Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8)(17)

by Abigail Roux

“Because we know you, baby,” Mara told him. She walked by him, patting his cheek. “See you boys at dinner.”

After shutting the door, Ty shot Zane an evil grin that damn near caused them to be late. Thankfully, it was a casual affair, or they never would have gotten ready in time. As it was, Ty was still tucking his shirt in and fixing his tie as they made their way to the back patio of the massive house.

Someone whistled from behind them as they were hustling down the stairs. Zane glanced over his shoulder to find Nick and Kelly, both looking well rested and more relaxed than they had been. It was also the first time Zane had ever seen either man in a suit.

“You dirty whores,” Nick drawled quietly.

“Shut up,” Ty mumbled, still fussing with his tie.

Zane just smiled and gave Nick a cheeky wink. They headed for the party with a handful of other guests. Zane didn’t know the numbers, but he estimated there were roughly thirty people on the island, with another hundred due to show up the day of the ceremony. Not a large wedding for such a prominent family. It was just family and friends, perhaps, but no business associates. Zane knew how these affairs went, and he found that particularly odd.

He glanced at Ty, his body warming all over. Ty had asked him to marry him. He’d been entirely sincere, too, in the way only Ty could be when he thought of something spur of the moment. It brought a smile unbidden to Zane’s lips, and he quickly schooled his expression to something a little less giddy as they joined the crowd.

The patio was full of outdoor heaters and covered with a large party tent with plastic windows and ties to keep the doors closed against the wind. The tent protected parts of the garden, too, giving the space an outdoor feel without the outdoor frostbite to accompany it.

While Ty and Zane had been placed at the table of honor with Deuce and Livi, Nick and Kelly were at the next table over with the other members of the wedding party. They split off and took their seats just in time, beating Deuce and Livi by mere seconds.

Zane knew everyone at their table except the older couple he assumed were the Stantons, and a younger man who was probably Livi’s brother. They didn’t have time for introductions before a man approached the table to say hello. Ty and Deuce both stood abruptly, and it startled Zane and the Stantons into flinching when they did it. Zane glanced up to see Assistant Director Richard Burns standing there.

Ty reached out to shake Burns’s hand. “Sir.”

“Tyler. Deacon,” Burns said as he shook Ty’s and then Deuce’s hands. He turned to Ty’s father, Earl, who was in the process of pushing back his chair to stand. They embraced warmly.

Livi cleared her throat. “Mama, Daddy, this is Director Richard Burns, a dear friend of the Grady family.”

The tall, white-haired man stood and offered a hand to Burns. “Theodore Stanton. Pleased to meet you, Director. This is my wife, Susan.”

As they exchanged greetings, Livi continued. “And this is Tyler Grady, Deacon’s brother. And Special Agent Zane Garrett, Ty’s partner.”

“Pleased to meet you all,” Zane said, standing and shaking Stanton’s hand when it was offered, just as Ty had done.

Burns took Livi’s hand in a dainty, formal greeting. “Congratulations, my dear, you look lovely.”

“Thank you, Director, that’s very kind of you.”

Burns nodded to them all, then gave Earl a wink and patted his lapel pocket as he turned away. “Earl, I’ll find you later.”

Ty’s hand sought out Zane’s under the table, squeezing. Then his thumb stroked over Zane’s palm, and any anger or resentment aimed toward the director that had been bubbling inside Zane began to fade. He glanced at Ty to find the man watching him.

Ty mouthed a silent, “I love you.”

Zane couldn’t help but smile.

They engaged in only a couple minutes of small talk before Deuce and Livi stood and Deuce tapped his crystal glass with a knife. The room quickly went quiet, all eyes turning toward them.

“Good evening everyone,” Deuce said, just loud enough to reach all the tables. He possessed a certain presence, like a man accustomed to speaking to large crowds or being in the spotlight. He smiled as he spoke. “You are our nearest and dearest, and we want to thank you all for making this journey to be here with us.”

He waited a beat, and Livi took over. “Deacon and I decided that we wanted our families and friends to enjoy this as much as we will, which is why you were all invited to stay for the entire week with us.” She turned a loving smile up to Deacon. He hugged her around her slim waist. “Rehearsals and planning are being kept to a bare minimum.”

“Just enough to make sure we don’t make fools of ourselves,” Deuce assured everyone, drawing laughter.

“And so we can all get the most out of this experience. We ask you to please enjoy yourselves this week as our most beloved guests.”

“And if you partake of the open bar, please stay away from the cliffs.”

More laughter arose from the crowd, and as Deuce held his glass up to toast, it was followed by applause.

Waitstaff appeared to man the buffet. Zane stayed in his seat and watched as others got in line. He smiled when Deuce hugged Livi and kissed her forehead. He tried to remember what he’d felt like before his wedding, but he couldn’t recall much of anything beyond nerves. Deuce and Livi looked anything but nervous, despite whatever trouble was apparently brewing.

They were a good couple, and Zane was genuinely happy for them.

When his eyes met Ty’s, he found his partner relaxed in his seat and watching him with a small smile. Ty winked at him, flushing Zane’s body with the same convictions he’d experienced the first time that wink had hit him. He lifted his water glass and toasted Ty before pushing out of his chair to join the buffet line.

As soon as dinner wound down and people moved on to drinks and dancing, Deuce stood and tilted his head at Ty to indicate they should go inside.

Ty turned to seek out Nick or Kelly, and immediately found Nick’s sharp eyes on him. He waved at him to follow, and Nick nodded.

At the doorway to the study, a man was standing with a metal-detecting wand. Ty stopped and spread his legs, holding his hands out. Zane did the same as he followed Ty into the study. Ty was still glancing around the room when a commotion arose behind him.

“Why am I being wanded?” Kelly asked.