I lay there and watched Ezra sleep. As far as I could tell, he hadn't had a single nightmare all night long. He'd scared me silly when I got home and found him reliving that asshole Tyler Brown's put-down. I didn't need to know the exact words but I'd be willing to bet that Ezra remembered every single hurtful one. Something primitive deep inside of me needed to make sure that Brown was dead.
I'd hunted all my life and I'd killed more than once. Usually the kills were law enforcement condoned and although I'd done my share of soul-searching, mostly I just thought of the waste. Some men are just born bad was what I realized the day after I killed a revenuer who'd murdered six people with bad liquor. He'd known it might kill them but in his search for money and power, it didn't matter.
They were just the cost of doing business to his mind.
I will never understand that kind of thinking or the person who thinks it. Mama had a simple faith that she passed on to me. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Unfortunately, something like Team Seven had to be there to catch the men who didn't follow that Golden Rule.
Loving Ezra had brought up all kinds of emotions that I'd never felt before. I'd never been possessive either but I surely was now. I'd actually felt jealous when he told me that JD had modeled his new outfit for him. And I know that there's no reason for that silly feeling because Ezra loves me.
He tells me everyday in so many different ways that sometimes I just have to catch my breath at my good luck. He's the person that I see first thing each morning and the last thing I see each night. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I know that we're still new at this relationship thing but it just keeps getting better.
We still hadn't told his mother since we couldn't find her, but sooner or later Maude was going to come sashaying in and probably have a coronary that her son has taken up with a low class, no-account ex-bounty hunter. Some days it worried me but I wasn't the same man I was just three months ago. I was so different that I could hardly recognize myself.
Because Ezra loved me.
That'll look real good on a tombstone about sixty years from now.
I smiled at the same moment those beautiful green eyes of his opened. He's like me in that when he wakes up, he wakes up all over. "Good morning, Vin. What are you smiling at?"
"You, angel. I like watching you sleep." I admitted my weakness and watched his eyes light up with laughter.
"Is this a new kink of yours, Vin? Are you going to be like Clancy and want to watch everything I do?" He chuckled while I remembered pissing away one too many beers at 3:00 a.m. a few days back only to open my eyes to find Clancy on the back of the john watching me.
Startled the heck out of me and almost made me hose the tile floor when I jerked. "No way, Ezra, some things should be private."
"As you say, Vin, I promise not to intrude on you during your morning ablutions." He caressed my cheek and I felt like Clancy getting his ears rubbed. I wanted to purr out loud for him.
"How about we watch each other shower so's we can get dressed before I decide to have you for breakfast?" I watched the smile on his face get even wider.
"Definitely, Vin, that's the best idea you've had today." He pulled me close and kissed me gently.
His kisses are better than food except for the times when they leave me wanting more, more kisses, more hugs, more of that big, beautiful cock of his. But this morning we really needed to get going so we could be at work for our next meeting with Team Beta. I could feel the hunter in me settling down, prepared to watch my prey and stalk him to ground.
Ezra seemed to understand my need to get going and within the hour we were headed out for breakfast. Buck and JD must have felt the same need to get to work early because the elevator stopped on their floor and they joined us. Taking a good look at them, I could see that Buck was going to have a hard time not touching JD a lot today. His eyes went right back to our computer expert after he'd taken a good look at us to make sure we were okay.
And JD had the look of a man who'd been well loved over and over again. He kind of leaned against Buck like he couldn't bear to be too far away from him. I'd had that same need with Ezra since the moment we'd first loved. Sometimes at work when he'd gone home, I'd look up, not see him and panic. I had to hear his voice or smell his scent to calm myself. I don't know if he knew it but I always kept one of his handkerchiefs with me. He'd carry one for a day or too and then, even if he didn't use it, it went into the dirty clothes hamper.
But not for long because I'd grab it when he wasn't there and tuck it away. Then I'd pull it out when I needed him and he wasn't there. By the time the scent faded, he'd already be throwing in another one. I didn't like to call because he still took a nap every day and I wanted him to get better in the worst way. Maybe I was selfish but the team just wasn't the same when Ezra wasn't there.
