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Authors: Skye Warren

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BOOK: Don't Let Go
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CHAPTER FOUR
 

Hennessey hadn’t been kidding about the amount of work required to find the building. Even Lance got roped into the research.

“What’s field work like?” he asked me back in the office.

If I remembered the few moments in the interview room, field work was terrifying. It sat in a gray area, where right and wrong blended into one directive: results. But I tried not to remember the time in the interview room. Something about it twisted me inside, tied me in knots I could never untangle with Bureau rules and regulations.

“It’s a lot like this,” I answered him, referring to the stacks of architectural plans and permits covering every inch of the cherrywood conference table. “Not very glamorous.”

Which was the truth, at least. Making a blind man piss himself didn’t factor into any glossy movie screen version of detective work.

I expected Hennessey to leave the grunt work to us rookies, but he stayed with us, sleeves rolled up. He sat beside us from 6:00 a.m., when we stumbled in, groping for a mug of coffee, until 8:00 p.m., when we drained the last cold dregs of brownish liquid from the machine and dragged ourselves home. It may not have been glamorous work, sorting through paperwork, but it was a very real part of the job that would save lives. If we found the place in time. Our administrative treasure hunt had a ticking clock.

“You can go,” I offered him, when Lance had left the room to get us all coffee. “If you have something more important to be doing. Lance and I can handle this.”

Hennessey shook his head. “This.
This
is what an agent does, and he doesn’t take a break because it’s hard. We don’t stop until we catch the guy, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

A shiver climbed up my spine. I felt a ghost again, but this time it was Hennessey, mentoring me, preparing me for a time he wouldn’t be around to call the shots. What would finally kill him? A heart attack from greasy diner food? Or would it be Laguardia? Not if I could help it.

“Be careful, okay?” The words slipped out before I could stop them.

His expression softened, but I never heard what he was going to say. Some bit of male bravado, probably. They hadn’t gotten him for this long, so he clearly knew how to take care of himself. But then I remembered the burger and milkshake and thought maybe he really didn’t.

Like Peter Pan, he could fight and put on a good front, but he was just a boy at heart, never quite grown up. And who did that make me? Wendy Darling, thrust into a world she was unsuited for, in constant need of saving.

Ugh.

Hennessey stayed true to his attitude of inclusion by having me tag along to the briefing with Brody. I followed him in silence and made myself unobtrusive while Hennessey filled him in. I had no wish to steal any of the glory, however small it may be at this point. We had narrowed down the pool to three possible locations. Once we received more information about the ownership, we would narrow it down and initiate surveillance on the possible buildings. All this, Hennessey said in clear, concise language that would easily translate into a report Brody would write for the upper levels.

Brody grunted his approval as he jotted notes. He turned a piercing gaze on me. “How are you finding the work?”

At turns exhilarating and boring, meaningful and empty. “It’s going very well, sir. I’m coming up to speed quickly.”

He nodded, though his eyes remained considering.

Hennessey cleared his throat. “I’d like to take this opportunity to request a change in assignment. I think a different partner would be better suited to this case, one with more experience.”

All the breath left me. Completely silent, I fell apart in that office chair. He wanted to get rid of me? I hadn’t been impressive, okay. But to request reassignment after five days of working together? God. And he hadn’t even given me a heads up before we came in here.

Brody glanced at me idly, seeming to find amusement in my shock. Bastard.

He turned to Hennessey. “You know you’re going to have to provide a better reason than that if you want management to sign off on this.”

“You have final say,” Hennessey said.

Brody nodded, conceding. “Fine. You’ll have to do better if you want
me
to sign off on it.”

“She attracted the attention of Fuentes. He’ll get word back to Carlos that there’s a rookie on his case. It’s unusual for such a high profile fugitive. He’ll take an interest.”

“And that would be bad,” Brody said. A statement, not a question.

“Yes, that would be bad,” Hennessey repeated, a touch of mockery in his tone. “We want him thinking he has this wrapped up. We don’t want him changing the schedule around or doubling up on security.”

Brody shrugged. “If he finds out we have a rookie working his case, he isn’t likely to beef up security, is he?”

Hennessey’s expression was bored. “He’ll know something is up. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating him this close to the finish line.”

New shock flooded my veins. Was he trying to get himself on Brody’s shit list? First he’d sprung this on me, now he was reprimanding Brody? Brody may not have the power to fire him, but he wasn’t a fun guy to piss off.

Brody’s eyebrows lowered. “It’s my call who’s on the case, and I say it’s Holmes. You got a problem with that, you come back with something substantial.”

Hennessey nodded, seeming unsurprised. “Understood.”

“Dismissed, gentlemen.” Brody paused. “And lady.”

I managed not to roll my eyes. Law enforcement officers were the least politically correct people you’d ever meet, but I was too pissed off to find the dichotomy amusing. I pushed through the door and let it swing back in Hennessey’s face. Fuck him. Just fuck him and his request for a new partner.

“Rookie,” he called, and that made me angrier.

Fuck the fake endearment too.

I sped up. The thin office carpeting blurred beneath my feet, as if I were watching a runway before takeoff. I wished I could really fly away and never have to face the man coming after me. He didn’t want me? Fine. But I hated that he’d hurt me. When had I given another person that power? Never. Not ever. Not even my father had hurt me. It hadn’t hurt, not even when he…

“Holmes. Agent Holmes,” Hennessey spoke lower, having caught up to me now, but fuck his bogus respect, the sudden desire for privacy. Where was his conspiratorial murmur before that meeting? Blindsided. I’d been blindsided. Now I was shaking and cold and hating that he could affect me.

What do you remember?

No one had ever hurt me.

