minds until the silence was broken by laughter.

A little shocked, Deacon stared at his dining companion. “What’s so funny, Taz?”

She covered her mouth, a little surprised at her own outburst and his use of her nickname. “I was just thinking…”

“I can see where that would be dangerous,” he drawled dryly.

“Stop. For a split second I saw us how others would. We look like a domesticated pair who’ve been together so long they have little need for words.”

“And this struck you as funny?”

BOOK: Texas Stand-Off: The Omega Team Novella (Kindle Worlds Novella)
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