You'd think that living with him would make me glad for some alone time. But the more of him I had, the more I wanted. If I really needed to be quiet and out in the open air, I had a nice roof to climb up to so I could feel the wind against my face. A half an hour or so and I'd be ready to be part of a pair again.
When Ezra needed space, he had gotten in the habit of rocking in our new/old rocker when he had something to puzzle out. Funny how my rocker became ours when we moved it in. I always knew it was a good luck charm. And he always looked real peaceful when I'd catch him rocking slowly with Clancy purring away on his lap.
Something told me that we were going to need that peace by this evening.
I hate it when I'm right. Frank Sully practiced his little mind games on every single one of us over the first few hours. His fake sympathy to Ezra about his shooting with the insinuation that it was either my fault he got shot or his own incompetence undercover almost made me come out of my chair and across the table at him. Luckily, Chris was right there by my side and the grip he had on my knee probably left bruises.
Ezra accepted the comments and immediately used them as a bridge on how to communicate with the team when you're deep within a role. The youngster, Ethan Frome who was to be their undercover agent had some sensible things to say and I could see that Ezra approved of him. When we broke up into pairs, I felt real sorry for Josiah. I took Matthew Howard, their shooter over to the range to compare notes with him.
Rachel Brooks and JD were already making their computers smoke. Nathan and Duane Hunter were talking medical lingo a mile a minute while Buck had taken Johnny Wrench out to the track to try out the new Ford SUV the department had just gotten. Chris had Mark Benson, their team leader in his office going over a couple of cases that Mark had finished up in the last six months.
It was a relief to get out of the office and over to the range. Matt was a real good shot with a handgun but he didn't have much experience with rifles so that's what we focused on. After a couple of hours shooting, we broke for lunch in the cafeteria. I introduced him to everybody who stopped at our table and I could see the curiosity in their faces.
I don't know how many of them knew about the new job we had. Rumors and gossip usually pass the speed of light here in our headquarters so I'm pretty sure they had a good idea what was going on. I kind of led the conversation to the other members of the team. Matt had known Rachel before and he didn't say it but I got the impression that they were dating semi-seriously. Buck would be glad to hear that -- not that JD would even think of straying but I knew that sometimes Buck thought that he was robbing JD's cradle.
Turns out that none of the others had known Frank before they were put into Team Beta. He came from the Atlanta Bureau and that raised the hair on the back of my neck. I kept remembering what Ezra had said about the DSD planting Brown in the CIA to subvert young agents. The DSD had disbanded almost three years previously but their guys were still out there working for who-knew-what kind of group.
I was really looking forward to our meeting tonight. But even more, I was looking forward to getting Ezra alone, sooner rather than later. And my chance came almost the minute Matt and I walked in the office door. Josiah and Frank had just walked into Chris' office, Josiah's voice rolling out in his preacher tone that meant that somebody was being chastised.
Ezra was disappearing down the hall to the break room while Ethan was reading something at his desk. I told Matt to make himself comfortable and I hotfooted it down to the break room only to find it empty. That meant he was in the bathroom and I followed him in only to find myself thrown back against the door with an arm against my throat.
"Vin!" Ezra let go of me when he recognized me but I just tugged him back into my arms. "I'm sorry, love. I thought you were Mr. Sully."
I raised his head with my hand and looked into tired green eyes. "That bad, huh?"
He sighed and leaned in to rest his head on my shoulder. "I hear Tyler's voice every time the man opens his mouth. I must be getting paranoid in my old age because I'm beginning to think that he's a plant like Brown was."
I chuckled and pressed a kiss to his temple, taking his pulse and temperature at the same time. Both were elevated and I thought longingly of taking him home. "I had the same thought, Ez'. Matt says that none of them knew him before and he's from the Atlanta Bureau."
"That's not was it says in his dossier." Ezra's head came up and he got that look that said his mind was running real quick like. "He's supposed to be from Washington, D.C. I wonder who doctored his file."
"Don't know but maybe JD can find out for us tonight. You going home soon?" I wanted to stay right here with him in my arms but he was almost trembling with fatigue. "Did you and Ethan have lunch yet?"
