Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8)(4)

by Abigail Roux

Zane dropped his gaze to his hands. Yes, he’d expected them to be separated. But he’d been anticipating them working different shifts, not this.

DC was a good choice. When he’d lived there when they’d first been partnered, Ty had driven back and forth from Baltimore. But it had only been for a matter of weeks. Zane drew a slow breath, trying not to resent McCoy for what he was making them do.

Before he could speak, though, Ty reached between their chairs and brushed his fingertips across Zane’s elbow, eyes still on McCoy. Ty didn’t appear angry or upset. In fact, Zane’s usually temperamental partner looked downright composed as he pushed to his feet. He lowered his head as he reached under the lapel of his suit coat and pulled out his badge—the badge he’d just gotten back. He laid it on the desk in front of McCoy, followed by his Bureau-issued sidearm, still in its holster.

When McCoy looked up at him, his eyes were wide and his lips were parted.

Ty merely shook his head. “Nobody’s moving.”

Zane distantly wondered what the thundering noise was until he realized it was his heartbeat in his ears. He stared at Ty, unable to look away. He knew how much Ty loved and lived for his work. He was afraid to speak for fear of what would come out.

“Grady, think about this, would you?” McCoy said patiently. “I understand, okay? It’s a shitty situation, and if I could sweep it under the rug, I would. I tried.”

Ty was shaking his head, gently pushing the badge on the desk around in circles with his finger. “I know, Mac. But being separated is not an option.” Zane’s gut clenched as Ty used the one finger to push his badge closer to McCoy. “Garrett can stay where he is. Consider this my resignation.”

“No, no,” Zane finally managed to say. He stood and snatched Ty’s badge from the desk. “No, I can’t let you do that.”

Ty turned to face him.

“You’ll go insane if you’re not working, Ty,” Zane whispered. “I’m two years from retirement. Let me take the bullet on this one.”

“Exactly, you’re two years from retirement,” Ty hissed. “Two years and it’s over.”

“Gentlemen.” McCoy sighed. “If the Bureau loses either of you right now, it’s my ass they’ll come for. I can’t let either of you resign, goddamn it. That’s not a solution.”

Ty shook his head and gave him a small smirk. “It’s my way or the highway, Mac.”

McCoy began to massage the bridge of his nose.

Ty reached for Zane’s hand and gently removed the badge Zane was clutching. He set it on McCoy’s desk and pushed it toward their boss, his eyes never leaving Zane’s. Then the smirk turned into a smile—the same beautiful grin Zane had always loved. The laugh lines at his eyes appeared. His nose scrunched. But there was no light in his eyes, the sparkle that said he was enjoying life. That light hadn’t been there since he’d gotten home.

“I’ve got a rubber band ball to retrieve from my desk,” Ty said. He patted Zane’s arm. “I’ll see you at home.”

He walked out, leaving Zane and McCoy staring after him with their mouths hanging open.

“I can’t believe he just did that,” McCoy finally said.

Zane shook his head. “Give me time before you file his paperwork, okay?”

“You’re the Assistant Special Agent in Charge,” McCoy said, and he stuffed Ty’s badge and gun into a desk drawer. “You file his damn paperwork. Get out of my office.”

Ty spent the next two weeks reacclimating to civilian life. He got up early to run, relearning his old route and taking note of everything that had changed. Buildings being redone, neighbors being gone, a florist where a dive bar used to be, a martini bar where the Fosters used to live.

It all felt the same, but it was different. A car would backfire and Ty would drop and roll. A baby would cry and Ty would reach for a gun he no longer carried. Zane would knock into him in the middle of the night and Ty would grab him and roll him off the bed.

Okay, that had been kind of funny after the fact.

But it was taking Ty longer to get used to being in his own skin again than he would have liked. He didn’t hear much from the other guys, either. He supposed they were all suffering through the same sense of vertigo as he was. Sometimes it was easier to get used to real life again if they didn’t speak for a while. They’d discovered that years ago. The only person Ty had expected to hear from already was Nick, but he hadn’t even received a text message from the man. That in itself was strange, and it felt like something was missing from each day.

Not working was also disconcerting. He’d never in his life been without a job. It was driving him a little crazy already, and he knew he would have to find something else soon. A city cop position like Nick had taken up, or even private security somewhere, because as far as he was concerned, guns were the only thing he did well. But all he had to do now was work on the old Mustang in the backyard, and pore over the scraps of evidence Zane brought him about their mole.

Since their ordeal in New Orleans with Liam Bell resurfacing and the uncanny knowledge both he and the Vega cartel possessed about Ty and Zane’s movements, Ty was just as sure as Zane was that a mole had infiltrated the Baltimore office. Burns had confirmed it the day Ty’d received his orders from the Marine Corps. Someone was relaying information to the Vega cartel, and God knew who else. Enemies who would kill Ty or Zane without a blink.

The danger had always been at the back of Ty’s mind, knowing Zane was home, alone, with no one he could trust to watch his six. Kelly had spent a great deal of time in Baltimore getting to know Zane, keeping an eye on things for Ty, but Ty hadn’t known that when he’d been away, so he’d fretted at night, worried himself sick when he had the free time to do it. Nick had attempted to distract him at first, but even he had given up on trying to keep Ty’s mind off the very real threat.

Coming home and finding Zane happy and healthy, smiling and beautiful, had very nearly erased the worry from Ty’s mind. But walking out of the office the day he’d quit, the realization had come tumbling down on him again that there was still a traitor in their midst, and now he’d removed himself from the game.

So he searched. He pored over news articles and police reports about the cartel. He tried to find connections between the events of New Orleans and any of their cases, delving into everything he had at hand that wouldn’t tip off the mole. But his resources were minuscule, and there was so little to go on.