“Samantha,” he said, out of breath. “Sam!” Frustration roughened his voice. It would have pleased me, if it hadn’t also been laced with regret. Fine. If we were going to do this, we’d do it in private. We’d have to work together, at least until he found something more “substantial” with which to get rid of me
.
And I’d learned years ago to face my problems head on.

I turned to him, and the expression on his face sliced through me like a gust of cold wind. I couldn’t even place what I saw there. Guilt? Concern? I had to scroll through B-movie reels and strange flickering dreams, because for sure no man had ever looked at me that way, not in real life.

He led me into a supply closet, and I let him. I felt numb. Cold.
Are you afraid?
No. I couldn’t feel a thing.

“Jesus.” Hennessey rubbed my hands between his in the dark. “Samantha. I’m sorry.”

Stop being a rookie,
I told myself derisively. But I
was
a rookie. I was a kid, almost. A little girl, deep inside.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

“I couldn’t.” His voice roughened with guilt. “He’s not telling us something. It might be important. I had to see if he’d give us a clue.”

I stared at him in shock. “What?” I asked stupidly.

He grimaced, as if he didn’t want to explain. “Your position on the case, as one of the leads. It had to seem strange to you. Unexpected.”

“Yes.”
Unusual.
That was the word Hennessey had used in Brody’s office.

“I don’t know why he assigned you to the case, but I don’t like it.”

I stiffened. “Yeah, I got that much, thanks.”

“No. Not because I don’t want you for a partner. You’re…also unexpected. More than I expected. But if something else is going on here, we need to know about it. I had to spring it on you so you’d be surprised too.”

Jesus. It had been a ruse to get information, like the threats he made to Fuentes. To me. If I believed him. And I wanted to believe him. In the aftermath, those threats made sense. Lying to an inmate was a tried and true interrogation technique. But in the moment they’d felt so damn real. As was the relief I felt now. Had I cared that much what Hennessey thought of me? I’d only known him a week, which was nothing. I didn’t care.

A lie.

So I had a little a crush on my partner. No big deal. It didn’t mean anything. Just pheromones and adrenalin. A chemical reaction. It didn’t have to mean anything.

I nodded slowly. “Yeah. Okay.”

“Are you sure?” His eyes scanned mine. “You looked ready to bite my head off out there.”

My breath left in a long, stabilizing rush. “It took me by surprise. I wish you’d have warned me.”

“Sorry. I wasn’t sure if you’d give us away.”

“I wouldn’t have. We’re partners.” I raised my eyebrows. “You have to trust me, or I’ll be the one putting in a request for a new partner.”

He nodded. “Fair enough.”

“Well,
did
he give us a clue? My head was busy exploding, so I didn’t hear.”

His lips twisted—derisive, but more at himself. “I’m not sure.
He’ll take an interest
, I said, and it didn’t sound like Brody was surprised by that. It didn’t sound like he’d mind.”

“What does it mean?” I hated that I didn’t already know.

“It means he’s running his own op. One we don’t know about.”

“That’s bullshit,” I said, and I meant it. Even a rookie knew that was dangerous. Not for Laguardia, necessarily. Dangerous to
us
, the agents on the case.

Hennessey nodded grimly. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. Everything’s need-to-know.”

An image flickered through my mind: Hennessey, stumbling through the dark. Caught and tortured. “Well, tell him we fucking need to know.”

The corner of his lip tilted up. “That’s the first time I’ve heard you swear, rookie.”

Every time he said the word
rookie
it got a little softer. A little sweeter. I told myself I was imagining it…but I wasn’t. Was the chemical reaction happening on both sides? It didn’t have to mean anything. His eyes were warmer than I’d ever seen them, a deep gray, like liquid mercury in the shadows of the dimly-lit room. He felt it too.

“What happens now?” I asked, almost daring him to comment on this growing attraction between us.
With the case
, I amended silently. But even I didn’t believe that.

Girlish crushes were swift attacking and venomous, wrapping their muscled bodies around me and squeezing tight. It happened from time to time. My film teacher in the senior year of high school. My lab instructor in Chem 201. The head of admissions at Quantico. Always an older handsome man in a position of authority.

Daddy issues.
That was what the psychology textbook never said.

“We’re close,” he said. “Three places that match Fuentes’s description, a secluded location, and easy access to the water. Once we get more intel about the ownership, we’ll narrow it down even further. Then the real fun begins.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And then we catch a criminal.”

“Then we stop a massive shipment of drugs before they hit the streets. As for catching Laguardia, I appreciate the vote of confidence, but even I probably won’t close a case this big in three weeks.” He paused. “But you should know this. I don’t intend to catch him. I intend to kill him.”

My eyes widened. Most people would agree with such a statement, in their hearts if not out loud. It violated both law and ethics, and yet I couldn’t deny that the world would be a safer place without Carlos in it. Executed. Without due process.

It would be murder.

“I’m on your side,” I said slowly. I meant as his partner, even in this dark goal of his. I meant something deeper too, more elemental, but I could hardly admit that to him, much less myself.

His head cocked, as if he were analyzing me. His brow furrowed, marking vague curiosity about the girl who’d thrown her hat in his ring. It became an offering I’d made him, and I waited with bated breath for him to accept. He might not really want me on his side. In some ways he’d been pushing me away from the first day I’d landed on his case. In other ways, I sensed he needed something only I could provide. It wasn’t hubris. I had a fresh perspective and enthusiasm. But more than that, I had shadows inside me. He might not know where they came from, but he could see them.

The heat in his eyes changed. No longer professional intensity, something else burned there. Something inappropriate but welcome all the same. My lids lowered in invitation as I stared at the passion in his eyes, the dark steel ringed with black. I waited for him to do what his expression promised, and he didn’t let me down.

BOOK: Don't Let Go
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