"Um, I forgot. The poor man is probably starving." Ezra shook his head with a sigh.
"I'll take care of him if you'll go home and promise to eat something, my angel-Ezra." I kissed his lips softly and felt him melt against me. That changed the kiss almost at once but I got a hold of myself and eased him away from me. "I'll take a rain check on that, love."
His eyes slowly opened and their sparkle told me that I'd definitely be well loved tonight. "I'll try and remember to hold you to that, angel-Vin."
"You could write it down so you don't forget it?" I widened my eyes real innocent like and watched him laugh out loud.
"I don't think I am quite that decrepit yet. And you're right, I am tired enough to go home. Take good care of Ethan for me. He's a very nice young man who will be an outstanding agent when he gets a few more cases under his belt." Ezra quickly brushed his lips over mine before stepping back to straighten his clothes.
That disheveled look is a good one for him but I didn't say so. When we went back out to the office, it was ominously quiet behind Chris' door. Buck and Johnny had come back and were talking about lunch. Ezra suggested that Ethan join them and JD finally looked up to the clock with a smile. They decided to all head down to the cafeteria and I watched Ezra put on his coat before leaving with a wave.
It was going to be a long afternoon.
Clancy came skittering over the polished floors to greet me at the front door. I scooped him up and listened to him tell me about his day. Ezra was on the sofa with a book in his hands. His smile told me that he'd had a good nap with no old memories to bother him.
I walked over and dropped Clancy on the back of the sofa so I had Ezra all to myself.
He pulled me down and took my mouth with a passion that reminded me of what he'd promised earlier. I pulled the book from between us and blindly put it aside on the coffee table so I could get at his buttons. You'd think I'd get better at this but the feel of him was still so new that I kept forgetting what I was doing whenever I had a new patch of skin to touch.
But his fingers were real busy and soon he had his hands sliding over my skin, giving me goosebumps while I was still trying to get his shirt undone. His chuckle almost made me rip the cloth in my hands. He pushed me away a little bit. "Bedroom or we baptize this sofa again."
I was willing but I knew that I could still hurt him if I lay full out on his chest. "All right but you get that damn shirt off first." Standing, I gave him a hand up and only when he was on his feet did I notice the white socks on his feet. "Ezra P. Standish, you're taunting me, aren't you?"
His innocent look was priceless. "But my feet were cold, Vin. I had to put on something to stay warm."
He took off at a slow run and I chased him into the bedroom, gently tackling him onto the bed. The next few moments we messed up the bed real good while I finally got him stripped to the skin. Except for his socks, I was saving them for later. He was still slow to come to complete hardness but when he pounced on me, I surrendered without a fight. Sucking me in deep, he tormented me with slow sucks that raised my temp past boiling.
I was pleading pretty much continuously when he relented and let go of the tight grip he was keeping around the base of my cock. He fluttered his tongue around the edges of my crown and sent me right over the edge. I went limp all over and he chuckled while he cleaned me up with his tongue. Even that little roughness made me shiver and he looked real proud of himself when he slid up to share my taste with me.
His cock was still only half-hard against my stomach but he shook his head when I slid a hand around him. "We're going to meet the others in a bit down at Buck and JD's. If you'd be so kind as to give me a helping hand afterwards, Ah'd be ever so obliged."
"Really? I like helping you. Maybe I can think of someplace nice and warm where we could put him?" I fluttered my eyelashes up at him and watched him break into the bright grin that I love to see.
"Someplace hot and tight?" He suggested with his own come-hither glance.
"Oh my, yes, that sounds just right." I took him by surprise and rolled him under me. "But right now, I need to do something about those sinful socks that you're wearing."
He laughed quietly while I slid them off and kissed his feet from his cute toes up to his slim ankles. I have no idea where this fetish came from but I dearly loved it when he let me indulge myself. He was still chuckling a little when we redressed for a trip downstairs. We let the cats come with us, taking them down the spiral steps that connected all the floors and the roof.
JD answered the door with his shirt pulled out of his jeans and unbuttoned halfway. He just grinned when Ezra teased him but Buck was no better since he wasn't even wearing a shirt. They'd obviously done a little reconnecting of their own after the strained day. The pizzas had already arrived and within fifteen minutes, the rest of the team showed up. We weren't the only ones who'd bought a new dining room table to accommodate all of us.
Buck and JD had picked out an oval cherry table with enough leaves to make room for all of us and a few more beside. We ate first, Ezra still drinking fruit juice while JD drank his RC and the rest of us drank beer. Chris was brooding and Josiah looked pretty grim but they'd both relaxed a bit when we cleared the tables of plates. Chris started out with his impressions.
"He's slick and he's got Benson so confused that he thinks that Sully is just trying to help the team members become a better team." Chris' eyes snapped. "But he did say that Sully is the newest member. Mark has been slowly but surely gathering the other guys together. All of them except for Sully have worked with at least one other member. Rachel was the first one to distinguish herself on a gun case in Idaho. Mark kept her in mind and brought her in on another gun-running case out of southern Colorado."
"That's when they teamed up with Matt." I threw in. "He said that the three of them started getting real tight then. Kind of like knowing what the other one was going to say before it got said."
"It was the next case that brought in Ethan in his undercover role as a white supremacist looking for some firepower. All four of them clicked and the regional director told them to stay together." Ezra added his two cents worth.
Nathan sighed. "Duane came in then, too. It was an alcohol case and the symptoms of the victims were obscure. He'd worked extensively with chemistry and provided them with the information they needed as they worked the case."
"And Johnny came in on that last case as Ethan's driver." Buck was tracing the condensation on the beer bottle in his hand. "Sully only appeared when they got picked for Team Beta. Johnny's young but he's got a real head on his shoulders. He knows there's something wrong and he asked me flat out why we're mentoring them."
Josiah pinched the bridge of his nose and finally weighed in. "Sully is in my opinion a seriously disturbed man. He's a pathological liar and his case histories are flawed. He talks well but knows little about the psychology of the disturbed individuals with which we work."
"It doesn't make sense that they'd send in somebody to test us this way." JD sounded as bewildered as I felt.
"Have they?" Ezra was looking towards the windows on the south wall. "How do we know that our Frank Sully is the same man who left Washington or Atlanta?"
"What? Somebody ran in a ringer on us?" Chris sounded scornful. "All we'd have to do is ask D.C. to send us his file."
JD cleared his throat. "Actually, it could be done pretty easily, Chris. All the personnel records are computerized. If somebody hacked in carefully and erased one file only to replace it with another, we'd never know it."
"Shit." Buck was sitting up straight and frowning. "None of us know him and none of Team Beta know him, either. JD, could you tell when his records were last accessed?"
"Sure, if I could get past the security in Records." JD smiled at him and Buck lost the frown real fast.
I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one who got mushy when I looked at my lover. But Ezra was still thinking out loud. "A ringer who no one knows. A new team being mentored by a very successful team. And I'll wager there's a case that's been hand picked by the top guns for this little experiment."
Chris grinned. "It's a case like one Mark had before. A white supremacist group is doing some gun buying wholesale and we're to infiltrate and take them down."
"I wonder if it's the same group that Ezra's therapist belongs to." JD said idly and all our eyes went straight to him. "What?"
"You didn't mention anything about white supremacists when you said you found a way to take him down." Buck was back to frowning.
"Yeah, JD, I thought you just had those under the counter payments info that we sent to the IRS." I was frowning, too.
"Excuse me, what are ya'all talking about?" Ezra was looking back and forth between us with that little line between his eyes that I hated to see.
It all came out then about how we gathered the evidence and turned the bastard in to the IRS after Ezra and Nathan had fired him. We got yelled at and congratulated pretty much all in the same breath. I could see that Ezra was saving up his reaction for when we were alone but he thanked JD with a real sweet smile. Buck was biting his tongue hard and holding in what he was feeling.
I had the feeling that the warehouse was going to be a little noisy tonight when the rest of the team left. Some serious chastising was on the agenda for both our floors. JD and I exchanged a quick look of 'oh shit' before turning the conversation back to the original question.
Had our work with the therapist led directly or even indirectly to our current dilemma?
And if it had, what did we do now?
End part two